Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Alzheimer's Disease Webinar Summary

I recently 'attended' a webinar presented by Lynne Shinto N.D. M.P.H on The Vascular Components of Alzheimer's Disease. Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia that sees changes in behaviour, daily activities, and memory, that progressively worsen over time. 
My grandma was diagnosed with dementia several years ago - I spend each Friday afternoon with her and it is a (sometimes very challenging) highlight of my week.  
I am always interested in learning more about dementia/AD and here is a summary of some of the interesting info that the teacher shared during the webinar:

1.  Prior to age 65, systolic blood pressure lower than 150 reduces the risk of developing AD. Interestingly though, after age 65, hypotension/low blood pressure can actually contribute to the development of AD, so having a slightly elevated systolic blood pressure (135 -150) actually reduces AD risk. The 2013 Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure recommends adults over the age of 60 should aim for a blood pressure measurement of 150/90 and adults age 60 and below should aim for 140/90 at the highest.
2.  Vitamin B12 deficiency needs to be ruled out when people are showing signs of AD. It is recommended to treat with B12 supplementation when the B12 blood level is lower than 400 pg/ml.
3.  On MRI, people with AD have significantly smaller brains than people without AD (the hippocampus and temporal lobes are especially impacted).   A study done with 120 AD free seniors who participated in a moderate intensity walking group (versus the control group who performed only stretching) over 1 year were found to have increased brain size and improved cognitive scores over their baseline testing.
4.  A study by Dyksen et al. published in JAMA in 2014 found that participants with mild to moderate AD who were being treated with Alzheimer's prescription medications that added 2000 IU of vitamin E to their daily routine found a 6.2 month delay in activities of daily life decline and an approximately 2 hour less requirement of caregiver time per day in comparison to placebo.
5.  A study by Valis-Pedret et al. published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015 found participants following a Mediterranean based diet supplemented with additional olive oil or additional nuts were shown to have improved cognitive function over 4 years.  

6.  A study by Bowman et al. published in Neurology in 2012 found that higher blood levels of vitamins B, C, D, E were associated with better global cognitive function and higher total brain volume, higher blood levels of trans fats were associated with worse global cognitive function and lower total brain volume, and higher blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids were associated with better executive function.

This helpful information highlighted during the webinar provides excellent practical suggestions we can all work on to support our overall cognitive health.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Happy Fall!

With the arrival of fall, another growing and gardening season has drawn to a close.  I have a few calendulas (second from top picture) and bachelor buttons that I haven't had the heart to pull yet, but everything else has gone into quiet mode.  
For the first time this spring, I started annual plants indoors.  The plants that were the happiest included:  cosmos, bachelor buttons, zinnias (top picture), calendula, and marigolds.  It took a bit of extra work initially, but it was exciting to watch these plants go from a seed to a beautiful flower and I will start all these plants again from seed next year!

All of my tomato plants were also started from seed this year and I had another bumper tomato crop!  I have made some delicious tomato sauce to carry through the winter.

With the arrival of fall, I have made a few batches of the Yummy Fall Granola (recipe is found on this blog post from 2010:  It is so yummy and fortifying!
Even though the weather has been so beautiful, I have also made a few batches of warming stews including a variation of the Winter Yam Stew (recipe is found on this blog post from 2010:  It is perfect for the crisp fall evenings!

I recently discovered a wonderful new cookbook called The Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner.  It contains healthy, delicious, and simple recipes for many of the basic items I would normally buy.  I have made the Mountain Bar recipe several times - I find these bars a perfect blood sugar balancing snack and I haven't had to buy many store bought bars over the past few months as a result.

I had a chance to drive through beautiful Meadow Lake Provincial Park in Saskatchewan in late September and was greeted by some lovely rose hips (second from bottom picture) and some beautiful goldenrod that had gone to seed (bottom picture).  It was a wonderful fall drive!

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Boreal Herbal Workshop

I recently attended a weekend workshop presented by Beverley Gray, author of The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North.  Beverley shared with us her incredible love and knowledge of plants and it was a wonderful and inspiring weekend of learning!  Some of the fascinating information Beverley shared with us included:
- Trees share with us energy that help us to expand and they help to open our lung capacity
- Dandelion is one of the most intelligent plants - we can use all parts and it offers in depth nutritional and cleansing support as well third chakra balancing support
- Rose hips (top picture) offer a rich source of vitamin C and iron and can be dried and made into a tea
- Horsetail (middle picture) is rich in silica and offers root chakra balancing support
- Yarrow leaves when rubbed on the skin act as an excellent insect repellent
- Plantain (bottom picture) offers excellent healing support for skin concerns, including bug bites and rashes

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blueberries and Blood Pressure

In the July 2015 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor discusses a trial involving blueberry powder consumption and blood pressure. The trial was originally published in the January 2015 epublication of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The trial involved 48 post menopausal women with pre-hypertension (120-139/80-89) and stage 1 hypertension (140-159/90-99). Half of the women dosed 11 g of freeze dried blueberry powder 2 times per day (mixed with 1 cup of water, at least 6 hours apart) and the other half dosed 11 g of placebo powder 2 times per day. After 8 weeks, the participants who took the freeze dried blueberry powder had a significant decrease in their systolic (upper number, 5.1% lower) and diastolic (lower number, 6.3% lower) blood pressure in comparison  to the placebo group (who showed no change in any measurements after 8 weeks).  Whether it is blueberry powder or fresh blueberries, this trial provides good reason to aim to integrate some form of blueberries into our daily routine as another way to support our overall heart health. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Use of Bleach and the Frequency of Infections in Children

In the July 2015 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Sarah Bedell Cook discusses the findings of the Health Effects of Indoor Pollutants:  Integrating Microbial, Toxicological, and Epidemiological Approaches (HITEA) project. This project evaluated over 9000 children, between the ages of 6-12 years, attending schools in Spain, the Netherlands, and Finland. The study looked at the frequency of infections and the use of bleach as a home cleaning disinfectant. The study found that the children exposed to bleach at least 1 time per week had a higher frequency of infections.  Specifically in the Netherlands, a significantly increased risk for influenza (27% higher) was seen, in Finland, a significantly increased risk for tonsillitis (141% higher) and sinusitis (118% higher) was seen, and in Spain, a significantly increased risk for all infections (28% higher) was seen. The information gathered from this project provides another great reason to shift to natural based cleaners. There are a number of products available for purchase and we can also make our own cleaners with vinegar, baking soda, essential oils. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

CAND Conference

I recently attended the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) Health Fusion conference.  There were many great and informative sessions offered.  Here is some of the interesting information that was passed along:

From Walter Crinnion's session, The Lost Male Room:
- Phthalates (found in food packaging, flooring, toys, shower curtains, body care products etc) have testosterone and estrogen lowering effects - the higher levels of phthalates we have in our urine, the lower levels of estrogen and testosterone we have.
- As well exhaust from vehicles and cigarette smoke also impact our reproductive hormone levels as do perfluorocarbons (found in scotchguard and Teflon) and pesticides.
- Ways to reduce our exposure to these environmental toxins and manage these impacts on our hormones include: avoiding food that is wrapped/cooked/heated in plastic, avoiding Teflon coated cookware, aiming to use non toxic/fragrance free body care products, using a high quality pleated electrostatic air filter on our furnace, using a high quality air filter especially in our bedroom while we are sleeping, eating certified organic food when possible.

From Mary Bove's session, Women's Wellness and Insomnia:
- When we are dealing with insomnia, we need to ensure we have a well established sleep routine which includes not watching any over stimulating shows (including the news) in the evening.
- We also need to build in wind down/relaxation time before going to bed - this can start as early as 6 PM.
- For some people, blood sugar imbalance contributes to insomnia - aiming to eat within 30 minutes of waking in the morning can help set a more balanced blood sugar level for the day which can have a positive impact on sleep.  
- One of the primary causes of insomnia can be chronic pain and inflammation.
- Ways we can help to reduce the level of inflammation in our body include:  reducing our intake of sugar and caffeine, ensuring that we are consuming enough calories each day, working to ensure healthy digestive function, reducing our environmental toxic load, addressing any chronic infections, and managing our stress levels.

From Nigel Plummer's session, Perinatal and Childhood Intervention:
- Low birth weight babies have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular/heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity - working with supportive supplements can help to decrease these risks.
- Leptin, which helps to manage healthy weight balance, is found in high amounts in breast milk - extended breastfeeding lowers children's lifetime risk of developing obesity.  
- Folic acid, when taken for 1 year prior to getting pregnant, significantly reduces the risk of premature delivery.
- Low vitamin C levels and low vitamin B6 levels are associated with an increased risk of premature delivery.
- Low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia.
- Well balanced vitamin D levels are associated with a decreased risk of baby developing asthma.
- Daily multivitamin use is associated with a lower risk of having a low birth weight baby.
- Dosing of a probiotic in the third trimester and for the first 6 months of children's life is associated with a significantly reduced risk of children developing asthma and eczema.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Happy Almost Summer!

Similar to last year, I started a number of seeds indoors earlier this year.  Instead of planting seeds for perennial planting, I decided to start seeds for annual/potted plants.  I like to use certified organic seeds for planting and there is a great greenhouse in Winnipeg called Sage Garden Greenhouse that has a huge selection of certified organic seeds that I was able to order online (here is a link to their website -

Here are some certified organic seed garlic and tulips that I picked up at Sage Garden Greenhouse and planted in the fall!

I used both a seed warming mat and lights to help my seedlings grow this year.  Here is my seedling 
Some of the seeds would sprout, but I couldn't get them to survive, especially poppies, so I direct seeded some poppy seeds (and bachelor buttons and zinnias) directly into some outdoor pots in early April and I am so pleased that they are growing so well!

I also had a tough time getting the chamomile and lavender seeds to sprout indoors, but I did get one chamomile plant (and I have a few small plants growing that I direct seeded into the outdoor pots - the chamomile is the tall green plant to the left in the green planter, it is beside sage that was easier to grow from seed) and 3 lavender plants (the lavender is in the blue pot below)!

I also started lemon balm (in the top picture below) and calendula (in the bottom picture below) both of which were also easier to start from seed indoors.  
This year was another good learning opportunity for gardening.  I am excited with all the plants that are growing outdoors now and look forward to watching them over the summer.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bisphenol A and Blood Pressure

An article by Jessica Tran in the March 2015 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal discusses a trial looking at bisphenol A (BPA) exposure and blood pressure. The trial involved 60 volunteers who either drank 2 servings of soy milk from glass bottles or from BPA lined cans. The volunteers consumed the drinks on 3 separate occasions and fasted for 8 hours prior to drinking the soy milk and had no other food or drink for 2 hours after. Their urinary BPA concentration and blood pressure were measured each time 2 hours after the volunteers drank the soy milk.  The volunteers who drank from the BPA lined cans were found to have a 1600% increase in urinary BPA concentration and a 4.5 mmHg increase in blood pressure compared to the volunteers who drank from the glass bottles.  Even though this isn't a huge increase in blood pressure, it can still be significant for many of us.  This trial provides another valuable reason to aim to limit our exposure to BPA (and an additional strategy to manage our blood pressure).  Ways to do this include: storing food and drinks in glass or stainless steel containers, limiting our consumption of food from BPA lined cans, limiting our exposure to cash register receipts (which contain BPA).  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chondroitin/Glucosamine and Osteoarthritis

In the April 2015 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Sarah Bedell Cook discusses the impact that chondroitin and glucosamine can have on osteoarthritis symptoms in comparison to commonly prescribed medications (specifically cyclooxygenase 2, or COX-2, selective inhibitors) like Celebrex. The article focuses on the MOVES trial which involved 606 participants (who were primarily white women, mean age 63 years old). All the participants had osteoarthritis of the knee and experienced moderate to severe pain.   The participants either took 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate and 500 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride 3 times per day or 200 mg of Celebrex 1 time per day for 6 months. The participants were evaluated at 1, 2, 4, and 6 months for change in pain score as measured by the WOMAC index (as well as stiffness, joint swelling, and acetaminophen use). Celebrex was more effective at reducing pain score at the 1, 2, and 4 month follow-up, but at the 6 month follow-up, the chondroitin/glucosamine combination was found to be as effective as Celebrex in reducing pain score. There have been other studies that have not shown pain improvement with chondroitin/glucosamine, but this study does provide encouraging information that taking chondroitin/glucosamine at a therapeutic dosage (approximately 3000 mg per day) for an extended period of time (6 months) does have the potential to reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis. Some additional interesting points that Bedell Cook brings up in the article include that chondroitin has been shown to be more effective than glucosamine at reducing pain in previous studies and that glucosamine sulfate, rather than hydrochloride (which is what is used in the MOVES trial), has shown to be the more effective pain reducing form. This extra info can help to fine tune our choices around which of these supplements/which forms of these supplements are the best to integrate for osteoarthritis support. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Additional Testing to Consider

It is important to have a yearly physical and blood work done - it serves as a marker of how our system is doing each year and provides an insight into what is happening, internally, for our body.  It is also helpful to request a personal copy of any blood work results, or diagnostic imaging results, so we can be informed about our own health.

There are a number of non health care covered tests we can also consider to gain further insight into what is happening for our selves, health wise.  Some additional tests include:  

- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) breath test to determine if we are positive for hydrogen and/or methane based SIBO

- Urine element analysis which provides insight into essential and toxic element (heavy metals) levels

- Urine environmental pollutants analysis which provides insight into phthalate, paraben, volatile organic compound (VOCs) levels

- Reproductive hormone salivary testing which provides insight into estradiol (estrogen), progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol levels 

- 4 point cortisol salivary testing which provides insight into adrenal function throughout the day

- Genomic testing which provides insight into whether we carry variants of genes that make certain foods more difficult for us to manage and increase our risk of developing nutrition related chronic diseases/concerns 

- IgG food sensitivity testing which provides insight into whether there are foods that place extra stress on our immune system and overall health in general

- Organic Acid testing which provides insight into yeast/fungal and bacterial overgrowth, as well nutrient deficiencies, mitochondrial function, and brain neurotransmitter balance

- Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis which provides insight into how the digestive tract is functioning, yeast and parasite overgrowth, and beneficial bacteria balance

Friday, March 20, 2015

Brenda Davis R.D. Lecture Highlights

Brenda Davis is a Registered Dietitian who has written 9 books and I am grateful that I was able to attend the lecture she presented recently at the U of A titled Designing An Optimal Plant Based Diet.  More information about Brenda Davis can be found here: 

She spoke of the Blue Zones of the world (which includes Okinawa, Japan, and Sardinia, Italy) where people live healthy active lives into their 90's and beyond.  Some of the steps she mentioned to help us achieve this increased level of long term health include:  eating less, moving more, eating primarily unprocessed foods, eating more plants, eating less meat, and eating homemade food more often.

She also spoke of 10 steps to take to build and achieve an optimal plant based diet.  These steps include:
1. making whole plant foods the foundation of the diet
2. focusing on complex carbohydrates/whole grains rather than refined carbohydrates/grains
3. boosting fiber intake
4. enhancing healthy gut flora balance
5. aiming for healthy forms of protein (i.e. legumes over processed replacement meat products)
6. focusing on healthy saturated (i.e. coconut oil), monounsaturated (i.e. olive oil), and polyunsaturated (i.e. flax oil) fats
7. choosing a wide variety of anti-inflammatory foods (including antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables) over pro-inflammatory foods (including deep fried and fast food)
8. aiming for certified organically grown food when possible
9. ensuring we are meeting our nutrient requirements
10. maintaining a healthy body weight

I really like that Brenda Davis pinpointed a number of practical and relatively easy steps/changes for us to make in our daily lives/routines - even working on a few of them at a time will support and strengthen our overall health.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Additional Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Nuts

Some additional information from the article by Jacob Schor in the February 2015 Cardiology supplement of the Natural Medicine Journal involving the Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea (PREDIMED) study found the participants who were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome (blood sugar imbalance/high fasting blood sugar) at the start of the study and were in the Mediterranean Diet (MD) + olive oil group or the MD + nuts group were more likely to reverse this diagnosis than participants in the control group.  The participants in the MD + olive oil group and the MD  + nuts group were also found to have better cognitive function measurements than the participants in the control group. As well, participants who had the highest baseline fiber consumption at the start of the study had a 37% lower risk of death and those with the highest baseline fruit consumption had a 41% lower risk of death compared to those who had the lowest baseline consumption of fiber and fruit.  As well, participants with the highest dietary magnesium intake (which equalled approximately 454 mg of magnesium per day) had a 35% lower risk of death than the participants with the lowest intake.   This additional information further highlights the importance of aiming to follow the Mediterranean Diet guidelines and of integrating extra virgin olive oil and nuts into our regular routine.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cardiovascular Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, Extra Virgin Olive OIl, and Nuts

In the February 2015 Cardiology supplement of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor discusses some of the information that has been gathered through the Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea (PREDIMED) study.  The study involved almost 7500 people (average age 67 years old) who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease.  The participants were divided into 3 groups:  1 group that ate a Mediterranean Diet (MD) and 2 ounces of extra virgin olive oil per day, 1 group that ate a Mediterranean Diet (MD) and 30 g of walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts per day, and the control group that ate a low fat diet.  The MD + olive oil group was found to have a 30% lower risk and the MD + nuts group was found to have a 25% lower risk of having a cardiovascular event (heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular event) than the control group.  Further secondary analysis of the data divided the groups differently and found the participants who followed a MD most closely were 48% less likely to have a cardiovascular event than the participants who followed it least closely.  As well, people in the MD + olive oil group were found to have a 38% lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation than the control group.  Carotid artery ultrasounds were done at the outset of the study and 2.4 years into the study, and the people in the MD + nuts group were found to have improvements in their results with less plaque buildup seen (there was no change seen in the MD + olive group and the control group's ultrasounds had worsened).  The wealth of information gathered from this study points to the importance of integrating extra virgin olive oil and nuts into our regular routine and aiming to closely follow MD guidelines.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

EWG 2015 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released their 2015 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce.  The guide includes a list of the Dirty Dozen, which are the top 12 fruits and vegetables that the EWG found to be the most pesticide residue contaminated, and the Clean Fifteen, which are the top 15 fruits and vegetables that the EWG found to be the least pesticide residue contaminated.
This guide is always an excellent resource when deciding which fruits and vegetables are the most important to buy as certified organic and which are less important.
The fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list this year include (in order from the more contaminated to the lesser contaminated, pesticide wise):  apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and potatoes.
The EWG has also created a Dirty Dozen Plus category in the last few years to include foods that are found to frequently contain insecticides toxic to the central nervous system. This year the Dirty Dozen Plus includes hot peppers and leafy greens, such as kale and collard greens.
The fruits and vegetables on the Clean Fifteen list this year include (in order from the most 'clean' to less 'clean', pesticide wise):  avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papaya, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.
To read the full report from EWG, see

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Metabolic Concerns

An article by Mumper and Bedell Cook in the February 2015 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal discusses how the understanding around autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is shifting from ASD being a purely brain based concern to one that involves a number of additional body systems including the digestive system and the immune system and as well as metabolic impairments.  
On a metabolic level, most people with ASD have impaired functioning of their methylation and transulfuration pathways.  This impacts the body in a number of different ways and can contribute to the various symptoms/concerns people with ASD experience.  
There are a number of different tests that can help determine if a person does have impaired methylation and transulfuration pathways including urinary organic acid testing and genetic/single nucleotide polymorphisms buccal swab testing.  
There are a number of nutrients that support healthy functioning of the methylation and transulfuration pathways and can make these metabolic impairments easier for the body to manage.  Some supplements to consider include:  B12,  folic acid, vitamin B6, coenzyme Q10.  The article stresses the importance of using the active form of each of these nutrients to ensure they are more easily and fully utilizable by the body.  The active form of B12 is methylcobalamin.  The active form of folic acid is 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate (MTHF).  The active form of B6 is pyridoxyl-5-phosphate (P5P).  And the active form of coenzyme Q10 is ubiquinol.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Website Update!

I have just had my website updated and the new version is now up and running!  My website is found at .  The content is primarily the same although I have removed the current events page and the newsletter archive.  Even though I loved the newsletters I did, I haven't done one since 2004, so the page looked quite out of date.  This blog is now linked to the website and there is a link to my twitter account too.  Most excitingly, I have a new logo!  The curved line at the top of the logo represents the natural flow of our life.  The solid line at the bottom of the logo represents the steady foundation of health that naturopathic medicine helps us to build which can then support us in managing the flow of our life more easily.  The flowers growing from the natural flow are chamomile.  Chamomile is a simple and beautiful flower that grows easily and offers us calming, relaxing, and regenerative support on a number of different levels.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

End of the Cleanse!

Another January cleanse is drawing to a close for me - this month seemed to fly by very quickly this year!  Each of my cleanse suppers were simple and easy to make.  I also was able to have leftovers for supper 2 times per week which reduced the amount of cooking time/overwhelm.  I always had supper leftovers for lunch which also made it easier to manage through the extra work required during the cleanse.  I made hummus 3 times and had it as a snack and even as a light supper a few times after a late lunch.   Generally at the end of a cleanse, a person will slowly reintroduce each food they haven't eaten for the past month back into their diet in a separate 3 day block (only 1 food at a time) to determine if any of the foods cause an aggravation for them.  Because I have done the cleanse many times, I no longer do the food reintroduction, but it does serve as a great learning experience for people who are doing a cleanse for the first time.  In general, the cleanse has been a great experience again for me helping to start the year off in a positive and healthy direction.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Meditation and Mental Health

In the June 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Tina Kaczor discusses a study involving meditation and mental health.  There were 39 participants (average age 60.3 years old) that completed the 8 week study.  Each participant had mild depression and were caregivers to loved ones with dementia.  The intervention group (23 people) did 12 minutes daily of kundalini yoga based (kirtan kriya) meditation while the placebo group (16 people) listened each day to a 12 minute relaxation CD.   The intervention/meditation group were found to have significantly greater improvements in depression and their mental health at the end of the 8 week study.  This study highlights that meditation offers further support than just basic relaxation techniques.  I am currently reading a great book called Sit Like a Buddha by Lodro Rinzler.  It is a concise and clear manual on how to easily integrate meditation practice into our daily lives.  Having a daily meditation practice doesn't have to be complicated and it can offer great support for our overall mental health.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Green Tea and Digestive Health

In the February 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Kaycie Rosen Grigel looks at the Shanghai Women's Health Study involving green tea consumption and digestive system related (including colon, esophageal, gall bladder, pancreatic, rectal, stomach) cancer risk.  Almost 70,000 women between the ages of 40-70 participated in this study.  The participants were divided into different categories based on their tea consumption and the primary tea consumed was green tea (88% of participants drank green tea only).  The regular tea drinkers were found to have a 17% lower risk of developing digestive system cancers than the participants who were not regular tea drinkers.   Participants who drank 2-3 cups per day had a 21% lower risk and the ones who were regular tea drinkers for 20 years or more had a 27% lower risk of developing all digestive system related cancers and a 29% lower risk of developing colon cancer specifically.  The information from this study provides additional great guidance around simple changes we can make in our diet to support our overall health.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Infant Eczema and Maternal Dairy Intake

In the November 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Sarah Bedell Cook looks at a trial investigating infant eczema and maternal cow based dairy intake.  The breastfeeding mothers that participated in this trial all had a history of allergies (including food allergies, eczema, hives, asthma).  The infants were all exclusively breastfed and were monitored from birth to age 4 months.  Half of the mothers ate a diet that restricted dairy products (30 women) and the other half did not restrict their dairy intake (32 women).  At age 4 months, the incidence of eczema was significantly lower in the infants whose mothers restricted their dairy intake (only 2 infants developed eczema compared to 8 infants in the unrestricted dairy group).  Eczema is a relatively common concern for infants and this trial provides very helpful information around potential support for eczema management.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Benefits of Vitamin D

In the research news section of the December 2014 issue of Integrated Healthcare Practitioners, several studies involving vitamin D are highlighted.  One study found that women with lupus who had low vitamin D levels had an increased incidence of insulin resistance.  Another study found that 3 years of vitamin D supplementation was associated with improved (lower) HBA1C levels (which measures blood sugar/glucose stability over the previous few months) in African Americans with type 2 diabetes. Another study looked at vitamin D levels and risk of dementia and found that women with higher vitamin D levels had a lower risk of developing dementia.   Another study found that fatigue symptoms improved significantly when people with previously low vitamin D levels had their vitamin D move into expected range through vitamin D supplementation.   Each of these studies further highlights the wide range of support vitamin D offers for our overall health and that it is an important vitamin for us all to include in our daily routine.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nut Consumption and Mortality

In the July 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor looks at a study analyzing nut consumption and mortality.  The data analyzed in the study was gathered from 2 long term studies (starting in 1976 for one and in 1986 for the other) involving over 170,000 participants (approximately 121,000 women and 51,000 men).  Nut consumption (including both peanuts and tree nuts, which includes cashews, almonds, walnuts) was monitored through food questionnaires every 2-4 years.   There was an inverse association between eating nuts and total mortality levels - the participants who ate a higher amount of nuts had a lower rate of mortality.  The participants who ate nuts daily were 20% less likely to have died during the course of the study than the participants who never ate nuts.  There was also an inverse association between nut consumption and death from cancer, heart disease, and lung disease (the participants who ate nuts had a lower rate of death from these causes).  This study provides great guidance on another simple step we can take to support our overall health.  Nuts are a great protein source that help to stabilize our blood sugar and make for a great daily snack.  I prefer to purchase refrigerated nuts, when possible, and I store them in the fridge at home.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Flax Seeds and High Blood Pressure

In the March 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor looks at a study involving flax seed and hypertension (high blood pressure). There were 110 participants in the study, 75% of whom had high blood pressure.  Approximately half of the group ate 30 g of ground flax seed per day for 1 year, while the other half of the group (placebo group) did not include flax seed in their daily diet.  The flax seed participants who started the study with high blood pressure had a 15 mm Hg decrease in their systolic blood pressure (the top number of the ratio) and a 7 mm Hg reduction in their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of the ratio).  The participants who did not consume flax seed had an increase of 3 mm Hg in their systolic blood pressure and their diastolic blood pressure remained the same.  
This study highlights an easy step we can take to support healthy blood pressure.  Flaxseed is best ground shortly before consuming.  Grinding it in a coffee grinder or a high powered blender will break it down most efficiently.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Green Tea and Breast Cancer

In the February 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, authors Alschuler and Gazella look at a study involving green tea and breast cancer.    There were 28 participants in the study, all of whom were post menopausal breast cancer patients in between the time of their diagnosis and the time of their surgery.  The participants either received green tea capsules (containing 725 mg of green tea and 314 mg of ECGC per cap at a dose of 3 capsules per day) or no green tea capsules.  The average length of time the participants were dosed with the green tea capsules was 35 days.  The participants who received the green tea capsules were found to have a lower biopsy tissue Ki-67 activity level (which reflects the level of cancerous cell growth) compared to the ones who did not receive the green tea capsules.  The equivalent dose of the capsules in tea form is 8-10 cups per day.  This study provides a great insight into a simple step for supporting and strengthening women's health as they navigate through a breast cancer diagnosis.  

Benefits of Beetroot Juice

In the February 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor discusses a study looking at beetroot juice consumption and its impact on performance levels in cyclists. The study consisted of 9 male participants who were amateur competitive cyclists.  The average age of the participants was 28 years old. The participants either consumed 70 ml of beetroot juice or a placebo. Four exercise trials were done, one prior to the beetroot juice or placebo consumption and three following. The beetroot juice participants were found to have improved test markers (higher plasma nitrate levels and lower VO2 levels) and significantly faster time trial performances. In general, beets/beetroot juice are known as an excellent support for healthy liver cleansing and this study offers an insight into additional support beets can provide for our overall health. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ashwagandha and Cognition

In the May 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Robin DiPasquale discusses a study looking at ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and cognitive and psychomotor performance. The completed study involved 20 healthy men between the ages of 20-35 years. The men were dosed with either ashwagandha (2 X 250 mg capsules of standardized extract 2 times per day) or placebo for 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, and then another 2 weeks on. The participants were assessed through 6 psychomotor performance tests. The individuals who received the ashwagandha showed significantly improved reaction time in 5 of the 6 tests compared to the individuals who received the placebo. The article also mentions another study where ashwagandha was shown to improve auditory response time and mental arithmetic abilities. In general, ashwagandha is an adaptogenic or tonifying herb that helps us to manage our stress levels more effectively and feel more grounded. This article helps to highlight further support ashwagandha can offer towards strengthening our overall health. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Iodine and Cancer Prevention

In the June 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Tina Kaczor looks at iodine and the support it can offer around cancer.  In addition to supporting healthy thyroid function, iodine also has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can offer anti-cancer support.  Iodine is also involved in cellular pathways that are implicated in cancerous cell growth and death.  Iodine is effective in reducing breast tenderness (non cancer related) and also has the potential to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer and reduce the activity of estrogen receptors in breast tissue.  As well a number studies around gastric cancer have found people with gastric cancer to have lower levels of iodine.  And an US survey (NHANES I) found that men who excreted the highest amount of iodine (indicating higher levels of iodine in the body) had a 29% lower risk of prostate cancer than the men who excreted the lowest levels of iodine.  On a supplemental level, molecular iodine is more well tolerated and easier on the thyroid/body than iodide salts although it can be hard to find.  It is important to note that people with auto immune mediated thyroid concerns/thyroid antibodies can have difficulty with supplemental iodine.    One way to increase iodine in our diet in a way that is gentle and easy on most of our systems is to focus on whole foods that are rich in iodine.  Seaweed (kelp, dulse, nori) is rich in iodine and easy to integrate either as a snack or mixed in with soups, grains, beans.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sulforaphane and Autism Spectrum Disorder

In the December 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Matthew Baral discusses a study looking at sulforaphane and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Sulforaphane is an extract from broccoli with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  There were 43 males participating in the study, some were dosed with sulforaphane and same were given placebo.  The dose of sulforaphane was dependent on weight and ranged from 50 to 150 micromoles per day.  The dosing lasted for 18 weeks and participants were also followed for another 4 weeks, post dosing.  The people in the sulforaphane group were found to have significant improvement in mood, energy, and hyperactive behavior, as well as in communication, motivation, social interaction, and awareness levels compared to the people in the placebo group.  The improvements did decline once the sulforaphane was discontinued and the participants did move back to their baseline/pre treatment behaviour patterns.  Based on the improvements seen when the participants were taking the sulforaphane, this study provides an interesting insight into a potential support for people with ASD.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Topical Use of Coconut Oil

In the May 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, authors Elmore, Nance, Singleton, and Lorenz review studies on the topical use of coconut oil.  Components of coconut oil (lauric, caprylic, and capric acid) have anti-microbial activity and coconut oil can be used topically to treat/address skin infections.    Topical coconut oil was found to be effective in reducing staph aureus colonization of atopic dermatitis/eczema lesions, in reducing the level of the main bacteria that contributes to acne, and in reducing candida/yeast infections.  For the most part, coconut oil is hypoallergenic and well tolerated, topically, by most people and is a good oil to consider for skin health support.  It is best to buy certified organic extra virgin coconut oil and I prefer to buy all fat rich foods in glass containers to prevent any plastic based toxins from transferring from the container into the oil/food.  

Turmeric and Depression

In the November 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Ajay Goel discusses a study looking at turmeric extract (curcumin) in the treatment of major depressive disorder.  The study involved 56 people treated either with curcumin (500 mg 2 times per day) or placebo for 8 weeks.  During the first 4 weeks, the improvements seen were similar in both groups, but in the last 4 weeks, the people taking the curcumin showed a more significant improvement in their emotional/mental health and wellness.  Previous studies have linked chronic inflammation and depression/mental illness and the authors of this current study suggest curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties may be playing a role in the improvements that were seen.  Turmeric is a safe and gentle herb (although not indicated for people with clotting/bleeding disorders) that offers a wide scope of support including the potential to offer support for overall emotional health.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Flax Seed Consumption and Prostate Cancer

In the February 2014 Natural Medicine Journal Special Oncology supplement, author Tina Kaczor discusses a study that looked at men with prostate cancer and flaxseed consumption.  Within the study, some of the men didn't consume flax seeds.  The group who did consume flax seeds (30 g or 1/4 cup per day) though had a significantly lower proliferative index/ki-67 level (which indicates less tumour growth).  Previous studies suggest that compounds in flax seeds can increase apoptosis/death of cancer cells and reduce the activity of insulin-like growth receptors which also results in an anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells.  Even though the exact mechanism through which flax seed consumption can positively influence prostate cancer isn't clear, this study points to flax seeds being a supportive part of the diet for men dealing with prostate cancer.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Urban Green Space and Mental Health

An article by Kurt Beil in the July 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal focuses on a 17 year (1991-2008)  British study that examined shifts in mental health status in people who moved to new homes which were surrounded by either more or less urban green space.  Mental health status was assessed by a General Health Questionnaire provided by the British Household Panel Survey.  People who moved to a new home with increased surrounding urban green space were found to have improved mental health status not just immediately but for years following the move which suggests the improvement was permanent.  People who moved to a home with less surrounding urban green space did not experience any shift in mental health status.  Even though less surrounding urban green space didn't impact mental health, the improvement in mental health seen with increased exposure provides insight into a support for our overall mental health that we can all easily access.  While we may not be able to actually move to a home with increased surrounding urban green space, ensuring that we get outside and connect with the green space that is within our own neighbourhood or our own city can potentially help to boost our mental health.  This is a fun (even in the winter!), refreshing, and free way for us to support our overall health.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Breast Cancer and Exercise

An article by Jacob Schor in the October 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal looked at a study investigating breast cancer mortality risk in breast cancer survivors who ran and in those who walked as their form of exercise.
With exercise in general, it was found the risk of breast cancer mortality decreased by 24% per MET hour (1 MET hour = approximately 1 mile of brisk walking and 2/3 of a mile of running) per day.  When separating the running and walking groups, the women who ran had their risk of breast cancer mortality decreased by 40% per MET hour per day while the women who walked had their risk of breast cancer mortality decreased by only 5% per MET hour per day. 
These statistics are confusing but basically point to the women who used running as their form of exercise, post breast cancer diagnosis, having a more significantly reduced risk of breast cancer mortality than the women who walked.  
Even more interestingly, the study found that women who ran more than 2.25 miles per day were at a 95% lower risk for breast cancer mortality than breast cancer survivors who did not meet current exercise recommendations (which are moderate intensity physical activity for 30 minutes 5 times per week or vigorous intensity physical activity for 20 minutes 3 times per week).  
The information from this study provides valuable guidance on the form of exercise that is most beneficial for breast cancer survivors to integrate into their regular routine.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

BPA Levels and Miscarriage Risk

In the October 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, Setareh Tais discusses a study that investigated pregnant women's serum/blood bisphenol A (BPA) levels and miscarriage risk. 
BPA is a chemical with endocrine/hormonal disrupting properties and has the potential to impact reproduction and embryo development.  The study found that the women who were in the highest quartile of serum BPA levels had an 83% higher risk of having a first trimester miscarriage than the women with serum BPA levels in the lowest quartile.   
This study highlights the importance for everyone, but especially women who are aiming to get pregnant, to limit their BPA exposure.  BPA is found in the lining of metal cans, as well as plastic food/beverage containers and thermal receipts.  Aiming to limit our use of canned food by buying bulk/dried and fresh foods, storing our food/drinks in glass containers, and limiting our contact with receipts are all relatively easy steps we can take to decrease our BPA exposure.