The Year For Iron & Gin

A few things really took up a disproportionate amount of our time & attention in 2020: Zoom, Mask Fashion & Gin based hand sanitiser. On a personal note I need to confess another: Iron. So while my one true (mineral) love remains zinc, iron answer hunting has infiltrated a lot of my days and some nights! There’s no hiding it…3 out of my 12 UU30 episodes this year have iron in the title 🙄 a sure sign its been on my and my mentees’ minds and sitting across the desk from a lot of health professionals in human form. And this affair I’ve been having, like most, started innocently… it started with a just a ‘quickie’, you know a quick question from a well meaning practitioner: “So, what’s expected in terms of ferritin levels across pregnancy?”

There are 2 answers to this.
The first reflects the practice guidelines for GPs and obstetricians in most western countries: > 30 mcg/L regardless of trimester
And then there’s another that is [ahem] evidence based, accounts for the essentiality of physiological anaemia in pregnancy &, naturally, trimester specific

There’s a big Fe-ar factor at play when it comes to answering the question, ‘Does this woman have enough iron for her and bub?’ Public health and practice guidelines appear to assume we are ‘guilty’ until proven innocent, patients are worried and health professionals are plagued with their own doubts about whether they’re ‘reading this right?!’  I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation where we feel our pregnant patient is doing well iron wise early in pregnancy, only for them to have that routine antenatal 28wk GP/Ob visit and discover a total panic has descended upon the patient and the rest of the health care team, with calls for ‘IV Iron STAT!’ But 28wks is the height of haemodilution right?  You know, that time when ferritin, Hb and Hct should look at their lowest, right?   There certainly is a limit to how low we want any pregnant woman to go – for her and her baby’s health but that limit is not the one routinely used and the truly evidenced based one is going to shock you. So what? What’s the issues if we are a little Fe-ar based about Fe, resulting in hypervigilance (calling a deficiency when there isn’t actually one) and giving them a ‘boost’ of more iron, surely this is good news ultimately for baby’s iron levels and for lactation and for…sorry what? No?

There’s a U shaped Curve for Iron supplementation & serum Ferritin levels in pregnant women?!!

Say it isn’t so!!  But I can’t.🤐

Pregnancy Iron Balance – Sorting the ‘Normal’ from the ‘Noise’

It starts with a simple enough question: What should women’s ferritin levels be in pregnancy? But the answer will surprise many. There are in fact two. The first reflects the practice guidelines for GPs and obstetricians in most western countries regardless of trimester and then there’s another that is arguably more evidence based, accounts for the essentiality of physiological anaemia in pregnancy & is also, sensibly, trimester specific. To challenge the ‘noise’ and have the confidence that ‘normal’ is ‘enough’,  we need to better understand the mother’s protective physiological adaptation of iron regulation and the intricate systems the foetus has to ensure its needs are met.  This of course is not without limit, so we need to also be clear about the maternal serum ferritin threshold for negative impact on the foetus and newborn. Getting the balance or iron right in pregnancy for both mother and baby, is perhaps easier than we have been led to believe. 

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase Pregnancy Iron Balance here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

The Pathology Path

Well, obviously(!)…this has been a year heavy on pathology interpretation for me and the huge number of practitioners who’ve just spent the last 6 months taking that learning journey with me.  I celebrate and congratulate them all for their commitment to their own professional development and also their investment, in what is arguably, the most potent yet overlooked set of skills of any health professional… the ability to read bloods.  Basic bloods.  Mainstream labs.  No…but to really read them. Backed by all the scientific understanding about what these parameters actually are, how they perform and what they (dis)prove e.g. subclinical inflammation and ramped up oxidative stress – not an informed guess but mappable…right there but where no one else can apparently see it! But I digress!

Actually what I wanted to discuss was the whole erroneous notion of ‘normal’.
No, I am not speaking from the heart about my personal quirks, sense of humour or dress sense but rather the incorrect assumption that a reference range defines ‘normal’ and that our answer for each patient and each result is, a Yes or a No!

In this brilliant article by Whyte & Kelly published in the BMJ they spell out this falsehood succinctly.  They note that the term ‘normal range’ has slipped into medical language from the misunderstanding that all lab results follow a Gaussian (aka bell shaped curve & later referred to as ‘normal distribution’) pattern but many simply don’t. So for some parameters a result near the ‘middle of the reference interval’ constitutes aspirational whereas for others it spells danger.  Add to this, that these reference intervals are mathematically determined to reflect the expected values of 95% of your patient population (mean +/- 2 SD either side) so…that means the chance of a YES…”Your patient’s results are ABNORMAL!”… is just 5%.  And hey…who said all the values within the reference range are all equally “normal” or better yet, healthy?!  Not these authors, nor I, nor the praccies who’ve just done our course. So while, in many regards, these goalposts are too wide, they are also too narrow – typically only representing a subset of adults age-wise and Caucasians, yes they are both ageist and racist (yep, I said it!).  And if our practitioners have learnt anything it’s about keeping an ol’ eagle eye on the sneaky intra-individual shift!  Only spotted, of course, if you know your patient’s normal (not theirs compared to anyone else…just theirs) and then spot a shift. [I can hear they’re shushing 🤫me…they’ve got it already, alright!!]

So this is music 🎻to my ears, from Whyte & Kelly:
“The intraindividual variation in laboratory values is usually much smaller than the interindividual variability (ie, the variation in the population). Variation in the concentration of an analyte, if significantly outside of a patient’s usual values (but still within the reference interval), could be a sign of early or latent disease”

So if you want to tap into the power of pathology…start with Whyte & Kelly, maybe even dip your pinky in the pool by checking out Accurate Pathology Results Interpretation Starts Here – an easy little 1.5hr kickstarter…or jump right in the deep end with the rest of us pathology reading polo players and sign up for the MasterCourse 1: Comprehensive Diagnostics for some DIY summer fun 🌊

ps I know your type and know that is EXACTLY the kind of weird nerdy thing you have planned for your break…you should see my summer fun list!!! 😅

 

MasterCourse 1: Comprehensive Diagnostics is a self-paced online program due for release in December.
The course has pver 18 hours of video presentations plus 2 free bonus sessions 1) Accurate Pathology Interpretation Starts Here and 2) Patient Pathology Manager and access to resources and tools within, for your own use.
This is a pre-requisite for MasterCourse II that will be delivered live in 2021.

This skillset has been found by many to be biggest ‘game-changer’ in Integrative Health
You can view the full course outline here.

 

What’s A Little Flesh Between Friends?

I talk so much about iron, I feel like I’m cheating on my life partner (Zinc)…but these two are arguably the main mineral deficiencies we encounter most consistently in our patients and, don’t tell Zn, but quite frankly, in terms of who’s more well recognised out there, Iron throws some serious shade!  But the truth is they’re a ‘twofor’, as a result of their similar distribution in food, with both demonstrating significantly better bioavailability (read: virtually double) from flesh foods etc, ‘Watch out, she’s on the attack again!’ I can hear the V’s (vegetarians and vegans) say and yes I think you see this one coming…but I think it’s possible to be pro moderate meat, without being, antiV.

Ethical and environmental aspects aside (just momentarily) it is hard to argue against the nutritional benefits from moderate meat for most patients. 

I tried, trust me.  Put my own body on the line (and my babies) to be a vegetarian for over a decade.  But as the wheels fell off for me, I noticed them falling off for so many others…and these were people who were educated, with a capital ‘E’ and putting serious ‘E for effort’ into substitution etc Not everyone of course – but a LOT of women and occasionally some men.  There was no denying their ‘iron hunger’ (high serum transferrin), their movement towards microcytosis (however slight that ‘smallifying’ may be…we don’t wait for anaemia, right?), their poor zinc status and more importantly, the clinical chaos of impaired immunity, some cognitive or mood issues that presented, as a result. I went back to the mineral manual, back to all the science that helps us to understand these minerals especially in a modern dietary context. 

Ah yes…meat has become marginalised in our diets compared to those of our yesteryear selves (ABS data) while our consumption of potential mineral inhibitors…you know, all the good, but bad, but good foods, like legumes and grains and green tea and and and…has risen…especially among the kind of clients who come to see us, right?

Which ultimately leads to a lower iron ‘income’ with the same outgoings, again especially for menstruating, pregnant & breastfeeding women.
The books don’t balance.
(So then…IV Fe to the Rescue???)

Bite me…it’s just science. There have been some wonderfully thorough studies on this very issue and thoughtful discussions. This study in particular, by Reeves et al, of Australian women in their 20s followed for 6 years to 2009, argues that just a 1mg/d increase in heme iron from flesh foods could reduce susceptibility to the subsequent development of iron deficiency amongst omnivores. So while the median daily intake of fresh red meat in these women was just 39g/d, their analysis found that an additional 70g of lamb or 60g of beef…or about 140g of chicken and 250g of fish if you prefer white over red, appeared to be the positive tipping point for women and their ability to stay iron-replete.  Well below ‘dietary guidelines’, nowhere near the scary cancer correlations (which of course may be more about fat or nitrates or ??).  Moderate meat intake, right?  Just saying. And don’t worry, I know.  The only thing worse than an evangelical ex-smoker is a rambunctious reformed vegetarian 😂

Need A Manual on Minerals? 

Minerals represent a critical tool in naturopathic nutrition and there has been an explosion of research in this area over the last 10 years. In order to optimise patient care, practitioners need to keep up with the constant stream of information, updating their previous beliefs and understanding in the process. This seminal 7hr seminar (!!)…yes…seriously..it’s THE MANUAL..is designed to facilitate and accelerate this process of review and re-evaluation via a fresh look at the key minerals iodineseleniumironcopperzinccalcium and magnesium.

At less than $10 per hour of recording, the real investment is your commitment to making the time for a mineral makeover.

 

 

IV Iron To The Rescue?

When I deliver foundational nutrition training to GPs I talk tough.  It’s a tough field, right?  Compared with the relative certainty of pharmaceuticals, their established pharmacokinetics, their sophisticated delivery systems to ensure high bioavailability…trying to fix micronutrient deficiencies in patients can feel a lot like you’re trying to perform minor miracles. Take iron for something different, its homeostasis pivots on its tight regulation at the gut wall – and this is a wall that is very tight!! At best you get about 10% of a supplement taken up, at worst you get none and the harder you push & the higher you go with your dose…the lower the fractional uptake.  Tough stuff, right?!

It’s about at this point in my talk I read their collective minds and say, “I know, you’re thinking, oral supplementation is for suckers – what about we bypass that road block and use IV?!”
[Ok, I definitely use nicer words than this]

And then I put up a list of pros and cons about IV micronutrient repletion: ‘100% bioavailable’ & ‘Bypasses the body’s regulatory systems’, go on both!  You see, time & time again we discover, when we think we’re outsmarting the body, it still manages to outsmart us.  There are some exceptions to this – some nutrients (Vitamin C) and some contexts (late pregnancy iron deficiency) but the broader promise of ‘rapid replenishment’ for everyone, in your lunch break, via an IV infusion..is not realistic, responsible nor without risk.  Don’t get me wrong, I am an advocate of appropriate IV Fe use and have encouraged a small fraction of my patients to take this path. However, given the dramatic rise in prescriptions for this since 2013, I think it’s time to stop and seriously review each element: In reality what does it achieve and in whom is it a responsible recommendation; Was a risk benefit analysis performed for & communicated to each individual & was the remaining risk mitigated?

Think anaphylaxis is the major concern?  It might be the most lethal but there are more serious concerns due to higher incidence with newer preparations.

So, how well do you know your different IV iron forms, and their predilection for potential problems? And have your answers ready to all the questions raised above? In order for all involved to make an informed choice (both practitioners and patients), we must. 

You’re welcome 😉 and hey welcome back to tough talkin’ Tuesday…

While rates of iron deficiency and related anaemia continue to grow, the increase in prescriptions of IV Fe have expanded exponentially in western countries. What is behind this change in practice regarding how we treat iron deficiency and does it match with responsible prescribing? Do the benefits always outweigh the risks?  And while we’re on the topic, who is most likely to benefit and what are all the risks? In light of a current class action in the US, relating to a lesser talked about adverse event associated with IV Fe and recent complaints here in Australia against GPs, allegedly due to inadequate information to enable informed patient consent…it’s time to answer these questions and more. When is IV Fe a means of rescue and when is it a risky repletion strategy with no evidence of advantage?

 

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase IV Iron to the Rescue? here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

Boundary Breaches

Well that got tongues talking!  We’ve cried, and we’ve laughed, hearing from practitioners about their ‘over-delivering donkey experiences’ for 2020. We’ve heard many memorable & relatable tales of either failures to set the best boundaries or even, in instances when we do, patients’  incredible dexterity to scale these in single leaps, ala James Bond style.
Practitioner: “On the very same day we talked about this important and ignored topic, I’d received an email at 9am from a patient asking for advice and a 2nd opinion about the prospect of surgery (first mention of this and clearly outside my scope!!!!), which they wanted before they saw the surgeon in 2 hours!!”
Sometimes it’s not patients, but professional colleagues (& friends)! I personally took an urgent call on Sunday morning from one of my psych colleagues, only because she is a dear friend, only to discover she needed help regarding a friend with mental health escalation…ah…yup…nup. Her blurred boundaries breached mine and then I bugged another colleague out of hours for further assistance…bad boundary blurring behaviour all round!  We’ve been talking about the uncomfortable truth that a lack of healthy boundaries is a fast track to burn out for health professionals in group mentoring and the end of the year is always…opportune!
Mentee: “I felt challenged in a way where I was reviewing my own boundaries from an overall perspective over a period of time.  I’ve worked in retail for 15 years now (as a student nat initially and then as a qualified naturopath) and I still find myself questioning how far I will go in certain respects especially when it comes to mental health (or people who appear vulnerable).  When I was initially in practice I found my boundaries challenged to another degree, where I would accept every person who came through the door, whether I felt ready or not, or willing to take on the case, which essentially led me to burning out. 
Now as I get ready to start again in practice, I feel more prepared to set clear boundaries from the get go (give myself permission to do that) and check in with myself if I feel they are about to be crossed or not in alignment with me.  It feels like an important and healthy assessment tool to utilise as a health care practitioner.”
As a profession we need to pool some solutions. 
Instead of the reflexive, ‘Just pop me an email if you have any questions’, at the end of each consult which can constitute the equivalent of a blank cheque (!!), perhaps we can say, “If you need to clarify any advice I’ve given you today drop me an email and for any other questions that arise, we can decide whether we need to bring your next appt forward or schedule a between appointment phone consult”   Or if you’re a practitioner who sees the value (and there is much research to support this) in increased touch points with patients, for better compliance and improved outcomes, then structure your billing accordingly.  This from one of our cluey new grad mentees, ‘If you want to offer this add-on time as part of your service then you need to account for it e.g. shave 15 mins off the actual face to face time that they’ve been charged for, so as to have this ‘up your sleeve’ for this express purpose.  They breed ’em smart these days!  Love it!  
The end of the year is such an important time for reflection. What have you learned this year about your professional boundaries? Got some tips you’d like to share?  

Over-Delivering Donkey

Shhhhhhhh(eesh)! I am confessing my sins.  As part of our mentoring discussions we try to keep one another honest & in-check with, what seems to be, integrative health professionals’ innate flair for over-delivering.  Name someone right now from another health modality that spends as much time on researching & working up your patients as you do.  Name another kind of health professional who makes themselves as accessible as you do to their patients.  See, I know your type.  And feeling like a donkey (in many regards) but especially as in the context of this evocative picture, is not something that happens just once in your career, which you learn from, adjust your load, and never repeat. I should know, I’ve had a bit of a donkey year, myself   🙄

Our old mate, Albert (Einstein), said, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

I think, for health professionals (at-times) over-endowed with care mixed with an infinite curiosity (for answers), we can find ourselves with quite the ‘heady mix’,  an excessively heavy load and on a slippery slope of over-delivering. This manifests in different forms at different stages of our career. I’ve talked about some ‘so-common-I-wish-I-had-a-dollar-for-every’… ways practitioners over-deliver in the clinic before.  But for those of us that are seasoned practitioners, we master the basics…no sharing of personal mobile phones or even email addresses, clear communication with clients about appropriate times and means of contact, we even commit to taking some time out for ourselves and our own wellbeing (Wowee watch us go!! Physician Heal Thyself!) but often we just find new ways to over-deliver.  They sneak in and up on us.  It takes us a while to realise we’re back in a familiar place of dangling donkey feet in the air, over-burdened by our load.

 But perhaps we should think of this as Process (a lifetime one of becoming wise, like the other guy said) rather than a pathological problem. 

And as we near the end of another year, a very taxing year for many of us, take this opportunity to pause, process the strengths and limitations of our practice model over the last 12months and adjust the load so we can proceed towards an ever more sustainable practice.  

Because people need practitioners like us; full of care and curiosity, not overloaded donkeys who can’t go anywhere or carry their own load, let alone anyone else’s. 


Got some tips you can share about healthy boundary setting for health professionals?  We’d love to hear them 🙂

 

The Clinical Knack of the NAC Break

I feel a bit Trumpy…because whenever someone says ‘N-acetyl cysteine’, I want to reply, “Big fan, I’m a big fan”.  And yes that’s an uncomfortable awareness. But unlike he who shall not be mentioned, I can qualify my statement and provide supportive evidence, both of the research and real-world varieties.  So, of course, can so many of you as well. I know of fertility specialists who place it in PCOS patients’ preconception prescriptions and respiratory specialists who regard it highly in COPD, CF and a range of other conditions. And I am a signed up supporter of its adjunctive use in many psychiatric conditions. Then there’s the biofilm-breaking buffs… 

This is where non-believers might be tempted to call ‘Snake-oil!’ 

How can one very simple tricked-up amino acid possibly contribute to the health of so many systems?  Oh, just via the chameleon qualities of its chemistry of course!  As a rate limiting ingredient and precursor of GSH, as well as a potent mucolytic agent and and and…we get it.  We surrender!  But I want us all to back up here just a few steps. As a mucolytic agent…renowned for biofilm busting…hmmm. I prescribe a lot of NAC for a lot of people for a lot of days-weeks-months….because all the research in mental health points to it being a long-term intervention.  I’ve heard Professor Michael Berk say, that patients still on it at 2 years had even more improvements than they had experienced at the 6 month mark and of course mental health, for most, is a chronic illness, so no one is surprised. 

But we can’t contain its chameleon chemical qualities.  Given orally, it will be having effects within the gut of these individuals on the way through…and not all biofilms should be busted, right?! 

So what to do? Well thankfully, NAC is not something that patients rely on for short term acute effects, that would then make missing doses problematic – like pharmaceutical psychiatric medications, and some CAM options as well potentially, like SAMe and SJW. So a regular sNAC break is likely to be free from negative impact for those with mental health issues and in fact, beneficial long term. With all this in mind, we’re now using a dosing model of taking weekends off from this supplement – which works for most.  Do we have any concrete research to say this makes sense and doesn’t compromise efficacy yet?  Well no, and don’t hold your breath, because research can be very reductionistic (you heard it here first LOL) and there is a lack of consideration of the effects on an individual as a whole. The psych researchers are not measuring the impact of all interventions on the microbome of patients (yet!) and the gut researchers not always monitoring the mind.  But we clinicians can pioneer the path, fuelled by two old buddies of mine: first do no harm & least medicine, best medicine, right?

Oh and has anyone managed to open a tub of NAC and not accidentally snort some?…I don’t have anything else to add or a solution, I am genuinely asking if this is humanly possible 😂

The Clinical Knack of NAC

“There are few complementary medicines that come onto the market with such a bang, opening up genuinely new therapeutic options for the effective management of such a broad range of health complaints.  N-acetyl cysteine stands out for this reason and has changed the way I practice”  Rachel Arthur

Want to learn more about its diverse applications? Check this out

 

Can You Hear Creatine Coming?!!

If you’re like me, Creatine as a therapeutic option for psychiatric & neurological disorders, has been stalking you for years. Lurking in the shadows, only showing its face occasionally to say, ‘Hey, I’m not all about body building and sports you know, you should check me out some time!’  But, haunted by the ghosts of yesteryear  & all the wanna-be-muscle-men I served working in retail in my 20s, and scared off by the very mention of ‘sports’, I have kept running briskly walking, beyond Creatine’s clutches. Until now.

The evidence of the essentiality of Creatine for healthy brain function is undeniable and together with a wealth of pre-clinical data which likens the impact of oral Creatine to both fluoxetine, in terms of its ability to stimulate and support healthy neurogenesis, and ketamine, in relation to its fast acting glutamate inhibition, we need to at last all finally face our friendly stalker!

Thrilling as this amassed evidence is, to date the number of actual RCTs using Creatine in mental health patients, including treatment resistant depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia etc. is still too few and their sample sizes suffer from ‘smallness’ to boot, making it clear that we a long way away from a clinical consensus.  Regardless, Creatine seems too important a therapeutic option to ignore while we await new larger studies and a trial of this supplement in many of our patients could be all the n=1 proof we need for its benefit to many.  The skill we need to develop now is being able to identify those patients most likely affected by CNS creatine depletion. But if we follow the trail of crumbs… they clearly lead us to those at risk, due either to impaired production (amino acid and micronutrient shortfalls, most commonly) or those experiencing increased requirements (vegetarians, vegans, the elderly, high histamine??)…we are likely to recognise our patients likely to benefit the most.

While our CAM dispensary already offers us some great nutraceutical & herbal options for helping our depressed patients, I am always on the look out for more.  Especially when these represent more upstream approaches…providing true building blocks for brain health, rather than just XXX the signals

Creatine and its colleagues (carnitine, choline and many micronutrients) fit this bill.  Building blocks are beautiful things.  Are a more ‘grassroots approach’ and accordingly, generally less expensive to boot.  I’m doing more and more augmenting of my most reliable CAM antidepressants, with creatine and select aminos these days and being rewarded with great results.  If you want to learn how to use Creatine supplements as part of a multi-pronged approach for your patients’ brains rather than their brawn…then there’s no better place to hear about it than here and, I guess, at last, there’s no time like now.   🙂

 

Creatine – The Brain Builder Part 2
Creatine for brain building over brawn, begs the question,  ‘What is the ultimate supplement regime when trying to maximise uptake into our mind not our muscles?’  So much important groundwork has been done in the field of sports science to determine basic bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of this nutraceutical, we can certainly borrow much from this – but what do we do differently?  This second instalment on ‘Creatine the Brain Builder’, does the complete number crunch for dosages and regimes, expected onset of action, necessary duration of use, cautions and contraindications and much much more!

When we recap the contemporary science of shared pathophysiology in mental health, we have: oxidative stress, impaired neurogenesis, monoamine deficits, glutamate excess, hypometabolism & mitochondrial dysfunction.  When we ask researchers which of these supplemental Creatine might be able to assist with, we get hits at each and every point.  Turns out, Creatine’s capacity for enhancing performance is not limited to athletes but can be capitalised on for anyone vulnerable to a CNS shortfall.  Ignored for far too long, this economic and impactful brain nutrient is coming to the fore for psychiatric and neurological disorders.

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase Creatine – The Brain Builder Part 1 and Part 2 here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

The Underrated Art of Ancient Mastication

No, mastication.  I’ve touched on this before but I believe we need regular reminders.  Or maybe that’s just me? I am a fan of chewing.  I don’t profess to be good at it (I am a wolfer of food  tbh) but I see the enormous therapeutic benefits it has to offer.  Seriously.  Think I’m taking the mickey?  Here are some tasty brain bytes for you!

 Ancient Mayans – Chicle
Ancient Greeks –  Mastic Gum
Native Americans -Sugar pine and Spruce sap
Then there’s of course the Coca Leaves (South Americans) Betel Nut (Asians) etc

But putting aside those that come with a buzzy bonus🙄 …the tradition of chewing non-digestible substances between meals according to anthropologists and archaeological evidence dates back to the neolithic period.  Nowadays, of course, we barely break from constant feasting…but perhaps when we do, we should maintain the mastication?  There’s a lot to be said in favour of this.  From brain benefits to dental deterrents against plaque but of course the main gain for many – is the potential for better digestion. For GORD it’s the oldest trick in the book, right? The increased saliva generated by the process neutralises any untoward excess acidity in both the oesphagus and also the pharynx.  So naturally, not one to forget in Barrett’s oesophagus either and of course my beloved Silent reflux. While also producing greater amounts of salivary amylase to assist with CHO digestion and lingual lipase to kick off the first fat digesting process within the stomach.  But could it help beyond this?  Well, though the jury is out on this increasing the rate of actual gastric emptying (though still worth a crack in Gilbert’s Guts), it’s well regarded as being able to stimulate small and large bowel motility more generally. Some SIBO soothing in certain scenarios, perhaps?  So much so, it has been recommended post almost all types of surgery (GIT, gyne, renal etc) to ‘get things going again’.

And while this doesn’t have the highest quality evidence to support efficacy…encouraging people to trial chewing a natural gum – no pretend sugars, no  plastics & no PK for my patients (Sorry dad! ), is a recommendation that is accessible to just about everyone, easy to try and gives people a quick yes/no.

Yes I come from a long line of chewers. My dad chewed gum between meals and during them, he popped that piece behind his ear to ‘save for later’.  I swore there and then, as an offended on-looker that I would never be so disgusting. Well… I’ve finally turned into him and I think he might have been onto something 😉 [except the behind the ear bit…ewwwwwwwwwwww]

Is Silent Reflux Still Sneaking Under Your Radar?

Chronic dry coughs, rhinitis, postnasal drip, the sensation of ‘a lump in their throat’ or even asthma?  Have you ruled out silent reflux aka laryngopharyngeal reflux? This UU30 helps you to better recognise the myriad presentations of this condition, understand the latest about why it occurs and is on the increase & finally outlines my top & somewhat unusual interventions for management of these presentations that have proved highly successful in my own clients. Up-skill on this sinister ‘silent’ one, here!~

 

 

In Need Of Some Fuel Reduction?

We’ve been talking all about the dangers of excess fuel in our blood recently.   You know, just like nature…too much fuel underfoot creates a fire hazard.  So too in the bloods of our patients.  The key fuels I am referring to, of course, are lipids (triglycerides & cholesterol) and glucose. Our tissues need ready access to both but Balanced Blood Supply & Mastery of Management is key.

In terms of excesses,  lipids play the long-game…wreaking havoc over a long period primarily via their vulnerability to form peroxides, which in turn create a chain of oxidative stress and depletes our antioxidant artillery.

In contrast, even outside of insulin dependent diabetes, for the rest of our patients, glucose plays a fast and furious game, being a highly reactive substance capable of causing both glycation and oxidation.   We describe even high-normal levels of glucose as something akin to the ‘Bull in the China Shop’, disrupting the function of the endothelial linings and damaging a variety of plasma proteins (not just haemoglobin) that float within them.  But do we have a way to routinely measure the level of damage occurring in our non-diabetic but somewhat glucose intolerant patients?   Sure!  Just check the C-CCTV footage!

The extra C stands for ‘Carb’ and yes we can potentially check the Carb-Closed-Circuit-TV ‘tape’ in every patient.

It’s called HbA1c and measuring this provides us with an opportunity to review their personal ‘tape’ of the last 2-3 months for evidence of excesses.

Helpful, hey. But we actually have so many great tools through regular routine labs at our disposal to understand the glucose disposal or dys-disposal(!) at play in our patients!   You’ve just got to know where to look (urate, triglycerides, insulin, HOMA-IR etc) and what each piece of information is telling you. We’ve had SO MUCH FUN with this particular topic in the MasterCourse this month…or is that just me 🙄 No, I know it was, because our live session chatbox was full of ‘blown brain emojis’!! 🤯🤯🤯  I can’t wait to share this course content far and wide at the end of year with those of you that missed out on attending live.

In the meantime if you want to learn more about glycation which is the new inflammation, out there in research-land, you know…the source of all evil including ageing itself(!!) then check this out

Glycation is a normal physiological process that,  just like inflammation and oxidative stress, can get out of hand, contributing to disease processes. Currently there is an explosion of correlational research suggesting relationships between higher levels of Advanced Glycation End-products (AGE) in individuals who have fertility problems, psychiatric conditions, osteoporosis, premature skin ageing, cancer…you name it! New research implicates diet heavily in the determination of individual’s levels of AGE but there is devil in the detail – there are ‘4 Ps’ of dietary AGE contribution that we need to be mindful of when we are giving dietary advice and trying to move patients towards wellness. This Update in Under 30 recording: Are You Feeling Your ‘AGE’ will open the lid on the ‘new black’ in chronic health & ageing.

 

 

 

 

A Simple…

My how the time just flies when you’re chasing answers from private pathology companies!  As Brisbane based naturopath, Sandi Cooper, can attest to having recently been down the seemingly eternal email trail with a pathology company trying to ascertain if their urinary iodine result accounts for the concentration of the urine sample (via the iodine:creatinine) or doesn’t….because of course it can make the world 🌎  of difference. Like clarifying that someone who appears to have very little iodine in their urine, actually has a lot or vice versa!  I wrote about this back when I was a mere ‘babe blogger’, more than 5 years ago. After recently reading this historical document, Sandi has been practising due diligence and checking with her providers whether they have already corrected for creatinine..or whether she needs to herself and she shared that multi-departmental epic email endurance event thread with me.  The short answer? They used to and now they don’t. Why? Oh…formatting issues or something 🙄

But just in case you do want the ‘short answer’ regarding your particular pathology provider…without emailing enigmas…the answer is, in fact, in front of you & it’s Super Short!

mcg/g Vs mcg/L

If your patient’s urinary iodine result  (random or 24hr) is reported using the units on the left, sometimes actually written mcg/grCR, then BiNGo! The pathology provider has done the creatinine correction for you.   If they only report the urinary iodine results using the units on the right…it’s time for some maths to avoid misinterpretation.  No one panic, the formula is easy: Iodine (mcg) ÷ Creatinine (mmol) X 8.85 = Corrected Iodine.  So don’t lose time sending endless emails like poor Sandy or placing countless calls, like poor Nina on my team…who has to pursue pathology providers on an almost daily basis for answers to our zillions of sensible questions!!  Just check the units! You’re welcome everyone 😉 oh thank you Sandi for chasing this again and sorry about needing to chase this again! 😳

And if all of this is nEWs to yOU, you might want to review what you thought you knew, about Comprehensive Thyroid Assessment too!

We can never rest when it comes to learning more about the individual nuances of our patients thyroid pictures!  In this 90min recording, Rachel covers the key thyroid parameters both functional & autoimmune (TSH, T4, T3, rT3, TPO, TgAbs, TRAB).  As well as the most accurate methods of assessing relevant thyroid nutrients: iodine & selenium & a genuinely game-changing insight on interpretation of these .  Finally she pulls all the individual parameters together to illustrate common patterns of thyroid imbalance – making it almost as easy 1-2-3! Well, hey..it’s the thyroid…a fickle fellow.

 

White Australia Pathology?

Here’s a newsflash for absolutely no one, we’re all practising healthcare in racially diverse communities, right?  Take Australia for example.  At last count, at least 1 in 4 were not born here and of those who were, 3% are indigenous and many many more come from migrant families.  This spells DiVeRSIty.  Yet our pathology reference intervals are a whitewash, frequently derived from in-house samples that stratify by gender and age but not race, or adopted external data from predominantly Caucasian countries. Think it doesn’t matter?  It does. I learnt this as (almost) always…on the ground.

I have had the privilege of mentoring health professionals in South East Asia for several years but in hindsight, I can see I was under-cooked for the role: Almost every patient these professionals discussed with me, had a vitamin D result that made me feel faint at their ‘rickets-like readings’.

“But all our patients have blood levels like this, that’s normal here”, they reassured me.

And of course, they were right.

I hit the books science databases to find out more and sure enough, new evidence has emerged of racial differences in relation to vitamin D binding and therefore definitions of ‘adequacy’ in terms of blood levels of 25(OH)D, and this has been particularly well documented amongst SE Asians Gopal-Kothandapani et al., 2019  But who of us knows this outside of that region?  When we see patients of this background, are we alert to the strong genetic differences that drive different Vitamin D metabolism and therefore redefine healthy, or are we incorrectly comparing them to Caucasian Cohorts?!   I have to confess in the past I’ve done the latter 🤦‍♀️ So what else are we over or under-diagnosing or just plain misunderstanding, in our patients who are not Caucasian? Chances are quite a lot.  But the more I’ve dug into the topic, looking at racial differences in pathology markers, the more complex it gets, with plenty of conflation for example with increased rates of certain diseases. So it’s not an easy answer, granted, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to achieve better clarity, for us and our patients.

We all pat ourselves on the back because we’re across the understanding that a healthy weight is defined differently depending on your racial background, we’ve nailed (hopefully!) the whole ‘healthy BMI < 23 in Asian populations and the smaller WC cutoffs’…but really…there’s so much more that needs to be done.

Want to be on the front foot with critical pathology interpretation?  Join the club!

There is such a groundswell of naturopaths, nutritionists, physical therapists etc working in integrative health that are ‘lab literate’.  It appears to be a combination of both a choice and consumer expectation.  With patients thinking, surely, we can make sense of those numbers on the page that remain a mystery to the patient…and tbh to some doctors!?  We should.  We’re currently halfway through our 6 month long MasterCourse in Comprehensive Diagnostics which is custom-built for this context. It has been incredibly well attended and well-received to date and we’re excited about the amazing content that Rachel has had to redevelop along the way.  If you missed out on the actual live classroom experience…your chance is coming soon.  Promise. Your DIY Diagnostics version will be released at the end of this year.
Let us know if you’re keen by sending an email to admin@rachelarthur.com.au, and we’ll put you on the ‘first to know’ list.

 

 

 

Creatine Supplements: Brain Over Brawn

I think I’m finally able to put my ‘late-90s-Creatine-frontline-trauma’ behind me.  Back then, like many good nats in training, I was working the trenches of the health food stores and was faced on a daily basis with two types of men with two types of Creatine questions. The first type was scrawny and would ask, ‘will taking this help me build muscle?’, the second, built like the proverbial brick *&#@ house, asking, ‘will it help me build more muscle?’ Cue, eye roll.  Come on… any of you current or ex apothecaries, pharmacy or retail assistants…you know exactly what I’m talking about!!! So deep was this trauma that I put Creatine as a supplement, into the ‘strictly sports folder’ in my brain (the bit in the deep dark back with other rarely accessed items) and never gave it much thought when I left retail and moved exclusively into private practice. Even back when I was a sub-editor for the Braun and Cohen 4th edition, it was apparently still too soon. 

A great colleague of mine, Emily Bradley, had written the chapter on Creatine and, in doing so, presented compelling case to reconsider this supplement as offering great therapeutic potential well outside of the sports-field.
That one was accidental 😂

I actually remember reading that chapter, especially the sections on Creatine supplementation for neurological & psychiatric conditions and thinking….WOW…who knew?! ??!! Well, clearly Emily for one 🙄 and also every author and researcher whose work she had read…so that made quite a lot of people actually!  But another [ahem 😳] several years had to pass before the research into Creatine and the argument that this has been a grossly over-looked CAM option in mental health, beat down my door and finally got my full attention.  Better late than never.  And boy, do we all have some catching up to do! 

Let’s start with 5 fun facts:
1. Creatine is critical for energy – like cellular currency it ‘tops’ back up our funds, after increased spending, everywhere, including the brain
2. The Brain consumes >20% of our resting energy expenditure & is fifth on the organ list in terms of highest concentration of this molecule
3. Creatine CNS depletion is a thing – and it happens in a wide variety of scenarios – from the seemingly benign (like chronic sleep deprivation) to the more sinister (neurodegeneration)
4. This then leads to higher Glutamate, Oxidative Stress & a spell of other sorts of ‘brain badness’
5. Oral supplementation can cross the BBB and ‘refuel’ the brain and correct the Creatine deficit

Out of the thousand or so pages of research on this topic, I’ve just indulged in, there are several great reviews to pick from…it’s a tough call to make but perhaps this older one by Patricia Allen remains my favourite. This marks the beginning of a new era…I’m putting the trauma behind me & moving on & hope you’ll come along too!

When we recap the contemporary science of shared pathophysiology in mental health, we have: oxidative stress, impaired neurogenesis, monoamine deficits, glutamate excess, hypometabolism & mitochondrial dysfunction.  When we ask researchers which of these supplemental Creatine might be able to assist with, we get hits at each and every point.  Turns out, Creatine’s capacity for enhancing performance is not limited to athletes but can be capitalised on for anyone vulnerable to a CNS shortfall.  Ignored for far too long, this economic and impactful brain nutrient is coming to the fore for psychiatric and neurological disorders.

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase Creatine – The Brain Builder Part 1 here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

To All The Believers…You Might Want to Read This

 

I didn’t catch that Zonulin wave that hit Australian integrative health practitioners a few years back. I think it might have been after Dr. Frassano himself, made an appearance at one of our big conferences.  Like the true bloody sceptic I am, I stayed dry on the shore. In fact, I chucked my board in my panel van and drove straight for the library to do some research. Yep…boy do I know how to have fun in the sun 😎  But I am really glad I did. 

While I am forever grateful to researchers like Frassano and so many others, who pioneer new perspectives, if not paradigms, in health, I also know that research is a long, long, long road and sometimes we get a little over-excited trying to ‘catch that wave’ too early. 

This was especially the case with Zonulin testing.

When I finally left the library about a year later in 2017, I flagged my concerns.  As always, my stand was subtle: Mind the Gap with Zonulin Testing.    This was my Update in Under 30 offering, encouraging us all to think about this test more critically and make a balanced review of the evidence both for and against it, as a marker of increased intestinal permeability, especially in comparison with the Lactulose Mannitol Test, considered the gold standard of IP assessment.

I also flagged that not every individual has the capacity to make Zonulin no matter how ‘gappy their guts is’…and this was something most struggled to comprehend or accept.  But guess what? This fact has now gone mainstream along with even more concerns regarding the inaccuracy of commercial Zonulin testing.

“Three genetic polymorphisms in human haptoglobin expression, Hp1-1, Hp2-1, and Hp2-2, are determined by the HP1 and HP2 alleles harboured by chromosome 16q22. As zonulin is the precursor to haptoglobin-2, individuals who  bear the heterozygous Hp2-1 or homozygous Hp2-2 polymorphism are zonulin-producers whereas those with the homozygous Hp1-1 polymorphism are unable to produce zonulin.” But wait, Ajamian et al 2019 has so much more in store for any remaining believers. “In conclusion, the current commercial zonulin ELISA assays investigated in this study detect different proteins, neither of which was zonulin.” Yes, that’s what they found. Two different big commercial kit assays – one from China, one from Germany…neither actually measured zonulin. I am passionate about CAM and passionate about testing…but cautious & concerned about the CAM-Sham that does get peddled to us at times, under the guise of ‘cutting edge functional testing’. Another name for that..unfounded, not yet validated, waste of money and source of possible misdirection for the practitioner. It’s tough talkin’ Tuesday…just sayin’ 🙄

Need some more help to Mind the Gap with Zonulin Testing?

Following the important discovery of the role of intestinal Zonulin in the pathophysiology of coeliac disease our fascination with measuring zonulin in non-coeliac patients suspected of ‘leaky gut’, has moved faster than the facts. It’s time to critically reassess what value, if any, there is in testing serum Zonulin – which patients and when? Let’s talk about its false positives (flagging a IP problem when there isn’t one) and negatives (failing to flag a problem when there is one) and how it compares with the gold standard for detecting increased intestinal permeability, in our patients.

 

TSI* – Not the Car Kind!

No doubt you’ve heard me refer to the thyroid Abs by their nicknames, TRAb is one I mention often, or Thyroid Receptor Antibody, as its mum calls it, when it’s in trouble.   And it’s always in trouble!  But TRAb is actually the collective name for several flavours of trouble.  What these auto-antibodies share in common is the ability to bind the TSH receptors throughout the body.  They differ however, in terms of whether, once engaged, they stimulate this receptor (mimicking the action of the real-deal TSH) or they block it, so that the real-deal can’t in fact dock and do its job.  The contrasting consequence is clear: stimulating ones drive up thyroid hormone production, while the blocking variety contribute to low thyroid hormone levels – and what was meaningful was each patients (im)balance of the two to produce a net effect. Because yes…a proportion of patients make both.

In Australia, and many other countries, we previously measured TRAb as a sum total and then specified what fraction was each ‘flavour’ but then the ‘flavours went out of favour’! 

So for a long time now, TRAb has been measured, undifferentiated, and the assumption is, they’re stimulating…because this is in fact a) more common and b) the most common reason this test would be referred for…a set of TFTs that look suspiciously on the high-side aka Grave’s disease.

But a new era has dawned, with many mainstream laboratories now opting for the more specific assay: Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulins (TSI)* over the old TRAb. Fancy schmanzy, I know. Considered more accurate in the detection of autoimmune hyperthyroidism and in this regard, we’re told we’ve made a diagnostic step forward and nothing has been lost. Except the much less common type of antibodies that bind the TSH receptor only to fill it full of gum so it won’t work.  That apparently, due to its low incidence and reduced clinical impact is no longer something worth testing.  So consider the TSI results for your patients, the new version of your old (drab) TRAb, with similar cut-offs etc. And remember detectable levels of this may be seen in toxic nodules, and acute toxic Hashimoto’s, as well as prodromal and active Grave’s disease.  

AND DON’T FORGET
(and yes, I am screaming because it is so easy to forget!!)

Biotin!!  Patients on biotin at the time of the test (even as little as 1mg as part of a formula) can produce False Positives for the TSI!!!  And give you and your patient the ‘fright of your life’ with a pseudo hyperthyroid set of labs to match!

Need to read more on this because you’re left thinking WTF about the TSI?!@#%^ Check out Mayo Medical Labs (always a good go-to for info on pathology) or this recent review paper 🙂

*Note TSI does not stand for Turbo fuel stratified injection in this scenario!!

Want to learn all the thyroid antibody alphabet??!!  Start Here!

Learn the ropes of Thyroid Dysfunction Assessment & Identification, including all the related thyro-nutrition! Rachel covers the key thyroid parameters both functional & autoimmune (TSH, T4, T3, rT3, TPO, TgAbs, TRAB).  As well as the most accurate methods of assessing relevant thyroid nutrients: iodine & selenium & a genuinely game-changing insight on interpretation of these .  Finally she pulls all the individual parameters together to illustrate common patterns of thyroid imbalance – making it as easy 1-2-3!…almost!

 

Hanging Out For The Histamine Handshake?!

Recently a mentee reported that when attending an in-person training event (remember those, everyone?!) she approached a sponsor’s stand, promoting practitioner training in the nutritional management of mental health, based on the pioneering work of American scientist, Carl Pfeiffer.  But when she and her nat buddy started asking questions, those manning the stand asked whether they were doctors and then, upon finding out they were naturopaths, encouraged them ‘to move along – this information isn’t for you then’. Or something to that effect…Ouch!

While I know a little about the decision behind offering this training only to doctors and specialists at this time, and I do understand that organisation’s reasoning, I also want to reassure you, this doesn’t mean that Pfeiffer’s important work, and the efforts of those that have followed him, is out of bounds to others.

No one can copyright cortisol or TM TSH, right?  Equally, Histamine is his own man.  Carl Pfeiffer and others brought histamine, the neurotransmitter to centre stage and many of us working in mental health remain eternally grateful for this.  But CNS histamine has come a long way since then…and is currently a very hot topic in modern molecular psychiatry where they are always looking for new drug targets, given shooting at the previous ones, risked taking ‘an eye out’! The recognition of histamine as a key player in mood, cognitive and behaviour has been long overdue but is absolutely here now!  Just give this search term a whirl in PubMed: histamine AND psychiatry, and you’ll be hit with quite the crush of citations!

An abundance of important info at your fingertips…no secret handshake required.

It was, in part, this story that inspired me to record an Update in Under 30 on Histamine Imbalance in Mental Health.  Just the proverbial straw on the proverbial camel really, after years of examining, experimenting and experiencing the incredible results some patients can achieve when this imbalance is identified and redressed. So I’ve done my darndest to pull together those years of hands-on helping histamine imbalanced patients with the latest literature in under 30 minutes!! Surprise! I failed! There is a lot to convey but you’ll also be surprised by what I don’t say…there’s no infinitely long list of personality peculiarities that fit with too much or too little. Nor is there a didactic discourse about absolute treatment dos and don’ts.  I’m communicating the common ground between the original evidence, clinical empiricism and contemporary neuroscience. So this month, consider the ‘under 30’ bit, merely a ‘Serving suggestion’…which would necessitate you playing it 1.5 X speed…go on, I dare you!!😅

Update in Under 30: Histamine Imbalance in Mental Health

About 15 years ago I was introduced to Histamine as a neurotransmitter. Not the allergy mediator or the ‘basophil baddy’ but rather this prolific and potent neurochemical we all produce in our brains which, in the right amount, regulates almost every biological rhythm, helps with memory and mood & much more. Being able to recognise excesses or deficiencies of CNS histamine in mental health presentations and, ever since then, fine-tuning my ability to support patients with these, has changed my practise forever and has been the key to some of my patients’ greatest recovery stories.  Forever grateful to the pioneers of this model, 70 years on, the model is ready for a mini-makeover, to bring it in line with the current scientific understanding of histamine, methylation, genes and much more.  This recording, together with a hugely helpful clinical resource, will give you the confidence to recognise and remedy this important imbalance in mental health. If you want to download this recording click here.

Have You Met Your Hype-Guy?

About 15 years ago I was introduced to histamine, the neurotransmitter.  Before that, I only knew him (come on…it has to be, right? Histamine) as an immune molecule, an allergy mediator, a chemotactic agent of chaos! Given my interest & previous work in mental health, I knew the rest of the chemical cast pretty well. There was Sunny Serotonin, Dance-Party Dopamine, Nervous Noradrenaline & Go-Go Glutamate. So it came as a bit of shock to realise that an equally important member of this cast had never had a mention in all my previous education…

‘Hype-Guy Histamine’

With 64K neurons dedicated to its production & an extensive axon network all over our brains to ensure its excitatory effects are felt everywhere…I was a bit embarrassed we hadn’t met sooner!  I’m not Robinson Carusoe in that regard though, our awareness and recognition of this key neurotransmitter has been snail-like in its pace and progress. A recent review paper on the development and evolution of antihistamines kicks off the conversation with, ‘Oh, so histamine is just another neurotransmitter now’…which gave me a bit of a laugh.  Seems like we were all duped…even the dudes making the drugs to block it! But once I did meet Histamine, the neurotransmitter, it really did change my clinical practise, forever.  And as I have gotten to know him better and better over the last 15 years, how his excesses and deficiencies present in my patients and how best to manage these, I can confirm, it is far from the answer to every patient’s prescription for mental health but this an imbalance is evident, addressing it is exceptionally effective and I remain forever grateful to those that have contributed to my learning in this area, passing on the knowledge from its originators: Car Pfeiffer & Abraham Hoffer.  These pioneers of orthomolecular psychiatry gave Histamine a platform and presence that no one else had or would for decades still to come. 

And now every practitioner and their pet poodle seems to want to talk about Histamine!
But, my friends let me tell you, CNS Histamine imbalance has little to do with eating tuna, umami flavours and the state of your gut!

Hype-Guy Histamine is made on-site, in your brain.  We don’t import it in over the BBB mountain range.  So, in terms of a histamine imbalance in your neurochemistry, we need to narrow in on the noggin and get crystal clear about what could be behind such an imbalance and therefore how to tailor treatment to address each cause.  I owe a lot to those who first taught me this model and I think it’s time the model had a mini-makeover, thanks to our vastly improved understanding of Histamine, methylation, genes, mast cells, behaviour driven biology etc etc. etc.  that has been generated now mainstream medicine has finally met Histamine, the neurotransmitter! 🥳🥳 And now, be warned folks, contemporary psychiatric pharmacy has its sights set on histamine as a key target for new medication development and the improved management of mental health.  Better late than never, I guess.  Have you met your Hype-Guy Histamine?

 

Histamine Imbalances in Mental Health
About 15 years ago I was introduced to Histamine as a neurotransmitter. Not the allergy mediator or the ‘basophil baddy’ but rather this prolific and potent neurochemical we all produce in our brains which, in the right amounts, regulates almost every biological rhythm, helps with memory and mood & much more. Being able to recognise excesses or deficiencies of CNS histamine in mental health presentations and, ever since then, fine-tuning my ability to support patients with these, has changed my practice forever and has been the key to some of my patients’ greatest recovery stories.  Forever grateful to the pioneers of this model, 70 years on, the model is ready for a mini-makeover, to bring it in line with the current scientific understanding of histamine, methylation, genes and much more.  This recording, together with two hugely helpful clinical resources, will give you the confidence to recognise and remedy this important imbalance in mental health.

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase Histamine Imbalance in Mental Health here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

It’s True

I’ve a confession to make, I took the batteries out of our smoke detector in our kitchen. Why?  You know why.  Because it went off all the time, with what I like to call, friendly fires…you know, heating oil for poppadoms, a rush of steam upwards from a hot pot on the stove with its lid removed, gosh even toasting your bread a little too vigorously would do it! Taking the batteries out, stopped the alarming alarm (!) and quelled my need to always keep a tall stool and ‘whooshing’ implement nearby, in preparedness for the next smoke activated siren. But of course this is not a solution.  There are consequences.

I recently realised this was the best analogy I had for many patients who have experienced significant trauma.  Particularly when this trauma has occurred during childhood, there is potential that they too have effectively ‘taken the batteries out of the ‘smoke alarms’

This has been documented in a proportion of individuals affected with PTSD for example and is believed to be due to the ‘re-calibration’ or ‘rewiring’ of their HPA axis in response to excess ‘over-activation’.  So because their internal ‘alarm system’ had been so consistently activated, the chronic hypercortisolism evokes a down-regulation of their glucocorticoid receptors, as a means to ‘turning down the volume’ or…removing the batteries.  Let’s think about this.  If your patient has, let’s say, 5 receptors for cortisol compared with 50, their receptors will be ‘filled’ quickly with only minimal amounts of cortisol.  This receptor ‘fullness’ however is detected by the brain which in turn then shuts off the ACTH release.  But really there was only a small amount of cortisol. The threshold for the negative feedback inhibition (cortisol –> no more cortisol) is very low and patients can end up with too little.  Wouldn’t they have less stress, then, feel better then?

In spite of all the name-calling Cortisol is not the criminal he’s been made out to be.
Cortisol 
≠ Stress.
Cortisol in fact offers a way out of stress – the means to physically resolve the stressor.  So too little…feels awful.

Patients of mine who have been shown to be affected by this hypocortisolism present as extremely anxious with poor stress tolerance, in fact if I didn’t know differently, I would have imagined they had ‘over-activation’ of their SNS not under.  When I speak with them I try to find different ways to describe why this down-regulation of their HPA can contribute to their mental health challenges. I talk about Cortisol being akin to clothes…no one wants to leave the house without it, or a raincoat that we really need because one day inevitably its going to rain and we’re going to be out in it…its protective.  But from now on I think I might confess about my battery-less smoke alarms.  Yes I can cook toast without getting startled by screeching sirens now…but I could also burn down my house…which clearly doesn’t rid me of stress and anxiety…

From the Update in Under 30 Archives – Investigating the HPA

Anxiety, high stress, poor sleep – it all sounds like high cortisol right?  But did you know that these are all features of abnormally low cortisol as well, which underscores why accurate adrenal assessment is so important.  This Premium Audio takes you through all the investigations you have at your hands, from clinical markers (Pupil response, Rogoff’s sign etc.) to the strengths and weaknesses of blood, urine and saliva assessment.  It identifies the variables you need to consider and how to accurately interpret your patients’ findings. 

If you’re already an Update in Under 30 Subscriber – you’ve got this! Just log on and go to your Active Content.
If you’re not and would like to download this recording and resource then click here!

SSRIs – A Weight On Some Patient’s Minds

Given 1 in 8 Australians right now are taking an antidepressant, chances are you’re seeing a lot of clients on these, especially the SSRIs.  Erica McIntyre (fellow naturopath) and colleagues, found that in fact, mental health diagnoses affect about 43% of individuals who choose to seek help from a naturopath or herbalist, so clearly this is across all of our waiting rooms. Accordingly, by this stage in your clinical career you’ve probably seen more than 1 patient taking the identical SSRI – e.g. Citalopram (aka Lexapro or Cipramil)  Have you also by now, therefore come to ‘expect the unexpected’, when it comes to patients on the same prescription, in terms of ‘weight effects’? The majority not reporting this to be a major concern or issue but the occasional client, experiencing such significant weight gain, they may even have seen this as a reason to discontinue the medication.  So what’s up with that then?  Don’t we all wish we knew for certain!  But getting our heads around the potential mechanisms is important for our patients, in terms of making more informed choices, as well as offering us insight perhaps into their neurobiological nuances.

Some of you will know, this used to be my place of business.  

I have a background in the pharmaceutical industry, specifically psychiatric meds, more specifically SSRIs and even I find every time I duck-dive back into the literature I come up with more ‘fish’ – critical new information about mechanisms, secondary and unexpected actions, unforeseen benefits, barriers and yes, some sad or bad new detail.  Consequently, I always field lots of questions about SSRIs in our mentoring sessions & one that often comes up is why some patients gain weight on SSRIs. What’s most curious to many, is how the weight effects of antidepressants can be hard to predict.  There is not a consistent pattern across any specific antidepressant class, nor just 1 or 2 medications within a class, that will do it, while the others never will. This is in contrast to the many determinations and drivers for who will or won’t get discontinuation syndrome. So what mechanisms might be behind such an individualistic weight response and is there any way to predict or prevent this? 

Here we find ourselves again with the question that keeps all IM practitioners awake at night:
But why?
But why??
But why???!

A worthy question indeed. According to comprehensive reviews of this issue: there are still multiple candidates – one is the incidental histamine blocking that some SSRIs exhibit (could this flag someone low in histamine to start with??), while others still hold some suspicion over an old foe, elevated prolactin, that we can see in a minority of patients on these meds…easy to measure and confirm or refute, right?  But always ask your patients first, How has your diet changed over this same period?  How has your activity changed? You may of course find, you need look no further.  People can give you the answer on a platter with things like, “I just relaxed a lot more: about what I ate and my weight”…Bingo!  As always, the patient in front of you is their own little ultimate black-box…🧐

Leaving Anti-Depressants Behind

Never our call to make, but with 1 in 8 Australians at any time taking antidepressants, playing a supportive role for patients wishing to discontinue their antidepressant medication is common.  So what do we know, about how to really do this well, what to expect and how to perhaps mitigate some of the bumps that might lie ahead.  What in our artillery should we go in armed with either during the discontinuation or, better still, beforehand?  This Update in Under 30 outline the key principles of patient prescriptions in this context and may assist patients, in their desire to truly leave the antidepressants behind.

 

If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, this is a previously release episode and you will need to search for it to find this in your library of UU30’s that are in your online account. 
Not an Update in Under 30 Subscriber? To access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources become a subscriber here.

 

Walk Towards The Light!

Now find a comfy spot everyone & I’ll tell you a story…’Once upon a time, a long long time ago, we lived our days out in the dark, regarding potential calcium dysregulation!’ But ever since serum Calcium has become a standard lab included in most routine screening tests (General Chemistry aka ELFTs) abnormal calcium handling is no longer an ambush for patients of ‘stones, moans and abdominal groans’, as the saying goes in hyperaparthyroidism.  A diagnosis historically only mad, when someone presented with this constellation of rather advanced symptoms. But actually being able to identify your patients’ typical blood calcium levels offer us so much more than just a heads-up re parathyroid disease

 It may tell us something about their Magnesium status, cardio cautions, be a bit of ‘bone barometer’ and probably most immediately important, flag their suitability for calcium supplementation!

Yep…rather than the current-criminally-crude-calcium-checklist:
1. Patient is female
2. Patient probably doesn’t consume enough calcium
3. Patient may be at risk of osteoporosis (yup…that accounts for practically every woman, right there!)

… and then the indiscriminate prescribing of calcium doses that could rarely be achieved in a single meal…(and hence run the risk of over-riding our critical regulation of this edgy electrolyte) we could…wait for it…individualise our approach!  I know, like a broken record 😂

But seriously, if you just do a full review of the vast literature on this topic, what?! Not enough time?! How about then, just skim read a couple of key papers? Still baulking at that?…maybe just a wafer-thing editorial (??!) will tell you that, consuming elemental amounts of calcium (> 250mg), that are beyond even the biggest Dairy Diva’s Diet Diary, may be deeply problematic for many.  And guess what…this doesn’t pertain to supplements alone…even calcium fortified foods are not free from concern!  But let’s not let yet throw all our calcium fortified foods in the same bin as the folate ones we did a while ago!!  Let’s step out of the dark and into the light that shines upon us, care of fasting serum Calcium measurements, to help us recognise whether Calcium is the cause, the consequence, a cure or a curse for person sitting in front of you 🧐

The Calcium Conspiracy Controversy Continued

The Calcium Conspiracy arises primarily from misperceptions about it being ‘the boss of bones’ but becomes more of a controversy when in spite of ongoing advice for broad-scale use we review the evidence and have to acknowledge that the recommendation to supplement post-menopausal women with large doses of Calcium, not only lacks strong evidence but may cause harm to some.  In this detailed discussion of the two schools of thought – Rachel finds a position somewhere in between. Reinforcing the need for an individualised approach and personalised risk benefit analysis while teaching you how to undertake this in every client.

 

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