The Best Diet?

The most common question that Naturopathic Doctors are asked is, “What is the best diet?” 

It’s no surprise. The choice of diets can seem overwhelming. Should they be keto? Should they be vegan? Should they eat whole grains or avoid them? Should they eat raw food or cooked?  

The answer? It depends.

Not every diet is right for every person. The diet you need to eat for best health is different from that of your neighbour, or your cousin, or your best friend. And it’s almost certainly different from the formula in the latest cookbook.

There are, however, a few good rules of thumb that seem to work for a large number of people. Our favourite? Eat foods that nature makes, mostly plants, not too much. 

This is adapted from Micheal Pollen’s book In Defense of Food, and it’s simplest dietary advice that we can consistently recommend.

  • If nature made it, eat it. 
  • If it is a plant, not made in a plant, eat it.
  • If you are satisfied, stop eating.

It’s simple, and in our experience, it works. Unlike fads that come and go, eating a moderate amount of non-industrial food seems to serve the vast majority of our patients well, and has for years.

Lately, our obsession has shifted from what to eat to when. Eat six small meals a day. Fast for 16 hours each day. Don’t eat after 6. Don’t eat before 11. 

Let it go. If you are eating healthy, whole foods in moderation as outlined above, the timing probably makes little difference.

What’s the best diet for you? We don’t know–but experiences tells us that your body does. There are many people who eat raw food and feel great. Others eat raw food and they feel awful. Some go vegetarian and feel amazing, others feel completely wrung out. Some people can eat eggs and fill energized, others feel bloated and inflamed. 

Eat real food, and trust your body. In our experience, that’s the best diet plan of all.

What Would the Healthy You Do?

As we kick off a new year and a new decade, many of our patients have set goals for better health outcomes–things like a lower body weight, more energy, a better mood, or better sleep.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that the road to changing outcomes always requires changing habits. After all, the behaviour that got you to your current health won’t get you to a different place.

In the case of our health, we often know what the new habits are. They’re things like:

  • Eating better 
  • Turning the TV off at night
  • Getting more exercise
  • Spending less time on social media 
  • Quitting smoking
  • Drinking more water 

But although we know what the habits are, changing them can be a difficult thing to do. In some cases, it can feel impossible. 

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, suggests that at the deepest level, change is about your identity; that is, until you see yourself as the kind of person who thinks and behaves differently, you’ll struggle to make sustainable change.

His recipe?

  1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
  2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

“What would the healthy you do?” is the entry point to this process. It’s a touchstone–a way to discover, and then remind yourself, what a healthier you looks like. It’s an identity question. For example:

  • When you’re choosing what to have for lunch you can ask the question, What would the healthy me do? 
  • When you’re wondering if you should work late instead of taking that walk, ask yourself, What would the healthy me do? 
  • When you sit down in front of the TV at night with a snack, ask yourself, What would the healthy me do? 

The question works best in moments when we have a choice to make–I was going to go to the gym, but maybe I’ll…

Those moments, as it turns out, happen many times in a day, and they offer you a chance to envision your best self, the one you’re striving to be, and ask yourself, “What would that person do?”

PS: Have you seen our latest chalkboard? You can add your own word for the upcoming year, too–just drop by the clinic!

Our 6 Best Winter Immune-Boosting Tips

Naturopathic medicine has many tools to help our patients recover from colds and flus. Vitamins, minerals, herbal medicines and IV vitamin C can all work wonders to get on top of symptoms and speed up healing.  

What we love to do even more is prevent illness in the first place! Here’s our recipe for a strong immune system in the cold and flu season.

1. Exercise Outside Every Day

Yes, we know you don’t want to. Try it.

2. Drink Water

Lymph fluid is the fluid that flows around the body to collect bacteria and waste. It transports all collected waste to the lymph nodes which serve as filters.

Drinking water works like a waterfall for lymphatic organs. The higher the amount, the stronger the push to the edge where the waste can be dumped over!

3. Avoid Sugar

Sugar inhibits your immune system. We know it’s true because Dr. Kendra said so. (No, really, there’s also research.) Avoid it.

4. Sleep

And, it turns out that sleep deprivation does the same thing as sugar–suppresses immune system function. Get more–you’ll be glad you did.

5. Check Your Vitamin D Levels

It’s easy to test your Vitamin D, and it’s sooo important. How’s yours?

6. Supplement, Supplement, Supplement

There’s research to support the use of vitamin D, probiotics, astragalus, echinacea and vitamin C in immune support. We also use monthly IV vitamin C infusions and our patients swear by them. Contact the clinic at any time to learn more!

This picture is from our latest monthly chalkboard in the clinic cloakroom. Drop by to check it out!

Could Depression Be Caused by an Immune System Imbalance?

Here’s a different way of looking at a challenging problem, and one that fits with what naturopathic doctors frequently see in practice.

In her new book, This is Depression, Dr. Diane McIntosh MD presents the idea that depression could be caused by an imbalance in the immune system.

Here’s the gist: 

There are cells in the brain called glial cells, which act as the brain’s caretakers. They supply neurons with nutrients, clean up any waste, and fight infection in the brain. They do a lot to keep the brain ticking along and doing its job.  

Now, enter cortisol.  

Cortisol is the hormone we produce when we experience high levels of stress. Whether that’s physical stress (like running a marathon), or mental stress (like studying for finals), or emotional stress (like dealing with a sick parent), cortisol is the hormone that we use to weather such storms.  

Too much cortisol, however, causes those caretaker glial cells to stop working properly. Instead, they start spitting out proteins called pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are the signallers of the immune system; they tell your immune system to make inflammation. Those cytokines damage the glial cells, which causes them to release more cytokines, causing an inflammatory cascade. That inflammation in the brain results, in turn, in the neurotransmitters not working properly. 

The end result? People feel brain fog, tired and low. They feel depressed.  

With this explanation in mind, the research linking changes in diet and lifestyle to improving depression makes even more sense. Inflammation is your immune system doing its work, but sometimes that work has side effects. Lifestyle changes reduce that inflammation, and the result can be an anti-depressive effect.

In fact, as research shows, the outcome of lifestyle interventions can be better than a pharmaceutical anti-depressant. For example:

Dr. McIntosh’s premise is still just a theory, but it’s one of those theories that we like, because there’s no real downside to the intervention. Healthy lifestyle changes are only going to make your life better–the side effects of reducing inflammation are all positive.

As the article in the Globe and Mail says:

Depression isn’t the only illness found to be caused by inflammation. Heart disease, HIV, lupus, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, chronic pain and several forms of cancer have also been called inflammatory disorders.

It makes a compelling case to take your fish oils, move your body outside, and eat well!

Grow a Mo, Save a Bro: The Crisis in Men’s Health

We spend a lot of time on women’s and children’s health issues here. At some level, that makes sense–after all, the general practitioners at StoneTree are women, so the health concerns of women are top of mind for us. We’re living them ourselves, and many of us are moms, too.

But there’s more to it than that. Men and women approach health care differently, and as a result, are served differently, too. Women are more likely to seek help from a care provider, and they are more likely to bring their children in for care. They are also more likely to come to a care provider earlier in the onset of their health complaint. 

In comparison, men tend to visit the doctor less often, and have shorter consultations when they do. They are more likely to see their health care provider later after the onset of their complaint, and they are less likely to report all of their symptoms.  

There is a persistent and troubling myth that men don’t care about their health but they do. The system is just not set up with male sensibilities in mind. This is part of the reason that men’s health is in crisis. Men die, on average, six years earlier than women, largely for preventable reasons. It’s a tragedy.

The organize that speaks to this issue best is the MOVEMBER movement, founded by two friends over a beer in a bar. Check out their origin story here. What began in 2003 with 30 “Mo Bros” has now seen more than 5 million participants.

The movement started with a focus on prostate cancer and has since incorporated testicular cancer and mental health and suicide prevention. Their goal by 2030 is to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25%.

How do they do it?

  • Give facts. Guys need data, info and facts to feel empowered and to take action. Did you know that when detected early, prostate cancer survival rates are better than 98%? Find it late, and those survival rates drop below 26%.
  • Give self-care resources. Guys want to take care of themselves. Teaching them self-care like the know thy nuts helps them feel in control.
  • Tell the truth. Mental health is a huge issue for men. Globally, every minute, for example, a man dies by suicide–in Canada, 75% of suicides are men. Men tend to keep to themselves and not talk. This website speaks to men about speaking out like a man would.
  • The Mo Movement. It’s Movember! Show your support. Grow a mo, attend an event, or contribute to the movement. You’ll find all the details here.

Hey! You don’t have to grow a Mo to support Movember! There are all kinds of ways to participate, including walking or running 60km over the month! Learn more here.

Are Your Vitamin D Levels Too Low?

It’s the time of year when we often look to vitamin D levels in our patients, and for good reason–low levels of the “sunshine vitamin” have been linked to a host of conditions, including seasonal affective disorder and osteoporosis.

We wrote about the interesting history and importance of vitamin D before, but new research is showing vitamin D matters for more than just building strong bones and keeping your winter blues away.

Why should you care?

Because you’re Canadian! And as awesome as you are, the dark northern days and indoor lifestyle can mess with your D levels.

According to Stats Canada, only 65% of Canadians have vitamin D levels that are likely sufficient to fulfill the body’s requirements for optimal bone health. Not to mention all that other stuff like infections and depression and thyroid conditions and fatigue and more.

The strategy in conventional medicine to deal with this has been to supplement everyone with vitamin D–the recommendation is 2000 IU/day.  

The challenge is that for some people, that’s enough, for others it isn’t. Taking too much vitamin D for too long is not a good thing either. The best solution is to test your levels so that you know exactly what steps, if any, to take.

The good news is that it’s easy to test your vitamin D levels. Better yet, we have a new Vitamin D shot that can make a big difference to your levels.

To test your vitamin D levels and find the optimal approach for you, just contact us, or book online

A Symptom Management Resource for Cancer Patients

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year, almost 27,000 women in Canada will be diagnosed with this disease—74 women per day.

Here’s the amazing part: 88% will survive it. The mortality rate for breast cancer has been declining since 1986. Between earlier diagnosis and better treatments, we’re simply getting better at tackling the problem.

With treatment, however, can come plenty of difficult side effects, both physical and emotional. 

Nutritional Tools for Cancer Treatment Side Effects

The Toronto General Hospital houses ELLICSR: Health, Wellness and Cancer Survivorship Centre. This resource for cancer patients was created to better understand the cancer and survivorship experience in order to improve it, and to look for fresh new ideas and approaches to improve health and wellness during and after cancer treatment.  

One of the resources that this organization puts out is the ELLICSR Kitchen. This program is designed to help people touched by cancer to manage their symptoms by managing their diet.

They also have a wonderful online resource that gives you recipes and eating suggestions based on your individual side effects. Loss of appetite? There are recipes for that. Fatigue? Nausea? Stomach problems? Each symptom has a list of recipes to help. We love it.

You can also engage with the ELLICSR Kitchen in person with live cooking demonstrations that help you engage with healthy, simple and delicious recipes and give you tasty samples. 

When: The third Thursday of every month, 12:15 – 1:15 pm
Where: ELLICSR: Health, Wellness & Cancer Survivorship Centre Toronto General Hospital, Basement level, B PMB 130
Contact: Call 416 581 8620 or email [email protected] for more information. No regestration necessary!

Managing the side effects of treatment is a critical, but often under-appreciated, part of cancer treatment, and we’re thrilled to recommend this resource!

For more information on our clinical approaches to cancer care, our own Dr. Ehab Mohammed, ND, is happy to help. Dr. Ehab practiced oncology as a medical doctor for over 20 years before becoming a naturopathic doctor. You can book a complimentary visit and get all your questions answered by calling the clinic at 705-444-5331, or booking online.

The Tests We Use to See Into Your Health Future

If you look at the leading causes of death in Canada, you’ll notice that most of them are the result of chronic disease. They’re things like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers, and diabetes–things that tend to be slow-moving and subtle, creeping up on you over years, silently exerting their effects on your body without your awareness.  

But what if you could measure those things before they become apparent? What if you could see your possible health future, and then work to change it?

In fact, you can. Chronic disease can and does show up in your biochemistry long before you have the heart attack or stroke. Measuring that biochemistry is like a glimpse of the future…only in this case, it’s a future you can change.

How to See the Future: the Metabolic Panel

Here at StoneTree we use a “metabolic panel” to help us see into your future. It’s a collection of blood tests that gives us a picture of your overall health. By testing your blood over time, we can understand if your biochemistry is moving toward, or away from health. That helps us see what causes of death you’re moving toward, and at what rate.

Watching these test results over time gives you a chance to make change–in treatments, supplements, lifestyle choices, and more.

The metabolic panel is actually a number of inexpensive blood tests. It’s our favourite “crystal ball” for seeing your possible health future:

  • GGT. Gamma-glutamyltransferase is a liver enzyme that can be elevated in the blood if you are drinking too much alcohol and/or developing a fatty liver. A fatty liver means your diet contains too much processed food, bad fats and sugars and that your liver is overwhelmed.  
  • Fasting Glucose. This test is common, and measures the amount of sugar in your blood without eating. High numbers are a sign of diabetes. 
  • Fasting Insulin. This test is less well-known, but far more important. Most people with diabetes have Type 2 Diabetes. This is a “metabolic dysfunction” where the person’s cells are insensitive to insulin, and the body produces more and more insulin to deal with the same amount of blood sugar. Fasting insulin, then, will be elevated long before fasting glucose becomes elevated–it’s the canary in the coal mine.
  • HbA1c. Glycosylated hemoglobin, is a measure of how much sugar is attached to your red blood cells. While fasting glucose gives you a blood sugar reading at one point in time, this test gives you your average blood sugar over three months.  
  • hs-CRP. High sensitivity c-reactive protein, is a measure of overall inflammation in your body. The literature repeatedly shows how important the overall inflammatory environment is in chronic disease. 
  • Triglycerides. This fat, when elevated in the blood, is linked to diets high in sugars and simple starches, low in fiber, and high in processed fats–in other words, diets that aren’t good for you.
  • SHBG. Sex hormone binding globulin is a protein in our blood that carries around…you guessed it, sex hormones. It also plays a role in proper sugar balance in the blood.

Here’s the amazing part: You can modify all these results. Supplementation, various treatments, exercise, dietary changes–they can all change your biochemistry, and as a result, your health.

It’s worth repeating. You can change these markers, and as a result, change your health outcomes. Doing this panel of tests every 6-12 months isn’t just a glimpse of your future; it’s the first step in doing something about it!

To learn more about the metabolic panel, or to arrange testing, contact us at 705-444-5331, or book an appointment online.

Can a Low FODMAPS Diet Help Your IBS and Digestive Troubles?

FODMAPs, or, Fermentable Oligosaccharide, Disaccharide, Monosaccharide, and Polyols, are a group of dietary sugars that cause digestive issues. They’re carbs that tend to be poorly absorbed, and they can hang around in the small and large intestine, where they ferment and cause all kinds of irritable bowel-type symptoms.   

Example of foods that are HIGH in FODMAPS include: 

  • Wheat
  • Apples
  • Mango
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • All legumes
  • Honey
  • Milk 
  • Yogurt

Foods that are LOW in FODMAPS include:

  • Quinoa 
  • Blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Zucchini
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Maple syrup
  • Cheddar, parmesan

Who Can Benefit?

Clinically here at StoneTree, we’ve found it worthwhile for almost anyone who suffers from IBS to try the initial 3-week phase. That being said, it’s not an easy diet, and not for everyone. You can learn more here. But there is a growing body of evidence, including this study on IBS, that supports its use.

How the FODMAP Diet Works

Many commonly consumed foods are high in FODMAPs, and it’s generally recommended that you completely eliminate ALL high-FODMAP foods for a few weeks. The diet is unlikely to work if you only eliminate some high-FODMAP foods but not others.

  • If FODMAPs are the cause of your problems, then you may experience relief in as little as a few days.
  • After three weeks, you can reintroduce some of these foods, one at a time. This allows you to determine which food causes your symptoms.
  • If you find that a certain type of food strongly upsets your digestion, you may want to permanently avoid it.

Following a low-FODMAP diet can be hard, and not everyone should do it. It’s worth seeking professional advice to make sure you’re a candidate and to help you get started and stick with the process. If you’d like more information or support, contact us at the clinic anytime, or book online.

Building Strong Back-to-School Immune Systems

Kids will be heading back into the classroom next week, and after the initial celebration by parents is over and the weather cools, thoughts turn to avoiding the seemingly inevitable “back to school” cold—both in our kids and ourselves!

Here are some of our best tips and tools as you head back into a new school year.

1. Sleep

Kids are chronically under-slept, and homework, extra-curriculars, and excessive screen time can contribute to the problem. Be mindful of this as the school year begins, and guard this aspect of health. Sleep is where we repair and recuperate—not enough of it means your immune system is more easily overwhelmed.  

How much sleep is enough? Here’s a starting point.

2. Keep them Outside

The school year means being inside. It means more sitting and breathing re-circulated air, surrounded by dozens of other kids. Make sure your kids spend daily time outside moving their bodies (and therefore their blood and immune systems) in the fresh air. It’s a critical part of keeping their immune systems strong and healthy.  

3. Eat for Immune System Success

What does that mean? It’s easy: avoid sugar and go for the healthy proteins. Here are some ideas that kids love.  

4. Supplement

We love Fit For School probiotics by Genestra which includes, probiotics, vitamin C and vitamin D, or MetaKids chewable probiotic only. Both are pretty yummy, but if you aren’t sure if your kids will like them, drop by the clinic. We always have a bottle/package open for a sample!

More:

::Back to School Advice from the StoneTree Naturopaths