Organic Food: Is it Worth It?

organic food

Should You Buy Organic Food?

How would you describe “organic food” in three words or less? Good for you? Expensive? Neither of these is a wrong answer.

You may often hear in vague terms about how organic food is good for you and good for the environment. But, if you walk into any grocery store you’ll see how organic food is priced significantly higher than conventional produce. Sometimes nearly double! Why is that? Although we want to do the right thing for our bodies and our planet, are the premium prices really worth it?

Unlike conventional farming, which uses synthetic fertilizers to boost crops with chemicals, organic foods are fertilized by organic matter. The difference is that compost and animal manure slowly nourish the soil. These organic fertilizers release their nutrients gradually over time, provide a wider range of minerals and in their naturally-occurring proportions. This slow and steady approach is much better for the soil, building it up rather than depleting its nutrients. Organic crops are also not sprayed with toxic pesticides and herbicides. Because of the lack of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, an organic crop will yield approximately 20% less produce than its non-organic counterpart.

Is Organic Food Worth It?

So what’s a healthy and eco-conscious consumer to do? Do you buy into the hype without really knowing if organic is better? Is the difference truly worth the extra cost?

According to a new study in Nature Plants, yes, it’s worth it!

Organic agriculture has been proven to be beneficial and sustainable in numerous key areas, including its ability to:

    1. Benefit soil quality and the environment,
    1. Provide economically viable jobs for farmers,
    1. Support social well-being with meaningful interactions between farmers and consumers.

These are all great reasons to make a difference with your dollars by supporting the organic food movement. But chances are that you’re still wondering….

How does organic food actually benefit me?

Organic food has more vitamins and minerals

Without the use of pesticides, organic fruits and vegetables must fend for themselves. They naturally fight off insects by producing more of their own antioxidants. Did you know that organic broccoli produces more vitamin C than conventional broccoli as a natural pesticide? Studies show that organic foods contain 18 – 69% more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. This means that organic eaters consume nearly twice as many cancer-fighting, age-reversing, immune-boosting antioxidants every day!

In addition to those awesome antioxidants, one study also shows that organic foods have higher levels of iron, phosphorus, and magnesium than conventionally raised crops.

Meanwhile, remember those synthetic fertilizers we mentioned earlier? Well, they spur plant growth via high levels of nitrogen. The downside to this is that it causes conventionally grown crops to have higher levels of sugars and starches as opposed to the protective antioxidants found in organic foods.

So, which would you rather be eating – high antioxidants or high starch and sugar?

Organic food is less toxic than conventionally grown crops

It’s something we all assume when we think of “organic,” but it’s good to know that there is scientific proof backing that assumption. A meta-analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies conducted by the British Journal of Nutrition found that conventional crops have higher levels of the toxic, heavy metal cadmium as well as more pesticide residues.

Researchers have also found an increased cancer risk in children near California strawberry farms that use pesticides. And in recent news, the large agricultural corporation Monsanto, which manufactures glyphosate herbicides, just lost a lawsuit with a cancer patient – Dewayne Johnson. Mr. Johnson had regularly applied glyphosate weed killer on the school lawns that he maintained. The company now owes him 289 million dollars after internal company documents proved that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate could cause cancer. If the name glyphosate sounds familiar, it’s because there is speculation that people suffering from a gluten intolerance, are in fact reacting to the glyphosate sprayed on gluten-containing crops. Stephanie Seneff is a senior research scientist at MIT. The following is an abstract from a paper co-authored by Dr. Seneff:

Celiac disease, and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5% of the population now suffers from it. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, macrocytic anemia and depression. It is a multi-factorial disease associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies as well as reproductive issues and increased risk for thyroid disease, kidney failure and cancer. Here, we propose that glyphosate is the most important causal factor in this epidemic. Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria. Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment in many cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved with detoxifying environmental toxins, activating vitamin D3, catabolizing vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplies to the gut. Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes. Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements. Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine and selenomethionine associated with Celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids. Celiac disease patients have an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has also been implicated in glyphosate exposure. Reproductive issues associated with Celiac disease, such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects, can also be explained by glyphosate. Glyphosate residues in wheat and other crops are likely increasing recently due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to the harvest. We argue that the practice of “ripening” sugar cane with glyphosate may explain the recent surge in kidney failure among agricultural workers in Central America.

To learn more about which crops you should always buy organic based on pesticide levels, there is a great resource created annually by the Environmental Working Group or EWG. They are a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies that protect global and individual health. The EWG’s “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” ranks the pesticides levels in 47 different fruits and vegetables. Their annual list of the Dirty Dozen contains the 12 most heavily contaminated types of produce. These are fruits and vegetables that you should either abstain from eating or only consume if they are organic. Talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth! Speaking of which…

Organic food tastes better!

At some point in your life, you’ve likely compared strawberries from the grocer to those fresh from the garden or picked in the wild. Even without considering that toxic tidbit above, which would you honestly say tasted better? Odds are it was the berry from the garden.

When plants are grown without pesticides, their flavour is naturally improved. The higher antioxidant levels found in organic foods also impacts how we detect flavour through organoleptic qualities such as taste, aroma, and mouth-feel. Plus, organic foods carry the distinct flavours of a region’s soil, which further enhances their natural taste. Organic berries just plain taste sweeter!

When we look at the long-term effect of toxins in our system, we see an increase in autoimmune disease, hormonal imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies that lead to more significant health issues. In Naturopathic Medicine we seek to remove the factors preventing the body from healing itself, in other words, remove the obstacles to cure. In most cases that includes avoiding toxic intake, while also enhancing the body’s own ability to eliminate toxins. The more we know about how pesticides and other chemicals harm us, the more we can stay away from things that are not serving our longevity, our health and the health of our families.

They say you get what you pay for, and that statement holds true with organic foods. Buying organic might cost a bit more, but consider it an investment in improved health, greater flavour, and a more sustainable environment.

Maybe you can’t afford to buy all organic all the time – most people can’t. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be all or nothing. Throw a few organic items into your cart now and then, or better still, make friends with the farmers at your local market. As with anything in life, small actions add up to make a real difference.

So our conclusion is an enthusiastic “yes, organic food is worth it!”

If you have any other questions about nutrition, natural ways to improve your health, how to detoxify from environmental pollutants or anything else, please feel free to contact our Naturopathic Doctors or our Registered Dietitian. We would be happy to help. Just give us a call at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca. We would love to hear from you.

The Team at Forces of Nature

References:
https://www.nature.com/articles/nplants2015221
https://news.wsu.edu/2014/07/11/major-study-documents-benefits-of-organic-farming/#.U8AkH41dXA3
https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/107555301750164244
https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: Fact or Fiction

sunset pic with the symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity or EHS

Can Your WiFi Really Make You Sick?

Understanding the effects of Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) and Radiofrequency Radiation (RF) on Your Health

Our health is directly affected by a variety of things we cannot see but we know to exist. We don’t see the air, but oxygen is essential to human life. We cannot see UV rays, but we can certainly feel their effects when we get a sunburn. While we cannot see electromagnetic radiation (EMR) or electromagnetic fields (EMF), a growing number of people are reporting symptoms that appear to be caused by electrical hypersensitivity (EHS). Much like how pollen doesn’t cause everyone to have allergy symptoms, EMR doesn’t cause everyone to have EHS. And like how some individuals will have intense seasonal allergies while others won’t, some will have severe EHS symptoms, while others won’t. Data suggests that about 3% of the population are sensitive to EMR. What makes these people more sensitive to EMR? That’s a good question.

Over the last 20 years, physicians with the American Academy of Environmental Medicine have been seeing patients whose symptoms appeared to be triggered by “dirty electricity”. The term dirty electricity refers to the electromagnetic energy flowing along a conductor that deviates from a pure 50/60 Hertz sine wave and has both harmonic and transient properties. It is more correctly termed high-frequency voltage transients (HFVT). Electromagnetic radiation may come from power lines, televisions, computers, and other electrical devices. The health impact of dirty electricity was first discovered in the 1950’s. In rural areas, the behaviour and feeding patterns of animals were negatively affected by stray voltage caused by poor grounding and lack of utility infrastructure.

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Symptoms

Humans suffering from EHS might experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, chronic fatigue, depression, memory loss and confusion.
Now, more than ever, we are living in a world of luxuries that depend heavily on electricity and have the potential to generate electrical pollutants. We have phones in our pockets, microwaves in our kitchens, and satellite systems in our cars. As science attempts to keep up with the exponential increase in the use of technology, we are only beginning to comprehend the effects that RF waves may have on our health.

What is Radiofrequency Radiation?

The electromagnetic wave spectrum is comprised of two parts: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation includes X-rays and ultraviolet rays, whereas non-ionizing radiation includes radiofrequency (RF), visible light and microwaves. Radiofrequency radiation is the transfer of energy by radio waves. RF EMR is non-ionising radiation, meaning that it has insufficient energy to break chemical bonds or remove electrons (ionisation). RF EMR lies in the frequency range between 3 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (Ghz). For years we have focused on the negative impact of ionizing radiation, but now we are starting to understand that there may be a negative impact from non-ionizing radiation or radiofrequency.

Radiofrequency waves are what allow you to borrow your neighbour’s WiFi while you’re waiting for the service guy to come. Without the need for wires, RF has the power to pass through walls and go just about anywhere, that includes inside our body. In this digital age, many items that we rely upon can be a source of radiofrequency radiation. Our cell phones might seem obvious, but what about our Smart Meters, our children’s gaming systems, the baby monitor and cordless phones? They all use wireless communication, surrounding us in a constant invisible fog of electrosmog.

What is Electrosmog?

According to NASA: “As you sit watching TV, not only are there visible light waves from the TV striking your eyes, but also radio waves, transmitting from a nearby station, and microwaves carrying cellphone calls and text messages, and waves from your neighbor’s WiFi, and GPS units in the cars driving by. There is a chaos of waves from all across the spectrum passing through your room right now.”

As a society, we are pressured to keep up or fall behind. Have you ever passed the Apple store the day a new iPhone hits the market? So many of us are willing to stand in lengthy lines, just to be early adopters of the latest technology. Our priorities are placed on technology as a way to make our lives better. And no doubt, it does in some ways. However, most of us don’t consider how our attachment to technology also impacts our health by inundating our bodies with a constant barrage of radio frequencies.

Is Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Real?

While EMR and RF radiation is considered biologically safe according to safety data provided by Health Canada and other organizations, the reality is that the level of our constant low-grade exposure is not reflected in their guidelines.

Some scientists have been researching the impacts of electrosmog on our bodies long before our world became so highly digitized. In 1987, one study proved that exposure to electrosmog (at levels considerably lower than those observed in urban areas today) created changes in human brain waves and behaviour. Further to that, EMR may also affect our mitochondria. These are our cellular energy factories. They are fundamental to every energy-dependent process in our body, including the function of our nervous system. As a result, EMR-induced disruption of our mitochondria may effectively bolster neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. As well EMR may be playing a part in other diseases and health issues where mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated. These include psychiatric disorders, autoimmune diseases, headaches and migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, reproductive disorders… the list goes on and on!

So, the question needs asking: If EMR and RF are already having an impact on our health, what are the long-term effects for our children raised in a world choked by electrosmog? Only time will tell.

How to Minimize Your EMR & RF Exposure

While more data is required, the science that’s already in, warrants taking precautionary measures in minimizing EMR exposure, particularly if you are suffering from EHS symptoms.

5 Steps to Protect Yourself from EMF:

  1. Get rid of your cordless phones.
  2. Turn off your WiFi – Internet can be hard wired into your home to prevent WiFi exposure, as can your television “box” and any other things that are wireless and transmitting and receiving signals.
  3. Switch your cell phone to airplane mode or turn it off at night.
  4. EMR-reducing sleep sanctuary or canopies may help block EMR according to renowned doctor Dietrich Klinghardt.
  5. Finally, there is one other thing you can do for EMF protection, and that is to GET OUTSIDE! By simply spending time in nature and grounding yourself so you have direct contact with the earth, you are opening the gateway for an influx of electrons to be absorbed and distributed throughout your body. This transfer of electrons can help to neutralize oxidative stress and minimize any derangements in the electrical activities of your body. So put down your phone and spend time in nature, walking in bare feet. Ever wonder why you come back from vacation feeling so recharged?

If you believe you have symptoms that could be related to electrical hypersensitivity or any other health issues, please book an appointment to visit us at Forces of Nature. We want to help you take control of your health! Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or email Maria@ForcesofNature.ca

To your best health!
The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic
Chiropractic, Naturopathic, Osteopathic, Massage Therapy, Psychotherapy, Acupuncture/TCM/Craniosacral Therapy, Registered Dietitian

References:

https://www.aaemonline.org/EMR_rf_position.php

Leitgeb N, Schröttner J. Electrosensibility and electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Bioelectromagnetics. 2003 Sep;24(6):387-94.

Trevor G. Marshall and Trudy J. Rumann Heil Electrosmog and autoimmune disease. Immunol Res. 2017; 65(1): 129–135. Published online 2016 Jul 13. doi: 10.1007/s12026-016-8825-7 PMCID: PMC5406447 PMID: 27412293

8 Easy Ways to Up Your Energy

man who has low energy

Top Tips to Increase Your Energy

You know you’re having a great day when you feel good and you can easily accomplish the tasks at hand.

Do you bounce out of bed in the morning?  Sing in the shower? Do you need that extra cup of joe at 3 pm? Do you have the energy to play games with the kids after dinner?

Now, how often do you feel like that? More importantly, do you remember the last time you felt that way? It’s normal to have periods where life is so busy that our energy has to be directed to specific tasks, where we might feel overtaxed.  If you’ve been feeling lackluster for a long period of time and can’t seem to get out of that funk, it’s time to address your energy levels more proactively. Try exploring these tried and true tips for preserving and boosting your energy levels.

Breathe for Energy

While it is a common reaction to stress, shallow breathing prevents the body from receiving enough oxygen and that quickly depletes your body of energy. You may not even notice that your breathing has become quick or shallow until you’re already anxious and exhausted. The trick is to be mindful about your breathing every day so that you can recognize and respond appropriately when you need to.

One powerful and simple breathing technique we recommend is:

Sit down with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes, and press the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a soft sighing sound. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.  Repeat for a total of four breaths. If you’re having trouble sleeping this breathing technique can also help you relax and fall asleep.

Short High-Intensity Exercise

Ideally, about a half hour of exercise, three times a week can help you increase your energy and motivation. The best kind of activity for revving up your energy is short bursts of high-intensity movement. You could take a HIIT class that focuses on interspersing bursts of cardio and strength training, do some jumping jacks beside your desk or you decide to get outside on your lunch break for a brisk walk, swinging your arms and moving vigorously. Bursts of exertion will help you rev up your engine and keep you going for the rest of the day. Extra points if these activities happen outside. You get additional energy boosting effects from being in nature and getting healthy doses of sunshine!  Exercise increases blood flow which will deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your body and your brain cells, giving you more energy.

Stay Hydrated

Your body is about 60% water so if you’re dehydrated your body won’t be able to function as well as it should. Headaches, lethargy, dry mouth, irritability, these are all signs that you need to hydrate. When your body is hydrated, your blood can more easily carry oxygen and nutrients to where they need to be and that results in an energy boost.

Increase Your B12

B-vitamins are also known as the “happy” and “energy” vitamins for their ability to convert dietary nutrients into chemicals that the body can use for energy. While your body needs a few different varieties of B vitamins, one that is especially tied to good energy is vitamin B12. Exhaustion, pallor, anemia, feeling low and tired can all be indicators of low levels of vitamin B12. B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods like meat, dairy, and eggs, but is also available in much smaller amounts in plant foods like mushrooms.  Be sure that you’re eating a diet rich in a wide variety of B12-rich foods! For those with severe B12 deficiency, vitamin B12 supplements are vital because if left uncorrected, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause permanent nerve damage.

Increase Blood Oxygen

Bet you didn’t realize that all of the previous four suggestions have one thing in common! They all positively affect your energy by pumping more oxygen into your body. Well-oxygenated blood feeds your body better, helps us think more clearly, and can greatly diminish fatigue and exhaustion. Want another way to help your body get the oxygen it needs? Add fresh plants to your home and office. Plants feed off of the carbon dioxide we exhale and replace it with fresh oxygen in the air. So, while you’re taking time to smell the flowers, take some time to sniff the plants as well. You just might find you’re breathing easier and feeling more lively too!

Consume More CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 is a substance found in many foods, also known as ubiquinone, because it’s ubiquitous (found everywhere).  CoQ10 helps the energy-producing organelles called mitochondria in each of your cells to work normally. As we age, our mitochondria diminish in number and can be damaged by environmental pollutants.  Foods that are particularly rich in CoQ10 include organ meats like heart, liver and kidneys, as well as beef, sardines, and mackerel.

Avoid Common Food Sensitivities

If you’re waking up feeling exhausted every morning, despite getting at least 7-8 hours of solid sleep, it may be that your immune system is busy fighting your lunch or dinner from the day before.  Food sensitivities can be exhausting because your immune system is doing battle with food, just like it would be battling a virus or bacteria.  An elimination diet of some common food sensitivities like dairy and gluten may be warranted, especially if you are also suffering from digestive problems.

Identify Allergies

Sometimes the only symptom people have of a seasonal or environmental allergy is fatigue.  If other causes of fatigue have been ruled out and your tiredness happens to coincide with peak pollen seasons like spring and late summer, it may be a sign of seasonal allergies.

Serious Causes of Fatigue

There are a number of disease states that can present as low energy or fatigue.  Iron deficiency anemia, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Lyme disease and even cancer can exhibit fatigue as a symptom.  If you are concerned, please see your doctor for appropriate testing and diagnosis of the cause of your fatigue.

Bonus Tip:

Ask your doctor to check your thyroid, iron and vitamin B12 levels through blood tests to rule out these common causes of fatigue.

Maintaining healthy energy levels can be challenging when you are faced with the stresses of everyday life, but these tips can help you rev up your engine and keep you humming a happy tune all day long. If you still find that your energy levels seem lower than usual, or you are having difficulty sustaining your energy levels over time, you may need a closer look at what is going on and we are here to help. Book an appointment to visit our clinic and let’s help you get back to your energetic self. Call us at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca. 

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Chiropractic ~ Naturopathic ~ Osteopath ~ Massage Therapy ~ Registered Dietitian ~ Acupuncturist ~ Psychotherapist

References

Hernández-Camacho JD, Bernier M, López-Lluch G, Navas P. Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation in Aging and Disease. Front Physiol. 2018 Feb 5;9:44. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00044. eCollection 2018.

The Scoop on Good Fats and Bad Fats

pic of doughnuts showing bad fats with caption for the top 10 good fats

Do Fats Make You Fat?

If you are trying to lose weight and you believe that means that eating fats and oils is a no-no, you might be in for a surprise. Fat is a vital component of a balanced diet and is necessary for your body to function properly. Inflammation is often involved in preventing weight loss, and the right kinds of fat can help reduce inflammation.  Having said that, too much or the WRONG fats can be a problem. With all the information out there on diet, it’s important to understand not just fads, diets, and tips but the actual needs of your body.

Given how many “experts” purport the benefits of their approach and dismiss the science of others, it can be tricky to figure out which foods are best for our own needs. In fact, it can feel like there’s a new discovery about the best way to eat every week making us question if we’re ‘doing it right’!

Lately, it’s the popularity of the Paleo and Keto diets that has turned prevailing knowledge on its head, largely because of the emphasis these protocols place on eating significant quantities of healthy fats.

No matter what diet you follow, newer science is showing us that there are more benefits to eating higher quantities of healthy fats than we previously thought. In fact, research is showing that the body is built to use these as a major source of energy – some evidence even suggests that fat is a better energy source than carbohydrates! It’s a fact that fat is also vital to a wide variety of normal bodily functions.

What are the Different Types of Fats?

What does monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated mean when it comes to fats?  These terms refer to the molecular structure of the fat.  Fats are made up of long chains of carbon molecules connected to each other by bonds and also bound to hydrogen molecules.  These bonds can be either a single bond or a double bond.  Saturated fats contain only single bonds.  Monounsaturated fats, like oleic acid found in olive oil, contain only one double bond. Polyunsaturated fats, like linoleic acid found in sunflower oil, contain multiple double bonds.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA’s)

MUFA’s are liquid at room temperature.  Because of the double bond that they contain, they can be unstable and prone to oxidation.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s)

PUFA’s are also liquid at room temperature and because they contain more than one double bond, can be highly unstable and even more prone to oxidation.  Oxidation creates “free radicals” that can cause damage to our bodies.   Oxygenated derivatives of linoleic acid, known as Oxlams, have been discovered and found to have potent inflammatory effects.  For this reason, it’s preferable to get PUF’A’s and MUFA’s from whole foods, rather than as processed oils.

Saturated

Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature.  They are more stable because they do not contain any double bonds and therefore are amongst the safest for cooking purposes.  Excessive intake of saturated fats can increase the amount of insulin your body produces, which would not be good.  While there is no need to avoid saturated fat altogether, it’s best not to overdo it either.

Trans

These are the least healthy form of fat.  Trans fats are those that are artificially produced through a process known as hydrogenation.  It is the process that turns a liquid oil into a solid, such as converting sunflower oil into margarine.  These create inflammation in your body, which is linked to heart disease, strokes, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.

Rancid

Rancidity refers to when a fat or oil has gone “bad”, meaning it has developed an unpleasant taste or smell.  When unsaturated fats become oxidized they generate peroxides.  The decomposition of peroxides is what causes the rancid taste or smell.  Rancid oils can create harmful free radicals in your body that can damage your cells.

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are healthy fats that we have to get from our diet because our body can’t make them. These are also called Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.  The signs of an essential fatty acid deficiency include dry, scaly skin, skin rashes, hair loss and low platelet counts. In children and infants, a fatty acid deficiency can cause intellectual disability.  The Omega 6 fatty acids include linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, dihomo gamma-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid. The Omega 3 fatty acids include α-Linolenic acid, Eicosatetraenoic acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Supplementation with essential fatty acids is used at our clinic for skin problems like eczema and psoriasis, allergies, mood disorders and inflammatory conditions like arthritis.

What do “Good” Fats Do?

Good fats:

Help to build a strong cell membrane or outer layer for each of your cells
Help to build healthy sheaths surrounding nerves
Assist in maintaining normal blood clotting
Aid in controlling inflammation
Are essential for absorbing certain vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, and minerals like calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, and zinc
Can promote weight-loss
Help encourage blood sugar stability
Are a key factor in achieving hormonal balance
Play a critical role in brain function, memory, and attention span
Have a direct impact on the quality of hair, skin, and nail growth
These reasons should be enough for all of us to realize how important it is to include these healthy nutrients in our nutrition plans!

But I thought fats were bad?

For a long time that was a common way of thinking. The reality is that the reason fats have been stigmatized was because our understanding of how they work was still developing and because we’d been eating too much of the wrong ones!

We understand now that not all fat sources are created equal – just like not all vegetables are equal (just compare iceberg lettuce with it’s dark, leafy counterparts, romaine, and spinach). There are different kinds of fats and to make understanding them easier, we like to think of them as being on a continuum. On one end of the continuum are good fats like MUFA’s and PUFA’s (when they are found in whole foods) and on the other end are bad ones like industrial-made trans fats in processed foods. Saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle.

So which fats should you be eating?

Start by choosing mostly fresh monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found naturally in whole foods, followed by a moderate amount of naturally present saturated fats from whole foods. Those of the trans variety should obviously be avoided – which will probably be easier than you think because they’re mostly present in treats and junk foods that you wouldn’t want to rely on anyway!

Recent studies on coconut oil have found it to be useful in the reduction of body fat in the belly as well as helping to reduce Body Mass index (BMI). Just like any other nutrient, consuming a variety of fat sources is key to finding balance in your nutrition. Not only because variety is important in any diet, but because different foods are more than just a kind of fat, they offer different beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fibre too!

10 Sources of Healthy Dietary Fats

  1. Avocado
  2. Cheese
  3. Dark Chocolate
  4. Whole Eggs
  5. Fatty Fish
  6. Raw Nuts
  7. Chia Seeds
  8. Fresh Cold-pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  9. Coconut & Coconut Oil
  10. Full Fat Yogurt

We recommend adding fats to your diet slowly, especially if you’ve been avoiding them until now. Digesting anything well requires that the body has certain underlying requirements met including healthy gut flora and enzyme production. This is true in the case of fats as well. We’ve talked about gut flora at length in previous blog posts, but enzymes (like lipase, the enzyme that helps break down and digest fats) are also a vital part of healthy digestion – and are the subject for another time.

Are you eating right for your mind, hormone production, your metabolism? Get out of the “fat-free” cycle and into a healthier diet that includes good fats. We have tools to analyze your body’s nutrient needs and can help you experience optimal health every day through nutrition that’s ideal for you. Call us at 416-481-0222.

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic
References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25636220

Gibson RA. Musings about the role dietary fats after 40 years of fatty acid research. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018 Apr;131:1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2018.01.003. Epub 2018 Jan 6.

How to Avoid Getting Sick While Travelling

tips on how to avoid getting sick while travelling, showing healthy fruit

“Every Time I Travel I Get Sick!”

How to Avoid Getting Sick on Your Vacation

By Dr. Pamela Frank. BSc, ND

As I’m leaving on Wednesday to somewhere warm, I’m thinking about keeping my son and I healthy while we’re away and how we can avoid getting sick.  With winter in full swing, our minds tend to wander to warmer climates and the opportunity to travel to them. While we often seek out sunny destinations for a brief reprieve during these colder months, if you’re one of those people who always gets sick when you travel then that can create a serious pause in the fun. While we look forward to being whisked away to somewhere new, we often forget that drastic shifts in climate can affect our immune systems.  New environments also hold a variety of unexpected or previously unencountered microbes, and experimenting with local cuisines can play roulette with our digestive systems.

In spite of all of this, we love to travel too! That’s why we’ve developed a list of the most important precautions to take prior to taking off for your next exotic destination so you can avoid getting sick and get the most out of your upcoming vacation!

Pre-Travel Vitamins

Taking a daily multivitamin to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health is always a good idea, but it’s extra important when you’re preparing for a trip that could include flying and staying in various foreign accommodations. Be sure to include Zinc, B-complex, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D3 to strengthen your immune system and avoid getting sick before, during and after your trip.

Hydration

Making sure you’re well-hydrated is critical to prepare for your trip, as dehydration is a major factor in travel. Since travel often involves conditions such as traveling in dry, pressurized airplanes, being in hot or arid climates, or exerting more energy than usual; we need to ensure that our hydration levels are optimized to maintain healthy bodily functions. When the flight attendant asks for your beverage order take it as a signal to have a glass of water and avoid those dehydrating cups of coffee or glasses of wine. And – never be shy to ask for refills. If anyone knows in-flight dehydration, it’s the cabin crew!

Travel Supplements

It’s not just fun to experience new places, travel can be so exciting that it can send your body into high gear. Think for a moment about your last vacation. How many new situations, thrilling moments, and unexpected occurrences did you experience? While you worked through each of them, your body’s coping mechanisms were in full effect, helping you to experience joy, exhilaration, and stress – all heightened by brand new circumstances. When you consider it that way, it’s clear that everything including your digestive system, immunity, circadian rhythm, and even your adrenal glands are on active duty even though you are on vacation. Help your body to manage these ups and downs with these natural supplements to avoid getting sick:

Adaptogens

Taking an adaptogen like reishi, ashwagandha, and holy basil can help fight stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Begin taking your preferred adaptogen at least a week before you travel. Natural supplements take time to build in order to reach peak efficacy.

Antimicrobials

Antimicrobials are proven pathogen killers that can assist your digestive and immune systems in warding off new strains of bacteria to which your body might not be accustomed. Sometimes our best efforts to avoid foods like washed salads and raw vegetables that cause common stomach bugs still don’t keep us safe. In that case, it’s good to know you can start early and ward off traveler’s tummy and diarrhea with antimicrobials like oil of oregano, grapefruit seed extract and colloidal silver.

Melatonin

Melatonin helps your body rebalance its circadian rhythm, or find homeostasis in its wake and sleep cycle. This is the supplement of choice for fighting jet lag! Most melatonin supplements suggest taking the dose before going to bed in your new destination, and to do so for a couple of days until you feel you’ve adapted. Good sleep is so important to avoid getting sick!

Probiotics

Probiotics we talk about the benefits of these good bacteria often – and for good reasons! Keeping your gut flora nice and strong is of extra importance when traveling since there are many instances when you could encounter new or different foods and beverages. Even a seemingly innocent salad could harbor a surprise when eaten in a foreign land, since bacteria in water differs greatly around the world, as do food care standards! Help your gut to be as healthy as possible prior to and during your trip by supplementing with a great probiotic.

Ginger

Ginger is world renowned for easing nausea, stomach upset, indigestion, and even motion sickness. Sometimes there’s no need to try over-the-counter medications when a good natural supplement can also do an effective job. Keep some natural ginger chews with you at all times for when those unforeseen moments strike.

What to Put in a Travel First Aid Kit

A classic first aid kit is always welcome when going away. You can purchase a travel sized one at any pharmacy or make your own. We always include:

  • Adhesive bandages (multiple sizes) and tape
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (remember it has to be less than 100 ml if you take it in your carry-on)
  • Antiseptic wound cleanser (like alcohol or iodine pads, again less than 100 ml)
  • Blister pads or moleskin
  • Safety pins and scissors
  • Sterile gauze

Sunscreen

Whether you’re going surfing or snowboarding or something in between, you always need to protect your skin from sun exposure. The reflective glare from sea and snow can make your skin more prone to burns which not only make your trip less enjoyable but it can also be dangerous in the long run. Look for natural ingredients such as zinc oxide which is a mineral used to create a physical block from the sun. Additional ingredients such as vitamin E or C are also nice ways of giving your skin a nice boost of topical antioxidants. With sunscreen, it needs to be less than 100 ml if you are taking it in your carry-on luggage, otherwise, it will have to go in a checked bag.  

Sunstroke or Heat Stroke

Remember that prolonged exposure to high temperature can lead to heat stroke or sunstroke.   Avoid getting sick with heat stroke by limiting your time in the sun, particularly during peak hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The symptoms of sunstroke include a throbbing headache, dizziness or light-headedness, a lack of sweating despite the heat, red, hot, and dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and rapid, shallow breathing.  Sunstroke is a medical emergency and you should call 911 if you suspect that you or someone you know has it. Meanwhile, cooling methods like cool clothes, cool bath or ice packs can help to restore normal body temperature while medical care arrives.

Prescriptions

If you’re taking any prescription medication, please be sure to have enough for the duration of your trip, plus a couple of extra doses, in case of unanticipated travel changes. Always make sure that your prescriptions are in labeled bottles and that you also have a doctor’s note if necessary, as some medications might not be universally understood or accepted in different countries. You might also consider bringing a valid prescription for a refill of your medication as a “just in case” measure.

Travel is exciting and has so many benefits from providing a well-deserved break from routine to exploring history and learning about different cultures to taking on new challenges and building new skills. We want you to get the very most out of your adventures, no matter how relaxed or extreme they might be.

If you’re traveling soon and want to review how to best prepare you and your family before heading away, please call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Info@ForcesofNature.ca and book an appointment. Together we can make sure that you’re ready for all the excitement that lies ahead in good health!

Here’s to your next adventure!

The Practice Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Research:

Palatty PL, Haniadka R, Valder B, Arora R, Baliga MS. Ginger in the prevention of nausea and vomiting: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(7):659-69. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.553751.

Acree M, Davis AM. Acute Diarrheal Infections in Adults. JAMA. 2017 Sep 12;318(10):957-958. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.8485.

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

References:

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.

http://gundrymd.com/remove-lectins/

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/lectins-phytates-autoimmune-disease-separating-fact-fiction

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)

Gluten

Wheat products

Dairy (particularly cow’s milk and cheeses)

Refined sugar

Processed foods and beverages

‘Junk’ food

‘Fast’ food

Dark, leafy greens

Tomatoes

Berries

Fatty fish

Olive, avocado, and coconut oil

Green Tea

Water

Probiotics

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

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

Sources:

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

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.