What the Research Tells us About CBD

CBD, or Cannabidiol, is an extract of the cannabis plant that has gained a powerful following amongst healthcare practitioners since becoming legal in recent years. As its use becomes more widespread, it is emerging as an effective alternative to medications for anxiety, depression, inflammation, Crohn’s and more. And that is without the side effects that come with many medications.

But are the health claims surrounding CBD warranted?

As a non-psychoactive extract, CBD is touted to provide all the health benefits of the cannabis plant, without the high. Let’s take a look at 7 research-based ways that CBD has been shown to support or improve health.

1. Pain Management

CBD is well known for its ability to decrease chronic pain, greatly improving quality of life in conditions such as fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It has a particular affinity for arthritis, effectively reducing pain, inflammation and swelling. With pain comes anxiety, and CBD can bring that right down too. Try CBD in a topical oil, cream or gel for maximum absorption and pain reduction.

2. Supportive Cancer Care

CBD is a major player in adjunctive cancer care, supporting conventional cancer treatments and reducing side effects. CBD has been shown to significantly reduce common cancer treatment side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, and neuropathic pain. CBD actively supports conventional cancer treatments by increasing the effectiveness of common cancer drugs and chemotherapy.

3: Mood and Mental Health

Anxiety

CBD has a powerful impact on mood, effectively reducing anxiety and depression. Whether you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or are simply feeling more stressed lately, research indicates that CBD acts quickly to tone down anxiety.

Mental Disorders

Anxiety is a common symptom of many mental health conditions, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for example, driving unhealthy behaviour patterns. Cannabis with a higher CBD content has been shown to reduce compulsive behaviours by an astonishing 60%.

CBD even has a role to play in mental health conditions such as Schizophrenia, having been shown to help reduce psychotic symptoms.

With mental health concerns increasing across the globe, CBD has two big advantages over other treatments. First, CBD helps you get deep, solid sleep. Better sleep is strongly linked to improvements in all mental health conditions. Second, CBD does not have the addictive properties or side effects that come with many anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs.

4. Inflammation

CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory, effectively reducing both chronic and acute inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is a key driver of classic inflammatory diseases like arthritis. But it also increases the risk of developing a variety of chronic diseases including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, cancer and asthma (just to name a few).

Recent research demonstrates that it is particularly helpful for gut inflammation. In inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, CBD can reduce pain and discomfort, drastically improving quality of life. CBD also protects against intestinal inflammation. This is important because inflammatory conditions such as Leaky Gut Syndrome can increase the risk of chronic disease development.

5. Skin Health

Natural beauty brands are increasingly using CBD in skin formulations – with good reason.

CBD is a powerful anti-acne agent, reducing inflammation and bacteria levels. CBD is easily absorbed through the skin and has been shown to accumulate in oil glands, fighting excess oil production.

CBD is also effective against common skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. CBD ointments applied directly to the skin of those suffering from these conditions can significantly improve symptoms like dry, scaly skin, fluid-filled blisters and red, itchy bumps. It is particularly effective to reduce the thickness and size of scars.

6. Neurological Function

CBD protects our valuable nervous system from damage and improves neurological function. Its effect is most marked in those with neurodegenerative diseases.

In Parkinson’s patients, CBD can help increase mobility, emotional well-being, cognition and communication as well as decreasing body discomfort. CBD is especially effective for improving sleep, psychosis and helping those with Parkinson’s more fully engage in daily activities.

CBD’s impact on epilepsy is perhaps the most well-known and well-documented use. In fact, it is the plight and activism of the late American teenager Charlotte Figi that inspired the movement to legalise CBD, and CBD has subsequently become an FDA-approved epilepsy treatment. CBD can reduce the severity of seizures by a whopping 82%, even in children.

7. Addictions

CBD is not addictive. In fact, it can help break the chains of addiction.

How does it work? Addictions work via our reward pathways, causing us to keep chasing that high by taking larger amounts of the chosen drug. CBD directly impacts these pathways, reducing the strong effect of a drug reward.

High-dose CBD can help reduce cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol use. In heroin users, CBD quickly reduces cravings and anxiety. CBD also shows great promise in reducing the risk of a relapse.
Stress is a strong relapse trigger, and CBD’s anti-stress action may be a key to helping reduce drug-seeking behaviours.

Cocaine abuse can lead to serious health effects such as liver damage and seizures. CBD offers additional benefits in addiction by protecting the liver and nerves from such toxic effects.

References:

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Dakota Mauzay, Emily M. LaFrance, Carrie Cuttler. Acute Effects of Cannabis on Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.09.124

Hinz B, Ramer R. Anti-tumour actions of cannabinoids. Br J Pharmacol. 2019 May;176(10):1384-1394. doi: 10.1111/bph.14426. Epub 2018 Aug 7. PMID: 30019449; PMCID: PMC6487602.

Kienzl M, Storr M, Schicho R. Cannabinoids and Opioids in the Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2020 Jan;11(1):e00120. doi: 10.14309/ctg.0000000000000120. PMID: 31899693; PMCID: PMC7056045.

Kisková T, Mungenast F, Suváková M, Jäger W, Thalhammer T. Future Aspects for Cannabinoids in Breast Cancer Therapy. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Apr 3;20(7):1673. doi: 10.3390/ijms20071673. PMID: 30987191; PMCID: PMC6479799.

Mitelpunkt A, Kramer U, Hausman Kedem M, Zilbershot Fink E, Orbach R, Chernuha V, Fattal-Valevski A, Deutsch L, Heffetz D, Sacks H. The safety, tolerability, and effectiveness of PTL-101, an oral cannabidiol formulation, in pediatric intractable epilepsy: A phase II, open-label, single-center study. Epilepsy Behav. 2019 Sep;98(Pt A):233-237. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2019.07.007. Epub 2019 Aug 5. PMID: 31394352.

Palmieri B, Laurino C, Vadalà M. A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars. Clin Ter. 2019 Mar-Apr;170(2):e93-e99. doi: 10.7417/CT.2019.2116. PMID: 30993303.

Śledziński P, Zeyland J, Słomski R, Nowak A. The current state and future perspectives of cannabinoids in cancer biology. Cancer Med. 2018 Mar;7(3):765-775. doi: 10.1002/cam4.1312. Epub 2018 Feb 23. Erratum in: Cancer Med. 2018 Nov;7(11):5859. PMID: 29473338; PMCID: PMC5852356.

Timler A, Bulsara C, Bulsara M, Vickery A, Smith J, Codde J. Use of cannabinoid-based medicine among older residential care recipients diagnosed with dementia: study protocol for a double-blind randomised crossover trial. Trials. 2020 Feb 14;21(1):188. doi: 10.1186/s13063-020-4085-x. PMID: 32059690; PMCID: PMC7023743
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Yang Y, Huynh N, Dumesny C, Wang K, He H, Nikfarjam M. Cannabinoids Inhibited Pancreatic Cancer via P-21 Activated Kinase 1 Mediated Pathway. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Oct 28;21(21):8035. doi: 10.3390/ijms21218035. PMID: 33126623; PMCID: PMC7662796.

4 Surprising Factors that Contribute to Stubborn Weight Gain

Eat less, exercise more. Is it really that easy? You may not be surprised to hear that losing excess weight and keeping it off goes way beyond such one-dimensional recommendations. In fact, the concept of calories in and calories out may be the biggest misunderstanding people have about weight. It turns out that weight gain and shedding extra pounds are not as black and white as many seem to think.

Let’s look beyond fad diets at a functional approach to weight loss. We’ll explore some lesser-known factors affecting weight and metabolism that you need to know if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

The Top 4 Factors That Contribute to Stubborn Weight Gain

1. Insulin Resistance

Insulin’s job is to help us transform food sugars into energy. But when we consume too many sugary foods and drinks, our body starts to lose its ability to respond to the insulin in our system. The pancreas tries to bring down blood sugar levels by pumping out more insulin, and as insulin resistance goes up a vicious cycle is created which over time can raise blood sugar and blood insulin to dangerous levels.

That extra sugar in the bloodstream that cannot be converted into energy is stored as abdominal fat and creates an addiction to sugar. This is called insulin resistance and it is widespread, affecting 1 in 3 Americans and in many cases leading to Type 2 Diabetes.

2. Hormones

Do You Feel Full after eating?

The hormones leptin and ghrelin control how full we feel after a meal, and the strength of our food cravings. When you are overweight, your fat cells produce excess leptin signaling your body to eat more as you aren’t feeling full. It’s a vicious cycle!

How is Your Thyroid?

Your thyroid regulates your metabolism, managing the speed at which you burn calories. When the thyroid is underperforming, it can cause fluid retention, weight gain, constipation, among other issues, making it nearly impossible; to manage your weight. The stats are shocking as 5 out of every 100 people have a low functioning thyroid in the US.

Estrogen Dominance

When your estrogen and progesterone hormones are out of balance, that is called Estrogen Dominance, even if levels of both hormones are low. Having too much estrogen in the body relative to progesterone causes a myriad of symptoms, including weight loss resistance, bloating, mood swings, PMS and heavy periods.

Adrenal Stress

Our adrenal glands rule how we respond to stress by regulating the body’s stress hormones. Chronic stress leads to wildly fluctuating cortisol levels, which means more weight gain and water retention.

3. Genetics

Genetic testing can tell us a great deal about how and why we gain weight, and can be the game-changer for people who have tried everything.

The FTO Gene Variant

One gene that is particularly well documented, the FTO gene, is also known as the human fat-mass and obesity associated gene. It controls leptin, ghrelin (the satiation hormones mentioned above) and adiponectin (which regulates glucose levels). Several other genes affect how we metabolize fats, carbs and proteins.

Genes that impact stress play a big role in weight management too, especially if you’re a stress eater. These genes impact reward pathways, which can affect how you use food to reward yourself.

4. Toxins

Toxins that are present in our environment can be so dangerous that our body needs to protect us by “walling them off” in a casing of fat. The more toxins we have, the more fat cells we need to imprison them. Get rid of the toxins, and the excess weight may very well follow.

Lifelong Sources of Toxicity

Current exposure to toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides aren’t the only concern. Research shows that even early-life exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) can increase fat levels, and with microplastics having recently been found in the placentas of some women, the concern is legitimate.

Many toxins are major contributors to thyroid dysfunction, potentially leading to hormonal weight gain.

7 Easy Ways to Maintain a Healthy Weight

1. Cut Down on Natural and Artificial Sugars

Are you replacing real sugar with artificial sweeteners? Sugar causes weight gain, and this is the case for both natural and artificial sugar since anything our body doesn’t recognize as a natural substance is treated as a toxin – including aspartame. Monk fruit and Stevia are two much healthier sugar free sweeteners.

2. Eat more Fiber

One of the biggest benefits of eating more fiber when you are trying to lose weight is its ability to satiate. Soluble fiber such as that found in beans, flaxseeds, oatmeal and sweet potatoes helps you to feel full longer and slow down the release of sugars into the bloodstream. Soluble fibre cannot be broken down by your own enzymes, so it reaches the gut undigested where it feeds the good bacteria and helps them to flourish. One important aspect of soluble fiber is that it needs water to reach its potential, so staying hydrated is a must.

3. Green Coffee Extract

Don’t like the taste of coffee but want to take advantage of its weight loss benefits? Green coffee extract (GCE) helps maintain a healthy weight and reduce BMI and waist size – in fact it has been proposed as a low-cost and safe obesity treatment.

4. Eat Real Food

Much of what we eat isn’t actually “real” food. Make sure you fuel your body properly by avoiding pre-packaged and processed foods that are chock-full of preservatives, dyes and other chemicals. Focus on fruits, veggies, organic meats and healthy fats. Remember the more toxic your food, the more those toxins will get encased in fat cells.

5. Aim for 10,000 Steps Per Day

Getting those steps in can be hard when you’re spending more time at home. But where there is a will, there is a way! A combination of dietary changes and walking 10,000 steps per day was shown to help significantly reduce total weight, BMI and hip size. Bonus: lower anxiety levels are a natural outcome of making these changes as well.

6. Meditation

Did you know that calming your mind can be a powerful weight loss tool? Adding meditation to standard weight loss treatments can result in additional weight loss in as little as two months. Managing your stress will help your adrenals and can positively affect your weight loss goals.

7. Intermittent Fasting (IF)

One of the most effective ways to get rid of toxins and their corresponding fat prisons is intermittent fasting. How does it work? Designate several hours per day as your ‘eating hours’ and stick to it. This gives your glucose and insulin levels a chance to even out, gives your body a break from the hard job of digestion, and puts the focus on getting toxins out of your body. However, IF is not for everyone, so be sure to check in with your healthcare practitioner before you begin.

Are you ready to step out of the diet roller coaster? Give us a call! We can assess your insulin, stress response, thyroid, genes and toxin load. Together we can design a custom-made treatment plan with targeted supplementation, metabolism-supporting nutrients and nourishing foods. We can’t wait to join you on your health care journey!

References:
Asbaghi O, Sadeghian M, Rahmani S, Mardani M, Khodadost M, Maleki V, Pirouzi A, Talebi S, Sadeghi O. The effect of green coffee extract supplementation on anthropometric measures in adults: A comprehensive systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2020 Jun;51:102424. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102424. Epub 2020 May 5. PMID: 32507437.

Castres I, Tourny C, Lemaitre F, Coquart J. Impact of a walking program of 10,000 steps per day and dietary counseling on health-related quality of life, energy expenditure and anthropometric parameters in obese subjects. J Endocrinol Invest. 2017 Feb;40(2):135-141. doi: 10.1007/s40618-016-0530-9. Epub 2016 Sep 6. PMID: 27600387.

Choi YJ, Jeon SM, Shin S. Impact of a Ketogenic Diet on Metabolic Parameters in Patients with Obesity or Overweight and with or without Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 6;12(7):2005. doi: 10.3390/nu12072005. PMID: 32640608; PMCID: PMC7400909.

Collado-Mateo D, Lavín-Pérez AM, Merellano-Navarro E, Coso JD. Effect of Acute Caffeine Intake on the Fat Oxidation Rate during Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2020 Nov 24;12(12):E3603. doi: 10.3390/nu12123603. PMID: 33255240.

Mohammadi-Sartang M, Mazloom Z, Raeisi-Dehkordi H, Barati-Boldaji R, Bellissimo N, Totosy de Zepetnek JO. The effect of flaxseed supplementation on body weight and body composition: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 45 randomized placebo-controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2017 Sep;18(9):1096-1107. doi: 10.1111/obr.12550. Epub 2017 Jun 21. PMID: 28635182.

Ruanpeng D, Thongprayoon C, Cheungpasitporn W, Harindhanavudhi T. Sugar and artificially sweetened beverages linked to obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. QJM. 2017 Aug 1;110(8):513-520. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcx068. PMID: 28402535.

Rynders CA, Thomas EA, Zaman A, Pan Z, Catenacci VA, Melanson EL. Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting and Time-Restricted Feeding Compared to Continuous Energy Restriction for Weight Loss. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 14;11(10):2442. doi: 10.3390/nu11102442. PMID: 31614992; PMCID: PMC6836017.

Sampaio C, Magnavita G, Ladeia AM. Effect of Healing Meditation on Weight Loss and Waist Circumference of Overweight and Obese Women: Randomized Blinded Clinical Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Sep;25(9):930-937. doi: 10.1089/acm.2019.0092. Epub 2019 Aug 2. PMID: 31373827.

Vajdi M, Abbasalizad Farhangi M. Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation significantly reduces the risk of obesity in an updated systematic review and dose response meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled clinical trials. Int J Clin Pract. 2020 Jun;74(6):e13493. doi: 10.1111/ijcp.13493. Epub 2020 Mar 26. PMID: 32091656.

Wang X, Li D, Liu F, Cui Y, Li X. Dietary citrus and/or its extracts intake contributed to weight control: Evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis of 13 randomized clinical trials. Phytother Res. 2020 Aug;34(8):2006-2022. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6673. Epub 2020 Mar 17. PMID: 32182635.

Wassenaar PNH, Trasande L, Legler J. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Early-Life Exposure to Bisphenol A and Obesity-Related Outcomes in Rodents. Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Oct 5;125(10):106001. doi: 10.1289/EHP1233. PMID: 28982642; PMCID: PMC5933326.

Yazdanpanah Z, Azadi-Yazdi M, Hooshmandi H, Ramezani-Jolfaie N, Salehi-Abargouei A. Effects of cinnamon supplementation on body weight and composition in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Phytother Res. 2020 Mar;34(3):448-463. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6539. Epub 2019 Dec 4. PMID: 31800140.

Appreciating What You Have Instead of What You Want

With everything 2020 has thrown at us, you may feel like everything has gone a bit (make that a lot!) sideways. And in many ways it has. But this year has also turned out to be more about appreciating what we have instead of wanting for more – hasn’t it?

While there have been ups and downs, a lot has happened at the community and personal level that we can be grateful for, and we have all become a little more aware of the importance of the little things; the moments of connection and our individual ability to infuse joy into each day.

Let’s look at some simple ways in which we can focus on what truly matters most and bring joy into every day.

Focus on Your Community

The better part of this year has shone a spotlight on the importance of community support. Many have turned to their neighbours for practical help, but also for social and emotional support. Some communities have combined all three with initiatives like neighbourhood food banks, clothing drives, errand support and job search help. As well, shopping local and supporting local business has become a huge desire across the country.

Create The Community You Want

Sometimes it’s simply about getting together safely to share a joyful moment and blow off some steam. Some neighbourhoods have created weekly outdoor parties featuring a wide range of engaging activities. Painting neighbourhood murals and making a joyful noise by singing or having an impromptu music jam are just some of the ways that communities are stepping up to spread joy.

Safe Santa Visits

Wondering how your kids will get their wish list to Santa safely? While some malls are implementing social distancing measures for in-person visits, many Santa’s are going virtual and offering Zoom calls.

One such Virtual Santa notes that Zoom calls are twice as long as the usual mall visit. Your kids may get more Santa joy with a personal video call than in a crowded mall.

Helping your kids feel supported and safe is important. Find ways to keep normalcy in an otherwise abnormal time while keeping in mind kids are really just living in the moment!

Get Serious About What You Can Control

How many times have you told yourself that when a certain thing happens, you will finally be happy? Perhaps when you finish that big work project, get that promotion, pay off the mortgage, or meet that special someone?

You Are In The Driver’s Seat

Reality check: you are in control. Joy does not depend on outside influences. Joy need not wait for a moment in the future that may never arrive. Joy resides within and is available to you 24/7 – if you are conscious of it and take action.

Where is Your Locus of Control?

Psychologists use the term locus of control to describe how much control we feel over our lives. An internal locus of control can also be called “agency.” Overall, it incorporates the ability to take action, be effective, influence your own life, assume responsibility for your behaviors and attribute our successes to our own abilities and efforts.

Those with an external locus of control do not feel they have much control over their lives, and attribute success to external factors. It’s time to take back the power of your level of happiness by getting back to what’s really important. Family, health, nature, laughter and love.

The Power of Positivity

Our consumer culture tells us: buy more, do more, be more. But what about the little things? Isn’t it time to get back to basics? That brilliant yellow leaf, glinting in the sun. Your children’s happy smiles when you take them out in nature. Joy is captured in moments (and they don’t need to all end up on social media). But your heart must be open to joy, or those precious moments may just pass you by.

Meditation

Instead of looking for more outside of yourself, try looking within. Meditation can bring us to a place of stillness where we can truly hear ourselves. Without the roar of constant seeking and doing, we are finally free to hear our inner guidance.

You Have All You Need

From a spiritual perspective, you already have everything that you need. As Buddhist philosopher Pema Chodron says: “How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand? We train in staying present.”

Bring Back the 80’s

The 80’s was about more than acid-washed jeans, neon sweaters and feathered hair. Without the internet it was a slower, more social time. Is it time to ease up on our beloved tech and slow things down – 80’s style?

Family walk

Walking is the original exercise. There is something about walking in the forest – the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. The crunch of leaves and running water. The fresh smell of cedar and pine. Try taking your family (or just yourself) for a long forest walk. Nature has a way of bringing out the best in us, and you may find that you feel more abundant after time spent outdoors.

Games Night

Board games were a staple part of the 80’s. Why not get your family together and kick it old school with Monopoly, Risk or Scrabble? For a modern twist, try these 6 board games you can play over Zoom.

Block Party

Block parties are a great way to get to know your community. Try organizing an outdoor sing-along with your neighbours – BYOHC (Bring Your Own Hot Chocolate).

Live to Give

We can get so caught up with our day-to-day lives that it’s easy to forget the joy of giving. Giving back takes us out of ourselves and shifts the focus to someone else.

Giving Makes You Happier

In a 2020 study, participants were asked to play a multiple-choice video game. Only half were told that a donation to the United Nations World Food Programme would be made for every answer they got right. In the post-game assessment, the first group was significantly happier. Giving makes you happier, which leads to more giving, which further increases happiness. As the authors concluded, people feel good when they do good.

Small Gestures Make A Difference

Giving doesn’t have to be a grand or expensive gesture. Drop off a fresh batch of cookies to your neighbour with a new baby. Donate some warm socks to a women’s shelter. Use your loyalty points to buy goods for those in need, every little bit helps. The key is to choose an activity that you enjoy doing, for a community that you love.

Plan Ahead

Do you plan for joy? It’s important to make sure you have something to look forward to. Not just for the holidays, but more importantly for the weeks and months that follow.

Something To Look Forward To

Write down one activity that you will engage in over the next week. This can be as simple as watching a movie you are excited to see or calling a friend to chat. It can be anything that you find enjoyable, as long as it is not unhealthy (i.e., eating a whole cake in one sitting).

Something You’re Good At

You can give your happiness an added boost by scheduling an activity for each day that provides you with a sense of accomplishment. Learning a tune on a musical instrument, fixing something in the house, some DIY projects, re-organizing your spice shelf or even donating a pair of socks to a local charity. These are all activities that can help to bring your “Locus of Control” back to centre.

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude journals are great for some, but they’re not for everyone. Here are 3 simple ways to up your gratitude quotient:

Gratitude Break

Set an alarm on your phone for a quick gratitude break. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, stop for a moment and think of something you’re grateful for, then resume what you were doing.

Bring The Positivity

When planning social video calls (aka Online Happy Hour), set a small homework task for everyone who will be participating in the call: To show up with one positive thing to share so that the conversation stays fun, positive and fulfilling.

Say Thank You

Take the time to bring a little more positivity into your home by saying thank you for the little things your loved ones do for you, things you normally take for granted.

Set Up an Ironclad Bedtime Routine

We all know the fuzzy thinking and irritability that comes from lack of sleep. But what about happiness? A 2019 study found that short sleepers had the lowest levels of happiness.

Routine & Habit Make The Difference

Set yourself up for sleep success by creating an ironclad bedtime routine. This will let your body know that it’s time to get into sleep mode. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night to scroll on social media, it’s time to remove your phone from your bedroom. Not only will this prevent notifications from waking you up, it will keep your room nice and dark to increase production of melatonin (the sleep hormone).

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the changes happening all around us? Anxiety kicking into high gear and you are having trouble enjoying the things that matter. Sometimes those feelings go deeper and your system could very well be out of balance. It’s not your fault but you can certainly give your body some help to get things rebalanced. In fact we see patients everyday that just don’t feel well anymore and this year has thrown that into overdrive!

We can help! Let’s meet to check your hormone levels, see how your nervous system is doing, and work on building up your physical resilience while finding your inner joy.

Book a call. Let’s do this together!

References:
Ackerman, C.E. 25 CBT Techniques and Worksheets for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/cbt-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-techniques-worksheets/

Chodron, Pema. 2002. The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. Shambhala Publications.

Lai W, Yang Z, Mao Y, Zhang Q, Chen H, Ma J. When Do Good Deeds Lead to Good Feelings? Eudaimonic Orientation Moderates the Happiness Benefits of Prosocial Behavior. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 6;17(11):4053. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17114053. PMID: 32517165; PMCID: PMC7312963.

Locus of Control: How do we determine our successes and failures? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/moments-matter/201708/locus-control

https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/cbt-behavioral-interventions.htm

Zhao SZ, Wang MP, Viswanath K, Lai A, Fong DYT, Lin CC, Chan SS, Lam TH. Short Sleep Duration and Insomnia Symptoms were Associated with Lower Happiness Levels in Chinese Adults in Hong Kong. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jun 12;16(12):2079. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16122079. PMID: 31212815; PMCID: PMC6616396.

You Might Have High Blood Pressure And Not Even Know It

Did you know your blood pressure could be out of control without you even knowing? High blood pressure is a major contributor to heart disease, and the months of stress, uncertainty, poor diet and immobility we have all been going through are not helping matters.

When the way your blood flows through your body is affected by your habits, vital nutrients and oxygen can’t get to where they are needed in the body. And as the pressure continues to mount, we start to see physical damage in the arteries and organs that can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Heart Disease is Killing Women

Heart disease is the biggest contributor to deaths worldwide, and in spite of what many believe, it’s not only men who are affected. In fact, men represent 49% of deaths from heart disease, whereas women represent 51%. Here are some more jaw dropping facts on women and heart disease:

● A woman dies of heart disease in Canada every 20 minutes.
● Early signs of an impending heart attack were missed in 78% of women, according to a retrospective study published in Circulation.
● Two-thirds of heart disease clinical research still focuses on men.
● Women are five times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer.
● Among women, the risk of having a heart attack greatly increases during the 10 years after menopause

1 in every 5 female deaths in the US is attributed to heart disease. Approximately 1 in every 16 women age 20 and older has coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease.

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to bring down your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing more serious issues in the future.

The 2 Types of High Blood Pressure

Primary hypertension

Primary hypertension is the most common type. It is a long term, chronic condition that develops over time due to factors such as a lack of exercise, poor diet, or a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure. A 2020 study showed that variations in the CYP24A1 gene can have a strong impact on a person’s risk of developing chronic high blood pressure.

Secondary hypertension

Secondary hypertension is acute, and not as common. It is the direct result of other conditions such as thyroid or adrenal gland issues, kidney disease or alcohol dependence.

What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure can develop slowly, with no symptoms. Meanwhile, it may be quietly damaging your arteries, contributing to heart disease and a range of chronic diseases.

If it goes undiagnosed and untreated for too long, it may start to cause serious issues such as:
● Trouble breathing
● Vision disturbances
● Dizziness
● Headaches
● Nosebleeds

High Blood Pressure Leads to Other Health Conditions

The effects high blood pressure has, are determined by which major arteries are affected.

1 – Heart Disease and Heart Attacks
High blood pressure affects the body in many ways that increase the risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.

– Atherosclerosis
High blood pressure damages blood vessel walls. They respond by putting down fatty deposits (plaques), which act like band-aids over damaged areas but over time make the artery walls hard and inflexible. Arteries become narrower due to the plaque build-up, preventing them from delivering vital oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. And if the plaque breaks apart it can result in a blood clot that could block arteries entirely.
If the heart arteries are affected, Atherosclerosis can lead to coronary heart disease, chest pain and increased heart attack risk.

– Enlarged Heart
High blood pressure means that the heart needs to work overtime to pump out a higher volume of blood. This increases risk of heart thickening (hypertrophy) especially of the main pumping chamber of the heart, which makes the heart enlarged and less efficient. As the size of the heart increases, so does the risk of a heart attack.

2 – Cognitive Impairment and Stroke
When atherosclerosis affects the neck instead of the heart arteries, the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen and nutrients which can cause an entirely different set of symptoms.

– Vascular Cognitive Impairment
Over time, reduced oxygen flow to the brain can impact our cognitive and problem-solving ability. The most severe form of Vascular Cognitive Impairment is called Vascular Dementia, but milder symptoms can happen much earlier and heart issues should be considered and investigated if problems with multitasking and memory arise.

– Stroke
If a blood clot or severely narrowed arteries prevent blood flow to the brain for even a short time, it can result in a stroke. The impact of a stroke depends on which part of the brain has been deprived of blood flow.

An Ischemic Stroke happens when the artery is fully blocked, and is the most common type of stroke. Mini strokes happen when an artery is temporarily blocked, then clears up causing what is sometimes called a ‘warning stroke’.

Because high blood pressure weakens artery walls over time, the weakened wall may finally give way leading to a hemorrhagic stroke – when a brain artery bursts entirely.

Any stroke is a dangerous medical emergency.

Lifestyle Factors to Help Lower High Blood Pressure

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you should continue to take the medication prescribed and have regular check-ups. The following factors are an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle:

1 – Diet

Fat, sugar and salt are classic comfort foods, but they can wreak havoc on blood pressure and heart health. When do you crave these foods? Is it when you’re sad? Lonely? Anxious? One way to stop negative dietary habits in their tracks is by recognizing when you’re triggered into emotional eating.

Reduce Saturated and Trans Fats

Fats play a vital role in the body, such as helping us absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K, and providing energy, but not all fats are healthy fats. Here’s how to reduce saturated and trans fats and increase intake of healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.

Eat Less of These Fats:
● Fried foods (chips, French fries)
● Processed meats (deli meats, burgers, hot dogs)
● Fatty meats
● Grain-based desserts (cakes, cookies, donuts)
● Plant oils (palm and palm kernel)
● Dairy

Replace With These Fats:
● Nuts (walnuts, peanut butter)
● Seeds (sunflower, flax)
● Tofu
● Fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
● Avocados
● Plant oils (olive, safflower, sesame)
● Beans and Legumes

Reduce Your Sugar Consumption

Although sugar provides the body with valuable energy, too much can raise blood pressure. Even ‘healthy’ sugars such as coconut sugar and honey should be reduced.

– Read Product Labels
Sugar goes by several names, making it hard to recognize on product labels. The worst offender is high fructose corn syrup, but anything that ends with ‘ose’ is a sugar. The surprising biggest culprit? Sugar-sweetened beverages.

Consume less:
● Alcohol
● Soft drinks
● Sports drinks
● Canned fruit in syrup
● Processed desserts (candy, chocolate bars)

Replace With:
● Water
● Green tea
● Pure fruit juices without added sugar
● Low sugar fruits: berries, kiwis, citrus and melons
● fresh herbs to boost flavour

Reduce Your Sodium Intake

We need salt to maintain electrolyte and fluid balance, but in moderation only. Salt is frequently added to processed foods to extend shelf life and enhance taste. Here’s how to cut back:

Reduce Intake:
● Less processed, pre-packaged and fast foods
● Rinse canned goods before eating
● Remove the salt shaker from your table
● Taste food before adding salt
● Crackers, chips and salted nuts

Replace With:
● Herbs, spices or lemon to enhance flavour
● Cooking more at home, where you can control salt levels
● Raw nuts, homemade crackers, homemade sweet potato chips or kale chips
● cut-up veggie sticks

2 – Exercise

Exercise can effectively reduce high blood pressure by improving artery health and managing weight. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for adults, and one hour per day for children and youth.

Tips to Increase How Much You Exercise

1. Mix it up: do weight-bearing exercise two days per week and cardio 3 days per week
2. Set daily hour limits on sedentary activities like watching TV
3. Use active transportation like walking or biking for short trips
4. Plan active family outings like hiking or going for a swim
5. Do active household tasks as a family like shovelling snow and dog-walking
6. Embrace outdoor winter activities like ice skating, tobogganing and skiing
7. Try indoor cardio like an online aerobic class or put on your favorite tunes and dance like nobody’s watching

3 – Reduce Your Stress Levels

Stress has a strong blood pressure-raising effect. Here’s how to lower your stress response, and improve stress resilience:

Mindfulness and Meditation
A 2020 review examining behavioural strategies found that mindfulness training had the greatest blood pressure-lowering effect. How does it work? Participants in a 2020 study reported that increased self-awareness, attention control, and emotion regulation helped them make better health choices, and improved their ability to handle stress.

Another 2020 study found that after 12 months of using a breathing meditation app, participants’ blood pressure was significantly reduced.

Simple Activities That Help Increase Mindfulness

● Meditation. The key is to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all else. Try one of the many free meditation apps (like Headspace). Try fixing your mind on a single candle, or close your eyes and visualize a peaceful spot.
● Deep Breathing. Breathwork can quickly bring you back to a calm state, and can be done anywhere, anytime. Try the simple but effective box breathing technique: breathe in for four counts; hold for four; breathe out for four, hold for four.
● Yoga. Combining breathing, focus and exercise, yoga is one-stop shopping for stress relief. Include forward bends but avoid poses that compress the diaphragm. Try these 5 blood pressure-reducing poses from Yoga International.

4 – Blood Pressure-Friendly Food Based Supplements

While supplements are not a substitute for maintaining close contact with your physician and following their advice, certain everyday nutrients have shown positive results in research studies.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C does more than support our immune systems. A 2020 review concluded that Vitamin C supplementation resulted in significant reduction of blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. Another 2020 review found that low vitamin C levels were strongly associated with high blood pressure.

Garlic
What kitchen staple can reduce blood pressure? The allicin in garlic supplements have been shown to lower blood pressure by widening blood vessels, increasing nitric oxide production and relaxing the smooth muscles found in blood vessels.

Are you at risk of high blood pressure? It’s never too early to talk about prevention. Naturopathic Medicine can help put you on a path to a healthy lifestyle designed to work for you. Prevention and management require changing lifestyle habits but going at it alone can be challenging. Let’s work together to ensure your heart health and overall health is maximized!
Give us a call today 416-234-1888.

References:

Nardi WR, Harrison A, Saadeh FB, Webb J, Wentz AE, Loucks EB. Mindfulness and cardiovascular health: Qualitative findings on mechanisms from the mindfulness-based blood pressure reduction (MB-BP) study. PLoS One. 2020 Sep 23;15(9):e0239533. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239533. PMID: 32966308; PMCID: PMC7510988.

Ran L, Zhao W, Tan X, Wang H, Mizuno K, Takagi K, Zhao Y, Bu H. Association between Serum Vitamin C and the Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies.

Cardiovasc Ther. 2020 Apr 29;2020:4940673. doi: 10.1155/2020/4940673. PMID: 32426036; PMCID: PMC7211237.

Tabassum N, Ahmad F. Role of natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension. Pharmacogn Rev. 2011 Jan;5(9):30-40. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.79097. PMID: 22096316; PMCID: PMC3210006.

Benjamin, E.J., Muntner, P., Alonso, A. Bittencourt, M.S., Callaway, C.W., Carson, A.P., … & Virani, S.S. (2019). Heart disease and stroke statistics – 2019 update: A report from the American Heart
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Heron, M. (2018). Death: Leading Causes for 2016. National Vital Statistics Report, 67(6), 1-76.

Foggy Brain – What you need to know?

Brain fog is one of the more common symptoms we see in practice, as well as being one of the most elusive and hard to pin down. A sudden onset of poor concentration, mental fatigue, inability to focus, confusion, and memory issues make even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming and can negatively affect all aspects of life. Let’s take a look at the various causes of brain fog, and what you can do to clear things up.

What Causes Brain Fog?

It may surprise you to read that brain fog is a well-documented symptom of a number of chronic conditions. It is particularly prevalent in diseases involving inflammation, fatigue, and blood sugar imbalance such as diabetes, depression, and autoimmune diseases, as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), and Fibromyalgia.
Research into the factors that contribute to brain fog identify the following triggers:

Hormone Imbalance

Brain fog is perhaps most commonly reported by women going through hormonal changes, such as in pregnancy and perimenopause. Why is that? The brain is sensitive to the fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone that occur during both of these life events, contributing to ‘mommy brain’ and the memory issues that are often attributed to menopause.

Menopause-Related Cognitive Impairment

Perimenopausal women report that brain fog significantly impacts their quality of life, overall health, and productivity. The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) has observed over 3,300 women throughout the menopausal transition, measuring cognitive abilities before, during, and after menopause.

The good news is that while the results showed that cognitive performance was impaired during the transition to menopause (aka perimenopause), it did go back up to pre-perimenopause levels once menopause had been reached.

Stress and Anxiety

When faced with chronic stress and anxiety, our fight or flight response gets stuck in overdrive. This means our adrenal glands, designed to pump out stress hormones in short bursts, end up releasing continued high levels of cortisol and adrenaline which can contribute to cloudy thinking.

During the stress response, the part of your brain that thinks deeply and stores memories is put on the back burner while the part that allows you to respond immediately to protect you from danger is prioritized. This works well in a real emergency, but not so well when you need to dig into that work report or solve a complex problem.

Yeast Infections
Candida albicans is a yeast naturally present in our bodies, which when unbalanced is the biggest cause of human fungal infections in the world. Under the right conditions, candida populations can quickly overgrow, displacing good microbes and colonizing the gut, urinary tract, genitals, mouth and skin.

Brain fog is a classic sign of Candida overgrowth. A ground-breaking 2019 study showed that Candida can actually enter the brain and cause neuroinflammation, contributing to brain fog. When the Candida infection was cleared out, memory improved.

Food Sensitivities

If you can’t think clearly after eating certain foods, you may have a food sensitivity. Brain fog is a hallmark symptom. Food sensitivities are very individual, but common offenders include dairy, wheat, nuts and food additives like red food colouring, MSG and aspartame.

Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease sufferers commonly report attention difficulties and unclear thinking. In a 2014 study, 11 Celiac Disease patients were given a gluten-free diet for a year. As their intestinal lining healed, their cognitive measurements improved.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Research has linked low levels of iron, vitamin D and folate (vitamin B9) with brain fog. B12 is the best-known deficiency associated with foggy thinking and memory issues. Studies have demonstrated that B12 supplementation can improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s and as well as minor cognitive impairments.

One study involving over 2,500 participants demonstrated that supplementation with vitamin B12 improved cognitive performance, especially when combined with vitamins B6 and B9 (folate).

Chronic Infections

Chronic infections such as Hepatitis C, Epstein Barr Virus and HPV have all been connected to the symptom of brain fog. If your immune system isn’t functioning optimally, these infections can infiltrate your cells. Chronic Hepatitis C sufferers report that frequent problems with focus and memory recall significantly interfere with their ability to perform daily activities. And these symptoms often stick around long after the initial infection is gone.

Chemotherapy

Many patients receiving chemotherapy for breast or prostate cancer experience a degree of cognitive dysfunction affecting their working memory, concentration, information processing speed, reaction time, visuospatial ability, and executive function. Often Labelled as “chemo brain”, these symptoms typically persist for approximately 6 months after the end of treatment.

How to Banish Brain Fog

1 – Drink Plenty of Water

Even mild dehydration can make it hard to concentrate. Space out the recommended 8 glasses per day and sip slowly. This will allow your body to properly absorb and use the water.

2 – Keep a Food Journal to Identify Food Sensitivities

Try keeping a food journal for a month, noting what you eat and when you feel cloudy thinking coming on. Chances are that you will find a pattern that points to the culprit foods. The ultimate test? Eliminate those foods entirely for 2 weeks and see if your thinking comes into focus.

3 – Eat Good Protein, Fat and Sugar

Your brain needs high-quality protein, fat and sugar to function at its best.
Eat less sugar and processed foods to avoid feeding Candida. Did you hear that Ireland recently declared that Subway bread could not legally be called ‘bread’ because of its high sugar content? Sugar lurks where you least suspect it – read food labels or ask for ingredient lists.
Fresh fruit is your best sugar source. Include antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries, strawberries, goji berries and raspberries and your brain will thank you!

Get both fat and protein with cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring. Healthy fat sources include virgin olive oil, walnuts, avocado and coconut oil.

4 – Improve Sleep Quality and Quantity

Weekend sleep catch up doesn’t work. Implement a predictable night-time routine so your body knows when to get into sleep mode. Make sure your bedroom is completely dark, which ramps up melatonin (the ‘sleep hormone’) production to bring on sleepiness.

5 – Reduce Stress by Focusing on the Now

Anxiety and stress often involve constant worry. Listen to your thoughts – what are you worrying about? Are you caught in a thought loop about a past conversation or a worry about the future?
As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says: “The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” Next time you catch yourself ruminating, do something physical that will bring your focus back to the present moment. Go for a walk, take a bath – anything that connects you with the here and now.

With so many potential causes of brain fog, where do you start? Let’s get to the root of what’s really going on. We can do testing for food sensitivities, Candida and nutritional deficiencies. We can check your hormone status. Let’s work together on a solid treatment plan involving brain-nourishing nutrients, foods and lifestyle changes. Isn’t it time to clear the fog and get back to a life lived with clarity, vision and joy?

References:

About Candida albicans: Natural yeast and problematic infections. Medical News Today. Accessed October 10, 2020
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Adinolfi LE, Nevola R, Lus G, Restivo L, Guerrera B, Romano C, Zampino R, Rinaldi L, Sellitto A, Giordano M, Marrone A. Chronic hepatitis C virus infection and neurological and psychiatric disorders: an overview. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Feb 28;21(8):2269-80. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i8.2269. PMID: 25741133; PMCID: PMC4342902.

An Y, Feng L, Zhang X, Wang Y, Wang Y, Tao L, Qin Z, Xiao R. Dietary intakes and biomarker patterns of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 can be associated with cognitive impairment by hypermethylation of redox-related genes NUDT15 and TXNRD1. Clin Epigenetics. 2019 Oct 11;11(1):139. doi: 10.1186/s13148-019-0741-y. PMID: 31601260; PMCID: PMC6787977.

Brain Fog, Foggy Head Anxiety Symptoms. Anxiety Centre. Accessed on October 10, 2020. https://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-symptoms/brain-fog.shtml

Candida infection can reach brain and impair memory. Medical News Today. Accessed on October 10, 2020.https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324106#Why-study-C.-albicans-and-the-brain?

Carnitine Health Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed October 10, 2020. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Carnitine-HealthProfessional/

Gava G, Orsili I, Alvisi S, Mancini I, Seracchioli R, Meriggiola MC. Cognition, Mood and Sleep in Menopausal Transition: The Role of Menopause Hormone Therapy. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Oct 1;55(10):668. doi: 10.3390/medicina55100668. PMID: 31581598; PMCID: PMC6843314.

Lanza G, Bella R, Cantone M, Pennisi G, Ferri R, Pennisi M. Cognitive Impairment and Celiac Disease: Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation a Trait d’Union between Gut and Brain? Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jul 31;19(8):2243. doi: 10.3390/ijms19082243. PMID: 30065211; PMCID: PMC6121508.

Lichtwark IT, Newnham ED, Robinson SR, Shepherd SJ, Hosking P, Gibson PR, Yelland GW. Cognitive impairment in coeliac disease improves on a gluten-free diet and correlates with histological and serological indices of disease severity. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Jul;40(2):160-70. doi: 10.1111/apt.12809. Epub 2014 May 28. PMID: 24889390.

Matza LS, Deger KA, Vo P, Maniyar F, Goadsby PJ. Health state utilities associated with attributes of migraine preventive treatments based on patient and general population preferences. Qual Life Res. 2019 Sep;28(9):2359-2372. doi: 10.1007/s11136-019-02163-3. Epub 2019 Mar 28. PMID: 30924071; PMCID: PMC6698266.

Senzolo M, Schiff S, D’Aloiso CM, Crivellin C, Cholongitas E, Burra P, Montagnese S. Neuropsychological alterations in hepatitis C infection: the role of inflammation. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Aug 7;17(29):3369-74. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v17.i29.3369. PMID: 21876628; PMCID: PMC3160562.

Traina G. The neurobiology of acetyl-L-carnitine. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2016 Jun 1;21:1314-29. doi: 10.2741/4459. PMID: 27100509.

Vitamin B12 Health Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed October 10, 2020. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/

Wu, Y., Du, S., Johnson, J.L. et al. Microglia and amyloid precursor protein coordinate control of transient Candida cerebritis with memory deficits. Nat Commun 10, 58 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-07991-4

Xu J, Zhu XY, Sun H, Xu XQ, Xu SA, Suo Y, Cao LJ, Zhou Q, Yu HJ, Cao WZ. Low vitamin D levels are associated with cognitive impairment in patients with Hashimoto thyroiditis. BMC Endocr Disord. 2018 Nov 26;18(1):87. doi: 10.1186/s12902-018-0314-7. PMID: 30477467; PMCID: PMC6260768.

6 Possible Causes of Brain Fog. Healthline. Accessed on October 10, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/brain-fog

Are You Chronically Inflamed? Here’s What to Do

Inflammation has become a bit of a buzzword recently, and rightly so. Did you know that systemic inflammation plays a role in the development of many chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease? With 2 out of every 3 deaths in North America attributed to these lifestyle diseases, it makes sense to nip inflammation in the bud.

As we get older, we tend to think of chronic inflammation as par for the course. Aches and pains, digestive issues, mood or memory issues and weight gain are all among the symptoms of system-wide inflammation that tends to be ignored. But is chronic inflammation really an inevitable part of aging? Let’s take a look at what’s happening inside the body as we get older, factors contributing to aging, and what you can do to age gracefully and inflammation-free!

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation plays a central role in the body’s healing process – it is an essential part of our immune response. Short term inflammation protects us against invaders like viruses and bacteria by triggering heat and swelling after an injury. But when the immune system is overactive or dysfunctional, it mobilizes a defence against harmless substances, and can even damage its own cells. That is when inflammation becomes chronic. In fact, uncontrolled chronic inflammation plays a role in almost every major disease.

The Inflammatory Mechanism

One example of inflammation at play is the development of atherosclerosis in the arteries. When there is arterial wear and tear caused by high blood pressure or irritation, inflammation triggers a protective band-aid to be built over the injured area, in the form of a cholesterol-rich plaque build-up. However, as this plaque grows it causes a hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels that increases blood pressure. Furthermore, if the plaque ruptures, its contents mingle with blood, forming dangerous blood clots.

Why does Inflammation Become Chronic?

Inflammation can become chronic for a variety of reasons, and sometimes the reason isn’t apparent at all. It may be brought on by a condition such as obesity, an abnormal immune reaction, environmental toxin exposure, or an infection that doesn’t go away. Or it may stem from a disease that is characterized by inflammation such as colitis, pancreatitis, or hepatitis. As time goes on, this inflammation can damage the body’s tissues and even DNA, leading to conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer.

Genetics are also believed to play a strong role in our susceptibility to chronic inflammation. Research has identified a number of genetic SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that cause some individuals to quickly produce large numbers of inflammatory cytokines, making a preventive lifestyle particularly important.

Lifestyle Factors Can Contribute to Inflammation

A lot of research has been carried out in regards to the lifestyle factors that can lead to inflammation. Far from being passive within the body, recent research shows that fat is a major player in systemic inflammation. The more fat we have, the higher the risk of chronic inflammation. And because we tend to put on weight as we age, this further increase inflammation risk. Understanding these relationships allows us to make the changes necessary to live a lifestyle that is preventive in nature, reducing our chances of developing chronic disease.

9 Ways to Prevent and Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation does not need to be a part of ageing, there is a lot that can be done to quell the fire so that you can live the healthy, active life you want. The good news is that daily lifestyle habits are the key, and results can happen fast. It’s never too late to take action against inflammation. Here are 9 ways to do just that!

1 – Exercise

Research points to exercise as the single most effective step you can take to reduce systemic inflammation. Our current sedentary pandemic lifestyle is not making us any healthier – in fact one 2019 study coined the term ‘inflamm-inactivity’ to reflect that lack of exercise and the resulting fat accumulation may be the main drivers behind inflammation.
Here are some tips for getting back into a strong exercise routine with the goal of reducing inflammation:

Mix Up Exercise Intensity

Don’t put all your eggs in one exercise basket. Research shows the strongest anti-inflammatory effects come from including both high intensity (sprinting, jumping rope) and low-intensity (swimming, walking yoga, Tai Chi) exercises.
Some exercises are naturally high or low intensity. But many exercises can go either way – you have control over the intensity. Walking can be a gentle stroll or an invigorating speed walk. Swimming can be leisurely, or an intense lap swim.
Mixing things up will prevent boredom, and keep you motivated to stick with your routine.

Include Resistance Training

Weight training is a vital part of an anti-inflammatory exercise regime, perfectly complementing aerobic exercise. Ironically, the muscle damage that happens when we lift weights actually spurs our immune system to remove inflammatory cellular waste products faster.

Try Endurance Exercise

Research shows that endurance athletes usually live much longer than the general population, and have lower levels of inflammation.
You don’t have to be training for a marathon or the Tour de France to partake. Brisk walking is a great way to hit that happy medium between strolling and sprinting.

Exercise Regularly

Regular, long term exercise strategies are optimal, with the best results being seen at the 12 – 24 week mark. For most kinds of exercise 8 weeks is the minimum to see reductions in inflammation, with the exception is HIIT (high-intensity interval training), where even 6 weeks can effectively lower it.
7 hours per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise is associated with longer life expectancy. Not currently exercising? Avoid injury by slowly working up to one hour a day. Start with 10 or 15-minute exercise increments and gradually increase as your body gets comfortable with your new routine.

Some Exercise is Better Than None

With many gyms being closed, it may be harder to get regular exercise. The good news? Even one exercise session has a positive impact. A 2018 study showed that just one bout of resistance training increased removal of senescent cells for up to 48 hours afterwards.

2 – Drink Enough Water

Inflammation is the body’s natural response attempting to eliminate irritants, so it makes sense that providing the transport needed to escort these irritants out of the body can help. Our bodies are made up of 70% water, and it is absolutely crucial for cell-to-cell communication; the formation of gastric juices and enzymes; helping the muscles of the digestive system to function properly, and off course as the vehicle that provides mobility to the toxins and cellular refuse that needs to leave the body.

The recommendation is to make sure to drink at least 8 glasses of clear, filtered water per day. This shouldn’t include any other beverages, although it is a good idea to add herbal teas, such as rooibos or green tea, on top of that.

3 – Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Let food be your medicine! The right diet can increase your lifespan and improve markers of inflammation. Dairy and gluten are not usually inflammatory in healthy individuals (unless you have an allergy, intolerance, or celiac disease), but they can irritate inflammation that is already present in the body. Some people may find it beneficial to cut out dairy, gluten, or both for a few weeks while eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods to give the body time to “calm down.” After those two weeks, start to incorporate dairy or gluten-containing foods slowly and watch out for any symptoms of irritation.

Consume Less of These Inflammatory Foods
Sugar
Saturated fat
Alcohol
Red meat
Processed meats
Sugar-sweetened beverages

Consume More of These Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Leafy green vegetables
Seaweed
Fiber
Beans
Nuts & seeds
Berries
Fish
Olive oil
The occasional glass of red wine

4 – Take Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice which has long been used in traditional medicine. Its active component, Curcumin, has been heavily researched of late for its ability to reduce acute and chronic inflammation, and is recommended as a food-based supplement to patients with arthritis, metabolic syndrome and cancer.

Turmeric powder can be taken as a capsule, tea, or whipped into a chai latte. You can also buy the fresh root and blend it into any smoothie, or add it to salad dressings and hummus.

5 – Practice Intermittent Fasting

Did you know that digestion takes up 80% of the body’s energy? That’s why intermittent fasting (eating for only a set number of hours per day) so effectively frees up the body’s energy to focus on tasks like removing senescent cells.

When combined with a healthy diet, this fasting style has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve mitochondrial health and reduce fat levels. Start easily by eating an early dinner so that you are naturally fasting for 12 hours a day, and slowly increase the time to 14-16 hours a day. Remember to drink your water during the fasting time!

6 – Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Inadequate rest may make you more sensitive to stress, which in turn causes inflammation. Remember the basics of sleep hygiene:

Eat an earlier dinner to avoid going to bed on a full stomach
Do some mild exercise, such as a walk, after dinner
Switch off all technology 1 hour before bed
Sleep in a cool, dark room.

7 – Get a Massage

A massage isn’t just a treat. It can play an integral part in staying healthy. Receiving a 45-minute Swedish massage can greatly lower levels of two key inflammation-promoting hormones, according to a study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. “Massage may decrease inflammatory substances by [appropriately] increasing the amount of disease-fighting white blood cells in the body,” says Mark Hyman Rapaport, M.D., co-author of the study. “It may also lower stress hormones. Either way, these results can be seen after just one massage.”

8 – Reduce Stress

If you have an inflammatory condition such as Crohn’s disease, you know very well the effect that stress has – any stressful event can bring on a flare-up. The high cortisol levels that stress triggers increase inflammation throughout the body. Stress also increases blood pressure and heart rate, making your blood vessels work harder and creating damage. If that damage happens over and over, inflammation persists.

The key to stress management is breaking the cycle of stress chemicals in the body. A daily relaxation, meditation or yoga practice is key. Take 10-30 minutes daily to be with yourself and bring your cortisol levels back to neutral – this will allow you to approach each day anew.

9 – Look After Your Gut Microbiome

A good quality probiotic supplement is soothing to the gut. Researchers have found that taking probiotics for 8 weeks helped to reduce markers of inflammation in arthritis patients. Try to find a high-quality professional supplement, or if you prefer you can take your daily probiotics in food form such as kefir, kombucha or kimchi.

If you are ready to make a positive change in your lifestyle to reduce inflammation and reduce future disease risk, give us a call. We can run lab tests that will show you your current inflammatory status, and help fast-track your journey to a healthier future.

References:

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Baylis D, Bartlett DB, Patel HP, Roberts HC. Understanding how we age: insights into inflammaging. Longev Healthspan. 2013;2:8. doi: 10.1186/2046-2395-2-8
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How to Manage Stress and Anxiety in Uncertain Times

The pandemic has brought us six solid months of stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown. This Fall things are ramping up again, with increased COVID infection rates and back to school worries. Hundreds of studies have been published on the negative health effects of the pandemic worldwide, and what tops the list? Skyrocketing levels of stress and anxiety.
Whether you’re stressed about contracting COVID-19 or dealing with the many “pivots” brought on by recurring lockdowns and decreased socialization, such high stress levels are simply not sustainable. Now is the time to work on demystifying stress and anxiety so that you can disarm it and reclaim your inner peace this fall.

Stress, Decoded

Stress and anxiety have deep roots in the body, involving your brain, gut, hormones and nervous system. Let’s see what science has to say about it:

Fight or Flight Mode, aka the HPA Axis

When a stressor hits, your body goes into emergency mode by activating the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis. The adrenal glands receive the ‘danger’ message from the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain, triggering them to produce adrenaline which then spurs your entire body into action to either fight or flee from the situation.
The problem? A system that was designed to be used for just a few minutes at a time also has the ability to be active most of the time. This means that chronic stress forces your adrenals to work overtime. Becoming stuck in “fight or flight mode” due to constant stress leads to overwhelm and, inevitably, exhaustion.

Your Microbiome Affects Your Stress Levels

Your microbiome is made up of the diverse community of microbes that reside in your gut. What many people ignore when discussing the microbiome is the fact that it is not only involved in digestion – in fact, gut bacteria are also strongly linked to your brain.

A 2019 study looking at the effects of a Mediterranean diet high in fresh fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, polyphenols (i.e. dark chocolate and berries) and fermented foods (i.e. kimchi or sauerkraut) helped participants to be more stress resilient. Researchers noted the role of the microbiota in producing serotonin (the ‘feel good hormone).

Another 2019 study showed that both probiotics and prebiotics increase our ability to handle stress by supporting gut microbes, and can actually reverse some of the negative effects of stress.
Many studies have shown that stress changes our microbiome, which further reduces our ability to handle stress. A 2017 study concluded that even short-term stress exposure (especially in early life) reduces microbiome diversity and increases anxiety.

The Blood Sugar Rollercoaster

Finding comfort in carbs? A 2020 study showed that high consumption of processed carbs can increase anxiety and irritability by taking you on a blood sugar rollercoaster. Your body considers low blood sugar an emergency, which puts you back into fight or flight mode.

Inflammation, Anxiety and Leaky Gut

The strong links between the gut-brain axis and inflammation are well established. One 2017 study showed that microbiome imbalance can promote chronic inflammation, which then makes us more responsive to stress and increases anxiety. The study notes the important role of Leaky Gut Syndrome, in which stress caused by microbial imbalance causes holes in the mucus lining of the GI tract, allowing bacteria to escape into the body. Our body’s immune response to these “invaders” is linked to systemic inflammation.

How to Balance, Manage and Reduce Anxiety

You can’t control what life throws at you, but you can control how you respond to it. Here are our top tips to help you cope with anxiety both in the moment, and build long term stress resilience.

1 – Breathing Exercises
Do you experience panic attacks? Deep breathing can help reduce panic and overwhelm in the moment, and help you cope in the long term. Try these two exercises, backed by scientific research.

Deep Breathing for Vagal Nerve Tone

The vagus nerve is the main line of communication between your gut and your brain. Certain breathing exercises can improve vagal nerve tone to get you out of ‘fight or flight’ and into ‘rest and digest’ mode.
A 2018 study reported decreased stress and anxiety, and increased sense of well-being after doing breathing exercises. Effective techniques include slow breathing, longer exhales than inhales and breathing from the diaphragm. Learn how in this short video!

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This ancient practice has been used in yoga for centuries. Recent research suggests that this technique can bring the mind and body to a state of balanced calm, and reduce both stress and anxiety.
Learn this technique in this short video!

2 – Smartphone Apps

Is constant social media scrolling making you more anxious? How can you harness the power of technology to reduce feelings of overwhelm and anxiety? These 3 apps use evidence-based scientific research.

MindshiftTM

MindshiftTM uses evidence-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to help you manage feelings of stress, anxiety, worry and panic. When a stressor hits, try features like Coping Cards and the Chill Zone to ground yourself and cope in the moment. Features like the Thought Journal, Goal Setting and Expanding Your Comfort Zone will help shift your mindset to make positive change that lasts.

Headspace

Have you tried to meditate without success? Headspace features hundreds of guided meditation sessions for beginners. Choose a topic (like anxiety or sleep) and the app will suggest the best sessions for you. From bite-sized mini meditations to more in-depth sessions, the app will help train your mind so you can gain solid benefits from your meditation practice.

Muse

Muse goes one step further by pairing a brain-sensing headband with an app to give you real-time feedback on your brain activity during meditation and sleep. Mind wandering during meditation? Stormy weather sounds will cue you to refocus. Peaceful weather sounds confirm you’re in the calm zone.

3 – Nutritional & Herbal Supplements

L-Theanine

This amino acid found in green tea is well known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. By interacting with both dopamine and GABA receptors in the brain, it brings a sense of calm and well-being. If green tea isn’t for you, supplementing with L-Theanine means you get all the stress-busting benefits with none of the jittery caffeine drawbacks. A 2019 study of stressed, healthy adults showed that just one month of supplementation with L-Theanine significantly reduced anxiety and stress, and improved cognitive function.

Ashwagandha

This herb has been used for 3,000 years in Indian Ayurvedic Medicine as a whole-body tonic. Classed as an adaptogen, Ashwagandha supports your adrenal glands and HPA axis to help you stay calm and resilient in the face of stress. A 2019 study of healthy, anxious adults showed that ashwagandha supplementation significantly reduced anxiety and improved mood.

Are you ready to face whatever this Fall has in store for you, anxiety-free? Let’s meet to discuss and assess your current stress and anxiety levels. Together, we can come up with a solid treatment plan including supplements, diet and lifestyle strategies to dial back anxiety and increase your stress resilience. Isn’t it time you focussed on yourself? Call us today to get started!

References:

Adan RAH, van der Beek EM, Buitelaar JK, et al. Nutritional psychiatry: Towards improving mental health by what you eat. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019;29(12):1321-1332. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2019.10.011

Alternate Nostril Breathing. Lotus Flower Yoga. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMdTmYMEG-c Accessed on September 18, 2020.

Anxiety Canada. MindshiftTM CBT App. https://www.anxietycanada.com/resources/mindshift-cbt/?_ga=2.127928524.1122230185.1600531245-1709723190.1600531245. Accessed on September 18, 2020.

Anxiety Canada. How to Tolerate Uncertainty.https://www.anxietycanada.com/sites/default/files/ToleratingUncertainty.pdf. Accessed on September 18, 2020.

Bharwani A, Mian MF, Foster JA, Surette MG, Bienenstock J, Forsythe P. Structural & functional consequences of chronic psychosocial stress on the microbiome & host. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016; 63:217-227. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.10.001

Burokas A, Arboleya S, Moloney RD, et al. Targeting the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Prebiotics Have Anxiolytic and Antidepressant-like Effects and Reverse the Impact of Chronic Stress in Mice. Biol Psychiatry. 2017;82(7):472-487. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.12.031

Firth J, Gangwisch JE, Borisini A, Wootton RE, Mayer EA. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing?. BMJ. 2020;369:m2382. Published 2020 Jun 29. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2382

Foster JA, Rinaman L, Cryan JF. Stress & the gut-brain axis: Regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiol Stress. 2017; 7:124-136. Published 2017 Mar 19. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2017.03.001

Gerritsen RJS, Band GPH. Breath of Life: The Respiratory Vagal Stimulation Model of Contemplative Activity. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018; 12:397. Published 2018 Oct 9. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00397

Headspace.https://www.headspace.com/science/meditation-research . Accessed September 18, 2020.

Hidese S, Ogawa S, Ota M, et al. Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2362. Published 2019 Oct 3. doi:10.3390/nu11102362

Kamath A, Urval RP, Shenoy AK. Effect of Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise on Experimentally Induced Anxiety in Healthy Volunteers Using the Simulated Public Speaking Model: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. Biomed Res Int. 2017; 2017:2450670. doi:10.1155/2017/2450670

Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(37): e17186. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000017186

Muse. https://www.mendeley.com/profiles/muse-research-team/publications/# . Accessed September 18, 2020.

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Alternate Nostril Breathing technique video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMdTmYMEG-c

Why Detoxification is at the Root of Good Health

What does going on a ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ mean to you? Fasting? Following a boxed detox kit? Going on a lemon juice cleanse?
Messaging from the growing detox industry implies that without such measures, detoxification won’t occur. The truth? Our bodies detox 365 days a year, sweeping our cells clean of toxins and removing them from our bodies.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore these detoxification pathways. Let’s look at why detoxification is so important to overall health, and what you can do to support your body’s natural detox efforts.

Why We Need to Detox

Toxins are now omnipresent in our environment. An Environmental Working Group study found an average of 200 toxins in newborns. If our babies are starting life so heavily laden already, Imagine the toxic burden the average adult carries!

Where Do These Toxins Come From?

These days, sources of environmental toxins that can negatively affect our body go beyond air and water pollution to include:
● Non-organic foods (pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones and additives)
● Personal care products
● Home cleaning products
● Home building materials and furnishings

Internal Toxins

Our normal metabolic processes also produce toxins. These are the natural by-products of life that when healthy, are quickly and efficiently removed from the body through natural detoxification channels such as the bowels, urinary system, lungs and skin. But there are more toxins in our environment today than our system was designed to handle.

What happens when toxins accumulate in our cells and organs?

Toxic buildup can have serious effects on overall health. An overload of bodily toxins has been linked to several types of cancer, cognitive dysfunction, fatigue, neurodegenerative diseases and a variety of chronic diseases.
Imagine if you didn’t take out the garbage for a month. Mold and other dangerous microorganisms would develop, putting your entire household at risk of disease. It’s the same within our bodies – not taking out the cellular trash regularly means those toxins can be reabsorbed and cause damage. Let’s look at a few health impacts of high toxic load.

Weight Gain

If we can’t get rid of toxins fast enough, our body locks them away in fat cells. Like jail cells, these ‘toxin prisons’ prevent them from escaping into the rest of the body and causing damage. The more toxins you have, the more fat is needed to imprison them. This is why undergoing a weight loss program without the right support can sometimes be dangerous: fat loss means stored toxins get released into your bloodstream, and need to be removed quickly before they are reabsorbed.
Toxins can also be a causative factor in insulin dysfunction, contributing to obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic issues.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Many neurodegenerative illnesses such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s have been linked to a high toxin load. Prenatal exposure to bodily toxins is thought to contribute to ADHD in children, with heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium being considered the worst offenders. Toxins are likely to enter the abundant fat in neurological cells. Unlike some other fat stores in the body, this is where they can cause real damage to neurotransmitter function and communication.

Reproductive Issues and Cancer

Endocrine disrupting chemicals which include solvents, BPA and phthalates from plastics, can cause serious hormone dysfunction, unbalancing key hormones like estrogen and testosterone. This contributes to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, breast and prostate cancer. It can even decrease fertility in both men and women. This effect is so strong, that prenatal exposure can reduce adult fertility.

How Does Detoxification Work?

Detoxification is a real team effort, featuring the hard-working liver and kidneys. Working closely with the colon, urinary tract and skin, they release enzymes that break down toxins, then filter and excrete them from the body. Some toxins are eliminated as stool, while some are sent to the liver for conversion to safer, water-soluble forms. The liver sends them into the bloodstream, where the kidney escorts them out of the body as urine. Toxins can also be excreted through sweat.

Detox Pathway Dysfunction

Like any team process, success depends on everyone doing their part. If liver function is weakened, toxins may not be properly neutralized. If the kidneys are not at their best, they may not be able to remove toxins through urine. And if colon function is compromised, toxins may remain for too long in the body before removal. In this delicate balance, any detoxification pathway dysfunction can result in toxins sticking around long enough to damage organs, cells and DNA.

Genetics Impact Detoxification

Genetics play a strong role in how well our bodies detoxify. Detoxification involves three main stages, and genes that impact each stage have been identified. Depending on your genetic profile, you could be great at neutralizing toxins, but less efficient at excreting them from the body. Or vice versa.

7 Ways You Can Support Your Body’s Detoxification
When we give our body the tools and resources it needs to do the job. Here’s how!

1 – Reduce Your Exposure to Toxins

The fewer toxins you absorb into your body, the easier detoxification will be. Try these strategies to stay toxin-free:

Eat Organic As Often As Possible

If you can’t afford to go 100% organic, prioritize meats, fish and dairy products as the conventional, non-organic forms may contain pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. Learn which conventional fruits and veggies are highest and lowest in pesticides with the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Dirty Dozen List and Clean Fifteen List.

Reduce Your Use of Plastics

Eliminating or reducing the use of plastic wraps and containers for food and drink storage is a great way to drastically reduce your exposure to BPA, phthalates and other toxins that plastic products off-gas. Opt for glass or stainless steel containers and beeswax wraps instead.

Use Natural Personal Care Products

The skin is our largest organ. Show it some love! The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database has hazard ratings for over 80,000 personal care products.

Use Natural Cleaning Products

Did you know that conventional home cleaning products are chock-full of toxins? The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning rates over 2,500 products.

Clean Up Your Air

Did you know that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air? More time at home means it’s more important than ever to assess your home and furniture for toxins like flame retardants and PVC. The Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Home Guide lists potential home toxin sources and how to find healthier alternatives.

2 – Eat Daily Detox Foods

Your body detoxes daily – why not provide daily detox support through your diet? The following foods can help support your liver, increase antioxidant levels and bind toxins for quick removal:
● Berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries
● Green tea
● Turmeric
● Pomegranate
● Flax seeds
● Brassicaceae family greens like broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale.
● Broccoli sprouts

3 – Take Antioxidant Supplements

Glutathione

Glutathione is called the ‘master antioxidant’ with good reason, it neutralizes free radicals and toxins produced within the body. It is also known for its ability to remove environmental toxins from the body, and low Glutathione levels have been linked to many chronic and autoimmune diseases. Our bodies produce glutathione naturally, but additional supplementation in oral, inhalant, topical or IV form can help to improve the function of the body’s detox pathways.

Resveratrol

Known as the compound in red wine that’s good for heart health, Resveratrol’s powerful antioxidant action helps to rid the body of free radicals and supports other antioxidant enzymes. It can decrease the volume of toxins our body creates during metabolic processes, and increase the excretion of toxins. This also reduces cancer risk by slowing the reproduction of cancer cells including breast, prostate and colon cancer.

4 – Reboot with a Seasonal Cleanse

For centuries, many cultures have integrated seasonal fasting into their traditions. Here in North America, seasonal cleansing has become a ritual for many interested in maintaining overall health.
It can be as easy as eating clean, light foods that are easily digested for 1-2 weeks a few times a year. Avoid all sugar, alcohol, gluten and dairy. Get lots of sleep, drink lots of filtered water and reduce stress during this period.

5 – Get Into Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting means restricting the times you eat during the day to 8 – 10 hours. This gives your body a break from heavy digestive activities, and frees up energy for the body to focus on detox functions. Different intermittent fasting schedules work best for different people, so be sure to connect with your healthcare practitioner to determine the schedule that is best for your body.

6 – Enhance Elimination

How can off-the-shelf detox kits turn you into a hot mess of irritability, headaches and brain fog? They may help you get toxins out of your cells, but not help you excrete it. Here’s how to encourage toxins to leave the body quickly.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of fresh water to keep toxins moving towards the exit. Water helps bulk up fibre to sweep your colon clean, and supports kidney function to excrete toxins through the urine.

Increase Your Fibre Intake

Some types of fibre such as freshly ground flax seeds can bind toxins. This means that when the flax seeds leave your body via stool, so do the toxins. Be sure to increase your fibre intake slowly.

Try Skin Brushing

Like the circulatory system, the lymphatic system plays a fundamental role in removing metabolic waste and toxins. But without a pump and valve system, the lymphatic system sometimes needs some help to move lymphatic fluid to the lymph nodes, where immune cells can filter out the toxins.
Using a natural bristle long-handled brush, start at your feet and brush your skin in a sweeping motion up your legs. Continue brushing the skin of your legs, arms and torso, always sweeping towards the heart.

Sweat More

Put on your favorite high-energy music and move those toxins out through sweat. Studies show that more heavy metals are excreted through sweat than urine, making sweating one of the best methods of detoxing available to us. Cardio exercise such as jogging or jumping rope work well for building up a sweat, but be sure to stay within your optimal range. If you’re under stress this may include doing less heavy cardio. Try an infrared sauna if cardio isn’t for you.

Get Proper Sleep

Many of the body’s regular detoxification functions take place while we’re sleeping, from liver and kidney activities, to brain chemical clean-up processes that can affect your mood. These natural detox processes need to happen while you sleep, so even if you’re genetically set up for efficient detox and are living a clean lifestyle, good quality sleep is key. Chronic poor sleep means chronic poor detoxification.

7 – Seek Out Professional Detox Support

If your detox pathways are particularly sluggish, a gentle DIY seasonal cleanse won’t be enough (such cleanses are better seen as good maintenance habits). Working with a skilled healthcare practitioner means undergoing a complete health history and functional testing that will allow you to target the organs and systems that need the most support. Your practitioner may recommend a targeted detox focusing on your liver, kidney or colon, or a substance-specific detox focussing on heavy metals like lead and mercury. Professional detox support options can include IV infusions, acupuncture, colon cleansing, herbal or homeopathic medicine, or professional grade supplements.

Are you ready to get toxins out of your life safely and effectively? We can help! Let’s meet to do some testing, and see how well your detox pathways are functioning. Together, we can come up with a treatment plan including key supplements and lifestyle recommendations. Let’s meet and discuss how we can help you be your best, toxin-free self.

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Ristoff E, Larsson A. Inborn errors in the metabolism of glutathione. Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2007; 2:16. Published 2007 Mar 30. doi:10.1186/1750-1172-2-16
Sears ME, Kerr KJ, Bray RI. Arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in sweat: a systematic review. J Environ Public Health. 2012; 2012:184745. doi:10.1155/2012/184745
Sheng J, Qiu W, Xu B, Xu H, Tang C. Monitoring of heavy metal levels in the major rivers and in residents’ blood in Zhenjiang City, China, and assessment of heavy metal elimination via urine and sweat in humans. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2016;23(11):11034-11045. doi:10.1007/s11356-016-6287-z
Teskey G, Abrahem R, Cao R, et al. Glutathione as a Marker for Human Disease. Adv Clin Chem. 2018; 87:141-159. doi: 10.1016/bs.acc.2018.07.004

Should You Be Avoiding Dairy? What the Science Says

Did you drink milk with lunch as a child? For decades, milk was considered an essential part of a healthy diet. Depending on where you grew up, you may have been encouraged to drink a glass of milk with each meal. But milk has fallen out of favour with many health professionals in recent years.

Do You Really Need Dairy? The Top 3 Myths Busted

Decades of catchy dairy industry slogans like “Got Milk?” have kept dairy at the forefront in many households. But does dairy really live up to the hype?

Myth 1 – Dairy is Needed for Bone Health & Prevents Fractures
False! For years, popular nutritional guidelines have promoted the idea that we need to consume a lot of calcium to build up strong bones during our teenage years in order to protect against fractures late in life. However, science doesn’t necessarily agree.

A long-term study following 96 000 men and women (the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study) indicated that milk intake during the purported bone-building phase did not reduce the risk of hip fractures later in life. In fact, for every glass of milk per day in their teenage years, men had a 9% higher risk of fracturing a hip later in life. (the same risk was not seen in women)

Myth 2 – Low-Fat Dairy Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you think that choosing low-fat dairy products is a good weight control strategy, you may be surprised to find out that research shows full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese to be more helpful in preventing weight gain. That is likely because the full-fat versions are more satisfying and keep you fuller for longer.
Interestingly, drinking skim milk has been positively associated with increased acne over the full fat milk.

Myth 3 – Milk is the Only Good Source of Calcium
It is true that milk contains high levels of calcium. And it’s a fact that our bodies benefit from dietary calcium in a number of ways, such as better heart health and lower blood pressure. However, milk is not the only calcium game in town. In fact, one of the few studies done on non-dairy dietary calcium intake found that plant-based calcium sources significantly reduced blood pressure.

Why Are So Many People Low in Calcium?

What we eat isn’t the only factor for proper calcium intake. We also have to look at what increases the absorption of calcium and what causes us to excrete it. Let’s look at which factors can put you at risk for reduced calcium absorption even if you eat a calcium-rich diet.

Low Vitamin D Levels
Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium properly. When blood calcium levels drop, Vitamin D helps increase calcium absorption and decrease calcium loss through the urine. If Vitamin D levels are low, it no longer matters that we eat calcium-rich foods, as they won’t translate to bioavailable calcium that our bodies can use.

High Salt Intake
If your diet is high in salty foods, you could be at risk of low calcium. High sodium levels make the kidneys work harder to flush out the excess sodium and prevent mineral imbalance issues in the blood. Unfortunately, this process flushes out more than just sodium, resulting in a net loss of calcium from our bones.

Too Much Caffeine
Excessive consumption of coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas also has a leaching effect on the body’s calcium levels. Caffeine is a mild diuretic, which encourages calcium loss through the urine. This means your body may excrete calcium before it has a chance to use it – what a waste!

High Alcohol Intake
Alcohol is another culprit of reducing calcium absorption because of its diuretic action. Furthermore, it reduces the activity of liver enzymes that help convert vitamin D to its active form. As we saw above, this means even less calcium will be absorbed.

Gut Health Issues
Much of our body’s calcium is absorbed in the small intestine. If you have digestive concerns such as celiac disease, Leaky Gut Syndrome, SIBO or IBS, you may be absorbing less calcium from your food than you would if your gut was functioning at its best.

Foods That Can Reduce The Absorption of Calcium
Foods High in Oxalic and Phytic Acid bind to calcium and reduce its absorption into the bloodstream. Many of these foods are otherwise very healthy – should you give them up? No, however, a good compromise is to avoid eating these foods in the same meal as calcium-rich foods. For example, research shows that eating spinach and milk together reduces how much calcium is absorbed.

Foods High in Oxalic Acid:
Spinach
Collard greens
Sweet potatoes
Rhubarb
Beans

Foods High in Phytic Acid:
Whole grains
Wheat bran
Beans
Seeds
Nuts

Beyond Calcium, How Does Dairy Affect Health?
Milk is often associated with wholesome eating patterns – but is it really such a natural beverage choice? Let’s look at the more complex side of dairy.

Hormones in Milk May Lead to Cancer
Current research shows possible links between the hormones in dairy and certain cancers. Some evidence points to Estrogen, steroid hormones and growth hormones as the main culprits. Excessive dairy consumption can thus lead to hormonal imbalances causing mood swings, anxiety and a host of unpleasant symptoms.

Reducing Dairy May Improve PCOS Symptoms
In Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) too many male hormones are produced, resulting in weight gain, excessive hair growth and acne. High blood sugar is thought to make this condition worse. Studies show that a low dairy diet can help women with PCOS lose weight, lower insulin levels, and reduce testosterone.

Lactose Intolerance: Dairy is Well Tolerated by Some, but Not by Others
Many people simply can’t tolerate milk. In fact, research shows that the majority of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant: up to 70%. That means they don’t create enough of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest the sugar (lactose) found in milk. As a result, lactose goes through the gut without being digested, leading to uncomfortable symptoms such as cramps, bloating, and diarrhoea.

Why is Lactose Intolerance so prevalent?

The Type of Milk Protein Makes a Difference

The dominant type of protein in milk depends on the animal it comes from. Cow’s milk is high in A1 B-casein, while milk from sheep, goats and buffalo contains mainly A2 B-casein. Many people who cannot tolerate cow’s milk find that A2 B-casein dairy products are much more easily digested.

Genetic Differences in Human Populations

We are what our ancestors have eaten. If you have a Northern Eastern European background, for example, you are much less likely to be lactose intolerant than someone with an Asian background. There is evidence that as far back as 500 BC, European babies were given animal milk. Historical genetic research shows that as dairy-loving cultures spread across the world, so did their dairy-tolerant genes.

Loss of Diversity in the Microbiome

Cultures that have been eating dairy for centuries have a diverse gut microbiome well-designed to handle it. But the microbiome is easily affected by dietary changes. With Western junk foods now available worldwide, our microbiomes are nutrient-starved and getting less diverse. Researchers speculate that this increasing lack of diversity in our microbiome contributes to rising rates of lactose intolerance.

Milk is for Babies

Every mammal’s milk is designed for babies of that species. That’s why it’s so full of the perfect proportions of fat, minerals and immune-strengthening compounds for those babies. Humans are the only ones that drink the milk of another species.

Cow’s milk is designed for baby cows. This is part of the reason for high global levels of lactose intolerance: mammals aren’t meant to drink milk (human or otherwise) after the age of five. That’s when abundant lactase enzyme levels naturally decrease, which means we can no longer digest lactose.

What to Try When You Simply Can’t Give up Dairy:What You Need to Know About Supplementing Calcium

If you are a menopausal woman or at risk of osteoarthritis, you may be considering taking a calcium supplement. The two main forms of calcium you will see on the detail panel of your supplement are carbonate and citrate. For most people, calcium carbonate is the best choice as it is more bioavailable and less expensive. In addition, you might have noticed that many Calcium supplements contain Vitamin D. The perfect partner, Vitamin D significantly increases calcium absorption.

However, taking too much supplemental calcium increases the risk of muscle tension, constipation, kidney stones and cardiovascular disease, as well as affecting the absorption of iron and zinc. Sky-high calcium levels can be just as detrimental as low levels, so it is important to work with your healthcare practitioner when supplementing.

Thinking of reducing or giving up dairy? Wondering if you’re lactose intolerant or worried about calcium? Let’s work together to do the right testing to uncover your unique situation. We’ll create a personalized plan including delicious dairy alternatives and the right supplements. Give us a call and let’s get started!

References:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1014296
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25159495
https://asbmr.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jbmr.279
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/1769138
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524299/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962216301311
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28421381
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516387/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7302802/

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner B, Willett WC. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Hum Reprod. 2007;22(5):1340-1347. doi:10.1093/humrep/dem019 (full fat dairy reduces acne and improved fertility where low-fat dairy does the opposite)

Deth R, et al. Clinical evaluation of glutathione concentrations after consumption of milk containing different subtypes of β-casein: results from a randomized, cross-over clinical trial.Nutr J. 2016 Sep 29;15(1):82. – type of milk protein casein affects dairy tolerance

Strengthen Your Immune Army This Fall

Are you having a Surreal September? Our traditional season of going back to school and starting new work projects definitely has a few twists this year. We face many unknowns, but here’s what we do know: our immune system is always more vulnerable in fall. And the stress of the constant pivoting of the last several months has inevitably taken its toll.

This year more than ever we must support our immune army – and September is the perfect time to get started. Let’s take a look at why our immune system is more vulnerable in fall, who is most at risk, and what you can do to get your immune army strong and ready to ward off invaders.

Why You’re More Likely to Get Sick in Fall

Viruses are stronger in the fall because of ideal weather conditions. Unfortunately, many of the same conditions viruses love can negatively impact our immune system.

Hot, Dry Indoor Air
Cold weather + low humidity = the ideal virus environment. And while the weather cools down outside, things heat up inside. Indoor heating can make the air hot and dry, which can irritate the delicate skin of the nasal, sinus and throat passages. The resulting small cracks act like open doors, allowing bacteria and viruses to enter the body. Did you know that most viruses can reproduce as much as 100 times faster in heated, low humidity air?

Less Sunlight
Our skin produces vitamin D readily when it’s exposed to sunlight, but lower levels of sunlight in the fall mean less Vitamin D for us. Research shows that Vitamin D (a.k.a. the Sunshine Vitamin) is a key nutrient needed to support a healthy immune system.

Fluctuating Weather
Fall means frequent changes in temperature, humidity, wind levels and barometric pressure. This transition can be hard on the body, causing stress as it constantly tries to adapt to this roller coaster of seasonal changes.

What are the Risk Factors for Weakened Immunity?

When a virus gets past our body’s first line of defence: our skin and mucous membranes, it will encounter our immune army. But will it meet a big, powerful army or a small, ineffective one? Let’s take a look at the factors that may weaken our immune defence.

Existing Health Issues
When a virus invades, your immune soldiers are designed to work fast to locate and deactivate the invader. But if they are already fighting battles against viruses, bacteria or any illness that impacts the immune system, there may not be enough soldiers available to wage war against the new virus.
As a result, the new virus can slip past the soldiers, (aka our white blood cells working via our lymphatic system) and cause unfettered damage.

The Potential Impact of Medication
In some cases, both the illness itself and the treatment may weaken your immune system. Some drugs (such as those used in chemotherapy or to treat autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis) work by deliberately suppressing the immune system.

Health Conditions Carrying High Risk of Impacting the Immune System:
● Respiratory illnesses like asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
● Organ or bone marrow transplant
● Autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes or Psoriasis.
● Cancer
● Digestive illness like SIBO, IBS or Leaky Gut Syndrome

Chronic Stress
Several months of sky-high stress levels have resulted in increased anxiety and general overwhelm across the globe. Research shows that chronically being in fight or flight mode can significantly weaken the immune response.

Lack of Sleep
If Netflix has become your new late-night BFF consider this: sleep is when your immune system takes note of the day’s invaders. Every night, our immune system gathers everything it has learned about viruses and bacteria it encountered that day. It notes the invader characteristics and methods of attack and creates antibodies to fight off that invader in the future. Research shows that this process of ‘immune memory’ creation can ONLY happen during sleep.

A High Sugar Diet
Eating sugar feeds the bad microbes in our gut so that they multiply. If these bad microbes become too numerous, our good bacteria may be crowded out. Since the majority of our immune system resides there, the state of our gut is a vital part of the immune response.

What You Can Do to Support Your Immune System

1 – A Healthy Diet
Did you know that 80% of our immune system resides in our gut? Starve out bad microbes, reduce mucus production and nourish your good gut microbes by eating an organic, gut-friendly diet rich in nutrient-dense vegetables. Here are some choices to consider:

Reduce These Foods:
Alcohol
Sugar
Simple carbs like bread and pasta
Processed foods
Dairy
High-fat foods

Embrace These Nutrient-Dense Immune System Friendly Foods:
Proteins
Oysters
Sardines
Eggs
Salmon
Beans
Legumes
Tofu

Vegetables:
Carrots
Button mushrooms
Spinach
Sweet potatoes
Broccoli
Red peppers
Fermented cabbage (sauerkraut or kimchi)

Fruit:
Orange
Grapefruit
Watermelon
Pomegranates
Blueberries
Strawberries
Mangoes
Lemon

Nuts and Seeds:
Sunflower seeds
Brazil nuts
Pumpkin seeds
Walnuts
Sesame seeds

Spices and Soups:
Onions
Garlic
Turmeric
Ginger
Miso soup with seaweed
Bone broth

Beverages:
Green tea
Smoothies including fruits and veggies above
Kombucha
Plenty of filtered water

2 – Install a Humidifier
Make things uncomfortable for viruses by increasing the humidity of your indoor air. If you only have one humidifier, put it in the bedroom to treat the air while you sleep.

3 – Get Better Sleep
Regularly having 7 – 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is a fast track to optimal immune function. In addition to forming ‘immune memories’ our bodies detox and produce hormones at night. These tasks can only happen while you’re asleep. Research shows that lack of sleep significantly weakens the immune system, and sets the stage for further illness.

4 – Set Boundaries
For a two-letter word, ‘no’ can be very difficult to say. But think about it this way: you’re not saying no to someone else. You’re saying yes to yourself. With so many unknowns this fall, make sure you don’t overcommit. Each week carve out some time for yourself and don’t book anyone else in, no matter how tempting it may be to say yes. Practice makes perfect – just say no!

5 – Get More Exercise
If you’ve fallen off the exercise bandwagon (and who hasn’t this year?), the cooler temperatures of fall make this a great time to kick-start your routine. Exercise increases circulation, making sure that your immune army cells can quickly get to where they are most needed. Avoid injury by easing back in with gentle exercises like tai chi, yoga or walking.
Ready for some cardio? It turns out that strenuous exercise doesn’t have the immune-lowering action we once thought, so go for it! Recent research shows that strenuous exercise increases natural Killer cells – a key type of soldier in our immune army.

Supplements to Support a Strong Immune System

Keeping your body fully nourished and topped up in these key vitamins can help it to be ready should the battle arrive at your door:

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that’s essential to the body. It contributes to our immune defence, among many other roles, by supporting various immune system functions. It is actively transported to the skin where it helps to create a strong initial barrier against pathogens, and it encourages the production and function of white blood cells for internal defence.

Vitamin D
The Sunshine Vitamin is now recognized as a key part of immune support by the medical community as a whole. Research shows that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with higher rates of infection and longer recovery times, and supplement is recommended in the winter months.

Zinc
Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system. It is crucial for the normal development and function of immune cells, and has a crucial role in moderating the body’s inflammatory response.

Elderberry
Elderberries have long been used in herbal medicine to support the immune system during an illness or infection and reduce the symptoms of illnesses such as colds and flu. Packed with antioxidants, elderberry has a direct antiviral effect, blocking viral proteins and inhibiting the early stages of an infection. Try it in a delicious syrup that even kids will love!

Do you feel ready for fall? Let’s make sure your immune system is fully supported to work at its best. We can do food sensitivity testing to make sure your diet is right for you, assess your immune response, and work to reduce stress. Together we can design a personalized plan to make sure your immune army is ready to protect you against whatever this September throws at you!

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/#:~:text=Zinc%20affects%20multiple%20aspects%20of,are%20affected%20by%20zinc%20deficiency.
Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M. The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiol Rev. 2019;99(3):1325-1380. doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018
Calder PC, Carr AC, Gombart AF, Eggersdorfer M. Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System Is an Important Factor to Protect against Viral Infections. Nutrients. 2020;12(4):1181. Published 2020 Apr 23. doi:10.3390/nu12041181
Campbell JP, Turner JE.Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan. Front. Immunol., 16 April 2018
https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00648
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/
Charoenngam N, Holick MF. Immunologic Effects of Vitamin D on Human Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):2097. Published 2020 Jul 15. doi:10.3390/nu12072097
Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne E. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019;42:361-365. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004