For those of us living relatively far North of the equator, vitamin D deficiency is a common finding, and the health consequences are a popular topic in adult healthcare. Adequate levels of the active form of the vitamin (Cholecalciferol) are necessary for proper immune function, maintaining cardiovascular health, preventing osteoporosis, cancer prevention, healthy pregnancies and more.
When considering vitamin D supplements as a therapy, one group that may be commonly overlooked is children. Although children receive vitamin D supplementation through fortified milk, fortified non-dairy beverages, and healthy food choices, new research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and St. Michael’s Foundation conveys that current diets may not provide enough.
Dietary records of Canadian infants suggest they are consuming only 11% of their recommended daily allowance of vitamin D at one year of age. Vitamin D deficiency in children can disrupt proper growth and development, and predispose them to asthma, allergies and more. Doctor Jonathan Maguire’s most recent study looked at serum levels of the vitamin in 1,898 children, and compared it to their variable intakes of vitamin D supplements and fortified milk. The researchers discovered that children under 6 years of age were most likely to maintain higher blood levels if they were given both a vitamin D supplement and 2 glasses of cow’s milk daily.
Many children do not receive daily vitamin D supplements, and for some, cow’s milk is an allergen that must be avoided. For these children, vitamin D supplementation is especially important.
Here in the NW, where sun is rare and families often avoid intake of dairy for reasons of allergy or conscience, I recommend considering vitamin D supplementation for your little ones. Below are some suggestions and general information.
Safe Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) Dosing for Children:
~For infants, children & adolescents, 400 IU daily is a safe dosage
~400 IU is safe in addition to breastfeeding, infant formula, or cow’s milk
~Do not exceed 1,000 IU daily in infants under 12 months of age
~Consider 600-1,000 IU daily for children >12 months old who do not drink cow’s milk
Chewable – Natural Factors, Vitamin D3 for Kids
Liquid Drops – Nordic Naturals, DHA Infant (contains omega-3 fatty acids & vitamin D3)
Dr. Kaley Bourgeois
Jonathon L. Maguire et al. Modifiable Determinants of Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Status in Early ChildhoodOpportunities for PreventionDeterminants of Early Childhood Vitamin D Status. JAMA Pediatrics, 2013; : 1 DOI: 10.1001/2013.jamapediatrics.226
St. Michael’s Hospital. “Supplements and cow’s milk play biggest roles in determining vitamin D levels in children.” ScienceDaily, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Jan. 2013.
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Office of Dietary Supplements – National Institutes of Health. 24 June, 2011. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
Low progesterone production is a significant and frequent finding in the realm of women’s healthcare. It is no wonder that the term estrogen dominance can be found throughout magazines, health blogs and other sources of medical media. While estrogen dominance does exist, the label is often over-used and does not differentiate between the unique forms of hormone imbalance facing women of all ages.
Names and labels aside, low progesterone is at the root cause of various symptoms, including infertility, irregular cycles, painful & heavy periods, breast pain, premenstrual syndrome, poor sleep, and more. In addition to its direct roles in menstruation and pregnancy, progesterone is involved in multiple physiological processes such as water balance, and nervous system function. At healthy levels, it prevents excess water retention, and helps to calm the nervous system through its effect on neurotransmitters in the brain. For these reasons, low progesterone can cause pre-menstrual symptoms like bloating and weight gain, mood changes and poor sleep.
Lets discuss a few of the common health complaints linked to progesterone deficiency:
Progesterone has the unique job of sustaining a healthy uterine lining for the two weeks following ovulation. This short window is necessary for conception. Furthermore, the ovaries must produce enough progesterone to support pregnancy for the first 10 weeks, until the placenta takes over.
The term luteal phase defect refers to a period of less than 10 days between ovulation and the 1st day of bleeding. Many women suffer from this symptom of progesterone deficiency without knowing it, even if they have a seemingly normal, 28 day cycle. Every women struggling with infertility should consider progesterone deficiency as a potential causes; your healthcare practitioner can help your to properly track your cycle, and order blood tests when needed.
Progesterone deficiency often plays a role in menstrual cycles that are irregular. If your cycle does not occur on a monthly basis, or the time between your menstruation changes, you likely have an imbalance between progesterone and estrogen. This imbalance may be relative (meaning your progesterone is within normal range, but your estrogen levels are high), or purely due to low production of the hormone.
Uterine Fibroids & Endometriosis
Estrogen plays the role of stimulating tissue growth in the uterus to prepare for ovulation and pregnancy. Progesterone is responsible for balancing this and other effects of estrogen so that the tissue does not grow in excess.
When this balance fails, patients may develop signs of excess estrogen stimulation, including endometrial hyperplasia (overgrowth of uterine lining) and fibroids (benign tumors of the uterus). Insufficient progesterone is also suspected to play a role in endometriosis, a painful condition in which uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. Though fibroids and endometrial hyperplasia are more common in middle-aged women heading toward menopause, all three may occur in young women and play a role in infertility.
Thankfully, low progesterone and associated hormone imbalances can often be corrected via botanical therapies, physiological hormone replacement, or both. When properly dosed, studies show that Vitex agnus-castus can significantly increase progesterone production. Likewise, there are hormone precursors that can be safely supplemented by your healthcare practitioner to support your body’s hormone production. When indicated, physiological doses of bio-identical progesterone can also reverse the symptoms of progesterone deficiency.
Dr. Kaley Bourgeois
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Updated Jan 4, 2013.
As we head into the new year, many of us resolve to make a new start on weight loss and fitness. For some, this means attempting the most recent and celebrated diet. For others, it means continuing the same calorie-restrictions and exercise plans, often without results.
According to a physician with the Loyola University Health System, recent findings suggest that only 20% of dieters successfully achieve and maintain weight loss. Healthy diet and exercise are key in slimming down, but there are additional factors to consider when the pounds won’t budge.
~Blood Sugar Balance~
There is a direct relationship between elevated blood sugar and weight gain. In fact, the body relies upon blood sugar and insulin levels to tell it when to begin storing fat, rather than burn it.
When blood sugar spikes, such as it does after eating a cookie, bread, or some other simple carbohydrate, the pancreas must produce an especially large amount of insulin. This insulin allows our cells to use the sugars, but it also signals them to convert the sugar into fat. Even on a low-calorie diet, the wrong food can cause a spike in your blood sugar, leading your body to think it is time to store, when it is actually time to burn.
Blood sugar balance can often be controlled by changing the types of foods we eat, and when we eat them. However, other factors can disrupt blood sugar balance, including cortisol fluctuations due to chronic stress and other hormonal imbalances.
It is no secret that low thyroid function plays a significant role in weight gain and resistance to weight loss. Sadly, many people are not screened for thyroid dysfunction, and those that are tested do not always receive a thorough screening.
Each of our cells require thyroid hormone in order to burn calories and produce energy. Without healthy thyroid function, the body will not respond properly to diet changes and exercise. To effectively screen for thyroid imbalances when weight loss is a struggle, it is important to measure more than just the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), as TSH is not always a reliable indicator of thyroid health and metabolism. Additional tests include, but are not limited to, inactive and active thyroid hormone levels. A normal TSH level does not always rule out low thyroid function. Pursue more thorough testing if you struggle with weight loss.
Thyroid is not the only hormone that can cause weight fluctuations in your body–cortisol, estrogen and testosterone all play a role in metabolism and fat storage. Imbalances in these and other hormones can disrupt your body’s ability to burn fat. The calorie-burning, energy-producing components of your cells, called mitochondria, need adequate levels of these hormones in order to do their job.
Physical traumas, mental and emotional stress, and even aging can cause imbalances in these hormones which then disrupt metabolism. Botanical supplements, focused nutritional therapies and physiological doses of bio-identical hormones can help to restore balance and make your body more responsive to diet changes and exercise.
Our bodies are designed to survive, and they do so brilliantly. In times of starvation, we produce a cascade of hormones that tell our cells to slow metabolism and store fat in preparation for hard days to come. Though we no longer live in times of famine, our bodies still carry this self-protection mechanism. Calorie restriction and other forms of stress, both physical and emotional, can activate this hormone cascade, leading to increased body fat.
A common mistake made by dieters is over-restriction of calories. Fewer calories does not always equal fewer pounds. When the body detects starvation, it creates changes in thyroid hormone production and mitochondrial function in order to slow metabolism. While over-eating can lead to fat deposition, so can under-eating. A balance must be found between moderate calorie restriction and therapies that support metabolism. Exercise is a great way to stimulate mitochondria, but as mentioned above, blood sugar and hormone balance are just as important. For the best results, fuel your body with healthy foods, exercise daily, and work with your physician to address blood sugar and hormonal imbalances.
Dr. Kaley Bourgeois
Loyola University Health System (2013, January 3). Top four reasons why diets fail. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 4, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2013/01/130103192352.htm
In preparing for pregnancy, self-care to prevent complications is vitally important for both mother and child. Among the USA’s mothers-to-be, we are seeing a rise in gestational diabetes. Currently, 200,000 women are newly diagnosed each year.
Gestational diabetes leads to a greater risk of developing Diabetes Type II (insulin resistance) for the young mother, shortly following her pregnancy. Furthermore, there is considerable risk to the infant, including preterm birth, an enlarged heart, nervous system dysfunction, respiratory difficulties and abnormal blood sugar regulation.
Reasonable and effective lifestyle changes to prevent gestational diabetes can be initiated before and during pregnancy, ensuring greater health for mother and child. A recent study published through NIH revealed yet another easy and non-invasive method toward decreasing this risk: reduction in dietary animal fats.
According to the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a higher dietary intake of animal fats and cholesterol is linked to a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes. Even with other lifestyle changes in place, such as increased exercise, the link remains significant. Also important was the finding that other non-animal dietary fats did not increase the risk of mothers-to-be developing gestational diabetes.
This study’s findings reinforce the importance of using everyday changes in diet, activity and general lifestyle to prepare for pregnancy and future health. Speak with your doctor about changes that could serve you and your future family best.
Dr. Kaley Bourgeois
High animal fat diet increases gestational diabetes risk. NIH News, Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Care of the infant of the diabetic mother. Curr Diab Rep. 2012 Feb;12(1):4-15.
All medications come with side effects, some minor and others extreme. In cases of advanced disease, high-risk infections and other extreme health conditions, the benefits of medication greatly outweigh the side effects. For others, the medications are used largely as a form of preventative medicine, and the potential side effects may not be a worthwhile risk.
Especially in our elderly population, overprescription is common, and fewer medications may improve quality of life and prevent hospitalizations. A study on the USA’s geriatric population (New England Journal of Medicine) published earlier this year found that over 99,000 medication-related emergency hospitalizations occurred between 2007 and 2009. Four common drug prescriptions were responsible for 67 percent of these emergencies:
Oral antiplatelet agents
Oral hypoglycemic agents
Of these four medication classes, none are considered “high-risk.” In fact, only 1.2 percent of the hospitalizations mentioned above were due to high-risk medications.
Why is this significant?
Firstly, because medications perceived as lower-risk are more likely to be prescribed, and to be used for disease prevention. This study shows that such forms of “prevention” are more likely to be life-threatening to our elderly population than expected.
Secondly, because the four medication classes addressed in this study are often used for diseases (Diabetes Type II, Coronary Artery Disease) that are preventable through natural medicine, and manageable with integrated care that requires fewer prescriptions.
The key to reducing hospitalizations due to adverse drug reactions is to reduce the need for such drugs. This can be done safely and effectively through natural and integrative medicine.
Dr. Kaley Bourgeois
Daniel S. Budnitz, MD, et al. Emergency Hospitalizations for Adverse Drug Events in Older Americans. N Engl J Med. 2011 Nov 24;365(21):2002-12
For young women living with Lupus, becoming a mother can be a challenge both emotionally and physically. As the disease progresses, there is an increased risk of pregnancy complications such as miscarriage and preeclampsia. Furthermore, pregnancy has been known to increase the risk of worsening symptoms and disease flares for the expectant mother.
A recent study, spotlighted by the National Institute of Health earlier this month, suggests a healthy pregnancy and birth may not be far from reach for hopeful young women living with Lupus. If general health is supported prior to conception, and antibodies are reduced such that there is low disease activity, there is a significant decrease in risk of pregnancy complications. Disease flares, especially, are reduced.
While lower Lupus activity during pregnancy lessens risk to both mother and child, the route taken to stabilize the disease is just as important. The conventional treatment of Lupus involves immunosuppressive medications that are harmful to a developing fetus. Methotrexate, commonly used to treat Lupus, is known to cause birth defects and cannot be used during or after conception. Corticosteroids, conventionally given to pregnant mothers to reduce a disease flare, have an unknown effect on the fetus and should also be avoided. All immunosuppressive medications increase the risk of infection for the mother, and therefore the child.
Complementary and alternative medicine is often used in treatment of Lupus and other autoimmune conditions, and may offer fewer side effects for mother and child. Below is an example of some research-based treatment options that should be considered in the treatment of Lupus before conception:
High Dose Vitamin D
Another study shared by NIH revealed high-dose vitamin D therapy to boost general immune function, while reducing activity of autoimmune cells, thereby reducing Lupus activity levels. As vitamin D is known to play a significant role in the brain development of a fetus, assessing for adequate levels in any future mother is important.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Dietary supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids has a therapeutic effect on Lupus activity, as well as offering cardiovascular protection and benefitting fetal development.
DHEA is a mild corticosteroid made naturally in the body, and found to be low in Lupus patients. Supplementation to balance hormone deficiencies prior to conception may help to reduce symptoms and disease activity by controlling excessive inflammation.
Work with your healthcare provider to create the appropriate treatment plan for yourself and your future child. There are many options available for addressing autoimmune disease and supporting your overall health.
Questions? Feel free to contact us at (503) 747-2021.
Dr. Kaley Bourgeois
-Pregnancy Safe for Most Women with Lupus: Study. Nov 7, 2011. MedlinePlus, US National Library of Medicine-NIH, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_118393.html
–Vitamin D, Interferon Alpha Vaccine Show Promise Against Lupus, Nov 7, 2011. MedlinePlus, US National Library of Medicine-NIH, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_118395.html
–A randomised interventional trial of omega-3-polyunsaturated fatty acids on endothelial function and disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus. Ann Rheum Dis. 2008 Jun;67(6):841-8. Epub 2007 Sep 17.
–Dehydroepiandrosterone suppresses interleukin 10 synthesis in women with systemic lupus erythematosus. Ann Rheum Dis. 2004 Dec;63(12):1623-6.