We Care and Listen to You!

As most of my patients well know, we have students rotating through our office all the time. I find their presence motivating and challenging, and always stimulating! I love teaching what I know to anyone who wants to learn it, either students or patients. That is why I sometimes get behind in my schedule; I teach and talk too much!! I want you to know “the what and the why” of your symptoms and problems. I want you to know why we are testing and treating as we are.

It is common for students to ask me the most important 5 things that will help them be really good doctors. The list I tell them is much different than it was 30 years ago when I was a newly minted physician. In fact I am embarrassed to say that my current 5 most important priorities were not even on my list then.

And there are really 6 on my list now. They are:
1) Care
2) Care
3) Care
4) Listen
5) Listen
6) Listen

These “core practices” do not generate more office profit, they are not legislated in Obamacare, they are not taught in Medical School, they are not related to rapidly-improving medical technology. Technology, testing, advanced and expensive treatments have their place in Medicine. But they don’t make my “Top Ten” list. Not even close. At Kaiser-Permanente health systems in California, family docs are now “on the clock”; they have 7 minutes with any patient and must move on after that. Seven minutes!!! Not much time to Care and Listen. There is currently an office in our area where poor Medicaid reimbursement has now generated a policy that Medicaid patients can have only one problem dealt with per visit. If there are two medical needs on the same day, that patient must make an appointment the next day to deal with the second one.

I have previously occupied these blogs with exciting new (and scientific and effective) alternative testing and treatments for “what ails us all” (fatigue, brain fog, hormone imbalance, inflammation, nutritional disorders and testing, etc., etc.). But undergirding and overarching all else that we do at Upper Valley Family Practice and Urgent Care IS the CARING and the LISTENING. Without that we would be just another doctor’s office instead of being part of your family. That is a trust we earn every day as we sit with you for however long it takes and solve your needs whether large or small.

If this sounds like what you always wanted in a doctor’s office, then call (356-8883) and come in and let us show you how kind and effective medical care are one in the same!

See you soon!

Dr. Hopkin


I have been musing more about how vast the changes coming at humans really are. If my parents were still alive, my mother and father would be 96 and 94 respectively. They grew up in Star Valley without electricity, refrigeration, indoor toilets or water (hot or cold). Most transportation in their childhood was by horse; only the fortunate few had automobiles (my Dad was always trying to borrow a car to endender some Saturday night canoodling!). People ate what they grew and either ate it in season or bottled it. The “frozen meat department” was either in your cold cellar or in the barn (if you had one). You knew you had made it through another long Star Valley winter if you could go outside and pick and eat the new dandelion greens poking up through the late spring snow in May.  Air flight was still relatively new when Mom and Dad were little, but they watched men walk on the moon when they were the age I am now. So much change in a lifetime! So little time to adapt! No wonder it is so hard to keep up!

The same is true for our nutrition. The “grocery store” in Joseph Smith’s time was little more than another clapboard building that contained burlap sacks of whole grains (wheat, oats, rice), potatoes, salt, salted meats, coffee, lard. No chemical preservatives, no dyes, no gamma irradiation or freeze drying. Joseph Smith did not eat anything that had not been on someone’s table somewhere in the world for the last 5,000 years. But now look at us! And look at our grocery stores now! Our modern grocery store would be bewildering to Joseph Smith. Even the “fresh” foods there are highly processed and have been picked unripe and transported hundreds or thousands of miles before arriving on those shelves. Look at the breakfast cereal aisle. Row after row of processed, artificially sweetened, textured, and colored  “Styrofoam” that have been sprayed with 25% of the daily RDA of several vitamins like they were high gloss Ford Taurus fenders rolling off an assembly line in Detroit!! And look at the drink isle. All they had in 1830 was water, coffee (if they were lucky), spirits (if they were luckier!), and fresh unpasteurized whole milk. Now in Winco there are multiple isles of tasty carbonated beverages to choose from, the only “natural” components of which are the sugar and the water!

And how are our “guts” responding to all these changes?? Our poor intestinal tracts are understandably “confused” and rebelling. In the history of the world there has never been a culture with better access to wholesome food who has remained so undernourished!! This is true. Go back to my blog on IV nutrition. Why do we need such supplemental IV therapy?? Because our GI tracts are overtaxed and malfunctioning while we are shoveling down more empty calories per day than ever before.

This malnutrition manifests are fatigue, joint and muscle inflammation, headaches, diminished sex drive and performance, brain fog, and on and on! And yet most doctors check for a few of the “standard causes”, such as thyroid disease and anemia, then they start their patients on Prozac, etc. (a way of saying “I don’t know what else to do.”)

If all of this sounds all-too-familiar” to you, then call us and come in to discuss it. WE DO KNOW WHAT TO DO and will have you feeling better in no time! And what have you got to lose other than your fatigue and headaches?…..
We look forward to working with you! You deserve to feel as good as you want to feel!

Maintaining Good Mental Health

Rexburg, ID | Upper Valley Family Practice & Urgent Care

In last week’s blog I addressed the desired balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and how such a balance will markedly diminish inflammation in joints and arteries. If you didn’t read it, go back and do so, because we humans are drowning in Omega 6 (oils, salad dressing, fried foods), and we are also suffering from inflammation at an unprecedented level in our history. Rebalancing with Omega 3 fish oils will not only help with inflammation in joints and arteries, but also in the brain (think Alzheimer’s). When you hear about “plaquing” seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients on MRI scanning, this is really doctor speak for scar tissue. Scar tissue is the result of injury or inflammation.

This week I want to address the role of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) in maintaining good mental health. Our brains and nerve sheathing are 60% composed of fats and cholesterol, much of it MCT’s. (We are all, literally, FAT HEADS!!) MCT’s can be found in many foods, but coconut oil is a good choice (65% MCT). MCT’s are also a great source of ketone bodies that are produced through their metabolism. They are critical weapons against a host of crippling conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Huntington’s chorea, drug resistant epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.

In 2008, neonatologist Dr. Mary Newport’s husband, Steve, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. After five years of standard “treatment” he had deteriorated to the point that he was unable to speak. Then Mary found the work of Dr. Richard Veech and others who were studying MCT’s and ketone bodies for Alzheimer’s treatment. Dr. Veech, a NIH researcher, recognized how ketones counteract breakdown in energy production in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. In 2001, he published his results in the journal of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, IUBMB Life. Mary gave Steve 4 teaspoons of coconut oil a day. Within hours Mary noted distinct cognitive improvements that were verified later at a return trip to Steve’s physician. After 60 days the results were astonishing, even on such a low dose. He was communicating, typing on his computer and surfing the Web.

I was with a patient this morning whose family history is riddled with Alzheimer’s disease. He is legitimately concerned about prevention for himself. After discussing these issues with him, he will be finding coconut oil at the grocery store and starting to incorporate it in his diet. The usual dosing of coconut oil is 1-3 tablespoons per day (for you wise guys out there that is taken orally, not rubbed on cuties’ backs at the pool!) In general we should be increasing our use of olive oil, coconut oils, Omega 3 fish oils, and cutting way back on standard vegetable oils, fried foods, margarine, etc. The results will be a less-inflamed body and mind. If you want more information about inflammation and disease, go back to one of my early blogs that addresses that.

So why not another pill to solve this problem?? Because pills are seldom the solution and are often part of the problem. Here at Upper Valley Family Practice and Urgent Care, we are very comfortable with fixing problems as much as anyone else. But we are really into prevention, living healthy and feeling good as we go through life. Modest, good living leads to long and happy living. No matter how wealthy one becomes, you can’t buy good health in your later years. Like a good retirement account, “golden” older years require the steady, thoughtful investment of good decisions over time. That is how we like to take care of you.

You can count on us!

Fat: What is it?

Would you like to know “the skinny” on fat?? Well, then, are you in luck today! There is a lot of information about fats in the popular press these days. It is mostly accurate in so far as it goes, but it usually lacks the big picture. And the big picture (like the truth) will set you free—or at least make you healthier.

I really was a kid once (like, in the early days of civilization when most TV’s and even some movies were black and white….) in those venerable (ie. ancient) times we were all still living (and dying) on “meat and potatoes”. Now we hear all the time about Omega 3 fish oils and Omega 6 (vegetable and nut) oils, long-chain fatty acids (like the “spare tire” around our waists or the marbling in a good steak), and medium chain fatty acids (like coconut oils). What should we do with all of these mysterious fats? Should we shun them all and live like those poor deluded people in Seattle???

No, we don’t have to go that far to be healthy!

The key to health and fats is BALANCE!! I talk about this all the time in response to health fads and claims.

So here are the facts!

It is now believed that the human “fat diet” evolved to be optimal with a ratio of omega 3 (fish, krill) and omega 6 fatty acids (vegetable oil, nuts) of about 1 to 1 (equal parts of both in the diet). The ideal ratio seems to be about 4 to 1, omega 6’s to omega 3’s. Now, however, in many western diets that ratio is over 30/1. This is an inflammatory ratio. Our diets are very high in fried foods, margarine, salad dressings, oils, etc. This leads all of our tissues towards inflammation. It is hugely involved in inflamed artery linings that then clog up with cholesterol plaque, joints that become arthritic at early ages, skin that looks old before its time, and even brain tissue that declines into Alzheimer’s dementia. One of my earlier blogs was about inflammation and vascular disease. In it I made the point that modern heart disease is not a cholesterol problem, it is an inflammation problem! Much of that is related to the toxic environment we humans now inhabit. And much of that bad environment is how we eat.

For over 10 years I have been taking a statin drug, Crestor, to keep my cholesterol down. The prevailing wisdom at the time was lower cholesterol is always better. Three months ago, after attending the American Functional Medicine Association meetings in Atlanta, I stopped my Crestor and started taking Omega 3 fish oils each morning. My joints and muscles and energy levels have all improved. Last week I checked my lipid panel; after 3 months on Omega 3’s, it is BETTER than it was on Crestor!

When I was growing up a common phrase uttered by dopers before they doped was “better living through chemistry!” But I think there is much better living going back to natural, utilizing in balance what God has given us. That is what we try to do here at Upper Valley Family Practice and Urgent Care. We are an Urgent Care so we are capable and happy to fix your “Bo-Bo’s” and acute illnesses. But we are really interested in prevention of disease through proper and simple prevention, through choosing to live as nature intended. If that sounds “unscientific”, then I haven’t explained it well enough. It is MORE scientific and better proven at this point. That’s why we like it for our patient “family”.

Next week I will talk about promising new research on the positive role of medium chain fatty acids (coconut oil) in preventing and treating Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia.