Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Much Vitamin D is Safe?

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

There has been a lot in the media over the last couple of years encouraging people to take high doses of vitamin D. The potential benefits of supplementation include:
  • fewer falls and fractures
  • increased bone density
  • prevention of influenza virus
  • prevention or reduction in asthma attacks
  • increased insulin sensitivity
  • decreased blood pressure
  • and the prevention of some cancers and autoimmune disease
Not that long ago the recommended dosage for vitamin D supplementation was 400 iu / day.  Currently it is not unusual for individuals to be dosing at 10 to 20 times that amount. Lately it has been questioned whether or not the benefits of vitamin supplementation are still achieved at high dosages. The concerns include:

  • Serum 25 hydroxyvitamin D (the standard blood test for vitamin D status) may not be a reliable indicator as it's half-life is 3 weeks. Also, 25 hydroxyvitamin D is only one of more than 50 vitamin D metabolites in blood and it is questionable as to the validity of using it as the primary indicator.
  • The safety and efficacy of vitamin D supplementation cannot be inferred from data regarding the safety and efficacy of sunlight exposure. Many of the promoted benefits of vitamin D supplementation are actually from studies looking at sunlight exposure itself.
  • Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient and hence it can accumulate within the body and cause other concerns. For more information: http://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Vitamin_D
  • Most of the studies on vitamin D supplementation are less than 20 weeks long hence the long-term safety of dosages greater than 2,000 IU/day is questionable.
  • Vitamin D levels decline in response to inflammation. Therefore low levels of vitamin D may be more indicative of inflammation level versus vitamin D status.
  • There are some studies that indicate that vitamin D supplementation may exacerbate atherosclerosis.
  • Studies suggest that moderate dosages of vitamin D may be protective against cancer; whereas high doses were not and may actually increase the risk.
  • Bone density measurements were better with low-to-moderate dosages of vitamin D.
There are some conditions, such as celiac disease, Crohn's, multiple sclerosis and some cancers where dosing high with vitamin D may be advantageous.  The new research indicates that 800 to 1200 IUs / day is generally effective for most people. Ideally, the best way to ensure adequate vitamin D status is to enjoy 5-15 minutes of sunlight exposure 2 to 3 times a week between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

If you have any questions about the optimal amount of vitamin D supplementation for yourself, talk to your naturopathic doctor.

Gaby, Alan 2011 Controveries in Nutrition. Presented at the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors annual Conference.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Are your maple trees making you sick?

The tar spots on maple trees are quite bad this year.  In researching these spots I was struck by the general omission to the potential health impact that they pose.  Most of the articles focus on the impact to the tree itself, not to people.

The tar spots are due to the fungus ''Rhytisma acerinum" which survives the winter on fallen leaves. In the spring the spores of the fungus, blown by the wind, infect newly developed leaves.  The fungus affects trees, especially maple trees, and appears to be sensitive to and impacted by the level of air pollution.  The level of fungal infection is reflected in the number and size of tar spots on the leaves. Tar spots rarely threaten the overall health of the tree.

The concern from a human perspective is that fungal infections, especially those where the spores are carried in the air, can impact a person's health if they have a compromised immune system or if they are susceptible to respiratory conditions. Common systems associated with fungal infections include:

  • increased inflammation
  • cough
  • chest congestion
  • sinusitis
  • rhinitis
  • increased risk of chronic infections, especially chronic respiratory infections.
  • muscle pain and weakness
Guidelines for cleaning up leaves with tar spots:
  • The best time to clean up your leaves is after a rain. When the leaves are wet the spores are less likely to be air borne.
  • If the leaves are dry, it is best to water them down before cleaning them up.
  • If you are susceptible to respiratory infections, wear a mask when cleaning up the leaves and shower after you're done.
  • Vacuuming the leaves into an enclosed bag may decrease your exposure.
  • If you have a known respiratory infection it is best to have someone help clean up your leaves.
  • Wear garden gloves when cleaning up the leaves. After you are done either discard the gloves or wash them in hot water.
Avoid the following as they increase the mobilization of fungal spores:
  • Blowing the leaves
  • Mulching leaves
  • Raking dry leaves
  • Cleaning up your leaves on a dry, windy day
Prevention is a key strategy of naturopathic medicine. There is no direct research, that I have found, that looks at the link between tar spots and the health of individuals. There are some that show a link between horses that have grazed on leaves with tar spots and muscle weakness.  As I receive additional information on the health impact of these tar spots I will update this blog, but in the meantime, it is better to be safe than sorry.

To learn more about fungal infections:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Prepare For A Challenging Allergy Season

The mild winter and early spring will mostly result in a challenging allergy season. Those that suffer with runny noses, sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing and nasal congestion would do well to take some extra precautions early this year.

Seasonal allergies result when the immune system overreacts to pollen, grasses and trees. The irritation of the eyes, throat and nose is actually the body's attempt to get rid of toxins, preventing them from going deeper in the body. There are many ways that you can decrease your symptoms and modulate (control) the body's response to allergens including:
  • Allergy Testing. If you have allergy symptoms but you have never been officially diagnosed with allergies, it is helpful to have a blood test to clarify exactly what allergens you have and the degree you need to avoid them. 
  • Avoidance. Knowing what toxins to avoid and paying attention to air quality reports will let you know when it is best to plan your outside activities.
  • Sinus Rinse. Nasal lavage involves filling a neti pot or sinus rinse bottle with warm, slightly salty water and squirting or pouring the water into the nostril. The water easily runs out bringing any mucous with it. It is a simple technique that can be done daily to decrease nasal congestion and to reduce sinus pressure.
  •  Water. Drinking adequate water (typically 1/2 your body weight in ounces) helps to thin the mucous and decrease the feeling of congestion.
  • Avoid these foods. Foods such as dairy, bananas, yeast and processed foods can increase the amount of mucous in the body. Avoiding these foods and any known food intolerances can dramatically decrease seasonal allergy symptoms.
  • Increase these foods. Berries, dark green vegetables, nuts, whole grains, spirulina, flax seeds, chia seeds and fish, such as salmon and sardines can assist in decreasing the overreaction of the immune system.
  • Exercise. Movement increases circulation which helps to expel toxins, supports the immune system and decreases the stress response of the body.
  • Sleep. When you are well rested your immune system is less reactive. Typically, the more stressed a person is and the more exhausted, the worse their symptoms.
  • Spring Cleaning. Increasing the dusting and vacuuming in your home and changing the air filters regularly can help remove indoor allergens. It is also a good idea to leave your outside shoes at the front door and change your clothes as soon as you get home as pollens can stick to fabric. If your allergy symptoms are severe it is best to keep windows and doors closed and to shower before bed.

Everybody's symptoms are different. For some the primary symptom is sneezing, for others it is the watery eyes or the constant congestion. Hence, what works for one person doesn't always work for another. There are a number of natural remedies that effectively treat allergies. To figure out what works best for you visit your naturopathic doctor.

For the month of March and April you can book a naturopathic visit to review your allergy symptoms and to determine your best treatment options for $45.00.  Call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to arrange a convenient time.