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Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Annual Autumn Cleanse

















I like to think of a cleanse as a tune-up for the body.

Fall and spring are perfect opportunities for detoxification because they are natural times of transition. As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, our internal clocks are shaking off summer and anticipating winter. The weather isn't too hot or too cold, and fresh local foods are still available.

I started my detox in mid-October, anticipating a 2-week program. But I've been feeling so fantastic that I plan to continue until the end of the year. I may ease the restrictions occasionally, making it easier to eat in restaurants and celebrate holiday meals, but for the most part I plan to keep up the routine: exercise, hydrotherapy, detox supplements, and food free of sugar, starches, grains and processed foods.

Why is detoxification important?

Every day we are exposed to toxins in air, water, food and our environment, from carpet and upholstery to shower curtains and personal products.

According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, residues of more than 400 environmental toxins have been identified in human blood and fat tissue.

The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), routinely measures chemicals in people as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their most recent report found environmental toxins in every single sample.

Our bodies begin to accumulate these chemicals before we're even born. The Environmental Working Group analyzed umbilical cord blood from babies born in US hospitals in 2004. Researchers found 287 different chemicals including mercury, multiple pesticides, more than a dozen different flame retardants, and industrial pollutants called polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs. Most samples contained 100 or more different PCBs

For most people, small doses of environmental toxins cause cumulative damage rather than immediate symptoms. Continued exposure and/or reduced liver function can compromise natural detoxification systems, causing the body to store toxins rather than eliminate them.

Accumulation of toxins in the body can lead to general malaise or chronic health problems including hormone imbalance, metabolic disorders, decreased mental acuity, skin and digestive conditions, and food and chemical sensitivities.

Clearing toxins from the body can relieve symptoms and renew wellness and vitality. Ask your naturopathic doctor if you would benefit from an autumn cleanse.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Aspirin: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?


A recent article published in the Lancet reported that long-term daily use of aspirin can reduce the risk of colon cancer.

A daily aspirin has also been promoted as a way to reduce the risk heart attacks and stroke, although a recent meta-analysis of randomized trials (a study of the best studies) found little scientific evidence to support this practice.

But what are the risks of taking aspirin every day?
  •  Increased bleeding and bruising
  • Nausea, heartburn, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Allergic reaction, skin rash, difficulty breathing, seizures
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing loss
  • Lower levels of hemoglobin and increased risk of anemia
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers
  • Hemorrhagic stroke

That's right: Aspirin may decrease the risk of an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot, but it can increase the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by bleeding in the brain.

Additionally, a recent study reported that regular aspirin use can increase the risk of developing Crohn's disease, an inflammatory and autoimmune disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers in the UK followed more than 135,000 European adults between the ages of 30 and 74, and found that a daily dose of aspirin was associated with six-fold increase in Crohn's disease.

It's also important to remember that aspirin can have dangerous interactions when combined with certain medications and supplements including:
  • Alcohol
  • Warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Heparin
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Some antidepressants (clomipramine, paroxetine)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil
  •  Evening primrose oil
  • Policosanol
  • Ginkgo biloba

Like aspirin, fish oil can prevent blood clots and fight inflammation.
It can also reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, without the side effects of aspirin. And fish oil is a good source of healthy fat.

Also like aspirin, fish oil can interact with medications and supplements. Before you start any new supplement, including fish oil, talk to your naturopathic doctor for individualized recommendations. 

References:

Berger JS et al. Aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular events in patients without clinical cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. American Heart Journal. 2011 Jul;162(1):115-24.e2.

Chan SS et al. Aspirin in the aetiology of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis: a European prospective cohort study. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2011 Sep;34(6):649-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04784.x.

Goldstein JL et al. Haemoglobin decreases in NSAID users over time: an analysis of two large outcome trials. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2011 Oct;34(7):808-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04790.x.

Rothwell PM et al. Long-term effect of aspirin on colorectal cancer incidence and mortality: 20-year follow-up of five randomised trials. Lancet. 2010 Nov 20;376(9754):1741-50.