Nothing says love like a smoothie, right?
Nothing says love like a smoothie, right?
I’m going to be writing more on the new research that I read on the microbiome.
The existing and emerging research continuously reinforces the fascinatingly strong influence these bugs have on our current health and heath outcomes.
I will get in to specifics in future blogs, but today I wanted to give a brief synopsis on how the microbiome influences our health.
This dynamic, complex system (technically, organ) of bacteria, known as the Microbiome, that resides all over and inside our bodies has been found to have such an important role in our health and the way we adapt to our external environment.
The largest portion of the human microbiome is housed in the large intestine (the gut), containing over 10 trillion bacteria (to put that in to context, that is about 10 times more than the amount of human cells in your body).
One of the most important roles of the gut microbiota is the influence on our immune system.
The our immune cells read “codes” called Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs) on the bacteria that tell our immune systems what to do – these codes are specific to each bacteria – good “commensal” teaches our immune system to be balanced, and pathogenic bacteria contain codes that signal dysregulation.
Imbalances in the immune system play a role in virtually every disease.
Many seemingly separate conditions have been tied to the same imbalances of the immune system; inflammation and it’s role in hypertension, mental health and the development of cancer, and autoimmune processes and their affinity on multiple organ systems in the body.
What’s interesting about the microbiome is that these bugs are what teach our immune systems how to react and adapt to the given environment.
We have a mutualistic interaction with our microbiome, especially the gut microbiome. When the microbiome is well-balanced, nourished and overall healthy, we are the same.
The interactions of a healthy microbiome with the “host” (us) results in immune regulation/balance, efficient energy production and metabolism, great digestive health and a well-functioning liver.
Healthy microbes teach the immune system how to properly adapt to the environment, preventing unnecessary inflammation, and they also produce biochemicals and vitamins that help our bodies function efficiently.
A healthy microbiome will also protect you from invasive pathogens that want in on the real estate.
When the microbiome becomes “dysbiotic” (which means overgrowth with bad kinds of microbes, or even too much of a good type), it sends the immune system the wrong signals, promoting inflammation, and producing noxious metabolites that burden our bodies rather than helping it.
Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome in particular has been linked to many diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, allergies, autoimmune disease and asthma.
Dysbiosis can be caused by many different factors.
For many people it actually starts from birth.
It’s been established and well-accepted by the scientific community that babies born via C-section, or who are not breast-fed, have a different, dysbiotic, gut microbiome than babies who were born vaginally or are exclusively breast fed, leading to higher rates of asthma, allergies, Celiac disease and obesity.
This is why it’s important to intervene early with probiotics a child is not born vaginally or is not breast-fed for many reasons.
Dysbiosis can also be caused by taking multiple rounds of antibiotics, especially if not counteracted by using probiotic during and after using the antibiotics.
As antibiotics wipe out the infective bacteria, it wipes out some of our good bacteria with it, leaving space.
This type of dysbiosis makes us more susceptible to catching bad, invasive bacteria and parasites that now have opportunity to occupy this space.
Dysbiosis can also occur if you’ve caught a parasite, or some invasive bug while drinking water in a different part of the world, or if you eat something not quite cooked.
Most importantly, dysbiosis is highly promoted by an unhealthy diet.
Just like us, your microbiome needs to be fed the right substances to be healthy, strong and efficient.
If you feed it bad food, such as refined sugars and starches, transfats, a diet full of meat, and nutrient-void foods, your microbiome will not be strong, leading to poor health.
You’d be surprised how many of our everyday foods actually are considered “prebiotics” and aid in the health of our gut microbiome.
You won’t be surprised to hear that colour fruits and vegetables, healthy fibres from non-GMO grains, and colour spices are great sources of prebiotics.
Fermented foods such as saurkraut, kimchi, kefir, and properly made yogurts are major sources of prebiotics if you want to get serious about feeding the microbiome.
Naturopathic doctors have been aware of and treating the microbiome for decades – we are excellent sources for dietary recommendations on how to maintain the health of your microbiome as well as strategic treatments on how to rebalance your gut microbial flora.
Obvious signs that you might have problems with the balance of your microbiome include digestive problems, or recurrent infections of any sort – if you suffer from these afflictions, it would be helpful to consult with a doctor that can help you rebalance your flora and prevent chronic disease.
Stay tuned for more up-to-date information and interesting research on the microbiome and its affect on your daily health.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D
To discover more ways about health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: ontario naturopath
As a naturopath, when I think of Gingko biloba, I think of words such as hope, vitality, resiliency, and patience.
This majestic tree has shown us that it embodies these exact words in the most horrific circumstances – 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb destroyed everything within its epicentre, except six Gingko biloba trees, which even sprouted new greenery days after the terrible event.
This example of the resilience and vitality of this beautiful herb is translated in to its medicinal use and how it can help us become representations of these words.
Gingko biloba produces fruit that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
When they fall and start to decay, they produce a very unpleasant odour, one could compare to a pair of stinky feet.
So many who front this tree on their lawns must bare with this one downfall of having this tree in their presence.
This downfall, however, is completely superseded by the amazing beauty, elegance and medicine benefit of being around such a remarkable creation of nature.
Leaf, (seeds in Chinese medicine, not typically used in Western Medicine)
Astringent, Bitter, Warming, Moving
Ginkgo is not considered an edible plant
The actions of Gingko biloba on the human body can be represented as low and slow, and requires patience.
The medicinal properties of this tree are the strongest when used over a course of time.
The most commonly known medicinal property for Gingko leaves is its effect on memory, making this herb a “nootropic”.
Gingko has been heavily marketed to the public to be used to “improve and strengthen memory”, as people bought in to this claim, it’s not surprising the feedback that many found that they didn’t feel this at all worked.
Gingko indeed does improve memory but the application of this herb in this context is flawed.
This herbs works slow – expectations that this herb will work within a few weeks is not accurate – so if you’re a student looking to strengthen your memory in a week for an exam, gingko is NOT the herb for you.
Ginkgo has it’s best effect when used over a long period of time to establish its effects in the body and it works on memory in two ways: 1) Vasodilation and 2) Reducing blood viscosity.
This means that the biochemicals in Gingko will help open up the blood vessels as well has thinning the blood, allowing blood to flow more freely within the vessel, increasing microperfusion to the brain – more blood flow to and within the brain means more oxygen and protection to the brain.
Gingko also protects the brain through antioxidant biochemicals, protecting the brain from tissues damage caused by lack of oxygen, and increasing mitochondrial function therefore increasing energy production in the brain.
There is a plethora of research supporting the effect of Gingko in the improvement of memory and cognitive function in those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, especially if these conditions are a result of vascular insufficiency.
However there are many trials that do not support this, resulting in review studies performed between 2003-2014 concluding the research is too inconsistent to support Gingko in this context.
The varying results come from inconsistencies in dosage, administration and inclusion criteria set out by each trial.
One of the most recent meta-analysis on Gingko biloba research performed by Tan et. al (2015) took in to account these flaws and came to the conclusion that 240mg of standardized Ginkgo daily improved cognitive function and prevented decline in patients with dementia after 24 weeks, especially for those who also exhibited neuropsychiatric symptoms.
Another recent review study by Yuan et. al (2017) also concluded similar results that Gingko biloba improved cognitive function in those with Alzheimer’s at a dose over 200mg/day if taken for at least 5 weeks.
These review show promise and exemplify the need for higher quality, larger-scale studies in order to demonstrate the efficacy of Gingko biloba in the treatment of dementia.
Prevention of cognitive decline in healthy individuals is still not well represented in the research, but traditional use and anecdotal evidence supports the use of this herb for this purpose.
The effect of Gingko on blood flow doesn’t just stop at memory.
These properties translate in to effects on the peripheral body as well.
There are promising outcomes represented in the research of using Gingko in the treatment of cerebral insufficiency in stroke victims, peripheral artery disease, prevention of coronary artery disease by reducing plaque formation, diabetic neuropathy, Raynauds and thrombosis (blood clots).
There are claims that Gingko can be useful in the treatment of tinnitus, though studies are limited and results are inconsisent.
The most recent Cochrane Review on Gingko and Tinnitus found Ginkgo only to be beneficial when tinnitus is associated with dementia, not when tinnitus is the sole symptom.
This reflects back to the circulatory actions of gingko – when tinnitus is a result of poor cerebrovascular circulation, appears to be effective.
If it’s due to other reasons, the effects of Gingko appear to be less impactful on tinnitus symptoms.
Traditionally Gingko biloba taken through infusion (tea) – this application is best for people who want to use Gingko for daily prevention of cognitive decline.
Tinctures of Gingko leaf also provides a gentle and supportive effect.
I typically use these forms for healthy, older individuals who want to keep their memory sharp and encourage blood flow to the brain.
Much of the research on Gingko biloba use and support standardized extracts of Gingko at dosages of 120-240mg/day.
Extremely potent extracts of Gingko (50:1) are considered pharmaceutical grade substances and should not be dosed unless monitored by a health care professional.
Gingko biloba is considered a safe herb to use if used at the standard recommended dose (see above)
The blood-thinning effects of Ginkgo has made many clinicians weary about using this herb with blood thinning pharmaceuticals.
However, it has been found that the blood-thinning effects of Gingko are not related to reducing platelet count, but inhibiting platelet aggregating factor (PAF), so the that use with blood thinners may not be as detrimental as previously thought, with many studies demonstrating using Ginkgo (up to 240mg) in conjunction with blood thinning medication does not increase bleeding risk or influence coagulation time.
Nonetheless, do no use Gingko if you are on blood thinners and consult with a physician that is familiar with herb-drug interactions before use of this herb – one of the only cases of increased bleeding is when using the extremely potent extract (50:1) in combination with blood thinners
Do not use with drug exhibiting monoamine-oxidase activity (such as certain antidepressants), or anti-epileptic drugs.
Always consult a physician familiar with herb-drug interaction if you’re on medication and are considering using this herb.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D
To see more information about health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: toronto naturopathic
Winter squashes and pumpkins are robust “fruits” that are harvested in the fall so we can use them throughout the winter.
Keeping them in a dark cool place will preserve these foods to give us nutrient-packed meals that are warming, healthy and delicious.
One of my favourite things to eat during the winter are winter squashes – particularly acorn squash, due to it’s abundance in vegetable markets in Ontario and for it’s sweet, buttery taste.
I use these in casseroles, bakes, mash them in place of white potato or simply bake them in the oven.
Acorn squash is a great source of low glycemic-load carbohydrates – this means that despite it being a source of carbohydrates, it won’t spike your blood sugar (therefore insulin) to the extent other carbohydrates such as wheat-based carbohydrates (and other grains) will increase your blood sugars after eating.
They are also easier to digest than grains, which makes it suitable carbohydrate source for people who experience a lot of bloating and bowel movement problems.
Acorn squash is rich in antioxidant vitamins C and A (beta-carotene, hence the orange colour!), potassium (great for lowering high blood pressure) and a great source of fibre (valuble for those with diabetes and cardiovascular disease).
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
To find additional info about health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: natural health doctors
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I had gum surgery the other day so have been eating a fair amount of this soup. It’s no hardship though, because I’m completely in love with it. The soup is smooth, full of flavor and goodness, and it’s just as satisfying served warm or cold. I’m not eating hot things but it will be amazing when piping hot in a bowl large enough for me to wrap my hands around to warm them up.
The addition of kelp helps to support the immune system and is known to reduce inflammation. Along with other sea vegetables, it is also highly nutrient dense, which is why Dr. Sarah Ballantyne suggests we eat them at least once a week.
Try and add the broccoli sprouts if you can. They contain a chemical called sulforaphane, a highly potent antioxidant and detoxifier. They’re also tasty, as well as prettying up your bowl! We sprout our own broccoli seeds as they work out far cheaper and way fresher. Plus it means we have a constant supply to munch on. Finally, before I dive in I like to stir in a scoopful of collagen for gut (and gum) health!
Most people are aware that they should supplement with vitamin D.
Few people are actually taking the appropriate dose to correct for vitamin deficiency or attain optimal levels.
Here are the facts about vitamin D.
Vitamin D is very different from other nutrients because unlike other vitamins, it is NOT naturally occurring in most of the foods we eat.
Very small amounts can be found in fish, beef liver, egg yolks and fortified foods.
Alternatively, humans (and other mammals) require the sun’s UVB radiation to synthesize Vitamin D in the the skin.
Here’s how UVB radiation from the sun to makes contact with our skin and produce vitamin D:
Factors that influence Vitamin D conversion via the sun.
When we take vitamin D supplements, we are orally ingesting “cholecalciferol” or “Vitamin D3” and thus we no longer require the sun’s help for conversion.
However, the “cholecalciferol” is not the end point for vitamin D as there are a few more steps to get to the active form vitamin D.
The Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) travels to the liver and is converted to “Calcidiol” (aka 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D.
25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D is the component in our blood that is used as a marker for Vitamin D status.
The calcidiol, or 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D, is like a blank piece of paper and must be converted by the kidneys and other tissues to the active form “calcitriol”.
It is is this form of vitamin D that exerts different effects on the body – acting more like a hormone than a vitamin in the way that it interacts with different receptors.
Vitamin D plays an essential role in calcium utilization and metabolism of calcium and therefore is important in the maintenance of healthy bones.
As more research emerges, there are many “non-classical” actions vitamin D exerts on the body including:
Therefore, it is not surprising that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with:
Health Canada recommends a daily intake of 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for children and adults, and 800 IU for adults over 70.
Supplementation at these amounts will not correct for deficiency, let alone maintain adequate status during the winter months.
Implementation of high dose vitamin D may be required to achieve optimal levels to improve overall health.
It is important to assess Vitamin D status by running blood work that includes 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D prior to implementing high dose supplementation.
This test is not covered by OHIP, nor is it routinely run by MDs.
Naturopathic doctors routinely run serum Vitamin D in order to safely prescribe high doses (often up to 10 000 IU daily) in those individuals who are deficient.
Most people can safely supplement with up to 4000 IU daily.
However, to achieve optimal levels and ensure safety it is important have a thorough assessment done, including testing for vitamin D.
Seeking guidance from a local naturopath is an effective option.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
To see additional tips on health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: naturopathic dr
The new year is a great time to reset and create intentions for the following months.
Health is the foundation of life.
Our health is not limited to our physical parameters.
It also includes our emotional and spiritual health.
Here are some resolutions alongside specific actions that you can implement this year.
Hopefully some of these resolutions – or intentions- resonate with you.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
To see more ways on health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: top naturopath toronto