As you bundle up in your parka and head out to warm up the car I know the last thing you are thinking about is spring allergies, but I want to talk about why maybe you should be. More than 1 out of every 6 Canadians suffer from seasonal allergies[i]. Symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, fatigue and trouble breathing are just some of the more common symptoms. The majority of the treatment strategies that conventional medicine offers are focused on symptom management (e.g. antihistamines). What if we could address the root cause of seasonal allergies?
Have you heard about the love hormone? It’s called oxytocin, and research correlates high levels with being in-love, mother-infant bonding, trust, and empathy. Most research focuses on your brain as the production site of this hormone, but your heart actually produces and stores a significant amount of it. Your heart also produces other critical hormones, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and Atrial Naturietic Peptide. The old idea that the heart is just a “pump”, has not served us well in medicine.
The heart has a direct connection to the brain via the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which some people refer to as the “Rest and Digest” state of the body. In fact, there are more nerves carrying heart signals to the brain than vice versa. What kinds of signals do you think it’s sending, and how much are these affecting your health? Your behavior? Your thoughts?
It’s a question asked of me frequently, and not an easy one to answer. A review of recent research suggests a decent 42% effectiveness for last year’s vaccine[i],[ii], but also with little to no impact on days of work lost, hospitalizations, or complications from influenza in generally healthy people[iii]. A review last year even noted lack of benefit to the elderly in long term care facilities when healthcare workers were routinely immunized [iv]. Despite the confusion, prevailing medical opinion continues to promote the flu shot as the best way to protect ourselves and the vulnerable members in our community. So, while I struggle to offer clear advice regarding the flu vaccine, here’s what I can tell you about the flu virus:
Menopause is a natural phase of a woman’s life but many of us aren’t clear about what is going on in our bodies during this time. Did you know that menopausal symptoms can begin as early as 35 years of age? Do you know what health conditions women are at increased risk for post-menopause? This seminar will go through it all.
Lyme Disease. I have a difficult time thinking of a more contentious health topic. The chronicity of the disease continues to be rejected by most of our medical professionals despite intense pressure from grassroots and non-profit organisations to remain more open minded about the thousands of Canadians suffering with chronic, debilitating symptoms.[i] Patients ask me: “How is this knowledge gap possible? Why aren’t our medical doctors prepared to treat these symptoms?” I have a few ideas.
Perhaps you had a routine physical exam and blood testing with your Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor and discovered that your blood sugar was uncomfortably high. Maybe you’re concerned about your family history of diabetes or heart disease and already recognize that prevention is key. It’s a common scenario in my office, perhaps because an estimated 22% of Canadians have pre-diabetes. For the most part, type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle illness, but not always in the way we think it is.
Insulin is a hormone produced by our pancreas that helps sugar (i.e. glucose) enter our cells. It has a major impact on our metabolism and how our body gets energy. When our muscle, brain and tissue cells stop responding to insulin this causes a condition called insulin resistance. If our cells become resistant to insulin then our pancreas needs to create even more insulin to get the glucose inside those stubborn cells. This can become a slippery slope
Ever wonder why your seasonal allergies vary in intensity from year to year? What made them so much worse last year, and suddenly so much better this past season? It’s not as simple as environmental fluctuations that change how plants bloom. Our immune reactions against otherwise harmless things like pollen fluctuate and adapt according to what else is happening in our bodies. And unlike the growing season, our body’s reaction to this environmental stressor is one thing we have more control over than traditionally considered.
Fatigue and low energy is one of the most common concerns that patients come to see me for. Sometimes the fatigue is a new symptom but for the majority of people, it is something they have been struggling with for years. In many cases it presents itself gradually, like a slow but steady decline. Now they find themselves with so little energy they can’t do the activities that they want and it is affecting their quality of life. There are many different root causes for low energy but one’s hormonal state is usually a major player. I want to briefly cover two hormonal issues that can lead to low energy.
Before the year 2000, most medical approaches assumed that the adult brain continuously lost brain cells and was incapable of regeneration. We now know that the brain is incredibly plastic, meaning that it can adapt, grow, and heal. Up until 2 years ago, we believed that the brain was anatomically entirely separate from our immune system. However, the very recent discovery of lymphatic vessels that directly connect the brain to our immune system have incredible implications for our broader understanding of brain health. Add to this a growing body of compelling research linking aberrant immune function to mood disorders, and we finally have some serious tools to investigate alternatives to the traditional serotonin-promoting antidepressant pharmaceuticals that fail for so many people with depression.
When it comes to bone health, calcium and vitamin D3 are considered “must have” vitamins but it appears there is a new kid in town that could be just as essential. Vitamin K2 has been in the spotlight for osteoporosis (i.e. degeneration of bones) research for the last two decades and there is a lot to say about it. Not to be mistaken for its very close relative Vitamin K1, which plays a significant role in blood clotting, vitamin K2 seems to make our bones stronger.
A report from the Nurses Health Study showed that women supplementing with at least 110 mcg of K2 are 30 % LESS likely to break a hip than women who aren’t supplementing.
According to the Canadian Sleep Society, up to 40% of Canadians have insomnia symptoms and up to 13% qualify as having a sleep disorder. Generally speaking, if you’re distressed by poor sleep at least 3 nights a week for a minimum of 3 months, and there is no obvious explanation for your sleep problem (such as a drug side-effect or crying infant), then you qualify as having insomnia disorder.
Bio-identical hormones offer treatment options for menopausal symptoms such as insomnia and anxiety. They also play a role in men’s health, and fertility. Dr. Angela Hunt, Naturopathic Doctor at KIHC, is pleased to announce the addition of bio-identical hormone prescriptions to her practice. For more information, please attend her complimentary information session next month, or visit our facebook page. Call or email to reserve your spot – registration is required for this event.
Tuesday September 27th, 7:00pm
Workshop Space at KIHC
By Dr. Angela Hunt ND
Let us start this off by reminding everyone that menopause is NOT a disease but a natural cycle in a woman’s life. This life cycle can be a bit rough for some, but there are ways to navigate through it more easily. The definition of menopause is one full year without any menstruation[i]. It is important to note that numerous women start to experience menopausal symptoms even before their period has completely stopped, a time called “peri-menopause”. Peri-menopause can start up to a decade before menstruation stops, making this whole process a drawn out affair. I want to cover some of the natural options women have for managing symptoms during their menopausal years but first, let’s review the most common symptoms.
The immune system is one of our most precious resources for good health. Seasonal allergy symptoms are an indication of an overactive immune response against harmless pollens and are a useful sign that our immune system requires some support. Here are some simple strategies to reduce your seasonal allergy symptoms and improve your immune system health.
When I started in naturopathic medicine I was so excited to work with kids. I assumed I would be treating lots of upset tummies and stubborn rashes. Don’t get me wrong, I do commonly treat gastrointestinal issues and eczema in little ones. Yet, there is another condition that I treat far more and it may surprise you. Anxiety is by far one of the most common ailments I see in children walking through my door. I never would have guessed that stress and anxiety are so rampant in our children, but research confirms my experience and shows that anxiety is on the rise.
Several studies show consistently that there has been a dramatic increase in anxiety and depression among children and adolescents over the past three decades. It should not be shocking that with this increase we have also seen a marked increase in the prescribing of anti-anxiety medications among pediatric populations. Children as young as two years old have been reported to be on Prozac (a common anti-anxiety medication). This is clearly alarming, and I’d like to go over what anxiety looks like in children, why it is on the rise, and some naturopathic alternatives to pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
KFL&A Public Health reports that in 2013, 23% of the ticks brought in for testing were positive for B. Burgdorferi, the infectious agent of Lyme disease. Our region is considered high risk for Lyme disease. Additional infections carried by ticks (collectively known as Lyme co-infections), were not evaluated. Please educate yourself, friends, and family members about tick-bite prevention and treatment. I’ve thoroughly researched and summarized some guidelines to keep in mind this season:
1. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing with pants tucked into socks, when outdoors in tall grasses and wooded areas so that ticks are more visible.
2. A product containing 30% DEET is officially recommended for adults. For children younger than 12 years, Health Canada recommends using a product with 10% DEET. However, the repelling effects at this concentration may only last for 1 to 2 hours. Alternate approved chemicals for children or sensitive individuals include products with Icaridin (e.g. Avon Skin So Soft, some MEC and OFF! brand products).
3. Non-approved but well researched natural repellants include Lemon Eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus citriodora), Labrador tea oil (Rhododendron tomentosum), Juniper (Juniperus virginia), and Marjoram (Origanum majorana). These can be mixed in a ratio of 12 parts pure grain alcohol (95% if available), to 1 part oil combination, and applied liberally with a dark glass spritzer bottle over clothing.
Optimal nutrition is one of our biggest safeguards against chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.
Hormone testing can be a helpful way to evaluate menopausal symptoms, PMS, fatigue, weight challenges, and mental health concerns. They are also a useful pre-requisite for bio-identical hormone prescriptions from your Naturopathic Doctor.