Immune Health

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

coffee.jpg

Have you heard about Intermittent fasting or tried it yourself? I discuss this with many of my patients as it is an effective tool for preventing and reversing disease, as well as help with weight loss and digestion. To implement should be considered carefully however. 

What is Intermittent Fasting:

Simply put intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating and not eating, lasting from short term fasts to longer daily fasts. When you are in a fasted state your body is focused on recovery instead of digesting food, however we have been taught over the years to eat frequent small meals, never allowing our bodies to get into the fasted (and recovery) state, except for overnight. There are a variety of approaches to fasting but I usually suggest starting with the 16:8 method as I find this to be easiest to implement for beginner โ€œfasters.โ€ You can still have your coffee in the morning, try it with a little collagen and/or MCT oil, and lots of water. 

  • 16:8 Method - aka time-restricted feeding. Eating for 8 hours and fasting for 16 hours. Just skip your breakfast and ensure you break your fast with a whole foods, nutritious lunch. You can implement the 16:8 method up to 7 days a week. It helps to create a habit of not-snacking too late in the evening since the later you eat, the later you have to wait for food in the morning. ๐Ÿ™‚ 

  • 24 Hour Fast - This is a daily fast where you only eat 500-600 calories. This may be necessary for more advanced conditions to reset the body or those that need to jump start weight loss. You would do this 1-2x/week or 1-2x/months. 

  • Fasting Mimicking Diet - This is a 4-5 day fasting period with very low calories mimicking fasting in your body, allowing the body to enter a full ketogenic state. You would implement this method 1x/month for more deteriorating health, and only 1-2x/year when you are fairly healthy. This method is more about longevity and cellular repair. 

Reasons To Implement IF:

  • Decreases body fat and weight while maintaining muscle. It allows a favourable shift in metabolism to preserve muscle. During a fast (usually 18-24 hours) cells shift from using glucose to fat as fuel. 

  • Improves cardiovascular disease risk profile. A decrease in cholesterol up to 20% can occur. A decrease in LDL by about 25% after 8 weeks on alternate daily fast have been shown. A decrease in triglycerides by 32% has been shown, all with no change in HDL levels. 

  • Decreases overall inflammation. As I have mentioned you body focuses on recovery during the fasting time. 

  • Improves brain health by decreasing oxidative stress in the body.

  • Improves blood glucose levels and therefore improves insulin sensitivity. This is important for those with metabolism syndrome, pre-diabetes or diabetes. 

  • Improves digestion by helping promote a normal migrating motility complex (most active overnight). It also favourably influences the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. 

When To Avoid:

  • Best to avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding when you are supporting both you and baby. 

  • Avoid during times of increased stress. Your brain uses many calories so when you are overwhelmed intermittent fasting may negatively impact you. Please talk to your ND about this. 

  • Caution for those with low blood sugar issues. 

  • Caution for those with a history of an eating disorder. 

  • Caution for those on certain medications. Please speak to and ND. 

Think about fasting like rebooting your computer. Sometimes you just have to turn it off and reboot for it to work properly again. Our body is very similar! 

Come talk to me if you have any questions.

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

Indigestion - To Test or Not To Test

digestion.jpg

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:

igg test.jpg
sibo.jpg
  • 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 โ€œleaky gutโ€ generally and eliminating the bigger culprits is important as well as a lot of gut healing support. 

  • SIBO Breath Test - Many cases of โ€œIBSโ€ 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)

Vitamin D: Are You Deficient?

Clinic lab test available to you!

Clinic lab test available to you!

This vitamin, or hormone to be exact, is known as the sunshine vitamin. But are you actually getting enough sun exposure to to produce optimal levels of vitamin D?

Vitamin D plays many vital roles in our body. Virtually every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor, which, when bound to vitamin D, can influence the expression of more than 200 genes. It maintains normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, to support proper bone development, it modulates cell growth, support the immune system, reduces inflammation and much more!

Vitamin D Levels:

The optimal level of 25-OH D is 75-100 umol/L (recent research has shown a possible optimal range at 120-150 umol/L), however the current Canadian average of D3 levels is 67.7 nmol/L. This means more than 70% of Canadians are deficient. I have seen patients which much lower numbers than this. Even down to 23 nmol/L! (Higher is not always better though for this fat soluble vitamin. However, most cases of toxicity symptoms are at 25000-60000 IU/day for 1-4 months. This is much higher than the ND recommended dose.)

Where do we get vitamin D?

We synthesize most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure. It is estimated that 20 minutes, with face and arms exposed, provides 200 IU for people with light coloured skin. A moderate sunburn can produce 10000IU per day. However, sunscreen and sunblocks over SPF 8 prevents formation of D3, and most of us are indoors often throughout the summer and get minimal exposure to sunlight on these darker days of fall and winter. We source some vitamin D from food, with seafood being the most significant source, sardines to be exact! Mushrooms and egg yolk also have small amounts.

This is why it is recommended that most Canadians supplement with vitamin D.

What does Vitamin D effect?

To display the vast effects vitamin D has on the body here is a list of conditions that have been linked to vitamin D levels:

  • Fractures and Osteoporosis - Vitamin D along with K2 if needed to increase calcium absorption - D3 supplementation is associated with a 22% decrease in risk of falls

  • Depression - D3 deficiency has been linked to increased incidence of depression 

  • Autoimmune conditions - D3 deficiencies have shown an increase risk of autoimmune diseases such as MS, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis 

  • Thyroid health - There is an association between low vitamin D status and autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimotoโ€™s thyroiditis and Gravesโ€™ disease

  • Poor immune system - Vitamin D helps the immune system adapt and ward off infection, beneficial in cold and flu season

  • Metabolic disorders - D3 helps restore beneficial gut bacteria which in these studies has shown to have a key role in diabetes and heart disease 

How much Vitamin D to supplement?

So with all that information you may be wondering how much to actually supplement. This really depends on your individual levels of 25-OH D. As stated early, Iโ€™ve seen a patient with levels in the 20s (nmol/L), so they would need a much higher dose of D3 to reach optimal levels, compared to someone that is slightly deficient, letโ€™s say in the 60-70nmol/L range. If you suffer from any of the above health conditions, I advise to get your vitamin D levels tested. The quicker you raise D3 levels if you are deficient, the sooner symptoms will improve. The common recommended dose of 1000-2000IU may not be enough for you! That said, if we were to give higher levels of D3, a dose of 5000-8000IU, it is important to know D3 levels and assess the necessity of vitamin K2 and vitamin A supplementation - all these soluble vitamins play a role with each other to prevent toxicity. Sufficient levels of potassium and magnesium have also been suggested to protect against vitamin D toxicity.

So ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels, 25-OH D levels to be exact. There is a simple blood test I do in practice to assess your levels. Book in for a blood test visit to get yours tested today!

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

Naturopathic Approach to Healing Eczcema

lucaxx-freire-451469-unsplash.jpg

If you suffer from eczema you know that the itching, redness, peeling, cracking and even blistering can range from annoying to debilitating. It can be very hard to pinpoint what the trigger is especially as the severity and location of the rash can change quickly. 

What is most frequently prescribed for eczema, or most rashes for that matter, is topical cortisone cream. While this can be very helpful in the short term to decrease severity of symptoms and therefore sometimes your sanity (trust me Iโ€™ve been there!), longterm use of cortisone cream can thin your skin and simply suppresses the rash instead of targeting the cause. For those with eczema on their face, cortisone cream is still prescribed, although with a disclaimer to not use too much or longterm. However, what else are you supposed to use if the rash does not go away? 

This is where Naturopathic Medicine can step in. By treating the root cause of eczema, the use of cortisone cream becomes minimal or not even necessary and your skin can look and feel as good as new! The root is typically due to poor gut health and immune function so that is what I target first for my patients. 

6 Steps to Healing Eczema

1. Determine any pattern:

Patterns are helpful to determine to better identify the cause. Take note if your skin is worse in the heat or cold. Do you notice a correlation between your hormones and skin, eg. does it flare just before your period or improve during pregnancy? 

2. Look at your diet:

The most common cause of eczema I see in my practice is due to a food sensitivity damaging the gut. Food sensitivities can be determined through an elimination diet or a simple blood prick test. The most common food trigger I see related to skin issues is dairy. You may not need to eliminate all dairy longterm, however I suggest avoiding all in your diet for 4 weeks and take not of any skin improvements. Other common food triggers are wheat, eggs, soy and corn. 

3. Heal the gut:

From experience, simply eliminating a food may not do the trick completely, especially if too much damage has been done to the gut. That is why I always pair an elimination diet with gut healing support. With continued stressors, a molecule called zonulin is released which weakens the tight junctions holding the intestinal cells together, allowing more permeability. It is therefore important to knit those cells back together with amino acids found in collagen or from glutamine. Some of the most effective gut healing supplements are probiotics, glutamine or collagen powder and omega 3 oil. Dosing depends on severity of the symptoms.

4. Control the immune function:

When the gut is more permeable, the immune system then reacts to foreign substances to leak through into the blood stream. It is therefore important to support and control the immune system to decrease inflammation. Probiotics, omega 3 fish oil and D3 are all helpful nutrients for this purpose. 

5. Heal the skin:

As we work on healing the gut, it is helpful to calm down the inflammation on the skin directly, depending on the severity of the symptoms. My go-to cream for this purpose contains a variety of soothing and healing herbs and nutrients including calendula, aloe vera and vitamin E.

6 . Address stress: 

Last but not least, address your stress levels! High cortisol exacerbates inflammation both in the digestive tract and throughout the body. Consider adrenal or stress support supplements, create a mindfulness practice for yourself and get some sleep, eight hours every night!

If you struggle with eczema try out these tips or don't hesitate to reach out to discuss proper diet changes, supplements and dosing for you. 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen