Helping Patients Achieve Their PB

Listen to me, I’m sounding all sporty 😂. I’m not though, just in case you suffer misguided visions of my virtues!  But it’s not just the self-declared serious athletes that we need to have on our radar in relation to optimising their oxygen carrying capacity (aka window to winning). Our clinics are full of people, regularly running, doing triathlons for fun (!), riding vast distances clad in Lycra to drink coffee in other town’s cafes etc. etc. whose FBE might be feeling the pinch! That’s right!  All these individuals, depending on the frequency and intensity of their exercise, could have the so-called, anaemia of an athlete.

Long gone is the idea that exercise-induced changes to your haemoglobin and red blood cells and perhaps even your iron, would only affect the ultra-marathon runners among us.  It’s the swimmers, the cyclists, the Roller Derbyists, the CrossFitters, the basketballers, the Gym Junkies, the lawn bowlers..ok I may have gone too far now…they all are at increased risk.

Why? Isn’t exercise good for you?  You know I so want to say, ‘Surprise! It’s not!’ but alas.  Of course it is good for us BUT there are some fascinating challenges regular exercise can throw at your dear old blood and its bestie, iron. These challenges are incredibly dynamic – having one effect during exercise, a different one immediately following, and yet another in the days of rest in between. And sometimes, in fact, often, our patients can end up on the wrong side of these seismic shifts.  Here’s how the story usually goes

“Oh yeah..I’ve had anaemia for ages!  You know and it doesn’t matter how much Iron I take or how I take it – it never budges. But I’ve been told to stay on the Ferrograd anyway”

Typically, being told it’s ‘Athlete’s Anaemia’ is the first, in a series, of many many errors to follow. Because in fact, there is no such thing.  That’s right. Anaemia is a symptom not a disease and exercise induced anaemia comes in 4 common flavours: Dilutional, Heamolytic, Iron Deficient & Acute Anaemia of Exercise, and knowing the difference is critical to correct management.  Only 1 of them will reliably improve with iron and it needs to be prescribed in a totally novel way. Others will get worse with more iron. Yep. And one is a complete illusion. So when we don’t make the right diagnosis, which of the 4 types your patient actually has, we fail to find the fix. And while all of our patients may not be overly obsessed with improving their performance or even winning, let’s face it, they all want to achieve their PB, that’s why they came to see you.  So can you tell the difference? 

WARNING: I got so enthused about this topic that I went over.  The current ‘Update in Under 30’ is a ‘serving suggestion’ only!  And you may need to speed up your playback to squeeze in another bonus 10 min, if you can only afford your usual 30 min car trip to listen!

Outrunning ‘Athlete’s’ Anaemia

Persistent ‘hard-to-resolve’ anaemia is a common presentation for anyone participating routinely in sport and that can be at any level, not just among the professionals. From our lovely ladies who take up running or CrossFit in their middle-age, to our MIL (men in Lycra) and ‘weekend warriors’, they may love it but their haemoglobin and their iron doesn’t! Anaemia equals reduced oxygen carrying capacity, a concern for anyone interested in optimising their performance but equally relevant to patients just trying to manage their energy throughout the day. In this important episode we identify 4 different types of anaemia seen in patients as a result of exercise, incorrectly lumped together as ‘Athlete’s Anaemia’.  Each type is easy to recognise once you know how and effective treatment of each is remarkably different. This summary and the super handy clinical resource that accompanies it will help you and your patients absolutely outrun it, at last. 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed.
You can purchase March’s episode, Outrunning ‘Athlete’s’ Anaemia here.
For all Update in Under 30 Subscribers, you will find it waiting for you in your online account and don’t forget the **EXTRA BONUS LIVE CALL WITH RACHEL.
**This live Zoom call with Rachel is for current Update in Under 30 Subscribers ONLY. A Q&A session for subscribers on the UU30 episodes released in 2020. Contact the RAN Team to reserve your spot!

 

 

I’ve Internalised The Process

Can you hear that? No it’s not some weird raucous bird-call. That’s me. A fabulous colleague of mine who also happens to be a Master MindMapper (yes it’s an official club now😂) , told me a couple of weeks back that practising naturopaths who don’t use this incredible tool for their case work-up typically say, “Oh, I’ve internalised that!” Well we laughed and laughed and yep even as I write this the giggles are back.  You see between the two of us we have almost half a century of combined clinical experience between us (no telling on who has the bigger share!!) and WE haven’t managed that feat…so we’re wondering what we’re missing (bigger internalised RAM?) or indeed, what they are?!  And naturally, I’m leaning towards the latter.

‘I practise holistically. I am truly integrative’, you say, ‘I consider all levels of evidence in patients, from their narrative to their neurologist’s report – from their bloods to their B vitamin  SNPS – from their detailed diets to their social (dis)connections”  

And I know you do. 

But how on earth amongst all the information overload, that deafening white noise & distractions, can you always see the root cause and every connection?

Because for me, spending the time practising due diligence with the creating a MindMap, after I see every patient, is my reliable path to achieving this.  Not just settling for the reflexive related systems that become well trodden paths in our minds…Gut to Brain (walked that track a million times, right!)…but step by step deepening my understanding of the case, adding layers I couldn’t see or hear at first, to reveal other critical connections that were unexpected.  Gut to Kidney –> Kidney to Brain It’s that time of the year when I’ve (clearly) been talking about MindMapping with my mentees and accordingly, I’m all juiced up!  And my love of this process and skill-set is also getting more layers!  I’ve realised that of course, beyond summarising the case in a truly integrated way, it helps me sift through my differentials, creating effectively a to-do-list about what things need follow-up assessment via questions, validated surveys, or testing.  It also keeps me (and patients) accountable moving forward, as I come back to this over months and years while they remain in my care and I have to answer the question: did we address that?

This Master MindMapper Mate – she’s gone 1 GIANT step further, dedicating (virtually) the next few years of her life to writing a thesis on Complexity Science and, in part, how holistic medicine has now finally found its friend in science via this progressive model.  

And MindMapping, and timelines and other key tools for genuinely integrated patient work-up, are the things that enable us to consistently uphold our holistic principles and practices and keep pace with the scientific progression. So if you wanna join our club 😂 because you’re already a MindMapping enthusiast don’t forget to contact kim.d.graham@student.uts.edu.au to find out about and ideally participate in her study. And if you’re feeling like the words MindMapping are Martian-speak for something you know nothing about 😥 …then maybe you should check this out.

MindMaps & Timelines – Effective Integrated Patient Work-up

As integrative health practitioners, we pride ourselves on taking in the ‘whole health story’ as a means to accurately identifying all the contributors & connections to each patient’s presenting unwellness.  In the process, we gather a wealth of information from each client  – pathology, medical history, screening tests, diet diaries etc. that borders on information overload and often creates so much ‘noise’, we struggle to ‘hear’ what’s most important. The management of complex patient information and the application of a truly integrative approach, requires due diligence and the right tools. Mindmapping and Timelines are two key tools to help you go from vast quantities of information to a true integrated understanding of what is going on in the case and the more time we spend learning and applying these tools, the more they will write the prescription for you. Not just for today but for the next 6-12mo for that patient.

 

Are You Being Gaslighted?

Ever suspect you’re being gaslighted by your patients’ results?  Especially when their CRP result says, ‘nothing to see here’!  But every other piece of information and every one of your senses tell you they’re inflamed and their immune system is up to something!! Me too.  You probably then look at their other results, their ESR or their white cell count searching out something that supports your hunch, but they too can look disappointingly unremarkable. That’s the moment when you wish life was like a televised sports match and you could check the video evidence rather than believe the mere mortal (and clearly blind!!) man in white on the pitch. Well guess, what…you can. 

Albumin

÷

Globulin

As long as you know how to divide one figure by another using a calculator. I’ve found it requires the same digital dexterity as pushing the ‘on’ button’ on my blender…so if you can make a smoothie, you’re sorted! So while almost every lab routinely reports these two as separate parameters that are also routinely in range…I haven’t seen many that actually do the calculation for you and give you the Albumin:Globulin (AGR) on a platter.  Yet this one step maths transforms the mundane into magic and can reveal almost all to you regarding your patient’s level of immune activation, inflammation and oxidative stress, from the largest number and variety of drivers.  That’s why I call it, 📣The Master Inflammatory Marker 👑

When factoring in your patients pathology results is at its best – it makes the invisible suddenly visible to us.  We could have sat and eyeballed that patient all month and never suspected that their Hcy was too high, or they had antiphospholipid antibodies or, or etc.

But the albumin to globulin ratio goes one step further & trumps the other inflammatory markers we’re so familiar with, because it even sees what they can’t! 

And a low AGR (≤1.2) signals just that to you. So when the patient with joint pains, or just a little bit of belly fat or an emerging yet unnamed autoimmune condition presents exasperated saying, ‘but apparently I’m not even inflamed!’…you can let them know you do see it, and it’s just that others weren’t looking in the right place, then  get busy rolling your sleeves up to move those markers!  That’s right, a low AGR is a clear call to action for practitioners engaged in risk minimisation, prevention and for working towards best outcomes in established disease and  monitoring a patient’s AGR is a series of clear sign-posts about whether you’re leading them in the right direction or not.  There’s a lot more to say on this this third umpire & ripper of a ratio – about kids, the contraceptive pill, confounders, a role in cognitive impairment prevention and what optimal might look like but hey…the cricket’s back on…gotta go 😂

Patients’ labs lie, not often, but sometimes and the inflammatory markers performed routinely like CRP and ESR have been known to tell a few.  Like when everything about a case screams inflammation but both of those say there’s none there.  Why do they miss it?…well basically it’s not their lot.  CRP and ESR have specific signals they only respond to and therefore reflect only certain immune reactions and at specific stages of that response.  But there’s a nifty little calculation you can perform with all of your patients labs and suddenly see the immune activation, inflammation and oxidative stress that was lurking beneath.  It’s called the albumin to globulin ratio and it’s going to change your understanding of what’s going on in your clients and your ability to monitor the efficacy of your management.
The latest Update in Under 30 has landed.
You can purchase February’s episode, Your Master Inflammatory Marker here.
For Update in Under 30 Subscribers you will find it waiting in your online account.
-Your RAN Online Account has a NEW LOOK!!-
Next time your log in, you will experience a more user friendly way to search,
view, listen and download your resources.

 

 

Are You A Sucker For ‘Secret Herbs & Spices’?!

Me neither. I value transparency in all things impacting my health.  So when the ‘Colonel’ tells us the magic is in not knowing…I think….hmmmmmmm, no thanks!

Similarly, when the provider of a test tells us, ‘We’d like to give you independent scientific support for our markers and our method but we just can’t because it’s patented!’…well that’s as good as the so-called ‘Colonel’ and his mysterious unidentified herbs and spices, as far as I’m concerned. 

It’s effectively like they have created for themselves a ‘Get out of jail free card’ but unlike in Monopoly, they can play it over and over again.  Trouble is, as the referring or just ‘reading’ practitioner (many of my patients present with results of these tests in hand) you have to practice either utter blind faith and believe every word that report tells you or you feel like you have to disregard the entire thing because you don’t have the time to sift through every parameter, searching out any independent scientific discussion of their markers, to distinguish fact from fiction.  Utterly exasperating.  Because of course, a test that offers a huge panel of results may consist of both – some of high value, some utter nonsense and some somewhere in between. 

There’s one 24hr urine test from an OS company that I tend to see increasingly and it purports to be able to assess just about everything from gut health, to neurotransmitter levels, to your antioxidant capacity, mitochondrial health and beyond! How is this even possible in one 24 hr non-preserved urine sample that goes off-shore to be analysed? Well they can’t say…it’s a secret. 🤐 Pu-lease!

But always HATING to be the one to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I lose hours of my time, over and over again, trying to determine the worth in this multi-paged report and salvage some value along the way, given these patients’ significant financial outlay.  So it’s handy when the test also professes to accurately determine whether these patients are nutritionally replete for basic vitamins.  Aha!  Now we’re talking! The science of nutritional assessment includes volumes and volumes of studies, reviews, discussion and luckily enough I happen to have a strong foundation in this area and read such research for recreation! Today I am looking at a patient’s results that flag profoundly low Vitamin B6.  Several hours of reading later I can call BS. Seriously. The marker used by the company is urinary pyridoxic acid which is 1) reflective of recent intake only, failing to reflect both tissue levels and coenzyme activity 2) needs to be reviewed in light of protein intake, as high protein produces lower excretion and B2 levels because B2 deficiency will produce a secondary abnormally low B6 in the urine. There’s zero mention of any of these limitations or considerations in the report, sadly 🙁

To boot all the lights and sirens are on for this patient who appears to have such little vitamin C in their urine, they’re at risk of scurvy! That is except for the fact that Vitamin C readily oxidises in urine only to turn into….wait for it….Oxalic acid! So, anyone surprised to hear  she is also reported to have an exceptionally high oxalate load?! 

Secret herbs and spices?  No thanks, I’d prefer science.  As the saying goes, “Keep an open mind but not so open your brain falls out!” Sorry but tough-talkin’ Tuesday is back and it’s gotten all toothy!

Update in Under 30: Oxalate Overload – Assessment and Management

Oxalates are present in many healthy foods and in all healthy people, but when ‘normal’ levels are exceeded they can spell trouble in a whole raft of different ways due to their extensive distribution across the body. Some tissues, however, have more problems than others, especially the urinary system and soft tissue and joints but now there are also questions about oxalates’ relationship with thyroid and breast issues.  We review the latest evidence about the health consequences, blow the lid on accurate assessment for oxalate excess and talk management in this jam-packed update.

 

(Wo)Man Down?

Here’s a newsflash: It’s only mid-February. And if you’re like many of the health professionals I regularly talk to,  currently you’re feeling something akin to jet-lag but rather than just your circadian rhythm being out of sync, it’s bigger than that, it’s your whole calendar rhythm. Your resilience tank is already too close to reserve. Just last week I heard from another Sydney practitioner, ‘that 1st week back seeing patients almost broke me’.  For anyone providing healthcare in Australia or in other parts of the world where the ‘holiday season’ delivered almost everything but a holiday: fires, floods, trauma, tragedy, please understand that your early year fatigue is expected and proportionate. Not only are you dealing with your own circumstances – many of you work in fire & flood affected areas, so not only were you robbed of an opportunity for off-loading your year’s burden, you, in fact, faced a ‘pile on’ – and your waiting rooms are also full from the fallout.

I’m going to make a big call:

No health professional routinely receives enough psychological support given the care we provide and the supportive roles we fill.

While some of us working outside of mainstream medicine, might have a verdant ‘grass is greener’ picture, about the structure and support offered ‘on the other side’, in my conversations with doctors, nurses, midwives etc, I’ve not found that to be true.  My one exception here are psychologists & social workers but I am not sure adequate supervision and support is a universal experience there either.  My point is this:  We need to ensure we get the support we need.  We need to be proactive about organising professional supervision and work-related counselling ourselves. Never has self-care been more crucial. 

And you need to know that your February Fatigue is proportionate, in fact healthy, and that you should not be hiding that from anyone, your colleagues, your patients (sharing only in a considered and constructive way), and least of all yourself.

I heard back from that Sydney practitioner about a week after our conversation and she said,

I’ve been thinking a lot about supporting myself through practice since our talk.. so thanks for the kick up the butt to do more self care on this. the holding space for clients becomes so murky sometimes…
The problems we face as a profession to be holistic practitioners with our traditions and strong philosophy and having that align not only with modern medicine ethos, but entrepreneurship as well is so complicated. It puts way too much stress on us
I’ve been having good conversations with praccie friends in the last week about this.. finding ways to practice how naturopaths do the best work, and not lose the ability to do so through burnout or lack of time… it’s complex…

Please make ensuring you are truly supported, a priority. Imagine yourself on the other side of the desk from you and all the empathy and good advice you would be offering. Listen to it. Any cost associated with formal support is likely to be tax deductible as well but check with your accountant. Choosing to be a health professional, means you are an extraordinary individual with an incredible capacity for high levels of care.  Don’t forget the old one about the putting your own oxygen mask on first and risk becoming the (wo)man down.

 

Is Copper the Culprit in ADHD?

Sometimes I think I must be psychic..or is that psychotic? Don’t answer that, it’s a bad Byron Bay in-joke.  I had literally just recorded my Update in Under 30 Copper in Kids and this excellent new study was published that same week, assessing and comparing trace minerals in age-matched ADHD and neurotypical kids. Snap! First, a moment of panic…because believe it or not, there are very few rigorous studies that have looked into this and so I had already read them all cover to cover and could confidently say, I had a grip on the literature. Gasp…’ will it have a different finding and challenge the much broader story about the excessive demonising of this mineral in kids health?’ Everyone take a big breath out…no. 

But if you’re someone who thinks you’re seeing Copper toxicity in kids, you can keep taking a big breath in and while you’re at it a huge bit of new information:

Copper Excess is Normal in Children.

Every investigation of blood Copper levels in kids has reached the same conclusion and this latest one by a Russian group of researchers renowned for their work in Copper agrees. So the ideas that we have about optimal in terms of mineral balance for adults may stand, but can not and should not be applied to children.  The elusive 1:1 relationship between Cu and Zn, for example, considered aspirational in optimising the mental health of big people, is absolutely not desirable or even healthy, in little ones. Why is it so? I hear you ask (…because you loved those old Cadbury chocolate ads with the crazy Professor as much as I did)  Well, essentially because kids need more Copper than us, as a simple result of their increased growth requirements: blood vessels, bones, brains…Cu is a critical player in them all and more.  And while we (and when I say ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) may be passionately passionate about Zinc’s importance, turns out, in paediatrics, it really does play second fiddle to Cu and should.

This new contribution to the Cu & Zn in ADHD kids debate did find that compared with neurotypical kids, their Cu:Zn was higher BUT – **and this is the really important bit **- as has been shown in a similar cohort before, the shift in relationship between the two was due in fact to lower Zinc levels NOT higher Copper. 

So, I guess when you think about it…Zinc perhaps really does still deserve all our loving attention we give it 😂…we just need to rethink the whole negative attention we tend to mistakenly give Copper! 

Copper, as a kingpin in angiogenesis, brain & bone building & iron regulation is a critical mineral during paediatric development. So much so, the kind of blood levels we see in a primary schooler might cause alarm if we saw them in an adult. So too their Zn:Cu.  But higher blood Copper and more Copper than Zinc are not just healthy but perhaps necessary during certain paediatric periods.  This recording redefines normal, low and high with a great clinical desktop tool to help you better interpret these labs, as well as reviewing the top causes and consequences of both types of Copper imbalance in kids. 
The latest Update in Under 30 has landed. You can purchase January’s episode, Copper in Kids here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
-Your RAN Online Account has a NEW LOOK!!-
Next time your log in, you will experience a more user friendly way to search, view, listen and download your resources. Find out what’s new here.

 

‘Copper Excess’ In A Child?!….Really??

Copper deficiency happens in kids, so does copper toxicity and both are serious concerns, but do we know when to accurately call either?  First, we have to know ‘normal’. If we know what normal Serum Copper values look like in children, then we can easily spot those falling below or above this, right? That’s the first hurdle we tend to knock over and break a toe on!  Being a mineral whose levels vary widely in soil from country to country, globally, the differences in reference ranges are breathtaking & absurd. Add to that, that copper is a key mineral in kids, driving huge demand for it during key periods of development, so the range for pre-schoolers isn’t the same as the primary or high schoolers – not that your lab is flagging that. Unhelpful? Yes.  Dangerous, even? Potentially.

To diagnose ‘Copper Excess’ in a child is a big call to make.

One, because most practitioners are unaware just how much Copper a child really needs at each age & two, high copper is often a messenger for something else going on and then three,  the primary objective based on this diagnosis becomes to lower their Copper but we could be either shooting the messenger or missing the mark all together…right?

Copper excess does happen but not nearly as often as practitioners believe it does.  And in kids, the fall-out from such misdiagnosis is bigger. And missing a Copper deficiency? (because we’re not as well-trained to recognise it and because Copper has been sadly demonised)  Likely to have myriad negative impacts at this vulnerable age…almost none of which generate symptoms or a distinct clinical picture e.g. secondary iron deficiency, low neutrophils without necessarily compromised immunity.  But what about the holy grail get-out of jail adjective: ‘relative’. You know, ‘this is at least a Copper excess relative to their Zinc?’

Well, to form this opinion you’re likely calculating the Zn:Cu ratio and applying an ideal adult value of 1:1 but show me the primary evidence that supports this for kids…anywhere?  The Zn & Cu relationship shifts as we move through life-stages and in fact Copper is supposed to dominate through a lot of our childhood so…ummmmm…no.

HTMA Copper side-steps all of this?..double no.

I used to make the same mistake re Zn:Cu, I may have even taught you this?!🤦‍♀️  But as so often happens, a week spent in all the original scientific data and I’ve emerged a changed practitioner! Having been part of perpetuating this problematic premise in the past, I am determined to get the correct message out there to as many practitioners as possible.  So help me spread the word on Copper in Kids – by telling others that this mineral is so critical to kids compared with adults, they will often have higher levels than ‘us’ and that until you’ve applied the right age-appropriate reference range and ruled out confounders you can’t possibly make a call on Copper. I mean, we kind of knew this all along, with healthy pregnancy Copper values being exponentially higher being a giant clue. Turns out kids’ ‘Copper Age’ extends way beyond the womb.

Copper, as a kingpin in angiogenesis, brain & bone building & iron regulation is a critical mineral during paediatric development. So much so, the kind of blood levels we see in a primary schooler might cause alarm if we saw them in an adult. So too their Zn:Cu.  But higher blood Copper and more Copper than Zinc are not just healthy but perhaps necessary during certain paediatric periods.  This recording redefines normal, low and high with a great clinical desktop tool to help you better interpret these labs, as well as reviewing the top causes and consequences of both types of Copper imbalance in kids. 
The latest Update in Under 30 has landed. You can purchase January’s episode, Copper in Kids here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
-Your RAN Online Account has a NEW LOOK!!-
Next time your log in, you will experience a more user friendly way to search, view, listen and download your resources. Find out what’s new here.

 

Putting Young Heads on Old Shoulders

Do you know this saying but the other way round? My dad said it often enough and always with such an exasperated tone that it’s got its own dedicated lobe in my brain. Almost. Lately, however, I’ve been reflecting on how much I learn from people younger than me, both patients and practitioners and think we need to flip it!  I love the way that young people (oh lordy I just used the term, ‘young people’!!) can be incredibly solution-oriented, seemingly undaunted by the perceived barriers that tend to affect us older folk. A perfect example of this really is a young naturopath who previously worked for me, an absolute gun who seemed fearless in the face of any challenge who used to say, “my real super-power is forming the perfect Google search term” 😂 Of course this was totally under-selling her cleverness but I take the point that this is skill-set that us older peeps may be a little short on!

I really enjoy my consults with my Gen Y patients too for similar reasons.  Check out this recent exchange with a 20 something female when I asked about her supplement compliance:

“Yeah, I use an app to remind me to take all the supplements and that gives me a weekly report so I know I’m usually about 80% compliant. I’ve dropped off a lot over the holidays but I’m getting back into it now. So I’ll wait til I’m back up to 80% to do these next bloods, right, because that would be pretty representative and show us the effect of what I am actually taking”

Are you hearing this?!  How incredibly clever!  One: she found an app (Medsafe) because she knows herself and she knows apps work for her! (and by the way, she said…yeah so the government probably now has this data as well but really, they had it anyway!) Two: she knows that it’s not human nature to be consistently consistent with compliance with anything, so more importantly she aims for doable, sustainable and therefore representative!! I myself even find myself delaying the pathology sometimes, erroneously thinking, oh I wasn’t at my absolute best this week!! 🤦‍♀️Dang, I wish I was that smart in my 20s. I may have saved a lot of sun-damaged skin, some serious $ and my dad many many headaches!

And my New Grad mentees, not all of them young by the way (!), but all new to the profession, when you check out their social sites, their business models and hear the life experience/past work they’re bringing together for exciting new hybrid offerings, it’s a quick reminder that wisdom isn’t a one-way street!

Want to know how else we can get smarter regarding your patient’s pathology?

As my patient points out, we should never put off getting labs done, waiting for 100% compliance.  It may never come and if it does…it’s likely only fleeting and therefore any results in this context will be too! What are you and your patients missing in relation to their blood tests – like when to have the blood tests done in relation to food, exercise, alcohol etc  Beware of Bad Bloods! Occasionally, the fault of the pathology company but much more often the fault of the patient and the referring practitioner, who has not educated the patient correctly about what to do and not do prior to blood collection for certain tests. This recording clearly describes the 7 classic give-away patterns of ‘Bad Bloods’ which will enable you to spot them fast in the future.  In addition to this.  while we are unlikely to know the idiosyncrasies of very lab our patients will ever have done, knowing the ideal collection times and conditions for the most common ones assists you and your patients to avoid any in the future – handy clinic resource included.

You can hear all about it and download the resource when you purchase Beware of Bloods here.

So, What Kind Of Drunk Are You?

I know, timing, huh?! It’s almost like I’ve been sniffing around your recycling bins but I didn’t need to of course, at this time of year it’s a fairly safe bet you’re madly winding it back a tad from your most outrageous annual alcohol imbibing. And so are all our patients.  To me, extracting accurate information succinctly from patients regarding their alcohol use can be one slippery little sucker. It’s one of the questions people tend to give you a very tidied up answer to, or in fact they’re in such denial they can’t be considered a reliable witness.  Think about it.  Being a non-habitual drinker myself, I can appear almost saintly when reporting my daily consumption, “None”…but that omits the ‘other me’ that might show up at a conference gala dinner or some live music event, with my volume controls adjusted significantly up…ergh…firsthand accounts anyone? And how often does that happen?  Well anywhere between 4 times a week and once a month.  See what I mean?

While I’m sure you’ve probably heard me say before, I ask every patient who does drink, what kind of drunk they are because it can hint at their underlying neurobiology, there is a new study that suggests, using a very short 4 item UCLA RRHDS survey, we can categorise patients alcohol use and misuse into 3 types:

Reward  Relief Habit

and in doing so, also be better able to identify the best way to manage them as well.

I’ve been interested in addiction neurobiology for a long time and very much resonate with the work of Koob, which in layman’s terms proposes that we seek intoxication initially for the ‘high’ and then with dependence, we continue to seek it to appease the terrible lows of withdrawal.  It has long been known that alcohol use disorder is heterogeneous – there are different types and accordingly the kind of generalised treatment of these individuals proves extremely hit and miss. But articulating the different types and their distinct drivers and solutions has been fraught. Like what makes one alcoholic the functional type who in addition to their long-lunches is a CEO and the one who can’t keep their job?  Is it just socioeconomic context or something more?  Why are some types of alcoholism deemed also to run more in families and while others aren’t? There are clearly major difference in pathophysiology but what are they?  More recently these 3 groups have emerged and this recent study confirms the value particularly in the distinction between those who drink driven by reward and those for relief + habit. It’s a great read but here are some key take-homes:

Relief Habit

These individuals drink to cope or resolve a negative experience and therefore a driven by negative reinforcement. As a group they present with more depressive features and have more anxious traits than those ‘reward drinkers’. So the key to managing these patients is to offer treatment that also appeases their negative physical and psychological experiences with sedation, anxiolytics, glutamatergic modulation. (Hint this is where Taurine really shines, in this group!!)

Reward

These individuals drink to feel good so they are driven by positive reinforcement and therefore the approach to the helping them should be quite different, with lifestyle recommendations that offer other options for  mood elevation such as exercise etc as well and herbal and nutritional approaches.( Hint hint…not the key group for Taurine, more like Tyrosine and Saffron etc)

So….back to my question…what kind of drunk are you? As a nation of over-consumers by nature, this is a question we need to ask all our patients

Mastering Mental Health: New Assessments and Management Resources in Your Clinic (2hrs)

Rachel introduces you to new clinical tools that has been developing to help us all better master the maze of mental health. With so many possible biological drivers: from methylation to inflammation and from gonads to gut, these tools can help you quickly identify those most relevant to each patient and also outline the strategies necessary for redressing these. This presentation comes with an extensive library of resources including pdf of Assessments Tools and Case Study Notes.

New Goals & Some Good News (At Last!) in Gilbert’s Syndrome

 

Earlier this year at a Mental Health Training for IM doctors, 3 practitioners (myself, a doctor & a psychiatrist) walked into a bar…not really, but we did each present a case study of challenging patient & in whom we had some great outcomes. All 3 patients presented happened to have Gilbert’s Syndrome.  Just in case you’re wondering if there was a secret Gilbert Syndrome Conference you didn’t get an invite to, no.  Or that perhaps there was premeditation and intention on the organisers behalf for a bit of sub-theme and focus, no.  While this was purely coincidental it does speak rather loudly to a couple of things though.

Patients with Gilbert’s syndrome are likely to be over-represented in our client base especially among those presenting with psychiatric and/or gut issues (and both presentations frustratingly for them, very hard to diagnose, define, pigeon hole etc) and secondly, even though their genes underpin their biological susceptibility to such health problems, great outcomes are really possible.

One of the challenges comes from the medical dismissiveness of this genetic issue as simply ‘benign hyperbilirubinemia’.  This has lead to a lack of diagnosis in patients affected and when it is incidentally picked up on routine bloods, a lack of follow up education about what having approx. 30% less phase 2 glucuronidation activity, in their gut and their liver, is really likely to mean, not to mention radically altered bile composition and digestion (!) and how they can make better choices in light of this. Similarly this year in our Mental Health Specialist Mentoring Group, the issue of reduced efficacy and tolerance of  psychiatric medications, in those with Gilbert’s, raised its head over and over again.  Given that so many drugs within the psychiatric class add at the very least to the ‘substrate load’ of the UGT system, if not frankly inhibit some members of this enzyme family,  as this paper (check out Table 2…superb!) shared by my colleague, Kate Worsfold, points out, it actually shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But there is a change a’coming with an influx of research leading to improved understanding of this seemingly mercurial malady, resolving many riddles, identifying new key ways to help these patients and at last….some exceptionally good news for those with Gilbert’s.

For example, when I started this conversation back in 2013 with the Update in Under 30 Gilbert’s Girls, that was in response to seeing so many women at the time presenting with significant imbalances in both their sex hormones and their neurobiology as a result of their UGT impairment.  But of course it was never meant to imply GS is just a girl thing!  In fact there is a 3:1 dominance of men with this condition and some very good reasons as to why: more red blood cells and more testosterone…the former being the primary source of bilirubin and the later a terrifically powerful UGT inhibitor. The news from the research frontier is nothing short of thrilling, rewriting our thoughts on what medications and supplements (!!) are the most problematic, improved dietary management, how to track their progress more accurately and why completely normalising their bilirubin is not the goal…hey did someone say…longer telomeres?! 😉

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed: Gilbert’s – New Goals and Good News and my team has gone all out in producing a brilliant desktop reference to go with this recording that aids better understanding and clear treatment aims for your GS patients.

You can purchase Gilbert’s: New Goals & Good News here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
**But if you’re just joining us & this important conversation now,
ideally get the basics and backstory first and purchase all 3 key episodes in
‘A Guide to Gilbert’s Package’
-Your RAN Online Account has a NEW LOOK!!-
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We Know – But Do They?

When a teenage girl presents seeking her first oral contraceptive pill (OCP) script, what information is she privy to that enables her to make an informed decision? Read the insert inside the box? Please. Which 50 year old, let alone 15 year old does that? Forget it! What might her doctor tell her? Perhaps about clotting risk, as part of their determination of the suitability of this form of contraception for her but is there any discussion about the potential for adverse mood effects? A recent study of over 1,000 teenage girls followed over more than a decade adds to other evidence that suggests this should be flagged as a consideration prior to the prescription being written.

Most integrative health practitioners not only know about the potential negative impact on mood from OCP use in women but we’ve observed firsthand the havoc it has wreaked in some teenage girls’ and women’s lives.

A very experienced practitioner I know says, ‘if I am hearing mood instability and then I see a significantly elevated serum copper and or cortisol in these girls that’s when I just say to have to say to them, you know I don’t think this is the best contraception for you!’

This latest study did not find higher rates of depression across all OCP users in this group of 16-25 year olds but when they looked at this at different ages they found its use increased depression scores and was associated specifically with more crying, eating problems and hypersomnia. The discussion around the enhanced vulnerability at this younger age compared with older girls centres on the relative immaturity of their CNS. But wait, I hear you critical thinking clinicians ask, perhaps those teenage girls had more depressive features prior to starting the OCP.  Good thinking 99! And the answer is…maybe…but the relationship goes both ways: from the related Medscape Continuing Medical Educational Activity

“For 16-year-old girls, the association was weakened after adjusting for depressive symptoms before use of OCPs, but the findings remained significant. This suggests that the relationship between OCP use and depressive symptoms could be bidirectional…For instance, 16-year-old OCP users were more sexually active and had more stressful events, as well as more menstruation-related pain and acne, than their counterparts in the nonuser group. Analyses showed that all these factors weakened the association, although none diminished it.”

The commentary surrounding this latest study is essentially 1) this is not the first study to find an association and others have been more able to demonstrate that COCP use predated the mood disorder in those affected and 2) those exhibiting higher depressive scores did not actually score strongly for anhedonia or sadness which are the most typical features in adult depression – so perhaps we are missing some of these negatively impacted young women.  Awareness regarding reproductive psychology is rapidly growing and in Australia we are fortunate to have emerging hubs to seek help and specialist advice in this area, such as the important work of Professor Jayashri Kulkarni and colleagues out of the Women’s Mental Health Clinic.  I’ve referred patients, both when a patient’s mental health appears to be caused or aggravated by use of hormonal agents but which they can’t not use for various reasons and for those small number of women in whom I feel hormonal management may in fact offer a psychiatric solution. So again I am asking, while we know & mainstream medicine increasingly knows about this association…who’s telling these young women?

What’s the OCP really doing? An update on the physiological impact 
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?

We’re all aware that in theory OCP use correlates with a range of elevated risks but in reality many females will make the decision that the pros, in terms of contraception or control of acne etc., outweigh the cons.  What if we could provide more individualised advice by looking to their pathology results and identifying and quantifying specific danger signs for each individual?  This approach enables us to better support patients who chose this form of contraception and to accurately identify those that should be be encouraged to find other safer options more biochemically suited to them. Learn more here.

Does Holistic Health Include The Hardest Workers?

Did someone explain the kidneys are like a really important, not to be forgotten, under-estimated, ignored or under-valued kind of organ in your training as a naturopath? No, me neither.  I mean I know Buchu and Uva and Zea (on a first name basis only, clearly!) and …no actually, I’m done.  But seriously, it didn’t take too long in practice to stumble across a whole lot of bad when kidneys aren’t getting the attention they warrant and equally to develop a slight obsession with renal markers in all of my patients not just because of their incredible impact on whole health but also because of what ‘lay beneath’.

As you might suspect, I get sent labs all the time from practitioners. Stop no! That is not an invitation!   

Often it’s client’s renal markers which I do appreciate because it tells me there is an increasing number of praccies that absolutely have done some post-grad DIY knowledge building about these bean-shaped babies and their critical contribution to health. The results might come with a question like, “What’s going on with their kidneys?!” [insert worried face emoji of choosing] 

To which my reply is often… “not much but boy do we need to talk about your patient’s GIT microbiome! [or] mental health! [or] sarcopenia!”

Say what?  Yes abnormalities within the renal markers: urea, creatinine and uric acid may be a reflection of renal issues.  But if you know where each of these molecules enters the blood,exits the body and all the interesting good & bad they can get up to in between…then the patterns speak less (if at all in some instances) to what’s going down in the kidneys but instead give you an incredible insight into key issues all over the body: from the gut to the brain.  But wait there’s more!  Want to know what’s the latest and greatest in management of advanced renal disease? Treat the gut to lower the urea.  What about managing mania? Add in a gout treatment to lower uric acidDang!  This is holistic health at its best with those poor kidneys no longer being left out in the cold!

“Who knew urea, creatinine, GFR and uric acid could be such a Goldmine….Mind…officially…blown!” New Graduate Mentee 2019

Want an Opportunity for ‘XXX sized’ up-skilling in Renal Markers & Health?

Most practitioners graduated with not much more than a few ‘kidney’ herbs and an under-appreciation of the contribution renal health makes to wellbeing. It’s not just about waste and water.  In reality, the kidneys are pivotal in just about every major element: blood, bones, pH balance, methylation, control of oxidative stress, the GIT microbiome and more!  And we are seeing the impact of this in our patients in all sorts of subtle and not so subtle presentations.  This new instalment in diagnostics, brings the renal system into the spotlight so we can confidently identify and better manage its critical contribution.  In addition to this, just like with other routine labs such as LFTs, we unpack how these so-called ‘renal markers’ can flag a plethora of other insights into your patients, from reflecting (un)healthy muscle mass to calculating  individual dietary protein adequacy, from key ‘danger and distress’ signals in response to disturbed metabolism, oxidative stress to certain types of GIT dysbiosis!  We call this Renal Markers: Explained, Expanded and Exploded because these routine labs can deliver XXX sized insights into your patients.

Are You Going Hot & Cold On Thyroid Cases?

What’s the most common thyroid disease you’re seeing in practice?  Nope, try again. I’m serious.  There would be very few of us who’d get this right without cheating. It’s nodules.  Current figures suggest 1/2 of all us middle-agers have them and by the time we’re 80 that’s risen to 90%!  There’s a school of thought that says these figures have jumped purely because of increased rates of thyroid imaging and we should stop sticking our nose in places it doesn’t belong. Just because they are there doesn’t mean we need to know about them or that they are causing trouble. All this is true and yet there is a percentage of patients for whom these nodules are a whole lot of trouble, in fact, that’s why they’re coming to see you…they (& possibly you!) just don’t know it yet.

Nodules, outside of radiation exposure, have always been primarily viewed as a nutritional deficiency disease: Iodine.  While this was always a bit one-dimensional (poor selenium…when will you ever get your due?) it’s an explanation that no longer fits as well as it once did because even in populations who have addressed iodine deficiency, the incidence of nodules continues to rise. 

So, what now?

New nutritional drivers have been identified but rather than being about our deficiencies they speak to our nutritional excesses.  And while iodine is not totally out of a job here, some people of course are still experiencing long-term suboptimal iodine which can trigger nodule development, we now need to question if there is any therapeutic role for iodine once the nodules are established. Well the answer is both ‘yes, maybe’ and ‘absolutely not’. The determinant being whether we’re dealing with Hot or Cold Unfortunately most patients and therefore their practitioners can’t tell the difference. But it is the presence or absence of a hot nodule that radically changes what complementary medicines you can and can’t use and what an effective treatment plan looks like.  

I’ve seen a lot of thyroid nodule cases pop up in mentoring this year and it’s been a great learning opportunity for everyone to get comfortable with clues in both patients’ presentation & their pathology. While iodine deficiency no longer ‘fits’ like it did, nutritional medicine should arguably remain the primary approach to their management and the new research gives even more credence to this and  identifies a far greater range of dietary and supplemental tools.

Thyroid nodules are going to explain a surprising number of our subclinical (hypo and hyper) thyroid patients and we already have a dispensary full of powerful interventions but we need to start by familiarising ourselves with their story: their why (they happen), their what (this means for patients) and their how (on earth are we going to address these effectively) Knowing your Hot from your Cold…is step one.

 An increasing number of our patients have thyroid concerns but unbeknown to many of us the most likely explanation of all is thyroid nodules, whose incidence is on the rise globally.The development of nodules has always been primarily viewed as a nutritional disease. Traditionally attributed to chronic iodine deficiency but recently novel nutritional causes have emerged . Benign nodules come in 2 flavours: hot and cold and while patients can present with a mixture, it is the presence or absence of a hot nodule that radically changes what complementary medicines you can and can’t use and what an effective treatment plan looks like.  The pointers, as is often the case, are there for us in the patient’s presentation and pathology, so knowing the difference is no longer a guessing game. This UU30 comes with a great visual clinical resource and includes key papers on the nutritional management of nodules.
You can purchase Are You Running Hot and Cold on Thyroid Nodules here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
*****Your RAN Online Account has a NEW LOOK!!*****
Next time your log in, you will experience a more user friendly way to search, view, listen and download your resources. Find out what’s new here.

Will Hair Testing Nail Your Patient’s Nickel Problem?

How might your patients’ Nickel exposure wreak havoc with their health?  What might that look like?  It may be lurking behind labels like IBS, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, contact dermatitis of unknown origin,(with or without alopecia) or even CFS. “Then how does Nickel, which can’t even claim fame as a heavy metal, manage such diverse detrimental effects’? I hear you ask. In 3 easy steps 1) exposure…we’re all exposed, Ni is ubiquitous in our soil, our food, our environment so don’t bother trying to run from it 2) it hits our gut where our microbiome and intestinal lining may constitute the first fallen soldiers 3) exposure to our immune system can lead to sensitisation, and the subsequent development of a hypersensitivity response to each following exposure …and at worst precipitation of an autoimmune process.  You got all that?

So therein lies the big question: how can we help patients whose health problems stem from Noxious Nickel? We could run and hide…from our jewellery, our mobile phones, dental interventions, most food (!), but we’d be wasting our time…we’re surrounded!

As always, we go back to the science and we find others have done the work for us. Not google though.  Google ‘low nickel diet’ and like ‘low oxalate diet’, you’re likely to get a whole heap of hogwash!  How reassuring then that there is a validated dietary scoring tool to assist patients lower their dietary Nickel and that numerous other studies can show us the way in terms of use of mineral balancing strategies, probiotics etc.  These resources plus more are all included in the latest Update in Under 30: Noxious Nickel part 2 as well as a discussion of what assessments we have available to confirm nickel as the culprit.  But here’s something for free: hair nickel concentration (HTMA) is not by any means diagnostic in these cases, because it’s not necessarily about an issue of overall higher exposure it’s about an aberrant immune response to Nickel at any level.  Just saying.  You know me….not scared of controversy in the pursuit of improved patient outcomes. Ok a bit scared… 😁

In this instalment it’s time to get down and dirty and detailed about how to best identify those patients who may have Nickel related pathology and presentations.  We cover testing options, typical systems affected from GIT to autoimmunity and the most extreme form: Systemic Nickel Allergy Syndrome. We outline Nickel management strategies in a world full of it (!) and we include several key papers for additional resources and support. How noxious is Nickel for some of your patients?  Well by the end of this you’ll know and better still, know what to do once that’s established.
Hear all about it by listening to my latest Update in Under 30:
For all Update in Under 30 Subscribers, it’s now available in your online account and if you are not a subscriber you can purchase this individually here.

NEW Dear Doctor – Upskilling in Referral Writing & Inter-Professional Communications

 

Our knowledge is subject to constant change, and it is oh so necessary to stay up to date in our field for a bazillion reasons, give or take a few 😉 So sometimes we can feel like we need eight arms (for the visual amongst us) to manage and keep up with it all. However, if we ‘use the force’ together we are stronger, learn faster and can stop with the whole ‘recreating the wheel thingo’ that so many practitioners find themselves doing out there in solo practice.  Like, like…well, how confident do you feel about putting pen to paper? How good are you at your inter-professional communicating?  

 

*Cue* the release of a brand spanking new version of our
 “Dear Doctor – Upskilling in Referral Writing & Inter-Professional Communications”

 

Referrals and inter-professional communication are just lightly touched on in the current undergraduate degrees (if at all!). But it’s actually such an important way to grow your own professional reputation while simultaneously the credibility of our whole profession.  One might even argue, a pillar that stabilises the castle of shared patient-centred care & the future of true integrative health. I hear from my “New Graduates” as well as seasoned mentees about the unease that starts to creep in at the thought of writing the dreaded referral letter.  I’ve been writing referral letters for 20+ years and it’s given me a lot of time to think! And refine.  And refine again!  To make inter-professional care a positive experience for everyone, we need to correct some misperceptions and ensure that our patients are everyone’s priority. And to fulfil our duty of care, communicating with the other practitioners on your patient’s healthcare team is fundamental. Sometimes, as you’ll learn, it’s about modelling the best kind of shared care to boot and being the bigger person 😉

 

Better still, positive experiences of inter-professional communication will bring collaborators out of the woodwork.  Medicos and other allied health professionals you may never have been aware of otherwise, with a desire and openness to shared care tend to rise to the surface.

 

To get you even more excited about referral letters (you didn’t think that was going to be possible, right?!) and unlearn that Pavlovian procrastination you may have developed, Rachel has completely redesigned an older presentation to ensure it’s truly reflective of the contemporary healthcare landscape (oh yes, RACGP position statement included!). Expect to roll up your sleeves and get seriously practical advice with loads of examples about how to medico-speak naturopathic concepts, explain your role in the patient’s care, provide rationale for consideration of investigations and present ‘red flags’ with punch but minus the sensationalism.  And above all else, reveal yourself as the asset you really are to the rest of the healthcare team.

“Thank you so much for a wonderful presentation yesterday, Rachel. It gave me a new perspective on how it must feel as a GP to receive incessant demands from Naturopaths/Nutritionists to order pathology for their clients. I am in awe of your integrity, desire for patient empowerment, humility and respect for other professionals in the mainstream health arena. I felt that every single naturopath and nutritionist out in the big wide world ought to have listened to your insightful words of wisdom when it comes to shared care of our clients. We are blessed to have you as our teacher.”  – Michelle Blum (Mentee 2019) 

If you’re interested in integrative care, want to learn the language of letter writing and follow Rachel’s SMART objectives to craft your comms and communicate clearly then you should take a listen to “Dear Doctor – Upskilling in Referral Writing & Inter-Professional Communications”

Tomatoes, Legumes, Nuts…A Nickel For Your Thoughts?

 

Remember when I said you say tomatoes… equal histamine but I say, well maybe oxalates, maybe Nickel? So in the UU30 released just last week How Noxious is Nickel we get down and dirtily detailed with just why Nickel, which is almost ubiquitous in soils and therefore the food and water we consume, may prove to be a catalyst for change in the digestive systems of our patients and beyond. While we humans don’t have any actual use for this metal, many bacteria do and this means in a Nickel rich diet or environment, some will thrive and others struggle, potentially creating unrest in our very own microbiotic megacity.

It’s bigger & broader than this though, with Ni triggered contact allergies not just possible on the skin like we commonly see for some individuals with cheap jewellery.  The gastrointestinal lining may also manifest a similar reaction. Yes, you heard me right.

What would this look like?   Well, a patient who ‘reacts to’ tomatoes, legumes, nuts maybe and given the chance (!) chocolate cake with icing especially, which happens to be highest containing Ni food documented 👀 Someone who has been given an IBS label, or has even been diagnosed with gastritis.  Still a non-believer?  Check out these papers to get you started The labyrinth of potential food reactions makes us dizzy yet again!  We seriously need a map and compass to find our way through this with patients! 

While nickel sits rather benignly among its mineral mates in the transition metals of the periodic table, it is a metal that humans are constantly exposed to yet have no need for. What could possibly go wrong?  Well, a lot it seems. Nickel is the most prevalent metal allergen worldwide and beyond this, there is strong evidence of its potential to trigger autoimmunity, major endocrine pathology and a raft of GIT problems that masquerade as other conditions like IBS & NCGS.  This episode captures the dance we all do with the ‘Devil’s Copper’ and why some of our patients are likely to end up with a bigger dose and a much bigger disease picture as a result of noxious nickel.
For all Update in Under 30 Subscribers, it’s now available in your online account and if you are not a subscriber you can purchase this individually here.

Are You Dancing With The ‘Devil’s…Copper’?

 

KupfernickelIt’s the original German name for Nickel and it literally translates to ‘Copper Nickel’  which inferred it to be the ‘Devil’s Copper’. There’s an interesting story behind this of course and lo and behold the explanation (as is often the case with minerals and metals) is revealed by looking at where Nickel sits in the periodic table.  Haven’t heard me rave on before about how all the key nutritional relationships are illustrated in that cornerstone of chemistry?? Where have you been?! Nickel is a transition metal and that tells us many things – including that its key relationships and interactions are likely to be with Iron, Cobalt, Zinc and Copper.  And guess what? It’s all true.  Still, I’ve had another Nickel-centric chemistry lesson of late because I actually had not the slightest appreciation of how noxious this can make it for us humans.

It started with one patient then, as is always the way, I’ve had about 3 in the past few months: predominantly women, some with ‘known’ nickel allergies, in the form of jewellery-related dermatitis and sometimes not, many with significant gut disturbance (IBS like, non-infectious gastritis) and most with early or advanced autoimmunity.

And the vast amount of scientific literature on the prevalence of Ni allergy (conservative figures suggest 15% population with a very high female:male) and its capacity to go beyond the ‘cosmetic’ and trigger gross immunological aberrations in Th1 cells, well, the case for Noxious Nickel is one of those things that once you see it, you can’t ‘unsee’, ever.  Think if you or your patients have never had an issue with wearing cheap jewellery we can rule this one out? Think again.  While the jewellery reaction might be the helpful clue in some patients, there are also 3 other ways that the old Kupfernickel may be undermining your health. And yes!  The fact that contact dermatitis to nickel-containing silver jewellery is such a common issue tells us straight up, that its absorbed via our skin, think: watches, mobile phones, e-cigarettes, hair clips, and…yes I am having another crack at these again…tattoos! We also inhale and consume it via a wide variety of food and drink we consume. Oh and did I mention dental interventions, yet? 👀 Sheesh….

So while we all accept humans have zero requirement for Nickel, it’s in us all the time and the question is (always) how each individual inner chemistry lab (!) is interacting with it and to what extent this may explain some pretty potent health problems, from GIT disturbance to Hashimotos and from skin conditions and alopecia to CFS & Fibromyalgia-like conditions.

My latest Update in Under 30: How Noxious is Nickel – highlights the fundamentals of Nickel in terms of our sources of exposure and who is most susceptible and just how this can play out as a driver of disease.  Next month we move onto our testing options, drilling down into the myriad signs & symptoms and how to effectively manage the patient dancing with the Devil’s Copper.  This one has been a real ‘sleeper’ for me, but it’s time to wake the beast for us all 👀

While nickel sits benignly among its mineral mates in the transition metals of the periodic table, it is a metal that humans are constantly exposed to yet have no need for. What could possibly go wrong?  Well, a lot it seems. Nickel is the most prevalent metal allergen worldwide and beyond this there is strong evidence of its potential to trigger autoimmunity, major endocrine pathology and a raft of GIT problems that masquerade as other conditions like IBS & NCGS.  This episode captures the dance we all do with the ‘Devil’s Copper’ and why some of our patients are likely to end up with a bigger dose and a much bigger disease picture as a result of noxious nickel.

 

Hear all about it by listening to my latest Update in Under 30: 
For all Update in Under 30 Subscribers, it’s now available in your online account and if you are not a subscriber you can purchase this individually here.

Is A Diagnosis Always Helpful?

 

If you know me, you may wonder if I’ve recently undergone a personality bypass.  I am passionate about diagnostics, pride myself on ‘making the invisible visible’ through better understanding of pathology markers and confirming the true nature of the underpinning problem in order to be most effective in our management of every client. And I absolutely see that for the majority of patients ‘ knowledge is power’, so what on earth is this all about?  Well, while I stand by my stubborn commitment to diagnostic sleuthing for ‘most patients most of the time’, there are occasions when I’m left wondering about the value and the likely outcome should we finally catch that elusive diagnosis by its tail…case in point:

Recently I’ve been aware of a bit of  spike in ‘diagnosing’ Ehlers Danlos Syndrome for patients who present with myriad problems – from the text-book connective tissue issues (loose joints, hypermobility etc) to the seemingly more far flung like mast-cell activation syndrome and overactive pelvic floors.

Just so happens this ended up being a thought-provoking 3 way conversation.  Got to love having so many wise women’s email ear..and especially such generous ones.  First, I ran this case and the differential past the wisest dual qual physio/naturopath I know Alyssa Tait who specialises in pelvic conditions and any and every other bizarre – no-one-else-could-name-it, kind of conditions. And her response, breathtakingly comprehensive and punctuated by copious journal articles throughout as always, proceeded to flesh out the evidence for and against the more unusual patient features and the possibility of EDS from bladder irritability (maybe) to functional GIT disorders (definite maybe) to the dysautonomia link (patchy).  But it was what she said next that struck a deep cord for me:

“This happened recently to me when I referred a very difficult  Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS) patient to a GP – suddenly she had EDS as the answer to all her problems. But we can’t change genetics. All we can change is the function, and I have seen a worrying pattern of blaming the unchangeable (EDS) at the expense of looking for the changeable (e.g. an EDS patient of mine who actually had low thyroid function which had been over-looked.)

My feeling is it’s better to evaluate and treat what we see. As soon as we start giving our patients a litany of all the possible horrible ways their health is/will be pervasively affected by a completely unchangeable genetic reality (EDS), it’s a major “thought virus” that can both reinforce the “sick person” self-image and negatively impact their health-seeking behaviour – either by making them give up, ‘cause it’s all too overwhelming, or to follow an infinite journey through rabbit holes that make health their hobby rather than experiencing their life and relationships to the full.”

So back I went to the original practitioner who was contemplating chasing this EDS diagnosis in her patient and she was not short on some of her own wisdom.  Like many people who end up working in health Gabby battled her way out of her own ‘no-one-cold name-it’ health crisis before training to be a naturopath. So understandably she sees both sides:

“As a terrified 20 something who kept ending up in the emergency ward with flares – I desperately wanted to know what was wrong with me, why it was happening, why I was in so much pain and why at the time no-one could tell me. I remember being about 28 asking my Prof (of immunology) whether what I had was going to kill me. He said ‘If you want me to be honest I’m really not sure at the moment darling but I’ll do my absolute best to take care of you’. That answer changed my life. Now as a Nat with a history of chronic conditions – I can see managing the symptoms is probably really all you need plus regular monitoring. Which is what I do for myself and many of my clients. The hurdle is getting over the lack of trust these clients feel after years and YEARS of being misdiagnosed and fearing for their lives.”
So..I’m asking us all again..is a diagnosis always helpful?  Perhaps with each patient we need to think this through afresh? Thanks wise women 😉
There’s a significant increase in the number of women in their 20s to 50s presenting with ‘atypical’ joint pain, that seems hard for specialists to diagnose and therefore, hard for any of us to know how best to treat. If we listen closely to these patients, however, they are often telling us that their, ‘gut isn’t right’. It doesn’t tend to grab so much attention but maybe it should! We examine 3 ‘atypical’ arthropathies that can have GIT symptoms and arguably may represent a key driver of their joint pain. The different clinical pictures & targeted investigations for these big 3 together with some key papers are covered in this audio.

 

 

 

SAMe Strikes Again!

If my dispensary was on an island and could only stock 3 items, S-adenosyl-methionine would make the cut.  That’s how important this nutraceutical is to my practice and has proved itself to be to so many of my patients.  Regularly, I cross paths with practitioners who declare similar favouritism and then there are many others who remain apprehensive and uninitiated in its use.  Often this results from 7 myths and misunderstandings, such as…

No.1 Giving someone SAMe will impair their own synthesis of it

No.2 If it’s not ‘right’ for your patient it could go horribly wrong – the risks are big!

No. 3 SAMe will increase homocysteine in your patients & shouldn’t be used if the homocysteine is high, or high-normal, to begin with

Wrong.  Wrong &, you guessed it, wrong.  But many of us don’t believe anything till we see it with our own eyes.  Like a mentee of mine who is a seasoned SAMe savant but, like us all, continues learning more all the time through her own prescribing experience.  Case in point:

“Remember when we discussed my patient with stubborn high homocysteine, who has not responded to high dose methyl factors?  You suggested a trial of SAMe because other things pointed to her being an under-methylator. You were right (standard!)- it came down from 9 to 5 with 2 months of 400mg/day SAMe. She’s also been able to stop other supplements she was using for her mood and overall is much more stable emotionally, so turned out to be the perfect solution. Thanks as always :)”
So exciting to bring SAMe, together with other important CAM options in mental health management, to the attention of an increasing number of psychiatrists and other health professionals of late. It easily makes my top 3, and the other 2 supplements in my island dispensary?…well if we’re still talking mental health, Zinc and N-acetyl-cysteine, due to their versatility, potency and accessibility regardless of income.  But I think you could have guessed those & likely have shared confidence, right?
This 3hr recording & resource is overflowing with case studies and the latest research relating not only to psychiatric presentations but also as a key nutraceutical to consider in liver pathology, Gilbert’s syndrome and some pain presentations. Together with this ‘literature lowdown’ we clear up a lot of misunderstandings practitioners tend to have about its prescription –    busting the 7 SAMe myths along the way and giving you the confidence to know when SAMe is likely to be the solution and exactly how to prescribe and what to expect.
I’d love to continue this conversation with you… 
so join me and be part of my ongoing dialogue on this and my other blogs by following my Facebook page.

A Case of Stoned Sperm?

Tonic. Homeostatic modulator.  These terms and concepts, which have a long tradition in herbal medicine (and let’s be clear, were considered yet another example of the wishy-washiness of the modality) are being appropriated by some areas of mainstream medicine right now. Cheer up ‘leaky gut’, you’re no longer alone! And arguably misappropriated by the public’s very ‘lay’ interpretation of the science on medicinal cannabis and its subsequent elevation to panacea, of late.

“So many of my patients are telling me they’re taking Cannabis now, just as a tonic”, says yet another practitioner to me recently, “No, not for pain, they’re young and fit but they take it because it’s a homeostatic regulator!!”

Oh lordy…

The capacity to maintain homeostasis, and particularly in the face of adversity or imbalance, is a sign of the vitality of the individual, according to what I remember  from naturopathic philosophy (and have truly taken on and observed firsthand)…so just back up there a tad and explain to me how this one herb proposes to do this for everyone on a one-size-fits-all-fashion?  As confessed in an earlier communication, I am a cannabis convert. But only in the sense of appreciating the niche areas where it is likely to offer true therapeutic benefits. I still have the words of warning from the brilliant  Professor Michael Lintzeris, the Director of the Drug & Alcohol Services, South East Sydney Local Health District; Conjoint Professor, Division of Addiction Medicine etc., ringing in my ears, pleading with health practitioners to not ‘fall’ for cannabis in the way we have previously ‘fallen’ (so far and landed so badly) for the panaceas of the past: opiates and benzodiazepines.  Most notable major omission for me, in an otherwise rigorous scientific debate of late, is any discussion about its potential for impacting fertility.

I’ve been aware of the potential negative effect on male fertility, in particular, for over a decade and while we undoubtedly need more targeted research on this topic to reach a consensus, the evidence base to date points to lower LH +/- testosterone and impaired sperm quality and motility.  Certainly not perhaps what tonic-seeking patients know they’re signing up for.

There is in fact evidence to suggest ‘sperm under the influence’…’lose their way’ and are less effective at finding and fertilising the egg.  Sorry but the image always makes me chuckle…stoned sperm.  ‘Hey, dude where’s my egg?!’ style.  But it’s not funny when impaired fertility is a problem affecting so many these days, and we still are guilty of over-focusing on ‘her’ and under-assessing ‘him’…and lo and behold it could be his chronic cannabis use to blame.  We had a case recently, years of unprotected sex, daily cannabis, no baby, no dots connected.  We may think this is a handy incidental contraceptive for young men sitting on couches with cones (one mum recently said as much to me) but for the rest…?

Getting Men’s Hormones Right

As practitioners we should know as much about investigating and treating male hormone imbalances as we do female ones, yet this is often not the case.  While we are increasingly aware of everyone’s exposure to lifestyle & environmental endocrine disruptors and the fragility of the HPO axis, we sometimes fail to recognise that the reproductive health of our male patients is equally under threat.  This is clearly demonstrated by generally diminishing levels of testosterone amongst men and increasingly early onset of andropause. These issues then become barriers to achieving success in other health areas with your clients, mood, metabolism, fertility and beyond.  Learn more here

 

I’d love to continue this conversation with you… 
so join me and be part of my ongoing dialog on this and my other blogs by following my Facebook page.