“Whatever side we are on, it will be the same side.” – Dr. Rusty

“Whatever side we are on, it will be the same side.” – Dr. Rusty


These are the last words Rusty spoke to me when we said goodbye. The sentiment was classic Rusty in its timelessly inclusive, jocular, insightful, wise, authentic and downright funny nature. A sentence couldn’t better speak to who Howard Charles “Rusty” Schlachter was.


He spoke these words as I was departing his house. Rusty almost never veiled his situation or the plight of those around him. With uncanny wit he would direct the most uncomfortable parent to see the wonder and beauty of life and this day was no different. He remarked as we shook hands that, “Brian, we may never meet again. Thank you for everything you have done for me and my family.” He was sitting in a chair during his birthday party and we all knew that his time was near. We acknowledged our love of him and our time with him, as well as his eternal invitation to work at the practice. I replied, “Rusty, we will see one another again, whether it be on this side or the other side.”  He smiled and quickly retorted, “Whatever side we are on, it will be the same side.” Now I smiled as these words hung in the air. He was right. Rusty was almost always right. We are on the same side and we always will be. As a matter of fact, everyone is on the same side we simply perceive boundaries and separateness. If you listen with your heart then you will know what he was saying that day.


I met Dr. Rusty in 2010. He was giving a talk at Food and Thought on Holistic Child Birthing and I attended. I didn’t know who this man was or why he chose Naples to speak. He was not a local practicing pediatrician. I attended out of curiosity and to see what I could learn. I sat in the back row.


As fate would have it, I unknowingly sat next to Judy, his wife. I mumbled something to the effect, I have never heard someone say these things before except me.  Judy overheard me and asked me what I had just said. I repeated my sentence and this time included that I was a holistic pediatrician. After the talk she introduced herself and quickly had Rusty and me talking. Within a week he was practicing at Thornburg Pediatrics.


Dr. Rusty maintained a Monday through Friday and two weekends a month New Jersey practice then flew to Naples on the off weekends to see his wife and cover my practice. He did this until the age of 73. Judy stayed in Naples for the season. Eventually and after a few good snow storms, the New Jersey house was sold and along with it the practice was closed. This was 2015.

Dr. Rusty’s carriage house and pediatrics office.

Dr. Rusty had been practicing out of his carriage house located at the back of his 1800s Essex Falls farmhouse. The carriage house had been his office since the 1970s. You could say he was the first home visit pediatrician. He practiced common sense pediatrics and our philosophies meshed perfectly. He was the mentor I never knew I was looking for.


So Rusty, as you once told a new mom who called you late at night asking if a normal baby behavior was a problem, I say the same in eulogy to you. “Walk outside to the open air, drop to your knees, look to the heavens and say, ‘Thank you, God, for giving me a good one!” Thank you, Rusty, for giving all of us a good one…

Number Two: Why Movement Matters

Written for Dr. Thornburg Wellness by Special Contributor, Jennifer Barrell, MS, CNS, LDN

Poop. We all do it, or we all should, regularly. Yet the questions remain: Is it normal? What is normal…and why is it so important?

An infant’s first poo, that dark green sludgy-looking substance- or meconium, can be somewhat alarming for new parents. As foreign as it seems, it makes sense given their last “meal” included all types of in utero appetizers such as amniotic fluid, intestinal epithelial cells and bile. After this first alien poo a child’s bowel movements will go through numerous changes in frequency and consistency for years to come. As their wee bodies settle and get used to living life outside of the womb, their bowel movements fluctuate as well- infants are not known for their stability. Changes in sleep patterns, nursing duration and frequency, and a nursing mothers’ diet can all affect a wee one’s stool consistency. Current science suggests that when an infant is vaginally born their microbiome mirrors the mothers. So, the gut health of the mother at birth largely determines the gut health of the babe to start. However, all of that changes once outside food or formula is introduced. This is when the next major change in bowel movements occurs, naturally.

You can tell a lot about a person by their poop. Most of us know about the good ol’ Bristol Stool chart for checking consistency. Type 4 is ideal: smooth, soft and sausage or snake like. Pebbles, rocks, and/or straining all indicate constipation, or types 1-3. On the other spectrum loose, no form, or liquid-like suggests diarrhea, or types 5-7: which is also not ideal. Occasional diarrhea may not be a red flag depending on the diet and symptoms, but occasional constipation can build up quickly creating a laundry list of cascading troubles.

When the large intestine becomes backed up, those areas stretch and little pockets are created. This makes it easier for more stool to get trapped, thus exacerbating a seemingly innocuous one-time event. This is one reason why it is essential to keep it all moving- all the time.

Consequences of constipation

Biotransformation is the process by which our bodies breakdown substances that are unwanted or not needed. There are three phases: phase I, phase II, and phase III. Stool elimination and urination are the third phase. Our body’s ability to properly detox relies on adequate hydration and regular bowel movements to effectively rid the body of any environmental or ingested toxicants. Without consistent stool movements our bodies cannot effectively process the toxins we are exposed to daily. Toxins that sit in the colon for extended periods of time may be reabsorbed thus putting more stress on the liver. Excessive toxin build-up plus harmful bacteria growth equal bad news. It is comparable to not taking out the trash at night. If there is a chicken carcass in the garbage can overnight, it will decompose, and bacteria will grow creating a foul odor. It would be unusual to leave that chicken carcass in the trash for days, just as it is unnatural to withhold stool.

Besides abdominal pain, constipation can affect our immune system. Over 70% of our immune system resides in the gut, thus maintaining regular bowel movement is imperative to our ability to fight off bacteria and viruses that we encounter daily. The gut-brain axis model demonstrates how constipation can also affect sleep patterns, moods and our general sense of well-being. It is widely known that sustained stress causes elevated levels of cortisol -our stress hormone. However on-going stress also lowers levels of serotonin – a hormone related with happiness- and gut motility. Constipation can also lead to dysbiosis- an imbalance of beneficial bacteria, which also contributes to: anxiety, depression, and a far-reaching list of other ailments affecting the entire body.

Chronic constipation can lead to anal fissures, malabsorption of nutrients, a build up of toxins, liver stress, fecal impaction, a stretched out colon or diverticulitis, gall-bladder issues, varicose veins, arthritis, and hernias.

As mentioned previously, bowel movements can be altered by a wide variety of dietary, environmental and lifestyle choices and factors.

Here are 7 basic tactics to keep everything moving.

1. Stay hydrated– sip filtered water all day rather than gulping large amounts at one time. Drink half your body weight in ounces (approx), more if excessively sweating (which happens here in the summer!). Don’t forget about sodium and potassium when hydrating.

2. Exercise! Regular movement maintains regular movement.

3. Ensure sufficient dietary soluble & unsoluble fiber and resistant starch daily. Both types of fiber have different jobs, so both are important. Soluble fiber is found in many growing foods, specifically beans, greens and complex carbs. Specific soluble fibers feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. Insoluble fibers attract water and act as the bulking agent for stools, creating a larger more well-formed poo. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables- usually the skin, seed or stalk. Resistant starch acts as an insoluble and soluble fiber, and keeps you fuller for longer. The four types of resistant starches are found in unusual places such as slightly green bananas or cooked and then cooled white potatoes.

4. Remove processed foods such as those high in sugar, fried foods and refined grains. Besides the additional toxicants that come with eating processed foods, and the lack of nutrients, they can also slow down the biotransformation process.

5. Eat slow, mindfully and chew properly. Resting and digesting allows the body to produce the necessary enzymes and stomach acid to properly breakdown the food.

6. Ensure sufficient vitamin C and magnesium. These are just two of the micronutrients needed for proper elimination.

7. Manage stress somehow, someway. Find time to meditate daily, do yoga or any other task that keeps you present, at peace and content.

Determining the root cause of the constipation (or diarrhea) is of utmost importance. If symptoms of either persist for longer periods of time, more stress gets put upon the rest of the body and the more complicated an already complex system becomes.


More about the author:

Jennifer Barrell, MS, CNS, LDN, is a wife, mother of two perfect little ones, and a functional/clinical nutritionist currently living and helping people navigate their way to health in Naples, FL. 

Don’t Leave Home Without These Travel Essentials

Dr. Thornburg Wellness Original Content Written By Dr. Cade Copeland

Taking a vacation is something many hard-working parents simply don’t do as frequently as they should.


You worked hard around the clock cooking, cleaning, acting as a chauffeur, folding the laundry and being a not-so-digital version of the assistant Siri and have now accumulated some much needed “paid time off.”  Let’s make sure that special trip to Mazatlan with the in-laws doesn’t come with any unexpected side effects for you or the kiddos in the form of dreaded diarrhea!


Here is our list of the Top 5 Travel Essentials;


1. Probiotics – good bacteria never goes out of style!  As we learn more about bacteria, research is pointing to gut health as the top indicator for mood stability, mental performance, sleeping patterns and immune health.  Dosing up on your probiotics in prep for travel can act as armor for contagious coughs and colds, resistance to viral infections and parasites and may even help give your skin some extra glow for those family photos!  Check out our store for trusted probiotics designed to optimize every stage of life.

2. Vitamin C and D – unlike most other animals, humans cannot make vitamin C and therefore must get it from our diet.  Vitamin D on the other hand should take it’s official title as a hormone instead of just a vitamin, it really is that important!  Taking an extra boost of these two will undoubtedly inspire your system to superhuman status during periods of higher stress, mediocre sleep and less than ideal meal choices that typically occur during travel.

3. Topical Magnesium Oil – crucial in over 300 bio-mechanical reactions in the body, magnesium helps to provide a relaxing and soothing calm to a stressed mind and body.  We prefer the topical route because it hits the bloodstream much quicker than an oral supplement.  Topical magnesium also bypasses the gut so it shouldn’t cause any problems there for you or your kiddos. Simply apply to the bottom of feet before bed or on any stiff or sore muscles throughout the day; don’t worry about using too much, your body will say thank you!

4. Thieves Hand Spray – while we don’t normally advocate for “anti-bacterial” types of products, this one does it right.  While many other products out there have potent ingredients that do more harm than good, this hand spray contains only naturally-derived essential oils and carriers that work with the body and not against it.  Whether you need it for the gas station bathroom or the headliner on the airplane, don’t leave home without it.  If you’re the DIY type, Wellness Mama has you covered with this simple recipe.

5. Activated Charcoal – this one carries some serious bio-hacking potential!  Save some in your emergency kit as it protects against poor food choices and can even act as a lifesaving hangover cure.  While it doesn’t negatively affect gut bacteria, it adsorbs pretty much anything else in the tummy, so don’t take within 90 minutes of good food choices, other supplements or prescribed medications.  Charcoal sourced from the hull of coconuts is the purest form.  Capsules can be opened and poured into water or juice for the little ones and even used topically to soak up any unwanted toxic exposure on the skin. 


We hope your travels are full of fun and laughter, pictures worthy of being framed and memories to last a lifetime.  Dr. Thornburg Wellness is honored to give you confidence for your family’s health and we appreciate you being a part of our mission of Bringing Healthcare Home.  We invite you to check back with us in the weeks ahead as we launch a new store with great products that support generational health and wellness.


More About the Author:

Dr. Cade Copeland is a husband of 12 years, father of 3 little ones (with another on the way) and a practicing physician for 8 years. He believes that no matter what symptom, diagnosis or label a person carries, the focus should be to build upon what is right and not on what is wrong. He is a welcomed, articulate and well-educated guest blogger at Dr. Thornburg Wellness.

Indelible Scar of Stress

“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.” – Hans Selye, MD, PhD


There it is in a nutshell.  Stress is essential to our survival and takes a little bit of our life force from us at the same time.  Dr. Selye is credited with the discovery of stress and giving it its name in the 1930’s.  Stress like many great scientific discoveries was an accidental discovery.


Dr. Selye was a young promising endocrinologist in search of a new hormone. He began injecting an ovarian extract into lab rats when he thought he hit the jackpot.  He was 28 years old and already discovered a new hormone!


This hormone, so he thought, was causing swollen adrenal glands.  These are the glands that produce cortisol, adrenaline, and aldosterone.  We knew then that these chemicals increase your heart rate, increase blood pressure, increase blood sugar levels, decrease immune system, enhance your brain’s use of glucose, and couches nonessential activities like digestion, reproductive systems, and growth processes.  


Next Dr. Selye observed that the test subjects developed atrophy of the thymus glands which play a critical role in a healthy immune system.  The thymus gland trains T-cells which defends against pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and fungi.  The Thymus gland also neutralizes T-cells that have gone rogue attacking our own body as if it were a foreign object.  This new discovery might mean a great deal to immunocompromised patients.


To great disappointment, he repeated the experiment over and over with other extracts.  He discovered that no matter what he injected into the rats they developed the same symptoms.  Therefore, he could not say exactly what was eliciting this response of swollen adrenal glands, bleeding stomach ulcers, and shrunken thymus glands.  He followed the breadcrumbs to a certain commonality in his experiments. It was not what was in the injection, it was the process of injecting the lab subjects!


As a pediatrician, I can tell you that our young patients often develop a common response to seeing our nurse, Ms. Denise.  It begins with a tenseness in the muscles, a dilation of the eyes, and a more emotional state than normal.  Typically followed by a preventative plea, “No, I don’t want a shot today!”  


Dr. Seyle must have had a heavier hand than our Ms. Denise.  The lab rats were developing what Dr. Seyle originally called ‘non-specific unpleasantness.” Cornered, caught, stuck, injected, and dropped the lab rats developed swollen adrenal glands, shrunken thymus glands, and bleeding stomach ulcers– some of the hallmarks of stress.


The Stress Response


In its simplest form stress is your body’s response to a demand.  The demand may be physical, mental, or emotional.  Whether or not the stressor is real or imagined is of no consequence as the results are very real.


3 Stages of Stress Response


Dr. Sayle created a useful three-stage model identifying what we now refer to as the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal (HPA) Axis.  


Stage 1: Alarm

Our first reaction, alarm, is triggered by being upset by physical, emotional, or mental stimuli. The hypothalamus raises our biological alarm system by identifying threats. The hypothalamus bypasses our logic and reason which is necessary for life or death situations.  This is why we literally sense threats before we can process or conceptualize what is happening.  If a threat is determined we get flooded with chemical messengers and hormones that prepare us for fight or flight.  Adrenaline begins coursing through our veins and our metabolism changes.  Our lungs open up to allow for more oxygen to our muscles and our brain.  Our blood pressure and heart rate rise to the occasion.  Our memory gets enhanced to record these experiences for future reference or reference past encounters.  Though, resources are finite and costly when stepping on our biological gas pedal.  Energy is redirected from less immediate tasks.  We stop growing, stop repairing, stop healing, stop digesting, and stop reproducing.


Stage 2: Resistance

If we do not remove ourselves from the perceived threat then we begin to fatigue.  We enter into Stage 2 of stress response which is appropriately called resistance.  We resist our perceived aggressor, we resist surrender, we resist rest and relaxation.  Glucose is removed from stores and finds its way back into the bloodstream.  Adrenaline gives way to cortisol for longer-term energy.  It becomes increasingly more difficult to maintain our alertness, strength and stamina.  Frustration and anxiety are commonly experienced. Homeostatic pressures build for us to return to a neutral state. We require relief from our stressor stimuli less we progress into the third stage of Stress Response.


Stage 3: Exhaustion

If we do not find refuge from chronic stress, or repeatedly bounce between alarm and resistance, we become physically, emotionally, and mentally depleted.  Our glands and organs are already depleted.  Our immune system is all but shut down.  We are literally sick and tired.  Our spirits become defeated and we can succumb easily to depression.  Nobody wants to be here.


Mind Body Spirit


Stress response and HPA axis are the perfect embodiment of mind body and spirit.  Here we see how our thoughts have a bearing on our bodies and our spirits.  There was a study done in Germany that looked at two headmasters from 2 different group homes.  While not the most academically rigorous it did have its merits.  One of the headmasters was thought to have been a bit more caring while the other was noticeably more stern.  It was observed that the children of the first group home with the more caring headmaster grew faster and taller than the children of the other environment.  After a period of time the headmasters switched homes and again the children with the more caring headmaster posted more positive physical growth versus the other group home.  One might expect that a certain amount of growth was expected from the late bloomers, but the caring headmaster had brought with him some of his favorite children whom also continued to grow at accelerated rates.  The thought is that the children lived under stress with the stern headmaster which put the breaks on growth.  

There is another story of the effects of stress on growth which is somewhat more well known.  When a mother lost her eldest child she was overcome with depression and treated her living son with disregard.  “Is that… oh it’s just you.”  It may have been the trauma of his childhood that lead to his psychogenic dwarfism and having never conceived a child in marriage later in life.  This is the true story of J.M. Barrie who created none other than the Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.



Neutrality of Stress

Our core values and beliefs will exert the greatest influence over our reaction to stress.  Dr. Selye noted, “It is not stress that kills us. It is our reaction to stress.”


Most stimuli are neutral, but through our personal filters, we allow them to become stressors that elicit our stress response. Not every stimulus is a hungry lion trying to make a meal out of us, not every stimulus requires the race or fight of our lives. The magnitude of our stress response is mediated by our mental attitudes towards the stimuli.  Traffic is an excellent example.  Traffic is really a neutral event that poses no threat to ourselves.  Two people sitting in the same traffic, having the same stressor, may have very different stress responses to this scenario.  My friend’s wife never seems to be bothered by traffic, partly because she is from Manila and very little compares to it, partly because she didn’t have a car in Manila so having A/C is a luxury, and partly because she views car time as family time.  Meanwhile, others suffer road rage with the harshest of consequences.


Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers


In his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers Stanford University biologist Robert M. Sapolsky brilliantly explains why Zebras aren’t suffering from stress like humans do.  After the Zebra launches into flight from a lion on the savannah he quickly puts the whole thing behind him and goes back to enjoying the grass.  For all that humans are, we are a thoughtful bunch of mammals.  We tend to spend too much of our faculties thinking about our past pains and future pains that have yet exist.  We live in a state of chronic stress thinking of stressful situations raising the alarm and putting our foot back on the biological gas pedal until we are running on empty.


Sapolsky goes on to explain, “Chronic stress has the ability to suppress our immunity below baseline. Aids has taught us that if you suppress the immune system sufficiently, a thirty-year-old will fester with cancers and pneumonias that doctors used to see once in an elderly patient during a fifty-year career.”


Dr. Selye put it this way, “Stress in addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself, and the result of itself.”


5 Ways to Relieve Stress

  1. Counting and breathing.  There is a reason this is still part of our culture because it is effective.  We become more aware of the present moment while letting go of our thoughts and feelings.
  2. Cultivating the attitude of gratitude. We can’t be upset if we are grateful.
  3. Healthy stress relievers.  Sure eating ice cream or having a glass of wine helps dull the pain.  So does a swim, a run, a bicycle trip, or a yoga class.
  4. Write. Letting go of your feelings and putting your thoughts on paper will help free your mind and lighten your heart.
  5. Service. Consider some casual volunteering to connect with others emotionally and spiritually.