Creatine Supplements: Brain Over Brawn

I think I’m finally able to put my ‘late-90s-Creatine-frontline-trauma’ behind me.  Back then, like many good nats in training, I was working the trenches of the health food stores and was faced on a daily basis with two types of men with two types of Creatine questions. The first type was scrawny and would ask, ‘will taking this help me build muscle?’, the second, built like the proverbial brick *&#@ house, asking, ‘will it help me build more muscle?’ Cue, eye roll.  Come on… any of you current or ex apothecaries, pharmacy or retail assistants…you know exactly what I’m talking about!!! So deep was this trauma that I put Creatine as a supplement, into the ‘strictly sports folder’ in my brain (the bit in the deep dark back with other rarely accessed items) and never gave it much thought when I left retail and moved exclusively into private practice. Even back when I was a sub-editor for the Braun and Cohen 4th edition, it was apparently still too soon. 

A great colleague of mine, Emily Bradley, had written the chapter on Creatine and, in doing so, presented compelling case to reconsider this supplement as offering great therapeutic potential well outside of the sports-field.
That one was accidental 😂

I actually remember reading that chapter, especially the sections on Creatine supplementation for neurological & psychiatric conditions and thinking….WOW…who knew?! ??!! Well, clearly Emily for one 🙄 and also every author and researcher whose work she had read…so that made quite a lot of people actually!  But another [ahem 😳] several years had to pass before the research into Creatine and the argument that this has been a grossly over-looked CAM option in mental health, beat down my door and finally got my full attention.  Better late than never.  And boy, do we all have some catching up to do! 

Let’s start with 5 fun facts:
1. Creatine is critical for energy – like cellular currency it ‘tops’ back up our funds, after increased spending, everywhere, including the brain
2. The Brain consumes >20% of our resting energy expenditure & is fifth on the organ list in terms of highest concentration of this molecule
3. Creatine CNS depletion is a thing – and it happens in a wide variety of scenarios – from the seemingly benign (like chronic sleep deprivation) to the more sinister (neurodegeneration)
4. This then leads to higher Glutamate, Oxidative Stress & a spell of other sorts of ‘brain badness’
5. Oral supplementation can cross the BBB and ‘refuel’ the brain and correct the Creatine deficit

Out of the thousand or so pages of research on this topic, I’ve just indulged in, there are several great reviews to pick from…it’s a tough call to make but perhaps this older one by Patricia Allen remains my favourite. This marks the beginning of a new era…I’m putting the trauma behind me & moving on & hope you’ll come along too!

When we recap the contemporary science of shared pathophysiology in mental health, we have: oxidative stress, impaired neurogenesis, monoamine deficits, glutamate excess, hypometabolism & mitochondrial dysfunction.  When we ask researchers which of these supplemental Creatine might be able to assist with, we get hits at each and every point.  Turns out, Creatine’s capacity for enhancing performance is not limited to athletes but can be capitalised on for anyone vulnerable to a CNS shortfall.  Ignored for far too long, this economic and impactful brain nutrient is coming to the fore for psychiatric and neurological disorders.

 

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Why Iron? Why Us???

Did I mention my mentees ask the meanest (!) & most meaningful questions?  Especially those early career practitioners engaged in our New Grads program! And it’s been almost a whole month minute since I’ve talked about iron, so I wanted to share this gem from Katherine Geary:

“Why are so many women seriously low in iron? Periods aren’t a modern invention and it seems a bit of a design fault to have half the population dragging themselves around with iron deficiency anaemia! So why is it so common, even in women who seem to have reasonable dietary intake and low/average menstrual blood loss?”

Well I am so glad you asked!  And not because I or anyone has the definitive answer.  But there are some excellent voices joining in this conversation about how iron nutriture has seemingly become the collective female Achilles and how, in fact, this might be, as opposed to a ‘design fault’…wait for it…an evolutionary advantage!  Particularly hard to believe I bet for those of us ‘dragging ourselves around with iron deficiency anaemia’…to contemplate that this makes you, in fact, some kind of Superhero! But let’s back up there a bit.  Firstly, in light of iron being the 4th most common element on earth and concurrently the number one micronutrient globally we struggle to stay replete in…the contradiction is striking.  Add to this the fact that while women and children of developing countries experience higher rates of deficiency & IDA, those of us living the ‘good life’ in the top pastures of the developed ones, are still affected at strikingly high rates.  Katherine’s right of course, periods are not new…so have the rates of iron deficiency always been so high, or if not, what’s changed?  Well, a few things.

As so often seems to be the case 🙄  most of the finger-pointing is at the problem child period: the Agricultural Revolution. This radical shift in diet, away from meat towards cereals, is a clear contributor.

And then came the infections. Both the GIT ones, with bacteria (not naming any names, H.pylori!) parasites & helminths etc getting cosy and cohabiting inside no-longer nomadic humans (stealing even more of our precious iron) and  then following on as well, the rise of infectious illnesses,  flu, smallpox, malaria, TB, etc. [Ok this is the bit where you can don your cape!] If you have one of the latter, then having one of the former can be really handy!  Let’s say this another way.  Iron deficiency is considered protective against  the infections that can kill.

That’s why we see that characteristic  sequestering of iron during any significant inflammation in our patients – ferritin rises because in fact as much iron as possible has been removed from the blood…because our infectious foes are fans of ferrous (not Ferris..😳)

Authors like Denic and colleagues contend therefore that “humans may have ‘failed to adapt’, genetically and culturally, to continuous deficiency of iron because relative iron deficiency was protective against many infectious diseases”.   So next time you find yourself cursing the ‘dragging feet deficiency’, perhaps rather than our Stone-Age genes we can blame the blinkin’ Agrarian ones! It’s food for thought.  Add to that, other major changes in the lives of women over time, like more time menstruating, both with a tendency to earlier menarche and significantly less cumulative time pregnant over our lifetime but I am sure there are many other theories out there.  Have you got one?

Love Getting Answers to the Iron Questions That Bug Us All?  Us Too!
Hence, The Iron Package

That’s why we’re often adding new tools and resources to our Iron Package for that very reason!  Already, this package provides you with an opportunity to take a significant step up with regard to identifying, lows, highs and everything in between of iron status, and how best to manage deficiencies..our number one bug bear (as per above)!  So if you’re not already a proud (iron) package practitioner, maybe there’s no time like….now?

Where Could Should Would All the Iron Go?

I love a good iron question.  It makes me emit a sound like Jack Sparrow might, when faced with something pleasingly piratey 🏴‍☠️  Lucky because I am asked SO MANY GOOD ONES, SO OFTEN!!  Being one of the earliest minerals discovered to be essential…we know so much more about it than the other latecomers but that ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT MEAN WE KNOW IT ALL!  Sorry…I also tend to shout with excitement when faced with a good iron question. Yes, run for cover, I do have an even higher volume setting 🙉🙉

Just this month, I received this little ripper:
I was wondering about the expected timeframe for iron supplementation to improve ferritin levels?  

Yes of all the nutritional answers we can quickly ‘google scholar‘ our way towards, actual realistic expectations for response to treatment, is rarely an easy find! And yet, this critical clinical detail seems to be the thing that can leave so many of us stranded at sea with our patient prescriptions. Did I give up too soon? Or should it have worked already by now?  Some of the best naturopathic approaches are easy to execute…but when those patients come back after maybe a few repeats & perhaps minimal change you realise, you have a major piece of information MIA: what to expect.  Rapid relief or a cure by Christmas?!  Aka, it won’t happen overnight but it will happen.  So, great, let’s talk ironing out our expectations around responses to iron repletion!!!

First – We need know where iron goes First!

So if your iron deficient individual is actually suffering from iron deficiency anaemia, no guesses who the VIP (very important priority) is during repletion! Consequently, you can throw lots of iron at somebody (oral or even IV) and find there’s limited increase in their ferritin initially, a rather ‘disappointing’  show actually but if you keep your other eye (Jack Sparrow style) on their FBE, you’ll see the iron is being funnelled into producing haemoglobin and red blood cells. Sneaky! And if sensible can ever be associated with sexy…this is it! Ferritin is for iron surpluses only and right now, we ain’t got none!  Medical texts advise that in these scenarios, confirmation of efficacy equals an increase in Hb levels of approx 10g/L a week. In reality, no one wants to turn patients into pin cushions (esp when we’re trying to build iron back up not keep springing leaks!) so we might retest in a month or more. But an increase in Haemoglobin of 40g/L per month sounds rather aspirational with oral iron, doesn’t it!!

If we bring in the personalised perspective here, we recognise that most of our anaemic patients may only be just on the wrong side of the line, with values at 110g/L and tbh we would be shocked and a little worried if this grew in a month to 150 in a woman! Erythropoiesis is not the result of iron alone!  But the point is, if the iron replacement is working well enough, you should be moving out of anaemia within a month not a millennium!

And only once this job is done will the ferritin start to build.

So what if your patient isn’t anaemic – just low in ferritin? Well then, if you’ve a) fixed the leaks (unintended or excessive blood loss anywhere Rectal, Renal, Repro) and b) buoyed bioavailability (HCl & prebiotics while minimising iron-blocking issues like excess Ca, tannins etc) and c) corrected for low intake via a sound supplemental approach (daily dosing for those not consuming much dietary iron and alternate days for the rest) you should be seeing ferritin increase within the month of at least 10mcg/L, but hopefully more.  And if it’s not? Go back to the beginning of this little to-do list…because it means we’ve missed something. Doh! 

The Iron Package

Yes it’s true the learning doesn’t ever end and as I’ve continued to learn about new iron research I’ve added to our one-stop-iron-resource-shop..the Iron Package.  Earlier this year we added a new clinical cheat sheet with some other important numbers on there you want to have at your fingertips whenever you read iron studies.   So if you’ve already purchased and have access to the Iron Package…SURPRISE! 🤩   Go back and look again and if the iron package is not already on your ‘bookshelf’ there’s no time to waste!  

 

You’ll never look at iron studies or your iron-challenged patients the same way.

You’ll be able to listen to these audios and download the resources straight away in your online account.

Walk Towards The Light!

Now find a comfy spot everyone & I’ll tell you a story…’Once upon a time, a long long time ago, we lived our days out in the dark, regarding potential calcium dysregulation!’ But ever since serum Calcium has become a standard lab included in most routine screening tests (General Chemistry aka ELFTs) abnormal calcium handling is no longer an ambush for patients of ‘stones, moans and abdominal groans’, as the saying goes in hyperaparthyroidism.  A diagnosis historically only mad, when someone presented with this constellation of rather advanced symptoms. But actually being able to identify your patients’ typical blood calcium levels offer us so much more than just a heads-up re parathyroid disease

 It may tell us something about their Magnesium status, cardio cautions, be a bit of ‘bone barometer’ and probably most immediately important, flag their suitability for calcium supplementation!

Yep…rather than the current-criminally-crude-calcium-checklist:
1. Patient is female
2. Patient probably doesn’t consume enough calcium
3. Patient may be at risk of osteoporosis (yup…that accounts for practically every woman, right there!)

… and then the indiscriminate prescribing of calcium doses that could rarely be achieved in a single meal…(and hence run the risk of over-riding our critical regulation of this edgy electrolyte) we could…wait for it…individualise our approach!  I know, like a broken record 😂

But seriously, if you just do a full review of the vast literature on this topic, what?! Not enough time?! How about then, just skim read a couple of key papers? Still baulking at that?…maybe just a wafer-thing editorial (??!) will tell you that, consuming elemental amounts of calcium (> 250mg), that are beyond even the biggest Dairy Diva’s Diet Diary, may be deeply problematic for many.  And guess what…this doesn’t pertain to supplements alone…even calcium fortified foods are not free from concern!  But let’s not let yet throw all our calcium fortified foods in the same bin as the folate ones we did a while ago!!  Let’s step out of the dark and into the light that shines upon us, care of fasting serum Calcium measurements, to help us recognise whether Calcium is the cause, the consequence, a cure or a curse for person sitting in front of you 🧐

The Calcium Conspiracy Controversy Continued

The Calcium Conspiracy arises primarily from misperceptions about it being ‘the boss of bones’ but becomes more of a controversy when in spite of ongoing advice for broad-scale use we review the evidence and have to acknowledge that the recommendation to supplement post-menopausal women with large doses of Calcium, not only lacks strong evidence but may cause harm to some.  In this detailed discussion of the two schools of thought – Rachel finds a position somewhere in between. Reinforcing the need for an individualised approach and personalised risk benefit analysis while teaching you how to undertake this in every client.

 

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Trends not Truths

Trends in mineral supplements are like music genres, you can pick which ‘decade’ they were formulated very quickly. But instead of going by clothes, hairstyles or even the style of accompanying  music video, it’s all about the form – the ‘thing’ the mineral is bound to, that gives the game away.  While mineral carbonates , sulphates and oxides seem to many of us contemporary clinicians, pre even MTV, amino acid chelates take me back to a time when I was wearing shoulder pads in everything, even my pyjamas. It was called power-dressing and needed to be adhered to 24/7, you see.  Then along came fancy forms like orotates, aspartates, hydroxyapatites as we moved confidently into the 90s…well, as confidently as you can, when the Y2K bug may ‘end life as we know it’ come NYE. The dawn of the new millennium saw us embracing picolinates and bis-glycinates in a big way and for the last little while, citrates have really been having their time in the sun.  But you know what…here’s a few things you MUST know…

  1. These are trends, not truths
  2. Every mineral has its Mrs Rights and Mrs Wrongs, in terms of chelates and ligands, and these are not the same from one mineral to the next e.g. Zn sulphate is a decent form of available Zn, Mg sulphate, an over-priced laxative
  3. In almost every case, there is simply NO strong consistent body of evidence that one form of a mineral is superior in terms of bioavailability, regardless of what companies tell you..go on I dare you…check their references and then do your own quick literature search away from the cherry picker
  4. Nor is there one mineral form that is above adverse effects in everyone

Brutal.  Welcome back to ‘tough talkin’ Tuesday’ 😉  But we have to state these facts because we need effective supplements for our patients and not understanding the different forms that are better (but not ‘best’) compared with those that are inferior (this we do have some evidence of) threatens the integrity and efficacy of an otherwise well thought out prescription.  So here’s where you might want to move into a room away from everyone and lock the door…because you’re likely to scream.  One of, if not the most commonly used single nutrient supplement almost across the world, is calcium.  After almost 30 years of studying supplemental forms side by side, can we conclude which form is best? No. How about ‘better’….hmmmmm yes…maybe…citrates look good going by some markers but not all and vice versa for other commonly seen forms.  I can say this, because I have followed the research over the decades, reading the primary papers, like this excellent one by Bristow et al from 2015 that should burst quite a few people’s ‘best!’ bubbles. Have you screamed yet? 

I scream. Often.

Because I am frustrated by the lack of research that we need, to be more certain of our preferred forms and then even more frustrated by companies’ claims that the evidence is already in, and guess what, theirs wins!

But it comes back to the same call to action for us – know your nutrients and specifically, where possible, get familiar with the Mrs Right and Wrong for each mineral! Know that the supplemental forms that work for zinc will not necessarily be a good match with iron, that any company that formulates their minerals in the vain of ‘one form for all’, be that glycinates, citrates, picolinates…well they’ve  probably got a good fit for some of those minerals and a shocker for others. And as always truly check efficacy with follow up bloods, if you had baseline deficiencies evident in lab tests.  I know, that’s not everyone’s model of practice right, or ideal but not always ‘real’, so alternatively, if you are prescribing based on clinical signs of mineral deficiencies that should respond quickly to repletion e.g. white spots on nails in the case of Zn deficiency, then ensure that they do!! If they don’t and your patient is compliant then consider switching form! When I see good practitioners’ prescriptions let down by poor choices of nutrient forms, well, that’s when I need to go into that separate room once more….can you hear me? Ooh that reminds me of something else dated by Mike and the Mechanics: Silent running “Can you hear me?!”😂

Mastering Micronutrients – Critical Pieces Of The Puzzle

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’.  And yes we even mention Mrs Right/Wrong forms for minerals. 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!

 

Click here to gain immediate access to Mastering Micronutrients – 4 hours & clinical tools that will seriously change the way you work in Nutrition

 

Calling Out The Conspiracy

I don’t know about you but I don’t count myself among the conspiracy theorists. While I may have been partial to the occasional one over my lifetime, you have my word, I never inhaled. Or at least not since I learned the practise of scientific enquiry and the application of critical thinking to all evidence.  The two together tend to put a dampener on the whole: earth is flat & the moon-landing was a hoax…kind of notions. But there is one conspiracy I think all of us in nutritional medicine have been the victim of: The Calcium Conspiracy.

Not in the vein of speculations regarding excessive lobbying & undue influence of the Dairy Corporation on dietary guidelines. Nor even arguments that this has gone so far as to inflate the RDIs for this nutrient. Nope, I am actually good with the RDIs for this mineral. High level evidence confirms that our intake of Calcium was enormous even before the Agricultural Revolution, and therefore BD (Before Dairy) 😂

Man, those roots and tubers and other bushfoods sure were nutrient dense, not like the stuff we consume these days!

No, the Calcium Conspiracy we’ve all been lead to believe is that it is the boss.  The boss of bones. The boss of the parathyroid. The boss of the other minerals. And especially the boss of Magnesium.  While you might have heard me describe Calcium as a ‘bully’ in the GIT (let’s call this the slide 😅) and I stand by that, it is far from being the boss of the rest of the playground! In fact its regulation is largely at the hands of other nutrients..not naming any names…[Magnesium😳]  So while, all of us trained in nutrition have had the significance of the Calcium-Magnesium relationship & the mantra “2:1, 2:1, 2:1” drilled into us, which we repeat at night to get ourselves to sleep (or did they mean to take not just ‘talk’ these minerals, to help with sleep?!) Our teaching created this conspiracy – a misperception that Calcium is the boss and Magnesium its long-forgotten lackey.  Well guess who’s really calling the shots and on whom?!

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘It can take Magnesium to fix a Calcium problem”?  I’ve not just heard it but seen it many, many times in my patients. 

But how do you tell which patients need both and which ones, just one?   It comes down to understanding the exquisitely sophisticated way Magnesium lords it over Calcium – via the parathyroid and Vitamin D metabolism and how we can see this patently in the pathology (regular screening labs) of your clients. I think there is a bias in integrative nutrition – we favour Magnesium – it goes into our supplement recommendations for so many of our patients and while the rationale for this is valid – all dietary surveys show magnesium under-consumption to be rampant in the SAD – I don’t actually think all of us know 1) how much we should be giving (yes there is a limit) 2) how to discern who needs what, in spite of a lack of a good Magnesium assay and 3) the true potency in the prescription when we get these things right or wrong! This study by Sahota et al is so far my favourite for 2020..it’s 14 years old and the sample size is small but its methodology and examination of when Magnesium can fix a Calcium issue and when it can’t, is superb. Together with about 50 other papers I’ve just imbibed…they’ve refined my thinking, tremendously. There’s a Calcium Conspiracy, alright, but just throwing Magnesium at everyone in arbitrary doses is not the solution…. “2:1, 2:1, 2:1…..”😴

The Calcium Conspiracy -Your Latest Update in Under 30

There’s a conspiracy going on regarding Calcium but it’s probably not the one you imagine.  We have been lead to believe that Calcium is the boss: the boss of the bones, of the other minerals and certainly of its often over-looked lackey, Magnesium.  But the truth is, we have it all the wrong way round.  There is a sophisticated synergism between these two minerals but the brains and the brawn in this relationship are held by the latter and we need to understand how to recognise when Magnesium is ‘pulling the strings’, to produce low calcium,  in our patients and how to find the sweet spot of their synergy.  This recording comes with a great resource to use in your clinic, with explicit redefinition of ‘what healthy looks like’.

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase The Calcium Conspiracy here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

 

The ‘Perfect’ TSH?

Have you been told somewhere by someone that the ‘perfect’ TSH is 1.5 mIU/L?  This is a wonderful, terrible & wonderfully terrible example of ‘magical numbers medicine’.  As a push-back against the published reference ranges we’re given, that are so wide you could drive a truck through them, there has been an over-correction by some, leading to the myth of ‘magic numbers’.  We can narrow the reference range substantially for many parameters with good rationale, make no mistake about that but once we start setting ‘aspirational goals’ that are explicitly rigid…well we’ve done 2 things 1) forgotten about the patient to whom this result belongs and 2) disregarded viewing each result as part of a ‘pattern’, that we must piece together and make sense of.

Back to TSH then… if my obese patient had a value of 1.5 mIU/L this in fact would be woefully inadequate.

Also too low for any patient, no matter their size, if their T4 is low and we’d like a higher value as well for risk minimisation in our elderly clients too. 

But the same result would be excessively & worringly high in my patient who’s undergone thyroidectomy. 

Being given a list of ‘magic numbers’ will never replace learning labs correctly.   When we do this, we come to truly know that meaning can only be made of the markers when you can answer the following questions:

  1. What is this (metabolite, analyte, binding agent, plasma protein etc)?
  2. What do I know about its physiological and biochemical context – what is its role and regulation in the blood, what moves it and to what magnitude?
  3. How have the reference ranges been determined for this lab – who am I comparing my patient to?
  4. Therefore, what is the significance of a result that is: ‘normal’, ‘low normal’, ‘high normal’, below or above the range?
  5. Does this value ‘fit’ with my patient?
  6. What else could explain an unexpected result?
  7. How strong is my level of evidence?
  8. What do I need to do from here to confirm or refute this?
  9. And a few more 😉

 

Realising the full value of any test result in terms of what it reveals about the person sitting in front of you, requires these skills. Unfortunately, in contrast a list of magic numbers will often lead you astray.  And building your scientific knowledge about  labs will not only help you avoid the pitfalls of pathology but will strengthen your pathophysiology prowess in surprising ways, saving your patients a packet in terms of additional extraneous testing and help you truly personalise your prescriptions…because the ‘invisible (biochemical individuality, oxidative stress, genetic probabilities, subclinical states, imbalanced or burdened processes etc)  just became visible’.   I started requesting lab results early in my career and years later was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of Dr. Tini Gruner.  I found some of our shared notes, from 10 years ago, scribbled all over patient results recently and I was struck by just how lucky I was to have her encouragement to really pursue my interest and how she was a guiding force about learning to recognise pathology patterns over single parameters.  A decade on I can confess, much of clinical and educative success has come off the back of this foundational skill-set and I know, this is true for so many I’ve taught too.  

“The guidance I’ve received over the years from Rachel in relation to pathology interpretation has been one of the most valuable (and fascinating) investments I’ve made as a clinician. Her teachings have filled gaps in my knowledge base I never knew needed filling and have significantly enhanced my understanding of the inner workings of the body! Rachel has an incredible ability to make the numbers that patient’s so often present us with, both understandable and clinically meaningful. The knowledge I’ve gained by investing in this skillset has paid off in dividends and I’m certain will continue to do so into the future.”

Stacey Curcio – Cultivating Wellness

I hope you’ll join me for the most exciting up-skilling opportunity in learning labs yet. Oh…and all this talk about thyroid testing..that’s just a serving suggestion 😉 this year my MasterCourse is focused on the most routine labs of all: ELFTs, FBE, WCC, Lipid and Glucose Panels…an absolute treasure trove of free integrative health information about your patient!

This skillset has been found by many to be biggest ‘game-changer’ in Integrative Medicine!

There are limited places. To sign up for the MasterCourse: Comprehensive Diagnostics click here.
For more information about the program click here.

Helping Patients Achieve Their PB

Listen to me, I’m sounding all sporty 😂. I’m not though, just in case you suffer misguided visions of my virtues!  But it’s not just the self-declared serious athletes that we need to have on our radar in relation to optimising their oxygen carrying capacity (aka window to winning). Our clinics are full of people, regularly running, doing triathlons for fun (!), riding vast distances clad in Lycra to drink coffee in other town’s cafes etc. etc. whose FBE might be feeling the pinch! That’s right!  All these individuals, depending on the frequency and intensity of their exercise, could have the so-called, anaemia of an athlete.

Long gone is the idea that exercise-induced changes to your haemoglobin and red blood cells and perhaps even your iron, would only affect the ultra-marathon runners among us.  It’s the swimmers, the cyclists, the Roller Derbyists, the CrossFitters, the basketballers, the Gym Junkies, the lawn bowlers..ok I may have gone too far now…they all are at increased risk.

Why? Isn’t exercise good for you?  You know I so want to say, ‘Surprise! It’s not!’ but alas.  Of course it is good for us BUT there are some fascinating challenges regular exercise can throw at your dear old blood and its bestie, iron. These challenges are incredibly dynamic – having one effect during exercise, a different one immediately following, and yet another in the days of rest in between. And sometimes, in fact, often, our patients can end up on the wrong side of these seismic shifts.  Here’s how the story usually goes

“Oh yeah..I’ve had anaemia for ages!  You know and it doesn’t matter how much Iron I take or how I take it – it never budges. But I’ve been told to stay on the Ferrograd anyway”

Typically, being told it’s ‘Athlete’s Anaemia’ is the first, in a series, of many many errors to follow. Because in fact, there is no such thing.  That’s right. Anaemia is a symptom not a disease and exercise induced anaemia comes in 4 common flavours: Dilutional, Heamolytic, Iron Deficient & Acute Anaemia of Exercise, and knowing the difference is critical to correct management.  Only 1 of them will reliably improve with iron and it needs to be prescribed in a totally novel way. Others will get worse with more iron. Yep. And one is a complete illusion. So when we don’t make the right diagnosis, which of the 4 types your patient actually has, we fail to find the fix. And while all of our patients may not be overly obsessed with improving their performance or even winning, let’s face it, they all want to achieve their PB, that’s why they came to see you.  So can you tell the difference? 

WARNING: I got so enthused about this topic that I went over.  The current ‘Update in Under 30’ is a ‘serving suggestion’ only!  And you may need to speed up your playback to squeeze in another bonus 10 min, if you can only afford your usual 30 min car trip to listen!

Outrunning ‘Athlete’s’ Anaemia

Persistent ‘hard-to-resolve’ anaemia is a common presentation for anyone participating routinely in sport and that can be at any level, not just among the professionals. From our lovely ladies who take up running or CrossFit in their middle-age, to our MIL (men in Lycra) and ‘weekend warriors’, they may love it but their haemoglobin and their iron doesn’t! Anaemia equals reduced oxygen carrying capacity, a concern for anyone interested in optimising their performance but equally relevant to patients just trying to manage their energy throughout the day. In this important episode we identify 4 different types of anaemia seen in patients as a result of exercise, incorrectly lumped together as ‘Athlete’s Anaemia’.  Each type is easy to recognise once you know how and effective treatment of each is remarkably different. This summary and the super handy clinical resource that accompanies it will help you and your patients absolutely outrun it, at last. 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed.
You can purchase March’s episode, Outrunning ‘Athlete’s’ Anaemia here.
For all Update in Under 30 Subscribers, you will find it waiting for you in your online account and don’t forget the **EXTRA BONUS LIVE CALL WITH RACHEL.
**This live Zoom call with Rachel is for current Update in Under 30 Subscribers ONLY. A Q&A session for subscribers on the UU30 episodes released in 2020. Contact the RAN Team to reserve your spot!

 

 

Is Copper the Culprit in ADHD?

Sometimes I think I must be psychic..or is that psychotic? Don’t answer that, it’s a bad Byron Bay in-joke.  I had literally just recorded my Update in Under 30 Copper in Kids and this excellent new study was published that same week, assessing and comparing trace minerals in age-matched ADHD and neurotypical kids. Snap! First, a moment of panic…because believe it or not, there are very few rigorous studies that have looked into this and so I had already read them all cover to cover and could confidently say, I had a grip on the literature. Gasp…’ will it have a different finding and challenge the much broader story about the excessive demonising of this mineral in kids health?’ Everyone take a big breath out…no. 

But if you’re someone who thinks you’re seeing Copper toxicity in kids, you can keep taking a big breath in and while you’re at it a huge bit of new information:

Copper Excess is Normal in Children.

Every investigation of blood Copper levels in kids has reached the same conclusion and this latest one by a Russian group of researchers renowned for their work in Copper agrees. So the ideas that we have about optimal in terms of mineral balance for adults may stand, but can not and should not be applied to children.  The elusive 1:1 relationship between Cu and Zn, for example, considered aspirational in optimising the mental health of big people, is absolutely not desirable or even healthy, in little ones. Why is it so? I hear you ask (…because you loved those old Cadbury chocolate ads with the crazy Professor as much as I did)  Well, essentially because kids need more Copper than us, as a simple result of their increased growth requirements: blood vessels, bones, brains…Cu is a critical player in them all and more.  And while we (and when I say ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) may be passionately passionate about Zinc’s importance, turns out, in paediatrics, it really does play second fiddle to Cu and should.

This new contribution to the Cu & Zn in ADHD kids debate did find that compared with neurotypical kids, their Cu:Zn was higher BUT – **and this is the really important bit **- as has been shown in a similar cohort before, the shift in relationship between the two was due in fact to lower Zinc levels NOT higher Copper. 

So, I guess when you think about it…Zinc perhaps really does still deserve all our loving attention we give it 😂…we just need to rethink the whole negative attention we tend to mistakenly give Copper! 

Copper, as a kingpin in angiogenesis, brain & bone building & iron regulation is a critical mineral during paediatric development. So much so, the kind of blood levels we see in a primary schooler might cause alarm if we saw them in an adult. So too their Zn:Cu.  But higher blood Copper and more Copper than Zinc are not just healthy but perhaps necessary during certain paediatric periods.  This recording redefines normal, low and high with a great clinical desktop tool to help you better interpret these labs, as well as reviewing the top causes and consequences of both types of Copper imbalance in kids. 
The latest Update in Under 30 has landed. You can purchase January’s episode, Copper in Kids here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
-Your RAN Online Account has a NEW LOOK!!-
Next time your log in, you will experience a more user friendly way to search, view, listen and download your resources. Find out what’s new here.

 

‘Copper Excess’ In A Child?!….Really??

Copper deficiency happens in kids, so does copper toxicity and both are serious concerns, but do we know when to accurately call either?  First, we have to know ‘normal’. If we know what normal Serum Copper values look like in children, then we can easily spot those falling below or above this, right? That’s the first hurdle we tend to knock over and break a toe on!  Being a mineral whose levels vary widely in soil from country to country, globally, the differences in reference ranges are breathtaking & absurd. Add to that, that copper is a key mineral in kids, driving huge demand for it during key periods of development, so the range for pre-schoolers isn’t the same as the primary or high schoolers – not that your lab is flagging that. Unhelpful? Yes.  Dangerous, even? Potentially.

To diagnose ‘Copper Excess’ in a child is a big call to make.

One, because most practitioners are unaware just how much Copper a child really needs at each age & two, high copper is often a messenger for something else going on and then three,  the primary objective based on this diagnosis becomes to lower their Copper but we could be either shooting the messenger or missing the mark all together…right?

Copper excess does happen but not nearly as often as practitioners believe it does.  And in kids, the fall-out from such misdiagnosis is bigger. And missing a Copper deficiency? (because we’re not as well-trained to recognise it and because Copper has been sadly demonised)  Likely to have myriad negative impacts at this vulnerable age…almost none of which generate symptoms or a distinct clinical picture e.g. secondary iron deficiency, low neutrophils without necessarily compromised immunity.  But what about the holy grail get-out of jail adjective: ‘relative’. You know, ‘this is at least a Copper excess relative to their Zinc?’

Well, to form this opinion you’re likely calculating the Zn:Cu ratio and applying an ideal adult value of 1:1 but show me the primary evidence that supports this for kids…anywhere?  The Zn & Cu relationship shifts as we move through life-stages and in fact Copper is supposed to dominate through a lot of our childhood so…ummmmm…no.

HTMA Copper side-steps all of this?..double no.

I used to make the same mistake re Zn:Cu, I may have even taught you this?!🤦‍♀️  But as so often happens, a week spent in all the original scientific data and I’ve emerged a changed practitioner! Having been part of perpetuating this problematic premise in the past, I am determined to get the correct message out there to as many practitioners as possible.  So help me spread the word on Copper in Kids – by telling others that this mineral is so critical to kids compared with adults, they will often have higher levels than ‘us’ and that until you’ve applied the right age-appropriate reference range and ruled out confounders you can’t possibly make a call on Copper. I mean, we kind of knew this all along, with healthy pregnancy Copper values being exponentially higher being a giant clue. Turns out kids’ ‘Copper Age’ extends way beyond the womb.

Copper, as a kingpin in angiogenesis, brain & bone building & iron regulation is a critical mineral during paediatric development. So much so, the kind of blood levels we see in a primary schooler might cause alarm if we saw them in an adult. So too their Zn:Cu.  But higher blood Copper and more Copper than Zinc are not just healthy but perhaps necessary during certain paediatric periods.  This recording redefines normal, low and high with a great clinical desktop tool to help you better interpret these labs, as well as reviewing the top causes and consequences of both types of Copper imbalance in kids. 
The latest Update in Under 30 has landed. You can purchase January’s episode, Copper in Kids here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
-Your RAN Online Account has a NEW LOOK!!-
Next time your log in, you will experience a more user friendly way to search, view, listen and download your resources. Find out what’s new here.

 

…& Stop Giving Them Manganese!

 

It’s like that split-second you close the door and realise you’ve locked the car with the keys still inside, or the whole reason you rang someone pops back into your head just after you put the phone down.  Yes after the opportunity to draw breath over the break I went, ‘Doh! …I forgot to mention manganese!!’ So some of you may already know I am not a super fan of manganese.  Well actually, that’s not accurate, I am perhaps just less of a fan than the people who are formulating a lot of our supplements! A place for everything and everything in its place. While this saying is completely foreign to my office, my house, my domestics and the rest of my life, it is a mantra I abide by with all micronutrients Having enough of each micronutrient is good, having optimal (if we know what that is, which often we don’t) is wonderful but an excess is bad news.

And as I’ve spoken to before, with our increasing use of multi-nutritional formulas and the frequent inclusion of significant amounts Mn somewhere towards the bottom of those long ingredient lists…we very much run this risk with patients who are taking multiple supplements, at which point Manganese can become a serious meddler.

There’s a short list of patients for whom I am particularly conservative regarding their Manganese exposure and near the top of that list is those with Gilbert’s Syndrome.  Do you get my ‘Doh!’ moment now?  Because at the end of last year I released the Gilbert’s Syndrome: New Goals & Good News Update in Under 30…only to realise after ‘I’d put the phone down’ that I’d left this important one out of the dos and don’ts of managing these patients. So why am I saying no to chronic routine use of Manganese in those with GS? Well here’s the deal…

There are very few micronutrients that rely on bile to leave the body but of course Manganese is one of these – so in cases of reduced bile flow, altered bile composition etc the capacity to excrete and therefore regulate levels of this trace mineral become compromised and a lower toxicity threshold ensues.  Same goes for Copper as well of course, but we’re not including this in as large of number of supplements.

That’s why we need to be clear to cap the Mn for these patients as part of being across the cumulative subtotals of all micronutrients.  While there is no established Upper Tolerable Limit (UL) set for Mn, adequate intake has been determined as 5mg/d for an adult. I agree, this is probably inadequate for some but I’ve seem individual patient prescriptions with cumulative Mn totals over 20 and 30mg per day! In spite of being generally regarded as having a low acute toxicity profile there is increasing research documenting Mn as a meddler when it comes to thyroid function in particular.  So who else is on my watch and wait list for Mn excess?  You’ve probably got some ideas…

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed: Gilbert’s – New Goals and Good News and my team has gone all out in producing a brilliant desktop reference to go with this recording that aids better understanding and clear treatment aims for your GS patients.

You can purchase Gilbert’s: New Goals & Good News here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
**But if you’re just joining us & this important conversation now,
ideally get the basics and backstory first and purchase all 3 key episodes in
‘A Guide to Gilbert’s Package’

Ironing Out Some Old Misunderstandings

It’s that time of year when we tend to set our intentions both personally and professionally.  For me, between the many meals, pressies and dunks in the river, I slip into some ‘silent work’. In particular, I find myself flagging a couple of key areas that I want to sharpen my knowledge in this year.  I’ve already picked mine…have you identified yours? 

For many practitioners if there is one topic in nutritional medicine that seems to be more generous than any other it would have to be iron: Iron gives us patients…loads of them! Patients who present with deficiency, with overload, with something in between but still noteworthy, or on iron and that’s causing them all sorts of problems. 

But Iron’s generosity doesn’t end there.

It also tends to give a lot of practitioners a bit of a headache!

That’s because a) we were mistakenly taught about iron as if it were just another one of the mineral mob and accordingly allocated grossly inadequate time to do more than scratch the surface of what we need to know and b) what we need to know, thanks to it being the most researched mineral, has undergone a couple of major revelations and revolutions since then anyway!   So we can benefit from Iron’s generosity most and leave its other unwanted pressies (the headaches, confusion, frustration & suboptimal management of patients) under the tree – we just need to give iron the real attention it deserves, filling in the gaps in ours and many people’s knowledge about this critical nutrient.  And boy, do we (and I mean everyone!! including doctors, midwives, pharmacists…anyone who has ever called iron deficiency on a client!!) need to learn how to correctly read iron studies!!!

Because iron also gives us much needed insight into other micronutrients and just how exquisitely sophisticated their roles & regulation can be. Thanks to it being one of the ‘older minerals’ we know more about it than any other and in turn we have the most advanced assessment methods: Iron studies, a collection of 4 parameters, like 4 chapters in a book or 4 key characters in a play, that need to be viewed separately and then together to understand the whole story.

Yes it’s true the learning doesn’t ever end and as I’ve continued to learn about new iron research I’ve added to our one-stop-iron-resource-shop..the Iron Package.  Our very latest edition?  A new clinical cheat sheet with some other important numbers on there you want to have at your fingertips whenever you read iron studies.   So if you’ve already purchased and have access to the Iron Package…SURPRISE! 🤩   Go back and look again and if not, there’s never been a time like now.  Oh iron,  you’re sooooo generous!! 😉

 

Listen to these audios and download the resources straight away in your online account.
If you’ve already purchased ‘Update in Under 30: How to Read Iron Studies’ or ‘Iron Package’ you will find this new clinical cheat sheet available with these audios when you log in to your account.

Iron – Another Important Discovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Going Hot & Cold On Thyroid Cases?

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

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

So, what now?

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

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

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

 An increasing number of our patients have thyroid concerns but unbeknown to many of us the most likely explanation of all is thyroid nodules, whose incidence is on the rise globally.The development of nodules has always been primarily viewed as a nutritional disease. Traditionally attributed to chronic iodine deficiency but recently novel nutritional causes have emerged . Benign nodules come in 2 flavours: hot and cold and while patients can present with a mixture, it is the presence or absence of a hot nodule that radically changes what complementary medicines you can and can’t use and what an effective treatment plan looks like.  The pointers, as is often the case, are there for us in the patient’s presentation and pathology, so knowing the difference is no longer a guessing game. This UU30 comes with a great visual clinical resource and includes key papers on the nutritional management of nodules.
You can purchase Are You Running Hot and Cold on Thyroid Nodules here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
*****Your RAN Online Account has a NEW LOOK!!*****
Next time your log in, you will experience a more user friendly way to search, view, listen and download your resources. Find out what’s new here.

You Record Something Then This Happens…

I had to say to a mentee just yesterday, “You’re going to see the topic for the Update in Under 30 this month and think it’s inspired by your patient but it was actually about the 3 other cases I’d seen this month, before yours!”  Yep…I’m talking about thyroid nodules, which happen to be hot (pardon the pun) right now.  But they’re not always hot, right? I mean, they are always a good topic for discussion because so many of our clients thyroid issues are due to these but nodules come in 2 flavours: hot and cold.  And knowing the difference is about as important as knowing your left from your right 🤲

“Oh Iodine the panacea of all things thyroid (tongue firmly in cheek) – can you fix nodules as well?” chorus the masses

Honest (salt of the earth!) Iodine Replies, “No & in fact I may make some nodules worse!”

Sorry for the re-enactment of this little local theatre piece in my head…it’s been a big week. Hence the marionette…ah yes it’s all becoming clear now 🙄 But it seems this isn’t common knowledge because a mentee presented a case this week of a 39 year old female who has confirmed multiple thyroid nodules that had prior to seeing her, seen another practitioner who put her on high dose iodine with the reassurance “there’s nothing wrong with your gland that iodine can’t fix”..or something to that effect. Oh boy 🤨

“Tell us! Tell us what happened next!” the chorus chants

Well it looks like as a result of the iodine, her cold nodules just might have switched to hot…that’s bad news all round I am afraid 🙁 But if we all knew our nodule nutrition better, this wouldn’t happen.

Next week our October UU30 release becomes available: Can you tell you tell your Hot from your Cold in Thyroid Nodules?

Our Update in Under 30 Subscription allows access to the ENTIRE back catalogue of podcasts in addition to all podcasts released over the next 12 months. We are currently offering the Premium at a reduced SALE price of $239 (excluding GST) for 12 months. This Premium Subscription is worth its weight in gold! With a total value of over $1800, you receive each month a new podcast and access to the ENTIRE back catalogue to the value of $20/month (ex GST).

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.

Zinc’s Dark Side

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

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

In contrast Zinc attracts both fan and hate mail.

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

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

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

Mastering Micronutrients – An Upskilling Opportunity for Old and New Hands

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

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.

 

Nutritional Medicine: A Place For Science Not Wishful Thinking

Show me a nutrient that doesn’t demonstrate a U shaped curve with our health (too little produces negative effects – too much produces negative effects)  and I’ll go ‘HE!’ Go on…try it now… But the way many have been taught nutrition has lead to some erroneous thinking, it would seem, about the inherent ‘safety’ of all micronutrient prescriptions.  To know these vitamins and minerals well is to respect their potency in every sense – from their incredibly positive application at both physiological doses, correcting deficiencies,  and in a small number of scenarios almost pharmacological benefits, when used at doses that are intended to exceed the natural physiological state (think IV vitamin C, or high dose B3 for lipid-lowering as two famous examples), to their potential for fallout when healthy levels are unwittingly exceeded, especially long-term.

Our risks of over-supplying individual micronutrients have arguably been amplified by the industry’s increasing promotion of nutritional formulas or complexes over the use of single nutrients.  How often do you go through and studiously add up all your cumulative totals for individual nutrients for each prescription? 

Especially those that tend to find their way into such a large number of formulas and have clear upper limits, such as Vitamin B6, Folate, Selenium and Manganese…to name a few of my (not so) favourites.

Many of you will know I am a fan of staying single 😉  I mean using single nutrients rather than all the ‘bells-&-whistles-formulas’ we’ve come to rely on so heavily.  This is one key reason.  But the other is that many of these formulas are someone else’s, perhaps a whole tech team’s, idea of what a ‘generic’ low thyroid patient, or an ‘average’  immune challenged patient needs. Not sure about you, but I don’t subscribe to ‘average’ and ‘generic’ when it comes to nutrition…that’s one of naturopathic nutrition’s key criticisms of conventional dietetics, right?  So where does this reliance on generic nutritional complexes comes from? Is it purely convenience -yours and the patients?

Or are we insecure in our confidence in creating our own crafted formulas? Is it a need to know our tools of trade better..because if we did, might we better realise the power and potency (positive or negative) of our own prescriptions? Especially in the realm of accurate assessment and individualised requirements.

The latter is my call to action on this, predictably! 😉

I am often asked about where my ‘nutritional nous’ comes from. Which magic journals do I subscribe to that fill my head so full? What non-existent-far-superior-course did I undertake?  The answer I give is the same every time. I had one solid nutrition teacher in my under-graduate across my 4 years of naturopathic nutrition at SSNT.  What made her so good and why has so much she taught stayed with me?  She simply taught me every single nutrient literally from the ground (soil) all the way up (human nutritional physiology) and everything in between.  Once you know each nutrient that well and the big concepts that are a truism in nutritional science…you can never go back and you will practice nutritional medicine at its best. My wishful thinking? I wish that for us all 😉

Mastering Micronutrients – 4 hours & clinical tools that will seriously change the way you work in Nutrition

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!

 

 

 

 

Where Do All The Nutrients Go?

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!