Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wondering about gluten? Don't delay!!

A recent study published in the journal Gastroenterology provided further proof about the strong connection between Celiac disease (severe gluten sensitivity) and colon cancer. The connection between these two conditions has long been recognized, but what was still not clear was exactly how strong this connection was and how important establishing a diagnosis of Celiac disease is in preventing colon cancer.

Part of the problem in all of this is the fact that there are a number of undiagnosed people walking around out there who actually do have Celiac disease. In fact, some sources estimate that up to 1 in 10 people in the US have it! This number may even continue to rise as we get better and better at diagnosing it.

Celiac disease often has no obvious symptoms so people can have it for years, continuing to consume gluten the whole time, and not know it. In fact, I would guess that a majority of people, some of whom eventually die from colon cancer, never discover they had this condition. This study provides strong evidence that had these people been diagnosed and subsequently avoided gluten from that point forward, they might have been able to prevent their cancers.

As a naturopathic doctor, I am now constantly searching for problems with gluten in my patients. And, more often than not, I find them. If you have a particularly strong craving for breads and pastas, or are a "carb addict", if you have ANY digestive symptoms, if you have any neurological or immune system related disorders, if you are fatigued, if you have hormone problems, basically, if you have any chronic health issues at all, gluten intolerance should be ruled out.

The interesting thing about this study though is that, even if you don't have anything noticeably wrong, identifying gluten intolerance could still save your life.

For more information on this very important topic, I strongly recommend reading, Going Against the Grain, by Melissa Diane Smith. Proper testing for gluten sensitivity can be done through a naturopathic doctor, or through

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kids and Colds

As my two little ones lie in bed, half asleep, each fighting a particularly nasty little flu bug, I can't help but think about the past winter and how many kids have also had "particularly nasty little bugs" to deal with.

I've seen my fair share of boogery, goopy-eyed, miserable kids in my clinic this year and always wish their parents would bring them in at the very start of their illnesses, before those little critters have really taken hold. Even better, I wish they'd all come in for tips on how to try and prevent these illnesses in the first place.

A great study came out recently, which reminded me of how truly simple it can be to help prevent colds and flus in your kids.

The new study, published in Archives of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, included 401 children, from six to ten years old, who visited their pediatrician for a common cold or flu. About one-quarter of the children were assigned to receive standard treatment, which could include any combination of medicines aimed at reducing fever, relieving nasal congestion, breaking up mucus, and fighting infection. The rest were assigned to receive standard treatment plus saline nasal rinses, six times per day during acute illness and three times per day during the rest of the 12-week study.

Shortly after their initial doctor visit, the children who used the nasal rinses had fewer nasal and throat symptoms and were healthier than the children who did not use the rinses. By eight weeks, they had fewer and less severe symptoms such as dry cough, runny nose, and inability to breathe through the nose, and fewer of them were using medications to manage their symptoms. They were also less likely to have been sick again, and they missed less school due to illness.

The nasal rinse was a standard 0.9% saline (sodium chloride) solution with trace elements and minerals in concentrations similar to those in seawater, and was applied either with medium jet flow, as a fine mist spray, or as a spray for both eyes and nose. The three methods for the nasal rinse were equally effective.

There are a number of other ways parents can help kids who tend to get lots of colds stay healthy during the cold and flu season:

• Stay away from sugar and pasteurized dairy products: Sugar inhibits the immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to infections. Pasteurized dairy contributes to mucus formation in many people.

• Feed them high vitamin cod liver oil: The vitamin D found in cod liver oil may turn out to be even better than vitamin C at preventing colds and flus. As sunlight fades to clouds and rain, so do levels of vitamin D in our blood. Do you think it's a coincidence that many of us start getting sick soon after? I don't. My kids get a tsp a day, which comes out to about 1000iu of vitamin D. I take the same dose, plus another 2000iu of plain vitamin D per day in the winter months.

• Gargle: Gargling with plain water removes mucus and keeps bacteria and viruses from sticking around. A three-times-a-day habit has been found to reduce the occurrence of respiratory infections.

• A daily dose of Echinacea, increasing that to a dose every hour at the first sign of a cold may get your little ones through a whole winter without one illness. Don't believe those out there who say you shouldn't take echinacea for more than a few weeks at a time. The research doesn't support this idea. In fact, Kerry Bone, a world renowned herbalist and Echinacea expert takes a dose every day, all year long!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ummm, water filters for everyone please.

As if what is known about the quality of our drinking water wasn't bad enough already, it now sounds like you're going to need to do more than just go to a naturopathic doctor to avoid exposure to pharmaceutical drugs.

A new study (more about it here:
has found there are measurable levels of many drugs - including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones - in the water supplies of most major metropolitan areas.


I recommend filtered vs. bottled water, as bottled water is often of poor quality and can be a source of exposure to some serious chemicals if they leach out of the plastic in these bottles.

It's getting harder and harder to live a healthy life these days isn't it? We need to put filters on our water and our air. We have to pay extra money to buy foods with less ingredients and less chemicals in them. Most of us, if we actually do decide to exercise regularly, join a health club or take an exercise class that, you guessed it, we have to pay for also.

What is going on here???

We are literally witnessing the destruction of our environment, as well as ours and many other species of animals on this planet. As a naturopathic doctor, I feel like I am especially aware of this process unfolding before us all, because I see first hand the toll it is taking on us. Sometimes I just want to throw my hands up in the air and quit!

I won't, but I could use your help. Start "going green". Start eating better. Start going outside and appreciating what we still have, instead of staring at your televisions, computer screens and iPhones all day long. Do more than that if you like. Do less if you have to, but please,


Friday, March 7, 2008

How's your prostate? Let's wait and see.....

A recent study has concluded that older men with early prostate cancer do not shorten their survival odds if they adopt a "wait-and-see" approach to the disease. In fact, most such patients will die of other causes or they simply won't develop any complications from the cancer, the researchers found.

"Many elderly men with lower risk cancer may do well with conservative management," concluded study author Grace Lu-Yau, a cancer epidemiologist at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and an associate professor at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and School of Public Health. Seventy-two percent of the 9000 men in the study died of other causes or didn't have enough cancer progression to warrant surgery or radiation, the researchers found. For the remaining 2,675 men who did receive treatment, the median time between diagnosis and start of therapy was more than 10 years.

Hey, why not reduce your chances of problems even more?
  • Increase your vitamin D levels by getting safe amounts of regular sun exposure, taking high vitamin cod liver oil and getting your vitamin D blood levels checked.
  • Incorporate foods high in natural lycopene:
  1. Tomatoes
  2. Raspberries
  3. Watermelon
  • Eat a diet low in grains, flours and sugars and high in veggies, fruits, seafood and healthy fats to discourage blood sugar and insulin problems. This will also help discourage excessive levels of estrogen in your body, which can increase risk.
  • Eat foods from the cabbage family, such as broccoli, which also helps to control excess estrogens.
  • Exercise
  • Do a good quality cleansing program one or more times a year.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

You want some fish with that wine?

Anyone who spends any time at all reading news about nutrition and health has undoubtedly come across the ideas that omega 3 fats (think fish oil) and red wine are both quite good for you. Until recently that was about all the connection these two healthy foods had in common.

Recent research suggests that we might be able to take things a step further. A study from the American Heart Journal has shown that people who drink wine might have higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, even if they don’t eat many of the foods that contain them. Now that is pretty cool.

Until now, the reason why moderate consumption of red wine is good for you has not been fully understood, but this study may provide some important clues.