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.
Have you ever wondered why some people bounce back from setbacks and challenges more easily than others? Or how some people can create and maintain meaningful friendships for life while others struggle in relationships?
Emotional intelligence or emotional literacy refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as to read and respond to the emotions of others. Being able to sense and understand the emotions of others is a big part of a child’s social development and social success. Your child can respond appropriately to others when they can read the emotional cues to get a sense of how other children are responding to their attempts to connect with them. This is key to creating and maintaining friendships and meaningful relationships.
There are different components of emotional intelligence:
Emotional awareness: the ability to recognise and identify one’s own emotions and moods, and how one’s emotions can affect others.
Empathy: the ability to understand the emotions or moods of others and the skill to treat people according to their emotional reactions.
Self-regulation: the ability to manage emotions, to redirect disruptive impulses. Click here for tips on how to help your child develop self-regulation.
Internal motivation: a strong drive to achieve, an inner drive that goes beyond external rewards such as money or status, being optimistic even in the face of failure.
Social skills: the ability to manage relationships, build networks and build rapport.
Four Ways to Build Your Kids’ Emotional Intelligence
Name the feeling or emotion. When your child is young, make a list of feelings or emotions with them. Brainstorm all the feelings you can think of. Until someone has the vocabulary associated with emotions and feelings, they will not be able to explain how they feel or identify how others are feeling. Furthermore, researchers have found that labelling the emotion (e.g. I am angry) deactivates or calms the negative intensity in the brain and can help reduce the physiological manifestation of this emotion.
Link physical symptoms to the emotion. Help children recognize how different emotions can manifest or present in their bodies. Do your shoulders feel tight when you are stressed? Do you feel “butterflies in the stomach” or a bit queasy when you are anxious? When children notice these physical representations of emotions, they will begin to recognize when they are starting to feel something. They can then find ways to regulate their emotion, as needed.
Find appropriate ways to manage the emotion. When your child is able to recognize, name and understand the source of a feeling or emotion, the next step is helping them regulate or manage the emotion. Everyone is different. Some may focus on taking a few deep breaths. Some may need to physically release tension (e.g. doing jumping jacks). Others may retreat to a quiet corner with their favourite toy or book. Others may prefer talking it through with you (see #4).
Relate to your child. Wait for your child to calm down and when they are able to listen, empathise with them. Talk to them about a time you felt the same way and what happened. This will help them to understand their own feelings and show that you understand and care about them.
World Mental Health Day 2020 was a few days ago, on October 10th. The challenges we faced this year were unprecedented in the wake of a global pandemic, but by helping children build emotional literacy, we can help them overcome struggles, build resilience and enjoy meaningful relationships for life.
Everyone knows the health benefits of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that promotes good health. Many people ensure adequate probiotic intake either through probiotic foods or through supplementation. But how can we help our friendly bacteria flourish in our gut? It turns out that eating the right foods can feed the good bacteria in our gut and help them flourish.
Not many people are familiar with prebiotics, a type of fiber or natural sugar that the human body cannot digest. Prebiotics serve as food for probiotics, stimulating their growth in the gut. Prebiotics also help to increase calcium and magnesium absorption for stronger bones, reduce blood triglyceride levels and support weight/ appetite management.
Hong Kong’s Consumer Council revealed yesterday that eating too many chips and French fries may carry hidden health risks.
The watchdog’s study tested 39 samples of pre-packaged and freshly fried potato snacks from restaurants and found that 30% of the
39 samples contained levels of a cancer-causing agent called acrylamide which exceeded EU standards. Out of 77 samples of crispy snacks that were also tested in Hong Kong, 70 were found to contain acrylamide.
Among the brands tested, Japanese brand Topvalu’s Best Price Potato Chips Salt Flavour was found to have 2,614 micrograms of acrylamide per kg. This is nearly 3.5 times the EU standard of 750mcg/kg.
French fries from fast-food chain Five Guys, waffle fries from Ikea and Spaghetti House’s hash browns were among those found to have exceedingly high levels of acrylamide. In a response to the council, Five Guys said it would reduce acrylamide in its products by monitoring the quality of potatoes and create guidelines for changing cooking oils.
Currently, Hong Kong has no safety standards regarding the level of acrylamide in food. In the EU, food business operators are required to limit the amount of the substance during production.
So, what about the healthier chip alternatives? Commercially sold prawn, corn and quinoa chips typically contain less acrylamide and fat, but they are high in sodium.
Try some healthier snacks below.
HEALTHY SNACK ALTERNATIVES
Do you like crispy or crunchy foods? Try making sweet potato/ yam or lotus root chips. Slice the raw vegetable, soak the slices in water for 15 to 30 minutes before baking or air-frying them until crisp. Soaking them first in water can reduce acrylamide formation while cooking.
Enjoy a handful of nuts. Researchers at the Imperial College of London and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that people who eat 20g (around a handful) of nuts on a daily basis have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as respiratory conditions, diabetes and infections. Click here to read more about the benefits of nuts.
Fruits are a healthy, refreshing snack. Berries, papaya, avocado, pomegranate and seasonal fruits are great choices. Apple slices with nut butter are also healthy and satisfying.
Chia seed pudding made with almond milk and topped with berries and pumpkin seeds makes a nutritious and delicious snack.
Try baby carrots or celery sticks with hummus or tahini.
Frequent handwashing and alcohol-based hand sanitizer gels can often lead to dry, cracked skin. When we wash our hands, the suds created by soap remove not only dirt and germs but also the natural, protective oils from our skin. This leads to dryness, flaking, irritation and in severe cases, cracks in the skin which can increase your risk of contracting infections.
How to care for dry hands:
Use lukewarm (not hot) water to wash your hands.
After washing your hands, gently pat your hands dry instead of rubbing them.
Remember to moisturize your hands with hand creams or ointments after washing your hands. These are more nourishing than lotions.
Choose hands soaps that contain natural plant oils like coconut oil, jojoba, shea butter and/ or glycerin- without the added fragrances, synthetic colours or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
Hand sanitizers with a moisturizing base are less harsh on the skin, but know that they will not be as effective in killing germs.
Apply thick “recovery” hand creams or balms before going to bed. Cover your
hands with gloves overnight for better absorption while you sleep.