Coffee Alternatives: Why You Might Want to Try Them and What to Try!

I don’t drink coffee. And not because I don’t like it. I LOVE it. And not because it isn’t healthy, it is.

The sad state of affairs is that when I drink coffee I get reflux and nausea. Every. Single. Time. But more than that. For me, it also leads to anxiety.

This is something I see commonly with my patients and clients. Yes, even with “just” one cup in the morning. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not vilifying your coffee. There are many benefits (I’ll get into that in another post). But if you have anxiety, headaches, reflux, fatigue, or high blood pressure it might be worth seeing what life is like without coffee. After all, you can’t make an educated decision if you don’t know how you feel without it. 

Here are some of the reasons that people tell me they drink coffee (and my typical counterargument for those who may do better without it.)


  • It’s delicious. (So are sour gummy bears, I don’t have those every morning.)
  • Without it they feel tired. (You don’t have a caffeine deficiency, something is making you tired and you should address that.)
  • It gives them an extra edge/they get more done. (So would cocaine. I mean it’s not going to be laced with fentanyl, and it’s legal, and has lots of benefits but if this is why you are drinking coffee ask yourself if that is ok with you? If so…good! If not, let’s look at why and what else can give more of an edge.)
  • If they don’t drink it they get headaches. (That’s withdrawal. Cutting down slowly will prevent this.)
  • The term “coffee alternatives” makes them cringe.
  • It’s a habit. (Is it a habit that is harmful to you? If so, there are lots of ways to break habits!)
  • They need it to poop! (Sure, yes. But you should be able to poop without coffee, let’s address your digestion.)
  • A family member drinks it and it’s too tempting not to when the smell is wafting through the house. (Fair…but a good enough reason? There are compromises that can be made here.)
  • A hot drink in the morning is soothing, part of a morning ritual. (There are lots of lovely drinks that can be part of a morning ritual.)

And these are all reasonable. Unless they aren’t. (more…)

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Your Values, Your Healthcare – A Story

[this is an excerpt on values from my book Overcoming Overwhelm if you would like a full chapter (for free!)  just click here.]

About 15 years ago, a woman named Susan came to see me for high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, and high blood pressure, a cluster of symptoms we call metabolic syndrome. She was 53 years old and found herself more than 40 pounds heavier than she had been at 45. Her work schedule was brutal. It had her skipping meals, eating fast food, and not exercising at all. She was sharp, well educated, and made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t willing to go on the three new medications that her primary care provider had prescribed. Susan told me she wanted a different approach. She didn’t trust pharmaceutical companies, period.

Although I personally don’t feel strongly about avoiding prescription drugs, and certainly don’t mistrust the medical establishment on principle, I understood her perspective. Over the years I’ve seen thousands of patients who feel the same way Susan does. Some have felt the medical system failed them by offering only medication for a symptom, without looking for an underlying cause—birth control pills for irregular periods or antidepressants for fatigue, for example. (more…)

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Fall Chinese Medicine Tips to Stay Healthy

Building fall leaves_2In Chinese Medicine autumn represents the transition season from the height of yang or active energy of summer into the passive or yin energy of winter. The season is associated with the Metal element and the Lung organ network.

Just as the lungs and the breath help to establish a rhythm within our bodies, fall is the natural season to rediscover a healthy rhythm in your life.

The Metal element of fall symbolizes clarity and diamond-like strength.

You can harness the natural energy of fall to clarify what you value most. It is the perfect time to look inside and find the strength to set boundaries and say no to what no longer lines up with your True North. If you fell away from your commitment to your health routines and core habits during summer, fall is a great time to recommit to eating healthy, exercising regularly, and addressing your health concerns!

Here are some tips from a Chinese Medicine perspective to help you reactivate your wellness routine and to stay healthy this fall.

1. Prioritize what is most valuable to you.


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Cook This: Delicious Fall Recipes

The transition into the season of fall is beautifully illustrated by the changing of leaves to reds, oranges, and yellows. Dryness plays a pivotal role in this seasonal display as trees prepare to conserve energy for the winter months by drawing their moisture in away from the leaves and down deep to the trunk and roots. Fall recipes are the perfect way to support your body into the new season.

In Chinese Medicine, humans are seen as a microcosm of the macrocosm, making dryness the predominant influence in the fall on humans as well. Symptoms of dryness are mostly likely to develop within the organ networks associated with fall, the Lung and Large Intestine. Main symptoms include dry skin, lips and throat, dry coughs, constipation, and restlessness. Fall also brings immune system challenges as we are faced with a new onslaught of germs (often driven by being inside and the passing of viruses from kid to kid to parent to adult to kale at the grocery store that everyone has to touch…le sigh.)

One of the best ways to combat dryness and to give your lungs a boost is through diet. Pears, honey, walnuts, and sesame seeds can all be used medicinally to nourish the yin moistening fluids of the body to counteract dryness, strengthen the Lungs, stop a dry cough, prevent constipation, and ease restlessness and insomnia, which are more prevalent in the fall.

The warming spices make these recipes especially suited for the climate in the Northwest. Cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom all fire up the digestion and help nourish and support us in the cooler fall season.

Baked Pears. 

This fall recipe is one kids and adults alike absolutely love. I prefer mine less sweet so use way less honey. My teenager is all about loading it on so play with it to see what you like best!


  • 4 large ripe (yet firm) pears, any variety
  • 4 teaspoons honey, or to taste
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • 3/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts


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Back to School- Keeping the Kids (and Yourself!) Healthy

It’s not just kids and parents who get sick in the fall. More sick kids = more sick parents = more sick people sneezing on your kale. We spend more time inside as the weather cools down. We find ourselves getting less exercise. We are more likely to turn to poor habits as we head into winter.

That said, this post will focus on the littles since it’s back-to-school season. I’ll be writing more about healthy immune systems as we head into fall!

A healthy developing child will on average get about 4 illnesses during any given year.  On the contrast, healthy adults would get approximately 2 illnesses a year.

What happens in the school environment that makes kids more susceptible to getting sick? (more…)

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Cook This: Pork Chops (or grilled chicken!) with Spicy Peach Salsa

pork chop dr. samantha

pork chop dr. samanthaGrilled pork chops are an easy and lovely staple summer dish in our house. Protein forward with a light taste. The peaches make add some sweet, the adobo chiles add some spicy, and the cilantro adds a delicious depth. We always make some extra chops to freeze for later with our Food Saver (these things are sooo helpful when you want to make sure to always have healthy food on hand…it will allow cooked meat to stay completely fresh without freezer burn for 6-9 months…I don’t know how we would get by without ours!)

We make it with pork but it could also easily be done with chicken in exactly the same manner!

Now that I’m thinking about it, I bet it grilled tofu would work great based with garlic oil, grilled, and topped with this salsa (we have soy allergies over here so although I actually love tofu, it’s off the table for us).



  • 3 ripe peaches peeled and cut into 1/4-1/2 inch slices (we used white peaches last time we did this recipe and it was even better!)
  • 2 TBSP very finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 to 1 TBSP canned adobo chiles minced into very small pieces. Adjust this based on your preference for intensity of spice.
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • a few grinds of fresh black pepper

  Pork Chop/Chicken Rub

  • 2 TBSP ground cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

 Pork chops or Chicken breasts: Six 1.5 inch thick chops or breasts.



Salsa– Mix ingredients and adjust to taste.

Meat—Mix rub ingredients together, rub onto meat and refrigerate for 30-60 min if you have the time.

  • For pork—Grill pork chops to internal temperature of 145 degrees, remove, and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
  • For chicken—Grill to internal temperature of 170 degrees, remove, and let sit for 3-5 minutes.

Pile salsa on your chop and serve with a grain (if desired) and a veggie (or two!) We typically serve them with quinoa or grilled veggies along with a side of sautéed spinach. 🙂
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