Hair Loss? Check your hormones!

woman with a full head of healthy hair
Want a full head of healthy hair?

Luscious locks. Flowing tresses. Who doesn’t want to have a full head of shiny, gorgeous hair? Society certainly views beautiful hair as a symbol of youth and beauty.

However, particularly as we age, many of us find that the soft, full hair we may have taken for granted in our younger days starts to fade and becomes thinner and more brittle. These changes happen to both men’s hair and women’s hair.

How Much Hair Loss is Normal?

Did you know that it is considered normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day? While this seems like a lot, the greater concern is to lose this much hair and not have enough regrowth of new hair.

Is Hair Loss Permanent?

Whether hair loss is permanent or temporary depends on the cause of hair loss. Where hair loss is most likely to be permanent is if the scalp is scarred, as in scarring alopecia. If the root cause of hair loss is found and addressed, hair loss can be reversed in most cases. Hair loss treatments like minoxidil are only temporary measures that result in hair loss once they are discontinued because they are not fixing the root cause, only masking it.

As You Age, So Does Your Hair

Of course, it makes sense that our hair is damaged as we age. Your hair only grows less than half an inch every month. Because hair grows so slowly, if your hair is long, the hair at the ends experiences years of damage from hair treatments and the elements. Your hair is also affected by hormonal changes in our bodies. Hormones play a role in hair loss or growth, fine hair, changes in texture, and the presence or absence of those pesky grey hairs!

Searching For The Fountain Of Youth for Your Hair

What’s the solution for thinning hair? The beauty industry tells us the secret to beautiful hair is finding the right “products.” It’s definitely possible to spend hundreds of dollars trying to find something that works.

However, no matter how many shampoo reviews you read, you can only find so much hair magic in a bottle. In fact, many shampoos and other hair products actually damage your hair because they contain harmful chemicals.

The truth is that a full head of beautiful hair starts from within. As a result, a good diet for healthy hair is far more important than topical remedies for hair.

How to Have Stronger, Fuller, Faster-Growing Hair

To fully understand the impact of diet and lifestyle choices on your hair, it helps to know more about your hair’s composition. What is hair made from anyway? The main building blocks that give your hair its strength and structure are a protein known as keratin, and a B-family vitamin called biotin. In terms of molecular composition, your hair is made up of 45% carbon, 28% oxygen, 15% nitrogen, 7% hydrogen and 5% sulfur.

Keratin

Hair strands are composed of a fibrous protein called keratin. In fact, so are your finger and toenails. One of the primary components of keratin is choline. Choline is an essential vitamin-like nutrient with many different roles in your body. It is found in a variety of foods such as eggs, salmon and cauliflower.

What About Doing Keratin Treatments?

There is no evidence that keratin treatments are an effective means of improving hair texture or quality, at least not over the long term. In fact, these products often contain chemicals, like formaldehyde, that are harmful.

Biotin

Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, contributes to the formation of keratin. Because of this relationship, it’s not surprising that scientists have found that being deficient in biotin leads to hair loss. In fact, one study found that supplementing with biotin helps to slow hair fall in women with thinning hair, leading to fuller, shinier hair as well as smoother skin after 6 months. Deficiency of biotin has also been linked with inflammation that adversely affects your scalp, and therefore also your hair.

The Gut Health Connection To Good Hair

Interestingly, scientists have also found that the amount of bad bacteria in our gut affects the formation of biotin. That means that beautiful hair isn’t necessarily as simple as making sure that you have consumed enough biotin. Gut bacteria also play a role in hormone balance. Your microbiome, digestion, and absorption need to be right for great hair too.

Factors that positively influence your gut bacteria, and in turn improve your biotin production, include managing your stress levels, getting good sleep, regular exercise, keeping sugar and refined carbs in check and ensuring your nutrition is balanced.

Common Causes of Hair Loss

The following are common reasons why your hair may be falling out:

  1. Iron deficiency or low iron
  2. Hypothyroidism or low thyroid function
  3. Androgenetic Alopecia, also known as male or female pattern hair loss
  4. Alopecia Areata, this is patchy balding caused by autoimmune disease
  5. Lupus or other autoimmune diseases
  6. Post-partum, losing hair after having a baby is quite common. This is caused by the sudden change in hormones that accompanies childbirth triggering sudden hair loss.
  7. Telogen effluvium that is often triggered by stress, iron deficiency or hypothyroidism.

Top Tips For Healthy Hair

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the factors behind healthy hair, how can you prevent hair loss, and overcome the effects of aging and environmental damage? Check out these natural remedies and diet changes to reverse hair fall, fine or thinning hair and damaged hair.

Hormone Balance and Hair

Cortisol affects hair health, but it isn’t the only hormone that has an impact. If you’re experiencing hair loss or changes to hair texture, you should do thorough hormone testing.

For example, low levels of the thyroid hormone T4 indicate stress or a malnourished thyroid. One of the thyroid’s “lesser” jobs is to regulate hair growth. However, in times of stress your body will focus all of your thyroid’s energies on more vital functions such as regulating your body’s temperature and metabolism. Hence, thinning hair is one of many possible symptoms of low thyroid function.

Low estrogen, which may be a sign of perimenopause or other hormonal imbalances, also leads to hair troubles. While slower growth of pubic and underarm hair might easily go unnoticed, an estrogen imbalance means that androgens or male hormones have a stronger effect on hair follicles. This leads to thinning hair on your head, and even those unsightly, rogue chin hairs. Supporting the healthy function of the endocrine or hormone-producing system helps to maintain optimal levels of estrogen for hair growth.

These are just a few reasons why the best start to improving your hair’s texture and fullness begins with testing to see where your hormonal levels are. Once we have all of the information, we then ensure that the appropriate hormones are balanced naturally.

Make sure that you consume enough biotin

Good food sources of biotin for hair include:

  • Liver
  • Salmon
  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Chicken
  • Nuts

As an added bonus, biotin consumption will also strengthen your nails!

Don’t smoke

Smoking increases the speed at which your body breaks down and excretes biotin, reducing the amount of biotin in your blood and leading to weaker hair and nail growth.

Eat plenty of protein

This may seem like a no-brainer since hair is mainly composed of protein. Keep in mind that your protein sources don’t have to be meat-based. The protein found in plant sources is just as effective.

In addition to biotin, the amino acid cysteine assists in the formation of keratin. Good sources of cysteine include garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oats, sprouted lentils and eggs.

Watch your mineral intake

One of the many roles of minerals in your body is growth. Iron and zinc in particular contribute to keratin formation which helps your hair to grow strong.

Zinc also protects your hair from sun damage just as zinc oxide in sunscreens protects your skin from sunburn. Zinc helps your body reduce excess insulin too. Good sources of zinc include shellfish, beans, egg yolks, beef and pumpkin seeds.

Reduce your sugar consumption

When you eat a lot of sugar or carbs, your blood sugar rises. In response, your body produces more insulin. This increases androgens such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone or DHT, that have a shrinking effect on your hair follicles. That means that your hair starts growing finer, falls out more easily or becomes more brittle.

Avoid high-mercury foods

Consumption of food with high levels of mercury has been linked to hair loss. Certain fish like tuna, swordfish, and shark all contain high levels of mercury. Large fish like these consume smaller fish. In the process, they concentrate toxins like mercury that the smaller fish have been exposed to. Smaller fish like mackerel, herring, and sardines are safer to eat and contain Omega 3 fatty acids that help keep your hair healthy and shiny.

Choose hair products carefully

Many shampoos, conditioners, and styling products contain ingredients like formaldehyde that are hard on your hair and unhealthy for you. The reality is that many of them don’t address hair problems where they originate, that is, in the protein structure of the hair itself. Instead, they “gloss” over any problems with superficial coatings. Plus, many substances used in hair products are absorbed by your skin, and are linked to cancer. In addition, many are also harmful to the environment. So, avoid products with sulfates, parabens, and silicones. Your hair and the planet will thank you!

Boost your intake of fruits and veggies

To protect your hair, you want to reduce the damage that is caused by free radicals. These are compounds that damage your cells through a process known as oxidative stress. Free radicals are created by environmental factors and your body’s internal processes that are triggered by stress. Vitamin deficiencies cause higher levels of these harmful free radicals.

Free radicals lead to lifeless, gray hair. Antioxidants fight free radicals and restore your hair’s shine. Fruits and vegetables provide the key antioxidants for healthy hair, vitamins A and C, while nuts and seeds provide vitamin E.

Consider collagen supplements

Choline, one of the building blocks of keratin, is found in collagen. Collagen also strengthens the layer of your skin that contains hair follicles. This layer of skin is called the dermis. With a stronger anchor point, hair is less likely to fall out. Collagen is taken as a powdered supplement that is added to smoothies or protein shakes. Collagen is also obtained from bone broth. Another cheap way to get collagen is by using powdered gelatin that is available from the grocery store.

If you’re experiencing issues with your hair, it may be time to test your hormones and make sure your gut health is supporting your hair goals not impeding them!

Give our office us a call at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online here, we are happy to help.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

Hair Research:

https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/109/9/djx202/4102324

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428712/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27538002

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201279/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4174066/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=28813664

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428712/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=27554239

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23725308

Hidden Toxins in Your Home are Harming Your Health

pic showing natural cleaning products

Here’s Why and What to Do About Toxic Chemicals

How is your home affecting your health? Cigarette smoke is an obvious toxin in the air. Assuming you don’t smoke, you may feel fairly confident that your home is not toxic. If you clean your home regularly, you might even be slightly offended by the suggestion that your home may be toxic! However, indoor air pollutants are much more common than most people realize. The sources of many pollutants are everyday objects and products that we don’t consider harmful.

What is an Environmental Toxin?

Toxins are chemicals that are harmful to human beings. Environmental toxins are those that are found in the environment around us, our food, water, air, and surfaces that we are in contact with.

We read and hear about outdoor air pollution regularly and it’s also a valid health concern. However, indoor air pollution is worth worrying about too. We need to pay attention to it because we spend about 90 percent of our time inside. According to emerging research, including a landmark United Nations study, many commonly used chemicals within our homes act as endocrine disruptors when we’re exposed to them.

What’s An Endocrine Disruptor?

Simply put, your endocrine system controls various functions in your body. It does so by releasing hormones. These chemicals control most of what your body does. Your hormone-producing system regulates how much of each hormone is released through intricate feedback loops. This means that when a hormone drops low, your brain delivers a stimulatory message to your endocrine system to tell it to make more. When a hormone is too high, your brain lowers the stimulatory messages to your endocrine system and so it creates less of that hormone. Certain environmental pollutants have been found to disrupt this process.

The result? Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances. When taken to the extreme, these imbalances can put us on the road to diseases such as breast, thyroid and prostate cancer, endometriosis, PCOS, infertility and developmental conditions like ADHD.

Common Environmental Pollutants In Your Home

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to recognize an environmental pollutant. In fact, some products we identify as “healthy” can actually be harmful.

Take a look at this list of common environmental toxins in your home:

Cleaning products

Keeping a clean home has long been recognized as an important step in maintaining good health. However, many common cleaning products contain carcinogens such as methylene chloride. This chemical is linked to increased breast cancer rates.

One thing to keep in mind with cleaning products is that these compounds linger in the air long after the smell has disappeared. For example, molecules in aerosol sprays get absorbed by dust. Breathing in this dust then leads to respiratory irritation.

In addition, these chemicals react with other compounds in the air, such as ozone. This chemical reaction creates “secondary emissions” that are even more harmful.

Nonstick cookware

The same chemicals that make nonstick cookware so convenient also harm your health. Man-made compounds like polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) are found in materials such as Teflon. It prevents food from sticking to the pan. Unfortunately, this toxin also contributes to certain cancers and even high cholesterol.

Air fresheners

A quick spray of air freshener makes our homes smell fresh and clean. However, the effects on our bodies undermine the pretty scents. When it comes to scented products, it’s often difficult to obtain a complete list of all of the chemicals they contain. But, many air fresheners do contain phthalates, which have been linked to hormonal problems, particularly in males. In addition, often the compounds that produce the smell contain benzene and phenolic rings. These are known carcinogens.

Toxins in antibacterial products

Using antibacterial products might seem like a good step towards a healthier home.

But, studies show that many commonly used substances in antibacterial products, such as triclosan, impact our reproductive hormones. As well, overuse has been linked to an increase in allergies in children.

In addition, overuse of antibacterial products is leading to an increase in drug-resistant bacteria. For the most part, these chemicals are unnecessary. They are only mildly effective and it does your immune system good to be exposed to germs in small amounts. It helps to train your immune system, which in turn leaves it stronger.

Water

Government regulations are supposed to keep our drinking water safe from contaminants. However, growing evidence shows that our water supplies contain small amounts of hormones, particularly estrogen. These hormones are the result of birth control and HRT use. Even these small amounts of estrogen disrupt our natural hormonal balance over long periods.

Plastics

Plastic containers and water bottles might make life more convenient, but in the long run, they’re not the best choices. Many containers and cans contain a chemical called BPA, or other chemicals that act like estrogen. In fact, even those items marked as “BPA free” contain toxic compounds which may be just as harmful.

Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors which specifically mimic the effects of estrogen. Overexposure leads to weight gain, mood swings, and other symptoms of estrogen excess or estrogen dominance.

Scented bathing and personal care products.

Did you know that the chemicals that give scented products their distinct smells aren’t regulated? And that 95 percent of those scents originate from petroleum byproducts?

Symptoms of Toxins in Your Home

What signs or symptoms might you have that you are exposed to environmental toxins or that your body doesn’t detoxify well? Here are some common signs of chemical toxicity:

  1. Vague symptoms like headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, congestion, itching, sneezing, sore throat, chest pain, breathing problems, muscle pain or stiffness, skin rash, diarrhea, bloating, gas, confusion, trouble concentrating, memory problems, and mood changes.
  2. Cancers. Several toxins are known carcinogens. These are chemicals that are linked to cancer. A few that you may commonly encounter in the home include acetaldehyde in alcohol, asbestos, talc, ethanol in alcohol, cigarette smoke and benzene used to make glues, plastics, resins, syntheticfibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, varnish and pesticides.
  3. Endometriosis. An environmental chemical known as PCBs has been linked to the development of endometriosis. PCB production and use is now banned, but this chemical lingers in the environment for a long time. Xenoestrogens like BPA from plastic also contribute to this condition by over-stimulating estrogen receptors.
  4. PCOS and diabetes. Exposure to environmental toxins and their subsequent contribution to the development of PCOS is supported by extensive data from diverse scientific studies.

You may need to take action if you are experiencing any of these toxic exposure symptoms or toxic build-up symptoms.

Environmental Toxins List

Some common toxins found in household cleaning products include:

  1. Phthalates. These are often found in cosmetics and anything that has a fragrance including soaps, scented detergents and other cleaners. They are known endocrine disruptors and negatively impact fertility.
  2. PERC or Perchloroethylene. This is common in dry cleaning solutions and carpet and upholstery cleaners. PERC is a neurotoxin and possible endocrine disruptor.
  3. Triclosan. Found in antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. Triclosan is a probable carcinogen and possible endocrine disruptor.
  4. QUATS or Quaternary Ammonium Compounds. These are in fabric softeners and antibacterial cleaners. These irritate the skin and respiratory tract. Along with triclosan, they may contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  5. 2-Butoxyethanol. This is found in window and kitchen cleaners and may not be listed on the label. Inhaling it as you are cleaning can irritate your throat. High doses harm your lungs, liver and kidneys.
  6. Ammonia. Found in glass cleaner and metal polishes. It is a powerful irritant of the respiratory tract and chronic exposure is linked to asthma. Mixing this with bleach will create a poisonous gas.
  7. Chlorine. Chlorine is found in bleach, and many household cleaners and mold/mildew removers. It is also a powerful irritant of the respiratory tract. It may cause thyroid problems as it can displace iodine that is essential for normal thyroid function.
  8. Sodium hydroxide. This is in oven cleaners and clogged drain cleaners. Inhaling it is very irritating to the respiratory tract. Contact with skin or eyes causes severe burns.

It’s easy to feel a bit concerned when you read a list like the one above! After all, we want a clean home and to use the most convenient products possible. Fortunately, we have 6 healthy home tips to get rid of chemicals in your home.

How To Make Your Home Healthier

How can we have a clean environment without risking the health of ourselves or our children? Here’s how to reduce your chemical exposure and make your home more environmentally friendly:

1. Don’t try to “mask” unpleasant scents.

Instead of spraying air freshener, try removing the source of the bad odor – wash the dirty clothes (without scented fabric softener, of course), change the kitty litter, take the garbage out etc. If you need extra ammunition against odors, baking soda is a natural air freshener. Open your windows and let some fresh air in. A HEPA air filter also cleans air odors right at the source.

For a lovely, safe, natural scent, try boiling cinnamon sticks or vanilla pods on your stovetop or grow some lavender indoors. Or do some baking.

2. Choose cleaning products carefully.

Be aware of “greenwashing” which is the practice of making products appear more eco-friendly than they actually are. The Environmental Working Group has a searchable database of more than 2,500 products.

As well, vinegar, baking soda, elbow grease and plain hot water can be surprisingly effective cleaners. Doing a bit of research on the best natural cleaners that are both less expensive, and safer really pays off.

3. Avoid aerosols.

Using natural air fresheners like essential oils, or even simmering some lemon slices and a few cloves in a pan, will do the trick just as well and without the nasty side effects.

4. Think about the long-term effects of your purchases.

A plastic container might be the cheapest option to store your leftovers, but pause and take a minute to consider the possible impact on your health and the environment, for that matter. Sometimes investing a bit more money is the best choice in the long run. Plus, a stainless steel water bottle, or a glass or ceramic food container should last you much longer. I have glass casserole dishes that I’ve had for 30 years. No harm to me, no harm to the environment, inert and safe to put in the microwave, oven and dishwasher.

5. Be careful with plastics.

If you have to use a plastic container, don’t heat it in the microwave. The heat causes more xenoestrogens to be released into your food. Storing acidic foods like tomato sauce in plastic may also cause leaching of chemicals into your food.

6. Consider your water source.

If you want to avoid tap water, consider using a filtration system. It’s best to avoid bottled water, which is often no better than tap water and has the added risk of contamination from plastic bottles. Not to mention that plastic water bottles are a nightmare for our planet. However, the water industry is filled with false claims, and prices can be steep. We can review your options in the office to make sure you make the best choices for your needs.

Of course, everyone is different and we all have unique health concerns and personal goals. If you’d like to learn more about environmental toxins, and how to reduce toxins in your body give our office a call. Additionally, if you are suffering from health issues you can’t seem to figure out the cause of, it could be related to toxins.

Our naturopaths will help determine the cause of the issue and the best way to clean your body of toxins if that is what is necessary. Call us at 416-481-0222 or book online here.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, Bsc(Hons), ND

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30953899

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20976153

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110824091537.htm

http://www.immuneweb.org/articles/perfume.html

https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas

https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/09/your-best-air-freshener-isnt-air-freshener

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243727/

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-12/documents/lenehan-hormones_in_water_using_spe_and_lc-ms.pdf

https://news.un.org/en/story/2013/02/432272-un-report-examines-link-between-hormone-disrupting-chemicals-and-health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18942551

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27559705

Infertility Rates are Rising

graphic of hands holding baby saying protect your fertility

Here’s How to Enhance Your Fertility

Fertility is something that we often take for granted. In fact, many of us spend a lot of money and effort in preventing pregnancy until the timing is right for baby-making. However, even when the timing is right, our bodies don’t always cooperate. Timing is important because so many different elements need to be considered. Timing is a key component, both in terms of your chronological age and the timing of conception.

Infertility Statistics

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in infertility. One study found infertility rates increased from 5.4 percent in 1984 to 15.7 percent in 2011. This is a substantial increase in such a short amount of time. Because infertility is increasing so quickly, it’s a good idea to be proactive about improving your fertility. Even if you never intend to have children, fertility is indicative of a healthy hormone balance. Hormone balance affects much more than just whether you can make babies. Hormones influence your mood, energy level, sense of well-being, cognitive function, weight, libido and even your immune function.

An Integrative Approach To Fertility

What makes infertility particularly frustrating is that it’s often hard to determine the exact cause as to why a couple is having difficulty conceiving. Infertility problems are often multi-factorial. Many different elements of a couple’s health need to be considered to understand the potential causes of infertility. Only by taking a detailed history, doing extensive investigation and customizing treatment can we fully optimize your ability to conceive. That’s why our integrative approach, that takes into account your lifestyle, genetics, stress levels, diet, hormone balance, vitamin and mineral status and overall health is best.

What is the Definition of Infertility?

In general, a couple is considered infertile if they’ve been trying for a year to conceive without success.

Factors That Affect Your Fertility:

What’s contributing to the increase in infertility? Medical scientists can’t pinpoint one specific cause, but many lifestyle factors can play a role.

Some factors that affect fertility include:

  1. Your hormones
  2. Genetic factors
  3. Your age
  4. Your weight
  5. Thyroid health
  6. Stress levels
  7. Chemical exposures

Hormone levels

Many hormones work in tandem to create optimal conditions for conception, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol (estrogen), luteinizing hormone (LH), DHEAs, testosterone and progesterone. Perhaps not surprisingly, even a tiny variation in your hormone balance can affect your fertility.

That’s why the first step to any fertility treatment is often thoroughly testing hormone levels. Knowing how your hormones are working together gives your healthcare practitioner an excellent starting point.

Genetic history

If you have a relative who had difficulty conceiving, you may also be at risk for fertility issues. Some fertility problems seem to run in families, such as endometriosis and PCOS. Recent research has found genetic components to some chromosomal problems. Certain genetic defects, like MTHFR mutations, increase the risk of fertility problems or recurrent miscarriage.

Your Vital Stats

Age & Fertility

It’s often frustrating for women to realize that age is one of the biggest factors that can contribute to infertility. After all, for many women, it can feel like a narrow window between being financially and emotionally ready to have a baby and being young enough to conceive.

Of course, we all see many examples of women well into their 40s having babies. And it’s definitely possible. However after the age of 40, the odds of getting pregnant decrease at a faster rate. Simply put, the conditions to conceive and carry a baby are more ideal when you are younger. As we grow older our risk for factors that negatively impact fertility increase.

Still, it’s important not to overstate the decline women experience in their 30s. Consider these stats:

  • Percentage of 27-to-34-year-old women who conceive after a year of having sex at least twice a week = 86 percent
  • Percentage of 35-to-39-year-old women who conceive after a year of having sex at least twice a week = 82 percent.

So through our 30s, the odds of conception don’t decline very dramatically. However, fertility rates do drop faster after 40, so about 30 percent of women between 40 and 44 will experience infertility.

Weight & Fertility

In addition, your weight impacts your fertility. That’s because excess weight influences your hormone levels. Fat cells secrete estrogen. Fat cells are also pro-inflammatory. Inflammation damages eggs and can lead to conditions like PCOS that cause irregular ovulation. The good news is that studies have found that losing even a small percentage of your body weight makes a difference.

Paradoxically, women who are underweight (with a BMI of less than 18.5) experience similar problems. That’s because not having enough body fat also impacts your hormone production. When you are underweight, your body perceives that resources are scarce. As a result, your body will shift into resource conservation mode. That means that your body will prioritize body systems that are vital and shut down those that are not. Your heart, lungs and liver are vital, your reproductive organs (ovaries, testes) are not.

However, it’s not just the number of your BMI. Body composition (the amount of body fat and lean muscle) and activity levels also play a role.

Of course, it takes two people to conceive. Scientific studies have found a clear link between male obesity and low sperm levels. In fact, men whose BMI places them in the obese category (30 or higher) have 60 percent less seminal fluid than men of normal weight. That’s a pretty significant difference. Underweight men also have lower amounts of seminal fluid, so it’s all about having the right balance — as with many aspects of your fertility.

Stress Levels

Can stress affect your infertility? The answer often is yes. For some couples, this is an added source of frustration. After all, dealing with infertility is stressful in itself. However, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense. Your body knows that when you’re stressed, you need to conserve energy. In our busy modern lives, stress is often chronic. It’s day in and day out at work, and then very little time to socialize, have fun, relax and have downtime. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands produce more of the “stress hormones” adrenaline and cortisol. Stress also increases a hormone called prolactin. All of these suppress ovulation, not to mention causing low libido (which is definitely counterproductive for conception!)

Thyroid Health

Another hormonal issue that can affect ovulation is having low levels of thyroid hormone, a condition called hypothyroidism. Also hyperthyroidism, or high levels of thyroid hormone, can affect ovulation. You’re probably starting to understand why achieving the right hormone balance is so important! Your thyroid hormone plays a big role in letting your ovaries know when to ovulate or regulating the speed with which your testes are working. So when your thyroid hormone levels are out of whack, ovulation and sperm production can be too.

Signs of hypothyroidism include difficulty losing weight, easy weight gain, slow metabolism, hair loss, feeling tired or sluggish and feeling chilly all the time. Signs of hyperthyroidism include heart palpitations, weight loss, anxiety, difficulty sleeping or insomnia.

Chemical Exposure

Exposure to certain chemicals – in your foods, packaging, your clothing, cleaning products, beauty care and elsewhere – impacts fertility levels for both men and women. You don’t have to work with toxic substances to experience the effects. Even a fairly healthy standard American diet introduces pesticides that negatively impact our reproductive systems. Removing the toxins from your system requires our naturopathic doctors‘ professional guidance but it’s well worth it for improving your overall health and fertility.

How You Can Take Charge Of Your Fertility

As we can see from the list above, treating infertility is complex. Is there anything you can do on your own to improve your fertility? The most important thing is to act now if you have concerns. Don’t forget: Conception requires careful timing, so you do want to address any issues right away. It also takes some time to create optimal fertility. Here are some steps that help with fertility issues.

1. Visit a Naturopathic Doctor that is infertility-trained.

Proper testing to see what’s really going on with your whole body gives us a better picture. Treating infertility involves addressing your overall health, not just your reproductive system. While your hormones play a key role so do many other factors. We will work together to help prepare your body for conception. We’ll eliminate the stress of wondering if there is more you could do and relieve your feelings of overwhelm about where to start!

2. Manage your stress levels.

We understand that this is easier said than done, especially when you’re worried about fertility. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle if you start to get stressed about being stressed! Meditation is a good way to consciously address your emotional concerns. Fertility-centred psychotherapy is also a good idea to help you take the edge off. Adding in as many stress-busting activities as possible also helps. Exercise, massage therapy, yoga, reading a book, taking a long walk outside, or having a warm bath all help to lower cortisol levels.

3. Improve your diet.

One recent study found that women who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables with high pesticide levels were less likely to conceive. So choose organic produce when possible, or opt for produce that doesn’t typically have as many pesticide residues. Think of produce with a thick skin that protects the fruit like avocados or oranges. An excellent resource for finding the produce with the least pesticide residues is the Clean Fifteen list, published by the Environmental Working Group. They also publish a list of which produce to either avoid or only eat if it is organic called The Dirty Dozen.

In addition, certain foods have been associated with higher fertility levels. Your Naturopathic Doctor will help you to determine the best diet for your needs. In general, you want to ensure you’re getting adequate levels of folate, Omega 3’s, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D.

4. Limit toxic exposure.

Both males and females should think about the chemicals they’re exposed to every day when they’re trying to conceive. In addition to possible herbicides and pesticides on produce, frequent exposure to x-rays, radiation, cigarette smoke, alcohol, toxins in the home and self-care products that you use every day all impact infertility. In addition, workplace hazards like exposure to lead and cadmium damage eggs and sperm and upset the hormonal balance required for peak fertility.

Next Steps

If you’re concerned about your fertility, give us a call at 416-481-0222. Together we can dive deeper and see where your issues are, and create a clear treatment program. Fertility is a common issue, just know that you are not alone and that we successfully treat many men and women with fertility issues at our clinic, even people who have been unsuccessful at fertility clinics.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, Bsc(Hons), ND

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3279129/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885174/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6016043/

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/27/meditation-fertility_n_5256027.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31035310

Are You Happy?

Did You Know You Have a Baseline Level of Happiness?

It might seem like a simple question, but for many people, happiness feels like an impossible goal. In fact, studies show that only about one in three people consistently identify as “happy.”

If that seems a bit depressing, rest easy. The steps to living a happier life are easy. And no, those steps don’t involve winning the lottery. Believe it or not, most lottery winners have the same level of happiness as they had before hitting the jackpot. Researchers call this the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation”. What it means is that no matter what happens to us, we repeatedly return to a baseline level of happiness. This occurs whether there are positive or negative changes to our circumstances. Crazy right?!

What is Happiness?

Happiness is defined as feeling a sense of joy, well-being, or contentment.

Happiness Comes from Within

The simple truth is that living a happier life starts from within. Becoming happier involves a change in our internal circumstances. That may sound a bit far fetched, but the science of happiness has found consistent patterns in people who live their lives with joy.

What are the Health Benefits of Happiness?

There’s a lot of motivation to become a happy person. In addition to making our days more pleasurable, happiness offers many health benefits, including:

  • Better cardiovascular health through lowering your heart rate and blood pressure
  • Strengthening your immune system
  • Lower levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol
  • A better response to pain

What Makes People Happy?

Research shows that predictors of happiness and well-being include having high-quality social interaction, enjoying a better standard of living, and being satisfied with one’s own health.

Interestingly, a study on whether people equate happiness with social connections like friends, family and love, found that people with lower financial resources do so more than people with greater financial resources.

Another study analysed the association between household income and tendencies to experience 7 positive emotions that are central to happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love, and pride. This study confirmed previous ones showing that income contributes to patterns of attending to oneself versus orienting to others. Higher income was associated with greater feelings of contentment and pride, and with greater amusement. Lower income was associated with more other-oriented feelings of compassion and love, and with greater awe.

The Happiness Checklist

Take a look at this happiness checklist to see the areas of your own life that could provide a happiness boost.

  1. Is your gut healthy and happy?
  2. Are you surrounded by happy people?
  3. Are you connected with nature?
  4. How is your exercise?
  5. Do you get enough rest?
  6. Do you volunteer to help others?
  7. Can you forgive?
  8. Do you practice gratitude?

Is your gut healthy and happy?

When we say happiness starts from within, we mean it literally. More research is finding that our gut bacteria have a profound influence on our moods. Researchers call this dynamic the “gut-brain-axis.” In simple terms, when our gut is inflamed, we experience increased levels of anxiety and depression. That’s because your gut contains microbes that produce substances that control your mood like serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical called a neurotransmitter that helps us to feel happy. More serotonin is produced in your gut than anywhere else in your body, including in your brain. In addition, your gut and your brain are connected by a complex network of nerves. Inflammation in your gut means a great deal of stimulus being sent directly to your brain. It can make it difficult to relax, feel calm and sleep.

Diet Changes for Gut Health and Your Mood

What can you eat to feel happier? Try these 3 steps:

  1. Focus on high-fiber whole foods (broccoli, kale unprocessed grains)
  2. Eat foods with plenty of Omega-3 fats (fish)
  3. Enjoy fermented foods (yogourt, kefir, kim chi, sauerkraut). Fermented foods can positively influence your brain activity!

Are you around other happy people?

You really can catch a good mood. One study found that happiness can go viral. In other words, being around people who are upbeat and feel good about their lives can impact your own happiness levels. The study didn’t just consider the impact of your immediate family’s moods. It also took into account your neighbour’s moods. And being around a happy person has a domino effect. Your own increased happiness then influences those around you, and so on. The whole process is not unlike transmitting a cold – but much healthier!

This viral transmission of happiness may stem from the fact that even if you don’t feel happy, if you force yourself to smile, you will feel happier. Smiling back at those happy people can’t help but make you feel happy.

Positivity breeds positivity!

Do you get a regular dose of Vitamin N (for Nature)?

Spending time in natural environments boosts happiness levels in several ways. In one study, those who were more connected to nature had:

  • a more positive mood
  • greater vitality, and
  • increased life satisfaction

Nature enhances healing and enables growth. Interestingly, the effects of nature are stronger in women than men, and stronger in older adults than their younger counterparts.

Are you moving enough?

You probably know that exercise triggers the release of the feel-good endorphins that improve your mood. However, you may not realize that you don’t have to make a big investment in fitness to reap the benefits. In fact, endorphins can kick in quickly. One study found that it only takes 20 minutes of walking outside to experience a boost in your mood. Exercising outside versus inside, also helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol have been linked to major depression.

Do you get enough rest?

It’s important to note that rest is just as important as exercise. Adequate sleep’s effect on our brain is to help us to focus on the positive. Being sleep-deprived makes us more sensitive to negative emotions. In another study, researchers found that people who don’t get enough sleep recall unpleasant memories much more quickly than people getting enough sleep.

Do you help others?

Acts of kindness are another way that happiness spreads. In other words, by making others happy, you feel happier. Doing something nice for someone else, whether it’s donating to charity, volunteering your time, or simply holding the door for another person, makes us feel better about ourselves. And if you think you’re too busy or too stressed to donate your time, consider this: One study found that 78 percent of people who volunteer say it lowers their stress levels. And in another study, people felt happier after buying something for someone else than they did after treating themselves!

Can you forgive?

Forgiving others may ultimately be a kindness to yourself. By forgiveness, we don’t necessarily mean letting bad behavior slide or turning into a pushover. Instead, focus on letting go of resentment and anger. Those negative emotions are not helping you. They often keep you stuck in the past instead of moving forward. And studies show that a more forgiving attitude leads to multiple physical and emotional benefits.

Are you grateful?

Gratitude for what we have also increases happiness levels. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. For example, if you keep a gratitude journal, you will look for things you’re grateful for to record in it throughout the course of your day. Over time, you’ll find yourself focusing on the positive.

How Can an ND Help with Happiness?

Our naturopathic doctors help people feel happier by:

  1. Balancing hormones. Healthy hormone balance is crucial to having a healthy mood.
  2. Helping you maintain a healthy gut. We are gut health experts. We can balance your microbiome and fix issues like IBS, leaky gut, Candida, SIBO, Crohn’s and colitis.
  3. Lifestyle counselling. Getting you on track with exercise, eating right, sleeping properly and spending time in nature helps you maintain a positive mind-set.
  4. Helping you achieve your health goals. Whatever your health goals are, we help set out a plan to take you there.

How Can a Psychotherapist Help with Happiness?

If you are feeling stuck, making a change, going through a life transition, having guidance and support can make all the difference. A psychotherapist gives you the tools you need to navigate difficult times successfully.

How Can a Massage Therapist, Osteopath, Acupuncturist or Chiropractor help with Happiness?

Well, if you are living with chronic pain, your mood will be negatively affected. In fact, that’s one of the causes of depression. Non-pharmaceutical pain relief from massage therapy, osteopathy or chiropractic does wonders for mood.

How did you do on the checklist? Are you interested in improving your happiness levels? As you can see, living life happily requires a holistic approach. If you’d like to work together for a happier, more fulfilling life, give us a call and let’s do this together. Science and nature are a powerful combination! Call 416-481-0222 to get started today.

5 Best Happiness Quotes

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” 
― Dr. Seuss

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” 
― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” 
― Abraham Lincoln

Sources

https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/content/dam/UHG/PDF/2013/UNH-Health-Volunteering-Study.pdf

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161005102254.htm

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Safaria_Triantoro/publication/275025845_Forgivness_Gratitude_and_Happiness_among_College_Students/links/552f3cf00cf2acd38cbbf270.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197458005002769\

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97848789https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2011/04/how-to-quickly-and-easiy-feel-happier-and-mor/#ixzz2b36XGs00

https://my.happify.com/hd/forgiving-others-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-for-yourself/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3839572/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29867302

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25249992

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30123175

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30870075

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29251946

Eating Healthy But Can’t Lose Weight? It May Be Insulin Resistance

woman with belly fat that can't lose weight because of insulin resistance
Wondering Why You Can’t Lose Weight?

Stubborn Weight Loss

You eat “right” and exercise, but somehow those stubborn extra pounds just keep coming and they won’t leave. Even worse, they have settled in at your midsection. What is happening to your figure?

It is possible to eat healthy and still struggle with your weight

It is easy to blame weight gain on the hormonal shifts that come with age. But, these changes are not necessarily due to andropause or menopause alone. Instead, insulin resistance could be the root of the problem.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by specialized cells in your pancreas known as beta cells.

What Does Insulin Do?

Let’s look at what insulin does in your body. It helps your body to use sugar from your food by transferring it into your cells for them to use for energy. A healthy insulin level rises after a meal, and goes down once your blood sugar returns to normal. This rise in insulin is proportionate to the amount of carbs and sugar in the meal. This natural fluctuation of insulin is what keeps your blood sugar in a healthy balance.

What is Insulin Resistance?

When your body’s cells can’t respond to insulin properly, they become “insulin resistant”. This means that your blood sugar levels rise higher than they should, even when your pancreas is making a lot of insulin.

How Does Insulin Affect Your Weight?

Excessively high blood sugar and insulin have many harmful effects. They cause damage throughout your body. So your body has a back-up plan to protect itself from high blood sugars; it stores the extra energy by converting it to fat, often around your midsection.

This perpetual fat production is why high blood sugar and insulin levels make it hard to lose weight.

More Than Just a Spare Tire – Insulin’s Many Negative Roles

It’s important to note that insulin plays a role in many body functions. So, insulin resistance can affect other facets of your health in addition to giving you a spare tire. In fact, up to 50 percent of people who are insulin resistant go on to develop life-changing, chronic conditions like diabetes. And, insulin resistance has been linked to the development of several types of cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

At the hormone level, insulin is an intricate part of many systems in your body. For both men and women, insulin influences the production and performance of your reproductive hormones. For example, high insulin levels can magnify menopausal symptoms. For women who are struggling to manage hot flashes, mood changes, weight or other menopause symptoms, being insulin resistant can make it even harder to regain control of their hormones. For men, insulin lowers testosterone and increases estrogen. Consequently, there can be depression, loss of muscle mass, low libido and many other detrimental effects.

What are the Symptoms of Insulin Resistance?

Despite its widespread effects, insulin resistance can be difficult to diagnose. In fact, many people don’t experience any symptoms until they are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, your best first step should be to talk to your naturopathic doctor or other healthcare provider:

  • Velvety dark patches of skin in your groin, neck, or armpits (a condition called acanthosis nigricans)
  • Abnormal fatigue
  • Cravings for sweet or salty food
  • Increased hunger
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • High waist-to-hip ratio (if you’re female, measure your waist and hips, then divide the number you measured for your waist by your hip measurement. If the result is higher than 0.8, your ratio is on the higher end. For men, a result greater than 1.0 is concerning.)

How Can You Test for Insulin Resistance?

There are several blood tests that look at your blood sugar level:

  • glycated or glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c)
  • fasting blood sugar
  • random blood sugar
  • 2-hour post-consumption glucose and
  • oral glucose tolerance test

Of these, the best way to measure insulin resistance is by doing an oral glucose tolerance test WITH insulin measurements.

This test involves going to a lab after you have been fasting for 12 hours. There, they will collect a fasting blood test for glucose and insulin. Then, they will give you a sugary drink, with a known amount of glucose in it, often 75-100 grams. After that, blood tests for glucose and insulin are collected at 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, 120 minutes and 180 minutes after drinking this drink. After the drink, it is expected that your blood sugar will rise and then return to normal within 2 hours. An abnormal test would show that either your blood sugar did not return to normal within 2 hours, or that you had to make an excessive amount of insulin in order to get it to return to normal. Most times when this test is done, only the glucose measurements are done. However, this only provides half of the information you need to determine insulin resistance. Our naturopathic doctors can order proper insulin resistance testing for you.

7 Risk Factors For Insulin Resistance

Our bodies need carbohydrates in small to moderate amounts depending on our level of physical activity. However, consuming more carbohydrates than your body needs, contributes to insulin resistance.

Risk factors for insulin resistance include:

  • Being overweight, particularly if you are “apple-shaped” rather than “pear-shaped”
  • High carb and/or sugar diet
  • Genetics. Some people who develop insulin resistance don’t have other risk factors. If you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or diabetes, you may have inherited genes that mean you need to be even more careful about preventing insulin resistance.
  • Inactivity or sedentary lifestyle
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Medications, including antidepressants and corticosteroids
  • Certain medical conditions, including:

Can you Improve Insulin Resistance Naturally?

The good news is that lifestyle changes can dramatically improve the balance of insulin in your body. They also also have a positive impact on other hormones – particularly the hormones that affect your quality of life at middle age and beyond.

Examine your diet

If you are struggling with balancing insulin and blood sugar, you should aim to eliminate unnecessary carbohydrates from your diet as much as possible. That means no sugar, flour or flour-based products, or sugar sweetened beverages. Try to eliminate or at least limit alcohol as well.

An added bonus of cutting back on sweets and starchy foods is weight loss. Having too much body fat, especially around your middle, contributes to insulin resistance. Of course, this creates a vicious cycle, since as we discussed insulin resistance makes it harder to lose weight. It is important to make healthy, long-term diet changes. One study found that losing just five to seven per cent of your body weight improves insulin resistance.

However, don’t restrict calories too aggressively. You don’t want to stress your body. Stress raises your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. High cortisol levels wreak havoc on your insulin and blood sugar balance. So, focus on getting your energy from whole foods without starving yourself. Our ND’s and Registered Dietitian are great resources for diet and nutrition advice. They can come up with a weight loss meal plan just for you.

Quit smoking

Let’s add “insulin resistance” to the long list of reasons not to smoke. This is another step that sounds easier than it often turns out to be. If you smoke, you don’t have have to give it up alone. We’re here to help! We have ways and means to make quitting easier. Talk to one of our ND’s or our Psychotherapist for help.

Supplements

Certain supplements can help as well. Making sure that you’re taking the right ones, which are a good fit for you, is best discussed with your naturopathic doctor.

Reduce your stress

This is always easier said than done, but it’s important to keep your cortisol levels balanced. We will work together to find a stress-reduction plan that works for you. Talk to one of our ND’s or our Psychotherapist or book a massage to get your stress level down.

Get enough sleep

Studies show that even one night of bad sleep or less than 4 hours of sleep negatively affects your insulin levels the next day. Aim for 8 hours per night, every night.

Get more exercise

Many studies have linked physical activity with improved insulin levels. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed though, even moderate levels of daily activity can help. The key is avoid long periods of being extremely sedentary.

In fact, especially for middle-aged women, workouts that are too intense raises your cortisol levels. This, in turn, raises insulin your levels, which will be counterproductive. So, getting creative with your exercise becomes more important as you get older. In addition to increasing moderate exercise, aim to increase your other daily movements. For example, park a bit further away, do the dishes by hand at the end of the evening, or even just stretch for a few minutes at home. Even little bits of activity can add up.

Best Exercise for People Over 50

Three of the best exercises for people over the age of 50 are:

  • Long walks outside. Being outside lowers cortisol. Walking is a gentle exercise that almost anyone can safely do. Walking for one to two hours per day helps to burn an additional 200-300 calories per hour.
  • Restorative yoga. This helps to restore your body, maintains your flexibility, balance and strength.
  • Weight training. Weight lifting helps to maintain your muscle mass and bone density, helps you burn more calories even while you sleep and maintains a healthy level of growth hormone in your body.

As you can see from the information above, our bodies and our health are very intricate. When something goes amiss in one area, the effects are felt in many other areas. This dynamic is particularly true when it comes to middle-age, insulin and hormones. Even if you don’t have any obvious symptoms of insulin resistance, addressing your insulin levels is one of the best overall wellness and disease prevention measures you can take.

If you are wondering about your insulin levels, how your blood sugar is behaving, your hormones, insulin resistance and what it may be doing to your weight loss efforts, call us at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online any time here.

By Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Sources:

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance#resistance

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2551669/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20371664

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2895000/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501863/

What Does Your Poo Say About You?

Healthy poop chart

Your Poop and Your Health

Let’s chat about your poop, feces, poo, excrement or bowel movements.

Did you just cringe a bit? Let’s face it, poop isn’t anybody’s favourite topic. Nonetheless, our bowel movements hold valuable clues to our overall health. But these signs are often ignored because most of us are a bit uncomfortable talking about them – even to our healthcare providers. Or, our concerns about stool quality are glossed over or brushed off.

Your Appointment With Us is a Judgement-Free Zone

Keep in mind that your naturopathic doctor cares about such things as the quality of your stool. We will not be shocked or uncomfortable if you talk about your poop. In fact, that’s part of our job! We really want to get to the bottom of your health issues (no pun intended). Sometimes that means talking about things that fall under the category of “too much information”. We need to know all of your symptoms, even things that may seem unrelated or unimportant, in order to put your health puzzle together. So, if you have a concern, no matter what it relates to, please don’t hesitate to bring it up.

Your Poop is a Reflection of Your Health

The appearance and smell of your poop is a direct reflection of your gut health. Your gut health has a massive impact on your overall health. As well as helping you absorb all of your nutrients, your digestive system interacts with your nervous system and your detoxification pathways. Changes in your bowel habits can indicate changes in other parts of your body – from excessive nervous system stress, to liver problems, to cancers.

The good news is that we don’t have to go into great detail here describing the various types of bowel movements and what they signify. There’s already a chart that shows various problems and what to look for. It is called the Bristol Stool Chart and you’ll find it here: http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs-wm/46082.pdf. It was named after the hospital that developed it in 1997.

The Healthy Poop Chart

The Bristol Stool Chart looks at:

  • Your ease of passing stool – it should be fairly easy
  • The smell – sure there will be a smell to it, it is waste after all, but it shouldn’t be particularly foul smelling.
  • The consistency of your stool – the stool should be solid and uniform in texture without bits of undigested stool in it
  • The colour – the colour should be a medium or chocolate brown. Green poop can be from something you have eaten or can be because your stool is passing through your gut too quickly for intestinal bacteria to break down bile. This is what creates the normal stool colour.
  • How often you have a bowel movement – anything from one to three times per day, every day is considered to be normal
  • How completely you empty your bowels – bowel movements should feel complete.
  • And any additional red flags – red flags include blood in your stool, mucous in your stool, chronic constipation or diarrhea and chronic undigested food.

What The Bristol Stool Chart Means for You

To summarize the Bristol Stool Chart, you should have a daily bowel movement that is well-formed, medium brown in colour and not too smelly. If you see blood or mucus, or if you feel that anything about your stool doesn’t seem ideal, you should talk to your naturopathic doctor. We can address or rule out any issues that require medical help. The chart can help identify mild constipation, severe constipation, normal stools and inflammation in your gut.

Talk About Embarrassing!

Two of the more common but embarrassing issues related to bowels are fecal incontinence and itchy anus (or anusitis).

Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is where stool leaks from your rectum between bowel movements. You may notice staining of your underwear. It may happen when you pass gas or unpredictably. Incontinence may be associated with a bout of diarrhea, or may be accompanied by constipation or excessive gas. The causes of fecal incontinence include:

  • Muscle damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Complications of surgery or childbirth
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammation in your bowels

Our naturopathic doctors can help identify the cause and help improve your digestion, the tone of your GI tract and remove sources of inflammation.

Itchy Anus, Anusitis or Proctitis

Anusitis is inflammation of the lining of the anal canal. Proctitis is inflammation of the skin of the rectum. Rectal itching (pruritis) is a sign of inflammation or infection. You may also notice bleeding or a burning sensation. Our naturopathic doctors can help identify the cause of the itching. We can help relieve itching, remove infections and identify food sensitivities that cause itching. Here’s why you shouldn’t ignore rectal itching: chronic inflammation can lead to bigger health issues like rectal cancer.

7 Simple Steps to Improve Your Poop

If you’ve ruled out a medical condition, but still feel that things are not moving quite like they should be, here are a few ways to improve your bowel movements.

Pay attention to your diet

Fiber keeps things moving by adding some bulk to your stool. For extra fiber, think seeds, beans, fresh fruit and vegetables. If you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, increase your fiber intake slowly to avoid upsetting your stomach or creating too much gas. Always make sure to up your water intake alongside extra fiber. In addition, make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats from sources such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil. If food is moving through too quickly, causing loose stool or diarrhea, good fats help to slow digestion down a bit. This gives food more time to digest fully.

Pay close attention to how particular foods affect your digestion. If you experience IBS symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, try keeping a diary of what you eat, and the symptoms you experience. We can help you set up an effective tracking system to monitor your diet. Alternatively, our naturopathic doctors can order food sensitivity testing for you to efficiently pinpoint which foods are causing trouble.

Choose medication carefully

Many medications can cause constipation as a side effect. It is important to be aware of this and adjust your diet accordingly to compensate for this effect. Avoid laxative medications as much as possible. Your body quickly becomes dependent on them. Some evidence also links the chronic use of laxatives to colorectal cancer. Talk with your naturopathic doctor about natural solutions for medication-induced constipation if diet alone isn’t enough.

Drink lots of water

Aim for the proverbial eight cups of water per day. It’s particularly important to get enough water if you have recently increased your fiber intake. Not only are our stools 75 percent water, but your bowel muscles need plenty of hydration to work their best. Water in your stool also keeps it softer and easier to pass. I have seen patients where even one or two more glasses of water per day made a difference in regularity.

Increase your body movement

Exercise stimulates your digestion. Studies suggest that digestion is better if you exercise regularly and, if possible, at the same time each day.

In fact, sitting for too long overall can lead to constipation regardless of your physical activity level. This is another reason to stand up and walk around every 30 minutes or so throughout your work day. How you move your body also matters. Did you know that some yoga poses are designed to help with digestion?

Get into a routine and don’t suppress the urge to go

If you feel like you’ve gotta go, don’t ignore that feeling! Fighting the urge to poop can lead to constipation. Setting aside a specific time of the day can help you stay regular. Good digestion requires good parasympathetic nervous system activity. This is the part of your nervous system that helps you rest, digest, relax and sleep. If you’re always stressed out or on the go, your nervous system will be in sympathetic or fight or flight mode. That works against good digestion.

Squat to poop

As well, consider the way you sit on the toilet. Over the course of history, toilets themselves are a pretty recent invention. In nature, we would have squatted to have a bowel movement. Many people find that bringing their feet up onto a stool can help bring them into a squatting position which makes bowel movements easier. Check out the Squatty potty for more info on aids for better positioning.

Talk openly

Don’t hesitate to come into the office and have an open talk if you have any concerns or questions about your bowel movements. Your stool can be a good indicator that your body has something going on that needs attention. It’s always better to bring up a concern than to ignore it or worry about it! Call us at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online to speak to one of our ND’s.

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

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25223576

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/may/18/truth-about-poo-doing-it-wrong-giulia-enders-squatting

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15043514

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430892/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30880096

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30880096

Do You Have Undiagnosed Thyroid Problems?

woman with thyroid problems having a thyroid ultrasound
Do you have thyroid problems?

Your thyroid is your body’s gas pedal. It regulates the speed and performance of the rest of your system. Your energy levels, metabolism, and heart rate are all controlled by this small but vital, butterfly-shaped gland. Thyroid hormones are essential for growth, brain development, fertility and the production of energy. Thyroid hormones stimulate the production of new mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy-generators in each of your cells. Without enough thyroid hormone, your mitochondria aren’t able to produce as much energy as they should. Having a slow or underactive thyroid is called hypothyroidism. At the other end of the spectrum, your body can go into “overdrive” if it produces too much thyroid hormone. This is called hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid Problems are Often Un-diagnosed

With so much impact on your overall health and well-being, maintaining healthy thyroid hormone levels is important. Did you know that one in eight women produce either too much or not enough thyroid hormone? Women are at higher risk for thyroid issues than men. Hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause make women more vulnerable to thyroid issues. The risk for both genders increases with age. In fact, the stats for those with undiagnosed thyroid disease are shocking. One study found that 6.71% of the population has an undiagnosed thyroid problem. Of course, as naturopathic doctors, we dig deep to find the root of thyroid concerns rather than just attribute your symptoms to age or menopause.

TSH, The Thyroid Regulating Hormone

To understand how your thyroid can wreak havoc on your health, you need to understand how it works. Your thyroid sits in your neck. There it performs the vital task of secreting thyroid hormone. This in turn triggers a cascade of other hormones and processes throughout your body. The key point about thyroid hormone is that your body is very sensitive to the amounts it receives. Any imbalances can have far reaching repercussions.

The amount of hormone your thyroid secretes is controlled by the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. In other words, TSH is the “master” hormone that directs your thyroid. It’s produced by your pituitary gland in your brain.

Lab ranges for TSH are notoriously broad. You can have signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid BEFORE your TSH falls outside this wide lab range. This is called subclinical hypothyroidism.

When Your Immune System Attacks Your Thyroid

Further complicating the health of your thyroid is the fact that it is vulnerable to immune system attacks. This causes autoimmunity or autoimmune thyroid problems. The autoimmune disorder Grave’s disease causes too much thyroid hormone to be produced. In contrast, the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s causes your immune system to attack your thyroid, slowing down thyroid hormone production.

What causes auto-immune thyroid problems?

That’s a great question and one that doesn’t yet have a conclusive answer. Your immune system is programmed to recognize your body and to know NOT to attack it. In autoimmunity, the immune system appears to have gone rogue.

Researchers hypothesize that it may be that a virus gained access to your thyroid at some point when your immune system was low. Maybe you didn’t sleep well, you were super-stressed or you were not eating well, all things that can lower your immune function. This allowed an infectious agent, like a virus to enter your thyroid. Now that there is a virus inside your thyroid, your immune system attacks the thyroid tissue to get at the virus. There is extensive research showing that individuals with auto-immune thyroid often have Epstein-Barr virus in their thyroids. Epstein-Barr virus is the virus that causes mono. To help auto-immune thyroid, then, our naturopathic doctors aim to help your immune system tackle this virus so there is no longer a need to attack your thyroid.

Your thyroid can also become inflamed. This is called thyroiditis. Tackling this type of thyroid problem means addressing the source of the inflammation. Your thyroid may also develop nodules or small abnormal growths. Sometimes this is associated with thyroid auto-immunity. It is also associated with iodine excess and iodine deficiency.

Hypothyroidism: When Your Thyroid Slows Down

If your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, your body slows down. This results in a condition called hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism causes many troublesome symptoms.The symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

Could You be Experiencing Hypothyroid Symptoms?

Despite this long list of issues, about 60 percent of people with hypothyroidism aren’t aware that they have it. One reason for this is that it’s easy to blame thyroid symptoms on other factors like lack of sleep, a poor diet or growing older. As well, thyroid symptoms tend to develop slowly. We often blame ourselves for weight gain when there is actually a medical explanation for it.

If you experience any of the symptoms above, it’s a good idea to dig deeper and figure out the root cause. Our naturopathic doctors can assist you with thorough thyroid testing. We do much more than just testing your TSH. These uncomfortable symptoms do not have to be part of your life.

Hyperthyroidism: The Consequences of an Overactive Thyroid

In contrast, when your body produces too much thyroid hormone, this condition is called hyperthyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, your body’s functions accelerate. Although this might sound appealing, many of the symptoms are debilitating. Some signs of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Feeling hot all the time
  • Anxiety
  • A rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Missed periods
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis

As with hypothyroidism, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are often blamed on other issues, such as stress or anxiety.

Why Are Thyroid Problems Hard to Diagnose?

With so many symptoms, you would think that thyroid dysfunction would be easy to pick up. Not so. One challenging problem with identifying thyroid issues is that most doctors only run one test for your thyroid. They only test the amount of TSH in your blood. However, testing this one hormone doesn’t give the complete picture of your thyroid health. A more holistic approach which tests various hormone levels yields more information and leads to more effective treatment. This is what our ND’s do.

Prevention: How can you Prevent Thyroid Problems?

Unfortunately, the prevention of thyroid disease isn’t always possible. Sometimes genetics play a role in it. But, even if you have inherited the genes for thyroid problems, how much or how little you express those genes can be altered by certain health choices. Other risk factors for thyroid dysfunction include chronic stress and a personal or family history of autoimmune diseases. In addition, more research is pointing to the role of environmental factors in disrupting thyroid function. Our naturopathic doctors will address all the factors that contribute to thyroid issues when they are crafting your treatment plan.

Addressing the lifestyle factors that inflame your body helps to stabilize thyroid hormones whatever the cause of your imbalance.

6 DIY strategies for improving your thyroid health

Eat to protect your gut health

Maintaining enough good bacteria in your gut, keeps it healthy, protects your immune system and reduces your risk of autoimmune problems. Include lots of high-fiber foods in your diet every day. Broccoli, kale, and whole grains like quinoa make excellent high fiber options.

Reduce your stress

Stress interferes with thyroid function by slowing the production of TSH. It also increases the production of an inactive form of thyroid hormone, called reverse T3. Addressing your stress levels is important. If you can’t get rid of stress, exercise is a good way to both reduce its effects and improve your metabolism.

Cut your sugar intake

Your thyroid is a crucial component of your endocrine (hormonal) system. Sugar is managed by another vital organ in this interconnected system, your pancreas. The endocrine organs work together to keep your body working optimally. There is a complex relationship between diabetes and thyroid disease. One study identified thyroid dysfunction in 48% of diabetic patients. Clearly, better managing your glucose levels can help stabilize your thyroid.

Watch your iodine intake

Iodine is essential for good thyroid function, but too much also leads to thyroid problems. Iodized salt, seaweed, and some seafood contain high levels of iodine. Be careful not to overdo the seaweed snacks. I have seen at least one person who did and overdosed on iodine as a result.

Pay attention to how gluten makes you feel

People with Celiac disease are three times more likely to have a thyroid problem. Celiac disease interferes with the absorption of nutrients such as iodine. If you have trouble digesting gluten, consider eliminating it or get tested for Celiac disease. If it is negative, you may still have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity that our food allergy test will identify.

Look for high-fiber foods

High fiber foods are especially helpful if you’re hypothyroid. Having hypothyroidism can slow your digestive system and lead to constipation, so you want to focus on keeping things moving. As mentioned above, high-fiber foods help your good gut bacteria thrive. Fibrous foods fill you up so you eat less, which helps weight management. Fiber also slows down the rise in blood sugar that happens after a meal.

In general, the key is to focus on a whole-foods diet that will reduce inflammation. Avoiding artificial ingredients and regulating your blood sugar will reduce dietary stress and help maintain your thyroid health.

I’m Concerned About My Thyroid. What’s the Next Step?

When it comes to resolving thyroid issues, early detection is the key. It is much easier to deal with a thyroid problem when it is caught early. It’s also important to complete thorough thyroid testing. Evaluating thyroid hormone levels is complex and often not properly diagnosed within the conventional healthcare system. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms of thyroid disease – either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism – give us a call at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online. Thyroid problems, diagnosed or undiagnosed, do not have to affect your daily life. Our naturopathic doctors can help.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Science-based Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030460

https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-manage-stress-if-you-have-autoimmune-thyroid-disease

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/healthy-eating-for-a-healty-thyroid

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30060266

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16580033

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27959843

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25931043

Candida or Yeast Overgrowth

Candida or Yeast Overgrowth Can Make You Really Tired

How to Get Rid of Candida Naturally

Do you have a white coating on your tongue? Circular skin rashes with a white centre? Bloating? Constipation? Vaginal irritation? You’re always craving sweets? You could be suffering from a yeast overgrowth.

What is Candida Albicans?

Candida albicans is the most common kind of yeast that co-exists with humans. It is normally harmless to people when it is present in small amounts. There are many other strains of yeast that can inhabit your gut. There are almost 200 known Candida species, although few of them are a threat to humans. The most important species are C. albicansC. dubliniensisC. tropicalisC. Parapsilosis, C. glabrataC. kruseiC. guilliermondii, and C. Lusitaniae. Other medically important species of fungi include Histoplasma capsulatum, Cryptococcus neoformans and Aspergillus fumigatus.

However, as anyone who’s ever baked bread knows, yeast likes to grow. It is a fungus, after all. Candida is considered to be an “opportunistic pathogen”. This means that if it gets the opportunity to cause disease, it can. Under normal conditions in your gut, your healthy gut bacteria keeps intestinal yeast growth in check. This maintains a balance between bacteria and yeast.

The fragile balance between your gut bacteria and yeast

This delicate balance is, however, easily upset. For example, we can lose beneficial bacteria from taking even one round of antibiotics. We can encourage yeast growth by bingeing on sugar and refined carbs. Estrogen dominance, birth control pills and stress all allow yeast to multiply. The result? Yeast overgrowth.

Is gut Candida overgrowth the same as a yeast infection?

Most people are familiar with a couple of the different kinds of local yeast infections.

Thrush

A Candida yeast infection in your mouth is called oral thrush.

Symptoms of oral thrush include:

  • white, bumpy patches in your mouth
  • a white coating on your tongue
  • if you try to scrape the white coating off your tongue, there are pinpoint bleeding spots
  • cracks at the corners of your mouth
  • difficulty swallowing

Vaginal Yeast Infections

The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:

  • vaginal redness
  • vaginal swelling
  • itchiness of the vagina and surrounding area
  • an unpleasant white, chunky discharge

These reactions are typically immediately noticeable – and very annoying.

In contrast, a gut Candida overgrowth can be much more subtle and difficult to determine. Candida overgrowth’s impact may be more troublesome and even life-threatening. When your good gut bacteria decreases and yeast multiplies, the overall effect on your body can be far-reaching.

How does Candida overgrowth work?

Disease-causing yeasts have properties that allow them to overcome your defenses. These include the ability to stick to the gut wall and invade tissues. Also, certain strains of yeast have developed escape mechanisms, to avoid being eliminated by your immune system.

When Candida grows unchecked, it attaches to and sends roots through the lining of your intestine. This creates “leaky gut” syndrome where the barrier of your intestinal wall is weak. As the name suggests, leaky gut syndrome allows undigested food, bacteria, and toxins to “leak” from your intestine into your system.

When your immune system is faced with undigested food, bacteria and toxins, it sees them as unknown invaders. That causes it to kick into overdrive trying to neutralize these things it doesn’t recognize, things that it perceives as a potential threat. This immune system hyper-activation leads to a number of symptoms ranging from inflammation to autoimmune diseases.

Candida overgrowth is often overlooked or misdiagnosed because the symptoms vary so widely. It is also not something that conventional doctors would ever test you for. If you’re experiencing autoimmune symptoms, having a foggy brain, or dealing with digestive issues, it’s possible that a gut Candida overgrowth could be the underlying problem.

Who is most at risk for Candida overgrowth?

Certain populations are more susceptible to yeast overgrowth. These include premature infants, elderly, pregnant or menopausal women, diabetics, alcoholics, and anyone taking immunsuppressants or antibiotics.

What are the symptoms of Candida overgrowth?

So how would you know if you have a Candida overgrowth? Here are the signs and symptoms:

  1. Despite your best intentions, you have strong cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. Candida wants to keep eating and multiplying, so a taste of sugar will leave you wanting more!
  2. You feel itchy all over, especially, and certainly embarrassingly, in your anal or vaginal areas.
  3. Fungal infections. You suffer from athlete’s foot, toenail fungus or other unexplained itchy foot rashes.
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome. Your digestion feels out of whack. You experience a lot of gassiness, constipation, diarrhea and bloating.
  5. You experience mood swings and frustration for no obvious reason. Or you frequently feel anxious or depressed, even though you are doing your best to look after your emotional well-being. Did you know that depression is considered by some to be an inflammatory condition of the brain? Candida overgrowth may be the stimulous for that inflammation.
  6. Unexplained joint pain that makes it hard to keep up with your exercise routine. Sadly, that lack of exercise is only worsening your other symptoms. You want to work out and you know that you should, but it’s painful.
  7. Fatigue. If other causes of fatigue like hypothyroidism, iron deficiency and allergies have been ruled out, yeast overgrowth may be the issue. Particularly if there are other symptoms pointing to a yeast problem.
  8. Allergies. Studies show that animals whose guts are colonized with yeast develop allergic reactions.

Diagnostic testing for gut bacteria and yeast

Boxed Candida cleanse “kits” may be popular, but in reality overcoming Candida overgrowth and restoring a healthy balance of yeast and gut bacteria can be very challenging. Our naturopathic doctors can work with you to develop a program that’s tailored specifically for you. We start with a complete analysis, stool testing if necessary and then create a customized treatment plan. Stool analysis determines what exactly is growing in your gut, how much and how best to get rid of what shouldn’t be growing in there.

Once we have an accurate picture of what’s really going on in your system, we can work on a plan to restore health and balance.

Our holistic approach to managing Candida

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Our holistic approach means taking an in-depth look at various aspects of your lifestyle.

Specialized Candida diet

In general, the first step of Candida treatment consists of dietary changes. You knew that was coming, right? Together we can work on a diet plan that works for you to starve out the yeast.

Dietary changes should be realistic and manageable for you over the long term. After all, we want to create a sustainable solution, not a quick fix that may be too difficult to stick with.

Say goodbye to sugary sweets

To get Candida under control, patients have the greatest success by limiting all processed sweets from their diet. We also recommend cutting back on starchy carbohydrates. Low-sugar fruits such as berries are the best options for a sweet treat.

Alcohol

Eliminating all fermented, yeasty or moldy foods and drinks, including alcohol, will help control yeast symptoms. This includes well-known fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha. It also includes the less-obvious ones, like soy sauce or peanuts. If your immune system is sensitized to yeast, it will also react to these food sources of yeast, mold and yeast metabolites.

Add extra fibre

Adding more fibre to your diet and drinking lots of water (2-3 litres per day) improves your intestinal “transit time”. This means that things move through your gut more quickly, so that nothing lingers too long in your system.

Carbs in moderation

It’s important to note that carbohydrates aren’t necessarily completely forbidden on a Candida diet. Although processed flour can contribute to to a Candida overgrowth and slower transit time, whole food carbohydrates such as rye or quinoa can add good fiber and minerals to your system. We can work together to look at your carb consumption and make any necessary adjustments.

The steps above can slow the growth of Candida which may improve some of your symptoms, but as always tackling one side of the issue isn’t enough. You also want to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. An effective way to do this is by consuming more probiotics or “healthy bacteria”. A high quality supplement of the right kind of probiotic for you is usually recommended, as they are able to rapidly populate the gut and restore balance.

Foods that kill Candida

Research has found that many substances aid in the killing off of stubborn overgrowth. Studies have found turmeric to be effective as well as coconut oil, some essential oils and much more. In order to determine the right solution for your body, help from your naturopathic doctor is recommended. We can talk about the best treatment plan to eradicate this overgrowth and eliminate the problems Candida overgrowth can cause in your system.

The effect of stress on Candida

In addition to dietary changes, reducing your stress levels can help. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which over time will increase blood sugar.

Since Candida feeds off sugar, stress can make us more vulnerable to Candida overgrowth. It’s not always easy to lower stress levels – life often gets in the way. However, we can change the way we react to stress through science-backed stress reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga.

Candida overgrowth is one of the more common reasons people seek holistic care. The good news is that we are experts in treating digestive issues.

If you suspect that you may be experiencing an overgrowth of Candida, give us a call at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online any time here.

Together we can make an effective plan to get your health back on track.

https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26709650

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17083732

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26723514

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17651080

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28184328

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2803610/

Acne Treatment

woman with acne squeezing her pimples

Many of us are disappointed to learn that we didn’t leave acne behind after high school. Yes, it is a cruel joke, but it is possible to have pimples and wrinkles at the same time. In fact, 54 percent of women over the age of 25 experience some acne. And the numbers are expected to increase. Some skin care experts call the increase in acne outbreaks in adults “an epidemic.”

Why is there an increase in adult acne?

We tend to associate acne with the angst-ridden teenage years. In actuality, many of the factors that contribute to acne in your teens are still present later in your life too. In particular, stress and hormonal fluctuations wreak havoc on your skin. Many of us do continue to experience that nasty combination of hormonal changes and lifestyle stress.

Stress and acne: a vicious cycle

The relationship between stress and pimples becomes a vicious cycle. When we feel stressed, our adrenal glands respond by producing more of the stress hormone cortisol. They also make small amounts of testosterone. These cause the oil glands in your skin to produce more oil or sebum. This raises your risk of skin infections and pimples. Of course then, when we notice outbreaks appearing, we feel more stressed. Add to that the fact that many of us can’t resist the temptation to pick at pimples. This spreads the bacteria on your skin. Voila! You have the perfect formula for ongoing acne outbreaks.

The emotional and financial burden of adult acne

Finding acne solutions can feel like a quest for the impossible. Consider this: Acne costs Americans an astonishing $15 billion a year in acne-related products and services. Ironically, we are surrounded by skin care product marketing that promises to clear up skin problems. These all claim to provide you with a flawless, youthful glow. But, many of these products actually worsen inflammation.

It all adds up to frustration for you, the consumer. It’s no wonder that 95 percent of people with acne say that the skin condition negatively affects their lives. 63 percent of acne sufferers cite lower self-confidence due to acne as a major issue.

How to treat adult acne

Since hormones are the root cause of acne, the simple truth is that treatment has to start from within. There is no “magic bullet” skin product. It is best to start with a bit of self-examination. For example, try tracking outbreaks to see if they coincide with your menstrual cycle. See if outbreaks occur along with other symptoms, with eating specific foods, or with stressful periods in your life.

Reduce stress

Think of ways you can reduce the stressors around you. Yoga and meditation are proven methods to reduce stress. Ayurvedic tradition holds that many yoga poses help with acne.

In addition, don’t forget one of the most essential parts of stress management: getting enough sleep! To prevent rubbing your face in bacteria while you sleep, change your pillow cases regularly.

How Diet Affects Your Skin

Much research remains to be done on the impact of diet on acne. But we know that the quality of the food we eat is reflected in our overall health as well as on our skin. Ultimately, you are the best test subject for which foods affect your complexion. People react differently to various foods. Even healthy foods may trigger a reaction for you. Keep a food diary and review it with your naturopathic doctor or dietitian.

A sensible approach is to eat a healthy, whole-foods diet rich in vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts and seeds, unprocessed grains and healthy protein. Opt for antioxidant-rich foods whenever possible like berries, good dark chocolate and spices like cinnamon. Antioxidants reduce inflammation and destroy harmful free radicals.

Acne Supplements

In addition, research proves that the following nutrients have a positive effect on the health of your skin:

Zinc

The anti-inflammatory properties of zinc relieves the irritation of acne. Studies show that taking a zinc supplement reduces acne scars. Zinc is also used topically, but it isn’t as effective as taking it orally. From your diet, zinc-rich foods include beef and shellfish, especially oysters, and vegetarian sources like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, beans, nuts, and whole grains.

Omega-3 Fats

Not only do these healthy fats soothe your skin thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, but they also help regulate hormones. Omega-3’s are found in nuts, flax, hemp seeds, and many types of fish. The Omega 3s in fish are much easier for your body to use compared to the ones in nuts and seeds. Fatty, cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are excellent sources of Omega 3’s. Supplements containing fish oil or vegan Omega 3’s are also an excellent way to benefit from the acne-fighting powers of Omega-3. Even though they are healthy fats, Omega 3’s will sometimes make acne worse. Fats, even healthy ones, can interfere with insulin function. That increases insulin which throws off hormone balance. If you find that adding fats or fish oil makes your skin worse, by all means listen to your body and reduce them.

High fiber foods

Eating food with lots of fiber controls your blood sugar. It does so by slowing down sugar absorption and keeping you feeling full longer. This curbs acne breakouts because healthy blood sugar levels influence hormone production. Aim for plenty of fibrous green veggies with each meal like kale and broccoli!

Stay Hydrated

You may have noticed that your skin loses some luster when you’re dehydrated. It is important to drink plenty of water to keep your skin cells healthy and nourished.

Green Tea

In addition to water, don’t hesitate to pour yourself a cup of green tea. Studies show green tea can decrease oil or sebum production. Plus, this delicious beverage is high in antioxidants! Green tea also has some estrogen balancing properties.

Topical antibiotics for acne

The bacteria that causes acne, Propionibacterium acnes, is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. As a result, focusing on acne treatment that addresses the reason that this bacteria overgrows is more important than ever.

Topical acne treatments that work

A more natural approach to moisturizing and nourishing your skin may be helpful. Many people react to the chemicals, perfumes and preservatives in skin creams. This creates more redness and inflammation. Natural oils such as Rosehips oil helps acne-prone skin. It contains a high concentration of vitamin A, omegas and lycopene. These heal and regenerate your skin. They encourage healthy cell growth and dramatically reduce scarring. Rosehips oil will be kinder to your skin than the very drying benzoyl peroxide.

Talk to your naturopathic doctor for guidance if you are having difficulty finding the right skincare solution. A number of effective natural acne remedies are available. We can help you find a solution that is right for your particular skin type.

Adult Hormonal Acne

Treating adult acne at the root cause helps you deal with this frustrating problem in a more permanent way. The more persistent cases we’ve seen usually come down to a hormonal imbalance. Whether you are in your 20’s or firmly in perimenopause, working with our Naturopaths helps you examine your full hormonal profile. Then we will find the right plan to bring your hormones, and your skin, back in balance.

If you have done what you can and are ready for professional analysis and guidance on skin-friendly treatments, come into the clinic! Together we can thoroughly measure your hormones, and look at your diet, vitamin and mineral levels, coping mechanisms, and other possible contributors. Adult acne can be treated naturally without harsh drugs or chemicals.

By Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Call the clinic at 416-481-0222 or book online here.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5384166/

http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961614P0692X#close

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308187676_The_Psychosocial_Impact_of_Acne_Vulgaris

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884775/

http://time.com/5014072/stress-pimples-acne/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5029236/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27529209

Dementia

Dementia: Facts, Prevention and Treatment

pic of a man with dementia or cognitive decline, poor brain health
Should you worry about cognitive decline?

Dementia Definition

Dementia is a word that describes a state where brain function is sufficiently compromised that it interferes with normal functioning.

Should you be concerned about your cognitive health?

Consider these facts:

  • Dementia affects between five and eight percent of adults over the age of 60. As the average age of the population rises, that could add up to an astounding 150 million people with dementia worldwide by 2050.
  • Dementia is more complex than most people realize. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia at 60-80 percent of cases, many other diseases can play a role.
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) happens when someone experiences enough impairment to be noticeable, but not enough for a dementia diagnosis. People with MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of dementia?

  • Memory problems, especially short-term memory, relying more and more on memory aids like notes or electronic reminders
  • Confusion related to time, place, and events
  • Forgetfulness, particularly for things that would have been easily remembered
  • Personality or behaviour changes, this may include irritability, anger, irrational, illogical or even lewd behaviour
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Loss of ability to perform activities of daily living, such as writing, speaking, dressing, bathing, eating, and toileting
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty performing tasks that require multiple steps or organization

What causes dementia?

The most frequent cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This is a condition where amyloid protein deposits in areas of the brain that are responsible for memory and other cognitive functions. The remaining causes include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems and medication side effects.

What are the different forms of dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the two main forms of dementia. Lewy body disease is a third and the fourth is frontotemporal dementia.

What are the stages of dementia?

Dementia can be categorized into 3 stages or 7 stages. The 3 stage model recognizes mild, moderate and severe impairment. The 7 stage model is broken down into no impairment, mild decline, continued mild decline, moderate decline, moderately severe, severe and very severe decline.

Medicines that cause dementia

A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2018 found that the following types of drugs are associated with an increased risk for dementia:

  • amitriptyline, paroxetine, and bupropion (most commonly taken for depression)
  • oxybutynin and tolterodine (taken for an overactive bladder)
  • diphenhydramine (taken for allergies)

Association doesn’t mean causation, so we cannot conclude that the drugs above cause dementia. It may be that the conditions in the body that create allergies, overactive bladder and depression also cause dementia. A common symptom in all of these conditions is inflammation. Addressing inflammation in the body can help numerous conditions and also improve brain health. I would recommend addressing the root of each of these problems to reduce the need for the medications.

Is dementia reversible?

Dementia can be reversible in certain cases. Dementia may be brought on by thyroid disease, hormone imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, medications, infectious disease, autoimmune disease like lupus or sleep apnea. We can help address the cause of these to reverse or slow the progression of dementia.

Alzheimer’s vs dementia

Alzheimer’s is a specific form of dementia that is caused by the deposition of amyloid protein in areas of the brain that are needed for memory and cognitive function. Alzheimer’s is the cause of 60-80% of all dementia. The other possible causes of dementia include vascular problems like stroke, brain injury and reversible causes mentioned above.

Should you be concerned about your brain health?

Everyone experiences some moments of “brain fog” from time to time. It’s perfectly normal to forget where you put your keys occasionally or struggle to remember a name. As we age, these little moments of forgetfulness become more worrying. In fact, the damage from Alzheimer’s can start up to 10 years before symptoms become troublesome. Stress, fatigue, and nutritional deficiencies can all contribute to cognitive issues, even without Alzheimer’s.

How can dementia be treated or prevented?

The good news is that foggy thinking and poor memory don’t have to be a normal part of aging. Cognitive decline is not inevitable. And the steps to protecting our brain health can also help the rest of our bodies. This provides further evidence that everything is connected when it comes to our optimum health!

So what can you do to maintain peak mental fitness? Check out these tips:

  1. Sleep
  2. Plant-based diet
  3. Exercise
  4. Keep learning
  5. Relax
  6. Hormone balance
  7. Supplementation

Get enough sleep

A great deal of research supports a link between brain health and adequate sleep. Scientists think the relationship may work both ways: not getting enough sleep can lead to cognitive decline, but cognitive decline can also cause sleep problems. Either way, the best approach is to be proactive. For example, avoid substances like caffeine or alcohol before bed. Practice good sleep hygiene by sleeping in a cool, quiet room and pay attention to when the body wants to sleep. Your circadian rhythm is your natural sleep cycle, which is ideally around 10-10:30 pm. Fighting it and staying up later sends an adrenaline rush to your body to keep it awake. Talk to a healthcare provider if sleep issues interfere with daily living. You may also find that following the other tips on this list help with sleep – did I mention that it’s all connected?

Focus on a plant-based diet with plenty of healthy fats

Good nutrition fuels our brain. Processed, low-nutrient foods can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress. The result can be cognitive and mood issues. Up to 95 percent of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in our gut. So what we eat can have a profound impact on our emotions and the way we think. As a result, having adequate “good” bacteria in our gut can reduce the inflammation throughout our bodies, so it’s important to eat with this in mind.

Some important nutrients for brain health include:

  • Vitamin K: Several studies suggest Vitamin K helps prevent cognitive decline. To boost Vitamin K intake, focus on leafy greens, such as spinach or kale or eat natto.
  • Omega 3’s: This fatty acid has been shown to lower levels of beta-amyloids. These are the building blocks of the amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Look for fatty fish and plant-based sources like flax seeds or avocados.
  • Flavonoids: These phytonutrients are found in many fruits and vegetables. They are particularly found in brightly coloured, flavourful foods like strawberries and blueberries. Flavonoids have been found to play a role in preventing memory decline.

Move to keep your brain active

Exercise is a must when it comes to brain health. Not only can cardio activities like swimming and walking ease stress, but physical activity can also increase the size of the hippocampus. That’s the part of our brain responsible for verbal memory, among other important functions. Exercise also helps your cardiovascular system stay healthy to prevent problems like vascular dementia.

Which exercise is best? The best activity is always the one that you enjoy and that you’re most likely to do. But experts say to strive for 75 minutes of intense activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. As an added bonus, exercise can help you sleep!

Keep learning

You’re never too old to learn something new. In fact, acquiring new knowledge can help keep your brain young. One study found that adults who learned a “complex skill” such as quilting or basic coding had improved memory function after only three months. And knowing a second language (even if you learn it late in life) can help slow memory loss. There’s a great app called Duolingo that makes learning a new language fun. You can even learn Klingon if that’s what you’re into. As we wrote in our biohacking post, learning to play an instrument helps with several brain functions.

Relax

You’ve probably noticed that when you’re stressed, your thought process isn’t as clear as it is when you’re relaxed. Scientists confirm that even short-term stress can affect the hippocampus. It’s important to note that most studies refer to a relationship between perceived stress and memory. We all have negative events in our lives and some of these can’t be avoided. But we can change how we react to them and how we deal with daily stress. It’s possible to reframe the stress of daily life and change how we perceive it. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, and psychotherapy are all effective ways to reduce our feelings of stress. With brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, stressful events can trigger a sharp decline in brain function.

Hormones

Proper brain function is also linked to hormonal balance. Having an imbalance of your cortisol levels, estrogen, melatonin, pregnenolone, testosterone or thyroid can all contribute to memory loss, confusion, and issues concentrating. Our ND’s provide extensive testing and treatment for these imbalances and can help get your brain working at peak function again.

Supplementation

Herbs and other natural supplements can help prevent and treat dementia problems. Research supports the use of Bacopa, Curcumin and Schisandra to help with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Our naturopathic doctors can provide guidance regarding the appropriateness of these herbs and the proper products and dosages.

It’s important to remember that there isn’t necessarily a “magic bullet” solution to protect your brain function. As with all elements of well-being, maximum health is the result of a consistent, holistic approach. By taking conscious steps to protect your brain health, you can minimize memory loss.

Please visit the office if you have questions about your brain health! And if you’ve noticed any symptoms that worry you, it’s important to check them out right away. Call us at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online at https://forcesofnature.janeapp.com.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc, ND

Sources:

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/related_conditions/mild-cognitive-impairment

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080311182434.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4323377/

https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/alzheimers-disease-and-dementia/stress-increases-risk-mild-cognitive-impairment/article/459497/

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-walnuts

http://www.brainfacts.org/brain-anatomy-and-function/cells-and-circuits/2012/hormones-communication-between-the-brain-and-the-body

Biohacking Secrets

Top Biohacking Tips that Everyone Should Know

pic of smartwatch with the word biohacking
Biohacking: What is it and how can it help you?

If you read about health topics, you’ve probably come across the term “biohacking”. The word sounds intimidating, but the concepts behind biohacking are actually quite simple: The goal is to “hack” your body’s natural processes to optimize your health.

Taken to extremes, biohacking’s “using yourself as a guinea pig” approach can lead to unsupervised self-experimentation. Extreme biohackers pursue activities such as trying to alter their DNA or implanting cybernetic devices into their own bodies. That is not a safe or recommended approach!

How Do You Do Biohacking?

Fortunately, thanks to our “biohacking best practices” research, you don’t have to track every nanosecond of your day or spend a small fortune to reap the rewards. Biohacking your health can be as easy as applying the latest scientific discoveries to your own life. If you follow us on Facebook or follow our blog, we’ll keep you updated and you can adjust as you go. It’s always a good approach to well-being to stay current with the ever-evolving research.

One of the central tenets of biohacking is that the things you put into your body (what you eat, the air you breathe, and supplements you take) shape your body’s output (your energy, productivity and moods). Your mitochondria are at the heart of this process.

What Are Mitochondria?

Mitochondria are the “batteries” that give energy to every cell in your body. These tiny powerhouses are easily influenced by their environment. In other words, they are impacted by everything your body is exposed to. When you improve their environment, you can improve the energy produced by them. The results? Far-reaching improvements in your overall health and energy levels.

What does this process look like in everyday life?

Well, because we’re all different, what works for one person might not work for someone else. As you make changes to your lifestyle, you should carefully monitor your progress as you go. Biohackers draw on the data they create to come up with solutions that make them feel their best. They avoid “one size fits all” formulas.

That means paying close attention to how you feel. The results are definitely worth it. By improving cellular function, biohacking your basic daily activities can have noticeable benefits. And it can be fun. After all, who doesn’t want to use science to feel better every day? Check out some easy ways to biohack your own health. The results might surprise you!

12 Aspects for Biohacking

  1. Genetics
  2. Oxygen
  3. Attention
  4. Memory
  5. Sleep
  6. Environment
  7. Audio
  8. Light
  9. Nutrition
  10. Movement
  11. Stress
  12. Electricity/Magnetism

These 12 are key areas that affect how your body works. They are also areas that you can influence. You may currently be influencing them in a negative way, or in other words doing the wrong thing. What “everyone else is doing” may not be right for your particular body. This is why “biohacking” entails a certain amount of trial and error to see what works best with your particular constitution.

5 Best Biohacking Tips

  1. Make the most of your genetics
  2. Breathing 101
  3. Hacking your attention and memory
  4. Improve your sleep
  5. Enhance your environment
  6. Listen well
  7. Light up your life
  8. Monitor your diet
  9. Focus on natural products
  10. Adapt to stress
  11. Hormones control it all

Making the most of your genetics

Having or not having a particular gene, doesn’t necessarily mean you are doomed to a particular fate. Genes can be turned on and off. They can be up or down-regulated depending on what you do.

For example, let’s say your father and grandfather both had diabetes. Maybe you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Obviously, a gene for diabetes is being passed down through your father’s family. However, you decide to eat a clean diet and exercise daily. Lo and behold, you lose weight and reverse your pre-diabetes. In ways like this, we can biohack our genetics. Gene expression can be turned off and on based on signals from your environment and from other cells. Ensuring a healthy environment externally and internally leads to healthier gene expression.

Breathing 101

Under the influence of stress, we tend to breathe more rapidly and less deeply. Deep breaths supply oxygen to your entire body, stimulates your vagus nerve and calms your nervous system. We know that a stressed out nervous system isn’t good for our overall health. Undoing the effects of stress can be as simple as conscious breathing. At least twice per day, take 5 deep breaths into your belly. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 7, release for the count of 8 each time. See how that makes you feel.

Hacking your attention and memory

Chronic deficiencies in zinc, iron, magnesium, iodine and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are linked to attention problems. Clearly, diet plays a role in maintaining healthy cognitive function. Dark, leafy greens contain zinc, iron and magnesium, shellfish, seaweed and iodized sea salt contain iodine, and fish is the optimal food for PUFAs. Low glycemic index foods also benefit attention.

In addition to foods, lifestyle can also influence attention. Meditation, deep breathing, exercise, self-discipline, and self-regulation all benefit focus, attention and cognitive function.

Hormone balance is the third factor that can influence memory, focus and concentration.

Improve your sleep

By adjusting our night routines, we can improve the quality of our sleep. Biohackers look beyond the standard advice on improving sleep to carefully consider what we surround ourselves with at bedtime. For example, you may have great results by reducing the amount of blue light you’re exposed to at night. Blue light comes from electronic devices. What can be a helpful practice is staying off your devices for 3 hours before bed or switching your devices to “night mode.” Reducing the temperature in your room and minimizing exposure to electromagnetic fields can also lead to world-class sleep.

Keep in mind that our mitochondria want to rest when it’s dark and ramp-up when it’s light. Make it easier for them by creating a sleep environment that’s as dark as possible. If needed, invest in some blackout curtains or a sleep mask. You can also create a sleep-friendly internal environment by avoiding caffeine at least eight hours before you go to sleep.

Enhance your environment

Environmental factors like cold, heat, light, electricity, and air quality influence your body’s functioning. How do you feel when it’s too hot? Too cold? Do you prefer natural light or artificial lighting?

One of the most significant influences on overall well-being can be the quality of the air you breathe. If your home is older or has sustained water damage, mold can grow. Mold spores infiltrate the air you breathe and set off an inflammatory cascade in your body that can have an incredibly detrimental effect on your health. This is a serious enough situation that if there is mold in your home, you should move or do significant repairs to remediate the mold. For detailed information about the extremely harmful impact of mold, read Surviving Mold by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker.

Listen well

The sounds you hear alter how your body works. When music enters your brain, it releases neurotransmitters called dopamine and oxytocin. These make you feel happy. Listening to music also improves your immune function. The style of music that provides these benefits isn’t that important. It’s more about what kind of music you like and relate to, whether that is jazz, country or hard rock. You may want to alter your music based on what you are doing for optimal function. While you are working or studying, classical may help with dopamine secretion, learning and memory. Pop and rock can be distracting. But, they enhance endurance and physical performance. So be sure to queue them up on your iPod when you are working out. In the evening, while you are relaxing, jazz can soothe your body and help you wind down.

Learning to play music enhances brain abilities like learning and memory.

Light up your life, or not

The timing of light entering your eyes is important and should mimic natural day and night time light patterns. Your body runs on a clock that is regulated by daylight and dark. Functions like sleeping and waking, hormone secretion, cellular function and gene expression are all influenced by the normal rhythm of day and night. Mood and immune function are impaired when this rhythm gets disrupted. As a general rule, when it gets dark outside, keep interior lighting dim and keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Avoid looking at a screen past 8 p.m. And install an app on devices to downgrade blue light and upgrade red and orange tons at sunset. Over the winter, light therapy can help alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Monitor your diet

Adjusting your nutritional intake is an easy way to start biohacking. It’s a simple concept: Any change to your diet that results in noticeable improvements in how you feel is a biohack. It goes like this: eat this, feel great, eat that, feel lousy, eliminate that, feel great.

You also want to keep in mind that what you eat influences your gut bacteria. In turn, it then affects every aspect of your health. By choosing natural, high-fiber foods, you can reduce inflammation. Too much inflammation affects mitochondria. This leads to mitochondrial malfunction, which can impact your entire body.

Biohackers are more concerned with the nutritional quality of their foods, not the calorie count. Many biohackers follow a gluten-free diet with plenty of healthy fats. Some have good results with intermittent fasting. But ultimately, the key is to pay attention to how your diet makes you look and feel and make adjustments based on that.

Focus on natural products

Even if we’re careful about what we eat, our bodies are still exposed to harmful elements as we go through the day. The water we drink, the substances we clean with, and the beauty and grooming products we use can all contain harmful toxins. These toxins impact our cellular health in ways we may not even realize. Consciously seeking out natural beauty products and non-toxic cleaning solutions helps you reduce the impact of toxic ingredients on your body.

Adapt to stress

Some biohackers use complex biofeedback systems to monitor the effect of stress on their bodies. But, controlling stress can be as simple as paying attention to your breathing. (One biohack technique is “block breathing,” which means exhaling while counting to five, then repeating the count on the inhale. Do this several times and note how you feel after.) Classic stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, and “forest bathing” (walking in the wilderness) can all contribute to lower stress levels.

It may seem like a bit of a paradox, but some biohackers recommend high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for improving a body’s ability to handle stress. That’s because HIIT emphasizes taxing a body to its maximum capacity, then allowing it to recover. As a result, we teach our bodies to be more resilient. Talk to a healthcare provider if you haven’t tried HIIT training before.

Hormones control it all

The hormonal balance in your system plays a huge role in pretty much everything. Having a balanced hormonal state is key to maintaining not just good health, but this balance also allows for all of the above-mentioned tips to actually work for you. When our hormones are out of alignment, it affects so many of our daily activities. Trying to even get through the day can be a challenge, let alone trying to take your health to another level. Achieving optimal hormone balance is doable with guidance from our ND’s.

Electricity/Magnetism

Some people are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, while others aren’t. If you think that EMR affects you, read this post for more information about what you can do about it.

As you can see, biohacking doesn’t have to be complicated. Ultimately, you’re the best scientist when it comes to your own well-being. Why not make a few simple changes to your lifestyle to see how you feel?

If you’d like to look deeper into your current status of health, find out if your hormones are causing issues in your body or learn how you can take your health to the next level, come into the office and let’s talk. We are experts in looking at the individual as a whole and creating a unique plan to get your body functioning its best.

Call us at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online at https://forcesofnature.janeapp.com.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc, ND

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22496061

http://www.jbc.org/content/280/22/21061.full

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170307155214.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/nov/18/biohackers-strange-world-diy-biology

Alcohol: Should You Quit Drinking?

woman wondering is alcohol healthy

Is Alcohol Good or Bad for You?

How is your alcohol intake? A glass of wine with dinner? A beer after a hard day of work? It’s not bad to integrate an occasional drink into a healthy lifestyle. Or is it?

In recent years, we’ve read that red wine is rich with antioxidants, like resveratrol. And that an occasional beer can raise “good” cholesterol. But, results from a new study suggest that even moderate alcohol consumption may actually be bad for us. In other words, the much-heralded health benefits of drinking don’t outweigh the risks. Perhaps there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

A recently published research study looks at data collected in almost 700 other studies, spanning 195 countries and territories. Some of the findings are startling:

  • Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death in the 15 through 49 age group.
  • Alcohol use was responsible for 2.8 million deaths worldwide in 2016.
  • For women in particular, the health risks increase with age. Alcohol was responsible for over 27 percent of cancer deaths in women over 50.

The authors of the study are firm in their conclusion: “By evaluating all associated relative risks for alcohol use, we found that consuming zero standard drinks daily minimizes the overall risk to health.”

In other words, the only safe amount of alcoholic drinks is none at all. This finding differs from many earlier studies, which often concluded that moderate drinking was the best approach.

Why the Difference in Opinion?

Why did this study reach a more decisive conclusion than previous examinations of alcohol’s effect on health? Several factors come into play. This study was careful to consider the ways they measured consumption. For example, researchers looked at regional variations in alcohol consumption that could be attributed to things like tourism.

In addition, the study looked at alcohol’s impact on 23 different health-related problems. For some of those problems (such as heart disease), mild alcohol consumption had a positive effect. But that positive effect was balanced by a greater negative impact on other health issues (cancer is a good example).

Should I Quit Drinking?

What does this mean for you? If you drink, should you stop? Alcohol consumption is a very personal decision. This study looked at the picture worldwide. It was not studying individuals, but rather analyzing vast amounts of data previously collected, specifically looking at the risks for 23 health issues. That data was conclusive. But it’s up to you how you apply it to your own life. This latest study can’t, for example, tell you if it’s OK to have some wine for New Year’s given your own unique genetics and other lifestyle factors.

Assessing Your Risk from Alcohol

One thing is clear: If you’ve told yourself that drinking is healthy, you may want to reconsider that rationale. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must immediately quit. However, in deciding whether or not alcohol is something you want in your life, it’s best to be realistic about the health risks.

You also want to look at your own medical history and perhaps check out more specific studies. For example, another recently published study concluded that alcohol is the biggest controllable risk factor for dementia. If you have other dementia risk factors that are out of your control, such as genetic history, you may want to take action on the things that you can control.

Similarly, if you have a history of depression, consider alcohol’s impact on mental health. If you are trying to control your weight, the extra calories from alcohol aren’t going to help. Alcohol can also lower your judgment and keep you from making your best decisions.

The nurses’ health study found that moderate alcohol intake places women at higher risk for breast cancer and bone fractures, and higher intake increases your risk for colon polyps and colon cancer. Several studies have noted this same increased risk of breast cancer for women who consume alcohol, even in moderation.

Tips to Stop Drinking Alcohol

If you’re wondering about alcohol, talk to one of our healthcare practitioners. And be upfront about your drinking during the visit. Many people under-report how much they drink, but it’s best to be honest. You want to have an open discussion about all of your health concerns. Remember that our healthcare providers aren’t looking to judge you: they want to work with you to create your best life.

Quitting drinking can be much like quitting smoking for some people. Here are some tips to help you quit drinking:

Set a date

Set a date for when you want to quit and let your friends know.  Planning a date can help you get organized and telling your friends helps them help you and keeps you accountable.

Affirmation

An affirmation is a positive statement repeated often to create a desired change in your life. Repeating it not only helps to remind you why you are no longer drinking but imprints a new mental image of health so that your body can then produce it. For example: “I am a non-drinker. I choose to be healthy.”

Have a Support Person

The decision to stop drinking is a big one. You may have moments when you really struggle. Ask someone who is fairly available and reliable to provide reinforcement and encouragement when you need it. Much like a sponsor does in AA.

Manage cravings

Cravings can feel like they will last forever but in reality, they fade in two minutes. Plan what you will do during a craving. Examples: Have a nutritious snack, take your vitamins; repeat your affirmation; take some deep breaths; go for a walk; hum a song or call your support person. Our naturopathic doctors have lots of other tips to help with cravings.  

Make Alcohol Inconvenient

Don’t keep alcohol in your home. Avoid passing by the liquor store or your favourite bar. The more inconvenient it is to drink, the easier it will be to avoid giving in to cravings.

Set Boundaries

You may have to modify other behaviours to support your new abstainer status. For example, if your usual ritual is to hit the bar with friends on a Friday night, you may want to arrange to meet at a café instead. When possible stay away from situations where you are surrounded by drinkers, such as parties, until you feel more confident with your new non-drinking status.

Visualize

Use visualization to see yourself in certain situations without drinking – at a friend’s wedding, at a family function, going out for dinner. Seeing yourself in your mind’s eye in those situations successfully abstaining can help them become a reality.

Keep a Journal

Keep a journal or diary where you write down details of when you either had cravings for alcohol or where you lapsed and had a drink. Knowing the circumstances where you run into difficulties can help you avoid those situations in future. Write down your reasons for quitting alcohol and your affirmation.

Refrain from drinking coffee

Research shows that coffee causes cravings and dehydrates you.

Drink water

Research shows that dehydration causes cravings. Sip water frequently throughout the day. If you are in a social situation where everyone is drinking, having a drink of water in your hand can help.

Find New Healthy Habits

Drinking is a habit. To change a habit, it sometimes helps to adopt a new one that is at odds with the one that you are trying to quit. A healthy habit like a green smoothie or going to the gym can help by replacing less healthy ones.

Save money!

Put the money you would have spent on alcohol in a separate account to splurge on something fun like a new pair of shoes or a special vacation.

Use an app.

As with just about everything, there is an app for that. Sober Grid, Sobriety Counter and Nomo are just a few apps that are available on both Android and Iphone for free.

Bonus: These same tips can be applied to any habit that you would like to break – coffee, smoking, overeating etc. We can help.

Could the Study Be Wrong?

Some patients express frustration at the different results they see in health studies: One minute something is good for you, then suddenly we need to avoid it! Studies on alcohol use can be proof that when we read an eye-catching health-related headline, we need to look beyond the numbers.

One thing to keep in mind is that the media will typically seize the most dramatic sound bite. It’s almost impossible to convey the nuances of a well-run scientific study in a short headline. For example, a news story doesn’t always mention who funded the study. For the record, the Lancet study on alcohol safety was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. While some others that emphasized alcohol’s benefits were funded by companies who produce and sell alcohol. That doesn’t necessarily mean the studies were false. But, we should always remember that those who financed the study, and those who work for them, have a vested interest in how the results are interpreted and reported.

Correlation Doesn’t Equal Causation

As well, correlation doesn’t always equal causation. What that means is that if two behaviours are often seen together, it doesn’t mean that one causes the other.  For example, new parents are often sleep-deprived and tired.  As a result, they may drink more coffee.  It doesn’t mean that babies make you drink coffee.  The difference between correlation and causation can sometimes be hard to capture in large studies. In fact, there are studies that show that resveratrol, the aforementioned antioxidant found in red wine, is beneficial to your health. However, if you have other health issues like poor gut function, low energy, sleep issues and more, alcohol will likely have negative impacts and could make your health issues worse.

What Should You do About Alcohol?

Whenever you’re confused about a health issue, the best approach is to consider it from a sample study of one: yourself. Be aware of how alcohol intake makes you feel. Be aware of your own family history and other risk factors that you may have. Then talk to one of our healthcare providers about your own personal history and your current health concerns. We can help you sort through all of the information you face every day and figure out what’s best for your unique self. In fact, we are experts in doing just that! Give our office a call, we are always here to help 416-481-0222.

Sources:
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(18)30022-7/fulltext
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874911/
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31310-2/fulltext
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27459455
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26286216

Holiday Health: Top 10 Tips

one of our 10 healthy holiday tips

Are you enjoying the final stretch of 2018? It’s a fantastic and fun time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also a difficult period for maintaining healthy habits. Check out our wellness professionals’ list of the top 10 ways to stay healthy and happy over the holiday season.

Re-frame your holiday expectations

Do you think of the holidays as an exhausting test of your endurance? Are holiday treats evil temptations to be resisted with all available willpower? Do you strive to find the perfect gift for everyone? This line of thinking transforms the wonder of the season into a giant stressor. Many patients come into the office at this time of the year showing signs of anxiety and tension. In fact, one study found that 90 percent of adults feel stressed over the holidays. Isn’t thissupposed to be a joyous time?

This tension may be at least partly attributed to the fact that many of us simply have more to do at this time of the year. Because we have more tasks to keep track of (even if those tasks are fun -parties, buying gifts, and other enjoyable things), our prefrontal cortex (in our brain) is overtaxed. This can affect our memory and overall ability to cope. Many feel overwhelmed by it all. Add in the extra pressure of maintaining a perfect diet and workout schedule, and you have a recipe for sleep problems, digestive difficulties, and tense muscles. All of which can add to our stress. And when we’re stressed, we tend to overeat. This is why holiday stress can create a vicious cycle of guilt.

Reframing our expectation that we need to have a “perfect” holiday while staying disciplined can end the frustration. So don’t beatyourself up if everything doesn’t go as planned. In the long run,our happiest memories are sometimes the ones when things didn’t goas planned. It certainly makes for the best stories! Letting go ofexpectations of perfection (from ourselves and others) willultimately help our health and relationships.

Play games

If you get together with family or friends in the next weeks, why not introduce a low-tech way to have some old-fashioned fun by playing board games? Board games can also offer cognitive benefits – not that you need an excuse to start rolling the dice.

One of our favourite family traditions i to add some new board games to our stash. While the kids are off school, and work schedules have slowed down, we take advantage of the opportunity to try some new ones. Our most recent favourite is called Forbidden Island.  It’s a cooperative game that requires us to strategize and play together to get us all off of the island with the loot.  If you want to try before you buy, an excellent way to do so is through a board game café. Forces of Nature had our last staff get-together at one and a great time was had by all.

Stay mindful

Mindfulness practice has obvious benefits when we’re extremely busy. Even if you’re not a regular meditator, just five minutes a day of meditation can help you cope with holiday stress.

Try this: once or twice per day, take 5 deep breaths, all the way into your belly and all the way out. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7 and breathe out for a count of 8. And why not share the love? Suggest a short meditation before bed each night with your partner and/or your kids. It can set the tone for a relaxing sleep and a peaceful holiday celebration. Studies show that group meditation can have powerful results. Instilling healthy practices as a family can have lasting health benefits for everyone.

Get moving

Fitting in some exercise can be easier when you include physical activities with loved ones. Snowshoeing, a snowball fight, making snowmen or an igloo, a winter hike, and skating are some fun options. If you’re not a cold-weather person, try bowling or a trip to the pool or indoor waterpark. You may not end up with six-pack abs, but might start a new holiday tradition. Suggesting fun physical activities for social gatherings also helps take the focus off food and drink.

Cook up some love

Looking for a unique gift idea? Want to stay away from the mall and its atmosphere of seemingly relentless consumerism? Try baking some holiday gifts. For example, put some homemade sweet and spicy holiday almonds into a jar with a beautiful bow. You can find a good recipe here: https://mywholefoodlife.com/2012/11/28/sweet-and-spicy-holiday-almonds/). Or wrap up a box of vegan hazelnut cups. (This recipe is amazing! https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16557/like-nutella-try-these-vegan-hazelnut-cups.html). You can even start making some natural soaps or salves as gifts. It’s easy, natural and fun!

Personally, I cooked up some Calendula salve and Calendula oil to deliver to our office’s neighbours this year. It’s really actually pretty simple and Calendula is one of my favourite healing herbs. Calendula oil has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. It’s also used as an antiseptic. You could use this for diaper rash, scrapes, scratches, razor burn, sores, blisters, bruises, mild burns, hot spots, insect bites and dry skin areas.

Here’s my secret Calendula salve recipe: This recipe makes 4 cups of Calendula oil. You can use the oil topically as is or use the oil to make a salve. Take ¼ pound of dried Calendula flowers and put it in your slow cooker. Pour 1.5 litres of grapeseed oil over the Calendula. Turn the slow cooker on low. Let it cook for 1-3 hours. Do not overdo it.  More cooking is not better. Strain the oil through a strainer and cheesecloth.

To make the salve, I took 3 cups of the Calendula oil and put it in the top pot of a double boiler with water underneath. I added 1.5 cups of beeswax pellets and stirred these together just until the beeswax was fully melted. This will solidify quickly, so you want to have tins already prepared to pour the wax/oil combination into. 3 cups of Calendula oil plus 1.5 cups of beeswax made 24 – 50 ml tins of calendula salve. You probably don’t need that much, but hey, maybe you want to make Calendula salve for everyone in the family.

Go green

When you’re thinking about ways to keep your body healthy over the holidays, don’t forget that the planet deserves some love too. It’s easy to have a green holiday season (even if it’s snowing). Use recycled wrapping paper, serve food on real plates (not paper), and consider turning the heat down a degree or two for large gatherings (maybe you’ll encourage guests to bring out their tacky holiday sweaters). To conserve electricity, use LED lights only, and defrost your freezer before you load it up with holiday baking. Think about gifting experiences or donations to worthy causes rather than “stuff” that just ends up in a landfill.

Learn to say no

This is a tough one for many patients who come to our office. However sometimes refusing a social invitation ora request to work extra is the healthiest choice for everyone involved. If you find it hard to turn down an invitation or request, remember that you don’t have to apologize. Decline right away and resist the urge to make up an elaborate excuse. Suggest an alternative activity or a later date – but only if you really want to.

Keep your gut healthy

Sugar-laden holiday treats, cocktails and parties galore can really put a damper on your gut health. Extra sugar lowers your immune system and can lead to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in your gut. As insurance, you can takea high-quality probiotic and some digestive enzymes prior to meals. This gives your gut a healthy boost and some assistance dealing withheavier meals than you may be used to.

Start some healthy food traditions

The internet is bursting with healthy holiday recipes. Some of your seasonal favourites may have been re-worked into a healthier alternative. Think about your loved ones’ food preferences and find some yummy dishes to bring to gatherings. For example, here are some outstanding vegan holiday dishes: https://minimalistbaker.com/christmas-recipe-roundup/. Other guests might thank you for providing an alternative to Aunt Betty’s fruitcake! Try replacing carb-heavy side dishes with healthy ones like rutabaga and carrot mash or creamy butternut squash and thyme! Remember it’s OK to say no or have just a spoon or two of your favourites.

Be grateful

The holidays don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we have to go to work instead of making family dinners. Sometimes we miss people who are no longer in our lives. Family gatherings can make their absence that much more poignant. It’s also quite normal to experience sadness at this time of the year. Acknowledge your feelings and be gentle with yourself. Take some time to think of the good things (even if they’re not always picture-perfect). Grateful people experience better sleep, more optimism, and improved relationships. And we could all use a bit of that at this time of the year.

Happy New Year from all of us! We look forward to working with you to create a fulfilling and healthy start to 2019.  If you need an acupuncturist, psychotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, massage therapist, dietitian or naturopath, we have them all here for you.

Sources

http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain
https://www.healio.com/psychiatry/journals/jpn/2017-12-55-12/%7Ba2fc3f63-4c18-455c-a761-5efae89bb9fb%7D/three-simple-mindfulness-practices-to-manage-holiday-stress#x02793695-20171117-01-bibr26
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/254796
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21075238
https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping/page/0/1

Food Sensitivities

man suffering from food sensitivities

Food Sensitivities: What You Need to Know

You’re careful about your health. You do your best to eat well, and you pay attention to the ways that your diet affects your energy levels. But something seems off. You’re experiencing annoying symptoms that you can’t explain. Maybe you have food sensitivities?  You’re often gassy and bloated, your skin may not be clear and glowing anymore, you may be ready for a nap after a meal and you wish you could remember where you put your keys. Why does your memory feel so foggy?

These issues are frustrating (and often embarrassing). They’re also very common. Many patients come to see us with healthy lifestyles but are baffled by continuing digestive issues, mysterious rashes, and low energy levels. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to take a good look at your diet. Even a “healthy” food can make you sick if your body is sensitive to it. For many, the food mystery becomes both frustrating and overwhelming when trying to understand what foods are nourishing you and which ones may be harming you.

But the good news is that you may not have to look very far to make changes that relieve your symptoms. With a bit of detective work and our help, we can map out a dietary plan that restores your well-being.

What are the Symptoms of Food Sensitivities?

Food sensitivities can be tricky to diagnose. One reason is that there’s no one-size-fits-all list of food sensitivities or description of the way your body may react. Symptoms can vary from person to person and can even be different depending on what else is happening in your body. For example, you might respond differently at different stages of your menstrual cycle.

Food sensitivity symptoms can include:

Gas
Bloating
Constipation
Diarrhea
Heartburn/GERD
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Swollen or painful joints
Muscle weakness
Migraines
Headaches
Dark circles under your eyes
Skin rashes like eczema and psoriasis
Brain fog – that annoying forgetfulness and lack of clarity
Acne
Fatigue
Difficulty getting up in the morning

Another reason why food sensitivities are often a missed diagnosis is that these symptoms can be delayed up to 48 hours after the food that is causing them. So many people don’t make the connection between what they ate and how they feel as much as 2 days later.

Similarly, it’s difficult to measure how many people suffer from food sensitivities because a lot of us don’t seek medical help, figuring that it’s “normal” to feel gassy and tired all of the time. In fact, conventional medical practitioners can be sceptical about food sensitivity symptoms, which can lead to frustration for patients. But it doesn’t have to be this way, not with our doctors.

What is a Food Allergy?

It’s important to recognize the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. What is commonly called a food allergy is an immune reaction. After eating a certain food, your body’s immune system launches an attack by making an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The next time you consume that food, your body is ready to attack again. But the IgE antibody causes your body to release a chemical called histamine, which triggers the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction. The most severe version of this is called anaphylaxis or an anaphylactic reaction. This extreme food allergy reaction can be lethal. Common foods that provoke an anaphylactic reaction include wheat, soy, peanuts, shellfish, milk and eggs. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include throat swelling, lip swelling, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing and hives.

What is a Food Sensitivity?

In contrast, a food sensitivity is often caused by a different antibody, known as IgG antibodies. IgG antibodies provoke a milder immune reaction than IgE and so this is considered a food sensitivity rather than a food allergy. In both cases, your immune system is responding inappropriately to your food. But the reactions differ in intensity. IgG-mediated food sensitivities are not lethal but do affect people’s quality of life with the above-mentioned symptoms.

What If You Eat Your Food Sensitivities?

If we continue to eat the problem foods, we can exacerbate the sensitivities and our symptoms can affect more aspects of our bodies. Because our immune system creates antibodies against the food the lining of the gut can become inflamed and damaged. Eventually, the gut wall can become permeable, so that undigested food material “leaks” into the bloodstream. Not surprisingly, this is called “leaky gut” syndrome.

Why does leaky gut syndrome make us feel so lousy? There is growing evidence that the microorganisms in our guts exist in a complex relationship with our brains – what scientists call the “microbiome-gut-brain axis.” In other words, food sensitivities and the resulting leaky gut can affect our brains. And, as a result, our moods and energy levels. And that’s in addition to the general discomfort we can feel with digestive difficulties. No wonder patients with food sensitivities are often exhausted!

But what is the root cause of food sensitivities?

Research is still developing, but there are a few theories, ranging from changes in farming practices to the increased use of antibiotics, which can affect our gut bacteria and make it more difficult to digest certain foods.

What is a Food Intolerance?

A food intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzymes necessary to digest a substance that the food contains. For example, some people may develop a lactose intolerance if their intestinal mucosa doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase. A lactose tolerance test is used to diagnose lactose intolerance.

Which Foods Can Cause Food Sensitivities?

Somewhat ironically, many foods that can lead to sensitivity symptoms are considered “healthy” foods. In fact, ANY food can trigger an immune response.  As a result, it’s easy to keep eating them, hoping they will improve your health and help you feel better. Yes, it’s a bit of a Catch-22! Common food sensitivity culprits include:

Dairy: The proteins casein and whey found in goat, sheep and cow milk, as well as cheeses, ice cream and yogurt are difficult for our gut to break down. The immune system then reacts against what it perceives as “foreign” protein. Your immune system is programmed to be on the lookout for foreign proteins from viruses and bacteria. So other foreign proteins like casein and whey, if not properly digested, can trigger an immune response.

Gluten: Gluten is a protein (or family of proteins) found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, and other grass-related grains. It’s often a hidden ingredient. For example, many spices, sauces and processed foods can contain gluten. Because it is a protein, similar to casein and whey if it’ is not broken down, it can generate an immune response.

Which Foods Can Cause Food Intolerances?

Fructose intolerance: Fructose is a simple sugar found in many fruits. A fructose intolerance, also known as fructose malabsorption, is caused by an inability to absorb this sugar. Unabsorbed fructose leads to fructose fermentation in the gut, causing bloating and gas. Excessive fructose in the gut can also cause diarrhea. High fructose corn syrup is found in processed foods like cereal bars and some juices.

Histamine and other amines: Histamine is found in greater amounts in aged or stored foods such as cheese, ripe fruit, chocolate, and processed meats. These foods are often migraine triggers for people with a histamine intolerance. Normally dietary histamine is broken down in your gut by an enzyme known as DAO. Some people are genetically predisposed to low levels of DAO. Undigested histamine can create inflammatory conditions like headaches, migraines, foggy thinking, and pain.

Lactose intolerance: Lactose is a sugar present in varying amounts in dairy products like milk and cheese.  The enzyme lactase is normally located on the lining of your gut, also called the brush border.  As we age, it is normal for us to lose the ability to digest lactose.  It’s present in highest amounts when we are born and declines after we are weaned.  Where cattle are domesticated and used to produce dairy products, the presence of the enzyme can persist, but not in everyone.  If you lack the enzyme and can’t digest lactose, you may experience symptoms like bloating, gas and diarrhea from the undigested lactose in your gut.

This is not an extensive list of food allergy or food sensitivity triggers. We’re all different, and there is no universal recipe for food sensitivities. That’s one reason why seeing a naturopathic doctor is a good idea if you suspect your food may be making you sick. In addition, our medical supervision can ensure your approach to food remains healthy and balanced. Research suggests that food sensitivities can be a trigger for disordered eating in some people. After all, if food is causing you pain, but you’re not sure which foods are to blame, it’s easy to associate all food with negative experiences.

How Can You Treat Food Sensitivities?

On the surface, treating a food sensitivity sounds simple: just eliminate the problem foods. But first, you’ll have to do a bit of detective work. Because of possible delayed reaction times, the troublesome food is not always obvious. There are tests that can be done that will give you a comprehensive list of what is creating a reaction and you can eliminate the culprits, allowing your body to heal faster. A blood test for food sensitivities can help pinpoint which foods to eliminate. The test identifies IgG antibodies in your bloodstream to either 96 or 184 foods. Our naturopathic doctors can provide information about this test.  Although it may be common to produce these antibodies to foods, it is not normal for your immune system to attack food. After testing, our naturopathic doctors can then provide specifics about what to take out, for how long and which foods you could eat as alternatives. Alternatively, you can choose to keep detailed records of everything you eat. Then, under naturopathic supervision, you can start eliminating foods, then reintroducing selected foods, carefully tracking your symptoms. This is also known as an elimination-challenge diet.

While you’re following an elimination diet like this, our naturopathic doctors can provide ways to support your gut health. And as you work to track down the problem foods, you’ll want to avoid substances that are known to cause gut inflammation, such as alcohol.

 Immune System Involvement?Antibody Involved?SymptomsTestingLife-threatening?
Food AllergyYesIgEItchy mouth, itchy throat, throat constriction, swelling, airway constriction, hives, anaphylaxis,abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrheaSkin prick testing performed by an allergistCan be
Food SensitivityYesIgG and/or IgABloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, sinus problems, muscle weakness, joint pain, acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives, fatigue, recurrent infectionsBlood test for IgG or IgA antibodies to foods OR Food Elimination-Challenge diet through a naturopathic doctor
No, but do affect quality of life
Food IntoleranceNoNoneBloating, gas, diarrheaFructose or Lactose Intolerance Test, ordered by an MDNo, but do affect quality of life

Do you think your foods might be causing your health issues? We have testing and treatment to help you understand which foods are helping you and which ones may be harming you. It may not be the foods you suspect. It can even be perfectly healthy foods like avocado, blueberries, salmon and almonds for example.  We’ve seen these foods test positive on food sensitivity testing in our patients. Contact us and we will work together to find the potentially hidden food triggers for your health issues.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Maria@ForcesofNature.ca

To your best health!

Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Food Sensitivities References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28936357

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5603184/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953608002773

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7460264

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-018-0064-z

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453018303950

https://journals.lww.com/co-gastroenterology/Abstract/2016/03000/A_gut__microbiome__feeling_about_the_brain.7.aspx

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10009-food-problems-is-it-an-allergy-or-sensitivities

Hormone Imbalance

woman with a hormone imbalance

Hormone Imbalance: Estrogen Dominance

What Does Estrogen Do?

Estrogen plays an important role throughout the course of our reproductive lives and beyond. It regulates our menstrual cycle, prepares the uterine lining for pregnancy, strengthens our bones, and much more. This hormone is indispensable for blood glucose regulation, a robust immune system, bone health, cardiovascular health, fertility, and brain function. Hormone imbalance related to estrogen can cause multiple problems.

How Do You Know if Your Estrogen Is Too High?

When our estrogen levels drop, we experience peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms. But even well before this, inappropriate levels of this vital hormone can wreak havoc. That’s because estrogen requires a delicate balance with other hormones. When that balance is disturbed, resulting in hormone imbalance, we can experience a wide range of frustrating symptoms.

Hormonal imbalance most often occurs during a particularly busy time of our lives, the period from about age 20 through to menopause. As a result, in our practice, we see many women who are dealing with unexplained weight gain, mood swings, heavy periods, painful periods and libido problems. Because estrogen is involved in so many of your body’s systems, estrogen can be at the centre of many human pathologies.  This includes infectious, autoimmune, metabolic and degenerative diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.

How Do You Know if You Have Estrogen Dominance?

Estrogen dominance can impact many areas of our lives, with symptoms that range from subtle shifts to major disruptions in well-being. Many women assume these issues are a normal part of life or a consequence of their stress levels. But even a slight imbalance in hormone levels can lead to a number of problems.
Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, but symptoms of this hormone imbalance often include:

Does that list look familiar? We see many women every single month with complaints like these. We understand how frustrating these symptoms can be, especially when you are unable to find answers or treatment for hormonal imbalance. And, of course, the complex relationship between estrogen and our emotions can only amplify the frustration.

What About Men and Estrogen?

It’s not only women who can experience this particular hormone imbalance. You may be surprised to know that men can suffer an excess of estrogen as well. In men, estrogen dominance can manifest a bit differently, with some of these symptoms being common:

  • Enlarged breasts
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Midsection fat

What Causes Estrogen Dominance?

To better understand estrogen dominance, we have to consider the role of another important hormone, progesterone. Progesterone and estrogen maintain an often tricky seesaw in our bodies. Prior to menopause, the balance shifts at different stages of the menstrual cycle. Estrogen dominance isn’t necessarily a surge of estrogen, but an imbalance in that seesaw. Simply put, estrogen dominance means that the seesaw tips to one side because there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. There’s actually no “set” number we can measure for this hormone imbalance that proves an estrogen dominance diagnosis. It’s the overall hormonal symptom picture that helps to make the diagnosis.

How does estrogen become dominant?

A key factor for some women is the timing. Or, to be more specific, the time of our lives. Consider a normal menstrual cycle during our earlier reproductive years: After we ovulate at mid-cycle, our bodies produce progesterone to balance out estrogen.
But as we near menopause, we increasingly have menstrual cycles when we do not ovulate. As a result, there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. Enter estrogen dominance — and its long list of possible symptoms. To a certain extent in women in their 40’s and up, hormone imbalance is a natural and expected part of our ageing process.

In younger women, estrogen-dominance can occur due to several factors. Lifestyle choices that increase insulin, increase the activity of the estrogen-producing enzyme, aromatase. Choices like carb and sugar intake, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyles, high-stress jobs or long work hours can increase your insulin load, aggravating estrogen-dominance.

How is Your Liver Involved?

Your liver is responsible for maintaining a healthy balance of estrogen. It supplies the building block for all hormones, cholesterol. It is also responsible for fully breaking down estrogen into a form that your body recognizes as waste so that it can be eliminated through your digestive tract. If your liver is lacking in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it can’t fully metabolize estrogen for elimination. Diets rich in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower can help. As can eating lots of leafy green vegetables.

Contributing Factors to Estrogen Dominance

Recent years have seen a rise in estrogen-dominance complaints.  Our lifestyle may be a big factor. Environmental and behavioural issues can increase estrogen levels, tipping the seesaw even further. What’s to blame? Take a look at this list.

  1. Excess body fat can increase estrogen levels since fat cells produce estrogen. Of course, this creates a frustrating cycle for some women, as the fatigue associated with estrogen dominance makes it difficult to exercise and lose weight.
  2. Chronic stress will throw off your hormonal balance, often resulting in excess estrogen. In times of stress, your body produces too much cortisol. Cortisol negatively affects progesterone production, so the result is a shortage of progesterone to balance the body’s estrogen. Cortisol also has the effect of increasing your blood sugar and insulin, leading to increased aromatase activity and estrogen production.
  3. Hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills. Consistently adding hormones to your body may overwhelm your liver’s ability to effectively remove any extra estrogen.
  4. Environmental sources of estrogen in our environment, particularly with regard to chemicals found in plastics and pesticides can negatively affect hormone levels. Here is where healthy liver detoxification and elimination is also important. We’re all exposed to pollutants like dioxin. Maintaining efficient liver processing through supporting phase I and phase II detoxification keeps these toxins moving out of your body rather than accumulating.
  5. Lack of melatonin. When we’re not getting enough sleep, our melatonin levels decrease. And melatonin helps regulate estrogen levels. In other words, if we don’t have enough melatonin to keep estrogen in check, we can end up in a cycle of sleep trouble.

How Can You Reverse Hormone Imbalance?

We can work with you to re-balance your hormone havoc. Starting with an accurate diagnosis, we can create a lifestyle plan that works for you. As a starting point, these changes are recommended:

  1. Increase your intake of fibre. Insoluble fibre can bind with estrogen in our digestive tract. As a result, excess estrogen is eliminated with a high-fibre diet.
  2. Go organic. Many pesticides have been identified as estrogen disruptors. That means they disturb the natural balance of estrogen. Research is still being done in this area, but the connection is becoming clear. Plus, organic food is delicious!
  3. Get enough sleep. We know – you’re busy. But sleep will help restore your melatonin levels and, subsequently, your estrogen balance.
  4. Choose your health and beauty products wisely. Xenoestrogens have a similar molecular structure to estrogen. Bisphenol A (BPA), which is often used in plastics, is an example of a xenoestrogen. When these substances enter our bodies, our system reacts as if they are actual estrogen. Some simple steps, such as avoiding plastic food storage containers and products with artificial scents, can help reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens. Phthalates are another endocrine-disrupting chemical that is found in cosmetics like nail polish. One study found that increased levels of phthalate metabolites in urine were associated with symptoms such as headaches, repeated coughing, diarrhoea, and hormonal problems They have been linked with reproductive disorders and infertility in both men and women.
  5. Get moving. Exercise will relieve stress levels and could help reduce body fat. Strength training and yoga are great activities.
  6. Decrease stress. Again, we realize that this is easier said than done! But an estrogen-dominant diagnosis might be the wake-up call you need to take a step back and assess your stress levels. Are you doing too much?

In Conclusion

Do you think you might have a hormone imbalance? Do the estrogen dominance symptoms sound a bit too familiar? There is help! A few simple steps including a disciplined lifestyle with wise dietary choices and support for healthy estrogen elimination can help you restore balanced estrogen levels and feel like yourself again. Please contact us and we’ll help you get to the bottom of what’s going on and create a plan of action to bring your body back to balance.
Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Maria@ForcesofNature.ca

Authored by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Hormone Imbalance References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC313802
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10188197
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15276966
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11602005
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12644393
Patel S, Homaei A, Raju AB, Meher BR. Estrogen: The necessary evil for human health, and ways to tame it. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Jun;102:403-411. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.03.078. Epub 2018 Mar 22.
Wallner P, Kundi M, Hohenblum P, Scharf S, Hutter HP. Phthalate Metabolites, Consumer Habits and Health Effects. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jul 15;13(7). pii: E717. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13070717.

Gibson DA, Simitsidellis I, Collins F, Saunders PTK. Endometrial Intracrinology: Oestrogens, Androgens and Endometrial Disorders. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Oct 22;19(10). pii: E3276. doi: 10.3390/ijms19103276.

Low Libido

Picture of woman with low libido

Low Libido? Here’s Why You Aren’t in the Mood

You love your partner, but your low libido is causing problems. Between late nights, early mornings, work stress, family obligations, and a million other balls in the air, there is little time and energy left for sex. Relationships change, and sex drive softens as we age… so, it’s perfectly normal, right?

Not necessarily. In fact, some reports suggest that our best love-making years are the ones that may lie ahead of us. A recent survey of 5,000 singles of all ages, ethnicities and income levels across the U.S. revealed that the best sex happens at age 66 for women and at 64 for men. It is at this time that our youthful self-consciousness wears off, communication becomes more comfortable, and greater creativity is embraced. So, if others are having the best sex of their lives as they grow older, perhaps it’s worth considering why you’re not interested in sex at all?

What Causes Low Libido?

There are multiple causes of low libido. These may be physical, cultural, emotional, medical, psychological or due to your relationship with your partner. Some common causes of low libido include:

  1. Hormones
  2. Fatigue
  3. Sleep apnea or lack of sleep
  4. Stress
  5. Sedentary lifestyle
  6. Physical issues, like low blood flow

Hormones

One of the biggest influences on libido is our hormones. Hormones affect so many different parts of your body that when one such chemical is out of sync, it causes a nasty mix of symptoms in many areas. Hormones that specifically have an impact on sexual health include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Estrogen & Progesterone

When our bodies slow down on progesterone production, it leads to estrogen dominance. So, this causes low libido in women. This happens naturally during perimenopause.  Or, it is also brought on by stress, poor diet, and sluggish liver detoxification of estrogen.

Symptoms of a progesterone deficiency include decreased clitoral sensitivity, vaginal dryness, loss of vaginal muscle tension. As well, low progesterone causes more general mood-killers like fatigue, weight gain, headaches, and depression. Interestingly, a lack of estrogen also causes similar symptoms. If any combination of these issues sounds familiar to you, it might be your hormones blocking your path to pleasure. We can help sort them out to boost libido.

Testosterone

If you’ve always thought testosterone was only important for men, think again. Reduced testosterone levels have an impact on libido for both sexes.

In women, testosterone is what gives orgasms their oomph, heightening the sexual experience. As you can imagine, low testosterone is going to have the opposite effect, reducing sexual desire, sexual activity, and satisfaction. Low testosterone levels in women also result in lethargy, depression, and muscle weakness. In post-menopausal years, low ovarian function and adrenal fatigue reduce the amount of testosterone a woman produces.

Meanwhile, testosterone levels in men gradually decline with age. Testosterone deficiency in men not only diminishes libido and cause erectile dysfunction, but it can also result in a wide range of other symptoms including anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, poor memory, and reduced muscle and bone mass. Men of all ages can have low testosterone levels. Environmental pollutants, like BPA from plastics, that behave like estrogen disrupt the normal production of testosterone. Helping your liver with efficient removal of these toxins helps restore normal testosterone levels and libido.

Low Energy

Another one of the reasons people often associate a low libido with ageing is due to the decrease in energy that comes with getting older. The same could be said about life after kids. As we age or when we become parents, our sleep patterns are interrupted with more frequent awakenings. If you’re going to bed exhausted at the end of the day or waking up tired, the last thing on your mind is intimacy with your partner.

And as mentioned before, fatigue and lethargy can also be a result of hormonal imbalances in women. You see, when it comes to our bodies, everything is connected, which is why it is so important to think of our health as a whole and not in separate parts. In order for us to get better, we need to identify and treat the cause, not the symptoms.

Having an underactive thyroid contributes to low energy and low libido. Think of your thyroid like the gas pedal for your body. It regulates the speed that all of your systems run. If it is sluggish, everything slows down, which leads to lower energy, weight gain, and low libido because the reproductive organs may produce lower hormone levels.

Lack of sleep

The libido-crushing effects of a poor-quality sleep do not only impact seniors and parents but feeling sleepy and irritable can happen to the best of us. Those who suffer from insomnia, irregular sleep patterns, who short-change ourselves on sleep or have sleep apnea may also relate.

In one study, sleep apnea was shown to have an impact on testosterone levels in men, which would then lead to lower sex drive.

Stress

Stress negatively impacts sex drive by throwing your hormone balance out of whack. When we’re running at top speed on life’s hamster wheel, we produce an excess of cortisol – our stress hormone. The spike in our cortisol levels then ends up blocking our progesterone receptors. Your body also depletes your progesterone to turn it into cortisol. The irony is that sex is a huge stress buster. If stress or other emotional factors are killing your sex drive, it may be worth a consult with our resident psychotherapist, Ichih Wang.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Lack of physical activity negatively impacts mood, decreases your energy and endurance, lowers your self-esteem and negatively impacts hormone balance.

Physical issues

There are a number of health concerns that make intercourse uncomfortable or painful. As a result, there is a negative association with intimacy and a natural aversion to it. Vulvodynia, endometriosis, menopause, vaginismus, chronic yeast/BV or recurring bladder infections can all lead to low libido. Our naturopathic doctors relieve all of these issues.

Natural Treatments for a Low Libido

1. Get Your Hormone Levels Checked

Our bodies are constantly changing, and the longer we ignore symptoms, the more out of balance we can get. When it comes to conditions brought on by our hormones, there is no reason why we have to “learn to live with it”. Start by getting your hormone levels tested properly in order to identify if an imbalance might be at play. Natural hormone balancing options exist and can help get you back on track to feeling like yourself again. Blood work to assess hormones related to libido should include tests for LH, FSH, estradiol (done on day 3 of your period for women), total testosterone, DHEAs, prolactin, TSH, free T3, free T4, and day 21 progesterone for women.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Sure, “mindfulness” might sound like a cure-all buzzword, but there is a lot of truth to its power. Mindfulness, whether practised through meditation, yoga or other means, helps us to reduce stress. When we reduce stress, we lower our cortisol levels. And as we already know, when our cortisol levels spike, it has a way of messing a lot of things up inside our bodies.

A moment of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By starting each morning with a few minutes alone in quiet reflection, we can set the stage for a better day.  And, we can more easily ground ourselves when life begins to get busy. Let’s not forget that a more mindful day can also help lead to a more restful night. According to the Journal of Sex and Medicine, getting just one more hour of sleep per night could increase your libido by 14 percent. So it’s important not to skip sleep for a healthy libido.

3. Herbs for Low Libido

Damiana, Turnera and Tribulus are just a few of the herbs that can boost libido. Maca, Saffron, Fenugreek and Watermelon are some other options to help address low libido in men and women. There are several others. Our Naturopathic Doctors can guide you as to the right herb and the right dose for you.

Maca Powder

Have you heard of Maca before? This interesting Peruvian plant has become a popular natural aphrodisiac and fertility booster, reputed to boost sex drive in both women and men. In one study, men reported heightened sexual desire after taking Maca for 8 weeks. In another study, men and women who took 3g of Maca daily reported an increase in libido, normally diminished by their prescribed antidepressants.

Saffron

This pretty little herb has been proven to safely and effectively improve some sexual problems in women, including arousal, lubrication, and pain. Saffron has shown a positive effect on men with erectile dysfunction as well. In one study, men who took a 200 mg tablet of saffron for only ten days showed an increased number and duration of erectile events.

Fenugreek

An extract from fenugreek has been shown to be effective at increasing libido in women after 8 weeks of taking a standardized 600 mg dose. Treatment caused an increase in free testosterone and estradiol, accounting for the increase in libido.

Watermelon

Tasty, refreshing, and full of libido-boosting phytonutrients, a juicy slice of watermelon isn’t just nice to share on a romantic picnic. It also contains various beneficial compounds that relax blood vessels and enhance your sex drive.

Yoga

Yoga has been studied and found to be as effective as medication in helping with male sexual dysfunction.

Exercise

Being physically active benefits sex drive through several different mechanisms:

  1. Exercise is one of the best stress reducers there is.
  2. Physical activity can enhance hormone levels.
  3. Even one bout of physical activity can enhance your self-esteem and body image. Feeling good about your body is a good way to bolster libido.

Make time for even 15 minutes per day of physical activity to reap the libido-boosting benefits of exercise.

Are you worried that you’ve lost your mojo? Fear not. We can help you get it back. If you experience a low sex drive or suspect hormone imbalance might be at play in other areas of your life, please do not hesitate to contact us at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca. We can help rebalance your system naturally. Low libido can affect your enjoyment of life and your relationships. There is no reason you should have to settle for less.

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Resources:

http://www.bumc.bu.edu/sexualmedicine/publications/testosterone-insufficiency-in-women-fact-or-fiction/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9766760

https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/87/7/3394/2847341

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12472620

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18801111

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25954318

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27130118

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23280545

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19427775

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30283244

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25914334

Stop Headaches

woman suffering from a headache

How to Rid Yourself of Headaches

What gives you a headache? I’m sure any number of factors may come to mind. The most common type of headache is tension headaches which are often brought on by stress. And who hasn’t felt the congestion or pressure or a sinus headache, especially when you are battling a cold or flu or suffer from allergies? Then there are those awful migraines, these are the most intense of the headaches. They can be accompanied by symptoms including nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, and/or sensitivity to bright lights, loud noise and strong odors. Sometimes certain scents can even trigger a migraine!

Did you know there are 150 different types of headaches?

A headache may be an indicator that something is off with your body. They can be triggered by a wide variety of factors, some of which may be difficult for you to pinpoint, such as food sensitivities and hormone imbalances.

The different types of headaches may include:

  1. Migraines – migraines are differentiated from other types of headaches mainly by the severity and the associated symptoms.  If the headache pain is very intense and debilitating and comes with additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, visual changes or an inability to function and a need to just sleep it off, your headache may be a migraine headache.
  2. Tension headaches – tension headaches are common and are often the result of stress that results in muscle tension.
  3. Cluster headaches – cluster headaches are usually one-sided.  Which side can vary from one headache to the next.  They can be described as stabbing pain and the pain is usually severe.  Cluster headaches can last up to a few hours and maybe worse lying down. They can be accompanied by symptoms like eye-watering on the side of the headache, nasal discharge on the side of the headache and may be worsened by alcohol.
  4. Sinus headaches – these headaches are the result of congestion or inflammation in your sinuses.  They feel like pressure across your forehead, around your eyes, around your cheekbones, at the bridge of, beside or below your nose.  They can be accompanied by cold symptoms. Gravity (bending over, lying down etc) may make them worse.
  5. Cervicogenic headaches – cervicogenic headaches originate from your cervical spine, which is the part of the spine in your neck.  Chiropractic care can help to re-align the bones of your neck.

Headaches can also occur as the result of a concussion or post-traumatic brain injury. Craniosacral therapy and Osteopathy can be extremely helpful for these types of headaches. TBI or concussion can also result in hormone imbalances due to damage to your pituitary gland. Our naturopathic doctors can help identify hormone imbalances.

What are the symptoms of a headache?

Headache symptoms can vary depending on the person and the type of headache. You may experience any or all of the following headache symptoms:

  1. Pain. The pain may be described as aching, pounding, throbbing, squeezing, pressure, stabbing, or shooting.
  2. Visual changes. You may experience auras, difficulty seeing, or light sensitivity.
  3. Nausea or vomiting. With severe headaches and migraines, you may feel nauseous or vomit.
  4. Noise sensitivity. Migraines often trigger a sensitivity to light and sound.
  5. Pressure or congestion. Sinus headaches may involve a feeling of a stuffy nose or fullness around the eyes or in your forehead.
  6. Irritability.

What Causes Headaches?

Dehydration

Research shows that water-deprivation headaches are among the most common types of headaches people experience. Just think, how often do you fall short of the daily recommended eight glasses of water? Staying hydrated not only helps to keep headaches at bay, but it also improves concentration and extinguishes irritability.

Stress

Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced a stress or a tension headache. You’re barely treading water, with too much to do and not enough hours in the day. The baby just won’t stop screaming, but you need to get the grocery shopping done. Your boss is in a foul mood — again. Your head begins to pound. Stress happens. It’s not always easy to avoid a tension headache, but taking a mindful approach to life, whether through yoga, meditation or gratitude journaling, can help us to manage stress better when those tricky moments arise. Self-care through psychotherapy, supporting your body’s stress glands (your adrenals), and relieving tension through massage therapy or chiropractic may all help.

Food Intolerances

We all know how alcohol can trigger a headache – especially when combined with dehydration, resulting in the ever-dreaded hangover headache. But have you ever been drinking diet pop and suddenly felt headache-y afterwards? You wouldn’t be alone. Aspartame and caffeine can also act as dietary triggers that lead to headaches. Other food intolerances known for influencing headaches include Monosodium glutamate a.k.a. MSG, nitrates found in processed meats, tyramine — a natural chemical that’s also found in processed meats, as well as aged cheese; pickles and olives; snow peas, fava and broad beans; and nuts.

Other foods that can trigger migraines include bread and pastries, cultured dairy products and yes, even chocolate. Moderation is key, as well as taking note of what you were eating before a headache occurred. Our naturopathic doctors can provide food sensitivity testing that may help you identify your headache or migraine trigger foods.

Hormones

Oh, those hormones sure have a way of impacting all areas of our bodies, don’t they? So, is it any wonder that they could also be to blame for headaches too? Truth is, elevated estrogen levels can have an impact on the frequency and severity of headaches in both women and men. It is why women are 3X more likely to experience a migraine than men. If you experience headaches or migraines on a regular basis, it is worth speaking to your naturopathic doctor about getting your hormone levels tested. Getting back into balance won’t only help your headaches, it can also change your life on many other levels.

Hypothyroidism

If your thyroid is underactive, you may experience migraines. Thorough thyroid testing including checking TSH, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin can help identify whether your thyroid is the source of the problem.

Natural Treatment for Headaches

Essential oils

A wide variety of essential oils can have a calming effect on headaches and also help to soothe migraines. Some good options include lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils. These can be applied locally to your temples or forehead to help take the edge off your headache. They should not be ingested, particularly not in pregnancy, except under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor.

Herbs

Butterbur and feverfew are two herbal remedies that have long been used to help treat headache pain; however, like with most herbal supplements, it is important to consult the guidance of a naturopathic doctor to ensure you are taking them safely and effectively.

Yoga

Yoga is proven to be among the most effective forms of self-care to help reduce headaches. In fact, one study actually demonstrated a significant reduction in migraine headache frequency when yoga was practised regularly over a period of just three months.

Visit your Chiropractor

Sometimes the root of your issue starts well below the neck and you just need to get your body back in line, literally. Encouraging results have been seen in a variety of studies, suggesting that a visit to our Chiropractor can help to reduce migraines. Participants in these studies have rated the results between good to excellent versus no treatment, mobilization, and ice.

Acupuncture

If you suffer from frequent headaches and want to avoid popping pills on a regular basis, you might wish to consider acupuncture. One study showed that after 3 to 4 months of treatment, patients receiving acupuncture had higher response rates and fewer headaches, with results that were possibly more effective than prophylactic drug treatment – and with fewer adverse side effects. Our naturopathic doctors and acupuncturist can provide acupuncture for headaches.

Massage therapy

Particularly for tension headaches, but even for migraines, massage therapy can help relieve muscle tension that may be at the root of the problem.

Frequently Asked Questions about Headaches

Do you just have to live with headaches?  Absolutely not.  Our health experts can help you pinpoint and address the root cause of your headaches for longer lasting relief.

Are headaches normal? No.  They are a sign that there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed. A one-off headache after some intense stress is probably nothing to worry about, but if headaches are severe, or frequent, then you need to address the cause of the headaches.

Should I just take over-the-counter meds and just live with headaches? No.  These medications if taken long term can have significant, negative health effects.  Acetaminophen is toxic to your liver.  Ibuprofen can erode your digestive tract and cause ulcers.  Long-term ibuprofen use is hard on your liver and kidneys.

Headaches are common, but they don’t have to be. If you feel like you’re getting more than your fair share and are having trouble pinpointing the issue, please do not hesitate to contact our clinic at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca and we will work to identify your triggers and find the best solutions for headaches together.

The team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23832131
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14979888
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2708042
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517298
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23196150
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23030536
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15623680
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11276299
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17501846
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8775024
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099267/

Intermittent Fasting

woman holding apple for intermittent fasting

 

Intermittent Fasting: Fad Diet or Science-Based?

While not eating may not sound like a treatment, fasting is one of the oldest therapies in medicine. It has been well-researched for its ability to help heal and prevent disease. When done under the proper guidance of a naturopathic doctor, intermittent fasting can lead to effective weight loss and many long-term health benefits.

Fasting Versus Starving

So, you might be wondering, what’s the difference between intermittent fasting and starvation diets? Well, for starters, starving yourself is dangerous. Our bodies still need fuel to function. Being overly calorie-restricted can cause your metabolism to slow down to conserve fuel. This defeats your weight-loss efforts.

Starvation deprives our body of essential nutrients, so it begins eating itself by burning muscle for fuel. Fasting differs from starvation because it can be practiced for 12, 16, 24, 36 or even 48 hours without the body kicking into starvation mode. Fasting flips the metabolic switch safely and effectively by forcing your body into using one fuel source (ketones) instead of another (glucose).

When we are frequently eating, our bodies are fuelled by glucose, which is a simple sugar. However, through intermittent fasting, that energy source becomes unavailable for long periods of time. As a result, the body begins to break down stored fat into fatty acids that are easily absorbed into the bloodstream.  Fatty acids can be broken down into molecules called ketones. (This may ring a bell if you are familiar with the ketogenic diet.) Ketones can be used to produce energy. After 8 – 12 hours of fasting, our metabolism shifts to replace glucose with ketones as our new source of fuel.

In a world of fad diets and weight loss gimmicks, studies show that intermittent fasting may be better for you than other dieting strategies. This is because ketones put less stress on our cells compared to the by-products of other dieting methods.

Studies also show that intermittent fasting can produce benefits no matter how it’s accomplished!

In one study, participants were allowed to fast for any number of hours a day, and then eat whatever they desired during the remaining hours. In another study, dieters alternated fasting and feasting days. On their non-fasting days, dieters either restricted their diet or ate to their hearts’ content. In both cases, results showed significant weight loss, no matter the approach!

Furthermore, participants in both studies did not lose any significant amount of lean tissue (which includes bone, muscle and organ tissue). This is in contrast to starvation diets which can sometimes cause the loss of both fat and lean muscle tissue, impacting health negatively in the long run. Loss of muscle mass means a slower metabolism. Muscle burns calories even while you are sleeping.

When Should I Fast?

It’s easiest to spend most of your fasting hours asleep, so you’re not thinking about food.

How Should I Fast?

As shown above, studies have shown that the exact structure of a fast isn’t critical. However, here are a few proposed fasting plans:

  1. If you are a beginner faster, you may want to start out with an easier fasting plan, sometimes referred to as a 12:12. What that means is that you may eat within a 12-hour window each day, and then not eat throughout the remaining 12 hours. This is relatively easily done if you eat your last meal around 6 p.m. and then you don’t eat again until breakfast the next morning. It just entails curbing any evening snacking. This plan would produce more modest weight-loss than option #2 below.
  2. If the above option seems too easy, or you are already doing it and want to take it to the next level or you are wanting a greater weight-loss benefit, then you can do a 16:8 fast. That means that you only eat during an 8-hour window each day, the remaining 16 hours of the day are fasting hours. Again, you can set your feeding and fasting hours to whatever you like, but it may be that you’re not that big of a breakfast eater and mornings are hectic, so you may just skip eating until noon. Then noon to 8 p.m. is your feeding window.

What Should I Eat for Intermittent Fasting?

As mentioned, the research seems to suggest that it doesn’t really matter what you eat during your non-fasting hours. However, to prevent falling into bad habits and further enhance weight-loss efforts, we would always recommend eating a healthy, clean, whole foods diet.

Won’t I be Ravenous, Hangry, Tired, Weak, Shaky or Have a Headache?

Surprisingly, people who follow an intermittent fasting regimen, find that they are not starving between meals. In fact, they often report that they feel quite full and satisfied and do not crave food. If you find that you feel weak, shaky, irritable, tired or headachey if you don’t eat, your adrenal glands may need some supporting to allow you to fast without feeling this way. Our ND’s can provide advice about how to keep your adrenal glands healthy.

Did you know that intermittent fasting helps you to live longer too?

It’s true! New research from Harvard shows that intermittent fasting manipulates the mitochondrial networks inside our cells, which may increase lifespan!

Sure, that sounds great! But how does it work?

Simply put, inside our cells we have energy-producing organelles called mitochondria that dynamically change shape in relation to our body’s energy demand. Over time, their ability to produce energy gradually declines, eventually leading to age-related diseases. While fasting is often recommended as a way to promote healthy aging, the connection between metabolism and mitochondria has always been unclear… until now!

The Harvard study shows that low-energy conditions, such as periods of intermittent fasting, can help maintain the flexibility and youthfulness of mitochondrial networks. These youthful networks then communicate with other parts of the body (organelles called peroxisomes) that modulate fat metabolism, which as a result, helps to increase lifespan.

Fasting does not only help you live a longer life.

Fasting improves your overall health too! Further studies suggest that fasting can help:

  • Boost your immune system
  • Enhance your physical performance
  • Expedite weight loss
  • Protect your cognitive function
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Slow the progression of cancerous tumors
  • Protect against cardiovascular disease

Steps for Effective Fasting

As mentioned, there are numerous different ways to fast that are equally effective. Below are a few fasting tips to help you on your way.

  1. Set a fasting schedule and stick to it. If you’re a beginner, meal skipping is an excellent way to introduce yourself to fasting. If you choose to do a 12 or 16 hour fast, arrange your fasting window during sleeping hours to help the time pass by more easily. Fasting for 24 hours once a week or alternating day fasting are other options to try. Be sure to consult your naturopathic doctor to determine what might work best for you.
  2. Stay hydrated. You might be limiting your intake of food, but you certainly shouldn’t limit your consumption of calorie-free beverages. Be sure to drink plenty of water or switch it up with unsweetened herbal teas.
  3. Relax your body and your mind. During 24-48 hour fasting days, don’t participate in strenuous activities or spend your time obsessing over the food you can’t eat. Go easy on yourself by finding things to keep your body and mind occupied in a productive, gentle way. Take a walk or do light exercise that won’t exhaust you, like yoga. Spend a few hours curled up with a great book. Your next meal will come before you know it!
  4. Make your calories count. Between fasting windows, enjoy nutrient-dense foods that provide protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Learn how to increase flavors without sacrificing calories by adding garlic, herbs, spices, and different types of vinegar to your dishes.

If you think you are thinking about fasting but have never tried it before, I invite you to please reach out to us so we can discuss which options might be best for you. Please feel free to book an appointment with us by calling 416-481-0222 or emailing Maria@ForcesofNature.ca and we can help you get back on track with better weight management and a healthier, longer, and happier life!

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

ChiropractorNaturopathic DoctorsAcupuncturistPsychotherapistRegistered DietitianRegistered Massage TherapistOsteopath

Want a free one-week Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan?

Simply fill in your details here and we’ll email you a link to ours:


Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails.

We use MailChimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to MailChimp for processing. Learn more about MailChimp’s privacy practices here.

References:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321690.php

Intermittent fasting may be center of increasing lifespan


https://www.osher.ucsf.edu/patient-care/self-care-resources/cancer-and-nutrition/frequently-asked-questions/cancer-and-fasting-calorie-restriction/
https://news.yale.edu/2015/02/16/anti-inflammatory-mechanism-dieting-and-fasting-revealed

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 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 that are 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.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND for 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/

Should You Take Probiotics?

good bacteria, bad bacteria and probiotics

What are Probiotics?

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as:
“Live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host”
By this definition, there are 3 key components to probiotics:
1. They must be alive
2. They have to be dosed in adequate amounts
3. And they must be bacteria of the type that confer a health benefit

Live Probiotics

Good probiotics are often pricey. They may cost extra but you can be assured that you are getting living and viable probiotics whereas some less expensive products may only contain dead bacteria. A trick to watch out for: probiotic labels that say “x billion viable/live bacteria at time of manufacture.” What the product contained at time of manufacture is completely irrelevant. It’s what they contain when you consume them that matters. What this “guarantee” is really saying is “we’re not sure how much will survive until you take them.” The better manufacturers will usually test their products for at least 6 months beyond the expiry date to ensure that you are still getting living bacteria in the amount claimed on the label when you take it. What the label should say is “guaranteed to contain x billion live or viable bacteria at time of expiry”. See the difference? Knowing that some will die off between manufacture and the time that you take them, the good manufacturers will put extra in when they make it and test it beyond the time of expiry to ensure that even if some did die off, there is still the amount stated on the label when the bottle expires.

Number of Bacteria in Probiotics

The bacteria in probiotics are listed as CFU, which stands for “colony forming units”. It means how many bacteria are in the product that can then reproduce to form a little colony. One or two billion bacteria or CFU’s per serving just doesn’t cut it. When it comes to good bacteria the higher the amount per serving the better. I would typically recommend a product that contains 35-50 billion bacteria per capsule and a wide range of species from the ones listed below. Over 100 trillion bacteria of 500 different species live in a healthy human gut, if you want to have an impact, you need to add more than a drop in the bucket.

Probiotics that Give a Health Benefit

There are a few manufacturers promoting something called “soil based organisms” that are supposed to be what we naturally would have inhabiting our guts if we were eating fresh food plucked from the ground. There has been very little research supporting their use and a few case studies of people who were severely immune compromised and suffered life threatening infections after consuming these products. There is a plethora of research and human experience showing the health benefits of probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium lactis.

What are the Health Benefits of Probiotics?

Here are the benefits of healthy good bacteria in our digestive tract:
1. Diarrhea prevention, especially when taking antibiotics
2. Colorectal cancer prevention
3. Immune system regulation and enhancement
4. Asthma and allergy prevention
5. Prevention of infection in the gut by harmful organisms like Salmonella, Shigella, H pylori, yeast etc
6. Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
7. They provide the host with vitamins B12 and K
8. They appear to help with insulin resistance in diabetics and in women with gestational diabetes

Probiotic Foods

Certain foods are known to be rich in probiotics. These are fermented foods and many cultures have their own version. Dairy-based foods that contain probiotic bacteria include kefir and yogourt. Non-dairy probiotic foods include fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, kim chi, miso and tempeh. Do these food probiotics work? Research has been done on ingestion of bean and soy tempeh to determine their effect on gut bacteria. Soy tempeh stimulates most the growth of Bifidobacterium bacteria, while bean tempeh stimulates that of Escherichia coli. While it is good to eat probiotic-rich foods for daily gut maintenance, when taking an antibiotic, I would always encourage people to take a good quality probiotic supplement. That way we know exactly how many beneficial bacteria they are getting and of what kind. A serving of commercial yogourt may only contain 1 billion bacteria per serving where just one probiotic capsule would contain 50-100 times that much.

How Often to Take Probiotics

Whether to take probiotics and if so, how much and how often is subject to debate. Definitely any time you need to take antibiotics, you should take a good quality probiotic while taking the antibiotics and for at least two weeks afterward to prevent potentially serious side effects of taking antibiotics.

Because of the potential for numerous health benefits of taking probiotics, for most people they should be a regular part of their health maintenance program. Whether that means taking them every day, or taking them for 2-3 months out of every year, may be more to do with individual preference than scientifically proven value. I do encourage people who take probiotics daily, to try to vary the product and strains that they are taking in order to maintain the diversity of gut bacteria that seems to help promote good health.

Cautions

The above strains of probiotic bacteria are generally considered safe, even for infants. The primary contraindications for probiotic use would be:
1. Someone who is severely immune compromised such as a transplant recipient, someone very elderly or very sick, or a patient undergoing cancer treatment.
2. Using soil-based probiotics in any of the above patients and possibly in the general population as there isn’t sufficient safety and efficacy data.

With about a hundred published studies per year, there is new information being revealed every day about the health benefits of taking probiotic supplements. With almost no downside, and plenty of potential benefits, probiotics are a worthwhile addition to your health regimen.

Oh and by the way, a class action lawsuit was filed and won against Dannon/Danone in January 2008 in which the company stood accused of spending $100 million promoting clinical benefits of Activia and DanActive that its own tests had disproved. To add to that, Bifidus Regularis is a made-up name by Danone for Bifidobacterium animalis. Commercial yogurt is not an adequate means to obtain good bacteria.

Our naturopathic doctors are experts on which probiotics may work best for your particular problem as well as how to heal a whole host of gut issues. Book an appointment now.