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!
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!!”
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
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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.
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.
I was at the Medicinal Cannabis (MC) in Mental Health Conference run by GHI on the weekend and I have to confess, I inhaled. Seriously, deeply, inhaled. Just as I had hoped, this was a very high level of information on this important topic, delivered by outstanding presenters: from authorised Australian MC prescribers, to the head American researcher of the largest MC trial to be run in psychiatry – from brilliant pharmacognosists whose every day is spent immersed in complex cannabis chemistry to our very own national (naturopathic) treasure, Justin Sinclair. I left there with thousands of words typed into my laptop, and about a thousand more in my brain, spilling out onto anyone who stood still long enough. Ahem…thank you my dear tolerant family & friends 😉
Let’s be clear. I am not in a position to prescribe medicinal cannabis. Nor do I want to, right now. But like me, patient purchases off the green market in response to DIY diagnosis and prescribing are on the up and up. I have felt concern and apprehension about this but not known enough to engage in any conversation. Now, watch out… I’m finding my words!
I left the conference with a much clearer sense of the patients and presentations for whom it may prove medicinal – most obviously for those conditions outlined in the WHO review including nausea and vomiting in cancer and pain refractory to other analgesics. In addition to this, we were privileged to hear from a mum and son who have had to employ cannabis for the last half a dozen years following his diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumour, that originally robbed him of his literacy, his joy of reading and his overall quality of life, with high frequency seizures and intractable vomiting etc. MC has remarkably given much of this back to him. And I remain optimistic about future potential uses in psychiatry – especially within certain PTSD cohorts thanks to this small but promising study by Greer et al in 2014. Inspired by this paper and her extensive experience treating war veterans with PTSD, Dr. Sue Sisley, who spoke at the conference, executed a similar study of 6000 veterans for a MC inhalation trial. I’ve got a spoiler for you…the study failed – publication pending.
But before you add 1 + 1 and get 3.879…let me tell you, there is nothing as powerful and revealing as hearing researchers talk firsthand about their trials. When Sue put up actual photos of the medicinal cannabis they were supplied with for this study…the room collectively let out a giant Gasp!
It was brown, full of stem and…wait for it…mould. Yup. But that is what they, and as Sue poignantly pointed out, & what every other group of American researchers who run studies on MC as opposed to synthetics or extracts, have to use. So…are any negative outcome a surprise? No. But it will no doubt be interpreted as a sign that we shouldn’t pursue research in the area of MC and PTSD. We should. Have I completely ditched my concerns about negative mental health impact from cannabis? Absolutely not. And Professor Michael Lintzeris, the Director of the Drug & Alcohol Services South East Sydney Local Health District; Conjoint Professor, Division of Addiction Medicine etc., spoke eloquently & comprehensively to this inherent duality of this herb in this regard. Even the most isolated and lauded (non-intoxicating) constituent of cannabis can be both help and hindrance to anxiety and depression sufferers and most clearly, Michael warned us not to make MC the opiates and benzodiazepine panacea promises of the past, buying the rhetoric of ‘no tolerance, no dependence, no risk’. How each individual’s mood and mental state responds to MC, whole plant, extracts or isolated constituents, from anxiogenic to anxiolytic and from depressant to antidepressant, has been clearly demonstrated to differ according to genes, ‘endocannabinoid tone’, route of administration and dose. Seems like all roads lead to an individualised health care approach & prescription…yet again 😉
Need a road map to think your way through the integrative work-up of your Mental Health patients?
In Mastering Mental health: New Assessments & Management Resources in your Clinic, Rachel introduces you to new clinical tools that she has been developing to help us all better master the maze of mental health. With so many possible biological drivers: from methylation to inflammation and from gonads to gut, these tools can help you quickly identify those most relevant to each patient and also outline the strategies necessary for redressing these. This presentation comes with an extensive library of resources including pdf of Assessments Tools and Case Study Notes.
Breaking up is hard to do (sounds like the name of a song!) but it shouldn’t be! I got an email this week from one of my gorgeous long-term mentees in the vein of a ‘Dear John’ letter. She carefully, beautifully gently let me know… “I’ve found someone else…”
“This is not an easy decision as I have major Rachel Arthur FOMO and visions of my knowledge falling down a deep crevice and never coming back. My motivation for this decision is related to my strong interest in women’s health. I have an increasing number of complex cases around this topic and have sought extra mentoring and I am turning into a mentoring junkie. Now there is nothing wrong with this in theory and a recent post you did about all the mentoring you do and mentors having mentors I saw as sign to keep on seeking mentorship but again that was the RA FOMO speaking… Anyway, I have struggled with the perception this might relay – that I think I’ve got it all covered and I simply don’t but I do think this is the right thing for me at this time.
Thank you Rachel for the exponential help you have provided me since I started mentoring in 2017 and for the level of knowledge and commitment you bring to our profession. I am truly grateful and proud to have been a RA mentee.”
This email really made me really smile – how can this not be good news??? This type of letter or break-up email can have the sender feeling a bit apprehensive about a possible negative response but as I read the email I couldn’t suppress a smile from ear to ear! Not because I’ve got one less person to mentor and more time for lazing around Byron’s beaches with all the instamummies 😉 but for me there was nothing but good news in this development… I love witnessing this practitioner’s growth, their movement into a new field of specialisation and I celebrate this decision. I still have my own mentors…and not just one by the way, but several due to the expertise of each – mental health; herbalist; heavy metals etc. It’s always about finding the best brain’s trust for the job at hand.
I want everyone to find their best mentors to support them in each & every stage of their career
as an integrative health practitioner.
Over the years I’ve received amazing feedback on my mentoring services and often the misperception that my knowledge infinite! Yes I am a journal junkie and I do have 20+ years practice under my belt but…I believe a good mentor has their own mentors. Your mentors may change over time to strengthen different muscles or skill sets and it’s knowing where to look for answers, how to always apply critical thinking and developing your own brains trust tha.
Rachel’s hugely popular New Graduate Group Mentoring, which launched this year, is designed to help anyone who wants support transitioning from student (or lapsed practitioner!) to Naturopathic or Nutrition clinicians with a difference! This online 11 month program is a great way to develop your confidence, skills and knowledge. The bonus with these sessions is you’ll find your tribe, gain support and radically build your toolkit. Applications for 2020 open in October – you can put your name on our wait-list now for this and all other groups by emailing us at email@example.com.
Those ‘still-believers’ look away now. One of the great myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings in nutritional medicine is that supplementation with specific nutrients will produce change specifically in one system, or pathway, which just happens to be the one that the practitioner has determined would benefit most/is targeting. Let me explain myself a bit better. When we give patients any nutrient, in the cases where it’s not simply to correct a global deficiency & therefore improve levels all round, it’s typically on the basis of a specific desirable therapeutic benefit, e.g. some magnesium to help their GABA production…, additional B3 would improve their mitochondria. Beautiful on paper…but like sending a letter to Santa in reality (I did warn you!)
Truth Bomb No.1: There are nutrient distribution pecking orders that have nothing to do with who you ‘addressed’ it to
This dictates that when something is given orally, for most nutrients, the gut itself has first dibs. So the cells of your digestive tract meet their needs before any other part of your body gets a look in. Sometimes the digestive system’s needs can be quite substantial and leave little for any other part of the body…not mentioning any names (ahem) Glutamine!
Truth Bomb No.2: En route to the ‘target’, these nutrients get delivered and distributed to many other tissues – with possibly not so desirable or intended effects!
You may determine that a patient needs iron because their ferritin hasn’t got a pulse…so you keep giving them daily high dose oral iron to ‘fix’ this…not realising you’re making their GIT dysbiosis and gut inflammation worse in the process. Or you feel their mysterious ‘methylation cycle’, happening predominantly in the liver and kidneys, could do with a folate delivery…perhaps ignoring the very worrying fact that their colon may have already had a ‘gut full’. Literally. Hence the concerns and caution against supplementing with folate in patients with established colorectal cancer. So is bypassing the gut via IM or IV nutrients the answer…well yes and no…but mostly no. Read on…
Truth Bomb No.3: Those pathways that use the nutrient you’re supplementing, that are most active in the patient’s body currently – which is determined by many factors (genes, physiology, feedback circuits, pathophysiology) and rarely simply by the availability of nutrients – will take take the next lion’s share of that nutrient
Wanting to nutritionally support someone’s thyroid, you know tyrosine is the backbone of the thyroid hormones, so you include this in the hypothyroid prescription. Will it help? Who knows? Being a non-essential amino acid the body exhibits very complex regulation of its distribution and use – with thyroid precursor availability being only one job on a very long list! And if this was in a patient who is regularly smoking cannabis, due to upregulation of the tyrosine hydroxylase enzyme – there is likely to be more of the supplement headed for even more dopamine production and very little or none reaching in fact your intended target. And don’t get me (re)started on Glutamine – supplements of which in an anxious and glutamate dominated patient will make…G.L.U.T.A.M.A.T.E…right…not GABA! 🙁
Sorry, I know, it hurts right? But these are essential teachings, that tend to have been over-looked or under-played I find, in nutrition education, regardless of training: nutritionists, naturopaths, IM doctors, dual qualification practitioners remedial therapists. Nutritional medicine is a wonderful and potent modality when it’s done well…but we need to revisit some core truths and principles that many of us have missed out on, to ensure we’re not writing letters to Santa.
Want to revisit your core nutritional knowledge which will cover this and much much more?
Let’s start with Micronutrients. Let’s talk 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 felt well trained – will find a lot in this critical review that is new, insightful and truly practise-changing!
When I was studying my under-graduate I imagined my clinic was going to be full of them: well patients wanting to maintain or even improve upon their wellness. Turns out…not so much…all the really really sick people have taken their spots and the former has been listed as an endangered species. But I do catch glimpses of them, as I am sure we all do, in their natural habitat, with over-flowing baskets at the organic grocery store or farmer’s market, routinely up the front of the pilates class and also sometimes in our clinics. So now that naturopathy, by consumer demand, not practitioner intent, has transitioned so much into the ‘unwellness space’, do we know anymore what to do with the well ones??
I heard some great talks at the NHAA conference recently. One, in particular, was by my stellar colleague, Liza Oates, who observed that contemporary naturopaths tend to respond to these clients in 1 of 2 ways:
a) Unaccustomed to a patient who eats, exercises, sleeps and balances their work & non-work worlds better than themselves…PANIC…
b) Dig deep back through the dusty archives of their personal & family medical history until they FIND A PROBLEM THEY CAN TREAT!!! such as, ‘Once I was constipated for a couple of days’ or, ‘Once I took a course of antibiotics’.
I know…we’re hilarious…we have to laugh at ourselves 😉 Liza offered up some great ideas about how to approach our consults with these patients. Many of her tips, however, could be applied to the rest of our patients as well to gather some really valuable insights. And it’s always great to hear from someone who has been seeing patients over decades…there’s so much to be gained from those who’ve gone before us (or alongside us…in my case!) and can speak to these firsthand lessons. Here are just a few of her pearls
The ‘not stressed’ patient
We encounter a lot of people who can misreport their stress levels, not because they are trying to lead us astray but that’s that slippery slope of self-reporting & the possibility that someone has normalised their ‘load’. Liza says she likes to step away from that potential trigger word, ‘stress’ and instead ask, ” What are your tell-tale signs when the demands exceed your capacity?”
This is not so that we can fulfil option b) mentioned at the beginning…digging desperately to find some unwellness to treat – but rather as an aid for both practitioner and patient alike to understand better that individual’s response to their psychosocial environment.
Ask them to design their own health retreat
If they reply, “I would start every day with a little meditation and yoga, a chai and then a healthy hot meal”, then these can be translated into little goals we can set to bring some of their ‘best self ‘ into their every day. It also helps to better understand their values, individualised self-soothing and self-care & great prescriptions to begin with, given they’re telling you they are already at contemplation in terms of their readiness for behavioural change. They’re not going to require too much convincing – they’re already converts they just need permission and support to implement.
And if you’re sitting there reading this and thinking, ‘Hey! These are exactly the patients I want my clinic full of”…then to hear more of Liza & Greg Connolly’s commentary and insights about how the wellness space has been hijacked by others and how naturopathy needs to move centre-stage in this increasingly popular trend, take a listen to this interview they recorded at the conference.
Want to Improve Your Patients’ Compliance?
This UU30 recording from our back catalogue on the behavioural change model and how it impacts patients’ response to our advice is a key element in developing a professional approach that actually works. Unless practitioners are aware of the way that patients approach changing their dietary behaviour or exercise regimes, they the mystery of non-compliance will never be solved!
Hear Hear…on all levels, right. But this is actually the first recommendation of an easy to read patient resource for families dealing with adolescent depression, that you and your patients can access here. As lovely as the picture above makes parenting look, the one to one (or even 2 to 1) ratio isn’t realistic or necessarily optimal for anyone. I think we can all make a great addition to any parent’s team, especially given the emphasis these recommendations place on nutrition, sleep and exercise as being central to improving mental health…full-stop..and in this age group.
But while some things are the same between depressed adolescent and adults, there are important differences we need to be aware of: like the best assessment tools and the barriers for teenagers (and parents) in admitting there is an issue. Think, parent guilt and over-attribution, standing defiantly on the top rung of that ladder!
They also mention different types of therapy for this age-group and I have to say the old CBT…oh yes it gets wheeled out yet again…really does offer something, given the kind of kids I’ve seen this work a treat on. This is a developmental staged characterised by curiosity and a desire to understand more about the real stuff of life…rather than the soft focus lens we got them to look through in primary school. I’ve seen teenagers benefit enormously from sitting with a good psychologist or GP who can explain the ‘brain mechanics’ of depression, or anxiety (amygdala activation that sends the frontal lobe executive control offline etc). They love the demystification and, in the best cases, feel re-empowered by this knowledge. Not perfect for every teenage but it does work for many. And then there’s the parental advice to discuss suicidal ideation.
Yes parents, even more than practitioners, fear the ‘planting of seeds’ when contemplating this topic with their teens but the opposite is true. This paper is hot on the heels of an editorial, revealing that 50% of parents were unaware of their teenager’s suicidal thoughts.
There is much to be gained from the ‘knowing’ and so much to lose from avoiding this one. It’s the beginning of another school year (at any level) and with this can bring significant stressors and provocation for mental health challenges. Let’s encourage every parent, to get themselves a team and take our own place in that invaluable roadside assist crew.
From the UU30 Archives: Investigating Paediatric Behavioural Disorders
This is a succinct recap of the many investigative paths we need to follow when presented with kids or teenagers with behavioural disorders. From grass roots dietary assessment through to the key pathology testing that is most helpful in clarifying the role & treatment approach of integrative nutrition for each individual child.
So you’ve gone to all the effort. Be that writing referral letters suggesting some pathology investigations might be warranted or you’ve coached your patients endlessly to get copies of ones done elsewhere so that you may be privy to their findings. Worse still, you’ve directly requested the pathology, with your patient paying out of pocket for the tests. Then the results come in and they look…well wrong. You, as the conscientious clinician, typically do 3 things:
Step 1 Spend hours pouring over & over the labs and back over the case notes
Step 2 Worry about the new differential diagnoses that are now suddenly seemingly a possibility in your patient. It doesn’t look good.
Step 3 Doubt your own pathology reading ability, ‘Hey maybe I just don’t understand these bloods like I thought I did’
But (often)…it’s not you, it’s them.
And that’s what I often explain to practitioners who contact me (step 4). You see sometimes what they’re losing sleep over are what I call, Bad Bloods. Occasionally, the fault of the pathology company…but way way way more often the fault of the patient and the referring practitioner, who has not educated the patient correctly about what to do and not do prior to blood collection for certain tests. I am excited to see how many practitioners are competent with pathology reading these days and building their skills and confidence all the time, that’s why it is so so disheartening for the practitioners (and for me as a mother hen mentor) when they lose time (& sleep) getting to Step 3 when they should be able to spot ‘Bad Bloods’ fast. There are 7 classic give-away patterns.
Will are unlikely to know every quirk of every blood test our patients will ever have done, but knowing what constitutes the ideal time and conditions for the most commonly performed ones, can go a long way to minimising any future Bad Bloods between you and patient as well. This includes things like exercise, alcohol intake, duration fasting and even sexual intimacy…yup!
This month’s Update in Under 30 installment Beware of Bad Bloods teaches you the 7 patterns to watch for and provides you with a great resource stipulating the best collection conditions for the most common blood tests. Don’t let Bad Blood come between you and your patient, the right diagnosis & management or just some well-deserved sleep!
Good practitioners are being led to bad conclusions by some patients’ pathology results. Not because they can’t interpret them or the testing has no merit but because they just don’t know when to discard a set because they are ‘bad’. Occasionally, the fault of the pathology company but much more often the fault of the patient and the referring practitioner, who has not educated the patient correctly about what to do and not do prior to blood collection for certain tests. This recording clearly describes the 7 classic give-away patterns of ‘Bad Bloods’ which will enable you to spot them fast in the future. In addition to this. while we are unlikely to know the idiosyncrasies of very lab our patients will ever have done, knowing the ideal collection times and conditions for the most common ones assists you and your patients to avoid any in the future – handy clinic resource included.
Hear all about it by listening to my latest Update in Under 30: Beware of Bad Bloods.
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.
Well who’d have thunk?! I had no idea cigarettes contain sugar and turns out about 95% of smokers don’t either, according to this recently published article! Now while we’re not purporting this is going to be of caloric significance enough to prove a deal-breaker for the ‘I Quit Sugar’ devotees and others watching their waistlines 😉 its presence in cigarettes is far from benign for other reasons…
“Sugars naturally occur in tobacco leaf but are also commonly added to cigarettes by tobacco companies.
Added sugar increases levels of toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke. “
Never mind that we have a long list of much more terrifying chemicals more commonly known by smokers to be found in their affectionately-named, cancer sticks! Maybe our current overwhelming fear (for some!) of sugar might be the great tipping point in their decision-making process?! I’m not sure but it’s worth a try…one final factor to build on the already impressive impact of our anti-smoking public health campaign here in Australia? I still meet clients who eat ‘organic’, regularly do pilates or yoga but still confess to slipping in ‘social ciggies’ on the side, – do you?! So for this popular patient paradox anything is worth a try…perhaps tell them about the sugar! 😉
What is this thing you call, Update in Under 30?!
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. Subscribing (Standard or Premium) offers you a fast efficient and inexpensive way to stay up to date in under 30 mins a month!
While this ABC article is written for the public it’s a great checklist to have written up somewhere to prevent against placing your confidence in the wrong sources of info.
Just recently, I had a practitioner ask about the ‘risks’ of B12 dosing…& while B12 is considered to be free of a toxicity profile in just about any textbook or in-depth review paper you can find, a ‘methylation’ expert had made mention of there being demonstrated increased oxidative stress.
My response, ‘Have you checked their references?’
I get it, right, we’re all busy people and don’t have the time for a full literature review of every claim made by every educator, ‘expert’ or company… BUT sometimes a credibility check can be lightning fast!!!! As was the case in this instance.
I did check this expert’s reference (singular). I read the full article just out of interest but actually, I didn’t need to. I had my answer just by reading the title and abstract…the study was conducted in genetically altered rats made alcoholic and injected with B12 or something to that effect. Relevance?? Which is in stark contrast to the absolute consensus from 100s of human studies concluding that B12 toxicity is NOT a thing.
That also means this particular expert’s references probably need to be checked every time of course…until you can be more confident in the quality of their claims – tough but true. Below are the 7 top Qs to try and answer to determine the quality of any claim – and remember you rarely have to complete the list to get your answer…just start with reading the title of their key reference!!!
1. Who says? (….and what agenda/bias might they have)
2. Sample size ( a response rate of 20% might mean something in a sample of 10000 & nothing in a sample of 10!)
3. Lab-bench or real world
4. Correlation V causation
5. Statistically significant V clinically significant (…if something was shown to reduce people’s migraine pain by a rating of 0.5 – but most people rate their pain at 10/10…is it actually clinically meaningful?!)
6. Does the dose relate? (…watch out for animal studies where they are using doses at mg/kg body weight…that we could never match with oral dosing in humans because they would be eating buckets of the stuff!)
7. Got some time?…then dig a little deeper…if your article has passed all the above checkpoints and you’re still dubious (and this does happen!) check out who has cited this paper (easy via Google Scholar) and whether other researchers are in agreement or not with their findings. What’s been published in this area since then?
Oh and this article is also handy for the occasional misguided patient – who’s found some incredulous online info about something that contradicts your contrastingly well-sourced & quality-checked knowledge! 😉
Our new – New Graduate Mentoring Program kicks off in late January and offers an incredible opportunity for successful applicants to develop their core clinical competencies in record time during their transition into practice. Real world research cheat tips, is just one of the many practical competencies covered across the year’s curriculum. But if you’re interested in applying, jump onto it! Applications close on the 15th November
As an avid reader of medical news I face a barrage of headlines both domestic & international everyday. I feel this is important for many reasons – not just so that I know what’s being said about their medicine but what they’re saying about ours as well! Anyone see the jaw-dropping headline last week: Could Probiotics be bad for your gut? Yep.
Now how many of you didn’t make it past the headline? It’s hard isn’t it.
There’s almost a reflexive shutdown for many of us to dismiss such a proposition as simply ‘ridiculous’, surely on par with our response to an article from a climate skeptic…as we shake our heads with ‘you gotta be joking right?’… but unless we read on, we’ll never know. (more…)
I was lucky enough to hear Jason Hawrelak’s excellent presentation at the Australian Naturopathic Summit last weekend, titled: A Case of Blastocystis Infection – Or Is It? Timely, highly valuable, immediately usable, provocative education (just how I like it 😉 ) on how perhaps often Blasto is playing the scapegoat for another condition/cause of patients’ GIT symptoms. During this case study, Jason detailed the shonky diagnostic work-up of his current patient by a naturopath 12 years prior…that naturopath was him.
There was so much to love about his telling of this case study and the discourse around it but here are my Top 3 Takes:
- None of us know everything or practice perfectly but rather we do what we do, until we know to do differently…even Jason 😉
- As there are 9 strains of B.hominis found in humans and many of these are in fact benign commensals, even perhaps important ‘apex predators’ for the microbiome, attributing someone’s health problems (digestive or otherwise) to the presence of this parasite should in fact be a diagnosis of exclusion…always asking yourself first, what else could it be?? e.g. coeliac, SIBO, food reactions etc etc
- The cost of being a ‘premature evaluator’, to your patients and to yourself, can be very high…
I’ve had my nose in all the research on Gilbert’s Syndrome again..watch this space…in the interim just thought I’d share this image and a couple of important details I may not have been able to convey when you last heard me talk (very fast!) about this important and common polymorphism:
- While the incidence is approximately 10% of Caucasian population, rates are heavily influenced by ethnic background and the highest rates (up to 1/4) are seen in Middle Eastern populations
- Gone are the days of thinking this condition only effects bilirubin levels and the enzyme responsible for its clearance – more recent research has shown over 3/4 of patients with Gilbert’s Syndrome have multiple SNPs that compromise clusters of enzymes within the glucuronidation pathway – with varying patterns – this goes a good chunk of the way to explaining the variability we see in bilirubin levels and symptom pictures across patients all deemed to have Gilbert’s Syndrome. This also explains why figures of reduced glucuronidation activity vary anywhere between 10% less to 90% less! It depends on your cluster..but the average reduction is around 50%
- UGT enzymes, the ones affected in Gilbert’s, are also expressed all the way down the GIT and constitute important food and drug handling. These UGTs are most active in the small intestines,as you can see above, but may explain why Gilbert’s patients are ‘more sensitive’ to medications than just paracetamol!
- And are you still thinking you need to run an $$$ gene test to confirm your Gilbert’s hunch in a client whose bilirubin sits consistently high normal or high? Think again… here’s a great little diagnostic short-cut that even the Royal College of Pathologists Australasia cites as sufficient evidence to confirm the polymorphism:
In the face of elevated total bilirubin levels and in the absence of liver pathology or increased haemolysis to explain this..”If the diagnosis is uncertain the serum bilirubin fasting level can be measured and should exceed the non-fasting level by >50%.”
Nice. So that means you only need to demonstrate that the patient’s fasting total bilirubin levels go up by at least 50% compared with their fed levels and BINGO you have your diagnosis. Much easier. Oh and this image comes from an interesting paper from Tukey & Strassburg 2001 – but is probably not for the faint-hearted 😉
Stay tuned for more 🙂
Just new to this condition and need a soft place to land with understanding Gilbert’s Syndrome? This previous UU30 is just the thing! Affectionately called Gilbert’s Girls because in particular it details a set of twins with this condition, this short audio explains the basics about this common polymorphism and why we tend to see a lot of patients who have this…even if no one has pointed it out to them yet! You could be the first to provide them with this important understanding about how genetics is impacting their detox pathways, changing their sex hormone handling and perhaps setting them up for both mental health issues and some serious upset guts! Better still, what to do once we have that diagnosis.
Not long ago, Kathryn Simpson and I were sharing a hotel room on yet another work trip to somewhere. The lights were out, it was way past our bedtime and we were just gasbagging incessantly like a couple of teens, when a thought pops into my head:
“Hey Kathryn, back when you were my student, did you ever imagine this scenario in the future – you know us being colleagues and friends and having slumber parties full of laughing?”, she replied, “Well no, but you know what I REALLY never could have imagined in my wildest dreams…the Australian Naturopathic Summit and you inviting me to be a co-founder of something that’s had such a big impact! That one I just didn’t see coming!”
Well to be honest, neither did I but sometimes I just have an idea that won’t leave me alone and is too important and too promising to ignore. Three years ago when I shared one of these, the vision of a national naturopathic conference by naturopaths for naturopaths, that would lift us all professionally, offer collaboration over competition and provide us the highest level of non-biased education, with Nirala Jacobi, turned out she’d been visited by the same thought bubble. Then I approached Kathryn, who was working for me at the time and pretty fresh out of uni but full of passion and drive about building a better ‘new’ naturopathic career path, one that supported rather than splintered those emerging out of great courses into a harsh, challenging professional space.
Time-travel forward to now, we are just 10 weeks(ish) out from erecting the chai tent, marquees and lanterns, for the second inception of this extraordinary thing called the Australian Naturopathic Summit 24-26th August at Lennox Head.
This is the culmination of 3 years of work from us, one paid project manager and the exceptional generosity of over 25 of our naturopathic idols, thought leaders and torch bearers who are donating their time to present plenaries, workshops, case studies, panel discussions… because they believe so strongly in the cause and the need for such an event.
If you think I am running out of breath between all these words..I am. This thing…has taken on a shape and life much greater than even we had envisioned.
If you follow the work I do – you’ll know that I am passionate about collaboration over competition. I could never have come to this place in my career without the input of many (some who remain on speed dial even now!) and through my mentoring programs, the infamous RAN internship and hopefully times we’ve come across each other…I’ve encouraged you to do the same and by doing so, grow bigger together. So just imagine the value of collaborating face-to-face…over 3 days…at a festival in Lennox Heads… ? And not just for 1 hour, but for 3 full days with 100’s of other practitioners from all areas, specialities and locations. Oh and if you’re thinking you’ll just have to wait ’til the next one’…SPOILER…there is no guarantee of a next one! Being a passion project that we 3 donate our time to, for you, it requires your support to keep it going.
So with saying all that…..(cajon roll…that’s a drum for you non-hippies)….It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that today I can announce a special deal for RAN subscribers. Yes….that’s you! Just like myself you all see a need to grow and build skills, knowledge, competence and confidence in the practice of naturopathic medicine. Come join the very best of your profession and take up this special offer to attend the second independent Australian Naturopathic Summit held in Lennox Head on 24-26 August.
To get 15% off a full 3 day pass enter Festival at the checkout
Book your tickets before they run out at www.australiannaturopathicsummit.com.au.
For information or questions about this special email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This summit is unprecedented in Australia for the following reasons:
- It is free from commercial bias
- It is about professional development, improving our practices and career paths, not products
- The primary objective is to support the Australian Naturopathic community, celebrating our diversity and creating a platform for our own Naturopathic torch-bearers in various areas (Practice, Research, Herbal Manufacture, Corporate Health, Entrepreneurship etc.) to help light the way for the broader professional community
This year our theme for ANS 2018 is ‘Coming Together On Common Ground’
Naturopathy has many different practices and paths,
but we all work for the same purpose, guided by the same principles.
The ANS 2018 program has three distinct themes across the 3 days…
- Friday 24 August: Custodians of the Vital Force
- Saturday 25 August: Upskilling Your Clinical Practice
- Sunday 26 August: The Business of Business Development
The morning of each day consists of plenary sessions followed by a lengthy lunch break that allows for networking, beach walking, guided outdoor meditation, perusing the vendor village, or simply enjoying the festival atmosphere in the beautiful outdoor location that our summit is surrounded by OR for those die-hards some amazing case studies presented by the likes of Jason Hawrelak, Dawn Whitten and Sandra Villella. Afternoon sessions are workshop-style, designed to be more interactive. There are plenty of workshops to choose from to keep you riveted and inspired.
We have created a jam-packed program to do just that.
Download your copy of the full program here!
ANS 2018 – come join the very best of your profession.
Book your tickets before they run out at www.australiannaturopathicsummit.com.au.
To get 15% off a full 3 day pass enter Festival at the checkout.
For information or questions about this special email email@example.com
Help!!! I’m about to share the stage at the 3rd International Acid-Base Symposium on the 25th-27th Jun, with the best acid-base researchers in the world, all of whom I actively stalk (well read and recite everything they’ve ever published but close enough!) I’m terrified and excited in equal doses…but urgently need to change my presentation approach because until now I’ve had the privileged position of simply fulfilling the town-crier role, announcing far and wide the findings of their incredible research into acid base physiology and their findings about impact of chronic mild metabolic acidosis. But I can’t quote Arnett to Arnett! I can’t tell Dawson-Hughes about the incredible insights of Dawson-Hughes’ large body of work in this area! Oh my Goodness (cue, shaking knees), I’m going to meet Thomas Remer…of Potential Renal Acid Load Formula Fame!!
Yes, my partner is a musician and through him I have brushed shoulders with all kinds of famous…but nothing that has made my heart beat quite this fast!
Must buy an autograph book for them to all sign.
Joking (kind of). (more…)
You know I’m not one to raise my voice and make scene.
Ok, I always raise my voice and make a scene, but only when I think something really warrants our attention and the issue of under-recognised, under-estimated and mismanaged chronic worms, demands our attention. I’ve been talking about this ever since the first patient stepped into my clinic, a young girl with severe mood issues who just happened to also have treatment-resistant chronic threadworm, and since then, as the volume of patients I see affected by this has grown, so too has the volume of my message. And there’s actually so much to say.
Chronic worm problems don’t always come with an itchy bottom calling card. In fact, many individuals don’t have any of the telltale signs you might be used to screening for. Recent research suggests adult men, in particular, are commonly asymptomatic when infected with them (Boga et al 2016)
So what alerts us as practitioners to the possibility of chronic worms – so many things…but here’s just some thought bubbles to get you started.
Are you treating patients with recurrent or treatment-resistant Dientamoeba fragilis?
Are you seeing women who have thrush-like symptoms, in spite of negative swabs and no benefit from antifungals?
Are you faced with families coming undone because of one child’s behaviour whether that’s aggression, defiance, emotional lability or just serious sleep problems? (more…)
I have a good friend…who happens to be a naturopath…who happens to also be a patient of mine. Have you got a few of these as well? A month ago, looking over her recent bloods which included fasting lipids that had been steadily climbing for the last couple of years, post-menopause, she said, ‘do you think I should take something for that?’ Ahhhhhh no. My reasoning went like this:
“You love saturated fat right? You eat butter and cheese and and and…and the type of elevated lipid pattern you have LOOKS like it is at least partially the result of this, your triglycerides are low, your HDLs are good it’s just this LDL component that is too high. You could add in another supplement…and take it…forever…or you could do a little n=1 experiment and just lower your butter, cheese & coconut oil intake for a month and repeat the test.”
The horror on her face! You see I didn’t know exactly how much she loved butter but it all became clear with the first text a few hours after I had thrown down the gauntlet…which included a sobbing emoji and the comment that her afternoon snack will never be the same…turns out it was a shortbread biscuit with butter on it!!! But as a practitioner who does pride herself on walking the talk…off she went determined to give it a good go for a month. But boy did it hurt! (more…)
The words together with the horror on her face made me feel instantly nauseous. I’d been internally debating for months now if I was simply imagining things and intellectualising about how this just might be the case… observing myself looking in the mirror more often, getting closer to the mirror, brushing my hair more often, cleaning the brush more frequently…in psychology it’s called something like confirmatory bias…ah yes just enough psych knowledge to be a danger to myself!
But louder than the chronic self-analysis and attempts at reassurance was the voice that said, ‘You’re losing your hair like an old woman. You’re not even menopausal. You eat fabulous food and have too much energy for your own good but you’re starting to look like you’re ill’. The horror. I felt instantly like a fraud. (more…)
“I always give some Glutamine to heal their leaky gut”
Cue pained expression on my face. No, I’m not a fan. I take that back, I have no problem with the amino acid itself and I’m still in awe of its incredible multifaceted role in the gut. What I do have a giant issue with is the mismatch between everything we are being told Glutamine is going to help our patients with, and the dosages that apparently will do that, and the reality. I know, I’m attacking the Holy Grail of Gut Health 101….right? But it’s time to set the record straight. Firstly, where’s the evidence at in terms of Glutamine interventions in GIT pathology, particularly in relation to reducing excessive intestinal permeability and improving lining integrity Well if you’re a rat – Good news! Rats’ GITs have a greater dependence on Glutamine than ours, a deficiency of this amino produces clear reproducible negative effects and supplementation fixes these brilliantly!
But if you’re treating humans not rats – well – the evidence & the case for Glutamine for the Gut is not so straight forward or impressive. (more…)