Vaginal Yeast Infections

Many women unfortunately experience monthly vaginal yeast infections. Yeast is a fungus that naturally lives in the vaginal area. The type of yeast that usually overgrows is Candida albicans. Healthy vaginal flora contains beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus which help keep the yeast under control. Yeast is encouraged to grow when one is on the birth control pill (high estrogen), antibiotics, cortisone, or if one eats lots of refined bread and sugar. As such, diabetics are predisposed to vaginal yeast infections. Stress is also a common cause of vaginal yeast infections because it causes hormonal imbalances.

 

Symptoms

–        Itching

–        Burning and soreness

–        Vaginal discharge that is often thick like cottage cheese

–        Pain during sex

–        Reddened vaginal labia

 

Treatment/Prevention

–        Do not use harsh soaps, deodorant tampons, sprays or douches which eliminate the beneficial bacteria in the vaginal area

–        Vaginal probiotic suppositories as well as oral probiotics can help rebalance the vaginal flora

–        Reduce sugar in your diet and stress in your life

–        I help rebalance your hormones using herbs, homeopathics, acupuncture, or bio-identical hormones

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Infections of the lower urinary tract can be common in young women, during pregnancy and in per- and post-menopausal women.

The cause of frequent UTIs can be multi-fold. Although urinary tract is normally sterile, bacteria can migrate from the rectum or vagina to the urethra. Hormonal imbalances, imbalances in the vaginal pH, pregnancy and improper hygiene are all possible culprits.

As a naturopathic doctor I am always looking to find the root cause. Frequent use of antibiotics increases the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria as well as the destruction of the beneficial gut and vaginal flora. Antibiotic use also increases the risk of vaginal yeast infections. I am not saying that antibiotics should not be used. However, if UTIs become frequent, it is important to find out why they occur to prevent them in the future.

Symptoms

–        Can be asymptomatic

–        Frequent urge to urinate

–        Pain on urination

–        Pressure or pain above the pubic bone in the bladder even when not urinating

–        Difficulty passing urine

–        Fatigue

–        Cloudy or milky urine that can be pink or reddish if there is blood present

 

In Menopause

About 15% of menopausal women experience frequent bladder infections. At menopause there is a breakdown in the natural defense mechanisms that usually protect against bacterial growth in the urinary tract. The primary goal in the natural approach to treating bladder infections is to enhance normal host-protective measures against urinary tract infection. These measures include enhancing the flow of urine by achieving and maintaining proper hydration, promoting a pH that will inhibit the growth of the organism, and preventing bacterial adherence to the endothelial cells of the bladder. It is also important to re-establish a hormonal balance. This can be done using herbs, acupuncture or bio-identical hormones.

Treatment

Most infections are bacterial, most commonly E. coli.

Normal healthy flora of the vagina and urethra include lactobacilli, streptococcal sp, staphylococcal sp. When the vaginal flora is altered from the use of antibiotics and spermicides, it gives pathogenic bacteria the opportunity to colonize.

A few botanicals and nutrients that are helpful in the treatment of UTIs:

–        Cranberry

–        Probiotics

–        D-mannose

–        Bilberry

–        Berberine

–        Bearberry

–        Vitamin A

–        Estriol

PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

PMS is a variety of psychological, behavioural and physical symptoms that usually occur in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. This is 2 weeks before you get a period. The luteal phase of the cycle is when most of the progesterone is being made. This is dependent on the follicular phase which is when the follicle is forming 2 weeks before ovulation.

Symptoms

–        Abdominal bloating

–        Breast tenderness

–        Headache

–        Fatigue

–        Anger and Irritability

–        Anxiety

–        Depression

Symptoms may change from month to month and depends on diet, exercise, hydration level etc.

Treatment

The conventional method is to put women on the birth control pill but this does not treat the root cause. It’s important to look at the adrenals, thyroid, diet, lifestyle, liver function and sugar regulation. All of these things can cause symptoms of PMS.

Risk factors that contribute to PMS:

–        High caffeine intake

–        Stress

–        History of depression

–        Low levels of magnesium and B vitamins just to name a few

Tools that I use to alleviate PMS are homeopathy, acupuncture, herbs, diet and bio-identical hormones. IV therapy to replenish any nutrient deficiencies is also beneficial.

Menopause / Peri-menopause

Menopause isn’t a disease. It’s a stage in a women’s life when her ovaries start to take a break. It is characterized by a cessation of menses for a minimum of 12 continuous months. Peri-menopause is defined as the time when your period starts becoming irregular and usually starts in your 40s. This can result in hormone imbalances manifested in symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disturbances, night sweats etc. Every woman is different but these symptoms can last 5 to 6 years.

As ovulation no longer occurs, the ovarian levels of progesterone cease. The declining levels of progesterone explain symptoms such as heavy periods, spotting and mood changes in certain women.

Because the ovaries are slowing down, the adrenal gland (located above the kidneys) take over more of the role to produce estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

Not all women will experience menopausal symptoms and thus not all women will need treatment.

Symptoms

 

  • Hot flashes
  • Light headed feeling
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Backache
  • Joint pains
  • Muscle pains
  • New facial hair
  • Dry skin
  • Crawling feelings under the skin
  • Unloved feelings anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Sleeplessness
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Less sexual feelings
  • Dry vagina
  • Uncomfortable intercourse
  • Urinary frequency


 

Treatment

As a naturopathic doctor, I always treat the root cause. Very often the cause of menopausal symptoms is actually adrenal fatigue. If you are a woman who hardly takes breaks, takes care of others and works a lot then you are more likely to have menopausal symptoms because you have exhausted your adrenal resources. Remember that your adrenals take over when the ovaries shut down. I usually treat adrenal fatigue by replenishing any nutrient deficiencies, herbs, acupuncture and bio-identical hormones.

Some of the most common and effective treatments that employ estriol (weak compounded estrogen) include: hot flashes, insomnia, skin enhancement, vaginal atrophy and reduced frequency of urinary tract infections. Most recently, estriol has shown the potential to treat individuals with Th1-mediated autoimmune illnesses, including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Getting your hormones levels tested via blood or saliva is very helpful in creating a treatment plan. Hormones that are commonly tested are: LH, FSH, Estradiol, Progesterone, Testosterone, DHEA, TSH and cortisol.

The goal is to bring the hormones back to balance in order to remove all symptoms.

Fertility

Infertility is the inability to conceive a child. Couples may be considered infertile if they are unable to conceive after a year of unprotected sex. 16% of Canadians have fertility issues. The causes of infertility are vast. A hormone imbalance such as with the thyroid or sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) can disrupt a woman’s ability to conceive. A woman’s weight, toxic load, nutritional status, digestion and stress levels all affect the reproductive function. A man’s sperm count and quality is also very important in securing conception and good DNA contribution.

Approach

My approach would be to analyze your blood work, diet, lifestyle and symptoms. I will ask you about your digestion, mood, energy, sleep, and menstrual cycles. I will do a physical exam including determining your BMI, blood pressure and temperature.

 

Factors affecting fertility negatively

–        Obesity (BMI >35)

–        Underweight (BMI <19)

–        Smoking

–        Alcohol (>2 drinks/day)

–        Caffeine (>250mg/day)

–        Illicit drugs

–        Toxic solvents

–        Thyroid imbalances

–        Diabetes and other chronic illnesses

 

Solution

Acupuncture has a lot of research to support its use in infertility and we’ve had a lot of success with it. As naturopathic doctors I would also use botanicals and nutrition to help with hormone balancing. I may ask you to take your BBT (basal body temperature) to determine when and whether you are ovulating. I would see if you have any food sensitivities that may be causing inflammation and I would use supplements and mind-body approaches to decrease stress. Cortisol, which is the stress hormone if often a culprit in hormone imbalances that can cause infertility.

 

February is Heart Month!

According to Health Canada, more than 1.4 million Canadians have heart disease and it is one of the leading causes of death.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease are:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure (>140/90 mmHg) or on blood pressure medication
  • Low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Age (men > 44 years; women > 54 years)

It is recommended that if you are male age 40 and older or female age 50 and older, you should get your cholesterol level checked. It is also important to have your blood lipid levels checked if you are diabetic, have a BMI of 27 or higher, have high blood pressure or a family history of cardiovascular disease.

When your doctor sends you to get your blood lipid levels tested, they usually include LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol), triglycerides and total cholesterol. However, it is interesting that 50% of people who have a heart attack actually have normal cholesterol levels. There are more specific tests out there that measure other markers in the blood like the size, patter and density of the cholesterol in the blood. These added markers have been proving more accurately predict the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Often times, statins are prescribed to lower cholesterol. Examples of statin medications are Lipitor (atorvastatin), Lescol (fluvastatin) and Crestor (rosuvastatin) just to name a few. In 2005, sales were estimated at $18.7 billion in the USA. Statins do a good job reducing LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) but are not as effective at reducing triglycerides and raising HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).  Niacin (vitamin B3) has been shown to be better than statins at increasing good cholesterol and decreasing triglycerides. Fish oil (omega 3) in 2 to 4 gram doses also improves these markers.

The most common side effects of statins are increased liver enzymes, muscle issues and an increased risk of diabetes. Statins also decrease the levels of coenzyme Q10 in the body which contributes to muscular problems. CoQ10 is used by the cells to generate energy and it also functions as an antioxidant. CoQ10 has also been shown to help lower high blood pressure. CoQ10 is found in oily fish, organ meats as well as whole grains.

Bottom Line:

If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol or you are at risk for high cholesterol, the following supplements and lifestyle tips will be helpful:

  • Eat TONS of vegetables
  • Exercise regularly (make sure the exercise you do isn’t too easy and you never feel winded)
  • Take omega 3 fish oils from small fish (sardines, anchovies) at a minimum of 1500 mg combined EPA and DHA per day
  • If you are on a statin, take a CoQ10 supplement (100mg ubiquinol/day)
  • Consider a niacin supplement. Niacin can cause flushing but non-flush niacin also exists

To find out more and to see what regime would be best for you, book an appointment with naturopathic doctor Cecilia de Martino.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia where brain cells die. Dementia is when you gradually lose your memory. Usually people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease tend to lose their more recent memory and retain their long term memory. They will remember all about when they were young and where they grew up. They might forget who their more recent caregivers are or where they currently live. Alzheimer rates increase with age. If you know someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, you can appreciate the frustration that goes along with this disease. Sometimes Alzheimer patients will get a glimpse of clarity for a short while and then go back to their debilitating state.

I have a patient whose husband has Alzheimer’s disease. She tells me what she has to go through to take care of him. His personality has completely changed and he makes unreasonable requests which takes a toll her health.

Alzheimer’s disease not only affects the person with the disease but it especially affects their caregivers. One of the hardest things to witness is when your loved one no longer recognizes you and becomes a different person.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not well understood. There is a genetic link but because our genes are influenced by our environment, we should not surrender to our genetic predisposition. Alzheimer’s Disease is often coined Type 3 Diabetes due to the link of high blood sugar to dementia.

Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are: head injuries, advanced age, smoking, hypothyroidism, low educational attainment, high blood sugar and cardiovascular disease. Some more controversial risk factors include: zinc deficiency, depression, aluminum exposure and stress.

The following have been shown to be protective against Alzheimer’s disease: a vegetarian diet and good fats, adequate vitamin and mineral status and mental and physical exercises.

Dr. Perlmutter is a neurologist who specializes in dementia. His top 4 suggestions for anyone wanting to prevent and decrease mental decline are:

  1. Eliminate sugar and excess carbohydrates (causes inflammation)
  2. Eliminate gluten (causes inflammation and affects the immune system as well as the brain)
  3. Eat more vegetables and good fats (fish, nuts, seeds, omega 3 fish oil, olive oil and coconut oil) – minimum of 1000 mg of DHA omega 3
  4. Exercise (15-20 minutes of aerobic exercise plus proper weight training each day) – this will increase the size of your brain’s memory centre and regenerate brain cells; doing brain exercises like crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Luminosity.com has 1000s of games to work your brain muscle.

As a naturopathic doctor, I strive for prevention so that we can age gracefully and have a good quality of life. If you have any questions about how I can help, do not hesitate to call the clinic.

 

“Juicing Left Over” Lemon Apple Marmalade

Here’s another way to use the left over pulp after juicing.

Juicing pulp marmalade

  • 2 cups of lemon and apple pulp after juicing
  • Peel of 1 lemon, sliced in strips
  • 1 cup organic raw cane sugar
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp of grass-fed butter or coconut oil
  • ½ tsp of baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 sachet of pectin
  • About 3-4 cups of water

 

Add the fruit pulp and lemon peel to a pot with about 2-3 cups of water and let it boil on medium heat for a few hours until the fruit is soft. Keep checking and adding water as needed. The consistency should be that of a thick soup.

Add the butter, baking soda and salt and keep stirring.

Add the different sweeteners (sugar, maple syrup and honey) to the fruit. As it keeps boiling, taste it and add more sweetener if desired. You can also stick to one type of sweetener.

Once you have reached the consistency and sweetness desired, add 1 sachet of pectin. Let it boil vigorously for 5 – 10 minutes. Pectin will create that marmalade thickness.

Fill a clean (pre-boiled) jar with the marmalade all the way to the top trying not to leave any air gaps. Close the jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator. The change from hot and then cold temperature will create a seal.

Enjoy your marmalade on toast or a muffin for breakfast.

“Juicing Left Over” Raw Cookie Balls

Adapted from Joy McCarthy’s Raw Carrot Cake Balls

Ever wonder what to do with the pulp after juicing? Here’s a great recipe that will act as a snack and give you energy.carrot & juicing left over balls

Makes 20-25 balls

  • ¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 6 Medjool dates, pitted
  • ¾ cup raw nuts (ie walnuts)
  • 1 cup of left over pulp from juicing (ie carrots, kale, apple) or 1 cup of grated carrots (about 3-4 medium carrots)
  • ¼ cup hemp seeds
  • ¼ cup raw unpasteurized honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmed
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • ¼ cup vegetarian vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • Water or coconut milk as needed for moist ball rolling consistency

Reserve ¼ cup shredded coconut on a plate to role and coat the balls later.

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor or good quality blender (like a Vita-Aid, Blendtech or Nutri-Bullet). Start blending and add water or a milk alternative to create that moist consistency allowing you to role the mixture into balls in case it’s too dry. Roll 1 -1.5 inch diameter balls and coat with shredded coconut.

Transfer to a container and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. They can also be preserved frozen for a few months. Enjoy this delicious high fiber and protein snack between meals or after a workout.