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.
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…)
I was lucky enough to hear Jason Hawrelak’s excellent presentation at the Australian Naturopathic Summit last weekend, titled: A Case of Blastocystis Infection – Or Is It? Timely, highly valuable, immediately usable, provocative education (just how I like it 😉 ) on how perhaps often Blasto is playing the scapegoat for another condition/cause of patients’ GIT symptoms. During this case study, Jason detailed the shonky diagnostic work-up of his current patient by a naturopath 12 years prior…that naturopath was him.
There was so much to love about his telling of this case study and the discourse around it but here are my Top 3 Takes:
- None of us know everything or practice perfectly but rather we do what we do, until we know to do differently…even Jason 😉
- As there are 9 strains of B.hominis found in humans and many of these are in fact benign commensals, even perhaps important ‘apex predators’ for the microbiome, attributing someone’s health problems (digestive or otherwise) to the presence of this parasite should in fact be a diagnosis of exclusion…always asking yourself first, what else could it be?? e.g. coeliac, SIBO, food reactions etc etc
- The cost of being a ‘premature evaluator’, to your patients and to yourself, can be very high…
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…)
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.
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…)
Watch the gap! You know I love a good diagnostic test probably (way!) more than the next person but I am slow to come around when there’s suddenly a ‘new-kid-on-the-block’ that every functional testing company wants to offer you. This is how I felt about serum zonulin testing as marker of intestinal permeability too. In spite of Fasano’s important work, identifying this molecule and its role in the reversible opening of tight junctions in the small intestine – I didn’t embrace the test. Why not? Didn’t I love Fasano’s ability to add this piece to the jigsaw that had been missing til now? Well I did. Does that make it an accurate and reliable marker of intestinal permeability in every client with any kind of digestive issue…? Well heck no! That’s not how science works friends and I suspect we may have really jumped the gun a little on this one. (more…)
Yet another sensational week of group mentoring last week. Holy guacamole…these cases just get more and more tasty! So much to talk about on every case presented, we all learnt buckets from a smorgasbord of conditions including: sudden onset thyroiditis (with a T4 of 45!!), azoospermia secondary to methylation and possible mitochondrial dysfunction and a 60 something female with chronic sleep issues, severe leg cramping with a differential ddx of intermittent claudication.
Just wanted to share this incredible resource related to one of the other cases from last week – a female client with a long history of interstitial cystitis, bladder pain and pudendal neuralgia. One of the striking aspects of the case was the high frequency of acute onset UTI sx which, in site of being ‘culture negative’ on repeat analyses, respond favourably to UTI specific antibiotics. We’ve all come across these ‘ghost infection’ situations…not a trace to be found of the offending organism or even infectious markers on urinalysis but without a doubt an infectious driver – the problem has long been convincing other practitioners of this!..and sometimes ourselves!! (more…)
I’ve been digging around in the scientific literature all about appendicitis and I’ve ended up here. Long gone are the days when medicine foolishly considered the appendix without purpose – a dispensable ‘extra’ of the GIT and now, thanks to genetic PCR bacterial identification, gone also is its more recent portrayal as something sinister – a potential harbourer of ‘bad bugs’. The current consensus about this apparently complex little sac is that it constitutes a ‘safe house’ for the microbiota within the GIT, making one of its key roles the healthy recolonisation of the gut following diarrhoeal episodes and even oral antibiotics. Amazingly, antibiotics that can quickly sterilise the rest of the digestive tract, fail to clean out the appendix, due in part to its specialised and exaggerated biofilm as well as its more diverse and environmentally tough species. Wouldn’t you know it, the strange little sac has a critical role in keeping us well?!
Given this radical rethink of the healthy appendix I wondered whether medicine’s understanding of appendicitis and in particular what causes it, had also undergone a revolution. This condition, which was first described over 100 years ago has confounded scientists and clinicians ever since – I love this quote from a 1972 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia (Williams):
“It is interesting and humiliating that a small organ which in man performs no useful function can so frequently give rise to problems which, if not treated, may have fatal complications, and of which we
still do not fully know the cause.” (more…)
Often we assume our patients know at least the basics about health – especially about things soooo seemingly basic…that we fear mentioning them would offend and make us look like someone trying to teach grandma anything! But there are some instances where I’ve found I have simply assumed too much.
I think the issue of what I affectionately call ‘Vag Care’, is right up there as an example.
Soapy water? Female deodorisers, daily panty liners, re-enacting bad movie scenes with soapy suds sex…what the??? It’s been my astonishing discovery that women of all ages, but especially a frightening majority of younger females (<30 yo), in this time of increasingly unreal ideas about sex and sexuality, feel inclined or pressured to adopt these practices in order to erase all trace of natural odour and healthy discharge. The abnormal has become normalised. (more…)
No matter how long I am in practise there is always a group of patients for whom ‘vaginal thrush’ is a major problem. Most of us have some fabulous tricks up our sleeves to help resolve these issues & reduce their susceptibility – intravaginal lactulose is one of mine thanks to Jason Hawrelak. And then you come across those clients who vigilantly do every thing you ask them to and yet you fail to completely resolve the issue. Doh!
One of the most important things to do with all clients presenting with ‘thrush’ sooner rather than later is send them STAT (!) for a vaginal swab.
Not only does this clarify if it is in fact actually thrush (2/3 of self-diagnosed women get it wrong according to research!) but better again it names the actual culprit. It may come as a surprise but not all vulvovaginitis is due to Candida albicans – increasingly they are the result of other Candida species and this is something you absolutely need to know.
During a recent mentoring session, a practitioner wanted to better understand why she had a group of patients whose thrush seemed so resistant to her usually successful treatment. Here’s my initial response in a nutshell… (more…)
As we head rapidly towards the change over of our calendars we would like to offer you a special on the very best educational recordings from 2014 – buy 2 CDs before Jan 31st and receive one complimentary Premium Audio Recording of your choice OR purchase 4 CDs and receive a 3 month Premium Audio subscription for free.
It’s been a busy year during which Rachel has delivered 7 very successful new seminars in the area of mental health and beyond, most notably fortifying her role as a leader in the field of diagnostics and pathology interpretation. This has included collaborations with ACNEM, Biomedica, Health Masters Live, MINDD and Nutrition Care, however, each recording is classic Rachel – full of fresh perspectives on diagnosis & treatment, colourful analogies & humour. In case you missed some of these this year or want a copy for keeps – here’s a quick summary of the 2014 recordings included in this end of year offer: (more…)
“Two great speakers – inspirational in the first half and bang on in the second – I now know how much I don’t know”
Just out now in time for Christmas…no seriously though… this year I had the good fortune to team up with Biomedica and in particular Rachel McDonald and we delivered a 3 hour seminar called Mental Health in Holistic Practice. The intention behind this collaboration was to shift the education focus for practitioners from a prescription based approach, to one really about the clinical reality of managing mental health clients. Probably most of you will agree that the ‘treatment’ counts for only a portion of the positive outcomes in your patients and this is particularly true in clients challenged with mental health issues. After more than 20 years in practice working in this area, I’m keen to share what I’ve learned so other practitioners can get there much much faster! (more…)
So far this year I’ve been doing most of my presenting online which has been fantastic because we can all be in our PJs and no one’s the wiser (except now!!) but I do miss the face to face seminars where sometimes the real magic happens thanks to the two-way dynamic between you and me!
So guess what? I’m coming to Sydney on the 31st August (and then Brisbane 6th September and then Melbourne 13th September) to touch base with many of you again. I’m joining forces with Rachel McDonald from Biomedica to talk about the real world application of naturopathy in mental health conditions. (more…)
There are few complementary medicines that come onto the market with such a bang, opening up genuinely new therapeutic options for the effective management of such a broad range of health complaints. N-acetyl cysteine stands out for this reason and has changed the way I practice… seriously!
Recently I had the pleasure of presenting a webinar for Biomedica completely and utterly focussed on N-acetyl cysteine – its key actions, pharmacokinetics, applications and contraindications. In the process of researching for the webinar I learnt so much and to my surprise found even I was under-utilising my favourite supplement! How familiar are you with its application in cystic fibrosis, fertility, biofilm eradication etc. etc ? Not to mention, it’s incredible versatility in mental health. Recently, buoyed by some new research suggesting the efficacy in severe glutamate excess of much higher doses than previously studied for depression and bipolar, I have stepped up my doses in patients with some forms of addiction, OCD, refractory insomnia to 4g/d with great results! I could talk all day about NAC but perhaps for a starter if you missed the webinar you might want to listen to the recording? We have the Clinical Knack of NAC now available as a CD with audio and notes for purchase on the website:
This in-depth 1 hour webinar offers practitioners new to NAC, the practical knowledge and tools they need to start using it effectively and for the practitioner already dispensing it, to really broaden their understanding of indications , correct many misunderstandings and get the latest research on the why, when and how to use it. From reproductive to respiratory health, from heavy metal burdens to biofilms and athletes to addicts, this webinar covers the latest information about NAC’s real therapeutic potential. Having been a favourite nutraceutical/prescription of Rachel’s for some time, she punctuates the presentation with many of her own cases.
Many of you would now be aware of the shift from culture (stool MCS) to gene-based stool testing (stool PCR) which has now become available under Medicare subsidy. While this has been an exciting development that promised greater accuracy for the detection of parasites in our patients, there remains limitations. One of the biggest is the fact that the PCR test is based on just one stool sample compared to the 3 day samples used in the culture test.
While this is rationalised, both by the pathology companies and some doctors, by higher test sensitivity and specificity, it flies in the face of our understanding about the irregular shedding of parasites i.e. the presence of the parasite in an infected individual’s stool can vary from nothing to severe, just day to day, therefore diagnosis must be based on several days of stool collection to account for this.
A practitioner I mentor, faced with several patients with negative PCR results but a clinical picture and other pathology results (raised eosinophils, impaired iron levels etc.) that strongly suggested the presence of parasites has been debating this with her shared care providers trying to encourage them to still refer patients for the stool PCR but performed over several samples.
She came across this article as a nice piece of supportive evidence Irregular shedding of Blastocystis hominis (Venilla et al 1999): ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9934969
While there are numerous other studies confirming the irregular shedding of most parasites this is a handy paper perhaps to use to strengthen the case for PCR stool tests performed over 3 days rather than 1. Let’s face it – it’s a big enough ask to get our patients to collect stool – we should really ensure we have optimised their chances of getting an accurate result!