Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Below are some of our most frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak.

Both the CDC and the Canadian public health information pages are helpful if you want to stay updated and learn more.

What’s a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe respiratory infections like SARS.

Currently, the term is being used popularly to describe the 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, originating in Wuhan, China.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted from animals to humans. There are many coronaviruses that circulate in animal populations that are not infective to humans, but occasionally they make the jump. For example, it was found that SARS coronaviruses came from civet cats to humans. 

The source of this current outbreak is still not clear.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Cough 
  • Difficulty breathing

How does it spread?

The virus causes infections of the nose, throat, and lungs, which means it can be spread:

  • through the air by coughing and sneezing
  • by close personal contact like touching or shaking hands
  • by touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

What’s the risk?

Although there are reported cases of death due to this virus, the incidence rate here in Canada is low (four cases) and there have been no deaths here. The risk is low in the general population, and generally higher in people who are immunocompromised.

There have been three confirmed cases in Ontario. All cases were in people who had traveled to the affected area in China  

What should I do?

The risk is low for the general population. There’s no vaccine, but also little risk at the moment to Canadians. However, you should avoid:

  • all non-essential travel to China
  • all travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan city

You can also reduce your risk to yourself and others by making sure you:

  • stay home and avoid visiting people in hospitals or long-term care centres if you are sick
  • cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing to reduce the spread of germs
  • dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible and wash your hands after
  • wash your hands often with soap and water
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands

Again, there’s currently no vaccine, but the risk is low for Canadians. Your best approach is the take care of your immune system. We’ve written about it before–learn more here!

Lead in Grey County School Water: What You Should Know

In early November, a report was released on an investigation into the lead levels in the water of many Ontario schools and daycare facilities. Several schools in Grey county were listed as exceeding federal guidelines. You can find the list of local schools and more info here, or view the original news report based on the joint investigation by Global News, The Toronto Star, the Ryerson School of Journalism and Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism.

What follows is an overview of the acceptable levels (which varies depending on who you ask), why lead is bad for you, how testing works, and what to do.

What are Acceptable Lead Levels?

The province of Ontario sets the acceptable level of lead in water as 10 parts per billion. Federally, however, Health Canada sets the acceptable level to 5 parts per billion. Which is right? Arguably neither, as the World Health Organization says there is NO safe level of lead.

Of particular concern is that this is school and daycare water. Health officials say children are particularly vulnerable to the long term effects of lead, which can include negative effects on cognitive development, IQ levels, and overall health. This paper by the Canadian Pediatric Society agrees. This study, from Duke University, found that for each 5 microgram increase in blood lead, a person lost about 1.5 IQ points.

The best rule, then, is that lead is bad. Period.

The report earlier this month used the federal rating (the more conservative), and found that nearly a third of all schools and daycares in Ontario have been above the 5 pbb threshold for the past two years. Old lead taps and fountains are the main culprits.  

In Grey County, Owen Sound District Secondary School and Beaver Valley Public School top the list in our region with a lead level that’s 60 percent higher than the federal standard. That means they’re within provincial guidelines, but over federal ones.

How to Test for Lead Exposure

There are three main ways to test for lead exposure in the body–blood, urine, and hair. Each has its advantages.

Testing blood levels is easy, and is the gold standard for diagnosis of lead exposure. Urine tests can also show exposure, but they have some limitations because not all forms of a heavy metal like lead are easily excreted. With children, a urine test can be a good estimate to determine a current exposure, but not a substitute.  

Hair analysis is somewhat different in that it shows exposure over a three month period. Where a blood level or urine level might miss a chronic low-grade exposure, a hair test is more likely to pick it up.  

What to Do?

Dealing with environmental toxicity always starts with the same first step: avoid exposure. If you’re concerned about your school or daycare, don’t drink the water at school. Bring a water bottle from home. 

The body has natural systems for removing lead from the body–for a low exposure, this is often enough. A good diet and the right supplementation can help support those systems.

For greater exposures, a process called chelation can be used–you’ll need an experienced, regulated medical professional to help.

If you have questions about testing existing lead levels, or about detoxification and chelation approaches to lead exposure, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331 for more information, or book an appointment online.

Could Depression Be Caused by an Immune System Imbalance?

Here’s a different way of looking at a challenging problem, and one that fits with what naturopathic doctors frequently see in practice.

In her new book, This is Depression, Dr. Diane McIntosh MD presents the idea that depression could be caused by an imbalance in the immune system.

Here’s the gist: 

There are cells in the brain called glial cells, which act as the brain’s caretakers. They supply neurons with nutrients, clean up any waste, and fight infection in the brain. They do a lot to keep the brain ticking along and doing its job.  

Now, enter cortisol.  

Cortisol is the hormone we produce when we experience high levels of stress. Whether that’s physical stress (like running a marathon), or mental stress (like studying for finals), or emotional stress (like dealing with a sick parent), cortisol is the hormone that we use to weather such storms.  

Too much cortisol, however, causes those caretaker glial cells to stop working properly. Instead, they start spitting out proteins called pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are the signallers of the immune system; they tell your immune system to make inflammation. Those cytokines damage the glial cells, which causes them to release more cytokines, causing an inflammatory cascade. That inflammation in the brain results, in turn, in the neurotransmitters not working properly. 

The end result? People feel brain fog, tired and low. They feel depressed.  

With this explanation in mind, the research linking changes in diet and lifestyle to improving depression makes even more sense. Inflammation is your immune system doing its work, but sometimes that work has side effects. Lifestyle changes reduce that inflammation, and the result can be an anti-depressive effect.

In fact, as research shows, the outcome of lifestyle interventions can be better than a pharmaceutical anti-depressant. For example:

Dr. McIntosh’s premise is still just a theory, but it’s one of those theories that we like, because there’s no real downside to the intervention. Healthy lifestyle changes are only going to make your life better–the side effects of reducing inflammation are all positive.

As the article in the Globe and Mail says:

Depression isn’t the only illness found to be caused by inflammation. Heart disease, HIV, lupus, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, chronic pain and several forms of cancer have also been called inflammatory disorders.

It makes a compelling case to take your fish oils, move your body outside, and eat well!

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!

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.

H1N1 is Back–Here Are Our Best Prevention Tips

This year’s flu season is in full swing, and according to authorities, it’s the worst since 2009. The predominant circulating strain this year is Influenza A-H1N1 (swine flu), and it seems to be hitting kids the hardest.

Whether or not you decide to get the flu shot there is much you can do to prevent the virus from taking hold in your kids and in yourself.

1.Decrease your exposure to the virus:

Influenza is a respiratory infection and is easily spread. Wash your hands often, and if you can’t, use hand sanitizer (triclosan-free please). Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. But most important: if you are sick, STAY HOME. Missing a day or two of work or school is better than spreading the virus around, but more important, it will help you heal.

2. Increase your body’s ability to fight potential infections:

  • GET LOTS OF SLEEP if you are feeling a little dragged out.
  • Get outside and go for a gentle walk in the fresh air. Clear out those lungs!
  • Drink lots of water and eat lots of soups, stews, and curries. Avoid sugars and white carbs. 
  • Supplement with daily vitamin D and vitamin C.

3. Boost your immune system, preventively:

Research during the last H1N1 pandemic demonstrated the value of the herbal medicine Echinacea for the possible treatment of influenza. In-vitro studies showed a decreased uptake of the virus by the human cells, and in mice models, the infected animals getting Echinacea got less sick.  

The research is not conclusive, of course, but Echinacea is a remarkably safe herb in both kids and adults. A daily dose through the cold and flu season may have some benefit.

If You’re Sick

If the flu has already got you, the best tool we have is IV vitamin C. This dramatic case study of its effectiveness in a case of swine flu in 2009 made it all the way to prime time:

We have seen IVC do wonders for all kinds of viral infections and it is a big player in our cold and flu season tool-box. 

Supporting your immune system can be different for each person. Book an appointment with your ND to determine the best plan for you.

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.