Autoimmunity is an umbrella term for a number of medical condition with one common problem: the immune system. In autoimmunity, the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies healthy cells as invaders, and attacks them. This disease can present in various forms, and can affect any part of the body. For some, autoimmunity can disrupt hormone production, as in Hashimoto’s or Graves. In other people, it can present as symptom of inflammation, fatigue, and pain. Some people even experience neurological changes, as in cases of MS.
And while autoimmunity is not news to modern medicine, the increased number of reported cases per year is. It poses the questions - why are incidence reports on the rise, what, if anything, is causing its increase, and is there anything we can do about it?
Eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains is just generally good for us, but as it turns out, eating a high plant-based diet may help lower your risk for developing many chronic health conditions, including cancer. While no single food or combination of foods can eradicate cancer, studies have shown that the combination of compounds found in certain foods — when part of a healthy diet — can help significantly increase your anti-oxidant intake, and decreasing our risk of developing a number of disorders, including cancer.
The phytochemical compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, along with antioxidants and a host of vitamins and minerals, all work in conjunction to provide cellular repair. Foods alone cannot cure cancer, but a healthy diet can go a long way toward minimizing your risk. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, “In laboratory studies, many individual minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals demonstrate anti-cancer effects. Evidence suggests that it is the synergy of compounds in the overall diet that offers the strongest cancer protection.” In other words, make sure that your plate is colourful and is part of a well-balanced and healthy diet.
While many foods can play a key role in an anti-oxidant diet, here are a few suggestions to make sure you have on hand:
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.
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!
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.
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!
As we age, our bodies often remind us we are getting older. While other parts of our body may start to show signs if aging, our digestive systems are not always affected as much by aging as we may believe. However, there may be certain foods you once enjoyed with ease that are now causing stomach upset if you over indulge. And while food intolerances are always a possibility, these new symptoms do not necessarily mean we have developed intolerances for certain foods.
Certain changes to digestion do occur as we age. These include:
1. Slowed digestive response. As digestion response slows it requires more time to break down the food in our stomachs. As a result, we can feel full for a much longer period of time after consuming a large meal, which may also make us feel bloated.
2. Less elasticity of the stomach. The stomach also becomes less elastic, meaning rather than being able to consume an entire pizza, like we could when we were teenagers, we are only able to eat a few slices before we start to feel full.
3. Lactase production decreases. As we age, the body slows how much lactase (the enzyme that breaks down the sugar, lactose, in milk) is produced, which can cause some of us to become lactose intolerant or start to feel the effects of consuming too many dairy products, like gas and intestinal cramping. Contrary to popular belief, lactose intolerance is not a “condition”. It's a normal process of aging, and your body’s attempt to preserve resource (since milk is for babies, not adults).
4. Bacteria growth expands into the small intestine. While normal “gut” bacteria is essential to proper digestion, as we age, it is not uncommon for the bacteria to extend beyond the large intestine and into the small intestine and can make it seem like we have food intolerances (commonly termed SIBO).
5. Contractions weaken or slow in the large intestine. Feeling of constipation are not uncommon as we get older and is caused by this age-related factor.
6. Illnesses – Age-related reduced immune responses can affect the digestive system.
7. Medications – Certain medications can affect the digestive system and could have side effects similar to symptoms of food intolerances.
8. Failing to Change Eating/Dietary Habits – As we get older, what we eat, how much, and when are directly related to digestive problems sometimes mistaken as intolerances to food.
Going back to our original question, the primary type of food intolerance we may develop as we get older is an enzymatic intolerance to certain foods, such as dairy products. This type of food intolerance is where the body no longer produces the right amount of enzymes needed to properly digest the food.
In conclusion, if you are experiencing digestive problems related to specific foods, it does not necessarily always mean you have developed an intolerance to a food or food group. It may in fact mean your body has developed an inability to properly digest it. As a result, it may be time for some dietary changes to maintain a healthy digestive system.
If some of the above points are effecting you, it is best to speak with naturopathic doctor to determine the underlying to your concerns. You can book an appointment for a full health assessment with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND at her naturopathic clinic in Toronto by calling 647.351.7282 today!
Gluten is a grain protein found in wheat, spelt, barley, and rye. Its also added as a filler to many dressings and sauces, such as soya sauce. Individuals with intolerances to gluten may experience a number of symptoms, including but not limited to gas, bloating, diarrhea/constipation, joint pain and/or swelling, fatigue, brain fog, mood issues such as anxiety or depression, headaches, mouth ulcers, and dermatitis herptiformis (unique to celiac disease). And while gluten intolerances exist, the list of associated symptoms is very broad and non-specific, meaning the same symptoms can also be seen in a number of other medical conditions such as food intolerances, anemias, dysbiosis, hypochlorhydria, and so on. Its always best to talk to your Naturopath or Family Doctor before deciding to sustain a gluten free diet.
The most important fact I want to highlight here is this...
A product labelled "gluten free" does NOT mean it's a healthier alternative.
Now let me be clear... following a gluten free lifestyle lays some important groundwork for a less refined, more whole foods, and overall healthier diet.
However, the mistake is made when, instead of limiting refined foods like breads, crackers, and pastas altogether, people reach for their gluten-free alternatives. To shed evidence on the situation, new and interesting research coming out of Harvard University found after reviewing 30 years worth of medical data that individuals limiting or completely avoiding gluten had a 13% increased risk of type 2 diabetes . Now does that mean gluten prevents diabetes? Unlikely. But what it does suggest is that gluten free foods often contain less fibre and other macronutrients helpful in preventing metabolic disorders. Secondly, the most common ingredients found in gluten free alternative products are rice and corn. Most of the corn in these pastas are genetically modified, and because corn flour doesnt stay together as well as wheat, a number of chemical binding agents get added to the mix to create a wheat like texture. A cup of brown rice pasta has a glycemic index (GI) of 92 and a glycemic load (GL) of 52 !!! (I call it diabetes in a box), vs a cup whole wheat pasta with a GI of 37 and a GL of 17 . Also, if you didn't know, rice is loaded in arsenic, with brown rice being the highest source of it. Without going into too much detail on this topic, I'll direct you to the Environmental Working Group's website, who has a great resource here highlighting the problems with arsenic, how it's getting into our rice, and ways to limit/avoid it .
So yes, this Naturopath enjoys the occasional slice of toasted whole grain bread with brunch, and the occasional hoppy brewed beverage on a summer patio. I'm fortunate to not experience a gluten intolerance, which means I don't limit it completely, but I also dont consume it often. My diet tends to limit refined carbohydrates in general, gluten and gluten-free all the same.
Remember, the foods that were always gluten free (ie popcorn) are now re-branding with gluten free labels in hopes of catching a few more consumers who are getting in on the action. We must act as educated consumers, or else it becomes very easy to fall victim to the next biggest health trend, and miss the mark completely.
Moral of the story, if you're going gluten free, part ways with refined carbohydrates instead of reaching for the chemically altered, less nutritious gluten free substitutes. And for goodness sakes, eat your veggies.
 Low gluten diets may be associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes. American Heart Association Meeting Report Presentation 11. March 09, 2017. http://newsroom.heart.org/news/low-gluten-diets-may-be-associated-with-higher-risk-of-type-2-diabetes?preview=076d
 The University of Sydney Glycemic Index Database. http://www.glycemicindex.com/www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice
 Arsenic is in rice - should you worry? Evironmental Working Group Food Database. http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice
We have all been there, had a nervous sensation before speaking in front of a large group of people, or a “pit” in the bottom of our stomachs as we started a new job with a new employer. These “gut feelings” actually have a connection to our brains. It is believed there is a second brain within the gut to handle digestion and other functions. Scientists are continuing to discover how this “second brain” and the microbiome affects our emotions, state of mind, and relation to a variety of illnesses, diseases, and conditions.
Our Feelings and Our Gut
Have you ever felt so stressed out you sought comfort in a pint of ice cream or some other sugary, salty, or deep fried food or snack? If so, this is just one aspect of our guts and brains talking to each other. When we become overly stressed, it leads to anxiety. This triggers the body’s natural “flight or fight” response and releases adrenaline into our systems. Along with the adrenaline, another hormone, called cortisol is released.
Cortisol tricks the gut into thinking it is hungry, even though you are not. Until the stress is reduced and brought back down to more manageable levels, the body continues to release cortisol. For someone, who is highly stressed, this can result in overeating, or what many of us refer to as “stress eating,” as a means to address the stress.
Our Mood and Our Gut
Besides stress, other emotions and moods we experience have a direct link to our guts. For instance, if we are overly excited, we are full of energy as the gut works to release energy and burn calories. On the other hand, if we are feeling sad or depressed, our gut functions can slow down or could cause the gut to become upset where we have a “sour” or “burning” feeling in our gut, or experience nausea.
Conditions of the Gut
Many types of gastrointestinal medical conditions, like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, and food sensitivitiesare believed to directly related to various types of disorders some people suffer from including anxiety, autism, depression, and ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
In people suffering from these conditions, the make-up of their gut’s microbiome is different, compared to people without these disorders. Fortunately, there are natural remedies available to help change how the microbiome functions and restore order to the gut and improve its connection with your brain.
To start, you also want to aim to incorporate these three power foods to rebalance gut function and microbiome.
Of course, the best place to learn how to address concerns over your own brain-gut connection, is to schedule a visit with a qualified health professional.
Schedule a consult with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND to learn how naturopathic medicine can rebalance your gut for good. Book online or call 647-351-7282 today!
Our skin provides us with a wonderful reflection of what’s occurring below its surface. Contrary to popular belief, acne is not a result of improper facial hygiene. It typically presents itself as the unfortunate indicator that there's an internal problem. And while most reach for the latest and greatest topical products that promise results, many forget to ask the important question of "why is this happening in the first place?"
The root to acne formation is centered on the oil gland, known as the sebaceous gland. Hormonal changes, inflammatory foods, disrupted skin pH, etc. can lead to changes in the quality and amount of sebum produced, creating low level inflammation. This inflammation can plug the follicle, creating little papule-like lesions called closed comedones. Bacteria see these comedones as honeymoon destinations, and the more overgrown with bacteria these blocked follicles become, the larger and more cystic the resulting "pimple". If the cyst ruptures below the dermis, the lesions last a lot longer and are more likely to trigger scarring.
So how do we manage it? Since lesions are most commonly the result of oxidative damage and hormonal imbalances, the trick is to work from the inside out.
© 2018 Courtney Holmberg ND. All rights reserved. Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND does not endorse or have professional affiliation with any discussed supplement or lab companies. All material provided is for general education and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to assist in diagnosing to treating a medical condition. Legal & Medical Disclaimer, sitemap