Keeping Things Real & Representative

 

Any pathology test is only of value if the result produced is ‘real’, or, representative of that individual, right? So the timing of the test is a major pivot point then: do I tell my patient to present for the test, or collect the sample themselves, on their ‘best’, their ‘worst’ or their ‘average’ day? 🤷‍♀️  Well, that all depends on the question you are trying to answer.

Whenever we reach or refer for a test, we have a question in mind we’re seeking an answer to. But the question always comes in two parts, at least.

Part 1: How much progesterone is she making?
Part 2: …When she’s ovulated & her corpus luteum should be most productive?

A third might refine the question you’re answering further by adding another contextual clarification

Part 3,4,5: …When she’s eating her regular diet, not exercising excessively or under extreme stress

Without these other parts – the answer to the first one: How much progesterone is she making (full stop), is hard to correctly interpret, right? By refining and expanding on the full extent of our question, we can be clear about which elements of this patient’s life the result likely reflects. We might say that for her, this time-point, or set of collection conditions, is a ‘real reflection’ of her generally and therefore, representative.  But what if she does occasionally undertake a 5 day fast, or train for & compete in marathons? If we were to specifically test during these times, we answer a different question, right?  Likewise every time we instruct a patient to present for their blood tests (routine or fancy schmancy): Fasted, Rested, Hydrated and off their supplements – is this sound advice or a misdirection?  Well it depends on the individual in front of you and the real question you want answered about them 🤓

Ahhhhh I love rules: both the making of them and the subsequent breaking of them 🦜🏴‍☠️

Fasted, Rested, Hydrated & Unsupplemented? Exceptions to the rule

The collection conditions for any pathology test – can refine or ruin the question you were hoping to have answered about your patient but is it always appropriate to ask everyone to ensure their preparation for the test was ‘ideal’? What if their real life is far from ‘ideal’ and contrasts dramatically with these ‘conditions’ e.g. they forget to drink water but never alcohol! Or do they run 20km every weekday and 40 on weekends?  And why would we tell some patients to stop their supplements prior to a blood-test and not others? If our goal is to ensure any pathology test answers the question we need answered we need to know how to respond to these and other scenarios.  This new update is all about keeping results ‘real’ & representative.

 

You can purchase Fasted, Rested, Hydrated & Unsupplemented? Exceptions to the Rule 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.

Are You A Finger-Pointing-Prescriber Or A Change-Maker?

Are we doing ourselves out of a job?  I’ve been talking treatment plans with my New Grads recently. Given, only recently these were major assessment items in their clinic units, they have been trained to create ALL-ENCOMPASSING (biopsychosocial) prescriptions and recommendations of utterly EPIC PROPORTIONS – to simply prove they know it all. Problem is this doesn’t work in the real world. 

Emailing your client multiple pages of advice that covers: a whole sizeable supplement schedule that only a military-training could nail (2 tablets 1 XTID 1 X BID, a liquid, a powder, some with food, some definitely not with food) plus dietary advice, plus hyperlinks to exercise advice, mindfulness exercises and a request for follow up investigations before the next appointment…is…a L*O*T!!

It is also ineffectual – because it completely disregards the human on the other end. Let me ask you this, how much change are you capable of between a first and second appointment, roughly a period of 2-3 weeks?  Personally, I gotta say not that much. It took my dentist years to get me just embrace flossing & I don’t think I am an exception! With all the knowledge we possess its hard not to see people as (a long list of) problems (& problematic behaviours) that we translate into, and solve via, a prescription.

Effectively we are saying to patients with this practice model, ‘Go change & come back when you’re done & then I’ll probably ask you to change some more!’
That’s both a big ask and a huge missed opportunity.

I hear from reliable sources over the ditch, that GPs are increasingly referring their patients to, or teaming up with health coaches, rather than naturopaths. Given what I’m observing, I get it.  Doctors on the whole only have time (and barely then) for a finger-pointing prescription – certainly not the time and touch-points required to actually support patients with the very difficult thing that is, behaviour change. Nor the skills to truly facilitate patients making the necessary and desired changes – so they outsource this role.  But we shouldn’t.

After all – I want to be on my patients’ support bench & health care team always – not a flash in the pan, that blinded them with science or my ‘smarts’ and proved to them in one over-stretching prescription – that naturopathy is not for them, or at least, they’re not fit for the task.

Compliance Changers – Strategies for Success

At the end of an information & insight heavy appointment, formulating a list of products and doses for our patients to take can feel like a bit of a ‘tada moment’, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of the hat.  “Here is the solution – now off you go!”  Research tells us, however, that treatment-plans that are a co-creation between you and your patient – evolving from a discussion that not only allows them a voice, but a major role in the decision making – are far more likely to succeed. While we are the authority on our medicines, our patients are the authority on what makes them tick & what’s likely to succeed, in terms of taste, texture, temperature & timing!  This is called Patient Centred Prescribing and together with some other tips tricks and hacks I share with you in this episode, can really increase patient buy-in, compliance and therefore bring your treatment plan to fruition and fulfilment!

Increasing Patient Buy-in: Compliance Changers

Patient Centred Prescriptions

Have you ever noticed that our products don’t work if our patients don’t take them?!🙄 

The reasons for non-compliance, dis- or non-engagement, poor patient buy-in & follow through are many:

*My dog ate the instructions
* My inbox swallowed the instructions
*As soon as I left your clinic, your instructions left my brain

Reasons also include far more credible things such as non-patient centred prescribing.  This is what most of us do when we’re full of good intentions but short on time at the end of a consult, so we just throw a bunch of products and a script with them out the door.  Arguably many of us make this mistake also because our training perpetuated this relic of conventional medicine and paid insufficient attention to the therapeutic relationship. In contrast, patient centred prescribing recognises the patient as best-placed to find personalised solutions to their very individual challenges, including, decision making around dosing regimes.  So while we continue to ensure & oversee that therapeutic doses are used and that best conditions for taking certain things are adhered to – your patient remains the expert in the room about how to actually achieve this – both in terms of when & where in their very real lives – with a little help from us – and what ‘works for them’, in terms of taste, texture & temperature. 

That’s right, I said temperature…are you telling patients to take everything at room temperature??
You need to think again – this is something we can safely manipulate with many powdered & liquid remedies (some exceptions of course!) to match patient preferences & radically increase palatability, pleasure and ultimately patient compliance.

Are you like me? I have supplements scattered all over my house – in places that correlate with an action or moment in the day when I am most likely to take them. This is another important element of Patient Centred prescribing, so I work with my patients to identify these easy solutions too.  After the gym? In the gym bag. After breakfast as you leave for work? In the key bowl. At work? On the desk beside the computer screen.  Keeping taurine in the drinks cupboard in front of the alcohol is another nifty reminder and trick for those looking to ‘pre-load’ and cut down! Tips and tricks like these save our over-loaded memory. They remove or minimise barriers. They make compliance less effortful. And as a result, you know what? They might just get the results we would have expected!

Compliance Changers – Strategies for Success
At the end of an information & insight heavy appointment, formulating a list of products and doses for our patients to take can feel like a bit of a ‘tada moment’, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of the hat.  “Here is the solution – now off you go!”  Research tells us, however, that treatment-plans that are a co-creation between you and your patient – evolving from a discussion that not only allows them a voice, but a major role in the decision making – are far more likely to succeed. While we are the authority on our medicines, our patients are the authority on what makes them tick & what’s likely to succeed, in terms of taste, texture, temperature & timing!  This is called Patient Centred Prescribing and together with some other tips tricks and hacks I share with you in this episode, can really increase patient buy-in, compliance and therefore bring your treatment plan to fruition and fulfilment!

 

You can purchase Compliance Changers – Strategies for Success 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.

I’m Against Absolutes

And health, no matter which side you sit on, seems to be particularly plagued by them.  I (incorrectly) recall my 4 year degree as being a series of deep personal losses, some favourite food, then caffeine, then alcohol etc etc.😂 Likewise, I’m aware that naturopathy & integrative health’s ‘voice’ in the ‘conversation’, could arguably be perceived as mostly a negative one – as in, ‘No. Never. Not good. No, not even a little bit?!’  But I love both playing devil’s advocate & reading the research (ALL the research – even the stuff that doesn’t support my views and position GASP!~) so I am less in favour of absolutisms.  This came up recently when I suggested alcohol may improve iron uptake 😬

Practitioners’ responses were 1 of 2 types: humorous dismissal (“steak & beer for breakfast – at last a naturopathic prescription I can support!”) or horror. 
But why are we so attached to the absolutes in spite of contradictory evidence?

Let me ask you this: is coffee bad? Full stop? Period? The end? Or is it the most concentrated source of antioxidants consumed in the average Western diet? Does it improve bile flow, peristalsis and at higher levels actually protect the liver against damage? Clearly, we need to read all the evidence, including, the favourable and make individual decisions about ‘what serves and what sabotages’, for each patient. But do we? Or do we imagine we only get membership to the ‘Ultimate Integrative Health-club’ when we adhere to blanket bans? 

Similarly I, like many of you, see a LOT of iron deficient women –  & a fair chunk of these have been incorrectly labelled, ‘refractory’ because the conventional correction strategies (high doses everyday) don’t actually make sense. But like you guys too, I’m always on the hunt for new ways to improve iron absorption in these women, so I can hit them & their gut with less. That’s why I shared the research regarding alternate day dosing, and taking a supplement within an hour of exercise and now, I dare to ask if a tipple could be helpful?

While we know that both ‘GOOD’ (exercise) & ‘BAD’ (alcohol) health behaviours increase gut permeability, which sounds ‘BAD’, right?
But could this be ‘GOOD’ for some?

This has certainly been demonstrated in relation to exercise & iron but most of the research investigating how alcohol intake effects iron uptake and status is based on alcohol abuse. The study below, however, based on a large sample of non, mild, moderate & heavy drinkers captured in NHANES data – is a very well written and reasoned article, such that it can exclude liver damage, inflammation and HFE mutations as other explanations for the better iron status, in drinkers. And it found:

“Consumption of up to 2 alcoholic drinks/day seems to be associated with reduced risk of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia without a concomitant increase in the risk of iron overload” and “Any amount of alcohol consumption was associated with a statistically significant 42% reduction in the risk of iron deficiency anemia (OR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.4–0.8).”
Ioannu et al 2004

   I challenge you to read it for yourself and challenge your absolutes!🤓

Oh and just in case you’re thinking, “Have we all misdiagnosed iron deficiency and it’s actually a Copper deficiency underneath?”  because last year the fashion was everyone was copper toxic and now this year someone’s making noise saying everyone is copper deficient !!! (Absolute? Anyone?!) Ah, no.  Copper deficiency, as a cause of iron deficiency and anaemia, has been around for about as long as nutritional medicine itself.  It is absolutely a thing.  But in the absolute minority of people.  And if you go back to some basic maths & compare and contrast Fe & Cu at each level: 1) requirements almost 20mg Vs < 2mg 2) average intake (inadequate Vs adequate) 3) bioavailability (Fe < 20% more typically < 10% in a modern low meat diet Vs Cu  is typically >50% ) and do some basic sums I call, ‘Menstrual Maths’ – You’ll likely deduce that inadequate iron intake and uptake, given our losses, is in fact the common culprit and a ‘coldie’ may be more beneficial than copper in most!  Can y’all stop asking me about that now – pretty please?

 

So You Think You Know How To Treat Iron Deficiency?

And then you don’t.  The reality is we all struggle at times with correcting low ferritin or iron deficiency anaemia  – so what have we got wrong?  In spite of being the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, the traditional treatment approaches to supplementation have been rudimentary, falling under the hit hard and heavy model e.g. 70mg TIDS, and are relatively unconvincing in terms of success. New research into iron homeostasis has revealed why these prescriptions are all wrong and what even us low-dosers need to do, to get it more right, more often!

Did you know you can subscribe to these?  We deliver at the end of each month, just add a 12-month subscription to your cart and Rachel’s latest research is on it’s way to you!

 

That ‘Throat Feeling’

Is my sore throat COVID-19 or not? | OSF HealthCare

“My 7yo daughter was frequently distressed, telling me she had that ‘throat feeling’.”

As you can imagine, mum offered up a smorgasbord of suggestions to help her try and describe it: Can you swallow ok? Does it burn or taste funny? Where is it? Is it hard, soft, moving, give me a rating out of ten….so many, but she just couldn’t. When it was really bad, her daughter said she also felt it in her sternum. The first doctor attributed it to ‘stress’ & mum understood why. Her 7yo is a bit of a worrier and while the ‘throat feeling’ was distressing, stress, itself, seemed to also perhaps bring this on. But by the time they made an appointment with their regular family GP, mum had noticed her daughter’s sx were worse with heavy, fatty, high meat meals & that she was burping excessively especially with the night time meal also. So, when their switched-on doctor heard these very careful observations, he referred her for a urea breath test (UBT) for H.pylori.

‘Miss 7’ blew 1200 on the UBT
the decision limit is 200, to confirm the presence of the bacteria in significant amounts

As I’ve said previously, there are (sadly for ‘Miss 7’ & myself) no prizes for the highest score on this particular test.  In fact, I spoke with a gastroenterologist last week who said, really it remains so debateable about the significance of the overall result (?size or virulence of colony) that results should probably be more considered like a pregnancy test: a simple yes or no!  But this together with her sx was a clear yes. GP recommended triple antibiotic therapy which sadly produced vomiting in Ms 7 within a few days. GP contacted paediatric gastroenterologists to get some advice, which was: don’t treat unless symptomatic. Back to square 1.

“In the meantime, I had done Rachel’s two UU30 episodes on H.pylori, so I told him what ‘we’ would do (polyphenols plus cranberry juice plus Zn carnosine plus deal with the hypochlorhydria). GP  says. “Ok, then let’s do it and then let’s breath test again in 3-6 months.

She has now breath tested at 200 and symptoms are non existent!”

Mum contacts me to relay the success story & give me the credit but mum is completely minimising her extraordinary actions that produced this outcome. Firstly, not resting with the ‘stress’ diagnosis. I have seen several children who present in very similar ways to Miss 7, YES! they are anxious, YES! parents might tell you they are the ‘worrying-type’ but when combined with these upper GIT sx I have found they test positive for H pylori more often than they don’t.  And how clever is this mother’s medicine?

“I recognised it was worst after birthday parties where she has eaten too much and done cartwheels or run around (we now talk about recognising when she has a ‘full bucket’. We talk about the fact that her tummy takes a little bit more time to process food it means her bucket fills and she needs a bit of extra time to let it do it’s job before she adds more food to the bucket otherwise it spills over and she feels rubbish. She finds that analogy useful as she can feel her bucket getting full at birthday parties and when she gets the feeling, she knows why and doesn’t freak out.”

 

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

Functional Medicine Falsehoods ⛔️

Functional Medicine Falsehood

An ideal T4 is 15
An ‘anti-aging’ DHEAs must be >7
A ferritin of 100 is optimal for women…

I’ve heard it all, probably you have too, and far too often & too recently from practitioners who should have rationalised & researched their way beyond these functional falsehoods, by now.  I bought into these ‘optimal wellness truths’ hook line & sinker early in my career and proceeded to even propagate a few but with (not much) more experience in clinic, I had to seriously question this pursuit of ‘perfection’ & ‘perfect pathology’…in favour of reality & scientific evidence!  They didn’t add up.  Not with my patients – even the healthiest ones, in fact some of the really unwell ones occasionally had these kind of high-normal results and they were part of the problem!. ‘But that’s because no one is truly healthy outside of those seeing a functional medicine practitioner & supercharged on supplements & hormone replacements!!’ came the counter-argument.  Ahhh, really?

How then do we reconcile this with the following:
Individual genetics & biochemistry
Our biological resilience
Healthy & appropriate senescence
Large datasets of mixed race populations from other comparable first world countries…where these figures denote the statistical outliers?

I mean, if the 50th centile value for ferritin for actual living, breathing, bleeding, women in the US, Canada, Australia etc etc is 30-40 ng/mL and the 95th centile is 126 ng/mL and the WHO says that in fact, anyone menstruating with a ferritin > 150 ng/mL should attract suspicion for iron overload….but functional medicine men (mostly…sorry but it has to be said!) say 100 IS OPTIMAL FOR EVERY WOMAN #@^*…please tell me in which women, consuming what kind of diet, where in the world, & based on what improved or better health outcomes?
And while you’re there can someone please support this bold claim with a scrap of high quality evidence??

[Rant over🎤💧]

The falsehoods of functional medicine include the blanket belief, ‘more is better’ (ahhhhh not when it comes to many things, including iron where women’s lower levels have been found to be an evolutionary advantage…guys). But you know what, we’re better than that! We see each individual, recognising all the factors at play that make for their uniqueness, help to define what ‘healthy’ looks like for each person and don’t fall for one-size-fits-all claims without any evidence nor common sense even, to support them. What do you think?

Mastering Micronutrients

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!

 

Were We Wrong – Is B6 Da Bomb?

And not in a good way, right. While we’ve known about the potential for peripheral neuropathy with excess B6 supplementation since the 1980s, currently there’s a seismic shift in our sense of safety even with previously regarded ‘safe’ levels.  You may have heard individual whispers, or the chorus of voices coming together, both here and overseas, belonging to members of the public who report suffering sensory nerve impairment with as little as 2mg/d!  Is this a mess of mis-diagnosis, false attribution & nocebo? Perhaps for some, but certainly not for all.

How could this be the case given the many RCTs employing hundreds of mgs per day over months, with no such events recorded? 
How could this be given, your (?), certainly my, high dose prescriptions, with only 1 case of quickly reversed, peripheral neuropathy in over 20 years, on my books?
The pieces of this complex paradoxical pyridoxine puzzle are coming to light.

Is it the form?, the dose? the duration? individual differences in B6 metabolism & toxicity threshold? amplification of risk secondary to levels of other nutrients, or the use of certain medications?  Yes. And we need to understand each element to better tailor every B6 prescription to the individual & mitigate risk. I have spent the best part of this month reading almost every paper on this from the 1970s to last month and I am now alarmed but more importantly, alert, to what prescription practice changes we can all make to lessen the risk, and control the power of B6.  It’s been the most compelling deep-dive. Because in spite of a clear TGA warning issued last year that likely prompted the quiet removal of high dose products from market, it would seem none of the companies have the courage to have this difficult conversation with us 🙁 I invite you to ‘feel the fear & do it anyway’ & listen in to our latest Update in Under 30.

 

Haven’t we always known that nutritional medicine is a potent prescription?  Now thanks to more sophisticated research we have a much greater understanding of this and of both the intended and unintended effects of micronutrient supplements that have the potential to achieve supra-physiological levels.  B6 metabolism is arguably the most complex of the Bs – involving 6 different forms, at least 2 of which are active – and exhibiting some of the most complicated regulatory control designed to both harness the power & limit the accompanying risks.  Excess B6 supplementation, however, has long been known to present as peripheral neuropathy in some individuals and case reports of this are growing, at lower and lower doses. New information has come to light to help us understand the why, the how and better still how to mitigate risk to our patients.
You can purchase Dynamics and Dangers of B6 – Controlling the Power 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.

Female Pattern Hair Loss ≠ A Female With Hair Loss

I’m intrigued by the silence.  Hair loss in women is frighteningly common, following pregnancy, menopause & with extreme stress (wait is that a tautology? 🙄) In fact it can strike at any age and for a multitude of reasons.  When it happened to me a few years back I also initially responded with silence, terrified that if I said it out loud it would make it real, but when my daughter suddenly asked, ‘Mum are you losing your hair?’ with her trademark attention to detail & exquisite empathy, she gave me the words & a good kick into gear, simultaneously.  Now I am fascinated by women’s silence around this generally, how little we share our stories & forewarn others, & as practitioners, the lack of adequate training we’ve had identifying the different types (hint: it involves donning gloves or if restricted to online consulting, knowing how to organise correctly positioned pics) & from there finding the right solutions. 

While Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) is the dominant type in women – it only applies to the following pattern:

But alopecia due to stress, thyroid disorders, autoimmunity, contact dermatitis etc will affect different regions of the scalp and with a different onset & progression.

And remember, by the time YOU, the practitioner, can spot a patient is losing hair when they simply walk into the room, they have ALREADY LOST 50% 😢 This is why I think we need to push back against the silence. The research is unflinching about the serious psychological impact this has on women – especially in cultures which place so much emphasis on looks generally, and hair, specifically as a commodity of very high value in women.  The diagram above comes from a 2019 update on the phenomenon of FHPL and it’s a good articulation of the knowns and unknowns (pssst spoiler alert…it ain’t about androgens!) but let’s never forget the other causes and cures.  So let’s make sure as the trusted practitioners women present to so often, we are sensitive enough to have this tricky conversation & skilled enough to help 💪

Stop Pulling Your Hair Out – The FPHL Answers You Need

Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) is everywhere, perhaps you just haven’t been looking.  As the leading cause of alopecia in women globally and with 1 in 5 women affected at any age, we’ve all got clients who have FPHL to different degrees.   We need to be better able to recognise the early features of this condition which profoundly impairs quality of life and induces depression in its sufferers and that begins with validating patients’ concerns when they report “thinning” or “increased losses”.  But what do we do from there?  This recording talks you through the assessment, diagnosis and management of FPHL based on a combination of the most recent research and Rachel’s clinical experiences.  Once you’ve ‘seen’ FPHL.., you won’t ever ‘unsee’ it and your patients will thank you.

Following The Fenton Fall-Out

I confess I was a chemistry nerd ‘way back when’, but my skill for stoichiometric calculations had sadly slipped by the time my kids needed help with high-school science & now my son, who’s about to graduate from chemical engineering, is my ‘chem-friend’ 🙄🧐 I suspect he feels FB messenger wasn’t intended for such use – or at least there should be some veneer of, ‘Hi darling how are you?’ before…’Need to talk through these pharmacokinetic datasets’ However, the one equation that was like turning a light on in my brain & therefore never forgotten was the Fenton reaction – basically metals’ MO for messing with our biology, especially iron.  Turns out – it’s the most essential and helpful in understanding health & disease:

Endometriosis
IBD
Neurogenerative disorders: MS, PD, Alzheimer’s
Higher than healthy GGT
Impaired COMT or catechol excess for other reasons
Cardiovascular disease & Diabetes
Vitiligo
Both the Big Cs
Heavy metal burden
Iron dysregulation (Obesity, HFE mutations, Thalassaemia) & Excess (IV or oral over-treatment etc)

(almost) All roads lead to radicals & reactive species…if you follow the Fenton pathway & iron leads us down this path more often than any other metal.  Certainly sometimes for good: like protecting us against pathogens and destroying dodgy cells, but when it gets out of hand, a key pathophysiological process in a long list of disease.  So understanding how to recognise patients prone to dysregulation of this mineral, avoiding iron over-treatment at all costs (I am seeing incorrect and excessive use of IV iron in many patients make it stop!) and identifying means to contain and control its movement, are important.  Oh and in case the Fenton has faded in memory, it goes a little something like this:

The Fenton reaction. Repeated cycles of oxidation and reduction of iron in the presence of hydrogen peroxide generates reactive oxygen radicals. 

While rates of iron deficiency and related anaemia continue to grow, the increase in prescriptions of IV Fe have expanded exponentially in western countries. What is behind this change in practice regarding how we treat iron deficiency and does it match with responsible prescribing? Do the benefits always outweigh the risks?  And while we’re on the topic, who is most likely to benefit and what are all the risks? In light of a current class action in the US, relating to a lesser talked about adverse event associated with IV Fe and recent complaints here in Australia against GPs, allegedly due to inadequate information to enable informed patient consent…it’s time to answer these questions and more. When is IV Fe a means of rescue and when is it a risky repletion strategy with no evidence of advantage? Click here for this episode.

 

 

Naturopathic Nanna’s Club

I’m 100% confident that, as a professional group, among our highest values about healthy, preferable, food choices, would be characteristics like: ‘as close to nature as possible’, ‘unrefined’, ‘unprocessed’, ‘unadulterated’.  Tell me I’m wrong.

So, when I keep hearing about NEW! “Never seen before” (read: never in nature) modified (read: more processed, adulterated) nutritional supplements: water soluble vitamin D, fat soluble C, bioflavonoids with unprecedented (read unnatural) bioavailability

I’m left wondering what these companies are missing about their customer group (because we are clear about our valuing of nature & what’s natural & have a desire to minimise exposures to things that are not, right?

or what are we missing here, in the clear conflict of our core values these constitute?

I think if we find ourselves forsaking this core value & prescribing highly modified, unnatural supps, it’s the result of both hype & fear.  The hype is self-explanatory and I’ve written recently on how modifications exponentially increase profit margins for companies, all the while possibly reducing ours because patients are spending more on product and therefore there is less left over for the practitioner fees 🙁 [The ones spending hours with them face to face, not to mention years & thousands on our training]  The fear is perhaps less apparent, more insidious.  The fear is that we’re not using the best, being the most effective, and deeper still, inevitably that we will fail to action our patients return to health. This is a big one. I think it’s pervasive, if not omnipresent, and works as a motivator for many positive actions by practitioners – like engaging in further education, reading that latest journal edition on your lonesome laptop when you could be streaming some series on a shared sofa. But this same fear can also undermine us, overwhelm us and shake our tree of trust, that we believe to be so firmly rooted within us, of the healing power of nature.

So while my position sometimes makes me feel very ‘old school’, I’m not suggesting we return to nutritional prescriptions composed exclusively of bee pollen & brewer’s yeast and I absolutely recognise and respond to an individual who has very specific barriers to benefiting from nutrients in their natural normal forms.
But let’s be clear, they are a minority.

Some of you will know naturopath Dawn Whitten & know that she is one of my mentors.  I’ve had the benefit of speaking with her over the years about herbal prescriptions but also about the principles & philosophy behind our practice & in one of many conversations she told me that a key objective she has with her patients is to rebuild their trust in their body, their own biological resilience (I love this concept and that’s a talk for another time!) and ultimately in nature. Well jeepers Dawn – how did you get to be so wise so young?  But isn’t that central to vis medicatrix naturae? Maybe that Naturopathic Nanna’s club isn’t so fuddy-duddy after all.  Want to join us?

Speaking of using nutrients in their most natural state for the best health outcomes – the best B3 is probably not what you think!!….
The Balance of B3

Most of us have been taught to ‘balance the Bs’ when supplementing, which discourages the use of single B vitamins in case this interferes with the regulation and roles of others. In reality, outside of a couple of dynamic duos like B12 and folate, there is little concrete information & evidence of this. In the case specifically of B3, however, we now know, the risk of an excess of the most common B3 forms found in supplements and fortified foods, results not only in disruption of other nutrients but imbalanced B3 biochemistry itself. Given B3, in its coenzyme form NAD+, is regarded as highly valued currency in the prevention of many diseases, as well as the key to our optimal health and longevity, it’s critical to understand the different forms and functions of the various B3 sources.

 

 

Good Great Better Brilliant…

I’m experiencing some serious POTTS exhaustion – how about you?  No, not POTS, POTTS: Preposterous Over The Top Selling of supplements, which seems to be at an all time high even amongst our practitioner brands.  I saw a product name recently that included the word, ‘supreme’!*^#  Is the choice of nutritional supplements now on par with selecting our pizza toppings?

When I previously delivered university lectures on population nutrition & the role of the food industry – we acknowledged that all the processing, packaging, and promoting the food industry invests in, creates a market and a source of competition that essentially doesn’t exist for their primary whole-food ingredients.

Take apples.  How can we increase the profit margin on a humble apple? Aside from organic V conventional farming, the price that any of us would pay is pretty narrow and fixed.  But send that apple to the factory to make juice (and chuck in some added vitamins to boot so you can feature this on the label!!), puree and package it in the most non-biodegradable way for kiddies, dice and stew the stuff and put it in little plastic tubs for the slightly older or throw in a long list of nasties with ‘essence of apple’ to make sauce for idk and suddenly you have the capacity for mark-up, an exponentially expanded profit margin & ‘something to say and something to sell’.  In supplement companies, it’s not as far from this as you might imagine. Because nutrition (**WHAT A SURPRISE**) is a lot like primary whole-food ingredients – how does vitamin C compete with vitamin C? Hey,  make it liposomal!! And the nanoparticles that we’re fearful of in our sunscreens and cosmetics..let’s use the same technology for our ingestives!! YES!!! Ummm any one recall, our fears re folic acid?  Just asking…

Then I see the promotion of bioflavonoid supplements that have been modified to exhibit **UNPRECEDENTED BIOAVAILABILITY** and I am like, ‘Um, why?’ Given these show very low uptake across the gut naturally and research now speaks to a primary MOA or pivot point in their efficacy being the result of their interaction with our microbiota & digestive environs…

I propose that ‘practitioner only supplements’ come under the same plain packaging restrictions placed on tobacco in Australia [I am joking but only just].  Remove the bright shiny distracting graphics and hyperbolic descriptors and only state the full ingredients and excipients list plus source where relevant. Let’s bring it back to simple(?) science, basic quality ingredients and affordable effective products for our patients.  Then let’s see if we can spot the difference 🧐

The Supplement Sleuth

Rachel loves nothing better than breaking through marketing babble and spin to get to the truth about supplements – their real strengths, niches, weaknesses, contraindications, therapeutic doses and best forms & therefore there is a dedicated section of her website with resources and recordings that do just this, here. These include reviews on B3, B12, Folate, Selenium, Zinc & Iron (of course!), Calcium D Glucurate, Co Q10, Quercetin, high dose Vitamin D and Fish oils for Mental health. These are a mix of Update in Under 30 recordings and longer presentations and her library is ever expanding!  So, if you have a supplement you think needs some serious sleuthing on – send us an email…we’re always sniffing around for more!!

We Need To Talk About Kevin…aka B3

Just like Kevin, ‘Niacin’ is profoundly misunderstood and consequently runs the risk of doing us harm. Unlike ‘Kevin’, we can’t watch the movie to see how this (our arguably excessive use of the wrong forms of B3 in supplements and fortified foods) is all going to play out, so that we can be suitably alarmed and start making some different choices. The risks that follow from our B3 ignorance are twofold:

One comes essentially from our gross under-estimation of this B vitamin – we’re stuck in the Pellagra Paradigm, believing that prevention of the 4 D’s is confirmation of adequacy.

The second, is our lack of discernment when it comes to the different forms or precursors of B3 & our unfamiliarity with their very specific physiological roles – good and bad.

In this regard we’re all likely to say, ‘Well back up there 1 second, we do know that Niacin (aka nicotinic acid) is different from the other forms!’  Producing flushing, yes.  Used as a lipid lowering agent in pharmacological doses, yes. But can you tell me, which serious concerns and biochemical disruption is shared between both gram doses of niacin and everyday ‘routine’ mg doses of niacinamide? Yep, that one, the so-called ‘safe’ one. Better still, can we all list the various B3 forms in order from most to least potent, in regard to their capacity for NAD+ promotion in the human body? 

Because this is now the definition of B3 ‘adequacy’ or ‘optimisation’ according to modern scientific understanding & it is a long long way from the absence of  Diarrhoea, Dermatitis, Dementia and Death!

In fact, the boosting and optimisation of NAD+ pools in the human body is key to life – a long and healthy one according to the current research consensus – and its depletion is akin to ‘death’, or a faster one, anyway.  From increased metabolic disorders, mitochondrial dysfunction, impaired gene stability (cancer, infertility etc) and higher rates of neurodegenerative disorders, just to start, these take up the lion’s share of our chronic health burden and battle that currently dominates the dis-ease landscape. And more niacinamide might just make that worse. 

I didn’t mean to to alarm you. I am alarmed.  Want to deep dive into this yourself?  Start with this older but still brilliant review article by Bogan & Brenner.  Want me to hold your hand while we jump off the high platform diving board together into this vastly different and powerful new understanding of B3?  Let’s do it!

The Balance of B3

Most of us have been taught to ‘balance the Bs’ when supplementing, which discourages the use of single B vitamins in case this interferes with the regulation and roles of others. In reality, outside of a couple of dynamic duos like B12 and folate, there is little concrete information & evidence of this. In the case specifically of B3, however, we now know, the risk of an excess of the most common B3 forms found in supplements and fortified foods, results not only in disruption of other nutrients but imbalanced B3 biochemistry itself. Given B3, in its coenzyme form NAD+, is regarded as highly valued currency in the prevention of many diseases, as well as the key to our optimal health and longevity, it’s critical to understand the different forms and functions of the various B3 sources.

 

You can purchase The Balance of B3 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.

A Sprinkle Of Precursor & A Dash Of Co-Factor?

There’s enormous potency in nutritional medicine for mental health but it ain’t in the form of a ‘dash of precursor here and a sprinkle of co-factor there’, like some may have you believe.  Many nutritional prescriptions can look good on paper but that’s the extent of it, take the suggested use of glutamine for GABA production, for example.  Sure it can be said to be a precursor (so is glucose!) – so will higher intake of this equate to higher production of this neurotransmitter? Ah, no. The reasons relate to distribution and hierarchy of use for this amino acid, as well as determinants of glutamatergic neuron activity.

Why would we limit our prescriptions to precursors, anyway, when we have 2 amino acids at our disposal, whose oral supplementation is known to translate to higher CNS levels and their actions and efficacy as major inhibitors of neuronal firing (akin to GABA), involves no modification nor maybes?!

Hello, Taurine & Glycine, where have you been all this time?

While, many of us may have been using taurine in combination formulas for mood, chances are you’re not entirely clear why sometimes those work and sometimes they don’t.  The answer may be in the regulation of CNS taurine transfer & balance- sometimes the people who need it most, have the least capacity for its uptake across the BBB.  This is well-established in neurobiology, but news to many nutritional and integrative health professionals, who have been using it in patients where Glycine, in fact, makes more sense. So while taurine has myriad impressive strings to its bow in relation to mood-modulation and powerful protection of brain structure & function, Glycine, has an extensive network of receptors throughout the brain and spinal chord, enabling it to exert inhibitory effects, second only to GABA itself. And, most importantly, BBB transfer of this amino is not subject to the same impediments that we see with taurine.  These are two of my most frequent and favourite mood-modulators, affordable and accessible when used as single ingredients, for patients, with anxiety, addiction & sleep disorders etc but understanding how they work (and when they won’t) is essential in choosing which one to use, when. 

For example, do you know the Tmax for either of these oral supplements?  How long it takes, to create a spike in patients’ plasma, better still their CSF, and therefore speed of onset of action?  What about their elimination half-lives to guide your understanding their duration of action and therefore the timing of follow-up doses?

When we’re trying to realise the full potency of our medicines – these are important details to know that convert our ‘prescription potential’ into something powerful. Just like die-hard herbalists will tell you, its an art and a science and this is true in nutritional medicine as well.  Don’t skimp on the science!🤓

 

Both taurine & glycine have a claim-to-fame as amino acids that effectively calm an over-revving brain, via their net inhibitory actions within the CNS.  They achieve this via different means and while in some circumstances, one, either or both will is the result of differences in the regulation of their BBB transfer, pharmacokinetics, as well as add-on benefits or detractors, unique to each.  Learn how to use both of these powerful and affordable mood-modulators, to their fullest, and be more able to know ‘which one when’, by listening to this latest narrative review.

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase Take A Fresh Look: Taurine & Glycine in the CNS here.
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I’m Gonna Take My Vitamins…They’re Good For You, They’re Good For You!

Don’t know this thrash anthem for all nutritional medicine practitioners written by Supernova about 20 years ago?  Do yourself a favour and check it out!! It makes me laugh to the point of tears every time.  What also got me giggling recently was a coffee catch-up with a fellow nat (relax, it was decaf people!) Both being active women approaching the half century we found common ground discussing our ‘war wounds’. She, an ankle injury, me, lax ligaments in my knee thanks to touch football minus any pre-season prep whatsoever. I was waxing lyrical about the wonders of swimming, which I’ve taken up to heal said gammy knee, at which point she asked, “What are you taking for it?” 

My mouth dropped open & nothing came out…because the answer was *!NOTHING!*😂
At which point, she mentions a couple of supplements I have *!ON MY SHELF!* that really helped her ankle 😂😂

I text her 3 days later with, “Man, our medicines really work!!”  You see, like the song says,  I do ‘take my vitamins’ and ‘they’re good for you! Good for you!’ – just this physician health yourself thing can be a blinking full time occupation sometimes! Anyway, it got me thinking about how we choose the products we do.  So turmeric caps are part of my new regime and they seem to be working a treat. I stock one brand only.  Now how did I come to that decision amongst an ocean of options?!  Well in this instance, I had asked a colleague who works OTC and dispenses a variety of turmeric products en masse – better still she sees those people come back either for more…or not.  I’ve found asking my well-placed peers about these kind of products invaluable!! But there are so many different ways each and everyone of us may have made product choices – ethical concerns, personal experience, research, a teacher, mentor or rep’s influence.  Anyone who has done the UTAS post-grad, of course, has exhaustively analysed the options, complete with comprehensive spreadsheets of all comparative products…god love these guys!! But for the rest of us mere mortals, how do we make such choices?

Let’s just talk turmeric for now, I’d love to know…

My gorgeous sister first brought this ditty to my attention & we’ve had a wonderful trip down memory lane today (with our elderly mother as our hostage as we both belt out the lyrics in laughter down the speaker phone)…she’d be cross if she didn’t get the credit here, rightly so 🤣

I’m gonna take my vitamins!
(Vitamins! Vitamins!)
You better take your vitamins!
(They’re good for you! They’re good for you!)

You better take your vitamins,
Two by two!
Two by two!

Someone Say Sulphur?

That’s not a word you hear often spoken by people practising nutritional medicine. Which is odd. I mean outside of the whole, ‘I’m not good with sulphites so I just have to add these magic drops into my glass of red so I can knock back my share,” often overheard at our conferences… it’s like this essential macromineral, pivotal to human health for things like barrier function, antioxidant defence and our basic ability to create the white cells for immune defence (for that matter), detoxification, musculoskeletal tissue integrity etc has just not received its due attention from us. Not entirely surprising given 1) there’s no RDI and 2) there’s no lab test to assess an individual’s status and how about 3) because we were never taught about it! 

But the biggest ‘call to action’ here is that, in spite of items 1, 2 & 3, we’re ‘prescribing’ Sulphur Strategies all the time!

Take one of my favourite examples; GAGs. Glycosaminoglycans like Glucosamine sulphate (not the crappy, found to be not as effective, other forms that we now see more commonly) hit the headlines back in the noughties as an effective arthritis remedy. This is one of the 100s of our body’s ‘end products’ of its endogenous Sulphur Stream.  We naturally make this in adequate amounts to ensure the integrity of our joints (and many other tissues of course!) when we have enough Sulphur in the ‘top pool’ (organic Sulphur) to trickle down to the 2nd pool (Inorganic Sulphur), therefore creating a constant essential supply of something known as ‘the universal Sulphur donor’ – ‘PAPs’, to its friends 😉 Like a waterfall, it helps to have a good flow from the top to increase the likelihood we’ll have anything to ‘show’ at the bottom. 

So when we give a patient Glucosamine Sulphate it may well help. Or not. But did we ‘treat the cause’ of their Sulphur problem? Should we have treated higher up, increasing the size of either the organic or inorganic pool to have improved and widened the benefits for their health? Or, as is equally common, actually identified why someone might need more Sulphur than most – due to increased demand and losses?

Herein lies my reason for liking this particular Sulphur story so much. The common medication that places the highest ‘demand’ on Sulphur (due to its need for detoxification) is paracetamol. There’s no debate regarding this – just absolute scientific consensus. NSAIDs and steroids also negatively affect the Sulphur status of individuals, as does Vitamin D deficiency and chronic mild metabolic acidosis. Now how commonly are these phenomena co-occurring in our patients afflicted with arthritis?  And traditionally of course, what was the remedy for arthritis? Sulphur springs.

Unseen Sulphur – Time To Take A  Look
If you don’t have a clear picture of the gross daily requirements, determinants of altered individual needs, sources, regulation & associated deficiency picture of Sulphur, you’re not alone.  Turns out this essential macromineral remains ‘unseen’ by most, even though you’re probably writing prescriptions every day that have Sulphur as their key component.  From the simple: Taurine, N-acetyl cysteine, Protein powders, to the sublime: Brassica extracts & concentrates, N-acetyl Glucosamine, Alpha Lipoic acid etc. In order to use these Sulphur strategies successfully and safely, however, we need to fill in the missing detail on its metabolism, the difference between the ‘organic’ and ‘inorganic pools’, how regulation regularly goes wrong even in those seemingly consuming enough and how to balance the risks of this reactive medicine with its substantial therapeutic value.  This recording comes with a great clinical tool to help you, at last, see the Sulphur strategy most indicated for your patient.

 

You can purchase Unseen Sulphur – Time to Take a Look 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.

I Spy…

I say: Biotin, Broccoli Sprouts & Bone Broth
You say….?

If you said: ‘Sulphur’, go directly to the top of the class, passing ‘Go’ & collecting $200 on your way!🤓  If you nervously said…”I don’t know, they all start with ‘B’ ?”, you are not alone.  In fact, most integrative health professionals aren’t aware of the Sulphur Strategies they’re using, probably, everyday.  But it’s time we all were.

How about this list?
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs for joint, gut etc tissue integrity),  Cerebroside Sulphate (Myelin),
Metallothionein, Glutathione, Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S), Co-Enzyme A, Lipoic acid, SAMe, are just some things Sulphur is essential for.

I could go on…and on and on.  You see Sulphur, in spite of being an essential macromineral (adult dietary requirements > 1g per day) and critical to health, remains largely unseen.  Often we don’t know when we’re writing patient prescriptions that actually we’re using a particular vehicle for Sulphur and therefore we’re also not able to discern which, of the very long list of options (dietary and supplements), makes the most sense in this patient at this time. We’re not to blame, not many ‘possess the power’ to see it, it seems. Por old essential, irreplaceable Sulphur doesn’t even have an RDI. But the time has come to take a good look.  We need to know how patients are able to meet their needs, who needs more and how, very commonly, someone who is seemingly ‘consuming enough’ may still exhibit a functional Sulphur deficiency with poor musculoskeletal tissue integrity, low white cell replication capacity or higher oxidative stress load etc and in those who do have a shortfall, how to treat successfully & safely.  Who needs a top down approach (more protein, methionine, cysteine, bone broth) and in whom would that be a risky path and using ‘downstream’ Sulphur products instead would be a better balance of pros and cons?

Because all Sulphur needs to be handled with care.

That’s right.  Like other highly chemically reactive minerals, with reactivity comes risk – a great potency that requires careful consideration of both form and dose, so that we can harness this power for good not…well evil’s a bit strong…but how about, for not-good.  I’m a bit of fan of Sulphur and using Sulphur strategies in my patients. I think it has interesting echoes with our past: the ‘healing’ waters of a Sulphur Spring and of course even further back the old ‘brimstone and treacle’ medicine of eons ago.  This paper by Nimni in 2007: Are we getting enough sulfur in our diet? got me thinking about Sulphur again in a contemporary context, over a decade ago, I’ve done a lot more thinking, researching and prescribing since then but it seems that Sulphur still remains ‘unseen’ by most. But with the rise and rise and rise of popular Sulphur-based supplements (alpha lipoic acid, GSH, N-acetyl glucosamine, Brassica & Allium extracts and concentrates, N-acetyl-cysteine etc) I think it’s time to talk.

Unseen Sulphur – Time to take a look

If you don’t have a clear picture of the gross daily requirements, determinants of altered individual needs, sources, regulation & associated deficiency picture of Sulphur, you’re not alone.  Turns out this essential macromineral remains ‘unseen’ by most, even though you’re probably writing prescriptions everyday that have Sulphur as their key component.  From the simple: Taurine, N-acetyl cysteine, Protein powders, to the sublime: Brassica extracts & concentrates, N-acetyl Glucosamine, Alpha Lipoic acid etc. In order to use these Sulphur strategies successfully and safely, however, we need to fill in the missing detail on its metabolism, the difference between the ‘organic’ and ‘inorganic pools’, how regulation regularly goes wrong, even in those seemingly consuming enough, and how to balance the risks of this reactive medicine with its substantial therapeutic value.  This recording comes with a great clinical tool to help you at last see the Sulphur strategy most indicated for your patient.

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase Unseen Sulphur – Time to Take a Look 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 Year For Iron & Gin

A few things really took up a disproportionate amount of our time & attention in 2020: Zoom, Mask Fashion & Gin based hand sanitiser. On a personal note I need to confess another: Iron. So while my one true (mineral) love remains zinc, iron answer hunting has infiltrated a lot of my days and some nights! There’s no hiding it…3 out of my 12 UU30 episodes this year have iron in the title 🙄 a sure sign its been on my and my mentees’ minds and sitting across the desk from a lot of health professionals in human form. And this affair I’ve been having, like most, started innocently… it started with a just a ‘quickie’, you know a quick question from a well meaning practitioner: “So, what’s expected in terms of ferritin levels across pregnancy?”

There are 2 answers to this.
The first reflects the practice guidelines for GPs and obstetricians in most western countries: > 30 mcg/L regardless of trimester
And then there’s another that is [ahem] evidence based, accounts for the essentiality of physiological anaemia in pregnancy &, naturally, trimester specific

There’s a big Fe-ar factor at play when it comes to answering the question, ‘Does this woman have enough iron for her and bub?’ Public health and practice guidelines appear to assume we are ‘guilty’ until proven innocent, patients are worried and health professionals are plagued with their own doubts about whether they’re ‘reading this right?!’  I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation where we feel our pregnant patient is doing well iron wise early in pregnancy, only for them to have that routine antenatal 28wk GP/Ob visit and discover a total panic has descended upon the patient and the rest of the health care team, with calls for ‘IV Iron STAT!’ But 28wks is the height of haemodilution right?  You know, that time when ferritin, Hb and Hct should look at their lowest, right?   There certainly is a limit to how low we want any pregnant woman to go – for her and her baby’s health but that limit is not the one routinely used and the truly evidenced based one is going to shock you. So what? What’s the issues if we are a little Fe-ar based about Fe, resulting in hypervigilance (calling a deficiency when there isn’t actually one) and giving them a ‘boost’ of more iron, surely this is good news ultimately for baby’s iron levels and for lactation and for…sorry what? No?

There’s a U shaped Curve for Iron supplementation & serum Ferritin levels in pregnant women?!!

Say it isn’t so!!  But I can’t.🤐

Pregnancy Iron Balance – Sorting the ‘Normal’ from the ‘Noise’

It starts with a simple enough question: What should women’s ferritin levels be in pregnancy? But the answer will surprise many. There are in fact two. The first reflects the practice guidelines for GPs and obstetricians in most western countries regardless of trimester and then there’s another that is arguably more evidence based, accounts for the essentiality of physiological anaemia in pregnancy & is also, sensibly, trimester specific. To challenge the ‘noise’ and have the confidence that ‘normal’ is ‘enough’,  we need to better understand the mother’s protective physiological adaptation of iron regulation and the intricate systems the foetus has to ensure its needs are met.  This of course is not without limit, so we need to also be clear about the maternal serum ferritin threshold for negative impact on the foetus and newborn. Getting the balance or iron right in pregnancy for both mother and baby, is perhaps easier than we have been led to believe. 

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

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IV Iron To The Rescue?

When I deliver foundational nutrition training to GPs I talk tough.  It’s a tough field, right?  Compared with the relative certainty of pharmaceuticals, their established pharmacokinetics, their sophisticated delivery systems to ensure high bioavailability…trying to fix micronutrient deficiencies in patients can feel a lot like you’re trying to perform minor miracles. Take iron for something different, its homeostasis pivots on its tight regulation at the gut wall – and this is a wall that is very tight!! At best you get about 10% of a supplement taken up, at worst you get none and the harder you push & the higher you go with your dose…the lower the fractional uptake.  Tough stuff, right?!

It’s about at this point in my talk I read their collective minds and say, “I know, you’re thinking, oral supplementation is for suckers – what about we bypass that road block and use IV?!”
[Ok, I definitely use nicer words than this]

And then I put up a list of pros and cons about IV micronutrient repletion: ‘100% bioavailable’ & ‘Bypasses the body’s regulatory systems’, go on both!  You see, time & time again we discover, when we think we’re outsmarting the body, it still manages to outsmart us.  There are some exceptions to this – some nutrients (Vitamin C) and some contexts (late pregnancy iron deficiency) but the broader promise of ‘rapid replenishment’ for everyone, in your lunch break, via an IV infusion..is not realistic, responsible nor without risk.  Don’t get me wrong, I am an advocate of appropriate IV Fe use and have encouraged a small fraction of my patients to take this path. However, given the dramatic rise in prescriptions for this since 2013, I think it’s time to stop and seriously review each element: In reality what does it achieve and in whom is it a responsible recommendation; Was a risk benefit analysis performed for & communicated to each individual & was the remaining risk mitigated?

Think anaphylaxis is the major concern?  It might be the most lethal but there are more serious concerns due to higher incidence with newer preparations.

So, how well do you know your different IV iron forms, and their predilection for potential problems? And have your answers ready to all the questions raised above? In order for all involved to make an informed choice (both practitioners and patients), we must. 

You’re welcome 😉 and hey welcome back to tough talkin’ Tuesday…

While rates of iron deficiency and related anaemia continue to grow, the increase in prescriptions of IV Fe have expanded exponentially in western countries. What is behind this change in practice regarding how we treat iron deficiency and does it match with responsible prescribing? Do the benefits always outweigh the risks?  And while we’re on the topic, who is most likely to benefit and what are all the risks? In light of a current class action in the US, relating to a lesser talked about adverse event associated with IV Fe and recent complaints here in Australia against GPs, allegedly due to inadequate information to enable informed patient consent…it’s time to answer these questions and more. When is IV Fe a means of rescue and when is it a risky repletion strategy with no evidence of advantage?

 

 

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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.

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

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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.