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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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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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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.


Information

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