Thursday, March 9, 2017

EWG'S 2017 Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen Lists

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released their always helpful Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists for 2017.  
The Dirty Dozen list is made up of the twelve fruits and vegetables that were found to have the most pesticide residue contamination.  And the Clean Fifteen list is made up of the fifteen fruits and vegetables that were found to have the least pesticide residue contamination.  
These lists are excellent resources for us when we are grocery shopping.  We can be less concerned about buying certified organic fruits and vegetables that are on the Clean Fifteen list, and if we aim to stick to certified organic fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list, we will reduce our pesticide exposure and support our overall health.  
The fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list include (with the most contaminated food on the Dirty Dozen list at the top):
Sweet Bell Peppers

The fruits and vegetables on the Clean Fifteen list include (with the least contaminated food on the Clean Fifteen list at the top):
Sweet Corn
Sweet peas (frozen)
Honeydew Melon

Visit to learn more about the EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Berberine and IBS

An article by Jacob Schor ND in the August 2016 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal looked at the impact of berberine on Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diarrhea Predominant (IBS-D).  The article focused on a study led by Chen, Tao, and Liu that was published in the November 2015 issue of Phytotherapy Research.  There were 132 participants (ages 18 - 65 years) in the study and they were split into a berberine dosing group (200 mg of berberine hydrochloride 2 times per day for 8 weeks) and a placebo dosing group (200 mg of vitamin C 2 times per day for 8 weeks).  All participants self-assessed their IBS symptoms with daily questionnaires during the study and were also scored for IBS symptoms, anxiety, depression, and quality of life both before and after the 8 weeks of berberine/placebo dosing.  Both groups saw a reduction in symptoms during the 8 week study, but by week 8, frequency of diarrhea was significantly lower in the berberine dosing group compared to the placebo dosing group.  The berberine dosing group also noted less urgency and frequency during weeks 4 through 8 while this was not noted by the placebo dosing group.  By week 8, the placebo dosing group had seen a 29.4% reduction in abdominal pain while the berberine dosing group had seen a 64.6% reduction.  The berberine dosing group also saw significant reductions in their IBS score, anxiety score, and depression score and an increased quality of life score.  There were no changes in these scores for the placebo dosing group.   The information gathered from this study indicates that berberine (which is extracted from goldenseal, Oregon grape root, barberry) is an excellent support to consider for managing IBS-D.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Multivitamin Use and Cardiovascular Disease Risk

In the September 2016 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, an article by Douglas MacKay ND looks at the impact of multivitamins on the development of cardiovascular disease.  The article focused on a prospective cohort study by Rautiainen et al that was published in the June 2016 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.  The study included over 18,000 male physicians aged 40 years and above.  All of the participants were cancer and cardiovascular disease free at the beginning of the study (which was 1982).  The study did not find an association between short term multivitamin use and reduced risk of major cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke, death), but there was a 14% lower risk of cardiac bypass surgery and angioplasty and an 11% lower risk of coronary artery disease (narrowing of arteries/plaque build up) noted with multi vitamin use.  As well, in participants who took a daily multivitamin for more than 20 years, there was a 44% lower risk of major cardiovascular events noted.  The information from this study confirms that a daily multivitamin is supportive for our long term health.  A good quality multivitamin should be in a capsule or liquid (rather than a tablet) form and should be iron free (except for pregnant/breastfeeding women).  It is best to aim for a multivitamin that contains the active/utilizable forms of vitamins/minerals to ensure the most efficient absorption and utilization of the nutrients within the multivitamin.  It is best to take a multivitamin with our morning or noon meal to ensure that we have all/most of our day to be able to use the nutrients in the multivitamin.                                     

Monday, January 30, 2017

The End of the Cleanse!

Generally a cleanse lasts for 28 days and when January 29 falls on a weekend, I often end my January cleanse a few days early!  To finish up the cleanse this year, I had a few bites of chocolate and it tasted delicious!  For the most part, I will return to the cleanse for Monday and Tuesday and then will officially finish on Wednesday.
Because I have done the cleanse a number of times, I don't specifically reintroduce each food that I have not been eating during the cleanse.  However if we are doing the cleanse for the first time or if we have had a significant change in the way we have been feeling since we last did a cleanse, it is very helpful to reintroduce each of the foods that we eat on a regular basis back into our diet in separate 3 day blocks.
The order of food reintroduction is arbitrary, although if there is a specific food we have a sense is likely to be hard on our system, it is best to save that food for the end of the reintroduction process.
For the reintroduction process, each food that has been out for the cleanse is reintroduced in a separate 3 day block.  During each 3 day block, we would eat the food in the amount that we would normally eat it each day for 3 days (along with all the other foods we have been eating on the cleanse) and watch how we feel.  If there is no change in how we feel during the 3 days, that food is fine for our system.  If we note that we aggravate on any level (digestive, skin, emotional, energy etc.) during the 3 day reintroduction block, it is an indication that the food is contributing to how we are feeling and that it is best eaten in a limited amount/frequency, when possible, going forward.  If we aggravate before 3 days, we can remove the food at the point.
During the food reintroduction process, whether we aggravate to a food or not, we remove the food after 3 days (or before with an aggravation) and then go onto the next food.  In other words, there is only one food that has been out on the cleanse consumed during each 3 day reintroduction block.  If we have aggravated to a food, it is best to go back to the cleanse for at least 1 day to allow our system to re-balance before starting with another 3 day food reintroduction block.
The food reintroduction process of the cleanse provides us with a great insight into whether any of the foods that we regularly eat are contributing to any of the concerns that we are experiencing.  It is a great learning experience and provides us with excellent information about how we can continue to move forward, diet wise, post cleanse, to support our overall health.    

Friday, January 27, 2017

Health Benefits of Volunteering

I volunteer for an Edmonton cat rescue called SAFE Team.  Today we did a presentation to a grade 7 and a grade 8 animal rescue class!  It is awesome that a class on responsible animal ownership and valuing animals exists as an option class in school these days!  This was definitely not the case when I was in junior high many many years ago!  An article published in the August 2013 online edition of BMC Public Health looked at the health benefits of volunteering.  The article authored by Jenkinson et al was a systematic review/meta analysis of 40 different studies.  The review found that volunteering had a positive impact on emotional/mental health with volunteers feeling improved well being, more satisfaction with their life, and lower rates of depression.  It was also found that volunteers had a lower risk of mortality compared to people who did not volunteer.  The info gathered from this review is pretty obvious, but it is helpful to confirm that when we give our time and energy to people or animals in need, we also support our overall health at the same time.   

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Iron Supplementation in Infancy

An article in the September 2016 Natural Medicine Journal's Pediatric Special Issue by Lillian Au ND looked at the impact of supplemental iron in infancy.  The article looked at a study led by Angulo-Barroso et al that was published in the April 2016 issue of Pediatrics.  The study looked at over 1400 infants.  Half of the infants were dosed with iron from age 6 weeks to 9 months and the other half received a placebo.  The infants underwent developmental testing at age 9 months.  The infants who received the iron supplementation were found to have improved gross motor test scores compared to the infants who received the placebo.  The iron supplemented infants performed better on sitting upright, crawling, standing, and transitions from sitting to standing than the infants who received the placebo.  The information gathered from this study points to the importance of ensuring that infants (and breastfeeding mothers) have adequate iron levels and that integrating a separate iron supplement for infants is well indicated for long term motor and neurological development.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Use of Heartburn Medication in Pregnancy and Asthma Risk

A recent article published in the January 2017 online issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology looked at whether children born to mothers who have taken heartburn medication (proton pump inhibitors, H2 receptor antagonists) during pregnancy have an increased risk of developing childhood asthma.  Researchers Devine, McCleary, Sheikh, and Nwaru did a systematic review of 8 previous studies which involved more than 1.3 million children. The researchers found that any use of heartburn medication in pregnancy was associated with the resulting children having a higher risk of asthma development in comparison to children who were born to mothers that did not take heartburn medication during pregnancy   As well a higher dosage of heartburn medication in pregnancy was associated with a further higher risk of the resulting children developing asthma.  The information in this article helps to highlight the importance of integrating safe supports for managing heartburn during pregnancy.   From a naturopathic perspective, safe supports include eating smaller, more frequent meals, aiming to avoid heartburn triggering foods (which include spicy food, mint, citrus, tomatoes, onions, garlic, caffeine), integrating a liquid calcium magnesium supplement.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ginger and Menstrual Cramping

An article published in the April 2016 issue of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine looked at the efficacy of ginger in addressing menstrual cramping (dysmenorrhea).  The article by Chen, Barrett, and Kwekkeboom reviewed 6 different trials comparing ginger against either placebo or NSAID (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - mefenamic acid and ibuprofen) in managing menstrual cramping.  In all the studies, participants were either high school or college students and the majority (5 out of 6) of the studies included only women with moderate to severe menstrual cramping.  The ginger dosed was in a powdered (encapsulated) form and the dosages ranged from 750 mg - 2000 mg per day.  The timing of the ginger dosing varied from 2 days prior to the menstrual cycle starting until cramping subsided with the average dose being for 3 days (the first 3 days of the menstrual cycle).  In the different studies, participants rated their menstrual cramping pain using a number of different scales.  In all studies involving a placebo, it was found that ginger was more effective in reducing menstrual cramping than placebo.  In the studies comparing ginger to NSAIDS, ginger and NSAIDS were found to be equally as effective in reducing menstrual cramping.  For many women, menstrual cramping support/medication needs to be dosed several times during the period and NSAIDS can place significant stress on the body when used on a regular basis (the main concerns include stress on the stomach mucous membranes and stress on the liver).  Alternatively, ginger is a very safe and gentle herb that is generally quite easy on the system.  With these studies showing that ginger offers the same level of support as NSAIDS for menstrual cramping, it is a therapeutic worth considering for menstrual pain management.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ways to Reduce our Toxin Load

I recently attended the National University of Natural Medicine's Preconception to Postpartum lecture presentations via webinar.  Shannon Sinsheimer ND's lecture on Preconception Counselling covered ways to reduce our toxin load to support healthy pregnancy preparation (and is also applicable in many ways to people of all ages in supporting our overall health).  Some of the helpful suggestions she offered include:  the importance of reducing our exposure to electromagnetic fields and WiFi signals by removing cell phones from our pockets/not carrying cell phones directly on our bodies/not placing laptops directly on our laps to support the health of our reproductive organs.  The importance of ensuring that we properly hydrate our bodies with water to support efficient body detoxification.  Aiming to become more aware of what we put onto our skin, body care and cosmetic product wise.  Many body care products and cosmetics contain compounds that are endocrine disruptors and have the potential to impact our fertility (and overall heath).  The Environmental Working Group (EWG)'s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database rates the safety of over 64.000 body care products and is an excellent  resource in helping us to choose healthier body care products (products with a lower number are considered less toxic and more healthy for us to use).  The EWG also has a Sunscreen Database which is another great resource (again products with a lower number are less toxic/more safe for us to use as well).  Another way for us to reduce our toxin load is to shift to non toxic house cleaning products (conventional cleaning products also contain a number of compounds that can place significant stress on our system).  The EWG also offers a great resource with their Guide to Healthy Cleaning.  Cleaning products are rated letters A - F with A being the best rating and the safest products for us to use in our homes.  Here is a link to the EWG's consumer guide/resources .

Thursday, January 19, 2017


For many people, the most difficult food/drink to work with on the cleanse is COFFEE!  I am forever grateful that I somehow lucked into not being a coffee drinker, but I can still appreciate how hard it is to work on reducing coffee intake.  When we drink coffee every day, our body expects it to be there and if we don't have it, we will definitely have an adjustment period which generally includes a headache, irritability, low energy.  The longer we go without coffee (or with a lower amount), the less present the symptoms become and eventually our body will adjust and we will no longer feel headache-y, grouchy, or tired.  This will usually even out within 3 - 7 days.
For some people, integrating green tea (which has a caffeine base, but is less stressful for the body) will make the transition off coffee more manageable.
For many people though, removing coffee directly isn't an option especially when we are drinking more than 2 cups per day.  An easier on the body way to go about reducing our coffee intake when we drink a higher amount each day is to slowly reduce the amount we drink each week.  For instance, if we currently drink 4 cups of coffee per day, we would start by reducing to 3 3/4 cups of coffee per day for 1 week.  The next week, we would reduce to 3 1/2 cups of coffee per day and we would then continue to slowly reduce by 1/4 cup per day each week until we either are able to remove the coffee or get ourselves to a much lower daily amount.  This process isn't necessarily directly cleanse based but more based on the goal of reducing our daily coffee intake long term.  
Ultimately every body is better without coffee, but if we can reduce our coffee intake to 1 - 2 cups per day, our body will be considerably less stressed by the stimulant and dehydrating qualities of coffee.  The other thing to keep in mind when we are reducing our coffee intake is to not reduce the ritual surrounding coffee as well.  Usually the act of drinking coffee takes us into a space of doing something nice for ourselves, where we slow down, savour, and enjoy.  This aspect of coffee drinking is a wonderful part of our routine!  If we are aiming to reduce our coffee intake, it is still nice to maintain this space by either having another warm non-caffeinated drink or doing something else that encourages us to slow down and treat ourselves when we would normally drink coffee.
And keep in mind, our goal doesn't need to be no coffee at all - any reduction we make will be a positive step in supporting our overall health!

Children's Health and Green Space Access

 An article by Kurt Beil ND in the September 2016 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal looked at how children's health is impacted by their access to and engagement with green space in their neighbourhood.  The article focused on a study by Kim, Lee, and Sohn (published in the January 2016 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health) which involved 92 children ages 9 - 11 years.  The participants were assessed for their health related quality of life (HRQOL) using the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory.  How much of their surrounding neighbourhood was green space, the number of patches of trees that were in their surrounding neighbourhood, and the distance that existed between these patches of trees were statistically significant predictors of the children's HRQOL.  Larger green space area, more patches of trees, and further apart patches of trees were associated with an improved HRQOL.  As well, BMI, weekend physical activity level, and number of hours of TV watched were also statistically significant predictors of the children's HRQOL.   More balanced BMI, higher level of weekend physical activity, and lower number of hours of TV watched also were associated with an improved HRQOL.  None of this information is likely surprising, but it is still a helpful confirmation of how important it is for children (and for adults) to have access to green space in their neighbourhoods and how important it is to ensure that children (and adults) engage in outdoor physical activity and aim to limit the number of hours spent watching TV.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ashwagandha and Chronic Stress

An article by Tori Hudson ND in the November 2016 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal looked at the impact of ashwagandha on people with chronic stress and weight concerns.  The article looked at a study led by Choudhary, Bhattacharyya and Joshi (that was published in the April 2016 online issue of the Journal of Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine).  The study lasted 8 weeks and involved 50 people with half being dosed ashwagandha 2 times per day and the other half receiving a placebo 2 times per day.  A number of measurements (including stress levels measured via the Perceived Stress Scale or PSS, serum cortisol levels, and body weight) were taken at the start of the study, at 4 weeks duration and at 8 weeks duration.  Both groups had lower PSS scores at 4 and 8 weeks, but the group that received the ashwagandha had a significantly greater reduction in PSS scores at 4 weeks and even more significant reduction in PSS scores at 8 weeks than the placebo group.  Similarly serum cortisol levels (cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenals and gives an indication of adrenal function - a higher level can indicate imbalanced adrenal function) were significantly lower at 4 weeks and then further reduced again at 8 weeks in the group that received the ashwagandha compared to the placebo group.  As well, at 8 weeks, the group that received the ashwagandha had a greater reduction in body weight than the placebo group.  Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps to tonify the adrenals and supports overall healthier adrenal functioning.  When our adrenals function in a more balanced way, we have an easier time managing our stress and maintaining healthy weight balance.  The information gathered from this study helps to confirm this and further contributes to our knowledge and understanding of this wonderful herb.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Concerns with Acetaminophen Use in Pregnancy

An article published in the October 2016 issue of JAMA Pediatrics looked at acetaminophen (Tylenol) use in pregnancy and its impact on children's behaviour later in life.  The study led by Stergiakouli et al gathered data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children which was made up of 7796 mothers and their children.  Acetaminophen use at 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy was looked at and children's behaviour at 7 years of age was assessed through the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.  Acetaminophen use at both 18 and 32 weeks was associated with higher odds of the child having behaviour concerns and hyperactivity symptoms.  And acetaminophen use at 32 weeks was also associated with higher odds of the child having emotional concerns.  This research brings up important information around pain management in pregnancy and the importance of exploring other forms of support that do not have the potential to place long term stress on children's development.  

Lutein and Zeaxanthin and Cognitive Function

A study published online in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society at the end of October 2016 looked at the impact of lutein and zeaxanthin on cognitive function.  The study led by Lindbergh et al looked at 43 people, average age 72 years, and used MRI to measure the participants' brain activity/efficiency when learning and repeating pairs of unrelated words.  Their retinal (eye) and serum lutein and zeaxanthin levels were also measured.  The study found that participants with higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin had more efficient neural/brain activity!  The richest dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are the leafy greens, especially kale, spinach, and dandelion greens, as well as turnip greens, swiss chard, collards.  Leafy greens can easily be integrated into our diets in salads, smoothies, soups, stir fries.  The evidence gathered from this study reflects that doing so can support our overall brain health and cognitive function!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Vitamin D for ASD

A study published in the November 21, 2016 issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry looked at vitamin D supplementation in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  The study was led by Saad et al and involved 109 children ages 3 - 10 years.  Participants either received vitamin D3 (at 300 IU per kg per day not exceeding 5000 IU per day) or placebo for 4 months.  All the children were assessed for ASD severity and social maturity prior to the study and at the end of the 4 months.  A significant improvement in ASD symptom severity was noted in the participants who received vitamin D3, but not in the participants who received the placebo.  Because we produce vitamin D3 internally during summer months, it tends to be a very easily tolerated supplement and this study points to it being an important part of the health support plan for people with ASD.  


A study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology at the end of Dec 2016 looked at the impact of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) on children with  active inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  The study was led by Dr David Suskind, a gastroenterologist practising at Seattle Children's, and involved the children following the SCD for 12 weeks.  This was a small study, but of the 10 children who completed the study, 8 or 80%, showed significant improvement and achieved clinical remission.  The SCD removes all complex carbohydrates, including all whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables.  It also focuses exclusively on cooked food for an extended period of time.  The SCD is based around the concept of removing foods from the diet that have the potential to cause inflammation/disruption of the digestive mucous membranes and focusing instead on foods that are easier to digest and that encourage a reduction in inflammation and support digestive mucous membrane healing.  This study is a great confirmation that the food that we eat can have a direct impact on how we feel.  For people with IBD, their symptoms can often be unmanageable and it is great to have this clinical proof that making dietary changes can offer significant support in disease/symptom management.    

Friday, January 13, 2017

S Stands for Seeds!

Seeds are the final component in Dr Joel Fuhrman's G-BOMBS (as discussed in his books The End of Dieting and Super Immunity)!  There are all sorts of healthy seeds to choose from including hemp seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds.  Seeds are an excellent source of protein as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids (seeds tend to have a better omega 3 and omega 6 balance than nuts).  As a protein source, seeds can cover  breakfast (I use chia seeds and hemp seeds as my protein sources in my am smoothie) and snacks, but they don't provide enough blood sugar balancing support to be the main protein source for lunch or supper.  Seeds are rich in a number of minerals including calcium and iron.   Seeds can also help us maintain healthy cholesterol balance and they can also reduce our risk of developing certain cancers.  They are also an excellent fibre source and support healthy bowel movements.  Flax seeds do need to be ground for us to gain full benefit from them and it is best to grind them shortly before consuming them to preserve their omega 3/6 fatty acid makeup.  Seeds are a low FODMAP food, so they do not tend to cause digestive disruption for most people.  Seeds are very flexible and pretty easy to integrate into our diet - they can be added to smoothies, salads, stir fries, baked veggies.  Integrating seeds into our regular diet is a simple and easy way to support our overall health!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Conventional Farming Concerns

In the April 2016 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Harry Hong PhD discusses concerns with our modern food supply in his article "Modern Industrial Foods and Their Effects on the Human Body".  
Some of the concerns with modern/conventional agriculture that he raises include how widespread the farming of genetically modified (GM) crops has become. The top GM crops in the US include soybean, corn, sugar beet, canola (and cotton).  Not surprisingly, GM crops are more contaminated with herbicide (specifically glyphosate) residues than certified organically grown crops.  Interestingly people who eat a conventionally grown diet were found to have higher levels of glyphosate in their urine than people who ate a certified organically grown diet. Glyphosate has been linked to a number of concerns including ADHD, autism, gut flora imbalance, liver damage, MS.
In addition, a number of the substances added to our foods (like nitrates/nitrites and food colourings) have been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer and behaviour concerns.  
The article also mentions that certified organically grown foods have a richer nutrient base than conventionally grown foods and offer higher vitamin and mineral levels. 
The info in this article can feel very overwhelming!  Let's shift perspective and look at some positive help a cleanse can offer!   Because a cleanse focuses on whole and home made foods, we greatly reduce our intake of many of the concerning compounds discussed in the article while doing the cleanse. As well, one of the benefits of doing a cleanse is our liver gets a bit of a break and has a chance to  process breakdown products/toxins more efficiently which can make it easier for us to clear some of these concerning compounds from our system. 

For the long term/post cleanse, while we don't have to focus exclusively on certified organic foods in our diet, when we can, it is a good idea to do so.  It is especially important to aim to eat certified organic soy, corn, sugar, and canola to reduce our intake of GM foods. The Environmental Working Group also provides an invaluable resource in their Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists which can make it easier for us to choose which foods are more important for us to buy as certified organically grown.  The sweet bell peppers pictured above are on the Dirty Dozen list and so are one of the top 12 pesticide residue contaminated foods, so it is best to buy certified organic when possible.  Check out to see the full Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. And remember that any change we make in our diet - whether it is eating even a bit less processed foods or focusing on eating only certified organic soy when possible - will make a difference to our overall health! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Berries! Berries! Berries!

Berries are the B in Dr Joel Fuhrman's G-BOMBS (as discussed in his books The End of Dieting and Super Immunity).  Berries are loaded with antioxidants that offer in depth support for our overall eye and cardiovascular/heart health.  They offer great anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic response support as well as general immune boosting support.  They can also help to reduce our risk of developing a number of cancers.  As well, they are a low glycemic food which means they do not place any stress on blood sugar balance.
Berries are some of the most nutrient packed foods in our diet and are worth integrating on a regular basis.  With living in a cold climate, I find that I am not much of a natural fruit eater and could stand to integrate more berries into my diet!  They go well in smoothies or can be eaten as a snack.  When not blended in a smoothie, fruit is best eaten at least 30 minutes before or 1 hour after other foods - fruit is digested more quickly than other foods and can impact the quality of digestion of other foods if eaten alongside them.
Blackberries and boysenberries are a high FODMAP food, so may be best avoided by people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome/digestive concerns.
Even though berries tend to offer anti-inflammatory support, some people will find that strawberries contribute to skin inflammation/eczema aggravation and are best avoided if this is the case.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mushrooms - immune stars!

Catching back up with Dr. Joel Fuhrman's G-BOMBS (as discussed in his books The End of Dieting and Super Immunity), the next letter to look at is M which stands for Mushrooms!  
Mushrooms offer excellent immune tonification support.  They can help build the base of our immune system and encourage us out of a cycle of frequent colds and into a space of more immune stability.  They also have numerous anti-cancer actions including reducing the ability of cancer cells to develop their own blood supply (which is necessary for the cancer cells to grow/proliferate - no blood supply, no growth) and helping to neutralize/kill off cancer cells. 
All types of mushrooms offer support, including white button, cremini, portobello, shiitake, oyster mushrooms.  
Mushrooms are most supportive for our system when they are cooked and they are flexible in all sorts of dishes.  They can easily be added to soups, stews, stir fries, bakes.  In general, they are a pretty easy food to integrate into our regular routine and will offer us great immune support!
For some people with yeast/candida overgrowth, they will find that mushrooms can exacerbate their symptoms and are best avoided.  
As well, from a FODMAP standpoint, most mushrooms are high FODMAP foods and may also need to be avoided by people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome/digestive concerns.

Soup - a perfect cleanse food!

One of the main benefits we gain during a cleanse is that our digestive system is considerably less stressed (because we have reduced the amount of foods in our diet that are hard to digest or are difficult on the digestive system) and has a chance to begin to heal and improve its overall functioning.  
In general, our digestive system prefers warm temperature food - warm food is less stressful for the digestive system than cold food and it is easier for us to process and absorb our nutrients from warm/cooked foods.  Focusing on at least 50% cooked foods during a cleanse is a great way to offer further support to our digestive system.   
Soup is a wonderful winter food that is filled with well cooked and often easily digestible ingredients.  Having soup on a cleanse takes even a bit more strain off our digestive system and allows our body to do further healing.
Making soup regularly on a cleanse can also be helpful in reducing the amount of cooking overwhelm people can sometimes feel on a cleanse - it is easy to make extra soup that we can either eat throughout the week or freeze and eat later on during the cleanse.  
Soup is also an easy way for us to eat lots of veggies!  A half cup of raw veggies is one serving of veggies (even if we cook the veggies, we still measure the serving size as raw veggies) - just thinking back to making soup, we can easily picture how many 1/2 cups of veggies go into making one soup!  
For many people, soup is a grounding meal as well - it is warming and filling and many of us have positive memories associated with soup being a favourite or healing food.  
The soup pictured above is from a recipe called Lentil Me Entertain You from Soupelina's Soup Cleanse by Elina Fuhrman.  I just picked up this book and it is filled with loads of delicious cleanse friendly recipes and lots of great health information.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Week One - almost done!

The first week of the cleanse is almost complete!  For most people, the first week of a cleanse is the most difficult.  Our body is adjusting to the changes that we have made and is likely missing the foods/drinks we have removed.  By the end of the first week though, for the most part, we will have adjusted and will be in the flow of being on a cleanse.  For some people, they will be noticing differences already in how they feel.  This can include more settled digestion, less itchy skin, more balanced mood or energy.  For other people, improvements take a bit more time to manifest.  Thankfully, with the cleanse feeling a bit more manageable and maybe even feeling a bit better, we generally have improved motivation to continue on with the cleanse by the end of the first week!  Keeping a journal of how we are feeling on a cleanse can be a very helpful guide as we continue on and finish the cleanse and then assess the differences we have seen.
One of the quick and easy dishes I made this week was a beet and cauliflower bake - I chopped up the beets (red and golden) and cauliflower, placed the veggies in a casserole with some oil and rosemary, and baked for 45 minutes.  It was a delicious and warming supper (it was mixed with short grain rice and lentils).  And beets and cauliflower both offer excellent liver support during a cleanse too!

EPL Great Stuff Guest Post!

I am very excited to share that I recently participated in the Edmonton Public Library's (EPL) Great Stuff Guest Post Series!  And the post is now up on their website!  
I submitted a list of 11 of my favourite books/resources available through the EPL that can help build and strengthen our overall health.  It was such a fun project to participate in!   I love the EPL and it is an invaluable FREE resource to us citizens of Edmonton!  
The list includes:  The End of Dieting by Joel Fuhrman MD, Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton, The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet by Sue Shepherd PhD and Peter Gibson MD, Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, Don't Bite the Hook Audio Recording by Pema Chodron, Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzburg, AM Yoga for Beginners Video by Rodney Yee, The Boreal Herbal by Beverley Gray, and Just Kids and M Train by Patti Smith.  
Check out this link to see the Great Stuff Guest Post:

Photo by davebennet Photography

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Water Basics

I am finding myself thirsty with this cleanse!  This generally isn't the case because I do tend to drink a good amount of water.  In general, if we are drinking a good amount of water each day, we won't ever feel thirsty (outside of when we are outdoors on a very hot day or if we have eaten a meal that is much higher in salt than we would normally eat).   If we find ourselves thirsty, it is a very helpful signal from our body that we need more water.
This thirst on the cleanse makes sense though because water does make it easier for our bodies to clear out toxins and doing a cleanse provides our body with an opportunity to do more work on this level.  Drinking more water will facilitate a more effective cleanse.
Drinking a good amount of water also ensures that we are properly hydrated which positively impacts us on a number of levels including improving our ability to concentrate, supporting healthy bowel movements, and reducing the likelihood of headaches.
On a regular day, it is best to aim for 2 litres (8 X 250 ml cups) of water.  If we do an intense work out, we want to add at least another 2 cups (500 ml) to that total.  And during a cleanse, we might want to add another 500 ml to the total too.
Room temperature or warm water is easier on our system than refrigerated or ice water.
Most of us aren't natural water drinkers, so measuring out our water in the morning (in 2 X 1 litre bottles) makes it easier to ensure we actually drink 2 litres per day.  And the visual reminder of the measured water provides motivation to drink the water.
As well, if we aren't drinking a whole lot of water currently, we don't want to aim for 2 litres per day directly.  Slowly increasing our water trains ourselves (and our bladders!) and makes it possible for an increased amount of water to become a normal part of our routine.  Increase by 1 cup per day each week - i.e. if we normally drink 4 cups per day, increase to 5 cups per day for at least 1 week, then increase to 6 cups per day for at least 1 week and so on.  By the time we get to 8 cups (2 litres), we will have adjusted to the increased water intake being part of our daily routine and it will be much easier to maintain.    

Lily Family Veggies

Continuing with the exploration of Dr Joel Fuhrman's G-BOMBS (as discussed in his books The End of Dieting and Super Immunity), the O part of this formula is onions!  Along with onions, many of the other vegetables of the lily family (allium genus), including garlic, leeks, chives, shallots, and scallions are also included.
Onions and the lily family veggies contribute to our overall health by supporting us on a cardiovascular and immune level.  They help us maintain healthy heart function and balanced blood pressure.  They reduce our risk of developing a number of different cancers.
They also offer great anti-microbial support in their raw form  - having raw garlic when we first feel symptoms of a cold can help stimulate our immune system and reduce the severity of the symptoms/clear the cold more quickly.  
Mincing or finely chopping the lily family veggies makes it easier for us to gain the benefits from them.
Integrating the lily family veggies into our routine is pretty easy - they enhance the flavour of most meals that we would make and go well in sauces, stir fries, soups.  They are an easy food to eat on a daily basis and doing so, offers us great ongoing overall health support.
For people with digestive concerns, raw lily family veggies can be particularly difficult, so it is best to stick with cooked forms only if we note any concerns after eating them in their raw form.
As well, from a FODMAP diet perspective (which is a therapeutic diet to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome and is based on problematic (for some people) naturally occurring sugars and alcohols in different foods), the lily family veggies are considered the most likely ones to cause digestive concerns, so for some people, they do need to be avoided entirely.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Beans! Beans! Beans!

Yesterday's blog looked at the Greens component of Dr Joel Fuhrman's G-BOMBS (as discussed in his books The End of Dieting and Super Immunity).  And today's blog looks at the B which is beans, specifically legumes!  Legumes are a fibre rich healthy protein source.  There are many different types of legumes, including chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans, navy beans, lentils etc. 
Legumes offer blood sugar balancing support and can help to reduce the risk of developing a number of different cancers.  They are also a low cost, nutrient rich, and low calorie protein source and it is a great idea to aim to integrate them more regularly into our diet.  
Many people are unsure of what to do with legumes, but they are quite easy to work with and mix well with all sorts of dishes, including as a base for dips, sprinkled over salads, mixed into soups or stir fries.   There are loads of recipes on the Internet or cookbooks in the library or the bookstores to gather ideas from too (great authors to look for include:  Sarah Kramer, Dreena Burton, Kristy Turner, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Jae Steele).   
I prefer to use dried legumes (if you do use canned legumes, aim to get ones in BPA free cans) - they require at least 4 - 6 hours of soaking before being cooked though, so there is some planning required.  I find it easiest to remember to soak legumes when I combine the soaking with something that is already part of my morning routine.  I always soak legumes after I have made my AM smoothie - when I am putting away the smoothie dishes (which includes the measuring cup), I can generally remember to do so if I want to soak legumes for supper.  After being soaked for 4 - 6 hours, most legumes generally take 60 minutes to cook.  
For some people, legumes are hard to digest.  In general, lentils, mung beans, aduki beans tend to be the easiest on the digestive system.  And slowly increasing our intake over time tends to make it easier on the digestive system as well.
For people with more in depth digestive concerns, legumes can still be an option, generally in smaller serving sizes and less frequently.  If following a low FODMAP diet, the easiest legumes include chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, and butter beans (preferable no more than 1/4 cup per serving and preferably no more than 2 - 3 times per week).  Interestingly, from a FODMAP perspective, the legumes are easiest on the system when they are canned - this allows the GOS/fructans (which are the concerning components of the legumes, FODMAP wise) to leach into the canning water and reduces the amount in the legumes we eat. 
If following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the easiest legumes on the digestive system (once symptom free) include lentils, black beans, kidney beans and navy beans.      

Monday, January 2, 2017

Greens! Greens! Greens!

In his book The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman MD discusses his Nutritarian Diet which focuses on the concept of eating more nutrient rich foods and eating less foods with low nutritional value.  This is a pretty simple guideline that we can work with on a daily basis to help improve our nutrient intake and our overall health.
In The End of Dieting (and his previous book Super Immunity), Fuhrman mentions G-BOMBS which are foods that offer particularly powerful support for our immune system and help to reduce our risk of developing cancer.  G-BOMBS stands for Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, Seeds and aiming to integrate these foods into our diet on a regular/daily basis is a great goal to work with.  
The Greens part of this equation can include kale, collard greens, bok choy, chard, spinach, and darkly coloured lettuce.  Greens are flexible and can be integrated into our diet pretty easily.  The tender and low taste/flavour greens like lettuce, chard, and spinach can be eaten as a salad or blended into a smoothie.  The stronger tasting and tougher greens like kale, collard greens, and bok choy can be lightly steamed or sautéed and mixed with a lunch or supper meal.  For some people, raw greens are hard on their digestive system (this can especially include the brassicas:  kale, collard greens, bok choy), so sticking to the cooked form will be best.  Greens also support healthy liver cleansing and are a great addition on a cleanse.  Whichever way we integrate greens, aiming to eat them more often offers us an easy way to boost our health on many levels!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hello 2017!

The start of another year brings the start of another cleanse for me!  I do a cleanse for the month of January each year and it always feels like a great way to reset and a positive way to start off the new year.
A cleanse can look differently for each person.  My regular diet doesn't include meat or dairy or eggs or refined sugar and during the cleanse, I also remove gluten, unrefined sweeteners, prepared/processed food, nightshades, soy.  I focus on whole foods prepared at home and there are still loads of foods to choose from!
The above picture is of my AM smoothie ingredients.  I use 1 green apple, 1 cup leafy greens (I generally just use 1 leaf and today's leaf equalled more than 1 cup!), 2 inches of cucumber, 1 tbsp hemp seeds, 2 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 tbsp coconut oil, 3/4 cup water.  I place all these ingredients in a blender and the smoothie is ready to drink pretty quickly!  Please note the 1 tbsp measurements are done with an eating tbsp (which is smaller than a true measuring tbsp) and are more of an approximate each day.  I have this AM smoothie even while not on the cleanse and luckily it is also cleanse friendly, so I don't have to make any adjustments!
I hope to post more regularly during the cleanse with cleanse friendly suggestions as well as general health focused posts.
Sending wishes to everyone for a new year that is filled with continued learning and growth.  All the best for 2017!