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The Listeriosis concern & what you can do

Laboratory results from Health Canada confirm a link between meat products recalled by Maple Leaf Foods from their plant in Toronto and an outbreak of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. As of August 27, 2008, 15 deaths in Canada have been linked to listeriosis; 12 were from Ontario, with one each in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Health officials are now reporting an additional 29 confirmed cases of listeriosis.


Listeria monocytogenes (commonly called Listeria) is a type of bacteria often found in food and elsewhere in nature. It can cause a rare and potentially serious disease called listeriosis. Many people may be exposed to Listeria, but few will actually develop listeriosis symptoms. Those at greatest risk include:

  • the elderly
  • pregnant women
  • newborns
  • those with weakened immune systems


Symptoms may start within a day of eating contaminated food, or may occur weeks later. The initial symptoms often include:

  • high, persistent fever
  • severe headache
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting, nausea
  • muscle pain
  • Other associated symptoms to watch for include: stiff neck, loss of balance or confusion. If pregnant, the symptoms often resemble the flu.


This current outbreak is associated with products from the Maple Leaf plant in Toronto. Public health officials have warned that food contaminated with Listeria may not look or smell like it has spoiled. The affected products include:

  • 24 deli meat sandwich varieties
  • 28 varieties of Safeway and TakeAwayCafe brand sandwiches at Safeway and Mac's Convenience Stores

For an extensive list on products of concern please visit the following link:


The risk of contracting listeriosis depends on two factors: 1) individual susceptibility and 2) exposure to the bacteria. There are steps that can be taken to decrease your susceptibility, even after you have consumed food that may have been contaminated.

These steps include:

1. Follow a healthy, preventive lifestyle by:

  • Eating a "clean diet" that consist primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains
  • Eating moderate amounts of protein including legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Avoiding the following: sugar, fruit juices, caffeine, alcohol, and processed and fried food
  • Drinking at least six to eight glasses of water per day
  • Ensuring you get eight hours of sleep each night
  • Practicing deep breathing exercises 10 minutes per day
  • Focusing on positive mental outlook and positive thinking
  • Engaging in 1/2 hour of exercise per day
  • Following proper dietary hygiene steps, as outlined below

2. If you are concerned about your immune status or health risks, work with a naturopathic doctor to receive advice on what treatment strategy is best for disease prevention and the treatment of symptoms.


  • Read and follow all package labels and instructions on food preparation and storage
  • After handling foods in the kitchen, especially raw foods such as meat and fish, thoroughly clean and sanitize all surfaces used for food
  • To avoid cross-contamination, clean all knives, cutting boards and utensils used for raw food before using them again
  • Thoroughly clean fruits and vegetables before you eat them
  • Heat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats to the point of steaming hot, prior to eating them
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food, prepared food and leftovers within two hours
  • Defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave, but never at room temperature
  • Keep leftovers for a maximum of four days only and reheat them to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) before eating them
  • Frequently wash and disinfect the refrigerator. The more often it is cleaned, the less chance there will before Listeria to be transferred from contaminated food and surfaces to non-contaminated foods

For more information on listeriosis, symptoms, treatment and precautionary measures, please visit the HEALTH CANADA website at

Yours in Health,

Ian Koo, ND

Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

"The care you want, the health you need"

Naturopathic Essentials Health Centre

Cellphones: What you need to know

Cellphone use and its potential risks have been making the news in the last month with warnings from prominent researchers and Toronto Public Health. Even Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty began advising parents to limit children's use of cellphones.

What's the fuss about?

Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, a prominent cancer doctor and the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute wrote a memo to the hospital's 3,000 faculty and staff urging them to take precautions when using their mobile phones. Although no definitive link has been found, he advised that people should not wait til future studies be completed before people begin taking precautionary measures. It' s a better safe than sorry approach.

Health Canada and other researchers think that the fear is unfounded as as there currently is no convincing evidence of the dangers of cellphones. Others disagree, like Dr. Vini Khurana an Australian (and Mayo Clinic-trained) neurosurgeon who believes that the link between cellphone use and cancer is irrefutable as he has analyzed more than 100 studies.

So who do you believe?

Frankly it's hard to say when you have all these conflicting points of view. Even after reading up on the subject, most people (and that includes me with my eight years of post-secondary training) will not be able to make a definitive conclusion. In which case, I say it's better to take some precautions than not. And as you will see, it's not hard advice to follow, so why not do it? You don't need to wait for definitive, conclusive research that may come 20, 30 or 40 years from now - just my opinion!

Why are some health experts worried about cellphones?

It has to do with the radiation and the electromagnetic fields that are generated when the cellphone is on. Cells in the body react to radiation and there is potential for DNA damage resulting in cancers or other diseases. Please note that this radiation is emitted even when you're not using the phone - as long as it's on and can receive calls, radiation is being emitted. However this radiation is stronger when you're talking on the phone.

Also, the greater distance you are from a base station, the more radiation your phone must emit in order to get a signal, which is why your phone feels hot when you have low reception. That heat you feel is radiation. The Bioinitiative study found that adverse effects to DNA can also occur before the phone heats up. To reduce your exposure, make calls only when you have strong reception, hang up before your phone heats up, and store your phone away from your body when it's not in use.

On a side note, turn off your phones while you sleep as studies have shown that keeping your cell close to your bed affects the quality of sleep that you get.

Do you know what your phone's SAR value is?

The specific absorption rate (SAR) is the rate of radiation exposure from radio frequency and microwaves measured in watts per kilogram of tissue. Basically, it's a measurement for radiation exposure so the lower the better. You can look up the value for your phone at this link: . Unfortunately, they make you jump through several hoops til you find the information you're looking for.
Here's a quick reference for the 10 worst and 10 best phones according to SAR values as of May 22, 2008 as sourced from

The 10 Worst Cell Phones

(according to their SAR numbers)

1. Motorola V195s (1.6)
2. Motorola Slvr L6 (1.58)
3. Motorola Slvr L2 (1.54)
4. Motorola W385 (1.54)
5. Rim BlackBerry Curve 8330 (Sprint) (1.54)
6. Rim BlackBerry Curve 8330 (Verizon) (1.54)
7. Motorola Deluxe ic902 (1.53)
8. T-Mobile Shadow (1.53)
9. Motorola i335 (1.53)
10. Samsung Sync SGH-C417 (1.51)

The 10 Best Cell Phones
(according to their SAR numbers)

1. LG KG800 (0.135)
2. Motorola Razr V3x (0.14)
3. Nokia 9300 (0.21)
4. Nokia N90 (0.22)
5. Samsung SGH-G800 (0.23)
6. Samsung Sync SGH-A707 (0.236)
7. Nokia 7390 (0.26)
8. Samsung SGH-T809 (0.32)
9. Bang & Olufsen Serene (0.33)
10. Motorola Razr2 V8 (0.36)

Source: , current as of May 22, 2008

Reducing radiation exposure

It appears that the radiation from cellphones drop off slowly for the first 3-4 inches from your body and then it falls dramatically. That means that you should invest in a good hands-free headset and use the speaker phone mode when you're in a private setting. Note: Bluetooth devices do emit radiation, although at very low levels. Still, if you really want to be cautious, then you can do without, but it's up to you to decide what you're comfortable with and how many precautions you want to take.

Can cellphones affect a man's sperm or a pregnant woman?

Again, no definitive conclusions can be made, but certain studies point to possible risks. Dr. Ashok Agarwal, the director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, showed that cellphones that were set down for one hour in talk mode next to sperm samples in test tubes had significant reduction in motility and viability. The sperm also had increased levels of harmful free radicals . Dr. Agarwal suggests storing the phone in your jacket pocket to reduce exposure to cellphone radiation. Pregnant women may also need to take precautions as one study found that cellphone use while pregnant is linked to behavioral problems in children.

Should my kids be using a cell?

In my opinion, no. Besides do children really need a cell? I guess you can argue in case of emergencies, but that wouldn't be as great a factor as they would rarely have to use it. Remember that children are still growing and radiation exposure would affect them more so than adults. Also children have thinner scalps and skulls than adults which means that more radiation penetrates into the nervous system. Some experts believe that children under 16 should not be using cellphones. In fact, the medical community in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom all recommend severe restrictions on children's cellphone use. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified cellphones as a a "possible human carcinogen" because of the association between childhood leukemia and exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

It may very well be that this warning is for naught, but we won't know til 20 or 30 years from now. In the meantime, be cognizant of the safety tips on reducing cellphone radiation.

In summary:
  • Turn off phones when not in use.
  • If they have to be on at night while you sleep, keep them a few feet away.
  • Limit or restrict your children's use of cellphones.
  • Use a hands-free headset or hold the phone 8 inches away while using the speaker mode function.
  • Guys, keep the phones in your coat pockets instead of the pants pocket.
  • Pregnant women may want to consider reducing cellphone use.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Ian Koo, ND

Naturopathic Essentials Health Centre
"The care you want, the health you need."

Cigarette addiction: One might be enough to hook you

Today's issue in the Journal of Neuroscience shows us why some people are more easily hooked on cigarettes versus others. Granted, this research was performed on mice, but I believe it's not a far stretch to extrapolate some of this to humans.

Dr. Laviolette, a professor at the University of Western Ontario explains that in "the early phase of tobacco exposure, many individuals find nicotine highly unpleasant and aversive, whereas others may become rapidly dependent on nicotine and find it highly rewarding,"

People are unique and this research sheds light as to why some people can become addicted so easily to nicotine due to a genetic vulnerability. I'm sure that this applies to other substances as well and it also implies that medicines & treatment plans given to patients should be tailored to fit the uniqueness of the individual. A cookie cutter approach will not work with everyone.

Yours in Health,
Dr. Ian Koo, ND

Naturopathic Essentials Health Centre
"The care you want, the health you need."

Fluoride in drinking water? Good / bad....Health Canada's panel of experts think it should be lowered?

Health Canada's experts, as mentioned on the CBC, believe that fluoride levels in our drinking water should be reduced. They are particularly concerned about children's exposure to fluoride which can lead to fluorosis - a conditions where the bones become brittle. Fluoride is added to our water supplies to reduce the incidence of dental caries. Studies often site the decrease in dental caries upon the introduction of fluoride in North America's drinking water. However there is evidence (provided by the Fluoride Action Network and the World Health Organization) that tells a different tale. Please see the graph 2 on this website. In other Western countries, where the water is not fluoridated, there have also been marked decreases in dental problems. So it could be the case that we are unnecessarily fluoridating our drinking water. After all, most toothpastes contain fluoride and when you go to the dentist for your regular cleaning, they often have you gargle a concentrated mixture of fluoride.

In general, I would say that fluorosis is not something that most people should be concerned about. I'm more interested in the interaction between fluoride and its effects on the thyroid gland.

I remember listening to a few lectures on fluoride in my school days. In particular, I recall a guest lecturer/doctor from the U.S speaking about the potential adverse effects of fluoride and the thyroid gland. The theory goes that fluorine (a halogen on the periodic table of elements) can displace iodine (another halogen) in the thyroid gland. Iodine is concentrated in the thyroid gland as it is used in the important process of making thyroid hormones. That's why you'll find table salt that's been iodized.

People in areas around the Great Lakes region (including the Toronto area) and the U.S midwest live in what is famously termed the "Goiter belt." There were higher incidences of thyroid irregularities due to iodine deficiency in the soil, though I don't know the exact statistics nowadays.

If you do a search of the literature, you can find a number of studies (mainly animal models) showing how fluoride can impair the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Other researchers feel that these animals had to ingest a great deal of fluoride before noticeable impairments were seen.

So is fluoride in our drinking water a good idea? Honestly, it's hard to say. Does it help with dental caries? It probably does, but how much do we really need if we already get it from other sources. And if the graph about decreasing dental problems in Western countries without fluoridation is correct, then I would say that we can cut the fluoride concentrations in our water too.

Yours in health,
Dr. Ian Koo, ND

Naturopathic Essentials Health Centre
"The care you want, the health you need."