Subscribe in a reader

Monday, February 22, 2010

Marijuana - What's the harm you ask?

I've gotten this question a number of times, what's the harm of smoking pot? Many people say that it's not addictive and it can't be any worse than cigarettes, so why is it illegal. I'm not a politician or a judge so I'm not going there.

But I will talk about the health implications. We know for a fact now that when we breath in noxious fumes or smoke, this causes damage to our lungs. Not only that, but the toxins in the smoke is carried into our body through various organs including the kidneys & liver. These are more commonly known consequences associated with smoking marijuana.

Few people know of the other potential consequences, namely that marijuana increases the risk of developing schizophrenia & psychosis. Schizophrenia is a condition where by one experiences hallucinations and delusions. Cannabis use nearly doubles the risk of psychosis especially if one starts early. Heavy use before 16 years of age can quadruple ones risk.

There is a misperception that marijuana, the drug of choice of the "flower-power" generation in the ninety-sixties is a harmless drug. What people don't realize is that modern marijuana does not resemble the pot of the 1960s. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the active ingredient in marijuana that produces the psychedelic effects was in the 1-3% range in the 1960s. Now, plants seized from illegal grow-ops have staggering amounts of THC in the range of 18-25%. THC increases dopamine levels in the brain which heightens awareness. This extra awareness can lead some to perceive things that aren't happening, hence the hallucinations.

Marijuana plants naturally contain a compound called cannabidiol (CBD) that buffers the actions of THC - much like green tea has theanine, which buffers caffeine's actions - but this too is being bred out making today's pot that much more potent.

Now, most people who smoke marijuana don't end up with psycosis, but there are segments of the population for reasons not yet known are more susceptible. What researchers do agree on is that there are certain risk factors marijuana smokers need to be aware of.

Risk Factors
- Family History of psychosis & schizophrenia
- Use of other drugs like cocaine or crystal meth.
- Living in an urban area.

This last risk factor is a strange one. I'm guessing that urban folks have more access to these drugs so that may be the reason, though I'm not sure if researchers accounted for this in there statistical analyses. Those who have a family history of mental disorders may want to think twice before lighting up next time.

Teens are the most prevalent users of marijuana and a teenager's brain is still actively trying to sort itself out. This may be why psychosis risks are greater for early users of marijuana.

There are medicinal benefits to marijuana and many years ago when I worked in a clinic that treated HIV/AIDs patients, I saw tremendous improvements in appetite, weight gain and pain management in some of my patients. But I would just like to caution those who are under the impression that this drug is without any negative side effects.


Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Colouring & Food Labelling - Health Canada wants your Opinion

I've preached to patients the importance of reading labels and sometimes we will read on the labels "colour". For most of us, we are not affected by this, but for some people who are sensitive to certain types of colouring, the term "colour" doesn't say much.

Health Canada wants your input on this topic. From Feb. 8 - May 4, 2010, Canadians will have the opportunity to comment on this topic.

You can voice your opinions on Health Canada's website, by mail to:

Bureau of Chemical Safety
251 Sir Frederick Banting Drive, Health Canada, Tunney’s Pasture, Address Locator: 2203B, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0L2.

Comments by email can be sent to bcs-bipc@hc-sc.gc.ca, using the words “Food Colour Labelling” in the subject box.


Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A link between soft drinks & pancreatic cancer?

News of Coca Cola's strong growth overseas sent its share prices higher. That's the news from the business pages. On another front, there's a large Singaporean study showing that sugary soft drinks are now linked to pancreatic cancer, one of the more deadlier cancers out there.

Analysis of 60,000+ adults showed that those who drank two or more sugary soft drinks per week were at greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Notice that amount, two per week! Many people drink that much per day!

However, this link does not prove cause and effect. Rather it should be noted that many people who consume generous amounts of pop tend to also live an unhealthier lifestyle, be it from lack of activity, poor diets, smoking and drinking alcohol.

This is why I often tell patients that they need to make wholesale changes to their lifestyle to achieve good health. In fact, there's a study out there showing that it is often easier for patients to make wholesale changes than cutting out little things here and there. When patients have the proper motivation and someone that can guide them, better longer lasting results are seen with those that make big changes. I can definitely attest to that fact.

Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Acupuncture vs. Drug Therapy (Hot Flashes & Sex Drive)

In a study published in the Dec. 2009 Journal of Oncology comparing the benefits of acupuncture vs. Effexor, the number one choice for the treatment of hot flashes - something that affects the majority of breast cancer survivors - the randomized control trial showed that acupuncture had a longer-lasting effect on the reduction of hot flashes and night sweats for women receiving hormone therapy for breast cancer. The women also reported additional energy, improved sex drive and clarity of thought with the acupuncture treatments.

A good article summarizing the findings can be found here.

Journal Reference
:
  1. Walker et al. Acupuncture Versus Venlafaxine for the Management of Vasomotor Symptoms in Patients With Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2009; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2009.23.5150


Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

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