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Indigestible Lectins – Good Protein Right? ..or Not!

We’re guessing you’ve heard that old schoolyard rhyme: “beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you…eat beans for every meal” As adults we roll our eyes, but have you ever wondered where the rest of that rhyme came from, or why foods like legumes are so tough to digest?

Turns out that most of our foods contain certain compounds that, by nature, are difficult on our digestive systems – because they’re not really meant for our digestive systems at all! That’s not to say they are foods we can’t process, but research is continuing to teach us why some foods can be tough on our systems, and what the implications are of consuming them. In the case of beans and legumes, the main source of the issue is lectins.

Lectins are a kind of protein that’s found in a variety of plant- and animal-based foods…almost every plant and animal substance contains them (in small amounts)!

We know proteins are the building blocks of muscles and are critical to our health so the question for most of us is: if lectins are just proteins, how could they be bad for us?

Simply put, lectins bind cells together, and their preference tends to be sugars. Lectins, thanks to their ability to lessen the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients, are actually known as ‘antinutrients’. Because we can’t digest lectins, they tend to pass through our systems unnoticed which, for most people, means antinutrients like lectins don’t pose much of a problem! In fact, in small amounts, lectins can produce some great health benefits relating to immune function, cell growth, and possibly even cancer therapy.

However, lectins can wreak havoc for people who consume a diet with lots of high lectin foods and for those who suffer from GI disorders or immune deficiencies. In more severe instances where GI disorders and immunity dysfunction are at play, lectins can really play a toll on the gut lining and tight junctions that keep the intestines functioning well. (If you missed our post about “Leaky Gut” last month, you can check it out here)

If they’re not meant to be digested, what purpose do lectins serve?
Lectins have a distinct and important purpose in nature – it’s just that the purpose is for the organism’s survival, and not for human consumption! Lectins act as a natural insecticide. When predatory insects come in contact with them, the lectins completely disrupt insect metabolism, preventing invasions and attacks on the plants.

Basically, the more lectins you consume the more discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, and importantly, malabsorption of nutrients you may end up subjecting yourself to (unintentionally).

If these symptoms are familiar to you, you’re not alone – 30% of the foods that have high levels of lectins are ones we commonly eat, including dairy products, nightshades (like tomatoes and peppers), whole grains, seeds, GMO foods, and yes – beans and legumes!  

Some experts have suggested that removing all lectins from your diet can help the gut to recover from antinutrient-caused distress and that this could be critical to treating GI and immunity disorders. Still, others have pointed to the various preparation techniques that people have used around the globe to help weaken and eliminate lectin proteins – so you can enjoy your meal with a lot less…inconvenience…
Indigestible Lectins

We caution against removing whole categories of foods unless truly necessary, especially because foods high in lectins also have other essential benefits such as fibre and minerals, that our bodies need. Instead, we want to provide you with a variety of methods you can use to prepare high lectins foods that are centuries old, and globally trusted to make these foods easier to digest.

These are our favourite four ways of preparing legumes, grains, and seeds so you can keep them in your diet without worrying about the negative effects of lectin protein. Be thoughtful as you prepare them, and don’t forget these 4 key methods:

1. Soak
Beans, whether canned or dried, benefit a lot from soaking, as do many harder grains and pseudograins like oats, rye, barley, wheat, and quinoa. Soaking and rinsing legumes and grains help to shake free starches, acids, and proteins, making minerals more bioavailable as well as make them easier to digest. Put yours in a larger bowl and cover with water by about 2 inches. Allow them to soak for a few hours up to overnight. Drain fully and rinse again until the water runs clear. Pro tip: add a 1” piece of kombu or dulse seaweed to the water when soaking beans to really break down those lectins!

2. Sprout
For most beans and seeds sprouting deactivates lectins completely (with the exception of alfalfa – lectins actually increase when sprouted!). Why? Because you’re no longer eating them in their contained form. Since they’ve begun the initial stages of germination, they’ve evolved from that seed state. An added positive is that this actually makes the nutrients more accessible (and playing a part in growing your own food is really rewarding!).

3. Boil or Pressure Cook
It may be intuitive for you to boil or pressure cook your legumes or grains before eating – but these techniques will actually also reduce lectins! Studies show that boiling soybeans, red beans, and many others at 212°F/ 100°C for a minimum of 10 minutes reduces lectins to negligible amounts.

4. Ferment

Fermenting foods is the act of allowing good bacteria to grow in the food. The new good bacteria break down and convert would-be harmful proteins including lectins. This is an ancient and common approach across many cultures dealing with hard-to-digest foods.The good bacteria are also known as probiotics – one of the most important factors in overall gut health. Examples of fermented foods include tofu, tempeh, miso, kefir, and natto – these health foods actually contain high levels of lectins prior to fermentation!

At HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre we want to see you and your family on a path towards your optimal health, and we have the tools to help make that journey clearer and easier. If you’re curious to learn more about how reducing or removing lectins from your diet could be beneficial to you, please call at (519) 954-7950, or email us at info@HealthSourceIMC.com and we would love to set-up an in-person consultation with you.   

Yours in good health,

 

Dr. Som Thammasouk, ND at HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre

 

References:

 

What Is A Leaky Gut?  How Your Intestinal Health Affects You.

It’s easy to feel discouraged if you’ve been dealing with on-going health issues that just won’t go away and doctor after doctor has tried everything only to come up with prescriptions that ease symptoms but don’t solve the underlying problem.

But have you considered that the root cause of the “mysterious illnesses” you or your loved ones have been suffering with could actually be right in your gut?

From hormone regulation to immunity to enzyme production that keeps the rest of our body in tip top shape, we continue to be amazed by how critical gut health is to maintaining overall vitality. One condition we are starting to learn more about, and see a lot of, is Leaky Gut Syndrome.

Leaky Gut is a condition that is linked to literally dozens of illnesses. But, because western medicine hasn’t yet learned enough about the gut to fully understand the influence it has on overall health, there are no broadly understood methods of diagnosing and treating Leaky Gut syndrome. This means that, most times, doctors resort to trying to resolve the symptoms without actually addressing Leaky Gut itself!

Time and again this leads to cyclical treatments as the symptoms are treated but the root cause continues to develop and worsen. If you’re feeling stuck in this kind of cycle, don’t worry – it’s not just you! And there are treatments…

Leaky Gut is often called a “phenomenon” that stems from issues like immunity, gut function, and the effect of diet and lifestyle.

In fact, in Canada alone, more than 20 million people suffer from digestive disorders – and that doesn’t even consider half of the symptoms often associated with Leaky Gut! It’s vital to understand the broad-reaching effects that the Standard American Diet, chronically high stress levels, toxin overload, and even bacterial imbalances can have on gut function – and that healing your gut is founded on managing these four elements.

Leaky Gut

Do you have any of these symptoms?

• Consistent bloating, gas, cramps
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• New food sensitivities
• Autoimmune diseases
• Thyroid conditions
• Inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis

You might be suffering from a leaky gut! So what causes leaky gut?

All the systems mentioned above stem from an actual malfunction of tight junctions (TJs) in your small intestine. TJs have one, very important job: they act as a barrier that selectively allows some particles – like vital nutrients – to pass through the intestines to the bloodstream, while making sure that disease-causing particles stay out.

When TJs malfunction, they create what’s known as “intestinal hyperpermeability,” which basically means your body becomes inflamed because of extra holes in your intestines. Well, we all know acute inflammation, if left untreated, scales into chronic inflammation – and that is the root cause of most diseases.

So here’s your takeaway: Sometimes health issues seem minor, but if left untreated, they can compound into much larger issues and even disease! You have to pay attention to your body as a whole and consider the way each function interacts with the others – this is called Natural Medicine and it’s what we specialize in.

Leaky Gut symptoms can often be misdiagnosed (or undiagnosed) for years! That’s why working with an integrative health team (that can partner with your other doctors to get a good sense of the bigger picture of your body’s health) can be incredibly valuable to you.

Whether it’s you who suffers from Leaky Gut, or you’re looking to proactively protect your family, here are ways you can manage the four most important factors that contribute to Leaky Gut:

1. Remove inflammatory foods and gut-damaging toxins
Common culprits of inflammation and toxins include grains, gluten, sugar, antibiotics, conventional cow dairy, GMOs, pesticides, and processed foods. Start by eliminating these from your diet and just wait to see how quickly you feel relief and freedom!
2. Add gut-healing foods
Prebiotitcs and probiotics are critical. Also consider adding other nourishing foods like bone broth, simply steamed vegetables, fermented foods, raw cultured dairy, hormone-free and antibiotic-free animal products, and healthy fats to your regular diet.
3. Reduce stress
We can’t stress this enough! Our culture constantly deals with competing priorities and we often can’t even tell how stressed we are (until we suffer the consequences). Make an intentional effort to reduce stress in your life. Take time to turn off your brain; enjoy quiet time, sunny vitamin-D filled walks, meditation, or yoga.
4. Add gut-supporting supplements
Your integrative health practitioner is the best person to consult on the type and amount of supplements that would be best for you. Ask them about L-glutamine, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and plant-derived mineral supplements, all of which can contribute to supporting and improving a healthy gut!

If you think you might be struggling with symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome, we want to help!
We use Live Blood Analysis to examine a pin-prick sample of your blood through a special microscope to help identify leaky gut.

Contact us so we can help you identify the underlying causes, and determine your best course to a healthy life!

Think about it – skin is our largest organ but its health is constantly in danger! Whether we’re talking about exposure to sun/wind/cold, stress, pollution, poor nutrition, or even just the simple reality of aging, our skin is in a constant battle for health and radiance. We all want radiant skin.

So, how does it stand a chance? How can we help our skin remain healthy, even with all these odds stacked against us?

The answer is simple – care about your skin! It deserves your attention, your respect, your consideration. Whether it needs more help in the way of healing acne, limiting the effects of aging, rejuvenating dry areas, limiting oiliness, or managing any of the host of other skin conditions we see everyday, remember – you deserve to take care of your skin!

If you’ve always wanted your skin to be healthy, balanced, and radiant, check out our top 5 tips on how to protect and pamper your fragile, beautiful self!

  1. DIET – Think anti-inflammatory

You may already know that inflammation is the root of many BIG diseases, but did you know it is also at the root of many challenging skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis? So reducing your intake of inflammatory foods means increased health all over – inside, as well as on the surface of your skin! Give your body at least 4-8 weeks to adjust and respond to an anti-inflammatory diet; then you should begin to see an improvement in your skin’s health.

  1. WATER – Drink up!

Water has an amazing impact on our body – in fact, our bodies wouldn’t function at all without water! But even being a little deprived can impact the way our bodies work – a good, consistent flow of water helps flush our system and effectively distribute nutrients to all our organs and sub-systems. Particularly if you’re struggling with chronic skin conditions, it’s vital you invest in helping your body stay healthy and rid of toxic residues.

Remember – staying hydrated doesn’t have to mean sipping on a water bottle every moment of the day; there is water in everything you eat and drink! (Juices, and fruits and vegetables are the best if you’re looking for healthy, hydrating menu options.) Make it a habit to appropriately fill your diet with nutrient-dense foods and never making yourself wait when you feel thirsty – listen to your body, respond to your body, support your body.

Now, right about now you may be getting ready to run to the store and pick up a mega-sized water jug (or perhaps pull out that one left in the back of the cupboard from your high school football days?). Before you jump to that extreme, consider this – there is no special quantity of water that is right for everyone to stay hydrated everyday in every circumstance. If you’re looking for a general rule to follow though, the latest research suggests that women can safely consume 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of water in a day (across all foods and drinks), and mean can safely consume 3.7 liters (125 ounces) daily. So say good-bye to the age-old “you should drink 8, 8-ounce glasses of water every day” and learn to respond to your individual body’s needs for water and hydration.

  1. GLUTATHIONE IV – It’s Time to Detox

Glutathione is a super antioxidant that is made by your own body! Consuming amino acids, in combination with special treatments provided by medical professionals, can help boost your Glutathione levels, in turn boosting your body’s ability to flush toxins, and encourage clearer, brighter, more vibrant skin (with no unpleasant side effects!). While topical brighteners may get the job done, they are notorious for inflaming, discolouring, and irritating skin, sometimes even leading to hyperpigmentation and long-lasting damage. Give us a call to discuss how we can work together to heighten your Glutathione levels and give your skin a natural brightening.

  1. ACUPUNCTURE – Your Face Will Thank You

Acupuncture is just for the body, right? Wrong! Contrary to popular understanding, acupuncture is a fabulous treatment for your face (when administered by a medical professional). Facial acupuncture has been proven to relieve facial skin of congestion, and stimulate improved circulation and collagen production.

In addition, facial acupuncture relaxes and smoothes wrinkles in key areas like around the eyes and across the forehead. Saggy skin? A thing of the past. Acupuncture can even help balance out pale or red-ish skin. So pause before you invest in those colour correctors or injectables – try this natural anti-aging, cosmetic treatment first. You won’t be disappointed!

  1. HYALURONIC ACID – Water Loving

A lot of the ways we’ve encouraged you to take care of your skin starts inside – with the things you eat, the beverages you drink, and the ways you flush your system. But there are also important ways you can care for your skin from the outside! Treating your largest organ well, inside and out, is the best way to foster a healthy lifestyle and see real results.

Hyaluronic Acid is a hydrophilic (water-loving) chemical that is built right into our bodies (primarily right in our eyes and joints). It’s like a natural moisturizer – it’s hydrating properties have been used to treat everything from cataracts and arthritis, to dry eyes. So it should be no surprise that we want to encourage you to use Hyaluronic Acid right on your skin, too!

As we age, our skin’s ability to preserve moisture slows down – that’s why we start to notice sagging, wobbling, and limpness in so many areas. Hyaluronic Acid, however, has the ability to hydrate and nourish skin to help it not only look but truly feel softer, smoother, and more radiant. (Already using topical skin-care products or anti-aging creams? Check the labels – we bet you’ll find Hyaluronic Acid on the list!) Combine using Hyaluronic Acid with wearing an appropriate SPF-level sunscreen, and you’ll see some fabulous results as your skin is gradually healed and replenished.

With these 5 tips in mind, let us leave you with just 1 more – enjoy the process! Skin care doesn’t always have immediate results, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, taking care of your skin should feel rewarding and rejuvenating!  Treat yourself to a little pampering now and your skin will thank you. Ask how we can help you achieve glowing skin from the inside out.

Tips for Losing Weight

Our weight has a vital role in our health. It can cause illnesses to develop, but more importantly it can keep us from functioning at our optimal level. However, there are a few things you can do to help ensure you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Follow these tips to get you started on your weightloss journey.

1)  Dig deeper!  Visit your doctor to rule out and address medical conditions which can impede your weight loss progress, such as hypothyroidism, Estrogen/Progesterone imbalance & food sensitivities. These can impede weight loss even if you’re doing everything else right.

2) Add more protein to your diet.  One study showed that eating 25% of calories from protein cut the desire for late night snacking and reduced constant thinking about food.  (reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847729).  Adding more protein will boost your metabolism and you’ll feel fuller longer.  

3) Avoid eating 3 hours before bed. Eating before you sleep can add on the pounds. Instead, drink fluids and brush your teeth right after dinner so you’re less tempted to have late night snacks.

4) Reduce your intake of added sugar. Sugar can be found in many foods – even healthy foods can have a high sugar content! But if you cut down on things like soft drinks, coffee, tea, desserts, and snacks you’ll have a better chance at losing weight.

5) Exercise regularly. You’ve heard this before, and that’s because exercise does wonders for your health. Do a combination of aerobic exercise and weight bearing exercises to retain your muscle and keep your metabolism high. Start out easy and gradually increase the intensity and weights to avoid overworking your body and injuries. And make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program if you have health concerns or pain.

If you start implementing these few tips you’ll be on your way to a better and healthier you!

 

We are proud to announce that HealthSource is part of a North American observational study (CUSIOS Trials) looking at how integrative medical care impacts patients with advanced cancer. Read more about the study here:

HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre is proud to share that we are a part of a North America-wide observational study to explore the impact of advanced integrative care delivered by Naturopathic Doctors for patients with advanced cancer.

Integrative oncology aims to combine the best of conventional and whole-person naturopathic care seamlessly and safely to: improve survival, enhance quality of life, reduce side effects from conventional treatments and help prevent recurrence. The goals of the Canadian/US Integrative Oncology Study (CUSIOS) are to observe and measure the overall survival of late stage cancer patients who receive advanced integrative oncology treatments, and to describe integrative therapies provided by naturopathic doctors.

A total of 400 people with advanced breast, colorectal, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer will be studied in ten clinics across North America over three years. Each participating advanced integrative oncology clinic provides comprehensive whole-person care in naturopathic oncology, applying advanced science-based treatment for people with late-stage cancer.

CUSIOS study objectives

Bastyr University (BU) and the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) are dedicated to supporting cancer research and studying overall outcomes in patients receiving Advanced Integrative Oncology (AIO) care. We want to investigate the impact of AIO care in advanced stage cancer patients, specifically stage 4 breast and colorectal cancer and stage 3 and 4 ovarian and pancreatic cancer. Therefore, we are conducting an observational study where we collect data on patients receiving AIO care at one of the participating AIO clinics in Canada and the United States (US).

What is Advanced Integrative Oncology (AIO) care?

AIO care is defined as comprehensive support for each stage of a cancer patient’s standard oncology experience (from diagnosis and treatment decisions to restoration of immune function and health after completion of standard treatments). Patients included in this study receive care from licensed naturopathic physicians who have AIO training.

Treatments

Treatment options may include dietary supplements, mind/body medicine, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, hyperthermia, nutritional support, acupuncture, and advanced intravenous therapies. Naturopathic doctors providing AIO care communicate with each participant’s medical and radiation oncologists to ensure truly integrated care. The goal is to improve not just the quality of life for people living with cancer, but also to improve overall survival. AIO care is conducted according to community standards of care and is individualized and typically paid for by the patients themselves or by patients’ medical insurance.

Study Specific: Cancer Types

The CUSIOS will focus on the following cancer types and specific stages:

Stage 4 breast cancer

Females with primary breast cancer; and Metastatic breast cancer in one or more distant site (s) including bones, liver, lungs, brain or any other site in the body outside of breast or regional lymph nodes.

Stage 4 colorectal cancer

Primary colon or rectal cancer; and Metastatic colorectal cancer in one or more distant site(s) including liver, lungs, bone, brain or any other site in the body outside of the colon or rectum.

Stage 3 or 4 ovarian cancer

Primary ovarian cancer; and Metastatic ovarian cancer in one or more distant site(s) including peritoneum, uterus, diaphragm, liver, lungs, bone, brain or any other site in the body outside of the ovary.

Stage 3 or 4 pancreatic cancer

Primary pancreatic cancer; and Metastatic pancreatic cancer in one or more distant site(s) including liver, lung, diaphragm, bone, brain or any other site in the body outside of the pancreas.

 

How does someone become part of the study?

Dr Reid at HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre will screen each and every oncology patient to determine whether or not they are eligible candidates for the study.  This occurs during the initial assessment as a new patient. If a patient both meets the eligibility criteria and accepts the opportunity to participate, they will be guided through an informed consent process and entered into the study.

What does it mean for the patient?

The design of this study is observational, meaning that the treatments and care a patient receives is no different whether a patient is in the study or not. The results are reviewed in retrospect, after they have occurred, and are not changed or modified during the course of the study. The study is focused on the collection of information only, in order to advance the field of advanced integrative oncology.

A huge and sincere THANK YOU for your votes and awarding HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre your Favourite Alternative Medicine Clinic – Diamond Winner!! That is #1!! Results from the Record Reader Awards are in!Favourite Alternative Health Clinic

What Does It Mean To Us To Be #1?
It measn we were voted as the favourite alternative medical clinic because we are liked by our clients and we are trusted by those who are under our care. Our clients have seen great results both in terms of increased health as well as being treated well as a patient.

We are grateful for the opportunity to work with you and for your support and trust in our centre!

How many times have you heard your bloodwork looks “fine,” when you feel anything BUT fine? The naturopaths here at HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre are experts at identifying whether someone is functioning at an optimal level, not just an “ok” level. The difference between the two is significant. Time and time again we see patients bring in bloodwork results and we find things in it that other people or doctors have missed. Our findings could be the difference that allows the patient to start feel better. Or we can determine what other tests are needed and appropriate for a patient’s health concerns. Those tests can then lead us to the underlying cause of the health issue if we haven’t identified it already.

The key here is that we need to test, not guess.

Tests can explain what the actual cause is. They can also explain why someone may not be getting better.

The body has many ways of showing us what is wrong.

Let’s take fatigue as an example. Fatigue can point to one of many underlying causes: low iron or B12, thyroid issues, low estrogen/progesterone/testosterone, allergies or sensitivities, sleep issues, adrenal fatigue, and digestive issues.

If someone with eczema is also fatigued, their bloodwork will explain why by showing us nutrient deficiencies. The same could be for someone experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism–like fatigue–but is not feeling better even when they are on Synthroid (the standard treatment). Their bloodwork would show us the cause as possibly being nutrient deficiencies, which commonly go unnoticed.

A perfect example of how nutrient deficiencies causing fatigue can go unnoticed is the cutoff for a “normal” B12 level. At one lab the cutoff could be greater than 133, at another lab it is greater than 198 and yet at another lab it is greater than 220. So, if the health concern is fatigue, the cause could be a deficiency in B12. But, depending on the lab the person went to a B12 deficiency would go undiagnosed because the levels appears normal when the levels are actually low. In addition, most people need serum levels of B12 to be greater than 400 to feel well (remember at HealthSource we strive for OPTIMAL levels – not just within the normal range). Yet even some people can have normal serum levels but have deficient levels in the neurological tissue, which would indicate the need for B12.

As your naturopathic doctors, we identify this gap between labs cutoff differences and serum levels by looking at what the bloodwork shows and compare it to how you really feel – and we find ways to correct it.

Investigating bloodwork is like having a mechanic look under the hood and run various diagnostics, instead of trying to guess what is wrong based on sounds your car is making. You will have long lasting results when the cause is identified. Our end goal is that you feel better, faster.

What does your naturopath know about prescription drugs?   Did you know that your HealthSource NDs have the level of education needed to be able to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs and medication? Naturopathic doctors in Ontario recently came under advanced new regulations, which are fantastic – we now have prescribing rights for thyroid medication, estrogen, and progesterone (we can now prescribe it directly; instead of through a prescribing physician). These prescription drugs among others are allowed after the successful completion of a pharmaceutical prescribing course taught and administered by leading pharmacist-researchers. It means that your HealthSource NDs studied for and wrote an exam about the safety and efficacy of about 600 medications! This course and exam were optional, and Drs Reid, Thammasouk, and Krause all opted in to continue to be able to provide the best care possible to their patients. In British Columbia, naturopathic doctors write the same exam and have extensive prescribing rights for antibiotics, antidepressants, hypertension medication, and most other prescription drugs. Here in Ontario we go through the same training, and even though we are not able to prescribe medication to the same degree in the jurisdiction of Ontario, we have a profound ability to evaluate your prescriptions. Are your medications necessary? Are they the correct ones? Are they working? Are they working with the additional supplements you are taking? Are you on Atenolol? Did you know that it has the poorest performance in clinical trials of efficacy, and has the highest rates of side effects? And that over the age of 60 actually shows an increased risk of stroke (1)? Studies show there are better beta-blockers on the market. Are you on a statin? With its long list of side effects, it is useful to understand the cost-benefit analysis of taking it. The most quoted statistic will say that it decreases coronary heart disease by 30%. Sounds great, but did you know that the average overall risk in a person is around 5%? (Known as absolute risk.) Wouldn’t you feel like you could make an informed decision about your medical care if your doctor presented the information as: “Your overall risk of having a cardiovascular event like stroke or heart attack over the next 10 years is 13.3%. A statin may decrease that risk by up to 30%, which ends up bringing your absolute risk down to 9.3%. (Also, note the calculation is about an event, not death.) Note that bringing your blood pressure down 10 points (very doable through non-pharmaceutical means) would also lower your risk to 11.2%.” These are the numbers that would allow for a meaningful choice about your care (2). Are you on an antidepressant? Wouldn’t you want to know that in 2013 a top drug manufacturer was required to publish all trials on a popular antidepressant, not only the positive trials, which finally allowed for a meta-analysis that wasn’t skewed in its results? This meta-analysis showed that out of 39 trials done, this antidepressant (SSRI) called paroxetine was no better than placebo? Even at 12 weeks duration? Paroxetine is perhaps not the best drug to be taking in a situation where serious treatment must be considered. This training also emphasized some drugs that have fantastic efficacy and safety profiles, which means that they make sense to use instead of alternative treatments. Furthermore, when it comes to combining herbs or supplements with pharmaceuticals, interactions are not to be feared and avoided: they just need to be understood and the correct precautions taken. Naturopathic doctors are uniquely positioned with training in both modalities to understand and mitigate any risks. The pharmacological drug training that we at HealthSource recently completed had to do with the safety, efficacy, and administration of drugs. We are now as well as ever equipped to mediate between medications, herb and supplement interactions, and continue to practice medicine in a safe and effective way. If you have any questions not only about the efficacy and side effects of the medications you are on, but also about herb-drug interactions, we are here to answer them. (1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24750981 (2) http://www.framinghamheartstudy.org/risk-functions/coronary-heart-disease/hard-10-year-risk.php (3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4146610/

Whether it’s a summer activity or an upcoming fall or spring sport (football, field hockey, and rugby, anyone?) the risk of a head injury or concussion is never far away.Concussion treatment: protect, prevent, and heal Whether it’s a summer activity or an upcoming fall or spring sport (football, field hockey, and rugby, anyone?) the risk of a head injury or concussion is never far away. It happens, right? I’ve certainly knocked my head too hard, and with my medical training knew exactly what to call the daze it put me in: a concussion. Compelling evidence is showing just how damaging even a seemingly small knock can be. Where once losing consciousness was a marker of seriousness, we now know that the impact alone (and symptoms aside) is enough for action to be taken and an assessment made. Luckily coaches are taking note and more care is being taken at the bench, with stricter rules on returning to play after an incident occurs. This is a huge and fantastic step forward – however it is only one part of the solution, and there are more powerful things that can be done to get brain function back, prevent the severity of a traumatic head injury, and also minimize long-term repercussions. Read on to see how your family can be protected. First and foremost, recognize the incident! The medical word for a concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It can occur from any amount of impact of the brain against the skull, even if it didn’t seem like a hard knock or even a fall. It can be any jolt to the head or a hit to the body that causes the head (and brain) to move rapidly back and forth. The symptoms are then caused by the impact, which results in stretching and damage to the brain cells, which actually creates chemical changes in the brain. These changes have been shown to contribute to brain cell and neuron death, edema, and glucose metabolism disruptions. Concussion Signs to watch for:

  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall.
  • Appears dazed or stunned.
  • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is
  • unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
  • Moves clumsily.
  • Answers questions slowly.
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly).
  • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.

Concussion Symptoms to ask about:

  • Headache or “pressure” in head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
  • Bothered by light or noise.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
  • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”.

(from the CDC http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_symptoms.html) Should an impact occur or any of these symptoms noted, please get evaluated by a medical professional! This list is not diagnostic. Post-Concussion Care: First of all, REST! The duration depends on the severity of the TBI and the symptoms, so work together with your health care provider on that one and respect the diagnosis. Rest usually means a break from certain activities (especially physical ones), but also screens, reading, math problems, etc. Even though symptoms may diminish within days or weeks, the brain takes longer to heal and can still benefit from some degree of rest after the fact. Allowing for proper healing at the time of the incident is your greatest ally in avoiding post-concussion syndrome – symptoms that return or linger more than 3 months after the incident. It occurs in 10-20% of people, and I’d like to see that number lower. Additional Support: Powerful naturopathic allies include anti-inflammatories and nutrients to counteract the hormonal cascade response to injury by the brain cells. These approaches are the most beneficial treatments (after rest): IV Nutrients and IV Glutathione deliver key nutrients to the brain in the fastest way possible. In a brain injury, neuron function is disrupted and the nutrients being used and required for repair increase. The key nutrients at stake are glutathione, zinc, magnesium, and a few others. Getting them intravenously are the most highly effective treatments for a TBI at any point in time, and I have seen healing occur faster than with oral supplementation. Omega 3 fatty acids are a critical component of brain cell structure and the function of neurons. Omega 3 supplementation for several weeks post TBI has been shown to improve short and long term cognitive deficits, and improved cognitive function. It can also improve blood flow, which is generally a good thing but you must rule out internal hemorrhaging before using this blood thinner. (The same caution applies for aspirin and other NSAIDs.) Curcumin is an incredibly effective and well-studied anti-inflammatory agent. It decreases inflammation caused by impact, but it also has a special role in the brain protecting the hippocampus against learning impairments. Curcumin also has a special role in recuperating the edema that occurs as mentioned. Acupuncture is probably my favourite treatment tool for a wide variety of concerns and continually gets results. In the context of a TBI, it works to normalize hormones and blood flow, and decrease pain, headaches, and muscle tightness symptoms. GPC injections have been well studied to normalize cerebral blood flow, improve brain bioelectrical activity, and improve cognitive function – in fact a lot of research is also being done on stroke recovery and dementia (both vascular and Alzheimer’s types) with positive results. GPC stands for glycerophosphocholine, and is another component of neurons. Usually we do them once a week for the first 4-6 weeks and then re-assess. The Second (Third, Fourth…) Impact is Worse: Disrupted neuron function from an initial concussion make the brain much more susceptible to a second impact. This makes initial recovery so much more important. All of the above treatments and nutrients are important in their various mechanisms of action. Preventing and Minimizing Severity: Creatine has a role in minimizing the severity of brain injury before it even occurs. It is a compound made of amino acids that helps distribute energy to various cells in the body, especially muscles. In the brain, adequate energy in the cells is needed to maintain neuron structure and function, both of which are at stake in a TBI. Creatine has an effect on hormone cascades in the brain (via neurotransmitters). It furthermore has neuroprotective effects against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. Using neuroprotective compounds during a sports season, ahead of an injury (whether initial or subsequent,) can also work to minimize effects from further impacts. Polyphenols also have neuroprotective effects. They are nature’s antioxidants – think berries and colourful foods. As with each of these recommendations, the ways that they should be taken are not one-size-fits all. Differences in quantity, frequency, duration, and quality are all things that should be addressed for each individual. Furthermore, testing for various markers of body and brain function can ensure that we are targeting the right areas that will help you make a full and healthy recovery. Make your actions count with informed health decisions – ask for help! Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3205506/ http://ndnr.com/neurology/traumatic-brain-injury-impact-assessment-management-of-concussion-mtbi/ http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_symptoms.html  

Genetic Testing and Individualized Medicine

Changing your lifestyle isn’t always easy, but it’s usually easier when you can see results. What if I told you I could make lifestyle recommendations that were custom tailored to what is ideal for your body, meaning the changes would have a high impact and would be guaranteed to benefit you? This is the future of individualized medicine: using genomics to determine the best plan of action. Genetics is changing the field of medicine. We now know why some people experience bad side effects from certain drugs, and why some people do not. It comes down to the enzymes made in the liver, which are written in your genetic code. So instead of prescriptions by trial and error, prescriptions could be the right fit for you with fewer side effects on your end. The same goes for natural remedies: we can now pinpoint what will work for you, whether it is a lifestyle factor or a supplement. Whether or not marathon training is beneficial or detrimental for you can now be answered. Because each body is unique, medicine should be unique for each body as well. At HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre, our naturopathic doctors recognize this and work with each person to achieve personalized healthcare- and now we have a powerful new tool with which to do so.

Sample of conditions that benefit from genetic testing: Depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, cancer prevention, auto-immune disease, fibromyalgia, autism, addictions, miscarriage, all have answers among the genes.

Genetic testing allows us to look at the function of a person on the most fundamental level. I’ll go through several examples that highlight the power of genetic testing. Neurotransmitters are one area that our doctors will usually test or evaluate. These are the hormone messengers in the brain and the body that determine things like addiction, appetite, calm, anxiety, depression, focus, and so on.

Some Neurotransmitters and Their Functions
Neurotransmitter Function Problems Caused by Imbalances
Serotonin Affects mood, hunger, sleep, arousal Undersupply linked to depression
Dopamine Influences movement, learning, attention, and emotion Oversupply linked to schizophrenia, undersupply linked to tremors and decreased mobility in Parkinson’s disease
Norepinepherine Helps control alertness and arousal Undersupply can depress mood and cause ADHD-like attention problems
GABA A major inhibitory neurotransmitter Undersupply linked to seizures, tremors, and insomnia
Glutamate A major excitatory neurotransmitter, involved in memory Oversupply can overstimulate the brain, producing migraines or seizures; this is why some people avoid MSG in food
Acetylcholine Enables muscle attention, learning, and memory Undersupply leads to deteriorating muscle function

There are biochemical pathways that both produce and remove these neurotransmitters from the system. Think of it as water from a tap, and a tub with a drain at the bottom. Ideally we want balance between the amount of water coming from the tap and the size of the drain, so that the body can keep a level amount for its use. Now consider someone who produces more of a certain messenger than they remove from the system, and say that messenger is adrenaline. Even a simple startle will cause some adrenaline release, and if it is hanging around longer, ie the drain is clogged, that adrenaline is acting longer. That person may experience higher states of anxiety. In the case of cardiovascular disease, research has now shown that people who carry certain genetic types could be advised not to consume high doses of fish oil in order to prevent it. Others benefit from added fish oil. Whether or not you should be building that supplement into your routine is a question for your genes. A significant link that needs to be considered is how your metabolic pathways, predetermined by our genetics, can affect your risk for certain cancers. Research shows that a direct link exists between colon cancer and a polymorphism that affects folate metabolism (known as an MTHFR defect). This same gene is also implicated in autism, tongue-tie, and chronic fatigue. The culprit, however, is never as simple as one gene causing a certain outcome. The web is complex and interrelated, and requires special training to understand and address it. It is perfectly normal to have certain genetic strong spots and certain weak spots. So what do we do about them? The best part is that knowing this genetic picture allows us to support the full functioning of the body’s systems through targeted natural supplements or treatment methods, to either boost or bypass the genetic polymorphisms. We can regain balance in the body through understanding how the various pathways interrelate. Note that these pathways are complex and should always be addressed in a holistic context, by a person specifically trained to understand how to do so – such as one of our doctors. It is important to consider that there are always multiple factors of health and disease. There is no magic bullet approach to health. But by understanding the most fundamental makeup of what makes a person unique, we can build a customized program to lay the right foundation for your health goals.