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May 16, 2011

More Bone Fractures with Acid Reflux Meds

Hydrochloric acid is of vital importance when it comes to being able to properly digest and absorb one's food.  Without adequate amounts of this acid, food cannot be broken down and utilized efficiently in the body.  Over time, the body will become chronically deficient in a wide spectrum of nutrients, making it more susceptible to disease processes.

Using different mechanisms, acid reflux medications specifically aim to lower hydrochloric acid in the stomach.  A recent analysis published in the Annals of Family Medicine (May-June issue) looked at 11 studies and found that people using proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux have a 29% increased risk for bone fractures than non-users.  Researchers noted that those people taking high doses of these medications for long-term were 53% more likely to develop hip fractures in particular.  Dr. Seung-Kwon Myung, physician and scientist at the National Cancer Center in Seoul, South Korea, commented that treatment with proton pump inhibitors may influence intestinal absorption of calcium and long-term or frequent use should be avoided.  Last year, the FDA placed labels on proton pump inhibitors warning that they may increase fracture risk.  But in March these warnings were removed from over-the-counter versions based on the FDAs rationale that these are only meant for short-term use anyway and risk of fracture is linked with long-term use.        

Many people turn to medications that inhibit production of acid in the stomach when symptoms like heartburn or acid-reflux occur. Though there are situations where the use of acid reflux medications may be
temporarily warranted (i.e. active ulcers), usually they are counter-productive. Heartburn, acid reflux, GERD, and other GI complaints can often be eliminated without the need for acid-reflux drugs by changing one's diet and eating habits, as well as using specific nutrients, botanicals, and probiotics to heal the lining of the digestive tract.  Acid reflux is a problem affecting the lives of many.  Though a little heartburn here and there may seem harmless, over time this can damage the lining of the digestive tract and even develop into various cancers.  If you or your loved ones suffer with this, don't let another day go by ignoring it!     

Dr. Shana McQueen

May 13, 2011

Prenatal Vitamin D Prevents Infant Infections

A new study from the journal Pediatrics has demonstrated that women who take vitamin D during pregnancy have babies with a significantly lower chance of developing the common viral infection known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).  Infants deficient in vitamin D at birth had a 6-fold increased risk of getting RSV during the first year of life compared with babies with high vitamin D levels.

RSV typically causes cold-like symptoms in both children and adults.  It is extremely common (and most often benign) in children, but may progress to a more serious condition.  According to the CDC, when infants and children are exposed to RSV for the first time, 25% to 40% of them have signs or symptoms of bronchiolitis or pneumonia, and up to 1 in 50 will require hospitalization.  About 50% of all children who have been hospitalized for this virus go on to develop asthma-like symptoms after being discharged.
Naturopathic medicine offers a wide range of therapies to both prevent and treat childhood viruses like RSV.  Many naturopathic doctors recommend vitamin D supplementation as part of a comprehensive and individualized plan to support a balanced immune system, bone health, cardiovascular health, healthy skin, etc. There exists ongoing controversy over optimal dosing for vitamin D.  Some health groups advocate only 600 IUs of vitamin D3 daily, while many experts suggest doses as high as 4000-5000 IUs for the average adult.  In his research at the Medical University of South Carolina, Dr. Bruce Hollis found that pregnant women need at least 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D in order to maintain both their own vitamin D levels and that of their babies.  Based on his widespread findings of vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women, he states that an ideal dose is at least 5,000 IU per day.  

Recommended dosing for children is much lower than for adults.  A safe supplemental dose for infants is 400 IU daily (assuming they have nursing mothers who are not supplementing with vitamin D), while children over age 1 generally do well with a daily maintenance dose of 1000 IU and no more than 2000 IU.  Ideal dosing for all ages is dependent on the season, skin pigmentation, latitude, and total sun exposure.  Though it is essential for optimal functioning of the body and is extremely useful for numerous health conditions, vitamin D is a hormone and should be used with caution.  A simple blood test checking vitamin D levels can help you and your health care provider determine whether you (and your baby if you’re pregnant or plan to be) can benefit from vitamin D supplementation.  After  supplementation has been initiated, regular monitoring of vitamin D levels is recommended to both ensure adequate dosing and prevent toxicity due to overdosing.  

Dr. Shana McQueen

May 5, 2011

Respite for Restless Legs

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is characterized by the irresistible urge to move the legs. People who experience this condition describe having unpleasant sensations in their legs such as pulling, itching, tingling, burning, or aching. These unpleasant sensations are temporarily relieved by voluntary movement of the legs. RLS can cause significant distress to those who have it. It tends to occur when people are trying to relax or sleep, and if severe enough can ultimately end up leading to sleep disruption, exhaustion, and eventually problems with work and mental performance. Individuals with RLS usually also have an associated condition known as nocturnal myoclonus. This is a neuromuscular problem whereby the muscles, usually in the legs, repeatedly contract during sleep for intervals of less than 10 seconds. Individuals are unaware of the muscle contractions, but may report frequent sleep disruptions and daytime sleepiness.

Although the cause(s) of RLS and nocturnal myoclonus are still to be determined, theories do exist. Some researchers believe it has to do with central nervous system dysfunction, more specifically dysfunction of the neurotransmitter dopamine, leading to excitability in a particular region of the brain. A new drug known as Horizant has recently been approved by the FDA for treatment of moderate to severe restless leg syndrome (RLS). But before rushing out to try this new drug (and its probable side effects), consider a few other options first. Since RLS is common among people with malabsorption, it's a great idea to determine and then optimize one's nutritional and digestive status. Iron deficiency, with or without anemia, is a common finding in individuals with this problem. A simple blood test can be done to determine whether iron stores are sufficient and whether a supervised trial of iron supplementation may be helpful. In people with family history of RLS, appropriate folic acid supplementation has a high success rate. If nutritional status proves to be ideal in a person with RLS or if a multi-tiered treatment approach is desired, therapeutic trials with specific botanical medicines should be attempted. Herbs like passiflora and valerian have sedative properties to help induce deep relaxation and sleep in those with RLS. Therapies such as acupuncture have proven extremely effective at mitigating and even completely alleviating this condition. Other recommendations, from both conventional and naturopathic worlds, include making sure to get plenty of regular exercise, develop healthy sleep habits, and eliminate intake of tobacco, alcohol, coffee, and other stimulants.

Dr. Shana McQueen

May 3, 2011

Springtime is Here…And so are the Allergies!

Many of us look forward to the coming warmer months, but for those with seasonal allergies, the transition period can range from annoying to unbearable.  Common symptoms of seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, include itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, post-nasal drip, and irritated throat.  Though many people may not realize it, seasonal allergies can have a dramatic affect on daily functioning.  For example, a person may experience disruptions in sleep, fatigue, difficulty with concentration and even learning.  In the United States, estimates show that up to one third of all adults and 40% of all children are burdened with these allergies, triggered by airborne pollens and mold spores.  Some people experience symptoms during spring, others are affected in summer or fall, while some even suffer for up to 9 months out of the year.  

Throughout the year, pollen counts of various trees, grasses, and weeds rise and fall.  In people with seasonal allergies, the immune system is in a hyperactive state, causing a reaction to pollen as though it were a foreign invader.  Because the immune system views pollen as a foreign invader, similar to a bacteria or virus, it responds in such a way to eliminate the threat.  This response includes things like excess mucous production, inflammation, coughing, and watering of the eyes.  When allergies are not addressed appropriately, excess mucous production and a worn out immune system make it easier for true foreign invaders to take hold.  This is the mechanism by which seasonal allergies can transition into sinus infections or other respiratory infections.       
In conventional medicine, intranasal corticosteroid sprays are the typical gold standard pharmacological treatment for moderate to severe cases of seasonal allergies.  Other medications are also frequently recommended, including over-the-counter or prescribed oral and intranasal antihistamines, oral and topical decongestants, and leukotriene receptor antagonists.  Though they may be helpful in reducing symptoms temporarily, they do not fix the source of the problem and they can come with a cost.  Some common side effects from these medicines can include immune suppression, drowsiness, fatigue, and rebound seasonal allergies.  

The naturopathic approach to seasonal allergies is comprehensive and multi-tiered.  Our first goal is to identify and reduce allergen/irritant exposure if at all possible, then to rebalance the immune system through appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes, nutritional therapies, botanical medicines, and homeopathic remedies.  We utilize some of the most highly effective natural anti-histamines and anti-inflammatories that don’t come with negative side effects.   Did you know that more than half of your immune system is centralized to your digestive tract?    Since proper digestion has a whole lot to do with immune function, it’s vital to correct any digestive problems that may be going on.  Hormonal balance, particularly adrenal function, is another important area to look into when dealing with allergies.  If you or your loved ones suffer with seasonal allergies, ask your naturopath how you can get them under control and maybe even prevent them from happening next season. 

Dr. Shana McQueen