The Collaborative Approach to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, is completely different from its mild-mannered cousin IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBD is a disease process, as opposed to a functional issue. The term captures both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which involve a chronic, and often severe, inflammation of the digestive tract.

Symptoms of IBD usually involve severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss.

Causes of IBD are not fully known, but it is thought to be due to a malfunction of the immune system where the inflammatory response does not shut off. 

There are some common risk factors for IBD, like genetics, family history, smoking, and the use of NSAIDs. Interestingly, if you live in an industrialized country, are Caucasian, and live in more northern climates, you are more likely to develop IBD. It may be that some environmental factors, including diet, lifestyle or even vitamin D deficiency, play a role.

IBD can be debilitating and sometimes leads to life-threatening complications like: 

  • Colon cancer
  • Skin, eye, and joint inflammation
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Malnutrition
  • Ulcers
  • Fistulas
  • Anal fissure
  • Toxic megacolon
  • Perforated colon
  • Severe dehydration

A Combined Conventional and Complementary Approach

Unlike IBS, where a naturopathic approach alone can often have excellent results, IBD presents a different challenge. Because symptoms can be severe, and lead to serious health problems, it can be important with IBD to use conventional medications to manage symptoms and keep things from getting worse.

The trouble is that conventional medications come with their own issues. Many meds have side-effects that range from sleep issues with corticosteroid use to certain cancers with the more serious immuno-suppressive drugs.  

As a result, CAM use (complementary and alternative medicine) in patients with IBD is high, ranging between 21% and 60%

Sick and Tired of IBD

Even with “controlled disease”, patients with IBD often feel sick and tired because they simply aren’t getting enough nutrients. Why?

  • The intestines are inflamed and/or damaged and are not absorbing nutrients effectively.  
  • Chronic diarrhea and pain cause changes in taste and anxiety about eating, so patients just don’t want to eat
  • Some drugs for the treatment of IBD, like the anti-inflammatories, make it harder to absorb nutrients
  • The intestines are sometimes so inflamed that they are bleeding, resulting in blood loss over time, which can lower iron levels and lead to anemia

What Can You Do?

The multiple nutrient deficiencies in patients with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis is well documented. There is less research on the roll of repletion of these nutrients in the IBD literature, although we have seen anecdotal evidence of increased energy, decreased symptoms and longer remissions in our IBD patients who receive regular IV infusions of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.  

There is also a growing body of evidence for the use of some complementary therapies, including probiotics, curcumin and fish oils. All of these substances help to modulate immune function and decrease inflammation.  

To learn more about naturopathic approaches, including IV therapy, for IBD, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book online.

Increasing Your Healthspan

With advancements in medicine and public health, the average lifespan has continued to climb over the last century. Now, it’s projected to hit 95 by 2040.  

But just because we are living longer doesn’t necessarily mean we are living well-er. In fact, according to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, we are living longer, but the number of years we spend in disability is also increasing.

At this year’s Integrative Health Symposium in New York City, Dr. Tara heard Dr. Robert Rountree, MD talk about “Pathways to Longevity.” In his lecture, there were three “hacks” that came up over and over again.  These are activities that help slow one or more of the basic mechanisms of aging–things like shortened telomere length, increased oxidative stress and decreased mitochondrial capacity.

1. Regular exercise. No need to run a marathon, the real magic is in HIIT (high-intensity interval training)–small bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by rest periods. There are many different programs available online. Start low and go slow if you are new to exercise, or work with an experienced trainer. And if you don’t feel up to HIIT? Remember there’s plenty of magic in any exercise.

2. Calorie restriction. Calorie restriction is NOT dieting. It’s about eating fewer calories (up to 30%), while at the same time getting sufficient vitamins and minerals. This means avoiding high calorie “empty” foods like simple carbs and increasing low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and veggies.

3. Social supports. Humans are pack animals. We are happiest and healthiest when we are together. Turn off the screen and connect to someone.

In addition, based on the research, two supplements kept coming up as winners for supporting your biochemical pathways: green tea and curcumin

Whether you decide to incorporate these two substances into your diet or decided to take them in a supplement form, the evidence would suggest they are worth considering!

Here’s to a longer and healthier life!

Bonus: this chart summarizing the impact of different factors on aging is a great visual!

How to Stay Well During Air Travel

Getting away to the sun and warmth is such a pleasure when it is so cold and bleak in a deep February freeze. But how do you make sure you don’t pick up a nasty bug on the plane surrounded by all the other coughing and sneezing Canucks trying to get the sunshine?

Below is what the StoneTree team recommends. We’ve used this plan on ourselves and our patients for many, many winter trips. It’s simple and it works great!

The day before you get on the plane:

  • Book in for an immune-boosting IV.  This infusion of vitamins and minerals is high in vitamin C, and super-charges your immune system

The day of the flight:

  • Upon waking drink at least 500ml of water
  • Take 2 capsules of Echinacea (a double dose of a liquid preparation)
  • (For those who cannot take Echinacea you can use oregano oil)

When you get to the airport:

  • Once through security buy two 500ml bottles of water
  • Put a packet of Emergen-C into each of them.  (If you do not have Emergen-C, you can use any other vitamin C at a dose of 1000mg)
  • While waiting to board drink one of the bottles

During your flight:

  • Take 2 more Echinacea upon boarding
  • Drink the 2nd bottle of vitamin C water during the flight.
  • Drink as much water as you can throughout the flight. Doing your best to keep your mucous membranes hydrated keeps them strong. 
  • Avoid sugar, which suppresses the immune system. 

Once you arrive at your destination:

  • Take your last dose of 2 capsules of Echinacea
  • ENJOY your trip!

On the flight home:

  • Repeat the same routine as the flight down. 

Upon arrival home:

  • If you were seating next to a “typhoid Mary” on the plane, you partied more then you rested on your vacation, or you just have that feeling you are fighting something, book in for an immune-boosting IV as soon as you can. 

Enjoy your happy, healthy and safe travels!

The Math of Habit Change

The start of a new year marks a new beginning–it’s a compelling time to make a change for the better. Of course, those changes can be easy to promise but tough to deliver. Now, as mid-January approaches, many of us are finding our resolutions put to the real test!

Interestingly, resolutions often take the form of what you might think of as subtraction—things like cutting out sugar, curbing spending, or reducing screen time.

On the surface, this makes sense. Why not cut out the “bad stuff”? We seem to have an innate knack for demonizing things, and it’s only natural to want to get rid of the things we see as negative.

The problem with subtraction, however, is that it’s hard–particularly when it comes to ingrained behaviours like eating and drinking. Habits are essentially stored in the brain as neural connections, and that makes them easy to repeat, but difficult to eliminate. And habits that give us pleasure of some sort, like eating, shopping or screen-bingeing, are particularly difficult to break; when we don’t do them, our body’s neurochemistry prompts us to fire them back up again.

That doesn’t mean you can’t kick a bad habit. Not at all. But it might be worth considering whether adding might be more effective than subtracting in getting the job done.

For example:

  • If you commit to and focus on eating 8 serving of veggies a day, your belly might be so full of fibre that you aren’t really thinking so much about the chocolate bar.
  • If you commit to and focus on saving $5 a day in a jar, you might start to feel excited about your growing vacation savings instead of struggling with feelings of denial over the caramel macchiato.
  • If you commit to and focus on going for a 30-minute walk each day, that half-hour might just replace some of the time sitting on the couch watching Netflix.

Is this a magic bullet for change? Not at all. But if you find you’re struggling with your resolutions now the new year is really underway, it might be worth asking yourself whether addition might deliver better results than subtraction.

Food as Medicine: Sauerkraut

Humans have been fermenting foods for thousands of years. Fermentation made our food last longer and made it easier to digest, which in turn helped us stay healthier. Along the way, however, we also ended up creating foods that taste great and have excellent health benefits!

Sauerkraut is one of those great fermented wonders. It’s a superfood that’s full of vitamins, probiotics, enzymes, and other nutritional components, and has been connected to many health benefits including increased immune function, decreased heart disease, weight loss, and even cancer prevention.

Here at the clinic, we recommend it regularly for our patients with gut issues, and for those who just want to eat foods that are naturally high in probiotics. According to one study, sauerkraut was shown to contain up to 28 distinct bacterial strains. (When it comes to our digestive tracts, the more strains the better.)

Not all sauerkrauts are created equal. Many supermarket brands have been pasteurized and have added preservatives, which has the unfortunate side effect of killing all the beneficial bacteria–make sure you read the labels. You want a sauerkraut with 2 basic ingredients: cabbage and salt. Some will have added spices or other veggies added, like carrot, but make sure to avoid the brands with added sugars. The natural sugars in the cabbage itself are more than enough food for the little critters to do their magic.

We recommend Bubbies Sauerkraut all the time and it is delicious–you can find it here at the Pantry.

Want to make it yourself? It’s easy! All you really need is cabbage, salt and some time. Let Brad from Bon Appetite show you how.

Bubbies Sauerkraut available in the Pantry at StoneTree Clinic. Drop by anytime!

3 Great Natural Health Resources for Canada Day

Hurray! It’s the long weekend!

It’s going to be a hot one as we celebrate our nation’s birthday this weekend. Here are a few all-natural resources for your long weekend needs:

  • Fruit infused water: This delicious water is a tasty and beautiful way to get fluids into you on a hot, summer day. There are a few options there, but there is really no end to the combinations you can come up with. Our very own Julie is the “fruit-infused” water guru at the clinic–her creations show up in the IV suite every week!
  • All natural bug spray: Want to avoid the chemicals in bug sprays but can’t STAND those little bitey critters? Try this great recipe to keep them away.
  • Environmentally responsible sunscreen: The EWG released it’s 2018 sunscreen report. A great resource to manage both your skin health and the environment.

Happy Canada Day! Be safe, be healthy and have fun!

Bronwyn Hill - Collingwood Naturopathic Doctor

Welcome Dr. Bronwyn!

Once upon a time…

Some of you who have been patients since our early days in Collingwood will remember our office over in the Erie Street Medical Centre. Some of you may even remember a keen and shiny young university student helping us out one summer.

That young student’s name was Bronwyn Hill. At the time, she was very interested in health care but didn’t know much about naturopathic medicine. Determined to fix that, Bronwyn volunteered for a summer at the office, helping us in the IV suite and at the front desk, and anywhere else she could be helpful and learn more about naturopathy at the same time.

Flash forward a dozen years, and our young summer student Dr. Bronwyn Hill is now a skilled naturopathic doctor with more than six years of experience under her belt!

Bronwyn Hill, ND graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2011 (in the same class as Dr. Maggie),  and after six years of practice in Toronto, she’s recently relocated to Creemore with her husband and golden doodle. We’re delighted to welcome her to the team at StoneTree, right here in her hometown of Collingwood.

Dr. Bronwyn has a general family practice, with a special interest in pediatrics–she loves working with kids of all ages. You can learn more about Dr. Bronwyn here, or click here to book an appointment.

Welcome home, Dr. Bronwyn! You haven’t changed a bit. 😉

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!

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!

Words to Live By

Choose happy and embrace the weird.


It seems like we are always surrounded by bad news and tragedy. Stories of trouble and woe. Stories of people not getting along. Stories of people disrespecting other beliefs, religions, genders, races.

It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into this world of drama, negativity, and divisiveness. I like to think that this little sentence reminds us that getting sucked in is a choice.

We can choose to judge someone who is “different than us”… or we can “embrace the weird”.

We can choose to be offended by a comment made by a cranky teacher….or we can “choose happy” by maybe imagining that they are cranky because their child is sick, or they’ve suffered a loss.

We might not be able to control all that happens to us, but we can do our best to choose how we let it affect us and the view that we have of the world around us.

We have written about choosing happy before, but this little sentence made us think about it again. These are truly words to live by, and we thank the lovely person who shared them with us this week!