Lectins – Love Them or Leave Them?

lectins - are they bad for you?













Lectins – What are they and are they harming your health?

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

We’re all familiar with that schoolyard rhyme: “beans, beans, they’re good for your heart….” Have you ever wondered why foods like legumes are so tough to digest, creating a socially unacceptable end result?

Turns out that most of our foods contain certain compounds that, by nature, are difficult on our digestive systems – because they’re not really meant for our digestive systems at all! Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t tolerate them but more and more research is helping us learn the reasons why some foods can be tough to digest, and what the implications are of consuming them. In the case of beans and legumes, amongst other foods, the main culprit we’re learning more about is lectins.

What are Lectins?

Lectins are a kind of protein that’s found in a variety of plant- and animal-based foods. In fact, almost all plant and animal substances contain them in small amounts!

We know proteins are the building blocks of muscles and are critical to our health so the question for most of us is: if lectins are just proteins, how could they be bad for us?

Simply put, lectins bind cells together, and in particular, they bind to sugars. Their ability to lessen the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients puts lectins in a special category known as ‘antinutrients’. Because we can’t digest lectins, they tend to pass through our systems unnoticed which, for most people, means antinutrients like lectins don’t pose much of a problem at all! In fact, in small amounts, lectins can have numerous health benefits. They’ve been shown to have an important role in immune function, cell growth, and might even be helpful in cancer therapy.

However, lectins can wreak havoc for people who consume a diet with lots of high lectin foods and for those who suffer from GI disorders like IBS, Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis or those with immune deficiencies. In more severe instances where GI disorders and immune dysfunction are at play, lectins can have quite a serious effect on the gut lining and tight junctions that keep the intestines functioning well. To read more about tight junctions,check out our article about Leaky Gut Syndrome here. 

If they’re not meant to be digested, what purpose do lectins serve?

Lectins have a distinct and important purpose in nature – it’s just that the purpose is for the organism’s survival, and not for human consumption! The most important function lectins have in the plant world is to act as a natural insecticide, protecting plants, grains, and legumes from natural predators. And they’re great at it too! When predatory insects come in contact with them, the lectins completely disrupt insect metabolism, preventing invasions and attacks on the plants. As part of a plant’s defense mechanisms, lectins are a natural way to strengthen crops against common pests!

What Symptoms do Lectins Cause?

To update that schoolyard rhyme: the more lectins you consume the more discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, and importantly, malabsorption of nutrients you might experience.

If these sound like familiar symptoms, that could be because the 30% of foods that have high levels of lectins are ones we commonly eat such as dairy, nightshades (like tomatoes and peppers), whole grains, seeds, GMO foods, and yes – beans and legumes!

Some experts have suggested that removing all lectins from your diet can help the gut to recover from antinutrient-caused distress and that this could be critical to treating GI and immune disorders. Still, many others have pointed to the various preparation techniques that people have used around the globe to help weaken and eliminate lectin proteins, making these staple foods much easier to enjoy!

We caution against removing whole categories of foods unless truly necessary, especially because foods high in lectins also have other essential benefits such as fibre and minerals, that our bodies need. Instead, we want to provide you with a variety of methods you can use to prepare high lectins foods that are centuries old, and globally trusted to make these foods easier to digest.

How Can You De-activate Lectins for Better Digestion?

These are our favourite four ways of preparing legumes, grains, and seeds so you can keep them in your diet without worrying about the negative effects of lectin protein. Prepare them mindfully, and with the help of a few tried and true techniques to get the most out of them:

Soak Your Legumes and Grains

Beans (canned or dried) in particular benefit from soaking, as do many harder grains and pseudo-grains like oats, rye, barley, wheat, and quinoa. Soaking and rinsing legumes and grains help to shake free starches, acids, and proteins, making minerals more bioavailable as well as making them easier to digest. Put yours in a larger bowl and cover with water by about 2 inches. Allow them to soak for a few hours up to overnight. Drain fully and rinse again until the water runs clear. As an extra tip: we like to add a 1” piece of kombu or dulse seaweed to the water when soaking beans – it further helps to break down lectins and make beans easier to digest!

Sprout Beans and Seeds

For most beans and seeds sprouting deactivates lectins completely. Why? Because you’re no longer eating them in their contained form. Rather, since they’ve begun the initial stages of germination, they’ve evolved from that seed state. The nutrients are even more available when you sprout, and it’s a lot of fun for the family when you have a hand in ‘growing’ your own food.  Sprouting them is super simple.  Put a layer of your beans and seeds for sprouting in a mason jar.  Rinse them with water, pour off the water and let them sit on your counter.  Rinse them and drain every day until they sprout.  They make a delicious crunchy topping for salads.

This works for almost all legumes except for alfalfa in which, interestingly, lectins increase when sprouted!

Boil or Pressure Cook Legumes or Grains

It seems obvious that if you were going to eat legumes or grains that you would boil or pressure cook them first – but these techniques actually have many benefits and ridding beans of lectins is one of them. Studies show that boiling soybeans, red beans, and many others at 212°F/ 100°C for a minimum of 10 minutes reduces lectins to negligible amounts.

Ferment Beans and Grains

Fermenting foods is the act of allowing good bacteria to grow in the food. The new good bacteria break down and convert would-be harmful proteins including lectins. This is an ancient and common approach across many cultures to consuming foods that are otherwise difficult to digest. In fact, fermented foods are great for you for many reasons because that good bacteria is also known as probiotics – one of the most important factors in overall gut health. Just think of tofu, tempeh, miso, kefir, and natto as great examples of fermented foods that would contain high levels of lectins prior to fermentation and you can see why this technique is so far-reaching!

At Forces of Nature, we want to see you and your family on a path towards your optimal health, and we have the tools to help make that journey clearer and easier. If you’re curious to learn more about how reducing or removing lectins from your diet could be beneficial to you, please call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Info@ForcesofNature.ca and Dr. Vong, Dr. Frank or registered dietitian Sanaz Baradaran will be happy to have a detailed consultation with you.

Yours in good health,

The Team at Forces of nature


Rhodes, Jonathan M. Genetically modified foods and the Pusztai affair. BMJ. 1999 May 8; 318(7193): 1284.

Miyake K, Tanaka T, McNeil PL, 2007 Lectin-Based Food Poisoning: A New Mechanism of Protein Toxicity. PLoS ONE 2(8): e687. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000687

DeMarco, Vincent G., et al. Glutamine and Barrier Function in Cultured Caco-2 Epithelial Cell Monolayers. J. Nutr. July 1, 2003 vol. 133 no. 7 2176-2179.



Best Dry Skin

woman wondering about best dry skin treatments

The Best Dry Skin Natural Remedies

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

Beautiful, healthy, glowing skin on your face and body – is there anyone who doesn’t want that? A balanced complexion isn’t just beautiful, it can also signify the state of your health, youthfulness, even your happiness or stress level. Of course, these messages are happening on a subconscious level, but they are so pervasively accepted, that taking care of your skin is a drive that has become a billion dollar industry – all working from the outside in, and not usually working as well as we are lead to believe.

Achieving truly healthy skin isn’t as simple as buying expensive, chemical-filled creams and committing to invasive procedures. In fact, the key to getting what you want on the outside isn’t on the outside at all! Getting the healthy happy skin you’ve always wanted starts by focusing on the inside out!

Our skin is our largest organ and its health is threatened all the time. Between exposure to the elements, stress, pollution, poor nutrition, dry air and of course, natural aging, our skin is constantly fighting for its health.

So how can we maintain healthy, glowing skin when the odds are stacked against us? By giving our skin the nourishment, attention and care it so rightly deserves.

5 of the Best Dry Skin Remedies for Healthier Skin Everywhere

Reduce inflammatory foods

Inflammation isn’t just the root of disease, it can also be the root of many skin ailments including acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Just as reducing inflammatory foods can positively affect your other systems, the effect of reducing inflammatory foods can be read on the surface of your skin! Try removing common inflammatory foods for at least 4 weeks to start to see an improvement in your skin’s health.

Remove these Inflammatory Foods (that make skin dry and flaky)

Best Dry Skin Foods that Fight Inflammation (to reduce skin redness and dryness)


Wheat products

Dairy (particularly cow’s milk and cheeses)

Refined sugar

Processed foods and beverages

‘Junk’ food

‘Fast’ food

Dark, leafy greens



Fatty fish

Olive, avocado, and coconut oil

Green Tea



Increase your water intake

We know that water is essential to helping our bodies function best, but did you know that it is the best way to ensure that nutrients are delivered effectively, and toxins are flushed out? Especially if you’re experiencing dry skin conditions, it’s important to make sure that you’re helping your body to rid itself of toxic residues and inflammatory chemicals that could be causing these symptoms.

Start your day with a glass of water first thing and make sure that you’re getting enough hydration every day by eating and drinking adequate amounts.  Remember that there’s water present in everything you eat and drink, especially if you’re juicing or consuming lots of fruit and veggies.  Drink water whenever you feel a thirst coming on. In spite of the classic “Drink 8, 8-ounce glasses” per day advice, there’s really no magic amount of water everyone needs to consume per day to stay hydrated. But, new research suggests that women could safely consume a total of approximately 2.7 litres (91 ounces) of water from all beverages and foods each day and that men could safely drink about 3.7 litres (125 ounces) daily. 


Collagen is what gives your skin support and firmness, and most of us are deficient in collagen! Daily collagen consumption will help to maintain internal collagen levels. Try bone broth soup made with a high collagen base like chicken feet, or add some hydrolyzed collagen powder in your smoothie!  Increasing your intake of vitamin C can help your body to make more collagen.

Hyaluronic Acid

As much as we can influence our skin health from the inside out, you can – and you should – also take care of your largest organ from the outside in too. That way you can meet in the middle, so to speak. Hyaluronic acid is an incredible hydrophilic (water-loving) chemical that is found naturally in our bodies, particularly in our eyes and joints. Its moisturizing, hydrating properties are why it’s so often used to treat arthritis, cataracts, and even dry eyes. Because of this, hyaluronic acid is also one of the best dry skin treatments. Here’s why:

As we age, our skin’s ability to preserve moisture slows down, and we start to lose firmness, elasticity, and fullness. Hyaluronic acid has an incredible ability to replenish the moisture we lose, helping skin to look and feel softer, smoother, and glowy because of is super hydration effects.

Because it’s one of the most studied and best dry skin ingredients, you can find many topical skin care products and anti-aging treatments that feature hyaluronic acid. Along with wearing a suitable SPF, topical hyaluronic acid is a fantastic way to heal your skin from the outside in while you increase your glowing health from the inside out.

Coconut Oil

Plain old coconut oil is one of our favourite moisturisers to reduce inflammation and help your skin retain moisture.  Plus it’s edible so you’re not introducing anything toxic into your system.

The Best Natural Skin Care Products

While it’s important to have a good skincare regimen, it’s also important to know what’s in the products you put on your face. Seek out quality ingredients that will enhance your health and not add a toxic burden to your system. We like organic skin care lines like Ilya, Eminence, and natural Canadian skincare brands like Buck Naked, and Living Libations. There are lots of good natural care products for your skin, please choose wisely. The Environmental Working Group website is a good resource for researching ingredients and their safety or toxicity.

Now that you’re ready to take care of your largest organ from the inside out and the outside in, there’s one more thing – and that’s enjoying the self-care process of maintaining beautiful, healthy skin! After all, skin care should be pampering as well as effective. Here’s one of our favourite DIY masks to help you on your journey to your most healthy skin:

Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-acne Mask to soothe redness and calm reactive skin:

1/4 cup whole grain oats

2 tablespoons warm water

1 teaspoon honey

Pinch ground turmeric

Blend together in a blender and spread on cleansed skin.  Leave on for 15-20 mins rinse off with warm and then cool water followed by a natural lotion or pure coconut oil.

To your good health,

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Do you have a Leaky Gut?

woman suffering from leaky gut syndrome

What is Leaky Gut?  What Causes It and What Can You Do About It?

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

If you’ve been searching for the root of on-going health issues that just won’t go away, the kind where your doctor – and maybe even your second and third doctor – have tried everything in their arsenals but have come up with only prescriptions that ease symptoms but don’t solve the underlying problem, it’s easy to feel discouraged.

However, if you’ve been keeping up with some of our previous blog posts, you’ve started to realize just how important our digestive system and gut health are to our overall health. In fact, you might be wondering if the root cause of the ‘mysterious illnesses’ from which you or your family have been suffering could actually reside in the gut – and you could very well be right.

From hormone regulation to immunity to enzyme production that keeps the rest of our body in tip-top shape, we keep learning more about how critical gut health is to maintaining overall vitality. One condition we are starting to learn more about, and see a prevalence of, is Leaky Gut Syndrome.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky Gut is a condition that is linked to dozens of illnesses. Because Western medicine hasn’t yet learned enough about the gut to fully understand the immense and overarching influence it has on overall health, there are no conventionally recognized methods of diagnosing and treating Leaky Gut syndrome. Understandably, doctors try to resolve the more commonly recognized associated issues a sufferer might be experiencing (see below), without actually addressing Leaky Gut itself. Unfortunately, that often creates a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario, in which doctors treat complaints, but without knowing which illness is the root cause and which is the symptom.

Do you wonder if Leaky Gut might be affecting you? Or whether you should be concerned?

Leaky Gut is often called a ‘phenomenon’ because it covers issues that stem from immunity, gut function, and the effect of modern diets and lifestyles on both of these systems.

In fact, in Canada alone, more than 20 million people suffer from digestive disorders – and that doesn’t cover half of the symptoms associated with Leaky Gut! Because of this, it’s important to understand the broad-reaching effects that the Standard American Diet, chronically high-stress levels, toxin overload, and even bacterial imbalances can have on gut function – and that managing these four elements are the basis of healing your gut.

What symptoms are the symptoms of Leaky Gut?

  • Consistent gastrointestinal issues like bloating, gas, cramps
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • New food sensitivities
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis

What is going on in a Leaky Gut?

While symptoms of Leaky Gut are broad and varied, they all have a common theme: that they occur from malfunctions of intestinal ‘tight junctions’ (TJs) in the small intestine.

Tight Junctions have one, very important job: to act as a barrier that selectively allows some particles – like vital nutrients – to pass through the intestines to the bloodstream and to make sure that other disease-causing particles – called xenobiotics – do not. Think about TJ’s as preventing holes in the intestine so there is no leaking of bad particles into your bloodstream!

When the TJs are in optimal condition, you and your gut can be in optimal health! When they are malfunctioning, creating intestinal hyperpermeability (holes), your body will respond with acute inflammation. If left untreated, this acute inflammation becomes chronic inflammation – the underlying cause of the majority of disease.

Diseases associated with a Leaky Gut

Diseases that have been associated with intestinal hyperpermeability are many, some of the most recognized include:

  • Bowel issues including gastric ulcers, infectious diarrhea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and diseases like Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis
  • Celiac disease and other allergies
  • Acute inflammation conditions
  • Arthritis and chronic inflammatory conditions
  • Obesity and related metabolic diseases like fatty liver, Type I and Type II diabetes, and heart disease
  • Autoimmune disease including lupus, multiple sclerosis, and Type I diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

While the concept of ‘intestinal permeability’ has been a conversation in the medical world for over 100 years, the symptoms of Leaky Gut are not unique to the syndrome and are shared with many other possible causes. So, many people’s symptoms go untreated by conventional doctors for months or even years. It’s understandably frustrating and disheartening when doctors are unable to help – both from their perspective as well as from the sufferer!

That’s why working with an integrative health team – one that partners your Western GP or gastroenterologist with naturopathic doctors – can be the most valuable step in taking the time and effort to properly investigate your symptoms.

How Can You Help a Leaky Gut?

Our naturopathic doctors can provide testing for Leaky Gut syndrome (zonulin testing) that can assist your whole health team in creating a holistic plan to get you back to optimal health.

Whether you suffer from Leaky Gut or want to protect yourself and your family from the possibility of it, you can get started by working on the four most important factors that contribute to Leaky Gut:

  1. Remove inflammatory foods and gut-damaging toxins

Common culprits of inflammation and toxins include grains, gluten, sugar, antibiotics, conventional cow milk or dairy products, GMOs, pesticides, and processed foods. Start by eliminating these from your diet and see how much relief you feel

  1. Add gut-healing foods

We’ve talked about prebiotics and probiotics before, but adding other nourishing foods like bone broth, simply steamed vegetables, fermented foods, raw cultured dairy, hormone-free and antibiotic-free animal products, and healthy fats

  1. Reduce stress

We can’t stress this enough! We live with so many competing priorities that we often don’t detect how stress is affecting us until it’s too late. Take time to turn off your brain, and tune into yourself with quiet time, sunny vitamin D filled walks, meditation, or yoga.

  1. Add gut-supporting supplements

Your naturopathic doctor is the best person to consult on the type and amount of supplements that would be best for you. Book an appointment to ask us about L-glutamine, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and plant-derived mineral supplements, all of which can contribute to establishing and maintaining a happy gut!

Yours in good health,

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic


Li X, Atkinson MA. The role for gut permeability in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes–a solid or leaky concept? Pediatr Diabetes. 2015 Nov;16(7):485-92. doi: 10.1111/pedi.12305. Epub 2015 Aug 13.

Gluten Free

picture saying get tested for gluten sensitivity before gluten-free diets

The Goods on Gluten-Free – Should You Try It?

One of the most talked about nutrition topics of the past couple of years has been whether or not gluten should have a place – or be forbidden – in our diets. Until recently, even the word ‘gluten’ would have been used almost exclusively in culinary, confectionary, and severe allergy professions alone. But, due to the recent increase in our understanding of gluten, its properties and health effects, the idea of going gluten-free has gained major popularity.  As an understandable result, this has left many people wondering whether or not gluten-free is the way to go in their own lives.

If you’ve been curious about going gluten-free, or if you’ve already experimented with gluten-free living, it’s important to have a good understanding of the basics so you can make informed decisions about the nutrition you and your family access.

What is gluten anyway?

Gluten is the name of a family of proteins found in wheat and wheat-related grains. Gluten itself is what enables foods made of grain flour ingredients to hold their shape. They act almost like ‘glue’ to give these foods texture and hold it together. It can be found in many foods, even where you might not expect it.

There are six big grains that are known as ‘glutinous grains.’ These include:

  1. Wheat (including wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, farina, farro, graham, and einkorn)
  2. Barley
  3. Rye
  4. Spelt
  5. Kamut
  6. Triticale

Things like bread and crackers, pastries, pasta, cereals, beer, soups and sauces (which could contain grains or flours as thickeners), brewer’s yeast, and food colouring are some foods and beverages that contain these grains and therefore naturally contain gluten.  Sometimes, gluten is also used in other foods to act as a binding agent to give texture and structure to other products.

Are most people allergic to gluten?

You may have heard that most people cannot tolerate gluten, or that grains today are different than the grains our ancestors used to eat. However, many studies have shown that in fact, grains and gluten are well-tolerated by the majority of people. That being said, there are three key groups of people who greatly benefit from removing gluten from their diets.

Celiac Disease Sufferers

Celiac disease, suffered by 1% of people, is a condition of the immune system in which eating gluten triggers an intestine-damaging response. Symptoms of celiac disease are serious and uncomfortable and include abdominal pain, skin rashes, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, and even unexplained weight loss. In cases of celiac disease, it’s imperative for the individual to remove all sources of gluten from their diets.  Also, people with Celiac disease should remove gluten in the form of personal care items.  Some unlikely sources of gluten can include lipsticks and balms, body and hand creams, and cosmetics which could introduce trace amounts of gluten that would trigger a reaction.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity or Gluten Intolerance

While celiac disease is rare, the percent of people who suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity is unknown and triggers similar symptoms.  The most reliable method to assess for non-celiac gluten sensitivity or intolerance is through blood testing for IgG antibodies to gluten.

Those with Other Gut Disorders

There’s still a third group of people who also benefit from removing gluten – those who suffer from other gut-related illnesses such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis and who require a FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are a group of small carbohydrate molecules found in all kinds of foods. While they are extremely common, they may be poorly absorbed in the small intestine of some people with already compromised digestive functions. Taking out glutinous foods is a key way to relieve one of the strains on a weakened digestive system because it naturally removes the FODMAPs that cause them to begin with.

Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance or Sensitivity

If you experience any of the following symptoms, particularly after eating something that contains gluten, you may have a gluten intolerance:

  1. Bloating
  2. Gassiness
  3. Burping/belching
  4. Constipation
  5. Diarrhea
  6. Nausea
  7. Heartburn or Acid Reflux
  8. Fatigue
  9. Headache
  10. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Colitis, Crohn’s)
  11. Autoimmune disorders
  12. Recurring infections

What do I need to know to go gluten-free?

Whole grains do contain a number of important nutrients, such as fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, folate, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, and some protein. So when deciding to remove gluten-containing whole grains from your diet, be sure create a robust diet that can replace these, and/or take supplements to ensure that you don’t develop a deficiency.

Know too, that many gluten-free substitutes like cookies, brownies, and bread usually contain higher levels of fats, sugar, and salt than their conventional counterparts. If you crave the comfort of baked goods or cereals, we recommend creating your own gluten-free versions at home with almond flour or coconut flour for the healthiest alternative.

Also, if you intend to be tested at some point for gluten allergy or sensitivity, you need to be currently eating gluten to be accurately tested.  If you go gluten-free and feel fantastic, you may be reluctant to go back to eating gluten in order to get tested properly.

Foods that Contain Gluten

Aside from foods made from rye, wheat, spelt, kamut, barley and triticale, there are a number of other foods where you may unintentionally encounter gluten.  Watch out for soy sauce, imitation crab meat, soups, stews, sauces, sushi, Chinese food, breaded foods, bread, cookies, cakes, muffins, crackers, buns, crusts, pancakes, ice cream (think cookie dough!), desserts and many other flour containing products.  If you are serious about being gluten-free, you really have to read labels or prepare your own food.

Going gluten-free will take time, patience, and practice – we know, because we’ve helped dozens of families do it with success! Sometimes you don’t even realize how much gluten is affecting your system until you eliminate it. Check our Facebook page where we feature monthly gluten free recipes and you’ll find a few tried and true favourites to get you going.  There are also lots of gluten-free recipes on our website here.

If you suffer from symptoms such as constant stomach pain, headaches, bowel issues or other symptoms that could be related to gluten sensitivity, please book an appointment so we can properly test you for celiac disease. We want to make sure you’re living your healthiest life possible! If not, but you’d still like to explore the health benefits of removing gluten, we’d love to help you make a plan to get your health back on track by managing your gut health.

For more advice on going gluten-free, optimizing your diet or checking for food sensitivities like gluten, see one of our naturopathic doctors.   Book an appointment here or call us at 416-481-0222.

To your good health,

The team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

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 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. 



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.


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.

Chiropractic for Children

Boy laughing with quote about chiropractic for children

Is Chiropractic Safe for Children?

Chiropractic care addresses children’s health conditions associated with the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.  Spinal adjustments for infants and children are not the same as those used on adults. They are tailored to the size of the child and the stage of development of the child’s musculoskeletal system.

Why Do Children Need Chiropractic Treatment?

During the first few years of life we grow and change at an astonishing rate. Traumas, sprains and strains incurred, and/or poor postural habits formed during these years have the potential to affect us later on in life. Within the first 12 months of life approximately 50% of babies will have had at least one fall onto their heads from a high place. As babies learn to walk they will suffer from hundreds of falls onto their bottoms. As children get older they may start participating in sports. It is estimated that 3.5 million children under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries every year. The Centre for Disease Control and prevention did a study which showed chiropractic and osteopath manipulation were the most common form of doctor directed complementary or alternative medicine used by children. The percentage of chiropractic patients under the age of 17 has increased at least 8.5% since 1991.

Does Research Support the Safety of Chiropractic Treatment for Kids?

Recent research by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) found spinal manipulative therapy to be safe and effective in treating children of all ages.

What are the Benefits of Seeing a Chiropractor for Children?

Dr Hewitt , past president of the American Chiropractic Associationʼs (ACA) Pediatrics Council states that the majority of patients report that their children enjoy their chiropractic adjustments and look forward to subsequent visits. They also report that their children experience a greater level of health while under regular chiropractic care. Parents surveyed by the ICPA reported behavioural improvements for kids who saw a chiropractor, as well as improved sleep and stronger immune systems. Scientific evidence in these areas is still inconclusive, however, the large increase in the number of children under chiropractic care appears to be a positive endorsement of its benefits.

What is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

A chiropractic adjustment is the application of a specific force through a restricted joint. The adjustment restores normal joint movement, reduces muscle tension and allows your nervous system to function properly again. The results are a decrease in your pain, increased mobility and flexibility, restored function and a renewed sense of vitality.

Improved health and a better quality of life for your children is just around the corner.

By Dr Kimberley Macanuel, BSc(Hons), DC

Massage Therapy & Parkinson’s Disease

massage for Parkinson's disease by a registered massage therapist or RMT

Parkinson’s Disease and Massage Therapy

Parkinson’s Disease is a central nervous system disorder which affects the body’s motor function. This dysfunction is due to a lack of dopamine which is a brain chemical or neurotransmitter produced in the brain. Dopamine enables motor function (or muscle movement). Parkinson’s will often result in symptoms including rigidity in the muscles and joints, uncontrolled movements, and tremors. Difficulty with slow controlled movements such as holding a glass of water is common, as well as difficulty walking.

Massage in general plays a great role in reducing muscle soreness, and improving range of motion, so in the case of those suffering from Parkinson’s where severe muscle tightness and restriction in movements are an everyday issue, regular massage is very beneficial. Massage also decreases sympathetic nervous system firing, which is essential to reducing high tone in muscles.  Massage therapy has also been shown to be beneficial for constipation in people with Parkinson’s.

If massage therapy can help such extreme muscle rigidity and stiffness, imagine how it can also help those with everyday muscle tension. Our skilled registered massage therapists are usually covered by your insurance and can help relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as muscle stiffness and constipation.


McClurg D, Walker K, Aitchison P, Jamieson K, Dickinson L, Paul L, Hagen S, Cunnington AL. Abdominal Massage for the Relief of Constipation in People with Parkinson’s: A Qualitative Study. Parkinsons Dis. 2016;2016:4842090. doi: 10.1155/2016/4842090. Epub 2016 Dec 8.

Casciaro Y. Massage Therapy Treatment and Outcomes for a Patient with Parkinson’s Disease: a Case Report. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2016 Mar 4;9(1):11-8. eCollection 2016.

McClurg D, Hagen S, Jamieson K, Dickinson L, Paul L, Cunnington A. Abdominal massage for the alleviation of symptoms of constipation in people with Parkinson’s: a randomised controlled pilot study. Age Ageing. 2016 Mar;45(2):299-303. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afw005. Epub 2016 Jan 29.

Keep New Year’s Resolutions


woman thinking about fitness resolutions

7 Tips to Keep Your Fitness Resolutions in 2017

New Year’s resolutions date back to ancient Rome and the mythical King Janus, from whose name January derives. Janus became a symbol for resolutions because he had two faces and could look simultaneously back on the past and look forward to the future.  This January, look back on the past to see what you could do better, then look forward to a new and improved future.

Here are some pointers to help you keep your fitness resolutions in 2017:

  1. Set attainable goals and have realistic expectations.  If you’re new to exercise, planning to run a marathon may be a bit too ambitious.
  2. Find the sweet spot of balance between too much exercise and too little.  What that means is that you want to find the balance between where you get the benefits of exercise without overdoing and winding up injured or burning yourself out.
  3. Make a resolution along with a friend or spouse. Research shows that having someone you’re accountable to can almost triple your likelihood of sticking with exercise.
  4. One study showed that motivation to be physically active was higher when sports – instead of just exercise – were involved.  Sports can make exercise less like drudgery and more like fun. Plus there’s an added social benefit to team sports.
  5. Having a goal in mind helps.  For example, register for a 5 km run then train to achieve it or keep working on achieving your next belt in martial arts.
  6. Get the resources you need to achieve your goals, whether it’s a day planner, gym membership, group classes, fitness tracker app or a personal trainer to keep you in line.
  7. Establish a routine that you enjoy and stick to it.  Consistency is key with exercise.  If your work requires you to travel, do some kind of exercise that is portable like walking, running or stay in hotels that have a fitness room.

Massage Therapy Fitness

man having massage therapy for fitness

Massage Therapy for Improving Fitness

By Helen Harris-Bhavnani, RMT

Massage Improves Circulation

One of massage therapy’s many benefits is an increase in the body’s circulation. This occurs simply due to the mechanical massaging of muscles, blood and lymphatic vessels.  The blood gets “pushed” through the muscles and tissues and directed back toward the heart.  The lymphatic vessels help your muscles to repair and help to heal injuries.

It also helps (through this increased circulation) to maintain proper nutrition of your muscles. Your blood and lymphatic circulation helps to deliver nutrients, white blood cells and oxygen to your muscles. After exercising, your muscles need those nutrients and white blood cells in order to repair and grow as well as to maintain their health. Manual therapies are a great way to increase blood flow, which in turn delivers the nutrients and oxygen your body needs to help repair itself.

Massage Helps Post Workout Recovery

Your RMT can also help you to relax and rejuvenate after a work-out. Muscles that are well nourished and relaxed grow better, function better and are less prone to injuries that may threaten to derail your fitness regimen.  A 2016 study found that massage therapy was significantly more effective than no intervention on the post-race recovery from pain and perceived fatigue in long-distance triathlon athletes.  If it helps triathletes recover, it can help you too.

So get out there, get your body moving, and take care of yourself by seeing your RMT afterward.

Massage Research Sources:

Kojidi MM, Okhovatian F, Rahimi A, Baghban AA, Azimi H. Comparison Between the Effects of Passive and Active Soft Tissue Therapies on Latent Trigger Points of Upper Trapezius Muscle in Women: Single-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial. J Chiropr Med. 2016 Dec;15(4):235-242. Epub 2016 Oct 11.

Emtiazy M, Abrishamkar M. The Effect of Massage Therapy on Children’s Learning Process: A Review. Iran J Med Sci. 2016 May;41(3 Suppl):S64.

Nunes GS, Bender PU, de Menezes FS, Yamashitafuji I, Vargas VZ, Wageck B. Massage therapy decreases pain and perceived fatigue after long-distance Ironman triathlon: a randomised trial. J Physiother. 2016 Apr;62(2):83-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jphys.2016.02.009. Epub 2016 Mar 23.