Are Expired Medications Still Effective?

13936134_sI had a great question from a patient this month who was traveling south and wanted to know if the antibiotic she had which expired in 2011 was still good. Many of us have a medicine cabinet full of the medications that have gone past their expiry date. What to do with them. Are they safe? Are they effective? Should we pitch them and buy new replacements?

The US military had the same question but with much bigger stakes. The military stockpiles vast amounts of drugs for obvious reasons, and the expiry dates on the bottles forced them to face the option of throwing out an expensive pile of meds every few years. To figure out the best course, they commissioned a study to determine the safety and efficacy of expired drugs.

According to the study results, up to 90% of the 100 different medications they looked at were stable, safe and effective for up to 15 years after the expiry date. Drugs that didn’t have the shelf life? Nitroglycerin, insulin and liquid antibiotics.

What about our naturopathic products like supplements and herbal medicines? There has been no study like the one above, but it makes sense that much of the same would apply. Storing them properly in a cool, dark and dry place should help them keep their potency for many months past the date on the bottle. However, heat, light and moisture can absolutely affect the quality of vitamins–especially anti-oxidants–rendering them inactive.

And as for that bottle of antibiotics? It’s probably okay, but remember that your storage probably doesn’t meet military spec. If it’s an medication you’re counting on, you might need to replace it.

Yearly Breast Exams as Good as Mammograms?

24077196_sThis month the British Medical Journal published the results of the 25-year Canadian National Breast Screening Study.

In this study, women between the ages of 45-59 who were at average risk for breast cancer were put into one of two groups.  The first group received an annual mammogram for five years, while the women in the control group received a once yearly breast exam.

Here’s what happened.

In the mammogram group, 3250 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and of those 500 died. In the physical exam group, 3133 women were diagnosed and 505 died of breast cancer.  When the researchers put these numbers through their statistical analysis it was determined that there was absolutely no difference between the two groups.  Or more simply put: getting a yearly breast exam did just as well at catching breast cancer in women with average risk as a yearly mammogram.

What Does it Mean for You?

So as a peri- to post-menopausal women concerned about her breast health, what do you do with the information a study like this gives you?

1. Know your risk. This study was done on women with average risk in a specific age range. If your risk is higher, or you don’t know your risk, you need to talk to a professional. This study doesn’t suggest you should abandon mammograms altogether, and it only looked at mammograms as a screening tool, not one for assessing a lump.

2.  Get yearly breast exams.  Your family doc, or your ND can and should do this for you.  Have it done every year, ideally by the same doctor and at the same time of your cycle if you are still cycling. StoneTree Clinic’s next Well Women Day is February 24th. You can learn more, and book online right here.

3.  Maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity and overweight are independent risk factors for breast cancer. Move your body daily and avoid alcohol and sugar. Focus your diet on dark, and colourful veggies and fruits. These strategies will help to maintain ideal body weight, and are associated with decreased cancer risk in and of themselves.

4.  Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking increases your exposure to many toxins, cadmium included. This heavy metal is a potent xenoestrogen and is associated with breast cancer risk.

5.  Avoid other xenoestrogens and chemicals that are hormone disruptors. Plastics, parabens, phthlates and the like all mimic estrogen and disrupt hormones. Buy unscented products, natural cosmetics and cleaning products and avoid eating food that has been heated or cooled in plastic containers.

No More HST on Naturopathic Care!

14061007_sHooray! Great health care just got more affordable. The 2014 federal budget exempted naturopathic doctors’ services from HST and GST. It’s about time. 🙂

The changes take place immediately–you’ll notice a difference (the good kind!) in your bill for your next consult.

“Naturopathic doctors are, indeed, primary healthcare providers. They integrate standard, medical diagnostics with a broad range of therapies”, said Dr. Pat Wales, ND, Chair of the CAND. “Having patients pay taxes on essential primary health care services didn’t sit well with our members, or our patients, and we are pleased that the Government of Canada agreed”.

You can read the rest of the press release from our national association here.

This is all part of a larger change for naturopathic medicine as we complete our transition into the Regulated Healthcare Practitioners Act–the same act that governs medical doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, dentists, and more.


Why I Don’t Get Sick in Winter

icytara The other day Dan asked me, “When was the last time you got a cold where you couldn’t breathe at night?”

The question got me thinking. When was the last time?

I really couldn’t think of when it was. And not only has it been years since I had a winter cold that left me really congested, I’ve never missed a day of work in 12 years as a naturopathic doctor.

Why is that? I’m exposed to literally dozens of people a week who are coming into the clinic with colds and flus. If anyone is going to get sick often, it should be me. But I rarely do. Once in a while, but not for long.

There could be some luck there, but after more than a decade I think most of it is by design. Wellness is no accident. If you give your body good food, clean water, fresh air, sunshine, exercise and sleep it will usually give you back good health.

In the winter time I eat lots of veggies, and make sure the protein is there and in good quantity.  I exercise outside almost everyday and I sleep like a hibernating bear. If I eat well and exercise every day, I feel almost bulletproof.

When I do start to feel like I’m fighting something, I slow down even more, eat even healthier, drink lots of fluids and I enthusiastically use my tools – Echinacea, goldenseal, vitamin C both by mouth and by IV, to name but a few.

Viruses are everywhere. You can’t avoid them. We’re all exposed constantly. But it’s not about the viruses–it’s about what your body does when exposed to them.

Is your immune system strong because you move your circulation daily, hydrate yourself and fill your body with good food?

Or, is your immune system struggling with a diet filled with sugar and inflammatory foods, and a fluid intake of pop and caramel macchiato? Was Thanksgiving weekend the last time you took a breath of fresh air ?

Winter isn’t a recipe for sickness. We’ve been led to believe that getting sick is part of winter, but I think it’s not that simple. You might not get to avoid every cold, but you definitely get to choose how vulnerable you are. Get mildly sick once in a while for a day, or get knocked down for days at a time? That choice is up to you.

Collingwood and the Georgian Bay area give us such great opportunities to be well. So go eat some soup and get outside!