Articles for the Month of July 2013

Eat Your Broccoli

I would like to take some time this week to highlight one of the best foods that I know. Broccoli! Now I know that most people learn from a young age to dislike this veggie but it is so good for you and such a versatile ingredient that I just don’t understand it. Sure I didn’t like it as a kid either but I think that comes more from the rebellious spirit ignited by the oft used phrase “Eat Your Broccoli!” than from any real aversion to it. Let’s explore why this vegetable is so great and what we can do to incorporate it into our diets more.

This dark green cruciferous veggie is one of the best sources of nutrients we could ever get our hands on. It is a wonderful source of almost all the minerals, vitamins, and proteins we need. One cup of raw broccoli contains more than our entire daily recommended minimum of Vitamin C, and all the Vitamin K. In fact, the only thing it’s really missing is Vitamin D. Research has even shown that broccoli may contain phytonutrients that help to fight and prevent different types of cancer.

Aside from providing amazing nutrient values and possible cancer fighting powers broccoli also gives us a great helping of fibre which helps to regulate our hunger signals, digestion speed, bowel movements, and intestinal bacteria. Fibre is an important part of our diets and most of us don’t get enough.

The main problem that people seem to have with broccoli is that it isn’t a very interesting veggie in terms of flavour or texture. Well, I want to tell you that there is so much that we can do with that in the kitchen that we don’t need to need to give up on this little green friend. Broccoli, when cooked, is extremely good at carrying the flavours of the things around it. If we combine it in dishes with foods that have stronger flavours like fruits, herbs, and sauces, the broccoli will absorb this flavour and spread it throughout the dish. Broccoli makes an excellent filler in larger dishes to bulk them up and add a big boast of nutrient value to your meal.

For the optimal broccoli dish, you should cook it until there is just a little bit of white left in the cut ends of the stems. This way the broccoli will be soft but still have just that little bit of crunch to it. This will avoid the mushy texture of over cooked broccoli and the really hard crunch of raw broccoli.

One last tip. It’s not only the florets (leafy/flowery bits at the top) that we can use in cooking. A lot of the fibre content is found in the stalks of the veggie. We can get all the nutrients housed in the stalks be adding them to soups but my favourite use is a little more creative. Take the stalks and shred them and add them to thick sauces or stews like chili or pasta sauce (stir-frys are great too) and the small bit of the tough stalk will cook completely and just bend in with the rest of the meal giving you that amazing nutritional value while going unnoticed in the dish.

So there are many ways that we can use broccoli in our food without trying to “just eat it”. My advice is to get creative and try different things. You may find that you secretly loved broccoli all along and just didn’t know it. This amazing superfood should always have a place in our fridges and stomachs.

I’ve found a few recipes to start you off in your adventures with broccoli. If you find more in your travels definitely leave them in the comments below for everyone to enjoy.
-Broccoli with Garlic Butter and Cashews
-Roasted Garlic Lemon Broccoli
-Broccoli and Rice Stir-Fry
-Broccoli Marinara
-Sesame Broccoli
-Roasted Sage Broccoli

Thanks for reading and happy cooking.
Dr. Ben

4 Ways To Beat The Heat

Here in Toronto we are on the verge of officially declaring a “Heat Wave”. It is supposed to break next week but it’s still going to be very hot. It is uncomfortably hot and humid out there right now but we can’t let that get in the way of our lives. This week I’ve put together some suggestions on how to beat the heat this summer other than becoming an air conditioned hermit in your home.

1. Hydration
Our bodies run on water and so many people do not drink enough of it. I’ve definitely said this before but our bodies run on chemical reactions both within our cells and in our blood. Water is the solvent in which those chemical reactions occur, so every single cell and the spaces in between them are filled with the liquid. This is all well and good until you take into account that we also use this essential liquid to filter out toxins in our urine and, more importantly in this situation, we use it as a primary source of core temperature reduction as sweat.

So in hot weather we lose water consistently as we try to cool ourselves down but there is a limit to how much we can lose. Our body needs a minimum level of water in us to function let alone function optimally. So drink lots of water throughout the day to ensure you have enough to keep going and cool down too.

Another thing you can do it sprinkle water on your face, neck, and arms to help with the sweating process. The way that sweat cools us is that heat from our bodies is transferred to the water and it evaporates away. So putting extra water on our exposed skin can speed this up and keep the water in our body where it is for longer.

2. Wear Light Colours
Our clothing choices can make a big difference in our day during the summer. Lighter colours will reflect the sun’s heat more but darker colours will provide greater UV radiation protection. Personally, I would prefer to have a diet rich in antioxidants to help prevent skin damage than swelter in the heat with a dark shirt. Darker clothing will become hotter faster than lighter ones and make you want to jump into the closest water fountain.

3. Shade
Shade is your best friend on the ridiculously hot days. Find a tree to sit under for a few minutes when outside to cool down before you continue on your day and try to walk on the shady side of the street (despite what Louis Armstrong may say) . Doing this will also provide some UV protection.

UV protection is very important and we’ll get into that later but if you are worried you can always bring and umbrella with you. Sunscreen is a fairly controversial topic right now with some concerns about the toxic effect. If you want to learn more check out this link

4. Pick Your Parts
The body has some specific areas that lose heat faster than the rest of the body. These are the top of our heads, the feet, the arm pits, and the groin. Wear clothing that allows these areas of the body to get air flow and this will significantly decrease your temperature. If at all possible keep these areas bare for maximum flow. Of course, use some discretion as one of these bodily regions should not be bare in public. You can also position yourself near a fan or air conditioning vent in the office or home so that the cool air hits you in these areas (again, discretion please).

This is by far not an extensive list of heat beating tricks but it will definitely help on these killer days. Also, be sure to check in on older friends and relatives as well as geriatric physiology has greater difficulty dealing with extreme temperatures and dehydration.

Keep cool this summer and thanks for reading.
Dr. Ben

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Posture’s Problem Child

Welcome back to my blog! This is the first post to DrBenRoffey.com so I would like to take a moment and say Thank You for coming by and I hope that you can learn something from what I do here. If you have any questions about what we discuss here or about any aspects of health or healthcare my door is always open. E-mail me at drroffey@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

One of the more common conditions that walks into a chiropractor’s office but you don’t hear much about is called “Thoracic Outlet Syndrome” (TOS). This is a condition which is not terribly serious but the symptoms can be very scary and if left long enough can cause become fairly debilitating.

First of all let’s look at what this condition is and what causes it. The Thoracic Outlet is the triangle shaped space between your collar bone, shoulder blade, and the base of your neck. Through this space all of the arteries, veins, and lymphatic ducts travel to and from the chest cavity (Thorax) and out into the arm. These structures are also joined by the nerves from the neck that travel to the muscles and skin of the arm. That is a lot of stuff going through a fairly small area. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome occurs when any or all of the nerves, arteries, or veins become compressed which causes pain, numbness, and or tingling, in the hand and arm

The compression of these structures can happen in several different ways but most are due to poor posture, specifically hunching of the upper back (Thoracic spine), rolling forwards of the shoulders, and the head pushing forward in front of the shoulders. Any or all of these postural positions will stress and strain the muscles around our skeleton and cause them to tense up to hold the weight we are not placing upon them. As the angles of these muscles change and their tension increases dramatically they will push against the nerves at the base of the neck and the arteries and veins exiting and entering the top of the rib cage (the Thoracic Outlet) thus causing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

The pain and numbness or tingling associated with TOS can be continuous or episodic in nature depending on the amount of pressure on the structures and they usually have a specific area that they stays within. Most commonly the symptoms are experienced in the hands but over time they may spread into the forearms and even up into the shoulders. People with TOS may also notice a decrease in sensation in the areas affects. If left for a long period of time without treatment muscle weakness can occur in the hand affected.

The exact areas of numbness and tingling and change in skin sensation will be different depending on if it is the nerves, arteries, or veins involved but in general the hand and forearm are the most common areas to experience these symptoms. These symptoms can be mimicked by other conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Herniated Intervertebral Discs in the neck (Cervical Spine), and even active trigger points in the rotator cuff muscles that can refer pain down into the hand and fingers. Make sure you see a doctor to determine the true cause of your pain.

When you go to a doctor they should ask a series of questions and perform a number of tests on you to help determine the nature and source of the problem. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome reacts very well to complementary treatments and therapies including chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and physiotherapy all have excellent results.

Posture is an extremely important thing in our lives and if we maintain a good posture we can avoid conditions like TOS. So I hate to say it but our mothers were right, “Sit up straight and stop slouching.”

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

Chiropractic and Ribs

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on June 6th, 2013)

Chiropractors can adjust any movable joint in the body but the one that people seem to always be surprised at is a rib adjustment. It turns out that most people think that ribs are immobile bones that only protect the chest but there is so much more to them than that.

Ribs to function to protect the organs of the chest and stabilize the thoracic spine but they also play an important role in how we breathe. Our lungs are not muscular organs and so cannot draw air into themselves. It is the responsibility of the diaphragm and the ribs to do this. The diaphragm descends into the abdomen which pushes the ribs out and up in what is referred to as a “bucket handle” motion. This expansion of the chest pulls the lungs out in every direction drawing air in. Relaxing the diaphragm lets the ribs descend and the elasticity of the lungs pushes the air out again.

The ribs are attached to the spine at the back and the sternum in the front. At the spine, the ribs form a joint with the vertebrae which is surrounded but many little muscles. The joint between the ribs and the sternum at the front is slightly more ridged. The ribs end just short of the edge of the sternum and cartilage fills that gap. This does allow some movement as the cartilage is supple and flexible. With these joints as they are the ribs are able to move well and aid in breathing while providing the boney protection to our heart and lungs.

This is, of course, if we are treating our body correctly, which most of us are not. As a society our posture is terrible. We slouch forwards which does not allow out diaphragm to descend as well. This forces us to compensate and use the muscles of the back and shoulders to pull the ribs up to expand our lungs rather than letting them be pushed up by expanding our abdomen. As it happens in all cases of muscular compensation this puts a strain on muscles they were not meant to take. This leads to muscular spasms and pain as well as joint dysfunction in the areas of the spasm. So all these muscles clamping down and holding everything tightly means that the ribs will not be able move properly and hinder breathing. This can be quite uncomfortable and even make breathing painful.

Muscular spasm and improper movement of the ribs will eventually pull the ribs “out” which is not to say that our ribs will fall off but that they will stick out from where they should be. This is not a dislocation but it is a misalignment which can be corrected through adjustment. The adjustment will help to relax the spasm of the muscles, restore proper movement of the rib, and help to improve breathing.

This type of dysfunction is incredibly common and is so simple to reverse. Adjustments paired with postural exercise can restore full breathing capacity and maintain it. This is especially important for people who have difficulty breathing with conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and even smokers.

So make sure your ribs are moving and breathe the fresh air this summer.

Thanks for reading.
Dr. Ben

The Healthy “Fad”

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on May 30th, 2013)

Generally I try to keep my opinion out of my writing and let the facts speak for themselves (I know I don’t always succeed) but today I’m going to throw all that out the window and talk about something that has been bothering me. This is going to be all opinion so hang onto your hats.

Health information is everywhere now and I love this. I’m actively disseminating this information too but it also scares me a little. I look at the way it is being presented and I get very worried. There seem to be two main frames that health information gets stuck in: Fabulous New Diets from magazines and newspapers, or the “Health Experts” talking down to you the consumer and imparting their vast wisdom. Neither of these foster a fertile environment for building a healthy public.

From what I have seen people generally react in one of two ways: they fall into fad dieting quickly lose interest or hope, or they become overwhelmed by information and retreat into their existing eating and lifestyle habits. Both of these are very bad things.

Fad dieters will lose and gain weight quickly which research has suggested is even worse for your health than obesity. As well, many of these fads are not well researched and can be harmful.

Those who retreat are usually withdrawing into habits that are unhealthy and so are not doing themselves any favours.

I think that we need to find a middle ground here. One that brings out the excitement and simplicity of Fad diets but also the solid, factual basis of health experts. I think that this middle ground does exist already but is being lost. There are lots of blogs from great, scientifically minded people who are excited about what they are doing and sharing that knowledge and love of health with the world. I like to think that mine is one of them. It is sites like these which enable us to engage in our health decisions with fully informed opinions without pressure or bias.

It is also important to find people who lead by example. You hear way to many stories of cardiologists who die of heart attacks just walking to get their mail. I would never trust the information presented to me by someone who does not follow their own advice. Either they are incredibly lazy or they don’t believe in what they are saying. Of course, they are human and make mistakes but most of them will write about their mistakes to learn from them and teach us how to avoid or recover from them.

We, as the public, need to take over nutrition reporting in our lives. Go out and find sources who you trust, who are not trying to sell you something or politically motivated. Learn from these people and gather the information around you. They will help you find the health you want and make it much easier than listening to the mainstream media or the health elites.

That’s my two cents worth anyways. Thanks for reading.
Dr. Ben

The Feet and Chiropractic

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on May 23rd, 2013)

Most people do not think about their feet beyond, “Ew! Stinky!” or wanting to hide them away because of some blemish or callous. Well, this week we’re going to take some time to think about our feet in a little more detail than that. Our feet are extremely important to us. In fact, they are extremely important to our entire bodies.

Our feet are always providing either the stability we need to make other movements with the rest of our body or the mobility to respond to the changing ground as we walk. Each foot contains 26 different bones and even more joints. The function of these joints can have a dramatic effect on the rest of the structures of the body. The feet are like the foundation of a house. If the foundation is not strong then the rest of the house will bear the brunt of the damage.

The mobility of the foot is its most important feature. Unlike a house we are able to move around and so we need out foundation to be able to react and adapt to changing features of the ground beneath us. Even with sidewalks there are cracks and bumps and curbs. The joints of our feet should be able to move to provide support no matter what the ground is and the muscles of our feet should be able to provide the strength needed to maintain that support.

When we walk the joints and muscle of the feet are supposed to act in a specific way. We step forward onto our heel and roll along the bottom of the foot as we transfer our weight onto that leg. The weight is specifically running along the outside edge of the foot and curves under the balls of the foot and into the big toe as we push forward again. This only happens if all of the joints are moving properly and the muscles are strong.

If the muscles are weak then we get into a situation called a “Fallen Arch”. This is when the biggest arch of the foot, the “Medial Longitudinal Arch” (the inside edge of the foot), flattens to some degree changing the angles of other joints of the foot and rolling the entire foot inward. This puts a lot of strain on the ligaments of the foot and the joints of the ankle.

There are two other major arches in the feet called the “Lateral Longitudinal Arch” (the outside edge of the foot), which is only a very slight curve, and the “Transverse (or Transversal depending on the source) Arch” which runs between the two Longitudinal ones. Both of these arches are able to fall as well but are less common and cause less difficulty when they do.

On the other end of the spectrum, we can also experience “High Arches” which occurs when the joints are stiff and not as mobile as the need to be. This limits the amount the foot is able to roll during the transition of our weight while walking and causes many difficulties.

No matter what the cause, a foot that cannot respond to the changes placed upon it will transfer the responsibility of the appropriate response up to the ankles, which pass it to the knees, which pass it up the hip, and the hips to the low back, and so on and up it goes. So your headaches may actually be related to improper foot mechanics. Kind of blows the mind, doesn’t it.

Well, this begs the question of what is doing this to us. First and foremost, it is our shoes. The average shoe is designed to cushion the foot so that is doesn’t need to respond to the changes in the ground. Well, what happens to a muscle that is not used? It becomes weak and flabby, then when our shoes wear out or we are not wearing our shoes at all the muscles of our feet cannot sustain the stability the foot should be providing. Also, High Heeled shoes are absolutely killing your foot. The hold the foot in and change all the angles and pressures placed upon it. So it cannot move and so becomes stiff as well as squishing the transverse arch around and causing trouble. The second thing is our sidewalks. We have flattened our world to make it easier on ourselves but in actuality we have taken away the aspect of our world that keeps our feet exercised, healthy, and strong. Without the daily ups and downs of unlevel ground the muscles in our feet get weak and flabby and so cannot give the support needed when called upon.

So how do you fix this? Chiropractic, as it is with all joint and muscle problems, is an excellent way to treat foot problems from bunions to fallen arches to plantar fasciitis. But even if we get the joints moving again and the muscles nice and strong again they will need upkeep. Try walking around without your shoes while you are at home or in the park. This will help to give those little muscles of the feet the exercise they need to stay strong.

Orthotics can be used to help very severe cases and are available from most Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, or Chiropodist clinics but they are a crutch that should not be relied upon for a long period of time. Orthotics will help hold the foot in place and relieve symptoms of improper foot mechanics but they too will eventually make the feet week. So they should only be used while rehabilitating the feet for better function.

I encourage you to think about your feet more and remember how important they are in your life. Treat them well and they will do the same for you.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

What Is Diabetes?

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on May 16th, 2013)

This week is the 4th Annual Diabetes Blog Week so I thought that it would be apropos for me to throw my hat into the ring even though I am not a diabetic myself. So I’m not going to talk about living with diabetes or the emotional struggle involved. For stories like that I would recommend my good friend Ilana Lucas’ blog Diaturgy where her amazing writing talent will have you laughing and crying with every post.

For my part, I’m going to try to do what I (try to) do best: Educate. We’re going to dive deep into what diabetes is so that those of us lucky enough to not have this condition can understand a little more of what it is to live with it.

In a nutshell, Diabetes is our body’s inability to regulate our blood sugar levels. This leads to complications throughout the body which we will get into in a bit. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is where the pancreas is unable to produce the insulin necessary to control blood sugar. This can happen because of genetics or environmental exposure to some kind of toxins and usually develops prior to birth or around puberty but can develop later in life. Type 2 is where the body’s regulatory systems which trigger insulin production and release become deficient. This generally develops because of frequent spikes in blood sugar and consistent over production of the hormones associated with decreasing hunger signals.

People living with Diabetes need to constantly measure their blood sugar levels by pricking their finger with a needle and testing a drop of blood. Type 1 Diabetics will also need to inject themselves with insulin to regulate blood sugar after meals. Type 2 Diabetics can monitor their blood sugar levels and manage them through diet and activity without the need for injections.

So far this just sounds unpleasant but not a huge problem right? Well, this is where the picture gets a little darker. To those of us living without diabetes, a dip in blood sugar brings on lethargy and hunger and a spike causes a little bit of mania and maybe the jitters. For someone living with diabetes a low or high blood sugar level can be life threatening.

Insulin is required to push glucose across the cell membrane and into our cells for use. So when we don’t have the insulin to perform this essential component of life glucose builds up in the blood and our cells need to look for alternative energy sources. Muscles begin to breakdown protein which creates urea (a toxic chemical) that needs to be filtered out by our kidneys. Also if glucose is not being pushed into our cells it is staying in the blood and so ends up being filtered out by the kidneys as well. This leads to a drop in blood volume as water is pushed into the urine in the filtration process. A drop in blood volume like this is bad for the brain and causes stupor and confusion. To add to all of this fat is being utilized as an energy source by the body and the processing of fat into usable energy by the liver produces something called Ketones which as toxic if they build up. The build up of Ketones and the drop in blood volume can lead to coma and possibly death. This whole process does not take long to occur.

The other side of the coin is when there is not enough glucose in the blood which is very bad because our brains can only use glucose as an energy source and nothing else. So without sufficient glucose our brain starts to shut down and can lead to coma and death.

So keeping a regulated blood sugar level is very important and very difficult. Our blood sugar fluctuates wildly throughout any given day depending on our needs. This is not a big deal and kept in check by our bodies for people without diabetes but those living with this condition it is a daily struggle. Even a diabetic with well controlled blood sugar can have spikes and dips sometimes.

There are long term consequences to blood sugar levels that are uncontrolled as well. With higher levels of glucose circulating in the blood (not high enough to cause a coma as we talked about before) the glucose ends up sticking to things, mainly the red blood cells (used as a measure of ~3 month blood sugar stability, “A1c”) and the walls of the arteries and veins. This process is called, “Glycosylation” and it causes the tissues it happens to become stiff. This is not a huge problem for the red blood cells but is an issue for the blood vessels which need to respond to different situations by expanding and contracting. This stiffening causes them to be more susceptible to damage which is where the long term consequences come in.

Damage to the walls of the blood vessels increase the risk of the development arterial plaquing which leads to heart disease. Glycosylation has also been shown to lead to the development of Macular Degeneration (a disease of the retinas leading to blindness) as well as putting strain on the kidneys and the filtration of the blood.

Glycosylation can also happen to the nerves of the body which can cause pain along those nerves and can lead to the loss of all sensation along that nerve. This is generally associated with areas of heavy glycosylation in the blood vessels and so a decrease in oxygen reaching these areas of the body (generally the feet and hands) and so the degeneration and death of these tissues. This degeneration is not reversible (although there is some interesting leads in laser therapy to prove this wrong) and the tissue will need to be amputated.

Diabetics also have a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer because tumors feed off of glucose hungrily. So when tumors are very small and have a chance of dying off on their own due to lack of nutrients they have no end of nutrients in the blood of people living with diabetes because they do not require insulin to grab the glucose up out of the blood while the cells around them are still waiting for the insulin to feed them.

So now you have a little more knowledge about what this condition entails and the burden it can be. A little understanding can go a long way. Diabetes is not something to be feared or shunned. It is a physiological process that can be influenced by our activities and habits. The people I know who have diabetes are some of the strongest characters I have ever met. They struggle and strive to conquer this mountain daily.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

What Is Arthritis?

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on May 9th, 2013)

Arthritis is an extremely common condition. It affects people young and old everywhere across the world but did you know that there are different kinds of arthritis?

In general, arthritis is a degeneration of the joints in the body for any reason. First, this leads to painful movement and use of the joints. Then it progresses to instability of the joints involved, which causes the body to try to lock down that joint to avoid injury. This last part involves the over growth of bone to fuse the joint.

The most common form of arthritis is called, “Osteoarthritis” and it is the breakdown of cartilage within the joints through various reasons. There are several others which all involve varying degrees of autoimmune disease progression which we will not explore in depth today. These conditions include “Rheumatoid Arthritis” and “Psoriatic Arthritis” among others which are fairly uncommon.

Last week we touched on the idea of nutritional deficiencies leading to arthritis, specifically Vitamin C. Not many other deficiencies will lead to collagen breakdown as protein is the main component of collagen and we would notice that deficiency long before the development of arthritis.

There are many other causes of arthritis such as improper wear and tear of the cartilage through misalignment of the joints, which causes pressures to be applied to the cartilage unevenly. Our posture plays a huge role in this. Cartilage gets its nutrition like a sponge. You need to wring it out to remove the old water (waste products of cartilage cell metabolism) and let it expand again to bring in new water (the nutrients carried from our blood). Movement is how we squeeze and refresh our cartilage, so our sedentary lifestyles in North America actually lead to higher risk of arthritis even though our cartilage is being “used” less. Also, even if we are marathon runners, our joints can sometimes become “stuck” and not move properly. This can be the misalignment of joints we touched on earlier or from muscular spasms that do not allow movement. Whatever the reason, this immobility of the joint decreases our ability to bring nutrients to the cartilage of that joint and increases our risk of degeneration.

There are other things in life that increase the risk of degeneration of a joint such as previous dislocations, direct injury to the joint, or a broken bone that is close to or specifically involves the joint. Our bodies can even attack the cartilage in what is called an “Autoimmune” disease which is the case with Rheumatoid and Psoriatic Arthritis but that’s a story for another time.

In the case of an autoimmune disease medication and supervision by an MD is required but for other forms of arthritis a conservative approach may be tried. Most people with arthritis protect the painful joint but this the absolute opposite of what you want. Movement will help to beat the pain of arthritis as well as bring the nutrients to the remaining cartilage to help keep it healthy and strong. Chiropractic adjustments will help to get those immobile joint moving again and manage the pain of arthritic joints. Hydration is key to maintain lubricated joints and healthy cartilage. All three of these treatments also do wonders for preventing degeneration of the joints in the first place as can improved posture. Acupuncture also is an excellent way to manage the pain of arthritis and in trying to prevent further degeneration.

There is a supplement called Glucosamine which is a natural substance that our bodies are able to make on their own which is the form of glucose (sugar) which the cartilage can use. As a supplement it is delivered to the body in the cartilage friendly form already and so goes directly there but it can still trigger an insulin spike so diabetics should consult their doctor before starting to take glucosamine. The research on glucosamine has had mixed results but the balance is tipping towards the benefit of the supplement and its potential to protect and possibly stimulate the cartilage to grow.

So as you may be able to tell, there is a lot that we can do to help prevent the degeneration of our joints. Arthritis does not need to be as prevalent or as devastating as it currently is in our society. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

Vitamin C and the Modern Day Scurvy

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on May 2nd, 2013)

We all know that Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant in our bodies but, like Vitamin D, it has so many more uses. Today we are going to discuss one such role Vitamin C plays and explore its implications.

Collagen is a protein that is ubiquitous throughout the body. It is the main component of our connective tissues which make up all the ligaments, strips of fibre holding our organs in place, blood vessel walls, and layers of tissue under our skin anchoring it to the structures underneath. It also makes up a large part of our cartilage and our bones before they harden.

Vitamin C is the key catalyst in the production and maintenance of collagen. This is actually how that age old disease Scurvy works. A lack of Vitamin C in the sailors’ diets lead to a breakdown of collagen which cased the teeth to fall out (the gums are almost completely collagen) and the blood vessels to weaken and break. Of course, it is extremely rare to find cases of Scurvy in the Western World now but a lot of the population does not get enough Vitamin C. This is what’s called a “Subclinical Deficiency” and it can go unnoticed until bad things start happening.

In Subclinical Vitamin C deficiency we find cases of gum recession, easy bruising, and joint laxity. Now don’t jump to the conclusion that all cases of these conditions are caused by Vitamin C, each has many factors that can influence it. In this case we are talking about Vitamin C though so let’s not get side tracked. With a subclinical deficiency collagen is being broken down more quickly than it can be replaced and this leads to certain unhealthy situations. Cartilage will wear away faster and our blood vessels will become weakened.

With cartilage maintenance impaired this puts us in greater risk for developing arthritis which can be managed but not reverse once it has started.

The collagen in our blood vessels is extremely important because that provides the stability needed to withstand the pressures of the pumping blood. The weakened blood vessels can burst which causes the easy bruising but more importantly puts us in great risk of aneurysms and strokes.

So are you getting enough Vitamin C in your life? Vitamin C can be found in all the citrus fruits as well as almost all brightly coloured veggies (peppers, radishes, etc.) and, of course, our favourite dark green leafy vegetables. Make sure you are getting the nutrients you need in quantities that are sufficient.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

Signs of a Heart Attack

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on April 25th, 2013)

Like in last week’s post on Stroke I would like to take some time and discuss another important event where timely care is extremely important. A Heart Attack. Most people know that chest and left arm pain are the symptoms of a heart attack but there is definitely more to the picture than that.

These symptoms are often described as a warm or burning pain in the chest and arm. They are also associated with a feeling of pressure on or around the chest, often described as, “an elephant sitting on my chest”. This pressure can be accompanied or preceded by shortness of breath and sometimes light headedness. Some people will lose consciousness with a heart attack due to this.

As I said, this is the most typical picture of a heart attack presented to us as the general public but there are different ways for it to show up. The most common way for a heart attack to present itself is in the pressure I described above or as a vague discomfort in the mid or left chest.

The main sign to look for is a new pain or sensation in the chest or a change in a usual pattern.

Other symptoms that are not as chest centric can occur during a heart attack such as nausea and vomiting, cold sweats, dizziness, and left sided neck and jaw pain. In women, especially over 40-50, some heart attacks have been noted as pain between the shoulder blades.

All new pain and symptoms should be checked out by a healthcare professional but some do not require immediate care. If you think that you or someone else is having a heart attack be sure to call 911 as soon as you can. A speedy response can make all the difference in the world in situations like this.

The general rule of thumb is call 911 when in doubt but here are some handy tips if you can’t quite tell if you or someone else is in trouble. Many of the above symptoms can be caused by other conditions that are significantly less life threatening but almost all of these can be localized to a specific point of origin. So if you can literally put your finger on a point and say, “This is where my pain is from!” then it is most likely not a heart attack. The pain associated with a heart attack is generally widespread and vague in nature. That being said if you have a number of these symptoms all together then that definitely raises your risk and you should seek help immediately.

I hope all picked up something from this or that this is all old, well known information for you. The more you know the better you will be able to help either yourself or someone else in an emergency.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben