Disease Clusters & Environmental Toxins

US Today reported this week on a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council in the US which identified possible “disease clusters” in various US states.

Disease clusters are disease incidences that are higher then national averages and cannot be due to chance along. Among the conditions mentioned were MS, cancer, ALS and various birth defects.

The purpose of the report is to look more closely at the link between environmental toxins and these increased disease incidence. You can find the US Today article here.

The evidence for the impact of everyday chemicals on our health continues to climb, as does public interest. If you‘d like learn more, keep your calendar open on Friday, May 13th, 7-9PM. We’ll be welcoming environmental medicine expert (and great speaker!) Dr. Walter Crinnion, author of Clean, Green and Lean to the Gayety Theatre in Collingwood.

Dr. Crinnion will speak on the connection between chemical exposure and cancer and chronic diseases. All proceeds go to support the environment network! Click here for more info and tickets.

Safely Navigating Cancer Care Alternatives

April is Cancer awareness month, and we have a couple of cancer-related events coming up – a free public talk on safe alternative cancer care, as well as a live event with environmental medicine expert Dr. Walter Crinnion at the Gayety Theatre in Collingwood.

I thought I’d share one of our recent newspaper articles on safely navigating the confusing waters of cancer care.
– Tara


Speaking Up About Your Alternative Cancer Care
By Lia Sonnenburg, ND & Tara Gignac, ND

Nearly one half of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment are also using some type of complementary or alternative treatment as well.

It’s not a surprising statistic. A cancer diagnosis can be a frightening experience, and the journey through care can be no less harrowing. An option that provides help, hope and a sense of control can be a welcome option.

What you might find more surprising, though, is that the majority of those patients—some 75%—don’t tell their oncologist about their other care.

Why Patients Don’t Tell

Many patients report that their oncologist’s default response to alternatives is, “No.” It’s discouraging for patients, but it’s not unreasonable. Oncologists aren’t trained in how alternative treatments work or how they might interact or interfere with conventional care. The safe answer is to manage that risk by confining care to what they know best.

But patients want to default to yes. People want to do everything they can to heal and survive. So they take the supplement from the friend of a friend, and they don’t tell their oncologist because they don’t want to be told no.

Who To Tell

Many alternative cancer therapies are supported by great research, both inside and outside of conventional settings. Others are not. And some can be harmful to conventional treatment protocols. Knowing the difference takes more than a Google search. Going it alone is not a safe option.

Consider sharing both with your oncologist, and with a health care professional familiar with alternatives to make sure you get the best care possible.

If you or someone you know is confused by their care, or overwhelmed by their choices, you can attend our free session on March 30th at the clinic, or call 705-444-5331 to book a complimentary 15-minute appointment with a Collingwood naturopath. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions.

Collingwood Spring Running Clinic

2011 is the year I start running again.  I took 2010 off and focused on building strength and flexibility with regular yoga, which worked beautifully. March 20 will mark the first day of spring, and the day I hit the trails.

For anyone interested in an organized running group, check out Maximum Physiotherapy’s Spring Running Clinic in Collingwood. Sue and Brock offer a great program.  It starts March 22, 2011.  To learn more, visit http://www.maximumphysiotherapy.com/News-And-Events/Spring-2011-Running-Clinic/a~2481–c~344601/article.html

If you don’t fancy running but like to read, check out Born to Run by Chris MacDougall. Yes, it may seem strange to read a book about running if you don’t run, but if you’re not even a little intrigued to put on running shoes after reading it, I’ll treat you to an organic energy bar at the clinic… 🙂


Vitamin D Testing: Is It Worth It?

The last decade has delivered countless observational studies linking low vitamin D to ailments like heart disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.

Effective Dec 1 2010, however, OHIP stopped paying for the test. OHIP will now only cover the cost of vitamin D testing for patients with the following medical conditions:

  • Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
  • Rickets
  • Malabsorption Syndromes
  • Renal Disease
  • Patients on medications that affect vitamin D metabolism

You can still get the test done – we offer it for about $50, and you can pay your MD, too. But patients at the clinic are asking two questions that I thought I could answer here: Why isn’t it covered? And Is it worth it to pay for it?

Why OHIP No Longer Covers Vitamin D Testing

The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee believes there is not enough evidence to support that measuring D levels helps enough people. When health care resources are limited, we have to make decisions about what gets funded and what doesn’t. Of course, it might be far cheaper to prevent conditions than to treat them, but for now that’s the situation.

It’s a reality of a publicly-funded health care system: you don’t always get what is important to you, you get what the system is willing and able to fund. That system can’t focus on the individual – there’s just not enough money to do so.

Should You Get Your Levels Tested?

Because of the growing connection to health issues like cancer, many people want to know what their levels are. Measuring your levels helps us decide whether you’re deficient, and how much to supplement. If you have questions, just contact us at 705-444-5331, or [email protected] Measuring your vitamin D levels may no longer be free in Ontario, but answers to your questions are. 🙂

Making Sense of the HPV Vaccine

If you’re the parent of a girl in Grade 7-8, you’re likely aware that the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is recommending your daughter receive the HPV vaccination to decrease the risk of cervical cancer. It’s also being recommended for women up to the age of 26 who didn’t receive it when they were younger.

Many parents and young women have questions – if you’d like to have yours answered, or you know someone who could use some insight, join Lia Sonnenburg, ND at StoneTree on Wednesday, Feb 23rd at 7PM to learn more about:

  • The development, safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine
  • Cervical cancer risk and treatment
  • Improving the reproductive health of women and teens

This info night is free to all – feel free to bring a friend. RSVP to the clinic at 705-444-5331 or [email protected]

Patient-Centered Care: How Our Well Woman Visit Was Born

Cervical cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in women aged 20-49, with peak incidence occurring age 40-50. This year, some 1300-1500 Canadian women will be diagnosed.

With proper screening, cervical cancer is a preventable disease, but of those who die from it this year, only about half will have had a recent pap test.

So why aren’t women getting paps?

Sometimes it’s because they don’t have a medical doctor, but mainly it’s because the process is uncomfortable. It’s easy to put off for another day. And another.

I spent years reminding patients that it was time for a visit to their doc for a “yearly” and many would put it off. I would offer to do the test myself, (ND’s are licensed in Ontario for pelvic and breast exams, and pap tests) but still there would be hesitation.

A year ago I sat down with some of the important women in my life and asked them this question:

What is it about the experience of your annual physical that you hate? Or, to put it more positively, what would you change about this experience that we all have to do, but don’t like to do?

Here are some of the comments I got:

“Do the sheets and gowns have to be paper?”

“Does everything have to be so cold?”

“There is never any easy way to ‘clean up’ and you leave the office feeling uncomfortable and looking for a washroom.”

“I’m worried that in the summer my feet might smell and it’s embarrassing.”

“Why does the light have to be so stark?”

“I wish I could get a copy of the results, not just ‘no news is good news’.”

Is this all that was standing between women and regular paps? Well-armed with some of the reasons why women were opting out or delaying paps, we set about creating a new “Well Woman” annual visit from the ground up.

The Well Women Visit at StoneTree Clinic was created around what patients actually needed and wanted. Your visit takes place in a softly lit room, with real linens and warm socks. All equipment used is warmed and lubricated, and at the end of your examination you receive a cup of hot raspberry leaf tea to soothe the uterus and calm the soul.

You should feel respected and comfortable…or as one woman said, “It’s never fun. But this is definitely as good as it gets!”

Discomfort is a lousy reason to avoid an annual exam. But it’s a reality. Spread the word to the women in your life: screening is important, and there are options to make it easier.

We offer Well Woman Days every few weeks – see our events page for details, call the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book online here.

A Different Dirty Dozen: Food Additives

Last year we posted about the Dirty Dozen of produce, and how to choose fresh foods with fewer pesticides. If you’re wondering about food additives and their effects on the body, trainer and lifestyle coach Sarah Heipel from Good Energy posted this helpful little article on Facebook that we thought might be of interest:

Remember that healthy eating doesn’t have to be a complicated science. The best way to avoid these additives is to eat less processed food. Michael Pollan said it best in his book, In Defense of Food: Eat food that nature makes, not too much, mostly plants!

Is Laughter The Best Medicine?

The CBC reported this week on a study in which they found women undergoing in vitro fertilization were more likely to have a successful pregnancy if they had an opportunity to have a good laugh right after implantation. You can find details here.

IVF isn’t the only way that laughter can help. It’s also been shown to increase immune function, decrease stress hormones and even decrease pain.

So, in the interest of good health, here’s a video to help get some laughter in your weekend.  Enjoy! (If you can’t view it, you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnGw5SmFOlo )

Mercury Amalgams: How Safe are Tooth Fillings?

We’ve known for years that dental amalgams deliver a daily dose of mercury to the body. In fact, mercury fillings are the single largest source of mercury exposure for the average Canadian. 1

The link between mercury from tooth fillings and actual health problems, though, has been the subject of much debate.

Health Canada has long recommended that dentists not use mercury amalgams in groups such as children, pregnant woman and people with kidney disorders, but the US has been slow to follow. Both Canada and the US still classify amalgams as medical devices not substances, which means they’re subject to less scrutiny.

In 2009, the FDA ruled mercury wasn’t harmful, but last month an FDA advisory panel urged them to reconsider. It would appear that the tide is slowly turning.

What About Your Fillings?

Having mercury amalgams doesn’t mean you have a health problem, but if you’re concerned about your fillings, we recommend a three step process:

  1. Test for elevated levels of mercury in the body
  2. Help remove the mercury through IV chelation, supplementation, and inhalation treatments
  3. Referral to a specialist for safe amalgam removal and replacement

To learn more about testing for mercury and other toxins, contact the office at 705-444-5331 to book a complimentary appointment.