As Britney so famously put it, ‘Oops, I did it again!’ I remember the actions on my to do list but not the intended recipients! D.O.H. I was talking with a practitioner the other day who lamented that she had never really learnt about stats nor how to assess the quality of research in her undergraduate and could I point her in the right direction towards a resource that simply explains this increasingly important basic skill-set…well I would if I could remember who you were!! Anyhoo, I followed through in my usually dogged way to the bottom of my actions list and with the help of a lovely past-intern, got directed to these free BMJ resources on how to read research…G.O.L.D.
Papers that go beyond numbers (qualitative research) Trisha Greenhalgh, Rod Taylor
Papers that summarise other papers (systematic reviews and meta-analyses) Trisha Greenhalgh
Papers that tell you what things cost (economic analyses) Trisha Greenhalgh
Papers that report diagnostic or screening tests Trisha Greenhalgh
Papers that report drug trials Trisha Greenhalgh
Statistics for the non-statistician. II: “Significant” relations and their pitfalls Trisha Greenhalgh
Statistics for the non-statistician Trisha Greenhalgh
Assessing the methodological quality of published papers Trisha Greenhalgh
Getting your bearings (deciding what the paper is about) Trisha Greenhalgh
Anyway…while I continue to ponder who this was actually intended for… it dawned on me how many people would just LOVE these & benefit from them immensely in the meantime. Couldn’t most of us do with a little more research literacy? So I thought I’d share. Don’t you love it when we work as a team. Now…who can help me find my keys?! 😉
It’s starting to feel a lot like…that Update in Under 30 time of the month!
Update in Under 30 are dynamic power-packed podcasts that will help you keep abreast of the latest must-knows in integrative medicine. Focused on one key issue at a time, Rachel details all the salient points so that you don’t have to trawl through all the primary evidence yourself. All topics are aimed at clinicians and cover a range of areas from patient assessment to management, from condition based issues to the latest nutritional research. Most importantly, each podcast represents unbiased education that can contribute to your CPE points, so if you haven’t subscribed yet…what are you waiting for??!! 🙂
That’s me…always questioning the ‘status quo’ and Iodine is the perfect example! The interview I did on this important subject with Andrew Whitfield-Cook from FxMedicine, covers a lot of key areas of confusion & underscores why it’s so critical all health practitioners get clarity on this topic. ‘It’s just a matter of geography’.
You know, I say to people, we can make vitamins ourselves, we can get all sorts of other organisms including animals, bacteria and plants to make vitamins for us, and then eat those…but minerals…our source of minerals…well it all comes down to the rocks and the soil our food itself is grown or fed on. And iodine is profoundly influenced by these factors. (more…)
I had the privilege of presenting at the Integria GIT Symposium last weekend. For those of you who attended, you’ve gone back to your clinic with a bunch of new ideas and inspiration I hope…oh and a new respect, terror and watchfulness for threadworm thanks to me! In my presentation I outlined the many presentations of this infestation, what to watch for and the risk of chronic recurrence due,in particular, to a reduced ability for some individuals to produce chondroitin sulfate which renders the GIT environment hostile to worms.
Chronic threadworm is a huge & grossly under-recognised issue in paediatrics, often presenting as behavioural & cognitive disorders (and these can be severe), bruxism, enuresis etc. of course, but another presentation typically missed is vulvovaginitis, vulval pain or UTI like sx in young girls. (more…)
Ever wondered where on earth (or Mars?!) I came from? As much as I can’t keep quiet on some topics, my personal journey to here has been a bit of closed book to many. Recently during an interview with Andrew Whitfield-Cook from FxMedicine, which was supposed to be strictly about postgraduate education paths and the desperate need for mentoring, internships etc for naturopaths, the sneaky devil got me to spill the beans on a whole lot more!
Having been involved in so many aspects of naturopathic and integrative health care education over the past 15 years, of course I do have a lot of ideas about how practitioners can best accelerate their learning and development, the need for more independent education and the importance of fostering critical thinking.
I think you already know that I feel passionately about this but do you know the whole story? Who I have been mentored by and how I continue to tread the path of the ‘student’? (more…)
Setting: Local cafe
Scenario: Run into friends of friends who join us in the sunshine for a cuppa & we’re discussing the finer details of chai (western version V the real streets of Delhi stuff), tumeric lattes etc etc. as you do. I comment on how unpleasantly strong I found the cow’s milk in those downtown Delhi chais we had when we were there.
50 something man: Oh I LOVE that – I just LOVE cow’s milk. I drink loads of the stuff. I used to drink 2L a day but now it’s more like 1L a day.
50 something man: Absolutely. Then there’s the cheese as well – I would eat at least 1kg of that a week. But it’s good for my bones, right? I have that thing, you know, before osteoporosis…brittle bones. (more…)
I am frequently asked what scientific journals I subscribe to and often by the same practitioners over and over, because they can’t reconcile my answer: “None”. Yet I constantly have my head in the scientific literature, right? The two are not mutually exclusive, it’s just about knowing which free scientific and medical news-feeds are worth their weight in gold! If you really are digging into the itty-bitty detail of things these won’t answer all your questions on all your topics but they do a great job of 1) keeping you up to date with the big headlines in general medicine, or, with the use of alert systems and filters, just the areas of health you’re particularly interested in and 2) offering you a huge highly credible resource database that is easily searchable.
Point 1, Exhibit A 😉 :
Here’s just a few examples from the last month that popped into my inbox from Medscape that got my pulse racing:
Most practitioners are pretty knowledgeable about Zinc and are quick to recognise a deficiency and the opportunities for zinc supplementation as an effective therapy and those same practitioners are often plagued by nagging questions that come up, in spite of loads of clinical experience, like:
- Are plasma and serum zinc levels interchangeable?
- What does zinc adequacy look like? Is it just a single number on a page or do we always have to factor in copper levels and get the ratio right as well?
- What can I expect from zinc supplementation in terms of changes to the patient’s plasma zinc?
- What should I do when a patient’s zinc marker is refractory to the intervention?
- Is there really a significant difference between the different supplemental forms available?
I like to fancy myself as a bit of Supplement Sleuth! I love working with herbs, nutrients and nutraceuticals rather than pharmaceuticals but I am not blinded to the fact that manufacturers and suppliers, whatever their form of medicine, are large competitive businesses that ultimately need to sell product and want to sell more. Often practitioners & patients are surprised when I say things like, ‘It’s vitamin C not something sophisticated – go buy something cheap as long as it ticks these boxes…”. In contrast, there are some nutrients and nutraceuticals at the other end of the spectrum, that evoke my compete attention around form, delivery method etc. and I would never send my patient out the door to get these anywhere else.
A few times recently, I’ve been asked by praccies, ‘What’s the deal with CoQ10 and ubiquinol V ubiquinone/ubidecarenone forms?’ and I can hear in their tone that they posses a healthy skepticism when being sold the latest and greatest supplement! ‘Should all my patients be using the ubiquinol form or just some?’, ‘Is it really worth the premium price?’. Great questions all of them 🙂 (more…)
Cheesy I know! 😉 However, recently the issue of knowing when to use Withania somnifera & when not to, came up again in mentoring so I thought it’s probably a good one to share. Withania, aka Aswagandha or Indian Ginseng, has become a favourite adaptogenic prescription for many practitioners, myself included. I remember learning specifically (about a million years ago!!) that this herb is ‘warming’ & ‘nourishing’, thanks in part to its iron content. In a traditional medicine context, it’s used for those particularly vulnerable populations such as children, the pregnant, the elderly and the malnourished, boiled in milk as a tonic. These ideas always stayed with me, and lead me to only use Withania in similar patients and presentations with good results. (more…)
Have you ever wondered what is the best way to grow your business? Not a cardboard cut-out, off-the-shelf kind of business that every business coach talks to, or somebody else’s business, your business? Business advice like naturopathy, according to Rachel, is about taking an individualised approach.
The traditional model of a naturopath was based on a one on one clinical practice model, while potentially still a path to success and satisfaction, this requires a totally fresh and contemporary perspective on what works today. In addition to this, many naturopaths feel a need to diversify their revenue stream in order to work smarter not harder. The naturopathic path is not always conventional and rarely the same for any two practitioners depending on personality, location, skill sets (including non-naturopathic), passion etc.
Rachel gets it. (more…)
It’s taken a little while for me to collect my thoughts on this one. Initially there was a little flash of anger, frustration and a good deal of huffing and puffing when I heard about the RACGP guidelines recommending GPs say no to any requests from naturopaths for further investigation of their shared patients… but I’m over that now. In an interview on 702 ABC Sydney radio last week, Stephen Eddy, the vice president of ATMS, responded to these guidelines by suggesting that a blanket directive for GPs to ignore all requests from all naturopaths about all testing didn’t really sound sensible or appropriate. Here here! Surely, in the pursuit of evidence based medicine and discerning practice decisions, each case should be considered on an individual basis. I think Stephen Eddy gives GPs more credit for being able to make these judgements than their own association! (more…)
Most of us know that measuring a fasting blood glucose to assess how well someone is managing their glucose levels is about as crude and insensitive as waiting for the smoke detector alarm to tell you your dinner is cooked! If we wait to see an abnormal result here we’ve missed a prime opportunity for patient education and prevention long ago. Much the same story if you’re looking at HbA1c results.
To explain this I always use the analogy of a duck. A duck will always be able to swim but the question is how much effort does it have to exert to swim the same distance? If your blood glucose is within range after an overnight fast that’s as good as saying, ‘this duck can swim the length of the pond’. What it doesn’t tell you is how fast its little legs are paddling in order to achieve that. Measuring a fasting insulin at the same time, however, tells us some additional important information. It tells you how fast the duck’s legs are paddling just to keep its head above water! The more insulin you’re having to secrete to just maintain normal blood glucose levels, the more alarmed we should be! (more…)
Howdy hard working praccies 🙂 well I received a very interesting email this week from someone asking me if I thought her urinary iodine result was accurate or if, as I have written about previously (https://rachelarthur.com.au/concentrating-concentration-getting-urinary-iodine-right/), it needed to be corrected for the creatinine content of her urine. Her raw iodine result was 24ug/L which suggests severe iodine deficiency. Her referring doctor however had also asked for creatinine and applied the creatinine correction formula I have previously described:
Iodine (mcg) ÷ Creatinine (mmol) X 8.85 = Corrected Iodine – which changed her result to 265 mcg/gCR which suggests she is NOT iodine deficient at all
She then asked another doctor to review the result who had told her 24ug/L was correct in the first place as ‘pathology companies automatically correct for the concentration of the urine’. Naturally the individual found the difference in opinions and results absolutely striking and ultimately disconcerting so she thought she’d ask me.
It was good to get this email because it made me go and check my facts, get in touch with all the major mainstream pathology companies we deal with and ask their labs ‘Do you or do you not automatically correct for creatinine when you report urinary iodine results?’ I was worried I had given you guys some bad advice 🙁 …here’s what I found out: (more…)
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…)
I am frequently asked by practitioners about where I find research and whether I subscribe to journals. I always tell people to look for information that is available for free first. Google has recently released a new web browser plug-in making accessing free, independent, full text research articles even easier! Pretty groovy huh?
As my last post suggested not relying on information provided just by company reps (if you missed it check it out here) is essential to being an informed practitioner. So here’s an introduction to Google Scholar button for your web browser to help you do just that!
What is it?
The Google Scholar button is a plug-in that you can install on your web browser (currently available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari) so that you can find the source article of referenced information via the title or take your web searches straight to Scholar. Google Scholar will show free and fee-based article in its results.
How does it work?
Simply install the plug-in on your browser (‘How-to’ install and use Google Scholar Button is detailed California Digital Library here) and use the button in the tool bar to search Google Scholar or copy and paste the title of the article you wish to find.
How will it help you?
This tool enables users to find the full text article from just the article title, or to search for full text scholarly articles and books. These may be free or fee based, but the point being it enables you to find free ones.
Get it here!
Download the plug-in right now for Chrome here and Firefox here.
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…)
About a decade ago there was a lot of excitement about using fish oils in the management of mental health, so much so even the American Psychiatric Association developed recommendations suggesting that people with mood, impulse control & psychotic disorders should all consume 1g EPA + DHA per day… but then what happened?
Ask most health professionals (GPs, psychiatrists, naturopaths & nutritionists alike) today whether fish oils are their first choice in mental health nutritional interventions and you’ll frequently get a, ‘No’ and I include myself in that.
Let’s retrace our steps to find out how we got here. The epidemiological evidence linking low omega 3 intake to myriad mental health problems in terms of susceptibility, incidence and severity is almost overwhelming. For example, depression rates are 10 times higher in countries with limited seafood intake and post-partum depression 10-50 times higher (Kendall-Tackett, 2010).
Noaghiul & Hibbeln postulated that countries where individuals consumed less than ≈ 450-680g of seafood per person per week demonstrated the highest rates of affective disorders (2003). One study of 33 000 women with low omega-3 intake were found to have an increased risk of psychotic symptoms (Goren & Tewksbury 2011) and it goes on. Then, we have other evidence also pointing in the direction of fish oils, such as the general consensus that excess unchecked inflammation is evident in many mental health conditions (Maes et al 2013). Numerous intervention studies using fish oils as stand-alone or adjunctive treatments have been published. Interventions have included high dose omega 3 (no specific EPA/DHA breakdown), EPA alone, ethyl-EPA, high DHA, blends with high DHA:EPA ratio, flaxseed oil etc. etc. (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 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…)