Take A Naturopathic Approach to Antibiotic Resistance

When it comes to our health, there are two schools of thought: the Germ Theory and the Terrain Theory. Understanding the differences is critical, particularly because it involves the use of antibiotics, which should be used sparingly and for the right reasons. So let’s examine this often confusing topic.

The Germ Theory asserts that, regardless of the state of our health, germs that can cause disease will, indeed, cause disease. That’s because the germ is responsible for our illness and not the overall state of our health. Traditional medical practice calls for identifying and destroying invading germs, including bacteria (but not by viruses including cold and flu) through the use of antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics are often over-prescribed and germs are mutating to survive them.

On the other hand, the Terrain Theory, embraced by holistic practitioners from a wide range of medical fields, asserts that germs that can cause disease will do so when the body is more susceptible and that the more healthy we are (the terrain) the less likely we will become ill; if we do, we will become less ill. In other words, when the body’s internal environment is at its best, then immunity, metabolism, and detoxification are at their strongest. Consequently, the body is less susceptible to illness and has the best defense against “disease causing” germs. Antibiotics are used sparingly and primarily in life-threatening situations.

It’s important to understand that taking antibiotics does not contribute to building immunity; they are prescribed for treatment, not prevention, and there is the real threat of resistance.

Antibiotic Risks and Drug Resistant Disease

When prescribed judiciously by doctors and used properly by patients, antibiotics can save lives by destroying bacteria or stopping it from reproducing. Despite the wonders of this medicine, there are significant problems:

  • 20% of people experience side effects including gastrointestinal, kidney, menstrual, and joint abnormalities after taking antibiotics. Risk for side effects increase with each additional ten days of use.
  • About 10% of people are allergic to antibiotics.
  • In the U.S. more than two million illnesses per year are caused by resistance to antibiotics, resulting in 23,000 deaths when these drugs fail to work.

Antibiotic resistance (AR) means that the germ targeted by the medication has mounted defenses that render the drug ineffective even when taken properly. Situations and conditions that present the greatest risk for AR include:

  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Not taking the medicine as prescribed
  • Long hospital stays
  • Working in parts of the world that lack proper hygiene
  • Not having the ability to meet essential nutritional needs
  • Improperly handling raw meat, consuming contaminated meat, crops, or water
  • Contact with infected individuals

​Protect Your Internal Terrain from AR

Healthcare is faced with a dangerous rise in antibiotic resistance, making the more holistic “terrain approach” to battling germs vital to preserving health. Here’s what you can do:

  • Take a probiotic supplement, a quality multivitamin, follow a quarterly detox regimen, get adequate sleep, and eat a variety of whole foods
  • Choose organic foods (antibiotic-free meats, non-GMO grains)
  • Filter your water (drugs disposed of at landfills can get into groundwater supply)
  • Limit your intake of sugar and processed foods (these lower immune function)

The unfortunate truth is the “kill the germ” perspective is failing. We will reach a point where we do not have effective antibiotics. ​By bolstering the internal terrain, a healthy and vibrant person can mount the immune defenses necessary to protect their health. Speak with your San Diego Naturopathic Doctor about ways to strengthen your immune system to reduce the need for antibiotic use in the future.

References
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A Potent Berry for Liver Health: Schisandra chinensis

With its sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter flavor profile, it’s no surprise the Chinese call Schisandra chinensis “the five flavored fruit,” or wu wei zi. Regarded as the most important herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the schisandra berry might more aptly be called the “fruit of life.”

Schisandra belongs to a unique class of herbs known as adaptogens, which enhance the body’s ability to adapt to, and recover from, stress. The source of the stress could be emotional, mental, environmental, or physical, such as when you become sick. In addition to supporting the body across physiological systems, it provides protective benefits for the liver, the body’s engine for detoxification. Studies show schisandra reduces inflammation, keeps hormones in balance, helps regenerate liver tissue, and lowers levels of an enzyme associated with liver damage.

Traditional Chinese physicians have long used schisandra to:

  1. stimulate the immune system and support adrenal gland function
  2. enhance recovery from illness or surgery
  3. reduce inflammation and fatigue
  4. improve blood circulation and enhance detoxification

Dried schizandra berries can be made into powder, capsule, tincture, tonic, tea and even wine. Schisandra is safe for most people, but precautions must be used if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have epilepsy, or reflux disease. Your La Mesa naturopathic doctor can identify the type of schisandra supplement that is best for you.

References
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Journey of Health Medical Clinic

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Zinc: Essential for Every Body

 Zinc is second to iron as the most common mineral in the human body and it’s found in every cell, making it vital to the health and well being of children and adults. Zinc plays an indispensable role in hundreds of biochemical reactions including those that support the development and the health of the blood, skin, muscles, and hormones. Zinc also   supports optimal function of the nervous system, immune system, and endocrine   system.

Zinc is present in a great variety of foods, such as eggs, seeds, nuts, dry beans, red meat, miso, dark turkey meat, dark leafy greens, and scallops. However, because there is evidence of mineral depletion in soils around the world, your naturopathic doctor may recommend a trace mineral supplement. A zinc supplement might also be recommended for people with a medical condition that affects absorption. Medical researchers are looking at how the body utilizes zinc and whether or not taking zinc can improve treatment for Celiac Disease, diabetes, thyroid function, heart disease, and other health concerns. In other research, a connection exists between taking certain forms of zinc and a reduction in the number of colds in a year, the number of missed school days, and the amount of antibiotics required in otherwise healthy children.

A person’s need for supplemental zinc varies based on age, gender, and other health factors. There are several forms of zinc, but not all are appropriate for every person. For some people, zinc supplements can cause upset stomach or interfere with the actions of other medications. Also, taking too much zinc can have a toxic effect. Consult with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor before starting a zinc supplement.

References
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Elderberry: Medicinal Elixir for the Whole Family

For millennia, physicians, and herbalists have found medicinal uses for all parts of the elder tree, including its wood, leaves, flowers and berries. Leaves were used in ointments to heal skin. The flowers and berries were made into infusions as a common treatment for colds and rheumatic conditions. Today, herbalists and holistic physicians commonly recommend elderberry for the wide variety of properties that can support the health of the young and old alike.

European (Black) Elder (Sambucus nigra) is the species safely and most commonly used for botanical medicines. Note that the berries should not be eaten (or used) raw. They must be dried first or properly cooked at the peak of ripeness.

Elderberries are rich in Vitamin C and flavonoids that act as antioxidants that protect cells in the body from damage and can help reduce inflammation. They have been used in preparations to treat colds, flu, and bacterial sinus infection. In studies, syrup prepared from the juice of elderberry has been shown to help decrease the duration of flu symptoms, including swelling in mucous membranes and congestion. Other studies have shown that elderberry extracts have antiviral properties and appear to have a role in inhibiting the replication of viruses.

Elderberry can interact with other medications including those used to treat diabetes, asthma, and drugs that suppress the immune system. Before using an elderberry product for an adult or a child, check with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor to verify the integrity of the product and appropriate use.

References
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Are we more concerned with getting sunburned than with our Vitamin D status?

In this article, I want to take another look at Vitamin D and our epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble steroid that is used throughout the body for many processes. Some symptoms of deficiency are commonly known while others may be new concepts. We take Vitamin D to help balance calcium that is taken from and stored in the bones. Immune function relies on Vitamin D to keep infection at bay. The vitamin also plays an important role in mood, autoimmune disease, obesity, and likely, most chronic disease. It is also vital to brain development.

Vitamin D synthesis starts in the skin and concludes in the kidney with an endocrine transfer that distributes the vitamin to tissues throughout the body. With this mind, we can consider why so many people have Vitamin D deficiency. Sometimes, Vitamin D deficiency simply results from inadequate intake; other times, deficiency can be due to the body’s inability to utilize the Vitamin D it has absorbed. About half of the patients with the MTHFR mutation or methylation defect also have a defect in their Vitamin D receptors, which causes suppression of Vitamin D production in the body. Cytochrome P (CYP) in the liver can also activate receptors and deactivate the Vitamin D molecule. Even from the simplified biochemical explanation here, you can see that the body’s system of utilizing Vitamin D is rife with complexities and details.

Adding to Vitamin D deficiency issues is the trend of doctors instructing parents to keep their kids out of the sun. We smother our kids with sunscreen so they get very little sun absorption. This is not to suggest that we allow our kids to get sunburned during a long outing in the sun! Rather, we must reach a balance to ensure that little bodies adapt to tolerate the sun in regular doses from an early age – this way, our children are less likely to burn as they get older. In fact, we can reach our daily levels of recommended Vitamin D intake before we are even close to the sunburn level. It is estimated that it takes roughly half the time to reach satisfactory intake levels as it does to burn, which ranges from about 15 minutes for fair skin to two hours for dark skin. So save the strongest versions of sunscreen for the hours of 11 am to 3 pm, or the middle of the day, when children are in direct sunlight, and allow modest exposure otherwise. Even individuals with a history of skin cancer can increase the anti-oxidant levels in their skin, without increasing their risk for skin cancer reccurrence, through moderate sun exposure. For those times that do call for sunscreen, beware that some chemicals in poorly-formulated sunscreens can actually increase risk factors of skin cancer, as can sunscreens that only block UVB waves (and expose you to dangerous UVA radiation). Be sure to look for natural ingredients and make sure the product you buy protects against both UVA and UVB.

The founder of the Vitamin D Council has observed that three epidemics have started since our society has been taught to shelter kids from the sun: asthma, autism and autoimmune conditions. Parents put many resources into their children’s treatments for these serious conditions. As a naturopathic physician, I have been able to reverse the complications of these ailments in many of my patients. For instance, kids with asthma respond very quickly to natural treatment and often go off inhalers and steroids within the first month after visiting me. Autism, interestingly, is more common in households of higher socioeconomic status as parents with higher education tend to follow more strictly medical persuasion to keep kids out of the sun. Avoiding the sun altogether really is a new idea for the human race, as is sunscreen.

In countries with normal exposure to the sun, mean natural Vitamin D levels are 46 ng/mL of blood. The ideal concentration of Vitamin D in the blood depends on factors such as individual risk and illness, and can vary widely. In general, 46 ng/mL is a good number for which the already healthy should strive. Some studies show that Vitamin D can be washed off the skin within 12 hours of exposure simply by bathing. While sunbathing is the preferred method of getting Vitamin D, you can also get it from supplements and some limited food sources like reindeer meat, seagull eggs, lard, cold water fish, sun dried mushrooms, grass-fed meat, eggs and milk.

Finally, I’d like to address briefly the issue of medications and sun exposure. If you are in the sun while taking certain medications, you may experience a phototoxic reaction caused by interaction between the sunlight and the free radicals in the medication. This interaction may cause sunburn, rash or hives. There are several medications that can cause sun sensitivity. The most common are antibiotics such as tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones; anti-depressants acting as SSRIs or tricyclics; NSAIDs such as Advil, Aleve, Celebrex and Motrin; and diuretics. Your doctor will warn you to stay out of the sun for 48 hours after taking these medications. It is wise to avoid the sun when you have no choice but to take these particular pharmaceuticals.

Schedule a visit with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor for more information or if you are concerned about your vitamin D levels. For more articles on natural health, please subscribe to our newsletter here.