Why am I still unwell? Addressing the root causes of complex ailments

Have you struggled with an unresolved health issue for months or years? Do certain symptoms or ailments keep coming back (e.g. recurrent warts, cold sores i.e. fever blisters, ovarian cysts, PMS/ pre-menstrual symptoms, infections, eczema, diarrhea/ loose stool, etc.)?

If so, it’s time to take a deeper look at the various factors that contribute to both health and disease. Finding a licensed healthcare practitioner who is trained to find the root causes of complex illnesses is key. Functional medicine practitioners such as licensed naturopathic doctors have specialized training to investigate multiple factors that may be causing a certain condition. Considering things such as diet, genetics, environment, hormonal imbalance, psycho-emotional state, stress and other lifestyle components, they work holistically and consider the full picture of your physical, mental and emotional health. They understand that what happens in one part of the body may affect the entire being. This is why functional medicine practitioners often solve complex and multifaceted health issues. But even if you don’t have a severe illness, you can still seek the help of a functional medicine practitioner to help you stay healthy and prevent illness. Here are the top reasons why people see a functional medicine practitioner:

  1. You want to consider the full picture of your health (or disease). You want a trained healthcare practitioner to do a thorough investigation and treat the whole person, not just one aspect. You understand that you, as a being, are made up of different parts/components that are connected as a whole. Many people with “unexplained” conditions are disheartened when conventional lab tests come back “normal” and they are told that everything is OK. One example is unexplained fertility. If a successful pregnancy is only about an egg and sperm joining together, then IVF procedures should be 100% successful but in reality, IVF procedures are only 20% to 40% successful. Why is that? A fertilized egg is only one part of the whole picture. Click here to read about Dr. Yik’s natural fertility enhancement program.
  2. You have a chronic illness or an unresolved health issue. You want a trained healthcare practitioner to investigate the causes of chronic disease using a variety of techniques (e.g. comprehensive lab testing like DNA/ genetic tests, hormonal tests, nutrition status tests, heavy metal tests, GI-map test, etc.), and not just treat the symptoms. Click here to read the case of disappearing eyebrows. Click here to read the case of bleeding through the skin (pores). Click here if you experience bloating or excessive gas/ burping after meals.
  3. You want longer appointments with your doctor. Functional medicine practitioners spend more time with you because they want to know all the details of your health history. The more they know, the more likely they are able to put together the different pieces of your “disease” puzzle and solve it. Dr. Yik spends one hour with her patients in the initial consultation.
  4. You want a personalized approach to healthcare. Each person is unique, and the reasons you’re unwell are unique, too. Dr. Yik can help guide and figure out which specific treatments are right for you.
  5. You are open to alternative, integrative treatment. Treatments like nutraceuticals, herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, exercise and stress-reducing techniques may be prescribed to correct, rebalance and replenish your body.

Study: an optimistic partner is good for your health

If you’re in a relationship, your partner’s outlook can have a significant impact on how long and how well you live, according to a study by researchers at Michigan State University.

Optimism is typically defined as a general expectation that good things will happen, and being hopeful or confident about the future. Looking on the bright side is not only good for our own health and cognition, it’s good for our partners as well, says the study’s co-author, Dr. William Chopik.

The Journal of Personality study involved up to 8 years of data on more than 4,400 heterosexual couples and concluded “a potential link between being married to an optimistic person and preventing the onset of cognitive decline.”

“There’s a sense where optimists lead by example, and their partners follow their lead,” says Chopik. “We found that when you look at the risk factors for what predicts things like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a lot of them are things like living a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity are large predictors,” he says. “People who are married to optimists tend to score better on all of those metrics.” Optimistic people tend to eat healthier diets, maintain a healthier weight, be more physically active, earn more and get promoted more often. The findings are suggestive, not definitive, of course, and they don’t account for every situation or all people.

In another study, women who rate themselves as having the highest levels of optimism live 15% longer than the least optimistic women and have a 50% greater chance of reaching age 85. The most optimistic men live 11% longer and are 70% more likely to reach 85. The research, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed 69,744 women for 10 years and 1,429 men for 30 years. Both groups were surveyed at the outset to assess their level of optimism, as well as other factors that researchers accounted for, including demographics, health conditions, depression, and diet.

“Just like how optimistic partners can inspire us to be more active and healthy, pessimistic partners can shut down our efforts and undermine our goals to be healthy,” he says. “Being married to a pessimist isn’t great for helping us cope with stress either- optimism can help us overcome stress in positive ways. Pessimism causes us to ruminate on problems in unhealthy ways and blame ourselves unnecessarily.”

What if you’re single? Chopik says it may be wise to surround yourself with others who are optimistic, too. “Optimism and other positive traits can spill over or be absorbed by the people we’re close to,” including friends and family, he says. “Preliminary results suggest that that’s the case, so it’s not just a story of romantic couples — being repeatedly exposed to environments full of optimists can be beneficial as well.”

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SOURCES: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jopy.12529

https://elemental.medium.com/to-live-longer-love-an-optimist-bb80384f2688

https://elemental.medium.com/optimists-live-longer-e0607686d58b

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31409247/

Self-care tips for the new year

2021 is coming to an end. The COVID pandemic is still here; the Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire in many parts of the world. You may have suffered immeasurable loss this year, or faced numerous challenges. Or you may have enjoyed a very productive and successful year.

Regardless of how 2021 has been for you, Dr. Yik would like to remind you of the following self-care strategies. Self-care is more than just an afternoon at the spa. Self-care is about prioritizing your physical, mental and emotional needs.

Take care of your physical health. 

  1. Limit your caffeine intake. Not only can caffeine keep you up at night, but it can also make you more anxious or jittery. Some people may feel palpitations (heart beating/ pounding) or restless after consuming caffeine. These symptoms don’t help when you’re already dealing with stress. Try caffeine-free 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.  
  2. Limit your alcohol intake. Click here to read more.
  3. 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.  
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 

  1. Stay connected to others. Let out any frustrations you have to a trusted friend or counsellor. Staying connected and maintaining meaningful relationships can help us feel secure and supported, which in turn helps us stay positive and resilient in the face of challenges. Extra tip for parents: Be sensitive to your child and listen actively. Allow them to share their thoughts and fears without judgement. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Practise deep breathing. Be mindful of how you’re breathing throughout the day. 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.
  4. Avoid constant exposure to media. Constant news 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.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2022!

6 GODIVA ice cream products found with banned pesticide

Hong Kong authorities are urging the public not to consume 6 Godiva ice cream products imported from France after these products were found to contain a banned pesticide.

On December 9th, 2021, the Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said a stabilizer used in the six products was found with a pesticide, ethylene oxide, which is not authorized by the European Union.

The 6 products with the banned pesticide are:

1) Chocolate Cheesecake Flavoured Ice Cream
2) Milk Chocolate Frozen Confection with Dark Chocolate
3) Belgian Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
4) Vanilla Flavoured Cocoa Infused Ice Cream
5) Caramel Coffee Frozen Confection with Dark Chocolate Chips
6) Strawberry Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Chips

All of them have a volume of 100 milliliters, and are imported by Godiva Chocolatier (Asia) Limited.

Their best-before dates are:
1) October 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023
2) October 31, 2022, March 31, 2023 and April 30, 2023
3) October 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023 and April 30, 2023
4) October 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023
5) November 30, 2022 and March 31, 2023
6) October 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023

Consumers should not consume the affected batches of ice cream if they have bought any. The trade should also stop using or selling the products concerned immediately if they possess them. Members of the public may call the relevant importer at 3765 5818 during office hours for enquiries about the recall.

SOURCE: The Standard https://www.thestandard.com.hk/breaking-news/section/4/184249/Six-Godiva-ice-cream-products-found-with-banned-pesticide

Kids and teens: want to grow taller?

Many parents come into Dr. Yik‘s office asking what their child can do or eat to grow taller. What factors influence how tall your child will be?

Scientists estimate that about 80% of your height is determined by the DNA sequence variants you inherited from your parents. For most individuals, height is controlled largely by genes, with some contribution from environmental factors such as those below. If you are a child or teenager, here are some things you should pay attention to if you want to reach your maximum height:

  1. Nutrition and a balanced diet are key to children’s growth. Children and teenagers should eat appropriate amounts of protein (meat, fish, eggs, etc.), vegetables, grains, fruit, beans, milk and nuts/ seeds. Calcium, protein and zinc are important nutrients for height (linear) growth.
  2. Adequate sleep is needed for optimal growth and development. Growth hormones are only released when we are in deep sleep, and studies show that peak growth hormone secretion occurs between 10pm to 2am. Children should go to bed before this golden period to allow themselves enough time to enter into deep sleep. 1- to 2- year-olds are advised to sleep 11 to 14 hours; 10 to 13 hours of sleep for 3- to 5-year-olds; 9 to 11 hours for 6- to 13-year-olds; and 8 to 10 hours for 14- to 17-year-olds.
  3. Exercise, exercise, exercise! By stimulating growth hormone release, regular physical activity also plays a key role in childhood development and helping kids reach their maximum height. In particular, jumping/ skipping rope, basketball, swimming and cycling can help children and teens grow tall.

Dr. Yik can help you determine your nutrient status through various nutrition tests (new patients can request for the complimentary zinc tally test) and diet analysis. She knows which nutrients are key to optimizing growth and development. Click here to read how she can boost your child’s health.

SOURCE: https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/traits/height/

https://www.bdmswellness.com/health-guide/77/Sleep-is-the-key-to-good-health-and-wellness.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3194019/

The type of fat you eat (not how much) is linked to stroke risk

 

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

You may have heard that consuming too much fat can increase your risk for heart disease, but new research suggests that it’s the type of fat, not the amount, that may be the more important factor in determining stroke risk. 

The study found that eating more animal fat was linked to a higher risk of stroke, while consuming more plant-based fat was linked to a lower risk. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

“If everyone could make small modifications, such as reducing red and processed meat intake, the implication for public health will be huge,” said the study leader, Fenglei Wang, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. These findings which were presented Monday at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2021.

Here are some ways to reduce animal fats while increasing fats from vegetable sources:

  1. Try having avocado, nut butter or soaked chia seeds for breakfast instead of bacon, sausages or other processed meats.
  2. Consume more olives, nuts or nut butter (almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, etc.), seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, ground flax seeds), avocado, tahini/ sesame.
  3. Use olive oil instead of butter.
  4. Eat leaner cuts of beef and pork. Trim as much visible fat as possible before cooking.
  5. Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage, ham and other cold cuts.
  6. Replace fatty meat with deep-water fish, beans, lentils and nuts. It is important to note that in studies looking at plant-based diets, people on plant-based diets ate foods such as leafy greens, colourful vegetables, whole grains, beans/ legumes and nuts. Keep in mind that “meat substitutes/ plant-based meats” are processed and contain additives such as sodium, sugar and preservatives.

The key is to eat the right type of fat. But in addition to our dietary choices, it is important to remember that smoking, diabetes, obesity as well as the level of exercise also play a role in heart health. 

SOURCES:

https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=266824

Babies wanted: China’s desperate attempt to save declining birth rate

China announced earlier this year that married couples can have up to three children, after data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world’s most populous country of over 1.4 billion people.

Since then, 14 provinces have either amended local family planning rules or are seeking public opinion to make amendments to laws to confer extra maternity or paternity leave. Even a “child-raising leave” for couples with children aged 3 or below has been created in some provinces, state media reported on Wednesday.

The southern island province of Hainan is offering 1 hour of child-raising leave each day for parents with children under 3. The province of Heilongjiang even allows couples in border cities to have four children, due to the below-average birth rate in China’s remote northeastern region.

Shaanxi, a province in northwest China, is looking to increase the duration of paid maternity leave to nearly one full year, putting it on par with some developed nations in Europe, like Germany or Norway. The province is also considering doubling the length of paternity leave to 30 days for couples looking to have a third child.

In 2016, Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy and replaced it with a two-child limit to counter a rapidly aging population. But that failed to boost births, partly due to the relatively high cost of raising children in urban China, which is a challenge that still persists. China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with aging societies like Japan and Italy.

What is “long COVID”?

Most people who contract COVID-19 (aka SARS-CoV-2 infection) recover within 4 to 5 weeks. However, some individuals experience persistent or new COVID-19 symptoms for weeks and months after this initial phase of the infection. Referred to as “long COVID” or “post-COVID-19”, this post-infection condition affects around 37% of those who contract COVID-19. According to a recent Oxford study, this group of individuals report continued symptoms 3 to 6 months after the initial illness. Fatigue, pain and anxiety are among the most common symptoms, Oxford University said after investigating symptoms in over 270,000 people recovering from COVID-19. For some people, many parts of the body are affected in long COVID, including the heart, brain and the gut. Heart symptoms are commonly reported, such as palpitations or increased heartbeat, as well as pins and needles, numbness and “brain fog”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a clinical case definition of post-COVID-19:

“Post-COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.”

“Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction but also others, which generally have an impact on everyday functioning. Symptoms may be new onset, following initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode, or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may also fluctuate or relapse over time.” Anxiety, depression, pain, and changes in hearing, smell, and taste were among the other symptoms that the definition included.

In children, long COVID symptoms can include:

  • sore throat
  • joint pain
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • chest pain
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • nausea
  • mood swings
  • dizziness
  • rashes

SOURCES: https://globalnews.ca/news/8230037/long-term-symptom-covid-19-patients-study/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/who-issues-clinical-case-definition-of-long-covid#Limitations

https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/long-covid

High levels of chemicals found in (children’s and adult’s) clothing by fast-fashion retailers

A recent investigation conducted by Canada’s CBC Marketplace found that out of 38 samples of children’s, adult’s and maternity clothes and accessories, 1 in 5 items had elevated levels of chemicals that experts found concerning. The researchers warn that people buying from certain online retailers may be exposing themselves to potentially toxic chemicals, including lead, PFAS and phthalates. CBC Marketplace found garments containing elevated levels of chemicals from three fast-fashion retailers: Zaful, AliExpress and Shein.

For example, a jacket for toddlers, purchased online from Shein, was found to contain almost 20 times the amount of lead that Health Canada says is safe for children. A red purse, also purchased from Shein, had more than five times the threshold. A clear tote bag purchased from Zaful contained phthalates, which are considered endocrine disruptors (i.e. chemicals that can interfere with hormones). A raincoat purchased from AliExpress contained high levels of PFAS, which are also endocrine disruptors and considered “forever chemicals” because they aren’t flushed from the body and don’t break down in the environment. 

In response, Shein sent an emailed statement to CBC Marketplace saying it had removed the purse and jacket from its app, and that it would stop working with relevant suppliers until the issue was resolved. “We are committed to continuous improvement of our supply chain,” the company said.

Lead can cause damaging health effects to the brain, heart, kidneys and reproductive system. Children and pregnant people are more vulnerable, with infants and children being the most at risk.

SOURCE: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/marketplace-fast-fashion-chemicals-1.6193385

Hong Kong study: over 50% of body lotions for infants may trigger skin allergies or dermatitis

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.

Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

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.