Planning to have a baby soon? Dr. Ardyce Yik ND offers the following tips to help you get started on your pre-pregnancy journey.
Irregular periods or extremely painful periods? You need to ovulate to fall pregnant, and a regular menstrual cycle is an indication that you are ovulating when you’re supposed to. Excruciating pain during menstruation can be an indication of an inflammatory or underlying condition that can affect your fertility. If you have irregular periods or extremely painful periods, now is the time to seek medical attention. Do not wait for one year of trying to conceive before you seek help from a doctor.
Take a folic acid (folate) supplement or prenatal supplement at least one month prior to trying to conceive. Your body uses folic acid for DNA synthesis and repair. Folic acid is a vital nutrient for healthy growth and development, and it is especially important for pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, folic acid is crucial in the development of your baby’s nervous system and neural tube.
Consume less alcohol (or better yet, none at all), stop smoking, say no to recreational drugs. All these things can affect fertility including your egg quality and your partner’s sperm, not to mention increase the risk of birth defects, miscarriage and preterm labour.
Visit your doctor for a health-check. Your doctor will run blood tests, do a PAP smear, assess your weight, check for STDs, test for heart-health issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol, make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccinations, as well as monitor any chronic conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, or thyroid problems).
Overweight or underweight? Talk to your doctor if you are overweight or underweight, since either one can impede your ability to get pregnant.
Concerned about toxins and wondering if you should detox? Experts are now discovering the link between toxic chemicals and a variety of different illnesses and conditions including infertility. Chemicals found in the air, household cleaners, laundry detergents and pesticides can potentially be harmful to our bodies, and research shows that increased exposure to these toxins may be affecting your chances of becoming pregnant. Furthermore, many health conditions that are adversely affecting children today can be traced back to environmental toxin exposure, according to Dr. Aviva Romm, a board-certified family physician who specializes in women’s health and obstetrics- who spent twenty-five years as a midwife and had four children before getting her M.D. at Yale University (she is also an herbalist). Talk to your doctor about any health concerns you may have prior to trying to conceive.
Dr. Yik uses a whole-body, personalized approach to help you optimize your health and prepare for a smooth, healthy pregnancy. She developed and is in charge of the Natural Fertility Enhancement Program and the Prenatal Care Program at IMI clinic in Hong Kong. She offers heavy metal testing, blood lab tests, DNA/ genetic testing, detoxification protocols, tailored pre-pregnancy/ prenatal programs and over 15 years of expertise to help you prepare your body to carry a healthy baby to term.
Jorge E. Chavarro, Janet W. Rich-Edwards, Bernard A. Rosner, and Walter C. Willett. Diet and Lifestyle in the Prevention of Ovulatory Disorder Infertility. Obstetrics & Gynecology (2007) Vol. 110, No. 5
Toft G, Hagmar L, Giwercman A, Bonde JP. Epidemiological evidence on reproductive effects of persistent organochlorines in humans. Reprod Toxicol (2004) 19:5–26.
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said that two kinds of ice cream from Haagen-Dazs were found in Taiwan with ethylene oxide, a pesticide that is not authorized by the European Union.
The affected batches are “Vanilla Ice Cream Pint” (473 millilitres) with the best-before date of April 13, 2023; and the “Vanilla Ice Cream Bulk” (9.46 litres) with the best-before date of October 26, 2022.
Initial investigation showed that the above-mentioned batches of products had been imported to Hong Kong. The importer has stopped sales and removed the affected batches of the products from shelves upon CFS’s instructions and has initiated a recall.
The spokesman urged the public not to consume affected batches of the products. The trade should also stop using or selling those concerning batches of products.
Hong Kong Consumer Council looked into 28 samples of prepackaged white and wheat bread on the market and found that eating two slices of bread could mean a sodium intake of over 20 percent of the daily limit recommended by the World Health Organization.
An over-consumption of sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, Consumer Council’s chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-Han warned. The Centre for Food Safety set voluntary reduction goals for white bread and wheat bread in 2019 at 490mg and 470mg of sodium for 100g of bread respectively.
White bread from SimplyLife had the highest sodium level at 567mg sodium per 100g. And wheat bread from Saint Honore contained 503mg of sodium per 100g of bread.
White bread from 759 Bakery had the lowest level of sodium in the latest check, with 298mg of sodium in every 100g, while wheat bread from Costini had the lowest sodium content at 208mg in every 100g.
The latest test results confirmed that wheat bread has higher dietary fiber and mineral contents than white bread.
On another front, it was found that healthy meal plans that cost up to HK$14,000 on monthly subscriptions for three meals have inconsistent counts of calories, carbohydrates and protein compositions.
“Based on the test results the biggest risk is the discrepancy between the claimed nutritional value and the actual value that came from the tests,” Wong said.
Out of nine meals prepared by different service providers, eight had at least one nutrient that did not comply with the amount claimed on labels. The watchdog said this might mislead consumers, interfere with health plans and even incur health risks.
International Men’s Health Week 2022 runs from tomorrow to Sunday (Father’s Day). Many men may have health concerns but few seek the support that they need. Did you know that men are about twice as likely as women to have a heart attack? Men’s health matters, too! Here are a few tips to stay healthy:
What’s your blood pressure? Knowing your blood pressure and keeping it in the healthy range are key to staying healthy. High blood pressure, i.e. hypertension, is often called the “silent killer” and can cause damage in the arteries, heart, kidneys, eyes and brain. The ideal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80. Slightly high blood pressure? Exercising more and cutting back on alcohol can have an immediate beneficial effect.
Cut back on sodium in your diet. The American Heart Association recommends that the adequateintake of sodium for healthy, young men is 1.5 grams per day, but usually men take more than twice that amount per day. Most of this comes from eating fast foods, processed meats, canned or pre-packaged foods and restaurant food. Try to avoid these types of foods and focus on fresh, whole foods. Men who consume as much potassium as sodium have lower risks of heart disease, so add more high potassium foods like bananas, tomatoes and spinach into your diet.
Eat your vegetables and fruit! It turns out that eating 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day is good, but having 10 a day is better. Time and time again, studies show that eating vegetables and fruit helps the chance of heart attack, stroke, cancer and early death.
Go nuts! People who eat around a handful of nuts (approximately 20g) on a daily basis have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as respiratory conditions, diabetes and infections. Munching on nuts reduced the risk of heart disease by nearly 30%, the risk of cancer by 15%, and the risk of premature death by 22%. Researchers at the Imperial College of London found that most of the reduction in risk was associated with an intake of approximately 15 to 20 grams per day, and no further reduction was noticed if the intake was increased. Click here to read more.
Stay active. Head outside to play a sport with friends, swim some laps or take a long walk to listen to that podcast you downloaded. Create your own workout routine and make an effort to keep it. Exercise has numerous benefits for your physical, mental and emotional health.
Get checked for colorectal cancer. If you are age 50 or older, it is time to get screened for colorectal cancer (get checked sooner if you have a family history of colorectal cancer). Of the various cancer screenings available to men, this one is the best deal because it can prevent, not just diagnose, cancer. A colonoscopy can find and remove precancerous colon polyps.
Eating disorders are characterized by persistent, altered eating behaviours that negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health. They can significantly impact your body’s ability to get appropriate nutrition and lead to complications or other diseases. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
Eating disorders often develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages. With treatment, you can return to healthier eating habits and sometimes reverse serious complications caused by the eating disorder.
RED FLAGS THAT MAY INDICATE AN EATING DISORDER
If you think you may be struggling with an eating disorder, or if you suspect a loved one is, look out for the following signs:
Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
Excessive focus on healthy eating
Persistent worry or complaining about being fat and talk of losing weight
Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
Making own meals rather than eating what the family eats
Withdrawing from normal social activities
Use of dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss
Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting
Problems with loss of tooth enamel (may be a sign of repeated vomiting)
Absence during meals (e.g. to use the washroom)
Eating much more food in a meal or snack than normal
Expressing depression, shame or guilt about eating habits
Eating in secret
WHAT YOU CAN DO (the last 3 tips are more for parents)
Consult a doctor or psychologist. Discuss your concerns with a trusted practitioner. Often times, a team of healthcare practitioners (a psychologist, family doctor or paediatrician, dentist, dietitian/ ND, etc.) is needed for support.
Check for nutritional deficiencies. Testing for nutrient deficiencies is often helpful to prevent or correct certain conditions caused by the eating disorder. For example, Dr. Yik finds that many patients with eating disorders have a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is an important nutrient not only for calcium absorption and healthy bones but also for mental and emotional health. If you are deficient, supplementation can help prevent or correct bone loss, osteoporosis and depression. Vitamin B12 deficiency is another common finding among patients with eating disorders, possibly because this vitamin is only found in foods of animal origin. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to a loss of appetite, anxiety, depression and painful paresthesia (a burning or prickling sensation usually felt in the hands/feet but can be in any other part of the body). Dr. Yik also often tests for zinc, selenium and electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and chloride.
Avoid dieting around your child. Family dining habits may influence the relationships children develop with food. Eating meals together gives you an opportunity to teach your child to eat a balanced, healthful diet in reasonable portions.
Talk to your child. Correct any misperceptions that may be found on the internet or social media. Keep the communication lines open and talk to your child about the risks of unhealthy eating choices.
Reinforce a healthy body image in your child. Talk to your child about self-image and reassure them that body shapes can vary. Avoid criticizing your own body in front of your child. Messages of acceptance and respect can help build healthy self-esteem and resilience.
If you know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, be patient and let them know that you are there to support them. Remember to give them space to talk about how they’re feeling and what’s going on for them without judgment.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, know that you are not alone. Reach out to someone you trust who can help you on the road to recovery.
Exhaustion/ fatigue, sleep or stress issues, decreased libido/ sex drive
Poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), ovarian cysts, breast cysts, breast fibroadenoma
Irregular periods, peri-menopause
Acne associated with the menstrual cycle
Painful periods, endometriosis
PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) with symptoms such as (but not limited to) bloating, breast distension, weight gain, acne, moodiness, anxiety, depressed mood, food cravings, headaches/ migraines, etc.
If you have any of the above, it may be prudent to get tested for hormonal imbalances. While hormone blood tests are a useful tool and most often recommended, sometimes they don’t give us adequate information about what is happening inside the body. Blood and saliva hormone tests do not measure cortisol rhythms, the different levels of estrogen (in relation to progesterone and testosterone) and how estrogen is metabolised. In cases involving the reproductive system, understanding estrogen metabolism is important so we know how the body is clearing estrogens. If you don’t metabolise estrogen well, you may be at risk for estrogen dominance, as well as risks of hormone-related cancers such as breast, cervical and uterine cancers.
DUTCH TEST- Comprehensive Hormone Testing
The DUTCH test stands for Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones and involves collection of a small amount of urine on filtered paper four times a day. The DUTCH TEST measures a variety of hormone metabolites from the dried urine samples. The hormones measured in the test include:
What makes the DUTCH test better than blood or saliva tests is the comprehensive information. It gives you a clearer picture as it tells you not only the hormone levels that affect the menstrual cycle and overall wellbeing but also how your body is clearing the hormones. Furthermore, the DUTCH test includes the adrenal hormones, which provides specific information about how to support stress and sleep issues by specifically looking at the the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) adrenal-brain communication.
Dr. Yik sees many women in clinic who experience hormonal issues and are stressed or exhausted. She recommends the DUTCH test in cases where hormonal imbalance is suspected.
Do you struggle with unwanted belly fat? Not getting enough sleep may be the culprit, a recent study suggests. Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the study found that insufficient sleep increases calorie consumption and fat accumulation, leading to unhealthy fat deposition inside the belly. In the study, getting 4 hours of sleep per night led to a 9% increase in total abdominal fat area and an 11% increase in abdominal visceral fat. This type of fat is deposited deep inside the abdomen around internal organs and is linked to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
“Our findings show that shortened sleep- even in young, healthy and relatively lean subjects- is associated with an increase in calorie intake, a very small increase in weight, and a significant increase in fat accumulation inside the belly,” says Dr. Virend Somers, the study’s principal investigator. “Normally, fat is deposited under the skin, but inadequate sleep appears to redirect fat to the more dangerous visceral compartment. Importantly, although during recovery sleep there was a decrease in calorie intake and weight, visceral fat continued to increase. This suggests that inadequate sleep is a previously unrecognised trigger for visceral fat deposition, and that catch-up sleep, at least in the short term, does not reverse the visceral fat accumulation.”
Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Click here to learn about possible causes of insomnia and simple ways to promote better sleep.
Sleeping your 8 hours a night and living an active, healthy lifestyle- but still struggling to lose weight? Click here to learn about 5 hidden causes that may be preventing you from losing weight.
The 2022 Dirty Dozen™ List is out! Here are the foods that contain the most pesticide residues:
Kale, collard & mustard greens
Bell and hot peppers
The list is released each year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization which uses more than 40,000 produce samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization which uses more than 40,000 produce samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
If your favourite fruit or vegetable is on the list, consider buying organic. Several peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials have shown that switching to an organic diet can decrease concentrations and measurements of pesticides in the body.
WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT PESTICIDES?
Childhood cancer, brain disorders such as ADHD/ autism/ dyslexia and infertility have all been linked to pesticide exposure. The pesticide industry and chemical agriculture insist that pesticides on produce are nothing to worry about, but doctors and scientists strongly disagree.
Dr. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard and lead author of a 2014 study linking synthetic chemicals to brain disorders, is concerned because even ordinary (undiagnosed) children are often affected. In the study, he found that certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays. “The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis… They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.”
“Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to infants, babies and young children, so when possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children’s exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Brain shrinkage and cognitive decline in Covid patients
An Oxford University study published in the journal Nature yesterday (March 7th) found that COVID-19 can cause the brain to shrink, reduce grey matter in the regions that control emotion and memory as well as damage areas that control the sense of smell. These brain changes, detected months after infection, included shrinkage in size equivalent to as much as 10 years of normal aging.
“There is strong evidence for brain-related abnormalities in COVID-19,” the researchers concluded in their study. Even in mild cases, participants in the research showed “a worsening of executive function” responsible for focus and organising. The study investigated brain changes in 785 UK Biobank participants aged 51 to 81 who were imaged twice. 401 cases tested positive for infection with SARS-CoV-2 between their two scans, with 141 days on average separating their diagnosis and second scan. There were 384 controls. The brain imaging not only showed a shrinkage in brain size in infected participants, but the infected participants also showed larger cognitive decline. On average, brain sizes shrank between 0.2% and 2%. A 2% reduction represents around 10 years of aging.
What researchers have discovered about Long Covid
On a separate note, dozens of studies on Long Covid have been published in recent months. In Long Covid patients, researchers have found evidence of sustained inflammation and activation of the immune response months after initial infection. Research to be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in April 2022 suggests that damage to the vagus nerve (which extends from the brain down the torso and is responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate, as well as vasomotor activity, and certain reflex actions, such as coughing, sneezing, swallowing, and vomiting) is behind many Long Covid symptoms. After studying almost 350 patients with Long Covid, the researchers found that 66% had symptoms indicative of vagus nerve damage, including abnormal heart rate, dizziness, and gastrointestinal problems.
Other studies argue that tiny “microclots” in the blood may cause many Long Covid symptoms by preventing oxygen from reaching the body’s tissues. Intolerance to exercise, experienced by Long Covid sufferers, may be related to poor oxygen delivery.
Other researchers believe that remnants of the COVID-19 virus may linger in the body, potentially causing lasting symptoms. It is also possible that, for some people, COVID-19 pushes the immune system into a hyperactive state, essentially causing it to attack itself.
Researchers have, so far, found 4 key risk factors associated with developing Long Covid:
a type 2 diabetes diagnosis
genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the blood
evidence of Epstein-Barr virus in the blood
the presence of autoantibodies- molecules that attack the body’s own tissues, instead of foreign pathogens like a virus
Experts now believe Long Covid is part of a much wider network of chronic diseases. It seems to overlap significantly with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a condition that can manifest after viral illnesses and leads to debilitating exhaustion. Some experts believe that some people with Long Covid meet the diagnostic criteria of ME/ CFS.
Is there anything we can do to prevent severe infection or Long Covid?
Gut health is key. More than two thirds of immune cells in the human body reside in our gut. Our gut microbiome directly impacts our immune system. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) found that that certain strains of bacteria (including Bifidobacterium adolescentis) were missing in the intestines of patients with Long Covid. CUHK has since developed a special microbiome immunity formula including those strains. A clinical study by CUHK showed that COVID-19 patients who received the microbiome immunity formula had complete symptom resolution, reduced proinflammatory markers, increased favorable gut bacteria and neutralizing antibody compared with subjects who did not take the formula.
Protect your lungs and brain. Studies show that NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine) can boost the immune system, break up mucus (so the body can cough it up easily) and reduce inflammation. Safe and well tolerated, NAC is a precursor to glutathione and regulates glutamate levels in the brain. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce brain cell oxidative damage, while the neurotransmitter glutamate is involved in a broad range of learning, behavior and memory functions. Serious COVID-19 patients have increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals, often presenting with glutathione depletion, which can prompt a cytokine storm. Studies in 2020 and 2021 found that NAC is a promising molecule that can help prevent severe COVID-19 infections as well as protect the lungs and brain. There are several ongoing clinical trials in progress determining the potential use of NAC in treating COVID-19 infections. The FDA is currently looking to ban the sale of NAC as a dietary supplement (and potentially sell it as a drug).
Prevent unnecessary inflammation/ Promote optimal inflammation response. An overexuberant immune response to COVID-19 can cause excessive inflammation in the lungs and other parts of the body. MIS (Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome) is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition associated with COVID in which various body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and/or gastrointestinal organs. MIS can affect children (MIS-C) and adults (MIS-A). Research has found that inflammation and cell damage can reach even the testicles in men. Long Covid patients are found to have sustained inflammation and activation of the immune response for at least 8 months after initial infection. If you suffer from Long Covid or dysregulated inflammation, talk to your healthcare practitioner on ways to lower unwanted inflammation naturally and to promote an optimal inflammation response.
“It’s the terrain!” Researchers have discovered that people with certain pre-existing conditions have a higher risk of developing Long Covid. How healthy our body (“terrain”) is will determine how well it will fight off Covid- and the next pathogen. Click here to read more on how to support your immune system. As part of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic guidance, the Scottish government has recommended that people start getting a daily dose of vitamin D. Click here to read the role of vitamin D in immune function.
To those in Hong Kong, stay safe and take care. We will get through this together.
No, cigar smoking isn’t safer than cigarette smoking- even if you don’t intentionally inhale the smoke. Cigars, like cigarettes, contain nicotine, the substance that can lead to tobacco dependence. Historically, cigar smoking has been a behaviour of older men, but the industry’s increased marketing of these products as symbols of a luxurious and successful lifestyle has increased the prevalence of cigar use, even among adolescents recently. Let’s take a closer look at cigars and how they affect your health.
A single full-size cigar can contain nearly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. A typical cigarette contains one to two milligrams of nicotine while a cigar contains 100 to 200 milligrams. Nicotine produces pleasing effects in your brain, but these effects are temporary. So you reach for another cigarette or cigar in order to get the same feeling, and soon, the craving or “need” for it will make smoking habitual.
Nicotine dependence/ addiction. Nicotine, found in tobacco products such as cigars and cigarettes, is a dangerous and highly addictive chemical. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. Nicotine dependence occurs when you need nicotine and can’t stop using it.
Heart Disease. Cigar smoking can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and a narrowing of the arteries. Nicotine can also contribute to the hardening of the arterial walls, which in turn, may lead to a heart attack.
Cancer. All tobacco smoke contains chemicals that can cause cancer, and cigar smoke is no exception. Cigar smoking can cause cancers of the lung, oral cavity, larynx and esophagus.
Lung Damage. Nicotine triggers an increase in free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) which causes oxidative stress and inflammation as well as damage to cell membranes and DNA. The more cigars you smoke or the deeper you inhale, the higher your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Oral disease. Cigar smoking has been linked to oral and dental disease, such as gum disease and tooth loss. Even if you don’t intentionally inhale, large amounts of nicotine can be absorbed through the lining of your mouth.
Secondhand smoke from cigars contains the same toxic chemicals that secondhand cigarette smoke does. This type of smoke increases the risk and severity of childhood asthma, ear infections, and upper and lower respiratory infections in children. It can also cause or contribute to lung cancer.
The American Cancer Society states that “there is no safe form of tobacco. Staying tobacco free is the best way to protect your health.” Smoking is the one of the most preventable causes of death. Instead of trying to choose between cigarette smoking and cigar smoking, try to quit tobacco entirely.