Lyme Disease

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As the snow is melting and we look forward to warmer weather, I thought this would be a good time to post about the Naturopathic treatment of Lyme disease.  Tick populations are high during the warmer months in the Niagara region, and we have had countless patients report tick bites and also show the signs of infection.  Lyme disease is not often focused on in the media, however people do contract the illness very frequently.  I feel that our current state of health is a contributing factor to why people are much more susceptible to developing and suffering with Lyme disease.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infection by a bacteria that enters the bloodstream through a tick bite given by an infected tick.  Borrellia burgdorferi is the infectious agent, transferred by the tick, that is common to North America.  Ticks have a hard outer shell and when they bite they burrow their heads into the skin.  This often requires the tick to be carefully removed with tweezers or a scraping tool.

Borrellia burgdorferi is a spirochetal bacteria.  Spirochetes are very difficult to treat because they multiply in a way that enables them to shift their genetic make up.  This makes creating a drug to target them very difficult.

What are the symptoms?

1) A tick bite occurs.

target lesion

2) A target lesion may appear at the site of the bite (occurs in 70-80% of those infected).  A target lesion is a sign of localized infection at the site of the bite.  It can be the size of a loonie or larger.

3) Some people will experience a delayed onset of the symptoms.  This is an “incubation” period that can last 1-2 weeks.  This can also vary and be much shorter or longer (months-years later).

4) Early symptoms: target lesion, rash, fever, headache, fatigue.

5) Later symptoms: músculo-skeletal, central nervous system and cardiovascular symptoms.  For example, persistent muscle pain, joint pain, difficulty walking, extreme fatigue, poor memory and cognitive function, insomnia, congestive heart failure.

How Can Naturopathic Treatment Help?

Conventional treatment of Lyme Disease includes the repeated use of antibiotics.  There are a handful of conventional doctors in North America, who specialize in the treatment of Lyme disease, who also suggest nutritional changes to promote health and healing.

In Naturopathic Medicine we have found that those with Lyme disease experience an obstacle to cure this issue because of:

a) Acidic body chemistry is causing the bacteria to thrive in their body and also reduces the ability for the immune system to fight off the bacteria.

b) Inflammatory foods in the diet hinder the body’s immune system to work effectively and also contributes to acidity.

c) Poor detoxification pathways which lead to the build up of waste in the bloodstream and the body’s tissue.  This also contributes to acidity and stifles the immune system from clearing the infection.

d) Dysbiosis, or low levels of healthy bacteria.  When this is the case, unfavourable organisms, like Borrellia,  flourish.

In addition, we have the knowledge to use antibacterial and anti parasitic remedies that are natural and effective, yet do not carry the same depleting effects as antibiotics.

When treated by a Naturopathic Doctor, a dynamic, multifaceted plan is created to suit the individual going through Lyme disease.  Every patient’s expression of the disease is different, so we work on the different elements of each patient’s health to more effectively address the disease.

If you have questions or need more information about the Naturopathic treatment of Lyme disease.  Feel free to email me at drlaura@winhealth.ca.

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That Cookie Really Hurt My Back!

Backbone intervertebral disc anatomy lateral view

Thankfully these days there is more of an acknowledgement that certain food can cause contribute to health concerns.  On the tails of last week’s post, I wanted to write a follow up regarding the food we eat and how it impacts joint and muscle pain.

It’s easy to associate a traumatic event (ie. a fall, car accident, sports injury, etc.) to a musculoskeletal issue.  However, what we eat can also contribute to sore muscles or joints.  Also, it is a major influencer of chronic pain in cases of arthritis, fibromyalgia, lyme disease and other illnesses that include the symptom of muscle or joint pain.

Naturopathic nutrition is not locked into a certain construct.  We  look at food as a way to:

1) Fuel our body

2) Balance physiology and support our health

3) Prevent illness

4) Feel great

This is how we can use food as medicine.  There are two important questions I ask when reviewing the impact of nutrition on an individuals musculoskeletal issue:

1) Do the foods increase or decrease inflammation?

2) Do the foods increase or decrease acidity?

Inflammation is at the root of all pain.  Furthermore, too much acidity fuels inflammation.  In cases of joint or muscle pain, when these two elements are minimized, people feel so much better.  They have more pain free days, or resolve their pain all together!  This can be achieved through diet and without medication.

Pro Inflammatory Foods include: Wheat (and gluten containing grains), dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), sugar, red meat, potato (white and sweet), peanuts, tomato products (sauce, V8, canned tomato), processed food, hydrogenated oils (margarine, oils in packaged food), alcohol, coffee.

Anti Inflammatory Foods include: Vegetables, fruit, lean protein (chicken, turkey, fish), gluten free grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat), healthy oils (flax, fish), raw nuts and seeds, water, herbal tea, green tea.

Many people feel they eat mainly from the anti-inflammatory list but still struggle with pain.  In these cases I go further with them and evaluate their acidity levels and if they have a good balance of the different families of anti-inflammatory foods.  For example, eating the same thing all the time, even if it is an anti-inflammatory food, could create an issue.  We need to factor in variety, balance and quantity of each family of food.

If you are looking for individualized and therapeutic nutrition guidance, or if you have any questions about the information in today’s post, feel free to contact me anytime at drlaura@winhealth.ca.

How an acidic body chemistry can be an obstacle to your wellness

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Good health depends on the balance of our body’s natural internal chemistry.  An important part of that is the balance of our body’s pH.

Just like in the environment, our body’s are forever managing the balance between acidity and alkalinity.  Too much of either is not good, but staying in a neutral pH range is ideal.

I find that most of the people I see are too acidic.  Acidity can be caused by our nutritional choices, stress, medications or health conditions.  In addition, some people are just what I refer to as “acid formers.”  Their more susceptible to the build up of acid metabolites in their bodies because of an overproduction, a slower ability to detoxify acids or both.

An acidic body chemistry, otherwise referred to as “terrain,” can lead to:

– Osteoporosis

– Gastrointestinal Issues (e.g. canker sores in the mouth, GERD, IBS, loose stools)

– Poor immune function

– Bad Breath

– Fatigue

– Headaches & Migraines

– Muscle and Joint Pain (i.e. acids can promote inflammation)

– Skin issues (e.g. dermatitis, chronic itching, skin infections, rosacea, poor skin integrity)

– Hormonal Issues

– Interstitial cystitis

I have patients test their pH.  This is really simple and easy to do.  The best way to do this is through urinary pH.  Special paper strips that test pH are available.  When the paper strip is saturated with a small amount of urine, it will change colour.  This colour will correspond with a numerical pH value.  This number will indicate how acidic a person is.

I usually recommend patients take 3-4 readings per day, for 3-5 days.  This give a good cross-section of values so we can assess how acidic a person is.  Acidity can fluctuate through the course of the day, so it’s important to discover a person’s levels relative to the normal ranges.  For example, we tend to be more acidic in the early morning and later in the evening (see chart below) and this can be part of the normal fluctuation of pH through the day.  However, if a person finds they are getting an acidic value outside the normal range (i.e. normal range = the light blue curve on the graph) more often than not then they have an acidic body chemistry.

Individual pH Assessment and Therapy

I love this pH chart from Pascoe Canada. Pascoe creates a professional line of natural remedies for therapeutic use.

Once we assess acidity, I create an individualized plan to help patients neutralize and detoxify acid metabolites.  This can be done through a number of different ways, depending on each person’s unique needs.

Nutrition strategies can be helpful in promoting a more alkaline state.  For example, the most alkalinizing foods are non-salad green vegetables.  There are a variety of natural remedies that also help to neutralize acidity.  Furthermore, there are very effective remedies that help facilitate a person’s detoxification of excess acid.

If this is a new concept in health, the best and most fascinating place to start is to test your pH.  It’s simple and it can be a really enlightening experience!

I have often seen acidity be an obstacle for many patients in their health.  We can take a boat load of herbs, supplements, homeopathics, etc., but if we have a build up of acidity it will block our body’s ability to utilize these therapeutic agents.  When we neutralize and detoxify the acids, the body works more efficiently and health issues begin to resolve.  If natural remedies are given to speed healing, the body can actually make use of them on a biochemical level without acid metabolites getting in the way.

Believe it or not, the concept of “Terrain” as it relates to the health of the human body is a very historical one, yet it is not given any consideration in modern day conventional medicine.  However, the consideration of body ecology, microflora and pH, otherwise known as all things “Terrain,” is the future of medicine.  I’d like to think it’s best we all learn about this health information now, so we don’t have to wait for the future of medicine to feel our best and live our best life.  After all, the future is now.

Easy Core Strengthener

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A long, long, long time ago… I learned a core strengthening move before I even understood what a “core” was and how important it is for our body’s entire physical structure.

When I did my yoga teachers training, we had a very strict regimen of two hours of yoga in the morning and two hours of yoga in the afternoon.  This was based in traditional yoga practice that was hundreds of years old.  During every class, after our initial relaxation, or Shavasana, our teachers would lead us right into a set of exercises meant to stretch and strengthen our bodies before we practiced the 12 basic postures that were the foundation of our learning.

Long story short… these exercises were seemingly simple, but had the tremendous ability to be very challenging and effective at building strength.  One particular exercise has stayed with me to this very day, and I wanted to share it with you.

This is an exercise that can be done anywhere.  It requires no equipment and is one simple movement. My teachers would say, 10-20 of these every day does a body good.  They were right!

After doing a years worth of these exercises in one month, I was strong enough to stand on my head.  Literally!

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Hatha Yoga, by nature, is not an aggressive workout.  Looking back, I realize that these small, simple exercises made a profound contribution to my overall strength.  The Core is really the foundation of whole body strength.

Even today, as my tummy is a little softer now than the yoga days of yesteryear, I find this exercise still a benefit to me.  I also love that when time is short, whether morning or evening, I can do a few of these and ensure one small thing was done to strengthen my core, and build my back strength and posture, that day.

Here’s the exercise…

DOUBLE LEG RAISES

1) Lay on a yoga mat, exercise mat, towel, carpet or rug.

2) Tuck hands under the boney prominence at the bottom of your back, with the palms down on the ground.  Try and also get the forearms under the body, if possible, for extra support.

*Most demos of this exercise show arms and hands along side the body, however, this could lead to back strain for those just starting out.  Tucking your hands under your body as I’ve recommended will help stabilize your low back.  As you get stronger, you can try different arm/hand positions.

3) Relax neck and bring chin down.  Keep neck long and relaxed during exercise to prevent arching and putting strain on the neck.

4) Prepare mentally for the exercise.  Engage your abdominal muscles.  Draw them in towards your spine.

5) Inhale, lift both legs off the mat and raise them up so the soles of your feet face the ceiling (keep toes pointed towards your head).

6) Exhale, lower both legs to the ground.

7) Before the feet touch the ground, Inhale, and left both legs again and repeat.

8) Do this for 5-10 reps to start.

Over time, as you get stronger you can gradually add more, eventually building to 20.  To add more challenge, the hands can be placed along side the body or with fingers interlaced behind the head.

* Modification: You can build up to the double leg lift by starting out with doing one leg at a time.  Example: Left leg stays on the mat, while Right leg lifts and lowers.  Then Right leg stays on the mat while Left leg lifts and lowers.

** Pressure in Back?  During this exercise, your spine should stay neutral and not arch off the floor.  Also, there shouldn’t be any strain in the back during the entire exercise from beginning to end.  If this is happening, start with the Modification.  If it’s happening even with the modification, bend the resting leg, so that the foot of that leg is on the floor.  This little change can help reduce any pulling on the muscles related to the lower back.

This is a great little exercise that can be done any time and any where.  It can be a great addition to a work out, or a daily little exercise that will help to build core strength.

Check out this link for a visual demo of the exercise:  Double Leg Raises. 

The Common Link in Chronic Disease

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Naturopathic Doctors have long recognized the damaging effects of chronic inflammation on the anatomy and physiology of the body.  Inflammatory responses can be triggered by one or a combination of factors in our modern day lifestyles, such as:

– Poor diet

– Not enough water

– Not enough essential fatty acids (EFAs), specifically Omega 3s (Fish and Flax oil)

– Persistent stress

– Food allergies

– Caffiene

– Smoking

– Alcohol Consumption

– Excessive Exercise

– Sedentary Lifestyle

Chronic Illness is tremendously prevalent, and is affecting people at younger and younger ages.  A chronic illness is an illness that persists over a long period of time and affects physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual wellness.

According to the Centres of Disease Control (CDC), 70% of deaths in the USA are due to chronic diseases.  Furthermore, nearly 50% of the US population have one or more chronic diseases.  What we know for sure is that a healthy diet and lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of developing chronic illness.

Chronic Diseases can affect specific systems in the body.  Examples include:

CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM

– Vasculitis, Cellulitis

– Heart Disease

– Stroke

MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEM

– Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis

– Chronic Tendonitis

– Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT

– Ulcerative Colitis

– Crohn’s Disease

– Diverticulosis

RESPIRATORY TRACT

– Allergies

– Chronic Sinusitis

– Asthma

– Emphysema

URINARY TRACT

– Interstitial Cystitis

CANCER

The common link between many chronic diseases is the presence of inflammation.  Inflammation is a normal physiological process that occurs when irritants, microorganisms or damaged cells trigger the immune system to respond and repair or clean up the affected area.

When the immune system responds there is:

– Pain

– Redness

– Swelling

– Loss of function (if the inflammation becomes pronounced)

The immediate inflammatory response damages surrounding cells while an area is repaired, however when the process goes as it should, the healing prevails.  As the immune system deals with the offending agents,  and the area is cleared, surrounding cells can resume normal function and the inflammatory effects (pain, redness, swelling) resolve.

However, when inflammation persists, this can create changes in the tissue that are unfavourable.  This is also when chronic pain sets in and people start to take notice, or the inflammation can start to affect parts of the body that create secondary symptoms that start to alter a person’s quality of health.

Persistant inflammation happens when irritants like poor food ingredients, food allergens, stress, the byproducts of smoking and/or alcohol, become prevalent.  Inflammation can be neutralized by enough of the good stuff, such as water, fresh food, fresh air, exercise and stress management activities.

If you or someone you know struggles with a chronic illness and feel that conventional options for treatment are limited, my colleague, Dr. Charlene Kush, and I have plenty of solutions for addressing the root cause of your illness, while also offering recommendations for symptomatic alleviation.  When we take a dynamic approach to reducing inflammation, we have seen so many people overcome their chronic illness and regain their quality of life.  To arrange an appointment to meet with us, call WIN Health & Rehab Centre at 905.354.0276.

Strong To The Core

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I used to have pretty amazing core strength.  Two pregnancies later, not so much.  I kept up with a wonderful prenatal workout plan that kept me strong through out my first pregnancy.  However, once toddler #1 was off and running, and I was pregnant the second time around, I certainly wasn’t as diligent.

“The Core” group of muscles are the muscles include:

1) Abdominal muscles

2) The mid and low back muscles

3) The muscles on the sides of our body (Obliques)

4) The pelvic floor

After I had my second baby, I started having some serious back trouble.  As time passed, slight “twinges” of momentary back pain, turned into fully immobilizing pain that would last for days.  These episodes weren’t brought on by very much… picking up a tea towel could send me into instant distress.

After my third major episode of back pain in a three month window of time, I decided to get some professional help.  I wanted someone to tell me exactly what I needed to do to prevent this from happening.  Thankfully, my colleague at WIN Health & Rehab Centre, Dr. Tania Mannella, was the person who got me back on track.  Dr. Tania is a really forward thinking Physiotherapist, who is also focused on creating individualized plans for those she works with.

When I met with her I explained what was happening, she assessed me and came up with a customized plan.  Here’s what was super fantastic about her plan:

1) The plan was suited to my lifestyle.  I brought home an exercise ball so I could easily do parts of my plan at home in my living room.

2) The plan evolved.  I’d meet back with Dr. Tania, and as I got stronger, she would modify my exercises slightly to keep promoting more strength and stability.

3) The plan was easy.  I was given exercises that were safe, effective and easy to do.  In the beginning, I pondered if the simple exercises were doing something for me.  I was used to doing more challenging exercise once upon a time.  However, even after the first few days of the early simple exercises, I started to feel stronger and less back pain.

4) It worked!  In a short period of time I started feeling less pain and more strength.  Over the long run, I’m feeling greater stability through my core and greater strength than when I started out.

I’ve worked steadily on building my core strength, and it’s much improved, however I still have work to do.  True Core strengthening goes beyond doing crunches or planks as part of an exercise plan.  The Core muscles are very intricate, and to properly build their strength requires a progressive approach that changes as we gain strength.  This helps to continuously and comprehensively build strength in that area.

For me, Core strength means way more than just what it offers aesthetically.  A strong Core contributes to the alignment of my entire body.  Also, having strong Core muscles is preventing a reoccurrence of my injury.  When these elements are in play, I am more effective in my daily activities.  I can keep up with my kids, exercise without fearing an injury and be effective at work.

In addition my Core Strengthening plan by Dr. Tania, I recently started working with Tiina Kupper, WIN’s Physiotherapy Assistant and Certified STOTT Pilates Instructor.  Tiina has developed a customized set of Pilates exercises to help compliment what Dr. Tania started with me.  Tiina is a very thorough and enthusiastic teacher.  With her upbeat personality, she takes time to educate me about being aware of the discrepancies in my strength and alignment.  This helps me learn how to focus on getting the most out of her guidance.

Going through this new journey to get my Core Strength back has been a really eye opening experience, especially with regard to Physiotherapy.  I believe this contemporary approach to Physiotherapy would be effective for everyone.  Through my own personal experience, and what I also see patients dealing with in the clinical setting, I know we all can benefit from feeling stronger throughout our core muscles.

Dr. Tania Mannella and Tiina Kupper are now offering “The Core Program” at WIN Health & Rehab Centre.  They specifically designed this eight week program that is focused on building Core strength and stability.  At the end of the eight weeks, participants can continue on at WIN or with an individualized program that can be done at home.

This therapy changed my life and helped me realize a new path of proactive health care and preventative medicine.  To get started on your path to Core Strengthening visit Dr. Tania Mannella or call WIN Health & Rehab Centre for more information at 905.354.0267.

Advil & Athletes Don’t Mix

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There’s a new concern in the media from health experts regarding the use of Ibuprophen, or Advil, as a preventative measure for musculoskeletal aches and pains related to sports or exercise.  This caught my eye because over my ten years of practice I have met with many people who do this.  Whether avidly athletic men and women, to those who participate in sports for enjoyment and to stay active, it is a common practice to take an Advil around the time of activity to prevent or address sports related soreness.

The article can be viewed on the CBC’s website here: Ibuprofen use by athletes may cause harm.

The concern with routine use of Ibuprophen involves the way this medication can alter the integrity and function of the digestive tract. Investigators have linked a “leaky-gut” type of change in those who used this medication regularly.  Leaky gut is a general state of poor digestion that Naturopathic Doctors have long recognized.  Leaky gut can be caused by many factors, with regular use of medication (over-the-counter or prescribed) being one of them.

In the monographs for NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflamatory Drugs) like Advil, the top warning is that the most frequently occurring adverse effect involves gastrointestinal issues.  Yet, for some reason, this has been something that was not regarded by the medical professionals who started recommending this to people, nor by those who are doing this in the attempt to feel better during their exercise.

The researchers of the study, published in an issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, go on to say: “We conclude that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs consumption by athletes is not harmless and should be discouraged.”  This is an important message, as regular NSAID use has become common practice for a variety of health concerns, and many are unaware of the risks in using over the counter pain relievers.

At WIN Health & Rehab Centre, our Chiropractors and Physiotherapist offer effective musculoskeletal solutions that:

1) Optimize athletic performance for those who are competing at a professional level

2) Optimize athletic performance for those who are involved in sports for health and enjoyment

3) Educate patients to prevent aches and pains that are related to their sport

In addition, my colleague Dr. Charlene Kush, and I work with these same patient to give them natural recommendations that reduce inflammation and improve muscle repair and recovery.  There are so many drugless options that address inflammation and musculoskeletal health, which are easy, safe and effective.