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Friday, January 23, 2009

Don't want to get sick? What you need to do!

Some people seem to have been hit hard with the flu &/or cold this season. The flu vaccine has been largely ineffective in five of the last seven flu seasons and preliminary data shows that we may have missed again. Luckily, there are other preventive measures you can take. Most of us know about the importance of washing our hands and eating a healthy diet, but what about sleep?

The importance of good quality sleep is often overlooked. Many people are sleep deprived going to bed late and waking up early. Some reasons are valid, but others choose to incur this sleep debt.

A study reported in the January 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that quality and duration of sleep affects your susceptibility to the common cold. Healthy volunteers had their sleep assessed for two weeks and were then inoculated with nasal drops containing the rhinovirus, a common bug that causes the common cold.

Results:
Those who slept less than 7 hours per night were 2.94 times more likely to get a cold than those with 8 hours of sleep. Those with less than 92% sleep efficiency - a measure of quality of sleep - were 5.50 times more likely to get a cold.

These results could not be explained by differences in pre-virus antibody titers, demographics, season/weather, body mass, socioeconomic status, psychological variables and health practices.

So, get your sleep to prevent getting sick. Some may draw the conclusion that 8 hours of sleep is best from this study, but in my opinion, people need more. People tend to say that their optimal sleep duration is 8 hours when asked, but I rarely find that to be the case. For some reason, people feel that's the right response when asked. Challenge yourself: How long would you sleep for if not awakened by an alarm clock? Do you feel rested when you wake up?

Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Puffers/Steroids don't work for wheezing children

The details are little bit vague, but I recall going to a doctor when I was younger and being prescribed puffers for wheezing symptoms. The doctor said it was for prevention. And that's the advice many children are given when it come to wheezing. My parents are big believers in Traditional Chinese Medicine and didn't believe in steroid use (ie. puffers) for prevention so I went off it. I've never experienced any wheezing or asthmatic symptoms since that one summer. Lucky for me I guess and lucky that I didn't continue taking the steroids.

Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine is now advocating that most steroid use for children prone to wheezes and colds is largely ineffective. This article reported on two studies conducted. One involved British preschoolers who were admitted to hospitals for wheezing attacks. Those treated with the steroids had the same recovery period as those given fake pills. The second study was on Canadian kids taking steroids for prevention. The results showed that preventive steroid use had modest improvement with the wheezing, but the side effect of possible stunted growth outweighed the benefits.

Even I was surprised by this research because steroids are quite effective at opening the airways, especially during asthma attacks. For those of you with asthma, it's still important to carry your puffer, but if your child experiences transient wheezing episodes (like I did), you should consult your doctor about this latest piece of research.

Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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

Friday, January 16, 2009

Warning if you're on these meds for hypertension

Do you have high blood pressure? Are you on a combination of ACE Inhibitors and Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) to control your blood pressure?

If your answer is yes, then you are advised to seek a change in your drug prescriptions as soon as possible. This alert is from The Heart and Stroke Foundation and is based on the newest research involving 25,620 patients on the drug combo. Those on both ACE Inhibitors and ARBs had more side effects (ie. kidney problems, higher heart attack rates, etc.) than those on just one of the drugs and the benefits to blood pressure was only marginally better.

Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yes, genes play a role in weight gain. But not quite what you were taught!

"You take after your dad's side - they're all big boned"
"My parents are a overweight, so that's why I can't lose weight"

Sometimes, people resign themselves to being overweight and justifications like those above are heard. Yes, it's true, some people are "luckier" than others in that they don't gain weight as easily. But your genes - the nature part of the equation - is influenced by the environment you grew up in - "nurture" which is the second half of the picture. I love this topic: "nature vs nurture" and which has a more profound impact on your health? I've met some people who say, what the heck, do what you want because your genes determine your health. Genetics and health is a game of probability. Some actions, stack the deck in your favour and others increase your chances for failure.

Young parents, take note of this latest piece of research conducted by scientists at the University of Calgary. Baby rats were fed three different diets: a high protein diet, a high fiber diet or a balanced diet. When these rats reached adulthood, they were all fed a high fat, high sugar diet mirroring the North American diet - otherwise known as the fast food and junk food diet. The rats were allowed to eat as much of the junk food as desired. The ones fed the high protein diet in infancy craved the junk much more and subsequently gained much more body weight and fat.

So, what this latest piece of research suggests is that what you feed your children during their developmental phase (which in my opinion extends well into adolescence), affects certain aspects of their health well into their adult life. Genes can be affected by the environment, whether it be pollution, diet and nutrition, exercise, etc. We can't change the genes that we were dealt, but we can certainly affect the expression of the genes making sure that the most optimal outcome is produced.

If you were fed poorly as a child, do you have to be resigned to a life of bad health? Definitely not, in my opinion. Your cells are constantly being turned over and your genes are still influenced by what you do now. It's a possibility that you might have to work harder at maintaining your health than others, but that's not a reason to give up. The harder the struggle, the greater the satisfaction. Turn over a new leaf for the 2009 year and begin your journey to optimal health. Don't be afraid to ask for advice. The hardest part is taking that first step!

Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vicks VapoRub: How not to use it!


Have you ever smeared some Vicks VapoRub under your nose? A number of people do this to clear their nasal passages. Dr. Rubin of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina has published a study in the journal Chest looking at this practice.

His conclusion are to "never put Vicks in, or under, the nose of anybody - adult or child." His study focuses on children under two years old because they are especially vulnerable as doing so can cause severe respiratory distress. The ingredients in Vicks can be irritants to the nasal passages. As a protective mechanism, the body produces more mucus which causes a young child's small airways to swell, causing severe breathing difficulties.

Procter and Gamble, the makers of Vicks do advise parents against using their product in your little ones in this way.

If you use Vicks in this manner, I would appreciate your feedback about this practice - Both positive and negative comments.

~
Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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

Monday, January 12, 2009

Migraines: Pain pills make them worse!


Migraine suffers beware. How many of you reach for the advil or even stronger pain killers when you're experiencing a migraine? Like most of my patients, probably all of you. Little do people realize that this habit may be making your migraines worse. It's a little phenomena called rebound headaches and I learned about this way back in first year university psychology.

Essentially what happens is that a person reaches for the pain killer upon the start of the migraine, which helps, but if you're a chronic sufferer, your body habituates to the drug. For those of you who watch "House, MD" on tv, you'll notice his addiction to Vicodin. Migraine sufferers will find that they need more and more of the painkillers as the headaches come more frequently and with greater intensity. Rebound headaches can even arise the next day for some unlucky few. For some this leads to a state called chronic migraine, where these sufferers are in pain more days than not. Can't be fun!

What can be done?

Lack of sleep, food triggers and stress all play a role. Qualified health care practitioners can help you determine if any foods are the culprit. Everyone's different so it's not a cookie cutter approach like the general recommendations made to avoid tyramine containing foods. Herbs, acupuncture and general naturopathic health guidelines will help as well.

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Third-hand smoke" exposure coined by researchers

Hello and happy new year folks! Around this time, many people are setting resolutions and the two most vocalized goals are quitting smoking and losing weight. I've heard a number of people tell me that they want to quit smoking, not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them. We've all heard about the toxic effects of second-hand smoke, but what about third-hand smoke. Researchers in the January edition of the journal Pediatrics have coined this term, referring to the toxic substances that linger on furniture and smokers themselves well after they've finished their cigarettes/cigars. I have always groups this into the category of second-hand smoke, but third-hand smoke it is from now on.

Third-hand smoke contains heavy metals and chemicals found in paint thinners and chemical weapons such as hydrogen cyanide, butane, toluene, arsenic, lead, carbon monoxide and even radioactive polonium-210. These residual toxins are especially harmful to children because first off, they are smaller and still growing. Secondly, children tend to play, crawl, touch, lick and breathe near surfaces contaminated by third-hand smoke. Cigarette smoke and toxins affect more than just the lungs. People associate smoking with lung cancer, but it affects many other facets of health including increasing the risks of other types of cancers, nerve damage and much more.

So please smoke outdoors if you have little ones and loved ones in your home. Of course, you can always make this the year you kick the habit. The benefits, better health and more money in your pocket. There are certainly tricks or techniques your naturopathic doctor can use to help you through this difficult process so don't be afraid to ask and to get support.

Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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