Are you familiar with the term “echo chamber”? Amongst other things, it’s a media concept that describes how the internet works. Instead of expanding our awareness and experience of the world, it can limit it. The belief systems or “lens” we inadvertently apply in our social media engagements and google browsing, is amplified and reflected back to us. We only see what we already believe to be true. As the internet giants adapt to keep us engaged, our society becomes more polarized, with more extreme political views, and violence. Healthcare is not immune to this effect.
Trouble sleeping at night because of an enlarged prostate? Tired of waking up more than three times at night to go to the bathroom? Perhaps the only advice given to you is to stop drinking water before bedtime, or stopping coffee and soda. This advice can be helpful, but it does not help get to the root cause.
The Healing Power of Tea
I love tea. One of my favorite daily things to do is to make myself a cup of tea and take a moment to slowly sip it. However, when I first started practicing as a Naturopathic Doctor I gave little respect to the humble herbal tea. It was when I did a residency at a first nations health clinic in downtown Toronto that I truly learned the healing power of a cup of tea. In naturopathic medicine we often use tinctures, which are alcohol extractions of plants.
In medicine, when an infection becomes chronic, we generally consider that either the immune system is failing to control the infection, such as in HIV and AIDs, or that the infection is able to hide from the immune system, such as with the herpes virus that causes cold sores. Evidence suggests that chronic infection with any of the microbes associated with Lyme disease symptoms, falls into both categories.
When treating chronic infections, many mainstream immunological approaches attempt to boost the immune response with a vaccine, or by applying cytokine therapy.
Over the last few years, I’ve developed an awe and respect for the illness we’ve come to identify as Chronic Lyme Disease. Like the great Eastern gurus who guide their students to deeper levels of self-awareness, Lyme disease pushes people to more fully, develop their faith and spirituality. A patient who has healed from chronic symptoms has done a lot of soul searching, and practiced forgiveness and gratitude. This guru teaches us many lessons, including the paradigm-shifting awareness of what an “infection” is. Chronic Lyme Disease is not an infection.
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. In 2016, this number rose to 32%. And though only 1 to 4% of bites from infected ticks generate infection, the rate is plenty high enough to consider our region a Lyme-endemic location. 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:
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