microbe-1279146_960_720All health professionals are aware of increasing resistance in bacteria as a result of our overuse of broad spectrum antibiotics in both prescriptions and our livestock industry but increasingly we’re hearing about evidence of resistance in microbes of a variety of flavours – take the recent report on head lice that featured in the national news just this week.   I am also frequently hearing from mentees about patients being affected by bugs that traditionally have been relatively easy to resolve e.g. helminths, candida spp, tinea spp, that are proving in some clients very hard to budge!  A praccie  said to me just yesterday, when discussing a patient with recurring resistant oral thrush who was otherwise young, fit and well (!) – ‘Is it possible that these pathogens are actually getting harder to treat.’?..Absolutely! (more…)

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Cheesy I know! 😉  However, recently the issue of knowing when to use Withania somnifera & when not to, came up again in mentoring so I thought it’s probably a good one to share.  Withania, aka Aswagandha or Indian Ginseng, has become a favourite adaptogenic prescription for many practitioners, myself included.  I remember learning specifically (about a million years ago!!) that this herb is ‘warming’ & ‘nourishing’, thanks in part to its iron content. In a traditional medicine context, it’s used for those particularly vulnerable populations such as children, the pregnant, the elderly and the malnourished, boiled in milk as a tonic.  These ideas always stayed with me, and lead me to only use Withania in similar patients and presentations with good results. (more…)

Copy of Copy of Copy of Feb Update in Under 30

 

I’ve always been a bit of a fan of Vitamin A but this has grown again in the last year or so, having seen some great responses to short term high dose treatment during active infections or when trying to break a cycle of chronic reinfection.  For me, and I think probably for others as well, I previously would get a bit twitchy around even briefly exceeding the UL (upper tolerable limit) for retinol  as set by the NHMRC.  This was because the potential toxicity of vitamin A, especially for certain vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women and individuals with liver disease, had been burnt into my brain during my undergraduate training.  

As a result, I think many of us have become over-concerned about risks associated with Vitamin A therapy and need to refresh our perspective about the difference between long term high intake above the UL, which does have established risks, and short term equally high doses with have enormous therapeutic potential and extremely low risks if we exclude the most vulnerable patient groups.

We don’t have to look too far for support of this idea, with numerous RCTs employing 5000IU per day ‘until discharge’  to young children inflicted with measles to successfully reduce morbidity and mortality or whopping one off doses of 200,000 IU to treat  recurrent urinary tract infections in adults etc.

Of course the therapeutic potential of vitamin A is not limited to an immune one, but it does star in this role. The first identified feature of a vitamin A deficiency was an increased susceptibility to infections and compromised ability to resolve these, regardless of the microbial origin.  How often do we see this picture?  Frequently…and while our first reflex might be zinc (as of course my bias was for a long time), more often now I am looking for evidence of concurrent or even stand alone suboptimal vitamin A  that may also explain this.

In terms of being forgotten, I think many of us need a quick reminder also about the limited distribution of retinol in our diets and that the common exclusion of dairy foods, reduces this further down to a very small handful of foods with any significant amount. 

This means that a decent bunch of our patients are going to be at risk of suboptimal vitamin A.  Why can’t carotenoids or  foods rich in provitamin A always fill this gap?…well you might have to listen to the latest Update in Under 30 to find out! 😉

Vitamin A deficiency is more common than you think and understanding the reasons behind suboptimal intake & status help us to identify those of our patients most at risk.  In terms of therapeutic potential, acute high dose retinol supplementation can produce dramatic resolution of infections or break the cycle of recurrent infections in immune compromised individuals. For many clinicians, however, retinol has either been forgotten or become feared due to its toxicity profile.  This Update in Under 30 recording, sharpens our focus around not only recognising those who need it but also how to use retinol effectively without the risks.

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I think most of us visualise the clearly malnourished young woman, when we think of eating disorders however, while anorexia nervosa is something to be on the watch for, our patients are presenting increasingly with more unusual, atypical patterns of disordered eating, that are easier to miss.  Some of you for example, will be familiar with the term ‘orthorexia’ which is an emerging diagnosis characterised by an obsessional approach to only eating those foods deemed by the individual as healthy, ‘pure’, ‘good’.  Gluten-, Dairy-, Soy-, Grain-,  FODMAP-, Sugar free organic cookie anyone?

Are we likely to see people afflicted with this…absolutely!  As practitioners who deal extensively in food and health related behaviours we are really sitting in the hot seat when it comes to eating disorders – likely to see more of these clients than many other practitioners and also walking a fine line when giving restrictive dietary advice to patients, so as not to trigger this sort of unhealthy thinking. (more…)

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From the giddy holiday highs to the lows!  As you know we kicked off these school holidays with a birthday celebration at Stradbroke Island…time travel forward just a short distance to the end of school holidays and you’ll find us we’ve now taken up residence in the paediatric ward of a local major hospital!  Because mucking around with mates and a soccer ball is as worthy way as any apparently to break your tibia AND fibula! Yep! Teenage Boys!!!

Anyway.  We’ve been through the heart fluttering dash to emergency, the bone chilling reduction in A&E, the prep for theatre, the truly jaw dropping…’I can’t believe this is how our Friday night turned out, now I’m sleeping on a chair fully clothed in a kids’ ward listening to my precious boy cry out in unmedicatable pain’ (yes apparently his break defied standard pain relief!). (more…)

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The understanding that certain infections produce mental health presentations is not a new one. However, based in part on observations of some of the features of tick borne diseases (TBD) such as Lyme like illness, a reawakening of the role for infection in psychiatry is underway.

‘Microbial madness’ is not limited to TBD. There is a large body of evidence linking a long list of pathogens to possible mental ill health. Our role then is to be able to quickly recognise the clinical course and the blood markers that flag this as a possible driver then support the body in its attempts to resolve, not just the infection, but the unchecked inflammation secondary to this.

 Ever had a patient where all the arrows point to a microbial burden but you can’t find or name the little blighter!? I have.

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Question: What has 22 legs, 11 mouths, sounds like your tv, radio and CD player are all playing at their loudest deafening volume together and an appetite like a small army?   Answer: the 11 teens I took to Stradbroke Island to celebrate my twins 16th birthday! Yes, this is what I do for fun and to unwind! 😉

Without shops within walking distance this mob was at the mercy of my food choices and the meals provided by me and the 5 other adults present. I played head of the catering team and spent a lot of that telling the other adults to never ask, just do, when it comes to feeding teens. (more…)

Copy of Copy of Feb Update in Under 30

A patient walks into your client and reports that they think they might be reacting to gluten.  Happens every week, if not every day, right?  Awareness about potential negative health effects from gluten is exploding and often patients present self-diagnosing and self prescribing a gluten free(ish!) regime.  What’s your role? To simply back them up with a, ‘Yeah gluten is bad’ response, congratulate them on removing it and encourage them to keep going or to support them in pursuing a proper line of investigation which involves both critical thinking and appropriate testing?  You guessed it…the latter!

I know my opinion about keeping gluten in the diet until you understand the ‘why’ is not popular right now but let’s think about it using the following common scenario:  27yo Jo has recently taken gluten out of her diet because she experiences bloating and some flatulence when she eats wheat.   (more…)

 

Robert Bransfield MD DLFAPA  likes to start off his presentations with a full and frank disclosure about potential conflicts of interest.  After all, he is a well known psychiatrist and Associate Clinical Professor at Rutgers-RWJ Medical School, who is frequently also asked to lecture to doctors and psychiatrists on the causes & treatment of mental illness, so the need for transparency about commercial links & potential financial gain is essential.  I’ve heard Robert’s disclosure and it goes like this:

“Patients pay me money in return for trying to help them.”

Cute, hey! No links to bigpharma that happen to have a new med for CNS infections, no patent pending, not even a book he wants to sell you!  You see Robert, or Bob as he prefers to be called, lives and practices in an area of the US that has a very high rate of Lyme disease and came to be regarded as an international expert in tick borne diseases/ illnesses simply as a result of trying to understand and resolve his patients increasingly complex presentations.   Based on his extensive clinical experience & research he is now regarded as the brain’s trust when it comes to the role of actual pathogens (spirochetes, viral, bacterial, fungal etc.) in the brain and their ability to cause every psychiatric diagnosis.

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Sorry if I’ve been quiet for while but I promise have been very very busy!  The Australian Naturopathic Summit is getting tantalisingly (& frighteningly!!) close, and I’m just back from a great  Aus/NZ tour with Professor Vormann talking my heart out about Acid Base Balance.  Now we’re in full flight organising the final details of our Access the Experts Webinar series in July and just this morning, I was chatting with William Ferguson, my most impacting personal mentor, who is presenting the first webinar on 7th July.

Actually while I was chatting with William I wanted to scream…’Oh my goodness! Everyone has to hear this!!’ 

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April Update in Under 30 (1)

 

If you’re reading this you already know how much I love a good set of blood test results, right?  It’s always (tragically!) a bit of a high point of my day when they spit out of the fax machine or become available through some other more modern little IT miracle! 😉 But joy turns quickly to frustration when I look through the results and can take an educated guess that patient wasn’t fasting at the time of the test – there goes the validity of most nutrient levels (Zn, Fe, Se etc), the acid base markers etc. etc. What a waste of time and money!  While we have a rough idea about the impact eating might have generally on some parameters e.g. increasing HCO3 levels & lowering plasma zinc etc., this is not quantifiable, we don’t know by how much exactly and therefore we are left guessing. 🙁

 

But food intake isn’t of course the only confounder that can mess with your patient’s blood test results and lead you to erroneous interpretations.  There are several things that with good patient education and better record keeping, we can control for, which would otherwise jeopardise the accuracy of our patients’ pathology results. (more…)

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“Access the Experts with Rachel Arthur” is a month long intensive webinar series focusing on the best of Mental Health Education. Every Thursday night for the month of July, Rachel will be interviewing a hand-picked guest speaker about a particular area of expertise in Mental Health.

Each speaker is a clinician with years of experience (from a psychologist, to a GP, to psychiatrists) who Rachel has worked with and/or been mentored by and she is thrilled that these interviews create an avenue to share their incredible & very practical knowledge with a wider audience.

Rachel’s role as the interviewer will be a feature of the webinar series – ensuring you get the best of each speaker; translating the complex into easy-to-understand concepts and clinically relevant content that you can start applying immediately. (more…)

New Prac Drop In

The New Practitioner Drop In Class is a monthly drop in class that focuses on providing an easy to access drop in opportunity for integrative health practitioners to participate in some of the most accelerated form of post-graduate education and clinically relevant skill development.

The group mentoring class takes place via Skype on the last Tuesday of every month so that’s at 1:30pm (NSW time) on Tuesday 31st May. The session is also recorded, so you can listen at any time – a perfect option for those who are interested but unable to make the live session or for those who like to listen twice and get the most out of mentoring!

A sneak peek into tomorrow’s case:
26 year old female presenting with an unusual diagnosis of Erythema nodosum, a hypersensitivity reaction on the skin … but what can we all learn from this case?
This case will be an interesting investigation through presenting health complaints, concomitant conditions and pathology test interpretation. (more…)

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During a mentoring session this week a practitioner asked me, ‘How could paracetamol relieve anger?’.  After the initial, ‘What the..??.’ reflex, I thought well the placebo response is really a wonderful thing, the potency of which should never be under-estimated. I mean this is just one of many ‘afflictions’ I have been told by patients can be rectified by a popping a Panadol!  But just to ensure I wasn’t missing something I went digging into the scientific literature about the latest understanding of its mechanisms and actions and lo and behold (!!!) several RCTs have shown paracetamol can “blunt emotional pain” and reduce the negative effects of “social rejection” specifically!

 Back to my…’What the…????!!!!’ reaction 🙂  While Michael Berk (ie NAC pioneer) did co-author a huge paper on the potential application of aspirin in a range of mental health conditions https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23506529 given what we now know about the inflamed brain model of psychiatric illness, this one is easier to grasp than perhaps paracetamol for the pain of emotional interactions & experiences.

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odd one out

I really enjoy mentoring practitioners in business – it’s a real privilege to be able to hear about each practitioners’ aspirations and challenges.  A few weeks back I had the good fortune to speak with a fresh one!  A practitioner who has only been in business for a short period of time.  As always before our session,  I looked over all aspects of her online presence from her website, to her practice newsletters, Facebook presence etc. Goodness how things have changed from when I graduated and you literally just hung out your shingle!!  As much as the online world has created incredible opportunities for people working in integrative health and the public who use our services, I think it has also of course brought the ‘competition closer’.

 

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soup bones

Perhaps you’ve been keeping abreast of the bone broth debate?  The practice of preparing broths made from slow boiled animal bones and made popular by the GAPS diet as well as many Paleo advocates, has come under scrutiny thanks to a small pilot study that evaluated the lead content of bone broths prepared from chicken.  The likelihood of lead leaching out of the bones and into the broth after prolonged boiling is quite high of course, given that, just like us, animals are tricked into thinking it’s calcium, and accordingly store this heavy metal in their bones.  This study by Monro et al and published in the journal Medical Hypothesis in 2013, suggests that regular bone broths could contribute significantly to the lead exposure of an individual given the lead content of the 4 samples they analysed:

(i) organic chicken-bone broth: 7.01 mcg/L
(ii) broth from organic chicken meat without bones: 2.3 mcg/L
(iii) broth made from skin and cartilage off the bone of organic chicken: 9.5 mcg/L
(iv) control (tap water): 0.89 mcg/L

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Due to popular demand and increasing interest, I am so pleased to announce that I will be starting a second Rachel Arthur Mentorship Program (RAMP) from May until November 2016!

RAMP is a program that focuses on providing practitioners with the most accelerated form of post-graduate education and clinically relevant skill development. RAMP will be commencing in May, on the last Monday of every month at 10:30am until the final call in November (a total of 7 skype call mentoring sessions).

 

RAMP group mentoring is a great way to build a supportive network amongst likeminded practitioners, whilst refining your skills in areas of pathology interpretation, differential diagnosis, shared care navigation, research skills, and nutritional & naturopathic interventions.

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April Update in Under 30

How many of your clients are on a combination OCP?

Do you know the full extent of the physiological impact as a result and are you able to identify to key pathology indicators of the size of that impact?

Like you I see a lot of clients who are on the OCP – whether it’s for contraception, skin or ‘hormonal balancing’, and it’s typically the case that these clients are aware that the OCP ‘isn’t ideal’ and carries some risks but they’ve decided right now the pros outweigh the cons.  I really feel reluctant to make more difficult a sometimes already difficult decision with these women and I always want to respect people’s autonomy and choices.  So whenever possible I simply go about my job in supporting them naturopathically in light of the impact it is likely to have on their nutrition & physiology.

 

Then there are occasions when I look at their pathology results and put it together with their symptoms and realise that the ‘danger signs’ are flashing & the OCP is  not playing nicely with their unique biochemistry.

 

Sickness

I’ve been sick – real sick just for a couple of days…an acute exotic respiratory thing that the northern Rivers and specifically the period around Bluesfest (!) seems to specialise in.  Anyway, apart from it being terrible timing (I ask my patients ‘when is it EVER good timing?’)  it has been a quick gruesome but instructive reminder about what’s called ‘sickness related behaviour’.  This is a cluster of behaviours that come as part of the package with being unwell. They’re usually short-lived as a result of acute infections like colds, flus, gastro.  Trust me – you know them well 😉  they include:  loss of appetite, social withdrawal, fatigue, amotivation, anhedonia or depression etc.

These behaviours are thought to be critical to our individual preservation and that of our community and at a physiological level are attributed primarily to the rise in pro-inflammatory cytokines (PICs) that are part of being ‘sick’.  It makes sense right?  If we’re sick we need to lie in bed, be still, rest up, stop working and most importantly, if it is contagious, stay away from everyone to prevent the spread!  So really this sickness related behaviour is a very clever adaptation. (more…)

March Update under 30

 

I was recently asked to speak at an ACNEM conference on ‘Clinical Pearls in Paediatric Practice’ and I talked about 3 key things that have proved to be absolute game-changers in my understanding and better management of children…and guess what one of my topics was…threadworm!!??  Yup.  I am convinced some people who’ve heard me mention this before may start to think I have some sort of perverse interest in these little blighters because what could we possibly need to know about kids being infected with worms that we don’t already know?  However the answer is….HEAPS!

 

I have spoken on this topic previously (basically when anyone will let me! ;)) and I can tell you that it’s this information specifically, what I’ve learnt about the myriad presentations, the individual susceptibility and fresh perspectives on treatment, that attracts the biggest ‘Wow!’, lightbulb moments and ‘oh my goodness you’ve just explained a riddle in half a dozen of my patients that I’ve been unable to solve’ kind of comments more than anything else.  I just experienced this again at the ACNEM conference in NZ. It’s so wonderful to be able to spread the word! (no pun intended!)

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