Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gunpowder Salad

I've called this Gunpowder Salad because my husband says that if he's ever imprisoned he'll blow his way to freedom with gunpowder to be able to eat this again. I guess he enjoyed it. Not sure why he thinks he would be in prison though. Perhaps I should keep a closer eye on what he's up to.

Ingredients for the salad

  • Organic Romaine Lettuce
  • Organic Persian Cucumber
  • Sumo Mandarin
  • Avocado
  • Smokey Tempeh
  • Spinach and Quinoa cakes (Costco)

The dressing

  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Blue Cheese
  • Raw Honey
  • Grass-fed Organic Heavy Cream
  • Salt
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ground Mustard
  • Ground Black Pepper

This salad is Gluten Free and Vegetarian.


  • Extra Protein: Add cubes of meat
  • Paleo: Add Extra Protein and throw out the salad

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal Vitamins

There are 5 ingredients in a prenatal vitamin that have specific roles in pregnancy and fetal development, so pay special attention to these  when selecting your prenatal vitamin.

Calcium is essential for bone development in both the mother and fetus. When pregnant, a woman's calcium requirement increases more than 150%. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for calcium for pregnant women aged between 14 and 18 years is 1300 mg per day, whereas the RDA for pregnant or lactating women 19 years and older is 1000 mg per day.

Vitamin D deficiencies are becoming more common in North America. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin naturally present in certain foods (fatty fish, cheese  and egg yolks) and added to certain "Vitamin D fortified" foods. Vitamin D can also be produced naturally by the skin upon exposure to sunlight, but there are many factors (eg, amount of skin exposed, skin pigment, use of broad spectrum sunblock, risk of skin cancer) that prevent us from relying on this  as a source of Vitamin D. Deficiencies of Vitamin D may include neonatal tetany, unusual dental development, and fetal rickets. The RDA for vitamin D for any woman who is pregnant or lactating, regardless of age, is 600 IU per day.

Folic Acid is essential to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida, anencephaly, and encephalocele. Women without risk factors to folate deficiency and who take in a good amount naturally through their diets should take 0.4 to 1 mg daily as a supplement, starting at least 2 to 3 months prior to conception. Women with risk factors (such as those taking anticonvulsants, those with epilepsy, those with diabetes or those who are obese) should receive a higher supplemental dose, 4 to 5 mg daily preconception.

Vitamin A is a leading cause of childhood blindness. During pregnancy, vitamin A deficiency may have harmful consequences, including premature birth, intrauterine retardation of growth, and antepartum hemorrhage for the mother. It is important to supplement our diets if we are deficient, but bear in mind that too much vitamin A can also be teratogenic. Women should take note of the amount listed on the product labeling and avoid consuming or supplementing with more than suggested doses. The current RDA for vitamin A is 750 mcg per day for pregnant women aged 14 to 18 years  and 770 mcg per day for pregnant women aged 19 to 50 years. Pregnant women should be advised to stay away from topical retinol containing preparations as these can increase teratogenic risk.

Iron is essential for hemoglobin synthesis and the production of new red blood cells. Our iron requirements increase substantially during pregnancy. Iron deficiency can cause anemia in the mother and also immune system impairment, making it difficult to fight of infections. Pregnant women with normal hemoglobin and iron stores prior to pregnancy, regardless of age, are recommended to consume at least 27 mg of iron each day. Blood testing by your doctor may necessitate a higher dosage.

We should ideally ingest our RDA of necessary vitamins and minerals through a balanced diet but this is not always possible. Taking a good prenatal supplement everyday, if planning on becoming pregnant, already pregnant or even nursing, is a good way to ensure that we are getting all the vital nutrients for ourselves, developing fetuses and babies. It is important to seek the advice of your doctor to ensure that you are taking the correct supplement with the correct quantities of vitamins and minerals to meet your requirements.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nutritional Deficiencies You May Experience When Taking the Oral Contraceptive Pill

I recently listened to a podcast by “The Natural Pharmacist”, Ross Pelton, who shared some valuable information about vitamins and minerals that may be depleted when taking the oral contraceptive pill (OCP). He has documented 16 problems linked with nutritional deficiencies while taking the OCP. His book is called “The Pill Problem” and he discusses excerpts from this book in his podcast. Very interesting!

More than 100 million women worldwide take the OCP, with approximately 12 million users in the US alone. The OCP gives women a great deal of sexual freedom, but at a price. Nutrient deficiencies arising from the use of the pill lead to many health problems such as:
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anemia
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Migraine headaches
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Blood clots
  • Diabetes
  • A weakened immune system
  • Birth defects
  • Accelerated aging due to free radical damage
  • Cancers of the colon, breast and uterus
  • Loss of libido
  • Osteoporosis
  • Weight gain
  • Hypothyroidism

Lifestyle, environmental and dietary factors also play a role in the appearance of these health problems or side effects. Studies show that approximately 50 percent of women will stop taking the OCP within 6 to 12 months of initiating therapy due to these horrendous side effects.

A study documented that women taking OCP’s are twice as likely to become depressed compared to non-users.  According to Ross Pelton, Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and the amino acid tyrosine are both depleted by the OCP. Vitamin B6,  is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Tyrosine is a precursor to the formation of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are all essential to mood regulation and emotional states. So a lack thereof increases the likelihood of depression rearing it’s ugly head.  Vitamins B12 and folic acid, which are also essential in the prevention of depression, are also depleted by the OCP. Supplementing with vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and the amino acid tyrosine, could help protect the OCP user from becoming depressed. I recall processing many OCP prescriptions with a side of Prozac. Finally a reason why!

The amino acid tyrosine is an essential structural component of the thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). We have seen in the section on depression that Tyrosine is depleted by the OCP. Insufficient tyrosine thus leads to reduced production of thyroid hormones and hypothyroidism.

Sleep disturbances
Vitamin B6 is required for the production of serotonin which is converted into melatonin. As we know, melatonin is necessary for sleep regulation. Vitamin B6 depletion by the OCP can thus give rise to sleep disturbances.

Lack of energy
Low energy or fatigue is due to depletion of CoQ10, Selenium, Folic acid, vitamin B2 and Magnesium.  All these nutrients are related to energy production at the cellular level in the body.

Ineffective Immune System
Effective function of the immune system relies on the anti-oxidant capabilities of CoQ10, Zinc, Vitamin C and Selenium. These are all depleted by the OCP, making us less capable to fight infection by harmful viruses and bacteria.

Sexual Dysfunction
The OCP also depletes DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) leading to a decrease is sex drive or loss of libido. DHEA is the precursor for testosterone which is responsible for regulation of the sex drive. Isn’t it ironic that one of the reasons for taking the OCP is a reason not to take it? Supplementing with DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) may be beneficial here. The podcast also mentions that OCP users have increased levels of “sex hormone binding globulin”. This globulin binds testosterone so that it is not free to perform its function. So in addition to the OCP decreasing our production of testosterone, it also inhibits its activity, thus having a twofold negative impact on the sex drive. Reduced levels of testosterone also leads to vaginal dryness, painful sex and the inability to achieve orgasms.

Birth Defects
Folic acid is essential for the prevention of spinal bifida and other such birth defects. It is depleted by the OCP creating great risk in the event of accidental pregnancy or if a woman intends discontinuing the OCP to start a family. It is very important to check folic acid levels and supplement as necessary. 

Depleted Nutrients and some recommended dosages:
  • Vitamin B6 50mg twice daily
  • A B-complex vitamin
  • Tyrosine 500mg bid (amino acid)
  • Vitamin B12 500mcg to 1000mcg everyday
  • Folic acid 800mcg daily
  • DHEA to help increase production of testosterone - 15 to 25mg everyday. Dose will vary between individuals.
  • Herbal agents to lower sex hormone binding globulin
  • Omega 3 fish oils to reduce “sex hormone binding globulin”
  • CoQ10
  • Selenium
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Melatonin ,if experiencing sleep disorders

Because nutrients like Zn, Mg and Se are involved in hundreds of biological processes in the body, correcting these deficiencies would theoretically be beneficial in many ways. For example, Magnesium is effective for energy production, addressing fatigue, reduce likelihood of blood clots, reducing blood pressure, reducing  incidence of heart attacks, required for bone health, and is very effective treatment for migraine headaches

People should allow the corrective effects of the supplements 2 weeks or more to be noticeable.

To summarize, all B vitamins, vitamin C, folic acid, many minerals, CoQ10 and amino acid tyrosine are depleted. The side effects generated by these depletions lead to health problems which prompts another visit to the Dr. Instead of the OCP user being advised of these nutritional deficiencies, they are usually given prescriptions for potent anti depressants, sleep aids etc. These in turn cause further deficiencies, and further health problems, further prescriptions and on it goes. If you are taking and OCP, please discuss vitamin and mineral supplementation with your doctor.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The link between white flour, Type 2 Diabetes and a chemical called Alloxan

It is no secret that diabetes is the biggest health  epidemic we have. It has taken the lives of many of my family members and friends, and continues to cause suffering in others. It affects every aspect of our lives. We should all make a pledge to do whatever it takes to prevent ourselves from becoming victims to this dreadful disease. It all starts with eating a nutritious and balanced diet, cutting out sugar, processed foods, junk foods and exercising regularly.

On my journey of trying to find all possible avenues for prevention of diabetes, I stumbled across this interesting bit of information. It turns out that "white all purpose flour",  which is found in almost all store bought baked goods, is bleached to make it that way. The process of bleaching the flour with chlorine gas and other chemicals, yields a substance called alloxan, that is termed by the Textbook of Natural Medicine as being  a "potent beta-cell toxin". Now as you know, the beta-cells of the pancreas are responsible for secreting the hormone insulin, which is vital for blood sugar control. Alloxan is so good at destroying the pancreas that it is even used to induce diabetes in animals during drug trials. 

How to minimize your exposure to alloxan?
Firstly, stop ingesting white flour  in any form. Safer flour alternatives are whole grain flour (provided you are not gluten-sensitive) and almond, coconut and quinoa flours. If you have been eating bleached white flour for decades, you may be able to reduce your risk for developing diabetes by taking a Vitamin E supplement. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and may be beneficial in this situation.

Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance are very real threats to our health in the 21st century. It is a direct result of our toxic food supply,  our stress levels and sedentary lifestyles. The good news is that by controlling what we eat, taking appropriate supplements, managing stress levels and exercising regularly, we can prevent and even reverse these conditions.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Garcinia cambogia - The latest craze in weightloss!

Garcinia cambogia (GC), recently featured on the Dr Oz show, in his usual sensationalistic style, has gained lots of attention for its claim to be the latest, greatest weight loss miracle. GC is a pumpkin shaped tamarind  fruit that grows in South East Asia and India. The fruit rind is used to make medicine. The active ingredient is hydroxycitric acid (HCA).

What makes it so appealing to people are the claims made that you will lose many pounds with no effort, no dietary changes and no exercise! Scientists on Dr Oz's show claim that GC is an exceptionally effective fat buster. They state that it works by inhibiting the production of fat by the body, thus promoting the body's ability to burn existing fat.

On the show, Dr Oz interviewed Californian internist Julie Chen, who openly stated she would recommend GC to her patients based on the results she has seen. Dr Chen stated that she noticed overall health improvements in patients that she recommended the product to. She noticed a decrease in total cholesterol, triglycerides and low density lipoproteins (LDL). The weight loss also contributed to improvement in insulin resistance according to Dr Chen.

What makes it so special?
  • Less expensive than other weight loss products out there
  • Shown in studies to increase weight-loss by 2 to 3 times of what people with naturally lose with dietary changes and exercise alone
  • People are said to lose and average of 4 pounds per month. If taken along with dietary changes and exercise, they may lose 2 to 3 times this amount of weight.
How does Garcinia cambogia work?

Developing research suggests that GC might prevent fat storage and control appetite. While mechanisms of action are not clear, it is known that GC elevates serotonin levels. Serotonin is a "feel good" brain chemical that is implicated in the regulation of eating behavior and appetite control. It improves mood, improves sleep patterns and suppresses appetite, By elevating serotonin levels, garcinia is thought to be helpful for "emotional eaters"

Garcinia is also thought to block the process by which fat is made and manage levels of the stress hormone cortisol. By this mechanism, people see a reduction in belly fat.

A few unanswered questions...
  • How many people were involved in drug trials or studies of GC?
  • How many days / months / years were these studies conducted for?
  • Is the weight loss permanent?
  • What are the long term effects of taking GC?
  • Do people have to continue taking GC to maintain the weight loss?
  • Are dangerous pesticides being used to maximize the crop yield?

To summarize, it is thought that Garcinia helps people to lose weight by making them feel less hungry and blocking processes whereby fat is manufactured. There is obviously no substitute for a healthy diet and exercise. There are often interactions between supplements and medication. Before initiating therapy with any supplement, always check for interactions first. Discuss with your doctor if Garcinia cambogia is a good option for you.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Review of Acid Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or Acid Reflux as it is more commonly known, occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach flows backward into the esophagus. The most prominent symptom is heartburn. Complications include inflammation of the esophagus, ulceration of the esophagus, and Barret's metaplasia. Barret's metaplasia occurs when long term acid exposure causes a  structural change in the the lining of the esophagus, which can unfortunately increase your chance of developing esophageal cancer.

Millions of Americans suffer from acid reflux everyday.  Treatment includes antacids, proton pump inhibitors (like Nexium, Prevacid, Aciphex) and H2 blockers (like Zantac, Pepcid). These medicines are widely consumed and account for billions of dollars in pharmaceutical sales. Some of these acid blockers like Zantac, Pepcid, Prilosec, Prevacid, and in some cases their generics, are available for sale over the counter, further enabling their widespread use. It is important to note that even though these drugs do provide relief from the symptoms of acid reflux, they do not treat the cause. Even more importantly, they are associated with many side effects, especially when taken for long periods of time. Stomach acid is essential for our overall health.

Why do we need stomach acid?
  • To digest our food
  • To kill harmful bacteria and parasites ingested with our food
  • To activate digestive enzymes
  • To prevent bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine
  • For absorption of essential nutrients such as Calcium, Magnesium, vitamin B12

Problems with current acid blocking therapy
  • They prevent  proper digestion of food
  • They cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • They can precipitate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • They reduce absorption of calcium and other minerals essential to good bone health, leading to osteoporosis and hip fractures
  • They reduce absorption of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to depression, anemia, fatigue, nerve damage, and even dementia, especially in the elderly.
  • They reduce our ability to destroy pathogenic parasites and microbes
  • They contribute dangerous overgrowth of  Clostridium difficile in the small intestine, leading to life threatening infections.

Have you tried these non-medicinal suggestions to alleviate your Acid Reflux?
  • Avoid fried food, alcohol, caffeine, soda, spicy foods, citrus fruits and tomato based foods.
  • Don't eat junk food.
  • Don't eat processed food.
  • Avoid eating large meals.
  • Avoid strong stimulants of acid secretion like coffee and alcohol.
  • Avoid eating for 3 hours before going to bed.
  • Eat smaller more frequent meals 4 to 5 times a day.
  • If you are a smoker, give up smoking.
  • If you are overweight, try losing some weight. Excess belly fat puts pressure on the stomach, preventing it from emptying and triggering reflux.
  • Reduce your stress. Stress contributes to reflux by relaxing the valve (sphincter) between the stomach and the esophagus and constricting the sphincter between the stomach and small intestine. This causes the acidic contents of the stomach move in the wrong direction - IE up the esophagus instead of down toward the small intestine.
  • Find out it you are deficient in magnesium and take a supplement if necessary. Magnesium is required  for the relaxation of the sphincter between the stomach and the small intestine. If there is a shortage of magnesium, the sphincter is unable to relax causing the food to be forced in the wrong direction.
  • Infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter Pylori might contribute to acid reflux. Ask you Dr to test for this.
  • Experiment with removal of dairy and gluten containing foods (wheat, barley, rye, oats) from your diet.
  • Take a probiotic to help restore "good bugs" in the intestine, and overcome the colonization by "bad bugs"
  • Avoid aspirin and NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen or naproxen as these can exacerbate acid reflux. 
  • Elevate the head of your bed 6 inches.
Acid blocking medication changes the pH of the gut therefore affecting the absorption of many nutrients. In some cases, this pH change even affects our ability to manufacture these nutrients. We are left with numerous nutrient deficiencies after long term therapy with acid blockers.
    Discuss your concerns about being on long term acid blockers with your doctor. Devise a strategy with your doctor to wean yourself off them, if this is an option. Consider treating the cause of your acid reflux instead of merely alleviating the symptoms.

    Tuesday, July 2, 2013

    Possible nutritional deficiencies associated with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn's Disease (CD)

    Ulcerative colitis, along with Crohn's disease are the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Although the cause of IBD is unknown, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis seem to result from the body launching an immune attack against its own gastrointestinal system, which is the digestive tract or tube that runs from the mouth to the anus. This results in chronic inflammation of the intestines. The intestines become red, raw and swollen leading to abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever and weight loss, among other symptoms.

    Symptoms of abdominal cramping, diarrhea, weight loss, intestinal bleeding, nausea, fatigue and generalized malaise are common to both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The difference is that while Crohns disease can effect any area of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth through to the anus, ulcerative colitis is limited to the rectum and colon. Ulcerative colitis never involves the small bowel or any other part of the gastrointestinal tract. 

    I was recently asked about supplements that can be taken by people who have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis  or Crohn's disease.

    A healthy diet is essential for anyone wanting to maintain good health. This can present a challenge for people with IBD as they often live with dietary restrictions making it difficult to eat a well balanced diet. Any individual on a restricted diet may benefit from a comprehensive multivitamin to supplement what he or she may be missing.

    Most of our vitamin absorption occurs in the small intestine. Vitamin deficiencies are therefore more likely to affect people with Crohn's disease of the small intestine. Vitamin B12 is however absorbed in the ileum, so Crohn's disease affecting the ileum might require Vitamin B12 supplementation via the parenteral or nasal route due to inability to absorb oral supplementation.

    Reduced dietary intake as well as decreased absorption in Crohn's disease can also lead to Calcium, Zinc and Vitamin D deficiencies. Long term treatment with corticosteroids like prednisone may also be linked to a Calcium deficiency.  These deficiencies can be treated with oral supplementation of Vitamin DCalcium and Zinc .

    Sulfasalazine interferes with the absorption of folic acid.  If treatment of your IBD involves sulfasalazine, you may develop a folic acid deficiency and require daily folic acid supplementation.

    One of the symptoms of active IBD (both Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis ) is intestinal blood loss which can result in an iron deficiency. Iron deficiency can also be caused by reduced dietary intake or reduced absorption in Crohn's disease. Iron supplementation may be oral or parenteral depending on patient or physician preference and tolerance of its gastrointestinal side effects (nausea, diarrhea or constipation).

    A magnesium deficiency may result from intestinal losses due to chronic diarrhea. Magnesium supplementation would be necessary in this situation.

    Probiotics and Omega 3 supplements (Fish oil) may be beneficial in IBD too.

    Before initiating any supplementation, please consult your doctor to ensure compatibility with your other medication and to determine if it is necessary. Excess supplementation has its own risks. For example, too much Calcium can lead to kidney stones and even calcium deposits in various organs and tissues, sometimes with serious consequences.