Steroids, Allergies and Bipolar Disorder: Q&A with Portland Nurse Practitioner Julie Foster

Julie Foster-Pohala Clinic
Julie Foster Nurse Practitioner in Portland, Oregon

Bipolar disorder author Julie A. Fast has been a client of mine for over 10 years.   We often discuss over the counter and prescribed medications that can cause mood swings for people with bipolar disorder. She’s currently writing an article on the topic and asked me to describe my process of prescribing steroids if a person has bipolar disorder or depression and what I use instead of a steroid when helping a client who has bipolar disorder or depression manage allergies or asthma.

Julie A Fast:  Julie, When you have a client with bipolar who has severe allergies, how do you talk with them about the effects of steroids on bipolar disorder if they have an allergy doctor who wants to prescribe prednisone? What is the plan if the person can’t take steroids, but they have terrible allergies?  Steroids are known to affect the mood. For many people with mood disorders, they can cause mania and depression. 

Julie Foster: In general I do everything I can to avoid steroids in the general population whether it be for allergies or other needs. However with my Bipolar patients,  I am extra cautious. Unless I have exhausted all other options and the person is finding no relief either completely miserable or their breathing is comprised I do not prescribe.

Allergies are on the rise as we are exposed to more environmental debris and toxins and the effects of modernism on our immune systems.  Here are my suggestions for clients who want to manage allergies without the use of steroidal drugs.

  1. Look at the diet. Many allergies come from the foods we eat.  Eating a healthy diet can be hard for people with mood disorders as food is often used for comfort, but small changes can make a difference. Look for what is called a clean diet, one free of preservatives, hormones and GMO food.  When possible, limit refined sugars (look at the label and if it says high fructose corn syrup- choose something else) and white carbohydrates and go for natural fruits and vegetables. This is never easy when you are not feeling well, but over time you will feel better and will hopefully have less allergies- which was the original goal!
  2. Think about your life rhythm.  This includes the circadian rhythm of sleep and the rhythm to your work and relationships. How is the stress in you life? Our bodies are connected to our minds. A high stress level can affect the immune system that then affects our ability to handle allergens.
  3. Try healthy remedies. Homeopathic remedies including Sabadila, Euphrasia comp and Allergist.  Use Vitamin C up to your bowel tolerance (if the tummy has trouble, lower the dose) and add steaming and sweating to your daily regime.  Use an air purifier at home and try a honey remedy (Julie, explain this one- what do you do with the 1 tsp of honey?)

Julie A. Fast:   Julie, when you have bipolar disorder, it’s essential you check everything you put in your body to make sure it doesn’t lead to mood swings. How do you help clients figure out this maze of treatments and medications when they are having trouble  breathing as well as having mood swings?

Julie Foster:  Some of the herbal and supplement options for allergies can affect the mood of a person with bipolar which is why I go with the above plan first.  Congestion from allergies comes up when the body cannot eliminate properly. Another natural option for managing allergies is proper digestion.    Acupuncture is a good option as well as massage and maintenance through osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments. People with bipolar disorder and depression can find steroid free ways to manage allergies and asthma.

Please call to make an appointment with Julie Foster or another member of the Pohala Clinic professionals.

Family Nurse Practitioner Vera Vos in Portland, Oregon Shares her Journey

Vera Voss

We love the diversity of our practitioners at Pohala Clinic.  The goal is to provide a variety of integrative and functional medicine practitioners who offer specific talents in order to fit individual client needs.

In this post,  Vera Vos talks about her path to becoming a family nurse practitioner in Portland, Oregon, her medical philosophy and how she approaches her work with new clients.  The compassion and enthusiasm Vera shows with all of her clients shines through when she talks bout her practice.

A Journey from Research Biologist to Family Nurse Practitioner

Before becoming a nurse practitioner, I was a research biologist doing field biology to determine health of animal populations. I found that disease and decreasing populations of animal species was always related to the health of their environment. After becoming a mother and experiencing first hand how human infants are so much like any other infant in the wild, I had an epiphany. We are like all other animals in that our health is also very much related to our environment. At that point diabetes and heart disease were on the rise as well as mental health problems.

I was passionate about helping people understand how our human culture and environment in many ways sabotages health (bad food, lack of movement, distractions, etc) and how to change personal habits to overcome those obstacles.

How Dr. Vos Works with New Clients at Pohala Clinic 

The first time I see someone, I like to listen to what they have to tell me. Of course I ask about past medical history, medications, etc, but mostly I ask them what they value about their own health and what they would like to change. Beyond physical health we talk about challenges and rewards in their personal lives related to family, social group and work as well as what brings them pleasure and what is difficult. I really get to know clients that way and this helps me see the bigger picture besides just their pathophysiology.

Views on Western and Easter Medicine

I don’t think of it as one vs the other. There are things to be learned and appreciated in both. I think the problems in western medicine stem from the stranglehold of financial stakeholders, not from the science itself. It’s the stakeholders that have preempted everything except pharmaceuticals and surgery to solve dis-ease. Unfortunately, this bias has resulted in managing disease instead of targeting and eliminating causes. Eastern medicine offers more options, but the emphasis is still on medicinals, usually plant based.

I have learned that most of what ails us comes from the outside. There is nothing wrong with us as human organisms. In fact, the more I learn about human biology and physiology (and we are not even close to knowing everything) the more amazed I am at the perfection of us. My goal is to use the best that I know of both western and eastern medicine coupled with mindfulness to quiet the “monkey” mind to help clients structure their lives to promote health and happiness.

When it comes to patients, I like all kinds of people of all ages. That’s why I’m a Family Nurse Practitioner. I love seeing kids because there is so much potential there to support healthy growth. But I also really like adults, both men and women as we work through issues together over time.

Vera Vos Hours at Pohala Clinic 

Monday and Tuesday all day and specific Friday mornings by appointment.

Please visit our Pohala Clinic Contact page to book an apportionment with Dr. Vera Vos.