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About Acupuncture

Lady receiving acupuncture

Did you know that acupuncture is the second most-used therapy on earth? It has been used for thousands of years on billions of people throughout the world.

How it Works

Despite extensive research, the exact mechanism of how acupuncture works is still unknown. One of the areas acupuncture is best-known for is resolving pain, and in this regard it may be the result of

  • Stimulating the body’s healing processes
  • Improving blood flow
  • Relaxing tight muscles
  • Releasing endorphins
  • Reducing inflammation

or a combination of these.

However, acupuncture is used for many conditions other than pain. On a more general level, one of the best ways to understand how acupuncture works is to think of the acupuncture points as tiny controls for the body, that can be turned up or down to adjust the way the body is behaving. There are many hundreds of these points, and over thousands of years we have learnt the ways they influence the body.

What Can it be Used For?

Acupuncture is known for resolving pain, however this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what conditions it can treat. As a small sample, is has been proven to be effective for anxiety, fatigue and nausea related to many chronic diseases, hayfever, morning sickness, etc. Many health practitioners may also recommend acupuncture as an adjunct treatment that may assist with IVF.

How Accepted is Acupuncture?

Acupuncturists as Health Professionals

  • Acupuncturists must complete a 4 year full-time degree. These are usually a Bachelor of Health Science through private accredited colleges or a university such as Charles Sturt University, Southern Cross University, University of New England, University Of Western Sydney, University of South Australia, and the La Trobe University
  • They are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which is the government authority responsible for registration of doctors, pharmacists, dentists, podiatrists, etc.
  • Acupuncture treatments are covered under Workcover
  • Acupuncturists must also be registered with a professional Association, who ensure they are properly qualified, adhere to a professional Code of Conduct, and undertake Continuing Professional Development studies. (They also arrange for them to be registered with health funds.)

As a result, acupuncturists are coming to be recognised as genuine health professionals.

Health Funds

The federal government performed a review of the evidence of effectiveness for all natural therapies, and in 2019 stopped health funds from covering any natural therapies except acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, remedial massage, and myotherapy, as there was strong evidence for the effectiveness of these treatments. (An appeal has been lodged in relation to naturopathy, as the latest evidence was not used in this regard, and naturopathy is likely to be also added to therapies health funds can cover.)

GST Exempt

Medical services are exempt from GST, and acupuncture, naturopathy and herbal medicine are all specifically listed as exempt services in the GST Act.

Hospitals

Acupuncture is of course widely used in hospitals in many Asian countries, especially China. (There is a hospital in Japan which only uses acupuncture.) However it is also used in many hospitals in western countries such as the United Kingdom, USA, Sweden, and in some hospitals in a limited capacity in Australia (including 2 in Brisbane).

Acupuncture to be Covered under Medicare?

The Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) has approached the federal government to include acupuncture in the Chronic Disease Management Program. Under this Program, doctors can refer a patient to an allied health therapist, and Medicare covers part of the cost of the treatment.

Considerable research evidence was provided to the Chief Medical Officer on the management of pain by acupuncture, and especially chronic pain. As a result, he has recommended an application to the Federal Minister for Health for acupuncture to be included. So as a proven drug free alternative, acupuncture is being looked at favourably for the management of pain. The withdrawal of codeine as an over the counter medication, and the potential opioid crisis, have each made acupuncture an even more attractive option.

How Old is Acupuncture?

The earliest written records of acupuncture are around 200 BC, making it one of the oldest health care systems in the world. However there is some evidence that the practice is much older than that. Sharpened stones and long sharpened bones appear to have been used around 6,000 BC for acupuncture treatment.

Also, the body of a 5,300 year-old man was discovered frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991. ‘Otzi’ was covered with 61 tattoos (including dot-like points around joints), which some researchers believe may have been used as an early form of acupuncture. Some lines and dots were directly over areas which suffered from degenerative diseases, and many corresponded to traditional acupuncture points. So a simple form of acupuncture may have been practiced in Europe over 5,000 years ago.

Different Types of Acupuncture

There are 2 main styles- Japanese and Chinese acupuncture. The Japanese style

  • Involves post-graduate training and study once you have graduated as a Chinese acupuncturist
  • Is normally much more gentle and comfortable than the Chinese. (Many people find their treatments quite relaxing, and some even fall asleep during them.)
  • Is more in-depth, as there is usually a much more detailed assessment performed
  • Has an emphasis on treating the causes of the problem as well as the symptoms
  • The skill level required is much higher than for Chinese acupuncture, but when done correctly it is often more effective

Our Therapists and Treatments

All of our acupuncturists use the Japanese style, We also only use the finest quality, pre-sterilised, disposable needles, which are made in Japan rather than in China. (These needles are hair-thin and designed for maximum comfort as well as effectiveness.)

Free Assessment

If you have a health issue and would like to find out if acupuncture can resolve it, we offer a free Comprehensive Assessment. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.) Please call us on 3376 6911 if you have any questions at all, or ring or book online if you would like to make an appointment.

Why Most Vitamins can be a Waste of Money

Are vitamins a waste of money?

I am not a fan of over-the-counter products generally. These products are not designed to be prescribed, but are made to be safe for anyone to take (children, elderly, those with serious health issues, on strong medications, etc.). Because any effect is very mild, they usually have very little therapeutic benefit. The aim is to sell as many as possible, and they compete with other products on price and advertising. As quality is not important, some contain nutrients in a form that is difficult to absorb, or they may contain fillers or other additives.

Practitioner-prescribed products are designed to achieve the maximum therapeutic effect. They are only provided by a trained therapist after assessing the client and giving careful consideration to precisely what their body needs, including

  • What health issues they have (which increases the need for certain nutrients)
  • The level of nutrients in their body already
  • Any medications they are taking
  • The strength of their digestion, and how well they are absorbing their nutrients

The therapist then chooses the ideal product for them and the appropriate dosage. As a small example, if someone has arthritis, the therapist may prescribe a mixture of high-quality glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate to help rebuild the cartilage. However,

  • Most people with arthritis will also be low in other nutrients that help the glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate to work properly, so will likely need some of these in any product prescribed
  • If the person’s stomach is a little underactive and they are not breaking down proteins well, they may need something to assist the absorption of the glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate
  • If the person is taking a lot of fibre, they may need to reduce this to allow the minerals required to rebuild the cartilage to be absorbed
  • Depending on how bad the arthritis is, the therapist may prescribe a higher dose than the one recommended for the general public. (However, higher doses should only be taken under the direction of a trained professional.)

Practitioner-prescribed products are of the highest quality and compete with each other on their therapeutic benefit. Each company is constantly trying to come up with products that work more effectively than their competitors, which will then be prescribed more often.

To improve your health, or to get good results for any condition, you need the right diagnosis, the right treatment, and the right dosage. I don’t feel that over-the-counter products look after any of these properly.

As a result, we see far too many people spending lots of money on products that are not helping them at all.

If you would like to see if the products you are taking are improving your health or not (or even making it worse), or would like to find out what nutrients are important for you, please book in for a 15 minute Focus Consult with our naturopath (currently at the introductory price of only $15). Be well!

You may also be interested in reading Australian Natural Medicines Lead the World.

 

Green Tea a Potent Anti-Viral Treatment

Green tea is an anti-viral

A group of compounds in green tea called catechins are known to have antiviral properties, and a study has found that taking green tea liquid or powder was an effective preventative for viral infections. The study was published in the Journal of Biological Engineering, and the authors concluded that green tea extracts ‘demonstrated potent viral inactivating activity’.

(Note: whilst it is likely that green tea and green tea extracts provide effective prevention against a broad range of viruses, there is no evidence to date that they are effective against the COVID-19 virus.)

We recommend gargling with freshly made green tea, and then swallowing the tea, every day.

How Simple Soap Kills the Coronavirus

How soap destroys coronavirus

Washing your hands with soap is one of the best things you can do to help stop the spread of coronavirus. A single drop of ordinary soap in water is enough to rupture and kill many types of viruses and bacteria (including COVID-19). Why is it so deadly against them?

Soap is made of pin-shaped molecules, with a hydrophilic (‘water-loving’) head, and a hydrophobic (‘water-shunning’) tail. The hydrophobic tail repels water and prefers to link up with oils and fats. So if you put soap molecules in water, they tend to form little bubbles, called micelles, with the water-loving hydrophilic heads on the outside, and the water-avoiding hydrophobic tails on the inside.

Many viruses and bacteria have lipid (fatty) outer layers. These outer layers are like double-layered micelles, with two rings of hydrophilic heads between two bands of hydrophobic tails. The layer also contains protein spikes that allow viruses to infect cells (or for bacteria, perform various important actions that keep them alive). Some of the viruses with this structure include the coronaviruses, HIV, hepatitis B and C viruses, and herpes viruses. (The bacteria with this lipid outer layer include many of those that attack the intestines, nose, throat and lungs.)

When you wash your hands with soap and water, you surround any micro-organisms on your skin with soap molecules. Remember that the hydrophobic tail of the soap molecule tries to get away from water and to link up with fats, like the lipid outer layer of a virus. So the tails of the soap molecules wedge themselves into the lipid layers of the virus, breaking up the layer. According to Prof. Pall Thordarson (acting head of chemistry at the University of New South Wales), “They act like crowbars and destabilize the whole system.” Crucial proteins then spill from the ruptured membranes, destroying the virus.

Some of the soap molecules also disrupt the chemical bonds that allow viruses to stick to surfaces, lifting them off the skin. Soap micelles also form around particles of dirt and the fragments of viruses and bacteria, suspending them in floating cages. When you rinse your hands, all the micro-organisms that have been damaged, trapped and killed by soap molecules are washed away.

So to help stop the spread of COVID-19, please

Herbs that have Anti-Viral Properties

Scientific testing of herbs

(We cover Medicinal Herbs first, then Kitchen Herbs. The more technical information is marked in green, so you can skip these parts if you like.)

Medicinal Herbs

Echinacea

Both Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia have antimicrobial and immune-stimulating properties. They are used for the treatment of viral infections such as influenza, as well as middle ear infections, vaginal candida, and to improve wound healing. A high dose of Echinacea is helpful if you feel susceptible to coming down with something or if you have been exposed to those with infections. (Echinacea is generally not used with auto-immune disorders.)

However, Echinacea is generally considered more effective for infection prevention. A lipophilic extract of Echinacea root rich in alkylamides will prime the immune response before virus exposure, and then sustain it once the virus takes hold.

(In the acute stage of the virus, other antiviral herbs such as Liquorice and sweet wormwood (the latter in pulsed doses), and other immune herbs such as Andrographis and holy basil, become more important.)

Astragalus

Astragalus membranaceus increases white blood cell counts and interferon, thereby increasing the body’s resistance to disease. It is best taken long-term to enhance immune functions, and is especially effective for those with a history of recurring respiratory infections, anaemia, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Astragalus is contraindicated in progressed Lyme disease.

In Chinese herbal medicine, Astragalus is generally contraindicated in acute infections, except where there is energy deficiency. It has been used in herbal formulations to treat recent viral epidemics, but is more often included in preventative formulations. As per the Chinese herbal medicine guidelines, Astragalus is particularly indicated for prevention when a person has compromised immunity and/or resilience.

Hence, Astragalus can be safely taken for prevention but is best stopped once acute symptoms develop (unless there is advice to the contrary from a skilled Chinese herbal practitioner).

However, once the infection is over, it is very helpful for recovery from any after-effects, such as post-viral fatigue.

Andrographis

Andrographis paniculata has extensive evidence in reducing the incidence, severity and duration of acute respiratory infections (as evidenced by positive results in a meta-analysis, which included 33 studies). It has been shown to stimulate both the antigen-specific and non-specific immune response, as well as increase NK cell activity, antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity and antibody-dependent complement-mediated cytotoxicity, thereby supporting host immune defences.

Elderberry

This herb is an immune stimulant and has antiviral properties. It is primarily used as a cough or cold remedy, as it helps to break a fever, ease flu symptoms, and clear congestion.

The use of the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) during acute respiratory viral infections is relatively new, arising from research conducted in the 1970s. Initial investigations revealed antiviral activity, and this remains a research focus. However, later research has indicated a role for the herb in enhancing immune responses, especially cytokine production. (Elderberry increases the production of inflammatory cytokines IL-1beta, TNF-alpha, IL-6 and IL-8.) Meta-analysis certainly supports its benefit when administered during acute viral infections.

A clinical trial in 473 patients (including many with confirmed influenza A and/or B) found that a combination of elderberry and Echinacea given as soon as possible for 10 days after symptoms developed was as effective as the antiviral drug oseltamivir. There was no suggestion of harmful effects or induction of cytokine storm (the authors used the term septic shock to flag this possibility). In fact, adverse events were higher in the antiviral drug group.

In another large trial involving 312 economy class passengers traveling from Australia to an overseas destination, participants took elderberry continuously from 10 days before flying overseas until five days after arriving at the travel destination. Most cold episodes occurred in the placebo group (17 versus 12), however the difference was not significant (p = 0.4). Placebo group participants had a significantly longer duration of cold episode days (117 vs. 57, p = 0.02) and the average symptom score over these days was also significantly higher (583 vs. 247, p = 0.05). These data suggest a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers. The herbal treatment was well tolerated, with no serious adverse events.

Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms can boost immunity by providing polysaccharides- complex sugars that stimulate an immune response. They are very beneficial as preventatives during cold and flu seasons and are also useful when actively fighting an infection.

Shiitake MushroomLentinus edodes. Shiitake is highly prized as food and medicine. It is especially high in zinc and contains several types of polysaccharides that stimulate white blood cell activity and moderate immune function. It has antiviral and antibacterial properties and is showing promise as an anti-tumour medicine. It also helps to protect the liver and lower cholesterol.

Both shiitake and reishi mushrooms activate the innate immune system, triggering the production of NK cells, lymphocytes, neutrophils, macrophages, and inflammatory cytokines.

ReishiGanoderma spp. Reishi has been used in China and Japan for over 4,000 years, and is called ‘the immortality mushroom’.

It enhances and controls immune cell functions, and is effective against a very broad range of pathogens; amongst other properties, it is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. (As it moderates the immune system, allergy sufferers may find reishi helpful in reducing inflammation and over-sensitivity. It is often valuable for those undergoing cancer treatment, as it helps protect the body from radiation damage, lessens pain, and improves appetite. Reishi is also an adaptogen, and so helps mitigate the physical and mental impact of the stress response.)

Reishi has been shown to bind to cell surface receptors of immune cells, leading to alteration in the activities of macrophages, T helper cells and natural killer (NK) cells, activate peripheral blood mononuclear cells, promote lymphocyte proliferation and differentiation, and inhibit viral replication.

However, as with Astragalus, the main role of medicinal mushrooms is for infection prevention and they can be discontinued during acute infection onset to make way for other higher priority herbs.

Research suggests that the branched chain beta-glucan polymers found in the fruiting bodies of various mushroom species seem particularly adapted to heightening immune vigilance against potential pathogens. Interaction of mushroom beta-glucans with dectin-1 receptors may even be able to “train” the innate immune response. Trained (innate) immunity (TI) can be induced by a variety of stimuli, of which BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin vaccine) and beta-glucan have been particularly studied. Both BCG (via NOD2 signalling) and beta-glucan (via dectin-1) can induce epigenetic changes that lead to TI. Interestingly, because of the discovery of TI, BCG is currently being investigated as a prevention for acute respiratory viral infection amongst 4,000 healthcare workers.

Pau D’arco

The inner bark of Tabebuia impetiginosa, an Amazonian tree, can be used to treat colds, influenza, herpes and viral stomatitis (mouth sores, such as a cold sore). It contains quinoids that inhibit virus replication by damaging the DNA and RNA inside the viral protein that would normally insert itself in a healthy human cell and replicate.

St John’s Wort

Hypericum perforatum is well-known for its ability to help mild depression and neuralgia, but it also has potent antiviral chemicals called hypercin and pseudohypericin that proactively fight off viruses. In particular, it is especially useful against viruses that masquerade as human cells, such as Herpes, HIV and Hepatitis C.

(St John’s Wort is of particular interest at present, as it is considered to be effective against ‘enveloped’ viruses, and COVID-19 is an enveloped virus. However, there is as yet no firm evidence that St John’s Wort is effective against COVID-19.)

Marshmallow

Althaea officinalis; the herbal extract of the marshmallow plant soothes irritated respiratory tissue and builds immune function.

Herbs and Fever Management

 (Patients with COVID-19 infection requiring intensive care unit (ICU) admission have shown higher concentrations of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (GCSF), IP10, MCP1, MIP1-alpha, and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) than patients that have not required ICU admission, suggesting that a cytokine storm may be associated with the disease severity.[1])

One important area of herbs for managing viral infections is the role of diaphoretic herbs in stage II. Their appropriate use could prove to be critical in preventing the development of a cytokine storm.

A diaphoretic is an agent that literally is used to promote sweating, and in the context of a fever, diaphoretic herbs were used to manage the febrile phase of an infection. In modern herbal practice, diaphoretic herbs are still considered appropriate in fever management, including remedies such as Mentha x piperita (peppermint), Achillea (yarrow), Sambucus (elderflower), Matricaria (chamomile), Tilia (lime flowers) and Asclepias tuberosa (pleurisy root). Their objective is to help to facilitate the fever as a “slow burn” (usually the range 100–102°F or 37.8–38.9°C), ensuring that this important physiological response is supported, but kept at a level that is comfortable, restorative and not harmful to the person.

They work best when taken hot, as in an infusion or decoction.

Liquorice Glycyrrhiza glabra. The herb (not the sweet) contains a substance called glycyrrhizin that reduces the replication of viruses and halts their ability to penetrate replicate inside healthy cells. It has been noted to be effective in the treatment of many viral illnesses, including HIV strains and viral hepatitis. Liquorice is soothing for sore throats and dry coughs. It helps heal irritated tissues, and reduces inflammation and coughing (anti-tussive).

However, Liquorice is not advised if you have high blood pressure or during pregnancy.

In the classical model of pathogenesis, induction of fever is mediated by the release of pyrogenic cytokines such as Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, and interferons into the bloodstream in response to exogenous pyrogens from infecting agents. These are the same cytokines that are largely responsible for cytokine storm. Hence, diaphoretic herbs might well reduce the risk of developing cytokine storm during an infection.

This might be disregarded as idle speculation, except for the eclectic experience with diaphoretic herbs during the Spanish flu pandemic, where they were regarded as key remedies. Drawing from just one of the many testaments to the value of diaphoretic herbs from that time, as reviewed by Abascal and Yarnell: “One physician, who saw 10–35 patients with influenza per day during the epidemic began treatment by mixing 2 teaspoons of boneset and 1 teaspoon of pleurisy root tinctures in a cup of hot water. This was given immediately with a second dose 15 minutes later, a third dose half an hour later, and a fourth dose an hour after the first dose. He reported that this treatment typically reduced a fever of 103–104ºF by 3–4º in a few hours. Yet another physician reported that boneset was always a significant remedy in influenza.”

(We now know that boneset contains low levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, so other diaphoretic herbs should be used instead.)

Conclusions

These herbs will support a focussed initial immune response, including enhanced cytokine signalling, and thereby reduce the risk of any infection progressing to the stage III development of cytokine storm.

Herbs are best given in combination, and informed use of herbal prescribing can improve clinical outcomes. In the context of reducing the risk of cytokine storm after an infection has taken hold, the valuable role for the inclusion of diaphoretic herbs in the treatment protocol needs to be given due attention.

Kitchen Herbs

Some common kitchen herbs are helpful to build your immunity and ward off respiratory illnesses.

Garlic Allium sativum. Garlic is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. The compounds allicin and alliion are responsible for all of these actions, and garlic also has antimicrobial properties.

GingerZingiber officinale. Ginger is very heating and is a diaphoretic, so is excellent for the early stages of a ‘cold’ (viral) type of infection, with symptoms such as feeling cold, sneezing, nasal congestion with white phlegm or a runny nose with clear phlegm, and little or no fever. It may also include muscle stiffness or aches, or a cough with clear or white phlegm. (Do not use ginger for a ‘hot’ or bacterial infections, which involve feeling hotter, a sore throat, or yellow or green phlegm.)

Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds, helps to expel mucus, and can ease coughs and deep-seated respiratory congestion including bronchitis.

The best way to use ginger is to chop the root up, boil it, and drink the liquid as a tea. You will usually need to dilute it, and can add a little honey if you wish. Drink frequently until your symptoms have gone.

PeppermintMentha × piperita. Peppermint is also a diaphoretic but is very cooling, so is used for the early stages of a ‘hot’ (bacterial) type of infection, with symptoms such as feeling hot or having a fever, sore throat, and yellow or green phlegm. Use it as a tea and drink frequently.

Onions Allium spp. A centuries-old remedy for breaking up lung congestion is to sauté onions in a little olive oil, placed them on a cloth, apply to the chest while still warm, and let it sit for about half an hour. The aromatics in raw onions can also help calm a cough.

Green TeaCamellia sinensis. Green tea contains a group of flavonoids called catechins, which appear to inhibit viral infections by blocking the enzymes that allow it to reproduce. Green tea has been known to be effective in inhibiting HIV, herpes simples and the hepatitis B virus. For best effect, gargle with the tea then swallow it.

Olive LeafOlea europea. The leaves of Olive trees contain a substance called elenoic acid, and calcium elonate has been identified as a powerful inhibitor of a wide range of viruses in laboratory tests, including influenza, herpes, polio and coxsackie viruses. These substances block the production of enzymes that allow viruses to replicate.

Horseradish Armoracia rusticana. Horseradish has strong decongestant and antimicrobial properties. After grating the roots, put them into vinegar or honey immediately to prevent the loss of the effective compounds. (Wasabi in Japanese restaurants is usually made from Horseradish.)

Important

The information contained in this article is meant for general use only, and must not be used to replace medical advice or treatment. In particular, if you have any possible COVID-19 symptoms, such as sore throat, fever or shortness of breath, you must seek immediate guidance from a medical professional or call the Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice (ph. 131 450).

When prescribed by a qualified professional, medicinal herbs can be effective for a wide range of viral and bacterial infections. Naturopaths undergo years of training in the use of herbal formulas, and an experienced naturopath can prescribe a powerful combination of herbs tailored to your specific needs. (Only the highest quality medicinal herbs are used at our clinic.)

You may also be interested in reading our article on Improving Your Immune System.

We are currently running a special offer of a 15 minute consult with our naturopath for only $15. These can be carried out in person or by Skype or Facetime. Please give us a call if you would like to book in for one, or you can book online.

[1] Mehta P, McAuley DF, Brown M, Sanchez E, Tattersall RS, Manson JJ, et al. COVID-19: consider cytokine storm syndromes and immunosuppression. Lancet [Internet]. 2020 Mar 16 [cited 2020 Mar 17]. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30628-0. Available from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30628-0/fulltext#articleInformation.

Improving Your Immune System

Your immune system is your defence against viruses

Your immune system is the only defence your body has against a virus (including the coronavirus), and how badly it affects you is directly related to how strong your immune system is. So protecting yourself again viruses should include
  • Washing your hands very regularly
  • Social distancing (keeping at least 1.5m away from others)
  • Strengthening your immune system

By getting your immune system stronger, you will also help reduce the chance of you spreading the virus to other people. There are a variety of ways to do this.

The Basics

  • Getting enough sleep (6-8 hrs), maintaining a healthy exercise regime, sunshine, fresh air, and keeping stress levels in check
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, with an abundance of fresh vegetables, raw crushed garlic, nuts, fresh high anti-oxidant foods (especially broccoli and kiwifruit), and good quality protein. These help to feed your beneficial gut bacteria to boost your immune resilience. (Garlic has the added advantages that it is anti-viral, plus helps with social distancing!)
  • Don’t overindulge with alcohol, as it is bad for your gut flora and immune functions.
  • If you smoke, action a quit plan.

Intermediate Help

  • Over-the-counter products such as probiotics, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, etc. Vitamin D reduces the chances of developing acute respiratory infections (including influenza). However stop taking vitamin D if you come down with a cold or flu, as it may make your symptoms worse.
  • Drink and gargle green tea. Even more so than drinking it, gargling green tea has been shown to reduce the rate of contracting influenza and the common cold. The tannins in green tea have also been shown to have broad anti-viral effects topically.
  • Eat probiotic foods daily. Consuming probiotic foods regularly or taking a probiotic supplement has been shown to reduce the risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection. (if you would like to take a supplement, please talk to us about the ideal one for you.)

Advanced Level

  • To strongly improve your immune system requires professional-strength, prescription-only products from a naturopath or similar health professional. These are individually prescribed for each person, and may include specific probiotics targeting certain aspects of their immune system, high-potency supplements, or specific herbal preparations. These products are very potent and effective, but as the prescription and dosage is tailored to each individual, a consultation with the therapist is necessary.

We are currently running a special offer of a 15 minute consult with our naturopath for only $15. These can be carried out in person or by Skype or Facetime. Please give us a call if you would like to book in for one, or you can book online.

Keeping You Safe from Coronavirus

Coronavirus hygiene

Here are some of the extra precautions we are taking to help keep you safe when you visit our clinic.

Reception

Clients

  • All clients will be asked to use our hand sanitiser when they come into the clinic (and their therapist will check that this has happened)
  • Our receptionists disinfect our reception counter (including our Eftpos terminal), reception work area, front door handles, toilet door handles, etc. at least twice a day
  • Our receptionists use hand sanitiser a minimum every 2-3 clients
  • We ask our clients to swipe their own Eftpos/credit card and health fund card
  • Disinfectant spray is kept at our reception and used regularly

Social Distancing

  • The chairs in our reception area are placed 1½ metres apart
  • Naturopathy sessions can be by Skype or Facetime
  • Products can be posted to you ($10 postage)
  • You can arrange to park in our carpark, and we can bring your products to you and put them in your car

Cleaning and Sanitation

  • All rooms are disinfected at least once a day
  • Hand sanitiser available for everyone on our reception counter and in each treatment room
  • Computer keyboards in each treatment room are sterilised after each acupuncture or remedial massage treatment

Therapists

  • As is already normal required practice, acupuncturists and massage therapists must wash their hands thoroughly after each treatment
  • Quality facemasks are used by all therapists
  • Our naturopaths use hand sanitiser after they have touched a client (for example taking their blood pressure)
  • Shaking hands with clients is not allowed
  • All of our staff receive free professional-strength immune supplements prescribed by our naturopath to look after their health and the health of our clients during this virus period.
  • Staff training and discussion sessions on the virus and our requirements are held regularly
  • (If a receptionist or therapist meets any of our criteria for clients not attending our clinic, they must self-isolate for at least 2 weeks)

General

Obviously, no-one will be allowed in the clinic who

  • has a fever, or has developed a cough, sneeze, shortness of breath, a sore throat or fatigue/tiredness within last 2 weeks. (Sneezing is not normally a symptom of the virus, however it is a major cause of spreading it.)
  • Exceptions may be provided by our Head Therapist if he determines their symptoms are not consistent with coronavirus (for example, someone who has a chronic asthmatic cough).
  • has been in contact with anyone who may have been exposed to the coronavirus
  • has been overseas in the last 2 weeks

We will refer anyone to a doctor or hospital for testing if they have any possible symptoms of the virus.

The National Coronavirus Helpline is 1800 020 080.

We ask for your patience and understanding with these requirements, which we believe are necessary and important. The situation with COVID-19 is still evolving, and we will continue to review our requirements and update them as required, to protect everyone as much as we can.

We also recommend everyone strongly boosts their immune system. Your immune system is the only defence your body has against viruses (including the coronavirus). The stronger your immune system, the less likely you are to contract a virus, and if you do, the milder your symptoms and the more quickly you will get over it.

If you would like to do this or just have your immune system assessed, we suggest booking in for a free Comprehensive Assessment at our clinic. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.) As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so rather than buying toilet paper, please look at protecting yourself effectively. 🙂

The Coronavirus- Now a Case of When, Not If

Computer Image of Coronavirus

With the continued spread of the coronavirus around the world, one of our leading virologists has declared that eventually everyone in Australia will contract it. Most people will experience ­it as a bad cold, however the elderly and those with heart or lung conditions will be at much greater risk.

University of QLD’s Infectious Disease expert and Virologist, Associate Professor Ian Mackay, said it was unrealistic to expec­t that the virus could be containe­d.

“It doesn’t look like that virus is ever going to go back in its box,” Professor Mackay said. “And so we’re likely to have the virus ­become what we call an endemic virus, or a virus that’s just with us for life. We already have four of these coronaviruses, mostly causing colds. We get them every year. They peak during winter but they still move around between us during­ the rest of the year as well.”

“So it’s likely this might become one of those. If that’s the case, at some point in the coming months or years we’re all going to get infected­ because we’ve all been infecte­d by these other endemic viruses. We know that they just spread among us.”[1]

Professor Robert Booy from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance also said that COVID-19 would eventually affect a significant percentage of the population.

“It could be within a few weeks. it could be one to two months, [but] it’s going to come here,” he said. “I don’t think we can stop this.”[2]

Children Safer, Elderly More at Risk

Professor Ian Mackay also said that the age group with the most deaths from the COVID-19 virus was the over-80s. “Younger people don’t seem to be getting severe disease.”

Chief medical officer Dr Brendan Murphy confirmed that that one of the surprising features about the virus was how few children seemed to have been identified as infected.

“It’s very unusual compared to influenza,” he said.[3]

Researchers found most people only developed mild symptoms, and the fatalities occurred in people who already had serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer.

So far, no children at all have been reported as having serious complications, and those most at risk of dying were aged over 70, with an even greater death rate in people aged over 80.

Unlike with the flu, pregnant women do not appear to be at increased risk of contracting the virus and developing complications.

Coronavirus Cases and Death percentageHow Dangerous is It?

The Australian Department of Health estimates the fatality rate in China is 3.4 per cent, however the fatality rate outside China was only 1.6 per cent.[4] (SARS had a rate of 9.6 per cent.)

Symptoms

For the majority of people who contract the virus, their symptoms will be minor, such as a sore throat, fatigue, coughing, and a runny nose. However, a few may develop more serious symptoms like difficulty breathing. In the most severe cases, the virus causes pneumonia, which can be deadly.

Elderly people, or those with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are more likely to experience severe symptoms.

What We Can Do

We will never get rid of viruses, as they are constantly changing and evolving. New viruses appear every year, and any vaccine will always be one step behind a virus. So how do we protect ourselves from them?

Good Hygiene

Just like reducing the risk of catching or spreading a cold or flu virus, good hygiene is important.

  • Wash your hands frequently. Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, or clean them with an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Maintain social distancing. Maintain at least 1 metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene. Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.[5]

Seek Medical Care Early

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.

Improve Your Immune System

Your immune system is the only defence your body has against the coronavirus, and how badly it affects you is directly related to how strong your immune system is.

  • Mildly Help Your Immune System- this includes getting enough rest, exercise, sunshine, fresh air, fruits and vegetables, and reducing stress.
  • Moderately Help Your Immune System- over-the-counter products such as probiotics, vitamin C, zinc, etc.
  • Strongly Improve Your Immune System- professional-strength, prescription-only products from a naturopath or similar health professional. These are individually prescribed for each person, and may include specific probiotics targeting certain aspects of their immune system, high-potency supplements, or specific herbal preparations. These products are very potent and effective, but as the prescription and dosage is tailored to each individual, a consultation with the therapist is necessary.

 

It is worth noting that when you contract a virus, your immune system will work out which antibodies are effective against it so that it can get rid of it. The body is then much better at dealing with similar viruses in the future, as it already has a blueprint for that type. (The more viruses your body is exposed to, the better your immune system will become.) So if you are a reasonably healthy person and you contract a mild coronavirus infection, it may actually help you resist these types of viruses when new ones develop in the future.

Free Assessment

If you would like to strongly boost your immune system or just have it assessed, we recommend booking in for a free Comprehensive Assessment at our clinic. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.)

[1] https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/were-all-going-to-catch-the-coronavirus-health-expert-warns/news-story/91064f946134428ba229753c799eabb5

[2] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-01/who-is-most-likely-to-get-coronavirus-children-appear-safe/12013842

[3] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-01/who-is-most-likely-to-get-coronavirus-children-appear-safe/12013842

[4] https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

[5] https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

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