top of page

Search Results

88 items found for ""


    As a naturopathic doctor dedicated to promoting 'healthspan' (aka the length of time a person is healthy and free from chronic disease), I often find myself in front of frustrated patients who have been met with resistance from our public health on the ability to access preventative measures for their health. ​ Unfortunately, this is one major place where our health care system falls short, as it appears to have evolved into what I commonly refer to as a 'sick care' system. Unless you are presenting with overt symptoms, you are presumed to be 'fine'. But without blood work, we're given no objective information to base this on. I sit across from patients on the daily who have asked and been denied the baseline knowledge on their health, and report feeling like this information is being gatekept from them. In a world where chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are rampant, prevention becomes paramount. The value of preventative blood work Blood work is a window into the body's inner workings, and it provides numerous insights into various aspects of our health, from cholesterol levels to organ function and beyond. By analyzing key markers in your blood, we're able to detect potential issues early on, often before symptoms arise. Furthermore, it provides baselines to monitor change, allowing us to identify issues as they arise and before they become disease. Imagine being able to intercept health concerns before they escalate into full-blown diseases. Early detection is precisely what preventative blood screening offers. By identifying abnormalities in your blood chemistry, we can intervene swiftly with lifestyle changes, medication, or other interventions to halt the progression of disease. But how can we prevent what we cannot see? This is where blood screening becomes invaluable. Introducing 'The Wellness Check' After years of watching patients turn to private healthcare platforms and expensive medical clinics to collect the information they are after in regards to their health longevity, I've formulated a series of tests in which I'm referring to as The Wellness Check - a comprehensive list of biomarkers that provides objective insight into our most important bodily systems. Preventative screening can be as simple as a blood draw. The Wellness Check includes 48+ biomarkers to gain comprehensive insight into all areas of your health, including the following: ​ ✓ inflammation markers ✓ metabolism ✓ hormonal health ✓ heart health ✓ detoxification ✓ recovery & endurance ✓ nutrition status In today's era of information proliferation, knowledge confers power. Equip yourself with insights into your health by considering preventative blood screenings, and adopting a proactive stance on your health trajectory. Not only does early detection empower individuals to implement timely interventions to mitigate the progression of disease, but preventative blood work also facilitates personalized healthcare, allowing for tailored interventions based on an individual's unique biomarker profile. By monitoring key markers such as cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, inflammatory markers, etc, healthcare providers can not only patient's detect and manage chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease but also proactively address risk factors for future health issues. Ultimately, preventative blood work fosters a culture of health and wellness by empowering individuals to take charge of their health, leading to improved health outcomes, enhanced quality of life, and an extended health span. Let's start approaching medicine as 'healthcare ', not 'sickcare '. To learn more about The Wellness Check, or preventative strategies to optimize your health span, contact Dr. Holmberg, ND at 647 351 7282, or visit us online.


    Your body relies on hormones or chemical messengers to regulate your physical, mental, and emotional health. As such, hormonal imbalances can negatively impact everything from your mood to your weight. Hormone imbalances can occur for several reasons. Some are less within our control, but the list includes a sedentary lifestyle, age, and diet. Thankfully, you can restore your general health and well-being by learning natural ways to balance your hormones. Take Care of Your Gut Health Your gastrointestinal tract is home to countless friendly bacteria contributing to your metabolic process. The microbiome in your gut can positively and negatively influence your body's hormone production and effectiveness. The bacteria in your GI tract can help you feel full and keep insulin resistance low. On the other hand, unfriendly bacteria could activate inactive estrogen in your gut, causing your body to resorb too much estrogen. Consider adding fermented and probiotic foods like kimchi and yogurts to improve your gut health. Eating a diverse diet can also help maintain the different friendly microorganisms your body needs. Removing inflammatory things like alcohol and sugar can also make a big impact on your microbiome diversity. Eat a Balanced Diet One of the most impactful ways to balance your hormones is to be mindful of what you eat. The best habits for a balanced diet for natural hormone regulation are: Low Sugar Intake: Too much sugar in your diet raises inflammation and can lead to significant metabolic hormone imbalances like insulin resistance. High Fiber Intake: Fiber promotes good gut health, feeds beneficial flora, and helps to balance hormones that contribute to weight gain. Lots of Protein: Adding enough protein to your diet ensures your body has the amino acids that it can't make on its own. Eating protein also helps create protein-based hormones that regulate stress, appetite, growth, and energy. Plenty of Healthy Fats: Healthy fats like coconut and olive oils can help you stay full, regulate your metabolism, and control your appetite. Find Ways To Reduce Stress Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone." It's responsible for helping the body deal with long-term stress. Unfortunately, constant stress makes it hard for your cortisol levels to even out, resulting in increased appetite and weight gain. Signs of elevated cortisol may include: ​​Fatigue Mid-section weight gain Swelling in the legs and face Mood swings Irregular periods Mental fogginess Muscle weakness and dizziness Try to relieve your stress daily by doing enjoyable, calming activities like reading, listening to soft music, and meditating. My personal favourite is a regular practice of breath work. Get High-Quality Sleep Nightly One of the most important (and often overlooked) things to do to balance your hormones and metabolism is to get enough sleep every night. Sleeping under seven hours nightly has been shown to negatively impact insulin sensitivity, increase cortisol levels, and restrict the release of growth hormones. There are also internal circadian rhythms that serve to control glucose metabolism and similar rhythms of lipid metabolism, regulated through the actions of various clock genes. A lack of sleep results in a loss of the clock gene rhythm, which not only negatively impacts hormonal rhythms and metabolism, but is also associated with obesity, insulin insensitivity, and diabetes. The key is to stick to a sleep routine and aim for at least 7 - 8 hours of sleep each night, ideally occurring at the same time every night. Practicing a good wind-down routine 1-2 hours before bed can help, such as avoiding screens, dimming the lights, and not eating before bed. Also, limiting sugar intake the day after your sleep is disrupted can help get you back on track. Naturopathic Support for Hormonal Imbalances Managing your stress levels, eating well, and enjoying good, quality sleep each night are all-natural ways to balance your hormones. If and when these things don’t seem to be working, it may be best to consult a doctor to determine if something more problematic may be causing your hormonal imbalances. With guidance from Dr. Courtney Holmberg, a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, you can uncover the key to your hormone balance. Dr. Holmberg offers several comprehensive testing options to uncover the medical reasons behind hormonal imbalances. To learn more about comprehensive hormone testing, follow the link here, or give Dr. Holmberg, ND, a call today at (647) 351-7282 for an appointment.


    As a Naturopathic Doctor deeply committed to the well-being of my patients, I have witnessed the challenges posed by autoimmune diseases and the limitations of conventional treatments. The complex nature of these conditions demands a comprehensive approach that not only addresses symptoms but also explores the root causes. In this blog, I aim to shed light on the potential benefits of incorporating natural medicine into the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Understanding Autoimmune Disease Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body, leading to chronic inflammation and a range of symptoms. Conventional treatments often involve immunosuppressive medications that come with a host of side effects and may not provide a long-term solution. Naturopathic medicine, while rooted in traditional practices, has a growing body of evidence for its assistance in immunomodulation and offers an alternative perspective on healing autoimmune diseases. While it may not replace conventional treatments, it can complement them and contribute to a more balanced and sustainable approach. Patients of mine will often hear me saying, “We need to stop poking the bear.” When you stop to understand how autoimmunity works, in the simplest of perspectives, it's an overreaction of the immune system. In order to stabilize this reaction, we have to eliminate the triggers. Common sources may include stress, poor sleep, processed foods, environmental toxins, microbiome imbalances, and so on. Working one-on-one with a Naturopath allows you to explore these possibilities and eliminate your triggers. Naturopathic Medicine in Autoimmunity Let's explore some key approaches you may expect to see when treating autoimmunity with Naturopathy. Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Nutrition plays a crucial role in managing inflammation, a hallmark of autoimmune diseases. An anti-inflammatory diet rich in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help modulate the immune response and reduce symptoms. Eliminating processed foods, and sometimes even gluten and dairy, may also alleviate inflammation. Herbal Supplements: Certain herbs have been studied for their anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties. Turmeric, ginger, and reishi, for instance, contain bioactive compounds that may help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. Incorporating these herbs into daily life can be a gentle yet effective way to support the body. Probiotics and Gut Health: The gut is intimately connected to the immune system, and imbalances in gut bacteria have been linked to autoimmune conditions. Probiotics, found in fermented foods like yogurt and kefir, can promote a healthy gut microbiome. Supporting gut health through dietary changes and supplementation may positively impact autoimmune symptoms. Mind-Body Techniques: Stress is a known trigger for autoimmune flare-ups. Mind-body practices such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can help manage stress and create a more harmonious balance within the body. Integrating these practices into daily life can contribute to overall well-being. Adequate Sleep: Quality sleep is essential for immune function and overall health. Establishing good sleep hygiene and prioritizing rest can positively impact autoimmune conditions by supporting the body's natural healing processes. While natural medicine offers promising avenues for managing autoimmune diseases, it is essential to approach treatment holistically. Consultation with a healthcare professional who understands both conventional and natural approaches is crucial for creating an individualized treatment plan. As a Naturopathic doctor, I advocate for an integrative approach that combines the best of modern medicine with the wisdom and benefits of natural treatments. By embracing the bounty of nature and optimizing overall wellness, we can strive towards a more balanced and sustainable path to recovering from autoimmune diseases. For further support, contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, by calling the office at 647 351 7282 today.


    Many people today are familiar with gluten, and often know a friend or family member with a gluten intolerance (or may even experience it themselves). And in that same breath, you’ll often hear this group of people also say “but I travelled to Italy, ate all the pasta, and I felt fine”. I know I do in practice (on the regular). But have we ever stopped to ask ourselves why that is? According to estimates, only approximately 1% of the global population may have actual celiac disease, but a significantly higher portion of the population reports similar but milder symptoms when exposed to wheat. These symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, brain fog, and headaches. This group is labelled as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (or NGCS), and it’s just assumed gluten is the culprit. So then why the tolerance to Italian gluten? Herein lies my point. If the gluten protein truly was the culprit, then the source of grain wouldn’t matter. What is the difference, you may ask? Mass production and genetic modification aside, one common North American practice that’s done to a vast majority of our grains, is fortification. Fortification of flour - particularly, wheat flour - was a public health strategy introduced in the 90’s aimed at reducing the incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs) like spina bifida and anencephaly. It involves the addition of folic acid to wheat flour, as folate is a crucial nutrient for fetal development and helps prevent these birth defects. While every country and region mandates different standards on this practice, Canada, by law, requires all refined wheat to be enriched and fortified with key vitamins and minerals, including folic acid. The most common grains are ‘whole grain whole wheat’, ‘whole wheat flour’ and ‘white enriched wheat flour’ found in the baking section of the grocery store in all products like bread, bagels, wraps, English muffins, etc. That means if you flip a label and reach ‘fortified’ or ‘enriched’ wheat flour, your grains have added folic acid (amongst other B vitamins and minerals). Sounds healthy for you, right? Well, not for all. Folic acid is a man-made substance (much different than methylfolate which is the naturally occurring b vitamin found everywhere in our diet) and it needs to be converted into its active form, tetrahydrofolate (THF), by the body's enzymes, primarily the MTHFR enzyme, to be used in metabolic processes. It’s estimated that approximately 44% of the population carries error codes in their DNA that prevent proper operation of the MTHFR gene, commonly referred to as a ‘Methylation Defect’. Methylation defects often refer to abnormalities or variations in genes involved in the methylation process, which is crucial for various biological functions. Methylation is a biochemical process that involves adding a methyl group (CH3) to DNA, RNA, proteins, or other molecules, influencing gene expression, cellular signalling, and metabolism. Without getting too technical, it essentially means that if you’re a carrier of these defective genes, you can’t convert folic acid into the active form necessary for daily life. And for a carrier of this gene, exposure to folic acid can create a host of problems, (interestingly, similar to those presented in ‘non-celiac gluten sensitive” patients) potentially affecting the body's ability to utilize folate effectively. This can lead to a buildup of unmetabolized folic acid in the bloodstream, which might interfere with natural methylation processes. Genes associated with methylation defects can include: MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase): This gene is involved in processing folate and is critical for the conversion of homocysteine to methionine, a process essential for DNA methylation. DNMTs (DNA Methyltransferases): These genes encode enzymes responsible for adding methyl groups to DNA, thereby regulating gene expression. Variations in DNMTs can affect methylation patterns and gene regulation. TET (Ten-Eleven Translocation): TET genes are involved in DNA demethylation, counteracting the action of DNMTs. Mutations or alterations in TET genes can affect the balance of DNA methylation. MAT (Methionine Adenosyltransferase): Genes involved in producing S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), a critical methyl donor in various methylation reactions. Other related genes: There are numerous other genes involved in the complex process of methylation, such as genes encoding proteins involved in folate metabolism, one-carbon metabolism, and methyl-donor pathways. Variations or mutations in these genes can potentially lead to altered methylation patterns, affecting gene expression and cellular functions. Methylation defects have been associated with numerous other health conditions, including neural tube defects, cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, and certain cancers. Is there a solution to your gluten intolerance? Testing for specific methylation defects often involves analyzing these genes or assessing methylation patterns in DNA. However, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional or a genetic counsellor if you suspect or are concerned about methylation defects. They can provide guidance on testing, interpretation of results, and determine potential health implications. For individuals concerned about methylation defects or those with known MTHFR variations, exploring alternatives to high-dose folic acid supplementation might be beneficial. This could involve consuming natural forms of folate found in foods like leafy greens, legumes, citrus fruits, and fortified cereals. Additionally, considering methylated forms of folate or other methyl donors, under the guidance of a healthcare professional, might support methylation processes more effectively in these cases. As a general rule of thumb, avoiding ‘fortified’ grains will also aid in limiting exposure to unmethylated b vitamins, aka folic acid, and may improve, if not resolve your 'gluten intolerant' symptoms. In Conclusion Methylation defects underscore the intricate interplay between genetics, nutrition, and health. While folic acid remains essential for many, especially in preventing neural tube defects, its impact on individuals with specific genetic variations associated with methylation warrants thoughtful consideration. Work with your naturopathic doctor to understand the complexities of methylation defects and their relationship with folic acid supplementation, to empower yourself to make informed choices, promoting better health outcomes tailored to your genetic profiles. For further support, contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, at 647 351 7282 today.


    Your gastrointestinal system is home to trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi, collectively known as your gut microbiome. This complex community of microorganisms plays a critical role in your overall health. An imbalance in your gut can contribute to issues like inflammation, autoimmunity, metabolic disorders, and even anxiety and depression. The good news is there are natural, effective ways to support a healthy gut microbiome. Here are a few simple yet powerful tips to improve your gut health, Naturopath approved: Simple ways to improve your gut health: Load up on prebiotic fibres. Prebiotic fibres act as fertilizer for the good bacteria in your gut. Focus on getting more prebiotic foods like garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, bananas, apples, flaxseeds and chia seeds. Aim for 25-40 grams of fibre per day minimum. Start slowly if increasing fibre intake to avoid gas and bloating. More diverse fibres nourish more diverse gut microbes. Your Naturopathic Doctor can help customize your prebiotic fibre intake depending on your lifestyle needs and find solutions for you that don’t worsen pre-existing gas and bloating. Eat fermented foods regularly Fermented foods are a source of natural probiotics, meaning they contain beneficial microorganisms to build diversity in your gut. Try incorporating fermented options like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, cultured yogurt, kombucha (watch for sugar), miso, tempeh, and pickles. Choose raw, unpasteurized versions when possible (note: all yogurt in Canada is pasteurized, so you need to look for sources that are recultured with probiotics). The more variety of fermented foods, the better for your gut diversity. Take a high-quality probiotic While diet provides probiotics, a supplement can deliver a therapeutic, concentrated dose. Look for a broad spectrum with multiple strains, at least 20-50 billion CFUs, and strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. A naturopath can advise the optimal probiotic and dosage based on your health goals, and help specify which strains might be ideal for more specific health needs. Manage stress We’re fortunate to now have numerous studies that appreciate the connection between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. Research repeatedly shows that chronically elevated stress levels lead to negative impacts on your gut microbiome balance, amongst other things like the vagus nerve communication, gut hormone signalling, the immune system, tryptophan metabolism, and microbial metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids. Make time for stress-relieving activities like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, nature walks and hobbies. Get enough sleep, reduce caffeine, and avoid alcohol excess. Learning to manage stress effectively promotes a healthy gut (and, therefore, mind). Avoid unnecessary antibiotics Antibiotics are crucial when truly needed, but they also indiscriminately kill off good bacteria. Only take antibiotics for bacterial infections when prescribed by your doctor. Always finish the entire course. Trying to avoid them when unnecessary earlier on in life can have a significantly positive impact on not only how your microbiome develops but also your stress responses, immune system, and gastrointestinal and nervous system (lowering the possibility of IBS). Taking a high-quality probiotic during and after antibiotic use can also help to prevent dysbiosis. Stay active Regular exercise helps increase microbial diversity and the growth of beneficial bacteria species. Aim for 30-60 minutes of moderate activity most days. Mix up your workouts to get the greatest microbiome benefit. Movement keeps your gut microbes happy. Drink Bone Broth Warm, savoury bone broth made from chicken, beef, or fish bones provides gut-healing compounds like collagen, glutamine and glycine. Sip bone broth as a snack or light meal. You can also use bone broth as the base for soups and stews. This nourishing beverage soothes and seals your gut lining. In conclusion, Optimizing your gut health provides a foundation for overall well-being. Support your microbiome by feeding gut bacteria with prebiotic fibres and probiotics. Limit gut-disrupting factors like stress, antibiotics and inactivity. Heal and seal your gut lining with bone broth. A flourishing, diverse microbiome equates to better health. Consulting with a naturopathic doctor can provide individualized guidance on how to improve your gut health through nutrition and lifestyle changes, but also on how to implement these suggestions to reduce risk and side effects. Book an appointment with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND, to learn more about improving your gut health. Dr. Holmberg is a leading naturopathic doctor in Toronto with a clinical focus on evidence-based protocols to optimize digestive health and microbiome balance. References: Foster JA, Rinaman L, Cryan JF. Stress & the gut-brain axis: Regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiol Stress. 2017 Mar 19;7:124-136. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2017.03.001. PMID: 29276734; PMCID: PMC5736941. Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Gut instincts: microbiota as a key regulator of brain development, ageing and neurodegeneration. J Physiol. 2017 Jan 15;595(2):489-503. doi: 10.1113/JP273106. Epub 2016 Dec 4. PMID: 27641441; PMCID: PMC5233671. Mohajeri MH, Brummer RJM, Rastall RA, Weersma RK, Harmsen HJM, Faas M, Eggersdorfer M. The role of the microbiome for human health: from basic science to clinical applications. Eur J Nutr. 2018 May;57(Suppl 1):1-14. doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1703-4. PMID: 29748817; PMCID: PMC5962619.


    When we think of hormones, the first images that pop into our minds are often complex biochemical pathways within our endocrine system. However, recent scientific discoveries have shed light on an unexpected player in the intricate symphony of hormone regulation: the gut microbiome. This expanding field of research has unveiled a remarkable connection between the gut microbiota and estrogen levels, introducing us to the world of the "estrobolome." The Gut Microbiome: A Microscopic Ecosystem The gut microbiome is an intricate ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms residing in our gastrointestinal tract. These microorganisms play a crucial role in digestion, immune system regulation, and even the synthesis of certain vitamins. Recent studies have extended their influence even further, uncovering their role in modulating the levels of sex hormones, particularly estrogen. Estrogen is a pivotal hormone that contributes to the development and function of reproductive organs in females, but its effects extend far beyond reproduction. It plays a role in bone health, cardiovascular health, mood regulation, and more. Maintaining the right balance of estrogen is essential for overall well-being. The term "estrobolome" refers to the collective gut microbiota that are involved in metabolizing and influencing estrogen levels. These bacteria encode enzymes that can either promote the breakdown of estrogen into less active forms or lead to the production of more active forms of the hormone. One key player in the estrobolome is an enzyme called β-glucuronidase. This enzyme has the ability to deconjugate estrogen metabolites, allowing them to be reabsorbed into the bloodstream. To simplify, when estrogen is metabolized in the liver, it is often attached to other molecules (conjugated) to make it water-soluble and easier for the body to eliminate. However, when β-glucuronidase is overly active, it can break these conjugates, allowing estrogen metabolites to be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream instead of being excreted. This can lead to higher levels of active estrogen circulating in the body. Balancing Act: Gut Health and Estrogen Levels A higher level of active estrogen can potentially have various effects, both positive and negative. On the positive side, it might contribute to better bone health and cardiovascular function. On the negative side, an excess of active estrogen has been associated with an increased risk of estrogen-related cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer. The types and amounts of bacteria in the gut can influence the activity of the estrobolome, thereby affecting estrogen metabolism. A healthy gut microbiome seems to promote the excretion of estrogen metabolites in their less active forms, helping to maintain a balanced hormonal environment. On the other hand, an imbalanced gut microbiome, often referred to as dysbiosis, could lead to excessive β-glucuronidase activity and an increased risk of estrogen-related health issues. Several factors can influence the composition and function of the gut microbiome, including diet, antibiotic use, lifestyle choices, and more. Diets rich in fibre and plant-based foods are associated with a healthier gut microbiome, while a diet high in processed foods and low in fibre can negatively impact it. Antibiotics, while sometimes necessary, can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, potentially affecting estrogen metabolism. Implications for Health and Future Research Understanding the estrobolome and its connection to estrogen metabolism opens new avenues for personalized healthcare and disease prevention. Imbalances in estrogen levels have been linked to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, cystic breast disease, and even certain cancers. Manipulating the gut microbiome to influence estrogen metabolism could potentially offer novel therapeutic strategies. As the field of microbiome research advances, scientists are exploring ways to harness the power of probiotics, prebiotics, and dietary interventions to optimize estrogen metabolism. However, it's important to note that this is still a relatively new area of study, and more research is needed to fully comprehend the complexities of the estrobolome and its impact on health. The connection between the gut microbiome and estrogen levels is a remarkable revelation that underscores the intricate interplay between our bodies' systems. The estrobolome's role in influencing estrogen metabolism introduces a fresh perspective on hormone regulation and presents opportunities for innovative approaches to healthcare. As researchers continue to unravel the mysteries of the gut-estrogen connection, we are on the cusp of a new era in personalized medicine, where understanding and supporting the gut microbiome could have far-reaching implications for hormonal health and overall well-being. To learn more or explore how your gut health may be influencing your hormones, contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto at (647) 351-7282 or by scheduling an initial consult today.


    Intermittent fasting is unlikely to be news to you by now. It has gained considerable attention in recent years as a promising dietary strategy for improving health, promoting weight loss, and potentially extending lifespan. While it may seem like a trendy diet fad, the concept of intermittent fasting has deep roots in human history and is backed by a growing body of scientific research. From stabilizing blood sugar levels to boosting brain function, intermittent fasting has proven to be a lifestyle change with incredible advantages. However, like any diet change, it must be done correctly, and it may not apply to everyone. Let’s delve into the science behind intermittent fasting, examining its potential benefits and exploring the various methods of implementation. Intermittent Fasting & Blood Sugar Benefits Blood sugar regulation is crucial for maintaining overall health, preventing chronic diseases, and improving life expectancy and longevity. Intermittent fasting has been proven by numerous studies to have significant benefits on glucose control and insulin resistance. At a certain point when we fast, our body goes into a state of ketosis, where it starts to use stored fat as fuel instead of glucose. This shift in energy metabolism helps regulate blood sugar levels by reducing insulin resistance and decreasing fat-based body mass. Additionally, intermittent fasting promotes the release of a special hormone known as adiponectin, which plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels. Higher adiponectin levels have been linked to better insulin sensitivity as well as lower risk of developing diabetes. Intermittent Fasting & Inflammation Benefits Inflammation is among the body's natural responses to protecting against foreign invaders and healing damaged tissues. However, chronic inflammation causes various health issues, such as arthritis, heart disease, autoimmunity, and even cancer. One key benefit of intermittent fasting is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. When we fast, our body enters a state called autophagy (1), where it starts breaking down old cells and repairing damaged ones. This process helps eliminate toxins, waste products, damaged cells and proteins, which overall help to reduce inflammation. Intermittent Fasting & Memory and Mood Benefits Memory and mood play a crucial role in our overall well-being. Intermittent fasting has been found to be beneficial for both memory and mood. When we fast intermittently, our brain undergoes certain physiological changes that can enhance cognitive function and boost memory. Research has shown that intermittent fasting stimulates the production of a protein called BNDF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, that promotes the growth of new neurons and strengthens existing ones (2). However, most (if not nearly all) of these research studies were done in men. A number of studies conducted that included women have reported side effects, including hunger, mood swings, lack of concentration, reduced energy, and headaches on fasting days (3,4). It may also increase the risk of depression in both men and women (5). Modified methods of intermittent fasting (which we’ll discuss in a moment) should be considered for women. Heart Health and Weight Loss Benefits The cardiovascular system is critical for overall well-being, and intermittent fasting can significantly improve heart health. Fasting has been shown to not only reduce blood pressure levels but also prevent heart attacks due to its benefits of promoting weight loss. Excess weight stresses the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of conditions like coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction. Furthermore, since intermittent fasting has been found to decrease inflammation in the body, it benefits the cardiovascular system by lowering the chronic inflammation that is closely linked to various heart diseases like atherosclerosis and congestive heart failure. A Note on Intermittent Fasting in Women Above and beyond the well-known benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss, heart health and inflammation, there are some more unique considerations when we consider the totality of research and how it applies to intermittent fasting in women. Overall, the data is lacking. Most studies have been conducted exclusively in men. However, some literature on fasting in women highlights the following: Hormonal Changes: Women experience hormonal fluctuations throughout their menstrual cycle, including changes in estrogen and progesterone levels. Some studies suggest that women's responses to fasting may vary depending on their menstrual phase. For instance, fasting during the luteal phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle) might be more challenging due to increased hunger and cravings. Fertility and Reproductive Health: There are concerns about the impact of intermittent fasting on women's fertility and reproductive health. Extreme forms of intermittent fasting, especially those leading to rapid weight loss or very low-calorie intake, may disrupt the menstrual cycle and, in some cases, lead to amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). This can have implications for fertility and bone health. The best approach to intermittent fasting for women generally considers a modified approach, such as the ‘Crescendo Method’ which involves fasting 12–16 hours for two to three days a week on non-consecutive days, for the ‘16/8 Method’ where fasting is done for 16 hours a day, and all calories are eaten within an eight-hour window. Women are advised to start with 14-hour fasts and eventually build up to 16 hours. Conclusion Intermittent fasting is incredibly powerful in offering numerous health benefits. From regulating blood sugar levels and reducing inflammation to improving memory and mood, the advantages of intermittent fasting are truly impressive. With that being said, it's always best to listen to your body and consult a health expert before commencing any new diet/eating regimen or fasting program. There's more to intermittent fasting benefits than what's covered above. Most importantly, you need an intermittent fasting program crafted to match your body type, health, and special needs/lifestyle without exposing you to risks. To learn more about whether intermittent fasting is right for you (or working for you), contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, a Naturopathic doctor in Toronto, at 647-351-7282 today. References: Pak M, Bozkurt S, Pınarbaşı A, Öz Arslan D, Aksungar FB. Effects of Prolonged Intermittent Fasting Model on Energy Metabolism and Mitochondrial Functions in Neurons. Ann Neurosci. 2022 Jan;29(1):21-31. doi: 10.1177/09727531211072303. Epub 2022 Feb 2. PMID: 35875426; PMCID: PMC9305913. Seidler K, Barrow M. Intermittent fasting and cognitive performance - Targeting BDNF as potential strategy to optimise brain health. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2022 Apr;65:100971. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2021.100971. Epub 2021 Dec 18. PMID: 34929259. Heilbronn LK, Smith SR, Martin CK, Anton SD, Ravussin E. Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):69-73. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/81.1.69. PMID: 15640462. Harris L, Hamilton S, Azevedo LB, Olajide J, De Brún C, Waller G, Whittaker V, Sharp T, Lean M, Hankey C, Ells L. Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2018 Feb;16(2):507-547. doi: 10.11124/JBISRIR-2016-003248. PMID: 29419624.


    Berberine, a natural compound found in several plants like Goldenseal and Oregon Grape, has gained recent attention for its potential to aid in weight loss, largely due to the sensationalization of Ozempic and its dramatic impacts seen in many celebrities. Recent scientific studies have revealed promising effects of Berberine on reducing insulin resistance, as well as regulating hormones that play a crucial role in blood sugar regulation, appetite control, and overall metabolic health. While Berberine's effects are not as direct as those of GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic, emerging research suggests that Berberine can influence GLP-1 levels and activity, contributing to its potential benefits in managing insulin resistance and weight loss, but with possibly fewer side effects. How Does Berberine Work? Enhances Insulin Sensitivity: Berberine has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance, a condition where cells become less responsive to insulin, can lead to elevated blood sugar and weight gain. By improving insulin sensitivity, Berberine helps cells effectively take up glucose from the bloodstream, reducing the need for excess insulin production. This not only supports blood sugar control but can also contribute to weight loss by preventing excessive fat storage. GLP-1 Release and Regulation: GLP-1 is a hormone produced in the intestines in response to food intake. It stimulates insulin secretion from the pancreas, suppresses glucagon release (which reduces blood sugar levels), slows down gastric emptying, and promotes feelings of fullness. Berberine's impact on GLP-1 is complex and is thought to involve multiple mechanisms. Some studies suggest that Berberine can indirectly influence GLP-1 release by improving gut health and increasing the number of GLP-1-producing cells in the intestines, and can therefore help with overall blood sugar regulation and appetite control. Regulates Fat Metabolism: Berberine can influence the expression of genes related to fat metabolism. It activates an enzyme called adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which plays a key role in cellular energy regulation. Activation of AMPK promotes fat breakdown (lipolysis) and inhibits the formation of new fat cells (adipogenesis). These effects lead to reduced fat accumulation and support weight loss. Inhibits Gluconeogenesis: Berberine has been found to inhibit gluconeogenesis, the process by which the liver produces glucose. This is significant because excessive glucose production by the liver can contribute to high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. By reducing gluconeogenesis, Berberine helps to lower overall glucose levels in the bloodstream, resulting in better blood sugar control and increased weight loss. Modulates Gut Microbiota: Emerging research suggests that Berberine may have a positive impact on gut health and the composition of gut microbiota. A balanced gut microbiome is associated with better metabolic health and weight regulation. Berberine is thought to influence the gut environment in ways that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and suppress harmful ones, which could contribute to improved weight management. Appetite Regulation: Berberine may also impact appetite regulation by influencing hormones that control hunger and satiety. Along with its impacts on GLP-1, some studies suggest that Berberine can influence the release of hormones like ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in appetite control. By helping to reduce appetite and promote feelings of fullness, Berberine can support individuals' struggles with portion control and in making healthier food choices. Comparing Berberine Against Ozempic? Ozempic, on the other hand, works by mimicking the action of GLP-1, a hormone produced in the intestine. It binds to GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas, promoting the release of insulin and inhibiting the release of glucagon. This mechanism helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance. Additionally, Ozempic slows down the emptying of the stomach, leading to increased feelings of fullness and reduced appetite (aka an appetite suppressant). So is Berberine really "Nature's Ozempic''? Although they share the common goal of managing insulin resistance and promoting weight loss, there are notable differences in their origin, availability, and mechanisms of action. Origin: Berberine is a natural compound derived from plants, while Ozempic is a pharmaceutical drug synthesized for specific therapeutic purposes. Availability: Berberine is available as a dietary supplement and can be purchased over the counter, whereas Ozempic requires a prescription from a healthcare professional. Mechanism of Action: Berberine exerts its effects through AMPK activation, increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing hepatic glucose production, and promoting fat breakdown. Ozempic, on the other hand, mimics GLP-1, enhancing insulin secretion, suppressing glucagon release, slowing down gastric emptying, and reducing appetite. Clinical Evidence: Both Berberine and Ozempic have been studied extensively for their effects on insulin resistance and weight loss. Multiple clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of Berberine in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing body weight. Similarly, Ozempic has shown significant efficacy in reducing HbA1c levels (a measure of long-term blood sugar control) and aiding weight loss in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Duration of use: While Ozempic's impacts can be seen in as little as 4-5 wks, a few studies have shown that taking a berberine supplement over the course of three months results in significant weight loss. Possible Risks and Side Effects Some of the most common issues associated with Berberine are as follows: Gastrointestinal Distress: diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, or stomach upset when taking Berberine. Starting with a lower dose and gradually increasing it may help reduce the likelihood of these symptoms. Low Blood Pressure: Berberine has been shown to have a blood pressure-lowering effect. While this can be beneficial for individuals with hypertension, it could potentially lead to low blood pressure (hypotension) in those with already low blood pressure levels. Interactions with Medications: Berberine has the potential to interact with various medications, including certain antibiotics, anticoagulants, and blood-sugar-lowering drugs. Consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial, especially if you are on any medications, to avoid potential interactions. Microbiome Health: berberine has antimicrobial properties, and can influence the beneficial flora of your digestive tract. This would be a possible risk factor to those with a history of extensive antibiotic use, IBS, and pre-existing gut bacterial imbalances. Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to Berberine or plants containing it. Allergic symptoms could include rash, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing. Liver & Kidney Function: While Berberine is generally considered safe for the liver, individuals with pre-existing liver conditions should exercise caution and consult a healthcare provider before using it. Berberine's impact on electrolyte levels, particularly potassium, has been noted in some studies. People with conditions that affect electrolyte balance, such as kidney problems, should use Berberine cautiously and under medical supervision. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: There is limited research on the safety of Berberine during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should avoid using Berberine without consulting their healthcare provider. Long-term Safety: While short-term use of Berberine appears to be well-tolerated, the long-term safety of extended use is not fully understood. Regular medical check-ups and monitoring are advisable if you plan to use Berberine for an extended period. Comparatively, Ozpemic maintains the same side effect profile, but with more notable long-term concerns, such as pancreatitis, gallbladder issues, possible thyroid tumours, and damage to kidney function, not to mention the harmful metabolic impacts from appetite suppression and resultant calorie restriction. Furthermore, individuals experiencing rapid weight loss from drugs in this category will also see a decline in muscle mass, and more concerningly, are at increased risk for bone loss & reduced bone density. So is Berberine really Nature's Ozpemic? As you can see, while Berberine can offer promising benefits for weight loss, it's not a magical solution on its own. It works best when incorporated into a comprehensive approach that includes a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and other healthy lifestyle habits. Before starting any new supplement, including Berberine, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications to ensure that any interventions are safe and appropriate for your individual health needs. To further discuss available options to safely expand your toolkit for optimizing your hormones and metabolic health, contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto at 647 351 7282 today. References: Davies, M., Pieber, T. R., Hartoft-Nielsen, M. L., Hansen, O. K., Jabbour, S., Rosenstock, J., ... & Bode, B. (2017). Effect of oral semaglutide compared with placebo and subcutaneous semaglutide on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized clinical trial. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 318(15), 1460-1470. Mosenzon, O., Blicher, T. M., Rosenlund, S., Eriksson, J. W., Heller, S., Hels O., ... & Davies, M. (2020). Efficacy and safety of oral semaglutide in patients with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (PIONEER 6): A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3a trial. The Lancet, 396(10253), 863-874. Yin, J., Gao, Z., Liu, D., Liu, Z., & Ye, J. (2008). Berberine improves glucose metabolism through induction of glycolysis. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 294(1), E148-E156. Zhang, Y., Li, X., Zou, D., Liu, W., Yang, J., Zhu, N., ... & Ning, G. (2012). Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 93(7), 2559-2565. Lee YS, Kim WS, Kim KH, Yoon MJ, Cho HJ, Shen Y, Ye JM, Lee CH, Oh WK, Kim CT, Hohnen-Behrens C, Gosby A, Kraegen EW, James DE, Kim JB. Berberine, a natural plant product, activates AMP-activated protein kinase with beneficial metabolic effects in diabetic and insulin-resistant states. Diabetes. 2006 Aug;55(8):2256-64. doi: 10.2337/db06-0006. PMID: 16873688. Utami AR, Maksum IP, Deawati Y. Berberine and Its Study as an Antidiabetic Compound. Biology (Basel). 2023 Jul 8;12(7):973. doi: 10.3390/biology12070973. PMID: 37508403; PMCID: PMC10376565. Sun S, Yang Y, Xiong R, Ni Y, Ma X, Hou M, Chen L, Xu Z, Chen L, Ji M. Oral berberine ameliorates high-fat diet-induced obesity by activating TAS2Rs in tuft and endocrine cells in the gut. Life Sci. 2022 Dec 15;311(Pt A):121141. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2022.121141. Epub 2022 Oct 29. PMID: 36341914. Zhang Q, Xiao X, Li M, Li W, Yu M, Zhang H, Ping F, Wang Z, Zheng J. Berberine moderates glucose metabolism through the GnRH-GLP-1 and MAPK pathways in the intestine. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jun 9;14:188. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-188. PMID: 24912407; PMCID: PMC4057525.


    When we think about body recomposition (aka drop fat and build muscle), most of us assume that diet and exercise are the most critical pieces. And while that may be true, it's equally as important to consider the role of hormones in this equation, including maintaining close control of insulin levels. To understand how to optimize insulin levels for muscle growth and function, we must first take a moment to understand what insulin is, and what role it plays in our physiology. What Is Insulin? Insulin has become a very popular hormone in mainstream media and social channels recently, primarily because of some fad drugs many celebrities use for weight loss. Insulin is an anabolic (aka storage) hormone released by the beta islet cells of the pancreas in response to rises in glucose levels. This growth hormone helps the body process carbohydrates by signalling cells in the muscles, heart and liver to uptake glucose from the bloodstream to either process it as energy or store it for later use. Interestingly, it also regulates the breakdown of muscle proteins. What is Insulin Resistance? Insulin resistance is a metabolic condition characterized by the body's reduced sensitivity or responsiveness to the effects of insulin. It occurs when cells become less able to efficiently take up and utilize glucose in response to insulin signalling. Several factors contribute to the development of insulin resistance: Obesity: Excess body fat, particularly visceral fat (fat around the abdominal organs) is strongly associated with insulin resistance. Adipose tissue releases inflammatory substances called adipokines, which interfere with insulin signalling and disrupt glucose uptake. Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to the development of insulin resistance. Regular exercise improves insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to respond better to insulin and utilize glucose. Genetics: Family history and certain genetic factors can predispose individuals to insulin resistance. Specific gene variants are associated with impaired insulin signalling and glucose metabolism. However, it's important to remember that genetics alone do not determine the development of insulin resistance - environment and lifestyle factors almost always play a role. Processed diet: A diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugary foods, and saturated fats can contribute to insulin resistance. Consuming excessive amounts of these foods can lead to chronically elevated blood sugar levels and subsequent insulin overproduction, leading to insulin resistance over time. Chronic inflammation: Inflammation, often associated with conditions like obesity and metabolic syndrome, can interfere with insulin signalling pathways and promote insulin resistance. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, as the pancreas compensates by producing more insulin to overcome the reduced effectiveness of insulin. As such, prolonged insulin resistance can overwhelm the pancreas and cause it to fail, leading to insulin deficiency and high blood sugar levels. How Does Insulin Affect Muscles? Insulin plays a crucial role in muscle development by regulating various metabolic processes. When insulin is released by the pancreas in response to increased blood sugar levels, it facilitates the uptake of glucose into muscle cells. This glucose serves as an energy source for muscle contraction and replenishes glycogen stores for future use. Furthermore, insulin promotes protein synthesis in muscle tissue. It stimulates the transportation of amino acids into muscle cells, which are the building blocks for protein synthesis. Increased insulin levels also inhibit protein breakdown, creating a more favourable environment for muscle growth and repair. Insulin also aids in nutrient delivery to muscles by enhancing blood flow. It promotes vasodilation, leading to increased blood circulation and nutrient supply to muscle tissue. This ensures a sufficient oxygen and nutrient supply for optimal muscle function and growth. However, it's important to note that while insulin supports muscle development, excessive insulin levels resulting from conditions like insulin resistance or diabetes can have negative effects. High insulin levels can contribute to fat storage and actually hinder muscle growth. Therefore, maintaining a balanced insulin response through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and proper insulin management is crucial for maximizing muscle development. What This Means for You It's important to note that finding optimal insulin balance is a complex task influenced by various factors. Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, following a balanced diet, and managing other metabolic risk factors are always key. However, there are a few strategies almost anyone can try to optimize muscle mass growth. To improve insulin levels for muscle mass growth, here are some strategies that can be beneficial: Balanced Diet: This one seems obvious, but still needs to be said. Focus on consuming a well-balanced diet (instead of cutting major foods like carbs or fats) that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Include lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Avoid excessive intake of refined sugars, alcohol, and processed foods, as they can negatively affect insulin sensitivity. Macronutrient Distribution: Distribute macronutrients appropriately in your diet. Ensure an adequate intake of protein to support muscle growth and repair, as well as sufficient carbohydrates to provide energy for workouts and replenish glycogen stores. While the optimal protein intake for individuals can vary greatly, a good rule of thumb to calculate the necessary intake is between 0.8 - 1.2 g of protein per kg body weight. However, intense training may require an intake of up to 2.0 g/kg body weight, so always consult your clinician on this. Timing of Carbohydrate Consumption: Time your carbohydrate intake around your workouts. Consuming carbohydrates before and after exercise can help optimize glycogen replenishment and enhance insulin sensitivity. Saving carbohydrates until later if the day if your insulin is high can help prevent elevated baseline levels all day, and result in better long-term insulin responses. Regular Exercise: Also a given, but here's your reminder to engage in regular resistance training exercises that target major muscle groups. Resistance training has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and promote muscle growth. Incorporating cardiovascular exercise into your routine can also have positive effects on insulin sensitivity. Optimal types and quantities of exercise vary based on the individual, but a general guideline for adults is to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (walking, biking, swimming, dancing) per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (running, high paced cycling, HIIT) spread across the week. Sleep and Stress Management: This is where I see most people struggle. Prioritizing sufficient sleep and effective stress management is a must. Lack of sleep and chronic stress can negatively impact insulin sensitivity by driving more cortisol and gluconeogenesis (increasing blood sugar from storage). Aim for 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep and adopt stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or engaging in activities you enjoy. Regular Medical Check-ups: Regularly monitor your blood sugar and insulin levels by consulting with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance on managing insulin levels and assess any underlying health conditions that may affect insulin sensitivity. It's important to note that individual requirements may vary, and consulting with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized guidance and support in optimizing insulin levels for muscle mass growth is recommended. Finding the best approach to overall fitness can be challenging with so much information (and misinformation) everywhere, so speaking with a professional can help you find the right combination of diet and exercise to reach your fitness and overall health goals. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, call us at (647) 351-7282 for more information.


    In today's fast-paced world, anxiety has become prevalent, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. While medical interventions can be crucial for severe cases, many individuals with mild to moderate anxiety might benefit from exploring natural methods to manage their symptoms. As a medical professional, I recognize the importance of a holistic approach to health that combines traditional medicine with lifestyle changes and natural remedies. In this blog, we'll delve into the most researched and effective strategies to manage anxiety naturally. 8 Natural Strategies to Manage Anxiety Prioritize Sleep Quality One of the most underestimated contributors to anxiety is inadequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can increase stress hormones, exacerbating anxiety and decreasing your ability to cope with daily challenges. Establish a regular sleep schedule, create a calming bedtime routine, and ensure your sleep environment is conducive to relaxation. Avoid electronic devices before bed, as the blue light emitted can disrupt your sleep cycle. Stay Physically Active Regular exercise is a potent natural remedy for anxiety. Physical activity releases endorphins, which are known as "feel-good" hormones. Engaging in activities like jogging, swimming, yoga, or even a leisurely walk can positively impact your mood. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Mindfulness and Meditation Mindfulness practices and meditation have gained significant recognition for their ability to reduce anxiety. These techniques encourage you to focus on the present moment, helping to break the cycle of worry about the future. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can all be valuable tools in managing anxiety naturally. A 2013 study published in the journal "JAMA Internal Medicine" compared mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) with an SSRI (sertraline) and a placebo in adults with generalized anxiety disorder. The study found that both MBSR and sertraline significantly reduced anxiety symptoms, with MBSR showing efficacy similar to the medication. Additionally, the study found that MBSR had a more durable effect over time after treatment discontinuation. Another study published in the journal "Depression and Anxiety" in 2016 examined the effects of mindfulness meditation versus an SSRI (escitalopram) in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. The study found that both interventions effectively reduced anxiety symptoms, and mindfulness meditation showed comparable efficacy to the SSRI but without the side effects. Balanced Diet and Hydration The food you consume can impact your mood and anxiety levels. Focus on a well-balanced diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts have been linked to reduced anxiety. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar, as they can exacerbate feelings of restlessness and nervousness. Staying hydrated is equally important, as dehydration can amplify stress. Herbal Remedies Several herbal remedies have shown promise in managing anxiety. Valerian root, passionflower, ashwagandha, and chamomile are often used in herbal teas or supplements to promote relaxation. However, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating these supplements into your routine, especially if you're already taking medication or have underlying health conditions. Adequate Nutritional Supplements Certain nutrients play a role in maintaining optimal brain function and mood regulation. Magnesium, for instance, has been linked to reduced anxiety symptoms. B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, and folate, are essential for healthy brain function. Consult with a healthcare provider about getting proper blood work to assess for deficiencies and before taking any supplements to ensure they're appropriate for your needs. Limit Stimulants and Alcohol While it might be tempting to turn to stimulants like caffeine or alcohol for temporary relief, these substances can actually exacerbate anxiety in the long run. Caffeine can increase heart rate and nervousness, while alcohol's depressant effects can disrupt sleep patterns and exacerbate anxiety. Limit Screen Time Excessive screen time, particularly on social media or news platforms, can contribute to anxiety by exposing you to constant information and potential stressors. A study published in the journal "JAMA Pediatrics" in 2019 found that high levels of screen time were associated with a higher likelihood of experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety in adolescents. The study suggested that screen time, particularly on social media platforms, might contribute to feelings of inadequacy and social comparison, which could increase anxiety. Furthermore, research published in "Computers in Human Behavior" in 2020 explored the relationship between screen time and psychological well-being in young adults, and to no surprise, the study found that higher levels of screen time were associated with higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Consider setting boundaries on your screen time and designating tech-free periods throughout your day. Anxiety management is a personalized journey; what works for one person may not work for another. Natural approaches can be valuable tools in managing anxiety, but it's crucial to remember that seeking professional guidance is essential, especially if your anxiety is severe or persistent. A medical professional can provide personalized recommendations based on your individual health status and needs. Combining these natural methods with expert advice allows you to take meaningful steps towards a calmer, more balanced life. To see how a Naturopathic Doctor can approach your anxiety holistically, contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, ON, at 647 351 7282 or by booking online here. Anxiety can be challenging to manage, but you do not need to do it alone.


    Let’s be honest - hair is often a defining feature of our appearance and an extension of our identity. For many women, our hair is also a means of self-expression. That's why hair loss can be very distressing and impact self-esteem. There are various reasons why women experience hair loss, ranging from genetics to lifestyle factors. In this blog, we will explore the most common causes of women's hair loss and shed light on potential solutions. Androgenetic Alopecia (Female Pattern Hair Loss) Androgenetic alopecia, also known as female pattern hair loss, is one of women's most prevalent causes of hair loss. Androgens are a group of hormones, including testosterone, which are predominant in men but are also produced in smaller amounts in women. Hair follicles in the scalp have androgen receptors, which means they can be influenced by these hormones. In some cases, when the balance between androgens and other hormones shifts, hair follicles can become more sensitive to the androgens. This increased sensitivity can lead to a process called "miniaturization," where hair follicles shrink over time and produce thinner, shorter, and less pigmented hair strands. Genetics plays a significant role in determining susceptibility to this condition. Conventional treatment options range from topical minoxidil solutions to prescription medications like spironolactone and finasteride, but often only help while in use and may not resolve the issues long term. Nutritional Deficiencies Vitamins and minerals are essential for hair growth and maintenance. Deficiencies in nutrients like iron, biotin, zinc, and vitamin D can lead to hair loss. Iron is often the most common cause seen in practice, with research suggesting approx 60% of individuals experiencing hair loss present with iron deficiencies. A balanced diet rich in lean proteins, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and dark leafy greens can help combat hair loss due to nutritional deficiencies. Hormonal Changes Hormonal fluctuations can also play a substantial role in women's hair loss. Hormones naturally fluctuate in women due to various life stages such as puberty, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. These fluctuations can impact the hair growth cycle. During pregnancy, for example, higher estrogen levels prolong the growth phase (anagen) of the hair cycle, resulting in fuller hair. However, estrogen levels drop rapidly after childbirth, and many hairs enter the resting (telogen) phase simultaneously, leading to postpartum hair shedding. Hormonal changes during menopause can also lead to hair thinning due to decreased estrogen levels and potential androgen dominance. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism), and chronic stress can also lead to hair thinning. Treating the underlying hormonal imbalance often results in improved hair health. Telogen Effluvium Telogen effluvium is a reversible condition that occurs when there is an abrupt shift in the hair growth cycle. This shift leads to increased hair follicles entering the resting (telogen) phase, followed by shedding. Common triggers include significant physical or emotional stress, major surgeries, rapid weight loss, childbirth, and certain medications. The hair loss is diffuse and occurs all over the scalp. While not much can be done to immediately reverse the shedding, managing the underlying cause and ensuring a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can aid hair regrowth. Traction Alopecia Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss caused by repeated pulling or tension on the hair follicles. Tight hairstyles like braids, weaves, and ponytails can lead to hair loss, particularly around the hairline and temples. Avoiding tight hairstyles and giving hair regular breaks can prevent further damage. Medical Conditions and Medications Certain medical conditions such as alopecia areata (an autoimmune disorder), lupus, and scalp fungal infections can lead to hair loss. Additionally, some medications used to treat cancer, depression, arthritis, and high blood pressure can have hair loss as a side effect. Stress Chronic stress can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle. Elevated cortisol (aka our ‘stress’ hormone) disrupts the normal hair growth cycle by pushing more hair follicles into the resting phase, resulting in hair shedding. Practicing stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help mitigate its effects on hair health. Hair loss in women can result from a combination of genetic, hormonal, nutritional, and lifestyle factors. Understanding the root causes of hair loss is the first step toward finding effective solutions. If you're experiencing significant hair loss, it's advisable to consult your healthcare professional to identify the underlying cause, as it may often not be one factor in isolation causing the hair loss, and more importantly, hair regrowth may not occur under the root cause has been accurately addressed. If you aren’t sure what to do about hair loss, call (647) 351-7282 for a consultation with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto. Dr. Holmberg will assist in getting answers as to why your hair is falling out and solutions to address the issue and improve your overall health. Make an appointment today to learn more about testing and a natural approach to health. References: Treister-Goltzman Y, Yarza S, Peleg R. Iron Deficiency and Nonscarring Alopecia in Women: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Skin Appendage Disord. 2022 Mar;8(2):83-92. doi: 10.1159/000519952. Epub 2021 Nov 19. PMID: 35415182; PMCID: PMC8928181. Ho CH, Sood T, Zito PM. Androgenetic Alopecia. [Updated 2022 Oct 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: Birch MP, Lalla SC, Messenger AG. Female pattern hair loss. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2002 Jul;27(5):383-88. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2230.2002.01085.x. PMID: 12190638. Sinclair R, Patel M, Dawson TL Jr, Yazdabadi A, Yip L, Perez A, Rufaut NW. Hair loss in women: medical and cosmetic approaches to increase scalp hair fullness. Br J Dermatol. 2011 Dec;165 Suppl 3:12-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10630.x. PMID: 22171680.


    Menopause can be a challenging transition, impacting not only a women’s quality of life, but her relationships, health goals, and career. Not to mention the day-to-day symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and anxiety can be debilitating, with few options for relief. Herbal therapies and nutraceuticals can certainly help lessen the severity of these symptoms. Still, for many women, they’re also taking into consideration the long-term impacts of the loss of estrogen on their cardiovascular health, bone health, and, most importantly, brain health. Many women and clinicians alike are familiar with the option of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) - in more updated terminology, 'menopause hormone therapy' (MHT) - through and after menopause, but many don’t take advantage of their use due to decades-old research from the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 stopping their study due to researchers finding that the combination of estrogen and progestin had an increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, stroke, and blood clots (1). Data shows the use of HRT following this study dropped by approximately 80% (2). However, since then, numerous meta-analyses and long-term observational data have helped paint a more well-rounded realm of research to inform clinical care guidelines surrounding HRT. Now, we just have to work to raise educated awareness and break the stigmas. A Summary of the Latest Hormone Replacement Therapy Data: The 2002 WHI study flaws/misinterpretations were that primarily older women were at high risk from the use of hormones. The benefits of hormone therapy generally outweigh the risks for healthy women who are under 60 years old and were initiated within ten years from the onset of menopause. In an 18-year follow-up study among ~28,000 post-menopausal women, all-cause mortality (aka death in general) and cause-specific mortality (aka death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other significant causes) was seen to be no different between the intervention group and the placebo group when HRT was used for a median of 5.6-7.2 years (3). In the same study, the authors conclude that when HRT use is introduced early in menopause, women generally live longer than those who didn't take hormones. Furthermore, according to pooled stats of over 30 RCTs, women who started HRT before age 60 had a 39% lower risk of death than those who didn't take hormones. Although total cancer mortality did not differ significantly between intervention and placebo groups, significant increases in breast cancer were seen in the treatment group using oral estrogen plus progestins (3,4). Findings for breast cancer point to an adverse effect from progestin (artificial progesterone) on the breast epithelium (3), but are linked to favourable effects on decreasing endometrial cancer with long-term use. Important things to consider: these studies only evaluate one dosage, one formulation of a hormone, and one route of administration (aka not transdermal estrogen and bioidentical progesterone); thus, results are not necessarily generalizable to all patients and hormone preparations. The loss of estrogen through menopause has been linked to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, explaining why women are at higher risk than men of developing it later in life (5). Brain imaging studies show a lower metabolic state in the brain has been observed through the menopause transition in women, likely relating to increased brain amyloid-beta deposition as compared to premenopausal women and age-matched men (6). Estrogen replacement therapy for young women transitioning through menopause (under 60 and within 5 years of menopause) is a promising option for preventing this hypometabolic brain state and reducing the risk of Alzheimer's (especially in those genetically predisposed). However, for women older than 60 or 5+ years after menopause, or for those presenting with signs of dementia already, HRT may actually increase the risks. Each cause should be looked at individually. This leads to our next question… What about Bioidentical Hormones Increased breast cancer risks were seen in groups using oral hormones, with synthetic progestins. Since these studies, newer formations of hormones that were not widely used at the time of these studies, such as transdermal estrogen and micronized progesterone. Transdermal estrogen shows superior benefits since it is applied across the skin and therefore surpasses the liver, minimizing negative impacts on liver function and the risk of blood clots and strokes. Furthermore, the most available literature so shows that when transdermal estrogen is used in combination with oral micronized progesterone, no increased risk of breast cancer has been observed thus far. Where else is HRT beneficial? Outside of menopause (loss of menses > 1 year) and perimenopause (a loss of or delay in menses > 7 days after age 45), premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) occurs when the loss of ovarian function and associated hormones declines prior to age 40. These women experienced extended periods of their lifespan without the protective impacts of estrogen and progesterone, and as such, are at significantly greater risk of bone loss & osteoporosis, cognitive disorders, and premature mortality (largely associated with cardiovascular disease). This group of women is often offered an oral contraceptive as a management tool; however, synthetic hormones do not equate to the same health benefits as physiological replacement of deficient hormones and as such, do not provide the same protection as HRT. If you've been given 'the pill' to manage your premature ovarian insufficiency, I highly encourage you to revisit your options. Contraindications to consider While numerous health benefits may be seen for those interested in using MRT/HRT to manage menopause, personal medical history must always be considered. The risks will likely outweigh the benefits in groups of women who have a personal history of breast, endometrial, as well as any hormone-receptive-positive cancer, including those with known BRCA or HER genetic family history. This is why all use of hormone replacement must be considered on a case-by-case basis, with informed consent, so you know your risks. In conclusion, women are more likely to suffer from hormone-related challenges through menopause (with many reporting negative impacts on their sleep, work performance, and relationships, and each case must be looked at individually) than be given the option of considering hormone replacement to manage their symptoms or lower their risks. If you suspect you may be showing early signs of perimenopause, if you’re in the midst of menopause symptoms, or if you wish to discuss the use of BHRT, schedule your initial consult with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND, at 647 351 7282 today. References: Manson JE et al. Menopausal hormone therapy and health outcomes during the intervention and extended poststopping phases of the Women's Health Initiative randomized trials. JAMA. 2013 Oct 2;310(13):1353-68. Manson JE, Kaunitz AM. Menopause Management--Getting Clinical Care Back on Track. N Engl J Med. 2016 Mar 3;374(9):803-6. Manson JE, Aragaki AK, Rossouw JE, et al. Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Long-term All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: The Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Trials. JAMA. 2017;318(10):927–938. Manson JE, Chlebowski RT, Stefanick ML, et al. Menopausal hormone therapy and health outcomes during the intervention and extended poststopping phases of the Women’s Health Initiative randomized trials. JAMA. 2013;310(13):1353-1368.'s%20protective%20effects,of%20the%20amyloid%2D%CE%B2%20protein. Scheyer O, Rahman A, Hristov H, Berkowitz C, Isaacson RS, Diaz Brinton R, Mosconi L. Female Sex and Alzheimer's Risk: The Menopause Connection. J Prev Alzheimers Dis. 2018;5(4):225-230. doi: 10.14283/jpad.2018.34.

bottom of page