Easy Choices…Hard Life?

Easy Choices, hard life. 
Hard choices easy life. 
-Jerzy Gregorek 

Jerzy Gregorek, four-time time World Weightlifting champion and author of The Happy Body, came to the United States from Poland in 1986 as political refugee. His words are worth considering.

The things that feel the easiest—things like sitting in front of the TV, hitting the snooze bottom, putting that new pair of shoes on the credit card, avoiding “the conversation”, eating the chocolate, having the second glass of wine—they are all easy choices on the road to a hard life. It’s a road that leads to chronic disease and disability, poor relationships, and money troubles. 

The things that feel the hardest–things like saving money, dragging yourself out of bed to go for that walk, eating the salad instead of the fries, having the tough conversation with your boss—they’re the more difficult choices, but they lead somewhere much better. When we engage in these things that feel so difficult in the moment, we create health, happiness, and connection for the future.  

What will your future self think about your choices?

Stay conscious, be brave and try to make a decision today—however small—that your future self will thank you for. 

The Collaborative Approach to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, is completely different from its mild-mannered cousin IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBD is a disease process, as opposed to a functional issue. The term captures both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which involve a chronic, and often severe, inflammation of the digestive tract.

Symptoms of IBD usually involve severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss.

Causes of IBD are not fully known, but it is thought to be due to a malfunction of the immune system where the inflammatory response does not shut off. 

There are some common risk factors for IBD, like genetics, family history, smoking, and the use of NSAIDs. Interestingly, if you live in an industrialized country, are Caucasian, and live in more northern climates, you are more likely to develop IBD. It may be that some environmental factors, including diet, lifestyle or even vitamin D deficiency, play a role.

IBD can be debilitating and sometimes leads to life-threatening complications like: 

  • Colon cancer
  • Skin, eye, and joint inflammation
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Malnutrition
  • Ulcers
  • Fistulas
  • Anal fissure
  • Toxic megacolon
  • Perforated colon
  • Severe dehydration

A Combined Conventional and Complementary Approach

Unlike IBS, where a naturopathic approach alone can often have excellent results, IBD presents a different challenge. Because symptoms can be severe, and lead to serious health problems, it can be important with IBD to use conventional medications to manage symptoms and keep things from getting worse.

The trouble is that conventional medications come with their own issues. Many meds have side-effects that range from sleep issues with corticosteroid use to certain cancers with the more serious immuno-suppressive drugs.  

As a result, CAM use (complementary and alternative medicine) in patients with IBD is high, ranging between 21% and 60%

Sick and Tired of IBD

Even with “controlled disease”, patients with IBD often feel sick and tired because they simply aren’t getting enough nutrients. Why?

  • The intestines are inflamed and/or damaged and are not absorbing nutrients effectively.  
  • Chronic diarrhea and pain cause changes in taste and anxiety about eating, so patients just don’t want to eat
  • Some drugs for the treatment of IBD, like the anti-inflammatories, make it harder to absorb nutrients
  • The intestines are sometimes so inflamed that they are bleeding, resulting in blood loss over time, which can lower iron levels and lead to anemia

What Can You Do?

The multiple nutrient deficiencies in patients with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis is well documented. There is less research on the roll of repletion of these nutrients in the IBD literature, although we have seen anecdotal evidence of increased energy, decreased symptoms and longer remissions in our IBD patients who receive regular IV infusions of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.  

There is also a growing body of evidence for the use of some complementary therapies, including probiotics, curcumin and fish oils. All of these substances help to modulate immune function and decrease inflammation.  

To learn more about naturopathic approaches, including IV therapy, for IBD, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book online.

IBS: How Do You Test for Food Intolerance?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is surprisingly common. According to the stats, between 13-20% of Canadians are affected by IBS at any given time.

There are many potential causes, but one of the most common is a food intolerance.  

A food intolerance is often a result of what’s called an IgG food sensitivity–a delayed, hyper-sensitivity reaction to a specific food.  

In this immune reaction, an IgG antibody attaches itself to a food protein. This creates an antibody-antigen complex. These complexes are generally removed from the body by special cells, but sometimes there are too many complexes for the body to clean up. When that happens, the antibody-antigen complexes build up and deposit into body tissues, resulting in inflammation that can play a role in many diseases and conditions.  

There is a growing body of evidence to support the clinical benefits of eliminating IgG reactive foods from the diet, especially in IBS. You can find studies, here, here, and here. The trick is to find out if you’re reactive to any foods, and which ones.

How to Find Out if Your IBS is Related to a Food Intolerance

To find out, we use a simple IgG Food Sensitivity blood test covered by many extended benefits. Once you identify your reactive foods, you can try removing them from your diet to see if your IBS symptoms improve!

Related posts:

Building Strong Back-to-School Immune Systems

Kids will be heading back into the classroom next week, and after the initial celebration by parents is over and the weather cools, thoughts turn to avoiding the seemingly inevitable “back to school” cold—both in our kids and ourselves!

Here are some of our best tips and tools as you head back into a new school year.

1. Sleep

Kids are chronically under-slept, and homework, extra-curriculars, and excessive screen time can contribute to the problem. Be mindful of this as the school year begins, and guard this aspect of health. Sleep is where we repair and recuperate—not enough of it means your immune system is more easily overwhelmed.  

How much sleep is enough? Here’s a starting point.

2. Keep them Outside

The school year means being inside. It means more sitting and breathing re-circulated air, surrounded by dozens of other kids. Make sure your kids spend daily time outside moving their bodies (and therefore their blood and immune systems) in the fresh air. It’s a critical part of keeping their immune systems strong and healthy.  

3. Eat for Immune System Success

What does that mean? It’s easy: avoid sugar and go for the healthy proteins. Here are some ideas that kids love.  

4. Supplement

We love Fit For School probiotics by Genestra which includes, probiotics, vitamin C and vitamin D, or MetaKids chewable probiotic only. Both are pretty yummy, but if you aren’t sure if your kids will like them, drop by the clinic. We always have a bottle/package open for a sample!

More:

::Back to School Advice from the StoneTree Naturopaths

Does One Thing Matter?

Whatever we are not changing we are choosing.
–Laurie Buchanan

This is a powerful quote in a health care context. The evidence shows over and over again that the quality of our health is directly linked to our lifestyle choices.

  • What we put into our bodies. Consume junk food or whole food? Water or soda pop? Chemicals or organics?
  • What we do with our bodies. Exercise or watch TV? Get outside in the sun or stay in? Stretch or sit? Drive or walk?
  • What we think with our minds. Feel gratitude or envy? Hope or despair? Love or resentment?

But change is hard. Our habits can feel like they are static and unchangeable. Yet they aren’t–we CAN choose something different. We CAN change. It happens every day. It might be difficult but it is possible, and it starts with one decision to do something different, no matter how small. Just think:

  • You can decide today to stop smoking one cigarette.
  • You can decide today to go for a one-minute walk outside.
  • You can decide today to eat just one green thing.
  • You can decide today to talk to one friend. 
  • You can decide to think one positive thought, no matter how small. 

Yes, it’s just one thing. But one is so much more than none. One is a first step. One is a change. One is a choice. Maybe, hopefully, one of many. But it all starts with one.

SIBO: What Is It and Could You Have It?

Tummy troubles are one of the most common complaints that naturopathic doctors deal with. Usually, we have great success–if we can help a patient get to the bottom of food intolerances, rebalance their flora, or deal with stress, then tummy troubles like IBS can become a thing of the past. 

But when our usual magic doesn’t clear things up in 8-12 weeks, we start to think that a patient might be dealing with SIBO.

What is SIBO? 

SIBO is the acronym for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In this syndrome, bacteria that normally grows in other parts of the gut start growing in the small intestine where they shouldn’t be. The result is symptoms such as pain in the stomach, especially after eating, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, a regular feeling of fullness, gas and weight loss.

If the SIBO is long-standing, the bacteria can start to use up the body’s nutrients, leading to malnutrition and more global symptoms of fatigue and malaise.  

What causes SIBO? 

In some cases, SIBO it the result of the bowel’s anatomy and physiology not working probably. There could be an adhesion or stricture in the bowel, so the muscular activity of the intestines breaks down and the food and bacteria aren’t moving through properly. The pH of the intestine could be off resulting in the wrong bacteria growing in the wrong place. The immune system can be out of balance causing bacteria to grow where they shouldn’t.  

How do you know you have SIBO?

The wrong bacteria in the small intestine release hydrogen and methane gas. This can be measured by a breath test, where breath samples are taken over a period of time to measure the gasses.

If SIBO is indicated, we then use a three-pronged treatment plan designed to eradicate the bad bacteria, heal the gut lining, and feed the good bacteria!

If you’d like to learn more about SIBO or other digestive challenges, or get more information on SIBO testing, contact us or book a complimentary meet-the-doctor visit online.

Lyme Disease: What You Need to Know

With the incidence of Lyme disease climbing in Ontario, and in Simcoe County specifically, we’re getting more and more questions at the clinic about what people can do to keep their families and themselves safe. 

Here are answers to some of the most common questions, as well as info on a new tick removal kit we have available in the clinic.

What is Lyme disease? 

Lyme disease is a disease caused by the bacteria borrelia burgdorferi. It is spread to humans through the bite of an infected deer tick. 

Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue, and a skin rash, especially one that looks like a red bull’s eye (called erythema migrans). Although rashes are fairly common, only 30% of Lyme patients report experiencing a rash, and only 9% develop the classic “bull’s eye” rash.

How do you test for it? 

Lyme testing is tricky. Testing used in conventional medicine in Ontario commonly shows false negative results, especially in the early stages of the disease.  

There are two reasons for this. First, it takes time for antibodies to develop in the blood (between ten days and a month) so the early tests can miss the diagnosis. Also, Lyme is known for antigenic shifting, meaning the antibodies change, so antibody testing isn’t always effective.

Some international labs, like this one which we use, will do in-depth testing that is more accurate but is not covered by OHIP.  

Is it treatable? 

Lyme disease is treatable. However if the infection is not treated in its early stages it can easily turn into a chronic infection. 

Chronic Lyme disease will not go away on its own over time. There is no evidence to suggest Lyme disease clears the body without treatment. In fact, the opposite research exists.

There are two persistent myths surrounding chronic Lyme disease that affect its treatment. The first is that it doesn’t exist. The second is that there’s no reason to treat chronic Lyme disease since people don’t get much better.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most people can return to work and carry on with few limitations on their lifestyle. Lyme disease remains one of the most treatable of chronic illnesses.

What do I do if I find a tick on my body?

You can remove an embedded tick yourself, but it is a lot easier with the right tools, and something to keep it in for analysis. We now carry a tick removal kit at the clinic. It’s a great item for your first-aid kit, glove box, backpack, or purse, etc.

The kit includes tick identification cards, 3 styles of tick removers (ie, if tick is in your ear or a pet’s ear a different tick remover size and style are required), magnifying glass, containers to put ticks into, instructions for proper tick removal and identification, and a container to save the tick in. 

Available online, or at the clinic! 

Tips for Surviving the Summer Heat

Canadians don’t deal well with sustained heat and humidity. Sure, the odd day or two of over 30 gives us something to complain about, because we love to complain about the weather. But day after day of +30C with high humidex? That’s something we don’t adapt to very well.  

Many people around the planet, however, do effectively live in and deal with these high temperatures all the time. Here’s what we can borrow from their experience.  

Slow down. It’s often cold in Canada, so rushing from one thing to another in our day is not only possible, but it also helps keep us warm by generating body heat. That’s the last thing you want to do in high heat and humidity environments. Moving slowly decreases the heat you are generating and keeps your core temperatures down. 

Avoid activity in the heat of the day. In the tropics, the most productive times of the day or in the early morning and late after. Minimize activity and movement when possible. The middle of the day is for finding shade and rest. 

Stay hydrated. This isn’t just about water. Many cultures who live in hot climates have traditional beverages that help manage hydration. Coconut water, cold teas, like yerba mate in South America, lime juice, and water. Drinks like these are refreshing and contain electrolytes as well as water.  

What happens when you don’t manage heat well? You run the risk of heatstroke, also known as sunstroke–a type of severe heat illness that results in a body temperature greater than 40.0 °C (104.0 °F).

Symptoms of heatstroke include:  

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing

What to do about it: 

  • Get to a shady or air-conditioned place
  • Cool off with damp sheets and a fan
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • Rehydrate (with NON-sugary beverages)

If you don’t feel better in 30 minutes, it’s off to the doctor with you! You may need IV fluids.  

Two Delicious Ways to Drink More Water

Up to 60% of your body is water—just good old H20. The amount varies depending on location. The brain and heart, for example, are composed of 73% water. The lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, while your muscles and kidneys are 79%. Even your bones are a surprisingly juicy 31%!

It’s no surprise, then, that being dehydrated isn’t good for you. To avoid that, drinking 8 cups of water per day is a good rule of thumb and easy to remember. To adjust for body size, our recommendation is usually to drink one half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water per day–that’s the equivalent of 10 cups. 

Why We Struggle to Drink Water

Of course, knowing how much is only part of the challenge. There are two issues that frequently come up with our patients who are chronically under-hydrated.

The first is that they simply aren’t thirsty. But symptoms can show up differently in different people. For example, you might not be thirsty, but you might still experience any of the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Tired or sleepy
  • Decreased urine output
  • Urine is low volume and more yellowish than normal
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness

In other words, you can be low on hydration, but not experience “thirst”.

The second reason is that many people find water boring, and so they look to flavoured and sugared drinks to make things more interesting. Those are generally bad choices.

Our solution to both these challenges is to make sure you have something delicious and healthy at hand. Here are a couple of our favourite alternatives!

1. Infused Water

Here at the clinic, we love to have infused water around. A few added fruits and herbs can give plain old water a delicious boost! Some of our favourites are: 

  • Lemon, cucumber, and thyme 
  • Strawberry, basil, and lemon
  • Apple and cinnamon sticks 
  • Grapefruit and rosemary 
  • Lavender and Strawberry 
  • Lime and Mint 
  • Watermelon and Mint
  • Orange and blueberry 
  • Raspberry and Lemon 

2. Homemade Herbal Iced Tea

Another delicious way is to make a homemade iced herbal tea. It takes just minutes!

  • Take a herbal tea of your choice.  
  • Put 2 bags in a one-litre mason jar.
  • Pour boiling water over bags to half fill jar.  
  • Steep for 15 mins at least. Remove bags. 
  • Add honey if desired.
  • Fill the jar with ice.

And enjoy!

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!