Natural Progesterone? Yes, Please!

Peri-menopause has been quite the ride. I’ve written about it before.

Eating right, exercising, and supplementing with lots of great hormone-balancing supplements and herbs has helped with my menopausal symptoms, but one of the most potent solutions has been natural progesterone supplements.

Progesterone has many functions in a woman’s body, but the most well-known and important function in women of childbearing years is to make the endometrial lining thick and enriched to support a developing baby.

You’d think, then, that this hormone wouldn’t be very important or useful in the perimenopausal/post-menopausal woman. But symptoms of low progesterone are far-reaching, and include:

  • weight gain
  • decreased sex drive
  • mood swings, and depression
  • PMS, irregular menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding
  • breast tenderness, fibrocystic breasts
  • gallbladder problems
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • sleep issues
  • decreased mental focus

Sound familiar, ladies?

I started taking natural progesterone by mouth over six months ago, and I have joked with my girlfriends that they are going to have to pry it out of my cold dead hands.

Not only are the “hormonal symptoms” improved, but my mental clarity and focus are SO much better. And sleep? It’s like I’m a teenager again—falling asleep in an instant, with none of the restless, 4:30 AM, why-can’t-I-sleep-I’m-so-tired, nonsense!

Progesterone supplementation can also be done using a cream, but I’ve been taking oral progesterone for a specific reason. With natural progesterone taken by mouth, the dose peaks in 2 hours and then is gone in 24. When you apply it on the skin, the absorption is more gradual and less consistent, and the skin can “store” it causing it to become congested, resulting in too much or too little getting to where it needs to be. The oral use makes for a better choice to deal with issues of sleep quality and focus.

Got more questions about bio-identical hormone restoration therapy? Book a 15-minute complimentary “meet-the-doctor” visit with Dr. Gervais Harry MD.

It’s Naturopathic Medicine Week!

May 14-20th is Naturopathic Medicine Week and we want to shout out to all the thousands of awesome patients we have had the privilege of serving in our 17 years of practice in the Georgian Triangle.

This week is a time when we not only try to promote the strengths of our profession, but we all reconnect with the principles that guide us in the work we do–the principles that make naturopathic medicine so helpful to patients.

What are ND’s all about? We believe:

  • In the healing power of nature. Not just using “natural remedies,” but also connecting to the idea that the body can heal itself, it just needs all the right tools to do so.
  • In getting to the root of the problem. Not all patients have headaches for the same reason.  Some have headaches because of a food intolerance. Others due to a nutrient deficiency, some because of a hormone imbalance. The root cause can be different for different people.
  • In treating the individual. For a naturopath, every case is unique. We like to understand what is happening in each individual patient–as a result we ask lots of questions and often do many blood tests.
  • That prevention is the best medicine. Keeping you healthy is a whole lot easier than treating your disease.
  • That doctors are teachers. ND’s are passionate about giving you, the patient, all the information and insight you need to feel in control of your health and your health care decisions.

What Your Friends and Family Should Know

If you know someone that can benefit from naturopathic medicine, but isn’t quite sure, here are a few useful details.

  • ND’s are not covered by OHIP, but many extended health plans are now covering our services. Why?  Because patients of naturopathic doctors are healthier, use fewer prescription medications, and miss work less often.
  • We offer a complimentary “meet-the-doctor” visit with one of our awesome ND’s–they’ll answer any and all questions at no charge.
  • We’re now direct billing to extended health plans making it even easier for you to connect to your health through naturopathic medicine!

To learn more, or to book your appointment, call 705-444-5331, or visit us at Happy Naturopathic Medicine Week!

Welcome to StoneTree’s Summer Food Guru!

StoneTree Clinic has a new team member. Welcome Bridget McMaster!

Bridget just finished a 4-year program in Food and Nutrition at Brescia College at the University of Western Ontario. She is joining us this summer to be our resident Food Guru at The Pantry.

Making diet changes is one of the most important things we ask our patients to do but it can also be one of the most difficult. Learning to give up dairy or gluten can feel overwhelming.

The Pantry is meant to help with that transition. It is filled with foods that are gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free, and now Bridget will be there full time this summer making sure that all your questions are answered.

Bridget has dealt with her own health issues and knows first-hand that food really is medicine. She’s a wonderful addition to our team!

Drop by and say hi to Bridget. She’ll be doing demos all summer in The Pantry–you can follow us on Instagram and Facebook to keep up to date with what we’re serving up!

Food as Medicine: Brazil Nuts

We just got some organic brazil nuts in at The Pantry. These guys are little nutritional wonders! Just 2-3 nuts can deliver a therapeutic dose of selenium at 200mcg.

What does selenium do? Lots of great stuff. Check out this list, courtesy of Dr. Axe:

  • Acts as an antioxidant and defends against oxidative stress
  • May help defend against cancer
  • Boosts immunity
  • Improves blood flow and lowers chance of heart disease
  • Regulates thyroid function
  • Increases longevity
  • Helps reduce asthma symptoms
  • Can help boost fertility

Here at StoneTree, we are mainly using brazil nuts to help balance thyroid hormone, and support healthy testosterone levels and sperm quality in our patients of reproductive age.

If 2-3 Brazil nuts are good, then…more must be better, right?


Selenium can cause toxicity over time.

With chronic exposure to too much selenium, you get symptoms like:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Nail discoloration, brittleness, and loss
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Foul breath odor (often described as “garlic breath”)

So keep it to 2-3 nuts/day–you’ll get all the benefits without taking a pill!

A Week of Naturopathic Eating

What do you eat?

This is a common question asked by patients at StoneTree Clinic.

Most patients who arrive here are given some sort of diet change. From going gluten- or dairy-free, to a ketogenic diet, or to simply eating more legumes and vegetables, some sort of diet change is often one part of the treatment plan.

For the staff and docs at StoneTree, healthy eating is not something we have to do; it’s something we love doing. If you were to visit the lunch room on any given day, you’d find us enjoying many delicious, highly nutritious foods….and loving it!

Eating the way we do seems easy now, but it took time to change old habits, and even now we’re always looking for new ideas and inspiration.

With that in mind, Dr. Shelby put together a week-long meal diary–21 meals, all with links to recipes and resources! Dr. Shelby is a fish-eating vegetarian, who eats largely gluten- and dairy-free. Thank you Shelby!

Download: Dr. Shelby’s Week of Eating

Free Talk on Common GI Disorders

This month, StoneTree Clinic is pitching in with the CGMH Foundation’s Education Committee to educate the Georgian Triangle about common gastrointestinal disorders. You can learn all about this MD/ND/CGMH collaboration here.

Over the years, we’ve heard from our patients time and time again that they wish ND’s and MD’s worked more closely together. Well, we do! It’s a common misconception that you either have to choose one or the other. The true magic happens when conventional medicine and naturopathic medicine collaborate in a way that best supports the health of patients.

One of the best examples of this is dealing with complaints of the digestive tract. They are extremely common, very challenging for patient quality of life, but most important, they are often very treatable when health care professionals work together!

If you have symptoms like diarrhea and occasional blood in the stool, for example, it’s very important to get worked up medically to ensure there is nothing scary going on. An MD will do all the necessary tests to rule out pathologies like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, or even colon cancer.

When those things are all ruled out, the result is usually a diagnosis of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Conventional medicine doesn’t offer great solutions for IBS, but this is where ND’s shine. We’re experts in the proper function of the GI tract, and pros at figuring out what is out of balance and helping patients get to the root of it. It’s work we love, especially working in collaboration with an MD to make sure the “scary stuff” has been ruled out.

To learn more, join us on April 26 for a free informative seminar on healthy medical and naturopathic approaches to GI care. Walk-ins are welcome, but you can also register in advance here.

Thursday, April 26 at 7:00 pm (Doors open at 6:30 pm)
Collingwood Leisure Time Club
100 Minnesota Street, Collingwood

See you there!

How Sugar Affects Your Immune System

This piece of research dates back to 1973, but the results are no less relevant to your immune system today.

The study showed that the ability of your immune system to deal with bacteria was significantly decreased for up to five hours after eating sugar. The sugar didn’t decrease the number of immune cells, but it decreased the effectiveness of those cells.

Dr. Kendra talks about this study is her latest video here.

If you need more proof that reducing sugar intake is important for your health, listen to Dr. Mark Hyman interviewed by John Robbins on Food Revolution Network, or watch the documentary FED UP. And if you need help making a change, your local naturopathic doctor is never far off!

Magnesium Supplementation: The Long Term

Studies show that some 48% of American’s consume less than the required amount of magnesium. Low magnesium levels have been associated with a truckload of troubling conditions, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome,  hypertension, atherosclerotic vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, osteoporosis, migraine headache, asthma, and colon cancer. This is something worth talking about.

During some continuing education last week, the StoneTree docs were reminded of a little something regarding magnesium supplementation: the importance of taking it long-term. Before we get to the reason why, it’s important to understand a little about magnesium testing.

How To Test Your Magnesium Levels

Testing for magnesium deficiency is not perfect.

In part, this is because of where magnesium is used in the body. Serum magnesium, the magnesium in the blood, is easy and cheap to measure, but magnesium has no value in the blood–it’s an intracellular mineral, meaning all of its usefulness is inside a cell. A test might suggest you have enough magnesium in your blood, but is there enough in your cells?

To measure the intracellular levels of magnesium, you can do an RBC magnesium level–this is the amount of magnesium inside a red blood cell. But, again, this isn’t a perfect test, because magnesium is most useful in muscle tissue, nervous tissue, and bone. You can have “enough” in your red blood cells, but still have low levels in other tissues.

Measuring magnesium in those other tissues, however, is much harder. For example, most patients wouldn’t willingly succumb to a muscle biopsy to determine their magnesium status.

What to do? The best/easiest measure can be to look for magnesium deficiency symptoms that improve when you start taking magnesium. These symptoms include:

  • Inability to sleep or insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Mental disturbances
  • Anxiety, depression or restlessness
  • Muscle soreness or spasms
  • Period cramps

Which brings us to why it’s important to take magnesium long-term.

Magnesium For Months vs. Weeks

Around 60% of your body stores of magnesium are in your bones. When someone suffers from symptoms of magnesium deficiency, like muscle cramps, their body will work to mobilize the magnesium from the bone stores to deal with the deficiency. But without enough magnesium intake, they’ll slowly but surely deplete that store.

When we treat a patient with a magnesium deficiency, they’ll notice an improvement in their symptoms, but it’s not uncommon for that improvement to plateau. That’s because the immediate cellular issue has been solved, and the body is changing gears, now trying to “refill” the supplies in the bones.

However, if those patients continue with the supplementation, they’ll notice that after 4-5 months there’s another level of improvement when the bone stores have been repleted, and the cells can take in even more for more optimal function.

The take-home message is this: If you feel better when you take magnesium, keep taking it for the long haul to feel even better!

Foggy Thinking? It Might Be Your Phone

Fascinating research out of the University of Chicago.

Researchers had groups of people complete standardized cognitive tasks, like memorizing letter sequences or solving math problems. All participants had smartphones that were put on “silent mode”–no distractions from alerts–but in each case, the location of the phones changed:

  • One group had their phones on the desk in front of them, facedown.
  • Another had their phones in the pockets or bags with them.
  • The last group had their phones in an entirely different room.

The result? The closer the phone was to you while doing the thinking tasks, the lousier you were at thinking. Those with the phone on the desk did as poorly as those who are sleep deprived, even though the phones were facedown and silent.

Why is this? The researchers don’t know for sure but the thought is that having that phone in sight, even facedown with the sound off, keeps our minds connected to it. We’re dedicating a little bit of brainpower to monitoring the phone all the time, even though we don’t realize it.

What this Means for You

Complaints of lack of focus, foggy thinking, and memory issues are common here at the clinic, and they span all age groups. Parents of our younger patients worry about attention problems in school, while our older patients wonder if they’re experiencing the early onset of dementia.

There are many potential causes for these symptoms, but if your smartphone is a big part of your life, perhaps a good first step is to create times when your phone is shut off and out of sight. That’ll give your brain a chance to fully focus on what you’re doing. You might find that the root of the problem isn’t what you thought!

What is the “Keto” Diet?

The ketogenic diet is the new, sexy diet that everyone is talking about. Many companies are jumping on the “weight loss miracle” bandwagon with “exogenous ketones” that will solve all your weight loss problems.

But what is a ketogenic diet? What is it good for? How do you do it?

A ketogenic diet is one that is high in healthy fats, low in carbohydrates, and low to moderate in protein.  When you eat this way, your biochemistry can enter what is called nutritional ketosis. That means your cells are burning fat (in the form of ketones) as their primary fuel instead of carbohydrates/sugar (in the form of glycogen).

For the most part, your body likes burning sugar. It’s easy to get at, and easy for the body to use. Fat, on the other hand, is super-efficient for storage, but less easy to access. Given a choice between the two, your body will typically take sugar (in the form of glycogen) over fat (in the form of ketones).

Plus, the standard North American diet is generally so high in simple carbohydrates, the body never gets a chance to actually burn the fuel we have stored as fat. A highly processed, high sugar/simple carb diet tips the biochemical balance AWAY from fat burning toward carb burning. The ketogenic diet is a way of tipping the scale back again by reducing the carbohydrate supply in the body.

What do we mean by high fat, low carb, and low/moderate protein?

Generally, the macronutrient ratio varies within the following ranges: 60-75% of calories from fat (or even more), 15-30% of calories from protein, and. 5-10% of calories from carbs

What does that mean for you?

Here is a handy little calculator:

What are healthy fats?

What to we mean by “healthy fats”? Not French fries and deep-fried food.:)

Healthy fats include things like:

  • Ghee
  • Coconut oil (MCT)
  • Lard/butter
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Nut oils
  • Fatty fish
  • Grass-fed animal proteins

Is it safe? Should I do it?

For us, the upside of a low-carb or ketogenic diet is that it guides people toward simply eating food that is less processed. By default, when you lower your simple carbs, you end up cutting out a lot of packaged food and added sugars. As a general rule, we always support eating “real food”–things your grandparents or great-grandparents might have actually recognized and eaten.

The idea of a “diet”, especially for weight loss, can be troublesome. Diets are almost always temporary, and when people return to the way they habitually eat, their bodies follow along. The same health issues return, the same body fat distribution returns.

For most people, the goal should be a long-term, sustainable shift toward a healthier lifestyle. That generally means gradually changing to whole foods, a more active lifestyle, and improved emotional health.   Expecting a ketogenic diet to transform your life forever is probably the wrong recipe. Diets come and go–what doesn’t change are the fundamentals of health.

Most people can safely eat far fewer simple carbohydrates than they do, but as always, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor!

Additional Resources