Surpisingly, Most Medicines Are Untested In Pregnancy

Surpisingly, Most Medicines Are Untested In Pregnancy

     When a woman is taking medication for a chronic condition prior to becoming pregnant or is told she should start after becoming pregnant, she enters into a realm of uncertainty and potentially real danger.  Will the drugs be harmful to the developing fetus?  Will they affect the quality of breast milk?

     According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s a question that could affect the 70% of pregnant women who take at least one prescription drug.  The CDC admits that pregnant women aren’t usually included in drug safety studies, and currently there are only 12 medications approved for use during pregnancy.  Since only a handful of drugs are approved, what are doctors to do if their pregnant patient needs treatment with a pharmaceutical?

     Right now, there are no good answers, so doctors do the best they can. Rather than trying to figure out how to test drugs on pregnant women, I think the best long term solution is for doctors to help women who are planning to conceive treat their conditions holistically.  Some problems are more challenging to treat naturally, but most respond well to improvements in diet along with natural supplements, Chinese and Western herbs, qigong, acupuncture and other natural approaches.   Check out the information here.

Common Food Additives Increase Obesity And Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Common Food Additives Increase Obesity And Irritable Bowel Syndrome

     Why are processed foods so bad for our health?  A recent study using laboratory animals published in the journal Nature provides some answers.  The emulsifiers cellulose gum and polysorbate 80, plump up fast food shakes, keep salad dressings creamy, and prevent ice cream from turning into an ugly looking soup.  They are also used extensively in pharmaceuticals, to improve the consistency of gel capsules, to make pills come apart in the stomach, and to keep medication suspended in fluids.

     The study revealed that both of the emulsifiers induced low-grade inflammation, increased weight gain and fat deposits, caused worrisome changes in metabolic function, and changed the mix of bacteria that colonize digestive tracts.  The additives erode the mucous membrane that lines the gut and provides a buffer against potentially damaging microorganisms.  They also boosted strains of gut microbes that promote inflammation and lessened the ones that keep it in check.

     The FDA has labeled the additives as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).  Hundreds of others are also labeled GRAS.  The problem is that under FDA guidelines, GRAS additives are screened for their for short term effects on health and short term cancer causing probability.  They are not studied to determine  long term cumulative effects on inflammation and microbiome diversity.

     The underlying problem is that processed foods cannot be manufactured or last on the shelf without chemical additives.  Is the price we pay in our health worth the convenience that processed foods offer?  In my experience as a doctor, the damage they cause and the pain and suffering they inflict are far more inconvenient.  Read the full article here.

Avoid Dangers of Antibiotics With Natural Alternatives

Avoid Dangers of Antibiotics With Natural Alternatives

     It’s no secret that antibiotics are overused in the American health care system.  Often antibiotics are prescribed for viral infections or at times when they are not truly necessary.  This contributes to a worrisome spike in antibiotic resistant bacteria, as well as unwanted and even dangerous side effects from these drugs. 

     At times we all may need treatment for an infection, but thankfully many infections that are not life-threatening can be safely treated with natural remedies instead of antibiotics, under the supervision of a licensed physician trained in natural medicine.  Fortunately, naturopathic medicine has many more options for treating bacterial infections, and virus, yeast, and fungus as well.  Examples of some of these infections include simple, uncomplicated cases of colds, flu, ear infections and urinary tract infections.  Other types of infections may also be treated safely with natural remedies, but that should be determined by the physician.

     The flu and most common colds are caused by viral infections, which antibiotics cannot help, since antibiotics kill only bacteria and not viruses.  Yet many cases are treated with antibiotics because the physician and the patient want something to help the patient feel better.  I use herbs and other natural remedies to fight the virus and strengthen immune system, including alae from Hawaiian herbal medicine, and herbal cough syrups to help soothe any coughing.   

     Another common infection over treated with antibiotics are middle ear infections (otitis media) in children.  Many people don’t realize that many ear infections can be caused by viruses instead of bacteria.  When there are no signs or symptoms of complications, it is acceptable to just watch and wait.  Even the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines state that.  In other countries, it is recommended not to use antibiotics for middle ear infections unless there are signs of complications.  Recent studies have shown that antibiotics often don’t reduce the outcome—severity or length—of a child’s middle ear infection when there are no complications. 

     I have seen good clinical success treating simple ear infections with garlic mullein oil, an herbal oil infused with garlic, which helps kill both viruses and bacteria.  This is available at health food stores, online or at lower prices from our office.  The oil goes directly into the ear and works for adults as well as children. However, before using it, a doctor does need to look in the ear to make sure ear drum is intact.  If there is a hole (perforation) in the eardrum or if it is ruptured, it is not safe to put anything into the ear.  Your child also needs to be seen by a doctor to make sure that there are no complications, because those cases often do need oral antibiotics. 

     Simple urinary tract infections (UTIs) also respond well to naturopathic treatment.  I usually recommend increasing water intake and prescribe herbs that kill bacteria and are specific for acting on the urinary tract.  I also use other natural remedies to help strengthen the immune system.  Herbs have been used for centuries and can be very powerful.  Again, however, you need to be under the supervision of a physician, as certain situations may need antibiotics.

     Antibiotics should be avoided if at all possible, because they come with many unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects. For example, if they are used for repeated bouts of infection, good bacteria are destroyed, the immune system is weakened, and a person becomes prone to more infections. 

There are constant chemical communications going on between our gut bacteria and our immune system.  We need both to be healthy to fight off disease-causing bacteria, viruses, yeast and fungus.  That means eating fresh, whole foods, including fermented foods so our diet gives us internal strength.  Vitamins, probiotics, and supplements are also important.  However, if a patient’s infection is severe or there are signs of complications, I will certainly prescribe oral antibiotics when needed.  Then I will help the patient restore their gut bacteria and boost their immune system so, hopefully, we don’t need to use antibiotics again.

 

Yoga May Protect the Brain From Degeneration As We Age

Yoga May Protect the Brain From Degeneration As We Age

     While some decline in cognitive function may be inevitable once we pass 40, studies have shown that people who run, weight train, dance, practice tai chi, or regularly garden have a lower risk of developing dementia than people who are not physically active at all.  But what about people who aren’t able to take on those types of activities or who simply find them unappealing.

     A new study out of UCLA tested people 29 years and older, did a baseline brain scan and divided them into two groups.  For 12 weeks, one group had weekly classroom time and mental exercises to do at home.  The other did yoga and some active meditation.  After the 12 weeks, the volunteers were all scanned again.  Yoga and meditation topped the benefits of brain training.  The article explains some of the science behind these findings, and the good news is that we have more control over our future memory capability than previously thought.

 

Kids With ADHD Learn Better If They Can Move

Kids With ADHD Learn Better If They Can Move

     The lead author of a recent study says that it may make more sense to grant kids with ADHD some leeway — not to get out of their desk constantly or distract other students, but to move around as they need to.  For the subjects diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, moving or spinning in a chair were correlated with better performance.  For kids developing typically, the response was opposite.   The more they moved, the worse they did on the task.

      The authors believe that the reason that kids ADHD move around is that it actually increases their alertness.  The slight physical movements “wake up” the nervous system in a similar way to medication, but it does so without the drugs.  We have assumed that sitting still is synonymous with thinking well, but kids with ADHD process the world differently.  As long as their movement isn’t disruptive to other students, they should be allowed to fidget or move.  Please click here or on the photo to read the article.

How Should A Doctor Talk About Pain?

How Should A Doctor Talk About Pain?

How should a doctor like myself talk about pain?  It’s an important question to ask, one that needs to be more fully explored, since most patients I see are dealing with some kind of pain. Is the pain like a burning fire, a biting cat, a stabbing knife, an electric shock?  Is it intermittent or chronic?  Is it worse during a certain time of the day?

In earlier times pain was thought to be a result of sin, and something to be endured.  Later, stripped of its spiritual meaning it became an enemy to be fought and defeated.  As a doctor, pain is frequently an important part of the stories that patients tell.  By listening closely and giving it a common language, doctors can better understand how to not only treat the pain, but provide comfort to the patient.  Here is the article.

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