food sensitivities

5 Reasons That Scale May Not Be Budging

Although I sometimes wish we could mimic brown bears and pack on weight and hibernate in the winter, our lives keep moving forward in the colder months. The weight, however, may still be something you have acquired and are struggling to shed. Although it may be keeping you warm at night, it might be preventing you from doing activities you love or feeling like yourself. Have you tried different diets or exercise routines but are not seeing results? Below are 5 reasons why that scale may not be budging:

1. Lack Of Sleep:

During stage 4 sleep is when we decrease inflammation, eliminate toxins and decrease cortisol, our stress hormone. It has been shown that lack of sleep increases the hormone ghrelin which stimulates hungry[1]. Therefore when we have a poor sleep, we tend to eat more the next day. We also are less inclined to make better food choices and get some exercise. Aim for 7-9 hours a night with little or no interruption.

2. Hormone Imbalance:

A common complaint for menopausal women is their belly fat, or the so-called muffin top. A decrease in estrogen stimulates a production of body fat to store estrogen. High estrogen, causing PMS symptoms, can also be a problem as it is associated with water retention. Good liver support is necessary in these cases to ensure proper estrogen excretion and balance.  

3. Chronic Stress:

When we are exposed to chronic stress, either from work, family or other factors, our nervous system is in overdrive. A spike in cortisol spikes blood sugar and can lead to increased hungry, cravings and body fat[2]. When we become burnt out our cortisol level drops, leaving us with an imbalanced hormonal system and low energy. Decreasing stress by adding more gentle exercise such as yoga, deep breathing or an adrenal support supplement may be helpful.

4. Food Sensitivities:

Do you ever feel bloated or that your stomach is hard? It may be due to a food sensitivity. This is another common barrier I see in my practice and something that is easy to control. If you are eating something your body does not agree with, an inflammatory response is produced. Inflammation leads to water retention. In my practice, when we eliminate a food sensitivity, determined via an IgG blood test or an elimination diet, we almost always see weight being shed quickly.

5. Lack Of Protein:

A lack of protein in our diet can lead to mood disorders, memory loss, increased appetite and cravings, decreased metabolism, sleep disruption, muscle loss and weight gain. In fact, I find that many patients are eating too many carbs and not enough protein when they initially come visit with me. Protein packs a punch because it stimulates the activity of many of our fat-burning and appetite-controlling hormones when we consume it in the right amounts. A serving should be the size and width of your palm and eaten three times a day with a smaller serving as a snack. For weight loss, start by having protein at each meal and only one meal a day with a focus on carbohydrates.

 

If you are discouraged from not seeing the scale budge, you may be experiencing one of these 5 barriers. Some extra support and testing may be all you need to start seeing results. I have seen big shifts in weight when we address these issues and even add in a little jump start. I am here to help!  

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

 

References:

[1] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00662.x/full

[2] http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(00)00035-4/abstract

 

Food Friday: Almond Power Cookies

Warning: This is not a Christmas cookie but still delicious :)

These are a great option if you need something quick in the morning, or something a little sweet in the afternoon. They are grain/gluten-free and egg-free, great for those with food sensitivities or who are on an elimination diet. With only 1 tablespoon of sweetener, you can snack on them guilt free. Just avoid eating the whole batch, like I was tempted to do! This recipe is adapted from Against All Grain. She uses dried cherries and sliced almonds, so feel free to substitutes the fruit and/or nuts with what you like. Even try substituting peanut or cashew butter for the almond butter. Still just as tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp ground chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup raisins (or unsulfured and unsweetened dried cherries, chopped)
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces (80% cacao)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or sliced almond for on top) 

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together 1/2 cup hot water and the ground chia seeds and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the almond butter, flaxseed, arrowroot, applesauce, maple syrup, cinnamon, lemon juice, nutmeg, ginger and sea salt. Mix to combine fully. (Option to use a stand mixer.)
  4. Add the thickened chia mixture to the bowl with the baking soda and beat again until fully combined. Stir in the walnuts, raisins and chocolate pieces.
  5. Using a cookie scoop or a large spoon, drop dough onto the lined baking sheets. Wet fingers slightly with warm water and gently press the mounds down to flatten slightly. (Optional: Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sliced almonds.)
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

Enjoy and happy holidays!

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

 

5 Ways to Beat the Blues

winter .jpg

We have now settled back into a routine after the excitement of the holidays and trying to stay happy, healthy and warm. It is easy however, to get pulled under by the lack of sun and shorter days. It is no wonder why "Blue Monday" exists in January, supposedly the 3rd Monday of the new year. 

Let's boycott Blue Mondays this winter by focusing on these five ways to beat the blues. These are simple things you can incorporate into your life to keep that smile on your face. An important point is that there could be a easy explanation as to why you are feeling a little down and ruling these out first is key. There are a few common reasons, I see in my practice, for why people get the blues. They are adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalances, hypothyroidism and food allergies/sensitivities. Simple blood work, a health history and/or elimination diet can help decipher if your mood is affected by one of these issues. 

But what can you do? 

1. Eating a colourful diet with good protein - Processed, high sugar foods will weigh us down and cause inflammation. This is also true for food allergies/sensitivities. Increased inflammation in the body will lead to increased cortisol levels and in turn, decreased serotonin production. Serotonin is an important "feel good" neurotransmitter, along with dopamine. Good quality protein, such as grass fed beef, chicken, eggs, or beans and nuts, provide necessary amino acids to build those "happy" hormones and neurotransmitters. Greens, such as spinach, kale and parsley, aid in detox, making you feel a little lighter! Try a green smoothie, or bean chili to increase your nutrient intake. 

2. Sweating - On these snowy days we tend to sink into the couch. Exercise, even moderate amounts, have been proven to increase endorphins and serotonin production, ultimately improving your mood. Start by walking 30 minutes at lunch if you are just getting back into it, or increase the intensity with HIIT workouts or at home exercises

3. The sunshine vitamin - One of the first vitamins I think about when it comes to mood is vitamin D. It plays an important role in many things, including bone, skin and immune health, but it also contributes to improving mood. There are several studies that show an association with low vitamin D status and mood disorders, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Many of us are deficient in vitamin D. 30 minutes of full-exposure to sunlight, without sunscreen, can provide between 10,000 to 20,000IU of vitamin D. In the winter, or if we work in an office all year, that is difficult to get therefore we need to supplement. I suggest 2000-5000IU/day for mood disorders, however it is recommended to have your vitamin D levels checked to avoid toxicity. 

4. B vitamins - The B vitamins are also important to regulate mood. These vitamins are necessary for every energy reaction in your body, including the production of hormones and neurotransmitters mentioned above. Women on oral contraception become deficient in B6 (pyridoxine), therefore it is even more important to supplement in these women. I recommend a multi-B vitamins, with higher amounts of certain Bs depending on the person. 

5. Decrease stress - I've mentioned that increased cortisol can lead to decreased serotonin production, our "feel good" neurotransmitter. When stressed, it is harder to find the joy in things around us, therefore harder to dig ourselves out of the hole. Adequate sleep, yoga, meditation, writing to-do lists, and a good social network are all great stress busters. I have proven all of these! Enjoying the odd snow day off with homemade cookies and a movie can go a long way to improving our mood. 

As you can see, Naturopathic medicine has many tools up its sleeve to help beat the blues. There are other nutrients and botanicals that I would consider, depending on the person and if they are on medication or not. If you feel like your mood is dipping, please consider these options or book an appointment with me or your local ND. We are happy to help! 

In health and happiness, 

Dr. Karen 

 

(Photo cred: www.pivotcon.com)

Bloating be Gone: A guide to digestive health Part 1

It is that time of year when we become both excited and stressed about the sunshine and bathing suit season. Even with all the confidence in the world, it can be a scary thing to de-robe by the water. We want to look our best but bloating may be one thing standing in our way. Does your stomach commonly feel hard and distended later in the day, your pants feel a little tighter after work, still hungry but can't think to eat anything in fear of making it worse? Yes, bloating is a pain and never makes you feel good! Well, let's start to get to the bottom of it...

Common culprits:

  • Food sensitivities - There are some foods that our bodies just aren't able to process.The most common food sensitivities I see that cause bloating are dairy, gluten, eggs, and red meat. You may not be sensitive to all of them, or it may be something different, such as prolonged exposure to processed foods, but eliminating them for 3 weeks, monitoring symptoms, and re-introducing them one at a time may give you some answers. (More on food sensitivities and elimination diets at a later date.)
  • Low stomach acid - In most cases I see, heartburn is due to low stomach acid instead of high stomach acid. Yes its true...mind blown! Your digestion starts mostly in your stomach and therefore if it is impeded here, it can lead to issues further down, such as bloating. 
  • Low digestive enzymes - Your stomach and pancreas are the main organs that secrete necessary digestive enzymes, such at pepsin, protease and lipase. If there are not enough enzymes, food does not get digested as completely causing issues.
  • Dysbiosis - A fancy term that means an imbalance in your gut between the good and bad bacteria. Probiotics (the good guys), have many health benefits, including regulating your bowels and decreasing inflammation.
  • Stress - All of these issues can lead back to stress. It goes back to the "fight or flight" and "rest and digest" idea of our nervous systems. If we put all our energy into fighting stress, we prevent adequate blood flow to our digestive system, which can lead to inflammation, poor organ function and a "leaky gut". Organs that can be affected are your stomach, liver, gallbladder and intestines. 

As it can be any one, or all of the above, its best to understand your digestion from the start. So...

Let's start at the very beginning...A very good place to start.

Digestion actually begins even before you take your first bite. Salivation, stimulated by hunger or smell, sends signals to your digestive track to start producing enzymes, stomach acid etc. You then take your first bite...yum! However, if your stomach is not able to produce enough stomach acid, or HCl, digestion is impeded. Heartburn is a common symptom of low HCl. At the end of the esophagus is a sphincter (an elastic band per say), and it opens and closes to let food into the stomach. Ideally, adequate stomach acid sends a signal to the sphincter to tighten, preventing any acid and food from irritating the esophagus while breaking down your food. This sphincter can become weak or lazy due to low acid (but also such things as overuse of ant-acids, stress, obesity and pregnancy), and symptoms may arise.  Protein is broken down first by HCl. Have difficulty digesting red meat? This may be why! If food is not broken down properly in the stomach, your intestines have to work harder and inflammation can arise, causing bloating. 

What can you do?

apple cider vinegar.jpg

Bitters, such as the herb Gentiana lutea, will initiate digestion and help eliminate bloating very successfully. However, one of the best at home remedies for bloating and heartburn is organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Instead of suppressing stomach acid, it actually stimulates your bodies natural ability to produce stomach acid, while prepping your body for digestion. Even 1 tsp in water 10 minutes before meals will do the trick. Note that apple cider vinegar will not give relief if you have an ulcer or too much stomach acid. An HCl challenge, with your ND, is a useful tool to decipher if you have high or low stomach acid. 

If you have any questions about elimination diets, testing stomach acid, using apple cider vinegar or your bloating concerns please don't hesitate to book an appointment with me or your local ND. (More to come on bloating in the coming month.)

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen