dr zac

Does Sugar cause Alzheimer's Disease?

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It’s no secret that sugar isn’t great for us.

Sugar causes weight gain, tooth decay, and an array of health concerns – far too many to mention in one blog post.

Did you know that over-consuming sugar could be harming not just your body, but your mind as well?

There is a well-known link between type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Many people with this type of Diabetes experience brain changes that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

A recent article by the Daily Mail explores some new research that links high levels of glucose in the brain to problems with memory loss. Recently, I discussed these findings on The Today Show (watch the video here). Here’s how I broke the process down.

Our brains process sugar, or glucose, to provide energy for our brains – this process is known as glycolysis.

Scientists have found that people who are less efficient at this process suffer more severe symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Higher amounts of glucose in the brain and a slower rate of glycolysis are associated with problems with memory, however it’s not known whether being bad at glycolysis worsens or even causes Alzheimer’s. This build-up of sugar in the brain could simply be something that happens alongside Alzheimer’s. 

While the relationship between glucose in the brain and decreased memory function is clear, more research is needed to determine the reasons behind poor sugar metabolism.
 
What we do know though is that too much sugar is definitely not doing you any favours. Luckily, there are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your daily sugar intake, such as trying sugar alternatives or avoiding foods with added sugar.

For more ideas on how to cut back the sugar, read my article on sugar substitutes here.

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What Is Brain Fog And How You Can Beat It

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Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why we've you went in there in the first place?

Maybe you’ve fleetingly stopped in your tracks, grasping to remember your own name for a microsecond?

There’s a name for this unsettling mental phenomenon: 'brain fog'. 

Symptoms of so-called 'brain fog' include forgetfulness, poor concentration, inability to focus and lack of mental clarity, all of which can strike without warning.

It’s worth noting that although ‘Brain fog’ can be attributed to age-related decline and a host of illnesses, it can also strike anyone at any age - even as early as your late teens.

So why do we have ‘brain fog’ and how can we beat it? 

For starters, your brain works hard 24/7, even while you're asleep. It requires a constant supply of fuel, which comes from the foods you eat. Eating high-quality foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress or the 'free radicals' produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells.

No surprises here, but eating too much sugar and refined carbs can have a negative effect. Thankfully, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help.

Shifting from a diet high in processed foods, carbs, and sugars to whole, fresh foods like salmon and spinach could make a huge difference to your mental clarity. Foods rich in antioxidants - like blueberries, dark chocolate, and artichokes - can also help boost mental function (yes you heard right, DARK CHOCOLATE).  

Besides diet, ‘brain fog’ can also be stimulated by alcohol and caffeine. In 2015, scientists from Duke University warned that binge drinking as a teenager, before the brain is fully developed, causes long-lasting changes to the regions of the brain that control learning and memory.

Numerous studies have also suggested that even moderate adult drinkers risk significant shrinkage in key parts of the brain. In July, the University of Oxford and University College found that people who have a drink or two every night from middle age are more likely to experience a steep decline in brain power by their 70s. 

Caffeine is a stimulant known to improve mental alertness. But the problem with caffeine is that the energy it gives us is short-lived. Drinking too much can lead to insomnia, headaches and dehydration - and as a result, can impair your mental function.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists says the best way to give up caffeine is to gradually stop having all caffeine drinks (this includes coffee, tea and cola drinks) over a three-week period. Try to stay off caffeine completely for a month to see if you feel less mentally fatigued without it – your brain will thank you for it in the long run.

The final way to beat ‘brain fog’? Sleeping for at least seven to eight hours each night helps to boost your brain performance. Another reason to put good quality shut-eye front and centre in your daily routine. Zzzzzzzz.

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Why Vitamin D is an Asthma Sufferer's Best Friend

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Asthma sufferers have another reason to breathe a sigh of relief.

A new study has revealed that Vitamin D – the common supplement found in most chemists and supermarkets – could help slash the risk of asthma attacks.

Scientists at the British Lacet Respiratory Medicine foundation discovered that taking Vitamin D halved the risk of severe asthma attacks requiring medical attention.

The trusty Vitamin D capsule is thought to have a 2-pronged approach for asthma sufferers by minimising harmful inflammation in the airways and boosting the immune system’s response to respiratory viruses.

However, it is important to note the study was conducted on a test group of adults suffering from mild to moderate asthma; children did not partake in the study.

Asthma is a long-term lung condition and claims over 400 lives per year in Australia, so the latest findings are certainly encouraging for chronic asthma sufferers.

If you are an asthma sufferer, it is important to take your usual medication - as prescribed by your doctor or GP - rather than replace with vitamin D capsules entirely.

Some added benefits of taking Vitamin D include regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and facilitating normal immune system function.

What’s not to love about D?

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Hayfever Hacks: How To Treat Hayfever

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Spring has certainly sprung. With pollen levels set to soar, now is the time to nip seasonal allergies in the bud, if pollen is your own personal Kryptonite.

I recently joined the team of Channel 9's 'The Today Show' to discuss my top Hayfever Hacks. Watch the video over at The Today Show's website here

Read on to discover how you can outsmart the symptoms of spring and get your sinus #summerready!

TIP # 1-  Hang Your Laundry Inside

It’s tempting to hang your clothes outside on the trusty Hills Hoist, but the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recommends hanging clothes and bedsheets indoors so they don’t collect pollen. Sure, clothes dry quicker in the sun, but try this easy tip and say goodbye to sleeping with a constant stream of allergies.

TIP # 2 – Skip Running Outdoors In The Morning

Peak pollen time is between 6am and midday, according to ASCIA. If you exercise regularly every morning, why not switch to a cycle or cardio class at the gym and reap the benefits of less teeny tiny allergens making their way into your routine?

TIP # 3 – Omega-3 Rich Foods Are Your Friend

Sinus pain can be soothed by eating foods rich in omega-3 like salmon and flaxseed oil. Betacarotene is also a known allergen deterrent, so reach for those carrots, spinach and capsicum when making your daily spring salads.

TIP # 4 – Switch Coffee for Green Tea

Japanese scientists have discovered that green tea contains a compound that temporarily blocks the key cell receptor in creating allergic responses. Even more reason to ditch coffee for this soothing, gentler alternative to your daily #caffeinefix.

TIP # 5 – Buh-Bye Wine

This is certainly no crowd pleaser, but all your alcoholic favourites — beer, bubbles, wine and liquor — contain histamine, which can worsen hayfever symptoms according to allergen experts. If you really can’t give up booze, try limiting your intake to one glass a week in the evening when the pollen count isn’t as high.

TIP # 6 – Wash Your Hair Every Day

Think of your hair like one giant piece of Blu Tack for allergens. Make sure you wash your hair everyday to remove allergens and remain pollen-free, especially if you’ve spent the majority of your day outdoors.

TIP # 7 – Kiss The Pollen Away

According to a Japanese study, a 30-minute smooch session can reduce your body’s production of histamine (this makes up for tip #5!).

TIP # 8 – Shake Out Your Clothes

Shake out your jacket before you step inside after a day outside. Once you’re inside, it’s a good idea to change clothes and minimise the amount of allergens you bring into your home at the end of the day.

TIP # 9 – Take Medication Before Bed

Some medical experts recommend taking a once-a-day antihistamine at night during high-pollen season, as its potency will peak 12 hours later, when pollen levels are highest. This means you will potentially be starting the day with the anti-histamine working against your symptoms.

TIP # 10 – Put Soft Toys On Ice

Disclaimer: this might sound a little nuts, but ASCIA recommends putting soft toys in the freezer overnight to kill dust mites, another cause of hayfever. I’d love to hear from all you parents out there to vouch for this extraordinary tip!  

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How To Break Up With Your Doctor Or GP

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Nobody likes a breakup, but sometimes, you gotta pull the plug.

We all know this feeling applies to romantic relationships, but did you know it also applies to your relationship with your GP or doctor?

It’s important to know that not every practitioner is for you - much like how every person on Tinder isn't for you either (!).

So if you’re feeling that your GP or doctor is not a great fit for your needs, how do you navigate the murky water of breaking up with them? Swiping left IRL isn’t an option (yet). Do you have a face-to-face discussion or pull the classic smoke bomb manoeuvrer?

Your doctor or GP is a member of your trusted inner-circle of life professionals, like your accountant or lawyer. There is no stigma in having an open conversation, but there are a few simple tips to keep in mind, which can make the transition process between professionals smoother.

Read on to learn how you know it’s time to move on - and what you can do.

* As a side note, I recently spoke about this topic on Channel 9's The Today Show - check out the video here!*


Tip # 1 - You Don’t Fit The Age Group

If you’ve had the same doctor or GP since childhood, there’s a good chance you could have outgrown their expertise. Your doctor or GP might have specialised in childhood & adolescent health, so as you grow, keep in mind that there are others out there who could better serve your needs.


Tip # 2 - A Specialist Is Better Suited To Your Needs

In my opinion, it's always great to have an open conversation. As a patient, you ultimately hire your GP or doctor for their expertise as medical professionals. If you feel that your GP or doctor is not delving deep enough into your case, there’s no shame in asking to be referred to a specialist in that particular medical discipline who can give you a more in-depth consultation.


Tip # 3 – Your Doctor Breaks Up With You

If there is a conflict of interest with your case, your doctor or GP could be obligated to refer you to another practitioner. It’s worth noting that doctors and GPs are also human beings and thus prone to changing practices, retiring from service and moving interstate/overseas. When this happens unexpectedly and you’re left in the lurch, read on…

 

Tip # 4 – Ask for Referrals From Your Existing GP or Doctor

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask your current GP or doctor for his or her help and advice in finding someone new. It may sound counterintuitive, but they have the most immediate access to your health records & history and could recommend another medical practitioner within their clinic or practice that is more suited to your needs. Plus, doctors and GPs work in a practice with other practitioners who might specialise in other areas of medicine, so they can more easily share notes within one organisation. 


Tip # 5 – Listen to Family & Friends

Talk to your family and friends and ask for recommendations of medical professionals whom they consult with. Make sure to ask WHY their doctor or GP comes with their recommendation. Is it their breadth of experience? Their friendly manner? Make a list of qualities you are looking for and crosscheck with your family & friends referrals.


Tip # 6 – Search When You Are Healthy

Chances are, the time you are most likely to be searching for a GP is when you’re ill and feeling downright rotten. This isn’t ideal for a number of reasons, but mainly because you won’t be on your 'A' game to spend time asking the questions you need answered. Instead, pencil in half a day to meet with medical professionals when you’re feelin’ fine. Pick and choose your final candidate based on the outcome of these consultations. 


Tip # 7 – Search Digitally & Trial IRL

If you are Google searching for a new medical practitioner, it’s important to try before you buy. Have several consultations with several doctors before you commit to one. Have a chat about your specific health concerns or keep the conversation general and discuss the working relationship you'd like to have in the future. It can be good to trial out a new doctor or GP for the ‘small stuff’ - like a cold - so when the big stuff comes along, you know who to call.
 

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Home Health Tech: Test for Skin Cancer At Home With SkinVision App

The stats on skin cancer in Australia are grim.

Approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70.

More than 750,000 people are treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year.

GPs have over 1 million patient consultations per year for skin cancer. That's the entire population of Adelaide!

The good new is, there is now an app on the market called SkinVision to help you monitor the progression of any dodgy moles or spots, so you can better inform your doctor.

It's super simple to use, you can even train your grandparents to get with the digital age!

Take a photo of the mole or spot you wish to check. Wait for the app to analyse the image, then save the picture so you can keep an eye on it.

SkinVision boasts an 88 percent sensitivity rate for melanoma but should be used in conjunction with yearly skin checks with a GP or dermatologist.

SkinVision is free and available for both iPhone and Android on the App Store and Google Play (skinvision.com).
 

5 Symptoms You Don't Want to Ignore

As we get older, we start to notice some unusual things going on with our bodies. From loss of taste to ringing ears (and hair growing in places it shouldn't be) our bodies are always changing. In a fast-paced world, it can be easy to ignore these niggling changes.

However, some of these oddities could be a warning sign of more serious medical issues. Here are 5 symptoms you should never ignore and why.

 

Symptom # 1 - Ringing In Ears

Ringing in ears could be associated with earwax build-up, head and neck tumours or problems in the jaw.

Alternatively, it could signify Tinnutus - depending on the type of ringing sound heard.

Tinnitus is the perception of hearing noises or ringing in the ear when no external sound is present. Tinnitus symptoms include hearing phantom noises in your ears and experiencing buzzing, ringing, hissing, roaring or clicking noises.

Tinnitus is actually a pretty common problem, affecting about one in five people. It isn't a condition itself, but rather a symptom of other underlying conditions that are associated with age-related hearing loss, injury in the inner ear, earwax buildup or blockage, or sometimes a symptom of allergies.

If ringing in the ears lasts longer than a week, go see your doctor.

Symptom # 2 - Losing Taste & Smell

Losing your sense of taste could be associated with Alzheimer's disease, nasal and sinus problems, nutritional deficiencies, head injury or even as a result of certain medications.

At birth, you have about 10,000 taste buds, but after age 50, you may start to lose them. Some loss of taste and even smell is common in older adults, especially after age 60.

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 200,000 people visit a doctor each year for problems with their ability to taste or smell.

Scientists believe that up to 15 percent of adults might have a taste or smell problem, but many don't seek a doctor's help.

It's best to see your doctor if you experience losing your sense of taste and/or smell.

Symptom # 3 - Blue-ish Fingernails

Ick! Blue nails are a sign you're not getting enough oxygen to your fingertips, a condition known as cyanosis.

Having blue-ish fingernails could be associated with pulmonary obstruction, emphysema or lung disease.

If your nails are persistently blue, go see your doctor and ask to have your blood and oxygenation levels checked.

If the hue of blue is darker than a tinge, go see your doctor as soon as possible.

Symptom # 4 - Small Dots In The Eye

Ever looked into the mirror and saw small dots in your eyes? 

Your eyes are similar in nature to skin. Like skin, the eyes can get marked. These mars are called choroidal nevi.

Although the name sounds complicated, a choroidal nevus is merely a freckle in the eye. Choroidal nevi are usually harmless: in most cases, they can only be seen by an eye doctor.

Your doctor will likely monitor any freckle and alert you if it changes in colour, size or shape.

If you notice that the dots change shape, this could be associated with a melanoma and should be monitored by a doctor immediately.

Symptom # 5 - Excessive Female Facial Hair

Hirsutism is a medical condition most commonly caused by an imbalance of sex hormones, specifically excess male hormones called androgens.

One of the most common causes is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition affecting women of reproductive age.

The condition results in excessive amounts of dark, coarse hair on body areas where men typically grow hair - the face, chest and back.

The amount of body hair you have is largely determined by your genetic makeup.

This morning, I spoke about these 5 symptoms on The Today Show Australia. Check out my YouTube channel for more health hacks!

What are Peptides and How Do They Work?

There has been a great deal of discussion in the media around the use of peptides. In my clinic, I am asked several times a day by patients whether they can have them. The interesting thing about peptides is that most people who ask for them think of them as simply the latest in the ever-growing market of quick-fix magic potions. When asked by patients and friends for peptides - and other weight-augmenting substances - I always ask (and you should ask yourself): What do you want to achieve? Read on to learn more about putting some 'pep' in your step...

WHAT ARE PEPTIDES?

Before looking at whether peptides are right for you, let’s look at what they are. Put simply, they are small proteins made up of fewer than 50 amino acids. In the world of health and fitness, peptides are used and recommended for increased energy, burning fat, building muscle and improving athletic ability.  If you think ofa hormone as a tree made up of many protein branches and even more peptide twigs it’s easy to see how a hormone can have many side-effects if used wrongly.  Peptides on the other hand are much smaller and have been designed to stimulate specific receptors for growth hormone so you can attempt to tailor your results.  So essentially they can be used for muscle gain or weight loss and a range of other things.

When we eat carbohydrates or sugars, our blood sugar levels increase. The pancreas senses this and is stimulated by the rise in blood sugar to release insulin. This insulin then triggers the body to transport the digested sugar into cells from our bloodstream. The bane for many of us with less-than-ideal metabolisms is that this sugar is then converted into fat and transported to problem areas such as the stomach, love handles and our butt for storage. Normally our body prefers to use fat for fuel, but with so many of us having a high sugar and carbohydrate intake it becomes very easy for our bodies to simply use this sugar for fuel and keep turning the excess into fat and storing it. This makes it very hard to burn that bootie.

HOW DO PEPTIDES WORK?

Peptides work on different areas of the body with some stimulating the pituitary gland to naturally release more hormones, including Human Growth Hormone (HGH), to make more of the same. HGH and the peptides that stimulate it help to stop our bodies using the readily available sugar floating around and instead make our bodies burn more stored fat while at the same time limiting more fat being made. The results of this can be great, especially when coupled with good dietary habits and exercise. You will have more energy (gained from using the fat) and also see the results of normal daily activities burning even more off your problem areas.

HANG ABOUT! SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. DO I NEED TO GO TO THE GYM IF I'M USING PEPTIDES?

Compared to steroids and testosterone, with their large potential for fast benefits and potential side effects, these are not magic beans that will turn you into a ripped mega-buff guy overnight. Peptides are more of a medium burn for those of us that know that the body we want is one of lifestyle enhancement and that the hours at the gym are necessary.

Most people, when asked what they think a peptide is, simply don’t care. They’re results-driven, and it doesn’t matter to them that their method might be madness. Peptides are not some genie that leaps out of a newly rubbed lamp, ready and waiting to know exactly your heart’s desire, even if you can’t say what that is. Like most things in life, in order to be able to achieve what you want, you must be able to articulate it. Simply saying you want to look better is not going to cut it and can have serious harmful consequences.

HOW DO I KNOW IF PEPTIDES ARE FOR ME?

When asking what you want to put in your body, you must always ask whether the benefits outweigh the side effects. Like any substance that you know nothing about, they should not be bought online from unregistered suppliers or borrowed from a friend and then injected (yes, most peptides need to be injected) or consumed. Peptides can have great - but potentially serious - side effects and you should have a chat to a doctor before even considering their use. Many people are making a lot of money from selling what you want, so always remember to ask what it does, how long to take it, how to take it and what side effects it has so that you have realistic expectations of what it can do for you. While peptides can help you to burn fat while working, eating, talking and even sleeping, they must be combined with other lifestyle factors over several months to see the best results.

The Lowdown on Vitamin Infusions

YOU MIGHT HAVE HEARD ABOUT VITAMIN INFUSIONS ON THE GRAPEVINE AND THOUGHT, 'WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?', 'DOES IT REPLACE FOOD' or 'DO I STILL NEED TO TAKE VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS AFTER HAVING ONE'?

READ ON TO LEARN MORE ABOUT VITAMIN INFUSIONS AND WHETHER IT COULD BE SOMETHING TO DISCUSS WITH YOUR DOCTOR.

WHAT IS A VITAMIN INFUSION?

Vitamin infusions for the most part are a great addition to an already healthy life-style where you’re already getting good nutrients.

For some people - especially those with poor nutrition or in other disease states – vitamin infusions can have hugely beneficial qualities.

As we know when we take things orally, many nutrients are not absorbed completely. Vitamin infusions are essentially giving your body a high dose of good vitamins that don’t depend on you bodies ability to absorb.

Many of the vitamins used are found in many foods we consume - or should be consuming regularly.  It’s important to note that you should always consult your doctor about any kind of therapies to make sure it is right for you and to ensure that your practitioners are appropriately experienced and qualified.

I ALREADY TAKE VITAMINS - SO WHY DO I NEED THIS TREATMENT?

Vitamin infusions allow us to have higher doses of many vitamins in our circulation for a short time period, than we would otherwise be able to absorb.

This is extremely important in disease states where there is a large amount of clinical data supporting the use of high dose vitamin IV infusions for a variety of disease states, including cancer, burns, septic shock, thiamine deficiency, Rickets and Vitamin D deficiency to name a few.

For those of us who are well this is a great way to try to either prevent or end that cold that just won’t go away or I have it regularly before I travel to prevent getting sick.

WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM VITAMIN INFUSIONS AND WHAT RESULTS CAN BE EXPECTED?

Anyone feeling run-down or tired will benefit from an IV vitamin infusion.  If you always get sick when starting a holiday, vitamin infusions can help a lot.  People with chronic fatigue and many other diseases can also benefit from a vitamin infusion, in consultation with their doctor.

Whilst there have been no large population studies around the use of IV vitamins for skin benefits, there is large amounts of anecdotal advice that suggests vitamin infusions can help with brightening complexions and strengthening skin, nails and hair.

POST-TREATMENT, WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO KEEP THE BENEFITS GOING?

It is best to drink a couple of litres of water both before and after the treatment - and of course to continue your normal healthy diet. 

Measles – Risks, Symptoms And The School System

THE DEBATE ABOUT WHETHER PRIMARY SCHOOLS SHOULD MAKE IMMUNISATION AGAINST MEASLES COMPULSORY IS A BIG ONE.

When a parent is apprehensive about immunising their child for measles, mumps & rubella, their fear is usually around the risk of autism. This is a medically unfounded suspicion - to do so could be more dangerous and put their child more at risk.

If you or your child are showing any of the symptoms of measles, I recommend seeing your local GP. While there is no cure (an affected person must wait for the infection to pass), your doctor can assist you with the prevention of the secondary infections associated with measles, mumps & rubella, including pneumonia.

If you’re not sure if you have been vaccinated, have a chat to your GP. Here are the facts.

TIP #1: MEASLES ARE HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS

The airborne measles virus is transmissible via coughing or sneezing. Measles is caught by 9 out of 10 non-immune people who come into contact with an infected person. In a close-contact classroom environment, this is a staggering statistic indeed.

TIP #2:  THE SYMPTOMS ARE SIGNIFICANT

Symptoms of measles include high fever, runny nose, inflamed eyes and most notably, a red rash which starts on the f ace and spreads out to the rest of the body. The rash can develop 10 – 12 days after exposure to the virus and last for 7 – 10 days. An infected person is most contagious 4-5 days before and after the appearance of the rash.

TIP #3: INFANTS ARE AT RISK

One of the major risks of measles is for infants who are too young to be immunised who may come into contact with the virus. This was the case in 2014 when an 11 month old was affected. At it‘s worst, the virus can be fatal to infants - and can even cause birth deformities, if contracted by pregnant women.

TIP #4:  CONTROL IS KEY

In 2014, a massive outbreak of measles occurred at a Melbourne primary school. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health released a report concerning the outbreak, suggesting that schools be fined for not keeping detailed vaccination records, which would make controlling an outbreak more effective.

TIP #5: POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

Victorian childcare centres have implemented a ‘no jab, no play’ policy that aims to prevent pre-school aged children spreading measles. I believe it would be worthwhile implementing a similar rule in primary schools. This process of ‘herd immunisation’ means that even those who medically can’t be immunised will be less at risk of exposure by those around them.