Indigestion - To Test or Not To Test

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I often see new patients with undiagnosed digestive issues, that they have been struggling with for months, sometimes years. They have seen their GP and given either no solutions, a medication they have to stay on to feel better, or referred to a GI specialist and are waiting for many more months to then be told their scope was clear and you just have IBS! I know this can very frustrating! 

This is where Naturopathic Medicine can come in and be very helpful. We have been trained in the ins and outs of the digestive tract and possible conditions and have had many hours of nutrition training to cater a food plan specific for you. I love treating digestive concerns for a few reasons:

  • Time to explain how the digestive tract works 

  • Access to GI lab tests that are specific to the patient

  • Tools such as nutrition, herbs, and neutraceuticals that can be specific for the patient 

  • Most conditions I have found stem from gut health so I can treat skin issues, hormone issues etc by addressing the gut! 

Testing can be an invaluable tool at times and can speed up the treatment process.  I go through the 4Rs in gut health (see post here) with all my patients and usually start with the basics in gut health and/or work with where they are at or how severe their digestive symptoms are, but testing can be very helpful. For example, a recent patient of mine opted to do both the SIBO breath test and the IgG food sensitivity panel during his initial visit so we could gather all necessary information as soon as possible then treat accordingly. On his second visit, we could jump right into the test results, in this case positive for hydrogen SIBO and a sensitivity to a few specific foods, and start antimicrobial herbs specific for his SIBO results. He then saw quick results! I believe we would still have gotten moderate results without testing but with it results happened much sooner and were much better. 

Some GI tests have been criticized in the news as of late but considering the results I see when these tests are included in our clinical diagnoses and ultimately the treatment, I have to disagree with some of their conclusions. A few of the digestive system tests I use are:

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  • IgG food sensitivity - This is a comprehensive test including 160 foods that you could have an IgG sensitivity to. I always make sure patients are aware that if several foods come back as a sensitivity then we are dealing with a “leaky gut” generally and eliminating the bigger culprits is important as well as a lot of gut healing support. 

  • SIBO Breath Test - Many cases of “IBS” are associated with an imbalance in bacteria that cause bloating, gas or bowel movement issues. In the case of SIBO it is an imbalance in the upper GI bacteria and the digestive wave is not functioning correctly. Testing reveals if this is the case, how severe the imbalance is and what type of dysbiotic bacteria is highest. We can then treat more effectively. 

  • GI Mapping or Stool Analysis - In more complex cases or if there is a history of parasites and negative scopes, stool analysis is valuable. Among other things his reveals what bacteria, parasite or virus is running rampant in the gut as well as how much inflammation is present. This test is very comprehensive and informative, but it is also more expensive. 

If you have been dealing with digestive issues for awhile with no diagnosis or direction, testing may be of benefit to you. There are many Naturopathic approaches to healing the digestive system and it is one area I love treating. Come visit me! 

In heath & happiness,

Dr. Karen

(Photo credits: 1 - https://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health-pictures/lets-hope-its-just-gas.aspx; 3 - www.sibodoctors.com)

Food Friday - Spiced Lamb Meatballs

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When meal planning one of my go-tos (since I am not vegetarian/vegan/keto…or anything really) are meatballs. Is it just me but there is something about ground meat that I love. It is hard to screw up, easy to prep, and you can add so much flavour to it! Ground turkey and ground lamb are common purchases in our household, but I make sure it comes from good sources (i.e. local meat found at the Saturday market or local grocery markets).

Have you tried ground lamb? It is so flavourful and very nutrient dense. Not only is it a great source of protein, it is a great source of B12, iron and zinc among others vitamins and minerals. This recipe calls for 1/2 lamb and 1/2 beef, which makes the flavours a little more mild for those that are new to lamb. This recipe is often requested by my husband and it makes enough that we can put some in the freezer for later. I usually pair these with rice and any green vegetable on the side but they would go with a salad and roasted spiced sweet potato as well. If you are feeding less people opt for only 1 lb of each meat and decrease the other ingredients slightly as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb ground lamb

  • 1.5 lb lean ground beef

  • 2 small onions, finely chopped (or grated)

  • 1 (2-3 in) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated

  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 3 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tsp chile powder

  • 2 tbsp garam masala (delicious spice I use often!)

  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

  • 3 tbsp ground almonds

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • 1/2 cup flour (I usually use Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free Flour)

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 450°F.

  2. Mix together the beef and lamb until they are well combined. Using your hands stir in the onion, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, chile powder, garam masala, cilantro, almonds, eggs, and flour.

  3. Roll of the meat mixture into evenly-shaped meatballs approximately the size of golf balls. Roast the meatballs for 20 minutes or until just barely pink in the middle.

  4.  Serve and enjoy! Freeze the remaining meatballs for up to 1 month.

    In health & happiness,

    Dr. Karen

Celery Juice: Fad or Real?

My attempt at celery juice.

My attempt at celery juice.

I’ve been asked many times about the 2019 wellness trend celery juice and whether the health claims are actually valid. So I did a little digging to find out if it really is all that it is cracked up to be. Is it the ultimate detoxer? Can it actually cure chronic disease, bloating, heartburn, acne, eczema etc? Let’s break it down.

Pros:

  • What I love about this trend is that it is pushing people to first drink more fluids in the morning and eating (or drinking in this case) more vegetables. This is key is my book! I try to get my patients to eat 2 cups of veggies 2x/day so if you can cross a cup or two off your list in the morning that it a bonus!

  • Celery is full of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin K (although not nearly as much as what is in other greens such as kale, spinach or broccoli). Most of its nutrients are still intact in the juice form, except for the fibre, so you are still reaping the benefits if you drink the juice.

  • Celery can decrease inflammation as it contains many antioxidants, which decrease overall oxidative stress in our body. This can ultimately decrease chronic disease such as hypertension, cancer and digestive concerns.

  • Due to certain non-starchy polysaccharides, especially one called apiuman, celery protects against inflammation in the digestive tract as it improves the integrity of the stomach lining (although only tested in animals). This can lead to decreased bloating, heartburn and inflammatory bowel conditions. This helps in the Repair portion of my 4 R’s in gut health.

  • Celery reduces water retention due to phytonutrients called phthalides, ultimately leading to decreased blood pressure or edema/bloating (however only the blood pressure effects have been researched).

Cons:

  • Studies on celery, as I have eluded to above, have mostly been on animals only, and not much research has been done. I could not find a study on just celery juice as well.

  • The studies on the effects of phthalates for water retention are only on celery seeds, celery oil and celery extracts and not the whole plant (or just juice in this case).

  • Finally, some stores are running out of celery!! What are we to do?!

Confusing claims:

  • This wellness trend seems to have been initiated by the medical medium Anthony William. He claims all the above pros as well as the ability of celery juice to kill pathogens in the body, which could be causing GI upset, acne, UTIs etc, by its sodium cluster salts. What are sodium cluster salts you ask? I don’t know! He even states that science and research has yet to discover them. He also claims that these sodium cluster salts get neutralized and therefore are inactive if you add anything else (even water or lemon) to your juice and do not drink it on an empty stomach. He may be correct, but as he said this has not be proven or even discovered yet!

Final thoughts:

Is celery juice healthy for you? Yes! Is it a must to incorporate into your morning routine? No.

Although there are several health benefits of celery (the whole plant, not the just the juice), research is lacking on the health claims that have been shared. That said, I don’t see any negatives to adding it to your healthy diet, as long as you are already getting other veggies in your diet including the fibre.

Those that have tried it have told me they have seen great benefits in their digestive system and skin mostly. So it may be worth giving it a shot!

Have you tried 16oz of pure celery juice, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach? I’d love to hear your experience!

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

p.s Any other health trends you are curious about? Let me know :)

How are you? No, but for real. Uncovering anxiety and depression.

How many times have you asked that question yet are not quite ready to hear the full answer? Are you asking to be polite or out of habit or do you truly care about the real answer, whether it be good or bad? Of course no one is being rude when they ask that question out of habit but perhaps next time you ask “How are you?"…truly ask. Sometimes this question can open up a can of worms and in my opinion, this is where the good comes. This question, "How are you?", if you have more than a second to listen, or more importantly to answer, is a time to get real, to allow those feelings and emotions to come boiling up instead of being suppressed, which can eventually cause physical or mental health issues.

There was a recent study that showed the connection between Alzheimers and stress. This proves, yet again, the connection between the mind and the body. We also hear heart-wrenching stories of those taking their life due to depression, when no one around them knew they were suffering.  I see this mind-body connection every week, both personally and professionally. 

Professionally I ask the question “How are you?", usually hoping for more detail, to figure out if there is an emotional connection to the root of my patients concern. Time and time again there is! Because I understand the mind body connection I ask these questions first before doing any extra testing or giving supplements. I love taking the time to listen. Most people aren’t given that time or space and it can be very therapeutic. 

Personally, building a practice and understanding how to structure it to best suit my needs is hard. I have learned this since I started and still struggle to find the right balance. I can suffer health wise myself because of stress and worry. No job is perfect but being the perfectionist that I am I can’t seem to settle for anything else. I want to help you, I want you to heal, I want to give you that space and be open to truly listening to your answer when I ask how you are. In order to do that I need to find time to answer that question myself, to breath, to meditate, to talk. Practice what I preach. 

Are you feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed? Don’t hide it. Find people that can support you. That could be family and friends or it could be someone with an unbiased approach or simply a sounding board; a counsellor, a therapist or me, an ND. We are all happy to listen and to help. It’s time to talk.  

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

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