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All Posts in Category: Lifestyle

Top 6 Carcinogenic Food Contaminants

Cancer is on the rise. The number of new cancer cases in Canada is expected to rise about 40% in the next 15 years, according to a new report – Canadian Cancer Statistics 2015 – released by the Canadian Cancer Society. Almost all cancer deaths in Canada (96%) will occur in people over the age of 50, and most (62%) deaths will occur in those aged 70 and over.

Many people worry that substances or exposures in their environment may cause cancer. Food is one of them. We eat (at least) 3 times a day and what we eat has tremendous impact on our health.

But let first define what a carcinogen is.

Cancer is caused by changes in a cell’s DNA – its genetic “blueprint.” Some of these changes may be inherited from our parents. Others may be caused by outside exposures, which are often referred to as environmental factors. Environmental factors can include a wide range of exposures, such as:

  • Lifestyle factors (nutrition, tobacco use, physical activity, etc.)
  • Naturally occurring exposures (ultraviolet light, radon gas, infectious agents, etc.)
  • Medical treatments (radiation and medicines including chemotherapy, hormone drugs, drugs that suppress the immune system, etc.)
  • Household exposures
  • Workplace exposures
  • Pollution

Substances and exposures that can lead to cancer are called carcinogens. Some carcinogens do not affect DNA directly, but lead to cancer in other ways. For example, they may cause cells to divide at a faster than normal rate, which could increase the chances that DNA changes will occur.

Carcinogens do not cause cancer in every case, all the time. Substances labeled as carcinogens may have different levels of cancer-causing potential. Some may cause cancer only after prolonged, high levels of exposure (“the dose makes the poison”). And for any particular person, the risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including how they are exposed to a carcinogen, the length and intensity of the exposure, and the person’s genetic makeup.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). One of its major goals is to identify causes of cancer. The most widely used system for classifying carcinogens comes from the IARC. In the past 30 years, the IARC has evaluated the cancer-causing potential of more than 900 likely candidates, placing them into one of the following groups:

Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans

Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans

Group 2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans

Group 3: Unclassifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans

Group 4: Probably not carcinogenic to humans

Perhaps not surprisingly, based on how hard it can be to test these candidate carcinogens (who would want to be voluntarily subjected to carcinogens?), most are listed as being of probable, possible, or unknown risk. Only a little over 100 are classified as “carcinogenic to humans.”

Here is my list of the worst carcinogenic foods (contaminants).

A special note here, in case it wasn’t clear by now: food itself, in its natural state, is NOT carcinogenic. It is the process of preparing the food, the things we add to the food, we spray the food with, the way we preserve or “enhance” the food that will make the altered food be considered carcinogenic.

  • Processed meats: Most processed meat products, including lunch meats, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, contain chemical preservatives that make them appear fresh, tastier and appealing, but that can also cause cancer. Both sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate have been linked to significantly increasing the risk of colon and other forms of cancer, so be sure to choose only uncured meat products made without nitrates, and preferably from grass-fed sources. (Group 1)

  • Microwave Popcorn: From the chemically-lined bag to the actual contents, microwave popcorn is at the center of lung cancer debates around the world. Not only are the kernels and oil likely GMO (which the manufacturer does not have to disclose) , the fumes released from artificial butter flavoring contain diacetyl, which is toxic to humans. Make your own organic popcorn the old-fashioned way – air popped – it tastes better, doesn’t release toxic fumes, and is a healthier choice for you. (Group 1)

  • Alcoholic beverages: all types of alcohol (fermented and those further distilled) can cause cancer in humans. Animal studies have not convincingly demonstrated that ethanol itself is carcinogenic leading to the hypothesis that other contaminants in alcoholic beverages or ethanol metabolites (acetaldehyde) are responsible for these effects. This is true only for heavy alcohol consumption (heavy drinkers). (Group 1)
  • Salted fish: This is produced in several parts of Asia using a method that appears to result in the production of carcinogenic by-products. These foods can be very high in nitrates and nitrites, which react with protein to form nitrosamines. (Group 1)

  • Pickled vegetables: They have been studied for their association with cancer mainly in Asia and especially in China. The pickling process is different from that used in many parts of the world and uses no salt or vinegar. Instead it relies on natural fermentation and can lead to contamination with mold. (Group 2B)

  • Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs): The rapidly growing industry of genetically modified crops are infiltrating our food supply at an alarming rate. More than 90% of our corn and soy are now genetically modified. The current research on the health risks of GMOs is inconclusive. In other words, researchers cannot confirm whether or not GMOs increase cancer risks. Yes still, IARC has recently labelled the corn or soy sprayed with Roundup (the active ingredient: glyphosate) as probably carcinogenic to humans. (Group 2A)

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Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that nutritionists are calling the superfood of the future. It is an easily produced, non-toxic species of Arthrospira bacteria.
You probably never thought you would be adding algae powder from tropical lakes to your smoothies, but spirulina is becoming quite the popular addition for many health-conscious eaters. Even though this superfood is in the spotlight right now because of its nutritional profile, bright green color, and bounty of health benefits, spirulina has been a superfood long before 21st-century nutritionists began adding it to their smoothies.
Spirulina is quite possibly one of the oldest life forms on Earth. The first people to ever use this algae as a food source is unclear, but Aztecs for sure and African natives may have consumed the algae in their daily diet many centuries ago in the shape of cakes and broths.


Similar to other sea vegetables, like kelp and chlorella, as far as its nutritional makeup, spirulina is grown around the world, from Hawaii to Mexico and Africa.
Dried spirulina contains about 60 to 70 percent protein. It’s actually considered one of the few plant-based sources of “complete protein,” meaning it contains all essential amino acids your body needs but can’t produce on its own (other foods in this category: quinoa, buckwheat, hummus, soy, hump and chia seeds). It’s also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, E, and K.
Spirulina may be more beneficial for vegans or vegetarians that lack adequate iron and vit.B12 in their diet (even though vit.B12 in not absorbed well after ingestion). Touted as a “superfood,” health claims surrounding the blue-green algae include its ability to boost immunity, fight inflammation, and reduce fatigue. It was also proved effective in fighting allergies (allergic rhinitis).
Human evidence suggests that spirulina can improve lipid and glucose metabolism, while also reducing liver fat and protecting the heart. Animal studies are very promising as well, as spirulina has been shown to be of similar potency as commonly used reference drugs, when it comes to neurological disorders. These effects also extend to arthritis and immunology. Given its high antioxidant content, spirulina has often been praised as an immune system booster.


Spirulina has a few active components. The main ingredient is called phycocyanobilin, which makes up about 1% of spirulina (and gives spirulina its deep bluish/greenish hue). This compound mimics the body’s bilirubin compound, in order to inhibit an enzyme complex called Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate (NADPH) oxidase. By inhibiting NADPH oxidase, spirulina provides potent anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.
Spirulina – like any blue-green algae – can be contaminated with toxic substances called microcystins. It can also absorb heavy metals from the water where it is grown. For these reasons, it is important to buy spirulina from a trusted brand.
The easiest way to utilize spirulina is to mix it into various foods. While you could simply mix a spoonful into a glass of water, many people find its pungent taste rather off-putting, but adding it to a smoothie, fruit juice, soup or other foods, even dips, can be a great way to take advantage of its many benefits without suffering through the experience. Enjoy!

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Stress vs Depression

Some stress, caused by regular life challenges, is unavoidable. And while feeling nervous about a date, a work presentation or frustrated by an overprotecting parent or an obnoxious boss is not fun, nobody would compare it to the challenge that is depression, a serious illness.

Severe stress, however, is a different story. As anyone who has suffered chronic stress knows, with the resulting mood swings, sleeplessness, and low of self-esteem it can bring, the line between stress and depression can start to feel a little blurred.

So what is the difference, then?

Let’s start with Stress.

Stress is the feeling that you are under too much mental or emotional pressure. You feel overwhelmed. It is triggered by something in your life happening that feels too much for you personally to handle, stretching you coping capabilities, regardless of whether others can or can’t. This might be a work issue, dealing with relationship conflict, or debt problems.

Stress isn’t an illness or a disorder, but it can develop into one if it is left to become chronic.

While a little bit of stress is normal and can have positive results like getting you motivated for exams or taking useful risks in the workplace, too much stress over too long of a period can begin to negatively affect all parts of your life.

Common effects of stress are: Headaches, Muscle tension or pain, Chest pain, Fatigue, Change in sex drive, Stomach upset, Sleep problems, Drug/alcohol abuse, Anxiety, Restlessness, Lack of motivation or focus , Irritability or anger, Sadness or depression, Overeating or undereating, Angry outbursts, Tobacco use, Social withdrawal.

Now Depression. This is an entirely different beast.

Depression refers to an experience where you feel down most of the time which is called “low mood” and you have also lost interest in things you usually enjoy. You may also have changes in your sleep, appetite, feel guilty, demotivated and generally withdraw from others.

 

Depression exists in a social, psychological and biological context; that is depression is influenced by genetics, diseases, hormones, cognitive distortions, influences of family/workplace/friends, history and drug/alcohol use to name a few.

Depression is often based on old, repressed emotions that are making their way to the surface. As such, it rarely responds to logic. You can’t just ‘fix it’, or achieve or finish something that will make it go away. For example, if you moved to a new village and started feeling low, it is unlikely moving again will completely sort your depression.

Because of its irrationality, depression can often feel out of control. You might feel like you are acting like someone else altogether, unable to connect to people around you.

Depression tends to leave you feeling exhausted, even if you are sleeping (and often depression disrupts good sleep). It can feel like something is draining all your energy and like your head is filled with sand and you can’t think straight.

One if the biggest symptoms of depression is negative thinking, which can spiral into destructive thoughts if support is not sought.

What do stress and depression have in common?

  • both are individual (what triggers stress or depression in one person doesn’t in another)
  • they affect your energy levels
  • they affect your moods
  • sleeping patterns are disturbed
  • eating patterns can be disturbed (under or overeating)
  • you are ‘not yourself’
  • you can struggle to function normally
  • you can be irritable
  • you might feel less interested in socializing with friends and family
  • they both can feel overwhelming
  • you might not be able to concentrate
  • both affect the body’s stress response mechanism
  • both have been found to physically affect the brain in similar ways

How are stress and depression different?

  • stress tends to resolve if life events change vs depression can last up to years
  • stress tends to have an obvious trigger vs depression can hit out of nowhere
  • stress is related to life events vs depression can happen even if life seems fine
  • stress is related to current events vs depression can be linked to unresolved past events
  • stress can cause depression or anxiety disorders if left untreated vs depression can cause suicidal thoughts if left untreated
  • stress leads to adrenaline highs followed by crashes vs depression leads to fatigue
  • stress is socially acceptable and even encouraged vs depression still, sadly, bears social stigma
  • stress at very high levels has risk of heart attack vs depression at high levels has risk of suicide
  • low stress can be okay and keep you motivated vs low depression can still be debilitating

Another interesting comparison was done by Dr.Christie Fleetwood, ND. If you overlay the symptoms of Stress and Major Depression Disorder (MDD) as outlined by DSM-5 (a handbook used by health care professionals in the mental health area as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders), you would notice that there are only 3 major differences:

  1. Drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco use listed with Stress
  2. Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, worthlessness, listed with Depression…which could lead to….
  3. Suicidal/homicidal ideation listed with Depression.

If you think you suffer from Depression, please give us a call. We can help.

 

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Abortion Pill MIFEGYMISO now free in Ontario

Mifegymiso, also known by the name RU-486, is a two-drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol that can be used to terminate a pregnancy in Canada up to 49 days (7 weeks) from the start of the last menstrual period. American women can now take it up to 70 days into a pregnancy.

Mifegymiso, already used in more than 60 countries for decades, is free as of August 10th in Ontario. It took a decade for the drug to be approved in Canada, one of the longest drug-approval processes ever. The Province is poised to give women more autonomy over their reproductive health and rights. It is touted as a way to give women in rural and remote areas a less invasive option to terminate their pregnancies.

This drug was approved for use in Canada in July 2015 after a lengthy study by Health Canada. It has slowly become available for distribution in Canada since then.

Health Canada office

Women will be able to fill their prescription at a pharmacy and have the abortion — which is the same experience as an early-term miscarriage — at home.
Doctors must also confirm the pregnancy is in its early stages with an ultrasound before the drug can be prescribed and to make sure there are no medical complications (especially ectopic pregnancy).

Mifegymiso has been available with a prescription since January 2017 in Ontario, but cost between $300 and $400. Pharmacists bill the ministry $337.25 for the drug, which includes the mark-up and dispensing fee. Doctors prescribing it have to take an online training course of six hours. For the patient, now it’s free in Ontario.

A few words about the two drugs that compose Mifegymiso.
First drug is Mifepristone: this is synthetic steroid which block the progesterone receptors, inducing contraction in the myometrium (the smooth muscle that comprises the middle layer of the uterine wall) which will start the expulsion of the fetus. It has a boxed warning (highest level of warning that FDA requires sometimes) for bacterial infection and bleeding that were reported when used for termination of pregnancy (with an atypical presentation) but these side effects were very rare.
The second drug is Misoprostol: this is a prostaglandin. It is used to reduce the amount of acid released by the stomach and protecting the stomach lining, which helps to reduce the risk of stomach ulcers. It was discovered that has abortifacient properties when women taking it for stomach ulcers had the surprise of their lives when they started to bleed and lost their pregnancy. So now it comes with a boxed warning too, saying that “ADMINISTRATION TO WOMEN WHO ARE PREGNANT CAN CAUSE BIRTH DEFECTS, ABORTION, PREMATURE BIRTH OR UTERINE RUPTURE”.
So imagine now these two drugs taken together.
The combination is highly effective in inducing an abortion, with a 95- to 98-percent effectiveness rate.


Mifegymiso is a composite pack containing one mifepristone 200 mg tablet for oral use and four misoprostol 200 mcg tablets for oral use and there is a 2-step process when you want to take this that will be explained to you when you get your prescription. It is important to take it exactly as prescribed.

The side effects: mainly bleeding (up to 10 days), pain and cramping. Other side effects can or may include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever/chills, headache, dizziness and weakness.
All patients should be followed up by a physician 7 to 14 days after taking this to confirm complete pregnancy termination and to verify that there is no excessive bleeding or infection.

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What is Vaping?

You’ve probably heard of this…or seen the mushrooming of the stores in Toronto, if you drive along Danforth Ave or Kingston Road…full of store with this name on them: VAPE.

What is it?

Vaping can be defined as the act of inhaling and exhaling the water vapor produced by an electric device called vaporizer (also called a vape, or e-cigarette).

e-liquid

And if you’re wondering what is the “smoke” that comes out of the person’s mouth, well, it’s the e-liquid in gaseous form that is inhaled and exhaled by vapers. It usually looks thicker than smoke, but dissipates more quickly into the air and smells stronger, usually like fruit, candy, mint or the flavoring used.

Vaping is a tobacco-free, and in some cases even nicotine-free, version of a traditional tobacco cigarette, but we don’t use the word smoking as there is no smoke per see, there is only flavored water vapors that you inhale and exhale.

These stores sell these vaporizers and the flavorings that the customers use.

 

The history of Vaping

In contrary to the popular belief that vaporizers were “invented” a few years ago, their history dates back thousands of years. The earliest mention of vaping can be seen in the book called The History of Herodotus by the Greek Historian Herodotus. He talks about the first use of vaping while writing about the customs and traditions of Scythians, a massive clan of Iranian Eurasian rovers who used to live in the lands of what is now Southern Russia, back in 500BC. Scythians would throw weed on red-hot stones, which would turn into vapor immediately, and they would bathe in it and inhale it. Probably not the most sophisticated vaporizer, but that surely was an interesting ritual.

Irfan Sheikh – the physician of the Mughal emperor Akbar I (1542 – 1605 AD) – is accredited with inventing hookah, many consider it a key step towards the making of the modern vaporizer.

Skipping to more recent times, in the 1960s, a Korean War veteran Herbert A. Gilbert invented, and patented, the first e-cigarette as an alternative to burnt tobacco. His smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette resembled a modern e-cigarette: it included flavor cartridges, heating elements, and smokeless flavored air. Unfortunately it was never commercially realized. Manufacturers were enjoying the height of the tobacco cigarette in the 1960s, when cigarette ads and public smoking ran rampant. There was no need for a less addictive, and healthier alternative to smoking.

In the 2000s, Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist and small-time medical researcher made the first modern e-cigarette. Motivated by his own smoking addiction, and his father’s death from smoking-induced lung cancer, Hon Lik spent numerous years building a smokeless cigarette that worked. In 2006, he released his first e-cigarette to the international public. It contained a battery, plastic cartridge, ultrasonic atomizer and a nicotine solution suspended in propylene glycol.

By 2006 e-cigarettes had made their way to Europe, and then to North America. They started off as quite expensive items, but over the years, as more companies manufactured them, the price came down and popularity went up.

 

Canadian Vaping laws

At this time in Canada, electronic cigarettes (aka e-cigarettes, e-cigs, vapes, vaporizers, etc.)  are 100% legal to use as individuals.  There are currently no regulations as to where you can use them, with a few exceptions.  There are however several municipal vaping regulations that have been created by municipalities and provinces.

You must be 19 to purchase e-cigarettes and vaping supplies. — Enacted Jan 1, 2016.  Similar to tobacco products, it is illegal to buy and sell e-cigarettes and vaping supplies to anyone under the age of 19.  It is required by law for vape shops in Ontario to receive proper government approved Identification from the customer before selling them e-cigarettes or supplies. Also, it is now illegal to use e-cigarettes (vape) in non-smoking areas.

No vaping sign

Data from the 2015 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey suggests that in 2015, 26 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 19 reported having ever tried an e-cigarette, up from 20 per cent in 2013.

For all businesses in Ontario, the use of e-cigarettes indoors now falls within the scope of the Smoke Free Ontario regulations. This means that use of an e-cigarette is restricted in exactly the same way as tobacco cigarettes.

 

Is Vaping Really Safe?

Well, this is a question that usually follows the question what is vaping. So, instead of giving you my personal opinion, let me simply state some of the results of some of the researches carried out to find the answer:

  • Vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking – Public Health England
  • Vaporizers are many times less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes, and vaping can even help smokers quit – American Heart Association
  • The proven advantages of vaping outweigh its “potential” harms. Vaporizers are the first genuinely new way of helping people quit smoking that we have seen in many years – Royal College of Physicians – England
  • Exhaled vapor has lesser volatile organic compounds than the normal exhaled breath, let alone exhaled smoke – Spanish Council of Scientific Research

So, is vaping safe? Well, despite all these researches and studies, we can’t say that vaporizers pose absolutely no threat to your health. But what is 100% safe? So let’s put the answer this way: vaping is safer than smoking, and can be a great aid in harm-reduction for people who want to quit smoking.

e-cig vs cigarette

And because e-cigarettes have been on the market for only about 10 years, there have been no long-term studies of people who have used them for 30 to 40 years. Therefore, the full extent of vaping effects on heart and lung health, as well as its cancer-causing potential over time is not known.

Another unanswered question is how the flavorings used in the devices may affect people’s health. Nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes are currently on sale in USA and Canada. It’s not yet known whether these flavorings have any respiratory effects when they are vaporized and inhaled. More research is needed to identify any hazards associated with the potential inhalation of flavoring agents.

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NUTRIGENOMIX: test your genes for your best health!

It is already a well-established fact now that your genes can help tell you what to eat and influence how diet affects your health. It has long been apparent that some people respond differently from others to certain foods.

Genes also can help explain why people choose the foods they do—for example why some people have a greater tendency for sweets or salt, for instance. And this test in particular also can show how our bodies respond to different types of exercise.

Genetic testing has gained widespread use in many areas, especially in helping to determine our risk for developing various diseases, from cancer to cardiovascular conditions. Another, more recent use for genetic testing is known as pharmacogenomics, which can help doctors predict which of several medications a patient is taking is most likely to benefit that individual patient.

Nutrigenomix is a University of Toronto start-up biotechnology company that is dedicated to empowering healthcare professionals and their patients with comprehensive, reliable information with the ultimate goal of improving health through personalized nutrition.

NUTRIGENOMIX

The Nutrigenomix® 45 Gene Test from this company provides you with the latest that science has to offer in personalized nutritional counselling.

This comprehensive genetic test consists of a panel of 45 genetic markers that enable a naturopath to provide a patient with personalized nutrition advice and physical activity recommendations tailored to your DNA.

This test can help you determine how you respond to key components of your diet as well as physical activity.

The results of this test can impact weight loss & body composition, nutrient metabolism, heart health, food intolerances, and eating habits.

The test also provides you with information related to the relationship between your genes and athletic performance & injury risk.

Fear of needles? No problem. This test needs only your saliva! Simple.

Genes

Your test results are presented in a customized report, which includes dietary and physical activity recommendations based on your individual genetic profile.

To see a Sample Report and to understand the beauty of this test, please click here.

To see a Sample Report for the newly introduced Nutrigenomix Sport Test (45-gene Sport Test), please click here.

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Immunotherapy in Cancer: a new concept?

Cancer. A dreadful word. People shrug in dislike when they hear it. For some it evokes the closeness of death and the fear of the great unknown. For others it is just a word that need to be fought against and conquered.

Where did this word, by the way, cancer, come from?

It means crab, from the Latin karkinos and it was first named like this by Hippocrates, the father of Medicine. Initially he described the many tumors he encountered as being hard as a rock and reminded him of the hard shell of a crab. It was later translated as cancer (the Latin equivalence of crab) by the two other famous Ancient doctors in medicine, Celsus and Galen, whom, upon inspection and dissection, noticed that all the veins and tributaries of malignancy around that mass of tumor cells look just like a crab’s legs extending outward from every part of its body. And so the term really stuck in Medicine.

The term Oncology is another Hippocratic term and it originated from onkos, is a Greek word, and it simply means masses. I think that’s probably a lot better word than cancerologist!

Now, there is a growing body of research in the field of cancer called immunotherapy and it’s on the rise these months. Simply explained, Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses substances either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.

There are several types of immunotherapy, the most promising being: Monoclonal antibodies; Non-specific immunotherapies; Oncolytic virus therapy; T-cell therapy and Cancer vaccines.

And even though the medical establishment is saying that this approach is new and promising, I can’t stop thinking that we, the complementary healthcare practitioners, we were way ahead of them on this! Seriously? It is mostly what we do! The most of the bulk treatments we offer to our patients are, by this definition, immunotherapies! And they are as old as Medicine itself!

What else was the employment of herbal medicine in Ancient Greek? Of the use of Acupuncture in Ancient China? Or the water treatments in Europe 100 years ago? If not immunotherapy, what else? It was always in the philosophy of the ancient healers to Strengthen the terrain!…Alkalinize the body!…Improve the functioning of the body!…Detoxify and purge the systems!…to have a better chance of surviving when confronted to all kinds of malignancies, cancer included. These are all immunotherapies!

Immunotherapy as a concept is not new, my dear medical doctors colleagues. It has been used at least by naturopaths in last 100 years with good results. Our forefathers, from Priessnitz, father Kneipp, Felke, to Otis Carroll, Benedict Lust and Henry Lindlahr, all preached these concepts and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in their time through immunotherapies!

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Halloween background

Tips for a healthier Halloween

It is true that Halloween is a wonderful holiday and a ritual passed down through generations and many kids are sooooo eager to go out and Trick-or-Treat the neighbors. The concern for the healthy-conscious parents are the candy that the kids bring home in bags and hats. They are the nightmares of dentists too. It is true again that these treats are mostly empty calories, full of sugar and artificial dyes, preservatives and trans-fat, part of the so-called “junk food” category.

Like alcohol, candy is considered a discretionary calorie, which means that it contains no nutritional value and it is recommended by the medical community that we should consume only 100-200 of these type of calories per day. I would say consume None of it and you will be better off.

So the question bears: is there anything we can do about it and ease off the guilt that we have by either giving away empty calories or by allowing our kids to eat these sugary bombs? Here are some tips:

  • Dark chocolate – the health benefits of dark chocolate are all over the internet and I will not bother you again with them. This is your best bet. Now many major candy companies are starting to offer a dark chocolate version of some of the most popular treats so please look for these one when buying candy (i.e. Kit Kat, Aero, Hershey’s)
  • Water bottles – I know it sounds creepy but the parents will thank you! (in secret!)
  • Juice boxes – there are some juice boxes now that are sugar free (apple, orange) and even organic!
  • Dried fruit – here the most used are raisins, which are small and easy to pack in a small box. Other dried fruit in boxes are more expensive (if you can afford it).
  • Fat-free candy – these candy are supposedly better that regular candy but they are still bad. Pure sugar.

And some other tips for Halloween:

  • Demand you kid to have dinner before trick-or-treating to avoid candy binges later!
  • Ask the kid to brush her/his teeth before going to bed. Flossing is vital now!
  • Allow them to eat only a few pieces at one sitting, not continuously through the day, to avoid prolonged sugar exposure and drive everyone crazy!
  • Throw away candy after two weeks! Stay in control folks!

I hope this helps and nobody will toilet-paper your house!

Happy Halloween!

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Marijuana vs Cigarettes: which one is more dangerous?

I am writing this article to answer a question an patient of mine asked me the other day; in fact many Canadians often wonders if marijuana is as dangerous as cigarettes.

So, what do you believe, which one is worse?

I will present to you the facts and let YOU decide.

But let’s take it concisely.

Cigarettes:

  • Increase the risk for heart disease and stroke (main culprit: nicotine)
  • Can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body; lung cancer is just the most common form.
  • Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes mellitus and can make it harder to control. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for active smokers than nonsmokers.
  • Affect a woman’s fertility and can affect her baby’s health before and after birth.
  • Affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility and also increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage.
  • Smoking can affect bone health.
  • Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Can damage your eyes and increase your risk for cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for you to see) and age-related macular degeneration (damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision).
  • Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked, and are at greater risk for broken bones.
  • Affect the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss.
  • Smoking causes general adverse effects on the body, including inflammation and decreased immune function and thus reduces the overall health of the smoker.

 

Marijuana:

  • can have an impact on brain development; can cause short-term memory impairment and slowness of learning.
  • can impair lung function similar to that found in cigarette smokers; more serious effects, such as cancer and other lung disease, can follow extended use, due to carcinogenic effects of the smoke; it has been reported that cannabis smoke contained higher amounts of ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and nitrogen oxides, but lower levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); the relationship between marijuana and lung cancer is not so well studied, like in the association between cigarettes and cancer.
  • decreased sperm count and sperm motility.
  • low rate of addiction compared to tobacco (it is estimated that around 10% of users will become addicted); but with the increased concentration of THC (the active ingredient) in marijuana, gone from 1% to around 12%, this will soon start to increase as well.
  • have a negative effect on driving ability; acute cannabis use increases the risk of an automobile crash.
  • interference with ovulation and pre-natal development.
  • impaired immune response, lowering the ability of the body to fight infections.
  • possible adverse effects on heart function, but less in significance, because does not contain nicotine.
  • by-products of marijuana remaining in body fat for several weeks, with unidentified consequences. The storage of these by-products increases the possibilities for chronic, as well as residual, effects on physical and mental performance, even after the acute reaction to the drug has worn off.

Well, that’s all folks.

If you’re asking me, I think the cigarettes are worse, with heavier and longer-term impact on your health and wellbeing. But both of them do have serious side effects that do not need to be dismissed lightly.

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The Science behind the Grey Hair and Debunking its myths

I was always intrigued by why people turn grey hair at some point in their life.  What is the science behind this? And what is the truth behind the all the myths about grey hair?

Let’s take it step by step.

Scientists have long known that greying is the result of a gradual disappearance of melanin in hair follicles – melanin is the protein responsible for giving hair its color.

Anatomically, each hair on our heads is made up of two parts:

  • a shaft — the colored part we see growing out of our heads and beards (males only!)
  • a root — the bottom part, which keeps the hair anchored under the scalp

The root of every strand of hair is surrounded by a tube of tissue under the skin that is called the hair follicle. Each hair follicle contains a certain number of pigment cells. These pigment cells constantly produce a chemical called melanin that gives the growing shaft of hair its color of brown, blonde, red, and anything in between.

Melanin is the same substance that makes our skin’s color fair or darker. It also helps determine whether a person will burn or tan in the sun. The dark or light color of someone’s hair depends on how much melanin each hair contains.

As we get older, the pigment cells in our hair follicles progressively die. When there are fewer pigment cells in a hair follicle, that strand of hair will no longer have as much melanin and will become a more transparent color — like gray, silver, or white — as it grows. As people continue to get older (and they will!), fewer pigment cells will be around to produce melanin. Eventually, the hair will look completely gray. This is, in short, the science behind grey hair.

And now the myths:

Can you give yourself grey hair?

There is no scientific evidence to back this myth up. One compelling argument that you will often hear is “just look at the USA presidents when they took office and look again when they leave the office!” It seems that all of them will turn greyer during this time. But this is just an observational study and there is no science behind it. Stress seems to accelerate this process, but if you want to blame someone for this, blame your parents; genetics plays a big role in this one. If you want to know how soon you will grey, take a look at your parents or ask them when they started to grey. This is a pretty accurate indicator. What is written in your DNA nobody can change or erase.

If I pluck one grey will it grow 2-3 instead?

You probably heard this before. Just old folklore. There is not one bit of truth behind this. Plucking will remove the hair, but there is no connection with the strands around that hair. And it will not remove the hair follicle. And the new hair growing from that follicle will continue to grow as it was doing before: with no pigmentation! And even worse, sometimes, it can damage the follicle so instead of one hair growing back, you might end up with no hair at all! Just leave it alone, and go with the flow! Grey hair looks great on men past 40!

If I dye excessively will my hair turn grey faster?

No, there is no science behind this either. You can breathe easily now. Just invest in some natural, good-quality products (herbal dyes or hypo-allergenic dyes, without PPD or ammonia) and have fun. But don’t tell your teen kids yet!

Is smoking causing me grey hair?

This one seems to be Plausible. Or even True. You are far more predisposed to to greying hair as compared to an individual who do not smoke. Smoking has been said to play a role in the ageing process of hair since it creates oxidative stress. A study in 2013 showed a link between smoking and turning grey before 30. So if you want to have dark and lustrous hair, consider quitting smoking altogether. The benefits far outweigh the short-lived rush of pleasure when smoking cigarettes!

Is the excessive sun exposure responsible for grey hair?

I would say for this one that is Plausible. Some scientist say No, some say Yes. It’s more about what happens inside of the cells than external factors. Long exposure to sun will create hydrogen peroxide in excess that will eventually play a part in the process of greying but the extent of this in the whole picture is not known yet. Gray hair is more susceptible to sun damage, since it has less melanin. So it doesn’t hurt to wear a hat.

Can white hair turn grey overnight?

Scientifically and medically, this is impossible; there is no mechanism by which hair could organically turn white, either suddenly or overnight. Hair is always dead. Once the hair grows out of the head, it can’t be influenced by any psychological or physiological processes in the body. It would be weeks before the effect of some extreme shock/stress would be visible because only the root would be affected.

But…historically, there were tales of people whom, sentenced to death penalty, turned grey overnight. The best examples that I could find were: the French queen, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) when led to the guillotine at the age of 38, during the French Revolution, her hair is said to have turned white the night before her execution. This is even now called Marie Antoinette syndrome in the dermatological circles, when someone suddenly turns grey/white in short term.

Another famous example is the English lawyer Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), who was canonised and declared a martyr in 1935 by the Pope Pius XI, was executed in the Tower of London in 1535, and again his hair was reported to have turned white before his death. He was opposing the Henry VIII separation from the Catholic Church, opposing thus the Protestant Reformation.

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