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Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia September 29, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in Aging, best vancouver naturopath, Healing.
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Alzheimer’s Awareness Day is September 21st , so I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a bit about Alzheimer’s disease and how naturopathic medicine may provide the answer that has thus far eluded the pharmaceutical world.

There are many potential causes of dementia, which affects more than half a million people in Canada, and that number is forecast to double in the next 20 years. Alzheimer’s Disease accounts for approximately 60% of dementia patients, and has been called the “second-most feared disease in Canada”. This description will come as no surprise to anyone who has been personally involved in caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, as it can be heartbreaking to watch their personality vanish before one’s eyes.

When it comes to conventional treatment options, there are at least 4 different drugs approved for Alzheimer’s in Canada, which target either of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine or glutamate. These drugs do not cure the disease or slow its progress, but merely alleviate some of the symptoms. However, this can provide an improved quality of life for patients for several years, until they lose their efficacy.

As usual, prevention is still the best option. Research has long indicated that Alzheimer’s was associated with diabetes. However, new research is now indicating that Alzheimer’s may be related specifically to elevated insulin levels, as is seen in type 2 diabetes. Whereas type 1 diabetes (aka juvenile diabetes, as it is most commonly diagnosed in childhood) is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition associated with cells becoming less sensitive to the action of insulin. This forces the body to produce more and more insulin until the pancreas simply gets burned out. While insulin levels are high, this puts people at significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Simply put, the enzymes that process excess insulin are the same ones responsible for breaking down amyloid-beta, the protein that forms the plaques and tangles seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

When you take in foods that are high in simple refined carbohydrates (sugar and starches), they are rapidly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. Your body responds by quickly pumping out insulin to bring these blood sugar levels down. However, your pancreas evolved to operate in more of a slow and steady way, producing a trickle of insulin to carefully balance a gradual blood sugar increase. In time, forcing it to break into a sprint over and over takes a serious toll.

At the same time, your cells are becoming resistant to the signal from insulin telling them to take in sugar from the bloodstream. This is caused by a few things that are all related – obesity, increased fats circulating in the blood, and a diet high in fructose (yes, that wonderful sugar seen in things like pop, candy – and anything else that contains high-fructose corn syrup). As insulin resistance develops, more and more insulin is put into circulation to get the same effect. This is where the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases, as those enzymes are being diverted away from breaking down amyloid-beta in favour of dealing with the elevated levels of insulin.

So what can you do about this? Type 2 diabetes is one of the most preventable and even reversible conditions out there, simply by following the basic diet and lifestyle advice that’s been around for decades. Diet-wise, you want to prevent blood sugar spikes that come from high-glycemic foods and drinks. The Mediterranean diet – promoted for years for its cardiovascular protection – is ideal for this purpose as well. More fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and limited simple carbohydrates; lean protein like fish, chicken and legumes with each meal slows digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, as do healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, and fish oils. Regular cardiovascular exercise is also critical to restoring insulin sensitivity.

Naturopathic medicine may also have the best options out there for treatment of Alzheimer’s. At least one doctor in the US has reported significant improvement in patients following his protocol – in some cases, symptoms improved by 70-80%, even allowing some formerly severely debilitated patients to return to work. Although results are still preliminary – considering the lack of other options, these developments are really exciting.

As we learn more about prevention, and treatment options become more promising, Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t have to be the frightening prospect it has been. If you have questions about how you can reduce your risk, make an appointment with one of our doctors at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic.

Suicide Prevention and Awareness September 19, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Healing, mental health, suicide.
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suicide-prevention-vancouver-naturopathAlmost two years ago I woke to the news that a very good friend of mine had committed suicide. In the past, I’d known of people who had done this, but this was the first it had hit this close to home. And as is always the case in situations like this, all I was left with was sadness and unanswered questions – all variations on “What could I have done?”.

Everyone experiences pain, whether it be physical pain or mental/emotional pain. And everyone has different resources to help cope with that pain: for physical pain – analgesics, acupuncture, herbal medicines. For mental/emotional pain – spending time with friends and family, exercise, anti-depressant medications, counselling, etc. But when the pain one is experiencing overwhelms the resources one has to deal with it, then often suicide starts to become a viable option in one’s mind.

How do you react if someone tells you that they’re thinking about ending their life? Most people react in an emotional way – “That’s a terrible idea, things will get better, you’re just feeling down today, only a coward would think of doing that” or even worse, “You can’t end your life – you’ll go to hell if you do”.

Instead, try just saying “Thank you for telling me” and then just listen. When a friend is stuck in the black spiral of depression, it can seem like nothing will ever change for the better. In can be hard to even remember what being happy feels like. They feel trapped in their own heads, locked in with the negative voices that get louder and louder, and which drown out the voice that is always there reassuring them that, in fact, things will get better. And it helps just having someone to listen to them talk. It allows them – for a moment at least – to speak over those voices and feel like they’re not alone with their dark thoughts.

If you are experiencing such mental pain that you are thinking about ending your life – I can promise you that you haven’t tried everything yet. Pharmaceutical anti-depressants can be a lifesaver for some people, especially when combined with something like cognitive behavioural therapy. (Although in my opinion, they are overused in our society – given to people who didn’t really need them in the first place and who find themselves stuck on a medicine that they can’t manage to get off of.) Non-pharmaceutical options – regular exercise; supplements like 5-HTP, vitamin D, omega-3s; herbal medicines like St. John’s Wort (which has been shown in clinical trials to be as effective as SSRIs in mild to moderate depression); eating a healthy diet; making future plans for something that you can look forward to; engaging in activities that you have enjoyed in the past; the list goes on.

For my friend, I make this pledge: if you are someone who has considered or is considering suicide, I will always be someone who will listen in a completely non-judgemental way, and only offer advice if that is what you need from me. And if you are a person who finds themselves uncomfortable when someone tries to talk to you about suicide, then please learn to open your heart and mind and just listen. You may be given the chance that I wish I had been given – to save a life.

Caution: Natural supplements can be harmful, especially if taken with other medications, and so should only be used on advice from a health care practitioner

What’s the Hype About the Paleo Diet? July 28, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, best vancouver nutritionist, Diet, Healing, Health, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Written by: Dr. Kaleigh Coolsaet

The Paleolithic diet, shortened to the ‘Paleo’ Diet, is becoming more popular and more people are starting to adapt it into their healthy lifestyle. Most patients come in asking what exactly is a paleo diet, is it healthy, and is it right for me?

The paleo diet is a nutrient dense way of eating based on eating a variety of quality meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts and seeds. It focuses on eating whole foods that have not been processed, while avoiding nutrient poor processed and refined foods.

When eating a paleo diet, and focusing on nutrient rich foods this in turns improves our health by helping improve digestion through healing our digestive tract and feeding the healthy bacteria. It also has other benefits for our bodies as it can improve our immune function, improve our ability to regulate hormones and boost our metabolism.

The foods that are avoided in the paleo diet including grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, sugar. These foods are pro-inflammatory to our system. These foods tend to be calorie rich, and nutrient poor; what we call “empty calories”. They can also cause irritation to our digestive tract. So by eliminating these foods from our diet, we are able to focus on more nutrient dense, and healing foods to help us improve energy and nourish our bodies.

Foods to Include Foods to Avoid
Vegetables Grains
Fruits Dairy
Lean meats Legumes
Poultry Starches & Sugars
Seafood Processed Foods
Nuts & Seeds Alcohol
Healthy fats Highly refined & processed fats

On a metabolic level the paleo diet helps improve lean muscle mass, reduce excess body fat and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. It provides your body with all the nutrients for maintaining stable energy levelsthroughout the day and can help improve your sleep quality.

In summary, the paleo diet is a nutrient dense and anti-inflammatory diet, which can help improve many conditions including: Allergies, IBS, Diabetes, Skin conditions (ex. Eczema, Psoriasis), Depression, Cancer, Obesity, Infertility and more.

Is the paleo diet right for you? Before starting any dietary changes it is always recommended to speak to your healthcare practitioner to make sure you are eating and maintaining a balanced diet.

Best in Health,

Dr. Kaleigh

Dr. Kaleigh Coolsaet practices at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic, contact us today to book you appointment at 604-235-8068 or by email info@yaletownnaturopathic.com. Get well, stay well.

Staying Hydrated! July 25, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, best vancouver nutritionist, Healing, Health.
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Written by: Dr. Kaleigh Coolsaet

Now that summer is fast approaching its time to think water! During the summer months, we tend to be more active. Add that with warmer temperatures and we sweat a lot more. Keeping properly hydrated is important for optimal health as well as preventing heat stroke and dehydration.

Easy ways to incorporate more water into your days is to prepare fruit or herbal tea infused water. Try carrying around a water bottle with you to all your summer activities to remind you to drink plenty of water while on the go.

Refreshing Fruit Water:

  • 2-3 Litres of water (depending on the size of your water jug)
  • 2 Lemons
  • ½ cucumber
  • 10-12 mint leaves

Add all ingredients into your water jug and place in the fridge or add ice

Hydration

Stay hydrated everyday with drinking a minimum of two litres of water per day. Increase that amount of water on the days you exercise to replenish the water lost from sweat. Drinking an electrolyte solution is also important to replenish salts lost and helps to keep your cells hydrated.

Electrolyte replacement beverages:

Coconut water is a refreshing source of naturally occurring electrolytes.

Homemade electrolyte drink:

  • 1 litre of water
  • Juice of one citrus fruit (lemon, lime, or orange)
  • 3 Tbp honey
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Note: Most commercial brand electrolyte drinks contain artificial colours and/or sweeteners which can have negative health effects. Look for products that are naturally sweetened with glucose, fructose, sucrose and don’t contain artificial colours.

Best in Health,

Dr. Kaleigh

3 Steps to Reduce Stress and Improve Digestion July 21, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, best vancouver nutritionist, Diet, digestion, Healing, stress.
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Your Body & Stress: A Three Part Series (2 of 3)

Written by: Dr. Kaleigh Coolsaet, ND

Welcome back! In the previous series on your body and stress we discussed the general affects of stress on our bodies and mores specifically our immune system. Read here if you missed it. In this second part we are going to focus on how stress can disrupt our digestive system leading to unwanted symptoms such as bloating, cramping, and heartburn.

First, when talking about stress and our nervous system we have two programs that have allowed us to survive: ‘Fight or Flight’ and ‘Rest and Digest’. These two systems are essential to our survival, and are still present in our bodies today.

Fight or flight is geared towards adapting to a current stressor. We divert blood away from our digestive system and send blood to our muscles so we can run away from that bear or to catch our next meal. We also increase our heart and respiration rates, and our vision becomes more precise. Our senses are heightened so we can survive. Our ability to sense stress and adapt has lead to our survival.

At the other end of the spectrum is rest and digest mode. When we are safe, and recovering from our adventures, we can now send blood to our digestive system so we can properly digest our meals. We also decrease our heart and respiration rate to conserve energy. We don’t need to be on full alert, and our bodies are more focused on repair and regeneration.

So how do these two systems affect our lives today? Its true we aren’t hunter-gatherers focused on catching prey to survive, or running away from bears anymore. Our stressors have changed over time, but we are still constantly bombarded with stress everyday, which leads us to live most of our daily lives in ‘Fight or Flight’. Stress can come in many forms including: social pressures, work, technology, noise, lights, news, etc. From the time we wake to when we go to bed, we are constantly on the go, focused on performance and taking care of others.

So how does this relate to our digestive system? A typical day may include eating on the go, multi tasking while taking your lunch break or skipping meals all together. As I mentioned, when we are in flight or fight mode (working, multitasking, etc.) we divert blood away from our digestive system. This shuts down our digestive capacity, and leads to decreased secretion of stomach acid, and enzymes that are required for proper digestion. When we can’t digest our food properly, it leaves us with those nagging symptoms of heartburn, bloating and cramping.

So to help improve our digestion we need to switch gears and get into ‘rest and digest’ mode. The more time we can spend in rest and digest mode, the more time our body properly digest our meals, repair and regenerate.

Three Simple Steps To Improve Digestion:

  • Lemon water or bitters.
    The bitter taste from lemons and digestive bitters stimulates our bodies to prime itself for digestion. You need to actually taste the bitterness, so no capsules or added sugar. Simply incorporate one of these 10-15 minutes before your meals.
  • Breathing
    Taking time before each meal to sit quietly and breathe deeply for 1-2 minutes before meals. This stimulates our vagus nerve, which controls the digestive system. It helps our bodies start to secrete the necessary acid and enzymes for proper digestion.
  • Chew Properly
    Chewing is our first step in digestion. Taking time to chew not only breaks down our food into small pieces for easy digestion, but also sends signals to our nervous system that it is time to start up the rest of the digestive processes in our stomach and intestines.

The above-mentioned tips are simple ways to help switch your body from fight or flight into rest and digest mode. These tools are best used consistently and in conjunction with sitting down to eat your meals, while focusing on the food you are consuming. No TV, no cell phones, no work while eating. This can be a difficult habit to create, but will help you reduce any unwanted and unnecessary digestive symptoms.

If you have tried these tips consistently with no success, it may be time to consult a naturopathic physician to assess your digestive concerns to determine the root cause and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.

In our next part of the series we will discuss how stress affects our hormones, and more tips on how to combat stress and improve you health.

Best in Health,

Dr. Kaleigh

To read more about Dr. Coolsaet visit her website.

http://www.drcoolsaet.com/

Naturopathic Medicine Should be a First Resort, Not a Last Resort July 14, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Cancer, cancer therapy, Cancer Treatment, Healing, integrative cancer care, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)

With any treatment plan the goal is to always use the least invasive therapy first before considering more aggressive invasive therapy. This makes it more likely that the health concern can be effectively treated without harming the patient. If someone has a mild infection that can be easily treated with a well tolerated low dose oral antibiotic then it makes sense to use this prior to trying high dose intravenous antibiotics that are more likely to cause complications. This rationale is common sense.

When faced with a diagnosis of cancer, patients are often overwhelmed with information and this can scare them into immediately resorting to the most aggressive treatment plan possible and in the process natural therapies are dismissed out of fear. In many cases, only after all conventional options have been exhausted do they seek integrative care. This is not the ideal time to integrate natural therapies into the plan as the bodies immune system is often severely weakened at this point in time. Naturopathic medicine should be integrated into the plan from the first day of diagnosis.

I am not in any way suggesting that patients should be avoiding conventional care. The evidence is clear, patients do better when they have an integrative health care team. This means that conventional and natural therapies are used together in a synergistic manner. After consulting with their oncologist, some patients are left with the impression that there is no evidence to support any therapy beyond what is being recommended. This could not be further from the truth. These therapies have hundreds of peer reviewed studies and depending on where you are in the world they can be the standard of care. In many major cancer centres in the USA, naturopathic doctors are now working in hospitals along side medical oncologists and patients are doing better as a result.

Naturopathic medicine can be very effective at supporting the immune system and reducing side effects during conventional cancer therapies. You can do all the chemotherapy in the world but if you do not have a functioning immune system to clean up the metabolic mess then it will not be a successful plan. This is where naturopathic medicine excels and it should be used from day one. It is not unusual for me to have patients at my office using the strongest and most toxic chemotherapy that medicine has to offer, and they breeze through it with minimal side effects.

It is critical to recognize that you must have professional guidance when developing an integrative treatment plan. Do not take advice from friends or the internet and start taking a supplement because you heard it was good for cancer. Not all cancers are the same and there are legitimate interactions that you must be aware of. Only a naturopathic doctor who works with oncology will be able to help you develop a targeted and effective treatment plan that is indicated for your unique health circumstances. Working with a naturopathic doctor also makes it possible to have true integrative care where multiple health care practitioners are working collaboratively on your case.

You do not have to take these supplements in secret. If you desire an integrative treatment plan then your naturopathic doctor should be making an effort to reach out to your oncologist to inform them about what you are taking. When oncologists are provided with information about what you are taking and why, they are often happy to work collaboratively. Both naturopathic medicine and conventional medicine have a lot that they can offer patients. The ideal treatment plan does not have to be one extreme where the other healthcare practitioners are completely disregarded. The most effective plan is a collaborative integrative plan that is developed based on the best available scientific evidence. Integrating naturopathic medicine with conventional medicine should be every patients first resort, not their last.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

Breakthrough in Early Cancer Detection July 11, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Cancer, cancer prevention, cancer therapy, Cancer Treatment, Healing, immune system, immunity, integrative cancer care.
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There is no question that the future of oncology will be focused around early detection of cancer cells. If we can detect these cells at an extremely early stage then it will be possible to cure the cancer before it manifests as a clinical disease. At this point in time there is no single test that is guaranteed to detect cancer at these early stages but there are several tests that are showing great promise.

One such test is known as the Oncoblot test which has been demonstrated as a reliable detector of early stage cancer in several studies1,2. This test analyzes the blood for the presence of ENOX2 which is a protein often released into the blood stream via cancerous cells. These proteins are detectable before any scan would be able to identify an abnormal mass. A mass of several millions of cancer cells would be far too small for any scan to detect but these cells would be releasing significant levels of this protein which this test could potentially identify.

Not only does this test identify the presence of cancer in these early stages, it can often identify the tissue of origin based off of variations in the protein. In other words, the test also identifies the most likely area where these abnormal cells are growing. It is clear that in the near future oncology will rely heavily on these types of tests to proactively treat cancer.

It is important to point out that no test is 100% and tests such as the Oncoblot are not intended to be used in patients as a replacement for conventional screening. It should be used together with conventional screening. This test is often used several months post surgery to assess for the presence of residual cancer cells. For example, following the removal of a cancer and when given the all clear diagnosis, patients are often left with the constant fear of recurrence. Conventional screening will only be able to detect a mass when it has grown to a clinically significant size. This test can help to detect the presence of cancerous cells far earlier and can help to justify a more aggressive treatment plan. Another test which can be helpful in these circumstances is the circulating tumour cells test, which directly detects cancerous cells in the blood stream following a surgery3.

In patients with a family history of cancer, these tests provide an additional way to test for the early development of cancer. This can potentially identify the cancer far sooner than any CT scan or MRI. The controversy about this test is not about the reliability, it is about what to do with this information. The vast majority of clinical trials look at how chemotherapy and radiation impact masses that are detectable on scans. These protocols are generally not designed to work with cancer that is only detectable in the blood via these markers. As a consequence it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of a conventional therapy if we cannot “see” what we are fighting. This is the reason why these tests are not covered by MSP.

There is a growing interest in the mainstream oncology community to use these tests and proactively treat cancer before it has the opportunity to progress. Once the cancer is identified we can also support the immune system using natural tools so that your body is more likely to identify and engage these cells. A truly integrative plan can help to get all the necessary information and develop the most effective treatment plan possible.

These tests are regularly run at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic in Vancouver, BC and they can provide patients with the critical information necessary to make informed decisions about their integrative cancer plan.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

  1. Morré, D. James, et al. “ENOX2-based early detection (ONCOblot) of asbestos-induced malignant mesothelioma 4–10 years in advance of clinical symptoms.” Clinical Proteomics 13.1 (2016): 1.
  2. Morré, D. James, and David J. Taggart. “ONCOblot consistently detects State 0 and Stage 1 cancers and correctly identifies the tissue of origin.” ONCOblot Reports 1.4 (2015): 1-2.
  3. Zhang, Liling, et al. “Meta-analysis of the prognostic value of circulating tumor cells in breast cancer.” Clinical Cancer Research18.20 (2012): 5701-5710.

Get Ready for Summer July 7, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, best vancouver nutritionist, Healing, Health, nutrition, Nutritionist, summer.
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Written by: Breanne Dunlop, RHN

Fast forward to a sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-July.. where is it that you want to be? For many of us, it’s at the beach. As the days are getting warmer, you may be among the many who’s primarily focus is getting ‘beach body ready’ for the summer.

Whether you want to bulk those biceps, tone your tummy or simply feel good in your own skin, there’s no time like to present to do so. If loosing a few lbs is your goal then great news for you, nature’s on your side to lose weight this time of year. With the longer days we naturally want to be outdoors and be more active; our appetite is reduced and we lean towards eating lighter and cleansing foods. Many people find it easier to achieve their health and fitness goals in the summer time, so get ready to feel fabulous!

Spring and summer are the seasons when our bodies naturally want to cleanse; eating smaller meals and generally less food is typical during this time of year. Summer is a great time to give our digestive system a healthy and often much needed break. Winter is when we typically build and physically prepare for the cold weather, which often means eating more calories and heavier meals. As we move away from the cold weather we also gear more toward lighter meals and raw foods compared to heavier dishes like stews, pastas, and starchy vegetables. Some of us may even naturally fall into a rhythm of intermittent fasting (stay tuned for more information on this topic), and may even find ourselves going extended periods without food or eating very minimally.

Take a look around your favourite farmer’s market or grocery store and you’ll begin to notice there’s more of an emphasis on fresh and local produce. As we move into summer you’ll see everything from broccoli, zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, kale and spinach to strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches. Take advantage of all that nature has to offer in beautiful BC at this time of year and make sure to load on up on the abundance of fresh produce! Eating locally and seasonally not only supports your community and agriculture, but provides you with optimal nutrition as the produce requires very little transit (if any) to reach you. Generally less sprays are required and the produce can be picked when it is ready and full of nutrients versus prematurely (and ripened in transit) when it’s being transported around the world. Another perk to eating seasonally is that many of these foods can be eaten as is or with very little preparation. So for those of you who don’t care to spend too much time in the kitchen, summer is your season.

Despite clean eating and extra movement, if summer equals sangria patio season for you, then don’t forget to send some extra love to your liver. Staying hydrated is key to overall good health, promoting vital energy, youthful looking skin and a happy digestive system. Make note to gently cleanse your body of toxins on the daily. Add a healthy squeeze of lemon to your water first thing every morning. And make sure to get your daily dose of greens. You can add spinach or kale to smoothies or even wrap your leftover BBQ’d chicken in collards or romaine.

For more ideas on foods to rev up your metabolism or on meal prepping the summer, feel free to contact the Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic by telephone 604-235-8068 or email info@yaletownnaturopathic.com to book a consultation with Breanne Dunlop, RHN.

Why Do We Get Sick When We are Stressed? July 4, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, best vancouver naturopath, best vancouver nutritionist, Healing, immune system, immunity, stress.
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Your Body & Stress: A Three Part Series (1 of 3)

Written by: Dr. Kaleigh Coolsaet 

Everyday in my practice I ask my patients about their stress; what are their particular stressors and how are they coping? I’m interested in knowing how they perceive stress and spend time educating them on how it can negatively impact their health. This allows me to help them create a plan to support their body through stressful times and improve their health and well being.

Stress comes in all kinds of situations in our lives, from an acutely stressful situation (losing a job, losing a loved one, a car accident, etc.) to chronic low-grade stressors like sitting in traffic while you’re late for work, constantly performing to meet deadlines. On top of these external stressors we also need to account that our lifestyle can be stressful for our bodies too: not getting adequate quality sleep, eating on the run or not eating the right foods for our bodies.

When we add up all these little stressors over time, it builds up and can be detrimental to our health. Our stress response is how our body adapts to stress. It’s actually a good thing and our stress response saves our lives and helps us perform better and change to stressors. It’s when we are constantly challenging and pushing our stress response that it can negatively impact our health.

Over the next three blogs I’m going to discuss stress and how it relates to a specific body system (Immune System, Digestive System & Endocrine [Hormone] System). Understanding how it can negatively affect our health can be helpful in implementing simple lifestyle changes to help better manage our stress response and take better care of our bodies. Today we will start with the Immune System.

Do you ever notice that you or the ones around you seem to always catch a bug during periods of higher stress or right after? As we are in our busiest season, when it’s least convenient or right before your vacation the second you give your body a chance to recover, we succumb to the virus that’s been floating around. This is because chronic stress has been demonstrated to exert a significant suppressive effect on immune function (Hu, D. et al). As we move through our busy lives and encounter stressor after stressor, our bodies release cortisol. Cortisol is essential to life and we need it, but if it’s released too much or for too long, it suppresses our immune system and these can leave us vulnerable to acquiring the common cold or flu.

So what can you do to help your immune system during times of high or prolonged stress?

3 Tips You Can Do Today To Help Your Immune System:

  • Get adequate sleep
    • Proper sleeps allows our bodies to repair and regenerate
    • Aim for 8-10 hours per night
    • Ensure your sleeping in a dark room
  • Eliminate Sugar from your diet
    • Sugar suppresses our immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to catching the common cold or flu
    • Sugar decreases our immune response
    • Can cause energy spikes and crashes, leaving you feeling more tired and stressed.
  • Find time for Exercise
    • Helps to boost your immune system
    • Acts as a natural stress reducer

Try and implement one of these tips each week to support your immune system and to help increase your bodies own positive stress response. If you want more stress busting tips stay tuned for the next two blogs exploring how stress affects our digestive tract and hormones. Both will include more tips on how you can support your body through periods of stress.

Best in Health,

Dr. Kaleigh

Dr. Kaleigh Coolsaet is practicing at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic, contact us today at 604-235-8068 or by email at info@yaletownnaturopathic.com to book your appointment today.

What You Need to Know about Parabens! June 30, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Cancer, Healing, Health.
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Every day we are constantly bombarded with with headlines, articles and people giving us advice on what we should and shouldn’t be doing for our health. Often one article seems to directly contradict the one you read last week. It’s a struggle to keep up with whats good and whats not. If you’re like me a lot of it goes in one ear and out the other. Sometimes you will see “paraben free” written on a cosmetic bottle. I never went to too much trouble to avoid them though – mostly because I never bothered to educate myself about why they were something one should steer clear of. I recently took the time to educate myself on this matter. Here is what I learned.

What is a paraben anyway?

Parabens are a preservative found in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and also many food products. They have bacterial and fungicidal properties. Without some sort of preservative your cosmetics would become overloaded with bacteria, fungus and mould which would firstly be gross and also potentially cause infections. The mode of action of parabens is actually not fully understood- it is thought to be disrupting membrane transport processes in cells or inhibiting cells from making DNA and RNA (which cells need to do in order to divide and multiply). There are many different forms of parabens but look out for these ones in particular on your lotion, shampoo, antiperspirant/deodorant, suncream, perfume and baby products etc.- methylparaben or E218, ethylparaben or E214, propylparaben E216, butylparaben, heptylparaben or E209.

Where would I find parabens?

Parabens are everywhere. Recent studies show that parabens are found in 99% of leave on cosmetic products and 74% of wash off ones. Estimates vary but certainly the vast majority of cosmetics (75-90%) contain some parabens. Staggeringly, cosmetics and the chemicals they contain are less regulated and under less stringent testing than other chemicals we are exposed to. This is particularly alarming because cosmetics represent the most common form of chemical exposure for most of us. Adverse reactions to chemicals in cosmetics are surprisingly high at 17.4% for men and 26.5% for women according to one study.

Should I worry about parabens? Why?

Another place to find parabens? In you! It is well established that parabens are present in human urine and serum. They are so prevalent that they have even been found in household dust. When ingested, parabens are broken down into metabolites. However even this route can cause health problems which I will discuss later in this article. Scientists have also recently been able to prove that parabens can enter the body through the skin. When they are absorbed topically through this route from your cosmetics parabens are not broken down by the digestive system and enter the bloodstream, and thus the rest of your body, whole. They have been detected in serum after just one application of cream and in urine within 8-12 hours. They have also been found in breast milk. A 2004 study found the 5 most commonly used parabens were present in human breast cancer cells. This is really what began the whole debate about parabens. There are no studies at this time to directly implicate parabens as a factor in breast cancer and as always more research is needed to prove or disprove this theory. However, there are some things we do know for sure about parabens and their action within the body which would indicate that we should think twice before using a product that contains them.

Parabens have estrogenic properties. Estrogenic means promoting or producing estrogen (female sex hormones). These chemicals mimic estrogen in the body. As previously mentioned there are many different types of parabens and they each have varying effects but all widely used parabens have been shown to possess estrogenic activity. Estrogen is integral to sexual and reproductive health. It also affects many other tissues in the body including skin, bones and cardiovascular system. It has been shown to have a central role in breast cancer.

The presence of alcohol in cosmetics alongside parabens inhibits their breakdown further and ethanol changes methylparaben to butylparaben which is even more estrogenic.

Parabens bind to human androgen (male sex hormone) receptors and antagonize the action of testosterone on gene expression. Studies on rats show that parabens when taken orally caused alterations in male reproductive function. This may be due to their affect on testosterone or the estrogenic effect. There is a confirmed link between male exposure to parabens through the digestive route either during gestation or very early life (remember they can enter the breast milk) and reproductive disorders.In the last 50 years there has been in increase in male reproductive problems including reduced sperm quality and testicular cancer. There is no hard evidence to directly link this to topical absorption of parabens but this certainly warrants further research. Especially considering the ubiquitous use of baby products containing parabens by unsuspecting mothers. Many of these creams and lotions are used on and around the areas where male reproductive hormones are. If topical absorption of parabens is a potential problem then they are being absorbed in the worst possible part of the body.

There is also some discussion around the possibility of parabens’ estrogenic activity in the skin being linked to increasing rates of melanoma. Estrogen activity in the body is linked to cancer and some hypothesize that parabens in cosmetics and particularly those exposed to sunlight which can cause oxidative stress in the skin and could cause cancer. The increasing rate of melanoma in young people and inverse relationship with social deprivation could correlate with greater use of paraben containing products. Remember there are parabens in most sunscreen products so the very product you use to be safe in the sun may in fact be causing cell mutations which can lead to cancer.

It is possible to buy products in the mainstream stores that are paraben free. Some of the alternative preservatives include organic acids such as benzoic acid, dehyroactetic acid, potassium sorbet, sorbic acid, sodium benzoate. Their use is limited and they are not as effective as parabens at killing bacteria. However organic acids are comparable in terms of their anti fungal and mould effects. Other alternatives include plant/herbal extracts, enzyme/substrate systems and antimicrobial peptides. The best way to avoid paragons and other harmful chemicals is to make your own cosmetics, which is easier than you might think and there are lots of websites with easy recipes.

Some would argue that the long history of safe use of parabens by the cosmetic industry surely proves that there are no negative effects on our health. This may of course be true. However it goes against my personal instincts that a chemical which has been proven to enter our bodies and mimic important hormones that affect multiple biological systems cannot cause some sort of changes. These may prove to be negligible changes but the fact remains that these effects simply have not been examined by the scientific community so there is no way for us to know. There are no studies to examine the prolonged use of multiple paraben containing products over time which, lets face it, is what the majority of us have been doing all our lives. The steady rise of breast cancer in the upper quadrant of the breast (close to where you apply your antiperspirant) is disproportionate to other areas of the breast. Reproductive health issues and skin cancer are also on the rise. These chemicals are everywhere and we should ensure that they are safe before people are exposed to them. The good news is that once parabens are withdrawn they do eventually leave the body. So if, after reading this article (and maybe more like it) and you do decide to discard all your paraben containing cosmetics you could potentially make a real difference to your health.

Reference List

  1. Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. Darbre, P. and Harvey, W. 2008. Journal of applied toxicology.
  2. New Alternatives to paraben-based blends. Weber, K. 2005.Cosmetic and Toiletries120
  3. Effects of butyl paragon on the male reproductive system in mice. IOC, S. 2002. Arch Toxicol.
  4. Natural Alternatives for Cosmetic Preservation. Schmit, E. and Norris, K. Active concepts Feb 2015.
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