Manual Osteopathy

Manual Osteopathy is a holistic form of healthcare in which the practitioner treats the body as a whole. The practitioner considers the body’s structures like the muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, connective tissues and bones and joints as an interconnected system. It also offers the added benefit of osteopathic diagnosis.

Manual osteopathy is used in systemic wellness care as well as in acute and chronic pain that results from injury, imbalance or lesions and other structural and visceral dysfunction. It increases blood flow and reduces inflammation. It increases flexibility and range of motion.

Some of the various techniques used in manual osteopathy are mobilization of joints, muscle energy techniques, myofascial release, strain-counterstrain, trigger point therapy, positional facilitated release, visceral manipulation, lymphatic drainage and cranial osteopathy. These techniques are used to treat pain and dysfunction in the head and neck, lumbar and thoracic spine, sacroiliac and hip joints, shoulder, knee, hand and foot.  

Osteopathic techniques are gentle, gradually restoring function and alleviating pain.

The Natural Approach To PCOS

September is PCOS month. Many of you may be unfamiliar with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, but it is one of the most common female endocrine disorders, affecting 1 in 10 women of reproductive age.

The Picture of PCOS

This is the woman, usually of reproductive age, who has irregular periods. In some cases, her period has disappeared completely. She has excess weight that is impossible to lose. She’s the women who “gains a pound when she so much as looks at a cookie.” Her skin is greasy and may have acne. She is struggling with infertility and/or miscarriages. She’s growing excess hair. She may know that her cholesterol is high and her liver enzymes are creeping up. The lack of blood sugar control will affect her sleep patterns, and she will develop insomnia. It’s understandable that this woman will feel anxious, depressed and chronically stressed in advanced stages of PCOS.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome can lead to many complications like metabolic syndrome, weight loss resistance, diabetes and infertility. PCOS is often recognized by changes in the menstrual cycle and male hormone signs like abnormal hair growth (on face and chin), greasy hair and acne.       

Causes of PCOS involve genetics, stress, hormone imbalance in the female hormones, insulin resistance and chronic inflammation. 

Diagnosis of this condition is complex and normally involves female hormone testing and an ultrasound showing the presence of ovarian cysts. Historically PCOS has been thought of as primarily an endocrine disorder, which means that it’s caused by a dysregulation female hormones. It’s usually treated with birth control pills in modern medicine. Birth control pills regulate the menstrual cycle, but do not address the root cause of the disorder.

The latest research, however, indicates that PCOS is closely associated with insulin resistance. The poor handling of glucose in the PCOS patient is the cornerstone of this diagnosis. The most compelling studies concerning this connection started being published in 1997.

The Natural Approach

Glucose Regulation

The first, and most important piece is the regulation of insulin in the body. The PCOS woman has to eat a clean, whole foods diet. If it has a mother and rots, she can eat it.  The PCOS body is unable to regulate insulin usage if the diet is not optimal. This leads to all the other complications down the line including nutritional deficiencies.  All hydrogenated oils and processed vegetable oils cause high inflammation in the body, which is another cause of PCOS. Healthy fats like coconut and olive oil help the body deal with inflammation. 

Intermittent fasting is very beneficial for insulin resistant patients. If you have excess weight that settles in the midsection, you have insulin resistance! Intermittent fasting consists of not eating after supper for 12-18 hrs. a few times a week. Generally this works to lower your fasting insulin and lowers your glucose levels. Men do well with  12-14hr fasting and women do better with 14-16 hr fasting (not fair, I know). 

Inflammation

High inflammation in the body is best addressed with diet. Eating colourful, low glycemic foods like dark greens, red, blue, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. These foods fight oxidation (inflammation) in the body. External toxins in the environment like xenoestrogens, chemicals like pesticides put a massive load on the detoxification system in the body. The liver, as a vital part of this system, can become overloaded resulting in inflammation and insulin resistance. Exercise, sweating, lemon water and good sleep will encourage detoxification as an adjunct to dietary intervention.

Genetics

In some cases, PCOS seems to be genetic. But being genetically predisposed to something doesn’t mean that the person will get the disorder. Epigenetics explains that lifestyle and environment have the ability to turn genes on and off. For example, excess insulin may be the key that turns ON the gene for PCOS, while antioxidant rich fruits and exercise may be the lifestyle factors that turn that same gene OFF.

Stress

Stress is almost always a risk factor for PCOS, and many other disorders. In our higher stress lifestyle, food choices, sleep patterns and adrenal stress all impact glucose regulation because when we are chronically stressed, glucose is dumped into the bloodstream, raising blood glucose levels. This is the precursor to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.

Nutritional and Herbal Supplements

Supplements and nutritional therapies can help in this process. Myo-inositol, folate, chromium, gymnema are helpful in insulin resistance. White peony, vitex, omega-3 oils and fiber are beneficial for hormone dysregulation. Adaptogenic herbals are beneficial in helping the body adapt to stress. Detoxification pathways can be supported with antioxidant supplements, sweating, water and exercise.

The purely natural approach to PCOS is blood sugar regulation through diet, stress reduction through moderate exercise and deep breathing meditation, addressing inflammation, supporting detoxification and reducing environmental toxic hormonal exposure.

 

 

Herbal Monograph – Milk Thistle

Milk thistle, sometimes referred to as St. Mary’s thistle, Marian thistle or silybin, is one of my favourite herbs of all time. The main constituents in milk thistle, the active ingredient, is silymarin. Silymarin is a powerful
antioxidant that protects the liver from toxicity. It is also anti-inflammatory. A healthy liver system is an integral part of whole body wellness. The liver is the major detoxifier in the body. Its cells work all day and night to clean up and clear the body of all the offenders that it was exposed to.

From the food we eat to the air we breathe to the furniture we sit on to the clothes we wear, our bodies are consistently and continuously bombarded by offending toxins that the liver cells need to detoxify and clear from the body. Milk thistle is one step one can make to help the liver cells fight this battle. 

 

History

Silybum marianum

Milk thistle has been used since ancient Greece and Rome as a remedy for a variety of ailments, but particularly for liver problems. Modern scientific research now supports this. 

Originally, milk thistle got its name from the Doctrine of Signatures. In the 1600s, this was based on the idea that God had endowed everything in nature with healing powers with a ‘sign’ or ‘signature’. The plant had clues in the shape of their roots or leaves as to how they were supposed to be used. Milk thistle, because of its milky white mottling of its leaves, was thought to be good for stimulating milk in nursing mothers. 

In the 1960s, German researches undertook a chemical analysis of milk thistle and isolated a series of compounds that became known as silymarin. Silymarin proved to have powerful liver protecting qualities. Milk thistle is widely used by herbalists for the protection of the liver and the repairing of damaged cells. It is also used in the treatment of viral heaptitis as well as liver damage caused by toxins, alcohol and drugs. In Europe, milk thistle is used as a primary treatment for poisoning my the death cap mushroom, which contains a poison that causes irreversible liver damage and death.

Mode of Action

Milk thistle actually works by stabilizing cell membranes of the liver cells. It alters the structure of the membranes so that toxins are prevented from entering the cells. Clinical studies have reported marked improvements in patients with alcohol-induced liver disease/ cirrhosis. Milk thistle is still being used as a treatment for Hepatitis, but the studies are showing mixed results thus far. Because of this, milk thistle alone may not be enough as a treatment for Hepatitis C. Early studies suggest anticancer effects. In the lab, silymarin has been shown to reduce the growth of human breast, cervical and prostate cancer cells. These studies are in their early stages, and milk thistle is not yet used regularly in the treatment of cancer. A limited number of studies seem to suggest that milk thistle lowers cholesterol. This would make sense, as it’s already been shown to improve and repair live function. We need a healthy liver system to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Also in early stages, this research does not recommend milk thistle as a primary remedy for high cholesterol.

Caution

Some of the contraindications of the herb are allergies, it’s part of the Asteraceae family of plants. Caution is advised when the patient is on statins and allergy drugs, anti-anxiety drugs and blood thinners, dilantin and halothane.

Summary

There is still so much to be discovered with this amazing herb! For the liver system, this is the first herb I think of and recommend in my practice. Supporting the liver is almost always the first line of defence in hormone issues, gastrointestinal problems, environmental toxin exposure and depression and anxiety issues. I believe that we’ve only scratched the surface in uncovering the wide-spread uses and benefits of Milk Thistle. Keep your ear to the ground on this one. I look forward to updating you as the research continues…

Which Diet Is The Healthiest One?

Is there one healthy diet for everyone? If so, what is it? Why do some diets work for some people, but not for others? What is required for a diet to be considered successful? Is it weight loss? Is it energy and balance? Is it wellness and reversal of the disease process?

I’ll start this post off by mentioning that I do not see the need to list all the various fake foods that we should not be eating at all. There isn’t any scenario in health that includes sugar, hydrogenated oils, processed foods, soda and other junk foods. 

What are the most common diets holistic practitioners use as a protocol addition for treatment of symptoms and restoration of balance? There’s the paleo diet, the autoimmune diet, the anti-fungal diet, the Mediterranean, the gluten free diet and so much more. Many clients I see are confused by all the conflicting food information. Let’s go through some of these one by one.

PALEO AND KETOGENESIS

Ketogenesis refers to the biochemical process by which organisms produce a group of substances collectively known as ketone bodies by the breakdown of fatty acids and ketogenic amino acids. The Ketogenic diet consists of high healthy fat (70-80%), moderately low protein  (20-25%) and very low carbohydrates (5-10%). This diet was originally developed for potentially managing epilepsy in the short term. Today ketosis is heralded for weight loss, reducing the dependance of carbohydrates and athletic competition. In theory, the very low carb diet shocks the body and causes it to burn fat as its primary source of fuel. It’s also theorized that ketogenesis negates carb cravings and energy crashes.

Paleo/Paleolithic – the Paleo diet essentially consists of plants, berries, proteins and fats. It’s like the Atkins diet, but with a bit more concentration on healthy, organic food choices. Paleo advocates the reversal of chronic disease, losing weight and improving athleticism, optimizing brain performance and more. This method of eating is based on the ‘paleolithic’ time when people hunted and gathered their food as needed. Paleo is not necessarily ketogenic. It is an easier way to start and maintain your healthy journey because there are fewer restrictions. The Paleo diet also has many studies done the last five-ten years that seem to suggest that its claim to health restoration and symptomatic relief in metabolic disease, type II diabetes, weight loss, athletic ability, autoimmunity has merit.

The Paleolithic diet resulted in greater short-term improvements in metabolic syndrome components than did guideline-based control diets. The available data warrant additional evaluations of the health benefits of Paleolithic nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26269362

Paleolithic nutrition offers promising potential for nutritional management of hyperlipidemia in adults whose lipid profiles have not improved after following more traditional heart-healthy dietary recommendations.

The Paleo diet group had greater benefits on glucose control and lipid profiles. Also, on the Paleo diet, the most insulin-resistant subjects had a significant improvement in insulin sensitivityEven short-term consumption of a Paleolithic-type diet improved glucose control and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes compared with a conventional diet containing moderate salt intake, low-fat dairy, whole grains and legumes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23890471

Even short-term consumption of a paleolithic type diet improves BP and glucose tolerance, decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity and improves lipid profiles without weight loss in healthy sedentary humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26626156

GLUTEN FREE

 This diet has gained ground the past years, and rightly so. Gluten, is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The human body is unable to digest and metabolize gluten. Wheat, especially now, contains more that three times the amount of gluten than it did a few generations ago. Wheat is almost always genetically modified and sprayed or treated with toxic chemicals.

It is now known that gluten causes inflammation in the gut lining up to three days after it’s consumed. It is thought that the larger undigested particles of gluten in the gut cause inflammation through the activation of the immune system. This, in turn, causes a separation of the cells lining the gut so that now the undigested particles, pathogens and microbes can freely enter the circulation. This is Leaky Gut, or Intestinal Permeability. The continued activation of the immune system can lead to autoimmune problems, which is closely associated with leaky gut.

Some of the symptoms of gluten consumption are stomach pain, constipation and/or diarrhea, brain fog, tiredness, achy joints and muscles, low immune system, weight gain, depression, bacterial overgrowth and infections.

Many people are unaware that they are sensitive to gluten, specifically. As with all foods, some people are more sensitive than others. People with celiac disease cannot eat any gluten at all.

VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN

Vegetarian and vegan lifestyles have been the norm for many cultures in the world. Vegetarian diets can include some animal products like eggs and dairy while vegan diets eliminate all animal foods. There are so many great benefits to the vegetarian diet. I have met many people over the years that are vegetarian. This diet must include plant based proteins from many different sources so that the person does not become amino acid deficient. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are used in so many important processes in the body. Vegetarians commonly become deficient in one more amino acids. B12 deficiency is found in almost all patients eating a meat-free diet. Vegans and vegetarians often have a high carbohydrate diet as a consequence of attempting to replace non-vegetarian/vegan foods. I caution vegans, especially, to be educated about what foods you are eating and make sure you are getting all the nutrients found in proteins.

AUTOIMMUNE PROTOCOL

This diet is often suggested for people with an autoimmune condition. It’s similar to the Paleo diet. The AIP eliminates gluten, sugar, dairy, soy, caffeine and alcohol initially. These foods are instrumental in stimulating the immune system through causing inflammation in the body. Without the addition of these foods, the inflammation in the body can decrease and the gut can start the healing process. Since autoimmunity is functionally associated with leaky gut, the nutritionist may recommend the elimination of legumes, all grains, sometimes nuts and nightshades as well.

I know most of you are reading this so that I can tell you what I think you should all be eating to lose weight, balance your hormones, reverse or minimize your symptoms, reduce inflammation and get a good nights sleep.

This basic template will do all of this, but only up to a point. The reason is that you are all unique, and different. The way your body metabolizes fats, carbohydrates and proteins is different that the person sitting beside you. Your genetics and how your genes are expressed, is uniquely you. If you have pre-existing health conditions or food allergies and sensitivities, then changes to the template have to be considered. The truth is, there is no diet that will work for everyone!

THE BASICS:

PROTEIN                                                        

We already know that protein is essential in the make up of hormones, muscles, connective tissue, for liver health, for growth and repair. So we need protein every day. 

One of the studies I read recently found that it’s not the low-carbohydrate aspect of the diet that helps with weight loss and fat loss. It’s the high protein aspect of the diet. I should mention that I am a supporter of protein powders as a healthy addition to the diet. This is especially true for the elderly, athletic individuals and people trying to lose weight. The reason for this is that eating protein at every meal and snack can add too much unhealthy fats to the overall diet picture. There is also the aspect of higher inflammatory processes occurring in the body with high red meat and pork consumption.

FATS

We need healthy fats every day. All of our hormones are derived from cholesterol. Our brain is made up of cholesterol. The ‘good’ cholesterol in our bodies is protective, not disease-causing! Fats are especially important for the function of our brain and mood.

VEGETABLES AND FRUITS

Fruits and Vegetables, for the most part are essential to health, including healthy weight loss. Our bodies cannot function without the nutrients and vitamins that these two food groups have. There is a caveat, though, which is that too many servings of high-sugar fruits daily will raise the glucose levels in the body. This is also true for high sugar vegetables like corn, carrots, peas and parsnips. I recommend seven or more servings of vegetables daily and no more than 2-3 servings of fruit.  Dr. Terrry Wahls, MD, who essentially cured herself of progressive multiple sclerosis with high nutrient dense food, especially vegetables. 

CARBOHYDRATES 

We now know that high-sugar carbohydrate foods like wheat and corn are inflammatory to the body and will cause long term damage to the gut and other organs. A big midsection (stomach) is associated with inflammation and insulin resistance. 

SUGAR

Sugar is an addictive poison that damages everything it comes into contact with. It’s the precursor to many modern day diseases like diabetes, heart diease, liver disease and chronic system inflammation.

DAIRY

Dairy is usually an offending food to humans. This is because there is a protein in dairy, casein, that is very difficult to digest (some say, impossible) for humans. If we can’t digest something, then it ends up contributing to inflammation leading to leaky gut and a host of other diseases. Yes, raw milk also has this protein. There seem to be a small percentage of people that are less affected by the consumption of dairy. But, in my opinion, be cautious. 

conclusion

Eat primarily whole foods that are organic and home-grown, if possible. Eat proteins, vegetables, fats and some fruits. Drink water and herbal or matcha teas. This basic template will accomplish a lot for you. After that, it’s important to individualize your dietary needs with how you, personally use, digest and metabolize foods at the cellular level.  Be conscious of how you feel, even after healthy foods. If you’re mindful of how your body responds or reacts to foods, you will be able to better determine what’s good for you and what isn’t.

I think the oversimplification of our diet is as detrimental to health as the overcomplicating of the foods we eat. In functional medicine, practitioners will often refer to the dietary template. In simplistic terms this means that there can be a basic ‘template’ diet that is beneficial for most people, but this template needs to be revised for each individual. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made..differently.

To summarize, each person is profoundly different in their genetics, their environment, the stress load of the body systems  – just to name a few. To think that there is one diet for all is the same as the thought that there is one pill or supplement to treat all illnesses.

This article does not focus on weight loss as the primary function or goal of a specific diet. That is just another oversimplification of food! If weight loss is the only goal to the diet, then the numbers on the scale are the only conclusion that has any merit. The truth is that the food in the diet is so much bigger than weight gain or loss.  Food is medicine. In this context, weight loss is only a fraction of what our viewpoint of diet needs to be. Genes in our foods have the ability to ‘talk’ to our human genes and completely change how they express themselves. That means that food can actually turn our genes on or off. Real food is true medicine and has the power to heal and reverse disease.

 

 

Sleep Hygiene

 

These days, insomnia or non-restful sleep is a very common complaint practitioners hear. There are numerous factors that can affect our sleep, but there are also a few easy-to-apply practices that we can implement to help us with better sleep.

The Sleep Cycle

Throughout the night, the sleep cycle consists of five or six cycles of sleep. Each of these cycles is about 90 minutes long. During this time the body shifts from light sleep, REM sleep to deep sleep. There are a number of factors that can affect the ability of the body in initiating and maintaining sleep.

Dancing Hormones

When we wake up in the morning, cortisol, which is a hormone, levels increase. Cortisol helps us wake up fully to take on the day! This is also the dominant hormone when we are stressed. Stress seems to be the most common deterrent to effective sleep. Cortisol levels vary throughout the day. As evening approaches and the sun starts setting, the decrease in natural light tells the body to convert cortisol to melatonin. This is the hormone that initiates sleep. 

There are a few factors that negatively affect this process. Nutrient insufficiencies, food sensitivities, EMF and fluorescent lighting, hormone imbalance in perimeonpause and menopause can all play a role in disturbing our healthy sleep cycle. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the hours between 10pm and 2pm are associated with the cleansing and detoxifying of the body by the kidneys and liver. When the body is too toxic, it’s more challenging to get to sleep and stay asleep during this time. Consequently, it’s important that we get to sleep before that time so that the healing and cleansing can actually take place.

As we sleep, the body uses this time to repair and heal. 

Food and Drink

Consuming caffeine later in the day can interrupt sleep. If there are food intolerances or nutrient insufficiencies the body is often in discomfort. Alcohol can be a stimulant for some people as well.

EMF

Electromagnetic radiation (WiFi) has been shown to disrupt sleep cycles. Turn off your router and/or put your phones on Airplane mode when you sleep. Some people are readily affected in their sleep patterns. 

Good Sleep Hygiene Practices
  1. Don’t eat or drink anything with caffeine after mid-afternoon. If you do eat before bed, be careful to keep your snack light and easy to digest. Alcohol and sugary foods add drink may be culprits as well.
  2. Avoid using bright lights after dark. Turn down the lights in the early evening to help the body initiate melatonin production.
  3. Use the bedroom only for sleep and sleep-related activities. The bedroom should be in soft lighting, or dark with no tv, phones or laptop. This trains the body and mind that when it’s in the bedroom, that it’s time to go to sleep.
  4. Electronic devices like phones and tablets emit blue light. Blue light actually interferes with the conversion of cortisol to melatonin. Cortisol keeps us awake and melatonin puts us to sleep. EMF (WiFi) should be unplugged or in ‘airplane’ mode while you sleep.
  5. Elevated stress also interfere with this brain-sleep axis. When we are stressed in the evening, the body is unable to make melatonin. It’s imperative that you find an activity that relaxes you every day. This only needs about 15 minutes a day. It can be light exercise, reading a book or taking a bath. Consciously making the body relax will shift the body system from the Sympathetic (stress mode) to the Parasympathetic (calming mode). 
  6. Eat a balanced diet of healthy proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Carbohydrate consumption should be primarily from vegetable sources. Eat protein at every meal. Healthy fats help our brain function, our mood stabilize, our hormones balance and satiety.  A balanced, healthy diet will go long way to replenishing the body with vital nutrients it needs to build, heal and repair itself while you sleep.
  7. Get some exercise every day. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to get your training in in a short time. If you are suffering from chronic fatigue, adrenal overwhelm or exhaustion throughout the day, then do a gentler workout like walking, yoga or moderate cycling. Aim for 20-40 minutes daily.
  8. Have a calming cup of herbal tea before bed. There are a number of wonderful teas in your local health food store, or herb garden!
  9. See your practitioner about trying a gentle herbal product or nutritional supplement that promotes restful sleep. Nutritional supplements like melatonin can be used for up to a week. Herbals like valerian, chamomile, lavender and lemon balm can be used functionally every evening if tolerated.

Getting a full night’s sleep should be in every person’s healthy lifestyle regimen. Sleep is restorative at a cellular level. Without sleep, the body in unable to ‘keep up’ with the demands of daily life.

 

Chronic Stress

 

Stress

The more I hurry, the behind-er I get. I heard that quote many times as I grew up. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that we are even more stressed out and overwhelmed now than we’ve ever been. Sometimes I wonder why. Do we feel better about ourselves when we work until we drop? Is there a cost to our health?

Let take an overview of what happens to our bodies if we continue to live in a stress-filled life. We are intelligently designed to handle a massive amount of stress in our daily life. Our bodies have what’s called a ‘fight or flight’ mode in which the hypothalamus in the brain signals the body that there is a danger (stress) that needs to be addressed. The hypothalamus sends signals to our adrenal glands, through the pituitary gland, to produce hormones like cortisol, epinephrine and norepinaphrine. Those hormones communicate with almost all our other systems to initiate what is called the stress response. Our heart rate and blood pressure increases, glucose is dumped into the cells for quick energy, our pupils dilate and our muscles are primed for action. In this mode, digestion and reproductive function are diminished. This is the sympathetic nervous system at work. When our immediate stress is over, the body switches back to its parasympathetic state which calms down the body systems and returns everything back to normal.

When we live in chronic stress mode, the body finds it difficult to switch off this stress response. The system gets tired and ceases to work effectively after a while. All the symptoms mentioned above never seem to go away and we develop new, stress-induced illnesses. The adrenal system, which is closely connected to the thyroid, gets overwhelmed and exhausted. Our thyroid gland ceases to function effectively. Most of the chronic diseases that plague the modern world have a connection to stress overload.

There are numerous kinds of stressors we encounter in our world. Some are self-inflicted, so to speak. If we don’t say ‘no’ to projects and responsibilities that we simply cannot take on, we always  sacrifice our health eventually. Other stresses can’t really be avoided. Those are stressors like a sick family member, a high-needs baby or child and a stressful workplace. Oddly enough, there are ‘good’ stressors too, like playing your favourite sport, going on vacation or celebrating retirement.

As an iridologist, I learned that the irises of a person’s eyes can genetically ‘predict’ the constitution we were born with. Some people seem to be born with a strong constitution. They can handle everything that is thrown at them, seemingly, with ease. These people often don’t see the impending illness or acute heart attack.  They often don’t notice, or don’t have symptoms telling them to slow down and take it easy.

Other people seem to be more susceptible to stress, toxins and pathogens. They tend to get more fatigued and feel unwell in stressful situations. These people have what is sometimes referred to as a poor constitution. 

 

Motivation and Stress

Have you ever thought of trying to differentiate between motivation and stress? As an example, the CEO of a company will likely have a strong constitution. They will be highly motivated to succeed and always be able to see the bigger picture. They will handle stress like a juggler handles balls in the air. These people need a particular amount of stress to challenge and motivate them. It takes a huge amount of stress to topple them over.

 For all people, however, when there is little or no stress or ‘ motivation’, they are unable to get up off the couch. They can’t find the time to eat right or exercise. They have difficulty holding down a job because they don’t get enough ‘stress’ to energize them. That is the other end of the spectrum.

We have to aspire to live and work in the middle ground of this bell curve. There should be just enough stress/motivation to energize and inspire us to keep working hard at something. There should be just enough exercise to keep our cardiovascular system healthy and our morale high. That’s when we function at highest capacity.

Adaptation and Stress

Inevitably, we probably won’t make it through life without having a few hard knocks thrown our way. One of the most important things to do, in my experience is, first of all, recognize that as difficult as this challenge is, the worst of it will pass eventually. When you really come to embrace that perspective, you begin to acknowledge that this is a hard, hard time, but there will be another side to this coin at some point. 

The next step is to be thankful, for one, that the body is attempting to cushion the blow by initiating our stress response. People often feel like their bodies are somehow failing them when they are starting to exhibit symptoms of illness and stress. When this happens, it can be a time to reflect on why the body is reacting the way it is and to be grateful for the impressive mechanism that, firstly, cautions us to potential disease and, secondly, allows us to adapt to stress and move on.

The third step is to implement some practices that can minimize the stress response and help support the body. Here are a few examples: 

1. Take just a few minutes every day or two and do something that relaxes you. This can be a walk, a run, a good book, meditation or a bath. Forcing yourself to slow down and be calm and present automatically switches the body back into its parasympathetic state. 

2. Make a concerted effort to get enough sleep at night. Sleep is when the body relaxes and finds healing and repair. When we son’t give ourselves that time, the healing and repair cannot take place effectively and so, instead of waking up rested and ready to face the day, we feel tired and drained. 

3. Eat well. In a stressful state, we get more depleted in vital minerals and vitamins that the body needs as its building blocks for every function that occurs. 

4. Add specific supplements and herbals that are a boost to a system that is run down. B-complex vitamins or a good high quality multi-vitamin is important because the body has probably used up all its reserves at that point. An extra boost of magnesium, Vitamin D and Vitamin C and other antioxidants are beneficial as well. As far as herbals, you want to use herbs that are supportive tonics to the nervous system and adaptogens that help the body adapt to stress.

The Thyroid

What is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits in the front of the neck. It’s commonly called the Master Gland. This is because the thyroid’s job is to regulate and control the energy, or metabolic, processes that occur in the entire body. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate our temperature, our metabolism, our hormones, our mood and many other processes, including how efficiently we burn calories and how easily we lose weight. When you stop and think about that you can imagine how an under-functioning (hypothyroidism) or over-functioning (hyperthyroidism) thyroid will affect multiple system in the body.

How does it Work?

You don’t need to memorize all of this, but bear with me as I explain what happens in the Master Gland at a cellular level. The thyroid gland has cavities that are filled with a substance called thyroglobulin, which is produced by cells called thyrocytes. Thyroglobulin (Tg) contains tyrosine, an amino acid. This is the starting material used to make thyroid hormone. Thyroglobulin is also used for the storage of iodine. Iodide, from food, circulates in the blood and is taken up by the thyroid gland. This form of iodide is converted into the usable form, iodine, by the enzyme thyroid peroxidase (TPO). The reactive iodine is now able to bind to tyrosine. The molecules bond to form either triiodothyronine (T3), three iodine molecules, or thyroxine (T4) which has four iodine molecules. T3 is 300 times more biologically active than T4. 80% of the active T3 hormone is produced by the conversion from T4 to T3. Zinc is required for this process to occur.

Low levels of T4 and T3 signals the release of TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, and, high levels of T4 and T3 stop the release of this hormone. This feedback loop should keep the thyroid functional at optimal performance.

Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s

Thyroid hormone imbalances are usually classified as ‘not enough’ thyroid hormone production (hypothyroidism), or ‘too much’  thyroid hormone production (hyperthyroidism). For this article, I will focus on the condition in which the thyroid hormone is inadequate. This is hypothyroidism.

There are two kinds of hypothyroidism. The first is iodine-deficiency hypothyroidism. When there is a deficiency in the nutrients needed for the production and conversion for thyroid hormone, then the body isn’t able the produce enough hormone. These nutrients are iodine, selenium, zinc and tyrosine. Iodine-Deficiency hypothyroidism is the leading cause of thyroid disorders in under-developed countries where diets are very deficient in nutrients like iodine.

In North America and Europe, Hashimoto’s, or auto-immune hypothyroidism, is the leading cause of thyroid disorders.
This is an autoimmune condition where the immune system is attacking your thyroid gland causing lowered function and its eventual destruction. In the beginning stages of Hashimoto’s, the body compensates by producing more thyroid hormone, so the initial lab tests may show and elevated TSH while T4 and T3 appear in the normal ranges. This person will often be experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism by this time.

As more of the gland is being destroyed, the thyroid loses its ability to compensate, and the T4 and T3 levels drop as well. Eventually the gland can lose all ability to produce thyroid hormones. In Hashimoto’s, two types of reactive antibodies can be observed through a blood test. These are, TPO antibodies and Tg antibodies.
Both symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can be experienced in this scenario because as the thyroid is being destroyed, stored hormones flood the circulation and cause hyperthyroid symptoms.

Symptoms of Thyroid Imbalance

Some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are weight loss, anxiety, palpitations, tremors, irritability, menstrual disturbances, fatigue, heat intolerance and increased appetite.
Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue, poor sleep quality, constipation, leaky gut and acid reflux. There can be sudden weight gain with no apparent change in diet or exercise. This weight can be significant and is difficult to lose. The cardiovascular system is often affected with high cholesterol. Carpal tunnel, plantar fasciitis, joint, tendon and muscle pain and weakness are very common as well. Anxiety and depression are associated with an under functioning thyroid. The thyroid regulates hormones, so fertility problems, irregular periods/cycles, miscarriage, difficulty producing breast milk and postpartum depression can occur. Inversely, Hashimoto’s disease can happen soon after puberty, postpartum, peri-menopause and menopause.
Hashimotos is also associated with other autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, celiac disease, Addisons disease, pernicious anemia and hypoparathyroidism.

Tests

Conventionally, the test used to monitor thyroid levels is TSH. But, TSH does not always reflect thyroid abnormalities. TSH fluctuates throughout the day TSH does not become permanently elevated until the Hashimotos is advanced. Because of that, people will suffer hypothyroidism for years with fatigue, weight gain and other symptoms before TSH levels become abnormal.
The better test for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a blood test that tests both T3 and T4, TSH and one or two antibodies, anti-TPO and anti-Tg.

Prognosis

Most doctors believe the progression from healthy thyroid hormone levels to hypothyroidism is irreversible and leads to complete thyroid destruction. It has been reported, however that thyroid function spontaneously returned to normal in twenty percent of patients. Studies also show that the thyroid can regenerate itself under the right conditions and support.

Lifestyle factors can restore, regenerate or slow down the process of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

If you have any questions or comments, please post below or message me directly.

Janet Maendel  CFMP, MH

 

Herbal Monograph – Dandelion

Dandelion        (Taraxacum officinale)

In presenting my first Herbal Monograph, I wanted to choose an herb that is familiar to most people. The much disliked and much admired Dandelion, of course! The whole plant of the dandelion is used in herbal medicine. What’s interesting about this particular herb is that the upper parts, the leaves, and the lower part, the root, are used for different primary actions in herbalism. Some of the secondary actions are similar and, in most cases the root is found to be more effective or stronger.

The Leaves

The leaves of the dandelion plant contain a host of wonderful vitamins, minerals and other medicinal constituents. The minerals contained in dandelion are, most notably, potassium.  Also included, are iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, choline, selenium, calcium, boron and silicon. Vitamins A, B, C and D are found as well. Other constituents include triterpenes, flavonoid glycosides, phenolic acids, phytosterols, sugars and mucilage. (Braun & Cohen, 2010)

One of the most beneficial action of the dandelion leaf is it’s diuretic properties. The leaf has a high potassium content, so there is no potassium loss in the body as the extra fluid is removed. Braun & Cohen compare it’s diuretic effects to that of ‘frusenide’, which is a powerful drug used as a diuretic. It’s use as a diuretic would also benefit water retention for heart problems. (Hoffman)

The leaf is also used specifically for cystitis. In a double blind randomized control trial on 57 women, a dandelion leaf and bearberry blend found to significantly reduce the frequency and re-occurance of cyctitis                     (Braun & Cohen, 2010, p. 377)

Dandelion leaf and root are also used for a liver tonic. Our liver is detoxifying all the time. It’s always a good idea to remember to keep our liver functioning well for a healthy body.

Another important action of the dandelion leaf and root is that it’s a cholagogue. This means that it supports or increases bile production in the body. Bile is used in our digestive processes.
The dandelion leaf can be taken as a tea, fluid extract and fresh juice.

Cautions and Contraindications
The dandelion is part of the Asteraceae family of latex, so if there is an allergy or sensitivity to these plants, be cautious. Do not take dandelion if you’re on quinolene antibiotics.

The Root

The dandelion root is one of my favourite herbal remedies in my practice. It has numerous valuable constituents! They are sesquiterpene lactones: including taraxacoside, Diterpenes: including taraxacin, Triterpenes: taraxasterol, arnidiol, faradiol and beta-amyrin, Sterols:stigmasterol, beta-terol, arnidiol, faradiol, beta-amyrin, Sterols: stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol, Carotenoids: lutein and violaxanthin, Xanthophylls and Flavonoids: apigenin and luteolin. (Hoffman 2003)

Dandelion root is used for congestion of the liver and gallbladder. It’s also used for congestive jaundice. It benefits as hepatic enzyme induction and is used for its cholagogue properties. The liver has the highly important role in the body of detoxifying everything that enters the body. It has two detox pathways named Phase 1 and Phase 2. The liver never rests. In order for the body to function at capacity, the liver system must be working well. If it doesn’t, then it becomes congested, or backed up, with toxins that build up instead of being eliminated from the body.

Dandelion root is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, so it’s also used in dermatitis, rheumatism and chronic gastritis. It’s a digestive tonic and bitter. More conventional therapies now include dandelion treatment for colitis, sore throat and hepatitis B.

So, knowing all that, it’s difficult to imagine which symptoms or illnesses would not benefit from liver support/tonic and digestive tonic/ bitter.
Dandelion root can be taken in tincture form, as a decoction, fluid extract or juice.

Caution and Contraindication for Dandelion Root is if there’s known allergy to the Asteraceae family of plants. Be very cautious in individuals with bleeding disorders. Do not use if there is gallbladder disease present.
There are some interactions possible with persons taking antacids, anti-coagulant medications and people on niacin.

Functional (Root Cause) Medicine

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional Medicine is often referred to as Root Cause Medicine. The practitioner of Functional Medicine seeks to identify the underlying root cause(s) of a person’s health challenges using history, biochemistry and physiology. Minimal- or non-invasive lab tests using blood, urine, hair and saliva can be ordered to find the underlying causes.  Function = Health.

Patient Focus vs. Disease Focus

What we think of today as modern medicine, is primarily disease focused. The physician generally focuses on minimizing or eliminating the symptoms his/her patient presents with. In Functional Medicine, the disease process is only the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface lies the real information – the Cause! For example, a client presents with high cholesterol as a symptom. This person could be taking statin medications in an attempt to lower the cholesterol levels. A functional practitioner would strive to find out what’s causing the body to produce above-normal amounts of cholesterol; what’s causing a decrease in Function? There could be a number of root causes for this. Some of them are: nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalance, hypothyroidism or Hashimotos and inflammation.

The Healing Approach

It’s quite simple: Add or Remove. Once again, the premise is to identify what   the underlying root cause is and restore the body’s optimal function. Some of the things that could be added to a case could be minerals, vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, water, herbals, dietary changes and sleep. Some of the things that could be removed are specific foods, toxic chemicals, heavy metals, microbial pathogens, stress and glycemic imbalances.

 

“It’s much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease the patient has.”                                                                               Dr. Sir William Osler                                                                                     John Hopkins University Hospital

Why Choose Herbal Medicine?

“Plants are as Powerful as they are Gentle”

Herbal Medicine is the practice of using plants, flowers and roots for therapeutic and medicinal purposes in the body. A person who practices herbalism is known as a herbalist, a phytotherapist or a herbal practitioner.

Plants are as powerful as they are gentle. They contain phytochemicals, often called constituents, that can greatly assist our bodies to heal or maintain optimal health. These constituents, like nutrients, vitamins and volatile oils all work together to restore balance, provide nutrition and promote conditions for healing. Using the whole plants in medicinal remedies benefits the user because all the components of the herb work together to target multiple symptoms at the same time.These constituents are designed in perfect ratios and work in synergy with one another.

The practice of natural medicine seeks to find the underlying core issue of any symptom the body is presenting. The herbal practitioner will ask  “Why is this symptom here?” or “What is the body trying to tell you?” The body is always talking to us through an intricate communication system. Naturopathic medicine always attempts to re-balance the body in a way so that its natural healing processes can take place.

Herbals are Safe

Herbals, when used correctly, have very few side effects. This is one of the reasons that individuals often choose herbal medicine over conventional therapies, including pharmaceutical drugs. A number of conventional drugs are originally created from one particular constituent found in a herb. This often results in unwanted side-effects too, probably because the complementing factors that naturally occur in the plant have been removed. In many cases, though, the isolated herbal component is eventually manufactured synthetically in a lab.
Drugs are generally  designed to target one, or a few, specific symptom(s). The drug will potentially reduce, moderate or eliminate that/those particular symptom(s), but, with a range of side effects.

Plants Are Precious Gifts

So, “why herbal medicine?” Herbal medicine has been practiced for thousands of years and, in that time, has proven itself to be safe and effective in healing and maintaining health. In modern society today there is a shift happening in which people are returning to more natural treatment for their symptoms and even for chronic illnesses. As a precious gift, we have been given medicine in the form of a plant. I am grateful for that blessing.

PART III: Causes Affecting Our Terrain

Lifestyle & Diet       

The third root cause affecting the terrain of the blood is Lifestyle & Diet. The standard diet in the world we live in today is void of nutrients, minerals, fiber and enzymes. Poor digestion from an unhealthy gastrointestinal system that has insufficient pancreatic enzymes and HCL also results in depleting the body of essential nutrients and vitamins. This results in whole body deficiencies, lowered immunity, hormonal imbalances and chronic illness. Food truly is medicine! A proper nutritious diet has the ability to prevent and cure illness. As a favoured quote by Hippocrates states:

“Let Food be thy medicine and medicine be thy Food”                        

Emotional Stressors

We don’t always associate our psychological emotions and stressors as being intimately connected with our health. The field of psychoneuroimmunology relates the impact of psychological stress to depression, our gut and our immunity. The ability of the body to fight infection and disease is compromised in a high emotional stress situation. It’s important that we uncover the underlying emotions that are driving the disease process and find support, healing and, sometimes, responsibility for our reaction to our life’s curve balls.

“Biological processes occur at the same rate as emotional growth in responsibility”

For the most part, we can’t control or change the curve balls and rollercoaster ride of our lives. But, we can learn how to deal with these stressors. Reaching out to ask for help is often the first step to healing and recovery.

Infections

The fifth root cause affecting our cell’s environment is the focus of infections. In functional medicine we often call these  ‘stealth’ infections. That’s because these infections are usually hiding. The gut is the primary focus of these infections in biological medicine. Stealth infections regularly affect many other body systems, not just the gut. Our mouth (oral cavity) and cardiovascular system can be infected too.

There is only one physiological disease – the overgrowth of microorganisms, and the terrain that allows it.

All theses causes create acidosis, or, acidity in the body tissues. In Live Cell Microscopy, this acidosis is seen as the primary explanation of the development of illness and chronic disease.

 

PART II: Causes Affecting Our Terrain

Underlying Causes Affecting Our Blood Terrain

There are five underlying causes we consider when we evaluate the blood 
terrain. These five causes are Chemicals, E-smog, Lifestyle and Diet, Emotional Stressors and Infections. I will write about the first two on this blog: Chemicals and E-smog.

Chemicals

Chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, drugs and petrochemicals are found everywhere in our world today. We have additives added to our foods. Chemical compounds added to cosmetics, creams, deodorants and lotions. Amalgam fillings and root canals in teeth can add to the toxic chemical load in the body. Microorganism by-products like indole, putrescine, scatole, cadaverine are added to the list as well.

It’s estimated by some scientists that we absorb over 200 chemicals daily. This should at least give us reason to question the companies that produce our foods. Take care in what you breathe in, ingest and apply to the body on a daily basis and change the factors that you do have control over.

EMF & E-smog

E-smog refers to nuclear, x-ray and UV radiation that we’re exposed to daily. Most of us have heard or studied about the potential harmful effects of x-rays, microwaves and UV radiation. But, do you know that the electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) that are emitted from our cell phones, cell towers, electronic devices and WiFi are dangerous to our overall health? It’s true! In the process of making our world more accessible and easy, we’ve also managed to create a more dangerous environment than we’ve ever had before.

It’s estimated that incidence of brain cancer and brain tumours have increased exponentially. Why is that? In Live Cell Microscopy we see many cells that look like a coke bottle caps when the client is an avid cell phone user. That’s the picture of high oxidative stress in the blood picture.

Try to make a point of holding the phone away from the ear when taking a call. Turn off your WiFi, even better, turn off your phone when you go to bed at night. Unplug your router. There is more information on this. If you want to read more published studies, please let me know.  Share the post or leave me a comment.