Healthy Tips

picture top tips to stay healthy

Healthy Holiday Guide for Mind, Body, and Spirit

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc, ND

For many, the holiday season is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ because it brings about family and social gatherings, opportunities to bring people together, outings and events, parties, and presents! At the same time, the holiday season also brings added stress, pressured work deadlines, the year ends, extra household and entertaining duties, changes to your nutrition and alcohol habits, and even a lack of sleep!

So, the most wonderful time of the year can also be accompanied by many factors that can put your health at risk – physically, emotionally, and mentally.

We all want to enjoy this time of year. Here are our healthy tips on how to manage all of the extra demands being made is critical to being able to relax, have fun, and truly be present this holiday season.

Body

Wash your hands often to help prevent the spread of germs.

The holiday season is also cold and flu season. And with all of your family and friends in close proximity, regular hand washing isn’t just a good health practice for yourself, but it’s also a way to help your most vulnerable loved ones (children and the elderly) stay clear of viral and bacterial germs. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds and follow up with an emollient hand cream to keep your skin moisturized and free of harmful dryness and cracks.

Bundle up to stay dry and warm.

Even if you’re just running outside to toss out the recycling, or picking up the kids from school, be sure to wear appropriate outdoor clothing: light, warm, loose layers keep you comfortable and insulated, while winter accessories like gloves, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots prevent you from rapid loss of body heat.

Be food aware, choose wisely.

Holiday foods tend to be full of extra delicious things like butter, sugar and wheat and while indulging in this festive season is not altogether bad, you must learn to choose your indulgences wisely to prevent bloating, weight gain, hormonal imbalance, dehydration, and digestion issues.

Make holiday treats healthy by sneaking in veggies

It might sound strange, but we love finding ways to hide vegetables in sweet treats. Feel better about serving your family their favourite cookies and cakes by finding recipes that use healthy pumpkin, zucchini, avocado, or even almond meal to replace wheat flour and/or sugar. You won’t taste the difference but you’ll all be healthier as a result!

Mind

Set limits

Performing well at work, caring for yourself and your family, AND pulling off a holiday feast can become extra daunting over the holiday season when more demands both personally and professionally are made on you. It’s time to learn that it’s good to say “No” to some things that spread you too thin, make you anxious, put you on edge, or stress you out. Concentrate on doing fewer things – and ask others to take on tasks to support the bigger picture – and not only will they come out better, but you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour too!

Take a break

When you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, or out of control – it’s time to breathe deeply and take a break. When all of the tasks at hand seem to carry the same weight and gravity, stepping back to get some perspective is a healthy and supportive way to manage stress. Figure out what you can let go of, find support for others that need to get done (but maybe not by you, this time), take time for social connection, and get plenty of sleep and don’t forget to breathe! Deep breathing and paying attention to your breath is a great way to lower stress and balance the body.

Wander

Let your mind wander! Turn on some of your favourite music, make yourself a hot bath and close the door, read a novel just for the pleasure of it. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes, giving your mind time to wander off allows your brain and body to process everything you’re experiencing throughout the day and leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Spirit

Block off time for fitness and sleep – and make it non-negotiable

Extra stressors may not seem like a big deal at the beginning of the season but I bet you remember how harried and exhausted you were by the end of the season last year! NO-ONE can sustain a holiday rush without taking time for themselves to regenerate. This time is just for you. Make a promise to take yourself to the gym or on a run at least three times a week, and set a sleep schedule to make sure you have enough nighttime rest. Then? Keep that promise!

Get a head start on the new year with Holiday Resolutions!

There’s no need to wait for January 1st to start looking forward to the year ahead. In fact, when life is stressful, looking forward is a great way to increase your feelings of optimism and hope. In fact, you could try committing to just one or two of the suggestions in this post to help you feel your best during the holidays and you’ll already be on your way! We suggest the practice of gratitude for what you have now in the present and remind yourself of all the things that are amazing in your life. We waste too much time waiting for the next thing to make us happy when real happiness starts with you every single day.

Give yourself the gift of self-compassion

You deserve to enjoy the holidays as much as anyone in your family but it can be hard to accept that our realities rarely mimic a ‘Very Martha Stewart Holiday.’ Focus on self-kindness instead of self- judgement and accept imperfections with sympathy rather than critique or shame them. Let go of notions of perfection and enjoy what has been accomplished.

Make time for reflection and worship

This is a common time of year for reflection, but making a habit of it can help keep our mind and spirit connected and content. If you hold faith near, make time to experience community-based worship. The feeling of being together with your community is unparalleled for feeling connected, safe, and spiritually sound.

From our practice to you and your family, we wish you all the best for a healthy and happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year.

happy holidays

 

How to Drink More Water

picture of a man trying to drink more water

5 Ways to Drink More Water

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc (Hons), ND

Commonly heard phrases at Forces of Nature:

“I know I need to drink more water!”

“I know I don’t drink enough water”

“I’m terrible at drinking water”

Why don’t we drink more water?

Here are some of the reasons given:

  1. Then I have to pee too often
  2. There won’t be a washroom nearby
  3. I don’t have water with me
  4. I can’t drink tap water
  5. I never get thirsty
  6. I don’t like the taste of plain water

While we can’t make a washroom be nearby when you need one, but we can help with most of the rest.

Why Do We Need to Drink More Water?

Dehydration can cause every system in your body to work at less than it’s full capacity. Your brain doesn’t work well, your joints and muscles aren’t well lubricated, skin cells aren’t as plump and full, your stool is drier and harder causing constipation, your kidneys can’t flush waste effectively, toxins build up in your body, your metabolism slows down and so on.

What Are the Benefits of Drinking Water?

  1. Your brain works better when it’s well hydrated.
  2. Your joints have more cushioning.  Did you know that the discs that cushion the ones of your spine are 80-90% water?
  3. Your muscles function better.
  4. Your skin looks plumper and less dry.
  5. Your stool is softer and easier to pass.
  6. Your kidneys can remove toxins from your system more efficiently.
  7. Your metabolism works better.

Six Solutions to Common Water Conundrums

  1. Drink more water for a week. The initial frequent trips to the bathroom often subside once your body becomes accustomed to regular water/fluid intake.
  2. Plan your water intake.  You should be fine to have a couple of glasses of water as you are going out the door in the morning on your way to work.  By the time you get to work you may need to use the facilities.  During the day when you’re at the office should be fine, then in anticipation of the commute home, you may want to cut off water an hour before you leave and use the facilities before you go home regardless of whether you feel you need to.
  3. Invest in a good water bottle.  I’m not a fan of plastic water bottles.  I think that regardless of the type of plastic, some plastic chemicals end up in your water and also the bottles themselves are an environmental nightmare. A good stainless steel or glass water bottle is a good investment and if you take it with you it allows regular access to good water.
  4. Tap water or dehydration? Despite everything we hear about tap water, I think it’s still better to drink that than to be dehydrated.
  5. Start your day with water.  For those who don’t get thirsty, your poor body may have given up on you providing it with water. Start the day with 2 cups of water.  Most people tell me that they then feel more thirsty throughout the day, so they don’t have to “force” themselves to drink.
  6. Read my tips below to make water more appealing.

Five ways to make it more interesting and enticing so you drink more water:

  1. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon, lime or orange into it.
  2. Slice some citrus up and add it to a pitcher of water, along with a few crushed mint leaves.
  3. Make iced herbal teas. Raspberry, peach, mint, lemon balm, green tea and strawberry all make cool, refreshing drinks for a hot day and don’t require any added sugar.
  4. Use unsweetened juice to make ice cubes, then pop one in a glass of water to keep your water cold and add a bit of fruit flavor to it.
  5. Add cucumber or melon slices to a pitcher of water for cool, refreshing water.

If you’re looking for more ways to optimize your diet or health, see one of our naturopathic doctors.  If you’re looking to optimize your overall health, consider incorporating acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy or psychotherapy to your health plan.

Why Do I Wake Tired?

picture of a woman who will wake tired

Wondering Why You Wake Tired? Here’s how to Lose the Snooze Button

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopath

An overwhelming majority of my patients report that they wake tired in the morning when they have to get up. I’m always a little pleasantly surprised when I ask and a patient says yes, they feel refreshed. If you wake tired, there are a number of possible explanations, read on to learn more.

Not Enough Sleep

Studies show that the optimal amount is 7-7.5 hours of restful sleep. With hectic lifestyles, never enough time, trying to have a little down or me time, we often sacrifice time spent sleeping.  Also, if you are waking frequently in the night or up to go to the washroom, then you only get broken sleep. Broken sleep is not as refreshing as 7 hours of continuous sleep.

3 Action Steps for Better Sleep:

  1. Set an earlier bedtime, ideally by 10 p.m. and stick to it.  If you want some quiet time, get up early in the morning to be more aligned with your body clock. Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night, that way if you fall short, you’ll still get 7-7.5.
  2. Unplug by 8 p.m.  Looking at a screen tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime and decreases melatonin production that should enhance your sleep.  Melatonin has a multitude of additional benefits: it’s a powerful antioxidant, it repairs the esophagus, it can help fertility and it helps stimulate growth hormone production.
  3. If you find you are waking in the night, have a bite or two of protein containing food before bed.  A couple of bites of egg, fish, a tablespoon of almond butter etc, helps stabilize blood sugar to help you get to sleep & stay asleep better.

Low Iron

Ferritin is a blood test that we do to check for stored iron. Iron deficiencies can lead to exhaustion. An optimal ferritin level is above 60 mcg/L.  Some labs consider anything above 11 mcg/L to be normal.  As a result, your doctor may have told you your iron (ferritin) was normal when it was a fair bit below ideal. Ferritin below 40 mcg/L can definitely lead to problems with low energy and cause you to wake tired, as well as contributing to hair loss and shortness of breath.

2 Action Steps for Low Iron

  1. Ask your doctor to check ferritin and then ask for a copy of the blood work. Check that your ferritin is greater than 60 mcg/L.
  2. If your ferritin is below 60 mcg/L, it’s important to determine the cause of the low iron.  Simply taking iron supplements is not the best approach.  If you experience heavy periods that may explain the low iron, but in that case, it’s best to address the hormone imbalance that is causing the heavy periods.  If you absorb iron poorly or don’t take in enough from your diet, it’s best to address that.

Low Thyroid

Your thyroid regulates energy, body temperature, and metabolism.  Think of it like the gas pedal for your body.  If it’s not supplying enough gas, that means that having a sluggish thyroid can have a huge impact on energy. Blood work for thyroid is usually limited to testing TSH, a hormone that should stimulate the thyroid to work harder if it is underactive. So, a lower TSH means that the thyroid is working well, a higher TSH means the thyroid is sluggish.

The normal range for TSH is 0.35-5.00 mU/L.  If we converted this to whole numbers it is like saying that 35 to 500 is normal. The range is far too broad and once TSH gets above 3.00 there can be indications of an underactive thyroid. Some endocrinologists and fertility specialists will medicate the thyroid if TSH is above 2.50 as thyroid problems can contribute to infertility. As with ferritin, you may have been told that your thyroid is “normal”. I will treat a patient’s thyroid if the TSH exceeds 3.00 to try to restore normal thyroid function.

2 Action Steps for Low Thyroid

  1. Ask your doctor to check your thyroid and then ask for a copy of the blood work. Check that TSH is between 0.8 and 3.00 mU/L.
  2. Additionally, it would be helpful to have the following measurements relating to thyroid: free T3, free T4, anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin.  A TSH measurement alone is not adequate to determine that your thyroid is working perfectly.

Allergies

Allergies can often leave people feeling exhausted a good deal of the time as their immune system is working double time, all the time.  Many people will have low-grade food allergies or food sensitivities that they are either unaware of or they are unable to pinpoint the culprit foods.  Dairy and gluten are common, but you can have a food sensitivity to literally anything you are eating.  Journaling what you eat and rating your energy both later that day & the following day may help you unearth patterns between foods & energy.  If not, food sensitivity blood testing is the most efficient way to determine exactly what your immune system is fighting.  For environmental allergies, we aim to limit exposure if possible, but you can’t necessarily avoid pollen and dust.

4 Action Steps for Allergies

  1. Support adrenals – the adrenal glands help your body keep inflammation in check, read more on them below.
  2. Detoxify the liver – phase I and phase II liver detoxification are the steps that your liver takes to remove toxins, body waste, pollution and even hormones from your body.  There are certain vitamins and minerals that are essential for these processes to work optimally including vitamin B6, B12, 5-MTHF, magnesium, glucarate and indole-3-carbinol.  Supporting efficient liver detox can help remove chemicals that may be adversely affecting your immune system.
  3. Cleanse your gut and restore good bacteria to the digestive tract – Healthy gut flora keeps the immune system regulated and working normally.
  4. Remove existing food sensitivities to settle allergies down – Food sensitivities create inflamed, hypersensitive tissue in your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs, bronchi, sinuses).  Calming down this tissue by removing food allergies can help make them less sensitive to environmental pollutants.

Underactive Adrenal Glands

If all else above has been ruled out, the reason you wake tired is likely due to underactive adrenal glands. These are your stress glands, they sit on top of your kidneys and regulate a wide range of functions including: blood pressure, blood sugar, nervous system, libido, energy, drive, motivation, stress response, inflammation, hormone balance etc. Signs of low adrenal function include: wake tired after at least 7 hours of sleep, hypoglycemia, PMS, anxiety, depression, feeling dizzy or light headed on standing up quickly, low libido, inflammatory conditions like allergies, asthma, eczema, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease etc.

3 Action Steps for the Adrenal Glands

  1. Lower your stress.  The adrenal glands were meant to help you deal with short term stress, like running away from danger.  Chronic stress is hard on them and depletes vital vitamins and minerals for them to function normally.  Stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, exercise, and getting good sleep can help.
  2. Support the adrenals with lots of vitamin C, B5, B6, zinc, magnesium and potassium rich foods like avocadoes, citrus and leafy greens.
  3. Measure.  You can do blood work to determine how well the adrenal glands are working.  Your adrenals produce all of your DHEAs, much of your testosterone and a stress hormone called cortisol.  These can all be measured in your blood.  Lab ranges are not particularly ideal for these tests either, so it’s best to obtain a copy of your results and consult with a naturopathic doctor to see if blood work is showing a problem with your adrenal glands.

Our naturopathic doctors are the masters at troubleshooting fatigue and why you might wake tired.  Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture with Joy Walraven may help you have more energy. If pain is keeping you up at night, address the cause with massage therapy and chiropractic. If stress is keeping you up, combine massage therapy with psychotherapy.    Book an appointment now. 

 

Gut or Digestion Problems?

woman with gut issues

Digestion Trouble? It’s all in your Gut!

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to your gut.  We’re still learning a lot about how the interaction between the digestive system and the rest of the body works. We know that the intestinal flora in your digestive system can affect your body’s ability to perform several critical functions that affect your overall health, such as:

  • Absorbing and producing vitamins and minerals,
  • Regulating hormones,
  • Effective digestion,
  • Responding to the immune system, and
  • Eliminating toxins

For those of us who already suffer from gastrointestinal or digestion disorders such as IBS, Celiac disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, SIBO or leaky gut syndrome, the link between gut and mental health becomes more pronounced. Our gastrointestinal (GI) issues can even be the root cause of many symptoms throughout the body.

Given how extensive the influence of the gut is on these essential bodily functions, it’s clear that looking after our gut health is one of the most important ways we can look after our overall health. There are many ways to take care of your gut, these are two factors that influence bowel flora directly: prebiotics and probiotics.

How does the connection between the gut and the body work?

In between the layers of your digestive tract is something called the enteric nervous system (ENS).  This is made up of two thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells lining your GI tract literally from top to bottom.

The ENS sends messages between the gut and the brain. That’s why the gut is often called the “second brain.” As you’ll see from the symptoms listed below, the messages that the second brain sends can be very persuasive!

How can you tell if your gut is imbalanced?

The ideal balance of gut bacteria is about 85% good bacteria to 15% bad bacteria out of about 100 trillion bacteria that naturally live in our gut.

This balance can be upset in the course of daily life by caffeine, processed foods, stress, long-term use of medications and definitely antibiotics. In fact, one course of antibiotics can leave your gut bacteria weaker for up to four years!

As we age, the natural decrease in our stomach acid (which plays an important role in the growth of good bacteria) enables bad bacteria to get stronger.

The main culprit of a bacteria imbalance, though, is over consumption of sugars. To make an immediate positive impact on your gut health, it’s essential to limit simple carbohydrates like sugars found in sodas, desserts, and processed foods like flour products.

There are all kinds of indicators of an imbalanced gastrointestinal system. These can be symptoms like:

  • Bloated, gassy and distended abdomen
  • Extreme bowel movement patterns like diarrhea or constipation (or a fluctuation of both)
  • Skin conditions including acne, rashes, psoriasis and eczema flare-ups
  • Constant fatigue despite getting an adequate amount of sleep
  • ‘Down’, depressed or sad emotions, irritability
  • Candida or yeast overgrowth
  • Weight loss due to lack of an appetite or cravings causing weight gain due to poorly absorbed nutrients

How can we help our gut communicate best?

You can help heal your gut by providing it with what it needs to keep the necessary balance of good and bad bacteria.  This helps your gut take care of its biggest job – regulating digestion. That way, the gut’s messages to the body and mind are clear, efficient, and healthy.

How? It comes down to maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and high quality rest and supporting your gastrointestinal health with both prebiotics and probiotics!

Prebiotics vs Probiotics – What’s the difference?

Probiotics

These are the healthy, “good” bacteria that naturally live in the colon of our digestive systems. When consumed in the right amounts, probiotics can have great benefits to our health overall. Once in the colon, probiotic bacteria multiply, helping to regulate the balance between the good and bad bacteria that live there. You might be familiar with certain kinds of probiotics, as there are a few that have specific health benefits like Lactobacillus acidophilus.  Diversity of gut bacteria is what keeps us healthy, that’s why it’s important to consume a variety of different strains.

There are a variety of natural food sources for probiotics, largely found in fermented foods. A few fantastic choices for probiotics are:

  • Kimchi
  • Unpasteurized sauerkraut – natural, made with salt not vinegar
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Pickles

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that help probiotics grow and remain in your digestive system.  They’re known as “food” for your good bacteria.

Less information has been publicized about where you can find prebiotics, but that could be because you’ve been eating them this whole time! Prebiotics are a non-digestible fibre source that’s plentiful in lots of raw foods:

  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onions (which still contain prebiotics once cooked)
  • Chicory root
  • Dandelion greens
  • Asparagus
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Jicama
  • Under-ripe bananas

Taking probiotics alone is a good beginning.  We want to encourage the colonies of bacteria to grow and support a healthy gastrointestinal system.  That’s why it’s important to eat prebiotics also to ensure that the probiotics can multiply and do their work effectively.

Consume a combination of prebiotic and probiotic foods on a daily basis, to help replenish and maintain a healthy digestive system for overall health.

Is a supplement necessary to have enough prebiotics and probiotics?

Getting your nutrition from whole foods is always the preferred route to optimal health, but sometimes you need a little help. In that case, look for:

Prebiotic supplements: Prebiotics are actually really easy to get in a well-balanced diet, and due to the nature of the fibre they contain, that’s really the best way to get them. If you are looking for a little extra push, try using chicory root as a coffee substitute, or using a powdered acacia gum (gum arabic) in a morning smoothie. Having these kinds of foods in your diet can assure you that your gut bacteria is well fed and well cared for.

Probiotic supplements: You should be looking for a supplement containing CFU (Colony Forming Units) in the billions. The generally recommended dose can vary between 30 to 150 billion CFUs per day, taken in up to four doses. To maintain diversity of gut bacteria, aim to supplement with different stains of good bacteria.

How long should I take probiotics?

You can safely stay on probiotics indefinitely.  We definitely recommend them if you’re on, or coming off of: antibiotics, the birth control pill or radiation treatment.

If you choose to supplement, remember to take it at breakfast when the bacteria have the best chance of surviving the acidic environment of the gut. Whether or not supplementation is a regular part of your supplement regimen remember that taking probiotics after a course of antibiotics is one of the best ways to ensure your full and healthy recovery from the inside out.

Just as we take care of our muscles and our minds by feeding them the things they need to stay strong and healthy, so too must we take care of our “second brain”, our gut health, by feeding it what it needs to perform in optimal health.

Prebiotics and probiotics are the two primary ways of keeping your digestion healthy, happy, and functioning optimally! Remember, while everyone can take prebiotics and probiotics, from children to pregnant people, to the elderly – everyone is unique.

We would love to help you determine which foods and supplements are best for you and your family. Please book an appointment to ask our naturopathic doctors for their recommendation of both the type and dosage that could be right for you.  We also offer many other options to improve your digestion.

 

 

 

 

 

The Importance of B Vitamins

picture of b vitamins

What are B vitamins?

B vitamins are a group of water soluble vitamins that are numbered B1 through B12.  They are: vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B4 (carnitine), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B8 (inositol), vitamin B9 (folic acid), vitamin B10 (PABA), vitamin B11 (salicylic acid) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin).

Mini rant: I commonly hear: “my doctor checked my B vitamin level and it was fine”. The ONLY B vitamin that medical doctors EVER check is vitamin B12 (other than occasionally checking folic acid). Having a normal vitamin B12 level, does not ensure that any of your other B vitamin levels are normal. 

Why are B vitamins important?

B vitamins play an important role in the function of the nervous system, carbohydrate metabolism, neurotransmitter and energy production, among many other functions.  Because they play so many roles in your body, I can’t overemphasize the importance of healthy levels of all of the B vitamins to your overall health.

What do each of the B vitamins do?

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Helps metabolize carbohydrates.  Active B1 (benfotiamine) is particularly important for diabetics.
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Helps fight free radicals and oxidative stress.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): Helps support good cholesterol levels.  It can be low in alcoholics.
  • Vitamin B4 (carnitine): Helps with energy production in mitochondria.
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Helps break down fats and carbs for energy, also helps build hormones like testosterone and keeps adrenals healthy
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Helps produce neurotransmitters that regulate mood and sleep, keeps adrenals healthy, maintains healthy homocysteine levels, helps with liver detoxification
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin): Helps with hair, skin and nails and helps maintain healthy blood sugar
  • Vitamin B8 (inositol): Helps with healthy blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, used in PCOS to help restore fertility, can reduce anxiety and panic attacks
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid): Helps prevent DNA damage and maintain healthy DNA, prevents birth defects for babies, must be taken in the active form L-5MTHF
  • Vitamin B10 (PABA): Is actually an amino acid that is part of folic acid, can help with skin conditions, but can also provoke allergic reactions, use with caution
  • Vitamin B11 (salicylic acid): Helps with DNA and RNA synthesis and cell division
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): Helps produce red blood cells

What are the symptoms of B vitamin deficiency?

Deficiency of B vitamins can cause: problems with carbohydrate metabolism, emotional disturbances, impaired sensory perception, weakness and pain in the limbs, periods of irregular heartbeat, and edema (swelling & water retention), heart failure, cheilosis (cracks in the lips), high sensitivity to sunlight, angular cheilitis (cracks at the corners of the mouth), glossitis (inflammation of the tongue), seborrheic dermatitis or pseudo-syphilis (particularly affecting the scrotum or labia majora and the mouth), pharyngitis (sore throat), aggression, dermatitis, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, diarrhea, acne and paresthesia, microcytic or macrocytic anemia, depression, high blood pressure (hypertension), elevated levels of homocysteine, birth defects, peripheral neuropathy, memory loss and other cognitive deficits, mania, psychosis and paralysis.

 

What Foods Can I Get B Vitamins From?

Food sources for most of the B’s include: pork, dark green leafy vegetables, green pea, lentils, nuts such as almonds and pecans, asparagus, chicken, fish, eggs, turkey, salmon, seafood, mushrooms and broccoli.

Vitamin B12 is found exclusively in animal products like poultry, meat and eggs.

What Should I Look for in a B Complex?

If there was only ONE vitamin people EVER took, to me it should be a very good B complex that contains active forms of vitamin B2 (riboflavin-5-phosphate), B6 (pyridoxal-5-phosphate) and folic acid (L-5MTHF), once or twice per day with food.  The ACTIVE forms of these B vitamins are vital to being able to use them well and their inactive forms (riboflavin, pyridoxine HCl & folic acid) can potentially cause problems.

For more advice about vitamins including B vitamins, see one of our naturopathic doctorsBook an appointment. 

B Vitamin Deficiency Research

In 3 separate studies, thiamine deficiency was found in:
One-third of hospitalized congestive heart failure patients
38% of women with anorexia nervosa
36% of homeless Australian men

Sources: J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Jan 17;47(2):354-61., Int J Eat Disord. 2000 Dec;28(4):451-4., Med J Aust. 1990 Jan 1;152(1):5-9.

Twenty-seven percent of patients with heart failure had biochemical evidence of vitamin B-2 deficiency, while 38% had evidence of B-6 deficiency.

Source: J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Aug;109(8):1406-10

Thirty-two patients (28%) with autoimmune thyroid disease had low B12 levels.

Source: Am J Med Sci. 2006 Sep;332(3):119-22

Migraines: Why Are You Still Suffering?


woman with migraines

Why Do You Get Migraines?

What Causes Migraines?

There are a number of potential causes of migraines:

  1. Excessive histamine
  2. Excessive inflammation
  3. Food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities
  4. Neurotransmitter imbalance
  5. Hormone imbalance

How Do You Know if a Headache is a Migraine?

Migraine symptoms include: nausea and/or vomiting, pain behind one eye, pain in your temples, visual changes like seeing spots or auras, sensitivity to light and/or sound, and/or temporary vision loss [see your MD ASAP if you have this symptom].

How Long Does a Migraine Last?

A typical migraine can last from 4 to 72 hours.

The Natural Treatment Approach to Migraines

  1. Reduce histamine – correct diet, increase vitamin C
  2. Support the adrenal glands – vitamin B5, B6, C, magnesium, zinc, ashwaganda, panax ginseng, rhodiola, schisandra, gotu kola.
  3. Test for and remove IgG and IgA food sensitivities.
  4. Balance neurotransmitters by providing the appropriate precursor vitamins, minerals and amino acids (B6, magnesium, tryptophan, tyrosine).
  5. Balance hormones – correct diet, provide indole-3-carbinol, 5MTHF, P5P, magnesium, B12, and glucarate for liver detoxification.

Histamine

Excessive blood histamine levels may be a factor in migraines. Histamine is a substance released by cells known as mast cells and is also present in certain foods. Histamine from food sources are normally broken down in the gut by an enzyme known as DAO or Diamine Oxidase.  Some people are genetically programmed to make inadequate levels of DAO. Stabilizing mast cells to reduce histamine release, lowering intake of high histamine foods and supplementing DAO enzyme may help histamine related migraines.

Dietary histamine: Avoid citrus fruit, stored, fermented, canned, aged and/or pickled foods.

Antihistamine: Vitamin C acts as a natural antihistamine and supports the adrenal glands and healthy, more stable blood veins and arteries.

Blood tests: tryptase and diamine oxidase (DAO).

Adrenal glands

The adrenal glands are your body’s internal corticosteroid source.  As such, they play a role in moderating inflammation and migraine prevention. Depletion of critical nutrients for adrenal function due to malabsorption, excessive excretion due to stress, or poor diet may lead to altered HPA axis function or corticosteroid production, contributing to migraines. Adrenal supportive nutrients include vitamin B5, B6, C, magnesium, and zinc.  Herbs demonstrated to support the body’s adaptation to stress include Panax ginseng, eleuthrococcus, ashwaganda and licorice root.

Blood tests that may elucidate issues with the adrenals include DHEAs, testosterone, a.m. and p.m. cortisol levels.

Test for and Remove IgG and IgA Mediated Food Sensitivities

The exclusion of IgG mediated food sensitivities has been shown to significantly improve symptoms for sufferers of migraines and IBS. An association between celiac disease (IgA antibodies to gluten) and migraine in adults has also established.

Blood test: IgG and IgA food sensitivity testing

Neurotransmitters and Migraines

Research has also suggested a connection between neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin and migraine.   SSRI type medications are often tried as a solution.  Many of the patients that I see don’t like these medications due to their side effects of weight gain, low libido and feeling emotionally flat. As an alternative to this approach, I recommend vitamin B6 and magnesium as co-factors for the production of serotonin. Magnesium may also help relax muscle tension and calm the nervous system.

Blood test: Spectracell Micronutrient Analysis

Migraines and Hormones

Hormone imbalance can influence susceptibility to migraines. Estrogen dominance in women often precipitates premenstrual migraines.  Supporting liver detoxification of estrogen, including environmental estrogens, helps relieve menstrual migraines.

Blood tests: DHEAs, testosterone, estradiol, LH, FSH, progesterone, prolactin

What other treatments help migraines?

Other effective natural medicine therapies for migraines include: chiropractic treatment, massage therapy, acupuncture and craniosacral therapy.

If you need help with migraines, click here to book an appointment.

References:

  1. Johnston CS, Martin LJ, Cai X. Antihistamine effect of supplemental ascorbic acid and neutrophil chemotaxis. J Am Coll Nutr. 1992 Apr;11(2):172-6.
  2. Alstadhaug KB. Histamine in migraine and brain. Headache. 2014 Feb;54(2):246-59.
  3. Aydinlar EI, Dikmen PY, Tiftikci A, Saruc M, Aksu M, Gunsoy HG, Tozun N. IgG-based elimination diet in migraine plus irritable bowel syndrome. Headache. 2013 Mar;53(3):514-25.
  4. Cristofori F, Fontana C, Magistà A, Capriati T, Indrio F, Castellaneta S, Cavallo L, Francavilla R. Increased prevalence of celiac disease among pediatric patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a 6-year prospective cohort study. JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Jun;168(6):555-60.
  5. Gabrielli M, Cremonini F, Fiore G, Addolorato G, Padalino C, Candelli M, De Leo ME, Santarelli L, Giacovazzo M, Gasbarrini A, Pola P, Gasbarrini A. Association between migraine and Celiac disease: results from a preliminary case-control and therapeutic study. Am J Gastroenterol. 2003 Mar;98(3):625-9.
  6. Woldeamanuel Y, Rapoport A, Cowan R. The place of corticosteroids in migraine attack management: A 65-year systematic review with pooled analysis and critical appraisal. Cephalalgia. 2015 Jan 9.
  7. McMullen MK, Whitehouse JM, Towell A. Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:670504.
  8. Dakshinamurti S, Dakshinamurti K Antihypertensive and neuroprotective actions of pyridoxine and its derivatives. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2015 May 11:1-8.
  9. Mauskop A, Varughese J. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm. 2012 May;119(5):575-9.
  10. Patacchioli FR, Monnazzi P, Simeoni S, De Filippis S, Salvatori E, Coloprisco G, Martelletti P. Salivary cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S) and testosterone in women with chronic migraine. J Headache Pain. 2006 Apr;7(2):90-4. Epub 2006 Mar 31.

 

 

What is Fatty Liver?

picture of a healthy liver without fatty liver disease

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

What is Fatty Liver (NAFLD)?

NAFLD is a condition where there are fat deposits in the liver in someone who is not an alcoholic.  The condition is thought to affect anywhere from 1 in 3 adults in the US and 1 in 10 children.  NAFLD is the leading cause of liver disease in Western countries.

Why is NAFLD a problem?

NAFLD itself is not necessarily serious but it can progress into another condition known as NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis). The fat deposits create inflammation in the liver and over time can damage the liver, leading to scarring, cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Severe liver cirrhosis can necessitate a liver transplant.

What are the symptoms of Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

You may have NAFLD and have no symptoms, the majority of people with the condition have no symptoms.  Children may have symptoms of abdominal pain and fatigue.  Your doctor may feel enlargement of your liver on physical exam.  

What causes Fatty Liver?

NAFLD is associated with Metabolic Syndrome – a group of symptoms (syndrome) that includes signs and symptoms such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, diabetes or pre-diabetes and being overweight.

How is NAFLD diagnosed?

A blood test for liver enzymes may be abnormal or not.  A liver ultrasound may show NAFLD.  NASH can only be diagnosed by liver biopsy.

What elses causes it?

Fat accumulation in the liver can also be caused by excess alcohol intake, certain medications, viral hepatitis, autoimmune liver disease, and metabolic or inherited liver disease.

What can be done about fatty liver disease?

In one study, mung bean sprouts that had been germinated for 4 days plus HIIT training improved sugar and fat metabolism, as well as liver function and cellular appearance in rats with NAFLD. Since insulin appears to play a significant role in fatty liver, adopting a low glycemic index, low glycemic load diet that requires less insulin is a good idea.  There are several other naturopathic interventions for fatty liver.

For more help with fatty liver disease, book an appointment now with one of our naturopathic doctors.

Glutathione

glutathione molecule

What is Glutathione? 

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

It is a substance produced naturally in your liver and is a powerful antioxidant, considered to be the mother of all antioxidants (antioxidants help prevent oxidation and aging).  It is made from three amino acids: glutamic acid, cysteine and glycine.  One of the primary functions of glutathione is cellular detoxification.

Why is glutathione important?

Healthy blood levels are important for protection from heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s and aging in general.  Reduced levels occur with aging and are associated with increased oxidative damage.

How do I get glutathione?

Foods contain it and there are glutathione supplements, however, most of what is orally ingested gets broken down in the digestive tract and so it doesn’t have an impact on increasing your blood levels.  For this reason, taking supplements is likely a waste of money, even liposomal glutathione. Consuming the above amino acids may assist your liver in producing more if you need it. Food sources of glutathione include: spinach, asparagus, avocado, squash, okra, cauliflower, broccoli, walnuts, garlic and tomatoes.

How else can I raise my blood level?

There are a number of supplements that have been shown to help raise levels in the blood, including:
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • Milk Thistle
  • MSM
  • Melatonin
  • Curcumin

Your body can also recycle existing glutathione with the help of following vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamins: C, E, B vitamins, active folic acid (L-5MTHF)
  • Minerals: selenium, zinc, vanadium, magnesium

Too Much of a Good Thing?

There is some research that has found higher levels of glutathione in cancer cells.  It may be that the cells have increased their own level as a means of protecting themselves from damage by chemotherapeutic agents or it may be that cancer cells are trying to keep themselves from undergoing normal cell demise known as apoptosis.

Should you supplement with glutathione?

I would say no, for the reasons I have already mentioned: it’s poorly absorbed and broken down in the gut and until we fully understand why glutathione is higher in cancer cells, it may be best to avoid artificially increasing it.  Use of some of the above supplements that help support healthy internal production or recycling seems like safer options.

References:

Yilin Liu, Annastasia S. Hyde, Melanie A. Simpson, and Joseph J. Barycki. Emerging regulatory paradigms in glutathione metabolism. Adv Cancer Res. 2014; 122: 69–101.

Matthew Butawan, Rodney L. Benjamin, and Richard J. Bloomer. Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients. 2017 Mar; 9(3): 290.

Antonio Carrillo-Vico, Patricia J. Lardone, Nuria Álvarez-Sánchez, Ana Rodríguez-Rodríguez, and Juan M. Guerrero. Melatonin: Buffering the Immune System. Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Apr; 14(4): 8638–8683.

Jianguo Lin, Youcai Tang, Qiaohua Kang, Yunfeng Feng, and Anping Chen. Curcumin inhibits gene expression of receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) in hepatic stellate cells in vitro by elevating PPARγ activity and attenuating oxidative stress. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Aug; 166(8): 2212–2227.

Healthy Weight Loss

woman celebrating easy weight loss

Weight Loss: 5 Healthy Ways to Lose Weight

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Swimsuit season will soon be upon us!  This is the time of year where it is relatively easy to shed your winter weight. If trying on your spring and summer wardrobe has been a depressing experience, here are some weight loss tips and tricks to help you lose weight and get into summer shape more quickly and easily:

  1. Reality check – use a program like MyFitnessPal or the Fitbit app to track your caloric intake and exercise for a day or two.  You don’t need to get obsessive about it, but people tend to underestimate how many calories they consume and overestimate how much exercise they get.
  2. Reduce your stress.  Stress is bad for weight in so many ways: Increased cortisol, emotional eating, lower T3 (active thyroid hormone), higher reverse T3 (inactive thyroid hormone).
  3. Get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep lowers your willpower, promotes sugar cravings to supply energy and even one night of less than 4 hours sleep makes you more insulin resistant the next day and higher insulin means more fat gain
  4. Don’t snack.  The old 3 meals two snacks advice was bad advice.  Research has shown that people who snack between meals consume more calories in a day than those who don’t.
  5. Exercise. If you want everything you need to do to lose weight, my amazing colleague, Dr Jade Teta, has created an exercise program for weight loss, with bonus materials that include a healthy menu and recipes.  His workout will challenge what you thought you knew about exercise, it won’t take you long (only 15-20 minutes 3 times per week), there is no gym membership required, you can do it in your own living room, with or without weights or bands, it’s science based and it is cheap. The purpose of the program is to reset your metabolism to it’s prime.  I’m in my second round of the 12 week program and I can attest to the fact that it is hard, but I feel fitter than I have in years and I have lost weight and I’m exercising less. (despite my best efforts, my weight has only been doing a slow steady climb since I hit 45). Best of all, the program creator is a naturopathic doctor as well as a personal trainer and a heck of a nice guy. Check it out here. 

Meal Replacement

why boost is no better than a chocolate bar pic

Why “Meal Replacement Drinks” are no Better Than Chocolate Bars

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

My mom is elderly and lives on her own and doesn’t always remember to prepare herself a nutritious meal. Her doctor recommended one of these “meal replacements”, here’s why that’s a horrible idea.

These “meal replacement” drinks are mostly composed of unhealthy fats and sugar.  If all I was concerned with was giving my mom empty calories like that, I would just give her a chocolate bar.  At least it contains real food ingredients (peanuts).  The main ingredients in these drinks are: water, sugar, corn syrup, milk protein concentrate, canola/sunflower/corn oil and soy protein isolate.

What about the vitamins and minerals in meal replacement drinks?

The quality of these vitamins and minerals is the lowest of the low, the cheapest forms for the manufacturer to put in.  Not well absorbed, not the form that the body needs.  The casein is potentially detrimental to the digestive tract and absorption of nutrients.  Caseinate forms of calcium (in these drinks), contain the protein casein which is a common food allergen and may aggravate anyone with a dairy sensitivity.

How do the nutritional facts compare?

Meal Replacement Drink:

Calories: 240/8 oz bottle

Cholesterol: 10 mg

Sodium: 150 mg

Carbohydrate: 41 g

Sugar: 20 g

Snickers:

Calories: 250/bar

Cholesterol: 5 mg

Sodium: 120 mg

Carbohydrate: 33 g

Sugar: 27 g

NesQuick:

Calories: 150/8 oz

Cholesterol: 15 mg

Sodium: 180 mg

Carbohydrate: 24 g

Sugar: 22 g

If you’re noticing some similarities between the Meal Replacement drink and NesQuik, that’s because they share the same manufacturer.

What are better alternatives to meal replacement drinks?

There are many better ways to help an aging parent or someone who is very ill meet their nutritional needs.  If they would prefer something in liquid form, purchase a high quality protein shake like Vega One or Ultra Protein Plus by Douglas Labs.  They’ll supply protein, much better quality vitamins and minerals without the sugar and canola oil.  To bump up the calories, blend these with full fat coconut milk, a banana, an avocado, some coconut oil and/or almond butter.

For mineral and protein nourishment, cook up some bone broth.  It’s easy, you just throw something with a bone in it in the slow cooker with a splash of apple cider vinegar and some chopped up veggies and leave it overnight.  A cup per day of bone broth will provide lots of readily absorbed minerals, and protein in the form of gelatin which can be used by the body to make collagen for building healthy bones, hair, skin and nails.