Earlier this week, the Consumer Council (Hong Kong) raised concerns about the safety of body lotions for infants, after discovering that 22 brands out of 40 products tested contained chemicals that could trigger skin allergies or dermatitis in babies.
Out of the 40 products tested by the council, 8 that claimed to be “hypoallergenic” were found to contain fragrance allergens, while 3 that were labelled “fragrance-free” actually contained fragrances.
In particular, the consumer watchdog found that Aveeno’s Baby lotion contained hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (HICC) and butylphenyl methylpropional (BMHCA), two fragrance and skin sensitizing chemicals that are banned by the European Union. The European Union classifies BMHCA as toxic to the reproductive system, while HKICC is known to commonly trigger skin allergies and dermatitis in children. In response, Aveeno Baby insists that the lotion’s fragrance ingredients follows the International Fragrance Association standards and requirements, but says it would replace the current product with a new item later this year.
When buying lotions for infants and children, always look at the ingredient label. Avoid products that contain fragrances, synthetic compounds or toxic chemicals. Look for flower, fruit or root extracts, minerals and essential oil ingredients instead.
Hong Kong’s life expectancy has seen a steady increase over the past half-century. For the 7th year and counting, both women and men in Hong Kong have attained the world’s highest life expectancy. According to World Bank, the life expectancy for men and women in Hong Kong stands at 82.7 years and 88.1 years respectively.
So, what’s the secret behind Hong Kong’s high life expectancy? Experts agree that access to public healthcare coupled with the promotion of healthy living for all ages contributes to longevity in the region. Here are some interesting points:
Tobacco control has helped Hongkongers live longer, according to a recent Lancet study. Researchers concluded that Hong Kong’s longevity is attributed to the lowest mortality of cardiovascular diseases in both men and women, as well as one of the lowest mortalities of cancer among women. These low mortality rates are, in turn, due to Hong Kong having one of the world’s lowest smoking prevalences. “Successful tobacco control has allowed Hong Kong’s life expectancy to exceed populations around the world. This is an important finding to potentially save the largest number of lives in Hong Kong and worldwide, precisely because the policy solutions are well rehearsed and directly attributable to longevity,” said Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Medicine from The University of Hong Kong.
Some experts point to the healthy diet here, which basically consists of grains (rice) with fish, vegetables and meat chopped up into dishes for sharing, rather than eaten as whole portions. Even Hong Kong desserts are healthy, often made of nuts, tofu or beans, fresh fruit and sesame seeds.
Connectivity in Hong Kong is commendable, with easy access to public transportation and the proximity (often walking distance) of restaurants, parks and public facilities. The city ranks first for “enabling environments,” which facilitates a better quality of life.
In 2017, Stanford University published a study called the Activity Inequality Project. It analyzed mobile phone data from 111 countries and discovered that Hongkongers topped the list in walking. The average Hongkonger takes 6,880 steps per day, which is roughly 2,100 more than the average American.
Hong Kong is a relatively safe city. It is ranked the 8th safest city in the world. Its geographical location with a subtropical climate does not give rise to frequent extreme weather. It also boasts a public healthcare system, where older residents receive priority for hospital care and most care is paid from taxation.
It is estimated that 70% of Hong Kong residents over the age of 70 were born in mainland China and came to Hong Kong in search of better opportunities. Studies show that these residents are physically and psychologically stronger than their counterparts remaining on the mainland. In the early 1960s and ’70s, Hong Kong saw an influx of highly motivated individuals move to the territory. These individuals have contributed to the aging of Hong Kong’s population over the last 20 years. Their healthy active lifestyles have helped them achieve a long life expectancy.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday that a higher-than-expected number of young men have experienced heart inflammation (myocarditis) after their second dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, according to data from 2 vaccine safety monitoring systems.
The CDC and other health regulators have been investigating myocarditis cases after Israel’s Health Ministry reported that it had found a probable link to the condition in men aged 16 to 30 who received the Pfizer vaccine.
While some patients required hospitalization, most have fully recovered from their symptoms, the CDC said.
Over half of the cases reported to the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) after people had received their second dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna shots were in young adults between the ages of 12 and 24, the CDC said. Those age groups accounted for less than 9% of doses administered.
“We clearly have an imbalance there,” Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, said to an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration meeting yesterday. The overwhelming majority of the cases have occurred within a week of vaccination, Dr. Shimabukuro said. He also said there was a predominance of males in younger age groups among the reported heart inflammation cases.
There were 283 observed cases of heart inflammation after the second vaccine dose in those aged 16 to 24 in the VAERS data. That compares with expectations of 10 to 102 cases for that age range based on U.S. population background incidence rates, the CDC said.
The median age of patients who experienced the inflammation after a second vaccine dose was 24, according to the VAERS data. Just under 80% of the cases were in men.
Dr. Shimabukuro said the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD)- another safety monitoring system- showed an increased incidence of myocarditis in 16 to 39 year olds after their second shot when compared to the rate observed after the first dose.
If you’ve had hives before, you will know how annoying they can be. It’s even more annoying when they keep coming back, or get worse instead of going away.
Hives (also known as urticaria) are red, itchy welts or wheals brought about by the immune system releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation and fluid to accumulate under the skin. They can disappear and reappear within minutes or hours. Typically, hives last a few days (or only when you are in contact with an allergen i.e. something that you are allergic to) and they are not contagious. But if you continue to get hives daily or almost every day for a period exceeding 6 weeks, you have chronic hives, also known as chronic spontaneous hives (CSH), chronic idiopathic hives (CIH) or chronic urticaria (CU). While acute hives are often due to culprits like an allergy to food or medication, insect stings, blood transfusions and infections (viral infections are the most common cause of acute hives in children), chronic hives are rarely caused by allergies and are more tricky to treat. Experts believe the underlying abnormality is “intrinsic”, whether it is autoimmune, or some unknown process. Chronic hives can be frustrating as it significantly impacts the quality of life.
If you suffer from chronic hives, the information below may help you better understand your condition.
Chronic hives stem from immune abnormalities. According to the Allergy Center of Connecticut, the leading theory is that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body and in this case, your own allergy cells (mast cells and basophils) are the target. Studies have found a link between chronic hives and autoimmune diseases (e.g. thyroid, rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease).
Since chronic hives are a sign of immune dysfunction, Dr. Yik helps her patients correct and resolve the immune response. She uses nutraceuticals, supplements and nutritional therapy to address immune dysfunction and the ongoing state of chronic inflammation. She also spends the time to investigate underlying factors or concurrent conditions such as gut dysbiosis or gut-related disorders (since 70% of our immune cells lie in our gut), nutrient deficiencies (such as vitamin D- read more below) and other inflammatory conditions.
Are you deficient in vitamin D? Vitamin D supports optimal immune function and one of its roles is to increase T regulatory function. T regulatory cells are a component of the immune system that suppresses immune responses of other cells. This is an important “self-check” built into the immune system to prevent excessive reactions. Studies have found that many people with chronic hives have lower vitamin D levels.
Could it be a parasitic infection? There have been cases where patients with chronic hives were found to have a parasitic infection and upon taking anti-parasitic medication, the chronic hives went away. Though not very commonly seen, a parasitological workup may be warranted depending on the patient’s symptoms, dietary habits, country of origin and travel history.
Stress can trigger a bout of hives. On the other hand, the condition itself may be a source of distress and could worsen patients’ quality of life. Care should be taken to reduce and manage stress appropriately. Click here to learn how to cope with stress and anxiety.
A new study published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal has found that 34% of COVID-19 survivors were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within 6 months, suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems. The study analysed health records of 236,379 COVID-19 patients, mostly from the United States and found that one in three COVID-19 survivors in a study were diagnosed with such disorders within six months. A previous study done in 2020 by the same researchers found that 20% of COVID-19 survivors were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months.
These conditions were significantly more common in COVID-19 patients than in comparison groups of people who recovered from flu or other respiratory infections over the same time period, the scientists said, suggesting COVID-19 had a specific impact.
Anxiety and mood disorders were the most common (17% and 14% respectively), and did not appear to be related to how mild or severe the patient’s COVID-19 infection had been. Among those who had been admitted to intensive care with severe COVID-19, 7% had a stroke within six months, and almost 2% were diagnosed with dementia.
“This is a very important paper. It confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that COVID-19 affects both brain and mind in equal measure,” said Simon Wessely, chair of psychiatry at King’s College London.
We are living in unprecedented times. If you or a loved one is feeling anxious, depressed, excessively irritable/angry or low mood, seek help from your healthcare practitioner.
Does your belly extend (like you’re 6 months pregnant) after eating? Do you burp or pass gas excessively? These symptoms are not only uncomfortable, but often embarrassing when others are around. Read on to learn more about potential culprits that cause these embarrassing (and possibly debilitating) symptoms.
Could it be SIBO? Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition where certain bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the gut start growing in the small intestine. SIBO typically causes excessive gas, burping, bloating, cramps, pain and diarrhea (or diarrhea alternating with constipation). Foods containing fermentable fibre, starch, lactose and fructose can make these symptoms worse, as do gluten, grains, starches like potatoes, legumes and pulses, fruits and some vegetables. Experts say that up to 80% of IBS sufferers may actually be suffering from SIBO. Click here to learn more about SIBO. Dr. Yik at IMI clinic offers SIBO testing.
2. Indigestion and Constipation. When your digestive system does not break down foods properly, undigested foods such as gluten, carbohydrates, and sugars ferment in the intestine and can cause a build-up of gas in the colon known as flatulence. If you are constipated, stool builds up and causes a feeling of fullness or bloating in your abdomen.
3. You may have heard of the term FODMAP from friends. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are basically short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine. These carbohydrates often cause digestive ailments such as bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea and constipation in people who are sensitive to them. A low FODMAP diet is often a part of treatment protocols to help those who experience these symptoms, but because a low FODMAP diet can be very restrictive, it is best to consult a licensed naturopathic doctor or nutritionist for guidance.
4. Do you have food intolerances? If you notice bloating, abdominal pain or gassiness after eating certain foods, you may be intolerant to certain foods. Click here to read more.
5. After drinking cow’s milk or eating milk products, do you experience gas, abdominal cramps or diarrhea? If so, you may have lactose intolerance, a condition in which you cannot digest foods with lactose in them. This condition is due to a deficiency of an enzyme called lactase. In this case, it is best to avoid lactose and choose lactose-free products instead. Alternatively, to help break down lactose, you can take lactase pills (such as Lactaid) whenever you drink cow’s milk or eat milk products.
If you need help sorting out your digestive ailments, find a practitioner who will look at the whole picture and not one who only treats the symptoms. Dr. Yik uses a wide range of functional medicine testing to investigate the root causes of your digestive issues. She uses science-based natural medicines, nutraceuticals, medicinal herbs, etc. to help bring your digestion and gut health back on track.
Ask anyone who has experienced a migraine and they can tell you, migraines are debilitating. Usually felt on one side of the head or behind the eyes, a migraine presents as a severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation. It can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine aura symptoms are certain disturbances in vision, sensation or speech that occur before the migraine itself. A migraine can last anywhere from several hours to several days, with pain so severe that it can interfere with your daily activities. Affecting 15.1% of the world’s population, migraines (especially when chronic or recurrent) are a major cause of disability.
Do you suffer from migraines? If you do, it is beneficial to understand what can trigger migraines and what you can do to prevent or manage them, naturally.Consider the following:
Inflammation plays a role in migraine development. Researchers have found that migraines are “associated with elevated high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), a marker of inflammation, in young adults. The relationship, particularly apparent in young women, may play a role in migraine pathogenesis.” The inflammation accounts for the throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Adopting an anti-inflammatory regimen through supplements, medicinal herbs, diet and lifestyle under the guidance of a trained healthcare practitioner can help to correct inflammatory signals in the body and in turn, reduce migraine frequency and severity.
If you’re female, do your migraines occur before or around menstruation? The fluctuation of estrogen levels appears to trigger migraines, which could explain why migraines are more common among women, especially during the childbearing years. If you experience migraines or other pre-menstrual symptoms, find a trained healthcare practitioner who can help you alleviate these symptoms and promote a pain-free, stress-free menstrual cycle. A symptom-free menstrual cycle is possible!
Try keeping a diet diary or journal to see if certain foods trigger your migraines. Migraine sufferers often find that consuming aged cheese, red wine/ alcohol, MSG, nitrates (found in smoked meats, hot dogs, etc.) and chocolate will give them a migraine. If you suspect a certain food triggers a migraine, eliminate it from your diet and see what happens.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, a daily oral magnesium supplement has been shown to be effective in preventing migraine. One study published in Cephalalgia found that people who took magnesium for 12 weeks had 41.6 percent fewer migraine attacks, compared with 15.8 percent fewer attacks for the placebo group. Interested in taking a magnesium supplement? A licensed ND is able to prescribe the proper dosage and type of magnesium for you.
Self-care is key to good health. Adequate sleep, a healthful diet, regular exercise and proper stress management techniques are crucial not only to prevent migraines but to promote optimal health. Stress is a common migraine trigger, particularly among adults, so if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, take appropriate measures to calm down and reduce stress.
By the time you are 40, the chance of falling pregnant naturally is about 5% each month, compared to 20% in those under the age of 30. You can still get pregnant after 40, but you may need some support. This is because younger women typically have more and healthier eggs than older women. And while most men make millions of new sperm every day, men younger than 40 typically have healthier sperm compared to men over 40. The amount of semen (the fluid that contains sperm) and sperm motility (ability to move towards an egg) decrease as men age.
Some couples may consider assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as IUI or IVF. Though these fertility procedures help bring the sperm and egg (closer) together, they are not always successful. In fact, the success rate for IVF procedures is only 20% to 40% for those in their thirties. A successful embryo transfer doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful pregnancy. Various factors, besides your age, affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. Whether you are trying to conceive naturally or attempting the IVF route, the following are important things to consider:
Egg quality, egg quality, egg quality! Many patients over 35 who walk into Dr. Yik‘s office want to improve egg quality. Through nutraeuticals/ supplements, medicinal herbs and dietary recommendations, Dr. Yik helps each of her patients not only improve egg quality but also optimise uterine lining, promote pelvic circulation, cervical mucus and overall health. She has helped women doing IVF successfully conceive (these women are often those who have tried IVF on its own without success). There have even been cases where patients, after adopting a certain dietary and lifestyle regimen, fall pregnant before their scheduled IVF procedure. What about age, you ask? Everyone knows that fertility decreases as you age. But did you know that your biological age may be different from your chronological age? The good news is, you can lower your biological age through lifestyle (and nutraceuticals under the direction of a trained practitioner). There are ways to prevent aging and in some cases, even reverse it.
Are you experiencing miscarriages? There may be underlying conditions or reasons affecting your ability to carry a baby to term. For example, people with a MTHFR gene defect may be prone to recurrent miscarriages. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR for short) is an enzyme that is responsible for the conversion of folic acid to its active form folate. If you have a MTHFR gene mutation, your body cannot break down folic acid into folate, and studies show that people with a MTHFR gene mutation are more susceptible to subfertility, recurrent miscarriages, pre-eclampsia and a baby born with spina bifida. Keep in mind that while recurrent miscarriages are often multi-factorial, Dr. Yik usually tests her patients for MTHFR mutation when frequent pregnancy loss is unexplained so that proper treatment can be given to those with a MTHFR gene defect. Other reasons for recurrent miscarriages include nutrient deficiencies, poor egg quality, immune responses and thyroid hormone imbalances.
Could it be toxins? The older you are, the more toxins that have accumulated in your body over the years. A study done in Hong Kong on 150 infertile couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) versus 20 fertile couples found that the infertile couples had significantly higher blood mercury then the fertile group. Over 1/3 of infertile men had abnormally high mercury and about 1/4 of the infertile females had high mercury levels. High levels of PCBs have also been linked to IVF failure. Many women in Hong Kong resort to consuming medicinal herbs when they see traditional Chinese doctors, sometimes continuing to do so for years. Many of these herbs are sourced from China and may contain harmful heavy metals or contaminants, which adds to the body’s toxic burden.
Remember, numerous factors affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. Find a fertility doctor who looks beyond IUI or IVF to help your body prepare for and boost your chances of an optimal pregnancy.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic propelled us into a world of unprecedented hardship and heartache. As vaccines are starting to be made available to the public and more people are adhering to social restrictions, we hope that this is the beginning of the end of the worst pandemic the world has seen in the last century.
Though we all faced various challenges, stories of resilience, generosity, sacrifice and solidarity warmed our hearts and reminded us not to give up hope. Dr. Ardyce Yik ND extends her gratitude to all frontline workers who put their lives at risk for others as well as to everyone who is working tirelessly to help others in need. Dr. Yik would also like to thank everyone who helped bring her book, “COVID-19 and You”, to fruition this year.
As 2020 is coming to an end, Dr. Yik would like to share the following self-care strategies which can help you cope during tough times. This was first published in the July 2020 PTA Newsletter of Victoria Education Organisation.
Take care of your physical health.
Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Try to stick to your typical daily schedule as much as possible.
Consume a healthful diet.Colourful vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean protein and good fats nourish your body and keep it healthy. Avoid excessive sugar intake as well as food additives such as MSG and artificial food colouring which can cause mood changes in some people, especially children.
Limit your caffeine intake. Not only can caffeine keep you up at night, but it can also make you more anxious. Try herbal teas that promote relaxation, like chamomile, peppermint and lemon balm teas. Extra tip for parents: Parents sometimes forget that chocolates, chocolate chip baked goods and bubble tea contain caffeine. Try replacing these with yogurt/ fruit smoothies, trail mix or other snacks that are caffeine-free.
Keep active. Daily exercise helps reduce anxiety and improve mood. It can also take your mind off your problems. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Extra tip for parents: Children need daily exercise, too! Allow them to play actively, practise a sport and/ or try GoNoodle®, a free online website with movement and mindfulness videos for children created by child development experts.
Take care of your mental/ emotional health.
Stay connected to others. Let out any frustrations you have to a trusted friend or counsellor. Extra tip for parents: Be sensitive to your child and listen actively. Allow them to share their thoughts and fears without judgement.
Focus on positivity.Start each day by listing 3 or more things you are thankful for. Some people find it helpful to draw on their faith or religion to maintain a sense of hope and purpose during difficult times. Others find purpose in helping those in need.
Practise deep breathing.The deliberate process of taking slow, even breaths promotes a state of calmness, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Extra tip for parents: Take 2 deep breaths before responding to a difficult child or reacting to bad news.
Avoid constant exposure to media.Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can fuel anxiety and fear. Get your news from a reliable source and limit your news reading or watching to once or twice a day.
Everyone reacts differently to challenging situations but if you feel persistently overwhelmed, reach out to someone and seek professional help.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2021!
Kindergartens in Hong Kong will close for 2 weeks starting this Saturday due to outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infections across the city, a precautionary step amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season.
Besides getting your flu shot, what else can you do to stay healthy and prevent infection?
Here are some tips to help you stay healthy and well during cold/ flu season:
1. Wear a mask in public places or crowded areas. It is important to wear a mask or face covering that covers your nose, mouth and chin. While people in Asia have been wearing masks since the beginning of the global pandemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally confirmed yesterday that wearing a mask not only protects others from your expelled respiratory droplets, it protects you as well.
2. VITAMIN D: Researchers in Japan have found that besides getting the annual flu shot, vitamin D is also a potent flu-fighter. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing vitamin D3 supplements (1200 IU/day) with placebo in school-aged children, researchers found that the children receiving the sunshine vitamin had a 42% reduction in contracting influenza A compared to those not receiving it. The study also found that the group not getting the vitamin D had six times more asthma attacks. Another study found that among 800 military men in Finland, those with lower vitamin D levels took significantly more days from active duty to recover from upper respiratory infections than recruits with higher vitamin D levels (above 40nmol). As part of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic guidance, the Scottish government has recommended that people start getting a daily dose of vitamin D in April 2020. It turns out that people with a vitamin D deficiency who contracted COVID had a higher risk of health complications and death.
Vitamin D plays a very important role in supporting the immune system. “Vitamin D helps your body produce a protein called cathelicidin that fights bacteria and viruses,” says Carlos Camargo, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Other studies show that people with adequate levels of vitamin D are less likely to get the flu, and when they do, they tend to recover faster compared to those who are deficient. In Dr. Yik‘s practice, she finds many adults and children in Hong Kong who are deficient in vitamin D. Before you start taking vitamin D supplements though, get your level checked so you can supplement at the correct dosage. Too much vitamin D puts you at a higher risk for kidney stones.
3. Eat foods rich in probiotics. Up to 80% of our immune system lies in our gut, so it makes sense to boost immunity through the gut! Studies show that probiotic supplementation increases T-cell count, which makes you less vulnerable to infections. In a study involving 3- to 5-year-olds, daily probiotic supplementation for 6 months reduced fever, rhinorrhea, cough and antibiotic prescription incidence, as well as the number of missed school days attributable to illness. Different strains of probiotics treat different conditions, so it’s important to find the right type. A supplement with various probiotic strains including a high(er) amount of Lactobacillus rhamnosus is beneficial for boosting immunity.
4. Eat well balanced, wholesome meals. Make sure you’re eating adequate protein, good fats and a variety of vegetables and fruits. Include immune-boosting foods such as garlic, onions, ginger, shiitake/ maitake/ reishi mushrooms, green vegetables and berries in your diet. Vitamin C and zinc play important roles in immune defence, so remember to eat foods high in those nutrients.
5. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). This nutraceutical offers protection to cells as it supports the body’s antioxidant systems during infections and inflammatory conditions by raising the levels of glutathione, a potent antioxidant. Studies show that patients with low levels of glutathione have more severe COVID-19 infections compared to those with higher levels. We also know that in coughs and upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), NAC breaks bonds in the mucus, making it easier for your body to cough the mucus up.
Click here to read more on how to support your health during the global pandemic. Remember, we are all human, we are all vulnerable to illness and we are all in this together. Please do your part in social distancing and practising good hygiene. Stay safe and healthy during these turbulent times.