No matter how long I am in practise there is always a group of patients for whom ‘vaginal thrush’ is a major problem. Most of us have some fabulous tricks up our sleeves to help resolve these issues & reduce their susceptibility – intravaginal lactulose is one of mine thanks to Jason Hawrelak. And then you come across those clients who vigilantly do every thing you ask them to and yet you fail to completely resolve the issue. Doh!
One of the most important things to do with all clients presenting with ‘thrush’ sooner rather than later is send them STAT (!) for a vaginal swab.
Not only does this clarify if it is in fact actually thrush (2/3 of self-diagnosed women get it wrong according to research!) but better again it names the actual culprit. It may come as a surprise but not all vulvovaginitis is due to Candida albicans – increasingly they are the result of other Candida species and this is something you absolutely need to know.
During a recent mentoring session, a practitioner wanted to better understand why she had a group of patients whose thrush seemed so resistant to her usually successful treatment. Here’s my initial response in a nutshell… (more…)
Recently a practitioner lamented that because of her clinic location she didn’t see company reps very often & felt this was a barrier to her staying current with her clinical knowledge. Of course, I had to beg to differ.
We’re quick to judge the medical profession for their reliance on commercial sources of CPD, overwhelmingly provided of course by the ‘drug reps’ but it seems we’re less fazed or concerned about ourselves being equally reliant, unduly influenced and misguided (might I add) by the people employed by the CAM manufacturers expressly to encourage us to sell more of their products! How does that make sense?
I go back to my very repetitive mantra: always be mindful of who delivers you the message/information etc. and what their agenda is.
By promoting their company’s products to us, focusing on the products’ strengths, ignoring or simply not making it a priority to know the limitations or weaknesses of the products or the evidence, ignoring or again simply not making it their business to know when superior products are being produced by competitors or when new evidence comes to light that puts into question their products, reps are only doing what they’re employed to do. But is it helpful and is it ok? (more…)
It’s not sexy but it is one of my favourite deficiencies. Favourite because it’s incredibly common…make no bones about it (tee hee)! Favourite because a deficiency is actually reasonably easy to recognise once you know how (watch increasing phosphate levels especially over 1.2 mmol/L in particular in adults) rather than wait for a recognisable clinical deficiency picture because if you wait for this your patient will have probably had osteopenia if not osteoporosis for a decade already! Favourite lastly, but most importantly, because correction of a calcium deficiency has led to some of the most diverse but impressive improvements in people’s health that I have seen – from better menstrual regularity and less luteal phase symptoms (see the fascinating research on this also by Thys-Jacobs 2007 https://press.endocrine.org/doi/full/10.1210/jc.2006-2726) to improved pain control in fibromyalgia. (more…)
Lots of great conversations with practitioners following my recent post on the need to specialise – really thought provoking & clarifying ones which makes me think it’s been a good conversation starter. Key things that have come up for people are:
- How do I choose my area of speciality…e.g. is a spin the bottle approach required?
- Is specialisation sensible when you’re only just starting out or should you be taking everyone and anyone to begin with?
- Is specialising even naturopathic given we have a holistic approach to health?? …e.g. I might say, I only do gut but for my IBS patients there’s a whole lot of stress management & mental health stuff that needs addressing along the way
Great questions 🙂 Now remember, all I’m offering here is my opinion, I don’t think there is a definitive answer to these but I think we should keep the conversation going as a way of keeping us thinking about the way we choose to practice rather than assuming there’s only one way to be a naturopath in clinic. (more…)
We had a great case in one of our graduate mentoring sessions the other day (thanks Kate 😉 ) , about a 40 something mum of 3 who reported to have cyclical mood and depression. Further investigation of the case, however, revealed that some of the key characteristics of the mood disorder were actually anger, aggression, irritability, hyperactivity, vivid nightmares etc. This particularly came to light with her responses to a mood survey that the practitioner had asked her to complete. I think validated tools like this (esp. DASS), when used appropriately, can give us enormous insight – often revealing things we might not have thought to ask about or that the client might not have voluntarily offered up, particularly if they are not socially accepted or attractive qualities.
If you practice anything like me, then Vitex is an absolute reflex response (think the very funny reflex paper ad – that’s me in my clinic!) & godsend for most cyclical mood issues. However, apart from the fact that this woman’s key period of mood aggravation, although clearly related to her menstrual cycle, was day 5-14 rather than during the late luteal phase, there was another stand out reason for me why I definitely wouldn’t use Vitex. (more…)
So…a 55 year old female walks into your clinic only recently diagnosed with Graves disease but when you look through her old blood work it looks like actually she has had hyperthyroidism (or at the very least suppressed TSH) for some time prior. She is experiencing a lot of the common features with stinging eyes, thinning hair, shortness of breath, broken sleep, as well as fatigue and depression. Problem is you’ve done all the right things (Selenium, Rhemannia & Hemidesmus etc.) and yet you’re not seeing significant improvements.
Your mind starts going further afield… worrying about what you might have missed…she has lots of amalgams, parietal cell antibodies and very high ESR and copper levels. What are you missing??
I had one of those conversations with a friend recently in which he was wondering out loud about what the point of it all is. Now don’t panic…this is not ‘suicidal ideation over a cuppa’ kind of stuff … no this is the regular existential crises that many of us experience about what it is we’re doing with our lives as opposed to what perhaps we should be doing, or as a good psychologist might frame it asking ourselves the question, ‘do my values align with my actions & choices in life?’. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s where we live but I find this is a conversation that’s coming up increasingly regularly amongst friends, colleagues and clients.
The wrestle between being V doing, earning V giving and perhaps money V meaning is such an age-old one and I think particularly pertinent to people in our profession. We’ve chosen the road less travelled, we’ve opted for a career that (chances are..) we knew was likely to earn less (money, respect, fame! 😉 ) than a lot of other paths we could have chosen and yet most of us hold the almost endangered position of being able to say, “I love what I do”. (more…)
So…a 40 something female walks into your clinic with depression & anxiety…sounds common enough right? But here’s the twist: she’s already seen another practitioner who ran a range of investigations revealing she has pyrroles, high copper levels & is homozygous for the C677T MTHFR mutation. Her medical history includes significant use of Ecstasy and a partial thyroidectomy due to nodules & she has persistently high TSH. But wait there’s more!…The first practitioner upon discovering all of this put the patient on 12 different products which included zinc, B6, evening primrose oil, vitamin D, thyroid support etc etc. And guess what…the patient feels worse!
Frequently our patients are just as complex as this case & sometimes our attempts to narrow the treatment focus through thorough investigation instead leaves us feeling we now have even more things we need to deal with than before! Feeling overwhelmed?? Often! At risk of completely overwhelming the client as well? Definitely! And a reflex to throw your whole dispensary at a client never ends well. (more…)
I’m only human & there are some questions that do make me silently groan & invisibly (I hope!) roll my eyes. One is the old chestnut: “but the Japanese consume on average 7mg of iodine a day!” which is typically offered up as a rationale for the need for mega dosing of iodine in everyone. This is of course only a partial truth & the missing bits make all the difference! The Japanese have some of the highest rates of thyroid disease in the world & this is in part, attributed to their high iodine exposure. Secondly, it’s simplistic & flawed to isolate one characteristic of a whole diet & not appreciate that its effect or impact is mitigated by the context of the entire diet & lifestyle of that population. In the case of the Japanese, for example, this includes relatively intake of isoflavones, key goitrogens which will reduce the bioavailability of the iodine both within the gut & at the thyroid. Harrumph! I love iodine & am frequently suspicious of a deficiency in my clients, however, like many nutrients feel that our ultimate objective is for optimal nutrition…not excessive.
Am I just a conservative scaredy cat perpetuating fear around this topic in the industry? Well…..no. There is accumulating international evidence of big spikes in autoimmune thyroid disease diagnoses following the introduction of iodine fortification programs in previously iodine deficient countries such as Greece, Turkey & Brazil. There is of course evidence as well that iodine supplementation in Grave’s & Hashimoto’s disease can lead to delayed recovery or worsening of the condition. (more…)
I was chatting with a colleague today about a complicated & interesting case of hers, severe hypothyroidism coupled with overt hypercortisolemia (salivary cortisol up to 230!). This is a distance patient & she’s sharing care with a couple of other health professionals with conflicting ideas…tricky!!
So when my friend received an email last week to the tune of… “things are bad, everything is terrible if not worse”, then naturally she starts worrying: What has she missed? What’s gone wrong? What more could/should she have done? Is this some sort of aggravation to the treatment she’s recommended?
This is the place our minds naturally go when faced with these scenarios however one of the things I have really learned over years in clinic is that patients, like me, like everyone else I know, are labile, in the moment kind of creatures & we’re all vulnerable to having BPDs. (more…)
Like all thyroid disease, post-partum thyroid conditions seem to be on the rise – and often they rewrite the rule book when it comes to thyroid pathology & its management. Therefore for many of us it can add an extra element of uncertainty about how to help these clients.
One of our graduate practitioners has a great example of this, a 33yo female who developed late gestational diabetes and is now struggling with a new baby and an autoimmune thyroid disease! What would you do? Does post-partum thyroiditis have unique triggers/drivers that require specific treatment? What can you/should you be doing differently because she is still breastfeeding? What’s the likely progression/prognosis?
This is your invitation to come along and find out the answers to these questions and more. During our live graduate mentoring session on Monday 15th June at 3.30pm AEST we’ll work through all aspects of the case, from history to presentation and from looking for clues in her pathology results to where to start with treatment. (more…)
Ever noticed that thing called RDW (red cell distribution width) reported in your patients’ haematology results? Given that this parameter is currently regarded as one of the most important & earliest markers of a wide range of serious diseases, you might start paying some more attention to it from now on!
Dr. Michael Hayter, cleverly refers to RDW as being a reflection of the ‘Quality Control’ of an individual’s red blood cell synthesis.
As it’s a measure of how similar or dissimilar our rbcs are in terms of size, smaller values (suggesting homogeneous rbcs) are regarded as healthy, while higher RDWs suggest that some part of rbc synthesis and/or clearance process is faulty.
This makes perfect sense in the context of nutritional anaemias like iron and B12/folate which all produce elevated RDW results but new research proposes that this rbc size disparity is also a common linking feature in just about every major disease, often predating diagnosis or in cases of established pathology signalling progression and warning of imminent poor outcomes for the individual.
There have been 100s of papers published just in the past 4 years on this topic and the findings are nothing if not dramatic. One of the biggest things I’ve realised is that, while Australian pathology companies suggest that all RDW results < 16% are acceptable, in the light of these new associations, a more accurate cut-off is probably around 13.5%! The big question now to answer is, is the increased RDW a passive marker of pathology or actively involved in the pathogenesis of these major diseases. For now, we should be scrutinising our patients’ RDW results more closely and being alert to what these markers are telling us about our clients threats & risks. I’ve recorded a 30min audio summarising all the information I’ve come across on this topic and how to apply it in your patients which you can access here.
Alternatively, if you’re happy to chomp into some juicy journal articles yourself then check out these ones to start with
We should all be as skilled in investigating & treating male hormone imbalances as we are female ones, yet this is often not the case. A lack of confidence in this area, which seems to be an issue for many, in particular will compromise our ability to question male clients comprehensively and effectively about their reproductive health and ultimately reduce our capacity for making good clinical decisions and achieving the best outcomes for them. If you’re female, how would you feel seeing a male practitioner who doesn’t ask you about your menstrual cycle in detail?
Many of us are at risk of committing similar crimes but we need not be. (more…)
So often in mentoring I hear about patients practitioners have struggled to treat primarily because of irregular points of contact….you know the type, the client who is an Irregular Regular or Random Regular, booking in to see you just once or twice a year or just in acute situations & never doing the follow-up you so want them to do, in order to address the real underpinning causes. A case I heard the other day would sound familiar to many of us, about a patient who saw the practitioner only when she experienced cramping. Each time she’d have an appointment, buy some magnesium which relieved the issue and then disappear again, only to re-emerge with the same issue at a later time. During one of these subsequent visits, the patient mentioned that she was ‘exhausted’. Following the practitioner’s insistence that the patient bring in any pathology she had had done, the practitioner realises much to her horror, the patient has been suffering from macrocytic anaemia for some years but no one had bothered to tell the patient and accordingly, the practitioner has been none the wiser as well. The practitioner of course felt terrible because she’s thorough and conscientious but is she to blame? Where does the patient’s autonomy end and the practitioner’s duty of care begin?
Sometimes patients themselves can be a big barrier to their own wellness for all sorts of reasons and we can’t always resolve this but perhaps we need to consider introducing clinic protocols to try and better manage the Irregular Regulars. (more…)
I regard myself as integrative which means working collaboratively with other health professionals to get the best outcomes for our shared patients, sometimes that means my patients are taking psychiatric medications & there have been instances where I have seen the necessity and benefit of the right drug at the right time. This might be in the form of short term use of atypical antipsychotics, so a recent article linking higher rates (approx. 50%) of diabetes with the use of atypical antipsychotics specifically in teenagers, caught my eye. (more…)
“Health issues are rarely one individual textbook condition like they were during my studies. The interaction of the body is complex, and Rachel has given me valuable insight into how to link various pathology markers & physical aspects together. Test interpretation has been a huge focus for me. The letters and numbers now mean something, and I can work with “true” reference ranges, and see how different values affect others. The sessions have been great to get assistance with cases and learn how to break things down & prioritise treatment, and also to connect with other practitioners, and hear their cases as well. I really feel like my career has received an invaluable leg up, and I’m so thankful for Rachel’s knowledge and assistance.”
Rohan Smith, Graduate Group Mentoring Participant, Adelaide.
We began our Graduate/New Practitioner Group Mentoring sessions in March 2014 with just a few keen newbies but the sessions have gone from strength to strength since then, with an ever-growing group of new graduates participating in case presentations every month. Every session I’m reminded that people are now graduating with much more sophisticated knowledge than I did. Not because the education standards have improved (ouch!) but actually because the research-backed knowledge base of our whole industry has progressed & improved so dramatically… & that is really exciting & changing the marketplace for all of us. (more…)
I read an interesting news item in Medical Observer this week about the increasing number of patients either overtly or covertly recording medical appointments on their smart phones. Have some of your patients already asked if they could do this? Mine have and I’m also aware of some patients getting into hot water when asking their ‘old-school’ medical specialists if they could do the same thing. For me, I have always understood the patient’s desire to do this, as the information they’re being given might be complex, considered critical and they may need to hear it several times in order to grasp the details, instructions etc. In other situations I’ve experienced it’s because the patient needs someone else, who couldn’t be present at the appointment, to hear the discussion ‘firsthand’ e.g. another parent, a partner. In my mind this all makes good sense. Does it make me speak differently, think more carefully about my words etc…You bet it does! (more…)
Thyroid function is critical to successful conception, healthy pregnancies, babies and mum’s post-partum wellbeing, so we need to take the time to ensure we’re monitoring it properly.
First of all you need the right tool for the right job & that means we need trimester specific reference ranges – which unfortunately many pathology companies don’t use in Australia. Due to the thyrotropic action of HCG (acting a bit like TSH), TSH should actually decrease in the 1st trimester and while TSH is less affected in 2nd and 3rd trimesters it should still actually sit lower than in non-pregnant females. (more…)
We’re ready to begin another year of group mentoring from this Tuesday and we’ve got just 6 spots in total still available across all our time slots! Maybe you’ve heard the buzz about the sessions from some of our mentees over the past few years & are tempted but have been holding back or deliberating…now’s the perfect time to join in, while we’re all coming back from a break and the groups are reforming and settling. To boot we’re offering newcomers, a special 6 month package to get you started: attend yourself (or if necessary receive an audio recording when you’re unable to) all sessions from January to June at a reduced price https://rachelarthur.com.au/product/special-6mth-group-mentoring-package/ (more…)
Ever had those patients… young, slim, fit…I won’t go so far as to say ‘well’ or otherwise they probably wouldn’t be seeing us right? But not overtly inflamed and yet when you measure their CRP, it registers. The average CRP of ‘healthy’ adult populations is reported to be between 1 and 3 mg/L but we know that even values within this range positively correlate with long-term CVD risk and most of us believe that unless there’s a good reason for immune activation at the time of the test, we’d like to see values < 1mg/L.
I saw one of my patients who fits this bill just the other day – an updated CRP and there it was again bubbling away at 1mg/L. This guy is young (20s), slim (BMI of 19 kg/m2), non-smoker (another classic driver of this sort of brewing CRP), doesn’t report any acute illness e.g. URTI, at the time of each test (we would expect a much higher value with this anyway)…so why is there any CRP? (more…)