Saturday, November 23, 2013

Long Term Survival

Awareness has become a larger part of my practice than I expected and I fully embrace the magnitude of what it can, on occasion, involve.  Many times, I am reminded that despite having a strong commitment to evidence based practice, I can still be far from mainstream thought.  For example,  several years ago a public health nurse in Calgary was asked on the radio if there were any need to eat organic.  Her answer in summary was to the effect of, "in the last several years, I have only seen maybe one or two cases of acute toxicity from consuming pesticides or herbicides on fruits or vegetables.  So, there isn't really a safety issue."  My reply would have been, knowing how smoking causes cancer, how may times have you seen acute toxicity of cigarette smoking in the last several years?  So, is there a safety issue with smoking?

Then we now have John Schadan vice president of Sherritt Coal.  Recently one of Sherritt Coal's tailing ponds broke and spilled heavy metals into the surrounding streams west of Edmonton and now the toxic waste is entering the Athabasca River.  To my surprise, the vice president tells the reporter that he wanted to prove a point to himself so drank water directly from the contaminated stream (Click to watch CBC Sherritt Coal Tailing Pond Spill Interview).  I'll leave it to you to decide what point he just proved!

It is not just the world we are leaving for our children that matters but we need to empower our children with the survival skills to last for generations or the state of the world that we leave them will not matter.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Naturopathic Lawn Care

For many suburbanites, social pressure regarding those bright yellow flowers which relentlessly pop up in their yards drives people to spend a lot of time, effort and unfortunately resort to risky pollutants to eradicate them.

Recently, a salesperson from a popular "lawn care" company knocked on my door and informed me that there were some terrible plants growing in my yard and that he had the cure.  When I asked him to point out which plants he was referring to, he walked me over and pointed, "see this terrible broad leaf plant, we need to get rid of those."  "Taraxacum officinale" I asked?  "You mean Dandelions?"

Yes, it seems like Dandelions are the bane of some people's assistance!  And, the cure according to this salesperson was 2,4D (2, 4-Dichlorophenoxyactic acid) which he didn't know much about other than his company was 28 years old and they would not be able to sell anything that wasn't safe for the public - including his young daughter who he reportedly lets play on the lawn after applying 2,4D. 

Unfortunately, as with most lawn pesticides and herbicides, the track record for 2,4D is not so clear.  In addition to being a major ingredient in Agent Orange, there are several studies indicating cancer risk as well as ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

The Dandelion may be better utilized as a barometer for the internal health of your lawn.  When present, they indicate that your soil is not sick, you are not polluting the groundwater and it is safe to enjoy walking on and touching the grass.  Otherwise, artificial turf seems to become a better option than chemically induced fields of green.

Or, if you really detest the Dandelions, how about eating them?!  After all, they are a tremendously healthy vegetable.  The young leaves in the spring, included in a salad, are part of an excellent cleanse that I often recommend to my patients.  Less healthy, but more tasty, how about Dandelion syrup made from the flowers?


Here is a Recipe:

Start by washing 250grams to 280grams (about two heaped double handfuls) of Dandelion flowers and cut their base to help detach the yellow petals from the green leaves.

In a saucepan, cover the dandelion petals with water 1 Litre of water. Mix well until all petals are covered. Bring slowly to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let infuse in the fridge overnight.

The next day, filter the mixture using a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a pot – be sure to get as much of the liquid as possible.  Add 1kg of raw sugar into the liquid and place the pot on the stove without a lid to simmer on low heat.  Simmer until the liquid is slightly thinner than maple syrup at approximately 219 degrees Fahrenheit (which when cooled will be the same consistency as maple syrup).  Half a sliced lemon may be added when the liquid is nearing the desired consistency.


Remove from heat and store in a glass bottle until the next occasion for use.

Enjoy!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Do Ion Footbaths Detox?

With spring approaching here in Airdrie, patients are already talking about detoxification.  And, of any time of year, spring is the most opportune time to kick-start the body's already functioning purification systems after a long winter.  Unfortunately, many popular "detoxifications" are either completely ineffective or only create temporary diarrhea thereby "cleansing the bowels."  Worse, several times last year I saw the effects of an "herbal detox" that was absolutely dangerous. 

Today I'm going to highlight a popular product recently shown to be under the completely ineffective category.  Two years ago, a very well ran study assessed the effectiveness of the IonCleanse footbath.  The conclusion?  "Contrary to claims made for the machine, there does not appear to be any specific induction of toxic element release through the feet when running the machine according to specifications."  Yes, the water usually changes colour (this study tracked potentially toxic elements not just colour change) whether your feet are in the water or not!

Here is the entire study for those interested in seeing the detail to which the authors thoroughly tested the IonCleanse machines.  Objective Assessment of an Ionic Footbath (IonCleanse): Testing Its Ability to Remove Potentially Toxic Elements from the Body

As Detox has become mainstream culture, so has the opportunities to take advantage of your time and money.  Please ensure you are doing a safe and effective detoxification this spring.  Even the necessity for all people to do a full-fledged detox is certainly a matter of debate.  As a naturopathic doctor with a keen interest in environmental medicine, I evaluate each patient on a case by case basis: there is no one size fits all approach. 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Naturopathic Immunity

I can't believe it has been so long since my last post.  I am pleasantly surprised at how many people are looking at this blog despite my lack of recent posts - thank-you!

Today's topic: immunity.

As of yet, I have never had a runny nose, sore throat, nor an arm with eczema walk into my office.  There is always a person attached!  Obvious as this sounds, too often patients come to see me after months of being treated as such.  I believe this is partly due to our overburdened social health care system in Canada which doesn't afford Medical Doctors enough time to dig beyond the obvious.  It is also likely due to nearly 100 years of the conventional medical paradigm being applied directly to chronic conditions.  Yes, the conventional medical system is excellent and I thank God for its acute life saving ability.  However, your immunity is one of those systems that often requires more than a "band aid" solution.  If you have ever found yourself on continual prescriptions of antibiotics or corticosteriods, maybe it is time to look beyond the symptom and investigate the root of the problem.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Acne and Rosacea: Only Skin Deep?

Guest Writer: Amy Kroeker (ND candidate 2013) 

Everyone loves a pale rosy glow on the cheeks but persistent redness and frequent breakouts are something we try to eliminate or hide. But what do these symptoms tell us about our health? Are they genetic or are there environmental triggers? Most commonly, acne and rosacea are treated by face washes that contain antibacterial ingredients or, if more severe, with antibiotic medications. Although these treatments are effective for many people, others see no difference or have side effects such as dry skin and skin irritation. So why are skin conditions so stubborn and what other therapies can help?

Naturopathic medicine seeks to investigate and understand the underlying causes of any condition and skin conditions are no different. Acne and rosacea are rarely seen in children and often begin in the teenage years with puberty as hormones begin to change. This indicates that hormones and hormone dysregulation are factors in skin health. However, many people do not begin to experience acne or rosacea until later in adulthood. Breakouts can occur not only on the face but also the neck, back, chest, arms, or legs. 

It is commonly said amongst Naturopathic Doctors that the skin reflects the health of the gastrointestinal tract or gut. Food allergies and sensitivities can cause a significant amount of inflammation in the body that often appears as skin redness and pimples. Since the skin and the gut are also two important routes of elimination in the body, symptoms in these two organ systems are often correlated to each other. Common symptoms that accompany acne and rosacea are gas, bloating, constipation, moodiness, and fatigue after eating. Other signs of inflammation in the body can even include joint and muscle aches. These symptoms, when combined with acne or rosacea, indicate that what is going on is more than skin deep. 

Treatment of acne and rosacea from a natural perspective often involves testing for food sensitivities and allergies using diagnostic laboratory testing and then treating the gastrointestinal tract using diet change and botanical plant-based formulas or supplements. In this way, acne and rosacea can be treated from the inside out to prevent the recurrence so common with treatment that is only skin deep. For more information on natural treatments for acne and rosacea that address these underlying symptoms consult your local Naturopathic Doctor.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Not just any Airdrie Naturopath

Last Wednesday's announcement by Alberta's health minister brought Naturopaths back into the spotlight in Alberta - at least until Canada's Olympic medals diverted the media's attention.  Yes, naturopathic doctors are now regulated under Alberta's Health Professions Act which now requires any person who calls themselves a "Naturopath" to have completed the correct schooling and also pass licensing exams. And, I'm very happy to be distinguished by this new regulation. 

What is still surprising to me is how some media still present naturopathic medicine to the public.  The National Post began its article on the new regulation by stating, "Homeopathy, chelation therapy and vitamin injections will soon be regulated procedures in the province of Alberta, which is rapidly becoming more friendly to alternative medicines that have little or no scientific backing."  Then, after acknowledging the extensive schooling required by ND's, the same article states, "almost without exception, [ND's] were advising controversial therapies and techniques such as homeopathy, vitamin supplements, colon cleanses, ozone therapy, hair analysis, chelation therapy and herbal remedies that insert lavages into the nasal canal."

Wow! Is this really what the "mainstream" Canadian public thinks naturopathic doctors do?!!  A brief read through the comments below the National Post article demonstrates how polar (and sadly misinformed) the public is about health care and this great disparity really doesn't do anyone any good.  Yes, not all naturopathic doctors are equal but that is a human characteristic that goes across any profession.

A student from the Arizona school (SCMN) was preceptoring at my clinic last week and reminded me that until ND's value themselves as more than just a "naturopath" and accept the responsibility that comes with Naturopathic Physician, it will be hard for the mainstream public to let go of some ideas about ND's.  Point taken.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Big red circle on my back!

No, it is not a rash or any other dermatological problem!   Rather, it is the "health" product sales target that comes with being a Naturopathic Doctor.  As ND's practice preventive and proactive medicine, it comes with the territory that sales representatives for neutraceutical companies, weight loss products, energetic products etc, etc, want us to sell their products to our patients (or at the very least, let our patients know that these products exist).  Each week I have one or more sales representatives drop by the clinic asking me to meet with them so they can show me their particular product.  And, every single product is the best product in the world!!

How about some forest through the trees to help establish a little perspective?  There are two considerations that need to be kept in mind: First: number needed to treat and, second: rate limiting.

1. Number Needed to Treat:

For example, how many people with high cholesterol given a Statin medication will it take for one of these people to add one healthy year on to their life?  This is called All Cause Mortality and the research with Statins is interesting on this one!  Especially for women.  Or, from a natural perspective, how many people drinking pH balanced water or sleeping on a magnetic mattress does it take to add one healthy year onto one person's life or improve one person's quality of sleep?  The answer of course is based on indication; is "X" product actually indicated for a person?
 
2. Rate Limiting:

Many patients of mine have a gamut of "health machines" and supplements but still suffer from significant health problems.  Unfortunately, the problem here is these machines and supplements, although not usually harmful, do nothing to improve the symptoms that these patients have.  It is like trying to plug up small holes in a dam to save water when the problem is that it hasn't rained in weeks!  This is the concept of rate limiting - something missing that is stopping an important process.

The point is, we have to draw the line somewhere!  If you walk into a health food store and say, "one of everything please!" this is likely to provide some negative interactions and do more harm than good.  I will typically work with people's own supplemental regimen especially if they are part of a multi-level marketing company and have been lead to believe that x or y is necessary for health.  Naturopathic Doctors determine where health products fit into each person's list of priorities and I make suggestions as to particular importance.

So, before you sign on the dotted line with a direct-purchase neutraceutical company, buy that $3000 machine, or start 6 months of a particular treatment, it would be advisable to consult with an ND who has years and years of education in the natural health field.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Your body works and so does nature!

Two things I have been pondering the past few weeks are the disconnect people have with the amazing capabilities of our bodies and also the natural functioning of nature.

New patients at my clinic are instructed to bring all their medications and natural supplements or botanicals on their first visit so I can ensure there are no interactions.  Additionally, I evaluate each item's indication for that particular patient.  It is not rare for some patients to bring in shopping bags full of regimens of vitamins, herbs and specific nutrients intended to assist, upregulate and support nearly every system in the body.  Then, when I explain that the body has an amazingly brilliant, built in capacity to maintain (homeostasis) the optimal functioning of these organ systems and they most likely do not need to take half of their regimen, some patients think I am being almost sacrilegious! Certainly there is an appropriate time, dose and indication for supplementation but will a grocery cart of items, that are not indicated, add any healthy years to someone's life?

My second observation stems from having my own city lawn for the first time (I grew up on a farm).  How did urban society get to such a place of disconnect from nature where people use their lawn mowers to collect all the grass clippings, send this to the landfill site, and then pay a chemical company to put back on their lawns an inferior synthetic fertilizer replica of what they just sent away?!  And then there are all the chemicals and water required to keep that artificial induced carpet of dark green!

It all comes down to education.  Education about what we do directly to our bodies and indirectly through how we treat the world around us.  I believe teaching is the most important aspect of being an ND.  It takes time but is so worth it!

If you follow our Mountain Health Team Facebook we'll show you some interesting ways to utilize those yellow dandelion flowers (Taraxicum officinalis) in the next few weeks.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Be in the know

I always seem to be amazed that it is the end of the day, and the end of another week or month.  Proof that I am in the right profession!  Now it has already been 2 months since my last blog post.

Well, after practicing for 5 months and having my own clinic since January here in Airdrie, I have noticed several common trends in Canadian health care.  Here is one: No news is not necessarily good news.  That is in regards to your blood work and test results anyways.  I frequently hear this from my patients who have had recent blood work performed by their MD.  "Well I haven't heard anything back so all must be ok."  Unfortunately, Medical Doctors are in massive short supply in my area which results in these professionals being severely overworked. 

As such, I have learned to have my patients release a copy of their recent records to me so we can take a look together.  And unfortunately, I often find values that are not just low-normal or high-normal but values that are even flagged by the lab as out of normal ranges.  Most importantly, these abnormal results confirm a clinical suspicion I had regarding the symptoms and presentation of my patient.

So, these labs are your property and do not feel shy to ask to have a copy.  Your MD is within his/her right to ask that you pay a photocopy fee but they cannot prevent you from seeing your results.  Be in the know! 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Up for Air!

This is one of the first days I have had a chance to even think about taking a moment to write something on this blog.  Since beginning negotiations for the purchase of the Healthy Options Centre in October last year, to taking over ownership on January 1st, and transferring all the business necessities while still seeing patients full-time, 2012 has started out at an exceptionally fast pace.  There just does not seem to be enough hours in the day!  Once again, trying to keep some semblance of a balanced life has been very difficult.  With the stress and pressures I feel like I'm in school again but practicing is just a little more fun!

I am really enjoying Airdrie and have been happy with the openness to culturally relevant, evidence based natural therapies.  Most people seem ready for a more naturopathic approach to health care.