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26/Jul/2022

What is PCOS?

Finding an effective treatment for Polycycstic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is important to me for two distinct reasons. 5-10% of woman are impacted by PCOS in their lifetime making PCOS a common and treatable condition in my Naturopathic practice. The second reason is that it is a condition that my wife has struggled with for many years therefore making it a syndrome that hits close to home.

PCOS is a bit of a misnomer as it is a continuum of symptoms and doesn’t necessarily have to include ovarian cysts. It is however characterized by several common objective findings including irregular periods, infertility, shifts in hormone balance (DHEA, Testosterone, LH, FSH), hirsutism (hair growth on the lip, chin and abdomen), Hair loss (Male pattern head hair loss), acne (typically on the lower jaw), high levels of insulin due to insulin resistance, and unexplained weight gain (especially around the abdomen).

Although we still do not know all the mechanisms involved as to why some women develop PCOS, there does seem to be a genetic component. Environmental toxins such as BPA seem to play a role, and gastrointestinal dysbiosis (unfriendly bacteria in the gut) plays a role as well.

Conventional Treatment for PCOS

Some of the more common conventional treatments of PCOS include birth control pill (to regulate irregular periods and hormone levels), metformin (a insulin sensitizing drug that helps to control blood sugar levels commonly used in diabetes), and spironolactone (a diuretic that also has the ability to block a type of testosterone formation called DHT). While these treatments can be helpful in the short-term they do not always address the root cause of PCOS and therefore ultimately fail in the long term. Some of these causes include hormone disrupters in the environment and diet, and gastrointestinal dysbiosis (leading to the production of inflammatory compounds that compromise insulin function).

Holistic Treatment for PCOS

Luckily there are relatively easy and low cost solutions to many of the fundamental causes of PCOS. As a Naturopathic Doctor I have the privilege and ability to take a detailed medical history. Doing so can point me in the direction(s) as to where these foundational imbalances are occurring. For instance if the patient has a history of gastrointestinal concerns, (constipation, diarrhea, gastritis, colitis) that informs me to focus investigation on the gastrointestinal tract. If a patients main concern is infertility and irregular periods I will shift focus into hormone balance. It may also be the case that a patient has several concern at the same time, which is not uncommon in PCOS. Once I know where to focus we can run specialized tests such as comprehensive stool analysis, female hormone panels, nutrient level panels, food sensitivity testing and environmental toxins. This aids in narrowing down where to implement the bulk of the treatment protocol. There are some general recommendations that are sure to aid all women with PCOS such as exercise, reduced carbohydrate diets and lowering exposure to petrochemicals. However, the medical history and specialized testing can be a guide for more specific recommendations.

Functional Testing for PCOS

A nutrients panel test can help determine if there are specific nutritional deficiencies such as low levels of vitamin D, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, which tend to be common in PCOS. A female hormone panel can determine if there are specific imbalances with sex hormones. These imbalances can potentially be corrected with dietary recommendations, bio-identical  hormone replacement, and nutraceutical supplements. Evidence of dysbiosis in gut from a stool analysis can be reversed with dietary recommendations that promote colonization of helpful butyrate producing bacteria. Nutraceuticals containing antibiotic herbs can preferentially kill harmful bacteria while protecting good bacteria. Probiotic supplements containing specific strains of bacteria and prebiotic fibre can be very effective. Food sensitivity testing can help confirm if there are specific foods in the diet that are activating an immune response, causing further inflammation in the gut. Environmental toxin analysis would shed light on high levels of exposure to particular toxins, most of which are known hormone disruptors. Even the simple testing of insulin levels and blood sugar can lead to recommendations for easily accessible compounds like inositol, L-carnitine and chromium which can effectively increase insulin sensitivity.

Conclusions

The take home message is that PCOS is an extremely common and often disruptive condition for a significant amount of women worldwide. The conventional treatment of PCOS often does not provide long term solutions and can have significant side effects. Simple and inexpensive solutions through dietary, supplement and lifestyle recommendations can address the root causes of PCOS and bring about significant symptom relief with long-term sustainability. I therefore encourage anyone suffering from PCOS who hasn’t found an effective solution to contact a local Naturopathic Doctor or Functional Medicine Doctor for an assessment. If you would like to contact me, you can do so through the appointment page by clicking the link in the menu bar. The sooner you start to address the root causes the easier and quicker long lasting symptom relief can be achieved. That being said, implementation of a functional medicine approach to PCOS will undoubtably be helpful at any stage and at any age.


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06/Jul/2022

What is NAD?

NAD IV therapy was described to me as a “game changer” while I was at a medical conference in Arizona. Up until then I had regularly treated my patients with vitamin and mineral infusions to help restore energy, sleep and manage the physical symptoms of stress amongst other things. I had come to terms with the fact that I could expect about a 60-70% response rate in my patients who were being treated for chronic fatigue. A colleague told me that NAD would be a game changer and that I could expect to see better and more consistent results. After my first NAD patient texted me the following day that they felt like a million dollars, I was sold to the idea.

NAD stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. It is a coenzyme that our body requires in order to convert food into energy and for facilitating many biochemical reactions. We need NAD to metabolize nutrients, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. NAD also impacts the functioning of cells, formation of muscle and regeneration of tissue. Studies have shown that low NAD levels are detrimental to muscle development, while elevated NAD levels could improve muscle health.

Like many fundamental nutrients and hormones, NAD levels decline as we age. This can prompt changes to our metabolism, energy levels, and our biochemistry over time. Low NAD levels can also make us more susceptible to age-related diseases and health concerns, such as Alzheimer’s, sarcopenia, and inflammation. NAD has even been touted as an anti-aging nutrient.

At my Toronto Naturopathic located in York MIlls,  between the Bayview village area and Leaside, we have started to incorporate NAD into many of our IV infusions. Here are some of the outcomes of NAD therapy backed up by clinical research:

Cognitive dysfunction

Boosting NAD intake can impact brain health by improving neuronal function, protecting brain cells from harm, and driving mitochondrial functioning. Animal studies have shown that a group of signalling proteins called sirtuins may be linked to memory and learning. Sirtuins protect the body from amyloid proteins, which are related to Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases. Sirtuin production relies on NAD. Boosting NAD levels may likely help protect the body from amyloid proteins via sirtuin production.

Recovery from substance abuse

Excessive consumption drugs and alcohol can cause damage to organs and tissues including the brain. Studies have shown that substance abuse can specifically cause a drop in NAD levels. NAD is fundamental in the repair and detoxification pathways engaged after consumption of drugs and alcohol. Boosting NAD levels with IV therapy can help with cravings while mitigating brain fog, anxiety and fatigue.

Athletic Recovery

Proper energy metabolism and inflammatory pathways are fundamental in athletic recovery from training and injury. NAD supplementation helps to optimize energy metabolism through mitochondria activity, increases blood flow and reduces inflammation. These benefits in turn help to hasten the recovery phase and lessen muscle pain.

Chronic Fatigue

If you’re struggling with Chronic Fatigue or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), NAD could offer some alleviation. One of the ways NAD works via the mitochondria is by  boosting the production of ATP. ATP is the primary energy source of all cells in the body.  Boosting NAD levels via IV infusion helps to increase ATP production thereby reducing the severity of chronic fatigue syndromes.

Wondering how you may benefit from NAD supplementation? Give me a call or email and we can discuss how NAD may help you reach your health and wellness goals.


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30/Jun/2022

What is Long Covid?

Long Covid is defined as symptoms that present 12 weeks after infection and that persist for at least 8 weeks. The most common symptoms being: Fatigue, Shortness of Breath and Cognitive Dysfunction. There will be an estimated 150 million cases of Long Covid cases worldwide as of 2022. Long Covid has the potential to significantly impact the lives of a large portion of the population making day to day activities difficult or near impossible. Although there are ways to reduce the risk factors in developing long covid, there aren’t many proven conventional medications to treat Long Covid once symptoms set in.

We now know that viral fragments, lingering spike protein and persistent inflammation are all likely features of Long Covid. This chronic state of immune activation leads to heart and blood vessel abnormalities, lung impairment, neurological injury and autoimmunity. Luckily, functional medicine practitioners have been at the forefront in developing protocols that work to resolve the aftermath of COVID-19 infection.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction

There is evidence of mitochondrial dysfunction in Long Covid cases as seen through disruption in fatty acid oxidation and altered lactate production. This would also partially explain the chronic fatigue of Long Covid. Functional medicine has a long history of developing protocols to address mitochondrial dysfunction. Many of the compounds used have been showing promise in treating Long Covid. For example, there is evidence of reduced levels of Coenzyme Q10 in COVID-19 infection. CoQ10 is an important compound in mitochondrial function and energy production. Supplementing with this compound along with other mitochondrial supportive nutrients (Niacin, N-Acetyl Cysteine, Alpha Lipoic Acid) have been helpful in treating Long COVID associated fatigue.

Chronic Inflammation

We also know that there is a wealth of data to suggest high levels of inflammatory markers in Long Covid sufferers. Conventionally, steroids such as prednisone have been used to effectively treat Long Covid symptoms. However, steroids can not be used indefinitely as there are significant side effects associated with long term usage. In Naturopathic and Functional Medicine we have evidence of a number of naturally derived compounds that work to treat Long Covid associated inflammation including: Curcumin, Resveratrol, Cannabinoids, Luteolin, Omega 3, and Black Cumin.

Immune System Abnormalities

We also know that there is immune system dysfunction in Long Covid as evidenced in abnormal T-cell behaviour. One of the most important compounds regulating immune function is vitamin D. There is strong evidence that having adequate vitamin D status prior to Covid infection is protective toward Long Covid and giving large doses of vitamin D to both active Covid-19 cases and Long Covid sufferers can be therapeutic.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Long Covid cases also seem to have a higher incidence of prolonged gastrointestinal symptoms and intestinal dysbiosis with organisms that increase inflammation. One of the best ways to treat intestinal inflammation is by promoting the growth of intestinal organisms that produce the short chain fatty acid Butyrate. Food that is high in fibre typically help to promote beneficial species of intestinal organisms. Oats, Apples, Onions, Asparagus, Broccoli, Whole grains, underripe bananas, Legumes, and Berries are some excellent foods shown to promote butyrate production.

Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids, and more specifically cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to have some interesting mechanisms in the treatment of Long Covid. Strains of cannabis containing high levels of CBD have been shown to block spike protein from entering the cell (via ACE-2 receptors), modulate ACE-2 receptor density on cell surfaces (less doors of COVID to enter) and reduce inflammation. Therefore cannabinoids are very exciting compounds currently being investigated for use in Long Covid therapy.

Conclusions

Long Covid is a multifaceted chronic disease with effects on various physiological systems. Drugs with a narrow therapeutic scope are not going to be as effective as complex compounds that effect multiple physiological processes at the same time. This type of therapeutic synergy is a hallmark of naturally derived medicines and therefore functional medicine is going to play a pivotal role in dealing with this prevalent and highly complex disease state. In my Toronto practice I have had several cases of long covid that only began to resolve once a functional medicine protocol was put into place. So if you know someone who is suffering from Long Covid I recommend connecting them with a local Naturopathic Doctor or Functional Medicine Practitioner.


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25/Jun/2021

Traumatic brain injury is damage to the brain that is the result of a head injury. Quality of life is greatly diminished for those living with a traumatic brain injury. Even fatal results can occur. As the quantity of study devoted to CBD develops, there is the rise in the query that whether CBD can help in treating brain injury or not. Currently, the research indicates that CBD possesses neuroprotective properties. Such effects can include mitigating the effect of head injuries.

A flexible and effective anti-inflammatory cannabinoid that has few to no adverse effects is known as cannabidiol or CBD. The number of conditions treatable with CBD increases daily with the introduction of fresh scientific information. There is emerging evidence that CBD is starting to be used as a treatment for severe traumatic brain injury.

TBI can happen to anyone who suffers from brain trauma, and it can affect every aspect of life.

What Do We Understand from Traumatic Brain Injury?

Any brain injury merits serious concern. The brain goes through a cascade of reactions after sustaining a significant injury. Inflammation, edema, and immunological activation are included in this list.

Though this is a usual and helpful set of reflexes in response to a break or fracture. Additional neurological damage might result from this set of events. 

When brain cells die, the damage to the brain as a whole will soon follow. Common TBI patients include people who have served in the military, professional athletes, and victims of motor vehicle collisions. TBI can have enduring and crippling repercussions, and might manifest emotionally, physically, behaviorally, and socially.

A lot of the time, these impacts are life-altering. As well as cognitive deterioration and impaired motor function, depression and anxiety are common side effects. Severe symptoms among certain people with TBI can also result in seizures. Conventional medicine currently lacks effective treatments for minor TBI, which is an underreported and frequently misdiagnosed condition.

Scientific Evidence Which Says CBD is Effective for TBI

CBD is showing some evidence of usefulness in reducing some of the harmful effects of TBI, specifically in the areas of inflammation and neurological complications.

A paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology claims that “The Endocannabinoid System Possesses Potentially Drugable Receptor and Enzyme Targets for the Treatment of Varying TBI Pathology.”

In addition, there are numerous studies which suggest that in combination with THC, CBD is neuroprotective, indicating that regular ingestion of cannabinoids reduces the likelihood of a catastrophic brain injury.

More and more research about TBI is becoming available with each passing year. A variety of research studies agree that the ECS plays a major role in the development of mental, bodily, and behavioral responses after a TBI. 

Although further study is needed to produce precise protocols that may be accessible and recommended by mainstream medicine, some preliminary research has already been done. Each example is adding information to the outlook for the condition treated with cannabinoids.

Anecdotal Support for Using CBD as a Treatment for Brain Injury

It takes years for new scientific information to be studied and released. To draw a conclusion, you first must subject the drug being investigated, in this case CBD, to rigorous testing.

While scientific studies take time, evidence exists for the benefits of cannabis in treating brain injury based on anecdotes from patients.

CBD has the potential to improve the quality of life for people who have suffered a brain injury by allowing them to increase their quality of life. 

Final Words

CBD’s brain-healing qualities are not yet fully understood and must be investigated further. Much research is being conducted regularly, and soon we will get a clearer understanding of the role of CBD in TBI. The current research suggests that CBD has some properties which can help increase quality of life in brain injury, but we cannot be sure how effective it is or if it has any side effects. We have to wait for more research to be conducted and results to be announced; only then can we be sure about how effective it is to use CBD as a treatment for brain injury. 

About the author:

Sean Roberts is a writer by profession. He is a full time writer working with NY Marijuana Card, a leading clinic that provides medical marijuana recommendations. He aims at educating people about the medicinal use of cannabis https://nymarijuanacard.com/


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04/Sep/2020

By: Dr. Shawn Meirovici N.D.

Intro

As a cannabis educator and naturopathic doctor I naturally get asked several questions about cannabis. Specifically cannabidiol (CBD) and epilepsy. I believe CBD enriched cannabis oil can be an effective and safe first or second line therapy for various forms of epilepsy and this is why.

Back Story on CBD and Epilepsy

Allow me to first tell you a bit about the story behind CBD and epilepsy. The potential of CBD as a therapeutic option in treating epilepsy came to the forefront back in 2013. Renowned CNN medical journalist Dr. Sanjay Gupta did a special report series on cannabis called “Weed”. One of these episodes highlighted a 5 year old girl named Charlotte Figi.

Charlotte, who had been diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, was being treated with a concentrated CBD oil. Dravet syndrome is characterized by prolonged and frequent seizures that typically begin in the first year of life. Without successful treatment, Dravet can lead to severe health concerns including developmental disabilities. After several anti-epileptic drugs failed to control her seizures, Charlottes family had began to research alternative options to help their daughter. 

A little known fact is that CBD was actually discovered and researched before the most famous of the cannabinoids, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Not too long after the discovery of CBD, research into the calming effects of CBD on the neurological system and its potential as an anti-epileptic came to surface. 

One such study came from the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Published in 1981, the study found that cannabidiol was effective in almost all epileptic patients (secondary generalized epilepsy) at a dose of 200-300mg daily for 4.5 months. There were no psychological or physical symptoms suggestive of psychotropic or toxic effects. (1)

The Figi’s soon came across some of this research and began searching for high CBD strains of cannabis (not easily attainable at the time). They came across the Stanley Brothers in Colorado who had bred a high CBD low THC strain of marijuana  known as “Hippie’s Disappointment”. The name suggesting its low THC content and little to no psychotropic effects.

Charlottes parents and physician said that she experienced a reduction of her epileptic seizures after her first dose of CBD oil! The strain was then renamed “Charlotte’s Web” and thus began a flurry of interest into cannibidiol and changing of marijuana laws across America. 

More recently there have been several high quality clinical trials, including three phase 3 clinical trials in 2017. These trials demonstrated the efficacy of cannabidiol in reducing convulsive seizure activity; specifically in children with treatment-resistant Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. (2)





Dr. Sanjay Gupta M.D. CNN Special Report “Weed”

How CBD works

I will now explain how we think CBD works in convulsive syndromes. In order to do so I must first briefly explain an important biological system that all humans, in fact all creatures with the exception of insects, possess called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).  The ECS regulates many bodily systems to maintain balance. One such job of the ECS is to function as a self-regulating harm reduction system; essentially acting as a breaker system shutting down power when circuits get overloaded. 

The ECS is able to do this via chemical messengers in our body called endocannabinoids (Cannabinoids found within our body). The two main endocannabinoids are Anandamide (AEA)  and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Endocannabinoids are released at the postsynaptic neuron (the receiving end of a chemical signal). Through retrograde inhibition (a feedback loop) can turn off or quiet a signal. As you can imagine, if there was no off switch things would go haywire very quickly. 

Circling back to epilepsy, one of the ways the ECS functions is by maintaining homeostasis in the nervous system. The ECS is involved in the prevention of excess neuronal activity as is the case with a convulsive seizure. So you may now be wondering how CBD fits into this picture. 

Our ECS is activated via receptors called cannabinoid receptors. We have many types of these receptors throughout our body. Our endocannabinoids (AEA and 2-AG) as well as phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids from plants such as THC) activate these receptors. Unlike THC, however, CBD does not fit well into our cannabinoid receptors. CBD instead boosts the activity of our endocannabinoids (AEA and 2-AG) by slowing their enzymatic breakdown.

In short, CBD can increase our endocannabinoid tone by inhibiting re-uptake. Much like how an antidepressant boosts serotonin activity by inhibiting re-uptake of serotonin.

There are many other physiological actions of CBD, such as being a potent anti inflammatory and having antidepressant effect. However, for the purposes of understanding how it can work in epilepsy, CBD is thought to act by increasing endocannabinoid tone in the nervous system. 

CBD is regarded as a very safe medicinal substance as it doesn’t directly stimulate our receptors, as do many other drugs. Rather, it boosts our own innate endocannabinoid activity.

The Endocannbinoid System

CBD Safety In Epilepsy

CBD is a generally well tolerated medication, and has no known toxicity (we’re not sure if its even possible to overdose from it). There are however some things that are important to point out to patients considering using CBD, especially when it comes to epileptic patients already taking other anti epileptic drugs (AED). 

A randomized control trial (RCT) from 2018 in the journal of Neurology aimed to evaluate the safety of CBD in children with Dravet syndrome. The patients were aged 4-10 years and they received a CBD oil at relatively high doses (5, 10 or 20mg/kg/day). That equates to 65mg per day on the lower end and 260mg per day on the higher end for a 30lb child.

Considering the average adult using CBD consumes somewhere between 20-60mg per day, that’s a pretty hefty dose for a child. The results of the study indicated that for the most part CBD had no effect on other AEDs’ (Clobazam, Valproate, Levetiracetam, Topiramate and Stripentol). There was one exception with N-desmethylclobazam in which it increased levels of this drug. This effect is likely due to how CBD can slow down liver metabolism via a specific enzyme called CYP450.  (3)

There was also an increase in liver enzymes in 6 patients taking both valproate and CBD. Something that may not be of much clinical significance but should be monitored. Most of my medicated patients with epilepsy are prescribed Keppra (Levetiracetam) as a first line therapy. It’s good to know that even at high doses (260mg/day) CBD is not likely to interact with this medication. Valproate is the second most common AED that I see clinically. In these patients it is recommended to test the liver enzymes every so often. 

There were more adverse effects (AE) in those patients taking CBD as compared to placebo. The most common AEs’ being pyrexia, somnolence, decreased appetite, sedation, vomiting, ataxia and abnormal behaviour. In general CBD was well-tolerated. To compare, the most common AEs’ in patients taking Keppra (Levetiracetam) are: headache, increased blood pressure, somnolence, drowsiness, fatigue, anorexia, weakness, nasopharyngitis and cough. Keppra is also one of the more well tolerated AEDs’. In my opinion CBD, at the very least, is very similar to Keppra in safety profile and efficacy and should therefore be considered as a first or second line therapy. 

CBD Efficacy in Epilepsy

One of the more recent studies looking into CBD and epilepsy was conducted just down the street from me at the Hospital for Sick Kids (a world renowned children’s hospital in Toronto Canada). 

The study was published in the Annals of Clinical Translational Neurology in August of 2018. What was even more exciting is that the study used a CBD enriched cannabis oil from a licensed producer (Tilray) that many of my patients have access to. The CBD oil contained 100mg/ml CBD and 2mg/ml THC. Nineteen children with Dravet syndrome received the CBD oil  for the complete 20-week intervention. The average dose was 13.3mg/kg/day (right in line with the dose of previously discussed safety study). The most common AEs’ were: somnolence, anorexia and diarrhea. Liver enzymes increased in patients also taking Valproate (so it looks like the interactions and adverse effects are pretty consistent).

There was a statistically significant improvement in quality of life, reduction in EEG spike activity (correlated with seizure activity), an average motor seizure reduction of 70.6% (motor seizure reduction rate in Keppra is around 37%) with a 50% responder rate of 63% (comparable to Keppra). (4)(5) Click Here for Sick Kids Study

Tilray 2:100 CBD oil

CBD as first line therapy in Epilepsy

At this point you may be wondering why CBD is not generally considered as a first line therapy option for convulsive seizure disorders? 

The reality is that the medical system in North America is generally very conservative in accepting new treatments. This is often a good thing (protecting the public from potentially dangerous or useless medications). However, on the flip side it can be a obstacle for getting naturally derived medicines, that we know to be safe and likely effective, to the patients that would benefit from them. 

Currently we only have studies using CBD oil or CBD enriched cannabis oil (Containing other cannabinoids like THC) in patients with severe forms of epilepsy, or who have failed to see benefit with several other AEDs’. However, if we take into account all the information we do have on CBD, we can draw some pretty solid conclusions about its safety profile, the potential adverse effects, interactions with other drugs and its efficacy. 

Until we see a robust amount of research using CBD as a first line therapy in a wider array of seizure disorders it is not likely to be accepted as a first or second or third choice by many neurologists. As a Naturopathic Doctor and cannabis educator I do see the potential of CBD for epilepsy. I will therefore continue to advocate for CBDs’ consideration as a first or second line therapeutic agent in many of my patients with epilepsy. 

Check out my other articles on CBD and medical marijuana

Epilepsy Foundation stance on medical marijuana

References

  1. Carlini EA, Cunha JM. Hypnotic and antiepileptic effects of cannabidiol. J Clin Pharmacol. 1981;21(S1):417S-427S. doi:10.1002/j.1552-4604.1981.tb02622.x
  2. O’Connell, Brooke (May 1, 2017), “Cannabinoids in treatment-resistant epilepsy: A review.”, Epilepsy Behav, Epilepsy & Behavior, 70, 6, 341-348, 70: 341–348, doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2016.11.012, PMID 28188044
  3. Devinsky O, Patel AD, Thiele EA, et al. Randomized, dose-ranging safety trial of cannabidiol in Dravet syndrome. Neurology. 2018;90(14):e1204-e1211. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000005254
  4. McCoy B, Wang L, Zak M, et al. A prospective open-label trial of a CBD/THC cannabis oil in dravet syndrome. Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 2018;5(9):1077-1088. Published 2018 Aug 1. doi:10.1002/acn3.621
  5. Abou-Khalil B. Levetiracetam in the treatment of epilepsy. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2008;4(3):507-523. doi:10.2147/ndt.s2937

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30/Oct/2019

“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food”; a famous quote from the Classical Grecian physician Hippocrates. Lions Mane mushrooms are a perfect embodiment of this philosophy; as delicious as it is therapeutic. 

Lions mane (Hericium Erinaceus) is a white clumpy mushroom with long dangling spines that tends to grow in late summer/early fall on hardwoods.

I was first introduced to Lion’s Mane a few years ago when I had a few patients tell me they were using an extract of the mushroom to help with memory. Supplements that enhance brain activity, AKA Nootropics, have always tweaked my interest as one of my areas of clinical focus is in neurology. At first I thought that maybe this is the newest “superfood fad” but once I began to investigate the research on this mushroom my opinion quickly changed.

It was clear that Lions Mane had some legitimate therapeutic value in inflammation, the immune system, psychiatric conditions, cognitive enhancement, diabetes, heart disease, bowel disease and cancer.

Lions Mane Mushroom
Preparing Lions Mane Mushroom in my kitchen

Inflammation and Depression

A 2012 study demonstrated that Lions Mane mushroom contains several compounds that have moderate to high levels of antioxidant capacity. This translates into an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. A 2015 study demonstrated that participants who consumed Lions Mane had less depressive symptoms and improvements in blo-markers of depression which was attributed to it’s anti-inflammatory effects.  Another study demonstrated that Lions Mane can enhance immune function possibly by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. 

Immune 

Not only does Lions Mane help boost immune function by reducing oxidative stress, it also seems to benefit intestinal immune function. A study on mice revealed that some of the proteins in the mushroom help encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. 

Naturopathic Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Memory

Cognitive enhancement is the main reason that I see people taking this mushroom. It is possible that it does have some cognitive enhancement properties but all the research so far has been done on animals. One such study found that mice given a lion’s mane supplement had better object recognition and recognition memory. Other research suggests that Lions Mane may have the potential to prevent or treat conditions of cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Heart Health

Heart Health

Research on rats has demonstrated that Lions Mane may have cholesterol lowering effects and blood pressure lowering effects. Compounds in Lions Mane may help in the production of Nitric Oxide, which helps keep blood vessels relaxed. 

Cancer

The antioxidant properties of Lions Mane may contribute to some anti-cancer effects seen in rat and in vitro studies. One in vitro study indicated that Lions Mane has activity against human leukemia cells. Another study showed that in mice, Lions Mane has activity against Liver, Colon and Gastric cancer cells. 

Diabetes

After 4 weeks of Lions Mane supplementation, rats with diabetes had lower blood sugar levels than those who did not receive the mushroom.  Diabetes can often result in life altering nerve damage. A 2015 study showed that diabetic rats given an extract of Lions Mane had reduced nerve pain and improved antioxidant activity after 6 weeks. 

Intestinal Health

Digestive Health

I previously discussed how Lions mane can have anti-inflammatory effect of the digestive tract, as well as benefitting the growth of “good” intestinal bacteria. Another study demonstrated that Lions Mane has some interesting antimicrobial effects. Notably, Lions Mane seems to inhibit the growth of H-pylori, a bacteria responsible for close to 80% of stomach ulcers.

Nerve Repair

One of the most fascinating health benefits of Lions Mane came out of a rat study. Rats with nerve damage who were given daily extracts of Lions mane had quicker nerve cell regeneration than those who did not. 

Culinary 

Up until a few weeks ago I thought Lions Mane was an exotic mushroom that was only used therapeutically as a supplement.  Recently, I found myself in a local Farmers Market and low and behold a mushroom farmer was selling fresh Lions Mane; I was amazed! I asked the farmer “how do I prepare this”? He told me to cut the mushroom in ½ inch slices and in a hot pan with butter, sear both sides. So, I bought some and followed his advice, and discovered that Lions Mane is absolutely delicious! It is now one of my favorite cooking mushrooms and I have since heard from many foodies and chefs that it is one of their favorites too. So let food be thy medicine everyone, and cook up some Lions Mane this fall!

Citations


Leonard, Jayne. “What are the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms?.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 22 Oct. 2018. Web.
30 Oct. 2019. <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323400.php>


Leonard, J. (2018, October 22). “What are the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms?.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323400.php.

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Dietary Supplementation of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), and Spatial Memory in Wild-Type Mice.
Rossi P, Cesaroni V, Brandalise F, Occhinegro A, Ratto D, Perrucci F, Lanaia V, Girometta C, Orrù G, Savino E.
Int J Med Mushrooms. 2018;20(5):485-494. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2018026241.
PMID: 29953363 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
A Polysaccharide Isolated from Mycelia of the Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes) Induced Apoptosis in Precancerous Human Gastric Cells.
Wang M, Zhang Y, Xiao X, Xu D, Gao Y, Gao Q.
Int J Med Mushrooms. 2017;19(12):1053-1060. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2017024975.
PMID: 29431066 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ethanol Extract of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), in Mice with Ulcerative Colitis.
Qin M, Geng Y, Lu Z, Xu H, Shi JS, Xu X, Xu ZH.
Int J Med Mushrooms. 2016;18(3):227-34. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v18.i3.50.
PMID: 27481156 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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22/Sep/2018

Cold and Flu season is here! Now that kids are back to school and the season is changing we should start thinking about preventing colds and flu. As a Naturopathic Doctor part of my job is counseling parents on safe and effective ways to treat and prevent colds and flu for the whole family. Here are 5 things that will help prevent colds and flu and can even help to ameliorate symptoms and shorten duration of an active infection.

 

Probiotics

  1. Probiotics

Probiotics help boost the immune system – Studies have shown that probiotics affect immune cells throughout the body. When certain strains of probiotics are introduced into our intestine they help to repair intestinal cells and they boost production of antimicrobial substances. In one study, 326 children aged 3-5 years were randomly assigned to receive, in double-blind fashion, probiotic supplementation. Treatments were given twice per day in divided doses for 6 months, including the winter season. Compared with placebo, the probiotic group had the following results; fever reduction 53-73%, cough reduction 41-62%, decreased runny nose 28-59%, decreased need for antibiotics 68-82%, reduced absence from school 28-32%.

Elderberry

  1. Elderberry

Elderberry extracts inhibit bacteria and viruses – Not only does elderberry syrup taste great, studies have shown that it inhibits the bacteria and viruses associated with common colds and the flu. One study demonstrated that an elderberry liquid extract possesses antimicrobial activity against both streptococci bacteria and influenza viruses. Another study looked at 312 air travellers flying from Australia to an overseas destination.  Those travellers who took an elderberry extract before, during and after travel had fewer colds, less sick days and less symptoms.

Vitamin C

  1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C supports immune cells – Vitamin C is very important for optimal immune system functioning. Vitamin C helps immune cells get to where they need to be, kill pathogens effectively, protect the body from damage and clean up after battling infections. Studies have shown that adequate vitamin C in the blood helps prevent infections, is necessary to fight infections and helps with recovery. The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 100-200mg/day; however during active infection, the metabolic demand increases and therefore the requirement for vitamin C is likely to be higher. Even in this day and age, vitamin C is the fourth leading nutrient deficiency in North America. Poor diet and increases in free radical exposure due to an unhealthy lifestyle may be contributing factors. Excellent sources of vitamin C are Broccoli, Citrus Fruits and Berries.

Zinc

  1. Zinc

Zinc is essential for immune system communication – The importance of zinc for proper immune function has been well established. Zinc deficiency undoubtedly causes immune system malfunction.  The cells of our body are in constant communication. During infection there is a need for effective communication between immune cells in order to get rid of the “bad guys”.  Communication happens in the form of chemical messengers and enzymes. Zinc is an essential component of these chemicals and enzymes. As with vitamin C, during active infection our requirement for zinc is likely to increase. Studies have shown that Zinc supplementation during infection can shorten the duration of the illness. Excellent dietary sources of zinc include: Meat, Shellfish, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds. Supplementation may be important with a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Vitamin D from Sunlight

  1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the supervisor of the immune system –Vitamin D has many functions in the body, and receptors for vitamin D can be found on many different tissues. One important function for vitamin D is in the modulation of our immune system. Studies have suggested that vitamin D is able to both calm down and rev-up the immune system according to what our body needs it to do. This is why Vitamin D is thought to be as important in autoimmune disorders as it is in infections.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause the immune system to behave erratically. Unfortunately in Canada we have one of the highest incidences of vitamin D deficiency in the world. Our primary source of vitamin D is from sunlight and therefore supplementation becomes important especially during the winter months. Studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in athletes who are deficient in the vitamin and who train in the wintertime. Supplementation had preventative and symptom reducing effects. Aside from sunlight, some dietary sources of vitamin D are: fortified foods, fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks and cheese.

 

Even vitamins and minerals at high dosages can be dangerous, especially in children. It is always recommended to consult with a health care professional, such as a Naturopathic Doctor, before supplementing on your own.

 

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Leyer, GJ et al. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics 2009; 124-179. Walker, WA. Mechanisms of action of probiotics. Clin Infect Dis. 2008; 46 (Suppl2): S87-91.

Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2011 October ; 27(6): 496–501. doi:10.1097/MOG.0b013e32834baa4d.  Probiotics and immune health Fang Yana and D.B. Polkb,c,d

Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration

and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized,

Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial Evelin Tiralongo 1,2, *, Shirley S. Wee 2,3 and Rodney A. Lea 4 Received: 8 February 2016; Accepted: 18 March 2016; Published: 24 March 2016

 

Krawitz et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011, 11:16

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/11/16

Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry

liquid extract against clinically-relevant human

respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A

and B viruses Christian Krawitz1†, Mobarak Abu Mraheil1†, Michael Stein2, Can Imirzalioglu1, Eugen Domann1, Stephan Pleschka2*,

Torsten Hain1*

 

Vitamin C and Immune Function Anitra C. Carr 1, * and Silvia Maggini 2

1 Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch, P.O. Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand

2 Bayer Consumer Care Ltd., Peter-Merian-Strasse 84, 4002 Basel, Switzerland; silvia.maggini@bayer.com* Correspondence: anitra.carr@otago.ac.nz; Tel.: +643-364-0649 Received: 21 September 2017; Accepted: 31 October 2017; Published: 3 November 2017

 

Biofactors. 2014 Jan-Feb;40(1):27-40. doi: 10.1002/biof.1114. Epub 2013 Jun 27.Zinc signals and immune function. Haase H1Rink L.

 

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 18;(6):CD001364. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub4. Zinc for the common cold.

Singh M1Das RR.

 

Vitamin D3 Supplementation Reduces the Symptoms

of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection during Winter

Training in Vitamin D-Insufficient Taekwondo

Athletes: A Randomized Controlled Trial Hyun Chul Jung 1 , Myong-Won Seo 2  , Sukho Lee 3 , Sung Woo Kim 2  and Jong Kook Song 2, * 1 Department of Kinesiology, College of Health Sciences, University of Louisiana at Monroe, 700 University

Avenue, Monroe, LA 71209, USA; jung@ulm.edu

2 Department of Taekwondo, College of Physical Education, Kyung Hee University, 1732 Deokyoungdaero, Giheung-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do 17014, Korea; smilly1004@khu.ac.kr (M.-W.S.); kswrha@khu.ac.kr (S.W.K.)

3 Department of Counseling, Health, and Kinesiology, College of Education and Human Development,Texas A&M University-San Antonio, One University Way, San Antonio, TX 78224, USA; slee@tamusa.edu* Correspondence: jksong@khu.ac.kr; Tel.: +82-31-201-2708 Received: 2 August 2018; Accepted: 10 September 2018; Published: 14 September 2018

 

Mechanisms Underlying the Regulation of Innate and

Adaptive Immunity by Vitamin D Ran Wei and Sylvia Christakos *

Received: 25 June 2015 ; Accepted: 15 September 2015 ; Published: 24 September 2015 Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, New Jersey Medical School, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 185 South Orange Ave, Newark, NJ 07103, USA; weira@njms.rutgers.edu

* Correspondence: christak@njms.rutgers.edu; Tel.: +973-972-4033; Fax: +973-972-5594


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06/Jul/2018

One goal of Naturopathic pediatrics is to use natural therapies to prevent and treat mild to moderate conditions, resorting to pharmaceutical and surgical interventions as secondary options or in emergency situations. The core belief in Naturopathic pediatrics is to encourage the body to heal itself. This is achieved through supporting the immune system, addressing nutritional deficiencies, promoting a healthy diet and lifestyle; including exercise, sleep and mental habits.

 

Disease as a Process

Fever is an excellent example of how a naturopathic approach may differ from a conventional approach. A fever is our natural defence mechanism against a pathogen. By raising the temperature of the body a few degrees many pathogens (viruses, bacteria) stop functioning optimally and the body activates inflammatory immune cells and enzymes to destroy the invading organism. While conventional medicine often sees disease symptoms, like a fever, as something to be suppressed, naturopathic doctors often see them as something to be promoted.

It has become commonplace to try to intervene in the disease process too swiftly, taking medications to decrease fever and inflammation prematurely. The Naturopathic Doctors role is to recognize the stages of the disease process, closely monitoring a fever, knowing when a fever should be left alone and when intervention is necessary. All the while helping the child feel better without interfering in the healing process.

There are generally 5 stages of the disease process: Incubation, Aggravation, Destruction, Abatement and Reconstruction.

Incubation is where the invading organism is accumulating in certain areas of the body. This process can take hours to days to weeks to months. The immune system reacts and either removes the organism or the organism replicates too quickly and the body moves to the next stage. It is common to not have any obvious signs of infection during this stage.

Aggravation includes the usual signs of inflammation, replication of immune cells, fever, redness, pain, malaise, loss of appetite and fatigue. These are signs that the immune system is hard at work and should be encouraged. This is where suppression commonly occurs with fever reducing medications, and anti-inflammatories, which can revert healing back to the incubation phase.

Destruction is the peak of inflammation and results in the destruction of one organism or another.

Abatement occurs when the fight is over and it’s time to clean up the debris. The immune cells, dead organisms and inflammatory fluids must be removed by the body. The fever “breaks” and sweating begins. Coughing up phlegm, runny nose, diarrhea and other discharges remove the debris from the body. In conventional medicine, cleanup is often viewed as an additional set of annoying symptoms that need to be suppressed by drugs, often impeding on the “cleanup” process.

Fever reductions after administering fever reducing medications should not be confused with abatement. The fever will often spike again. The immune system is trying to do its job but is being suppressed.

Reconstruction happens next. The body is reconstructing damaged tissue, the body is attempting to reset back to its original state.

Most pediatric infections will run their course, and the child will heal themselves. The Naturopathic Doctor watches the disease process closely, waiting to see if the body will heal or get worse requiring intervention. Besides making this decision, it is also the Naturopathic Doctors role to encourage processes like fevers, rather than suppress healing and teach parents to save fever reducing medications until necessary.

Intervention

The Naturopathic Doctor monitors the inflammatory process, only intervening to prevent a severe state of aggravation. Mild interventions such as cooling baths, friction rubs, warming socks can often lower a high fever and help the child feel better. These therapies have their limits and are not always sufficient. It is also the Naturopathic Doctors role to recognize an emergency situation that requires pharmaceutical intervention and to educate the family with regard to monitoring the disease and recognizing an emergency situation.

Safety

The first principle of Naturopathic Medicine is “primum non nocere” first, do no harm. Safety is a combination of good diagnostics, good choice of treatments, prevention, and physician intervention when necessary. The properly trained, properly regulated Naturopathic Doctor should be able to guide the family through a confusing landscape of both conventional and non-conventional medicine by knowing which “alternative” approaches are safe and effective and when referral to another integrative professional or physician will be in the best interest of the infant, child or adult.

 

Dr. Shawn is now at KidCrew Fridays from 10am-6pm



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18/Apr/2018

A Naturopathic Doctor can play an important role in managing CMT through dietary counseling, specialized testing and by offering relevant integrative therapies.

CMT is a hereditary disorder affecting the motor and sensory nerves.  It’s characterized by progressive loss of muscle tissue and sensation in various parts of the body. Currently CMT is incurable and is the most common inherited neurological disorder and affects approximately 1 in 2,500 people.

In terms of managing CMT, by far the most important goal is to maintain movement, muscle strength and flexibility. Often overlooked is the role diet, pain management and antispasmodics can play in CMT. Having a naturopathic doctor familiar with neurological conditions can be a valuable part of a healthcare team.

 

Sugar

Although sugar is sweet and delicious, at high concentrations it can become a poison for the nervous system. Uncontrolled blood sugar, including diabetes, will exacerbate nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy in CMT. A naturopathic doctor can test blood sugar in order to determine if it poses a risk. Dietary counseling, such as education around glycemic index and glycemic load, can help balance blood sugar levels. There are also effective strategies that can boost insulin sensitivity thus lowering blood sugar. These include; low impact exercise and supplements like chromium, berberine, agaricus mushroom, american ginseng, and vitamin B3.

 

Diet

A diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds can greatly improve neuromotor and locomotor performance. Curcumin and vitamin C are two natural compounds that have been and are currently being investigated as potential therapeutic agents for CMT. One study demonstrated a decrease in neuron death and an increase in size and number of nerve sheath cells after administration of curcumin. Intermittent fasting is a diet strategy that promotes a 16 hour fasting period each day and has been shown to improve locomotor functioning in CMT patients after 5-months.

 

Nerve Pain

Nerve pain and neuropathy can be addressed through a few different approaches. Application of topical counterirritants such as capsaicin and menthol can work by overriding pain signals. Peripheral pain blockers work by re-routing pain signals locally at the source of the pain. Effective peripheral pain blockers include: acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, moxabustion and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).  Central pain blockers block or override pain signals where they are interpreted, in the brain. Central pain blockers include cannabis, wild lettuce and california poppy.

 

Cramps and Spasms

There are many effective integrative therapies for cramps and muscle spasms. These therapies work by balancing electrical conduction at the muscle and stimulating inhibitory neurotransmitters. Some of the most effective therapies are: magnesium, acupuncture, GABA, valerian, cramp bark, skullcap, passionflower and cannabis.

 

Nerve-Protection

One of the largest areas a naturopathic doctor can serve as a crucial part of the integrative healthcare team is in offering strategies to prevent further nerve damage, and in some cases reversing existing nerve damage. Neuroprotectants generally belong to two main categories: antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Neuroprotectant antioxidants include: alpha lipoic acid, glutathione, resveratrol, EGCG, flavonoids, Co-Q10, CBD and THC. Anti-inflammatory strategies include testing for food sensitivities, hormone levels and environmental toxins.  Anti-inflammatory supplements include Omega 3 fatty acids, curcumin, boswelia, and CBD.


dr_shawn

Patient focused integrative health care. Utilizing effective natural approaches designed to be used alone or to compliment conventional medical care.


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