Eid al-Fitr: The Festival of Breaking the Fast

The month of Ramadan is the holiest time of the Muslim year. For those who observe it, Ramadan is a time of intense spiritual renewal, when Muslims follow strict rules and participate in pious activities like charity and peacemaking. Perhaps the best-known aspect of Ramadan is fasting; for 30 days, practicing Muslims don’t eat or drink during daylight hours. 

The end of Ramadan, as you might expect, is also a big deal, and it begins with the three-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr—the festival of breaking the fast.

Charity to the poor is an important value in Islam. A few days before the festival, Muslim families give a specific donation to the needy to ensure every Muslim can have a hearty meal and celebrate the day fully. 

In many countries with large Muslim populations, Eid al-Fitr is a national holiday. Schools, offices, and businesses are closed so family, friends, and neighbors can celebrate together. In the U.S. and the U.K., Muslims may request to have the day off from school or work to travel or celebrate with family and friends.

In countries like Egypt and Pakistan, Muslims decorate their homes with lanterns, twinkling lights or flowers. Special food is prepared and friends and family are invited over to celebrate.

The date of Eid al-Fitr is always the same in the Islamic calendar, but in the Gregorian calendar, it changes from year to year. This year, the festival of breaking the fast began on June 4 and ends today, June 7. Interestingly, Eid al-Fitr doesn’t technically begin until the new moon appears in the sky, which means that across the world, celebrations can start at different times depending on location.

Regardless of timing, however, the intention is the same: to celebrate, to be charitable, and to be together.

As you begin this weekend, think of Eid al-Fitr. Eat together, and try to give something to those who can’t!

Naturopathic Medicine Month – Week 4: Cancer Care & Connection

It’s our last week of Naturopathic Medicine Month–we’ve had a great time answering your questions and busting myths!

Just because the month is over doesn’t mean we don’t want to continue to answer your questions. We’re always open to hearing from you. If you have a question or are wondering if Naturopathic Medicine has a solution for you, drop us a line or book a 15-minute complimentary “meet-the-doctor” visit.  

Myth: “Naturopathic doctors undergo little training”

Many people believe that becoming a Naturopathic Doctor requires little to no training, especially compared with conventional Medical Doctors. The belief that you can take an online course, or read a few books and call yourself a Naturopathic Doctor couldn’t be farther from the truth. As one of the 25 regulated health professions in Ontario, Naturopathic Doctors have access to seven “controlled acts”. Only four regulated health professions have more.  

After completing pre-medical sciences in university, Naturopathic  Doctors, attend a four-year, full-time accredited naturopathic medical school. During those four years, they gain a thorough knowledge of biomedical sciences by taking anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, physical clinical diagnosis, and pharmacology courses, as well as learning the naturopathic modalities such as herbal medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, and physical medicine. Students also complete supervised internships, gaining practical experience with patients.  

In Ontario, an ND must then also obtain a license by first passing board exams, both written and practical and acquiring malpractice insurance.  

The College of Naturopaths of Ontario registers eligible naturopathic doctors, and ensures they maintain continuing education requirements and adhere to professional standards of practice.  

FAQ: “Can I see a Medical Doctor AND a Naturopathic Doctor at the same time?”

You bet! 

In fact, research has shown that those patients receiving naturopathic care alongside conventional care do better than those receiving conventional care only.  

For best outcomes, patients want both MDs and NDs on their teams. MDs are experts in how to diagnose and manage disease and pathology. NDs are experts in the healthy function of your body. When a patient has a plan to optimize their health along with managing their disease they can’t help but win. 

Solution: Caring for Patients with Cancer

A cancer diagnosis can be one of the most frightening events in life. Naturopathic Doctors who work with cancer patients help them navigate through this very stressful and confusing time, and empower them to make an overall plan for their health as they engage with their conventional treatment plan.  

With these patients, the focus is on helping to:

  1. Decrease the side-effects of conventional cancer treatments
  2. Improve the nutritional status of patients before, during, and after conventional treatment
  3. Support the patient’s immune system to avoid additional illness
  4. Increase the effectiveness of conventional treatments
  5. Improve overall health in an attempt to prevent the spread or recurrence of cancer
  6. Support the body’s ability to better heal itself

Dr. Ehab Mohammad, ND practiced oncology as a medical doctor for over 20 years before becoming a naturopathic doctor. Here at StoneTree, he works exclusively with patients who have received a cancer diagnosis. By applying the best evidence and understanding how conventional and complementary therapies work together he helps patients come up for the best plan of management.  

Healthy Living Tip: Connection 

Humans are pack animals. We need social connection to thrive, not just air, food, and water.   

Recent studies on loneliness suggest that being lonely for a prolonged period is more harmful to your health than smoking 15 cigarettes per day! Beyond causing heightened rates of depression, anxiety, and irritability, loneliness is now being associated with potentially life-shortening health issues such as higher blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.

More and more Canadians are now living alone–some 28 percent of households, according to recent numbers by Statistics Canada, which also reports that one in five Canadians identifies as being lonely. 

Living along and being lonely also means eating alone too, and that’s unfortunate–eating together is one of the great secrets of health and wellness. Eating together usually results in eating better food, eating it more slowly, which usually means eating less of it, too!

Eat together!

Naturopathic Medicine Month Continues! Lab Tests, and Healthy Eating Made Simple

Naturopathic Medicine Month – Week #3

Here we are in our third of four weeks spreading the word about Naturopathic Medicine. As with our last two posts, we have a myth, an FAQ, a solution, and a tip!

Myth Buster: “Naturopathic Doctors put everyone on a restrictive diet.”

It’s true that all Naturopathic Doctors believe that food matters when it comes to your health.  

Most modern, chronic disease is strongly linked to poor diet, sedentary lifestyles, and smoking.  The evidence in the medical literature is overwhelming. So, with that in mind, just about every visit you have with an ND is likely to touch on what you eat. 

That can take a number of different forms. It might be dealing with inflammatory foods through food intolerance testing, or simply changing a diet high in “food-like substances” to one high in actual food.  

That doesn’t, however, mean that everyone needs to be gluten-free, or dairy-free, or vegan, or paleo, or keto, or whatever the latest sexy diet plan is.  

Each individual is different, and the diet that works for each person is also different. Getting to the root of that for each person is a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine.  

We have written many blog posts about nutrition that touch on our philosophy–here are a couple from the archives:

FAQ: “Can Naturopathic Doctors order lab tests?”  

Just like MD’s, Naturopathic Doctors can and do order labs tests.  There are, however, a couple of key differences: 

  • OHIP does NOT cover lab tests ordered by ND’s. The upside is that patients pay for their own labs, they get to have more control of their testing which keeps them in the driver’s seat for their health.    
  • ND’s look at labs differently. Although ND’s are trained to recognize abnormal labs, we are most interested in determining if there is a functional problem or pre-disease marker in lab results. Diabetes, for example, shows up as PRE-diabetes long before diabetes shows up. Staying on top of labs and dealing with problems ahead of time is true preventative medicine. 

Solution: Hormones!

Imbalances in hormones might be the single biggest root cause of the symptoms that bring patients to StoneTree Clinic. 

Symptoms like

  • persistent weight gain 
  • fatigue 
  • mood issues 
  • poor sleep 
  • brain fog
  • headaches 
  • menstrual issues 
  • PMS
  • Menopausal symptoms.  

The root cause of hormone imbalances are different for every patient, and we use specialized testing to figure out what the imbalance is.  We then use our awesome toolbox of herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, and diet and lifestyle changes to get things back where they belong. 

Tip: Healthy Eating Made Simple

This hilarious video really captures the confusion that most people feel about what they eat:

  • Eggs are good for you, then they are bad for you, then they are good for you again. 
  • Fats are bad, now they are good. 
  • Carbs are good for you, then they are not. 
  • You should eat meat, not eat meat, avoid gluten, eat more fiber….

It’s hard to keep it straight!

The best advice we can give holds true no matter what the new fad diet is:

Eat foods that nature makes, mostly plants, not too much. 
(Thanks, Michael Pollan)

It really is that simple.  

Nat Med Month 2: Low Energy and Being Tortoise Healthy

Our celebration of naturopathic medicine continues with another myth, a question, and a tip!

Myth: “Naturopathic Doctors are anti-medicine.”

Naturopathic Doctors work with patients to rebalance their bodies toward health and healing.  That rebalancing, which often includes a healthy diet and lifestyle, can reduce the need for some medications–and that’s a good thing!

However, there are MANY instances when conventional medications are needed. Naturopathic doctors are trained to recognize those situations and refer patients back to their family doctors to access those important treatments–it happens here all the time!

Best results don’t come from “one-or-the-other” thinking. Best results come when a patient feels in control and empowered to access the health care they need most.   

FAQ: “Is Naturopathic Medicine covered by OHIP?”  

Naturopathic Medicine is not covered by OHIP, and with all the changes that are being proposed, it’s unlikely to ever be included in our publicly-funded system.  

Naturopathic Medicine is, however, covered by most extended health benefit packages, and through the years this coverage has continued to expand.   

At StoneTree we do our best to direct bill insurance companies to make access to care even easier!

Solution: Getting To the Root Cause of Low energy 

Unexplained fatigue is the single most common reason people walk through our door.

Often, a patient has gone to their MD complaining of tiredness, but their blood work comes up “within normal limits”. It’s a frustrating thing to hear when you’re experiencing a symptom that’s interfering with your life.   

What “within normal limits” really means is that there is no diagnosable reason for the fatigue; it does NOT mean your biochemistry is functioning optimally and that there’s nothing wrong.  

One common cause of unexplained fatigue is functional hypothyroidism, but there are many more. Sub-clinical nutrient deficiencies, food intolerances and leaky gut, toxic exposures or chronic infections can all be culprits. Book a free “meet-the-doctor” visit to learn how we can help.

Healthy Living Tip: Be Tortoise Healthy

It’s all about the tortoise, not the hare….

In our “microwave culture” of wanting things instantly, we are often looking for that magic pill or the easy way out. But chronic health problems are frequently the result of an accumulation of small actions over time, and regaining good health is no different.

If you want lasting health, you need to focus on being the tortoise, not the hare!

  • The hare diets. The turtle slowly shifts to eating habits that can last a lifetime.
  • The hare is a weekend warrior. The turtle is active every day in some way.
  • The hare binge sleeps on the weekend. The turtle builds good sleep habits.
  • The hare makes time for others on rare holidays. The turtle tries to connect every day.

Be a tortoise this week!

Want to learn more about how naturopathic medicine can help? Book a 15-minute complimentary “meet-the-doctor” visit here.

It’s Naturopathic Medicine Month!

Actually, next week is Naturopathic Medicine Week, but we’re celebrating all month!

We’ve been helping people in the Georgian Triangle for 18 years now. Almost two decades! In that time, we have had the privilege of touching the lives of over 7000 patients.

Yet, for all that progress, we still meet people every week that don’t know who we are or how we help.  

In celebration of Naturopathic Medicine Week, we’re getting back to basics. By answering FAQ’s, debunking myths, and outlining the problems we solve, we hope to change that.  

Please pass this info on to someone you think we can help.  We all love our job and can’t wait to do more of it!

Myth: “Naturopathic medicine is not evidence-based”

Actually, there is plenty of evidence to support the natural and complementary therapies used by ND’s. New studies are published all the time in peer-reviewed journals, and many show positive findings. If you’re looking for evidence, there is no shortage. Last week, for example, we looked at the evidence to support IV vitamin C as an effective treatment for seasonal allergies.

FAQ: What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Medicine is a comprehensive approach to health care. Naturopathic Doctors (ND’s) are trained to diagnose and treat various acute and chronic conditions. Our main objective, however, is to find and treat the underlying cause of your health concerns.

ND’s follow a series of principles that guide their approach to helping you improve your health:

  • Primum non nocere – first do no harm, effective health care with the least risk for all patients.
  • Vis medicatrix naturae – healing power of nature, respect and promote self-healing
  • Tolle causum – treat the cause, identify and remove causes.
  • Docere – doctor as teacher, educate the patients, inspire rational hope, encourage self-responsibility
  • Treat the whole person – each person is unique with their own factors affecting their health
  • Health promotion is the best prevention – STAYING well is just as important as GETTING well.

Solution: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Studies show that between 13-20% of Canadians are affected by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) at any given time.

Here’s the tricky part: this syndrome is rarely a result of a pathological problem. There’s usually very little to point at and say, “There’s the cause.” As a result, conventional medical intervention often falls short.

Upwards of 50% of people suffering from IBS end up seeking out complementary and alternative care. Why? Because the root cause of the symptoms is most often functional in nature – something is out of balance. Uncovering and repairing functional imbalances in your biochemistry and physiology is what naturopathic medicine is all about.

Healthy Living Tip: Get Out in Nature!

Yes, getting outside in nature is actually good for you. And no, this isn’t your mother saying, “get some fresh air!” This is the increase in doctors actively prescribing time outdoors as a treatment.  

And if you can couple nature with exercise? Then you’re really getting somewhere! A local group of health enthusiasts is doing just that. Check out Primitive Patterns–they’re offering outdoor exercise classes all summer.  

Seasonal Allergies and IV Vitamin C

A new piece of research is telling us what we have seen for years clinically: IV vitamin C works for seasonal allergies.  

This wasn’t a random, clinically controlled trial, but as the authors suggest, it will hopefully encourage just that.

As with most studies, this one isn’t exactly a page-turner. In a nutshell, after getting vitamin C intravenously 2-3 times a week, symptoms improved in over 90% of participants.

Better yet, the treatment was very well tolerated. Only 1 of the 71 patients had an adverse reaction (twice), and the reactions weren’t terribly serious–“repeated unpleasant sensation of cold a few hours after infusion” and “tiredness the next morning.”

This is similar to what we see clinically, and more research on this would be great–in particular, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.  

There are, of course, many over-the-counter meds out there that can work for seasonal allergies. But when those don’t work, or if you experience side-effects, IV vitamin C may be a treatment worth trying.  

Allergy-related posts from the StoneTree archives:

Intravenous Vitamin C in Cancer Care Explained

The great scientist Linus Pauling is one of only four people to have won more than one Nobel Prize (and the only one to have won two unshared Nobels). He’s also the “grandfather” of using high dose vitamin C as a therapeutic tool. Pauling was doing research on the value of vitamin C and cancer as far back as the 1970s. 

Vitamin C can be a powerful tool, but it isn’t very sexy. We’ve known about it for over a century, and you can’t patent it. As a result, it doesn’t get much funding, press, or attention, despite its incredible usefulness in health care. Still, more work is done in the field every year, and the body of research continues to build.

Hot off the presses, the review article, “Vitamin C as a modulator of the Response to Cancer Therapy” offers further understanding of the benefit of vitamin C for our patients who are dealing with cancer treatments. If you want to get into the weeds, you can read all the details in the full article here. If you want a summary of what we can learn from it, read on!

How Intravenous Vitamin C Works

Vitamin C taken orally is a different treatment than vitamin C used intravenously. Oral vitamin C acts like an anti-oxidant, a molecule that helps our cells deal with damage. But given intravenously, vitamin C can reach “pharmacological doses.” At that level, vitamin C appears to become a pro-oxidant–a molecule that produces damage. In this case, that’s good news, because the damage can be specific to cancer cells. 

What Cancers are Intravenous Vitamin C Effective For? 

Happily, the growing body of evidence supports the use of vitamin C in cancer care in a number of applications–particularly in combination with conventional therapies, where it improves the effectiveness and/or reduces side effects of therapy. For example:

  • Several trials of high-dose intravenous vitamin C administration in cancer patients have led to increased quality of life, as well as improvements in physical, mental, and emotional functions, and less frequent adverse effects such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, and appetite loss. 
  • Combining high-dose vitamin C with anticancer therapies inhibits tumor growth in models of pancreatic, liver, prostate, ovarian cancer, sarcoma, and malignant mesothelioma. 
  • Breast cancer patients, as well as metastatic pancreatic cancer patients, experienced less severe chemotherapy-induced side effects after a complementary intravenous ascorbic acid (vitamin C) treatment.
  • Importantly, authors also showed that the combination of IV vitamin C with the conventional chemotherapeutic agents carboplatin and paclitaxel inhibited ovarian cancer in mouse models and reduced chemotherapy-associated toxicity in patients with ovarian cancer. 

Currently, there are several trials in progress to add more evidence to confirm the value of IV vitamin C as complementary therapy.  

Is it Safe? 

In our clinical experience, very much so. As for research, this study, which looked at 23 trials and a total of 385 patients found that overall, vitamin C has been shown to be safe and well tolerated, both alone and in combination with chemotherapies.

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. If you or someone you know is struggling to make sense of treatment options and conflicting advice, you can have all your questions answered by Dr. Ehab Mohammed, who spent more than 20 years practicing oncology as an MD before becoming a naturopathic doctor.

Neuropathy and Chemotherapy

One challenging experience for cancer patients is the development of nerve damage from the toxic effects of chemotherapy. It usually presents as numbness and/or tingling in the extremities–mainly in the feet, but the hands can be affected as well.

The scientific name for this is chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. What it’s called, however, is less important than how common it is. A recent meta-analysis of clinical research revealed that chemotherapy-induced neuropathy has a high prevalence rate of almost 68.1% within the first month of chemotherapy, 60% at the 3-month mark, and 30% at 6 months.

Many chemotherapies are known to be responsible for neuropathy such as cisplatin, oxaliplatin, Taxol, Taxotere, vincristine, navelbine, and Capecitabine. The complete list is much longer than these few chemotherapies and includes many recently introduced biologic agents and tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Conventional treatment:  

The most common conventional treatment for chemo-induced nerve pain is Gabapentin.  However, the evidence does not show any real improvement of symptoms. 

Alternative and complementary treatments: 

The evidence for complementary and alternative treatments for this complaint is mixed.  

Compounds like alpha lipoic acid and L carnitine have had some trials, but administration (by mouth or by IV) have resulted in inconclusive outcomes. The best evidence seems to support the use of omega 3 fatty acids and acupuncture

Dr. Ehab Mohammed practiced oncology for over 20 years before becoming a naturopathic doctor and has published 33 scientific research articles in recognized medical journals.

If you have questions about alternative cancer care or minimizing the side-effects of conventional treatments, you can book a complimentary meet-the-doctor visit with Dr. Ehab here.

Pancreatic Cancer & IV Vitamin C: A Case Report

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, nearly 5,500 new patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer annually. Almost 4,800 die from the same disease each year.   

Those are sobering stats. Why so high? In general, the further that cancers progress, the harder they are to treat. Since most patients present when pancreatic cancer is at an advanced stage, it makes disease management challenging.

That being said, progress is always underway. Here’s a look at the conventional approach, and an interesting case review from a 2018 issue of Anti-Cancer Drugs that covers the use of IV vitamin C.

Current Conventional Treatment 

For pancreatic cancer, the best course of action in conventional oncology is FOLFRINOX, which combines multiple chemotherapy drugs in a regimen.

The most recent review looked at a total of 13 studies comprising 689 patients with advanced cancer of the pancreas. The median overall survival time range was 24 months longer than that achieved by the solo chemotherapy medication Gemcitabine (6-13 months)

Complimentary and Alternative Treatment

In this case report, a 68-year-old man presented with metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, with a mean expected survival of 4-6 months.

His treatment was IV Vitamin C administered 2-3 times per week.

The outcome: 

  • Weight loss reversed within 4 month
  • Liver lesion gradually diminished and undetectable after 1 year 
  • Primary tumour shrunk, but still present at 3.5 years after diagnosis
  • Patient felt well and was active 

Of course, this case report is just one patient. It only gives us an N=1, unlike the studies of FOLFRINOX, with an N in the hundreds. One patient story doesn’t give us statistically significant data to prove IV vitamin C’s value for pancreatic cancer.

But this case, along with others seen in clinical settings, raises the possibility that this treatment option may be valuable in those with this tricky diagnosis, where conventional therapy is improving, but still modest at best. Here’s hoping for more robust clinical trials in the future.

Questions about cancer? Dr. Ehab Mohammed, ND brings more than 20 years of oncology experience to the StoneTree in Collingwood. You can book a complimentary “meet the doctor” visit with Dr. Ehab to have all your questions answered here.

Spring Cleaning–Inside and Out

It’s time for SPRING CLEANING!

The sun is shining, the snow is melting, it’s still daylight at 7:30 PM. HURRAY! It turns out we actually aren’t living in Game of Thrones after all. Winter is over (mostly) and spring has sprung.

As we emerge from our caves, thoughts turn to cleaning our spaces both internal and external.

Spring Cleaning the Outside

Spring cleaning has a long tradition in many cultures.  

In northern climes, before we had such things as vacuums and steam cleaners, March was the best time to open windows and doors, get the dust out of the house, and clean the soot from a winter of burning coal or wood.

Many cultural and religious traditions involve a deep cleaning of our spaces as part of spring.

  • The Catholic tradition is to thoroughly clean everything before Good Friday. 
  • Chinese New Year involves a thorough cleaning of your house to get rid of the bad luck of the past year, and makes room for the good luck of the new year. 
  • In the Middle East and Central Asia, Nowruz celebrations in the spring begin with the spring cleaning ritual known as Khaneh-Tekani, which literally means “shaking house.”
  • In Thailand, Songkran, the new years day, is mid-April and involves a festival of cleansing with water.   
  • Jewish tradition at Passover is to clean the entire house to get rid of all grains.

From whatever tradition your spring cleaning comes from, cleaning out your spaces feels great.

(Marie Kondo is the spring cleaning guru. Check out her Series on Netflix, “Tidying UP”. )

Spring Cleaning the Inside

We’ve written about this before.  Doing a “spring cleanse” is always a good idea.

There are many ways to do it and many products to use. Connect with your ND to determine the one that’s best for you.

In the meantime, here is a yummy detox salad to get you started!