Archive for the ‘Fertility’ Category

Vitamin D and Its Impact on Your Health

 Vitamin D also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is a fat-soluble vitamin required for normal growth of teeth and bones, and many other systems. It is found in foods such as fish, eggs and fortified drinks. Skin production of vitamin D depends on exposure to sunlight. Active people living in sunny regions produce most of the vitamin D they need from their skin. In less sunny regions, the skin production of vitamin D is greatly diminished especially during the winter months, during which time vitamin D supplementation becomes vital.

Vitamin D is activated in the kidneys and it works as a hormone, regulating, among other things, the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream, and promoting normal growth and strength of bones. Vitamin D deficiency can result in thin, brittle or misshapen bones, while enough vitamin D helps prevent rickets (softening of bones in children potentially leading to fractures and deformity) and osteomalacia (milder form of the same disease) in adults. These are extreme cases of vitamin D deficiency, but today, the impact of vitamin D deficiency is evident in every system of the body, from the immune to the nervous system.

It is very important to have your vitamin D levels tested so that you know if your current lifestyle, nutritional intake, and overall health are providing you with the adequate levels of this vital nutrient. First you need to know how low you are, which will determine how much you need to take, and then you need to be retested after a few months so that you know when to reduce the amount you are taking.

Vitamin D and Infection

The role of vitamin D as an infection fighting nutrient is now obvious. Researchers have shown that vitamin D plays an essential role for activating immune defenses from T cells in the body. A study published in 2009, by the researchers at the EMNet Coordinating Center in Boston, linked vitamin D deficiency with increased risk of respiratory infections and asthma. Another study done in 2006 by the UCLA researchers showed that vitamin D deficiency is connected with higher susceptibility of tuberculosis. Vitamin D increases the body’s production of naturally occurring antibiotics, namely the antimicrobial peptides. Antimicrobial peptides are produced in numerous cells in the human body where they directly and rapidly destroy the cell walls of viruses and bacteria.

Researchers have found a link between vitamin D deficiency and the flu. Most vitamin D is created from exposure to sunshine, therefore vitamin D deficiency is more common in winter exactly when cold and flu levels reach their peak. A large study appearing in the February 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine found that people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having more recent colds or flu. Vitamin D plays an important role in the prevention of common respiratory infections such as colds and the flu.

Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention

A study published by the Journal of American Dietetic Association in 2010, showed that the role of Vitamin D in overall health including cancer prevention is undeniable. There is a lot of scientific evidence showing that the risk of colorectal cancer is reduced with adequate Vitamin D status. The sunshine vitamin has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Vitamin D may help prevent cancer in several ways, including maintaining healthy cells with normal life spans, discouraging out-of-control cell reproduction, and hindering the formation of new blood vessels for tumors.

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one’s own immune system, resulting in loss of muscle control and sensation. One environmental factor influencing the risk for developing MS is sunshine, and in particular a vitamin D deficiency, therefore people in parts of the world that get less sunlight (such as Canada) are more likely than others to get multiple sclerosis. Studies showing the involvement of vitamin D in immune and nervous system functioning bring evidence to support this. It has also been shown that Vitamin D helps control a gene known to increase the risk of multiple sclerosis. Thus adequate levels of vitamin D taken during pregnancy and early in life may help prevent the disease in those predisposed to MS.

Vitamin D and Lung Function

A study published in August 2010 by researchers from the University of Cincinnati, showed a high occurrence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with interstitial lung disease and connective tissue disease, and thus vitamin D deficiency has been connected with reduced lung function. Another study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado in April 2010 showed that in asthmatics, reduced vitamin D levels are associated with weaker lung function, suggesting that supplementation with vitamin D may improve the severity of asthma symptoms. Vitamin D has potent anti-inflammatory properties, one more reason why vitamin D is useful for asthmatics.

Vitamin D and Diabetes

Recent studies show that vitamin D supplementation is beneficial for people with diabetes or insulin resistance and may prevent or delay symptoms of diabetes. While increasing vitamin D levels is not considered a cure for diabetes, vitamin D supplementation have been shown to be helpful in treating diabetes, improving insulin secretion and reducing insulin sensitivity.

Vitamin D and Mood

Vitamin D may help increase the brain’s serotonin levels, having a positive impact on depressive symptoms. In June, 2010, the researchers from the Loyola University in Chicago found that the effective detection and treatment of low vitamin D levels in depressive patients may be an easy and cost-effective therapy which could improve patients’ long-term health as well as their quality of life.

A recent study conducted by VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam showed that vitamin D may be an effective and intriguing possibility for the treatment of depression, especially in older patients. The study indicated that low levels of vitamin D may be linked to depression symptoms.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a situational mood disorder caused by decreasing daylight in the winter months. High doses of vitamin D during winter have been proven to be a very effective natural remedy for SAD.

Vitamin D and Pregnancy

In a very recent study, published in September 2010, researchers from the CHA University, School of Medicine in Seoul stated that an adequate vitamin D intake is essential for the health of the mother and child during pregnancy, and there is sufficient evidence that many pregnant women have low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus and an increased risk for C-section delivery. Vitamin D has also been proved to decrease the risk of infection and improve the length of gestation, and infant bone mineralization.

Vitamin D and Kids

Vitamin D plays an incredibly important role when it comes to the growth and development of children. In an extreme case, vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a disease that results in soft, weak bones in children. But there are other cases such as impaired brain function and asthma in kids that have been linked to vitamin D deficiency.

A study published in April 2008 by the researchers from the Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, showed that vitamin D is vital for the brain development of children because of the wide distribution of vitamin D receptors throughout the brain. Hence, adequate levels of vitamin D have been shown to improve memory, learning ability and concentration.

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that asthma symptoms may be worse for children who had low vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D plays a critical role in all body functions, helping many systems including the immune, nervous and respiratory system. In order to enjoy the wonderful benefits of Vitamin D, such as healthy bones, lower cancer risks and better mood, make sure you get your vitamin D levels checked, take the appropriate dosage for your specific needs and also enjoy moderate sun exposure several times a week, weather permitting.

Vitamin D testing is available at the Wellness Naturopathic Centre.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

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How Does Weight Affect Fertility? Looking at Both Sides of the Scale

A healthy body weight plays an important role in fertility. Being overweight or underweight can make achieving pregnancy more difficult mainly because of its effect on ovulation.

Excess weight can lead to anovulation (absence of ovulation) which often manifests as irregular menstruation. The good news is that losing weight can restore regular menstruation and bring about healthy ovulation whereby increasing the likelihood of pregnancy.

The same goes for those who are underweight. In this case, either anovulation or irregular ovulation can be an issue. With irregular ovulation, the uterine lining may not become thick enough for the fertilized egg to sufficiently implant and grow and even if it does implant, sustaining the pregnancy under such circumstances is difficult, making miscarriage a likely occurrence. In a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, women whose body mass indexes were below 18.5 were 72% more likely to miscarry in their first trimester.

The bottom line is that too much or too little body fat will disturb the normal hormonal balance and subsequently affect menstruation and ovulation. Reaching a healthy weight can help reverse these issues and create a healthy environment for conception to occur.

With a proper daily diet plan and lifestyle modifications, both these issues can be resolved. To lose the excess weight, following a tailored weight loss dietary plan with a focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods and regular exercise can make a big difference. A 5 to 10 % weight loss can greatly impact ovulation. For those individuals who continue to have a difficult time losing weight despite all efforts, further investigation is warranted as other conditions may be involved such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which may be the cause of infertility and the difficulty behind losing the excess weight.

For those who are underweight, a healthy nutrient rich weight gain program will help bring about a healthier weight that supports fertility. Making healthy fats such as nuts and seeds, olive oil, and flaxseed oil part of every meal is an important part of this process.

Although weight is only one of the factors affecting fertility, it is an important one which should not be overlooked. Aside from optimizing the chances of pregnancy, having a healthy weight will also mean an advantage in all facets of overall wellbeing: more energy, better mood and less likelihood of pregnancy-related complications such as gestational diabetes, miscarriage as well as low birth weight.

Celiac Disease and Naturopathic Treatment Support

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged due to reaction to consumption of gluten. Because of this damage, absorption becomes compromised. Gluten is the protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, spelt and rye. There are many different signs and symptoms of varying intensities associated with celiac disease. These include fatigue, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, weight loss, diarrhea, delayed growth, skin rash, depression and more. Many of these signs and symptoms can also be seen in other disorders, which can make celiac disease go undiagnosed in many cases including some cases of unexplained infertility. There are tests that can be done to diagnose this condition. In fact, in Italy where celiac disease is common, all children under 6 are screened for this condition as early detection is vital.

How common is celiac disease?

According to Celiac Association of Canada, it is estimated that 1 in 133 Canadians are affected by celiac disease.

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

Blood tests such as anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody, anti-endomysial antibody, IgA and IgG anti-gliadin antibody are some of the tests that are recommended.

The definitive diagnosis is a biopsy of the small bowel. It is only after a definitive diagnosis through this procedure has been made, that a strict gluten-free diet is initiated.

What are some possible complications associated with celiac disease?

Osteoporosis, anemia, neurological problems, depression, greater  likelihood of miscarriage, difficulty with fertility, stunted growth in children and lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance has to do with inability to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. The enzyme lactase is needed for digestion of dairy. Since in celiac, the lining of the small intestine is damaged, the brush border enzymes which include lactases are reduced, hence some celiac patients experience lactose intolerance.

Most of these complications are resolved or improve over time once celiac disease has been diagnosed, a strict gluten-free diet is followed, the body is replenished with the needed nutrients, the gut has healed and malabsorption has been resolved.

What are the treatments?

The treatment is following a strict gluten-free diet. This means reading ingredient labels and eliminating any foods/products that contain gluten, even trace amounts of gluten.

Being on a good naturopathic nutritional plan is paramount in celiac disease for three main reasons.

Reason One

Often in an attempt to avoid gluten, many patients resort to one or two alternatives to gluten such as rice or potato. Eating the same foods repeatedly has a couple of downfalls. One is that variety in diet is needed in order for us to get the different nutrients required by our bodies. The other problem is that eating the same foods repeatedly can trigger food sensitivities to those foods in the long run so you could end up for example with a sensitivity to rice if that has become your food staple.

Reason Two

This has to do with absorption. There are some foods that are more easily digestible hence making their absorption easier. There are also specific foods that are healing to the gut and help repair some of the damage in the intestines. Healing of the gut is essential component of a treatment approach to celiac disease. The gut must be healed in order for the absorption issues to be resolved. As long malabsorption (poor absorption) persists, there will be problems on a systemic level because essential nutrients are not being extracted from the foods eaten and as a result the organs are not being properly nourished.

Reason Three

The body needs to be replenished with the proper nutrients, this is both through diet, supplements and/or intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy. In my practice, I frequently use intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy for my celiac patients. Since this therapy gets the nutrients directly into the blood circulation (not having to go through the digestive system), I know for sure the nutrients are being taken up by the different body systems. This therapy also allows me to introduce higher doses of nutrients into the body that would otherwise not be possible orally. The result is that patients get quickly replenished with important nutrients, positively impacting their energy, mood and overall wellbeing.

If you suspect you may have celiac disease especially if you have a family member that has this condition, don’t delay, see your healthcare provider and get the appropriate tests for a proper diagnosis.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.