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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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. 

Have you heard? It All Comes Back to the Gut

How often were we told this in our training?  And how often have we found this to be true in practice?  And now suddenly, it seems, the medical researchers (at last!) are rapidly coming around to this core concept?? Our microbiome is suddenly the hottest property on the body block, and it seems every interested party is shouting, ‘Buy!Buy!Buy!’ As integrative health practitioners, of course, we had a major head-start, not just by appreciating the gut’s central positioning in the whole health story (iridology beliefs, maps & teasers aside!!) but also a heads-up about the damage the western diet, our medication exposures and lifestyle tend to wreak upon it. A favourite quote of Jason Hawrelak’s by Justin Sonnenburg, “The western diet starves your microbial self”, underscores the significance of just one element of this impact. And…are we all clear that the increasing number of patients reporting adverse food reactions, once again, overwhelmingly are a response to aberrant processes in the GIT?

Sounds silly it’s so obvious right, but it’s easy to get distracted & misattribute blame…for example, it’s the food that’s the problem. Well yes in a minority of situations interactions between someone’s genes, immune system and a particular food turns something otherwise healthy into something pathological, but for the majority, the food itself & in others is healthy, & could  be beneficial to this individual, if only we could resolve their GIT issues…like FODMAPs for example.

Not the problem, just the messenger.

So if the ‘problem food’ is just the messenger, what’s the actual message we need to understand?  Is it that this patient has medication, disease or otherwise induced hypochlorhydria, impairing ‘chopping up’ of potential antigens implicated in immune mediated food reactions? Or is that this person’s got fat maldigestion &/or malabsorption so that in addition to not tolerating fats, they may experience dietary oxalate intolerance to boot? Or are the food reactions the result of altered microflora changing what we can and can’t digest (via their critical contribution) & absorb?

So what message does the presence of IgG antibodies to consumed foods send us about the state of someone’s gut? It’s telling us 2 things: this individual exhibits abnormal intestinal permeability  & currently in the context of this leaky gut, these foods may constitute a barrier to resolving this & other symptoms as well.

We’ve recently released the mp4 (that’s audio plus the movie version of the slideshow so grab your popcorn…that’s if you don’t have a corn issue!)  of A Guide to Investigating Adverse Food Reactions – What’s IgG got to do with it? which details the science behind IgG, including debunking, the incorrect debunking of IgG food antibody testing!! But more than this, it overviews the whole maze of adverse food reactions, articulates a logical investigative path for practitioners through this maze, and helps us to really understand that finding the food(s) responsible for a patient’s symptoms is not the final destination..and can be in fact a distraction, if we don’t cut to the chase and find out the why…and funnily enough…my dear old iridology teachers and colleagues...it almost always comes back to the gut 😉

Confronted with the possibility of adverse food reactions in an increasing number of our patients can be an overwhelming prospect, in terms of accurately identifying and understanding the faulty mechanism underpinning these aberrant responses to healthy foods.  Elimination of 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 AFR landscape. Along the way, we detail the science of where IgG reactions fit into this and it’s a fascinating story that just might be the missing puzzle in your leaky gut patients.
and watch this presentation now in your online account.

Q: If a patient says they can only tolerate 7 foods…

Q: If a patient says they can only tolerate 7 foods…how many did they start with?

A: Typically about 20

No, this answer doesn’t come from some complex mathematical formula…it comes from appreciating the low dietary diversity of those eating a Western diet.  When we boil down these diets to the number of foods from different biological origins (families) it can be a frighteningly small number.

You see, like most practitioners, I feel utter dread when I encounter the patient who prefaces their diet story with a statement similar to the one above. It speaks to the severity of their symptoms, their attribution of these with food, that by the way is essential for their sustenance and nutritional salvation, and implies an exhaustive pursuit they’ve undertaken probably over years to find ‘safe foods’.  And yes, as discussed in my recent talk A Guide to Investigating Adverse Food Reactions – What’s IgG got to do with it? – food reactions, as in more than one mechanism of food reaction, often do move in packs and that comes typically back to a poorly functioning gut…BUT…that latter assumption…’they’ve explored and exhausted all foods’ is the one we need to keep in check.

Have they tried daikon? Prickly pear or jambu? Okra?  Snake beans? Quail or duck eggs? Kangaroo? Crickets?  Etc Etc. Etc.

Are you catching my drift?  Because someone has DIY diagnosed a wheat, dairy, soy and, and, and, reaction (correctly or incorrectly) and perceive themselves to react also to most of the limited fruit and veg they can identify in Woolies…doesn’t mean they’ve remotely exhausted the global food supply! Where am I going with this?  When patients tell us they’re down to 7 foods they can tolerate – some sensible follow up actions on our behalf may include:

  1. Check the strength and validity of their level & strength of evidence for their DIY diagnosis
  2. Think about the linking ‘process’ (more than likely gut) that is the real potential issue (aka don’t eliminate the messenger and do nothing more!)
  3. Encourage and advise them to shop anywhere other than where they normally do – somewhere that sells fresh produce they don’t recognise at all…like Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern supermarkets and grocers

My tour of A Guide to Investigating Adverse Food Reactions – What’s IgG got to do with it? (and the weeks of lit review leading up to this) provided me with enormous food for thought…and this is just one! If you want to hear more about how to find method in the madness of food reactions…you should probably listen in to the whole shebang…goodness knows with the increasing number of patients who present with self-determined food reactions and an increasingly narrow menu of safe foods…practitioners and patients alike need all the help we can get!

Confronted with the possibility of adverse food reactions in an increasing number of our patients can be an overwhelming prospect, in terms of accurately identifying and understanding the faulty mechanism underpinning these aberrant responses to healthy foods.  Elimination of 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 AFR landscape. Along the way we detail the science of where IgG reactions fit into this and it’s a fascinating story that just might be the missing puzzle in your leaky gut patients.
Click here to purchase A Guide to Investigating Adverse Food Reactions – What’s IgG got to do with it?

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Talking Turkey About My Pet Hate

Let’s talk turkey about our pharmaceutical Pet Hates, mine are Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs). They irk me more than any other drug class. It’s not entirely rational. Let’s face it, they have some stiff competition but for some reason, in my mind, they almost always win: helping so little & at such a high cost to patients. What fuels my fire of course is their over-prescription, followed closely by the complete disregard for the prescribing guidelines which state:

“When clinically indicated, PPIs should be used for the shortest duration necessary and chronic use is not recommended except for treatment of pathological hypersecretory conditions including Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and maintenance healing of erosive oesophagitis.”

Sorry…did I hear you correctly? Chronic use is not recommended – yet this is one of the drugs most commonly on ‘set and forget mode’ in general practice. To boot, their chronic use has been associated with a number of serious concerns, which I’ve touched on before, from osteoporosis to increased rates of GIT infections. not to mention just the little ol’ detail of malabsorption of multiple nutrients!  But this week, yet another health concern has popped up and into my inbox…and well..I found myself shouting at the medical newsfeed on my screen…[again] 🙁

“In their analysis, more than 42,500 adverse events reported to the US Food and Drug Administration by patients on PPI monotherapy were compared with more than 8300 reports from patients on histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs)….Patients on PPIs alone were 28 times more likely to report chronic kidney disease than those taking H2RAs, while the frequency of acute kidney injury reports was around four times higher…Reports of end-stage renal disease were 35-fold higher among PPI users, while reports of renal nephrolithiasis were three times higher”

To be clear, while these increased rates are TERRIBLE and unacceptable in the context of the ‘set and forget’ prescribing that seems it be rife in most countries, they still only effect a small % of patients e.g. approx 5%  of patients had adverse renal effects on PPIs Vs 1% on the older generation H2 blockers for reflux but  it’s yet another reason (like we needed more?!) to think twice before our patients are initiated on these meds, which are presented to patients as being benign.  Typically with drug development, the older drugs in  a class are superseded by newer ones that are ‘cleaner’, and therefore more effective with less adverse effects but this is one situation where if one of my patients really did need a med, I would say out with the new and in with the old!

One scenario where PPIs in combo with multiple antibiotics get routinely rolled out is of course H.pylori infections.  But does this make sense??

For a bacteria identified just a few decades ago as being a cause of chronic gastritis, atrophic gastritis and gastric carcinoma, the escalation of number of antibiotics used to eradicate it (4 at last count + PPI) has been nothing short of breathtaking.  A management approach more consistent with both integrative medicine and with an improved understanding of the delicate microbiome focuses on changing the gastric environment to ‘remove the welcome mat’. What do we know about how to do this successfully? It turns out…quite a lot.  You can find out here with our previous UU30: H.pylori- Eradicate or Rehabilitate?

Wind: Could You Define Excessive?

While we’re on the topic…I tend to think, that as good as we are at asking a lot about a patient’s health, we can always do better.  One of the classic pitfalls for practitioners is having to rely so much on patient self-reporting: Is your period heavy,moderate or light?; How would you rate your appetite?; Do you suffer from excess flatulence?  When our patients answer these questions, who are they able to compare their own experiences with? Or do they only compare them with themselves at another time in their life, e.g. my periods are heavier/lighter than they were before?  Either way, this may lead to unintentionally misleading information from our patients, producing erroneous conclusions for us as clinicians. Do you suffer from excess flatulence?  Well do they?? How exactly would most of us know?! Unless we can define what ‘normal’ looks like…?

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(But as many as 22 times a day – that’s almost one on the hour)

That’s the average number of ‘pop offs’, ‘air biscuits’, ‘bench-warmers’, ‘fluffs’, or whatever you want to call them, healthy humans do per day as cited in this great evidence based & entertaining article. Funnily enough I had exactly the same lecturing experience as the author: performing a snap poll on my students, asking for averages…and can I just say almost everyone was clearly under-reporting!! But the point is clear.  How can our patients accurately rate the magnitude, severity or normality V abnormality of their bowels, menses, appetite, pain threshold etc – unless we provide some goalposts? And are we, in fact being lead to believe there is a problem when perhaps there isn’t? That certainly has been the conclusion of several studies into the matter of self-reported excessive flatulence.  Hippocrates himself put in a good word for bottom trumpeting, saying “passing gas is necessary to well-being” and as a recent article in the Harvard Health Letter reads,  “A little bit of extra flatulence, could be an indication that you’re eating the way you should!” Here here!

But my favourite quote from this article has to be about the high tech solutions on offer – for those who do accurately fall into the excessive category:

“Such as carbon fiber odor-eating underwear (cost: $65),  which were put to the test in an American Journal of Gastroenterology study that included such gems as “Utilising gas-tight Mylar pantaloons, the ability of a charcoal lined cushion to adsorb sulphur-containing gases instilled at the anus of eight subjects was assessed.” Assessed, that is, by a panel of fart-sniffing judges. And the name of the charcoal lined cushion? The “Toot Trapper.”

How different that scene in Bridge Jones’ Diary would have been had these been her undergarment of choice instead of the control briefs!

Of course, if there is associated pain or an odour (which the article discusses as well) that makes the family dog leave the room…well, that’s another matter…;)

A Gut full of Glutamine?!

Is Glutamine your go-to prescription for patients with gut problems?  Do you look for good levels of it when you’re choosing your gut repair formulas? Most of us do this because we’ve heard that a deficiency negatively impacts the gut tight junctions , villi structure and immunity etc. but how long has it been since you’ve reviewed the latest human studies on the digestive effects of Glutamine supplementation?  The time is now. This previous UU30 installment cuts to the chase on the big research findings that warrant our urgent attention and necessitate big adjustments in how we use glutamine for guts.

 

 

 

 

Ready, Aim…Don’t Fire!

Oral sex. There I said it.  Last month when I talked about Helicobacter pylori and where people might ‘catch’ this – if they didn’t inherit the little critter from their mum or family as an infant – we thankfully were able to rule out kissing as a source of transmission between couples P.H.E.W…but I sort of got shy (Who, you, Rachel?!!) and danced a little bit around the question of whether other forms of sexual contact represent a possible route of exposure (pardon the pun).  Until a lovely colleague after listening to Blowing the lid on H.pylori-who gets it & why – said, ‘Now seriously Rach, are you trying to say, oral sex may be an issue?’ Well…ahem…maybe.  You see, remember what I said about candida being a vector for H.pylori and therefore H.pylori being present in the vaginas of women who have this bacteria residing in their stomachs. Ok…enough of that now I am blushing..but if you want to read more on this grab this article in BMJ from 2000 by Eslick who discusses (and seems a little too interested in, can I just say), the risks of H.pylori transmission via a myriad of sexual activities.

A month has passed since that last UU30 edition and it’s time for another instalment. This month, I’ve taken the giant leap forward many of you requested, into the fascinating realm of how best to manage H.pylori positive patients, in whom this bacteria really does constitute a pathogen.

Do we just try with multiple relentless antimicrobials to blast holes in this critter, a lot like the conventional approach…which, thanks to its significant capacity for developing resistance, is like aiming at a constantly moving target,…or…?

I’ve got a very different suggestion and approach.   Increasingly we realise that the GIT microbiome is a vulnerable & dynamic balancing act and as a result, when treating patients with confirmed parasites, or worms or potentially (but not always) pathogenic bacteria such as H.pylori, most of us are doing much less ‘weeding’, less ‘eradicating’ and definitely less ‘shooting at things only to hit others’, these days.  Instead we think about how we can best change the environment.  So, what is it about someone’s stomach that opens the door to H. pylori and lets it in, and then perpetually ‘feeds’ it to ensure it stays longer and wreaks some real havoc, we identify & treat what about this over-friendly stomach is amenable to rehabilitation? As it turns out…that’s a lot.

And surely if add to our antimicrobials a larger focus on rejuvenating the gastric environment of H.pylori patients, to control the growth and activity of this bacteria, and in some cases even kick it out of the big brother house altogether…the chances of relapse and reinfection (a big one in this condition) will be dramatically less..not to mention the broader benefits on the greater GIT function, now the stomach has been remediated.

Or you could just keep trying to hit the moving bulls-eye?

For a bacteria identified just a few decades ago as being a cause of chronic gastritis, atrophic gastritis and gastric carcinoma, the escalation of number of antibiotics used to eradicate it (4 at last count + PPI) has been nothing short of breathtaking.  A management approach more consistent with both integrative medicine and with an improved understanding of the delicate microbiome includes a bigger focus on changing the gastric environment to ‘remove the welcome mat’. What do we know about how to do this successfully? It turns out…quite a lot.

 

Hear all about it by listening by my latest Update in Under 30: H.pylori – Eradicate or Rehabilitate?
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.

Blowing Over On A UBT

A few months back I seriously ‘blew over’. Not on an RBT but on a UBT (Urea Breath Test).  In spite of it being not the kind of test you want to score top marks for, my result was in the high 2000s, when all I needed was around 800 to confirm, and anything over 50 to be suspicious, that Helicobacter pylori had taken up residence in my stomach lining. I tell you, I knew it when I blew it! 😉  After ingesting the radioactive urea and waiting to blow up my sampling balloon, I felt like I could still fill a room full of balloons with all the gas being produced in my stomach and those balloons, I imagined, would all rise to the ceiling as if full of helium! Yep…I burped all the way home, which was representative of what I’d been experiencing daily for a month beforehand and what lead me to get the test done.

But initially, it wasn’t so clear. 

The very first symptom I experienced was a sudden onset of severe tightness around my throat that lasted for minutes but started to happen multiple times in a day.  Yep..no one panic.  Together with a strange sensation of ‘extreme emptiness’ in my stomach on waking or delayed meals, and then mild nausea both with an empty and full stomach…only some days or weeks later the fabulously-unprecedented-&-socially-adorable-burping started, proper.

So a month or so later, I’ve solved my own mystery.  Happy? Not in the least…where the heck have I picked up H.pylori from? Yes…that’s what I said because it had to come from somewhere people…right?   I think there is much we have misunderstood about this bacteria with an incredibly long and interesting human history.  Animals don’t and can’t carry this bacteria.  The evidence suggests that it can’t survive for very long in the environment either (approx 4 days) but that is long enough to get into our food and water and maybe even onto shared chopsticks…just saying (listen in to hear the lowdown on all these and more!) Essentially hoomans are the traffickers, people!  In fact one of the things that surprises people the most is the very high prevalence in young children and the clusters of positive tests & identical strains within families…but once you learn a little more about this bacteria…it won’t surprise you at all. (more…)

FAKE NEWS!…or just uncomfortable?..Read On

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…)

Are You a Premature Evaluator?

 

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:

  1. None of us know everything or practice perfectly but rather we do what we do, until we know to do differently…even Jason 😉
  2. 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
  3. The cost of being a ‘premature evaluator’, to your patients and to yourself, can be very high…

(more…)

How Do YOU Take Your Coffee??

If you’ve not seen Kitty Flanagan’s skit on current coffee culture...it’s essential viewing.  In true Kitty-fashion, she wants to simplify coffee ordering down to 2 basic lines – White or Black – says all our pretentious coffee orders; macchiato, skinny, decaf, half strength, latte etc can essentially be reduced down to  a much faster 2 queue system. But she’s forgotten the line for taking your coffee rectally.  Sorry – did I make you just spill your coffee? Knowing How across health trends Kitty is, she’ll add this 3rd queue soon, if the number of patients asking me about this or telling me they’re already doing it. Now, while enemas had a place in naturopathic history, my training never covered them and, consequently, I’ve never included them in my practice. But the more hype I heard around coffee enemas specifically, the more I thought we better find out as much as we can, so at least we can better inform ourselves and our patients. And of course the monkey on your back, called FOMO, jumps up and down, incessantly asking, “Are you (and your patients) missing out on an amazing therapy?”

The first patient who told me they were using coffee enemas daily was a celeb.  A very anxious one. Who also told me she couldn’t possibly drink chai let alone coffee because of the caffeine.  This had me a bit stumped…I knew she wasn’t inserting decaff up there and I thought…well given the colon is SUCH an absorptive surface surely this is why she reported feeling, ‘so energised, more clear headed’ etc. with every enema?

But I wanted to find out for sure (more…)

One Small Step For Our Clients?

When I look back over how I’ve raised my kids there are a few serious ‘what tha…’ moments – like the time I thought shopping with a child in rollerskates was doable…I mean she loved those rollerskates and she was amazingly agile and good…just not quite good enough to hold onto that 1L Biodynamic Yoghurt sufficiently…who knew?!  Dietary wise, I can look back and be critical in hindsight about different details, the contents of our fridge and pantry have morphed over the years with my changing knowledge (money & time!) but there are a few things I can confidently say – ‘Nailed it’, accompanied by a fist pump!  We’re all meat eaters, not carnivores by any stretch of the imagination but we do partake, however the kids and I were just reflecting the other day on the absolute constancy of legumes in our life. (I know you want CCTV footage of our dinner time chats now don’t you 😉 )  There would rarely be a day in our house without them…several times!

Now I sound like I’m showing off but trust me it’s not that impressive or exotic – it goes a little something like this:  soup,(split red lentils or cannellini),  bolognaise & lasagne (1:4 brown lentils with the meat), nachos for school lunches (kidney beans 4:1 with mince), falafel & hummus (chick peas) & tofu (my kids love this stuff for snacks often & for mains at least once a week).

Ok now everyone relax,  I don’t make our own almond milk, grow our own vegetables or ferment stuff…see…it’s swings & roundabouts 😉 (more…)

Getting Down & Dirty on Worms…

These little blighters are getting a lot of airplay this month and rightly so…..! Oh Em Geeeeeeeee….so much misinformation out there!! It’s time to set the record straight

Worm infestations never conjure up a pretty picture in our minds although a video of humans trying to bum slide across the floor like some dogs we know would get a fair few laughs (…will share that vid later) 

Despite much talk of the potential therapeutic activity of helminths for things like autoimmune diseases and allergies due to their immuosuppressive effects, there’s nothing nice, friendly or ‘good for us’ about a chronic Enterobius vermicularis (threadworm) infestation in a child or adult (YES! You heard me). Oh and don’t forget the possible link with your D.fragilis patients…you just might need to treat these guys instead.

It was great to get down and dirty on worms with Andrew at FX Medicine. This podcast has us uncovering and debunking myths on these creepy critters that have more to answer for than you probably realise…

The outcry from the public is enormous, in terms of their need for help and the gaps that are there at the moment in terms of getting it. There is an online resource called thewormwhisperer.com.au, which is primarily there for the public to meet this need and practitioners can learn a lot by going on there as well.

Are You Chasing the Wrong End of Dientamoeba fragilis?

Ever feel like you’re chasing your own tail trying to treat & find the source  of GIT parasites in some patients?!  Well guess what, you just might be!

We’re seeing more & more patients test positive for Dientamoeba fragilis and increasingly patients struggling to eradicate it and prevent relapse. And then there’s Blastocystis hominis affected patients… and then those lucky enough to have both. 

Well, while we might have been grouping D.frag together with B.hominis, being the two most common GIT parasites in humans, looking for what they share in common,  they are worlds apart (we think!) in terms of how they are transmitted to humans. (more…)

Have I Got Your Attention Now?

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…)

Breaking Wind News – Tracked Straight to Your Phone!

Is this the way of the future for health practitioners interested in patients’ digestion…?

“The team developed an ingestible electronic capsule to monitor gas levels in the human gut. When it’s paired with a pocket-sized receiver and a mobile phone app, the pill reports tail-wind conditions in real time as it passes from the stomach to the colon…The authors are optimistic that the capsule’s gas readings can help clear the air over the inner workings of our intricate innards and the multitudes of microbes they contain. Such fume data could clarify the conditions of each section of the gut, what microbes are up to, and which foods may cause problems in the system. “ (more…)

It’s Landed At Last! Aka ‘Kids’ Guts Can Be Mental’ [ft. Threadworm] Recording

Standing at the podium, I looked down at my notes & slowly read out the title of my presentation to the hundreds of people attending, ‘Paediatric Digestive Issues & Neurocognitive Abnormalities’ and briefly froze thinking, Holy Heck (!) this is someone else’s presentation!  Seriously. No, this is not one of my work stress dreams.  This happened. I thought…oh my how am I going to deliver this, it sounds very complex and lofty and scary!!

Then I saw my scribbled hand notes on the page, the unofficial name I had affectionately given this presentation as I researched, compiled my case studies and brought it into being, months prior and I instantly relaxed…oh…Kids’ Guts Are Mental…now that I have some serious experience with and something to say about! (more…)