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Using the Immune System to Defeat Cancer

T-cells attacking a tumour

How Top Researchers are Starting to Think like Natural Therapists

This blog is a slightly condensed version of an online artilce titled ‘A cure for cancer: how to kill a killer’. We have taken out sentences and phrases to shorten the article without detracting from its content, and added headings. You can click here to read the original article.

One of the roles of the immune system is to seek out and destroy any cells in the body that are foreign, damaged or not where they should be, including cancer cells. Many natural therapists stress the importance of improving the immune system when anyone wishes to decrease their risk of developing cancer or to help prevent it recurring. So it is good to see cutting-edge medical research looking at ways to help the immune system get rid of cancer. (We must stress that we do not claim to be able to treat or prevent cancer.)

Revolutionary work on the body’s immune system and a host of new drug trials mean that beating cancer may be achievable.

Last month, the Nobel prize in medicine was awarded for two breakthrough scientific discoveries heralded as having “revolutionised cancer treatment”, and “fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed”. One of them went to a charismatic, harmonica-playing Texan named Jim Allison for his breakthrough advances in cancer immunotherapy. His discovery had resulted in transformative outcomes for cancer patients and a radical new direction for cancer research.

And yet many cancer patients, and even some doctors, have hardly heard of cancer immunotherapy or refuse to believe it. Those who have struggle to make sense of the new menu of options and sort reasonable hope from overblown hype.

“The emergence of cancer immunotherapy has occurred so quickly, it’s hard for scientists, let alone physicians and patients, to keep track of it all,” explains Dr Daniel Chen, a Stanford oncologist and researcher who helped bring some of the new cancer breakthroughs from lab to clinic. “The tidal wave of data is still teaching us fundamental concepts about the interaction of the human immune system and human cancer.” It’s also bringing us important new approaches to the treatment – and possibly the cure – of cancer. “So, this data needs to be disseminated as quickly as possible.”

Old Cancer Treatments

It’s estimated that nearly 40% of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetimes and, until very recently, we’ve had three basic options for dealing with that news. We’ve had surgery for at least 3,000 years. We added radiation therapy in 1896. Then in 1946, chemical warfare research led to the use of a mustard gas derivative to poison cancer cells and the advent of chemotherapy. More recently, we also started poisoning cancer through drugs that attempt to starve tumours of nutrients or blood supply.

Those traditional “cut, burn and poison” techniques are effective in about half of cases. It’s a laudable medical accomplishment that also leaves behind the other half of cancer patients. According to the World Health Organisation’s international agency for research on cancer, that translates to 9,055,027 deaths worldwide in 2018 alone.

Using the Immune System to Treat Cancer

Our usual defence against disease is our immune system. It does an excellent job of sorting out what doesn’t belong in the body and attacking it – except when it comes to cancer. (We would disagree with this- as cancer cells are believed to develop in every person’s body, the immune system is the reason why cancer doesn’t develop in everyone.) For 100 years, the reasons behind that apparent failure were a mystery. Jim Allison’s breakthrough was the realisation that the immune system wasn’t ignoring cancer. Instead, cancer was taking advantage of tricks that shut down the immune system. But what if you could block those tricks and unleash the immune system’s killer T-cells against the disease?

The trick Allison’s immunology lab at the University of California, Berkeley, found involved a protein on the T-cell called CTLA-4. When stimulated, CTLA-4 acted like a circuit breaker on immune response. These brakes, which he called checkpoints, kept the cell killers from going out of control and trashing healthy body cells. Cancer took advantage of those brakes to survive and thrive.

In 1994, the lab developed an antibody that blocked CTLA-4. “Roughly, it’s like taking a brick and jamming it behind the T-cell brake pedal,” explains Dr Max Krummel, immunologist who had worked with Allison on CTLA-4. When they injected it into cancerous mice, the antibody jammed behind CTLA-4’s brake pedal and prevented the T-cell attack from being stopped. Instead, the T-cells destroyed the tumours and cured the cancer.

What they had found would eventually win the Nobel. It would also fly in the face of what every practising oncologist had been taught about cancer and how to fight it. It took 15 years, says Krummel, before they could finally test whether what worked in mice would translate to people.

Results with Immunotherapy

Blocking the brakes on the immune system turned out to cause serious toxicities in some patients. “We learned pretty quickly that immunotherapy was not a free ride,” explains Dr Jedd Wolchok, a cancer immunotherapist and one of the primary investigators in the clinical trials for Allison’s anti-CTLA-4 drug. “But we were also seeing some remarkable things.” For some of the metastatic melanoma patients in the study, even terminal stage 4 patients only days away from hospice, the drug effectively cured their cancer.

“You never forget that,” Wolchok explains. “And at the time, we really had nothing that would work for metastatic melanoma.” In 2011, that anti-CTLA-4 drug would gain approval as ipilimumab (trade name Yervoy) for use treating melanoma; it has since been approved to treat kidney and colorectal cancer. As a drug, it has saved many thousands of lives. But as a proof of concept, the success of ipilimumab proved that the immune system could, in fact, be weaponised against cancer. It also kicked off the search for newer, better immune checkpoints.

The first to be discovered was called PD-1. Its discoverer, Dr Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University, shares this year’s Nobel in medicine. PD-1 is part of a sort of secret handshake that body cells give a T-cell, telling it: “I’m one of you, don’t attack.” Cancers co-opted this secret handshake, tricking T-cells into believing they were normal, healthy body cells. But that handshake could be blocked, creating a more precise cancer-killing machine with far fewer toxic side-effects than blocking CTLA-4.

In December 2015, the second generation of checkpoint inhibitors (called anti-PD-1 or anti-PD-L1, depending on whether they’re blocking the T-cell or tumour side of the handshake) was used to unleash the immune system of Jimmy Carter and clear an aggressive cancer from his liver and brain. The news of the 91-year-old’s miraculous recovery surprised everyone, including the former president himself.

The Future

For many people, “that Jimmy Carter drug”, the anti-PD-1 drug pembrolizumab, approved in 2015 and sold as Keytruda, was the first and only thing they’d heard about cancer immunotherapy. Keytruda is currently one of the most widely used of the new class of drugs, approved for use against nine different types of cancer in the US, and a smaller number in the UK, and that list is growing rapidly, as is the number of acronyms for the dozens of new checkpoints being tested. The immune system remains the deep ocean ecosystem of the human body. We’ve barely begun to plumb its depths.

For researchers such as Chen and others, this is our penicillin moment in the war on cancer. As a drug, penicillin cut infection rates, cured some bacterial diseases and saved millions of lives. But as a scientific breakthrough, it redefined the possible and opened a fertile new frontier for generations of researchers. Nearly 100 years after the discovery of that one simple drug, antibiotics are an entire class of medicines with a global impact so profound that we take them for granted. Invisible terrors that plagued and poisoned mankind for millennia are now casually vanquished at a high street chemist. “We’ve only just discovered the checkpoint inhibitors,” Chen says. “So it’s the breakthrough – we’ve just discovered our penicillin.”

… It’s hoped that, with checkpoint inhibitors releasing the brakes, the immune system can effectively finish up what the chemotherapy starts. There are so many ongoing trials it’s impossible to typify their stages or results, but several have been positive. The European Society for Medical Oncology recently announced the first modest immunotherapy success against triple negative breast cancer, a horribly aggressive disease found primarily in younger women, which has stubbornly resisted previous treatment options.

Nor are checkpoint inhibitors the only immunotherapy of cancer. … Another promising technique … called chimeric T-cell therapy, or CAR-T, re-engineers a patient’s killer T-cell into a sort of robocop cancer killer, creating a startlingly powerful living drug capable of adapting to match cancer for a lifetime. CAR-T has already wiped out certain forms of childhood leukaemia. These are claims that simple cancer drugs can’t make.

The word cure can now be used in oncology,” says Dr Axel Hoos, an immunologist and former global medical lead for the Bristol-Myers Squibb immune-oncology programme. “It’s no longer fantasy or a cruel promise that you can’t fulfil. We don’t yet know who will be the lucky patients who will be cured, but we have seen cures already.”

Hype can be dangerous, just as false hope can be cruel. There’s a natural tendency to invest too much hope in a new science, especially one that promises to turn the tables on a disease that has, in some way, touched everyone’s life, and sober caution is required. Right now, there are only handful of immunotherapies available. The majority of patients respond partially or not at all and some even develop and acquire resistance to the disease. But the minority of cancer patients who have been shown to respond to these drugs experience remissions measured not in extra weeks or months of life, but in lifetimes. “Such transformative, durable responses are the unique value proposition of the cancer immunotherapeutic approach,” Chen says. But it’s important to note that that potential is different from a guarantee of any one outcome for any individual patient.

And as Wolchok told me: “Immunotherapy is not a free ride.” There are the toxicities that occur when a T-cell response in unleashed. …

Several doctors tell me that the goal of treatment, if a cure isn’t possible, is holding on for the next breakthrough. If and when it comes, patients and doctors need to be ready to understand it. “After all,” says Chen, “there’s nothing more useless than therapeutic breakthroughs against cancer that people don’t know about.”

The immune system is an amazing thing, but when it is not working properly the person could experience chronic infections, fatigue, allergies, food intolerances, auto-pmmune disorders, or even develop cancer. You may like to also read Why a Good Immune System is Vital for Your Health.

The Coronavirus- What We Know so Far

The Coronavirus

How Dangerous is It?

There has been widespread concern and even anxiety about the rapid spread of the coronavirus across several continents. So how worried should we be? Whilst the trajectory of this outbreak is impossible to predict, and the situation is rapidly evolving, here is what we know so far about the current outbreak.

Human coronaviruses (HCoVs) have long been considered inconsequential, causing the “common cold” in otherwise healthy people. However, the emergence of the SARS-CoV in the early 2000s and MERS-CoV in 2012 caused global epidemics with alarming morbidity and mortality.

The current outbreak is caused by a novel (new) strain from the coronavirus family. This virus is so new that it does not yet have a name- it is currently being labelled by the WHO as the 2019 novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV.

The virus is thought to have originated from a seafood market in Wuhan, a central Chinese city. Currently, all confirmed cases of the virus in Australia are in individuals who have recently visited Wuhan. There have not been any human-human transmission occurring in Australia, although such cases are expected, and have occurred in China.

As at 29/1/20, the virus had been responsible for approximately 130 deaths. In all of these cases, the individual had suffered from an underlying condition, was elderly or frail, and therefore their immune system had a reduced ability to mount an appropriate response.

The main causes for concern relate to what is not known about the virus:

  • It is not known how virulent this strain of coronavirus is
  • It is not known how it is transmitted or how long it lives on surfaces; however, it thought that coming within a 1-metre radius of an infected person increases the likelihood of transmission
  • It is not known if the person is able to transmit the virus before symptoms appear

Thankfully, the 2019-nCoV appears to have a much lower fatality rate than previous coronavirus outbreaks such as SARS and MERS, or other deadly viral diseases such as Ebola. The current estimated fatality rate of the 2019-nCoV is 2.17%(1). Individuals who have died from this coronavirus are individuals who would have been at similar risk from a common seasonal influenza, which helps to contextualise the danger from this outbreak. However, it is possible that the virus could mutate and become more deadly.

For perspective, the mortality rate of SARS was 10%, MERS was 36%, whilst the Ebola virus killed half of all individuals infected.(2)

Avoiding It

Current recommendations to help prevent the spread of the virus are common-sense ones which are applicable to viruses such as influenza, and especially apply to people travelling or working in healthcare. The WHO recommendations(3) include:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing with a tissue or flexed elbow. Avoid coughing into your hands. Throw the tissue into a closed bin
  • Avoid close contact with individuals who display cold and flu-like symptoms
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. (A face mask may help you to remember to not touch your face)
  • Avoid travel if you have a fever or a cough
  • Avoid travel if you are immune-compromised or have a chronic illness, or if you are regularly in close contact with individuals with such conditions
  • If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early, and share your travel history with your health care provider; let your doctor know before you present to their clinic that you have respiratory symptoms so that you are not kept waiting with other patients
  • If you feel unwell during your travels, notify your travel crew
  • Eat only well-cooked food while travelling

What Symptoms to Look Out For

The Federal Government has issued the following guidelines(4) on identifying if someone may have a coronavirus infection.

‘If the patient satisfies the epidemiological AND clinical criteria (listed below), they are classified as a suspected case:

Epidemiological criteria

  • Travel to Wuhan City (Hubei Province, China) in the 14 days before the onset of illness, OR
  • Travel to an area with evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, or a declared outbreak, within 14 days before onset of illness, OR
  • Close contact in 14 days before illness onset with a confirmed case of 2019-nCoV.

Clinical criteria

  • Fever or history of fever (?38 °C) and acute respiratory infection (sudden onset of respiratory infection at least one of: shortness of breath, cough or sore throat), OR
  • Severe acute respiratory infection requiring admission to hospital with clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (i.e. even if no evidence of fever).’

Prevention is Better than Treatment

Because of the way viruses mutate, new ones will always develop from time to time. Some of these will be relatively mild, and others will be more virulent. Apart from supportive care and avoiding infected persons, there is very little that can be done medically to treat a virus. So the best defence against any virus (or any other infection) is to make sure that your own immune system is strong enough to deal with it quickly and effectively. There are many aspects to your immune system, so if you would like to boost yours or to have it assessed, please book in for a free Comprehensive Assessment. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.)

  1. https://www.health.gov.au/news/coronavirus-update-at-a-glance
  2. Email 29/1/20 from BioMedica Nutraceuticals
  3. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
  4. https://www.acupuncture.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-information-sheet-for-primary-and-community-health-workers.pdf

Creating Healthier Futures & Healthier Children through Epigenetics

Epigenetic health for you and your children

Everyone has heard of DNA, which is like a blueprint for your body; a set of instructions on how your cells create you. But have you heard of your epigenome? This is the part of your cells that decides which sections of your DNA are activated (or which genes are switched on or off).

So your DNA is the instructions your body comes with, and your epigenome decides how those plans are used. For example, in cells in your eye the epigenome will turn on the genes in your DNA that allow them to detect light. In your red blood cells, the epigenome will turn on the genes to carry oxygen.

As you can see, the epigenome plays a very powerful role in our health. It can also influence whether or not you develop diseases that may be coded in your DNA.

Your DNA is always constant, but your epigenomes are more fluid. They change as we grow and develop (such as during puberty), and are influenced by many other factors, including diet, levels of various nutrients, lifestyle factors, physical activity, psychological stress, toxins, pollutants, pesticides, and countless other factors.

Everybody is born with strengths and weaknesses in their body. We all inherit tendencies towards the diseases our parents had, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc. Whether we develop these diseases or not depends on our epigenomes. The good news is that there are exciting new developments in how to look after and improve your epigenomes. According to Professor Anthony Hannan (head of the Epigenetics and Neural Plasticity Laboratory at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health), “Epigenetics is a revolution that is going to transform medicine, where the prevention and treatment of disease will be based on your genome (DNA) and your epigenome, which is different for every set of cells or tissues in your body.”

If you were a song, your DNA is like the sheet music, and your epigenomes are the sound engineers that create how that music will be played- which bits are loud, which are edited out, whether the melody is dominant, or the drums are taken out altogether. Would you like the song of your life to be played by a high-class orchestra, or by a badly tuned ukulele?

Can Epigenetics be Used to Create Healthier Children?

It is now understood that your epigenome is influenced by the health of your parents, and likely even your grandparents. So changing your own epigenome can affect your children’s and grandchildren’s development and health. Our understanding of how epigenetic changes are transmitted from parent to child is still not entirely clear, but the evidence suggests that this happens at the time of conception and during pregnancy. So it is great to work on improving your epigenome while you are pregnant, but excellent to do it before the baby is even conceived. A baby’s first 2 years is also a crucial time to improve their epigenome. (Naturopaths recommend working on your epigenome for 12 months prior to attempting to fall pregnant if possible.)

Our naturopaths are trained in the latest natural methods of improving your epigenetic health. If you are interested in optimising your future health (or that of your children), please book in for a free Comprehensive Assessment, and we can check how well their treatments should work for you.

The Detox Superhero

Overpowering Toxins with Sulforaphane

The Detox Superhero SulforaphaneModern life is bustling with innovative technologies for a convenient living; online access to news and information, timesaving transport, fast foods, cleaning products that make your home sparkle, and cosmetics that leave us feeling ‘our best selves’. This improved way of living, however, is accompanied by increased exposure to a multitude of chemicals, pesticides and electromagnetic fields, which have the capacity to cause tissue damage and disturb our delicate hormonal balance. A build-up of these toxins can overburden the body, leading to fatigue, weight gain, digestive disturbances, and hormonal disorders.

Fortunately, these effects can be offset using the superhero nutrient sulforaphane, which stimulates toxin elimination. It also reduces the fall-out from toxic exposure by strengthening antioxidant defences.

The War Against Toxins

The battle between antioxidants and toxins is much like a war between good and evil. Toxins create molecules known as free radicals, which cause damage to our cells: a process known as oxidative stress. Conversely, antioxidants are substances that can neutralise free radicals, thereby protecting our cells and tissues from damage.

Our body also neutralises and eliminates toxic substances via detoxification, with the liver primarily responsible for eliminating the toxins we are exposed to. Whilst the liver is an efficient organ, it can benefit greatly from detoxification support to prevent it from becoming overburdened by constant toxin exposure. This is where sulforaphane plays a key role, enhancing the body’s detoxification processes and reducing damage caused by free radical exposure.

Sulforaphane Saves the Day

Sulforaphane is an ingredient made by the body from nutrients found within cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and kale. Sulforaphane increases antioxidant protection by stimulating the antioxidant defence system within the body that protects against the effects of oxidative stress.

Additionally, sulforaphane enhances detoxification activity in the body by inducing enzymes involved in metabolism of harmful toxins by the liver, promoting their elimination.

The Elusive Hero

Providing your body with sulforaphane is not as simple as adding a few extra spoonfuls of broccoli to your dinner plate; you need to provide your body with the right ingredients to make it. The main ingredient is glucoraphanin, found primarily in broccoli seeds, however you also need myrosinase, found in high concentration in broccoli sprouts, to ‘activate’ it (Figure 1).

How Sulforaphane is made

Figure 1: Sulforaphane is made from glucoraphanin, with a little help from myrosinase.

Although broccoli does contain both glucoraphanin and myrosinase, you would need to consume almost two cups of raw broccoli each day to attain enough for a beneficial amount of sulforaphane. For those who prefer cooked broccoli, the heating process destroys myrosinase, so while cooked broccoli can give you glucoraphanin, there is not enough myrosinase to convert it into sulforaphane in the body.

Additionally, vitamin C is needed to turn on myrosinase, making it a vital ingredient for sulforaphane production. Therefore, whilst this hero ingredient is formidable in the face of its toxin foe, its strength can remain elusive given the wrong circumstances. A carefully crafted supplement derived from seed and sprout, containing glucoraphanin, myrosinase and vitamin C, provides the building blocks for sulforaphane production, ensuring your antioxidant superhero steps out of the shadows and shines!

Time for a Spring Clean

If you are feeling sluggish, tired, and less than your best, a detoxification can help you to make a clean start to Spring with renewed health and vitality. We can provide you a safe and effective professional detoxification program, tailored to your individual needs.

To find out your current toxicity level, you can complete our online Comprehensive Toxicity Questionnaire.

If you are interested in finding out if toxins may be causing problems in your body, we offer a free Comprehensive Assessment at our clinic. It will also allow us to identify what is causing any health issues you may have, and the best way to resolve them. Most people quite enjoy their Assessment, and find it very helpful and informative. There is no cost or obligation whatsoever for an Assessment, and you can give us a call or book online.

(Acknowledgement- much of the content of this article is from a blog by Metagenics, a highly regarded research and practitioner-only supplement supplier. https://blog.metagenics.com.au/overpowering-toxins-with-sulforaphane-not-all-heroes-wear-capes/ )

Healing Diseases with Foods

Healing diseases with foodWhen we think about healthy foods, we usually look at them in terms of the important nutrients, vitamins and minerals in them. These are vital to our health, but the benefits of good foods go beyond these alone. Everything you eat or drink has an effect on your body in some way! Of course, the effect is usually very mild, but over time the foods you eat can have a profound influence on your body and how it works. Food can even be used as a medicine to treat various diseases.

Here is a small sample of different foods and a few of their effects.

Celery

  • Very good for the kidneys.
  • To help control appetite, eat celery between and during meals.
  • As it is very high in silicon, it helps damaged joints, bones, tendons, ligaments and arteries.
  • As it makes the blood more alkaline, it is useful for arthritis, rheumatism, gout, and nerve inflammations.
  • Can be helpful to reduce blood pressure (including during pregnancy).
  • Excess celery (such as large amounts of celery juice) can affect the kidneys.

Garlic

  • Garlic has strong antiviral and antibacterial properties. It increases sweating as well, so is very beneficial at the start of a cold.
  • It keeps the walls of the blood vessels clean, so that cholesterol doesn’t build up on the inside of them. (Garlic doesn’t lower cholesterol levels, but does decrease the risk of it blocking the arteries.) However, because of this cleansing effect, those on vegetarian diets with low cholesterol levels shouldn’t have too much garlic, as it may thin the walls of their blood vessels over time.
  • Garlic also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria and helps get rid of bad bacteria in the guts.
  • When eaten, it helps to keep mossies away!
  • Excess garlic can decrease mental concentration, so best not to overuse it.

Pears

  • Pears are very moistening to the body, especially to the lungs and large intestine. So they can work well at getting rid of a dry cough (though they may moisten the phlegm so it can be coughed up).
  • Also very good for constipation caused by the large intestine being dry.
  • Pears can decrease gall bladder pain and inflammation.

Ginger

  • The tea made from boiling fresh ginger is very good for the early stages of a cold.
  • Ginger is great for weak digestion. However it is very warming, so not suitable for people whose bodies run a little hot. (Could cause constipation in these cases; if this happened, they could then use pears to correct it. J)
  • Ginger is good for nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, and for period pain which is improved with heat.  As a general rule, the cooler a person’s body runs, the better ginger will work for them. (If you dislike the taste of ginger, it is probably not right for you.)

Dandelion Tea

  • Dandelion root tea (available in teabags from some supermarkets) is great for cleaning the liver and detoxifying the body. As it helps release toxins from the liver, it is important to make sure that you also drink enough water when using it, especially since it is also a diuretic.

Pineapple

  • Contains the enzyme bromelain which improves digestion of proteins. It is used to treat sunstroke, indigestion, anorexia, diarrhoea, and excess fluid. (Not to be used if you have stomach ulcers.)

As you can see from this small sample, there is far more to food than just a bunch of nutrients! As Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine is believed to have said, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”

If you have any questions about a particular food and how it affects the body, please let us know.

Special Introductory Offer – Naturopathy Focus Consults

Quick & Convenient Health Solutions for Busy People

Everyone is so busy these days, and not everyone can spare an hour for an in-depth consultation with a naturopath. So if you have a recent problem you would like to sort out, we now offer 15 minute ‘Focus Consults’ for an introductory price of only $15. You can obtain quality, professional advice for most acute conditions, including:

  • Colds and flu
  • Sinus infections
  • Cough
  • Cold sores
  • Pain
  • Stomach aches
  • Period pain
  • Reflux or heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Low energy
  • Sore throat (laryngitis)
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Thrush
  • Cramps
  • Inflammation
  • Taking antibiotics

This is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to get on top of a recent health issue before it gets on top of you.

(If you are not familiar with it, naturopathy is the use of natural medicines to treat health problems. It may involve the use of high potency supplements, herbal treatments, diet therapy, etc. Naturopaths are qualified health professionals with a 4 year degree. We have two dedicated, full-time naturopaths at our clinic, Margaret McNamara and Sunni Patel.)

To book a Focus Consult with one of our experienced naturopaths, please give us a call or you can also book online.

A Possible Cause of Insomnia, Jaw Pain or Hormone Imbalances

The human body is so complex and fascinating! Have a look at the symptoms that can occur if there is a problem with a bone at the front of the skull (the sphenoid bone). These “might include insomnia, sleeping disorders (including sleep apnea), TMJ, jaw pain, ear problems, temporal headache, dental problems, etc. … hormonal imbalances might occur, … sensitive skin, rash, and eczema.”

In the diagram it shows how the sphenoid bone is almost an exact mirror image of the pelvis, and if one is out of alignment it is very common to find the other is out as well. So whenever someone comes in for lower back or hip pain, we like to check if their pelvis and sphenoid bone are out as well.

(Image is from ‘Clinical Strategies’ Vol. 1 by K. Matsumoto and D. Euler.)

End of Financial Year Sale

25% Off Selected Items

25% off selected productsWe are having a big End of Financial Year Sale for June and July 2019, with 25% off the products below. 

(Our policy is always to sell the highest quality products available. So if you are after one of these items, you can be sure it is excellent quality and at a great price. The discount is only for existing products on our shelves, with limited availability, so if you would like any of these items it would be best to get in early.)

• Organic Maca by NutraOrganics, 550mg 180 capsules
• Collagen Beauty Skin Hair Gut Health by NutraOrganics, 225grams
• Floravital Herbal Liquid Iron+ by Floradix, 500ml
• Femaren – Menopause Hot Flushes by Oriental Botanicals, 30 capsules
• Alkimiya Ayurvedic Purifying Tea by Tea Coup
• Isalean Pro Box of 14 meal replacement sachets, Vanilla flavour, by Isagenix

• Back & Stomach Pack (‘wheat bag’) by Therapacks, Large
• Neck & Shoulder Pack (‘wheat bag’) by Therapacks, Large
• ONYA Reusable Coffee Cup, 340ml

• MooGoo Eczema & Psoriasis Cream 200gram tube
• MooGoo Milk Wash 500ml
• MooGoo Cream Conditioner 500ml
• MooGoo Anti-aging Face Cream 75mg
• MooGoo Night Time Face Cream 75 grams
• MooGoo Anti Bacterial Hand Moisturiser 100mls
• MooGoo Anti-Bacterial Hand Moisturiser 270g
• MooGoo Blemish Cleansing Moisturiser (was called Acne Cleansing Cream) 75ml
• MooGoo Oil Cleansing Method 100ml
• MooGoo Gentle Exfoliating Powder 75g
• MooGoo Certified Rosehip Oil 25ml
• MooGoo Super Vitamin C Eye Serum 25ml
• MooGoo Shea Sorbet 50grams

• Soakology Magnesium Bath Bomb, Lemongrass, by Saltco
• Soakology Magnesium Bath Bomb, Lullaby Lavender, by Saltco
• Soakology Magnesium Bath Bomb, Vanilla Vixen (Love Vanilla), by Saltco
• Essential Oils – Rosemary 25ml, by Oil Garden
• Essential Oils – Lemongrass 25ml, by Oil Garden

Is Green Tea Your Friend or Foe?

How Something that is Good for Most People can be Harmful for others

Is green tea your friend or foe?Green tea is well-known for its health benefits. It is loaded with antioxidants and a variety of nutrients that have been shown to help brain function, assist with fat loss, may reduce risk of cancers, reduce your risk of heart disease, and many other impressive benefits.

So shouldn’t everyone drink green tea?

Everyone’s body works a little differently to everyone else’s. Some people naturally have more energy, have better eyesight, or better circulation, while others may react to certain foods, have dryer skin, or catch colds more easily. No two bodies ever work exactly the same.

One of the effects of green tea is to block the enzyme that breaks down histamine in our bodies (diamine oxidase, or DAO). Histamine triggers inflammation in the body, and typically causes allergy symptoms such as sneezing, redness, itching, etc. (Anti-histamine medications are often used to decrease these symptoms.) It also causes the reactions when you have a food allergy.

If you don’t produce enough DAO and are unable to break down your histamine properly, you could develop a histamine intolerance. Some common reactions associated with this intolerance include

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Nasal congestion or sinus issues
  • Fatigue
  • Hives
  • Digestive issues
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In more severe cases of histamine intolerance, you may experience:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Tissue swelling
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty regulating your body temperature
  • Dizziness

So if you have high histamine levels, it is best to avoid foods that contain a lot of histamine, foods that cause the body to release histamine, or foods that block DAO.

Foods High in Histamine

  • Fermented alcoholic beverages, especially wine, champagne and beer
  • Fermented foods: sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, etc
  • Vinegar-containing foods: pickles, mayonnaise, olives
  • Cured meats: bacon, salami, pepperoni, luncheon meats and hot dogs
  • Soured foods: sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, sourdough bread, etc
  • Dried fruit: apricots, prunes, dates, figs, raisins
  • Most citrus fruits
  • Aged cheese including goat cheese
  • Nuts: walnuts, cashews, and peanuts
  • Vegetables: avocados, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes
  • Smoked fish and certain species of fish: mackerel, tuna, anchovies, sardines

Foods that Release Histamine

  • Alcohol
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate
  • Cow’s milk
  • Nuts
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Shellfish
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Many artificial preservatives and dyes

Foods that Block DAO

  • Alcohol
  • Energy drinks
  • Black tea
  • Green tea

Everything we eat or drink has an effect on the body in some way. Because every body functions a little differently, what is good and beneficial to one person’s health might be no good for someone else. For example, pears help to moisten the lungs so they can be helpful if you have a dry cough, but excessive use of pears during pregnancy may increase the risk of a miscarriage in some people.

If you are interested in finding out what foods are ideal for you, and for addressing any health problems you may have, we have two excellent naturopaths at our clinic. We also offer a free Comprehensive Assessment, to see what is going on in your body, what is causing any problems, and the best way to sort them out. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.) If you would like to have one done, please book soon while this offer is still available.

 

Why are My Iron Levels Low All the Time?

Low iron can make you feel tired and fatigued all the timeDo you suffer from any of these?

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Feeling weak
  • Getting tired easily during or after physical activity
  • Pale skin
  • Get injured easily
  • Brittle nails
  • Low immune system
  • Irritability
  • Body aches
  • Chest pains, a fast heartbeat, or shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Fainting, dizziness or light-headedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Hair and skin problems
  • A sore tongue
  • Unusual cravings, such as ice, dirt or starch
  • Poor appetite (especially in infants and children)

If so, you may be deficient in iron.

How Your Body Uses Iron

Its main use is to transport oxygen in your body, but it supports many other body and mental functions as well.

  • Iron is essential for red blood cells to carry oxygen
    One of the most important functions of iron is in the creation of haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells, which transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Without enough iron your body can’t get enough oxygen, leading to you feeling tired or exhausted.
  • Iron helps convert food to energy
    ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) is the body’s primary energy source, and our cells require iron to convert the energy from nutrients into ATP. (This process is known as cellular respiration.)  Low iron means less ATP, which is another reason why low iron levels can make you feel tired and fatigued all the time.
  • Iron helps maintain a normal immune system
    Iron is necessary to produce and mature your immune cells (especially lymphocytes), which protect us from bacteria and viruses.
  • Iron contributes to normal brain function
    Iron plays an important role in maintaining normal cognitive function, including memory, concentration, alertness, learning, intelligence, language, and problem solving. Maintaining a good level of iron in our bodies helps us to ensure our brain is performing correctly and at its best.

What Causes Low Iron

Some of the common causes of iron deficiency include

  • Lack of iron in the diet – there are two types of dietary iron, haem iron (found in animal tissue) and non-haem iron. The body absorbs haem iron much more easily than non-haem iron. Dietary intake of iron could be inadequate for a variety of reasons, including a poorly balanced vegetarian diet or fad dieting.
  • Low ability to absorb iron – healthy adults absorb only about 10% -15% of dietary iron, but some people’s bodies will absorb even less. Iron is absorbed through your stomach and small intestine, so if these are not functioning well it can cause problems. Often surgery to these areas (including a gastric bypass or gastric band) will also affect how much iron you can absorb.
    The iron in plant-based foods is much harder to absorb than the iron in animal foods. So if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it’s important to understand how to prepare iron-rich foods to make sure you absorb as much iron as possible.
  • Exercise – people who train a lot are prone to iron deficiency, because regular exercise increases the body’s need for iron in a number of ways. For example, iron is used to make new red blood cells, and hard training increases the rate of red cells being produced. Iron is also lost through sweating.
  • Inflammation – this is often overlooked as a cause of low iron, and one we commonly see in our clinic.
  • Blood loss – iron deficiency easily occurs in situations of chronic blood loss. Common causes include heavy menstrual periods, regular blood donation, regular nosebleeds, chronic disorders that involve bleeding (such as ulcers, hiatus hernia, bowel polyps or bowel cancer), and certain medications, particularly aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Increased need – an adolescent growth spurt, pregnancy and breastfeeding are situations when the body requires more iron. If this increased need isn’t met, a deficiency can quickly occur.
    Babies need breast milk or iron-fortified formula for the first year. Those who have cow’s milk instead are more likely to develop an iron deficiency.

Why does inflammation matter?

In 2000, scientists discovered a compound called hepcidin, and deemed it the “Master Regulator” of iron metabolism.1 Essentially, hepcidin controls whether iron can get into and out of cells. This affects a few key processes related to iron metabolism:

  • Iron absorption from the digestive tract
  • Iron recycling from damaged cells
  • Release of iron from storage

Typically, hepcidin levels are increased when there is a high level of circulating iron. This reduces absorption of iron from the diet, reduces the amount of recycled iron released into the system, and converts more iron into the storage form, ferritin. All of this helps to protect the body from iron overload.

Inflammation can also cause hepcidin production to increase.2 The increase in response to inflammation helps our bodies defend against invading bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens. Foreign invaders need iron to survive and thrive, just as we do. Therefore, the body responds by increasing hepcidin levels, causing much of the available iron to be converted to ferritin and put into storage. The lack of iron in the blood suppresses the ability of these invaders to grow and multiply.

Ferritin levels are usually a good measure of your overall iron status, but in the presence of inflammation, they may act as an immune response marker instead of an indicator of your iron stores.

However, inflammation in the body can come from other sources apart from invaders. These include strenuous exercise, a niggling injury, contraceptive pills, digestive problems, allergies or food intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, excess weight, autoimmune diseases, poor diet, stress, and lack of sleep.

Understanding Your Blood Test

Your blood test will often include your levels of

  • Haemoglobin – which the red blood cells use to transport oxygen from your lungs to the cells of your body
  • Serum iron – measures the level of iron in the liquid part of your blood.
  • Transferrin – transferrin is a protein in your blood that transports iron, and your body produces transferrin according to your iron needs. When its iron stores are low, the transferrin levels should increase, and your levels should be low when there is too much iron. (Usually about one third of your transferrin is being used to transport iron.)
  • Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)– this is a good indirect measurement of transferrin. (A pathology lab will normally measure either the transferrin levels or the TIBC.)
  • Transferrin saturation: this is the percentage of transferrin that is filled with iron.
  • Ferritin – ferritin is the main protein your body uses to store iron, so this is a measure of the amount of iron stored in your body

The balance of these readings is often helpful in determining what is causing your low iron.

In many types of iron deficiency the transferrin and TIBC may be high. Remember that the TIBC and transferrin are not measuring the amount of iron in the blood but the ability of the blood to carry iron. When the body lacks iron, it increases the amount of transferrin to gather as much of it as it can.

(Women using the contraceptive pill will often have high transferrin levels as well.)

On the other hand, those with chronic inflammation usually have low transferrin (or TIBC).

Here is a summary of the typical test results for the common types of iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency caused by Serum iron Transferrin or TIBC Transferrin
saturation
Ferritin
Low intake, low absorption, blood loss Low High Low Low
Chronic inflammation Low Low Low Normal / high

This chart is only a very general guide. For example, after strenuous exercise, your demand for oxygen will have increased, so your levels of transferrin will be higher short term. But if you over-exercise over a long period, the chronic inflammation may cause your transferrin levels to become low. And over time, if your body is not absorbing iron as fast as it is losing it, your ferritin levels will also become low.

So interpreting blood tests correctly requires careful evaluation, and a knowledge of the person’s diet and lifestyle.

Improving your iron levels

Obviously, the most important thing is to identify and address what is causing the problem. Having said that, some of the more common considerations are

  • Diet– an increase in foods that contain plenty of iron in an easily absorbed form is often important.
  • Absorption – it is very common to find that the person’s digestive system is not absorbing iron easily, so improving digestion is necessary most of the time.
    The tannins in tea and coffee bind to the iron and interfere with absorption, so cut back on the amount of these you drink, especially around mealtimes.
  • Address any inflammation or infection – low grade inflammation can occur almost anywhere in the body for a variety of reasons, however the digestive system is a very common source.

Taking iron supplements

Don’t take these if you don’t need to.

  • Unnecessary iron supplementation can interfere with your body’s absorption of other minerals, including zinc and copper.
  • Some prescribed iron supplements can cause constipation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, especially if they are taken on an empty stomach. Some can even cause internal bleeding (making the iron levels worse instead of better!).
  • About one in 300 people have haemochromatosis, which is an inherited disorder that causes the body to absorb more iron than normal. Excess iron damages their body’s tissues and increases their risk of cancers and heart disease. People with this condition need to limit how much iron they consume.

The best iron supplements are easily absorbed by the body, and contain extra vitamin C to increase the absorption rate. They contain a bio-available form of iron, and are very unlikely to cause any of the side effects associated with some of the others.

If your iron levels seem to be low all the time, just check with your doctor first to make sure there isn’t anything serious happening. Then we can check what is going on in your body and recommend the correct diet, supplements or treatment for you, to help you get your energy and spark back again. We even offer a free Comprehensive Assessment, to perform a detailed check of how your body is working and the best way to sort it out. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a free service, with no obligations whatsoever.) So if you would like to enjoy better energy and better health, please give us a call.

References:

  1. [1] Park, Christina H., et al. “Hepcidin, a urinary antimicrobial peptide synthesized in the liver.” Journal of biological chemistry 276.11 (2001): 7806-7810.
  2.  [2] Ganz, Tomas, and Elizabeta Nemeth. “Iron sequestration and anemia of inflammation.” Seminars in hematology. Vol. 46. No. 4. WB Saunders, 2009.