Where do warts come from?

If you’ve ever had warts before, you know that the good thing is they go away on their own, more often than not, after a while. But the question is, where do they come from in the first place?

Warts are viral infections caused by over 100 different strains of the human papillovirus (HPV). HPV is everywhere and can spread from person to person by direct contact. It usually enters the skin through a cut or scratch, then incubates for a few months before developing a wart in that area. If you pick at the wart and then touch broken skin elsewhere on your body, the virus may be transferred to the new site. That’s how you get multiple warts.

Warts usually appear as greyish, cauliflower-like growths. Or, they can be as tiny as a pinhead or slightly larger. Common warts show up just about anywhere, particularly on the hands and feet. Plantar warts grow inward on the soles of the feet and often cause pain on pressure. Flat warts are often found on the arms or face. Genital warts can appear in tiny clusters or spread into a large area in the genital or anal area. “High-risk” HPV strains cause cervical cancer, penile cancer, vulvar cancer and anal cancer. HPV is among the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection or disease. In women, we know that persistent HPV infections (commonly HPV types 16 and 18) are responsible for causing changes in the cervix which often leads to cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer.

There is currently no “cure” for HPV, but if your immune system is working properly, the warts often go away on their own. There are treatments available for visible warts, including liquid nitrogen cryosurgery and gels/ creams containing podophyllotoxin (found naturally in a medicinal herb called Podophyllum peltatum). Two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, are available as a prevention against infections from a few “high-risk” HPV strains that cause cervical/ genital cancers and genital warts. These are targeted at young women and men before they become sexually active. All sexually-active women should get a PAP smear done annually to detect for any abnormal changes in the cervix.

Help me sleep, please!

Some people fall asleep the minute their head hits the pillow at night. For others, it’s not that easy. Insomnia affects everyone once in a while, but if you persistently can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, you should address it before it affects your health and mental/ functional capacity during the day. Instead of relying on sleeping pills or sedatives that often come with side effects (dependence being a major one), why not try some natural ways to cure insomnia?

  1. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Establishing a regular routine will help your body learn when to wind down in the evening to prepare for sleep. Our bodies run on a 24-hour cycle called the circadian rhythm, and going to bed and getting up at the same time every day will help to establish a proper sleep-wake cycle. 
  2. Limit your drinks and foods before bedtime. Are you constantly getting up for bathroom breaks at night? Have your last beverage 1-2 hours before bedtime. Are you consuming caffeinated beverages or foods such as coffee, caffeinated tea, chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, etc. too close to bedtime? These may be keeping you awake at night.
  3. Is it your medication? Check your medications to make sure that they don’t cause insomnia.
  4. Tension-reducing techniques. While you lie in bed, take a few deep breaths using your nostrils. Exhale slowly and fully before taking the next deep breath. Another stress-reducing technique: clench your fists for 3 seconds, then slowly release them. Gently shake loose your hands. Repeat these steps several times while relaxing your mind.
  5. Soak your feet in warm water for 10-15 minutes before bedtime. You can also add a few drops of lavender essential oil into the water for an added relaxation boost.
  6. Prayer, meditation and relaxing music can also help you wind down.
  7. Address the underlying cause. Are you worried or anxious about something in particular? Is there something that’s bothering you of which you can’t keep your mind off? If the situation can be resolved, try to resolve it sooner rather than later. If it’s something you cannot control or change, then find ways to accept or deal with it.
  8. Try natural medicines that work gently and aren’t addictive. A licensed naturopathic doctor, herbalist or homeopathic doctor would be able to prescribe appropriate natural remedies safely and effectively.    

What’s making you fat- without you even knowing it

Earlier this year, the U.S. White House announced that it was targeting a new threat to America’s health and security- a class of chemicals that are making us fat. These chemicals are called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). And chances are, you’re eating or drinking them right now.

Scientists have coined these chemicals “obesogens”, because they may promote weight gain and obesity. “Obesogens are thought to act by hijacking the regulatory systems that control body weight,” says Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., curators’ professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri. They’re natural and synthetic compounds which mimic estrogen and they’re found in our food and water. And that’s why even the best diet advice doesn’t always work, because merely following a “eat-smart-exercise-more” plan won’t lower your obesogen exposure. Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” may have worked 250 years ago. But if that apple comes loaded with obesity-promoting chemicals- nine of the ten commonly used pesticides are obesogens and we know apples are one of the most pesticide-laden foods- then this advice is way out of date.

What can we do to reduce obesogen exposure?

  1. Know when to go organic. Some foods have very high levels of pesticides- celery, apples, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, sweet bell peppers, kale, cherries, potatoes and grapes- so try to buy organic for these foods. To save money, you may choose to go non-organic for other foods which have low pesticide residue. These include onions, avocados, sweet potatoes, cabbage and kiwi fruit.
  2. Don’t heat your foods in plastic. The synthetic chemicals found in plastics are hormone disruptors. Not only do they promote fat storage in the body but they also increase the risk of early puberty and hormone-related ailments such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.
  3. Filter your water. A reverse osmosis or activated carbon water filter removes most pesticides, impurities, and industrial pollutants.
  4. Watch what you eat. Many endocrine-disrupting chemicals are found in fatty foods of animal origin as well as seafood. DDT is a hazardous toxin which the U.S. banned in 1972, yet traces of DDT are still found in Americans. According to the Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong, the levels of DDT in breastmilk in Hong Kong mothers are significantly higher than those in Australia, Canada, U.K., U.S. and Japan. The Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong advises avoiding excessive exposure to DDT from fatty foods of animal origin and consuming seafood in moderation, as these are the main dietary sources of DDT.
  5. Enrol in a detox or weight loss program that supports your body holistically. Don’t waste your money on programs or products that merely address symptoms and not the cause. If you need guidance in navigating your health goals, find a healthcare practitioner who is up to date with current health news and research, one who uses a holistic approach in caring for your health.

SOURCE: The New American Diet: How secret “obesogens” are making us fat, and the 6-week that will flatten your belly for good! (Authors: Stephen Perrine with Heather Hurlock)

Pollution. In you.

Today, we are constantly bombarded by chemicals and toxins in our everyday environment. Chemicals found in the air, water, household cleaners, laundry detergents, cookware, cosmetics and pesticides-all are potentially harmful to our bodies.

What do toxins do in our bodies?

  1. Carcinogenic chemicals: cause or aggravate cancer
  2. Hormone-disrupting chemicals: mimic, block or interfere with hormones that regulate fertility and the thyroid. These can lead to reproductive defects, reduced fertility, as well as neurological, behavioural and developmental problems.
  3. Respiratory toxins: affect the breathing system. Can cause respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, cancer, and general breathing problems.
  4. Neurotoxic chemicals: cause damage to the brain and lead to developmental/ behavioural disabilities, particularly in children because their brains are still developing.
  5. Reproductive toxins: can affect reproductive ability and sexual function.

Mercury toxicity

In Hong Kong, mercury toxicity is a hot topic. Mercury is accumulated mainly from seafood sources, amalgam (silver) fillings and fumes from coal-fired power stations. In the human body, mercury is a poison. We can tolerate a certain level daily because we excrete and detoxify it by the liver and kidneys to some extent. However, there is a tendency for mercury to accumulate in fatty tissues. In the United States, the FDA has cautioned pregnant women, lactating women and those of child-bearing age not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish. All of these are contaminated with methyl mercury, the most dangerous form of mercury, which can cause birth defects and infertility. There is emerging evidence supporting the theory that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are linked to exposure of mercury during critical developmental periods.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of chronic low-level exposure to mercury (the type associated with contaminated seafood) include:

  • Poor concentration, senile dementia
  • Abnormal state of emotional instability, irritability
  • Prolonged unexplained fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Frequent unexplained headaches or migraines
  • Allergies, food sensitivities
  • Neuro-psychiatric disturbances, such as anxiety and depression
  • Tingling or prickling of the skin
  • Increased risk of Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease
  • Developmental delays in infants and children
  • Frequent sore throats, tonsillitis, fungal or yeast infections
  • Decreased immunity
  • Muscular weakness, tremors, paralysis
  • Thyroid imbalance

So What Can You Do?

The first step is to assess for heavy metal toxicity in your system. Blood testing is only effective if the toxic exposure is very recent. For chronic long-term heavy metal exposure, a hair mineral analysis or urine assessment test is recommended. If there are high levels of heavy metals in the body, you need to identify the sources of contamination and to remove them, if possible. Embarking on a detoxification/ chelation program to specifically remove the heavy metals from your body would be the next step. Click here to find out how Dr. Yik can help you.

Post-acne blemish: Why Asians are more prone

Okay, so the majority of us will get acne- from a pimple or two to full-blown-in-your-face lesions- at some point in our lives.  Acne is one of the most common skin conditions that affects Asians, but ever wonder why many Asians get dark or pigmented spots where the blemishes used to be- long AFTER the acne is treated?  

Asian skin, by its very nature, has a higher amount of melanin, the protein in the skin that gives the skin its colour. The cells that make melanin tend to be more sensitive to any type of inflammation or injury. As a result, Asian skin becomes more inflamed with deeper acne pustules and papules, and excess melanin darkens and discolours the wounded area. This increased pigmentation (dark spots) at the sites of inflammation is referred to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (P.I.H.).

The natural approach to acne and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

If you’re concerned about the side effects of long-term antibiotics, hydroquinone, tretinoin and other pharmaceuticals, why not use the natural approach?

  1. Treat the cause. Is it a hormonal imbalance? Why is there inflammation in the first place? Is the acne merely a symptom of a health condition (e.g. polycystic ovarian syndrome)? Find a healthcare practitioner who will address the reasons behind the blemishes- and especially for you Asians out there, to reduce inflammation as much as possible.
  2. Your diet matters. For years, the common belief was that diet had absolutely no effect on acne. Turns out, it may be wrong. A study completed by the Australia’s RMIT University and Royal Melbourne Hospital Department of Dermatology is being hailed as a “solid link” between diet and acne development. Researchers found that foods with a high glycemic index (causing glucose and insulin levels to spike) affect the development and severity of acne. On the other hand, a diet high in protein and carbohydrates with a low glycemic index improve acne breakouts (50% reduction of acne). The results of the study were presented at the 15th Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology and have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (July 2007 issue) as well as the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (August 2007 issue).
  3. Eliminate toxic overload.  Acne is often a sign of toxic overload. From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, acne is often caused by “damp heat” in the system. Find a healthcare practitioner who will help you remove excess toxins and ensure that your detoxification processes are optimal.  

Will you be breastfeeding?

August 1st to 7th marks World Breastfeeding Week, and a 10-step checklist has been sent to hospitals in over 150 countries to ensure adequate maternity support for breastfeeding.

Nowadays, when I ask my patients during their antenatal consultation whether or not they will be breastfeeding, all of them give an enthusiastic YES. But perhaps after giving birth, not enough milk is produced, or the infant doesn’t latch on properly, and/ or the mother gets frustrated with the process.  

“It is estimated that around 35% of infants aged 0 to 6 months are exclusively breastfed in the world today,” says Dr. Elizabeth Mason, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Development. “But if all babies and young children were breastfed exclusively for their first six months of life and then given nutritious complementary food with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age, the lives of an additional 1.5 million children under five would be saved every year.”

Commercial infant formulas are commonly perceived to be the recommended infant food after breastfeeding, but the World Health Organization states: “The second choice is the mother’s own milk expressed and given to the infant in some way. The third choice is the milk of another human mother. The fourth and last choice is artificial baby milk.”

So for all you mommies and mommies-to-be out there, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant today if you require help with breastfeeding. There is no food better for infants than human breast milk!

Mobile phones and our health: Should we be concerned?

We hardly remember how life was before it existed. It’s with us all the time. We sit, stand, walk, drive and sometimes even use the bathroom with it to our ear (shh!). When it’s not at our ear, it’s in a purse or pocket, or charging on the nightstand near our pillow. Sure, we’ve all heard rumours over the years: “Mobile phone use increases cancer risk…” or “Cell phone use may lead to sperm damage…” But come on, is there any CONCLUSIVE evidence out there?

beautiful-1687949_1920Top Australian neurosurgeon Dr. Vini Khurana analyzed more than 100 studies and definitively concluded that using mobile phones for more than 10 years could double the risk of brain cancer. In 2008, Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, a prominent cancer doctor and the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute wrote a memo to the hospital’s 3000 faculty and staff urging them to take precautions when using their mobile phones.

Well, how about the studies that say that harmful effects of mobile use are “inconclusive”? Dr. Herberman replies: “In summary, my review of the literature suggests that most studies claiming that there is no link between cell phones and brain tumors are outdated, had methodological concerns, and did not include sufficient numbers of long-term cell phone users to find an effect, since most of these negative studies primarily examined people with only a few years of phone use and did not inquire about cordless phone use.”

Why are some health experts concerned?

woman-690036_1920When the mobile phone is on, electromagnetic radiation is generated. Cells in the body react to radiation, which potentially results in DNA damage which in turn leads to cancer and other diseases. Though this radiation is strongest when you are using your mobile, it is still emitted when you aren’t using your phone. As long as it is on and can receive calls, radiation is being emitted.

Warnings especially for children

In Canada, Toronto’s Department of Public Health advises teenagers and young children to limit their use of cell phones, to avoid potential health risks. In 2009, French Secretary of State for Ecology Chantal Jouanno banned use of mobile phones in French primary schools after research linked their use to brain cancer. Children are still growing and have thinner skulls and scalps, so radiation exposure could affect them more than adults.

What precautions can we take?

Let’s face it. There’s a fat chance we’ll abandon our mobiles after reading this. But it doesn’t hurt to take precautions. As suggested by Dr. Herberman, here are some ways to limit exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones:

pokemon-1553995_19201. Do not allow children to use mobile phones, except in emergencies.
2. Whenever possible, use the speaker-phone mode or a wireless Bluetooth set.
3. Avoid carrying your mobile phone on your body at all times.
4. Only use your mobile phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes, as the biological effects are directly related to the duration of exposure.
5. Switch sides regularly while communicating on your mobile phone to spread out your exposure. Before putting your phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.
6. Avoid using your mobile phone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, as this automatically increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.
7. When possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call, limiting the duration of exposure and the proximity to the body.
8. Choose a device with the lowest SAR possible (SAR = Specific Absorption Rate, which is a measure of the strength of the magnetic field absorbed by the body). SAR ratings of contemporary phones by different manufacturers can be found by searching for “sar ratings cell phones” or “sar ratings mobile phones” on the internet.

Get rid of my canker sores!

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small white sores that develop on the inside of the mouth, gums or inside of the cheeks. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious, but they can be extremely painful. If you have a few of them at the same time in close proximity to one another, they may join up and become one massive canker sore. They typically last a few days to a few weeks.

Canker sores are caused by several factors including:

  • emotional stress
  • minor injury to your mouth- accidental biting of the cheek, spicy or acidic foods, sports mishap, etc.
  • nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B12, folic acid, iron and zinc
  • food sensitivities
  • in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), canker sores are often a symptom of heart yin deficiency or heart fire (corresponding to more “heat” in the body)
  • hormonal shifts during or before menstruation
  • immune response to bacteria in the mouth

How do I get rid of canker sores?

  1. Ensure adequate rest. Use relaxation/ stress-reduction techniques to manage high stress levels.
  2. Herbal teas or formulas containing calendula, chamomile, licorice (use DGL, i.e. deglycyrrhizinated licorice, if you have high blood pressure or heart problems) and peppermint soothe and speed up healing of canker sores.
  3. You can make a paste with slippery elm and/ or baking powder and put it directly on the canker sores to soothe the inflammation and pain. It may also speed up healing.
  4. Topical over-the-counter pharmaceutical pastes are also available to ease the pain of canker sores.
  5. Find out if you have nutrient deficiencies. Dr. Yik is currently offering a complimentary zinc mineral nutrient test to new patients. Click here for more info.
  6. Seek a TCM practitioner to address the yin deficiency in your system.
  7. Vitamin C and zinc work synergistically to ensure the immune system is working properly, so take them together for an extra immunity boost.  
  8. Stay away from chocolate, sugar, coffee, salty or acidic foods (and also anything you may be sensitive to).
  9. Having yogurt or taking probiotic supplements may help to reduce the incidence of canker sores. 

Remember, if you have any sore on or in your mouth that lasts over 3 weeks, you should consult your doctor.

Chinese SPAM (長城牌午餐肉) in your cupboard? RECALL today following (pearls of) mercury contamination

Do you have one of these sitting in your cupboard? You may want to double check to make sure the meat (Can you even call it “meat”?) doesn’t look funny or have any “metallic pearls” embedded in it. A man found mercury pearls embedded in his SPAM a few days ago. There’s been a recall and people are being warned not to eat this Chinese SPAM/ 長城牌午餐肉. Watch the Youtube video clip (in Cantonese) showing the mercury-contaminated SPAM here and more about the RECALL here

I’m not a big fan of canned foods. In fact, all I have in my cupboard right now are 2 cans of DelMonte pineapple chunks (from the US) and a can of Smedley baked beans (from England)- for emergency purposes, I guess. After a recall like this one, I cannot stress NON-PROCESSED, NATURAL foods more. Sure, we’ve got the pesticides and herbicides to worry about, but there’s the option of organic (straight from your garden!) and at least we’ve got fruit and vegetable washes available. The less processed the food, the better for your body.

Fish oil linked to lower breast cancer risk: Study

We all know that taking fish oil supplements benefit heart health, but a study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention shows fish oil supplements may also help reduce breast cancer risk. In the study, the use of fish oil was linked to a lower risk of invasive ductal breast cancer. Ductal breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer.

In the study of 35,016 older women with no history of breast cancer, those who reported currently taking fish oil supplements on a regular basis had a 32% reduced risk for developing invasive ductal breast cancer, compared with women who did not take fish oil supplements.

“If you are taking fish oil now for other reasons, this is reassuring that it may have beneficial effects beside what you are taking it for,” says study researcher Emily White, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Many people currently take fish oil supplements to decrease their risk for heart disease.

Fish oil, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Some research suggests that inflammation plays a role in the development of breast and other cancers. Other studies have not found a link between eating more fatty fish and breast cancer risk, but it may be that the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements is much higher than what is typically found in the diet.

“Fish oil, in general, is a very good anti-inflammatory agent, and inflammation plays a role in cancer development,” says Peiying Yang, PhD, an assistant professor of integrative medicine at M.D. Anderson, who recently received a grant to study how fish oil supplements affect lung cancer risk.

But it’s buyer beware when it comes to choosing fish oil supplements. Fish contain loads of pollutants and toxins- dioxins, PCBs, and heavy metal toxins such as mercury which can damage brain/ nervous system function, cause hormonal imbalances and negatively impact health in general. Make sure your fish oil supplement is pharmaceutical grade purified and third-party tested for impurities and heavy metals. Nordic Naturals is a trusted American brand I often recommend.