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Your bones and their role are often overlooked. We take their function for granted, and often do not think about how we have to work to keep them healthy so they can continue to fulfill their role. These roles include:
Calcium is found in such foods as dairy (milk, cheese, etc.), green leafy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale), tofu, nuts (almonds), fish in which you eat the bones, etc. . Calcium is the most well-known mineral involved in building of bone structure. Over supplementation of this mineral can be harmful and cause such things as kidney stones, and myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) .
Vitamin D can be produced by the body from sunlight! So get outside when possible at anytime of the year in that sunlight! Dietary sources of this nutrient include fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel, and fortified foods such as cereal, dairy, orange juice, etc., beef liver. It plays an important role in helping the body absorb calcium, and also with bone resorption and bone mineralization.
Vitamin K is found in such food sources as fish, liver, meat, eggs, green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, lettuce), vegetables (brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), prunes . This vitamin is an important cofactor involved in the process of producing hormones responsible for bone generation and normal bone turnover to keep it healthy and strong.
Vitamin C is found in many foods. Some sources include citrus fruits (lemon, orange, lime), tomato, green and red peppers, kiwi, strawberries, mango, pineapple, watermelon, vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower), green leafy vegetables (spinach, cabbage) . Vitamin C plays a major role in collagen formation, stimulating cells in bone formation, and healing (including bone healing), calcium absorption, and affects vitamin D in bone metabolism.
Magnesium is found in fruits (avocado, banana, raspberries, figs), green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, peanuts), seafood (mackerel, tuna, salmon), vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, green beans, asparagus, brussel sprouts), raisins, kidney beans, lentils, dark chocolate . Magnesium is important for the absorption and metabolism of calcium, and in many enzyme reactions that promote bone health from such things as thyroid function, converting vitamin D to active vitamin D, calcium deposition in bones, etc.
Boron is an essential element in plants, and its through this source that the general population acquires this mineral. Boron is found in such foods as prunes, plums, grapes, pears, kiwis, beans, tomato, carrots, nuts, seeds, lentils, leafy vegetables, raisins, dried apricots, and avocados, etc. [3, 4]. Boron stabilizes cell membranes and modulates membrane transport mechanisms . It has anti-inflammatory, anti-neoplastic, and hypolipidemic effects [1,2]. It regulates sex hormones, and protects against oxidative stress, and improves brain electrical activity, cognitive performance, and short-term memory in elders . Boron also stimulates bone growth and bone metabolism, it activates 1,25(OH)2D3 production (which increases bone mineralization)  and improves magnesium absorption . Trabecular bone microarchitecture and cortical bone strength depend on sufficient boron intake.
Zinc, manganese, and copper are typically not deficient in the Standard American Diet (SAD), so supplementation is not typically necessary for bone health, and in fact may be harmful in the case of long-term over-supplementation . But it may be of benefit based on the needs of the body, for example in times of infection, zinc supplementation can help.
Zinc is found in such foods as meats, shellfish, legumes (such as lentils chickpeas, etc), seeds, nuts, eggs, dairy, whole grains. Vegetarians and older individuals are more likely to be deficient and may benefit from dietary changes or supplementation . Zinc is necessary to create the matrix on which calcium and phosphorous is deposited to build bone structure. It is also used to produce enzymes which degrade and recycle old bone proteins.
Manganese is found in oatmeal and bran cereals, whole wheat bread and brown rice, nuts (such as almonds and pecans), pineapples, beans and legumes (such as lima beans), green leafy vegetables (such as spinach), mollusks (clams, oysters, mussels), dark chocolate, cinnamon, and tea . Manganese is a co-factor in bone cartilage and bone collagen formation, and also in bone mineralization.
Dietary copper is found in meats (especially organ meats), seafood (oysters and lobsters), dark leafy greens, shiitake mushrooms, nuts, grains, and cocoa products . Copper is involved in an enzyme which aids in the formation of collagen and for bone and connective tissue, contribute to bone strength, and works with zinc to reduce resorption of bone.
Dietary silica is found in many sources such as whole grain bread and pasta, oats, cucumbers, flaxseed, banana, spinach, mango, and even in beer! (don’t overdo it!) . Silicon helps start the bone mineralization process, and so is important in maintaining strong and flexible bone.
Osteoporosis is a disease process characterized by low bone mass due to loss or low production, and it affects millions worldwide [5, 6, 7]. The lifetime risk for women is thought to be 40-50%, and for men it is 13-22% . In the US there are 2 million osteoporotic fractures annually .
With an aging population, incidences of bone disease will increase. This represents a significant burden on quality of life, society and its health and healthcare. Quite often, the focus will be on more commonly associated minerals mentioned earlier such as calcium and phosphorus. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are many things required for maintaining bone health, and there are a number of other key minerals involved which do not get as much attention but are just as vital to overall bone health. It is essential that every individual has an adequate intake of these minerals to maintain their bone strength, which allows them to significantly improve their quality of life. Talk to your naturopathic doctor or other healthcare providers about how you can help improve and maintain your bone health for years to come.
Common Nutrients for Bone Health: Recommended Dietary Allowance (Median Intake)
Over several years working as a personal trainer, I have overheard many conversations on what people are eating or supplementing with before or after their workouts. The gym is often a place where people are first exposed to the health and fitness world and consequently a lot of information that they receive may be misinterpreted. What may work really well for someone else may not work for you. Fortunately, as a naturopathic medical student and physical trainer, I am well-educated on the topics of nutrition and exercise and I am here to help you navigate the confusing realm of how to properly fuel your workout.
Firstly, it is important to note that nutritional recommendations should always be highly individualized and the following factors must be considered: the age, sex, fitness level, medical history and dietary restrictions of the individual, as well as the type, volume and intensity of the exercise. The information provided in this post are general recommendations for how to integrate proper nutrition into your exercise regime.
Let’s talk about strength training. Whether it’s weight lifting, circuit training (HIIT) or basic body weight exercises (e.g. yoga, pilates, etc.), here are the answers to some common questions you may have if you are looking to optimize energy and performance during a workout, increase fat-free mass by optimizing muscle protein synthesis (MPS), or optimize post-workout recovery.
Q: When is the appropriate time that I should consume protein? Before or after a workout?
A: The timing of protein intake is an aspect of sports nutrition that has been studied extensively. The research looking at the effects of protein intake before versus after a workout has shown that there are minimal differences with respect to muscle protein synthesis (MPS). It is ultimately up to your individual preferences. However, if you decide to consume protein after your workout, the ideal time window is immediately to 2 hours post-exercise. Additionally, you want to ensure you are eating adequate protein throughout the day, and not solely focusing on supplementing around your workout.
Q: What type of protein is best?
A: The answer to this question is very dependent on your fitness goals and dietary preferences/restrictions. However, protein containing high amounts of the essential amino acid leucine is correlated to the greatest increase in muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Whey protein has the highest leucine content and has consistently out-performed soy and casein protein when it comes to stimulating MPS. However, whey protein is an animal-derived food product and therefore may not be ideal for vegans or vegetarians. Soy, pea, rice or hemp proteins are all great options for those who are vegan or sensitive to dairy products. Pre- or post-workout meals with a complete amino acid profile and a high leucine content include free-range chicken, beef, salmon, chickpeas or beans.
Q: How much protein exactly?
A: When it comes to protein, more is not necessarily better. If you are adding an extra scoop to your post-workout shake, or doubling up on your chicken consumption, you may be wasting your money. MPS will plateau at an approximate dose of 20g of protein. Most protein powders contain about 18-25 g of protein per scoop, an average chicken breast contains about 25 g of protein, and if you are utilizing plant sources such as chickpeas, 1 cup contains about 26 g of protein. Body weight is another important factor to consider. The adequate dose of protein per meal is about 0.25-0.3 g/kg of body weight. In conclusion, when it comes to the amount of protein you should be consuming around your workouts, being mindful of the protein content per serving is important.
Q: What about carbohydrates?
A: Carbohydrate intake is critical when it comes to endurance training. It is surprising how many people will reduce their carbohydrate intake while increasing their exercise intensity and duration, and expect to perform optimally. Your body depends on carbohydrates as fuel for this type of workout. Research has shown that consuming carbohydrates 30-60 minutes before endurance exercise can increase exercise capacity and performance. Having a carbohydrate-rich meal is also important for enhancing recovery and restoring post-exercise muscle glycogen levels. It is best to choose whole grain carbohydrates such as quinoa, buckwheat or steel-cut oats if you prefer to exercise in the morning.
Q: What is a “pre-workout” supplement and does it actually work?
A: Many individuals will use a “pre-workout” supplement to help enhance their workouts. There is a lot of variability in the ingredients and types of pre-workout formulations available on the market. The majority will contain caffeine, a variety of B-vitamins, electrolytes and creatine. Unfortunately, a lot of these formulas contain additives, sweeteners and food colourings, so it is important to carefully read the ingredients label before selecting a product. When it comes to enhancing your workout performance, creatine and caffeine are a couple substances that have been extensively researched and proven to be effective. So drinking one cup of coffee prior to your workout may be just as effective as taking a pre-workout formula. One cup of black coffee contains approximately 100 mg of caffeine which is equivalent to the majority of doses in a pre-workout formula, but costs a lot less.
In conclusion, research has helped us to understand the basics of when (30-120 min before or after a workout), how much (20 g protein) and what (foods high in leucine, caffeine) we should be eating to properly fuel our workouts. However, there are numerable variables to this basic formula that are very dependent on your personal health, preferences, fitness goals and type of training. Talking to your Naturopathic Doctor is a great place to start if you are looking to create an individualized nutrition plan to help meet your fitness goals.
Thanks for reading!
Sophie (3rd Year Naturopathic Medical Student)
Kerksick, C. M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B. J., Stout, J. R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C. D., ... & Willoughby, D. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 33.
Goldstein, E. R., Ziegenfuss, T., Kalman, D., Kreider, R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., ... & Wildman, R. (2010). International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(1), 5.
Most people fall into two very distinct groups when it comes to how we feel about Valentines Day; we either delight in the chance to celebrate partners and be doted on by loved ones, or we’re annoyed by the pressure to buy expensive gifts and by the commercialism of the whole holiday. Love it or hate it, I think Valentine’s day is the perfect time of year to prioritize someone in your life who deserves a bold demonstration of love: yourself.
The most important aspect of self care is to personalize what you choose to do in a way that makes sense for you. What you find restorative within the pillars of self care may not be the same as myself, or someone else. For example, most people love lighting candles as a way to relax and unwind, and they’re often part of self care rituals seen on social media. Yet, a friend of mine has acknowledged that candles stress her out - remembering to blow them out, being paranoid about the flame catching anything nearby, the thought of the candle running out - all distract from any attempt at self care! Below are some practical tips to help you find what works for you.
Practicing gratitude is a great, affordable (free!), and easy thing to do that encourages a positive mindset.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Taking a moment to be still with ourselves is a rewarding break from the stresses of life. How much time are we actually making to only be with ourselves; not thinking of anything or anyone else in our day? Not only is meditation a great form of perspective building for our busy schedule. By perspective building, I mean the ability to take a step back and look objectively at what is going on. Sometimes we are too close to the issues or events of our life and we need to mindfully step back and look at things with less emotion and attachment. Practical ways to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your life include:
Again, find what works for you, and feel OK about taking time that is devoted just to you, valentine!
Self compassion starts with examining our internal monologue, or way in which we speak to ourselves. Kristin Neff, the lead researcher behind this movement in psychology, points out that we often speak to ourselves in a much more negative way than we would ever speak to a friend.(2)
Changing this internal dialogue, can be challenging for a variety of reason. First off, it can be hard to take a step back and recognize we are doing it. When beating ourselves up with negative phrases becomes a habit we don’t even notice, it can be hard to kick.
Here are some steps how to build greater self compassion:
If you are struggling with wanting to improve your self talk, I recommend working with a team of practitioners you can trust and who you form a good relationship with, including your MD, therapist, or someone in naturopathic medicine (learn more on how to book with us at the end of this article!).
Give your physical heart some love
There are endless benefits for both mood and health to exercise! Often exercise gets a bad rap as something we have to do, instead of something we get to do. Forget traditional methods of exercising if they don’t jive with you and go off of this: exercise can be any fun way we elevate our heart rate.
Serve up some love
The ultimate form of self love for your insides is a well balanced meal. Healthy food can be easy to make, and taste great. Start with small, gradual changes by identifying the meal of the day that has the opportunity for the most improvement, and work on modifying that (replace the morning croissant with a healthy breakfast, and go from there).
Some general recommendations to get you started include:
If this feels overwhelming to do alone - ask for help (see our booking information at the end of this blog). Nobody became a health expert or chef overnight. It takes time, practice, advice, and at least a few bad smoothies to figure it out.
Laughter really is the best medicine
Are you having enough fun? Laughter and joy are an important part of life, and a great way to show yourself love.
Tune in to what YOU need
“One of the best guides to how to be self-loving is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others.”- bell hooks (I’m a huge fan of her book, All About Love). Think about how you envision caring of others in your life - is it a thoughtful gift? Then gift yourself something and really savour and enjoy it! Is it to hearing validation and kind words? Then repeat to yourself a kind phrase you might say to someone else, or record a voice note of a positive affirmation. If it’s physical hug, really tune into the next good hug that comes up. Take note of what makes you feel loved and then create more of it!
Doing something hard, but necessary
One trend in the self care movement I really enjoy is the art I found by @makedaisychains on Instagram that focuses on what she calls “boring self care”. It’s often touted as small actions that aren’t glamourous, but that depending on the person and their situation, can be challenging to do. I love the fact that these illustrations celebrate small accomplishments (booking a doctors appointment you’ve been avoiding, refilling your medications, cutting ties with someone who is causing you pain). Dedicate the necessary time and energy to tackle your to do list.
Ask for help
Finally, being a beginner in any of these areas is not something to be ashamed of or feel overwhelmed by. We are all beginners at something at some time in our lives. Asking for help in any area of your life is a natural thing, and we weren’t meant to do things alone. This is why we have family, community, and even people who study different things to gain different expertise!
If you are looking for more help in implementing aspects of self-care into your lifestyle, or if you would like to discuss any other health concerns please book an appointment with some of our wonderful interns on our Tuesday night shift at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic by calling this number: (416) 639-2459
The idea of celebrating when we do something hard but necessary can relate to many of the different ways to practice self care listed in this article (exercise, meditation, healthy cooking, changing habits). Taking actionable steps towards improving the way we treat our self is not always easy, but it is necessary. These steps, even when “small” and “boring” are something to be celebrated! We are all on different paths on this journey, and the aspects that are most challenging will look different for all of us. I hope this serves as a starting point to find practices you can add to your life that make you feel loved and appreciated, and remember: making these habits a part of your routine and caring for yourself is the ultimate act of self love.
Happy Valentines Day!
Pain is one of the most common medical complaints that drives individuals to seek professional assistance. Although searching for a cause is a priority, when one can’t be identified it is not uncommon for doctors to say “it’s all in your head.”
When excruciating pain is labelled as mental fabrication it can leave a person feeling misunderstood, isolated, hopeless and full of frustration. If you or anyone you know has encountered this situation then read on because there is more to your pain than imagination!
Lorimer Moseley, a professor of clinical neuroscience at the University of South Australia, has developed a theory to explain the connections between pain, the mind’s potential to change it.
When thinking about this theory it’s important to take a look at the basic physiological pathway of pain sensation (see figure):
Nociceptors (pain receptors) → Spinal Cord → Brain (perception occurs) → Physical response
Moseley’s theory proposes that the experience of pain depends on the neural connections made during an individual’s previous experiences. When an event occurs, the nociceptors (sensory nerve endings that perceive pain) relay the information to the brain where the determination of danger or safety is decided. If the brain deems a situation as ‘safe’ there will be no experience of pain. However, when the brain has had a previous history of trauma, danger, or harm it will release ‘danger’ signal often resulting in a physical sensation of pain. Moseley’s view is that the experience of pain is dependent on whether the brain thinks danger exists or not.
The experience of pain can become more severe if it has been persistent over a longer period of time. Moseley’s thought is that although the initial sensation is sent to one region of the brain, with extended duration the signal may spread to adjacent areas. The increase in neural stimulation can lead to the brain believing the body’s condition is worsening or that the pain has enveloped additional body parts. In actuality the body may be physically sound and the pain is more a product of what the brain thinks is occurring.
This would suggest that pain originating in the mind doesn’t not exist, but simply can’t be explained through physical tests. Instead, these types of clinical scenarios require the unpacking of psychological traumas and a rerouting of neural circuits.
There are many other theories regarding the connection of body and mind that have been supported by scientific research. One in particular to note is the significant improvements seen in fibromyalgia patients with the use of ‘Emotion Awareness and Expression Therapy’ (EAET) which involves the targeting of mental and emotional experiences, both positive and negative. The process allows individuals to work through their past and towards rewiring thought patterns and neural pathways. One study found that EAET alleviates symptoms such as globalized pain, physical dysfunction, anxiety, stress, and improves overall life satisfaction.
Understanding that there is a connection between the body and mind opens up many additional approaches to pain management, and holds potential in reducing the burden of chronic pain. If you’ve been told “it’s all in your head,” take it to heart and talk to a naturopathic doctor or other healthcare provider about addressing your pain through your brain.
As the cold weather settles, we turn to staying indoors more often. While embracing the coziness of the season can be rewarding and fun, it’s important to remember the benefit nature has on our mood and stress response!
"Forest bathing" is a Japanese term for walking in nature and has been extensively studied for its benefit in improving mood, ability to meditate, and even blood pressure and cardiovascular outcomes (1, 2). The principle is simple: it involves putting your phone away, taking walks in nature and mindfully connecting and paying attention to your surroundings.
An easy way to do this is to consciously go through your 5 senses and name one thing you are experiencing. What are you seeing? What are you hearing, feeling (wind, cold, snowflakes), what can you touch? and what can you smell? This practice helps ground you in the moment and drive home the connection with your surroundings. While this practice has been researched in heavily wooded areas, this practice of noting the natural elements around us can help shift our perspective and demonstrate how much nature we are surrounded by even within an urban environment.
In addition to being mindful of nature and our environment, there are a few other ways we can incorporate nature and the winter season into our routine, especially when living in an urban environment. This can be as simple as walking to work, or getting off a stop earlier on our commute in order to have some added time outside.
Another thing to keep in mind is to bundle up! It’s never as cold as you think when you have the appropriate winter wear on. Instead of meeting a friend for a coffee and staying at the coffee shop, try grabbing one to go (bring your re-usable mug!) and catching up via a walk. It’s an easy way to sneak a little nature, exercise and sunshine into your social life!
In Toronto, seeking out a variety of different trails and parks can be helpful when trying to escape the busy city. Some of my favourite places to enjoy in the core of the city to enjoy what nature has to offer are the following:
Walking among the variety of plants can really make you feel like you are in a tropical oasis! It’s very refreshing to feel the warmth of the green house and be enclosed with all the smells of the exotic plants and trees.
This list wouldn’t be complete without including all the great nature to be found at High Park. Accessible by TTC, it can be great to get out and walk around the various areas of the park to connect with the trees and plants.
Courtyards at the University of Toronto
The university has some beautiful and hidden courtyards that are usually accessible during the week. Some of my favourites include the Hart House Quad, Trinity Quad, and University College Quad. Other great green spaces at the university include the Philosopher's walk path and Queens Park.
The Harbourfront is another great space to enjoy nature and gain some space from the city. Walking or running along the path in the winter provides a different perspective of the water!
With the start of the cold weather, we have the opportunity to take part in skating all over the city! There are lots of different spots including skating in front of the Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square or Harbourfront.
While this list is not exhaustive, it contains some ideas to stay connected to nature while living in the city! Other great ways include taking a road trip further out of the city to explore more extensive trails or parks, or really get into the season by participating in some winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing!
The Facts on Flora (A little need-to-know information about the microorganisms we share our bodies with) Dana Kolenich, BSc.
Probiotics - literally meaning “for life”, probiotics are (according to the World Health Organization), “live microorganisms that confer a health benefit on the host” when taken in the right amounts. You’ve probably heard that probiotics are good for digestion, boost your immune system, and other health benefits. Today, we understand that our bodies are home to an infinite number of bacteria, which I’ll call flora; “probiotics” is the name given to the bacteria playing important roles in our digestive health, immune system, and more.
Have you ever looked on the label of a probiotic? If so, you’ve likely read a list of strange latin names like Lactobacillus, Bifidus and maybe even Streptococcus (wait, isn’t strep bad??), and then numbers ranging from the high millions to billions. I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt some confusion - so let’s get to the bottom of it!
First - The Facts:
We have a huge amount of different bacteria inside and on our bodies, called flora. Our flora is made up of many species of bacteria, making up 2-6 pounds of our body weight. We now know which species of bacteria are the regulars in our body -- the good guys, which we call probiotics and provide us with health benefits; the regulars, which hang around not really doing anything but can cause problems when too many of them get together; and the bad guys, the ones that cause trouble wherever they go. These bacteria are present in everyone, however each person has their own unique flora, which is influenced by genetics, age, sex, stress, nutrition, and diet.
I know, this story just got a whole lot bigger. How are you supposed to know which probiotics are right for you? That’s where your naturopathic doctor can help. There’s a large number of factors in today’s world that is involved in promoting and maintaining a healthy gut flora -- through this post, you’ll see little arrows ( → ) indicating some of these important factors, which you can discuss with any one of our interns and naturopathic doctor!
The Good Guys:
These are the bacteria that are permanent residents in your gastrointestinal tract, from your mouth all the way down to -- you know. We get these tenants at birth, when we leave our sterile home inside our mother’s womb and pick up her bacteria on the way out. These bacteria are necessary for vital functions in our bodies, including how we break down and absorb nutrients from food, how drugs are metabolized, maintaining healthy intestinal walls, modulating our immune system and preventing overgrowth of harmful bacteria and other pathogens.
→ How to promote healthy bacterial flora in pregnancy
→ How different methods of child delivery (ie. vaginal, cesarean section) can make a difference in a newborn’s bacterial flora
→ How breastfeeding plays an important role in your child’s gut flora.
→ Antibiotic use in pregnancy
The most abundant families (or genus) of bacteria that make up our flora (we’ll just focus on our internal flora today) are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There is a number of different species amongst these families -- for example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus acidophilus are two different species under the same umbrella family. The term “species” is often incorrectly used interchangeably with the term strain. A strain of bacteria is a genetic variant of the species (for example, even though you and I are humans, we differ genetically). Knowing the strain is important because the effects of a probiotic have been found to be strain-specific, which means different strains of the same species will have different effects on our bodies: Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus GG (the strain is indicated by the letters/numbers on the end of the name) have different effects than L. rhamnosus PB01.
Quick Mention about the Regulars:
These are the bacteria in and on our bodies that hang out normally without causing too much trouble...unless given the opportunity to (also known as commensal). This includes (but is not limited to) the Streptococcus species, which hangs out in our mouths and helps keep pathogenic bacteria away, synthesize vitamins, and contribute to immunity...but when their numbers get too high or get into a spot they shouldn’t be (like a cut in our mouths) they can cause problems like strep throat, gingivitis and more. Also are Helicobacter pylori, in our stomachs (I’m sure you’ve heard of H. pylori infection - the same thing). This is a reason why maintaining a healthy flora will keep everyone happy, including our regulars.
→ What to do when there’s an imbalance between your good guys and your regulars?
What’s the deal about CFU?
CFU, or “colony-forming units” gives an indication of the amount of live organisms that you get in a single dose, which is usually in the millions or billions. Probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi have a similar number of CFUs, however they tend to vary and are not reported on the labels. Research has found that the smallest effective dose tends to be 5 billion CFUs. More is not always better - each person must be assessed individually to determine what the appropriate amount of CFUs is required.
Why do we take probiotics if these bacteria are inside us already?
Over 100 years ago, Nobel Prize winner Eli Metchnikoff realized that the good bacteria help keep the number of bad bacteria in check. Observations were made at the time that children who were ill with diarrhea had a lower number of a particular bacteria (today called Bifidum) in their stool compared to healthy children.
A study in 2016 showed that taking a multistrain probiotic had health benefits in central nervous system disorders -- including anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder -- and improved memory. Other health conditions that have found benefit from probiotics include antibiotic-associated diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, traveller’s diarrhea, constipation, urogenital infections, sperm motility, autoimmune conditions and atopic conditions like allergies, eczema and asthma.
→ In order to know if and what probiotics are right for you, see a naturopathic doctor!
If you are sick with an infection or illness, always consult a doctor. Doctors can do tests to see what microorganism is causing the problem, and treat it appropriately. Probiotics are not treatments for every infection and illness that is linked to microorganisms - rather they are a method of promoting healthy flora and are best used in cases of disease prevention and healing post-illness. Probiotics should also be avoided in those with decreased immune function, which includes (but not limited to): those infected with HIV, cancer patients undergoing active treatment which has side effects of decreased white blood cell production, and more. Remember, probiotics are a medical treatment and should therefore be treated like any other medicine.
As we head into colder, dreary weather (bye Summer!), this is a good time to think about our vitamin D levels!
First of all, what is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is actually a hormone – meaning it is synthesized by our bodies. This occurs when ultraviolet rays from the sun interact with cholesterol molecules on our skin, which then diffuse into the bloodstream. This is why you’ve likely heard that sunlight is good for our D levels, and also why we can become deficient in winter months.
Does this mean we should be tanning all day in the sun?
Not necessarily (and SPF can block synthesis) – even 20 minutes spent outside twice weekly can improve levels, but we can also increase our levels through food sources:
Vitamin D2 & D3 are converted into the active metabolite (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D) in the body by the liver and kidney. Vitamin D is primarily metabolized in the liver, stored in the liver & fat tissue, & absorbed by the small intestine.
What are the benefits of Vitamin D?
• Bone Health - helps regulate levels of Calcium & Phosphorus in the body via greater absorption in the small intestine & reabsorption by the kidneys, which leads to increased deposits in bone
• Immune function - helps protect us from pathogens & has implications for autoimmune disease (in which levels are often low)
• Preventative effects against: Diabetes, cardiovascular disease & cancer
• Mood: supplementation in patients with depression has been shown to significantly improve mood
• Anti-inflammatory: shown to significantly down-regulate inflammatory signals.
If you’ve been experiencing any of the following symptoms (and haven’t been getting much sun!), you may want to have your levels checked:
Risk factors for deficiency include:
Be sure to have your levels checked & consult with an ND before supplementing!
I’m sure most of us are familiar with the term probiotics - the “good” bacteria which help to balance out the “bad” bacteria in our gut. But what are prebiotics, and why are they important? Prebiotics are simply food for our “good” bacteria. They are indigestible carbohydrates which can be obtained from either food sources or dietary supplements. When we ingest them, they stimulate the growth of these “good” bacteria and help them to function optimally. Having a well-balanced, healthy gut flora is critical for a multitude of reasons, including proper immune function, bowel regulation, optimal brain functioning, and cholesterol balance. It has also be shown to be beneficial for the prevention and/or treatment of the following conditions: atopic allergy, gastric and intestinal infections, irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, urogenital tract infections, and obesity. As we expand our knowledge of prebiotics and how they positively affect the gut microbiome, it is evident that they can play a major role in optimizing health and preventing disease.
So what are the best sources of prebiotics? Although there are many prebiotic supplements on the market, supplementation may not be necessary for individuals who consume a diet high in vegetables and fruit. Obtaining nutrients from whole foods rather than supplements is ideal, and since there are a variety of wonderful foods that are rich in prebiotics, you may not need to rely on a prebiotic supplement. Examples of prebiotic-rich foods include:
So, next time you’re heading to the grocery store or local farmer’s market, keep this list of foods in mind. Incorporating a few servings in your diet each day will ensure an adequate intake of prebiotics, and will help support not only your gut micriobiome, but also your overall health.
Happy September, my friends! For most of us, this means getting back on track with our scheduling. This often includes meal planning, and for naturopathic medical students, it can mean a chance to try out a new diet that we may recommend to our patients.
We live in an era where people have access to all the information they could ever want, but we are also seeing conditions where people are seeking to manipulate their internal chemistry to perform on the most optimal level, to lose the most amount of weight, to gain the most amount of muscle, among other goals. In the age of Pinterest and Instagram we feel pressure to be perfect in all aspects of our lives, from keeping our apartments tidy to ensuring that our meal planning and dieting is immaculate. We often feel as if we are expected to look top notch at all times. But, we are only human. Sometimes these excessive pressures that come from the age of information can contribute to a darker side of dieting - where our diet no longer becomes about living a healthy lifestyle, but turns into obsessively restricting caloric intake and nutrients, to the point where we are focusing more on our restrictions than what we are taking in.
There’s not much we can do to change the social conditions in which we are existing, but there is much that we can do to change our relationship with them. I’d like to share some tips with you to make the most of your meal planning and healthy eating, and to help you get back on track with being your best self!
Hopefully these tips help you to be a little more mindful about your diet and your motivations for changing it up. As always, consult your healthcare team before making any major changes.
As more people are discovering food sensitivities to dairy, alternatives have become widely available in grocery stores, café’s, restaurants etc. This includes nut milks, which have become staples for those wishing for a dairy-free alternative to add into coffee, tea, and smoothies. Even people without dairy sensitivities still opt for nut/oat/rice milk as a “healthier” choice.
But how healthy is it?
Many nut milks are full of food additives, which help to preserve shelf-life and enhance the taste and consistency of these products. Most almond milks also have thickening agents, which are carbohydrates that change the consistency of the milk. Many nut milks actually contain only about 3% almonds.
What ingredients should I watch out for?
Bottom line: nut/oat/rice milks can be healthier alternatives to dairy milk, depending on the source and ingredients. If you make your own, you can be sure where the ingredients are coming from and that there are no extra additives, unless you choose to add some. It may seem like a daunting task, but only takes a few minutes and the taste is superior to any processed kind you buy at the store.
1. Use a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of water to organic raw almonds (or nut of choice), depending on how creamy you want your milk!
EX: 3 cups water, 1 cup almonds
2. Pour into blender, blend on high for a few minutes
3. Place a cheese cloth/straining cloth into a large bowl, pour the milk through
4. Squeeze extra milk through the strainer, store in a glass jar and enjoy for 3 -5 days!
Cinnamon, nutmeg, lavender, clove, or some organic maple syrup for sweetness!