Get Those Kids Moving!

A new study published in the Frontiers of Physiology in July offers a glimpse into the possible long-term importance of getting our young ones moving.

The study fed a group of baby lab rats a high-fat diet and then separated them into three groups. One group was denied exercise for their whole life, one group was denied exercise until they were adults, and the last group was allowed to exercise from the very beginning.

  • The researchers found that early exercise positively impacted the way the rat’s metabolism responded to the high-fat diet. They were able to transform fat into energy more effectively. This effect lasted for 60 days after the exercise stopped. No big surprise here.
  • But, the interesting part was that early exercise decreased overall inflammation as an adult. Even though the rats still all got fat from a diet that was too calorically rich, they did not seem to have the same negative health effects of a high-fat diet without exercise.

Clearly, kids aren’t rats, and no one is going to run a lifetime study denying humans exercise (although the fact that 1 in 10 kids meets the physical activity guidelines suggest we might be working towards it, sadly.)

But although it might be difficult to know what the long term studies will tell us for sure about humans, while you’re waiting there’s almost zero downside to getting kids moving!

This is one time when it’s probably quite reasonable to compare your kids to rats. 🙂

Lazy: A Manifesto

“Life is too short to be busy.”
Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing

This essay from author Tim Kreider speaks for itself and is absolutely worth the listen.

Our addiction to “busyness” as a culture does not make our lives better. It keeps us away from the people and things we love. It gives us a sense of purpose that is often purposeless, and keeps as in the dark about what our true art is.

It’s summer holiday time. Book an hour, a day, a week–whatever you can–and revel in your laziness. Rediscover, as the Italians say, dolce far nientethe sweetness of doing nothing.

After all, doing nothing IS doing something!

Enjoy,

The StoneTree Team

How to Decide What to Eat

North Americans are obsessed with figuring out what is or isn’t the BEST food or diet.

Reports in the media like this one report on a single food that is magic for a specific health complaint–in this case nuts and colon cancer. No doubt some media outlet will post an article the soon that nuts are bad for you because they are too fattening, too contaminated or likely to cause diverticulitis.

It seems like there is just no knowing what is good for you and what isn’t.

In fact, the International Food Information Council Foundation’s annual Food and Health survey this spring reported that 78% of those surveyed reported they encountered conflicting information about healthy food, and the follow-up questions indicated that 58% of respondents reported that this conflicting info created doubt in the food choices they were making.

We’re confused, in other words, and we don’t know what to do.

How To Decide What To Eat

Knowledge is power…expect when it isn’t. The way that health and nutrition is reported in western media is not making us healthier and more empowered. It’s doing the exact opposite.

The best resource I have found to take the confusion out of healthy food and healthy eating is Michael Pollen’s book, In Defense of Food.  He digs into lots of great detail to support his thesis which is simple, easy and NOT confusing: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

By “food”, Pollan means things your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Whole foods. The more processed a food becomes the less it should be eaten.

  • Strawberries? Yes. Strawberry jam…less so.  “Strawberry” milkshake from McDonalds? No.
  • Non-GMO corn? Yes. GMO, round-up ready corn…less so. Organic corn chips even less so. High fructose corn syrup? No.
  • Sunflower seeds? Yes. Sunflower oil…less so. Commercially produced, low-fat salad dressing with sunflower oil? No.
  • Grass fed beef. Yes. (Assuming you eat meat.) Commercially farmed corn feed beef…less so. Processed beef patties with fake cheese and simulated bacon flavouring? No.

It’s a good rule of thumb. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. If you want to learn more, you can watch the documentary “In Defense of Food” on Netflix.

By they way…Pollan followed up In Defense of Food with Food Rules, a guide to answer the question, “What should I eat?” Guess what the last rule is?

“Break the rules once in a while.”

Worth considering. All these years of study and worry and research and media don’t seem to have made us any healthier!

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Recipes From the StoneTree Summer BBQ!

The StoneTree team spent a glorious Friday evening enjoying some delicious food and excellent gin. We though you might enjoy the recipes!

Napa Cabbage Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 lb. napa cabbage chopped
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. In a pie plate, bake the almonds for 5 minutes. Let cool.
  • In a bowl, mix the oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. Add the cabbage, scallions and cilantro and toss. Add the almonds and season with pepper. Toss again and serve.

Source

Lentil Salad with Sundried Tomatoes and Feta Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 can lentils
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese

Directions:

  • Mix in a bowl
  • Add quinoa or other grain if desired, but double the dressing if you do!

Celery Salad with Feta and Mint

Ingredients:

  • 6 large celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, combine celery and red onion. Add olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with feta and mint.
  • Wanna cheat on the dressing? Try Paul Newman’s Family Italian!

Source

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 avocado – peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Directions:

  • Place lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small jar. Cover with lid, and shake until ingredients are well mixed.
  • In a salad bowl, combine beans, corn, avocado, bell pepper, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro. Shake lime dressing, and pour it over the salad. Stir salad to coat vegetables and beans with dressing, and serve.

Source

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: What You Should Know

Vitamin B12 is one of eight B vitamins in your body. (Yes, the numbering is strange. There used to be more labeled B vitamins, but scientists short-listed almost thirty of them down to eight.)

Of all the vitamins in the B-complex, though, B12 is the most complicated and arguably the most important. B12 is involved in the metabolism of every cell in your body, and it’s critical for producing red blood cells and keeping your nervous system running.

With that kind of resume, it’s no wonder that a deficiency in B12 can lead to a crazy list of symptoms such as:

  • Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • A sore, red, smooth tongue
  • Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas
  • Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
  • Vision loss
  • Mental problems like depression, anxiety memory loss, or behavioral changes

How common is a B12 deficiency?

B12 deficiency isn’t some oddball condition that House, MD would diagnose. It’s very well-known. The problem is that it’s a lot more common than we thought. For example:

  • Up 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have plasma B12 levels in the low normal range.1 That’s a range where many people can still experience symptoms, even though they’re considered “normal”.
  • In people over 60, some 6% are deficient and 20% are marginal in their status.2 Levels tend to decrease with age.
  • In vegans and vegetarians, the number are considerably higher.

How are we getting it so wrong?

First, conventional medical professionals don’t test serum B12 routinely. Second, even for those that do test, the test they typically use isn’t ideal. It will only show a B12 deficiency in those who are VERY deficient and have been so for a long time.

But long term deficiency is problematic. B12 is critical for a healthy nervous system, and chronic low levels can lead to irreversible nerve damage. That’s not a place you want to go. Naturally, what we want to do as practitioners is to determine if a deficiency exists before things reach that stage.

Laboratory tests like urine MMA or serum homocysteine can give use information about your B12 status sooner, at a time when most people are asymptomatic. Good screening with the proper testing is simply good preventive medicine.

Who should worry about B12 status?

B12 deficiency may be under-diagnosed, but that doesn’t mean you’re at risk. Certain groups of people are more likely to develop a deficiency:

  • Vegetarians and vegans
  • People taking PPi’s or other stomach acid medications
  • People with digestive issues and tummy troubles
  • People with a family history of B12 deficiency

What should you do about it?

  1. Test your levels with your health care provider.
  2. Eat B12 rich foods like shellfish and liver (organic only please). There are no plant-based sources of B12.
  3. Supplement if you’re low.
  4. If you are over 60, get a B12 shot once a month. It is cheap, safe and easy.
  5. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, consult with your health care professional.

Curious about your B12 levels? Contact the clinic for information on testing, supplementation, and B12 shots.

Do You Know These 6 Possible Causes of IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a diagnosis of exclusion. That’s a fancy way of saying IBS is a bunch of symptoms that aren’t being caused by any known pathology. When everything else is ruled out for those symptoms, IBS is what you’re left with.

In the case of IBS, those symptoms include:

  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or sometimes both
  • Bloating and swelling of your stomach
  • Excessive gas
  • Urgency of bowels
  • A feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels
  • Mucus in your stool
  • A lack of energy
  • Feeling sick
  • Backache
  • Bladder problems, such as urgency to urinate or difficulty emptying bladder
  • Pain during sex

IBS is a real pain in the butt (no pun intended) for patients, but it’s also a hassle for conventional docs to treat because there is very little understanding as to the cause and there are very few drug therapies that work.

Although there is some evidence to suggest diet change can help, and there is research looking at the effectiveness of probiotics, no one solution resolves all cases.

That is where Naturopathic Medicine comes in. Complicated cases with no clear cause are often where naturopaths can shine because we simply have the time and experience to dig deeper into case histories.

In clinic, we’ve found that IBS symptoms can result from many different, yet common, body imbalances. Here are six that tend to reveal themselves in our practices frequently:

  1. Food intolerances. The immune system in our guts is very strong, and when it’s working properly it shouldn’t react to the foods we eat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work properly. When this part of our immune system gets out of balance, the proteins in our diets can start causing problems. Gluten and dairy proteins are the most common culprits and testing can be easily done to figure out others.
  2. Dysbiosis. The flora in our digestive tract is a very important part of staying healthy. When those little critters get out of balance they can cause many of the unpleasant symptoms of IBS.
  3. Parasites. It’s easy to pick up one of these little bugs and carry it around for years. Our immune system in our gut usually takes care of most exposures, but stress, poor diet, and exposure to drugs and chemicals can help parasites evade the immune system. That means they can stick around and cause tummy trouble.
  4. Nutrient deficiencies. One form of IBS is a spasm of the muscles in the colon. This can be the result of magnesium deficiency and can be corrected with supplementation. Taking magnesium by mouth, however, may not work at first. Sometimes the intestinal tract can’t absorb it, and in that case, the result is MORE loose bowels. Using IV magnesium is a better way to calm down the intestinal muscles.
  5. Toxic exposures. Many toxins are eliminated from our bodies through our bowels. All of the fat-soluble toxins like solvents, plastics, pesticides, heavy metals like mercury come out this way. If a person is overexposed and/or has a genetic susceptibility to poor detoxification, these toxins can build up and cause trouble.
  6. Stress and mood imbalances. We think that the neurotransmitters that impact our mood only operate in our brains, but there are receptors for these chemicals all through the body, and there are PLENTY of them in our guts. Chronic stress and anxiety can really wreck havoc with these receptors and cause IBS-like symptoms.

Teasing out which one (or more) of these is the culprit can be tricky work, but lab testing, case histories, physical exams and treatment plans that target possible causes can help us narrow it down. For more info, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book online anytime.

Unscreening: How Screens Affect Child Sleep

Like almost every mom, I’ve had the frustrating experience of trying to do a task or have a conversation with a “busy” toddler by my side. When my daughter was little, tablets and phones weren’t quite so readily available to distract her when I needed to get things done, but I can’t help but think that if they were, I would have used them with wild abandon.

Recent research published in the journal Nature, strongly suggests that as tempting as it is, this should NOT be the distraction strategy of choice.

The study looked at 715 infants and toddlers aged 6 months to 3 years of age. In these kids, sleep quantity decreased as touchscreen use increased–kids took longer to get to sleep and spent less time asleep. In fact, for every additional hour of tablet use the child experienced 15.6 minutes less total sleep.

Sleep Matters

Sleep is important for everyone, but it’s especially critical for children. During sleep, blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development. Less sleep can jeopardize these critical activities.

For proper mental and physical development, children need about 12-14 hours sleep.

Unscreening: Entertainment Options in the Real World

So what to do? The best advice is likely to avoid screens altogether for the first two years of life, at least.

If that seems like a terrifying concept, here are some of the things we used to distract and entertain our little one when I was trying to get stuff done:

  1. Low cupboards and drawers filled with things she could safely play with. She would just love to pull all the dish towels out of the cupboards and drape them all over the kitchen. As she got older she could “help” put them away.
  2. A Kleenex box. She would pull every single one out I’d repack it and she would do it again.
  3. A purse or diaper bag. Everything in it would be safe for a toddler’s mouth and depending on how full it was she would play with it for ages.
  4. Boredom. This one took me a bit to figure out. As a parent, I thought it was my responsibility to entertain and stimulate her learning all the time. Eventually, I realized that if I gave her a minute to be bored on her own, she would figure it out and engage herself by herself in ways I could not have figured out for her.

The last one is probably at the heart of all of this. Unscreening isn’t just about one toy versus another. It’s about whether boredom is good for kids, and whether screens have a tendency to steal that essential growth opportunity from them.

If you’ve seen those wondrous moments of pure joy and creativity that arise in kids when they’re exposed to a little boredom, you’ll know exactly what I mean…

Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar

Yet another study to show the value of exercise.

Researchers discovered that patients who increased their daily step count by 2,000 steps saw decreases in both their blood sugar and insulin resistance levels.

The decreases aren’t huge–only 0.4 points for blood sugar and 1 point for insulin resistance–but neither was the increase in steps. If you work it out, 2000 steps is about 1.5 km. That’s a 10-15 min walk. We’re talking pretty small lifestyle changes. What if you doubled that to 30 minutes a day?

We’ve shared this video many times, but it can’t be shared enough. It does such a great job of illustrating the great things can come from a 30-minute daily commitment.

It’s spring! Get outside, walk around, and improve your health!

Dealing With Spring Allergies

The first week of April is World Allergy Week. And what better time–you know that with April showers and May flowers on the horizon, annoying allergy symptoms can’t be far off!

For sufferers, it can be an awful time of year. The sun is shining, you want to get out in your garden, but all you end up doing is sitting on the couch, sniffing, sneezing, rubbing your eyes and feeling miserable. Instead of getting busy with a spring burst of energy, you watch the same shows on Netflix because your brain is too foggy to do anything else.

An Ounce of Prevention

Preventing allergies is so much easier than controlling the symptoms once they come. We’ve written about this before. Our approach is usually made up of some combination of these:

  • Dealing with food intolerances
  • Healing the gut
  • Doing a spring detox
  • Dealing with any nutrient deficiencies

A Pound of Relief

When the symptoms do arrive, though, many natural remedies can be helpful without the awful side effects of the usual over-the-counter solutions. We’ve recommended this extremely safe homeopathic remedy for allergies, but we also love to get the word out at this time of year about intravenous vitamin C to help our patients who are suffering.

Vitamin C at high doses does a really good job of stabilizing mast cells – these are the cells responsible for making histamine, which is the chemical responsible for creating allergy symptoms. We have seen patients with severe allergy symptoms get relief with IVC without the drowsiness or jitteriness of the over-the-counter allergy remedies, and research backs us up on this clinical observation.

Why IVC and not oral vitamin C? Oral can help too, but the dose needed to really get those allergy cells to settle down often gives people the nasty side effect of loose stool. With IV vitamin C, we can use a therapeutic dose without upsetting your tummy.

We have IV’s available five days a week. Call 705-444-5331, or book online anytime.

2 Health Issues for International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day. The intention of this day is both to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women, and to be call to action for increasing gender equality.

On this wonderful day of “girl power”, the StoneTree team wanted to empower our patients around two important health care issues that affect women.

1. Heart Disease

Some 27% of female deaths in North American are a result of heart disease. This is far more then breast cancer. Add another 8% due to stroke, and another 3% related to diabetes, both of which are related to the same lifestyle issues as heart disease, and this should really get our attention.

Women do not experience symptoms of heart attack quite the same as men, so they tend to get care later then men. Also, when they do get care, they tend to be treated less aggressively than men. The result is a women is twice as likely to die within a month of having a heart attack compared to a man.

What to do? First, you can begin by assessing your risk here. Next, you can focus on preventing the heart disease in the first place with the following five things:

  • Quit smoking. No explanation needed here. If you still smoke, please get help and stop.
  • Exercise daily (Yes, daily.). Try this for a little motivation.
  • Eat a Mediterranean diet. Lots of veggies, fruits, legumes, anti-oxidants and good fats.
  • Get enough sleep. It matters.
  • Keep on-top of your blood work. Not only is it important to know what your cholesterol is doing, but what about your blood sugar? Your inflammatory markers like hs-CRP? Knowing what these numbers are and acting before they become a problem is the best way to prevent the outcomes of heart disease.

2. Women’s Reproductive Health

The screening recommendations for women’s health in Canada have changed in recent years. The Canadian Task Force on Preventive health care looked at the evidence and made recommendations around screening tests and exams and this what they came up with:

In asymptomatic, non-pregnant women with low risk:

  • No pelvic exams
  • No clinical breast exams
  • No teaching of self-breast exams
  • Mammography only after age 50 – every 2-3 years
  • Pap smear only after age 25 – every 3 years

If you’re like many of our patients, you read this and gasp. It is quite a departure from what we grew up with–a full physical exam including PAP every year.

You may also be wondering why. The logic behind the recommendations are two-fold:

  • One of the outcomes of “preventative screening” is that you find things. And sometimes, you find things that would never have turned into a scary disease at all. For example, breasts can be normally lumpy and bumpy. Doing a self exam or clinical exam would find lumps that then need to be tested to make sure they are not cancerous and most of them won’t be. So the screening leads to tests and interventions that cause undue stress and harm to the patient receiving them.
  • All of this testing costs money. In a publicly funded system, we need to make sure that the money we are spending is positively effecting the most people and is not wasteful. Spending money on tests that are mostly benign can be seen as wasteful of a public resource. Another way of looking at this is that when the recommendations change to do a PAP on asymptomatic women from every year to every three years, we know we will miss some cervical cancer (in fact, 3 in 100,000). It’s just that it is less expensive to deal with those three women with disease then it is to screen all women every year to catch those three.

This isn’t necessarily the logic that helps people sleep at night, but it’s the reality of health care in a system with limited resources.

International Women’s Day is about women empowering themselves. If you’re concerned about these recommendations, or would like more frequent screening, talk to your health care professional. Naturopaths are trained and licensed to perform regular Pap smears, and pelvic and breast exams. Our unique Well Woman Visit offers a warm, caring environment for reproductive health screening at the frequency you decide with your doctor.