Dealing with colds and the flu at this time of year

Cold and flu prevention

Colds and flus are common winter infections caused by viruses. Colds are milder than flus and tend to be limited to the mouth and nose.

More than 200 viruses can cause a cold. Common cold viruses include rhinoviruses, corona viruses, adenoviruses and respiratory syncytial viruses. Nasal congestion, itchy watery eyes, sore throat and cough are common symptoms of a cold. Most colds last on average three to seven days.

Flus are more severe than colds and tend to last longer. They are caused by a family of influenza A, B, C and D viruses. Sore throat, nasal congestion, itchy watery eyes, headache, muscle aches, nausea, upset stomach and fever are common symptoms of a flu. Most flus last between four and seven days.

Washing your hands is one of the best things you can do to prevent catching a cold or contracting a flu virus.

A recent Cochrane review concluded that handwashing is the single best thing you can do to prevent getting a cold or flu virus and most experts suggest washing your hands under running water, and using soap, for at least 20 seconds—the length of time it takes to sing one stanza of the song Happy Birthday to You.

Viruses and bacteria, although airborne, can stick to surfaces and objects. Your hands are used to touch surfaces such as door handles, countertops, common utensils, dish cloths, phones, remote controls and money. Most experts agree the most contaminated surfaces in your home are found in the kitchen and bathroom. In public spaces, the most contaminated areas include door handles, faucets, toilet seats and checkout counters.

Washing surfaces with an antiviral chemical, such as bleach, is recommended. Four teaspoons of bleach per one litre of water makes a good antiseptic concentration. Other antiviral chemicals include hydrogen peroxide, alcohol and essential oils that can be applied to surfaces to prevent viral adherence.

Wearing a mask may also be beneficial. Although a recent Cochrane review concluded mask wearing does not prevent getting a virus for most people, it may in preventing transmitting the virus to another person. Together with other public measures, such as distancing yourself from an infected person, that may help prevent transmission.

Cold viruses can live up to one hour on human hands while flu viruses can live up to 24 hours on door handles. The Covid virus can live up to several days on surfaces, especially in cold and dry environments.

The amount of virus needed to cause an infection in a person varies from virus to virus as well as person to person.

The viral load is the quantity needed to cause an infection and can vary from as little as 10,000 virions to as much as several billion viral particles. Not only is the viral load important but also the state of the immune system. The human immune system is a complex interplay of immune cells that includes white blood cells and cellular chemicals called cytokines.

If you sneeze, cover your face and nose. If you use your hands, immediately wash them or use antiseptic wipes to prevent the virus from adhering to your hands and then entering your mouth, nose or eyes.

Also, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and spices that contain phytochemicals that help the immune system or are antiviral. Garlic, cayenne pepper, horse radish, ginger, tumeric and honey are common condiments used to treat common respiratory viral infections.

It’s also important to get your sleep. A sustained deep sleep, usually seven to eight hours in duration, is necessary for a healthy immune system. Get regular exercise too. Fresh air and aerobic exercise are good for the immune system, the lungs and respiratory system, as well as the cardiovascular system.

Stay hydrated. Drinking fluids keeps mucous membranes hydrated and may keep viruses from adhering to mucosal surfaces. Sip warm liquids. Fluids such as water, tea and chicken noodle soup are recommended.

Add moisture to the air. Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air. In winter the air is dry and adding moisture to the air prevents viruses from sticking around too long. The humidity is expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount of water in the air. A relative humidity between 40% and 60% is best to prevent viral transmission.

Take pain killers. If your throat or sinuses are sore, taking a pain killer such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen is acceptable. Other supplements, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc are also recommended to help maintain a healthy immune system and decrease the time it takes to get over a cold or the flu.

Herbal medicines such as echinacea, goldenseal, astragalus, elderberry and oregano oil are all popular over-the-counter natural remedies that may help you get over a cold or the flu as well.

Flu shots, base d on the best model that predicts the upcoming flu viruses, are estimated to be between 40% and 60% effective in preventing the flu. They are recommended for high-risk patients.

It is important to remember that sometimes a cold or the flu can lead to a concomitant bacterial infection in an immune-compromised individual and that may require prescription antibiotics.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Turmeric is more than just a spice

Health benefits of turmeric

Turmeric is a popular culinary spice from southeast Asia that has some amazing potential benefits for human health.

This perennial herb is indigenous to India and south-east Asia. It grows up to one metre in height and has small elliptical green leaves and a deep orange or yellow root or rhizome. It is a member of the ginger family.

The brightly coloured root and rhizome has been used as a culinary spice in food preparation and as a part of curry powder, it has been mixed with coriander, cumin, black pepper, ginger and other spices. As a dye, it has been used in the clothing and textiles industry. It has also been used in cosmetics as well as the food and beverage industry. The root and rhizome have been described as pungent, bitter and earthy. It has also been used in Ayurvedic medicine for several thousand years.

The chemical constituents of turmeric have been identified as 1% to 6% curcumin, volatile oils, fibre, minerals, protein, fat and carbohydrates. Other sources have listed curcumin content from 1% to 8%. It should be noted the total curcumin content of the root is probably better referred to as total curcuminoid content. That reflects the fact there are several slightly different, but related, chemicals in the root and rhizome of this plant.

Curcumin is the name given to the chemical responsible for the bright yellow and orange colour of the turmeric plant in its root and rhizome. Curcumin has been identified as the main active ingredient of the plant. However, three main curcuminoid molecules have been identified in the turmeric plant. The naturally occurring content of curcumin has been identified to be between 60% to 70% of the total amount of curcuminoids.

Turmeric and curcumin have been described as plant compounds with a multiplicity of different biochemical effects on human health. Some of those effects include anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antidiabetic, liver protection, wound-healing, cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, immune-enhancing and nerve protection in the brain.

In some studies, curcumin shows anti-inflammatory activity comparable to Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory compounds. The use of turmeric and curcumin compounds alone or in combination with other herbs can be useful in reducing osteoarthritic aches and pains. And like NSAIDs, turmeric and curcumin have blood thinning and anti-platelet activity.

In other studies curcumin and turmeric have antioxidant and neuroprotective effects for the brain and nervous system. Curcumin increases BDNP or brain derived neurotrophic factors that protect the nerves from oxidative damage and aid in proper maintenance and repair.

A recent study in the BMJ or British Medical Journal showed that turmeric consumption was as effective as a prescription proton pump inhibitor in alleviating stomach pain and discomfort. Turmeric can improve the flow of bile in liver and gall bladder and have antioxidant effects on hepatic cells. Curcumin may also be useful in inflammatory bowel disease.

The Linus Pauling Institute in Oregon has published an overview of the research of the medical benefits of curcumin. The authors point out that the mounting evidence of preclinical studies shows that curcumin modulates numerous molecular targets and exerts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and neuroprotective activities.

They further elaborate that while a few preliminary studies show that curcumin has anti-inflammatory activity in humans, larger randomized controlled trials are needed to establish its efficacy in osteoarthritis and radiation induced dermatitis.

They continue to report that some evidence exists so far that curcumin improves cognitive performance in older adults with or without cognitive impairment. Also, its use for depression is very preliminary and long-term clinical trials are recommended.

The use of curcumin for patients with diabetes is also preliminary and more long-term trials are needed. And while in vitro testing of curcumin in cancer activity remains encouraging, human trials are very limited particularly in patients with breast, prostate, pancreatic, colorectal, lung and skin cancer.

Its use with cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapeutic drugs is cautioned. Some preliminary studies show it can help promote the benefits of chemo drugs, while having negligible side effects. However, its use with patients who receive chemo drugs should be evaluated and recommended on an individual basis.

Other benefits of curcumin have been reported for cardiovascular disease, dermatology and ophthalmology and while encouraging, the study’s authors conclude further investigation is warranted.

Turmeric is believed to be safe for human consumption in doses up to 12 grams per day. Reported side effects of curcumin consumption include gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea, headache and, in some cases, skin rashes.

Its impact for use during pregnancy and lactation has not been determined, so it is not recommended beyond its use as a culinary spice. In vitro, studies show curcumin can inhibit platelet aggregation and its use with patients who use blood thinners and anticoagulant drugs is cautioned.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Co-enzyme Q10 is vitally important for life

Q10 and the spark of life

Q10 is a biochemical spark inside human cells that is vitally important for life.

Co-enzyme Q10, or Q10 for short, is an important vitamin-like compound that helps convert carbohydrates and fats into energy. All cells have varying amounts of Q10. Very metabolically active tissue, like the heart, gums and muscles have more Q10. It is a fat-soluble compound that accepts and transfers electrons inside cells and is concentrated in organelles within cells called mitochondria.

Mitochondria act as tiny generators, that literally generate energy within cells. The average cell has about 2,500 mitochondria per cell. The heart has more than 8,000 mitochondria per cell.

After food is ingested, digested and absorbed through the digestive system, it travels to cells via the bloodstream. Complex carbohydrates are broken down by enzymes to become simple sugars. The sugars are absorbed by cells and further broken down to generate energy for each cell. Q10 is used in mitochondria to accept and transfer electrons from these broken-down sugars.

The human body can make about two to three milligrams of Q10 per day. Dietary sources supply an additional three to six milligrams per day. Rich sources of the co-enzyme include meat, fish, nuts and seeds, vegetables like broccoli and whole grains. The body’s stores between 500 and 1,500 milligrams of it.

There are two types of Q10 in supplements, namely ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Contrary to marketing hype, both are biologically active. Ubiquinol, which tends to be more expensive, is moderately better absorbed. Most studies have been done on ubiquinone.

There are only a few Q10 manufacturers in the world and they supply most of it to various vitamin companies. The demand for the co-enzyme is ever-increasing and sales will soon be well over $1 billion per year in North America.

Q10 is poorly absorbed and is best taken with other fats or oils. Supplements vary in concentration from 30 to 300 milligrams. Many nutritionally oriented practitioners often recommend a dose of between 100 to 200 milligrams per day. Doses of up to 3,000 milligrams per day have been consumed by some individuals without negative effects.

Even though Q10 is fat-soluble, it does not appear to accumulate in the body. Deficiency, while rare, can still occur.

Genetic diseases of mitochondrial dysfunction are marked by Q10 problems. If the mitochondria aren’t working properly, the cells are not properly oxidizing food and generating energy. Many drugs and toxins can interfere with mitochondrial and Q10 function. One of the leading theories of aging is hallmarked by mitochondrial dysfunction and Q10 disruption.

Statins—drugs used to lower cholesterol—can disrupt Q10 production and cause deficiency. This occurs because the co-enzyme is made from the same basic precursor molecule as cholesterol. Most cholesterol production occurs in the liver. The clinical significance of this disruption is not fully known yet. Common side effects of statins include unusual muscle aches and myalgias. Q10 can help prevent muscle pains in some people taking statins and in others it makes no difference.

The co-enzyme occurs in large amounts in heart muscle. It is safe to take with all heart disorders and can help to improve heart muscle function in some individuals with poor function, like congestive heart failure (CHF). Its use in heart rhythm disorders has not been clearly demonstrated.

Q10 can help improve kidney function in some individuals and can also help improve muscle energy, though its use to improve athletic performance has not been clearly demonstrated. Some patients with fibromyalgia report some benefit with it, while others, with unexplained fatigue, report some benefit in energy with supplements.

It has also shown some benefit in neurological degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Ataxias or coordination and balance disorders and can improve periodontal and gum disease. Topical application of Q10 to gums can improve gum health.

It is widely used as a topical skin treatment to prevent oxidative damage to the skin and prevent aging. Its derivatives are widely used in expensive skin creams for this purpose. One simple caveat can be opening a capsule of Q10 and applying to damage skin and aging skin.

Q10 supplements are very safe to take and side effects are benign, including nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. While similar in structure to vitamin K, it can interfere in vitamin K dependent blood clotting. It is generally considered safe in pregnancy, though not recommended as a supplement.

Finally, is not generally recommended for children.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


The difficulty dealing with dementia

Dementia steals memories

Dementia, whether formally diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia or some other cause, is a scourge of a disease. It is insidious and progressive and robs a person of their so-called “golden” years or the twilight of their life.

There is something magical and inherently healing about the heat and light of fire in a wood stove. Our wood stove was located in the basement of our house on the outskirts of our small town. During the cold and harsh winter months our stove would be lit, burning wood and warming our house.

The fire would burn all night and supply all our heating needs. The last ember would burn out by the early morning.

My mother, Marion, was generally a kind soul with a loving heart. She was a traditional homemaker, who grew her own garden and made wonderful and nourishing meals from scratch. She canned her own food and made her own bread. She also knitted and crocheted sweaters, socks and blankets. She had her share of tragedy and loss in life. She turned to the Bible for solace. Her favorite book in the Bible was the poetic Book of Psalms.

At the beginning there were subtle signs. She would often forget places and names. She would get dates, times and numbers confused. She misplaced things and couldn’t remember where she left them.

She would brush off these momentary lapses and make whimsical excuses. She would then accuse her husband of not listening to her and following instructions. After he suddenly passed away, her symptoms worsened.

Stories became more convoluted, a mix of reality and memories of the past. One moment she would talk coherently but then drift off into something that bordered on fantasy. Her short-term memory faded but she could still remember vivid details of her distant childhood. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia.

As her memory deteriorated, she was placed in a bright and beautiful, but somewhat sterile, care home with other similar infirmed and decrepit individuals. She seemed to adjust to her new living arrangements nicely. As she grew older, she became frail and weaker, lost her appetite and her ability to walk unaided.

I am going to miss our telephone calls. I could phone my mom anywhere or anytime and talk to her and ask her advice. When I moved away to college and university, I could phone when I was down or despondent and say “Hi Mom…”

When I graduated and went to school in Seattle, I could always phone home and have her answer. After I got married and lived in a different city than my parents, I could still phone home and talk to mom.

As her illness progressed, the phone calls dwindled. She would often have trouble hearing me, would get me confused with someone else or inadvertently hang up on me. She talked about the incidences that happened long ago to people who have long since passed. And then the phone calls stopped.

Spouses, children and caregivers of patients suffering from dementia and other neuro-degenerative diseases are exposed to a variety of stressors. They experience a range of emotions ranging from confusion, grief, fear, sadness, anxiety, depression, embarrassment, loss, rejection and guilt. More than anything, I felt a certain amount of guilt and powerlessness to do anything.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the care home was under strict lockdown for months. I only had a few brief visits outside her window. My last visit was just after Christmas when I was able to visit her in person.

She was confined to her medical bed. We talked about things that were both real and imaginary, punctuated by brief smiles and laughter. I held her hand, told her I loved her, gave her a kiss on her forehead and that was the last time I saw her.

Unconditional love is loosely defined as a love or deep concern for another without any attachments or boundaries. A true mother’s love of a child is epitomized as an unconditional love. I am forever grateful for friendship, guidance and the love she gave and showed me.

Many studies show children shown unconditional love are better adapted, healthier and have superior stress resolve. It is critical for the personal development of self-esteem. Children not shown unconditional love tend to show more helplessness, anger and resentment.

Like the last ember of a fire in wood stove, my mother faded away. But her example of unconditional love has endured and persisted.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More The Okanagan Naturopath articles

About the Author

Doug Lobay is a practicing naturopathic physician in Kelowna, British Columbia.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of British Columbia in 1987 and then attended Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle, Washington, where graduated with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine degree in 1991. While attending Bastyr College, he began to research the scientific basis of naturopathic medicine. 

He was surprised to find many of the current major medical journals abounded with scientific information on the use of diet, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.

Doug is a member of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia and has practiced as naturopathic family physician for more than 30 years.  He maintains a busy practice in Kelowna where he sees a wide age range of patients with various ailments.

He focuses on dietary modification, allergy testing, nutritional assessments, supplement recommendation for optimal health, various physical therapy modalities, various intravenous therapies including chelation therapy.

An avid writer, he has written seven books on various aspects of naturopathic medicine that are available on Amazon and was also a long-time medical contributor to the Townsend Letter journal for doctors and patients, where many of his articles are available to view on-line. He has also given numerous lectures, talks and has taught various courses on natural medicine.

Doug enjoys research, writing and teaching others about the virtues of natural health and good nutrition. When not working, he enjoys cycling, hiking, hockey, skiing, swimming, tennis and playing guitar.

If you have any further questions or comments, you can contact Dr. Lobay at 250-860-7622 or [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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