Tag Archives: Health

It’s Croup Season

Well, I got bit by the croup bug. Actually, my oldest child developed croup 2 weeks ago. Up until then, he had never had a respiratory infection except for a mild runny nose. At first I didn’t realize it was croup until he was 2 days into it. Need less to say, the whole croup episode lasted for 4 days and I am now dealing with symptoms of the common cold in both him and his 9 month old brother.

What is Croup?

Croup is an inflammation of the upper airways – vocal cords, wind pipe and bronchial tubes. It is mostly caused by a virus –  parainfluenza, respiratory syncital virus or adenovirus. On occasion it could be caused by a bacteria. Children between the ages of 3 months and 3 years are the most vulnerable. That is not to say that children older than 3 years cannot catch croup. Fall/winter is the most common time of the year for croup to rear its ugly head.

Signs and symptoms

Croup usually start with a runny/stuffy nose and fever followed by a hoarse voice as the upper airways become inflamed. The hallmark of the disease is a harsh barking cough that sounds like a seal. Symptoms are worse at night and when the child is upset or crying. Croup is highly contagious. Please keep your children at home if you suspect they have croup.

Things to look out for and be concerned about:

High pitched/squeaking noise with breathing in –  this is known as stridor

Retraction around the ribs during breathing

Fast breathing/difficulty breathing

Pale/bluish colour around the mouth

If child is less than 6 months and having difficulties breathing, go right to emergency.

If your child exhibits any of these symptoms and they are not playing or can’t sleep or they seem to be struggling with breathing, get medical attention immediately.

Treatment.

There are actually lots of natural remedies that work great for croup. If started at the first sign of symptoms, it’s the difference between your child going to emergency and getting pumped full of steroids or hanging out at home watching Toy Story on repeat.

1. Don’t panic. It can be very scary for both parents and kids when breathing becomes laboured or the cough starts. The calmer the child, the less likely for the coughing to progress.

2.  Most parents are told to bundle up the child and put them outside in fresh cool air. This does not work for all children. Running a cool air humidifier also works. My son definitely did worse in the cold air and he preferred moist warm heat. Run the shower and place a few drops of essential oil (eucalyptus, thyme, lavender) in the shower to steam and have child inhale deeply. Opening the window at night for some fresh cool air was helpful.

3.  An aromatic chest rub works well especially at night and allows everyone to sleep a little better. Rub the front and back of the chest with the aromatic rub. If possible have your child sleep with you so you can monitor their breathing.

4. The following are herbs that are immune modulating, and antiviral: elderberries, andrographis, licorice root, peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, catnip, echinacea, thyme, cinnamon and reishi mushroom. I only prescribe and use glycerites in young children. Please consult a naturopathic doctor or trained herbalist for a custom formulation. I recently formulated a natural fever reducer that works as well as acetaminophen.

5. Give lemon and honey as a soothing warm drink.

6.  Eliminate all sugar and processed foods from the diet. If at all possible make your own bone broth and give several cups per day. Make sure the bones are organic. Don’t be surprised if your child is not interested in eating during this time period. Keep them hydrated. Try to stay away from fruit juice they offer no nutritional value and are loaded with sugar.

Are there other natural remedies that have proven effective for you?

Lifesaving Probiotics

Picture courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Yes, you read that right, I believe probiotics are lifesaving. A few weeks ago, I got into a heated debate with two other people on wellness mama’s blog site.  I felt as if I was in a political race with all the mudslinging and name calling that was going on. Somewhere in cyberspace there is a person who goes by Captain Obvious who vehemently said that there is no proof that probiotics ever saved anyones’ life.

Well Captain Obvious, whoever, wherever you are, I am here to tell you that obviously you do not know the world of probiotics. I started reading a very interesting and great book on probiotics by Dr. Gary Huffnagle called The Probiotics Revolution this past week. According to Dr. Huffnagle, pre and probiotics are not optional additions to our diet but an essential food group that provides nutrients that are just as important to our health as vitamins and minerals.

What are Probiotics and how do they work?

Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live inside our intestines. Each individual person is host to one hundred trillion microbes . These microbes have important functions to our health and include species such as Lactobacillus, E. coli, Bacteroides, Candida albicans, Clostridium difficile, Streptococcus and Klebsiella to name a few.  Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the two most commonly known friendly microbes in our body that protect us by competing with harmful bacteria within our body and enhancing our immune system. Problems arise when the balance between good and bad microbes is disturbed.

The research on the role of probiotics have been mixed. Some studies have  shown probiotics to help with diseases such as asthma, allergies (food and environmental), eczema, autism, H. Pylori, IBS, IBD (Chron’s, Ulcerative Colitis), peptic ulcer, rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, diarrhea, urinary tract infection, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and the list goes on. Probiotics have even be shown to help decrease the incidence and severity of the common cold and flu. Probiotics have such a far-reaching effect because they help to modulate the immune system, quench inflammation, curb the stress response and keep bad bacteria in check.

How Can I get probiotics?

I am a proponent of getting your probiotics from your food. The reason the research results have been mixed is because single strains are used for reasearch. However this may not be a true reflection of what happens in our intestines when we eat whole foods. Fermented foods are a great way to increase the probiotic content in your gut. Every single culture in the history of human kind has eaten some kind of fermented food. The two biggest modifications that have affected the levels of probiotics in our system has been our diet and the introduction of antibiotics. A low fiber, highly processed diet enables the bad bacteria to grow in numbers that cause health problems while antibiotics disturb the delicate balance of the good vs bad microbes in our systems be killing the good ones.

Foods such as kefir, yogurt (look for a brand that added back the probiotics after pasteurization), kombucha, kim chee, miso, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, naturally aged cheeses are all good sources of probiotics. It is equally important to have a high fiber diet full of fruits, vegetables, some whole grains that act as prebiotis which is food for the probiotics in our system.  Making your own fermentables is a great way to boost your health and that of your family and it is much cheaper than taking a supplement.  When at all possible choose organic produce for your fermentables. Please be cautious when you are fermenting your own food and avoid giving it to very young children who might easily get sick.

I usually recommend probiotic supplementation when a medical condition needs to be addressed and getting probiotics through food alone is not enough. Buyer beware when purchasing probiotic supplements. Not all brands are created equally and when at all possible keep your probiotic supplement refrigerated.

What are your experience with taking probiotics?

Living with bladder pain naturally

My previous blog focused on explaining what bladder/pelvic pain is. After treating a large population of people with pelvic/bladder pain, there are a few natural remedies that I found to be effective.

The problem is that conventional medicine has little to offer patients that are suffering from bladder/pelvic pain. This is the reason that the average individual will have the disease for at least 8 years before it becomes diagnosed. If you are one of those people who does not want to be on the chemical/bladder installation train for the remainder of your life, you are in the right place.

My top 10 recommendations 

1. Identify foods that are your triggers. This can be accomplished by keeping a food diary that chronicles everything you eat and drink over a 24 hour period along with your mood, physical reactions,  bladder and bowel movements. Common foods that are known bladder irritants are: chili/ spicy foods, chocolate, coffee, tea (black, green, white), tomatoes, apples, apple juice, citrus foods, cranberries, cranberry juice, grapes, pineapple, plums, strawberries, alcohol, carbonated drinks, food preservatives, vinegars, vitamins (esp B vitamins) and MSG.

2. If you are a smoker, stop. Smoking may worsen pain conditions.

3. Find a way to deal with your stress. Whether it is tai chi, yoga, mindfulness based meditation, swimming, or walking. You get the idea. Stress makes bladder/pelvic pain worse. Pick an activity that does not aggravate your bladder pain and do it at least 3 times a week.

4. Try hot or cold applications. Most of my patients find that soaking in  a warm bath with 2 cups of Epsom salt for 30 mins helps to relax their pelvic floor and relieve stress. Do not put any bubble bath or bath fizz as these things tend to aggravate pain symptoms. A few drops of almond or coconut oil with some essential oils is usually ok.

5. Do not let yourself get dehydrated. It is very tempting to decrease water intake in an effort to avoid going to the bathroom often. This only makes your urine concentrated and it can make your pain symptoms worse. In addition, you don’t want to set yourself up for a bladder infection. Drink at least half your body weight in oz of water daily.

6. It is important to find a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation. Not all physical therapists are created equal. Find someone who  is familiar with the Wise-Anderson protocol. You DO NOT want to be doing kegel exercises if you have pelvic/bladder pain. This may make your condition worse.

7. Try acupuncture. Acupuncture is good for stress management and it can be a very effective tool in managing pain. I have found a hybrid neuromodulation protocol which is a combination of traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine to be very effective.

8. Get a naturopathic physician on board who has experience treating bladder/pelvic pain. There are several herbs/supplements that can be very helpful and much more effective than pharmaceutical meds without the nasty side effects.

9. Take control of your gut health and fix any leaky gut syndrome that you might have. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and bladder pain almost seem to go hand in hand. You cannot truly fix pelvic pain without also addressing GI issues.

10. Get support. Find a support group that is engaging and uplifting. Pain is depressing and depression is painful. It is helpful to be with people who are able to rephrase their experience and not allow this condition to define them.

How have you dealt with your condition naturally?

There is a pain in my bladder.

Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is an umbrella terminology for a group of symptoms within the pelvic region and for the most part a complicated condition. IC can be chronic or intermittent, it affects both males and females although females are affected more than males. While the bulk of attention tends to be on the bladder, there are other structures/organs in the pelvic region that are also affected such as bowels, uterus, muscles of the pelvic bowl etc.  Perhaps a more appropriate terminology for IC is Painful Bladder syndrome (PBS) or Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS) since chronic bladder/pelvic pain is one of the hallmarks of IC.

Signs and Symptoms of PBS/IC/CPPS

  • Urinary frequency and urgency
  • Suprapubic pain
  • Feeling of pressure/discomfort
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Vulva pain
  • Pain during urination
  • Perineal pain
  • Reduced urinary stream in men
  • Pain/discomfort in the tip of the penis
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain/ache/sensitivity in the testicles
  • Groin pain
  • Incomplete urination
  • Recurrent prostatitis that does not respond to treatment

Possible causes of PBS/IC/CPPS

  • Bladder infection
  • Trauma (surgical, physical, emotional or sexual)
  • Viral illness
  • Spasm in the pelvic region – chronic tension
  • Neurologic inflammation/Neurological windup
  • Hereditary

It is not uncommon for people with PBS/IC/CPPS at one point or another to experience recurrent bladder infections, endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, constipation,  vulvodynia, depression and anxiety. It is mostly likely that PBS/IC is an inflammatory condition that is worsened with stress/anxiety. In addition there is a high amount of tension/tightness in the muscles of the pelvic floor which further contributes to the pain/discomfort. In a small percentage of people, there are small pin point ulcerations (Hunner’s ulcers) in the bladder wall. Some individuals have noticed that certain foods can trigger a flare up that takes days to weeks to subdue.

Conventional medicine alone has very little to offer patients that are suffering from this condition because it can involve so many organs/structures. However a combination of modalities in addition to conventional medicine can enable people to lead a more normal life.

What challenges have you encountered with this condition?

Top 5 supplements for a healthy pregnancy and baby

As a mother of two boys, maternal and child health are very dear to my heart. Pregnant women in my practice often ask me which supplements they should be taking during their pregnancy. These five supplements are what I recommend to every woman of child-bearing age who might one day get pregnant.  Why you ask? Because these are the supplements that keep on giving. Even after a mother has had her baby, these supplements continue to benefit both the mother and baby.

1. Iron:  is an important vitamin for both maternal and fetal health. It is involved in the transport and storage of oxygen. It is required for energy and it supports the growth and development of the fetus and placenta. It is also involved in brain development and cognition.  Anemia in pregnancy may result in a baby with a low birth weight.

Interestingly enough, iron in breast milk is small but much more absorbable and the amount of iron is more dependent on maternal stored iron. A recent research study found that mother’s that were supplemented with iron during pregnancy had higher iron levels in their breast milk.  Meaning that it is important for pregnant and soon to be pregnant women to have a healthy iron level before they give birth. An anemic mother will lead to an anemic baby once born. Most women at some point or another in their pregnancy become anemic. It is always a good idea to start out with a reservoir of iron instead of a deficiency.

It is important to get a good digestible source of iron that will not cause constipation. My preference is chelated iron bisglycinate. It is relatively inexpensive and it works well. According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, pregnant women need 27mg of iron daily. Even if a woman is mildly anemic, I still treat them with supplemental iron due to an increase risk of post partum bleeding.  As always please consult a licensed care provider before taking any supplement.

2. Probiotics: these are microorganisms that live in our entire digestive tract.  Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the major microorganisms and they play an important role in digestive and immune health. There is research to suggest that maternal levels of bifidobacterium affect infant levels as early as 3 days. Bifidobacterium  readily passes from the breast milk to the nursing baby. Probiotics enhance our immune system, enhance the assimilation and absorption of vital nutrients, promote healthy skin, decrease atopic disease (asthma, allergies, eczema) and act as Group B Strep prophylaxis. While you can get probiotics in supplement form, I always encourage people to get additional probiotics through foods such as sauerkraut, kim chee, yogurt, miso or anything fermented.

3. Omega 3 fatty acids: the 3 main types of essential fatty acids are EPA, DHA and ALA. They are called essential fatty acids because they must be obtained from the diet. EPA and DHA are readily found in seafood such as fish, squid and algae. ALA is mainly found in flaxseeds, soybean oil, canola oil.  I will discuss the problems with soybean and canola oil in a later blog. ALA is not readily converted to DHA by the body so I usually just supplement patients with DHA and EPA. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the mother is the primary source of essential fatty acids. DHA in the developing infant is needed for visual and neurological development, cognition and hand/eye coordination. For pregnant and nursing mothers, essential fatty acids can help with mood stabilization and to banish baby brain.

4.  Vitamin D: with the war against sun exposure in full bloom, Vitamin D deficiency is becoming rampant. I have my issues with the whole everyone must wear sunscreen year round campaign but this is not the place for that discussion. Being a physician in the Pacific Northwest, I see and treat a lot of Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is now becoming a significant public health concern especially the further  away  you are from the equator. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to gestational diabetes, pre eclampsia, infection, Cesarian section and fetal growth restriction. Vitamin D in addition to calcium is also required for proper bone development. A recent paper published in February of this year suggested that supplementation may be a simple way to reverse adverse risk factors associated with low Vitamin D status. A licensed health care practitioner can check your Vitamin D status for you and suggest an appropriate Vitamin D dosage based on your lab results.

5. Prenatal Vitamin: research is just now starting to focus on the role of micronutrients in pregnancy outcomes. According to recent research,  reduction in  essential micronutrients may contribute to recurrent spontaneous abortions.   A good quality prenatal will provide you with all the important micronutrients such as magnesium, selenium, zinc, copper, chromium, manganese among others. In addition, these vitamins and minerals will be in a form that is easily absorbed by the body. Not all supplements are created equally. For example, most supplement companies sell magnesium in oxide form. This form is not readily absorbed by the body whereas the malate or citrate form is much better absorbed. I always advise women to start taking their prenatal vitamins well before they are thinking of getting pregnant. The worse thing that can happen is your hair grows thicker and faster. I also tell women that they need to think of their  womb as a garden. The egg and sperm represent the seed. In order to get a good yield of produce, you have to prepare your garden and fertilize it preferable with organic manure. When you have good soil and good seed, you have a good harvest. Pregnancy is no different.

Are there any supplements you find helpful for pregnancy and post partum?