Bacteria in the "Lyme" light: Important Info You Need Now

Purpose of This Post

In this article, I will focus specifically on the bacteria known to cause what we currently call "Lyme disease", which are gram-negative, spirochete bacteria in the Borrelia genus. I will explain their infection tactics and mechanisms in a way that is easy to understand and gives insight to the best ways in preventing and healing Lyme infection, which I will refer to as Borreliosis. 

Background

There are 4 known genera of spirochete bacteria that cause disease in humans. These are Treponema, Leptospira, Brachyspira and Borrelia. There are 20 species known in the Borrelia genus that are currently in the Lyme group. B. Burgdoferi is the most common. There are currently 15 species of Borrelia that cause relapsing fever. More are being discovered and added to both groups each year. 

Spirochetes are curious organisms. We know relatively little about them because they can be incredible difficult to study. Syphilis (in the Treponema genus) as an example, after 60 years of dedicated, focused research, can still not be grown in a laboratory. What's more, even if scientists are able to grow certain bacteria- how they behave in a petri dish or test tube scenario is often extremely different than how they behave in a live host.

What Makes Borrelia Bacteria Unique?

Borrelia act more like an intelligent protozoal parasite than a typical bacteria. Unlike nearly all other bacteria, Lyme expert Stephen Buhner describes them as having linear chromosomes, a cytoskeleton and a periplasmic flagelli that gives them rapid motility & unusual chemotactic properties. That means they're fast, (and Lyme spirochetes are the fastest of all spirochetes) faster by two orders of magnitude than our bodies' neutrophils-- which are the fastest white blood cells we have. 

Borrelia bacteria are unusual in that they are among the extremely low number of organisms that do not require iron to live- they use manganese instead. They also possess the largest number of genetic units of replication (DNA replicons) of any bacteria currently known. 

According to Stephen Buhner in his book "Healing Lyme" many bacteria produce a new generation every twenty minutes, but Lyme spirochetes take a little longer and do so between every 8-12 hours. 

What Makes Borrelia Parasitic?

Lyme bacteria are capable of only minimal metabolisms. All nucleotides, amino acids, fatty acids & enzyme co-factors must be scavenged from their hosts. Stephen Buhner emphasizes that the most important thing you can understand about Borreliosis (Lyme) is that the bacteria have an affinity for collagenous tissues. Most of the food the bacteria need is found in collagen containing tissues throughout the body. The bacteria work to break these tissues down so that they can feed on their components- wherever they feed on those tissues is where symptoms occur and this tissue damage is at the root of every symptom they cause. Buhner stresses that if you protect the collagen structures of the body, the symptom picture begins to disappear. 

The Beginning of Infection with Borrelia Spirochetes

Let's use what is currently known to be our most common route of infection as an example: a bite from an infected tick.
    One way or another, a tick that is infected with Borrelia spirochetes manages to cling to your clothing or skin, find an exposed area, bite you and feed long enough for the spirochetes to enter your bloodstream. As soon as that blood meal starts to enter its body, the spirochetes in the mid-gut of the tick become activated and start to rapidly multiply and alter their behavior and genomic structure. Their task is to make themselves as adaptable to your specific body chemistry as they can in order to have the highest chance of survival. 

      Whenever any organism enters a human body, it will find an entirely unique eco-system. Bacteria, especially Borrelia bacteria, have devised incredibly complex and sophisticated ways of making themselves highly adaptable to all kinds of different hosts and environments. Bacteria already in the salivary glands will immediately enter your body. Those migrating from the mid-gut of the tick to the salivary glands will analyze your blood. Next, they rapidly multiply and actually alter their genomic structure and begin to replicate themselves in a way that will produce a wide range of genetically different offspring (taking into account information from their analysis of your blood) to further increase the chances that some, or multiple forms of those offspring will be able to survive in the new host and avoid its immune responses. Take into account that each spirochete has up to 24 extra pieces of DNA segments that are available to it at any given time, containing information about different possible hosts that ticks might feed on.

      You may remember from my previous article "Valuable Information You Never Wanted to Know About Ticks" that tick saliva shuts down part of our immune system and helps give the Borrelia spirochetes a greater opportunity to infect us. 
     So, the tick saliva has hindered your immune system and now there is a flood of Borrelial organisms, all of which are slightly different to very different from each other in genetic structures, flooding into your bloodstream. The bacteria move throughout your body quickly. Some will attach to endothelial cells of blood vessel walls, some to macrophages, keratinocytes, neurons or glial cells. They will cause those cells to engulf the attached bacteria, and create a vacuole (a secure container for hiding in) in which the bacteria will reproduce. Other bacteria will choose to locate extra cellular junctions instead of cells. They will wiggle on in, penetrating them, initiate responses to further loosen those junctions and gain access to the extra-cellular matrix (which exists between cells of the body). According to Buhner's research, this takes only 10 minutes after the initial tick bite. The extra cellular matrix is an ideal location for spirochetes as it has ample food sources and is hard for immune cells to get to. 

The bacteria that chose to hide inside cells in vacuoles, after 48 hours will have created dozens of new spirochetes. Hidden inside our cells, the bacteria can resist antibiotics for many days. Stephen Buhner states that they can resist Ceftriaxone for a minimum of 14 days.

Spirochete levels in the bloodstream, according to Buhner, tend to peak at 60 days of infection and then drop to low levels (undetectable by tests) in the system. 

The Ongoing Problem With These Bacteria

Lyme spirochetes, once in a host, will continue to alter their structure in order to evade your immune responses to them, and to help them gain access to, and colonize different parts of the body. Recombination of the 24 extra DNA segments also continues to occur every time the bacteria replicate (every 8-12 hours), therefor producing even more resilient and "intelligent" offspring.

The spirochetes can live many places in the body but they have a preference for joints, the aqueous humors of the eyes, heart tissue, the meninges of the brain and any tissues that are very rich in collagen like the skin and the knees. 

At this point, I want to stress that a strong and vital immune system will be able to eventually clear the bacteria, no matter what form they are in (I will elaborate) and rid the body of the disease. This is why it is so essential to make sure the immune system is supported as a preventative measure against Borrelial infection (but really any infection) in the body. That being said, these bacteria are extremely intelligent, resilient and crafty at developing ways to prolong infection and maintain a persistent presence in the body. Their DNA recombination tactics alone are incredible and get more sophisticated as the immune system attempts to take the upper hand and kill these bacteria. In fact, the immune system itself is partially what drives the innovation for the recombination events that occur- they try very hard to survive! 

Once under any form of stress (from our immune systems or antibiotics) the bacteria can transform themselves into something called an encysted form, as well as they create biofilms. They will relocate to harder to find niches in the body and reduce their activity to attempt to hide from the "attack". Buhner references a study that shows "Atypical forms [of the bacteria] were seen within 1 hour of exposure to environmental stress". Basically, as soon as they detect that something is trying to kill them, they will quickly transform into their encysted state (which is considered to be a dormant state). This makes them difficult to find in the body; then when they detect the threat is over, they will change back into their active spiral form. Buhner also says that Borrelial organisms "always create some encysted forms during infection; it is one of the techniques they use to ensure continued infection in a new host". Depending on the various species of spirochete, they have been found to survive up to three years in encysted form.

Take a breath. This information can be frightening, but again, knowing about it could be the difference between overcoming an infection or living in a chronically diseased state for decades. Take some comfort in knowing that our immune systems (when healthy) are actually very good at killing encysted forms of bacteria. I won't mention the complicated mechanisms here, but for those who are very scientifically oriented, you can research Neutrophil extracellular traps which is one of the ways our immune systems trap and kill these forms of bacteria. 

The other interesting thing that these bacteria do is form little colonies or cities called biofilms in the body. According to Stephen Buhner, in the initial stages of Lyme infection with borrelia bacteria, about 2% of the bacteria that come into your body will immediately form biofilm aggregates to start setting up their little communities. These biofilms have several types of bacteria that will live together and they create a kind of gel out of polysaccharides that provides protection and nutrients. Sometimes they also create a hard shell made out of calcium, kind of like a sea creature's shell. Don't stress, there are many herbs that can be used to break up biofilms- they key is to do it gently and slowly so as not aggravate disease symptoms. There are examples of beneficial biofilms in people's bodies too- your intestinal tract should have one!

The last thing I want to touch on is how these bacteria are interfering, hijacking and creating cytokine responses in the body. Cytokines are like little messengers that act as cellular mediators during the body's immune responses. Borrelia bacteria either create their own cytokines or else they stimulate our body's own natural cytokine responses by manipulating them to do what they want (not what our bodies need). The reason for this is to cause the break down of our bodily tissues so that the bacteria can feed on the nutrients that are released in the wreckage. Again, there are many herbs that will support the body in properly being able to thwart the bacteria when it comes to cytokines through various mechanisms. The next article I will be posting will focus on herbal support during Borreliosis (Lyme disease) including herbs for inhibiting and modulating cytokine response.

Conclusions

Because of what these bacteria do in the body, and also being that since every person's body ecology is so different, there is an extremely frustratingly wide range of symptoms that can be present (or not) for this illness and the disease will always be slightly different for every single person, every time it occurs. That is why for this disease especially, a one-regime-fits-all protocol is pointless, or worse, harmful. Each person needs to have their protocols tailored to exactly what is going on for them. 

I hope that by outlining what these bacteria are doing in our bodies, that people can gain insight as to exactly what we need to do to try and support the body in dealing with them and protecting itself.

Lastly, if you have a Lyme story, whether the illness has touched you personally, or a family member or close friend, I want to hear about it! Please send me a message or leave a comment below. If you have questions, leave those too! Check back over the next couple of weeks for my next post about using herbal medicine to support Lyme disease. 

Andrea

 

Valuable Information You Never Wanted To Know About Ticks

         Ticks carrying Lyme disease are here on Vancouver Island.  In my previous article, "Lyme Disease is on Vancouver Island: What You Can do to Stay Safe" I opened up discussion about this important illness and highlighted some key points everyone should know in order to keep themselves and their families safe. In this article, I would like to delve further down the rabbit hole and focus strongly on ticks and why they are such a huge link to what some are calling the Lyme Disease Epidemic. This information might make you uncomfortable, it might give you the heebie-jeebies and cause you to feel creepy crawlies all over your body- but it might also save your life or prevent illness for someone you love.

Tick Facts:

1. Deer are not the only animals spreading around Lyme infected ticks. According to Stephen Buhner in his book, "Healing Lyme", ticks carrying Lyme feed on over 300 species. Think mice, rats, rabbits, birds (over 60 species of birds are known to carry ticks), lizards, squirrels, raccoons, dogs, cats, and yes, deer. There are no areas left in the world that are free from any risk of contracting Lyme disease (caused by borrelia spirochete bacteria). 

2. Ticks can live a long time- a disturbingly long time. Unfed ticks, no matter where they live, can live up to 7 years without a meal! (More commonly they only survive a couple, though) (see source)

3. Both soft and hard bodied ticks (of all developmental stages) can transmit the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. This leads us into our next segue, transmission.

Transmission of Borrelia Bacteria Via Ticks:

        Lyme Disease (what really should be called Borreliosis) is caused by a spirochete bacteria in the Borrelia genus. There are 20 species known in the Lyme group, 15 in the relapsing fever group and more becoming konwn all the time. Please note that these bacteria can also be transmitted by other anthropods (think body lice, fleas, etc), sexually or via other routes that I will not be discussing in this article, as my focus here is specifically on ticks.

        It is extremely important to keep in mind that not everyone who is bitten by an infected tick will become sick. In general, the stronger an individual's immune system is, the slower the transmission time of infectious bacteria, and the less likely for infection to persist. Stephen Buhner in his book, "Healing Lyme" discusses how the stronger the immune system, the less severe the symptoms and illness will be if infection does occur.

      Most sources say that if a tick is removed within 24 hours the chances of contracting Lyme (borrelia) are much lower. In my last article, even I used that generalization, but the reality is that borrelia transmission can occur with tick attachment of between as little as 10 minutes and 72 hours. Less than 16 hours is very common. There are many factors that can affect this that I will discuss shortly.

        Lyme causing bacteria of the Borrelial species are not the only infections transmitted via ticks. Transmission of co-infections are typical, the most common (in terms of numbers according to Buhner) being Bartonella, Chlamydia, Mycoplasma and Babesia. Ticks co-infected with other transmissible bacteria actually have faster transmission times for Borrelia. According to Buhner this is the norm- not the exception for most ticks.

        Partially fed ticks will transmit Borrelia bacteria within as little as 10 minutes of attachment VS unfed ticks. Most ticks engage in partial feeding and this is typical, not the exception. Soft ticks have very quick transmission times compared to most hard bodied ticks. The type of tick is also a factor in transmission times, certain ticks transmit organisms much faster. The more aggressive the Borrelial species is the faster transmission will be as well. Another factor to consider is the location of the spirochetes inside of the tick (it takes time for them to travel from the mid-gut VS salivary glands as an example). 

         Another possible way ticks can potentially transmit Borrelia is through their feces. Ticks poop continually while feeding and their feces contain unique biofilms & encysted forms (a way the bacteria protect themselves) that can allow them to enter the break in the skin via the bite location. This is an important reason to properly clean all tick and other biting anthropod bites and avoid scratching. 

        The reason that ticks are a prime transmitter of Borrelial and other infections (as opposed to some other biting anthropods like mosquitoes) has to do with their saliva. Tick saliva actually shuts down (inactivates) part of our immune system (known as the alternative complement system) giving the bacteria an advantage to try and gain a foothold upon which they further initiate means of manipulating our immune systems. If this pathway was not inhibited, infection would not be able to occur. The good news is, that a very strong immune system (as in those whom are healthiest) will stimulate antibodies to tick saliva and prevent future tick attachments. Those antibodies will actually stimulate tick rejection before lengthy feeding can take place. Contact your local natural health providers to learn more about using foods, herbs and supplements to support a strong immune system! 

Why Do Ticks Carry These Bacteria Anyways?

      Bacteria have formed relationships that are mutualistic with all other living things on earth. Think about our own bodies. We have more bacteria inhabiting our bodies than we have our own cells and most of those bacteria are residing in our digestive tracts and on other mucous membrane surfaces. We have beneficial species that live with us such as Bifidobacterium, Viridans streptococci,  physiological Escherichia coli and many hundreds of others. 
      For ticks, it's the same, but their "probiotics" are bacteria such as the Borrelia species. Ticks infected with Borrelial spirochetes are, according to Stephen Buhner, much less prone to dehydration. This allows them to quest longer for a host. The bacteria also increases the fat reserve of the ticks by at least 12%, helps the infected ticks move more quickly, climb higher, take in larger blood meals, live longer and even become more tolerant of insect repellents. As if that wasn't enough, the bacteria also release a kind of antifreeze which helps the tick remain active during freezing temperatures (in case you thought you were in the clear during those January hikes!). 

        When a tick bites a host, it is looking to become infected with Borrelia if it is not already. It actually sends out chemical signals seeking the bacteria and telling them to come to it. (Again, learned from Buhner's book on Healing Lyme). 

What to do If You Find an Attached Tick or If You Suspect Lyme Infection:

      If you find a tick, follow the safe removal techniques outlined by CanLyme (Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation). Under no circumstance should you try smothering it with anything, burning it or using expensive essential oils because you saw someone else try it on the internet. Unorthodox removal methods can cause the tick to panic, regurgitate and speed up transmission of infectious bacteria. Stick to the known safe removal methods, but get it out as soon as you can. I carry a small zipper kit with me at all times and keep one in the first aid kit at home. I have been really fortunate to have never had need of it so far.

      Stephen Buhner recommends putting tincture of Andrographis on the site of the bite (after tick removal) and then putting a dab of Bentonite clay

      Be aware that if any rash forms you need to seek immediate medical attention, or do so if you develop flu-like symptoms a few days to a few weeks after the bite.

      If you suspect that you have had a long-standing infection with Lyme, note that tests are unfortunately not as accurate as one would hope. Tests consistently miss infection with spirochetes. The Elisa test looks at blood serum for antibodies. 40% of people known to have Lyme because of the tell-tale bulls-eye rash still test negative with this test. Stephen Buhner says that the best test of all is a biopsy + culture of spirochetes which he says is still not very effective. He mentions the best test for long standing infection to be the Advanced laboratory Lyme test which he states as 92% effective but it takes 2-4 months for results. CanLyme can recommend testing methods to actually test ticks for infection (you have to keep them alive!). They have directions for this. 

       I feel very called to learn everything I can about this illness and pass along that information. I have met many people in our area over the years who have been suffering with this infection chronically and my heart has ached to be able to offer them more support and understanding around this illness. I have been really fortunate that this illness has not touched me on a personal level. If you or your loved ones in our area have suffered with Lyme infection, I want to hear your story! Please comment or send me a message!

      Over the next few months, I hope to write several more articles on Lyme, specifically on the bacteria and how they affect the immune system and how we can use herbal medicine to support the body and help treat Borrelial infection. Please send me your questions and I will do my very best to answer them in any future articles to do with Lyme! 

       I know this information can get overwhelming- but ignoring it will not make ticks go away. Knowledge really is power and only in knowing more about something can we take active measures to help ourselves and others. 

 

 

 

 

Lyme Disease is on Vancouver Island: What Can You Do to Stay Safe

      Lyme-infected ticks are, and have been on Vancouver Island for much longer than the public has been aware of. Part of the problem has been that until very recently, health officials here were told that Lyme disease did not exist on Vancouver Island. Medical boards & health authorities did not have accurate information and were not trained to test for Lyme disease.

        Many people on Vancouver Island that have been infected with Lyme disease were given inadequate testing (if any) as well as inadequate treatment, including Dr. Martin Rodgers who was bitten at his home on the Malahat. Rodgers developed a bulls-eye rash (rashes only occur in approximately 30% of Lyme patients with only 9% reporting the classic "bulls-eye" formation) and was given two days of antibiotics and told not to worry. After developing classic Lyme symptoms such as chronic fatigue and pain, he had to obtain a test result from a US private labratory which confirmed the presence of Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria which causes Lyme Disease.

       Dr. Lucy Kinninmonth, a veterinarian from Vancouver Island has seen about 20 specialists who had tested her for everything but Lyme disease because doctors told her "We don't have Lyme disease here". She finally had to spend 900.00 to send her own blood sample to a lab in California and her result came back as strongly positive for Lyme. 

       There are at least four species of ticks known to carry Lyme disease on Vancouver Island. There is also a species that is carrying another Lyme causing bacteria called "Borrelia genomospecies 2" that is commonly found on rabbits, but can bite anyone and potentially spread Lyme disease. 

      Thankfully, things are starting to shift- largely in part because of the work of non-profit organizations such as the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme) as well as new legislature thanks to Elizabeth May and the Green Party that will start to change the way Lyme Disease awareness, testing and treatment occurs in Canada. Elizabeth May's Private Member’s Bill, C-442, the Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act was passed unanimously at third reading by the Senate the morning of Friday, December 12, 2014, making it the first piece of Green Party legislation in Canadian history. Just one more reason to love Elizabeth May and the Green Party! 

      Now that the medical community are recognizing that Lyme disease is on Vancouver Island and that it is a serious potential threat to public health, it should make proper diagnostic and treatment more accessible as time goes on. To prevent Lyme disease, it is important that everyone become aware of tick prevention methods as well as safe removal techniques and that people make themselves aware of what to do as far as medical attention and testing are concerned if bitten by a tick. 

      When hiking in the woods, or generally spending time outdoors, wearing light colored clothing can be helpful. It is easier to spot ticks on white or very light colored clothing than dark colors like brown or black. Tying hair back, tucking socks into pants and wearing long-sleeves and pants will help decrease surfaces for ticks to bite. Remember, ticks do not jump down on you from above- they cling to you when you brush by bushes (like Scottish Broom), plants and animals or if you are laying on the ground and crawl up until they find a nice place to bite. 

      When you finish your hike or time outdoors, do a tick check of yourself and kids. Especially inspect around and inside ears, belly buttons, arm pits and the groin area as ticks like dark, moist areas where they will be most concealed. Give your head a thorough check as well. A brilliant and inexpensive tool that can help pull off unwanted, unattached ticks, is a lint roller. Simple roll the lint roller up and down your legs, arms and torso to help remove any ticks you may have missed with just your eyes (ticks can be so tiny!). 

      Officially, the recommendation is to wear an insect repellent with DEET (yikes!) but if you're like me and want to avoid potentially harmful substances- try making your own or purchasing one like I make with herbal tincture and essential oils. My general recipe is as follows: 4-6 oz of Yarrow tincture (1:2 from fresh flowers) with 40-50 drops of catnip, eucalyptus, lavender and lemongrass essential oils and about a 1/2- 1 tsp of vegetable glycerin. I spray this on every 15-30 minutes when tromping through the woods. 

      The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme) states that Lyme disease is less likely to be contracted if a tick is removed within the first 24 hours of it biting you. They recommend that you NEVER burn or smother a tick, but instead use a pair of needle nose tweezers to gently but firmly pull the tick straight out by gripping its mouth piece. For more information on safe tick removal check out their website here: https://canlyme.com/lyme-prevention/tick-removal/

      CanLyme also has a really awesome tick kit that includes several tick removing tools, an ID card, containers to place a tick and directions on where to send it, etc. The best part is, it's only 15.00! It can easily fit in your backpack, pocket or first aid kit. I highly recommend it, especially if you have children or pets and love to play outdoors! 

       If you have been experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease and even if you have received a negative test result in Canada- that doesn't guarantee you don't have Lyme disease. Tests in Canada are highly controversial and considered by many to be faulty and inaccurate. Many people have spent months or years trying to get a proper diagnoses only to finally send away their samples to a private lab in the states and get back the result that they are positive for Lyme disease. For more information on testing see here

     Finally, remember that our herbal allies are all around us and they are powerful healing and restorative beings. Herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner (one of my favorites... and he's from British Columbia!) has an entire book dedicated to helping people with Lyme. He outlines the most powerful herbal allies in combating Lyme Disease- with or without antibiotics. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about herbal medicine for Lyme Disease. You can find it on Amazon here.

      Enjoy the outdoors, everyone! 

Boost & Ensure: Junk "foods" Masquerading as Health Products

        My grandmother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer three years ago; she could barely swallow. The emotional stress of being diagnosed with cancer coupled with the physical stress caused by the invasive treatments of chemo, radiation and surgery left her further weakened and with little appetite- and still a very difficult time eating and drinking, let alone just swallowing. 

       My grandmother put all of her trust and good faith that the doctors would "cure" her. She truly believed that they knew best and that it was their job to get rid of the cancer. When she was first diagnosed, I wanted so badly to help her understand cancer through a more holistic approach; help her understand about the interplay between our environment (both internal and external) and its effects on our genes, about oncogenes and proto-oncogenes, nutritional deficiencies and especially about the immune system and how malfunctioning of the immune system is most likely one of the most important factors that lead to cancer. 

      I brought over books and DVD's to help inform my grandmother- but all this accomplished was drastically raising her blood pressure. Grandma was in her early 70's, she did not want to make drastic dietary and lifestyle changes. She was stressed out, and scared. It was then that I realized that my methods were not going to help my grandmother. I realized that all I could do was be there and love her.

     It broke my heart, however, to see the way the hospital was feeding her- with sugary liquids containing little to no real nutrition. I comforted myself that when she came home, that would change- but the doctors sent her home with bottles and bottles of "Ensure" and recommendations for "Boost". I had my grandfather try to make smoothies, broth and soups (which he did), but she kept on drinking the Boost and Ensure despite our attempts.

This is the ingredient list and nutrition facts on Boost:

These are labels from Ensure products:

       To give you something to compare this to, keep in mind that a 50g Coffee Crisp Candy Bar contains 32g of total carbohydrate. The Ensure 57g serving contains 34g of total carbohydrate and the Boost contains 41g of total carbohydrate! Aside from water, the main ingredients in this disgusting concoction are all just forms of sugar (from GMO corn to boot!). 

      Ensure is owned by Abbott Nutrition²- a giant food corporation trying to greenwash you into thinking their products are health foods. Abbott Nutrition is part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Abbott has given nearly a million dollars to fight GMO-labeling¹(not surprising given that most of their ingredients come from GMO crops). 

Lets look closer at some of these nasty ingredients:

Corn Syrup Solids: This is made by dehydrating corn syrup. It's 100% glucose. 
Corn Syrup: There are many studies linking corn syrup and corn syrup solids to diabetes and cancer (that's right, cancer, the very ailment my grandmother was trying to overcome). See this article.

Corn Maltodextrin: Read "sugar" with a high glycemic index. Read here for more information about maltodextrin and it's hazards to health. 

Corn Oil: Ignoring for a moment all arguements for or against GMO's, I want to highlite that corn oil is primarily made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids most of which are called "omega 6" or Linoleic Acid. Your body will convert this acid into GLA which will in turn convert to smaller amounts of arachidonic acid as well as prostaglandins (eicosanoids). An important enzyme, D6D (delta-6 desaturase ) is required to produce eicosanoids and if D6D is impaired, then the body is not able to use the Omega-6 it’s getting to produce the required prostaglandins. For the majority of people, this isn't a major problem- but diabetics and people with thyroid conditions commonly have difficultly making adequate amounts. Overeating, undereating, nutritional deficiencies, overconsumption of alochol and sugar can also all affect D6D production. In North America, most people already consume far too many omega 6's in relationship to omega 3's (largely because of vegetable oils in processed foods). Basically the corn oil in this formula is a highly processed oil that should be replaced with healthier alternatives.
http://www.livestrong.com/article/302830-health-risks-of-corn-oil/
https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/know-your-fats/gamma-linolenic-acid/

Cupric Sulphate: A fungicide that is toxic and can cause gastrointestinal issues, anemia, and even death at high doses. It is also genotoxic, meaning it can cause the cells to mutate due to genetic damage.  ³

Natural & Artificial Flavors: Can include dozens of different chemicals derrived from inorganic or organic materials that can all negatively impact our health.

Chromium Chloride: Toxic. See here.

Sodium Selenate: Some question this byproduct of copper metal refineries and believe it to be toxic. Read here.

Synthetic forms of vitamins and poor quality minerals: Synthetic forms of vitamins do not work as well in our bodies. Period. They are harder to absorb, harder to eliminate and can actually contribute to other nutritional imbalances. All of the vitamins and minerals in Boost and Ensure are synthetically produced or derived and of the cheapest quality. 

In conclusion, Boost & Ensure are not healthful products for anyone- let alone sick or dying people. Their cheap ingredients bring them millions of dollars in sales (Ensure brought in 1 billion in sales in 2009 and has been steadily growing) but won't bring you the results they advertise on their packaging. You would be better off to throw some fruit, milk, maybe a greens powder supplement, or some herbal infusion into a blender and drink that. Broth has historically been consumed as a healing food for the sick- and with good reason. Properly prepared bone broths contain large amounts of gelatin and easily absorb-able minerals as well as other nutrients from the marrow. Ditch the inadequate sugary substitutes, break out your blender and eat some soup! 

 

 

Soy: Cautions & Truths

         In North America, soy foods have appealed to vegetarians and health conscious men and women for decades now, as more and more people seek alternatives to animal products and seek to make substitutions for dairy due to allergies. 

         There is this huge misconception that the Asian populations have been consuming soy for thousands of years and that they consume it in place of meat. The reality is that soy was originally used as an important rotation crop for the Chinese populations in order to fix nitrogen into the soil. It was only after the discovery of important fermentation techniques something during the Chou dynasty (1134-246 BC) that soy became a popular food in the form of highly fermented tempeh, natto and tamari. 

      The average consumption of soy in China is actually only about two teaspoons per day and one or two tablespoons per day in Japan. Soy is considered more of a condiment and definitely not as a replacement for animal foods, as it is most typically consumed in a mineral rich fish broth. 

        The truth is, over consumption of soy foods can lead to mineral deficiencies, a depressed thyroid (hypothyroidism), disrupted endocrine function and potentially infertility and breast cancer. 

       Soy contains the highest levels of phytates of any grain or legume that has been studied and unfortunately those phytates are incredibly resistant to normal reduction methods such as sprouting and long, slow cooking and are only minimized during an extended and lengthy period of fermentation. Phytates interfere with mineral absorption and block enzyme activity. 

       Soy foods also contain Trypsin inhibitors, phytoestrogens as well as the isoflavones, genistein and daidzein, which are potent inhibitors of thyroid peroxidase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of the thyroid hormones.

        In this author's opinion, fermented soy foods such as miso, tamari, natto and tempeh are they only safe soy foods. I encourage anyone consuming soy to treat it as a condiment, the way the Asians do, and to consume it along with mineralizing fish or bone broths. 

Sources:

http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-ploy-of-soy/

http://www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert/

http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/soy-alert/thyroid-cancer-on-the-rise-is-soy-a-cause/

        

       

The Shocking Truth About Heart Disease

     Rudolf Steiner (if you don't know him, look him up!) had ideas that the three most important ways for humanity to reach further evolution were: 1. That people stop working for money. 2 That people realize there is no difference between sensory and motor nerves and 3. The heart is not a pump. 

     After reading the latest addition to my personal library, Human Heart, Cosmic Heart by one of my personal heroes, Dr. Thomas Cowen, MD and anthroposophical physician, I felt very called to bring further awareness to his research and try and give a very oversimplified summary of the information presented in this book, with a sincere hope to inspire further curiosity in readers that might lead to improved health benefits and disease prevention. 

      I'll try and boil it down for you. The true causes of heart disease are as follows: Hypertension, smoking, diabetes, physical & emotional stress, a sedative lifestyle and a poor diet. Don't roll your eyes at me yet. The exciting and new revelation about these causative factors is that they are causing heart attacks, not because of blocked arteries, because of cholesterol, (According to Dr. Cowen, more than 50% of people that have heart attacks don't have sufficient stenosis as to cause a heart attack) but because these factors are throwing off balance in the sympathetic nervous and parasympathetic nervous systems. Dr. Cowan points to four studies showing that "patients with ischemic heart disease have, on average, a reduction of parasympathetic activity of more than a third. Typically, the worse the myocardial infarction, the lower the parasympathetic activity" (56). 

     Basically, if you are chronically in "fight or flight", your body is always using it's sympathetic nervous system and unable to rest and heal from the parasympathetic nervous system. Heart attacks do not occur in people with healthy parasympathetic activity whom experience high levels of stress. It is only when the parasympathetic nervous system is chronically unable to nourish itself and that its overall activity is reduced, or down-regulated due to poor lifestyle choices, which leaves a person suffering from severe stress very vulnerable to a myocardial infarction. 

     When the person with a lowered parasympathetic activity is exposed to severe stress (emotional or physical), the increase in adrenaline directs the cells of the heart to break down glucose (sugar) using aerobic glycolysis, rather than it's preferred fuel of ketones and fatty acids.. Dr. Cowan states that "[a]s a result of the sympathetic increase and resulting glycolysis, there is a dramatic increase in lactic acid production in the myocardial cells... This increase in lactic acid results in localized acidosis, which makes calcium unable to enter the cells and the cells less able to contract".  This causes edema and diminished muscle function and the build up of lactic acid in the cells leads to cell death "which we call a heart attack". (58)

     Dr. Cowan states that "known things that nourish our parasympathetic nervous system are contact with nature, loving relations, trust, economic security, and sex". He stresses the importance of a diet high in good quality fats (especially grass fed butter) and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates. 

     A simple theory- and yet it makes more sense than anything else I've ever read in medical texts or physiology books. Dr. Cowan's book also provides the most shocking, yet naturally logical scientific theory on the role of the heart. He talks about Steiner's theory about the heart as a seven sided form in a box as well as the fourth phase of water.

     To quickly summarize, when water is exposed to sunlight, the earth's energy, or energy from other living things, and touching a hydrophilic surface, it forms a fourth phase in which the water touching the hydrophilic surface becomes negatively charged in relation to the water not touching the surface. The negatively charged water excludes any toxins or other particles. When that hydrophilic surface is a tube (such as in our circulatory systems) a perpetual motion "machine" is created in that the positively charged water in the center is propelled upwards.

      Our heart isn't really "pumping" blood at all- in fact, when our blood reaches the capillaries, it stops and then gradually picks up speed again as it heads back for the heart. It is the structure of the water in our cells that propels our blood, not the heart. Dr. Cowan agrees with Steiner, who suggested that the heart is more like a hydraulic ram. In allowing the chambers of the heart to fill with blood, create a negative pressure and then flow on and vortices are created.  

      I feel that I am still digesting and integrating this knowledge. I encourage everyone to read Dr. Cowan's book, "Human Heart, Cosmic Heart" for more information! I hope all of you will take the time after reading this to go outside for a forest walk, hug a loved one and enjoy a healthfully prepared meal together!

     

Grains, Legumes & Nuts: A Guide for Proper Preparation

     It is a huge accomplishment and something to give yourself credit for when you make the switch to from white flour products and refined grains to whole grain flour and grain products. I love when I hear about people snacking on almonds instead of potato chips. You are doing your body a big service by ditching the refined stuff that does nothing for you (except rob you of much minerals & upset your blood sugar), yet, there are other important steps to preparing grains, nuts and legumes, that must eventually be incorporated into any holistic lifestyle approach. Without taking these steps, those whole grains may actually lead to mineral deficiencies and associated issues such as tooth decay! Not what you are going for!

     Grains, nut and legumes contain anti-nutrients (substances that interfere with nutrient absorption or cause us to lose more nutrients than we gain by eating them) such as phytic acid (phytates) &  lectins, the primary anti-nutrients I am going to focus on in this post. These anti-nutrients bind important minerals and prevent them from being absorbed as well as can act as enzyme inhibitors, interfering with digestion. The good news is that there are plenty of things we can do when preparing foods to minimize the presence of phytates and lectins. 

      Firstly, let's deal with the issue of trying to neutralize or reduce the overall amount of phytates in our grains, legumes and nuts. There is an enzyme called phytase that neutralizes phytates. Human's do not produce enough of it to safely consume high volumes of phytates, and different grains contain varying levels of the enzyme. Furthermore, heat destroys it. For grains, sprouting (malting) reduces some of the phytates by activating phytase, but fermentation is the best way to reduce the most phytates. I generally try and sprout my grains, or start with a sprouted flour and then put that up for a long soak with sourdough starter, freshly ground rye flour (rye contains the most phytase enzyme) or whey before cooking. Oats contain almost no phytase and require a very long soak with rye starter. Rice also contains very little and requires a long soak in hot water (a mason jar with a lid will do). Be sure to cook brown rice in bone broth with kombu sea-weed and add a generous amount of butter. Remember, we are not trying to eliminate all phytates, but simply trying to reduce them to safe and acceptable levels.

     For beans, sprouting seems to reduce phytates the best. Soak your beans over night and then sprout them using proper sprouting guidelines for 2-5 days. When my beans are finished sprouting, I soak them again for 12-24 hours in warm water with a few tablespoons of whey before cooking. 

      Nuts require a long soak (18 hours) before dehydrating and a light roasting to minimize phytates as much as possible. It is not recommended to eat more than a handful of nuts or seeds per day- especially if they have not been properly soaked first.

Here is a table to help you remember general soaking guidelines: 

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Grain/Legume Soaking Times Neutralizer & Water Amount Cooking Guidelines
Rice & millet 8-12 hours minimum at least twice as much water: grain 40-60 minutes
Quinoa 24 hours min w/ 1x rinse 1:3 water + 1 Tbsp acid (whey, ACV) 30min
Oats 12-24hours warm, add acidic, add rye 20-40min
All other grains 12-24 hours 1:2 water; add something acidic 20-60 min
Lentils 7-24 hours, warm add whey, APV or lemon juice 45-60min
Garbanzos 24-48 hours in warm (rinse every 7 hrs) Add whey, ACV, or lemon juice 4-6 hours, shorter the longer soaked
Kidey-shaped beans 18-24 hours warm recommend to use 2 Tbsp Baking Soda for every cup Simmer 4 hours or until soft
Nuts & seeds 18-24 hours warm Add salt & something acidic Dehydrate & gentle roast

       The soaking and fermenting of these foods will help reduce anti-nutrients such as phytates and lectins and increase the available mineral content of the foods. To minimize the risk of these anti-nutrients further, cook with bone broth and sea-weeds for added minerals, add grass-fed butter and make sure your diet contains plenty of vitamin D, vitamin A and Vitamin C. These nutrients have all been shown in studies to help mitigate the effects of phytates. For example, vitamin D is used up in the body to reduce impacts by phytates and consuming extra vitamin D had a positive effect on phytate impact. For more information on this, research the Mellenby Studies. 

       Soaking and fermenting grains and beans may seem like a lot of work- but once you start doing it, you'll realize that it actually saves you cooking time and improves the flavors in the food- two added bonuses that make it well worth the extra few minutes it requires to improve the nutritional content of your food! 

      

St. John's (or Joan's) Wort. Hypericum Perforatum

        This marvelous plant with beautiful little yellow flowers never ceases to amaze me with it's healing powers. Hypericum is in the Hyperaceae family and flowers near the end of June on or around St. John's Day near summer solstice (hence it's common name). Some have confused this plant with it's relative, creeping St. John's wort, botanical name Hypericum calycinum but the two are not interchangeable. There are several plants of the Hypericum genus that can be used for herbal medicine purposes though they possess different properties. This post will focus on the Hypericum Perforatum variety only.

       This plant has been used since ancient times as a would medicine and is a specific for wounds to areas rich in nerve endings. It can be used for burns in all degrees, cuts and scrapes, and historically was even used to prevent tetanus. It is especially useful when wounds cause sharp, shooting pains or inflammation along the course of a nerve or where there is a pinched nerve.

       I have personally found the oil incredible effective for relieving neck and shoulder tension when massaged into that area. A few years ago, I had a low grade tension headache with a ultra tight neck and shoulders for four days. I had tried a handful of other remedies internally without much success. It seemed the other remedies were keeping a migraine at bay, but not addressing the underlying issue. It dawned on me to try St. John's wort oil , I could actually feel the tension melting away from my neck and shoulders until there was complete relief within a couple of hours. The tension did not come back.

      This year, due to poor posture with breast-feeding, baby hip-holding, and other self-inflicted injuries that result from being a mother to a baby, combined with a serious lack of exercise on my part, my lower back kept going out and causing me severe shooting pains. I would pick up my little guy and hold him for a while and when I would go to put him down, my back would jar and remain like that for days. I put on several topical pain remedies that offered some relief, but didn't fix it and then again I remembered I had St. John's wort tincture macerating. I strained out the flowers and took 10 drops. It took about an hour and then the entire area let go and relaxed, the tension was gone, and I regained full mobility and a sense of joy.

       St. John's wort has a special affinity to the solar plexus/nervous system of the body. It can be used to support people with anxiety, fear or depression. It is said to bring emotions and thoughts into synchronicity. It's flower essence is good for overload of information to help with processing.

     There are recommendations to exercise caution in taking St. John's wort internally if you are on antidepressants. Herbalist Susun weed says tincture is perfectly safe and people only run into problems when consuming capsules, watch her quick video on Hypericum here. I like to let people know about possible contraindications so that they can do their own research about their medications. This herb is so effective for the winter blues and depression that it has helped numerous people come off of medications altogether. 

      Many practitioners consider St. John's wort oil to be like a homeopathic chiropractic adjustment. For me, my personal experiences definitely confirm this opinion. It's also incredible anti-viral! The little yellow flowers of this beautiful plant make a vividly red tincture and oil. It will always have an important place in my herbal medicine chest and my heart!

      Starting on December 9, 2016 my apothecary, consultation space and educational services will be open! I have a limited stock of fresh Hypericum tincture and oil but once they're gone, I won't have more until next season! 

 

This is St. John (or Joan's) wort, Hypericum Perforatum. Notice it's upright stalk and tiny yellow flowers. When held up to the light you can see the that the flower's petals are perforated with tiny little holes.

This is St. John (or Joan's) wort, Hypericum Perforatum. Notice it's upright stalk and tiny yellow flowers. When held up to the light you can see the that the flower's petals are perforated with tiny little holes.

This is Hypericum Calycinum (creeping St. John's wort) which is a common ground cover in gardens in North America. It has antibacterial properties but cannot be used interchangeably with Hypericum Perforatum.

This is Hypericum Calycinum (creeping St. John's wort) which is a common ground cover in gardens in North America. It has antibacterial properties but cannot be used interchangeably with Hypericum Perforatum.

A Brief History of Kefir

Have you heard about water kefir yet? While many people have become familiar with a popular fermented beverage called "kombucha", water kefir remains a much lesser known fermented beverage. 

According to Sandor Ellix Katz, author or one of my favorite books, 'Wild Fermentation', "The kefir story is full of intrigue. The first kefir grains are said to have been a gift from Allah, delivered by his prophet Mohammed. The grains were treasured by the people who possessed them, passed down from generation to generation, and definitely not shared with strangers. Early in the twentieth century, the "All Russian Physicians' Society" became interested in obtaining the mysterious source of this healthful drink. Since the keepers of the grains did not wish to share them, this required deception and culture thievery. The scheme involved a young Russian woman named Irina Sakharova, whom the physicians hoped would be able to charm a Caucasus prince, Bek-Mirza Barchorov, into giving her some kefir grains. He refused, she tried to leave, he had her kidnapped, she was rescued, and he was charged in the Czar's courts. For reparations, the young woman was awarded the treasure she sought; the court ordered the prince to give her some of his cherished kefir grains. In 1908, she brought the first kefir grains to Moscow. Kefir became, and remains to this day, a popular drink in Russia. In 1973, at age 85, Irina Sakharova was formally recognized by the Soviet Ministry of Health for her role in bringing kefir to the Russian people".

Wow! Isn't that amazing? And now thanks to that woman I have a fridge full of both milk kefir and water kefir to keep my family healthy!

I make both kombucha and water kefir (and milk kefir), but my first choice of beverage between the two, is definitely water kefir. It actually has more probiotic strains than kombucha and takes much less time to make. It is the perfect beverage for a hot summer day! Unlike kombucha, which has about a 2% alcohol content, water kefir is alcohol free, making it a wonderful probiotic drink for children, as well as adults! My son guzzles it! 
 

Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease! What's a Mom to Do?

        My eldest son, eight years old, came down with a fever this past Sunday. Given that Pertussis is going around his school, I immediately put him to bed, started a pot of bone broth, put on some thyme infusion and garlic lemonade (recipes to follow) and started getting him to drink lots of each. His fever remained between 100.5 - 102 for 36 hours, after which he had a slightly sore throat for another day before bouncing back to his regular self (which is literally bouncing... off the walls). 

        He was back in school on Thursday, so when my 18 month old also came down with a fever on Wednesday night, I knew he caught what my eldest son had and was simply relieved that it wasn't Pertussis. He also had a mild fever between 100-102 for approximately a day and a half. During his fever, he didn't have much of an appetite and I really had to coax him to drink fluids. With any illness where fever is present, dehydration is always one of the main concerns. When his fever cleared, his appetite came back with vehemence and he was taking fluids normally.

         Imagine my surprise then, when I pulled back into my driveway this morning (Friday) after drop off. My little one had pulled off his booties and I noticed that he had a blister on his foot. I brought him inside and applied my herbal salve to his blister, changed his bum, gave him a big kiss and put him down. He grabbed a book and urged me to come read to him. When I pulled him onto my lap on the couch and saw his little fingers holding his book- I noticed a second blister on one of his fingers. Two blisters in different spots, when my child has never even had one- I knew it wasn't coincidence. 

      A quick google search for "blisters on hands and feet of baby" told me he most likely has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. It sounds awful, right? So I pulled out my text books, herbal guides and go to resources and learned all that I could about this virus. It turns out, luckily that it isn't nearly as awful as it sounds.

       Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD for short) is caused by a class of enterovirus called Coxsackievirus. There are numerous strains of the virus, so though exposure to one strain will result in permanent immunity- it is still possible to contract another strain and develop symptoms again. This class of viruses is so common that they are second to the common cold. Like so many childhood illnesses, the initial symptoms closely mimic the common cold.

       Symptoms include fever, sore throat, a rash or blisters on the mouth, hands and feet, though it may spread up the legs or arms, or onto the genitals too. There is sometimes little white sores in the mouth, loss of appetite (likely due to sores or fever) and diarrhea. Most children do not experience all symptoms. 

     Adults rarely get HFMD but it does happen. Since this virus is most contagious before symptoms ever show up, it is important to quarantine and treat the entire family. The incubation period for HFMD is 3-7 days and is spread via direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person. This means sneezing, coughing, saliva, and feces so remember to make sure everyone is washing their hands really well! Wash your hands well after changing diapers too mums and dads! You may want to do a quick vinegar wash of door knobs, cupboard and fridge handles and frequently touched items as well. 

      Since conventional/modern medicine has little to offer children who have HFMD aside from Advil for discomfort or reduction in fever, it's important to know that there are many herbal remedies available that are antiviral, help support the immune system, and can help your child keep calm and rest. It is also important to note that fever suppression is not something to do when a fever is in a normal and safe range of 100-103. Fevers are the bodies way of literally burning off up the virus and should not be suppressed. If a fever goes higher than 104, you can try a tepid (luke warm) bath or herbal remedies- but do seek medical attention for an uncontrollable fever.

      My favorite herbal remedies with antiviral and immune boosting properties for children include lemon balm, peppermint and elderberry. These herbs are powerful, yet delicious and easy to get children to take. My eighteen month old loves lemon balm! You can make infusions (strong tea), use tinctures added to other liquid or syrups. Please don't give honey to children under the age of one due to risk of botulism and avoid giving juice to children unless is is heavily diluted as the high level of sugar is suppressing to the immune system. Contact your local herbalist (such as myself) if you are interested in having a custom anti-viral or immune boosting blend made up!

      Other helpful herbs that can and should be put into a soup or bone broth include Garlic, Onions, Astragalus, sea-weeds, Calendula, Oregano and Thyme. Make this into a delicious immune boosting soup or stew for your kids.
         Garlic "lemonade" can be made by adding 3-4 garlic cloves to a 1 litre jar and pouring boiling liquid over top. Allow this to steep and then mix in freshly squeezed lemon juice, and honey to taste. Note that this may be too acidic for children with very sore throats.

      To prevent secondary infection of the blisters, you can apply a salve made from one or a combination of the following: calendula, st. john's wort and usnea. You can also apply lemon balm tincture externally.

       If the rash is sore and irritating, oatmeal baths may be given and marshmallow or slippery elm tea can help sooth blisters and any irritation in the mouth or throat.

       Childhood illnesses are actually important strengtheners of a child's immune system. They exercise it, in a way, and I encourage everyone to look into the Anthroposophical view of childhood illness as a "soul-cleansing" experience. In other cultures, fever and childhood illnesses are through to help the child rid toxins from the body that may have accumulated in the womb. It is helpful to view illness as a positive and necessary process of becoming a strong, highly functioning, spiritual being. 

       One last note I want to leave you with is to continue to care for your child and keep them well nourished and rested in the convalescing period of the illness. My general rule of thumb is to allow for a convalescing period that is half the length of the duration of the illness. So if your child was sick for 4 days, allow 2 days of convalescing. 

      I'm officially on quarantine this week, friends while I help my child overcome this illness and support his development. Within an hour of the appearance of the first blister, several more had developed. Luckily I've got all the right remedies on hand! I hope this information can help other parent's in our area too! 

      

IMG_2568.JPG

My little guy having his nap... notice the little rash on his mouth. That rash appeared after his fever and I didn't link it to HFMD until this morning when I saw his foot.