The most common time to take a probiotic is during + following antibiotic use. Antibiotics degrade the population of our good flora, and therefore they require replacement. Some antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, etc, have also been shown to allow for opportunistic infections from candida, or yeast. The primary concern for antibiotic use is ultimately the results of dysbiosis, which is a severe imbalance in desirable vs undesirable bacteria in our gut.
Some of the other benefits of a probiotic use can include:
• Boosting your immune system
• Improving immune dysfunction, such as in seasonal allergies, eczema, asthma, etc.
• Improved digestive function
• Increased absorption of nutrients, and elimination of waste
• Fighting pathogens
There are many readily-available sources of probiotics, from supplements to food. Supplements usually only contain single strains of bacteria, sometimes in isolation, or other times multi-strain.
Unfortunately, some evidence suggests capsulated probiotics don't populate our gut long term.
If you are looking for ways to increase your probiotics consumption, it may be best to start with probiotic-rich foods like some of these:
• Yogurt (make sure to choose a yogurt with live or active cultures)
What to expect when you are taking probiotics?
Most people can tolerate probiotics fairly well; however, the most common side-effects are a temporary increase in gas and bloating, constipation, and thirst. The cause of these side-effects in some people is not entirely known, but they usually subside after a few weeks of continued use.
And while there may be several health benefits associated with taking probiotics, there are some people who should always seek advice before starting a probiotic. These people include individuals on immunosuppressive drugs, those with a compromised immune system, or a serious illness which predisposes them to more severe complications.
Can probiotics make you feel worse?
Our intestinal tract is a veritable colony of microorganisms. There are trillions of these little guys inhabiting our GI tracts and the exact combination and strains make for an incredibly complex interaction within us.
When we introduce different species into the mix, it can cause a temporary impact on our intestinal environment. The equilibrium that existed previously has been thrown off balance and needs to readjust. Once the new – and hopefully more beneficial – balance establishes itself, the symptoms should stop.
One primary instance where probiotic may persistently make symptoms worse is in cases of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Since the root of this problem is already an overgrowth of bacteria in the wrong place (the small intestine), adding more bacteria to the mix can often aggravate symptoms. SIBO symptoms look a lot like IBS, which is why it is important to speak to your naturopath before starting a probiotic.
You should always introduce probiotics slowly – a process called “titrating” – and increase to a full dose gradually.
The Must-Knows when choosing a probiotic
#1: Not every probiotic is the same. L rhamnosus GG has been shown to decrease the incidence of asthma and allergies in children, L. acidophilus is helpful in preventing repeat yeast infections, and B. lactis has been shown in clinical trials to improve intestinal dysbiosis and IBS symptoms. Taking an over the counter probiotic is useless unless it contains the proper strains indicated for your concern. This is where you want to speak to your ND to choose a probiotic that's right for you.
#2: Most probiotics cannot survive at room temperature. Multiple consumer reports have confirmed that many probiotics taken off the shelf are no longer alive, and therefore relatively unhelpful. Many strains of probiotics must be kept at < 8 degrees C or they will degrade at roughly about 4% per day. Meanwhile, some strains of probiotics are completely safe at room temperature, such as S. boulardii, which makes it great for travel. Do your research before buying strains off the shelf, or stick to probiotics found in the refrigeration section of your health food store.
#3: Quantity matters. Some probiotics will claim to be over 50 billion bacteria per capsule, but in fact, contain less than 5 million colony forming units of the desired strains (this is very common with l. acidophilus). Many clinical trials show no benefit to probiotic strains until they reach a certain quantity of exposure. Always read the label, which breaks down the strains and counts of each colony.
#4: Watch for fillers and Prebiotics. For those searching for probiotics for gas, bloating, IBS, IBD, etc, if a probiotic makes you feel worse, it may not be the actual bacteria. Many capsulated probiotics contain prebiotics such as inulin, pectin, potato or tapioca starches, maltodextrin, and/or fructooligosarccharides (FOS), which in and of themselves can create gas and bloating. Many are also washed in dairy, which can be a problem for those sensitive to dairy products.
When is it time to call the doctor?
Once starting a probiotic, if you haven’t presented with an exacerbation of symptoms (suggesting potential overgrowth of bacteria in your gut), no infectious pathogens are present, and your symptoms are on the mild end of the spectrum, you can probably keep taking it. Eventually, your GI tract will settle back down to normal.
If you find that you cannot tolerate probiotics, it could be a sign of gut pathogens like parasites or bacterial infections, as well as potential overgrowths. Because each of these issues requires a different treatment approach, it is important to have functional GI testing done to work out exactly the root cause of the problem.
If you want further help, or wish to discuss ways to support optimal gut health, please feel free to contact Toronto Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Courtney Holmberg at 647-351-7282 to schedule a consultation today!
Our digestive tract is a complex system that relies on multiple factors to keep it regular. Its primary role is to break down the foods we eat, absorb the nutrients we require, and rid of the wastes we don't need. For some people, having a daily bowel movement is regular as clockwork, whereas others may go days on end before their next bowel movement.
However, a daily bowel movement is not the only sign you should pay attention to when evaluating your gut motility. The consistency of the movement is also important, with denser movements often indicating your gut motility is lagging, while loose movements meaning motility is rushed.
Having a daily bowel movement is often considered to be a staple indication of overall health, as well as a telltale sign of the state of your gut environment. And while everyone's norm may look different, consistency is critical none-the-less. The most common factors that affect regularity are often diet, exercise, and fluid intake. However, bowel function is fundamentally a nervous system response, meaning it can be manipulated beyond simple lifestyle factors. In order to help you hack gut motility, let’s first break down the actual mechanism of how a bowel movement happens, and the neurotransmitters and nutrients that maintain its function.
What Stimulates Bowel Movements?
The gut maintains is own unique enteric nervous system, which acts independently of your autonomic system to create muscular contractions known as peristalsis. Peristalsis propels food through the digestive tract and eventually out of the body. In order for this system to function correctly, it requires regular signalling of its muscles to release and contract, with are regulated by the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. An abundance of acetylcholine binds to cholinergic receptors to encourage contraction, and the ultimate breakdown of acetylcholine encourages relaxation, creating the rhythmic waves of peristalsis we desire.
How Can You Increase Gut Motility?
Moral of this potentially overly science-y story is proper acetylcholine management = proper gut motility. This neurotransmitter is a combination of two primary molecules: acetyl CoA and choline, formulated via the enzyme choline acetyltransferase (ChAT).
Funny enough, the most commonly fortified thiamine foods tend to be processed carbohydrates, which is often the first things we cut out of our diets when we want to make healthier eating choices. The very cause of irregular bowel movements could easily be a lack of thiamine in your diet, which can be remedied by increasing the intake of vitamin B1. Most adults should consume at least 1.2 mg of thiamine daily, and children between the ages of 1 and 18 should get between 0.5 and 1 mg (1).
Secondly, we need the micronutrient choline, which is found in highest amounts if fatty foods such as eggs and salmon, or vegetables like cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. It can also be supplemented in forms such as citicoline, but its best to speak to your healthcare provider before doing so.
Once you are consuming healthy carbs, choline, and vitamin B1, you also need to make sure your body is producing choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) enzymes to turned acetyl CoA and choline into our desired neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Thankfully, ChAT production occurs naturally within the body.
Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid made by healthy gut flora via the fermentation of fibre. It has been shown to help increase ChAT production (2), as well as support healthy gut barrier function and prevent increased intestinal permeability (more commonly nicknamed “leaky gut syndrome”). Eating more fibrous veg, or consuming butyrate rich foods, such as a butter, may support gut motility. Another option could be fibre supplementation with partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG), which is my fibre of choice. PHGG has been shown to decrease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (3,4), and benefit growth of Bifidobacterium and butyrate-producing bacteria in the human large intestine (5), without causing the majority of side effects seen with psyllium use.
Why Coffee and Nicotine Make You Poop!
Most people report bowel movement stimulation after a cup of coffee, and 1 in 6 people experience constipation when the quit smoking. You’ve probably guessed by now that its because these two stimulants have direct impacts on acetylcholine.
Coffee (particularly, the caffeine) actually functions as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, meaning it slows the breakdown of acetylcholine in the postsynaptic cleft, allowing it to provide more nerve stimulation and muscle contraction. Nicotine binds directly to the cholinergic receptors that acetylcholine activates, producing similar effects as this neurotransmitter.
The take-home message... If you’re trying to quit coffee or smoking, but are fearful of the effects on your gut, know there are alternative ways to get things going without all the dangerous side effects.
There are many factors causing irregular bowel movements, with a lack acetylcholine being just one of them. If you want further help determining the cause of irregular bowel movements, or wish to discuss ways to support optimal gut health, please feel free to contact Toronto Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Courtney Holmberg at 647-351-7282 to schedule a consultation today!
(1) National Institute of Health: Thiamin Fact Sheet for Consumers. April 13 2016. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Thiamin-Consumer/
(2) Casper D1, Davies P. Brain Res. Stimulation of choline acetyltransferase activity by retinoic acid and sodium butyrate in a cultured human neuroblastoma. 1989 Jan 23;478(1):74-84.
(3) Giannini EG1, Mansi C, Dulbecco P, Savarino V. Role of partially hydrolyzed guar gum in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Nutrition. 2006 Mar;22(3):334-42. Epub 2006 Jan 18.
(4) Polymeros D1, Beintaris I, Gaglia A, Karamanolis G, Papanikolaou IS, Dimitriadis G, Triantafyllou K. Partially hydrolyzed guar gum accelerates colonic transit time and improves symptoms in adults with chronic constipation. Dig Dis Sci. 2014 Sep;59(9):2207-14. doi: 10.1007/s10620-014-3135-1. Epub 2014 Apr 8.
(5) Ohashi Y1, Sumitani K, Tokunaga M, Ishihara N, Okubo T, Fujisawa T. Consumption of partially hydrolysed guar gum stimulates Bifidobacteria and butyrate-producing bacteria in the human large intestine. Benef Microbes. 2015;6(4):451-5. doi: 10.3920/BM2014.0118. Epub 2015 Feb 12.
Bacteria are found on every external surface of the body, including the entire gastrointestinal tract. You’re probably no stranger to probiotics and their endless health benefits, and you may even be purposefully increasing your intake of fermented foods as a result. But what if I was to tell you that probiotics might be making your digestion symptoms worse?
The diversity and quantity of bacteria in each part of the digestive system varies greatly. For instance, you can easily find over 1 billion bacteria per milliliter in the colon, and only 10,000 bacteria per milliliter in the small intestine. In addition, the bacteria in the small intestine function differently from those in the rest of the digestive tract.
In the small intestine, the bacteria are responsible for aiding in digestion and helping absorb vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in the foods we ate. These same bacteria also help support immune function. However, in many people experience IBS-like symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation/diarrhea, and abdominal cramping, the number of bacteria in the small intestine increases significantly. The bacterial that typically colonize the digestive tract (most commonly the colon or large intestine1) overgrow in a location not intended for so much bacteria, and as a result, begin to produce symptoms. We call this condition Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO. And as you can imagine, adding more bacteria (like probiotics) to the mix may produce undesirable outcomes.
What Are Some Symptoms of SIBO?
When SIBO occurs, it interferes with normal digestive processes. The vitamin, minerals, and nutrients which are normally absorbed by the intestinal cells become diminished, while some strains of bacteria actually consume the nutrients for themselves, ultimately fueling their growth.
As a result, we often see nutrient deficiencies such as iron and b12 in this patient population. Gas becomes a byproduct of the fermentation of sugars and proteins, and bloating results. The most characteristic symptoms of SIBO patients include:
• Abdominal Discomfort, Cramping, and Pain
• Vitamin Deficiencies
• Unexpected Weight Loss
• Abdominal Distention/Bloating
Long-term concerns of untreated bacterial overgrowth include damage to the intestinal lining, resulting in increased intestinal permeability, often termed “leaky gut syndrome”. This condition predisposes a person to autoimmune diseases, allergic reactions to foods they previously were not allergic to, and overall inflammation2. Furthermore, bacterial endotoxins burden our liver and immune system, increasing incidences of chronic fatigue.
What Causes SIBO?
Any disease or illness that affects the body’s defenses put a person at risk for SIBO. The actual causes complex, but major of people with SIBO have developed an issue with the intestinal anatomy or musculature. Infectious gastroenteritis, bowel strictures or surgery, nerve damage, appendicitis, and birth control use are among some of the predisposing factors to SIBO development.
Various research studies have discovered that the following conditions may also increase the risks for SIBO:
• Crohn’s Disease
• Type I or Type II Diabetes
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• Previous Surgery of the Bowel/Intestines
• Celiac Disease
• Conditions of the Liver, Pancreas, and Others
• Low Stomach Acid
• Regular and Heavy Alcohol Consumption
Can SIBO be treated?
First and foremost, a diagnosis should be made using a 3 hr Lactulose Breath Test. Treating SIBO normally requires the use of specific antibiotics and/or antimicrobial therapy to erratic the overgrowth, along with identifying co-morbidities that may have caused its development in the first place. In cases where patients were treated, but their underlying condition was ignored, many experienced a reoccurrence of SIBO with a year or less3.
Since there can be a variety of underlying causes, it is essential to develop treatments which are tailored specifically for each individual.
Click Here to learn more about Dr. Courtney Holmberg ND’s approach to SIBO management. If you suspect you might have SIBO or have experienced any of the symptoms we discussed, contact Dr. Holmberg at 647-351-7282 to schedule a consultation today!
Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body. It is found in every cell in the body and is an essential component in regulating over 600 different biochemical reactions and bodily functions. It helps convert food into energy, to build new proteins, to repair DNA/RNA, regulate muscle relaxation, and balance neurotransmitters in the brain, nervous system, and gut. It has direct impacts on heart health, blood pressure, immune response, metabolic rates, and more.
Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is on the rise, with an estimated 50% of the population in the US and Europe getting less than their daily requirement of magnesium (1). Historically, magnesium was abundant in the foods we ate and the water we drank. However, today, most soil grown produce has been shown to be more magnesium depleted than ever, and even the grass and grains livestock eats lacks magnesium content. For those of us that live in the city, our water is treated with chlorine and fluoride to remove bacteria and minerals, like magnesium. Furthermore, consumption of caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and medications like birth control pills, antihypertensives, insulin, and certain antibiotics all deplete magnesium further.
One particularly important mechanism magnesium regulates is our balance and utilization of calcium. Every cell has a regulatory switch that controls the balance between calcium and magnesium, and when there is a deficiency in magnesium, the switch will allow excess calcium into the cells. This can ultimately lead to cellular calcification, amongst a number of other concerns, including:
With the proper magnesium levels in the body, risks for heart disease, heart attack, kidney stones, calcification in the arteries, and osteoporosis are reduced. To ensure proper magnesium levels, expose yourself to these magnesium-rich foods:
If you have experienced any of the signs discussed, and want to find out more about the benefits of magnesium, please feel free to contact Toronto Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Courtney Holmberg at 647-351-7282 to schedule a consultation today!
Pain is something we’re all familiar with. It presents in a variety of different ways, and with a variety of characteristics. And while pain may have a very physical manifestation, it is acknowledged to be a complex physiological and psychologist phenomenon. The reaction to pain is highly subjective, and is influenced by a variety of factors. We know that actual nociception (the sensory nervous system’s response to harmful stimuli), is at least partially controlled by psychological, social, and situational factors. Furthermore, the perception of intensity of pain differs from person to person. Despite these factors, all pain is typically managed the same way.
Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever every once in a while, like Aleve or Tylenol, for rapid relief is okay. However, most don't know that there is an upper limit to the use of painkillers, and taking them more than the recommended amount may actually cause rebound headaches. Ibuprofen and Naproxen (Advil/Aleve) should be used at most 10 days/month, and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) no more than 15 days/month. Pain relievers are not intended for long-term relief, and far too often the underlying medical cause for the pain succumbs to self-medicated rather than being addressed.
Contrary to what you might believe, over-the-counter pain relievers will not work for every type of pain we might experience. Further-more, long-term use of NSAIDS has been shown to increase risks for heart disease, hearing, inflammatory bowel disease, and kidney function. NSAIDs, especially at high doses, have been shown to increase blood pressure, as well as increased your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Aside from over-the-counter pain relievers, there are a number of other natural ways to combat pain, depending on the underlying causes and symptoms one is experiencing. Some of the more common natural ways to treat pain include:
As you can see, there are numerous effective natural ways to treat pain that do not require taking an over-the-counter pain relievers. Remember, supplementation with some of the aforementioned therapies is not always safe for everyone, especially those on blood thinning medication.
To discover if any of these therapies are right for you, or to discuss more ways to alleviate pain naturally, please feel contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at 647-351-7282 to schedule a consultation today!
Our bodies require the right nutrition and nutrients to function correctly. When we do not get the proper intake of these things, different functions and responses stop working correctly. Not only does maintaining the right levels of nutrients help strengthen the body’s immune system, but it can also reduce the risks of autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune disease is a category of conditions classified by a dysfunction in the adaptive immune response, where the body’s immune cell have decided to target it’s own tissue. Its suggested that autoimmunity may be triggered by viral infections, dysbiosis, chronic stress, vaccines, or occupational/environmental exposures, but the full mechanism of action still remains unknown. In response to triggers, the immune system begins to treat healthy tissues as invaders and attacks them. Essential nutrients can help restore balance to the immune system, as well as repair the tissues it damaged. It may also help prevent these conditions from occurring.
Six nutrients people with autoimmune disease seem to lack include:
1. B Vitamins
All of the B vitamins serve important purposes inside our bodies including:
2. Vitamin D
Our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. However, most people do not receive enough sun exposure to produce sufficient levels of this important vitamin. Interestingly enough, vitamin D has improperly been named a vitamin, and functions more like a hormone in the body. It helps teach the T-cells how to distinguish between invaders, like viral and bacterial infections, as well as cells that are identified as “self”. As such, it helps prevent the immune system from attacking itself.
Zinc helps support multiple components of our bodies’ immune systems. It works at multiple layers from the skin cells to our lymphocytes. Zinc also works alongside B12 in promoting cell production of white blood cells.
4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Most people’s diets do not have sufficient Omega 3 fatty acids anymore, since our foods have higher levels of polyunsaturated and saturated oils in them. Omega 3 is a healthy animal fat found in fish and other foods like nuts and seeds. It helps support the absorption and utilization of B vitamins by the cells and promotes the production of appropriate antibodies and short term inflammatory prostaglandins.
Magnesium is a critical mineral for every day bodily function. Magnesium levels can quickly be depleted from eating diets high in sugars and from high levels of stress. Reduced magnesium levels have been found to result in more pro-inflammatory cytokines to be produced, which has an underlying correlation to of autoimmune disease.
Selenium helps regulate thyroid functions as well as immune responses. Proper levels of selenium help reduce thyroid antibodies and reduce risks of autoimmune disease.
To help prevent or reduce the risks of autoimmune disease you need to make sure you are getting these six essential nutrients every day. Also take note that individuals currently suffering from digestive autoimmune conditions, such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease may be experiencing impaired nutrient absorption, making appropriate doses of these critical nutrients through food and supplementation every more important.
For more information about autoimmune disease or to find out what nutrient deficiencies you have, please feel free to contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at 647-351-7282 to schedule a consultation appointment today!
If you’ve ever taken birth control pills and discontinued, you may have experiencedsomething known as post-birth control syndrome. It generally arises within the first 6 months of discontinuing, affects women of all ages, and has a wide array of symptoms. The severity is based on several factors, including how long you took the pill, the type of pill (dosage and hormone combination), your age, liver health, bowel regularity, and overall wellbeing.
Some of the more common symptoms one might experience after stopping the pill include acne and losing hair, and for some women it results in an absence of menses returning, known as amenorrhea. Other less common symptoms women may experience include:
Do some of these symptoms sound familiar? If you have recently stopped the pill or are considering discontinuing it soon, speak to your Naturopath, as you need to understand the impacts the pill had on your reproductive system, and the ways you can support the restoration of proper bodily function to prevent the onset of these unwanted symptoms.
Why Are You On the Pill?
Some women start the pill to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which is what it was originally designed to do. However, for other women, doctors might prescribe the pill to help manage their acne, to control hair loss, or to mitigate heavy, irregular, or painful periods.
Now don't get me wrong – in some cases the birth control pill may be your best option. However, one must recognize that managing imbalances with hormonal replacement fails to address the underlying root to the issue, for which conventional medicine has few alternative options.Instead, birth control pills“band-aide” the problem, leaving women toonce again deal with the issues should they decide to discontinue the pill or become pregnant. The pill has not resolved the imbalances. Rather, it has merely suppressed the symptoms, while the underlying issues remain unmanaged.
Instead, consider natural options to manage things like acne, heavy or painful periods, or hair loss. If you’re on, or considering using, the birth control pill for soul contraceptive purposes, weigh your options first. If you reference this chart released by the CDC, you’ll note that oral contraceptives, which contain combination hormones, have a 9% failure rate, meaning 9 in 100 women using the pill will becoming pregnant during use. However, intrauterine devices have been used globally with great success, have a less than 1% failure rate, and contain a low dose of the single hormone progesterone, or no hormones at all (if you choose the copper IUD). Side effects include cramping, heavier periods, expulsion, and a slightly increased risk of ectopic pregnancies should the IUD fail.
Post-Birth Control Syndrome Detox
Focusing on key body areas are essential for an effective post-birth control syndrome detox.
The first step is to support the body’s ability to rid of the synthetic hormones that are suppressing its natural ovulatory rhythm. Both synthetic and natural hormones are processed through the liver in phase I and II conjugation, which require many cofactors to convert steroid hormones into water-soluble metabolites for excretion.I place my patients on a comprehensive micro/macronutrient and botanical regime that provide phase I and II conjugation inducers to speed the removal of residual synthetic hormones that may be creating symptoms in post-birth control syndrome. This involves a revamp of the diet to ensure the nutrient rich foods we desire for healthy liver detox is the center of every meal, as well as gentle lifestyle adjustments to upregulate the liver enzymes of desire. Aggressive liver detoxes are unnecessary, and sometimes harmful.
Secondly, rebalancing your own hormones is essential. Years of exogenous, or synthetic hormonal exposure lead to low levels of endogenous, or natural estrogen production, and as a result, when the synthetic hormones are removed, the body sometimes struggles to catch back up.I’ll sometimes use ingredients like Vitex and Inositol that help support healthy ovulation, as well as a diet high in healthy fatty acidsto get patients cycles back on track. Because your body depends on your gut to remove excess hormones, gut health should also be assessed and supported to ensure excretion and balancing of the return of your own hormones is maintained. IBS, bacterial imbalances, and delayed transit times can be some of the primary reasons women experience some of the unwanted symptoms of hormonal imbalances.
Lastly, castor oil packs are a must! Castor oil applied to the liver and lower abdomen helps draw circulation and restore organ function in an incredible way!
If after a few months of support my patients periods are not returning, or symptoms of discontinuation syndrome are still present, further assessments for underlying conditions like PCOS are conducted, and comprehensive hormone testing may be necessary to aid in the proper diagnosis of underlying conditions.
To learn more about post-birth control syndrome and how to detox hormones naturally, contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at 647-351-7282 today!
Believe it or not, the foods we eat play an important role in helping our bodies manage our stress levels. During periods of time in which we feel overwhelmed with stress, it is easy to turn to “comfort foods” like ice cream, sugary sweets, chocolate, deep fried foods, pizza, and others that make us feel good.
Why do we crave these things, you might ask?
Well interesting enough, the foods we consume have a direct impact on the neurotransmitters our bodies eat. For example, eating dietary sugars and starches raise serotonin levels, giving you the temporary sensation of feeling calm and relaxed. Furthermore, the pleasure in doing so promotes dopamine release, which stimulates our reward system, and explains why the more sugar you have, the more your body will continue to crave it.
However, the problem with “comfort foods” is while they initially bring a brief moment of relief, they do not last.
Instead of reducing the stress, these foods can make us feel tired and lethargic by spiking or insulin and cortisol levels, which ultimately directly impact the levels of stress we are experiencing. Furthermore, consuming large quantities of “comfort foods” during high levels of stress can cause a drastic increase in “bad” cholesterol levels, increase our blood pressure, and create long-term risks associated with heart disease and heart attacks.
So when you are feeling overly stressed, rather than consuming your favourite “comfort foods”, its best to turn your attention to stress-reducing foods that are good for the body. Choosing the right foods can help increase the levels of serotonin, without spiking cortisol. You should also include foods that boost your immune system response, as increased stress for prolonged periods weakens immune responses, resulting in more frequent periods of illnesses.
The Dos and Don’ts
You should avoid simple carbohydrates, like sugar, because it is quickly digested by the body and only provides short-term calming effect. Stay away for sugary sodas, candy bars, and other foods that are packed full of sugar, corn syrup or other such sugar-based sweeteners.
Instead, choose complex carbohydrates because these foods provide the same calming effects as sugar, but last longer because they take longer to digest. Some of the foods considered complex carbohydrates include:
For sweet treats, consider citrus fruits, like oranges and grape fruits, that are high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C not only helps the adrenal glands to reduce stress levels, but also has added benefits for the immune system.
If you feel lethargic or are experiencing an increase in the frequency and duration of headaches, along with elevated stress levels, this often indicates you are not getting a sufficient amount of magnesium in your diet. Magnesium is found in green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach. You will also find magnesium in salmon and soybeans, so you have several options.
Additionally, salmon (and other darker meat fish) are considered a good source of Omega-3s, which are great for controlling spikes in the hormones that cause stress and at the same time, help reduces risks of heart attack, heart disease, pain syndromes, depression and PMS. Remember to always source wild fish, or use supplements.
Bonus tip: Sugar cravings can sometimes mean you’re not getting enough fat in the meal prior. Up your fat intake to offset these cravings.
Increasing the amount of vegetables in your daily diet can help combat energy crashes throughout the day. To get the most benefits from veggies, try to sauté them lightly or steam them vs boiling or frying them.
Lastly, stay away from high sugar fruits, like bananas and tropical fruits. While the sugar is natural, it still spikes insulin (and ultimately cortisol) the same way refined sugar will. Always aim to eat fruits with a high fiber food like oat bran or flax, as it helps to offset this effect.
For natural health tips for fighting increased stress levels, please feel free to contact Toronto Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Courtney Holmberg, at 647-351-7282 to schedule a full health assessment today!