1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar


Pharmacy Changes

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Mar 27th, 2014


Your next visit to your pharmacist may be a little different. As of April 1st a new 55 million dollar agreement comes into effect between the province and Alberta pharmacists. The agreement will expand the services of pharmacists.

Stacy Johnson, Director of Pharmacy Services for Safeway, says this move signals a shift from product focused care to patient focused care. With this new agreement, if you have diabetes or are trying to quit smoking, you can now sit down with your pharmacist to develop a care plan at no cost. So your pharmacist will ask you questions, look at what medications you’re on and establish what your concerns and goals are regarding your condition.

Your pharmacist has already been able to develop care plans for those with other chronic diseases like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. As well, it’s a good time to remember a pharmacist can already renew some prescriptions, extend some refills and administer certain kinds of injections.

Pharmacists are hoping the public will now view them as an integral part of their health care team.

The goal is to help people with chronic conditions manage their disease optimally in order to prevent complications down the road, freeing up space in the health care system for all of us.


Antibiotic Resistance and Infection Part 2

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Mar 19th, 2014

We have more bacteria in our bodies than we do cells. Researcher and Professor Paul Kubes from the University of Calgary says we need to better understand this bacteria to improve our overall health.

Kubes says the bacteria in our gut can dictate whether we’re slim or obese, whether we have arthritis or not, whether we’ll develop cancer or not and much more. Yet we know very little about this bacteria and specifically what effect taking antibiotics has on them.

Kubes compares the gut bacteria with finding a new organ, like a new brain or new heart, there is so much to understand with so many implications for our well being.

As I mentioned yesterday on the show, Kubes has just been appointed to a new position at the University where he’ll be coordinating the research efforts of many different faculties looking into new ways to fight infection. What Kubes wants to do is develop technology that can actually identify the bacteria in the gut and help us understand what it does. This would help us understand how the bacteria is altered when we take antibiotics and what effect that has on our health.

But consider this…. once we have this technology we could understand bacteria outside the body too. Kubes says he spoke to engineers in the oilsands who have discovered bacteria with anti-microbial properties. What if this technology could help identify bacteria in the oilsands, and then we could harvest bacteria that could take the CO2 emissions out of the air?

Kubes is basically saying the research that’s underway is not just about human medicine. It has a global reach. Maybe Kubes and the 250 investigators he’s working with will one day have a new way to treat infection and will save the environment while they’re at it.

Antibiotic Resistance and Infection Part 1

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Mar 18th, 2014


We are at a critical point in medicine. Director of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases Paul Kubes says we are heading back to how it was in the early 1900s, when everyone died from infection because we had no antibiotics.

For example, we only have two families of antibiotics that can fight the superbug “MRSA,” says Kubes. So now is the time for new ideas. That’s why the University of Calgary has appointed Kubes to a new position, a research champion in the area of infection and chronic disease. Kubes will now coordinate ideas and research interests from several faculties like engineering and microbiology, all in an effort to explore new ways to fight infection.

As an example, Kubes says he’s been talking to engineers working in the alberta oilsands who have found bacteria up there with strong antimicrobial properties.

And one area they’re focusing on is sepsis. Sepsis used to be called blood poisoning. It occurs when  you get a small infection that evades your immune system and enters the blood stream. In this case, your entire body becomes infected and you get very sick very quickly. About 25 to 35 percent of patients in Intensive Care Units in hospital have sepsis. Kubes says if you get severe sepsis your chance of survival is 70 percent. So three in ten patients are dying of severe sepsis. It’s an illness that needs new treatment options.

The good news is Kubes is working with about 250 investigators in the province to do just that.

Tomorrow, we focus on the effects of antibiotics on our bodies, particularly our gut bacteria. We’ll learn why it’s so important to understand our bacteria better, and how this could save lives and even save the environment!!


Phlegm 101

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Mar 12th, 2014

I know it’s gross. But phlegm is a completely normal and very necessary bodily function. I spoke with Dr. Brad Mechor, an Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon about phlegm and he says we produce about half a litre to 2 litres of it every day!! Phlegm acts as a catchers mitt…catching all those bad viruses before they enter our lungs, keeping us healthy. It also humidifies the air we breathe.

But in Calgary where it’s so dry, Dr. Mechor says many of us notice our phlegm because it becomes thicker and harder to swallow. Also when we’re sick we produce more phlegm as a means of fighting infection. The phlegm actually consists of white blood cells and antibodies as we try to get better.

Besides the lack of moisture in Calgary, Dr. Mechor says there are many things that can cause your phlegm to thicken and become problematic. Medications for high blood pressure, depression and contraception ie. the pill can all thicken phlegm. If you drink too much caffeine and not enough water, as many of us do, this can thicken phlegm. Also those with acid reflux may have more phlegm because the acid can come up into the esophagus and stimulate the nose and throat to make more mucus and saliva. Post menopausal women may also have thicker mucus.

So what do we do?? Dr. Mechor recommends a humidifier in the bedroom at night, drinking more water and less coffee. He also says if you smoke, here’s another reason to quit. Smokers produce more phlegm and are less able to move it down the back of the throat and swallow it. Dr. Mechor is also a huge advocate of nasal rinsing, at least once a day.

If you are becoming worried or embarrassed by your phlegm and it’s making you socially uncomfortable, make sure to talk to your family doctor. Dr. Mechor says these simple treatment options should get your nose and throat nice and clear again!


Children’s Brains and Stress

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Mar 11th, 2014

A brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. So, it follows that if a child or teenager is suffering from chronic stress or mental illness their brain may be affected.

This theory has in fact been proven, says Frank MacMaster, the Cuthbertson and Fischer Chair in Pediatric Mental Health at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. MacMaster has actually seen physical changes in the brains of children who suffer from depression and found the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls things like memory and learning, is actually impaired along with the neurochemistry of the brain. So basically, stress and mental illness in kids negatively affects the normal development of their brains.

So MacMaster says parents really need to talk with their kids, keep the lines of communication open. Parents should help their kids deal with stress by getting them to talk about it, just talking about their stress can help. Parents should also model good coping behaviours so children can learn how to deal with stress. And parents should also watch for the warning signs of depression:

– doing worse at school – because depression affects a child’s ability to concentrate and make decisions

– not getting enjoyment out of previously enjoyable activities

– social withdrawal

– changes in sleep and appetite

MacMaster says parents who notice these changes should take action sooner rather than later. He says you want to put out the little fire before it becomes a brush fire.

The good news is there are several clinical trials underway in our city that deal with children and depression. For more information email brainkids@ucalgary.ca.


Sleep Awareness

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Mar 6th, 2014

It’s Sleep Awareness Week and the clocks spring forward for us on the weekend… a great time to look at sleep and how important it is for our overall health.

First off, how does losing an hour affect us? I asked Dr. Charles Samuels from the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance. He says the issue is we are already sleep deprived going into the weekend and then we’ll be losing an additional hour. This lack of sleep is going to make us feel like we’re over the legal limit of alcohol, particularly on the Monday morning commute when the number of collisions rises.

Dr. Samuels says we need to start respecting our sleep. When we’re sleep deprived we’re both cognitively and physically impaired. So, we’re not able to concentrate, our memory is impaired, we’re foggy-headed and irritable. Healthwise, we’re more prone to obesity and we have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

One of the biggest barriers to getting a good sleep is technology. Dr. Samuels says technology is the single biggest problem when it comes to sleep health. Our mobile devices emit a light, different from the light of the TV which is at a distance, that disrupts our ability to produce melatonin. Also, the way we interact with our mobile devices, playing games or using social media, stimulates our brain to the point where we have trouble initiating sleep and maintaining sleep.

Dr. Samuels’ advice is to lock up the technology after 8pm. And parents need to set a good example for their kids!!

And what about those of us who work strange hours or who have young children that keep us up at night?? Dr. Samuels says what we need to do is increase the amount of sleep we’re getting, it doesn’t matter how. So moms should nap with baby or sleep in on the weekend. Shift workers should take naps during the day. Dr. Samuels says the simple formula is to figure out how much sleep you need each day to feel refreshed, 7- 9 hours, and then multiple it by 7. Then, try to hit that total by the end of the week, any way possible.

For more information about Dr. Samuels, visit their website.

Nephrotic Syndrome

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Mar 4th, 2014

Nephrotic Syndrome is the leading cause of kidney failure in children and it’s on the rise in Southern Alberta. Yet doctors don’t know why. It’s a relatively common kidney disorder with 25 children diagnosed each year in Calgary.

This is a disease where the imune system attacks the kidneys so they leak too much urine into the blood. It causes swelling in the children. In fact the first symptom of the disease is usually swelling around the eyes or in the tummy. Most parents think their child has had an allergic reaction.

Dr. Andrew Wade a Nephrologist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital says the first line treatment is steroids to suppress the immune system. Most children respond to the medication but the side effects are very challenging. Kids will get an uncontrollable appetite and gain weight, they’ll become irritable and of course they’re more susceptible to colds and flus because their immune system is supressed. The second line treatments include medications for cancer treatment and transplantation.

Most children will be diagnosed with a form of the disease called “Minimal Change” disease. These are children who respond well to the medications and then are weaned from the meds only to relapse again but should eventually grow out of the disease. It’s a real roller coaster ride says Andrea Ferneyhough who’s daughter Riley is almost 7 and has this form of the disease. Andrea is often testing Riley’s urine each day looking for signs of relapse. And Riley’s relapses usually are triggered by infection, so sending her to school during cold and flu season is very unnerving. Andrea says she’s always on “heightened alert.”

And for 10 to 20 percent of kids with Nephrotic Syndrome their children will not respond to meds and their kidneys will eventually become permanently damaged requiring transplantation. This form of the disease is called FSGS.  The truly devastating part of FSGS is that even if these kids get a kidney transplant, the disease can start attacking the new organ.

So, the Nephcure Foundation is holding a fundraiser this weekend called Denim and Diamonds. They’re hoping to raise awareness and money for research to find a cure for this disease.

For more information on Nephrotic Syndrome and FSGS visit the Foundation’s website.