High altitude is defined as altitude over 5,000 feet. Towns in Summit County range from 8,000 to 10,000 feet. Most people experience effects at elevations greater than 8,000 feet, with nearly 100 percent feeling some shortness of breath and decrease in exercise tolerance. The air at this elevation is 40 percent less dense than at sea level, and has 50 to 80 percent less humidity.
AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness
Symptoms of AMS include headache, and one or more of the following: loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, fatigue or weakness, dizziness or light-headedness, difficulty sleeping, confusion, or staggering gait. Most people’s symptoms will clear spontaneously within two to three days, but often much of a mountain vacation is wasted feeling miserable. Visitors should know that we have effective, natural remedies available at the Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic.
If the symptoms of AMS persist for more than two to three days, the person should return to lower elevation. Life-threatening forms of high elevation related illness are less common, but include High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). HACE occurs when the brain swells and stops functioning properly. Symptoms include loss of coordination and severe confusion, and it can be fatal within hours. HAPE occurs when uid builds in the lungs, with symptoms leading to extreme fatigue, and other respiratory symptoms such as a dry, incessant cough and chest tightness. A much less serious complication of altitude is High Altitude Flatulence Expulsion (HAFE), which is due to expansion of air trapped in the digestive tract.
Natural Remedies for AMS
Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic carries a special formulation of herbs and nutrients for treating the symptoms of acute mountain sickness created by a naturopathic doctor from Gunnison. It comes as a sweet lemon-lime powder that is mixed into filtered water, called Acli-Mate. We have found it to be highly effective for helping people who are suffering from AMS. The blend includes herbs ginkgo biloba and rhodiola, both of which have proven effective in preventing and treating altitude sickness in small independent studies. Both herbs improve circulation, especially through cerebral vessels, and cellular energy function with improved utilization of oxygen, especially in the brain and nervous system, reducing toxic brain edema. Ginkgo has been shown to inhibit platelet clotting, keeping red blood cells evenly dispersed, improving delivery of oxygen to tissues. Rhodiola appears to help the body deal with stress.
Nutrients in Acli-Mate include vitamin C, thiamin (B-1), ribo avin (B-2), niacin (B-3), pantothene (B-5) and cobolamin (B-12). The B-vitamins are usually found in foods, and work as catalysts for biochemical reactions, including function of the nervous system and the utilization of oxygen and carbohydrates by mitochondria for energy production. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, helping the body deal with stress.
Ginger root has been used clinically for nausea for centuries. Natural markets in Summit County — Natural Grocers/Vitamin Cottage, and Whole Foods, both in Frisco—carry candied and dried ginger that can be eaten as snacks, as well as ginger tea, which has the added e ect of warming the body and improving circulation while hydrating. Mountain- River Naturopathic Clinic carries several herbal combinations for sleeplessness, which don’t have the side effects of most pharmaceutical sleep aids.
Other Therapies for AMS
There are a couple places in Summit County that offer intravenous (IV) therapies for dehydration and altitude sickness, which can save a trip to the hospital. Vida-Flo in Breckenridge is an excellent choice with nurses on sta who administer the IVs and a ordable pricing: $50 for fluids replacement, $99 for IV uids with B12 and Toradol or Zofran, and free oxygen included. The nurses can travel to your home, saving you the trip to Breckenridge.
Prescription Alternatives, Summit County’s compounding and natural pharmacy, carries DMG (dimethylglycine), a supplement that improves oxygen utilization and cellular respiration, decreases lactic acid buildup, and enhances carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Many visitors have found DMG to be helpful in alleviating headaches and other symptoms of AMS, and several decades of use by doctors and clinicians without adverse or negative side effects, have shown it to be a safe supplement.
Treat the cause, not the symptoms. Naturally.
Dr. Justin Pollack and Dr. Kim Nearpass share their passion for healing at the Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic on Main Street in Frisco. In their private practice, the doctors have provided caring, personalized natural health care to adults, children, and families since 2003. The doctors take pride in listening to and getting to know their patients. Their goal is to identify they underlying cause of illness, and support the body back to health using gentle, effective natural therapies, including nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, bodywork, hydrotherapy, vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional supplements. As primary care providers, the doctors work with most acute and chronic conditions, although Dr. Nearpass has a strong focus on hormonal and women’s issues, and Dr. Pollack specializes in allergies, sensitivities, and digestive issues.
For more information on naturopathic medicine in Summit County, contact the Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic. (970) 668-1300 or MountainRiverClinic.com