June 3rd is National Health and Fitness Day!

Let’s make Canada the Fittest Nation on Earth!

We write an annoying amount a lot about the many health benefits of exercise.

It really is one of the most important things to do for our overall health, so when we became aware of the Canada’s National Health and Fitness Day we just had to share.

The first Saturday in June, National Health and Fitness Day (NHFD), is an initiative to mark one day to promote Canadians getting out and getting active in any way they wish.

Springboarding off the spirit of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, former MP John Weston and Senator Nancy Greene Raine have worked to involve the 338 MPs and 100 Senators to encourage their local communities to proclaim the day and mark it with local events. Hundreds of communities have already proclaimed the day and the National Health and Fitness Day Act, Bill S-211, became law in December 2014!

Our community is hosting a MOVE walk/run, and a MOVE showcase of booths, demos, and activities. It all shakes down this Saturday, June 3rd from 9 AM to 1 PM at Central Park in Collingwood. Get all the details here!

Maybe you can use this to jump start a year of exercise. It’s the best 30-minute daily investment you can make!

My Experience with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

I wrote about my experience with peri-menopausal symptoms in this tongue-in-cheek article that focused on the lifestyle changes that can very much help with peri- and post-menopausal symptoms.

But what about when the important lifestyle changes aren’t helping, and the symptoms are really getting in the way of your life?

I’m not much of a complainer and I am an awful patient! It could be my pathological optimism, but I always think whatever I am suffering with will just eventually work itself out. If I just keep getting good sleep, good outdoor exercise and great food, whatever is ailing me is sure to just go away.

With peri-menopause….not so much. 🙂

Good sleep? Forget about it! Great food? Sure, if by great food you mean half a bag of Pirate cookies. Exercise? No way, between being too tired, too achy and frankly too cranky, who wants to exercise? Add on weird skin, brain fog and a strange and intolerable anxiety that never existed before and it was time for me to face it: this just was not going to work itself out.

Enter BHRT, or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

Dr. Harry, MD joined our team at the beginning of 2017 and has been working with our patients who we have not been able to help with our usual naturopathic tools. I sat down with him to discuss what to do about my peri-menopausal plight.

One of his main suggestions was DHEA. Short for dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA is an adrenal hormone. It’s a precursor to the male and female sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. DHEA production peaks in your mid-20’s and then gradually declines with age, therefore, DHEA deficiency is very common.

What are DHEA symptoms? Well they are many and vary from person to person, but the most common ones are ones that I had become all too familiar with:

  • Loss of muscle mass? CHECK
  • Weakness? CHECK
  • Weird fat deposition? CHECK
  • Difficulty losing weight? CHECK
  • Loss of self-confidence? CHECK
  • Problems with memory? CHECK
  • Foggy brain? CHECK
  • Can’t find words? CHECK
  • Anxiety and mood problems? CHECK
  • Decreased sex drive? CHECK

After our visit he suggested I give DHEA a try (along with a few other suggestions). I thought I’d give it a go and see what happened.

After 2 weeks of DHEA on its own, how do I feel? Better, for sure. My body feels stronger, my brain feels clearer and my achiness has decreased. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of his suggestions go!

-TO BE CONTINUED-

Dr. Harry is offering complimentary 15-minute “meet the doctor” visits if you would like to learn more. You can book online, or by phone at 705-444-5331. Please note that Dr. Harry’s services at StoneTree are not covered by OHIP, but are fee-for-service.

World Hypertension Day

The international society of hypertension initiated World Hypertension Day in 2005 and has promoted it yearly ever since.

Why?

Hypertension–you might know it better as high blood pressure–is called the silent killer because people who have it often don’t know it. And it’s a big deal, because the risk of stroke is four times greater in those with high blood pressure, and the risk of a heart attack is two times greater. Put it this way: as your blood pressure increases above the normal range, so do your chances of dying.

So what to do?

First of all, understand your risk. Then make sure you know what your blood pressure is. Normal range is 120/80 to 140/90. If it’s over 140/90 visit your health care provider.

Next, prevent or reduce hypertension. The biggest causes are lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, a diet high in processed and fatty foods, and alcohol and tobacco use.

Hypertension is largely preventable and treatable through lifestyle change. The list should sound familiar:

  • Lose weight
  • Eat foods that nature makes – LOTS of fruits and veggies
  • Exercise regularly
  • STOP SMOKING
  • Drink alcohol sensibly – no more than 2/day for men and 1/day for women

What about salt? The connection between salt and hypertension is a story that’s been told for decades, but, as we’ve written about before, the connection is more complicated than it seems. A better approach? Focus on cooking your own meals and eating lots of whole food–good nutrition and exercise are the best tools you have.

If you’re curious about your cardiovascular health or have questions about lifestyle changes, contact the clinic anytime at 705-444-5331 or feelbetter@stonetreeclinic.com.

Food Matters (And It Only Took 2000 Years!)

Nearly 2500 years ago, a Greek physician named Hippocrates was busy reinventing medicine.

Hippocrates wrote some of the oldest known medical books, and thousands of new physicians are still sworn in each year based on variations of the oath that bears his name. He was the first to describe a number of diseases and conditions and was also the first documented chest surgeon. It’s no exaggeration to say that Hippocrates led the shift that turned medicine into a profession.

What you might not know is that Hippocrates was also the original lifestyle doctor. He believed that diseases were caused by imbalances, not by the gods or spirits, and that lifestyle modifications like diet and exercise were powerful tools in the doctor’s arsenal. Naturopathic philosophy owes much to this ancient Greek doc.

He’s often quoted as having said, “Let food be your medicine,” and a couple of millennia later, it looks like modern medicine might finally be catching up. This week, NPR ran a story about the “Fresh Food Pharmacy” which is blowing the doors off the standard management of type 2 diabetes in the US:

In its new incarnation, it looks more like a grocery, with neatly stocked shelves filled with healthy staples such as whole grain pasta and beans. The refrigerators are full of fresh produce, greens, low-fat dairy, lean meats and fish.

The participants meet one-on-one with a registered dietitian. They’re given recipes and hands-on instruction on how to prepare healthy meals. Then, they go home with a very different kind of prescription: five days’ worth of free, fresh food.

The program was piloted it in a community with a very high incidence of type 2 diabetes, but with a low income, where eating healthy can be harder to do.

The result? Blood sugar, blood pressure and weight all went down in participants. Perhaps more important, their quality of life went up.

But how can they afford to give away fresh food for free? The company spends about $1000 on each Fresh Food Pharmacy patient. But treating diabetic patients conventionally costs many thousands more–costs associated with diabetes in the US now top 240 billion dollars (yes, that’s billion) annually. Plus, as the article points out, about 1 out of every 2 deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes in the U.S. is linked to a poor diet.

The real question, then, is how can you afford not to give away fresh food?

The Cost of Chronic Problems

Among the many things Hippocrates pioneered was categorizing progressive, long-term health conditions as chronic. In his day, I would imagine those conditions were relatively rare. Now, as the CDC points out for the US:

  • Seven of the top 10 causes of death in 2010 were chronic diseases. Two of these chronic diseases—heart disease and cancer—together accounted for nearly 48% of all deaths.
  • Eighty-six percent of all health care spending in 2010 was for people with one or more chronic medical conditions.

Many, many chronic conditions are incredibly responsive to lifestyle interventions–both in prevention and treatment. But while we still have the writings of Hippocrates to remind us of the value of lifestyle medicine, our culture has largely lost touch with the philosophy.

It’s said that Hippocrates lived into his 80’s or 90’s (some even say to 100). I imagine he’d be shocked to know just how chronic, and costly, our health problems have become. But I like to think he’d be cheered by our dawning shift to “food as medicine.” It might have taken a couple of thousand years, but better late than never.

Why Not Create Your Own Fresh Food Pharmacy?

You don’t need a special program to build your own Fresh Food Pharmacy. You just need to get started. Check out these documentaries for inspiration. Many are available on Netflix! If you need help, contact us anytime.

Food Matters

Hungry for Change

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Fed Up

Do You Know These 6 Possible Causes of IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a diagnosis of exclusion. That’s a fancy way of saying IBS is a bunch of symptoms that aren’t being caused by any known pathology. When everything else is ruled out for those symptoms, IBS is what you’re left with.

In the case of IBS, those symptoms include:

  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or sometimes both
  • Bloating and swelling of your stomach
  • Excessive gas
  • Urgency of bowels
  • A feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels
  • Mucus in your stool
  • A lack of energy
  • Feeling sick
  • Backache
  • Bladder problems, such as urgency to urinate or difficulty emptying bladder
  • Pain during sex

IBS is a real pain in the butt (no pun intended) for patients, but it’s also a hassle for conventional docs to treat because there is very little understanding as to the cause and there are very few drug therapies that work.

Although there is some evidence to suggest diet change can help, and there is research looking at the effectiveness of probiotics, no one solution resolves all cases.

That is where Naturopathic Medicine comes in. Complicated cases with no clear cause are often where naturopaths can shine because we simply have the time and experience to dig deeper into case histories.

In clinic, we’ve found that IBS symptoms can result from many different, yet common, body imbalances. Here are six that tend to reveal themselves in our practices frequently:

  1. Food intolerances. The immune system in our guts is very strong, and when it’s working properly it shouldn’t react to the foods we eat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work properly. When this part of our immune system gets out of balance, the proteins in our diets can start causing problems. Gluten and dairy proteins are the most common culprits and testing can be easily done to figure out others.
  2. Dysbiosis. The flora in our digestive tract is a very important part of staying healthy. When those little critters get out of balance they can cause many of the unpleasant symptoms of IBS.
  3. Parasites. It’s easy to pick up one of these little bugs and carry it around for years. Our immune system in our gut usually takes care of most exposures, but stress, poor diet, and exposure to drugs and chemicals can help parasites evade the immune system. That means they can stick around and cause tummy trouble.
  4. Nutrient deficiencies. One form of IBS is a spasm of the muscles in the colon. This can be the result of magnesium deficiency and can be corrected with supplementation. Taking magnesium by mouth, however, may not work at first. Sometimes the intestinal tract can’t absorb it, and in that case, the result is MORE loose bowels. Using IV magnesium is a better way to calm down the intestinal muscles.
  5. Toxic exposures. Many toxins are eliminated from our bodies through our bowels. All of the fat-soluble toxins like solvents, plastics, pesticides, heavy metals like mercury come out this way. If a person is overexposed and/or has a genetic susceptibility to poor detoxification, these toxins can build up and cause trouble.
  6. Stress and mood imbalances. We think that the neurotransmitters that impact our mood only operate in our brains, but there are receptors for these chemicals all through the body, and there are PLENTY of them in our guts. Chronic stress and anxiety can really wreck havoc with these receptors and cause IBS-like symptoms.

Teasing out which one (or more) of these is the culprit can be tricky work, but lab testing, case histories, physical exams and treatment plans that target possible causes can help us narrow it down. For more info, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book online anytime.

Unscreening: How Screens Affect Child Sleep

Like almost every mom, I’ve had the frustrating experience of trying to do a task or have a conversation with a “busy” toddler by my side. When my daughter was little, tablets and phones weren’t quite so readily available to distract her when I needed to get things done, but I can’t help but think that if they were, I would have used them with wild abandon.

Recent research published in the journal Nature, strongly suggests that as tempting as it is, this should NOT be the distraction strategy of choice.

The study looked at 715 infants and toddlers aged 6 months to 3 years of age. In these kids, sleep quantity decreased as touchscreen use increased–kids took longer to get to sleep and spent less time asleep. In fact, for every additional hour of tablet use the child experienced 15.6 minutes less total sleep.

Sleep Matters

Sleep is important for everyone, but it’s especially critical for children. During sleep, blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development. Less sleep can jeopardize these critical activities.

For proper mental and physical development, children need about 12-14 hours sleep.

Unscreening: Entertainment Options in the Real World

So what to do? The best advice is likely to avoid screens altogether for the first two years of life, at least.

If that seems like a terrifying concept, here are some of the things we used to distract and entertain our little one when I was trying to get stuff done:

  1. Low cupboards and drawers filled with things she could safely play with. She would just love to pull all the dish towels out of the cupboards and drape them all over the kitchen. As she got older she could “help” put them away.
  2. A Kleenex box. She would pull every single one out I’d repack it and she would do it again.
  3. A purse or diaper bag. Everything in it would be safe for a toddler’s mouth and depending on how full it was she would play with it for ages.
  4. Boredom. This one took me a bit to figure out. As a parent, I thought it was my responsibility to entertain and stimulate her learning all the time. Eventually, I realized that if I gave her a minute to be bored on her own, she would figure it out and engage herself by herself in ways I could not have figured out for her.

The last one is probably at the heart of all of this. Unscreening isn’t just about one toy versus another. It’s about whether boredom is good for kids, and whether screens have a tendency to steal that essential growth opportunity from them.

If you’ve seen those wondrous moments of pure joy and creativity that arise in kids when they’re exposed to a little boredom, you’ll know exactly what I mean…

Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar

Yet another study to show the value of exercise.

Researchers discovered that patients who increased their daily step count by 2,000 steps saw decreases in both their blood sugar and insulin resistance levels.

The decreases aren’t huge–only 0.4 points for blood sugar and 1 point for insulin resistance–but neither was the increase in steps. If you work it out, 2000 steps is about 1.5 km. That’s a 10-15 min walk. We’re talking pretty small lifestyle changes. What if you doubled that to 30 minutes a day?

We’ve shared this video many times, but it can’t be shared enough. It does such a great job of illustrating the great things can come from a 30-minute daily commitment.

It’s spring! Get outside, walk around, and improve your health!

Free Meditation Night at StoneTree

The team at StoneTree is excited to welcome Lanee Brown for an evening of mindfulness and meditation.

Mindfulness has left the fringes, and gained incredible traction in recent years. Research has shown that meditation can:

  •  Improve mental focus and increase short-term memory
  •  Reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure
  •  Improve sleep and reduce anxiety
  •  Increase self-confidence and self-esteem

Many of these benefits seem to be associated with how meditation changes the brain–something that’s now well-researched.

Please join us at the clinic this Wednesday, April 5, 2017. from 4-6 PM.

This evening is an opportunity to discover a taste of what mindfulness meditation offers. There’s no charge, and no experience required. Here are a few details:

  • 4-5PM – arrival, tea, talk and gentle movement in preparation for our meditation
  • 5-6PM – meditation & discussion
  • Doors will be locked at 5PM sharp as we will start the meditation at that time.
  • There will be some chairs available, but you may want to bring a cushion if sitting on the floor isn’t comfortable for you.

Please RSVP and let us know if you will be joining us by calling the clinic at 705-444-5331, or emailing feelbetter@stonetreeclinic.com.

 

 

Dealing With Spring Allergies

The first week of April is World Allergy Week. And what better time–you know that with April showers and May flowers on the horizon, annoying allergy symptoms can’t be far off!

For sufferers, it can be an awful time of year. The sun is shining, you want to get out in your garden, but all you end up doing is sitting on the couch, sniffing, sneezing, rubbing your eyes and feeling miserable. Instead of getting busy with a spring burst of energy, you watch the same shows on Netflix because your brain is too foggy to do anything else.

An Ounce of Prevention

Preventing allergies is so much easier than controlling the symptoms once they come. We’ve written about this before. Our approach is usually made up of some combination of these:

  • Dealing with food intolerances
  • Healing the gut
  • Doing a spring detox
  • Dealing with any nutrient deficiencies

A Pound of Relief

When the symptoms do arrive, though, many natural remedies can be helpful without the awful side effects of the usual over-the-counter solutions. We’ve recommended this extremely safe homeopathic remedy for allergies, but we also love to get the word out at this time of year about intravenous vitamin C to help our patients who are suffering.

Vitamin C at high doses does a really good job of stabilizing mast cells – these are the cells responsible for making histamine, which is the chemical responsible for creating allergy symptoms. We have seen patients with severe allergy symptoms get relief with IVC without the drowsiness or jitteriness of the over-the-counter allergy remedies, and research backs us up on this clinical observation.

Why IVC and not oral vitamin C? Oral can help too, but the dose needed to really get those allergy cells to settle down often gives people the nasty side effect of loose stool. With IV vitamin C, we can use a therapeutic dose without upsetting your tummy.

We have IV’s available five days a week. Call 705-444-5331, or book online anytime.

Thyroid Tests Your Doctor Never Told You About

We’ve written about thyroid testing in the past–it’s one of the most common concerns we hear from patients coming into the clinic.

If you take a peek at the symptoms of low thyroid, you can see why:

  • Exhaustion, weakness, and fatigue
  • Sensitivity to cold and reduced sweating
  • Shortness of breath when exercising
  • Slight to moderate weight gain
  • Problems with concentration or memory, slow thoughts or speech
  • Hair thinning and falling out
  • Crappy nails
  • Dry skin

Notice anything? Just about every women over 40 years of age who arrives in clinic has experienced one or more of these symptoms. And when they pay a visit to “Dr. Google” a thyroid problem is the first culprit on the list.

The Challenge of Thyroid Testing

Next step for most people is a trip to their MD, and a thyroid test. This is when things get complicated.

It’s not uncommon to get a blood test that comes back as “normal” (assuming you get one at all).

The problem is that you’re almost certainly only seeing part of the picture, and once you dig deeper, you realize that normal doesn’t necessarily mean optimal. Getting a true picture of thyroid function takes a closer look than you typically get from your MD.

There are several ways to test your thyroid function. We’ll take a look at them in more detail so you can understand why you might need more than just the first one.

 

TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)

This is the test you’ll probably get from your MD–it’s the first stop on the thyroid testing road trip.

Confusingly, this isn’t a thyroid hormone at all, but a pituitary hormone. Its job is to stimulate the thyroid to make thyroid hormones when there isn’t enough in the blood.  So when TSH is high, that means the thyroid function is low and your body is sending signals to make more hormone.

There is, however, a whole lot of argument about what TSH numbers should be.

The TSH “normal range is 0.35-5.00, although in the past 10 was considered okay. Now, there are some endocrinologists who think even 3 is too high.

What do we think? When naturopathic doctors see this test come in anywhere over 2, we start to get interested and start digging deeper. Read on.

T4 (thyroxine)

This is a thyroid hormone, and it’s the main hormone produced by the thyroid. BUT…this form of the hormone isn’t actually active. It travels through the blood and goes to your cells where it needs to be absorbed and then converted to the active form of the hormone.

This conversion is dependant on minerals like zinc and selenium. In people who are deficient in these nutrients (not uncommon, particularly in those who have been taking synthetic thyroid drugs for years) this conversion doesn’t happen optimally.

That means you can get a “normal” T4 result, but things still can be out of whack. You may have lots of T4 around, but it’s not getting turned into actual active hormone.

T3 (triiodothyronine)

This is also a thyroid hormone, and it’s the active form. The thyroid makes this in much smaller amounts than T4. Most of your  T3 is made by converting it from T4 at the cellular level.

We use this result to tell us that the conversion process is working, and to get a sense of how much active hormone there is in your system

Reverse T3

In certain circumstances, instead of turning T4 into T3, the active form of the thyroid hormone, the cell it turns it into a reverseT3 instead. This can happen, for example, when you’ve got too much T4 around.

Reverse T3, as the name suggests, does the exact opposite of T3–it slows things down and CONSERVES energy. This conversion is NOT dependant on nutrients like the conversion to the active T3.

Again, this is a case where patients can “feel” hypothyroid even though regular blood tests would look normal.

Anti-TPO & Anti-TG (thyroid peroxidase antibody and thyroglobulin antibody)

These are not thyroid hormones but antibodies (immune molecules) that are attacking the thyroid. Anti-TPO is the most sensitive test for detecting autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto thyroiditis or Graves disease and is usually the only one that need be done to screen for those conditions.

However, Anti-TG, or thyroglobulin antibody, will occasionally pick up autoimmunity when TPO is normal. When these antibodies are high this means the immune system is seeing the thyroid as an enemy, attacking it and causing it to under-function. Again, in this case you could get symptoms of low thyroid when a regular test would be normal.

The solution in this case is not to focus attention on the thyroid, but to help the immune system get back into balance so it stops putting undo stress on the thyroid.

The lesson here is that testing your thyroid function is a lot more involved than a quick TSH test. There are any number of reasons to get “normal” results, yet still have an underlying imbalance.

A good assessment of thyroid function means looking at lot more data, not just TSH. If you’re only getting TSH results, you’re not seeing the whole picture. Generally, we like to test TSH, T3, T4 and Anti TPO /Anti-TG, and reverse T3 when indicated.

Your little thyroid gland has its fingerprints all over your body–it can have far-reaching health effects. Helping it work optimally is something that can be done, but it’s a lot easier to do that with a complete picture of what’s going on.

For more information on thyroid testing, or to make an appointment, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book online.