How Low Can You Go…With Cortisol?

Assessing Adrenals can be hit and miss, especially given that even more so than other labs, timing is everything.  That’s why endocrinologists typically won’t look at anything less than a 24hr urine collection. If the total output is deemed to be high = Cushing’s and if it’s low = Addison’s. Sounds simple right?  But to say only values outside of this reference range flag a problem might just be a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater (or urine in this case!). Especially given it has been established that humans frequently fail at correct & complete 24hr urine collection! Alternatively we can use saliva or blood assays and capture the cortisol at any given time point, comparing that to expectations based on diurnal rhythm – but again, how are the reference ranges for these ascertained and is there such as thing as low normal. high normal results for cortisol, that actually warrant follow up investigation?  I’m so glad you asked.

I see a number of patients who present with possible indications of flagging adrenals: from some distinguishing, but far from definitive features, in the clinical picture, to secondary lab markers. However, when they ‘limp’ over the line with their morning blood cortisol result I am often left talking to myself in an echo chamber about the need for more follow up.

But with the RCPA a.m. reference range of 200-650 nmol/L (Some seriously wide goalposts!) and some labs even going down to 150 with their minimum acceptable level for morning cortisol…are we right to still flag hypocortisolism (for any reason) as a differential in patients with low normal results?

Well Medscape yet again delivered Christmas 🤶 early last week with the largest study to date of blood cortisol, that has narrowed what’s ‘normal’ significantly…at least in terms of how low you can go before warranting further investigation.  In this study they tested blood cortisol in the morning and afternoon, in over 1200 individuals presenting at an endocrinology clinic to determine in real world terms how low is too low (and associated with an increased likelihood of genuine adrenal insufficiency). They then gave this new ‘minimum cortisol’ a bit of test-run in 2 other large cohorts of patients to check it really did work as an effective cut off and wham bang…we now have a fully validated bare minimum… and guess what…it’s 275 nmol/L in the morning and 250 nmol/L in the afternoon! 

Let’s be clear, their cut-off has what’s called a low ‘positive predictive value’ – which means most people (approx 2/3) with cortisol under this cut-off, upon further investigation (typically the ACTH stimulation test) will be found to be fine.  BUT the point of this study was to ensure we don’t miss patients with adrenal problems just because they have ‘within range’ cortisol…and this new cut-off delivers on that.

This is big helpful news actually.  Previously with patients who had am cortisol between 150- 275 we tended to find ourselves in ‘no man’s land’ – unable to provide enough of an argument about why adrenal insufficiency should still be on the differential list but unable to abandon that suspicion entirely.  Thanks Medscape!  Now if all the labs, RCPA and the referring physicians can just read this study and shift their goal posts…🙄

Our Group Mentoring 2020 Doors are just…about…to…close! 

TODAY!

So if you love labs (or want to learn to love them more), desire to be a better diagnostic detective than you already are and want truly independent mentoring in a collegiate and structured environment for next year and you haven’t applied yet…best shove your foot to hold that door open right now! We offer a range of different levels & types of special interest groups: from New Graduates & the Mental Health Primer group (for those wanting to upskill and focus on this area), from rotating case presentations in our regular groups which are a mix of funky similarly skilled clinicians, to our pure GP group…take our pick!  But get in quick by emailing us right this very second: admin@rachelarthur.com.au

Does Holistic Health Include The Hardest Workers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iron – Another Important Discovery

Yet another super-helpful part of Iron-Land has been mapped!!  Ever struggled to correct chronic iron deficiency in athletes or even just weekend warriors?  Yep, me too. One of the key barriers being the 2-3 fold rise in hepcidin in response to exercise. Hepcidin whose day job is an inflammatory signal that two-times as an iron uptake blocking agent at the small intestine.  In addition to other exercise-induced factors that either reduce Fe uptake or increase losses, it really is no surprise that these cases can be hard to treat. However, a recently published small Australian study has brought to light some constructive new information. Similar to the often talked about ‘anabolic window of opportunity’ whereby we encourage people to consume protein +/- CHOs within a short time-frame post-exercise to optimise exercise outcomes and negate negatives, these new findings imply the same might be true for optimal Iron uptake. But only in relation to exercise done in the morning! 

The key finding was when individuals consumed iron after 90mins of exercise in the morning they exhibited higher uptake than both when they took the iron at the same time but didn’t exercise beforehand or took it after exercising at night.

This is a game-changer for potentially ALL our patients who struggle with iron absorption.  With the key take-home being…not just take your iron preferably in the morning which we already know (when hepcidin is naturally lower as part of its diurnal rhythm) but before you pop that pill, pop on your sneakers and get busy sweating! How on earth might this be working?  Well this study demonstrated that while hepcidin rises after exercise typically for up to 6hrs…it is not yet ‘up’ and blocking within the first hour – gotcha! But why would this mean an even greater uptake compared with the same iron at the same time in the same individual…but a resting version of themselves?  Because exercise may in fact cause a transient leaky gut post exercise & enhanced nutrient uptake may be its silver lining!  A small study that actually punches above its weight, this one is worth the read – via a great comprehensive summary on Medscape if you have it or you can check out the abstract.

Our ever-expanding Iron knowledge gives us great hope for the improved understanding we are likely to reach with all nutrients in the future.  Let’s not forget Iron has about a 70 year head-start on other microminerals such as Zinc and almost a century on Selenium, which was identified to be essential in just 1979! 

And the contrast is apparent anywhere you care to compare and contrast the ‘older’ with the ‘younger’ nutrients. Just look at iron studies. A personalised detailed account of each individual’s iron story: how much you’re consuming, how effective you are at absorbing what you’ve been offered, how hungry that makes you for more and what good stores mean to you (not some fictitious average male or female)!  All told through 4 distinct but inter-related markers: serum iron, transferrin, transferrin saturation and ferritin.  What can we glean from our current routine assessment of Selenium in contrast?  Their short-term Se intake…yep. Looking forward to the multi-parameter markers of each individual nutrient we just might have at our fingertips in the future, thanks to iron nutrition which continues to teach us how sophisticated nutritional physiology really is 🙂

We know the most about iron and yet we know there is always more to learn.  And who better to teach us this than our clients with iron deficiency or iron excess?  Need some help getting across the most important aspects of recognising and correcting each iron issue in clinic?  We released an Iron Package earlier this year for this very reason. It covers how to really read iron studies (with a great cheat sheet), how not to fall for a fake (deficiency) and what the best supplements and dosing regimes look like and how that differs in pregnancy, athletes, those with marked gut issues and other key groups. It’s your 1 stop iron shop.

Are You Going Hot & Cold On Thyroid Cases?

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

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

So, what now?

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

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

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

 An increasing number of our patients have thyroid concerns but unbeknown to many of us the most likely explanation of all is thyroid nodules, whose incidence is on the rise globally.The development of nodules has always been primarily viewed as a nutritional disease. Traditionally attributed to chronic iodine deficiency but recently novel nutritional causes have emerged . Benign nodules come in 2 flavours: hot and cold and while patients can present with a mixture, it is the presence or absence of a hot nodule that radically changes what complementary medicines you can and can’t use and what an effective treatment plan looks like.  The pointers, as is often the case, are there for us in the patient’s presentation and pathology, so knowing the difference is no longer a guessing game. This UU30 comes with a great visual clinical resource and includes key papers on the nutritional management of nodules.
You can purchase Are You Running Hot and Cold on Thyroid Nodules here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
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Are We Missing A Different Kind of ‘Hyper’ Child?

 

Stop press. No, seriously.  This new research warrants the attention of every practitioner working with children & teenagers. In the largest paediatric study of its kind to date, which included 2,480 children aged 10-18yrs diagnosed with hyperthyroidism (Grave’s or otherwise), Zader & colleagues found

Double the rate of ADHD diagnoses  
5 times the rate of Bipolar diagnoses (almost 7 times in males)
 5 times the rate of suicidality
That’s what I said: in 10-18 year olds 

What is most alarming of course is that these mental health diagnoses were made in half of these children >3 months prior to the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism.  What does this mean?  It means we are missing this critical biological driver in this patient group. We all recognise the potential for some psychological presentations people affected with thyroid conditions, however, perhaps we are more alert to this in adults and letting it slip off our radar in kids? There’s been renewed talk about the over- and mis-diagnosing of ADHD lately and given that research has found up to 80% of hyperthyroid children meet ADHD diagnostic criteria this is one of the 1st place arguably to look! It also means, as these researchers discuss in detail, these kids are being medicated with psychiatric meds that in fact may, at the least mask their abnormal thyroid, lead to the incorrect diagnosis of hypothyroidism (lithium & even stimulants for example) or exacerbate their hyperthyroidism (quetiapine). But wait there’s more and it’s essential to understand.

Zadar & colleagues note that while we can not be 100% clear about the direction of the relationship…e.g. were these children already at risk psychologically and the hyperthyroidism just exacerbated that, they note that correction of the TFTs does not always equate to ‘cure’ of the mental health issues.  This is not entirely surprising of course. What the problem emerges via a combination of biology and psychology & we resolve or remedy the biology…guess what you have left? PLUS the learned behaviours etc from suffering from anxiety, impaired cognition, suicidality they’ve been battling at the hands of excess T3 and a subsequent tsunami of reactive oxygen species.

This is one of those papers we should all have to read top to toe and therefore ideally be able to access for free but alas 🙁  What you can read is the Medscape review of this, which is a reasonable summary but the full paper is worth it if you can. You know the other key take home here…the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism was only made with overt out of range TFTs… which begs the question what about all those subclinical hyperthyroid cases we know exist?  Yes, no wonder this paper has RACHEL’ S FAVOURITE written all over it…paediatric thyroid assessment and missed biological drivers of mental health and the opportunity to get better at both…can my research reading get any better this week?!🤓

 Do you know how paediatric thyroid assessment differs from adults? Thyroid Assessment in Kids & Teenagers – Why, When & How

Currently in Australia there is limited use of age specific reference ranges for thyroid parameters in children & teenagers yet they are essential for correct interpretation and diagnosis. Even doctors & specialists seem to be at a loss with diagnosing thyroid problems in kids unless they are extreme presentations. Subclinical thyroid presentations, however, are increasing in both children and adults. Many practitioners competent in adult thyroid identification & management are less familiar and confident with knowing when why and how to test in this population. Make sure you’re not missing thyroid imbalance in your paediatric patients…early detection makes treatment easy.

Will Hair Testing Nail Your Patient’s Nickel Problem?

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

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

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

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

NEW Accurate Pathology Results Interpretation…Starts Here

 

Behind their deceptively-dated inkjet printing and boring black and white font (punctuated occasionally by a comparatively thrilling red H or L) mainstream pathology results actually offer a goldmine of information and insight about your patients….if you know where to look.  And even the most seemingly status quo reference ranges for routine labs reveal so much, if you understand how to identify when results are ‘expected’ or even ‘optimal’, as opposed to ‘unexpected’ or ‘the new (ab)normal’, reflective of an increasingly unhealthy population.  Because unlike measurements of beauty, wealth or intelligence…more B12, TSH, GGT etc. etc. is not necessarily better and in fact being ‘average’ may sometimes be the aspirational goal  😉

Many holistic practitioners feel unnecessarily ‘locked out of labs’ due to inadequate training or, even worse, the false belief they are not relevant to their naturopathic work-up but they are abundant in holistic insights about our patients. 

You can change that today and start developing your mild naturopathic super-power in diagnostics.

“Rachel – I have to say thank you, thank you, thank you!! That session on pathology was epic. It has really made me look at each set of path results I have seen in a different context.  In terms of relevance – a definite 10/10. Everything from the reference range info to looking for any clinical and collection notes – definitely gives more scope in mining for those answers. Can’t wait for the next session 🙂 “

Chris Hibbert (Group Mentoring Program 2019)

To boot, upskilling just a little in accurate pathology interpretation will help you write better referral letters, practice true individualised medicine and sort the real from the rubbish in terms of all the **whizzbang-bright-sparkly-functional tests** you and your patients are being offered in spades.

“I’m totally enjoying the pathology sessions. I use pathology in my clinic all the time but have learnt so much from these last couple of sessions and I know I can squeeze out a lot more. I’m a convert (within reason) to the idea of many of the OS functional medicine practitioners who prescribe to the ‘test don’t guess’ motto and that pathology highlights the body’s ‘debris’ which can lead us to a certain pathway, system and help us go back up stream to the point of origin. I feel that’s the unique value we add to our clients’ health. Thanks Rachel.”

Elke Jesdinsky (New Graduate Mentee 2019)

We need to start with a good grasp of ‘lab language’ and have the veils of mystery around reference ranges removed so we can make the most out of all these results our patients already have, if not in their hot little hand then in their equally hot not so little (!) medical records. 

Accurate Pathology Results Interpretation…Starts Here
(1.5hr Video + PDF Notes + Resources)

Mainstream pathology results actually offer a goldmine of information and insight about your patients. However to realise their full value and make the most accurate interpretations we need to first learn more about ‘lab language’, upskill in finding our way around reports which are packed with a surprising amount of hidden extras, demystify reference ranges and then develop a logical critical process we can apply to every result of any patient to get the real take-home. Packaged with numerous specifically developed resources to aid in your application of these skills this is a foundational offering that changes practices.

 

and watch this presentation now in your online account.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Zinc’s Dark Side

There I said it.  It was always going to happen. I’m ok, thanks for asking.  This week we had a case of a woman diagnosed with MS in her late 20s. That was 5 years ago and she’s been medicated ever since with an immunosuppressant and she is understandably very nervous about taking any complementary medicine that would pull against this medication, interfering with its actions.  Her concerns extended to zinc supplementation in spite of her plasma zinc being 7 umol/L.  That’s right, 7. Zinc STAT, right?  But slow up there everyone, her apprehension is not necessarily unfounded.

The top nutritional research topics in MS are: Vitamin D (for der…we all knew that, right?), Vitamin A and Zinc.  The fan-mail for the first two, as key immuno-modulators in both prevention and in established conditions, is almost at stalker level. 

In contrast Zinc attracts both fan and hate mail.

Although the jury is far from in, there’s growing concern that while extracellular levels of Zinc may appear low in MS (that includes of course plasma/serum values) the same individual may actually have elevated levels inside their cells and more specifically inside their CNS. Gulp.  But wait there’s more. There is a hypothesis that Zinc dysregulation may be a pathophysiological driver in MS. Double Gulp. My (nutritional) soul mate has shown a potential dark side finally and is sitting under a cloud of suspicion.  So what do we need to do differently?

If you’re seeing MS patients you need to be up on the sizeable pile of research into CM in this condition.  A brilliant place to start is this very readable review of ‘Vitamins in MS’.  

And specifically in regard to Zinc status in your MS patients?  Well my advice is don’t rely on a plasma/serum Zinc alone – but couple this with an rbc Zn to ensure there is no sign of intracellular accumulation at play before you make a decision about treatment. Not a perfect solution, but while we’re unlikely outside of research to ever be able to measure CNS zinc concentrations, a reasonable approach. An unchecked zinc deficiency is in no-one’s interests either, including your MS patients – so it’s about gathering the best quality information you can to walk that fine line of adequacy not excess. And if you’re still reeling at the very thought that Zinc has a dark side – remember I did warn you…in Mastering Micronutrients – which is essentially a series of truth-bombs one of which, is every nutrient has a sting in its tail, a U-shaped dose response and a dark side.  We need to get to know them all.

Mastering Micronutrients – An Upskilling Opportunity for Old and New Hands

Let’s make sense of the over-arching nutrition principles, that will profoundly change your understanding and application of this modality  Truly understanding the ‘big’ concepts, so often overlooked, or incorrectly taught, ensures you get the critical ‘small’ detail in your nutritional prescriptions right. In this 4 hour recording, together with key clinical tools, we talk about the tough stuff: dose-response curves, active versus passive stores and excretory pathways and ooh lah lah…the myth of taking ‘activated vitamins’.  Even those who feel satisfied with their original training – will find a lot in this critical review that is new, insightful and truly practise-changing!

Is A Diagnosis Always Helpful?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

A Case of Stoned Sperm?

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

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

Oh lordy…

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

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

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

Getting Men’s Hormones Right

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

 

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

 

 

Are You Being Foxed By An Ox…alate Result?

Ok here’s some tough Tuesday talk..not all tests are valid.  Tougher still…not all of the mainstream nor the functional pathology ones.  I am talking across the board here. Each and every pathology parameter requires good knowledge about its strengths. limitations and, one of my absolute favourite nemeses, confounders.  “How on earth am I supposed to learn all that and everything else I have to know too?!!” I hear you scream at your screen. Btw keep yourself nice if you’re in public while you’re reading this 😉 

But rather than imagining you need to have this level of knowledge for all tests, I would suggest you set yourself a hit list of the ones you rely on most, either in terms of frequency or in terms of the degree to which they direct your decisions about patient care…can I mention (ahem) Iron studies here perhaps for us all…but maybe you have a specialist area so you use a particular investigation routinely or at least frequently…

CDSAs? Breath tests for SIBO?  Oxalates?  

May I please then politely suggest that you get to know these inside and out? Not based purely on the information and assistance that the test provider provides you..but you scrutinise them independently.  Top to bottom.   Because that’s your business, right? And your diagnoses and treatment decisions are pivoting on these results. Jason Hawrelak gave us all some great examples, including his informal experiment of sending the same stool sample to multiple labs.  Don’t know about this and his findings?? If you’re in the business of ordering stool tests, you need to.  I am doing this all the time with numerous pathology markers because diagnostics is my passion (alright, obsession)…and recently I put Oxalate Assessment to the test and oh boy! 

Here’s something for free:

If you are measuring urinary oxalates to diagnose oxalate overload in your patients and you, 1) are using a lab that does not preserve the urine as you collect it, using acidified containers or providing additional preservatives for take home testing kits….you are wasting your patients money and you are likely getting a lot of false positives, i.e. the result infers the patient has a problem when they don’t!!

And 2) if you are simply  following the labs reference ranges for what ‘healthy’ urinary oxalates look like – you’re wasting your patients money again and likely getting false negatives – a failure to show a problem that is actually there! If you’re hunting oxalates…please ensure you have a current effective hunter’s licence…by getting up to speed fast  regarding accurate investigation of this.  Oh yes…it’s tough-talkin’-Tuesday and I’ve come out firing…watch out this may become a regular feature 🤷‍♀️

Update in Under 30: Oxalate Overload – Assessment and Management

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

When the Body Attacks the Mind

 

Following an important weekend of discussing mental health from a more balanced perspective (that’s my new less provocative term for ‘integrative’ or dare I even mumble…holistic) in Perth for ACNEM, I remain alert but not alarmed of how much is still to be revealed in this area.   Recently, for example, in our mental health dedicated mentoring group, we discussed a case of a somewhat atypical schizophrenia presentation in a middle-age female migrant.  Fortunately, I co-chair these sessions with an incredible clinical psychologist who was quick to pick up that no CNS auto-antibodies had been tested, and given the peculiarities of the case they should have. This is a relatively new area, in terms of more mainstream acceptance of this as a differential in some psychiatric presentations and provision of these tests now through mainstream labs, but it would appear it is far from common knowledge.   Then I read this brilliant article and…well I think we all need to read it.  Here are some snippets…

Scientists had previously noted that certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, were associated with psychosis. And they’d begun to suspect that some infections might, by activating the immune system, contribute to psychiatric conditions. But Dalmau provided meticulous proof that the immune system could attack the brain. The development of a test for the disorder, and the fact that very sick patients could recover with treatment, prompted a wave of interest in autoimmune conditions of the central nervous system. In total, scientists have identified about two dozen others—including dementia-like conditions, epilepsies, and a Parkinson’s-like “stiff person” syndrome—and many experts suspect that more exist…

Robert Yolken, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University, estimates that about one-third of schizophrenics show signs of immune activation (though he adds that this could be related to other factors, such as smoking and obesity). And autoimmune diseases are more common among schizophrenics and their immediate families than among the general population, which could hint at a shared genetic vulnerability.”

There are some potent practical take-homes in this article embedded especially within the story of an 11-year-old boy who was admitted to hospital with profound psychiatric features – initially misdiagnosed and managed as BPAD and later found to have autoimmune encephalitis.  First and foremost: psychiatric conditions develop gradually.  When there is an acute onset in the absence of an acute trauma – the possibility of a biological (esp autoimmune) driver should be elevated in your differentials. And the mother of this boy, now aged 21 and having undergone 5 relapses and recoveries in between, virtually echoes the thoughts and findings of Carl Pfeiffer half a century ago, when she says, “Too often, psychosis is seen as the disease itself but psychosis is like a fever, it’s a symptom of a lot of different illnesses.” Important for thought.

Milk Madness – Is it a thing?

Could dairy intake in susceptible individuals be a risk promoter for mental health problems?  In addition to evidence of the exorphin derivatives from certain caseins interacting with our endogenous opiate system discussed in part 1, we now look at the evidence in support of other milk madness mechanisms.  Specifically, the IgG and IgA antibodies about what this tells us about the patient sitting in front of us about their gut generally and about their mental health risks, specifically.  The literature in this area dates back to the 1970s but the findings of more recent and more rigorous research are compelling. Find out more here.

Oxalate Overload? The next steps…

When patients present feeling worse every time they DIY a Green Detox, as the practitioner, you’re likely to be sniffing around reduced oxalate tolerance as a differential. Rightly so.  But what about the patient with joint pains and disproportionate fatigue who has baffled their rheumatologist, or the one suffering vulvodynia that baffles everyone, or irritable bladder symptoms, or….and they all eat an exemplary colourful high plant food diet, with their only self-confessed sin…darker than dark chocolate between every mouthful? Who doesn’t? While you may have a hunch, given the goodness of those foods, we should check these out objectively rather than unnecessarily restrict or limit someone’s food choices for the rest of their natural life! If dietary oxalate overload is now on your radar for these patients you need to move to the next step. Assessment. 

Spot or 24hr urine collection or plasma assay or OATS testing or imaging or joint aspirates? So many choices but which one has the greatest validity depending on your patient’s presentation? Ok how about the most general all-rounder that is truly an option in the real world? – always helpful;)   Yep, 24hr urine collection…agreed.

Ok, next step.

You need to wrap around that waist of yours one seriously heavy tool belt for accurate interpretation of their results. That’s right…those random ol’ reference ranges need a serious rethink! How much? Well, given the reference ranges every lab will give you for urinary oxalates typically fail to pick up up to 1/3 of patients with oxalate overload high enough to produce oxalate kidney stones…I think you get the picture.  I feel your trepidation now but can hear you  pensively ask anyway…next step? Management.  

Just google oxalate-rich foods, print out the list for your patient and tell them never to have these (or joy, laughter, sex or a healthy microbiome) ever again.

Not.

The ‘low oxalate lists’ will lead you astray and the ‘high oxalate foods’ should not be tossed away!   The research has found greater therapeutic benefits from different dietary approaches, some nutritional supplements and most importantly targeted treatment of the cause…which is all about the…go on, try and say it without screaming…the GUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

 

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

 

Lots to be Said for Boring Basics

Horses not Zebras.  You’ve no doubt heard me repeat that quote which is famous in medical schools, something to the effect of, “When you hear a heard of animals outside your door, think horses not zebras”…unless of course you are practising in Africa might I suggest 😉 This of course reminds us all in short to think of the most likely explanations not the most exotic first. Likewise with our case taking. The number of times I ask practitioners for the ‘boring basics’ and am met with an embarrassed silence.  Think:

Body Mass Index

There I said it…and yet these are like dirty words in integrative health.  Why? Because we’re starting to ignore the ‘boring basics’ in favour of getting ‘fancy first up’, as I like to call it.   Look I love a good bit of bioelectrical impedence assessment as much as the next clinician and I am not about to use this crude measure as replacement for that but I absolutely need to have these key landmark pieces of information to understand a very long list of things such as contribution to future health risks,  current burdens from literally the weight on those joints leading to knee pain, to the weight/mass not pulling on their bones and therefore contributing to lower BMD their whole life. Even their likelihood of a leaky gut today, right, Brad Leech, our colleague and impressive IP researcher?  BMI drives also the appropriateness and their capacity for any exercise interventions I might recommend, not to mention the frequently mentioned, accurate interpretation of their labs. 

For many many labs that we routinely see for our clients…the reference range should actually be a sliding scale that moves with BMI…what do we really ‘expect’ and what is actually ‘healthy’ is different at different weights. 

Like TFTs – this may be a big newsflash for most but I never want to see a patient with a BMI > 30 have a TSH anywhere < 2, unless they’re on replacement.

 Say wha? You heard me. I promise I’ll tell you more about that soon.

But again…let’s not get fancy first up especially not in any of our paediatric patients and in spite of what their words or ‘tude may be telling you, that includes all the way up to 18 in our books! Brace yourself, I’m going to speak that dirty word again…BMI..boring basics before all else. We need to review their height, weight and BMI against paediatric growth charts.  These oldies are goldies and can reveal so much about growth trajectories, puberty milestones when any other discussion is off the table,  type 2 nutritional imbalances (protein, zinc, potassium, magnesium, sulfur) and flag all other sorts of concerns or reassurance…and you haven’t had to steal a drop of blood or any much hard earned money off mum and dad to work a lot out. Anyway,  that’s my ‘boring basic beef’ for now…there’s a lot to be said for ensuring such ‘dirty words’ come before everything else.

Need help with wrestling all the most important patient information into a clear management plan?

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

 

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things…

Beetroot & Spinach & Lovely Bright Berries

Rhubarb & Buckwheat & Baked Sweet Potato

Black Tea & Green Tea & All My Dark Chocolate Sins

These are a few of my favourite things!!

Sounds like a kitchen roll-call at my house…how about yours?  And your patients?!! You see I’ve been working away researching Oxaluria – a condition whereby individuals end up with too many oxalates in their body and ultimately their urine – which can be a problem in a proportion of people suffering with kidney stones, vulvodynia, joint pain etc and anyone with CKD and on my travels I came across this article on how the regular intake of green smoothies could in fact turn someone with normal oxlate levels and handling, into someone who has an acute induced Oxaluria. Yup.

Nobody panic.  Remember this is not going to be problematic in all patients but just might be in some.  But it left me wondering if we ‘clean-diet-prescribing-practitioners’ know all we really need to about, who not to prescribe green drinks to (or beetroot juice for that matter) and cap ‘ye olde’ dark chocolate quota for! 

Or…keep them eating all these fabulous generally healthy foods but mitigate any elevated oxalate risk through correct food preparation & combinations?

There’s so much more to this topic than meets the eye.  Because on top of what you eat, there’s the huge variability in terms of what you absorb…think it’s as simple as, whether someone has Oxalobacter in their bowel or not? Nope.  Oh…and then there’s the 3rd element: how much you make yourselves…that’s where we need to have a serious chat about collagen, high dose turmeric & vitamin C supplements in susceptible individuals, people. Want to read more yourself?  Here’s somewhere to start on the giant pile of papers here

Want to take a walk down Oxalate Boulevard with me, as we make our way back to talking about Getting to the Guts of Women & Joint Pain... well, check this out…

Oxalate Overload

Oxalates are found in high concentrations in many of the ‘healthy food choices’ we promote and are even higher again, when these are organically farmed!  Given the importance of individualising therapeutic diets are we able to quickly recognise those who need to lower their low of these naturally occurring plant products? Who shouldn’t be drinking green juices?  And which of our patients might benefit from being educated about different food combinations and preparation to lower the oxalate load from these otherwise fabulous foods?

 

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

It’s Not Rocket (Dental) Science!

With the increasing weight of evidence pointing to a potent pathogenic portal between our mouths and every other part of the body, whether that be in terms of cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, appendicitis, even a growing case for Alzheimer’s disease, we need to ensure we’re not overlooking the condition of each patient’s oral cavity.  I got very excited about the recent Medscape article: A rapid non-invasive tool for periodontitis screening in a medical care setting. It’s true, I live a quiet life 😉 But seriously, a validated tool for all non-dentists to accurately pick up on the likelihood of this condition would be a nifty little thing indeed, so we can narrow down just who we quick-march off the dentist as well as understand their whole health story. But then I read the 8 actual questions which included gems such as: Do you think you have gum disease? and Have you ever had treatment for gum disease such as scaling and root planing, sometimes called “deep cleaning”? I thought, ok, this is not rocket (dental) science.

But that’s the point, I guess, right?

So while I encourage you to check out & employ this screening tool by all means, we can also be reassured that just by ensuring that when we ask about someone’s digestion (and when don’t we?!) we start at the very top of the tube, we’re doing a good job!! As my new grad mentees learnt this year…following the patient’s GIT from mouth to south anatomically, is my rather simplistic way of guaranteeing I cover everything digestive..without using formal consultation script. So in the case of the mouth, my questions include things like: last trip to the dentist; any prior dental diagnoses, number of amalgams, implants, root canals etc & their routine dental care techniques, any signs of bleeding on brushing & all foods they avoid for dental or oral reasons? Look, it hasn’t undergone the rigorous validation that the Self-Reported Oral Health Questionnaire has..but I think it’s a good start.

Whether we’re being picky about pathogens and exactly how they got access to the rest of the body (and gums make a great entry point!!) or just concerned about chronic low level inflammation, a ‘gurgling’ CRP between 1-5 in an otherwise ‘healthy adult’, picking up on periodontitis is a pivotal.

Oh and if you’ve ever wondered about possible health implications from mouth metals other than amalgams…don’t worry, soon I’ll be getting to that with a forthcoming UU30.  

Want to hear more about how certain microbiota (from the mouth to the south) are being implicated in joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis and how we can investigate these individuals? Getting to the Guts of Women with Joint Pain is a recent UU30 instalment that gets down & dirty on the detail. 

You Say Tomatoes I Say…

Histamine, Oxalates & Nickel…any of which may be at fault when your patient reports they experience adverse reactions from eating them.  The same can be said for legumes, with a few extra contenders thrown in like oligosaccharides for those farty on FODMAPs.  Additionally, in either case, there could be a bona fide allergy (IgE) or an intolerance (IgG) at play.  Tricky, right? 

I hear from practitioners often, though, that their interpretation of food reactions like these are at risk of being 1 dimensional, like a food word association game: tomato = histamine; legumes = FODMAPS; gluten = NCGS.   

The labyrinth of possible pathways for food reactions is just that, a labyrinth!!  So, we have to always be on our toes and try and approach each case methodologically. 

I outlined how to approach this in clinic in A Guide to Investigating Food Reactions, released earlier this year.  We cover a lot in this 2hr recording, but let’s face it, it’s an area that needs yet more time and a field that we never stop learning in. Next week, as part of our UU30 series on Getting to the Guts of Joint Pain, we need to take a little scenic detour along Oxalate Boulevard!  Keep your eyes open peeps, because our very own food prescriptions tend to be full of them!! Not naming any names….berries, green smoothies, sweet potato &…

Need to catch up on investigating adverse food reactions??

Elimination of suspected food culprits in most situations is only a short term reliever, not an appropriate long term solution, so to optimise results we need to know the real mechanism of action.  The majority of these, of course, stem from the gut, but being able to elucidate exactly which of the many things that can go wrong there, is going wrong and therefore what foods are problematic until we address this, is the key. This 2hr mp4 is all about the bigger picture and helping you find method in the madness that can be the adverse food reactions landscape. 

Thank You (ACNEM), Next!

Integrative Psychiatry is an inspiring area to work in & its evidence base, acceptance and recognition of potency is rapidly growing & offering more patients, more.  Going beyond the ‘neurotransmitter imbalance model’ for each presenting diagnosis helps us to see the unique mix of biological & psychological drivers in each individual who presents seeking our help. However sometimes  I believe, we find ourselves falling into looking through the lens of just another short-list of alternate models: What kind of methylation imbalance does this person have?  What sort of Zn, Cu issues?  

While I am so grateful for having learned these tools and watched them be very successful in a portion of my mental health clients, they are simply not the answer for everyone.  We need to keep our thinking and practices dynamic and up to date, to reflect the incredible increase in research in new areas of integrative psychiatry, such that more of our patients can benefit and that we can continue to think beyond the box…even if that box itself was originally so progressive!

What do you know, for example, about abnormal purine metabolism in mania and using serum urate as a BPAD prognostic marker in depressed patients?  Think you can simply be guided by the reference range provided, think again. What could good old LFTs reveal about our patient’s mental health vulnerabilities and what have we potentially misunderstood about copper in this area, particularly in children?

I appreciate Zinc’s role in mental health as much as the next integrative practitioner. Okay, given my 20K word thesis manifesto, more.  But increasingly I am seeing mental health patients who need treatment with different tools.  This upcoming ACNEM Mental Health Module in Perth is on point: thinking outside of, outside the box!

While the above only speaks to what I’m presenting, I know Dr. Sanjeev Sharma will also be sharing his wealth of individualised management insights and he’s a big fan of addressing Chronic MIld Metabolic Acidosis as an early treatment objective. Maybe we all need to hear why? And I am so looking forward to getting a PTSD update from Christabelle and hear all about the research into therapeutic keto-diets in psychiatry from Cliff Harvey…haven’t read all those papers to know which conditions and when this approach shows merit?  No, most of us haven’t. That’s the point of outsourcing our up-skilling to colleagues who we know are across these more than us and to boot have the clinical experience to ‘make real the research’.  As I’ve said before, given the content of this upcoming ACNEM Mental Health program, I wish I wasn’t presenting really, so I could just kick back and take it all in, uninterrupted.  But alas, I have some important new information on reading basic bloods through a mental health lens to share!  I really hope to see you all there.  Let’s get out of the rut of 3-4 nutritional approaches to mental health and make the most of the explosion of research and shared clinical experience.

ACNEM Face-to-Face Training
Fremantle, 27-28 July 2019 at the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges
https://www.acnem.org/events/training

Oh and while you’re here…did you know the research into both beta-casomorphins and IgG casein reactions in relation to certain mental health diagnoses has taken some giant steps forward in the last couple of years?  You should.  Milk Madness is back and it’s via two distinct mechanisms – identifying which might be at play in your patients & correct management is now clearer than before.  Want to get up to date in this area of mental health – check out our UU30 recordings: Milk Madness part 1 & part 2