Sinusitis

woman with sinusitis

Sinusitis

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

The word sinusitis just means inflammation of the sinuses.  Having inflamed sinuses does not mean that the inflammation is due to a bacterial infection, although sinusitis is often presumed to be from a bacterial infection and treated with antibiotics.

What Causes Sinusitis?

There are many potential triggers for sinus inflammation.  Of these, food allergies, food sensitivities, environmental allergies, bacterial infection, fungal infection, viral infection are the most common.   Of all the possible causes, bacteria is only a small fraction, so antibiotics may be completely unnecessary and ineffective.  Determining that bacteria is the cause of an episode of sinusitis is difficult without employing invasive procedures and most episodes of acute sinusitis resolve spontaneously, without antibiotics.

Should You Take Antibiotics for Sinusitis?

Research suggests that sinus infections aren’t actually helped by antibiotics or steroid nasal sprays.  This is because most sinus infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not kill viruses and steroid nasal sprays suppress the immune system that may be trying to fight a virus.  Antibiotics do not lower the frequency of relapse and are associated with adverse effects such as yeast infections, and antibiotic resistance.  A 2012 study called for “a moratorium for the widespread practice of a prolonged course of antibiotics in patients with presumed chronic rhinosinusitis”, due to a lack of evidence of effectiveness.

In a 2007 study, researchers assigned 240 adults with sinusitis to one of four treatments: an antibiotic and a steroid spray, only an antibiotic, only steroid spray, or fake medicine. No group got better any quicker than the others.

How Should You Treat Sinusitis?

  1. Do some detective work to figure out the root cause and treat that. If it happens every spring, it may be an environmental allergy to pollen.  If it happens after eating certain foods, more likely a food allergy or sensitivity. We can do blood testing to determine what yours are.  If it happens after a course of antibiotics, it may be a fungal infection of the sinuses.  Whatever the cause, we can help sleuth it out and treat it.
  2. Neti pot.  Saline irrigation of the sinuses has been found to be safe and effective for treating sinusitis if done properly (use sterile saline).
  3. Support a healthy immune system.  Probiotics, vitamin D, vitamin C, herbs like astragalus and coriolus can help balance the immune system.

References:

Brook I. Microbiology of sinusitis. Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2011 Mar;8(1):90-100. doi: 10.1513/pats.201006-038RN.

Ferguson BJ, Narita M, Yu VL, Wagener MM, Gwaltney JM Jr. Prospective observational study of chronic rhinosinusitis: environmental triggers and antibiotic implications. Clin Infect Dis. 2012 Jan 1;54(1):62-8. doi: 10.1093/cid/cir747. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Guarch Ibáñez B, Buñuel Álvarez JC, López Bermejo A, Mayol Canals L. The role of antibiotics in acute sinusitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. An Pediatr (Barc). 2011 Mar;74(3):154-60. doi: 10.1016/j.anpedi.2010.10.011. Epub 2011 Jan 14.

Wei JL, Sykes KJ, Johnson P, He J, Mayo MS. Safety and efficacy of once-daily nasal irrigation for the treatment of pediatric chronic rhinosinusitis. Laryngoscope. 2011 Sep;121(9):1989-2000. doi: 10.1002/lary.21923. Epub 2011 Aug 16.

 

Prevent Colds

woman trying to prevent colds and flus

How to Prevent Colds and Flus

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Looking to waltz through cold and flu season unscathed and prevent colds and flus?  Here are 5 tips to stay cold and flu free this year:

  1. Up your vitamin D intake.  This time of year you want to be taking more than your usual dose of vitamin D to make up for shorter days and very little exposed skin to sunlight. A trip south may also help increase your vitamin D but also help fend of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Personally, I can’t wait for March Break and some warmth and sunshine.
  2. Cut food sensitivities out of your diet.  How can your immune system fight off viruses if it’s busy fighting off your lunch?  If you know you have a dairy sensitivity, avoid dairy. Ok, well maybe after the holiday parties are over.
  3. Eat more ginger – Ginger helps protect against viruses by blocking viral attachment and internalization.  Ginger tea and curries are good ways to incorporate more ginger. There are lots of healthy ways to add some extra ginger to your diet on our recipe page: Gingerbread Cookie Tea, Apricot Ginger Chicken, and Ginger Pear Energy Bars are just a few.
  4. Reduce your intake of sugar sweetened beverages – pop, energy drinks, lattés, chocolate milk, fruit drinks, shakes, and anything else with added sugar. We know sugar suppresses the immune system for at least 3 hours after consumption.  Drink this Cinnamon Chai, Gingerbread Cookie Tea, or New Year’s Resolution Smoothie instead.
  5. Drink green tea. Green tea is the perfect immune system boosting drink. Green tea contains a substance called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. This substance can fight bacteria and prevent viruses from multiplying. Green Tea Cheesecake anyone?

Wanting more advice about how to prevent colds or flus, what to take or do if you get a cold or flu or what to do if you are feeling the first signs of a cold or flu?  See one of our licensed naturopathic doctors today.

Want to know when to see a doctor about a cold or flu?  Want to know what should be in your cold and flu prevention tool box? Download and save Dr. Pamela’s handy infographic here:

prevent colds and flu

 

Looking for even more information about colds and flus, natural remedies for colds and flus, tips to stay healthy, herbal remedies for colds and flus, quizzes and immune system assessments?  Purchase the full Cold and Flu ebook here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/595481

 

Autoimmune disease

woman with autoimmune disease arthritis

What is an auto-immune disease?

It’s a disease where the immune system, which is programmed to ignore “self”, has gone haywire and started attacking the person’s own tissues.

Which conditions are considered to be autoimmune?

The list of what is now thought to be autoimmune is expanding. There are now more than 80 different conditions listed as autoimmune diseases. Some of the more common ones are Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s, Scleroderma, type I diabetes, MS, Guillain Barre, psoriasis, Grave’s disease (hyperthyroid), Hashimoto’s (hypothyroid) and vasculitis. For a full list of autoimmune disorders, click here: www.aarda.org

What causes autoimmune diseases?

Good question with a complex answer, since it doesn’t appear to be just one thing, but the factors that may contribute to autoimmune disorders are:

  1. Gut health – since 70-80% of your immune system is there, an unhealthy or leaky gut can cause unhealthy immune system activity.
  2. Food sensitivities – foods that aggravate the immune system will cause production of antibodies and inflammation.
  3. Latent infections – low level viral (herpes, Epstein Barr), fungal (yeast) or bacterial infections (strep) can cause excessive or disordered immune system activity.
  4. Poorly functioning adrenal glands – the adrenal glands produce powerful anti-inflammatories called corticosteroids. This is what will often be prescribed as a medication for auto-immune problems.

How can we fix auto-immune disorders?

Our naturopathic doctors can assess your symptoms related to each of the above situations and address them naturally.

  1. Gut health – a healthy gut requires nutrients like l-glutamine, vitamin A, and fiber. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in the gut, which then break it down into short chain fatty acids that nourish the cells that line the colon. Good bacteria help to moderate the immune system and prevent overgrowth of harmful bacteria or yeast.
  2. Food sensitivity detective work – we can determine your food sensitivities (almost everyone has some) either by process of elimination (also called an elimination challenge diet) or through science based testing for IgG and/or IgA antibodies in your blood stream to particular foods (up to 184 foods!).
  3. If you are prone to genital herpes, cold sores, had mono or recurring sore throats or strep, recurring yeast infections or BV these viruses, yeast or bacteria can be lurking in your system and firing up the immune system.  Natural anti-microbials like oregano oil, garlic, caprylic acid, black walnut, uva ursi and grapefruit seed extract can help rid your body of some of these (the herpes viruses stay in your system).
  4. Your adrenal glands are your stress glands.  They are also your body’s source of corticosteroids.  Corticosteroids are powerful immune suppressors that keep the immune system in check and on track. Prednisone is a drug that is often used to get autoimmune diseases in check.  Your body makes its own internal Prednisone via your adrenal glands. They require lots of vitamin B5, B6, vitamin C, zinc and magnesium to function at their best.  Adaptogens are also herbs that can help them work well and help you deal with stress more easily.

Autoimmune disease and natural medicine research

Zamani B, Golkar HR, Farshbaf S, Emadi-Baygi M, Tajabadi-Ebrahimi M, Jafari P, Akhavan R, Taghizadeh M, Memarzadeh MR, Asemi Z. Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic supplementation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Int J Rheum Dis. 2016 May 2. doi: 10.1111/1756-185X.12888.
Li J, Yan H, Chen H, Ji Q, Huang S, Yang P, Liu Z, Yang B. The Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis is Associated with Milk or Egg Allergy. N Am J Med Sci. 2016 Jan;8(1):40-6. doi: 10.4103/1947-2714.175206.
Draborg A, Izarzugaza JM, Houen G. How compelling are the data for Epstein-Barr virus being a trigger for systemic lupus and other autoimmune diseases? Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2016 Jul;28(4):398-404. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000289.
Mravcova M, Chovanova L, Paulikova L, Vlcek M, Rovensky J, Killinger Z, Wendl J, Imrich R. Genetics of neuroendocrine factors in rheumatoid arthritis. Horm Metab Res. 2015 Jun;47(6):411-7. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1395667. Epub 2014 Dec 12.

 

Fever in Children

 

sick child with fever

Fever Guidelines in Children

As a parent, I always find the times that my son has a fever unnerving, even though logically I know that the fever is his immune system’s way of launching a full scale attack against a virus, bacteria or other infectious agent. The fact that he has something serious enough to warrant a fever is what unsettles me, but thankfully when he does have one, whatever the illness is resolves quickly and efficiently. Evidence of the effectiveness of a fever against a pathogen.

If you are unsure what to do about a fever, here are some guidelines:

Always seek an MD’s advice if:
1. Your child is under 6 months old
2. Your child is between 6 months and 3 years old and has a temperature of 102 or higher
3. Your child is over 3 years old and has a fever of 104 or higher that does not respond to fever control measures within 4 hours
4. You have a child of any age who is lethargic, listless, unusually sleepy, in pain, extremely irritable or complains of a stiff neck or is having difficultly breathing or if he/she just doesn’t seem right or has unusual or severe symptoms

Otherwise, keep your child comfortable with a tepid bath, a cool cloth, keep them hydrated but don’t force food, offer nurturing, cuddles and comfort.  If your child doesn’t need to see an MD based on the above criteria, but you want to do everything you can to help him/her recover more quickly, our naturopaths do treat children.  If your child gets ill frequently, or severely and you want to improve his/her immune system, our naturopathic doctors can help sort out why he/she gets sick so often and help reduce the frequency and severity of illness.  Herbal medicine, nutritional advice, vitamins and minerals can help support healthy immune system function in children.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Should You Take Probiotics?

good bacteria, bad bacteria and probiotics

Not Sure Which Probiotics to Buy?

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as:

“Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit to the host”

So there are 3 key components to this definition:

  1. Live
  2. Adequate amounts
  3. They must be bacteria of the type that confer a health benefit

Live Probiotics

The probiotics we recommend(Progressive, Genestra, Natren) fall into the category of some of the priciest probiotics going, but, they are worth the extra cost because you can be assured that you are getting live, viable probiotics whereas some of the other products will contain only dead bacteria. A trick to watch out for: probiotic labels that say “x billion viable bacteria at time of manufacture.” What they contained at time of manufacture is completely irrelevant, it’s what they contain when you consume them that matters. What this “guarantee” is really saying is “we’re not sure how much will survive until you take them.” The better manufacturers will usually test their products for at least 6 months beyond the expiry date to ensure that you are still getting living bacteria in the amount on the label.  The label will specify this by saying “guaranteed to contain x billion live or viable bacteria at time of expiry”. See the difference? Knowing that some will die off between manufacture and the time that you take them, the good manufacturers will put extra in when they make it and test it beyond the time of expiry to ensure that even if some did die off, there is still the amount stated on the label when the bottle expires.

Number of Bacteria in Probiotics

1 or 2 billion bacteria per serving just doesn’t cut it, when it comes to good bacteria the higher the amount per serving the better. Over 100 trillion bacteria of 500 different species live in the human gut, if you want to have an impact, you need to add more than a drop in the bucket.

Probiotics that Give a Health Benefit

There are a few manufacturers promoting something called “soil based organisms” that are supposed to be what we naturally would have inhabiting our guts if we were eating fresh from the ground. There has been very little research supporting their use and a few case studies of people who were severely immune compromised and suffered life threatening infections after consuming these products. There is tons of research and human experience showing the health benefits of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacteria infantis and Bifidobacterium lactis.  There is one soil based product that we have had good experience with called Prescript Assist.

What are the Health Benefits of Probiotics?

Here are the benefits of healthy good bacteria in our digestive tract:

  1. Diarrhea prevention, especially when taking antibiotics
  2. Colorectal cancer prevention
  3. Immune system regulation and enhancement
  4. Asthma and allergy prevention
  5. Prevention of infection in the gut by Salmonella, Shigella, H pylori, yeast etc
  6. Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  7. Provide the host with vitamin B12 and K
  8. Moderation of immune system function to prevent severe complications
    from H1N1

Oh and by the way, a class action lawsuit was filed and won against Dannon/Danone in January 2008 in which the company stood accused of spending $100 million promoting clinical benefits of Activia and DanActive that its own tests had disproved. To add to that, Bifidus Regularis is a made up name by Danone for Bifidobacterium animalis. Commercial yogurt is not an adequate means to obtain good bacteria.

Our naturopathic doctors are experts on which probiotics may work best for your particular problem as well as how to heal a whole host of gut issues.  Book an appointment now. 

Fever Phobia: Should You Treat Fevers?

sick child with fever, should you treat fevers

Should You Treat Fevers?

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

As a parent, a fever seems to induce a certain amount of distress, so much so that our knee jerk reaction is to suppress the fever. This provides a sense that we are helping our child and making them better when in fact we might be making them worse. A fever can be a sign of a serious infection, and shouldn’t be ignored, but it can also be viewed as a positive sign that the immune system is strong and wise enough to launch a full scale attack against a foreign invader. Most bacteria and viruses prefer a temperature around 37 degrees Celsius, normal body temperature. By upping the body temperature by 1-2 degrees, the immune system not only cooks the virus/bacteria but also speeds up production of white blood cells and antibodies.

Is a Fever Harmful to You or Your Child?

There is no risk of permanent harm from a fever unless the fever is above 42 degrees Celsius. Untreated fevers will rarely go over 40.6 degrees C as the brain’s thermostat won’t allow it.  Your body doesn’t want to cook your brain.

A fever does not necessarily need to be treated. If your child is comfortable, drinking plenty of fluids, and able to sleep, fever treatment is not likely to be helpful and may in fact be harmful since the fever is the immune system’s attempt to enhance virus killing: If you treat fevers you are helping the infectious organism (virus, bacteria).

When Should I See a Doctor about a Fever?

Fever is a signal that something is trying to infect your child. Usually this is a minor illness, but it can be a serious infection, such as meningitis. Any child less than 3 months old with a fever should be examined by a physician right away, to rule out a serious infection. Children of any age who have a fever of 40 degrees C or more should also be seen. Any child who has a fever and is very irritable, ill appearing, confused, has difficulty breathing, has a stiff neck, won’t move an arm or leg, or who has a seizure should also be seen right away.

Any child under 6 months of age with a fever should be examined by a physician within 24 hours. Older children with a fever who are acting well and have no other symptoms should be seen if the fever lasts >48 hours (or >72 hours if they do have minor cold or flu symptoms).

If at all possible to avoid suppressing a fever do so and see a physician within the above guidelines.

What about Pregnant Women and Fevers?

A fever greater than 39.4 can be a concern for pregnant women in their first trimester, if you do develop a fever, see your doctor.

How Can I Prevent My Child from Getting Sick?

If you or your child has a fever or get sick often, our naturopathic doctors can help boost your immune system, fight infections and make you more comfortable naturally.

References:

American Academy of Pediatrics: Managing Fevers in Children

Janice E. Sullivan, Henry C. Farrar. Fever and Antipyretic Use in Children. Pediatrics
March 2011, VOLUME 127, ISSUE 3.

 

Antibiotics are Not For Colds

woman with a cold sneezing wondering about antibiotics

Should You Take Antibiotics for Colds?

Every time they come down with something, some people beg their doctor for antibiotics that:

  1. Can cause diarrhea and destroy healthy bacteria in the digestive tract
  2. Land more than 140,000 people in the emergency room every year
  3. Only help about one in 4,000 patients avoid a serious complication
  4. And do nothing to relieve their symptoms (because they only work for bacteria, not the viruses that are causing their cold symptoms)

Antibiotics are well known to be useless for colds, influenza, most sore throats and the vast majority of bronchitis cases, because those illnesses are caused by viruses. Antibiotics kill only bacteria. Every time people take unneeded antibiotics, they encourage the growth of bacterial strains that resist antibiotics, creating hard-to-control “superbugs” like MRSA.

Nonetheless, half of antibiotic prescriptions still go to people with viral illnesses.

There is a time and place for antibiotics and they save many lives, but they need to be used sparingly and judiciously.

Here are better options than taking antibiotics when you have a cold or the flu:

  1. Do all the things you know you should do to keep your immune system healthy – get good sleep, reduce your stress, drink lots of water, avoid sugar and processed foods, cut out alcohol.
  2. Boost your immune system’s efforts to fight off the virus with herbs like echinacea and reishi mushroom extract.
  3. Whip up some Gingerbread Cookie tea to help ease your cold symptoms:Gingerbread Cookie Tea for Colds

    5-6 cups of water

    Fresh ginger root sliced (~ 2 tbsps)

    A couple of cinnamon sticks

    ½ teaspoon lemon or orange zest

    Bring to a boil briefly; reduce to a simmer in a pot with a tight fitting lid for 20-40 minutes (10 minutes for kids).

    In a mug put:

    Juice of ½ lemon

    1 teaspoon raw honey

    Add the simmered ginger, cinnamon, citrus peel decoction and enjoy. Reheat on stove throughout the day. This formula tastes good, is antimicrobial, anti nauseant, clears mucous, and helps enhance or clear a fever.

Pigging Out Provokes Inflammation

Woman overeating causing inflammation

Can You Reduce Inflammation by Eating Less?  Yes!

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Overeating can make your brain go haywire, prompting a cascade of damage that may lead to inflammation and subsequently diabetes, heart disease and other ills.

Eating too much activates a normally dormant immune system pathway in your brain, which sends out immune cells to attack and destroy invaders that are not there. This finding could help explain why obesity causes or contributes to so many different diseases.

Studies that have shown that obesity causes chronic inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation is found in a range of diseases related to obesity, including heart disease and diabetes.

Suffering from chronic pain and inflammation? Maybe you need to look at your portion sizes.

4 Tricks to Reduce Portion Sizes

  1.  Use smaller plates
  2. Keep serving dishes off the dinner table
  3. Drink 2 glasses of water before each meal
  4. Start your meal with a bowl of soup

Afraid of Germs?

germs like bacteria and viruses are everywhere

Germaphobes – Look Away Now

As we roll into cold and flu season, did you know that many of the surfaces and objects you come in contact with every day are covered in bacteria and viruses?

Here are a few of the worst culprits:

Purses and Wallets

Purses pick up the bacteria from wherever they’re placed — from the soiled ground to the bathroom floor. Wallets pick up bacteria from what goes into them.

Remote Controls

If you’re lucky, different people get to handle the remote controls.

Laundry Machines

There is about 0.1 gram of fecal material in a piece of underwear.(Yuck!)That amounts to approximately 100 million E. coli bacteria in an average undergarment load.

Cutting Boards

There are 200 times more fecal bacteria on a cutting board than a toilet seat.(Double Yuck!) The reason is that many people rinse off their cutting board rather than thoroughly washing it.

Your Phone

The telephone provides a convenient meeting place for two different sources of germs — your hands and your mouth.

Water Fountains

The moist surface area on the average water fountain is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.

Buttons

The buttons found on ATMs, elevators, telephones and drink machines are located in areas that are not often cleaned and disinfected to kill bacteria and viruses.

Yoga Mats

Sweat and microbes can cover an exercise mat during a workout. This may not be a problem if the mat was cleaned and disinfected before and after each use. But if the mats are not cleaned, germs can linger for days.

Airplane Bathroom

Airplane bathrooms get cleaned, but the high volume of people they must cater to in a short amount of time leaves them very dirty very quickly.

Shopping Carts

One test found E. coli on almost half the shopping carts examined.These microbes are transferred from the cart to your hands, to the food you select and then to your face if your hands touch it.

Most of these micro-organisms shouldn’t instil fear, however, on the contrary, regular contact with low levels of non-disease causing organisms can help keep your immune system working normally.  The hygiene hypothesis of allergies, suggests that lack of exposure to bacteria due to being too clean is what is causing a rise in allergies.  Keeping your immune system healthy with good food, low stress, healthy sleep and select vitamins and minerals means that you can touch all the shopping carts you want with confidence.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc (Hons), ND. For help with maintaining a healthy immune system to defect any of these bacteria as well as cold and flu viruses, talk to one of our naturopathic doctors.  Call us at 416-481-0222 or book online now.