Food Sensitivities

man suffering from food sensitivities

Food Sensitivities: What You Need to Know

You’re careful about your health. You do your best to eat well, and you pay attention to the ways that your diet affects your energy levels. But something seems off. You’re experiencing annoying symptoms that you can’t explain. Maybe you have food sensitivities?  You’re often gassy and bloated, your skin may not be clear and glowing anymore, you may be ready for a nap after a meal and you wish you could remember where you put your keys. Why does your memory feel so foggy?

These issues are frustrating (and often embarrassing). They’re also very common. Many patients come to see us with healthy lifestyles but are baffled by continuing digestive issues, mysterious rashes, and low energy levels. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to take a good look at your diet. Even a “healthy” food can make you sick if your body is sensitive to it. For many, the food mystery becomes both frustrating and overwhelming when trying to understand what foods are nourishing you and which ones may be harming you.

But the good news is that you may not have to look very far to make changes that relieve your symptoms. With a bit of detective work and our help, we can map out a dietary plan that restores your well-being.

What are the Symptoms of Food Sensitivities?

Food sensitivities can be tricky to diagnose. One reason is that there’s no one-size-fits-all list of food sensitivities or description of the way your body may react. Symptoms can vary from person to person and can even be different depending on what else is happening in your body. For example, you might respond differently at different stages of your menstrual cycle.

Food sensitivity symptoms can include:

Gas
Bloating
Constipation
Diarrhea
Heartburn/GERD
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Swollen or painful joints
Muscle weakness
Migraines
Headaches
Dark circles under your eyes
Skin rashes like eczema and psoriasis
Brain fog – that annoying forgetfulness and lack of clarity
Acne
Fatigue
Difficulty getting up in the morning

Another reason why food sensitivities are often a missed diagnosis is that these symptoms can be delayed up to 48 hours after the food that is causing them. So many people don’t make the connection between what they ate and how they feel as much as 2 days later.

Similarly, it’s difficult to measure how many people suffer from food sensitivities because a lot of us don’t seek medical help, figuring that it’s “normal” to feel gassy and tired all of the time. In fact, conventional medical practitioners can be sceptical about food sensitivity symptoms, which can lead to frustration for patients. But it doesn’t have to be this way, not with our doctors.

What is a Food Allergy?

It’s important to recognize the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. What is commonly called a food allergy is an immune reaction. After eating a certain food, your body’s immune system launches an attack by making an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The next time you consume that food, your body is ready to attack again. But the IgE antibody causes your body to release a chemical called histamine, which triggers the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction. The most severe version of this is called anaphylaxis or an anaphylactic reaction. This extreme food allergy reaction can be lethal. Common foods that provoke an anaphylactic reaction include wheat, soy, peanuts, shellfish, milk and eggs. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include throat swelling, lip swelling, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing and hives.

What is a Food Sensitivity?

In contrast, a food sensitivity is often caused by a different antibody, known as IgG antibodies. IgG antibodies provoke a milder immune reaction than IgE and so this is considered a food sensitivity rather than a food allergy. In both cases, your immune system is responding inappropriately to your food. But the reactions differ in intensity. IgG-mediated food sensitivities are not lethal but do affect people’s quality of life with the above-mentioned symptoms.

What If You Eat Your Food Sensitivities?

If we continue to eat the problem foods, we can exacerbate the sensitivities and our symptoms can affect more aspects of our bodies. Because our immune system creates antibodies against the food the lining of the gut can become inflamed and damaged. Eventually, the gut wall can become permeable, so that undigested food material “leaks” into the bloodstream. Not surprisingly, this is called “leaky gut” syndrome.

Why does leaky gut syndrome make us feel so lousy? There is growing evidence that the microorganisms in our guts exist in a complex relationship with our brains – what scientists call the “microbiome-gut-brain axis.” In other words, food sensitivities and the resulting leaky gut can affect our brains. And, as a result, our moods and energy levels. And that’s in addition to the general discomfort we can feel with digestive difficulties. No wonder patients with food sensitivities are often exhausted!

But what is the root cause of food sensitivities?

Research is still developing, but there are a few theories, ranging from changes in farming practices to the increased use of antibiotics, which can affect our gut bacteria and make it more difficult to digest certain foods.

What is a Food Intolerance?

A food intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzymes necessary to digest a substance that the food contains. For example, some people may develop a lactose intolerance if their intestinal mucosa doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase. A lactose tolerance test is used to diagnose lactose intolerance.

Which Foods Can Cause Food Sensitivities?

Somewhat ironically, many foods that can lead to sensitivity symptoms are considered “healthy” foods. In fact, ANY food can trigger an immune response.  As a result, it’s easy to keep eating them, hoping they will improve your health and help you feel better. Yes, it’s a bit of a Catch-22! Common food sensitivity culprits include:

Dairy: The proteins casein and whey found in goat, sheep and cow milk, as well as cheeses, ice cream and yogurt are difficult for our gut to break down. The immune system then reacts against what it perceives as “foreign” protein. Your immune system is programmed to be on the lookout for foreign proteins from viruses and bacteria. So other foreign proteins like casein and whey, if not properly digested, can trigger an immune response.

Gluten: Gluten is a protein (or family of proteins) found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, and other grass-related grains. It’s often a hidden ingredient. For example, many spices, sauces and processed foods can contain gluten. Because it is a protein, similar to casein and whey if it’ is not broken down, it can generate an immune response.

Which Foods Can Cause Food Intolerances?

Fructose intolerance: Fructose is a simple sugar found in many fruits. A fructose intolerance, also known as fructose malabsorption, is caused by an inability to absorb this sugar. Unabsorbed fructose leads to fructose fermentation in the gut, causing bloating and gas. Excessive fructose in the gut can also cause diarrhea. High fructose corn syrup is found in processed foods like cereal bars and some juices.

Histamine and other amines: Histamine is found in greater amounts in aged or stored foods such as cheese, ripe fruit, chocolate, and processed meats. These foods are often migraine triggers for people with a histamine intolerance. Normally dietary histamine is broken down in your gut by an enzyme known as DAO. Some people are genetically predisposed to low levels of DAO. Undigested histamine can create inflammatory conditions like headaches, migraines, foggy thinking, and pain.

Lactose intolerance: Lactose is a sugar present in varying amounts in dairy products like milk and cheese.  The enzyme lactase is normally located on the lining of your gut, also called the brush border.  As we age, it is normal for us to lose the ability to digest lactose.  It’s present in highest amounts when we are born and declines after we are weaned.  Where cattle are domesticated and used to produce dairy products, the presence of the enzyme can persist, but not in everyone.  If you lack the enzyme and can’t digest lactose, you may experience symptoms like bloating, gas and diarrhea from the undigested lactose in your gut.

This is not an extensive list of food allergy or food sensitivity triggers. We’re all different, and there is no universal recipe for food sensitivities. That’s one reason why seeing a naturopathic doctor is a good idea if you suspect your food may be making you sick. In addition, our medical supervision can ensure your approach to food remains healthy and balanced. Research suggests that food sensitivities can be a trigger for disordered eating in some people. After all, if food is causing you pain, but you’re not sure which foods are to blame, it’s easy to associate all food with negative experiences.

How Can You Treat Food Sensitivities?

On the surface, treating a food sensitivity sounds simple: just eliminate the problem foods. But first, you’ll have to do a bit of detective work. Because of possible delayed reaction times, the troublesome food is not always obvious. There are tests that can be done that will give you a comprehensive list of what is creating a reaction and you can eliminate the culprits, allowing your body to heal faster. A blood test for food sensitivities can help pinpoint which foods to eliminate. The test identifies IgG antibodies in your bloodstream to either 96 or 184 foods. Our naturopathic doctors can provide information about this test.  Although it may be common to produce these antibodies to foods, it is not normal for your immune system to attack food. After testing, our naturopathic doctors can then provide specifics about what to take out, for how long and which foods you could eat as alternatives. Alternatively, you can choose to keep detailed records of everything you eat. Then, under naturopathic supervision, you can start eliminating foods, then reintroducing selected foods, carefully tracking your symptoms. This is also known as an elimination-challenge diet.

While you’re following an elimination diet like this, our naturopathic doctors can provide ways to support your gut health. And as you work to track down the problem foods, you’ll want to avoid substances that are known to cause gut inflammation, such as alcohol.

 Immune System Involvement?Antibody Involved?SymptomsTestingLife-threatening?
Food AllergyYesIgEItchy mouth, itchy throat, throat constriction, swelling, airway constriction, hives, anaphylaxis,abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrheaSkin prick testing performed by an allergistCan be
Food SensitivityYesIgG and/or IgABloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, sinus problems, muscle weakness, joint pain, acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives, fatigue, recurrent infectionsBlood test for IgG or IgA antibodies to foods OR Food Elimination-Challenge diet through a naturopathic doctor
No, but do affect quality of life
Food IntoleranceNoNoneBloating, gas, diarrhea Fructose or Lactose Intolerance Test, ordered by an MDNo, but do affect quality of life

Do you think your foods might be causing your health issues? We have testing and treatment to help you understand which foods are helping you and which ones may be harming you. It may not be the foods you suspect. It can even be perfectly healthy foods like avocado, blueberries, salmon and almonds for example.  We’ve seen these foods test positive on food sensitivity testing in our patients. Contact us and we will work together to find the potentially hidden food triggers for your health issues.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Maria@ForcesofNature.ca

To your best health!

Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Food Sensitivities References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28936357

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5603184/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953608002773

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7460264

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-018-0064-z

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453018303950

https://journals.lww.com/co-gastroenterology/Abstract/2016/03000/A_gut__microbiome__feeling_about_the_brain.7.aspx

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10009-food-problems-is-it-an-allergy-or-sensitivities

Should You Take Probiotics?

good bacteria, bad bacteria and probiotics

What are Probiotics?

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as:
“Live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host”
By this definition, there are 3 key components to probiotics:
1. They must be alive
2. They have to be dosed in adequate amounts
3. And they must be bacteria of the type that confer a health benefit

Live Probiotics

Good probiotics are often pricey. They may cost extra but you can be assured that you are getting living and viable probiotics whereas some less expensive products may only contain dead bacteria. A trick to watch out for: probiotic labels that say “x billion viable/live bacteria at time of manufacture.” What the product 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 claimed on the label when you take it. What the label should say is “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

The bacteria in probiotics are listed as CFU, which stands for “colony forming units”. It means how many bacteria are in the product that can then reproduce to form a little colony. One or two billion bacteria or CFU’s per serving just doesn’t cut it. When it comes to good bacteria the higher the amount per serving the better. I would typically recommend a product that contains 35-50 billion bacteria per capsule and a wide range of species from the ones listed below. Over 100 trillion bacteria of 500 different species live in a healthy 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 food plucked 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 a plethora of research and human experience showing the health benefits of probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium lactis.

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 harmful organisms like Salmonella, Shigella, H pylori, yeast etc
6. Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
7. They provide the host with vitamins B12 and K
8. They appear to help with insulin resistance in diabetics and in women with gestational diabetes

Probiotic Foods

Certain foods are known to be rich in probiotics. These are fermented foods and many cultures have their own version. Dairy-based foods that contain probiotic bacteria include kefir and yogourt. Non-dairy probiotic foods include fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, kim chi, miso and tempeh. Do these food probiotics work? Research has been done on ingestion of bean and soy tempeh to determine their effect on gut bacteria. Soy tempeh stimulates most the growth of Bifidobacterium bacteria, while bean tempeh stimulates that of Escherichia coli. While it is good to eat probiotic-rich foods for daily gut maintenance, when taking an antibiotic, I would always encourage people to take a good quality probiotic supplement. That way we know exactly how many beneficial bacteria they are getting and of what kind. A serving of commercial yogourt may only contain 1 billion bacteria per serving where just one probiotic capsule would contain 50-100 times that much.

How Often to Take Probiotics

Whether to take probiotics and if so, how much and how often is subject to debate. Definitely any time you need to take antibiotics, you should take a good quality probiotic while taking the antibiotics and for at least two weeks afterward to prevent potentially serious side effects of taking antibiotics.

Because of the potential for numerous health benefits of taking probiotics, for most people they should be a regular part of their health maintenance program. Whether that means taking them every day, or taking them for 2-3 months out of every year, may be more to do with individual preference than scientifically proven value. I do encourage people who take probiotics daily, to try to vary the product and strains that they are taking in order to maintain the diversity of gut bacteria that seems to help promote good health.

Cautions

The above strains of probiotic bacteria are generally considered safe, even for infants. The primary contraindications for probiotic use would be:
1. Someone who is severely immune compromised such as a transplant recipient, someone very elderly or very sick, or a patient undergoing cancer treatment.
2. Using soil-based probiotics in any of the above patients and possibly in the general population as there isn’t sufficient safety and efficacy data.

With about a hundred published studies per year, there is new information being revealed every day about the health benefits of taking probiotic supplements. With almost no downside, and plenty of potential benefits, probiotics are a worthwhile addition to your health regimen.

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. 

Boost Your Immune System

woman with a weak immune system

Boosting Your Immune System: The Most Unexpected Way to Beat Cold Season

There are lots of seasonal changes that mark the start of cold and flu season. The season where we need to focus on maintaining a strong immune system. There is a natural response to this change of season to change our diets to include more hearty root vegetables and satisfying ‘stick to your ribs’ meals.  Our focus moves inward to indoor activities. We bundle up to go out to enjoy the cool weather wearing warm scarves, hats, and warm socks to cover our vulnerable spots!

We take all kinds of precautions to avoid colds and flus. Because really, no-one wants to lay around with no energy, missing work and fun. Or endure the coughing, sneezing, sniffling, feverish annoyances that come with getting sick.

But what effect, if any, do these activities and changes have on safeguarding your immune system from the cold and flu viruses during cold weather months?

They’re all important, but it turns out that the most important thing you can do to boost your immune system comes from nourishing your gut!

What Does Your Gut Have to do with Your Immune System?

Believe it or not, your ability to combat viruses and bacteria are directly affected by your nutrition. So what better time than the start of cold and flu season to start building up a healthy meal plan for you and your family?

According to an Australian study, about 70-80% of your body’s immunity lives in your gut.

Wow! We know the expression “Mind over Matter” but in this case, it’s really “Gut over Matter”. The better care we take of our gut health, the more likely we will be to fortify our immune system and stave off potential sickness this season.

There are areas all along your small intestine called “Peyer’s Patches”. These are responsible for building up your immune system and developing the antibodies that fight off disease. These Peyer’s Patches also help to regulate good and bad gut flora which are the bacteria we house to maintain our health. You can see already why it’s so important to take good care of our gut to protect ourselves from illness!

So what can you do to build up your immunity this Fall and Winter? It can be as simple as adding a few of these into your diet every day:

Immune System Enhancing Foods:

Perhaps the most important nutrient for fighting off viruses and bacteria is zinc! This mineral is abundant and is easily found in multiple food sources including:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Oysters
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Egg yolks
  • Beans and nuts

If you choose to add supplements to your diet, it’s best to take them with a good amount of food to avoid stomach irritation. Zinc lozenges can provide immense relief from cold symptoms too, sometimes reducing the duration of your viral infection by 50%!

Too much zinc can, in fact, be too much of a good thing and can cause adverse effects particularly in pregnant women, those with zinc allergies, and those with HIV. If you are an existing patient, please give us a call if you’re considering increasing your zinc intake and we’ll be happy to consult with you on your ideal dose. If you are not an existing patient, we are legally required to see you in person and perform a full first assessment before we are allowed to provide any advice.

Other well-known immunity-boosting foods to add to your recipes this season include garlic, onions, mushrooms, and raw, unpasteurized honey.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods:

Foods that fight inflammation keep our tissues in virus-fighting shape. By choosing to eat plenty of these, you can help your immune system keep all kinds of infections at bay.  This can even help to calm down any inflammation that might be teetering on the brink of flaring up.  Inflamed tissue is weak and provides an easy entry for bacteria and viruses to cause infection.

Try omega-3 rich anti-inflammatory foods like:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Trout

Leafy greens, berries, turmeric and green tea are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, so be sure to include plenty of these too!

It’s easy to add these foods into your everyday menus in any meal of the day.

For breakfast, try oatmeal + flaxseed porridge sprinkled with walnuts, cinnamon and blueberries to get a boost of immunity-enhancing and anti-inflammatory foods at the start of your day.

A mug of green tea instead of coffee is a great way to warm up to the day ahead…

For lunch, how about sliced grilled chicken with sauteed spinach and mushrooms with some fresh garlic?

Or for dinner, why not baked salmon fillets with a red pepper stuffed with brown rice and broccoli florets?

And to wind down, try a mug of golden milk, chalk full of antioxidants! Check out our facebook page for our favourite recipe.

Other Immune System Measures:

Reduce Sugar:

While the relationship between sugar and viral/bacterial illness is still largely unknown, we do know that overconsumption of sugar has negative effects on gut health. For that reason, reducing your intake of sugar particularly during cold and flu season is a good idea because it will allow all of the positive steps you’re taking towards better gut health and immunity to shine through!

Probiotics:

Taking a good probiotic is always a good idea, no matter what the season! But, it’s particularly important at this time of year when environmental changes and an increase of viruses and bacteria require us to be more vigilant about protecting our gut health. Remember too, that antibiotics can be necessary to cure some forms of infection, but a side effect is always reduced healthy gut flora. To combat this, remember that if you or a loved one does require antibiotics, to follow the prescribed course with a course of probiotics to bring your gut flora back up to tip-top shape.

So, this cold and flu season, keep up with your warm woolly knits, your cosy nesting habits, and your enjoyment of Fall’s outdoor activities! But remember to add the most unexpected way of beating cold and flu season – by upping how you nourish your gut!

We want to be a part of your personal care team. No question or curiosity is too small for us to address together. So don’t be shy to give us a call or shoot us an email! Our door is always open and your road to optimal health is just a phone call or email away.

Immune System Research:

1) Wu, E., and Wu, HJ (2012). The role of microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes 3 (1): 4-14.

Flu Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment

woman suffering from the flu

Cold & Flu Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

What is a cold?

A cold is an infection that is caused by one of up to 100 different viruses. The most common cold virus is called the rhinovirus. The prefix rhino is latin for “nose”. Coronaviruses and adenoviruses can also cause colds. These viruses can infect the respiratory tract (the nose, sinus cavities, throat, bronchi and lungs) and sometimes cause a stomach flu (gastroenteritis).

The symptoms of a cold include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Sore or itchy throat
  • Coughing
  • Mild fatigue
  • Sinus pressure
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mild body aches
  • Phlegm in the nose, sinuses and/or throat
  • Redness of the eyes

What is the flu?

The flu is also an illness caused by a viral infection, typically one of three viruses: influenza A, B or C viruses.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Flu symptoms can be very similar to cold symptoms, but think cold symptoms on steroids! Symptoms may include:

  • Body aches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Moderate to high fever
  • Feeling run down
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The main difference between a cold and the flu is the severity of symptoms. The flu tends to be more severe and debilitating. Where colds are not fatal, in those with a compromised immune system, the flu can be fatal.

How long am I contagious with a cold or the flu?

You can be contagious even before the onset of symptoms, and throughout the duration of the cold or flu.

When am I most infectious? Before symptoms? At the start of symptoms? In the midst?

You are most contagious during the first 2-3 days of a cold or the flu. Your ability to spread the virus continues throughout the illness.

How can I avoid transmitting a cold or the flu to my friends and family?

Keep your secretions to yourself! Viruses are transmitted through contact with infected body fluids.

  • If you are sneezing or coughing, turn away from others and be sure to cover your mouth and nose, preferably with your sleeve and not your hand.
  • Wash your hands frequently, particularly before handling community property like keyboards, phones, remote controls or preparing food and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • If possible, avoid being around a vulnerable person (infant, elderly, pregnant, diabetic, asthmatic, immune suppressed) while you are sick. If that’s not possible, keep physical contact to a minimum and/or wear an N95 face mask. The person who wants to avoid contracting the cold/flu can also wear a face mask.

Flu Prevention

Here are my top 6 tips to prevent the flu:

  1. Vitamin C – 1000 mg 3-6 times per day
  2. Vitamin D – at a minimum of 1000 IU for adults
  3. Exercise – at least 1 hour of physical activity every day
  4. Avoid sugar and white carbs – excessive amounts of even whole grains can slow down your immune system.  Instead, focus on healthy protein sources, lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains like quinoa and amaranth, moderate amounts of fruit and legumes.
  5. Reduce your stress – Stress hormones like cortisol suppress your immune system.  Divest yourself of problems that are causing stress, and if you can’t add in lots of anti-stress techniques like yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage therapy or even just slow, deep breathing several times per day.
  6. Prioritize sleep – with busy lives, sleep can take a back seat.  Sleep is your body and your immune system’s chance to recover and restore you for the next day.  A minimum of 7 hours of good quality sleep per night is vital for adults, at least 10 hours for children 8-16 years old and at least 11-12 hours for children under 8.

Already done all that?  Ok, well here is the next level flu prevention & fight the flu regimen:

Echinacea

Echinacea is our favourite immune-boosting herb.  It can be safely taken throughout flu season as a preventative.  It was previously thought that you had to take a break from echinacea, this has since been disproven. I have people take one tablet twice per day of echinacea that contains 600 mg of Echinacea purpurea root and 675 mg of Echinacea angustifolia root, containing 2.1 and 2.0 mg of alkylamides respectively.  This helps keep their immune system strong and healthy.

An Immune Boosting Tincture

Tinctures are alcohol based liquids that may contain single herbs or combinations.  For boosting the immune system we may use a combination like this: Echinacea Root (Echinacea angustifolia), Osha Root (Ligusticum porterii), Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis), Red Clover Flowers (Trifolium pratense), Cleavers Herb(Galium aparine), Borage Herb (Borago officinalis).  These herbs work together to boost the immune system, help the lymphatic system drain, reduce inflammation and fight bacteria, viruses and yeast.

Garlic Extract

One of the active ingredients in garlic that helps fight infection is called allicin.  When you eat garlic, your gut will create some allicin from the garlic you have eaten.  A more direct route to get allicin is to take it in its stabilised form.  Ajoene is another active component of garlic.  It has been found to have anti-thrombotic, anti-tumoral, antifungal, and antiparasitic effects.  We use 200 mg of a garlic oil and parsley oil blend that contains 20 mg of the active ingredients of garlic, including ajoene, 1-3 capsules per day.

Olive Leaf Extract (Olea europaea)

Another favourite immune booster and anti-viral is olive leaf extract.  The positive effects of olive leaf extract include antioxidant properties and effective immune support against opportunistic microbes.  Oleuropein, a constituent of olive leaves, was found to be broken down in the body to elenolic acid, which is believed to be its most active component.  The effect of olive leaf extract is that it helps prevent microbes from multiplying.  We use a product that is standardized to 20% oleuropein.  We recommend 1000 mg of olive leaf extract 3 times per day for 10 days when you are fighting a  cold or the flu.

For specific advice about how to treat or prevent the flu and whether any of these is right for you, see one of our naturopathic doctors.  I’m sorry but we are not legally allowed to provide advice via email to people that we have not seen in person and performed a full first assessment on.

Cold & Flu Research

Ledezma E, Apitz-Castro R. Ajoene the main active compound of garlic (Allium sativum): a new antifungal agent. Rev Iberoam Micol. 2006 Jun;23(2):75-80.

Suffering from Seasonal Allergies?

woman with successful treatment for seasonal allergies

Seasonal Allergies

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc, Naturopathic Doctor

What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Allergy symptoms most often include:
  • congestion in your nose
  • pressure in your sinuses, which may cause sinus headaches
  • runny nose, usually with clear discharge
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • a scratchy throat
  • cough
  • dark circles under the eyes
  • puffy eyes
  • decreased sense of taste or smell
  • post-nasal drip

What Causes Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies are not just due to an immune system response to pollen.  Your immune system should not consider pollen to be a foreign invader that requires an immune system attack.  Allergies are a sign of inflamed and irritated tissue in the respiratory tract that has become super sensitive to particulate matter that should not normally trigger an immune response.  Below are a number of factors that can contribute to this irritated tissue.

Underlying food allergies or sensitivities or intolerances

Almost everyone has sensitivities to certain foods.  The most common ones are dairy, eggs, gluten, pineapple, almonds and beans like kidney beans and green beans.  Therefore consuming these foods provokes the production of antibodies that lead to inflammation that can leave nasal tissue easily irritated by fumes, chemicals, dust, pollen or mold spores. Our naturopathic doctors can help guide you through an elimination diet or order blood testing for food allergies or sensitivities.

Toxin overload

If your liver is not efficiently clearing waste and pollution from your body, then these chemicals can accumulate and irritate tissue, leaving it sensitive to pollen. Improving phase I and phase II liver detoxification through supportive nutrients like n-acetyl cysteine, milk thistle, grape seed extract, vitamin B6 in the form of pyridoxal-5-phosphate, L-5MTHF, calcium-d-glucarate, indole-3-carbinol and amino acids like histidine, taurine, methionine, glycine and serine can help your liver to more easily package toxins for excretion.

Lack of vitamin C and vitamin B6

Vitamin C and B6 are both natural anti-histamines.  Both are necessary in greater quantities when you are under stress.  In some cases of seasonal allergies, helping my patient replenish both vitamins and has helped long term allergies to subside.

Lack of vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is crucial to the health of mucous membranes.  Mucous membranes are what line the entire respiratory tract, so a lack of vitamin A leaves that tissue unhealthy and more susceptible to irritation. One of the only foods that supplies pre-formed vitamin A is liver.  Otherwise, we acquire beta carotene from foods like carrots, Swiss chard, kale and spinach and our liver has to convert that to vitamin A.  Vitamin A accumulates in your body so long term supplementation is not recommended.  Vitamin A supplements should be avoided in women who are pregnant, breast feeding and in children. A vitamin A derivative has been shown to have anti-allergic effects in an allergy model in mice.  It works by balancing the immune system.

Overgrowth of harmful bacteria/yeast in the digestive tract and a lack of probiotic bacteria

Good bacteria help keep the immune system functioning normally by moderating immune system activity.  Antibiotic use wipes out good bacteria and allows overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria or yeast that can push the immune system into inflammation overdrive. Killing off gut bacteria or yeast excess and restoring healthy beneficial flora can help settle down an overly active immune system.  An Italian study found that a Bifidobacteria mixture was capable of significantly improving allergy symptoms and quality of life in children with pollen-induced allergies and intermittent asthma.  Another found a combination probiotic of Lactobacillus gasseri and two strains of Bifidobacter improved quality of life during allergy season for otherwise healthy individuals with self-reported seasonal allergies.

Our naturopathic doctors can help provide natural treatment for allergies.  Book an appointment now.

Natural Allergy Treatment Research

Miraglia Del Giudice M, Indolfi C, Capasso M, Maiello N, Decimo F, Ciprandi G. Bifidobacterium mixture (B longum BB536, B infantis M-63, B breve M-16V) treatment in children with seasonal allergic rhinitis and intermittent asthma.
Ital J Pediatr. 2017 Mar 7;43(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s13052-017-0340-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28270216

Dennis-Wall JC, Culpepper T, Nieves C Jr, Rowe CC, Burns AM, Rusch CT, Federico A, Ukhanova M, Waugh S, Mai V, Christman MC, Langkamp-Henken B. Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Mar;105(3):758-767. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.140012. Epub 2017 Feb 22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28228426

Son HL, Park HR, Park YJ, Kim SW. Effect of Retinoic Acid in a Mouse Model of Allergic Rhinitis. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2015 Nov;7(6):590-8. doi: 10.4168/aair.2015.7.6.590. Epub 2015 Jun 2.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26333706

Thornhill SM, Kelly AM. Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Oct;5(5):448-54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11056414

Ipci K, Altıntoprak N, Muluk NB, Senturk M, Cingi C. The possible mechanisms of the human microbiome in allergic diseases. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2017 Feb;274(2):617-626. doi: 10.1007/s00405-016-4058-6. Epub 2016 Apr 26.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27115907

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

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.