Natural Health Products (NHPs) Are Not Drugs. October 13, 2016Posted by Dreamhealer in Healing, Health, Supplements.
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Written by: Dr. Reuben Dinsmore
I know that I’m preaching to the choir here – if you have been to see a naturopathic doctor, there’s a very high chance you’ve benefitted from the recommendation of certain nutraceutical supplements along your treatment journey. And so I invite you to take a moment to add your voice to the ongoing consultation with Health Canada over whether or not NHPs should be regulated in the same way that drugs are.
I wholeheartedly agree that there needs to be clear regulations over any product that is being marketed for its health benefits. However, there are various reasons why it’s impractical and unnecessary to require manufacturers of NHPs to go through the same procedures as drug manufacturers.
First, drugs are typically single ingredient formulations, with a single or occasionally dual purpose – for example, acetaminophen for pain relief, and also for fever reduction. When combinations are marketed, as in a cold formula, each of the single ingredients undergo their own clinical trials to prove their efficacy in whatever health claim that ingredient is aimed at.
Many supplements, particularly herbal formulations, are designed to take advantage of the synergy between the various ingredients. Less often do we recommend a single remedy for a single purpose, as a main tenet is treating the patient as a whole instead of simply a symptom in a body system.
This becomes difficult, even impossible, to prove efficacy of a formula, as clinical trials are designed around single ingredients, to exclude all possible variables. In addition, supplements are intended to work over a longer time period than drugs – helping the body return to its natural state of health rather than pharmaceutically forcing it into an unnatural place. I’ve often asked patients to be patient – that they’ve often spent decades getting to their current state, so they shouldn’t expect me to fix them in a few weeks. The expense of running a clinical trial is difficult at best, for a product that typically can’t be patented and charged drug company prices for – this onus becomes even more difficult when a clinical trial needs to run over many months to determine efficacy.
Bottom line, changing the regulation requirements will increase prices of NHPs and would likely make access much more difficult – and for what purpose?
Please consider expressing your views, hopefully in opposition to this attempt to fix a system that isn’t even broken. You can read more and find contact information at the following site:
Tags: Alternative medicine, Diet, Health, lifestyle, naturopath, naturopathic medicine, supplements
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As we celebrate the advances that naturopathic medicine has been making, we also have to acknowledge the recent negativity being directed at our profession from certain groups within the medical world and their media minions. A recent tragic case in Alberta saw a couple being convicted of failing to provide the necessities of life for their young son, who died of bacterial meningitis in 2012. Over the course of this case, it was revealed that they had contacted one of our Alberta naturopathic doctors by phone, who had instructed her staff to tell them to take the child to seek emergency medical care. The next day, someone (who later turned out to be a member of the same family) came into her clinic to purchase an herbal immune support formula, something that would commonly be available over the counter at any number of natural pharmacies across Canada. However, subsequent to this, a group of Alberta medical doctors took it upon themselves to call for an investigation into the actions of the ND – the same ND who didn’t see the child, didn’t provide any medical advice other than to go to the ER, and didn’t provide any treatment.
Similarly, our friends at the Globe and Mail have been very active in displaying their bias against safe, natural medicine, doing their best to misrepresent facts to distort the truth. This brings to mind a CBC Marketplace “investigation” from a few years back, that claimed to answer once and for all, whether homeopathy was an effective health care modality. Luckily, they made it perfectly obvious that they didn’t consult a single person with any knowledge or training in homeopathy, as they designed their “study” in such a way as to render it utterly useless. An analogy I could make – if they took a prescription sleep aid, rubbed it on their forehead, then went to bed with it under their pillow – then came to the “scientific” conclusion that it didn’t work.
But most alarming was this editorial penned by Peter McKnight, a journalist whose training in anything medically related extends to an undergraduate degree in psychology. He attempts to convince his readers that Western medicine long ago threw out the notion of the “healing power of nature”, implying that the only thing standing in the way of the certain annihilation of the human race by disease is an army of white-coated medical doctors armed with their trusty prescription pads. If you find me one doctor who tells you that the human body doesn’t have the ability to heal itself, I’ll show you a doctor who is either ignorant or lying. Everyone (including every parent in the world) knows that the body will heal itself, as long as you remove whatever factor is in the way of that. And in fact – if that vis medicatrix naturae isn’t present, nothing any doctor does will have any effect on actually healing a patient, save for keeping them alive. If your kid scrapes his knee – you clean it well, keep it clean, and keep your child from picking at the obviously fascinating scab that will form – and it will heal. On its own. Extend that to a multitude of illnesses, and you’ll find that once you remove the obstacles to health (poor diet and lifestyle, lack of sleep, nutritional deficits, chronic assault from environmental toxins, stress, etc), for the most part, patients will return to a state of health.
A common complaint about naturopathic medicine is around safety and efficacy. They say that manufacturers of natural supplements aren’t required to demonstrate efficacy to Health Canada before having them approved for sale. But they are required to demonstrate safety. With regards to safety, I’m not aware of a single case of a patient dying as a result of any medical intervention by a licensed naturopathic doctor. Compare that to the statistic that medical error is now the third-leading cause of death in the US. Let he who is without a single dead patient cast the first stone, I say.
Regarding efficacy – let’s break this down a little. For medical doctors accustomed to using pharmaceuticals to force the body back into line, they typically see results on the order of days to a few weeks. If there’s no clear benefit in that time, you can conclude the treatment is ineffective. Applying that same quantifier to natural remedies is like comparing apples to oranges. As stated earlier, naturopathic medicine focuses on encouraging a return to health, through (for the most part) gentle interventions that gradually shift the body’s health on both a physical and energetic level. Most people I see have spent years or even decades gradually getting to their current state of ill health. Any intervention that claims to return them to health in a few days will not work, simply because once the medication is discontinued, the body will revert to the state to which it has become accustomed.
Furthermore, if you equate the efficacy of a treatment to a cure, we must consider how many classes of drugs actually purport to “cure” anything”. One notable exception would be antimicrobials for a bacterial or fungal infection. Go beyond that, and the cure rate drops significantly. Anti-depressants only work as long as people remain on the medication (assuming they work at all, or don’t make the condition worse). Statins artificially lower cholesterol levels, which return to pre-treatment levels upon discontinuation of the drug. Same with medications for high blood pressure, stomach acid levels, sleep and anxiety, the list goes on. Until the obstacles to health are removed, health will not be achieved.
In this, the stark difference between naturopathic doctors and medical doctors – the question “why?”. Why are these symptoms occurring? Naturopathic doctors aim to find and treat the cause of illness, rather than simply playing whack-a-mole with symptoms by prescribing one medication after another, often to simply treat the side effects created by the original drug.
So in conclusion, happy Naturopathic Medicine Week, to the tens of thousands of happy and healthy patients across Canada who attribute their good health to their naturopathic care, and to the growing group of allies within the conventional medical community – modern doctors and nurses who recognize the benefit to patients of collaborative and complementary medicine. To the rest of you – the dinosaurs who continue their desperate campaign to convince the public that you’ve got all the answers, that pharmaceuticals are the only way to go, and that under no circumstances, should they ever ask you “why” – it’s not too late to join the right side of history. The future of medicine will be found in the middle ground, currently populated with medically-focused naturopathic doctors and medical doctors practicing what they’ve termed “functional medicine” – where through a mixture of modern innovation and traditional healing we create a paradigm of health – instead of treating disease.
Naturopathic doctors – Medically Trained, but Naturally Focused.
Evolving Treatment Plan February 25, 2016Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Chemotherapy, Healing, Supplements.
Tags: cancer protocol, cancer therapy, cancer treatment
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)
It is not unusual for patients to develop a treatment plan with their medical doctor or naturopathic physician and then remain on the same plan for many years. Of course there are times where the developed plan is optimal and in these cases there is no need to modify the plan. However, as the unique health circumstances of a patient evolve over time, so must the treatment plan. A plan that was optimal 5 years ago, may no longer be relevant or indicated now. This is why it is important to regularly follow up with your naturopathic physician to make sure that the developed plan is still the best treatment plan for you.
A great example of this is in the context of integrative cancer care. If a different chemotherapy is used, then clearly a follow up is indicated to make sure that there are no contraindications and that the plan is still safe and effective. If there is an upcoming surgery, whether it is related to cancer or not, there are simple changes that can be done to help you heal faster from that procedure. There are also times where a plan must be modified based on the particular symptoms that a patient is having. For example, prior to radiation there are naturopathic therapies which can be used to reduce side effects and enhance the effectiveness of the radiation. I would highly recommend these supports prior to initiating therapy but if specific side effects of radiation start to surface then we can add additional supports to address these concerns.
It seems obvious to point out that treatment plans must be modified to address your current health circumstances. But this is something that patients tend to forget in the chaos of life and appointments to various health care practitioners. Naturopathic doctors will take the time to go through your entire health history and modify the treatment plan accordingly.
Although your treatment plan should be dynamic, you also must use each therapy long enough to have any reasonable chance of having a therapeutic benefit. A common problem with many patients who self-prescribe supplements is that they constantly change the plan based on advice from friends or by looking at popular trends on the internet. This presents several obvious concerns which ultimately results in a more expensive and less effective plan. If you are taking many different supplements then there is no way of knowing what is actually working. By consuming large numbers of supplements this starts to interfere with the absorption of clinically useful quantities and the interactions between these supplements can hinder effectiveness of the plan.
The bottom line is that if you are taking a very long list of supplements then chances are that you do not have an optimal treatment plan. If this is the case then I would suggest that you seek a naturopathic doctor who can help you to eliminate supplements, not add to the list. At my practice I spend a significant portion of my time helping patients to simplify their treatment regimen and make it more targeted for their specific health concerns.
Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, 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
Tags: antacids, statin, supplements
Written by: Dr. Reuben Dinsmore BScH, ND
Natural supplements, or nutraceuticals, have been given a bad rap lately – which, in some cases, has been absolutely warranted. But natural formulas that actually contain what they claim to contain, and that are formulated to have maximal efficacy can be equal to their pharmaceutical counterparts – but without the laundry list of side effects.
1. Statins (the class of drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol) accounted for 3.8% of all money spent on prescription drugs in Canada in 2013. High cholesterol is blamed for heart attacks and strokes via formation of arterial plaques. But the real culprit is inflammation, without which the plaques wouldn’t form in the first place. Bottom line – you can lower cholesterol all you want, but as long as there is inflammation present, plaques can still form.
Some common side effects of statins: muscle pain, cognitive impairment, sexual dysfunction, and increased risk of cancer and diabetes.
Nutraceutricals: Omega-3 fatty acids (best sourced from wild-caught fish oils) and curcumin (the active component in turmeric) are two excellent supplements to lower inflammation. Garlic extracts have been proven to improve cholesterol levels. As well, red rice yeast extract is the natural compound statins were derived from, and works in a similar manner – however, it has been suggested that because of this, some of the same side effects may be seen.
2. Antacids 5 million Canadians suffer from heartburn symptoms weekly. Prescriptions for the acid-blocking drugs PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) accounted for $24 million in BC alone in 2013. Risks of taking these mostly involve nutrient deficiencies from poor absorption DUE TO LOW STOMACH ACID (see the problem here?). Examples include bone fractures from poor calcium absorption or anemia from decreased levels of B12 or iron. B12 deficiency can also cause dementia and neurological damage. There has also been a correlation shown between PPI use and C. difficile infection, which causes life-threatening diarrhea.
Nutraceuticals: long story short, most people don’t have too much stomach acid. The problem is the acid they have is getting into the wrong place (the lower esophagus) where it burns. This can be from the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach not closing properly, either from poor tone or insufficient stomach acid, which is the signal for the sphincter to close. Limonene (an extract from citrus peel) helps strengthen this muscle and promotes movement of food downward to the stomach. DGL (an extract from licorice root) stimulates mucus production in the stomach, which acts to coat and protect the sensitive lining of the esophagus.
3. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most common class of anti-depressant drugs. One in twelve Canadians will experience major depression in their lifetime, but it’s still one of the most poorly understood conditions. Standard treatment protocols typically target neurotransmitter activity (most commonly serotonin). However, new research indicates the underlying cause may actually be inflammation. Either way, natural medicine has you covered.
Nutraceuticals – 5-HTP is used to make serotonin, with the help of vitamin B6. The herb St. John’s Wort has been studied extensively and appears to work in the same way as SSRIs. Both 5-HTP and St. John’s Wort have shown similar efficacy to SSRIs when given for mild to moderate depression. And as I mentioned earlier, omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin decrease inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.
Side effects of SSRIs include sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and worsened/chronic depression. St. John’s Wort also has a side effect which should be considered if taking other medications – it affects liver function, which can result in either higher or lower blood medication levels.
4. Anti-hypertensives Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) affects 6 million Canadians, and is responsible for approximately 13% of all deaths. Various classes of anti-hypertensives include diuretics, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). Diuretics increase urine output, which can negatively affect sodium and potassium levels, which can cause muscle cramps. ACEIs and ARBs may both cause a chronic dry cough. All anti-hypertensives can cause dizziness, headache and low blood pressure.
Nutraceuticals – CoQ10, magnesium, garlic extracts, omega-3 fatty acids, L-arginine and vitamin C have all been shown to lower high blood pressure by various means. Dandelion leaf is an effective diuretic that doesn’t lower potassium levels.
5. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs most often prescribed for anxiety disorders and insomnia. They work by binding to receptors for GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that calms activity of the nervous system. Interestingly, this is the same mechanism by which alcohol acts in the brain. One obvious effect of benzodiazepines is sedation – great when the treatment target is insomnia. Not so great when you just want to decrease your anxiety but still function. Other side effects include dizziness, loss of balance, and even cognitive impairment at higher doses. They also have a significant risk of developing physical or psychological dependence and rebound anxiety when discontinued.
Nutraceuticals – you can take GABA itself (but there’s mixed evidence on whether or not it actually gets into the brain), or herbs such as passionflower (same mechanism of action as benzodiazepines), valerian, chamomile, kava – the list goes on.
So now you think you’re ready to ditch all your pharmaceuticals and go natural? Not so fast – the examples used above are by no means the only supplements that have been used effectively for these conditions. And equally as important are diet, exercise, sleep habits, relaxation techniques and other lifestyle factors. The next step – sit down with a naturopathic doctor and work together to develop a personalized approach that takes all your health concerns into consideration.