Whooping Cough Prevention and Treatment

In the last week, we have seen a couple of little ones show up with confirmed cases of whooping cough.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the bordetella pertussis bacteria. It starts out looking like the common cold–runny nose, fever, mild cough. This is then followed by severe coughing fits, sometimes with the characteristic “whoop” sound at the end of the fit. These coughing fits can go on for 10 weeks, giving it the nickname “the 100-day cough”.

You can hear the sounds of pertussis here.

But…I thought we had vaccines for pertussis?

Whooping cough is actually the second most common infectious childhood disease in Canada, after influenza. It’s endemic, meaning it’s always around, but it usually doesn’t show itself much–just in minor periodic outbreaks.

This isn’t unusual–the vaccine isn’t perfect. It’s estimated to have about an 80-85% effectiveness after three doses, and that effectiveness wears off over time. As a result, whooping cough re-emerges occasionally.

For an in depth look at the research on this, Dr. Suzanne Humphries, MD does a good job of outlining the issues. It is a long article but worth the read if you are a worried parent.

Prevention of Pertussis

Vaccination is currently the prevention method of choice. It is part of the infant vaccination schedule, which is important. There is a 0.5% mortality rate in infants under 1 year of age who contract pertussis. Before regular pertussis vaccination, moms who contracted the infection in childhood would be immune to it when they had their babies (a natural infection confers immunity for over 30 years). When they breastfed their babies they little ones would get the benefit of that immunity from their mothers.

Many mothers now have been part of public vaccination programs and their immunity is likely to have worn off, resulting in increased risk. A blood test can show if mom is immuno-competent.

Treatment

Conventional treatment is generally antibiotics, but they generally have very little positive effect. In fact, more and more evidence is coming forward about the negative effect of using antibiotics, especially when they are not needed. We’ve written about this before.

As naturopaths, we like to support the immune system in its efforts to deal with the infection, and Vitamin C is the core treatment tool.

The pertussis bacteria makes a “toxin” that is at least partly responsible for the lung symptoms. Vitamin C does a pretty good job of neutralizing that toxin. Again, Dr. Humphries does a great job discussing this issue. In our little ones, we use oral dosing, but in our teens and adults with the “100 day cough” weekly to bi-weekly treatments can decrease the duration of the illness.

Remember: If you are suspecting whooping cough in your child it is very important to seek assistance from a regulated health professional.

It’s Here! The Pantry at StoneTree Clinic

We are so excited to introduce the newest service here at StoneTree Clinic!

The Pantry at StoneTree is a food resource for our patients who need to make diet changes, and for anyone who wants to find healthy food ingredients and pre-made meals that they can trust.

Improving nutrition is one of the cornerstones of what we do as Naturopathic Doctors. We almost invariably use diet change with our patients, and it’s great to see that the popular opinion is shifting to the realization that food is indeed medicine.

Of course, the idea of diet change is simple. But actually doing it? It’s one of the hardest things we ask our patients to do. Ask anyone who’s done an anti-inflammatory diet, or gone gluten- or dairy-free for any period. It’s not easy.

To help, we wanted to give our patients a resource to help make diet change a little easier.

The Pantry at StoneTree is a food store where ALL the things for sale are gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free. In addition to cooking ingredients and snacks, there are pre-made freezer meals that have all been taste-tested and are delicious. Now, you can have a week of meals ready to go that are filled with the right ingredients to get you started on your diet change.

Drop by the clinic to watch The Pantry grow, to try some delicious and healthy food, and to give us ideas for new foods. We’ll be adding new products all summer, filling the shelves with helpful ways to support your healthy changes!

Vitamin C and Sepsis (& Other Infections!)

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by your body’s response to an infection that has gotten out of control.

Sepsis develops when the chemicals of the immune system that are released into the bloodstream to fight an infection instead cause wide spread inflammation throughout the entire body. When sepsis turns into septic shock things get really serious. Organs start to fail and 30-50% of patients will die.

Dr. Paul Marik MD, a critical care doctor, found something completely by accident: using high doses of vitamin C in septic patients seems to change outcomes quite a bit for the better.

After reading a paper on Vitamin C given to him by a colleague, Dr. Marik came across a patient in the ICU with septic shock who was in critical and not expected to live. Remembering the paper on vitamin C, he gave the women a dose of it–a last-ditch effort that he didn’t expect to work.

When Marik arrived back at the hospital the next day he found his patient still very much alive, and in fact improving! This lead him to use the therapy again and again with similar results.

Dr. Marir published his research in the medical journal Chest. The results are astonishing.

  • In the control group (patients managed with the usual sepsis approach), 40.4% of the group died.
  • In the Vitamin C-treated group, only 8.5% of those in the treated group died.

Of course, we all know by now that stats can be deceiving. Here are the real numbers:

  • In the control group,  19 of 47 people died.
  • In the Vitamin C group, 4 out of 47 people died.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Vitamin C. It’s a tool we use all the time. But people should be shouting these results from the rooftops! I don’t know of many treatments that get those kind of success rates.

If you’re interested in digging in more.

The Long History of Vitamin C and Infection

Really, I shouldn’t be surprised by these results. Vitamin C has been a vitamin of interest to treat various infections for decades. Medical Doctors in the 1930’s were using it to treat polio and counter diptheria toxiod

This was important stuff–at the time there were no vaccines for these diseases and very few good treatments.

Andrew Saul, PhD is one of North American’s leading experts in vitamin therapy, and he does a good job of presenting the old and lost research on the value of Vitamin C for various infections and diseases. If you have any interest in the awesome little vitamin, this 53-minute lecture is definitely worth your time.

How to Decide What to Eat

North Americans are obsessed with figuring out what is or isn’t the BEST food or diet.

Reports in the media like this one report on a single food that is magic for a specific health complaint–in this case nuts and colon cancer. No doubt some media outlet will post an article the soon that nuts are bad for you because they are too fattening, too contaminated or likely to cause diverticulitis.

It seems like there is just no knowing what is good for you and what isn’t.

In fact, the International Food Information Council Foundation’s annual Food and Health survey this spring reported that 78% of those surveyed reported they encountered conflicting information about healthy food, and the follow-up questions indicated that 58% of respondents reported that this conflicting info created doubt in the food choices they were making.

We’re confused, in other words, and we don’t know what to do.

How To Decide What To Eat

Knowledge is power…expect when it isn’t. The way that health and nutrition is reported in western media is not making us healthier and more empowered. It’s doing the exact opposite.

The best resource I have found to take the confusion out of healthy food and healthy eating is Michael Pollen’s book, In Defense of Food.  He digs into lots of great detail to support his thesis which is simple, easy and NOT confusing: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

By “food”, Pollan means things your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Whole foods. The more processed a food becomes the less it should be eaten.

  • Strawberries? Yes. Strawberry jam…less so.  “Strawberry” milkshake from McDonalds? No.
  • Non-GMO corn? Yes. GMO, round-up ready corn…less so. Organic corn chips even less so. High fructose corn syrup? No.
  • Sunflower seeds? Yes. Sunflower oil…less so. Commercially produced, low-fat salad dressing with sunflower oil? No.
  • Grass fed beef. Yes. (Assuming you eat meat.) Commercially farmed corn feed beef…less so. Processed beef patties with fake cheese and simulated bacon flavouring? No.

It’s a good rule of thumb. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. If you want to learn more, you can watch the documentary “In Defense of Food” on Netflix.

By they way…Pollan followed up In Defense of Food with Food Rules, a guide to answer the question, “What should I eat?” Guess what the last rule is?

“Break the rules once in a while.”

Worth considering. All these years of study and worry and research and media don’t seem to have made us any healthier!

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Happy Birthday Canada!

We have a lot to celebrate!

  • Canadians are living longer than ever with an average life expectancy of 82 years.
  • Almost 90% of Canadians reported feeling in good to excellent health—the highest proportion of people among G7 countries.
  • 70% of Canadians considered their mental health to be either very good or excellent.
  • The proportion of Canadians who smoke is decreasing overall. Just under 4 million Canadians currently smoke – in 2002 there were 5.4 million.
  • More Canadians are completing their high school and post-secondary education than ever before—in 2015, 90% finished high school and 66% were a post-secondary graduate.

For this and so much more we are grateful to call this great country home.

Keep up the great work!