The emerging new connection between the gut microbiome and the brain.

By Nathan Jeffery, ND, BSc.

It is now well accepted that certain good bacteria can be extremely useful for digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or to recover after antibiotics. We also know that healthy gut bacteria can provide us with important micronutrients like vitamin K. Recently there has been some interesting research indicating that the good bacteria in our gut can benefit our mind. In the clinical setting people regularly report that when they take probiotics or recover from digestive problems they feel more mentally alert and clear.

There are many ways good bacteria could influence our mind. A dysfunctional gut lining can produce inflammation which could contribute to fatigue and low mood. It is well known that micro-nutrients like B12, other B vitamins and folate also influence our mind. A healthy gut is critical for the absorption of these nutrients. Altering the gut microbiome is a critical step to repairing a dysfunctional gut lining. Bacteria also produce chemical messengers that may be absorbed into our body. They may produce GABA, serotonin or peptide based chemical messengers. It is thought that these chemical messengers may stimulate particular regions of the brain through the vagus nerve. Some researchers had found that those who took probiotics, showed changes in blood flow to regions of the brain involving emotion and sensation.

The health applications of probiotics may also be species specific. Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 species was recently found to decrease depression scores and limbic system activity in those with IBS.

The therapeutic applications for probiotics are continuing to expand. We expect to see new information on the roles of probiotics in our bodies and applications for health purposes in the very near future. As the research unfolds, we will keep updated and share this fascinating information.

References:

Consumption of Fermented Milk Product With Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity. Tillisch, Kirsten et al. Gastroenterology , Volume 144 , Issue 7 , 1394 - 1401.e4

Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: a Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Pinto-Sanchez, Maria Ines et al. Gastroenterology , Volume 0 , Issue 0,

Wellness Care For Seasonal Allergies

By Dr. Nathan Jeffery, ND, BSc.

Spring is here! The days are getting longer and flowers are appearing. This is a time of transformation and awakening from winter to spring. Unfortunately, for many it can be difficult for our bodies to adapt to the changes and many people will experience seasonal allergies.

Pollen, molds, dust and other environmental products cause important immune cells in our body called “mast cells” to become irritated. When irritated the mast cells easily release histamine. At low levels histamine is an important alarm signal to our immune system that a foreign substance is in the body and needs to be removed. At high levels it can lead to the classic runny nose, congestion and skin rashes. At the extreme, it can lead to breathing problems and anaphylaxis which requires immediate medical attention.

There are many over-the-counter medications that work by preventing histamine release from mast cells. The problem with these is that they can lead to drowsiness and even dependence. Natural approaches to seasonal allergies involve stabilizing the mast cells and decreasing inflammation in the body.

  • Vitamin C is not made in the human body so must be consumed in the diet. It has many numerous health benefits as an antioxidant. It is thought to stabilize the mast cells as well. Vitamin C is abundant in lemons as well as many other fruits and vegetables.
  • Remedies or teas containing stinging nettle may also balance the immune system in the nasal passages. This is interesting since it can cause the familiar stinging rash when contacted in the wilderness.
  • Quercetin, originally named after the Oak tree from its scientific name Quercus, is another natural anti-inflammatory and mast cell stabilizer. It is found naturally in many fresh vegetables.
  • Reducing white sugar in your diet is also very important for reducing inflammation

Symptoms of a runny nose, sinus pain, mental fog, congestion, and headaches can be effectively managed using natural remedies. Food and environmental sensitivities such as pollen, molds and Candida can be driving inflammation in your body and they must be removed for long-lasting symptom relief. Electrodermal food sensitivity testing is our most popular method of assessing over 200 food and environmental sensitivities or intolerances. A personalized homeopathic remedy is included in this visit to further enhance your results. Dietary changes make up the foundation of this treatment and are an excellent example that food is medicine!

Pain Relief from Myofascial Injection Therapy

Most people will experience some form of muscle pain in their life. Chronic myofascial pain is form of pain generated from tender points within our muscles. These are often referred to as trigger points. The pain can limit movement and be referred to other regions of the body producing a variety of other confusing symptoms. For example, a trigger point referring to the head can produce headaches. Trigger points can mimic other types of pain. In the hip it may produce pain similar to sciatica down the leg. In the thigh it can lead to knee pain. Trigger points are extremely common. They can be found by applying pressure over muscles which causes pain or tenderness over the trigger point.

Trigger point injections are very effective for the treatment of myofascial pain. In this procedure, a very thin needle is placed into the muscle trigger point and a small amount of sterile fluid containing electrolytes is injected. This often leads to immediate and long term relaxation of the tight muscles. I have found this treatment to be very effective in my practice.

Case 1: A 57 year old male presented to my office with shoulder pain. 15 years ago he had injured his shoulder at the gym and never fully recovered. He had been told the injury was likely a rotator cuff injury. His family doctor recommended rest, ice and physical therapy. This seemed to help his shoulder pain a bit but it would commonly get aggravated after sleeping on it or following a workout at the gym. If often prevented him from sleeping. His “go to” treatment prior to seeking care was muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories. My physical exam revealed multiple trigger points in the supraspinatus and trapezius muscles. Trigger point injections were performed to relax the tight muscles. That night he experienced complete pain relief in his shoulder and was able to sleep on his shoulder with no problem. He follows up for trigger point injections every 3-6 months as needed for pain and no longer requires anti-inflammatory drugs.

Myofascial injection therapy is effective for joint pain, back / neck pain and headaches.

Hyperirritable, tender muscles are a result of multiple factors such as nutritional deficiencies, past injury, joint instability and physical stress.

Long standing reduction of pain is expected in 4-6 treatments. On average 4 treatments. 

Pain is a multifaceted health problem. More and more we are beginning to understand that natural approaches can lead to effective pain management solutions.

At the Gate of the Year

My 86 year-old father recited this poem he heard on the radio when he was 9 years old! It was the Christmas radio broadcast message from King George VI in the year of 1939. 

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

It struck me that the more things change, the more they stay the same! The elders as far back as anyone can remember warn of the recklessness of the youth and warn of a world that is going to hell in a hand basket! I read a newspaper column written by Nellie McClung, reprinted from 1941 and it sounds so much like our news of today! “And when I get the sun well up, I turn on the radio for the news. That’s the worst of it. I mean the inevitable return to manmade trouble”.....”The new year has come in with a feeling of intensity. We know we are all standing in slippery places, but we are standing-free and undefeated”.

I gathered great inspiration from the Queen’s message this December 25th …”I often draw strength from ordinary people doing extraordinary things, volunteers, carers, community organizers and good neighbors. Unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special and inspiring to others. In the words of Mother Teresa: Not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love.

On our own we cannot end war or wipe out injustice but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we can imagine. Inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received. Love begins small but always grows”.

So instead of a list of resolutions I will summarize the exercise given by Eileen Chadnick in the Globe and Mail recently. Take time to reflect on the following questions with a friend and or spouse and write yourself a letter that you read on Jan 1st 2018. The Year Behind: What went well? What surprised you? What are you noticing or even having hunches about? What needs to be left behind? Wrap up your year with a name that fits. The Year Ahead: Where do you need to go next? How will you evolve in the year ahead? What are your top goals? Who will you connect with? How will you navigate ambiguity and uncertainty? What’s your mantra for 2017?

A friend of ours wrote her Christmas letter from the view point of her Portuguese Water Dog Rosie. To quote Rosie “I’ve reflected upon my short-lived addiction to American politics and have resolved in future to resist any urge to subject myself to such cruel and unusual punishment. I am determined that if I am ever again tempted to dip my toe into the morass of political discourse, I will instead immediately turn my attention to the wonder and beauty of the world around me….. unfortunately, stories of cheerfulness are rarely deemed worthy of reporting so I have firmly resolved to curb my curiosity, accent the positive, eliminate the negative and focus only on the many things in my life that make me incredibly happy. Think of all the disposable income you’ll suddenly have when you no longer have need for your Prozac prescription!”

Follow the lead of our friends in Denmark where they regularly top the worlds happiness rankings. This Christmas more than any other year in Denmark, books on “hygge” are dominating book sales. Hygge is the Danish art of living cosily. The word is vaguely connected to the English word hug, to cherish yourself, to make yourself snug. It’s about a feeling of wellbeing, about enjoying life, whether through time spent with close friends or family, sitting by a fire with a hot chocolate, or putting on warm socks and dry clothes after a rainstorm.

Most books on lifestyle are about deprivation and living the clean life of food and exercise. Hygge is the complete opposite of that.  It is about embracing things, enjoying cake, and chocolate, spending time with friends and family. It’s about the little things and luxuries which make life great, about enjoying the happy moments which we perhaps miss. Perhaps what hygge is really about is trying to achieve everyday happiness.

So as you stand at the Gate of the Year ask the man for moments of daily happiness to share with your friends and family. Ask him to help you open your eyes to the treasures that lie at your feet and ask for his help to put aside the “digital boxes” that distract you from achieving “hygge” and achieving small things with great love all through the coming year!

By Dr. Ingrid Pincott, ND  (Jan 2 2017)

Reducing Prescription Pain Medications in the Elderly

According to CIHI (Canadian Institute for Health Information) Seniors had the highest rate of hospitalizations from opioid poisoning over the eight year period 2007-2015, and accounted for nearly a quarter of the hospitalizations. Seniors, for the most part, are misusing them by accident. Canada is the second largest consumer of opioids per capita in the world.

Naturopathic physicians are medically trained and naturally focused in their approach to patient care and always one of the first concerns is the number of prescriptions a patient is taking and their age. As people age they are less able to metabolize drugs efficiently due to their aging liver and kidney function, so it is the aim of naturopathic medicine to educate patients about effective naturopathic remedies and treatments that may be very effective at pain management. When a patient takes a “pain pill” they are effectively turning off the alarm system but not putting out the fire!

For example magnesium is a simple mineral that most of the population is deficient in. When taken in therapeutic dosages it acts as an anti-spasmodic and is great for muscle cramps, aches and pains as well as for the treatment of migraine headaches. Pain is one of the most common reasons patients seek out the help of a health care provider so why not recommend something that is not only simple to take but is inexpensive and has over 100 uses in the body?

Many of my elderly patients not only get help with their pain but their chronic constipation also improves and it helps with their nightly bladder control!

In our clnic we have a few new remedies you may not be familiar with: Pavosic and Athroben. Pavosic is an herbal remedy made from the poppy flower that is NOT a narcotic but can act like a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID). It is something that can be used to get patients off aspirin or similar derivatives. Athroben is a collagen powder used for chronic joint pain and is used in addition to AR Encap or Recovery Extra Strength to help with joint aches and pains. Another favorite of mine is BCQ a very effective curcumin combination. Don’t forget that some foods can cause pain!

Dr. Jeffery offers trigger point injection therapy and naturopathic manipulation to help correct structural issues. Chair yoga and simple stretches may be very effective for the elderly to help control pain.

Under the care of a naturopathic physician a patient is taught to lower their reliance on pain medications and rely instead on healthful eating and remedies that not only treat the pain but treat the underlying cause of the pain.

Written by Dr. Pincott N.D. 

Orriginally appeared in the Campbell River Mirror Health Page Friday, Dec. 9, 2016

Guys, Unhealthy Behaviors Are Costing you Money…. LOTS AND LOTS of money over your lifetime

I recently listened to a program on CBC radio promoting Men’s Health. They were highlighting a study released on May 24th 2016, by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation entitled: “How Much Does Tobacco Smoking, Alcohol Use and Excess Weight Cost Individual Canadian Men?

The study looked at three risk factors, including alcohol use, tobacco smoking and excess weight, and estimated the cost to the average Canadian man over his lifetime could hit $1.7 million to $8.6 million. For example one drink per day is $505,000 in a lifetime, 5 cigarettes per day costs $969,000 in a lifetime, 70 extra pounds costs $239,000 in a lifetime. Just think what you could do with all that money!

The report also claims that while the average life expectancy of a Canadian man is 79 years, smoking cigarettes can take 10 years off his life, drinking alcohol, almost eight years and being obese could cut life expectancy by nearly six years.

Mike Hartrick, the president of the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, emphasizes small lifestyle changes to get people on track to better health and wealth. The foundation has started the www.Don’tChangeMuch.ca campaign where they have outlined 10 simple tips to get men started. Here are five with a naturopathic twist.

  1. Go out with the boys: hang out and have fun and be social, especially if you can ride your bike there!
  2. Take a moment: close your eyes, take 5 deep breaths three times per day to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system away from stress.
  3. Shake it off: take the salt shaker off the table and avoid foods with high salt. Use Mrs Dash seasonings without salt.
  4. Drink your cares away: drink 5 large glasses (2 liters) of water per day can reduce your risk of a fatal heart attack by 54%! This could also be an iced herbal tea without milk or sugar.
  5. Every step counts: Walking 5 city blocks per day can lower your heart attack risk by 25%.

Written by Dr. Ingrid Pincott N.D.

Photo by Joshua Earle

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Irritable bowel Syndrome. Is bacterial overgrowth the missing link for treatment?

Irritable bowel syndrome is the most common chronic digestive problem. Characterized by abdominal pain, gas, bloating and irregular bowel habits, for many it can be debilitating leading to anxiety and social isolation at its extreme. Up to 20 percent of the population suffers from IBS. Despite its prevalence, there remains a poor understanding of the causes. Treatment is often ineffective leading to frustration from both the patient and doctor. Because IBS can be worsened by emotional factors, there remains a stereotype that it is mainly a psychological problem. Recently there has been a growing body of research indicating that bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine may be an underlying cause for many with IBS.

Bacteria is abundant in your colon and has many important health-promoting properties. For example, gut bacteria aid in digestion and provide many essential nutrients such as vitamin K. Problems begin to arise when bacteria migrate up into the small intestine, which is not supposed to have high levels of bacteria. Most of your nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine so when bacteria from the colon find their way into the small intestine they begin to feed and overgrow producing an abundance of gas and accompanying gut disturbance.

Because the small intestine is the site of absorption of nutrients, gas produced by bacterial overgrowth is absorbed into the bloodstream. This can lead to many systemic symptoms such as brain fog, aches and pains, and fatigue. The gas from bacterial overgrowth can be detected in your breath.

Some clues that your IBS symptoms may due to bacterial overgrowth include:

  • Bloating and gas. Flatus and/or belching.

  • Gas and bloating after certain foods high in sugar or wheat

  • Bloating after certain probiotics

  • IBS symptoms that seem to get better with antibiotics

  • Malabsorption problems causing nutrient deficiencies. Chronic anemia, B12 and folate deficiencies.

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Brain fog and memory problems

  • Heartburn and indigestion

  • Chronically low ferritin

Some causes of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine include:

  • Antibiotics

  • GERD or heartburn

  • Use of heartburn medications

  • People with low stomach acid are at risk because acid in the stomach kills off bacteria in the small intestine.

A simple breath test, along with a full medical evaluation, is used to identify bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. In patients identified with bacterial overgrowth, treatment can lead to a dramatic reduction and often elimination of IBS symptoms. If you suffer from IBS and have not responded to any treatment, bacterial overgrowth should be explored. Testing can be done at Perceptive Health, Naturopathic Medical Clinic.

By Nathan Jeffery, BSc, ND.

Adapted from Dr. Jeffery's orriginal editorial in the Campbell River Mirror

 

Preventative Medicine

We believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We want to support our clients to take action during times of good health and work to prevent long term illness. We spend so much time investing for retirement it only makes sense to invest a little in your health along the way.

We offer the following preventative wellness packages:

  1. Executive Preventative Health Assessment: Includes a full head to toe physical exam and laboratory screening tests. May test for: blood cell disorders, liver dysfunction, kidney problems, thyroid dysfunction, high cholesterol, inflammation, vitamin D deficiency, and gender specific tests such as prostate markers (PSA) , testosterone deficiency and other hormones. Includes wellness plan to prevent illness and support healthy aging. 
  2. Preventative Cardiovascular Health Assessment. Involves cardiovascular exam along with an advanced biomarker risk assessment. Test for inflammation, high cholesterol (and pathogenic cholesterol particles)  and other biomarkers of cardiovascular risk. 
  3. Nutritional Deficiency Evaluation. Blood test to evaluate for imbalances of nutrients within your cells. Basic labs look for deficiencies within the blood and may miss deficiencies of nutrients within the cells and tissues.