Lavender: Reduced Anxiety with No Side-Effects

Lavender has long history of use for its calming effect. Anxiety, insomnia, restlessness—they’re all challenges that can often be helped with lavender.

In 2014, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at the impact of the orally administered lavender oil preparation Silexan.

The study divided 539 adults into four groups.

  • A placebo group
  • A paroxetine group (a prescription anti-depressant, commonly known as Paxil)
  • An 80mg dose lavender group
  • A 160mg dose lavender group

The study measured results using the Hamilton Anxiety Scale before and after.

Great Results, No Side-Effects

After ten weeks of treatment, there was a reduction in anxiety in all groups, but lavender was the clear winner:

  • 63.3% in the lavender 160mg group
  • 51.9% in the lavender 80mg group
  • 43.2% in the paroxetine group
  • 37.8% in the placebo group

The best part? Unlike Paxil, which has many demonstrated side-effects, the lavender had none.

Another study comparing lavender to lorazepam showed similar results, and at the end of the trial, the remission rates were higher for the lavender group (40% for lavender, versus 27% for lorazepam).

A great, research-backed win for lavender!

If you’d like more information on the safe and effective use of lavender, contact the clinic.

Protein Powders: What You Need to Know

In recent weeks, there has been some coverage in the media around toxins in protein powder products.

The “Clean Label Project,” a non-profit organization in the United States, recently published findings on protein powders in the US market.

This organization, which is focused on health and transparency in consumer product labeling with respect to environmental contaminants, uses state of the art laboratory testing to determine contaminant levels in various consumer products. They use a 5-star system to rate the level of contamination: 5 stars means clean, 1 star…not so much.

Protein Powder Findings

Vegan protein powders had higher levels of contamination of heavy metals and other toxins then animal based ones. The most shocking finding was that the heavy metal contamination was just as high, or sometimes higher in organic vegan powders.

The best performers? Whey protein powders. This is an option that many of our patients might avoid because whey comes from milk, but many people with a dairy intolerance will do just fine with an isolated whey protein powder. Another upside is that it helps us make glutathione, a powerful anti-oxidant and detoxifier in our bodies.

Why Use Protein Powders at All?

This is a very good question, and many nutritionally-focused practitioners do not recommend them, instead wanting people to focus on eating whole food sources of protein. This is advice that is hard to argue with. Whole foods not only have protein, but fiber and other vitamins and minerals, making them more nutritionally whole.

When a protein powder does make sense is when people are not taking the time to eat properly. For example, many of our patients don’t eat a full and wholesome breakfast, instead grabbing a muffin from the café. This sets up a day of sugar cravings, mid-afternoon fatigue and that inevitable weight gain around the middle. Starting the day with a smoothie augmented with a healthy protein powder helps many of our patients get on a better eating track, and on the path to better overall health.

Retail Protein Powders vs. Professional Protein Powders

Many of the products tested by Clean Label are retail brands that can be bought off the shelf in health food stores, pharmacies and grocery stores. Often these brands compete on price, so they are always looking for the most cost-effective way to make their products. Sometimes, those efforts to cut costs lead to lower quality.

With professional lines–supplement lines that do not sell their products through retail stores, but through health professional–the product testing requirements are different. These companies have to ensure that heavy metal testing is done on their products by a third party. As a result, their sourcing for constituents to make the products is more stringent. That makes the products more expensive, but of higher quality and lower contamination.

Protein Powders We Love

Here are a couple of powders we recommend:

Vegan powders are harder because of contamination, but for those who will only go plant-based, the best we can find is Garden of Life – Raw Protein. It’s organic, and gets a 3-star rating on Clean Label. For a vegan powder, that’s the best you can get.

Reducing the Embarrassment Around PAP Tests

The charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust recently surveyed 2,017 British women:

A third said embarrassment caused them to delay getting a smear test, which can prevent 75% of cervical cancers.

The charity said cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35, yet almost two-thirds of those surveyed weren’t aware they’re most at risk.

We get it.

Getting a PAP smear is no fun. The majority of the team here at StoneTree have been on the receiving end of PAP that was cold, embarrassing, or otherwise uncomfortable.

That’s exactly why we developed the StoneTree Well-Women Visit days. You get a warm room, soft light, real sheets, warm socks, all in the care of a female ND.

Getting a PAP is important and we’ve written about it many times before. Don’t avoid it because you’re embarrassed. A few minutes, made as comfortable as possible, could save your life.

Now, with online booking, the process just got a little bit more comfortable again. Our next dates are Feb 28, Apr 11, and May 23. Book online before they fill up!

Influenza is Here: What to Do

Looks like this flu season is going to be a doozy. Dr. Charles Gardner, the Medical Officer of Health for The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit issued a declaration of “widespread influenza” last week. Locally, the CGMH declared an outbreak, and put increased precautionary measures in place.

If you want more detailed information on what is happening in our community with respect to the flu check out the Simcoe County District Health Unit Weekly Influenza News.

In the meantime, here are our best tips for prevention and treatment.

PREVENTION

Keep that immune system as healthy and vibrant as possible:

  1. Eat whole foods–lots of veggies and fruit and avoid sugar.
  2. Drink water.
  3. Wash your hands–a LOT.
  4. Get lots of rest. If you’re feeling run down and tired, don’t push through. Cancel plans and go to sleep. Let your body to heal!
  5. Get outside and exercise.
  6. Meet with your ND to figure out how best to support your immune system.

WHEN YOU GET SICK

  1. Stay home. Flu is caused by a virus that usually resolves with rest and fluids.  Staying home and limiting your exposure to others limits the spread.
  2. Try natural treatments for cold and flu. Herbal medicines and nutritional supplements can work wonders – especially when used in the early stages. IV vitamin C can produce dramatic effects in the flu. Using this tool at first sign of symptoms (or even preventively) is best.
  3. Visit the hospital IF necessary. This article gives you some instances when going to the ER may be warranted.

Celiac Disease Underdiagnosed in 90% of Cases?

That’s the case according to U of T prof Ahmed El-Sohemy, whose research suggests that celiac disease is very much underdiagnosed in Canada, as with other parts of the world including the US and the UK.

When he took blood samples from over 2800 people, he found that celiac disease occurs in 1% of Canadians–that’s a similar frequency to other countries in the world.

What wasn’t similar was that this frequency of occurrence did not match the frequency of diagnosis. El-Sohemy estimated that 90% of the 1% go undiagnosed.

What does that mean in numbers? For Canada, a population of 35 million people means there are approximately 350,000 people with celiac. The same 1% as most places.

But if 90% of them are undiagnosed, then 315,000 of these people don’t know they have it.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition. That means your own immune system is attacking a part of your own body. In the case of celiac, when a person eats gluten, that gluten activates the immune system in their digestive system and their immune system then attacks and destroys the intestinal lining.

The result is obvious symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. But the damage to the intestinal lining also results in poor absorption of nutrients. As a result, patients with celiac can have weight loss, failure to thrive, anemia and other complaints associated with nutrient deficiencies. In fact, whenever a patient comes to StoneTree clinic with unexplained iron deficiency anemia, this is one of the first culprits we consider.

Are celiac disease and gluten intolerance the same thing?

Nope.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. The gluten activates the immune system to attack the person’s intestines.

Gluten intolerance is an inflammatory response to the gluten itself–the immune system sees the gluten as the problem and attacks it, creating inflammation. Why this happens is still not totally understood.

Theories include:

  • Wheat hybrids have been bred to have more gluten and therefore more antigenic.
  • We eat too much gluten so the inflammatory reaction never has a chance to die down.
  • Wheat GMO’s (round-up ready crops) create wheat that is irritating to the immune system.

How do you test for celiac disease?

For celiac disease, the gold standard for diagnosis is an intestinal biopsy to look for tell-tale signs of damage.

This way of testing has its limitations. First, the patient needs to go to a hospital, get sedated and have a piece of their intestines removed via scope–no fun at all. Also, the patient needs to be actually eating gluten or you could go through all that trouble and get a false negative result.

Other tests for celiac include blood tests for the auto-antibody. This is easier, but also the patient also needs to be eating gluten to ensure that there is not a false negative.

Gluten intolerance can be tested by looking for an IgG antibody in the blood.

You can also test using an elimination diet. Whether you have celiac or a gluten intolerance, an elimination diet can give your own body a chance to tell you if you have a problem with gluten without relying on a test to tell you. If you have GI symptoms like symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and you suspect gluten might be the culprit – just remove it from your diet for 28 days and left your body talk to you. If gluten is an issue you will know, no blood test or biopsy needed. It’s simple and cheap, but not necessarily easy!

For more information on testing, contact the clinic anytime at 705-444-5331, or book online.

Need help with gluten-free foods? Check out The pantry at StoneTree Clinic. All foods, including pre-prepared meals, are gluten- and dairy- free.

World Diabetes Day: What’s Your Sugar Status?

World Diabetes Day started in 1991 and has been celebrated on November 14th every year since. It was initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in response to the rapid rise of diabetes incidence around the world.

This year, World Diabetes Day focuses on Women with Diabetes, and for good reason:

  • There are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes. This is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040.
  • Two out of every five women with diabetes are of reproductive age.
  • Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally.
  • 1 in 7 births is affected by gestational diabetes.
  • 2% of live births to women in 2015 had some form of hyperglycemia in pregnancy.
  • Approximately half of women with a history of gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five to ten years after delivery.
  • Half of all cases of hyperglycemia in pregnancy occur in women under the age of 30.

These are some sobering statistics, and they don’t begin to cover it all. Diabetes can lead to nerve damage, kidney failure, and blindness. If you have diabetes, your risk of developing heart disease is twice that of the rest of the population, and you’re more susceptible to depression and infections.

Diabetes is dangerous. But it’s also a largely treatable and more importantly preventable disease. In fact, according to the IDF, more than 70% of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through the healthy lifestyle.

Where do you begin? Diabetes is a lifestyle disease, and naturally, food and movement are key.

Eat right. Eat foods that nature makes, mostly plants, not too much. It really is as simple as that. If a food package is making a health claim, be suspicious. The foods sitting in the veggie aisle with no claims and no packaging are where your diet should be focused.

Start with these 10 recipes that will save your life!

Exercise regularly. You don’t need to be a marathon runner to get the diabetes prevention benefit of exercise. Walk every day for 30 minutes. It’s all you need to do to make an enormous difference.

Test your blood sugar. Find out if your blood sugar is a problem before it’s a problem–testing your blood sugar regularly can give you an idea if your body is heading down the diabetes track.

Blood sugar tests look at the following:

  • Fasting blood sugar. This is the test we are all very familiar with. We fast overnight and get our blood taken first thing in the morning. Any value over 6.0 mmol/L should get your attention that you may be heading down the wrong track.
  • Hemoglobin A1c. This test measures how much sugar is attached to the red blood cells. The more that is attached, the more likely you are not getting the sugar out of your blood fast enough. Because the lifespan of the RBC’s is around 3 months, this test gives us an idea of what your AVERAGE blood sugar has been over a 3 month period. Values over 6% are a sign that things are not going well.
  • Two-hour post-prandial blood glucose. This test measures how well your body deals with sugar within 2 hours of eating it. If your blood sugar is over 7.8 mmol/L 2 hours after eating the sugar, you could be heading down the wrong track.

Interested in learning about your blood sugar levels? Tests are inexpensive, and we can take your blood sample right here in the clinic! Book online, or call 705-444-5331 for more information.

Decreasing Heart Attack Risk by Tackling Inflammation

Recent research in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 10,000 patients who had had a heart attack AND a positive hsCRP result. (This is a blood test for inflammation.)

All of the patients received high doses of statins, which is the present standard of care, then they were split into two groups. Half of the patients received an injection every three months of a drug called Canakinumab, the other half received a placebo injection of normal saline. This trial went on for four years.

Canakinumab is a form of anti-inflammatory medication. It’s used predominately in those with rheumatoid arthritis. But according to the research, when you give it to people with heart attack risk you get some interesting results:

  • 15% reduction in risk of a cardiovascular event like a fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke
  • 30% reduction in the need for expensive interventional procedures like bypasses or stents
  • No change in death rates in the 2 groups.

You can read some mainstream coverage of the news here, including the impact on cancer rates.

The short story? Reducing inflammation is good for your health, in particular your heart.

What’s the Catch?

All of this sounds like good news, and in theory, it is. But nothing comes for free. The problem with Canakinumab is that it decreases inflammation by suppressing the immune system. That means patients who take it may be more susceptible to infections, require increased healing time if injured.

Enter the Better News

Chronic inflammation is often lifestyle-related. A poor diet, being sedentary, being over-stressed and under-slept, smoking and/or exposures to other toxins—all of these things contribute to your overall inflammatory set point. And the magic of lifestyle issues is that they can often be fixed without medication.

Dealing with inflammation is a big part of what Naturopathic Doctors do. We have written about it often, and dealing with it in some form or another is a common part of our treatment plans.

It stands to reason that dealing with and improving your inflammatory lifestyle challenges would be helpful in decreasing inflammation. If you could reduce your risk without the need for intense anti-inflammatory medicines that suppress your immune system, wouldn’t you want to?

The starting point is easy. Finding out if inflammation is a problem for you is as simple as a quick and inexpensive blood test called hsCRP–the same one used in the study. All you need to do is get started!

For information on hsCRP testing or inflammation reduction, book online or call 705-444-5331.

Get Those Kids Moving!

A new study published in the Frontiers of Physiology in July offers a glimpse into the possible long-term importance of getting our young ones moving.

The study fed a group of baby lab rats a high-fat diet and then separated them into three groups. One group was denied exercise for their whole life, one group was denied exercise until they were adults, and the last group was allowed to exercise from the very beginning.

  • The researchers found that early exercise positively impacted the way the rat’s metabolism responded to the high-fat diet. They were able to transform fat into energy more effectively. This effect lasted for 60 days after the exercise stopped. No big surprise here.
  • But, the interesting part was that early exercise decreased overall inflammation as an adult. Even though the rats still all got fat from a diet that was too calorically rich, they did not seem to have the same negative health effects of a high-fat diet without exercise.

Clearly, kids aren’t rats, and no one is going to run a lifetime study denying humans exercise (although the fact that 1 in 10 kids meets the physical activity guidelines suggest we might be working towards it, sadly.)

But although it might be difficult to know what the long term studies will tell us for sure about humans, while you’re waiting there’s almost zero downside to getting kids moving!

This is one time when it’s probably quite reasonable to compare your kids to rats. 🙂

Reflux Meds: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last month, the medical journal BMJ Open published research linking the use of PPI’s, or proton-pump inhibitors, with increased risk of death.

PPI’s are frequently used to treat serious gastrointestinal issues like ulcers, GI bleeds and reflux, and are one of the most commonly used classes of drugs. They’re a powerful tool, but research continues to show that long-term use is a bad idea.

PPI’s are generally meant to be short-term prescriptions, but people often end up taking them for months or years to control symptoms, especially in the US where they’re available over the counter in various forms.

According to the study, however, the longer the drugs are used, the higher the risk of mortality. Past research has also linked this class of drugs to kidney damage, dementia, and bone fractures.

The moral of the story? Take it when you need it and no more!

But My Digestive Issues are Ruining My Life!

GI issues can be extremely challenging to live with. It’s no wonder people turn to whatever works. But there are other solutions for many sufferers. Issues of the gastrointestinal tract are where naturopathic medicine shines, and there are many ways to treat upper GI complaints without prescription medications.

The place to start, of course, is your diet. That may seem obvious, but astonishingly, this is still frequently discounted in conventional medicine. Despite the fact that your entire GI tract exists to deal with food, we seemed determined to not see food as a GI issue. It is.

Here are a few suggestions from the naturopathic toolkit:

  • Food intolerances and inflammatory foods are real culprits here. Get yourself tested, and avoid reactive foods strictly.
  • Avoid coffee, cigarettes, and booze. They all stimulate acid secretion and an inflammatory response. If you are doing these things and also NOT eating, that makes things worse. You are stimulating the digestive tract and not putting anything in it–a double whammy.
  • Cultivate a healthy flora. Probiotics and foods that support healthy flora, like fermented foods, keep the digestive tract working well and help prevent H.pylori and other imbalances of GI bacteria that can cause trouble.
  • Talk to your chiropractor or osteopath. Sometimes the “valve” that keeps the contents of the stomach in the stomach gets stuck open. This can be made worse by sitting too much. An adjustment can get things back in line.
  • Better still, as always, stay active and maintain a healthy weight for your body type.

Digestive issues are among the most challenging to diagnose, and they often mean difficult lifestyle changes, at least in the short term. But compared to the side-effects of long-term PPI use, the sacrifices are small!

To uncover your food intolerances, or get to the root cause of your digestive troubles, book an appointment with one of our Collingwood naturopathic doctors. 

Whooping Cough Prevention and Treatment

In the last week, we have seen a couple of little ones show up with confirmed cases of whooping cough.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the bordetella pertussis bacteria. It starts out looking like the common cold–runny nose, fever, mild cough. This is then followed by severe coughing fits, sometimes with the characteristic “whoop” sound at the end of the fit. These coughing fits can go on for 10 weeks, giving it the nickname “the 100-day cough”.

You can hear the sounds of pertussis here.

But…I thought we had vaccines for pertussis?

Whooping cough is actually the second most common infectious childhood disease in Canada, after influenza. It’s endemic, meaning it’s always around, but it usually doesn’t show itself much–just in minor periodic outbreaks.

This isn’t unusual–the vaccine isn’t perfect. It’s estimated to have about an 80-85% effectiveness after three doses, and that effectiveness wears off over time. As a result, whooping cough re-emerges occasionally.

For an in depth look at the research on this, Dr. Suzanne Humphries, MD does a good job of outlining the issues. It is a long article but worth the read if you are a worried parent.

Prevention of Pertussis

Vaccination is currently the prevention method of choice. It is part of the infant vaccination schedule, which is important. There is a 0.5% mortality rate in infants under 1 year of age who contract pertussis. Before regular pertussis vaccination, moms who contracted the infection in childhood would be immune to it when they had their babies (a natural infection confers immunity for over 30 years). When they breastfed their babies they little ones would get the benefit of that immunity from their mothers.

Many mothers now have been part of public vaccination programs and their immunity is likely to have worn off, resulting in increased risk. A blood test can show if mom is immuno-competent.

Treatment

Conventional treatment is generally antibiotics, but they generally have very little positive effect. In fact, more and more evidence is coming forward about the negative effect of using antibiotics, especially when they are not needed. We’ve written about this before.

As naturopaths, we like to support the immune system in its efforts to deal with the infection, and Vitamin C is the core treatment tool.

The pertussis bacteria makes a “toxin” that is at least partly responsible for the lung symptoms. Vitamin C does a pretty good job of neutralizing that toxin. Again, Dr. Humphries does a great job discussing this issue. In our little ones, we use oral dosing, but in our teens and adults with the “100 day cough” weekly to bi-weekly treatments can decrease the duration of the illness.

Remember: If you are suspecting whooping cough in your child it is very important to seek assistance from a regulated health professional.