- Exercise is the very best way to develop new neurons by increasing BDNF (i.e., brain derived neurotrophic factor). The best type of exercise for brain health is an activity that gets you to 70% of your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes 3 times per week or high intensity interval training using weights and cardio. In other words, vigorous exercise is not just great for weight management!
- Diet also contributes to brain health and memory. A diet low in alcohol consumption, smoking, trans fats, deep fried foods and sugar is the best recipe. Anything that gets your hemoglobin A1c (i.e., average of blood sugars) over 5.4 is an increase in risk.
- Just as some things negatively impact brain function, other things benefit brain function. A diet high in phytochemicals such as garlic, green tea, broccoli, pomegranate, beets, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables, rosemary, dark chocolate, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries may all help to lower inflammation in the brain and protect the microvasculature (i.e., the network of blood vessels that make up the circulatory system).
- Gut health: There are myriad ways to ensure a healthy gut, but in broad strokes reducing consumption of gluten as well as periodically detoxifying the liver may help. Two of the herbs I’ve had particular success with in treating patients are schisandra and milk thistle, both of which have a profound detoxification effect.
- Limit the potential for head trauma: It’s very hard to explain the long term effects of head trauma, but I do recommend watching the 2015 Will Smith movie Concussion to understand how harmful contact sports can be to the head. Once you’ve seen the movie, you won’t think twice about wearing a helmet on a bike or taking extra steps to protect yourself from preventable head injury.
- Phytochemicals can also protect the body against the stresses of day to day living and combat neuroinflammation. In my practice, depending on the patient and their specific needs, I may recommend any number of the following: curcumin, Boswellia, ginkgo, NAC, echinacea, ashwagandha, Siberian or Korean ginseng, melatonin, fish oils high in DHA EFAs, magnesium, B vitamins, including extra B12, vitamin D, saffron and grapeseed extract.
- Sleep is critical for optimal draining of the brain lymphatic (i.e., glymphatic) system at night. For my patients who have difficulty getting a sound night’s sleep, there are a variety of herbs I recommend that may be helpful (e.g., valerian, kava kava, passion flower, jujube, Californian poppy, chamomile and rehmannia). A combination of many of these botanicals can be found in an over-the-counter product in Canada called U-Dream; ask your primary health care provider if it’s right for you.
- In recommendation one I mentioned BDNF. The brain has a tremendous ability to regenerate neurons which is governed by BDNF. While exercise is the most effective, you can also achieve positive results with various nutrients such as ashwagandha, St. John’s wort, milk thistle, vitamin D, and resveratrol. There is new research to indicate that intermittent fasting also has a positive impact on brain health.
- Blood tests: if you have experienced a brain injury or are worried about memory loss, you should speak to your primary health provider about diagnostic testing. For example, measuring antibodies to the blood brain barrier (BBB) can be useful as well as measuring chronic inflammation with CRP (i.e., C reactive protein), TNF alpha, IL-1B, IL-6 and HbA1C, serum B12 and homocysteine.
- Your local naturopathic physician can help you sift through the best strategy for optimal brain health including depression and anxiety. A great resource to find out more information about licensed NDs in your area is www.bcna.ca
According to the Men’s Health Foundation In Canada, men aged 30-64 over 65% are overweight or obese, almost 50% are inactive, over 40% binge drink and 26% smoke.
These lifestyle choices lead to alarming health statistics: men are 40% more likely to die from cancer, 70% more likely to die from heart disease and live an average of nine years of their lives in extremely poor health. In fact, 70% of men’s health problems can be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle.
According to the Movember Foundation men die an average six years earlier than women, four out of five suicides are men and testicular cancer is the most common cancer of young men aged 15-29. The foundation encourages men to talk with their buddies, know their PSA numbers at age 50 (and if they are of African or Caribbean descent know them at age 45) with a phrase they use: “know thy nuts.”
Read on if you are interested in improving your fertility, preventing herpes, prostate cancer or just want to have more sexual vitality.
Fertility is 50% a male problem! Sperm analysis can reveal sluggish or unhealthy sperm. Vitamin C can improve sperm motility and also prevent clumping of semen. I’ve found it useful in practice to recommend a combo which contains 500 mg vitamin C, 40 mg magnesium and 600 mg lysine per capsule. You might also be interested in Dr. Cheraskin’s book Vitamin C Who Needs It with presents some timeless knowledge. Research has also shown that vitamin C can help prevent shingles and herpes.
Where do you wear your cell phone? Right next to your testicles! Think about getting a belt holder to keep it 5/8 inch away from your body which is in the fine print of your owners manual. (Here’s another interesting read on the subject: Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation by Devra Davis.)
Foundations for Health: Men’s bodies benefit from a variety of supplements. In my practice, I recommend men consider taking daily supportive products such as selenium 200 mcg, zinc 50 mg (the prostate contains the most zinc of any human tissue), B complex 50-100 mg, essential fatty acids 3000 mg, vitamin D to serum values of 150nmol/L upwards of 5000IU’s per day. Combined, these supplements are optimal for sperm and prostate health.
Chemical Detoxification: Anyone can be exposed to heavy metals, but some professions (e.g., fire fighters, miners etc.) are often highly exposed to heavy metals or chemical environments. The long- term effects of tattooing are yet to be discovered, but as a doctor I am concerned on this issue too. A simple hair analysis is one tool to help determine heavy metal toxicity in the body, but there are other tests your doctor may recommend. Heavy metals are often cancer causing but there are simple phytonutrients to assist the liver in its detoxification processes. These include milk thistle, greens such as chlorella and cilantro, and supplements containing sulforaphane (which is the health benefit found in broccoli) are excellent to include in a daily supplement regime. Naturopathic doctors also provide easy to follow bi-annual detoxification programs. (I’ve often commented that many of my patients take better care of their cars than their bodies!)
Know your PSA Numbers: It is best for men to have their PSAs checked in their mid 40s but for certain when they turn 50 to get a baseline. The nutrients discussed abover may be preventive against prostate cancer, but it’s still useful to get tested. BPH is an enlargment of the prostate that occurs as men age. The first sign is having to urinate during the night and sometimes the stream is also affected. A saw palmetto pygeum nettle root combination can improve both of these symptoms; in my practice I’ve found that with some patients they can work as effectively as prescription medications. chaga mushrooms are a treatment of choice for prostate issues. Garlic has been studied to lower PSA levels. Talk to your ND about these issues.
Prostate Cancer: If you are being treated for prostate cancer and if your doctor is “watching and waiting” your numbers, in the meantime there are proactive steps you can take. Boswellia, curcumin and quercitin in tandem, or boswellia complex, are natural anti-inflammatories that are cancer preventive. The IGF 1 blood test will show, if results are elevated in men, that the individual is four times as likely to develop prostate cancer. There are some studies which indicate lycopene may help with lowering PSA
Erectile Dysfunction: Coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, erectile dysfunction, metabolic syndrome and diabetes are rampant and interconnected among men and women (except of course for the ED!). Pomegranate juice, horny goat weed and panax ginseng have all been studied to be effective for ED. NDs often recommend diabetes and cardiovascular protocols in this patient population.
Testing to consider in prostate disease: Some of the most useful clinical tests your doctor may use in assessing prostate disease inclue: PSA, Free PSA, CRP, Galectin 3, IgF1, Hg A1c, PLA2, hair analysis.
Foods to Prevent Prostate Cancer: Green tea, organic soy, cooked tomatoes (lycopene), pomegranates, and broccoli, are all healthful additions in this area. The active health ingredient in broccoli, sulforaphane can be taken as a supplement. Eating cooked mushrooms such as enoki may also be cancer preventive. Garlic and related herbs such as onions, chives and leeks may also prevent prostate cancer.
Resources: Want to pursue more research? A good place to start Dr. Eric Yarnell’s article Improving Men’s Health with Botanicals. Dr. Isaac Eliaz has a website and research on pectasol and prostacaid.
Technology is Driving us to Distraction
Ingrid Pincott, ND
Well it is that time of year again where households with children prepare for the school year. What better time to review the household addiction to their “devices”?
On January 6th 2018 in the Globe and Mail the article “Your Smart Phone Addiction is Making you stupid, anti-social and unhealthy, so why can’t you put it down?” By now, most adults using these devices are aware that their addiction is real, stimulating dopamine response just like other addictions such as drugs and alcohol. The average user looks at their phone 150 times a day, spending anywhere from three to five hours on their device. As a health concern, how can you address this in your family?
Recognizing that you have a problem is always the first step to dealing with any serious issue. Working with your own addiction first before tackling your children’s is important. What really underscores the issue with parents is the sad and disheartening article this summer in the UK Guardian, Child drownings in Germany linked to parents’ phone “fixation.” That’s a real story:
“More than 300 people have drowned in Germany this year, with hardly a day passing during the current heatwave when a swimmer has not died. The German Lifeguard Association (DLRG) – the biggest organisation of its kind in the world, providing 40,000 volunteer lifeguards at German beaches, lakes and the coast – has made a direct connection between children getting into difficulty in the water and parents being too busy on their mobile phones to notice.
“Too few parents and grandparents are heeding the advice: when your children and grandchildren are in the water, put your smartphone away,” Achim Wiese, the DLRG’s spokesman, said. “
When the Globe said phones are making us stupid it sounded amusing. Here’s a perfect example of a mobile phone making parents, literally, stupid!
Tristan Harris, a former “product philosopher” at Google, educates people through Time Well Spent on the dangers of the social media platform that causes spurts of dopamine creating real addictions. A former vice-president of Facebook prohibits his own children from social media! In The Big Disconnect Catherine Steiner-Adair explains children ages four through18 feel frustration, fatigue and loss when they come home to parents who are on their devices. With recent spikes in mental health issues, including ADD, among adolescents and the concomitant rise in electronic devices it behooves parents to learn ways to set limits on smartphone usage.
According to a Huffington Post article August 28, 2018 here are some key guidelines to use with yourself as well as your children:
1.Children and teens must understand their phone actually belongs to the parents and using it is a privilege, not a right. Open communication helps kids know the rules are coming from a place of love and concern for their safety.
- Get educated and involved about what social media channels/platforms are being used and why.
- Control privacy as much as you can by creating tight settings on their apps (see Cybersafe BC for a list of excellent resources).
- Set age appropriate rules. No devices should be kept in the bedroom overnight at any age! (Why not go back to battery run alarm clocks, if a click is needed? Plus there’s no EMF with a regular clock). Changing Wi-Fi passwords, using apps to remotely shut down a child’s WiFi access, installing a security browser extension, or spot-checking social media engagement can also help with both safety and developing trust in online activities. Kids learn most by example, so parents should walk the talk and put away the phones during meals or family time, and before bed.
- Coach Kids to think critically. This is a good phrase to remember: If you’re concerned your parents will see it, you should be concerned about everyone else seeing it, too.
- Start early with setting limits and monitoring. For example children in grades 4-6 should not have a phone that can connect to WiFi.
- Set-up online gaming rules with your children and monitor; if the rules are not followed the phone can be taken away for a period of time.
- Watch for changes in your tween’s or teen’s behavior.
Another person with good tips is Alyson Schafter. Her “How to get your child off the Ipad cooperatively” is really just good general parenting!
-Give them a five minute warning
-If there is a fight about getting off the device then the child loses their privileges for one day.
-Allot time per week that the child can be on the device. Once they use this time up there is no reprieve no matter how important that game is!
Set an example for the family. Do not use your devices or let your children use them for at least two hours per day. It is best not to start or end the day with them for better sleep habits, and to be less distracted as you start your work or school day. When children come home from school make time for them, without devices, to connect with them about their day before dinner.
Turn off the blue light. The blue light emitting from your devices can contribute to eye strain and even disease. According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists this blue light is contributing to increase risk of macular degeneration, damage to the retina and vision loss and cataracts. Apply Night Shift or Twilight to your devices from 10 pm to 7am. Optometrists provide protective eye wear or yellow tinting of lenses as options.
Better options for reading at bedtime which is highly recommended as a parasympathetic activity is to use the Kindle or Kobo devices. These do not use blue light technology and are fine for night time reading in bed without the hidden flashlight! Most libraries provide books for the Kobo free of charge.
Fasting from social media for a day at a time once per week may be a family goal. Go for a day hike, play card games, or go somewhere where there is no WiFi. These are all exercises in grounding which are beneficial for lowering cortisol in the body and stimulating the parasympathetic system instead. Your family will be healthier physically and emotionally and smarter too!
- Top Ten Tips for Brain Health, Dr. Ingrid Pincott, NDJanuary 31, 2019 - 2:35 pm
- Simple Health Tips for Men During “Movember” (or every month of the year!) Dr. Ingrid Pincott, NDNovember 15, 2018 - 4:42 pm
- Vitamin N: Have You Had Yours Today?September 11, 2018 - 9:09 am
- Technology is Driving us to DistractionSeptember 7, 2018 - 10:16 am
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