You’re careful about your health. You do your best to eat well, and you pay attention to the ways that your diet affects your energy levels....but something seems off. You’re experiencing annoying symptoms that you can’t explain. You’re often gassy and bloated, your skin may not be clear and glowing anymore, you may be ready for a nap after a meal and you wish you could remember where you put your keys. Why does your memory feel so foggy?
These issues are frustrating (and often embarrassing) and they’re also very common. Many patients that come to see me are already living a fairly healthy lifestyle, but are baffled by continuing digestive issues, mysterious rashes, and low energy levels. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to take a good look at your diet. Even a “healthy” food can make you sick if your body is sensitive to it, even if you're eaten it your whole life without issues until now. For many, the food mystery becomes both frustrating and overwhelming when trying to understand what foods are nourishing you and not making you feel terrible.
The good news is that you may not have to look very far to make changes that relieve your symptoms. With a bit of detective work, and a bit of help, you can map out a dietary plan that restores your well being.
What are the Symptoms of Food Sensitivity?
Food sensitivities can be tricky to diagnose. Symptoms can vary widely from person to person and can even be different depending on what else is happening in your body. For example, you might respond differently at different stages of your menstrual cycle, or if you’ve been under more stress or not sleeping as well.
Food sensitivities can cause or contribute to:
Another reason why a food sensitivity is often a missed diagnosis is that these symptoms can be delayed up to 72 hours after a meal, so many people don’t make the connection between what they ate and how they feel. Even the most incredibly observant people can find it difficult to notice that they feel brain fog 3 days after eating a “normal” food.
Similarly, it’s difficult to measure how many people suffer from food sensitivities because a lot of us don’t seek medical help, figuring that it’s “normal” to feel gassy and tired all of the time. In fact, conventional medical practitioners can be skeptical about food sensitivity symptoms, which can lead to frustration for patients. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
What Causes Food Sensitivities?
It’s important to recognize the difference between food allergies, food intolerances, and food sensitivities. Food allergies are immune reactions. After eating a certain food, your body’s immune system launches an attack by making its own protein, called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The next time you consume that food, your body is ready to attack again. The IgE causes your body to release a chemical called histamine, which triggers the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction. This is the type of allergy reaction one has to pollens and dander. With food, it can cause frightening anaphylaxis reactions.
A food intolerance occurs when the body loses the ability to produce a certain digestive enzyme. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body cannot produce the lactase enzyme, and fructose intolerance occurs when a body cannot produce the fructase enzyme. Eating foods with lactose or fructose will then cause gas/bloating and diarrhea to occur (and can be a sign of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)..
A food sensitivity reaction occurs when you eat a food and it forms an antigen/antibody reaction. That is, a different part of your immune system binds to the food, the IgG reaction. Those immune complexes can cause intestinal and systemic problems in the body and mind. There are specialty labs that can detect this reaction. In our practice, we use Alletess Labs to identify these reactions.... and one blood draw can uncover up to 184 food sensitivity reactions!
If we continue to eat that food sensitivity, the lining of the gut can become inflamed and damaged. Eventually, it can become permeable, so the undigested material “leaks” into the bloodstream. Not surprisingly, this is called “leaky gut” syndrome or intestinal hyperpermeability.
What is the root cause of food sensitivities? And why are they becoming increasingly common?
There are many medical reasons:
Which Foods Can Cause Food Sensitivities?
Uncovering food sensitivities is a fantastic reason for seeing a Naturopathic Doctor – we have the tools to help identify if a particular food is making you sick. In addition, medical supervision can ensure your approach to food remains healthy and balanced. Research suggests that food sensitivities can be a trigger for disordered eating in some people. After all, if food is causing you pain, but you’re not sure which foods are to blame, it’s easy to associate your diet with negative experiences.
How Can You Treat Food Sensitivities?
At our office, we identify and address foods sensitivities with this approach:
Sometimes food sensitivities are only the tip of the iceberg and we have to go deeper and look to other causes of your symptoms. You can read more about that here.
Uncovering food sensitivities is a truly a game-changer for many of our patients. If you suspect that something is off, I would love to offer you a complimentary Health Discovery session to see if our approach is right for you.
Estrogen – it’s not a dirty word.
Estrogen plays an important role through the course of our reproductive lives and beyond. It regulates our menstrual cycle, strengthens our bones, controls our cholesterol, and much more. When our estrogen levels go “out of tune” we experience PMS or menopausal symptoms. But even before menopause, varying levels of this vital hormone can wreak havoc. That’s because estrogen requires a delicate balance with other hormones. When that balance is disturbed, we can experience a wide range of frustrating symptoms.
This hormonal imbalance often occurs during a particularly busy time of our lives, the period from about age 25 through to menopause. As a result, our practice sees many women who are dealing with unexplained weight gain, mood swings, and libido problems. But there is help available. A few simple steps can help you restore balanced estrogen levels and feel like yourself again.
How Do You Know if You Have Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance can impact many areas of our lives, with symptoms that range from subtle shifts to major disruptions in wellbeing. Many women in this age group assume these issues are a normal part of aging or a consequence of their busy schedules. Just because it is common, does NOT make it a healthy normal!
Even a slight imbalance in hormone levels can lead to a number of problems.
Symptoms can vary greatly by person, but often include:
Does that list look familiar? I see many women in my practice each month with complaints like these. I totally understand how frustrating they can be, especially when you’re unable to find effective treatment. And, of course, the complex relationship between estrogen and our emotions can only magnify the frustration. Who wants to feel irritated about feeling irritable?
It’s not only women who can experience estrogen dominance. You may be surprised to know that men can suffer an excess of estrogen as well. In men, estrogen dominance can manifest a bit differently, with some of these symptoms being common:
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
To understand estrogen dominance, we have to consider the role of another important hormone, progesterone. Progesterone and estrogen maintain an often tricky seesaw in our bodies. Prior to menopause, the balance shifts at different stages of the menstrual cycle. Estrogen dominance isn’t necessarily a surge of estrogen, but an imbalance in that seesaw. Simply put, estrogen dominance happens when the seesaw tips to one side because there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. There’s actually no “set” number we can measure that proves an estrogen dominance diagnosis. It’s the overall hormonal profile that is important – the DUTCH test is an extremely valuable tool that I use regularly for assessing this balance.
How does estrogen become dominant? A key factor is the timing. Or, to be more specific, the time of our lives. Consider a normal menstrual cycle during our reproductive years: After we ovulate mid-cycle, our bodies produce progesterone to balance out estrogen.
But as we near menopause, we often have some menstrual cycles when we do not ovulate. As a result, there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. Enter estrogen dominance -- and its long list of possible symptoms.
To a certain extent, estrogen dominance is a natural part of our aging process. However, recent years have seen a rise in estrogen-dominance complaints, and our busy lifestyle may be a big factor. Environmental and behavior issues can increase estrogen levels, tipping the seesaw even further. What’s to blame? Take a look at this list.
How Can You Restore Hormone Levels?
Our practice can work with you to re-balance your hormonal havoc. Starting with an accurate diagnosis, we can create a lifestyle plan that works for you. As a starting point, these changes are recommended:
Do the estrogen dominance symptoms sound a bit too familiar? Please contact our clinic and we’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on and create a plan of action to bring your body back to good health.
Pain, swelling, redness, immobility and heat -- these are all common signs of inflammation with injuries or an infection. Chronic inflammation also occurs inside our body and can present itself in other ways. When inflammation triggers sensory nerve endings, it can result in symptoms such as fatigue, rashes, and chest, abdominal and joint pain.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural function with a bad reputation. It’s a word most of us associate with pain, discomfort and poor health -- yet its ultimate purpose is actually to help us. Without inflammation, injuries could fester and infections could become deadly.
When the body is injured, inflammation is a signal to the immune system to send white blood cells so the healing process may begin. Unfortunately, when inflammation continues on for too long, it can potentially trigger numerous other chronic health issues in the body including cancers, depression, food sensitivities and asthma. In fact, some say inflammation is the “new cholesterol” due to its direct link to heart disease.
In some cases, inflammation occurs when the immune systems revolts against us and attacks our own bodies. Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, IBD, among dozens of others. There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases.
Top Tips to Reduce Inflammation
First, let’s take a quick look at inflammatory foods that you definitely don’t want to put into your body. You probably already know all the usual suspects by name – sugar and artificial sweeteners, fried foods and saturated fats, processed meats and grains, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. These foods can disrupt gut bacteria, spike insulin levels, and bolster inflammation. Identifying and eliminating your food sensitivities via IgG Blood testing or an elimination diet can be a very helpful next step.
Wondering what those anti-inflammatory foods are? The good news is they are delicious.
1. Eat Raw, Organic Fruits & Veggies
Organic foods are a great place to start when looking to adhere to a more anti-inflammatory diet. Grown in mineral-dense soil, organic foods tend to be more alkalizing and have a higher vitamin and mineral content.
In order to keep those vitamin and mineral levels high, it’s also helpful to eat raw fruits and veggies, which are also known as life-giving foods. Cooking can deplete minerals, which is why it’s important to take every opportunity you can to get eat fresh and raw so you get to enjoy the full nutritional benefits. For example, Vitamin K is found in dark leafy greens like broccoli and spinach, and is excellent for reducing inflammation.
2. Add in lots of Alkaline foods
In addition to fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes are also alkaline foods that can help balance your pH and reduce acidity. While being mindful of your body’s pH, you might be wonder about the impact of acidic foods, like tomatoes or citrus, and how they affect inflammation. Surprisingly these foods don’t create acidity in the body. Instead they may actually help to restore your pH balance. Even apple cider vinegar is alkaline-forming (however, other vinegars are not).
3. Fish & Plant Proteins
Believe it or not, most high protein foods, like meat, can actually be acid forming. In this case, plant proteins, such as almonds and beans, are great alternatives to reduce acidity and inflammation.
Need your meat? Then eat more fish. Fish oils, as well as other foods rich in healthy fats like omega 3, are proven to have a variety of health benefits, including significant anti-inflammatory effects.
Fish is also a great source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a wide range of inflammatory conditions.
Grass-fed meats are a good option if you prefer red meat, due to their higher concentration of conjugated linoleic acid and omega 3s.
4. Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Those susceptible to chronic inflammation may also benefit from supplementing their diets with food sources that contain bioactive molecules. For example, curcumin is the compound found in turmeric root that gives curry its bright yellow color. A powerful antioxidant, curcumin’s ability to reduce brain inflammation has been shown to be beneficial on both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression. Curcumin has been shown to not only prevent memory problems from worsening, but also to improve them.
Complement your curry with a little watercress salad on the side, including pears, dill weed, onion and chives – all sources of the antioxidant known as isorhamnetin.
Add a little red wine and some berries for dessert, which are rich in resveratrol, and you’ve got yourself an anti-inflammatory party. Resveratrol is an antioxidant produced by certain plants in response to injury or when under attack by bacteria or fungi. This is what makes dark-coloured grapes and berries such excellent health boosters for your body.
And of course, you can’t forget the dark chocolate! The flavonoids found in cacao are extremely potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which are great for your brain and your heart. New research also shows that consuming dark chocolate with a high concentration of cacao (minimum 70% with 30% organic cane sugar) has a positive effect on stress levels and inflammation, while also improving your memory, immunity and mood. You read that right – chocolate really is good for you (but make sure its good quality and that you are not over doing it).
5. Going Beyond Diet- get your stress in check!
While diet definitely plays a role, stress is also a major contributor to inflammation in the body. Stress can be triggered by lack of sleep, lifestyle changes, or any other number of factors. Getting a good night’s rest and making time to meditate or practice other stress-reducing activities, like yoga or Tai chi, are also very effective ways to promote good health and reduce inflammation.
All it takes is a few conscious decisions about your diet and lifestyle and you are on your way to a healthier you.
Please feel free to contact our clinic and we can find your best solutions together. Call or book your complimentary Health Discovery session at 519-275-2187 ext. 7 or book online.
Dr. Keila Roesner BHSc ND
I was on away on a girls’ weekend recently. A gorgeous sunny day exploring Niagara wine country (this ND enjoys a glass of wine too!), laughing our butts off and trying not to fall off our bikes. It was a perfect opportunity to work on my “base tan” for the year.
As a fair-skinned gal of Irish descent… I’m prone to grow freckles and get very very pink. Unlike my husband who gets a gorgeous tan every year, I have to be careful. But I certainly don’t avoid the sun. Ever.
But wait, isn’t the sun the root of all evil? Skin cancer, melanoma and awful peeling skin? If the sun going to kill me… how come my ancestors survived?
The link here is Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an essential hormone and we are designed to get lots of it by being outside in the sun, moving around outdoors and enjoying the world around us. The challenge is that many of us spend our days inside working avoiding the sun between 10-2 pm, wearing sunscreen with a high SPF every day under our makeup and long light layers we can become very deficient.
This is a big deal.
Vitamin D is critical for our immune system. Many of us know about Vitamin D for bone health - Vitamin D helps regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption and excretion in the body. This is why many products are fortified with a synthetic version.
Run of the mill health issues like coughs, colds, allergies, flus and other common issues are related to low Vitamin D levels that compromise our immune function. Vitamin D also keeps our immune system communicating so that we reduce our risk of more serious issues like Type 2 Diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancers and other autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Low Vitamin D is also related to thyroid disease, mental health issues and hormone health. Adequate vitamin D is essential for digestive health as well, and when we are deficient we get leaky gut.
When we lack Vitamin D our immune system loses touch with itself and we are more likely to get sick.
Who is at risk?
Where can you get it?
Vitamin D keeps your brain sharp, skin glowing, immune system humming along and is an essential part of your life. Practice safe sun, but don't fear it!
Keep on the sunny side,
Resources:On Vitamin D supplementation in food: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/80/6/1710S.full
No-bake energy bites are the perfect healthy snack: easy to make, customize-able based on your pantry ingredients, and they store incredibly well in the freezer. Use this recipe as a guide but feel free to make substitutions based on your tastes. You can easily double – or quadruple this recipe, and kids can help. Perfect for last minute potlucks, people with food sensitivities and to throw together when you’re short on time and energy.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: nada
Yield: 20-25 balls
Your body is ALWAYS trying to communicate with you. The problem is that most of us get so busy that we forget how to listen… so our body needs to scream to get us to pay attention.
I hear it all the time. “But Dr. Keila, I’m pretty healthy..”! Meanwhile, you may be taking a few prescription medications to control your blood pressure, thyroid and that random rash that comes and goes. TUMS are in your medicine cabinet and you carry Tylenol in your purse all the time. But that’s all normal, right?
Nope. Not at all.
There is a BIG difference between common and normal. Common is taking a few prescription medications, having digestive issues and bad knees. Normal is having a good night’s rest, waking with energy and not requiring caffeine. Normal is being able to eat food without feeling awful afterwards, and almost never getting heartburn or headaches.
Sometimes our body needs a reset. To clear the clutter and figure out what actually is going on.
Here are 10 major signs your body is not functioning “normally” (even though they may be common!).
A good detox should help you address all of these things. It is not meant to “fix” things, but to help your body reset and tune out some of the noise so that you can actually figure out what the heck is going on.
Do any of these sound like you? Comment below!
If you are tired of these common, but definitely NOT normal signs, here’s three free you can do:
If you found this article interesting please share.
What if Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) wasn't "just in your head?". This may seem revolutionary for many physicians... and people that don't have IBS.
Anyone living with IBS knows it's true. Nobody wants to be bathroom bound when they try to leave the house, or have to scan a restaurant menu frantically looking for the one item that won't cause them pain or embarrassing gas within an hour.
Well, it's true.
Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth (SIBO) is estimated to be the cause of anywhere from 40-85% or more cases of IBS. Clinically, I would say that this number is even higher.
Your Gut is a Garden
There are several types of bacteria within the digestive system. The particular species depend on things like your genetics, your birth type (hospital, home birth, vaginal, C-section), breast versus formula feeding, your diet, medications and stress. They can change over time and the unique combination can markedly affect how you feel. It can be helpful to classify human bacteria into three categories:
Much like a garden, there are a combination of plants that you want like tomatoes, sunflowers, parsley (healthy bacteria), species that show up that can take over if not contained like mint, orange lilies (commensals) and then there are invasive weeds like bindweed, thistles (pathogenic bacteria). Every garden will have a combination of all of these. As in the human digestive system, we want the balance to be tipped in favour of the helpful species, so that the neutral species can exist in manageable amounts, and hopefully ultimately crowd out the weeds. A diligent gardener can also go a long way.
Normally, the majority of bacteria within the digestive system reside within the large intestine where they work on the food you're digesting to produce Vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and K2 as well as other substances. Since we have 10 times as many bacterial cells in our body as we have human cells, even a small alteration in our bacterial garden can change our landscapes dramatically.
Our In House Gardener: The Migrating Motor Complex (MMC)
The MMC coordinates electrical wave patterns every 90-120 between meals that sweeps through the stomach and small intestine to helps propel food and bacteria from the ileum (the end segment of the small intestine) to the large intestine. In order to function properly, our body needs to have a break between meals.
In SIBO, these bacteria can migrate backwards, up into the small intestine which normally has far fewer bacteria. This migration can occur with intestinal permeability, certain medications, inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease), Celiac disease, and low stomach acid.
Because competition is less fierce in the small intestine than in the large intestine [Read my previous blog here to review], these bacteria can settle in, replicate and grow without being crowded. This is like freshly tilling your garden and then going on vacation for two weeks only to find that your neighbour's weeds crept under the fence and have taken over. Now you have thistles that are six feet tall.
The problem is that now you have bacteria existing in high amounts where they would not normally be and they are now crowding out healthy bacteria, interfering with your crop and attracting pests. The overgrowth can be a combination of healthy, commensal or pathogenic bacteria.... it doesn't really matter because you've got a forest on your hands.
This overgrowth is what contributes to much of the discomfort of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Have you ever noticed that flowers are easily pulled but weeds have deep roots? Same story here. The bacteria that takes hold likes to stick around and make a mess. It can throw off the MMC, and instead of helping to digest your food it ferments it.
Fermentation is the process of converting sugars in foods to gases or alcohol, as in beer, wine and sourdough bread. Our bodies are not designed to ferment, and when we do, we bloat. We get gas pains and "I swear I'm not 3 months pregnant!" food babies after eating. Because the food is not breaking down properly, we also get intestinal permeability.
We are more likely to have other problems too:
In our next blog post, we are going to be covering the key signs to watch out for to tell if you have SIBO and what you can do about it.
If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends and family!
In happy digestive health,
I had a potential new client in my office today who had been diagnosed by her family doctor with Irritable Bowel Syndrome several years ago. When she asked what she should do next, he told her to "go read about it".
There is so much misinformation online: treatments based on outdated science, "it-worked-for-my-sister's-neighbour" stories and down right bad advice.
Unfortunately, she did not have a medical degree or background in research to be able to decipher the good from the bad. She knew that the info she was seeing on Yahoo forums was probably questionable, she didn't know where to go to find good information. So she was referred by her pelvic floor physiotherapist to me. "Reading about it" had done nothing for her and she was sick and tired of daily diarrhea.
She is not alone.
One of the most common causes of IBS is a little known condition called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) - [read my previous blog post here].
While you should absolutely work with a knowledgeable health professional, there are several tell tale signs that your IBS is actually due to SIBO (and not a deficiency in "reading about it").
5 Key Signs You Might Have SIBO:
If any of these sound familiar, let's set up a time to chat. Book your complimentary Health Discovery Session to discuss your options.
Getting the right testing is the first step to getting better.
The good news is that there are some very good tests you can do to see if SIBO is causing your IBS. Based on your results, we can create a customized plan to get rid of the discomfort, gas, bloating and bathroom embarrassment. Once and for all.
In my next blog, we will talk about some of the testing you should have to finally get rid of your Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
There's a burning fiery pit in your chest. It's not a heart attack. You've checked with your doctor before.
It's feels heavy, uncomfortable and burns. At your last visit you were told that you probable have GERD. And you think, "what a goofy name for something that feels like hell!"
Heartburn, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) accounts for one out of three primary care visits, and has been increasing quite dramatically over the last two decades (1). It's now estimated that 18-27% of adults in North America experience heartburn at least once weekly (2), and many experience it daily. Which absolutely sucks.
This sharp increase can be attributed to rising rates of obesity, and is more common amoungst smokers and with age.
Common symptoms of GERD include:
A diagnosis of GERD is often made at the physicians office, and then commonly, anatacids (Gavison, Rolaids, Tums), H-2 receptor blockers (Pepcid AC, Zantac) or Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs, like Prevacid, Losec etc.) are recommended to "stop the burning". If it helps, it is assumed that GERD was your problem.
But we seem to have gotten a little caught up with this idea that burning = too much acid. If you've read my blog "Why Does My Stomach Hurt?" you'll see that it is a little more complicated than that.
Heartburn typically stems from one of four causes:
Very rarely have I ever seen increased stomach acid cause heartburn. Rather, it is most likely a combination of low stomach acid, over-eating and a weak lower esophageal sphincter.
Zollinger-Eillison Syndrome is the only known cause of increased stomach acid, and is a very rare condition where one or more tumours in the small intestine or pancreas (gastrinomas) secrete a large amount of the hormone gastrin which then causes the stomach to produce too much acid (5).
In summary, your stomach is probably not too acidic. But something else is going on, making your uncomfortable. Don't you want to find out.. and fix it?
If you or someone you love is experiencing heartburn and want to treat the cause, please book a Free 15 Minute Health Discovery Session with me.
In our next few blogs, I will outline how to know if GERD is part of a larger puzzle and how you can start improving it naturally.
Until then, happy digesting!
Stopped up. Bunged up. Full of it. Constipated. No fun.
Constipation is something I frequently see in practice, and something I notice that tends to effect women, the elderly and people taking more medication more commonly. Increasingly, I am seeing more issues with young women in their teens and twenties.
Typical recommendations are to avoid constipation is to increase water and fibre, and to consume more leafy greens (again, more fibre). But what if these things aren't helping... or are making the sh*tty situation worse?
Before we get into the why and more importantly, what you can do about it, let's back it up (get it?). You will definitely want to check out my digestion post for more in depth specifics on how the digestive system works.
Constipation is defined as infrequent bowel movements that are often difficult to pass and that is lasting a few weeks or more. Many physicians consider constipation to be 3 or less bowel movements per week. On the other hand, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine consider normal frequency to be 1-3 bowel movements per day with any more or less to be abnormal.
Normal bowel movements should be easy to pass, solid, medium brown in color, with no undigested bits of food, no blood, no mucous, no straining and with only minimal wiping required. Checking your stool every day is a great way to keep tabs on how things are moving.
Constipation can usually be resolved by:
Constipation can also signify:
If you are experiencing frequent or long term constipation, be sure to check with your doctor or Naturopathic Doctor or pelvic floor physiotherapist to rule out the conditions listed above.
You can also book a Free 15 Minute Health Discovery Session with me to learn about your options.
In health & smooth moves,
Top 75 Naturopath Blogs & Websites For Naturopathic Doctors
Dr. Keila Roesner is a Naturopathic Doctor. When not treating patients she is also an enthusiastic barefoot-strolling, music-loving, yoga-doing kitchen wiz - who also happens to be a wrestling fan.