Monday, August 31, 2009

Swine Flu: The Basics and Vitamin D

Swine flu is currently at the forefront of our health concerns. Experts are predicting a pandemic this season. The White House estimates that roughly 90,000 people will die of the swine flu - more than twice the number in a typical flu season. Vaccine manufacturers are working overtime to create a flu vaccine; this vaccine is expected to be ready by the middle of October.

The symptoms of the swine flu are pretty much identical to the symptoms of regular influenza, including a cough, fever, achy muscles, and a headache, so it will be difficult to tell the difference - and perhaps beside the point. Also, just like the regular flu, swine flu is spread through airborne droplets from coughing, or from direct contact with a person who has swine flu.

It is important to know who is most likely to contract swine flu. Those at highest risk include:

  • Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday (but the younger the child the higher the risk)
  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with heart or lung disease (asthma, COPD, emphysema), diabetes
  • People with weakened immune systems.
Since the swine flu is a new strain of the flu that we have not been exposed to yet, we have yet to develop immunity, and everyone is at risk of contracting the swine flu. This is why people are so concerned about the swine flu this year.

There are many people who are leery of the swine flu vaccine for various reasons. It is not my intention to persuade those who are ready to take the vaccine not to take it. But there are other ways to prevent the swine flu using natural methods, and to decrease its severity if it does hit. Simply doing nothing and passively relying on the body's ability to heal itself is foolish. We need to actively support the body's ability to fight off the swine flu.

First off, we can look at the common sense basics that apply pretty much to all common upper respiratory tract diseases (common colds, influenza, etc.) These include:

  • Decreasing your intake of sugars and other simple carbohydrates. These have been proven to suppress the immune system by reducing the white blood cell count for up to 24 hours.
  • Drinking plenty of water...ideally, at least 1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight per day. (150 lbs = 50 oz of water.)
  • Getting plenty of sleep.
  • Washing your hands often, particularly if you are around people who may be sick.
  • Optimizing your nutritional status
This last one is a bit vague...after all, if you're eating well or at least taking a multivitamin, don't you have good nutritional status? The short answer, almost without exception, is "no." The food we eat nowadays is usually deficient in vitamins and minerals for various reasons. And multivitamins are helpful, but I consider multivitamins a good basic "insurance plan," when the goal is just health maintenance. In this case, our goal is to prevent the swine flu, so it is good to tailor nutritional supplementation accordingly.

The most discussed natural method of preventing the swine flu this year is vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D is often found in food in doses that are laughably low compared with what our body needs. Certain coldwater fish are the only significant dietary source of vitamin D. The best source of vitamin D is the sun. Light-skinned individuals can produce up to 20,000 IUs of vitamin D merely by spending 15 minutes in direct sunlight, while one cup of fortified milk provides only 100 IUs of vitamin D. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 200 IUs for adults, 400 IUs for children - but this is only to prevent bone diseases like rickets or osteomalacia, not to optimize immune function.

There is significant evidence nowadays linking low vitamin D levels in the body to low immunity. Indeed, some health care professionals and scientists - myself included - consider the lack of sunlight exposure in the winter months (and the resultant lack of vitamin D absorption) a significant reason why colds and the flu are so prevalent at this time.

It is a good idea to get your vitamin D levels checked right now. They should be above 50 ng/mL. If you are an adult, and your vitamin D levels are low, start high-dose supplementation of 5,000 IUs per day, then check again in 3 months. Or get plenty of sunshine - at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight on as much skin as possible every day.

For more information on using vitamin D to prevent the swine flu this year, check out this excellent video by Paul Bergner, a medical herbalist and an expert on dealing with disease from a natural perspective.

Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Honey and MRSA

Before my blogging days, I sent out occasional newsletters to my patients about pertinent health issues. Here's one from a few years ago, responding to a serious issue at the time: an increase in the cases of MRSA, or "methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus." This newsletter/blog post also dovetails with another one I wrote about the use of honey to treat skin infections.


Recently, there have been a number of articles in the media reflecting one of the biggest dangers to public health nowadays: antibiotic-resistant skin infections. Specifically, there is a strain of a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus that has become resistant to one of the more powerful antibiotics known, methicillin. As the name implies, methicillin is indeed related to penicillin. However, methicillin is seldom used nowadays for treatment; instead, it is used to determine whether or not an organism can be eliminated by any form of penicillin. So for all intents and purposes, this strain, called “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,” or MRSA, is resistant to all forms of penicillin.

A little background on this organism: Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium which sometimes causes a skin condition called “bullous impetigo.” This infection is easy to identify by blisters that cause a honey-colored crust on the surface of the skin when popped. Sometimes, Staphylococcus aureus can take hold in a skin wound, also creating this honey-colored crust. Usually, the infection is caught early, treated effectively, and remains at the level of the skin. But if it is not treated effectively, it can migrate through the body and cause a host of dangerous conditions, including pneumonia, lung abscesses, sepsis (i.e., blood poisoning), meningitis, brain abscesses, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart chambers) and kidney infections – major threats to health and life. According to an article published in the October 17th, 2007 edition of Journal of the American Medical Association, MRSA caused a higher death rate in 2005 than AIDS; it caused over 18,000 deaths out of 95,000 documented cases. Lately, MRSA seems to be concentrated in high schools and hospitals, and is particularly prevalent among high school athletes, African Americans, and the elderly.

Raw honey could be a powerful weapon in the battle against MRSA. It has been used successfully to treat skin infections that have been resistant to many other antibiotics. The most recent study, published in the Journal of Wound Care in September 2007, documented seven patients who had experienced full healing from the use of topical honey where antibiotics had failed to control their MRSA infections. The type of honey used in this study is called Manuka honey, found in New Zealand. Most honey has an enzyme called glucose oxidase which, when exposed to wounded skin, begins to release hydrogen peroxide at levels strong enough to kill bacteria, but not so strong that tissue is damaged. Manuka Honey has a second antibiotic component, simply called UMF or Unique Manuka Factor. Hospitals around the world are beginning to recognize the power of Manuka honey and use it in their wound dressings.

What does this mean for you and your loved ones? Simply enough, if you do suffer a skin wound of some sort, put raw honey over the wound, and bandage it up. Since most honey already has glucose oxidase in it, it has significant natural antibiotic properties. Using honey also will decrease the need for pharmaceutical antibiotics, and simply relies on the wisdom and healing powers of nature…the best kind available to us!


Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Laughter is the Best Medicine - The Ultimate Commute

Now, don't you wish your commute was just like this? Watch and enjoy!

Note: I have no links to Barclaycard, a British company. But I'm very impressed with their marketing department.


Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Flamingos Don't Get Hip Fractures

Okay, I admit that flamingos may get hip fractures. But heck...if zebras don't get ulcers, as a well-known book says, then maybe flamingos don't get hip fractures! And if they don't, here's a big reason.

Osteoporosis is one of the biggest issues plaguing the mature and elderly population today. One of the biggest risks that occurs alongside osteoporosis is a fall that may result in a dangerous, possibly life-threatening fracture. Fractures of the femur are among the most dangerous.

The femur, or thigh bone, is one of the strongest and largest bones in the body. It usually takes a tremendous force to fracture a femur through the center. But there is a weak point, and it is located toward the top, at the neck of the femur, at its narrowest point. This is just below where the femur inserts into the pelvis and creates a ball-and-socket joint. It is this area that is prone to fractures, particularly in the elderly and/or those with osteoporosis.

A Japanese researcher by the name of Sakamoto has studied a treatment – originally called “unipedal standing” – to help counteract both falls and the risk of femoral neck fractures. The name has been switched to “dynamic flamingo therapy,” perhaps because it sticks in the mind more easily. But talk about your simple, noninvasive, inexpensive and potentially very helpful treatments for osteoporosis as well as fall and hip fracture prevention!

It goes like this: Stand on one foot for one minute. Then stand on the other foot for one minute. Hold on to something steady if your balance isn’t all that great. Keep your eyes open the entire time. Repeat this three times a day. You’re done. Seriously. That’s it.

How does something as simple as this work? First off, recall that weight-bearing exercise is often recommended as a means to ward off osteoporosis. Mild to moderate weight and stress on a bone will induce that bone to become stronger and denser. Doubling the weight that one femur is supporting certainly qualifies. (In one study, the force exerted by one minute of standing on one foot was determined to be the equivalent of walking for 53 minutes!) Second, standing on one foot forces the brain to concentrate on maintaining balance…even if you’re holding on to something to keep from falling. If you regularly force the brain to concentrate on balance, you will, in time, become more adept at maintaining balance. This may help prevent the falls that cause hip fractures.

Sakamoto began studying dynamic flamingo therapy in the early 1990s. Starting in 1993, he recruited 86 women (with an average age of 68) to do this very exercise three times a day. He evaluated their bone density regularly over the span of the next 10 years. During this time, anywhere from 32% to 63% of the women had increased bone density in the femoral neck, and at the end of the study, fully one-third of the women had higher femoral neck bone density than when they started. Not necessarily the results you’d expect in elderly Japanese women…you’d expect bone density to decrease across the board. More significantly, none of the women had hip fractures. A study on Swiss women around the same time showed that the average risk for hip fractures in women was 455 per 100,000 person-years. If we transfer this statistic to the Japanese women (knowing that yes, Swiss women and Japanese women are different), we would expect to see roughly four hip fractures.

Especially for those people who are not able to exercise regularly, this is potentially an incredibly helpful therapy. You can file dynamic flamingo therapy under “certainly won’t hurt, and quite possibly may help.” But consistency is the key here…act like a flamingo only every once in a while, and the therapy won’t work. Only six minutes a day in one exceedingly simple exercise can end up preventing a possibly life-threatening hip fracture.


Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Video: Naturopathic Medicine and Chronic Disease

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to open up my Facebook profile and see this video about naturopathic medicine and its role in treating chronic disease. Paul Mittman, ND, is the main speaker and the president of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. Joining him is Jane Guiltinan, ND, a clinical professor at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, and a past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Together, they give a good introduction to naturopathic medicine and what it can contribute to the health epidemics of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other related conditions. (These conditions are, unfortunately, rampant in what my old pathology professor referred to as "the overdeveloped world," or the first world countries.)

Watch and enjoy!

Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dispelling Health Myths - An Introduction

Naturopathic doctors are an interesting lot. Many of us came from backgrounds that enabled us to look at things from a different perspective than many of our friends, peers, and colleagues. And not only are we geared to do this, some of us actually delight in presenting information that goes against what society considers to be true. Some of this information is foolish, to be sure, but a lot of it isn't. It sticks and becomes something to contend with. Witness the rise of echinacea and the debate over whether or not it actually stimulates the immune system and whether it's really good for the common cold. Twenty years ago, St. John's wort was barely known outside herbal and naturopathic circles; now, it's often cited and studied for its effects not only on mild and moderate depression, but also for its (potentially dangerous) ability to speed up the metabolism of certain drugs. Heck, even homeopathy entered our collective consciousness in June 2009 as a result of the Zicam fiasco. That these debates are now part of our culture's conversation is cause for celebration. Naturopathic doctors may not have been the cause of these debates, but as experts in natural medicine, we are uniquely situated to bear witness to the truth or lack thereof of these issues.

Over the past century, our culture has become laden with a number of health myths that seem to have undermined our...well, our health. To gloss over a few of them, if we're taking care to adhere to a low-fat diet, why is obesity such an issue in our society nowadays? Are diet sodas an okay way to decrease calories and lose weight? What about butter vs. margarine? Do we need to stay away from saturated fats to keep our arteries clear? Is high cholesterol dangerous? Is red wine really as good for you as studies seem to indicate?

These are just a few of the issues that will be addressed on this blog. You can expect some answers to make sense, but you may also encounter some answers that completely contradict what you've learned throughout your life. Such is the nature of much health information nowadays...complex, sometimes contradictory, and often difficult to understand. Come to this blog to learn more and hopefully have your confusion about certain health myths cleared up. And if you have questions you'd like to be answered, feel free to ask!

Be well.


Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!