Treatment of Sciatica

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Sciatica Article

As a Chiropractor, one of the most common conditions that I see in my office is Sciatica. Lower back pain with radiation into the leg is very common in North America. In fact, just last week, I had a patient come in to my office in such excruciating pain that he actually had to crawl through the hallway on his hands and knees. What exactly causes Sciatica and how can we get rid of it? We must begin by understanding the meaning of the word Sciatica. 

Sciatica is a term given to describe symptoms of pain that begin in the lower back and extend down through the buttock, thigh and into the lower leg and foot. These symptoms can occur when a nerve or nerve root is compressed or pinched in the lower back leading to the sensation of pain, numbness and weakness into the leg.  There are multiple locations where the nerve or nerve root can be pinched.

The most common cause of sciatica is lumbar disc herniation. Repeated mechanical stress to a spinal disc can cause the outer layers (Annulus Fibrosus) of the disc to tear and allows the inner substance (Nucleus Pulposus) of that disc to herniate, or push its way out of its enclosed space. Lumbar disc herniations occur most commonly at the weakest point of the disc which is the area where the nerve root exits from the spinal canal. When a disc herniates in this location, it often directly contact the nerve root which is exiting through the space, thus activating the nerve and causing the feeling of numbness and pain radiating into the leg. There are other conditions which can mimic the effects of a lumbar disc herniation including degenerative disc disease and piriformis syndrome, a condition in which the piriformis muscle becomes tight and compresses the sciatic nerve as it passes through the gluteal region.

So how can we treat Sciatica?

All health care professionals agree that conservative care should be performed first and surgery is a last resort for this issue.  This is where health care professionals like Chiropractors and Physiotherapists come in.

HEAT/ICE Therapy

In the early stages of sciatica, using heat packs or ice packs may help to reduce pain and inflammation at the source of the problem. Heat helps to loosen muscles while ice helps to reduce inflammation and swelling.

Chiropractic Care and Physiotherapy

Both chiropractors and physiotherapists use a range of treatments to help relieve pain and promote proper motion. These can include electrotherapy, ultrasound and other modalities, soft tissue therapy, exercises, joint mobilization and manipulation. Speak to your health care provider about what treatment is right for you.

McKenzie Exercises

These are exercises prescribed by chiropractors and physiotherapists that are effective in decreasing leg pain and centralizing the pain (bringing it into the lower back). Speak to your therapist before starting this therapy.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine

I have successfully used acupuncture to significantly reduce the symptoms of sciatica for many of my patients. Acupuncture relies on the use of small needles inserted through the skin and into muscles at specific points along our meridian channels. These needles cause micro-trauma to the muscles leading to release of hormones called endorphins. Endorphins help to calm nerve and muscle pain and reduce symptoms of pain.

Lumbar Spine Traction and Decompression Therapy

Some therapists use manual and instrument assisted traction therapy to help spread the lumbar vertebrae and allow disc material to become re-absorbed into the outer disc material. This is a good option to consider if your pain is not improving with other treatment types

Pain Medications like NSAIDs

Talk to your physician about pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and inflammation. These medications can interact with other prescribed medications that you may be taking so make sure to consult with your physician and pharmacist before taking pain killers.

Dr. Navaz Habib

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Sciatica Article

Candida Overgrowth

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Candida Article

We have all heard the word ‘Candida’, but many people don’t quite understand what it is. Candida is the genus name for a specific type of Fungus, which is a form of Yeast. Candida fungus, most commonly Candida albicans is present normally in small amounts in our mouth and intestines. It normally functions to help our body to digest food and absorb nutrients.

Occasionally under the right circumstances, Candida can grow to unsafe levels causing gastrointestinal issues. This problem arises when the microbiome is out of balance – called Dysbiosis (less good bacteria and yeast, more bad bacteria, parasites etc.) giving Candida the opportunity to grow to excessive levels.

There are certain food and environmental triggers that cause Dysbiosis:

  • Diet high in refined Carbs and Sugar
    • Diabetics have a higher level of oral Candida than the general population
  • Diet too high in good Fermented Foods (Pickles, Sauerkraut, Kombucha etc,)
  • High Alcohol Consumption
  • Taking Oral Contraceptives or Estrogen replacement (hormonal imbalance)
  • A round of antibiotics can kill off too many
  • High stress lifestyle
  • Autoimmune conditions and weak immune systems

As the delicate balance of the microbiome is negatively affected by any of these triggers, Candida has the opportunity to grow to unsafe levels causing issues in our gut. The fungal yeast will then begin to wreak havoc on your intestinal barrier, causing Intestinal Permeability or Leaky Gut. Any allergens or toxins that are in our gut from our diet can then enter our blood stream leading to many symptoms that may lead to Chronic health conditions such as:

  • Digestive issues – bloating, constipation or diarrhea (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Feeling tired and worn down – Chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia
  • Skin and Nail infections
  • Autoimmune conditions – Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis etc.
  • Brain Fog, Poor memory, lack of focus
  • Mood Swings, irritability
  • Vaginal or Urinary tract infections
  • Strong cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates

Many of these conditions have various sources, so it’s important to confirm that Candida is the source of these symptoms. To do this, see a Functional Medicine or Natural Health Doctor to perform in-depth testing like Stool testing, Urinary Organic Acid and Blood testing and determine the root cause of your symptoms.

If Candida is the source of these issues, how can we restore a normal balance to your microbiome and decrease the levels of Candida in your body? There are a few important steps that you need to go through to ensure that you can restore balance to your gut:

Step 1: Stop Feeding the Yeast

Candida is fed by Sugar, so step 1 is to eliminate refined sugars and carbs. Stop eating candy, high sugar deserts, carbonated soda, alcohol and flour. We also need to decreased intake of complex carbohydrates like grains, beans, fruit, bread, pasta and potatoes. If we don’t feed the Candida, it can’t grow and eventually the excessive levels will die off.

Step 2: Build up levels of good bacteria

Once the Candida levels are decreasing, it is important to re-establish the levels of good bacteria. After consulting with a health care professional, you may want to begin a course of probiotics. These will help to increase the levels of friendly bacteria in the gut that helps with our normal digestion.

Step 3: Heal your Gut

If your intestinal wall has been damaged by the high levels of Candida and bad bacteria, there are certainly high levels of inflammation which need to be reduced. To do this, we need to eliminate inflammatory foods from our diet – foods that promote high levels of inflammation. Choose real foods and focus on green and colourful vegetables, grass-fed beef, free-run chicken and good fats like nuts and seeds. All of these foods will promote healing of the gut while eliminating the high levels of inflammation.

Candida is common and needs to be addressed before it causes serious chronic conditions. If you think you may have Candida overgrowth, speak to a Functional Medicine Doctor in your area for more information.

 

References

Cole, W. (2015, June 12). Dr. Will Cole. Retrieved from How Candida Overgrowth Can Wreck Your Health + What To Do About It: http://drwillcole.com/how-candida-overgrowth-can-wreck-your-health-what-to-do-about-it/

Li, Q., Wang, C., Tang, C., He, Q., Li, N., & Li, J. (2014). Dysbiosis of Gut Fungal Microbiota is Associated with Mucosal Inflammation in Crohn’s Disease. J Clin Gastroenterol, 48:513-523.

Myers, A. (2013, April 4). Mind Body Green. Retrieved from 10 Signs You Have Candida Overgrowth & What To Do About It: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8376/10-signs-you-have-candida-overgrowth-what-to-do-about-it.html

Pallavan, B., Ramesh, V., Dhanasekaran, B. P., Oza, N., Indu, S., & Govindarajan, V. (2014). Comparison and correlation of candidal colonization in diabetic patients and normal individuals. J Diabetes and Metabolic Dis, 13:66.

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Candida Article

Signs of a Zinc Deficiency

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Signs of Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is an incredibly important micronutrient to the proper function of our cells, regardless of the type of cell it is. For this reason, Zinc deficiency can have a very wide range of symptoms, regardless of the extent of deficiency – severe or marginal. It is estimated that 2 billion people around the world are affected by a dietary Zinc deficiency.

So what makes Zinc so important in our diet?

  • This micronutrient plays an important role in the formation of structural proteins like Antioxidants and in the outer membrane of each cell. This means that if we don’t have enough Zinc in our cells, the proteins that our cells form will not be able to function correctly, leading to increased risk of oxidative damage and impaired cellular function
  • Very important in the development and function of Immune cells, specifically T-cell growth and differentiation into White Blood Cells to ward off infection and disease
  • Zinc is also important in the role of cell signalling as it plays an important role in the release of hormones and neurotransmitter release from nerve cells. Without Zinc, our hormones and nerves would not function properly
  • Zinc plays an important part in the programmed cell death of cells that are no longer functioning correctly, thus regulating cellular growth and development. If there is a lack of Zinc in these cells, they will not undergo their regulatory process of cellular death and could potentially be a source of Cancer and other chronic diseases

Who is at risk of being deficient in Zinc levels?

People that suffer from the following conditions are at higher risk of being deficient in Zinc levels:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Nutrient absorption syndromes
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s, Ulcerative Collitis)
  • Alcoholism
  • Hemodialysis patients
  • Strict Vegetarians (mild risk)

How to find out if you suffer from Zinc Deficiency?

Those who suffer from Zinc deficiency tend to have the following symptoms:

  • Poor Neurological function
    • Attention and motor disorders in infants, that continues into adulthood
  • Weak Immune System function
    • Those who suffer from persistent colds, infections and hormonal issues
  • Diarrhea
    • Most likely caused by impaired immune system function
  • Food and Environmental Allergies
    • Low Zinc levels lead to increased release of Histamines causing increased allergy symptoms and increasing sensitivity to allergic reactions
  • Thinning Hair
    • Thyroid hormones are essential for Zinc absorption as is thinning hair, and it has been shown that supplementation of Zinc and Thyroid hormone together can improve hair loss caused by hypothyroidism
  • Intestinal Permeability (Leaky Gut)
    • In the digestive tracts of patients with Leaky Gut and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Zinc has been shown to “tighten” or decrease the leakiness of the intestinal barrier, in patients suffering from Crohn’s disease
  • Acne, Rashes, White Spots on Nails
    • Some people can develop skin issues, rashes and even acne due to insufficient levels of Zinc

What foods can you eat to help raise Zinc levels?

There are many whole foods that are high in Zinc but if you require treatment for deficiency, speak to your doctor or natural health specialist before beginning any regimen of Zinc supplementation. Some of the best foods are:

  • Grass-Fed Beef and Lamb
  • Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) and Mung Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Chicken
  • Cooked Oysters
  • Kefir or Yogurt
  • Spinach
  • Cocoa Powder

Please speak to a natural health specialist or functional medicine doctor before beginning any treatment for Zinc Deficiency.

References

Higdon J, D. V. (2013, June). Zinc Deficiency. Retrieved from Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc#deficiency

J, A. (2015). 7 Signs of Zinc Deficiency & the Best Foods to Cure it! Retrieved from Dr. Axe: http://draxe.com/zinc-deficiency/

Mayo Clinic. (2013, November 1). Zinc: Drugs and Supplementation. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/zinc/evidence/hrb-20060638

Nutri-facts. (2012, February 26). Zinc. Retrieved from Nutri-facts: Understanding Vitamins & More: http://www.nutri-facts.org/eng/trace-elements/zinc/health-functions/

Dr. Navaz Habib

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Signs of Zinc Deficiency