Shingles: Causes and Prevention

Herpes zoster is the virus that causes the chickenpox. Most of us experienced this infection as kids–a very itchy rash, that can show up over the entire body.

Once chickenpox is resolved the herpes zoster virus can “hide” in a little pocket in our nerves called the dorsal root ganglia. It can hide there, dormant, for years, with a healthy immune system keeping it where it can’t cause any trouble.

But, like a gift that just keeps on giving, the virus can reemerge.

As we age, or if we are in a situation where our immune system is run down, that little virus can poke it’s head out and start causing trouble. That trouble is called shingles, and anyone who has had it can tell you it’s no fun.

This painful rash typically appears as a single “strip” of blisters that wraps around either side of your torso.   These blisters can be itchy and/or burny. They can cause numbness or tingling and result in intense sensitivity to touch. Some people also experience fever, headache, fatigue, and sensitivity to light. Overall the experience is extremely unpleasant.

Wore still, as you age, chances increase that you can develop a complication like post-herpetic neuralgia, which is continued pain even after the blisters have resolved that can result in months of discomfort.

So what to do?

1. Keep your immune system strong and healthy.

Immune boosting is the key to prevention. You want to keep that dormant virus right where it is! Eat right, exercise, get lots of rest when you feel tired and lots of laughter whenever you can.

2. Treat early.

Getting an antiviral within 72 hours of the onset of shingles will decrease the duration of the disease. If you don’t want to do conventional anti-virals, some research supports using IV Vitamin C to decrease both disease duration and post-herpetic neuralgia. We’ve seen this work in practice in many patients. Vitamin B12 injections have also been shown to decrease post-herpetic neuralgia.

Shingles is no fun. If you develop symptoms, see your health care provider as soon as possible!

Your Cold and Flu “GO-KIT”

It is not uncommon for the ND’s at StoneTree to get emails or messages over the weekend, after hours, or when they are away from home, from patients who are coming down with cold or flu symptoms and want to get on top of them right away. No one wants a full-blown cold or flu!

Of course, the first thing we always recommend is to get in as soon as you can for in IV Vitamin C drip.

(To learn more, check out this “60 Minutes” documentary on the benefit of Vit C in resolving infection, or this interview with Dr. Marik, MD on the value of vitamin C and sepsis.)

When patients can’t get into the clinic for the “big guns” the first question we ask is, What supplements do you have at home?

As you might imagine, not everyone has a fully stocked cold- and flu-fighting pharmacy at home, and most people didn’t have the best tools at their disposal when they really needed them.

Here is what we wish you had:

  • Zinc. Studies show that taking zinc at first sign of cold symptoms can decrease the duration of the illness. We have definitely seen evidence of this in practice. It’s important to note, however, that more zinc is not always better. Taking too much for too long can create trouble, but taking it acutely for a short period is okay.
  • Oil of oregano. It tastes like a spaghetti monster exploded in your mouth, but this herb is AWESOME at killing all things microbial!
  • Echinacea and Goldenseal. These two herbal medicines together are a double threat to winter illness! Echinacea is the immune booster and goldenseal is anti-microbial. Taking them at first sign of symptoms can often stop a cold before it even starts.
  • Vitamin C. Can’t get in for an IVC? Taking Vitamin C orally can help, too. Taking a 1000mg every hour to bowel tolerance is the way to go. Some people may get an upset tummy but for those who tolerate it, get a chewable option–it feels like you are popping like sweet treats all day.
  • Castor Oil. This magical oil moves lymph, which means it helps the immune system move around. Sore throat? Apply cast0r oil and cover with a scarf. Ear infection? Castor oil to the neck, topped with a gentle heating pad, gets the lymph moving and moves the congestion out.

Now You Can Have the Wishlist On Hand!

For the cold and flu season, we’ve put together a cold and flu “GO-KIT”. It contains:

  • Zinc
  • Oil of oregano
  • Echinacea-Goldenseal tincture
  • An immune booster called Pascoleucyn that is safe and effective for all ages

You can pick up your “GO-KIT” at the front desk for $74.99 + HST. (Bought individually the kit works out to $104.81.)

Questions? Stop by to pick up your kit, or contact the clinic at 705-444-5331.

‘Tis the Season…

…to be stressed?

…to be sick?

…to have interrupted sleep?

…to be cranky?

…to have tummy troubles?

The holiday season can be a lot of fun, but it can also be pretty hard on our physical and mental health!

That makes December a great time to check in with your ND.

We can help support your immune system
No one has time to be sick over the holidays. Preventing illness is ideal, but in the event that a virus is starting to take hold, try getting on top of it with an immune-boosting IV and/or supplements as soon as symptoms show up. When you feel the onset, kick that critter fast!

We can help support your digestive system
The holiday season is filled with over-indulging. Sugar, booze, and late nights are fun, but they can wreak havoc on your tummy. ND’s have many tools in our tool-box to help you manage these symptoms over the holidays so you can enjoy the season!

We can help you cope with the stress
There’s a lot to do over the holidays–parties, shopping, cooking, wrapping. At times, it can be overwhelming. Add those “challenging” family relationships and it can lead to many sleepless nights. ND’s are pros at helping you rebalance and support your stress hormones.

This season is also a great time of year to get started with an ND if you have unused benefits. Naturopathic care is covered by most extended benefit plans–that lets you save your money for presents. 🙂

Booking on-line makes it easy to book that IV or visit when it is convenient for you. If you can’t sleep – get in the next day for help. If your throat feels a little scratchy when you wake up, you can book that IV right away.

Welcome to December!

The Migraine-Food Intolerance Connection

This piece of research came across the desks of one of the ND’s here at StoneTree that supports what we have all seen time and time again with our patients: food intolerances and migraines are related.

We’ve written about food intolerances many times before. When we eat foods that we are intolerant to, our immune systems see these foods as foes, not friends. The normal response to a foe by the immune system is to create inflammation in an effort to get rid of the threat.

This works very well when the threat is a virus or bacteria. It works less well when the threat is a food you eat every day. The threat is never eliminated–it just keeps showing up on your plate, day after day, and your body keeps fighting the fight.

Over time, the result is an accumulation of low-grade inflammation that can cause symptoms throughout the entire body. One of those places is the vasculature of the brain. Result: migraines.

Testing for food intolerance is an easy blood test. If you are suspect that foods are causing a problem for you, this time of year is a great time to do intolerance testing. Most extended health benefit plans will cover this lab test if done through your naturopathic doctor. (Curious about what a test looks like? You can find a sample here.)

 To learn more about food intolerance and other lab tests, book online, or call the clinic at 705-444-5331.

From Endometriosis to Concussion: What We Learned Last Weekend

Last weekend the StoneTree Clinic team got to enjoy the 2017 annual convention of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors–right here at Blue Mountain Resorts.

It was such a treat to show off the Collingwood area to our ND colleagues. With our amazing community and beautiful natural attractions, they all agreed: we live in one of the BEST places in Ontario to be healthy!

All the StoneTree Clinic docs attended, and here are some of the things we learned:

  • Dr. Candice: Endometriosis in shift workers is 50% higher than in non-shift workers, and correcting imbalances in circadian rhythms with natural remedies can really make a difference.
  • Dr. Maggie: After an awesome lecture on “traumatic brain injury” by Dr. Paul Hrkal ND, Dr. Maggie is excited about the research supporting consumption of omega 3 fats in the prevention AND treatment of concussion and brain injury.
  • Dr. Shelby: Learned about a simple test to determine if a person is being exposed to mold–thanks to the amazing Dr. Neil McKinney ND, one of our naturopathic elders who has been practicing and teaching for over 30 years.
  • Dr. Kendra: Learned from one of the world’s leading experts on probiotics, Dr. Nigel Plummer Ph.D., that patients will have much better outcomes (by having fewer side-effects) when they take probiotics with and after antibiotics.
  • Dr. Tara: Throughout the 2 days, Dr. Tara was reminded about the importance of daily, preventative supplementation. Everyone (including Dr. Tara) should take daily probiotics, fish oils, and vitamin D (at a minimum) to support optimal health.

Our docs are involved in continuing education throughout the year–if you have questions about the latest research, tools, and treatments, contact us anytime!

World Diabetes Day: What’s Your Sugar Status?

World Diabetes Day started in 1991 and has been celebrated on November 14th every year since. It was initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in response to the rapid rise of diabetes incidence around the world.

This year, World Diabetes Day focuses on Women with Diabetes, and for good reason:

  • There are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes. This is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040.
  • Two out of every five women with diabetes are of reproductive age.
  • Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally.
  • 1 in 7 births is affected by gestational diabetes.
  • 2% of live births to women in 2015 had some form of hyperglycemia in pregnancy.
  • Approximately half of women with a history of gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five to ten years after delivery.
  • Half of all cases of hyperglycemia in pregnancy occur in women under the age of 30.

These are some sobering statistics, and they don’t begin to cover it all. Diabetes can lead to nerve damage, kidney failure, and blindness. If you have diabetes, your risk of developing heart disease is twice that of the rest of the population, and you’re more susceptible to depression and infections.

Diabetes is dangerous. But it’s also a largely treatable and more importantly preventable disease. In fact, according to the IDF, more than 70% of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through the healthy lifestyle.

Where do you begin? Diabetes is a lifestyle disease, and naturally, food and movement are key.

Eat right. Eat foods that nature makes, mostly plants, not too much. It really is as simple as that. If a food package is making a health claim, be suspicious. The foods sitting in the veggie aisle with no claims and no packaging are where your diet should be focused.

Start with these 10 recipes that will save your life!

Exercise regularly. You don’t need to be a marathon runner to get the diabetes prevention benefit of exercise. Walk every day for 30 minutes. It’s all you need to do to make an enormous difference.

Test your blood sugar. Find out if your blood sugar is a problem before it’s a problem–testing your blood sugar regularly can give you an idea if your body is heading down the diabetes track.

Blood sugar tests look at the following:

  • Fasting blood sugar. This is the test we are all very familiar with. We fast overnight and get our blood taken first thing in the morning. Any value over 6.0 mmol/L should get your attention that you may be heading down the wrong track.
  • Hemoglobin A1c. This test measures how much sugar is attached to the red blood cells. The more that is attached, the more likely you are not getting the sugar out of your blood fast enough. Because the lifespan of the RBC’s is around 3 months, this test gives us an idea of what your AVERAGE blood sugar has been over a 3 month period. Values over 6% are a sign that things are not going well.
  • Two-hour post-prandial blood glucose. This test measures how well your body deals with sugar within 2 hours of eating it. If your blood sugar is over 7.8 mmol/L 2 hours after eating the sugar, you could be heading down the wrong track.

Interested in learning about your blood sugar levels? Tests are inexpensive, and we can take your blood sample right here in the clinic! Book online, or call 705-444-5331 for more information.

Cancer Care Comes to StoneTree

For several years, we’ve been looking for an experienced naturopathic doctor whose sole job at StoneTree would be to work with patients with a cancer diagnosis.

We found him!

We are very excited to welcome Dr. Ehab Mohammed, ND to the StoneTree Clinic family. Dr. Ehab is a licensed naturopathic doctor, board certified from the College of Naturopaths in Ontario.

What’s really exciting for us, however, is Dr. Ehab’s long oncology history as a medical doctor in Egypt, where he obtained his medical degree, a master’s in ocology, and a medical doctorate in radiation oncology. Dr. Ehab practiced oncology for over 20 years, published 33 scientific research articles in recognized medical journals.

After graduating from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), Dr. Ehab spent a year on the adjunctive cancer care clinic shift where he managed patients under different types of conventional cancer care (chemotherapy, radiation, palliative care and surgery) with naturopathic supportive care.

If you know someone that needs support, our approach to cancer care strives to:
  • Decrease the side-effects of conventional cancer treatments
  • Support the patient’s immune system to avoid additional illness
  • Increase the effectiveness of conventional treatments
  • Improve overall health in an attempt to prevent the spread or recurrence of cancer
  • Help patients navigate the stress, information overload, and difficult choices created by a cancer diagnosis

StoneTree also offers alternative care for those patients who have exhausted all their conventional choices and are seeking new treatment options.

This is very exciting for us. Cancer touches lives every single day here in the Georgian Bay area, and this is something our patients need. We’re fortunate to be able to bring Dr. Ehab’s decades of cancer experience here to StoneTree!

Dr. Ehab will be starting at StoneTree Clinic, Thursday, November 16, 2017.  For more information, book an appointment, or contact the clinic at 705-444-5331.

Ten Recipes to Save Your Life

I love this Ted Talk. Jamie Oliver, chef, food and health activist, gives an unsettling talk on the absolute crisis we are in with respect to our health and food.

In this impassioned talk, he reports:

  • In the 18 minutes of his talk, 4 Americans will be dead from the food they eat.
  • Two-thirds of Americans are overweight.
  • American children will live 10 years shorter than their parents.

As Jamie says, “Diet-related disease is the biggest killer in the United States, right now, here today.”

Lest you think we’ve escaped the problem here in Canada, we haven’t. Our rates may be lower, but we’re headed to the same place–we’re just a decade behind. Our main streets are clogged with fast food and sugary drinks. Our homes are no longer a place for cooking and eating together, and our schools make food decisions based on economics, not nutrition.

Perhaps the most staggering moment in the talk is Jamie showing clips of young school children who are unable to identify vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, and broccoli.

How do you deal with a problem this big? Jamie gives many suggestions, but the one I like the best is this: Every child, before they leave school, should be taught to cook 10 recipes that will save their life.

A great idea. And here they are: http://www.cookingmanager.com/jamie-oliver-teach-ten-recipes/

Commit to one a week. One a month. Hell, you could commit to one a year if your kids are young. Do it with your kids, and then have them do it for the family, or even better, for their friends!

 

Join Us for the Be the Change Film RIVERBLUE

“There is a joke in China. They say you can predict the “it” colour for the season by looking at the colour of the river”

 – From the documentary RiverBlue

On October 18th, the Be the Change Film Series kicks off its 10th year with the documentary RiverBlue. The film looks at the environmental impact of the “fast fashion” industry on our waterways, and as a result, our health.

We’re sponsoring the series, and would love to see you there! There are two show times, 5PM and 7:30PM, at the Simcoe Street Theatre. Tickets are $8, and all proceeds go to Elephant Thoughts and The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust.

See the full 2017-18 line-up and buy tickets here!

Tuning Your Hormonal Orchestra

Hormones are your body’s chemical messenger system. They control many, if not most, of your major body functions, including digestion, mood, sleep, metabolism, respiration, stress, growth, movement and mood. Hormones, in short, are a big deal.

They also pack a powerful punch, and so they need to be balanced. To keep things running smoothly and to keep your body “in tune”, they have to be produced in exactly the right amounts at the right time.

This makes your hormonal system a little like an amplified orchestra with various instruments and roles to play:

  1. The pineal gland is the timer, to tell the system when to sleep and when to play.
  2. The hypothalamus is the sound man, detecting signals from the audience and reading the sound levels, balancing the output of control hormones.
  3. The pituitary gland, like a conductor, tells the individual players when and how forcefully, to do their part. If all is in balance, the individual player does just the right amount of work and the system is in tune.
  4. The thyroid hormone is the rate controller, increasing the speed of the beat and the efficiency of the instruments.
  5. The neurosteroids, or sex hormones, control tuning, maintenance and repair of the many instruments.

All of this must work in a complex biological harmony. Otherwise, like a poorly tuned orchestra, the results can be pretty awful.

Fortunately, the hormonal orchestra is usually an elegant and effective performance. The problem arises as we age, when hormone production begins to slow. It’s then that we hear the first problems in the musical score that is your body.

The progressive loss of hormones begins with the pineal, at about age 20, followed at about age 25-26 by declining growth hormone. After that, pregnenolone decreases, then DHEA, testosterone and progesterone, with estrogen in women following closely behind testosterone in men.

As hormones decline, your poor thyroid is left to handle the bulk of the work, like a lone musician trying to play an entire symphony alone.

Off Key: The Effects of Low Hormones

If we look at blood tests just a few months into menopause, a woman’s blood may contain:

  • Zero estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone and melatonin, and;
  • almost zero pregnenolone, progesterone and DHEA.

Is it any wonder things feel different? Like a poorly tuned orchestra, these changes don’t usually go unnoticed:

  • Low testosterone and/or progesterone causes depression and panic attacks.
  • Low progesterone causes menstrual irregularity, painful menses, water retention, poor sleep, reduced memory capacity, reduced self-esteem and inadequate maintenance and repair of the brain and nervous system.
  • Low estrogen causes hot flashes, night sweats, poor sleep and general misery.

All of this elevates your stress levels and further inhibits the ability of your thyroid hormone to do an increasingly difficult job. As more time goes by, the orchestra slips further out of tune. Your body loses its balance, can’t manage sugar and cholesterol metabolism, and is unable to heal quickly, fight off infections, avoid autoimmune diseases and kill cancer cells.

It’s reasonable to conclude that many of our age-related disabilities (if not all) have their root in this progressive reduction of hormone production. Add the stress of modern life to the mix, and you have a musical score for accelerating the development of disease and the aging process.

The good news is that it’s possible to bring the orchestra back into tune! Using accurate testing and bio-identical hormone replacement, you can relieve some of the troublesome symptoms of aging and your body can begin to play a more pleasing score.

To learn more about your hormonal orchestra—and bring your instruments back into tune—contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book an appointment with Dr. Gervais Harry, MD online here.