Thursday, January 30, 2014

Information on SIBO

SIBO, which stands for small intestine bacterial overgrowth, occurs when the level of non pathogenic bacteria we normally have in our small intestine increases beyond what it should be.  

SIBO is a common cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and is often present when a person’s digestive symptoms don’t clear and/or worsen with well indicated dietary changes or supplements.

The bacterial overgrowth with SIBO impacts digestion and absorption and leads to an excess production of hydrogen and/or methane gas (through the fermentation of carbohydrates by the intestinal bacteria).  This gas production allows for effective diagnosis of SIBO through a hydrogen or methane breath test.  

The symptoms associated with SIBO include: gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or alternating diarrhea and constipation, heartburn/reflux, nausea, and systemic symptoms including joint pain, low energy, skin concerns, headaches.  

SIBO is also likely occurring when digestive symptoms worsen when taking a probiotic that contains prebiotics, when there is a short term improvement in symptoms after taking an antibiotic, when constipation is worsened by increased fiber intake, when celiacs experience low improvement in digestive symptoms when following a gluten free diet, and when a person has chronic low ferritin with no other cause. 

Part of the concern with SIBO is low small intestine motility/movement which promotes bacterial overgrowth.  One way to address low motility is to aim to space meals apart by 4-5 hours and to drink only water in between meals.

The main way to address SIBO is to reduce carbohydrate intake.  Carbohydrates are the food/energy source for the intestinal bacteria and the fermentation of carbohydrates produces the gas which contributes to the digestive symptoms seen with SIBO.  As well, reducing the primary food source for the bacteria may support a reduction in the overgrowth of the bacteria.  The specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) and gut and psychology syndrome (GAPS) diet are considered the most effective dietary treatments for SIBO. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Meditation and the Support it offers for our Overall Health

In the book Instructions to the Cook, author Bernie Glassman discusses the support that meditation can offer us.  I love this quote from the book:   'Meditation allows things to fall in all the right places so that we can see clearly what comes up in the mind and let go of our judgements'.   Glassman also describes meditation as a form of 'cleaning the mind' which I find is a visual that really resonates with me.  I think for many of us our mind feels too cluttered and too full for a number of reasons (too much going on in our lives, not enough time for self reflection etc.) and meditation can offer us support in clearing space in our mind to enable us to navigate through all that is going on for us/inside us more easily.   We don't necessarily have to add a meditation class or an hour of meditation practice per day to our already busy schedules in order to benefit from meditation; instead, we can simply aim to sit quietly, counting our in and out breaths, for 5 minutes per day.  Even this small step will introduce our body and mind to the benefits of meditation and will offer us support for our overall health.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Research Highlights from Tori Hudson's Blog

Tori Hudson is an American Naturopath who writes extensively on women's health.  She has a very informative blog that focuses on recent research involving women's health and natural medicine.  Here are some recent highlights from her blog:

A 2013 study found that women who consumed the most sugar sweetened beverages had a 78% higher risk of developing estrogen dependent endometrial cancer than women who consumed the least.

Another 2013 study involving women with fibroids found that green tea extract (the women in the study who were in the non placebo group took 2 caps daily for 4 months ) significantly reduced the volume/size of the fibroids, the volume of flow with the period, and the symptoms associated with the fibroids. 

A 2013 case report evaluation of 4 women with fibromyalgia found that when dosed with CoQ10 (100 mg 3 times per day for 9 months), there was a statistically significant improvement for each of the women in their pain, fatigue, sleep, and the tenderness of the fibromyalgia diagnostic points.

A 2012 study looked at women with a chronic and unexplained cough and low ferritin (iron) levels (ferritin below 15).  The 22 non smoking women with normal lung function tests were initially treated with 2 months of anti-histamines and proton pump inhibitors.  After there was no change in their cough with these treatments, they were treated with daily iron supplementation (330-660 mg of iron sulphate tablets per day) for 2 months and the cough improved dramatically in each of the women.

To read more about these above highlights and other interesting research, check out Tori Hudson's blog at

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DHA Supplementation Support for Reading Performance

In the November 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Sarah Bedell Cook discusses the impact of DHA (an omega 3 fatty acid) supplementation on UK children with below average reading ability (but no diagnosis of a significant learning disability).  The information in the article draws from the DOLAB (DHA Oxford Learning and Behaviour) study out of the UK.  The study examined 493 children between the ages  of 7 and 9.  The children's DHA blood levels were measured and lower DHA levels were associated with poorer reading ability, poorer working memory performance, and higher levels of parent rated oppositional behaviour and emotional fluctuations.   The children were then supplemented with 600 mg of DHA per day for 16 weeks.  The results found that the parent rated oppositional behavior and emotional fluctuations were significantly reduced and that children who were below the 20th and 10th percentiles, reading performance wise, received significant benefit.  This study helps to confirm the support that DHA supplements offer for overall emotional health and brain function and that it is worth considering integrating a DHA supplement for many children, even those who do not have a specific learning disability diagnosis, that find school/learning more difficult than some of their fellow students.

Delicious Butternut Squash Bowl

Tonight for supper, I had a simple supper that required a little bit more effort, but it was well worth it!  I had baked butternut squash (the squash was cut in half, the seeds were scooped out, chopped onion, garlic, and almonds were added to the scooped out spot, oil, basil and oregano were added over the entire squash, and the squash was baked at 350 degrees for 70 minutes).  I mixed the squash with forbidden rice (1:2 ratio of rice to water, cooked for 40 minutes).  Forbidden rice is black in color like wild rice, but has the texture of short grain brown rice - it is so yummy!  I also had pinto beans (soaked for 4 hours +, cooked for 60 minutes) and a stir fry (with onion, garlic, crimini mushrooms, zucchini, green beans, sugar snap peas, broccoli, and black kale).  Once all of the food was dished up, I topped it with a tahini sauce (1 1/2 lemons, freshly squeezed, 4 tbsp of tahini, 1 tbsp flax oil, 3/4 tsp sesame oil, 1/4 tsp sea salt).  This was a delicious (warm) winter day meal and was totally worth the extra time and work!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Environmental Impacts on our Health

In the December 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Kurt Beil discusses a recent study that looked at the reduction in Ash tree population due to the Emerald Ash Borer beetle and its relationship to death from lower respiratory tract disease and cardiovascular disease.  The study was originally published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 2013.  Emerald Ash Borer beetle infestation results in the death of the Ash tree that has been affected and has lead to a significant decline in Ash tree population in the Mid West region of the US.  The study looked at 2002 - 2007 mortality data from lower respiratory tract disease and cardiovascular disease in the states that were impacted by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle and found that compared to prior to the beetle infestation in 2002, an additional 6,113 lower respiratory tract disease deaths and an additional 15,080 cardiovascular disease deaths occurred!  This study further confirms how closely our overall health is connected to the health of our environment.  The increase in deaths may potentially be related to less trees leading to poorer air quality (because trees act as filters to improve overall air quality).  As well, because many people find connecting with nature offers them great stress release benefits,  a reduction in green space/number of trees may be perceived as less of an outlet for stress release.  Environmental changes can feel inevitable and the information from this study may feel quite overwhelming/disempowering, but I do think it brings to light the importance of still  ensuring that we aim to get outside and connect with nature on a daily basis even if it does feel like the quality of our environment is changing and that we may want to consider integrating an air purifier/filtration system in our home/office.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Impact of Melatonin on Sleep in Children with ASD Diagnosis

In the July 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, Jessica Mitchell discusses a study that looked at the impact of melatonin supplementation on sleep in children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  The study was published in the August 2012 issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.  The study looked at 24 children between the ages of 3-10 and the dose of melatonin used ranged from 1 mg - 6 mg.  The study found that all 24 children (through their parents' feedback/reporting) experienced an improvement in sleep difficulties, in the length of time it took to fall asleep, and in the number of hours of sleep per night.  The parents also reported an improvement in the children's mood and behaviours.  Most/All children with ASD diagnosis have some difficulty with their sleep.  This study provides a great insight into the importance of considering melatonin for children with ASD to support a more restful and balanced sleep.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Simple Supper - Pasta and Chickpeas

Tonight I had another simple supper that was easy to make and was very tasty.  I made brown rice elbows - the brand of rice pasta I prefer is tinkyada because the pasta cooks up perfectly and it has a great texture and taste.  Once the brown rice pasta was done cooking (it took 15 minutes to cook) and was drained, I mixed it with 3 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of sesame oil, 1/4 cup water, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp basil/oregano mix, 1/4 tsp red chill flakes.  I also mixed in chickpeas (which took 60 minutes to cook after having been soaked for 8 hours)
and a stir fry with onions, garlic, ginger, white mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, and black kale.  This meal took approximately 1 hour to prepare (which also included making a salad and doing the dishes) and was a delicious mid week meal.

Dietary Choline Intake and Prostate Cancer

In the March 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, Jacob Schor discusses a study that looked at dietary choline intake and the risk of dying from prostate cancer.  The study was published in the October 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and analyzed the diets of over 4000 men who had been diagnosed with non metastatic prostate cancer.  The study found that the men who had the highest intake of dietary choline had a 70% higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than the men with the lowest intake of dietary choline.  The top 5 choline rich foods in the diets of the men in study were whole eggs, beef, reduced fat milk, skim milk, and poultry with the skin.  This study provides a great dietary guideline for men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer - aiming to reduce/eliminate whole eggs, beef, reduced fat milk, skim milk, and poultry with the skin from their diets can provide their bodies with extra support moving forward from the prostate cancer diagnosis. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Simple Supper - A Load of Kale!!

Tonight I had another simple supper and it consisted of lots and lots of kale!  I saw that there was a leaf in the green kale bunch that was starting to yellow, so I decided to use it all up!  In addition to the kale, the stir fry contained onions, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, and sugar snap peas.  I mixed the veggies with short grain brown rice and black eyed peas.  I also added a simple tahini sauce that was made from tahini, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and flax oil.  This whole meal took under 1 hour to prepare (this also included making a salad and doing the dishes) and was a yummy and satisfying way to start off the week.

Simple supper - Quinoa and Yam Mash

For the first almost 2 weeks of the cleanse, I have been having simple suppers.  I thought I would share the simple supper I had tonight because it was so yummy!  I had quinoa (see top picture) which was cooked for 25 minutes at a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio.  To season the quinoa, I added 1/4 cup diced onion, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1/8 tsp turmeric, 1/8 tsp paprika, and 1 tsp lemon juice while the quinoa was cooking.  I also added 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, and 2 chopped green onions shortly before removing the quinoa from the stove.  The yam mash (see bottom picture) consisted of chopped onions, minced garlic, diced yams, diced beets, chopped zucchini, chopped carrots, chopped shiitake mushrooms, and chopped kale, all sautéed until tender.  To season the yam mash, I added 3 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/4 tsp basil/oregano mix.  I also mixed pinto beans with this meal.  This meal was a hearty and delicious winter cleanse meal.  It took approximately 45 minutes to prepare and was simple and easy to make!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Supreme Meal

I have recently started reading a book called Instructions to the Cook by Bernie Glassman and Rick Fields.  Bernie Glassman is a Zen master and the book is partially based on the lessons he has learned as he has navigated through his life.  He discusses the Zen concept of the supreme meal which is "a life that is lived fully and completely, with nothing held back".  He also discusses that we have all the ingredients in our current lives to be able to create our own supreme meal, that we just need to remain open and see our lives completely and without limitations.  I really like the idea of the supreme meal and find it very empowering.  I think it provides a very helpful guide to support continued internal growth and further strengthening of our overall health.  I am going to aim to continue to work on creating my own supreme meal during the cleanse and further into 2014.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Supplements and Breast Cancer Survivors

In the October 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, Tina Kaczor comments on findings from the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project which analyzes info from 4 separate large studies of women with a history of breast cancer (totalling over 12,000 women).   The project found that women who took antioxidant supplements (multivitamin, vitamin C, or vitamin E) had a 16% decreased risk of death from any cause.  Vitamin E supplementation was also associated with a decreased risk of cancer recurrence.  Vitamin D was associated with a decreased risk of cancer recurrence among women who had estrogen receptor positive breast cancer only.  No supplements were found to be associated with an increased risk of cancer recurrence or death.  These findings help confirm that integrating antioxidant based supplements can be a positive, health supportive step for women who have  survived breast cancer.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Melatonin and Stomach Health

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that can cause chronic inflammation of the stomach lining and the development of ulcers.  If a person is diagnosed with an H. pylori infection, they are commonly treated with an HP-Pac, which is a combination of a proton pump inhibitor and 2 antibiotics, to clear the infection.  In the September 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor discusses a 2012 study published in a Russian medical journal (Klin Med) that found when melatonin was added alongside the standard HP-Pac treatment for H. pylori infection, the H. pylori infection was eliminated more effectively and the stomach lining healed more quickly.  This research further extends our understanding of melatonin, which is most commonly integrated as a support for restful/improved sleep.  With this research, we can now also consider melatonin as a great support for overall stomach health too.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Yummy Rice Cakes!

One of the most important steps to making the cleanse easier to manage is ensuring that we don't feel hungry and that we have snacks to choose from.  One of the foods that I will commonly use as a snack on the cleanse is rice cakes -   I usually put almond butter on rice cakes for a quick, protein rich, easily transportable snack.   Sometimes I can find rice cakes a bit too bulky/thick though, so I have been delighted to find the Plum.M.Good organic brown rice thins.  These rice thins seem to be about one quarter the thickness of regular rice cakes and they are always fresh and very yummy (and are available in a variety of flavours)!  So far, I have only been able to find these rice thins at Blush Lane in Edmonton, but they are worth the trip!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Food for Thought for 2014

In the December 4, 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor comments on a study (originally published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) that evaluated the impact that school based interventions had on elementary students' fruit consumption.  There were 3 groups of elementary aged children in this study:  1 group received no intervention/served as a control, 1 group was taught a 15 minute lesson 1 time per week for the entire school year around developing skills for making healthy food and life choices, and 1 group received no specific lessons but their homeroom teacher brought fruit to school at least 3 times per week, kept the fruit on their desk until they ate it, and in general ate healthy snacks during the school day.  Both the group who received the lessons and the group whose teacher ate healthy snacks increased their fruit consumption during the school year in comparison to the control group, but interestingly only the group whose teacher ate healthy snacks maintained an increased level of fruit consumption at the 1 year post intervention follow-up.  This study provides an excellent insight into how important it is for adults to model healthy food choices for the little people in their lives - telling kids what is best to eat will not be as effective as them seeing their adult loved ones eating the food themselves as well.  For me, the message of this study extends beyond food and can be applied to our behaviour in general -  it is how we move through the world and choose to behave, rather than just what we say, that has the deepest impact on those around us and has the most potential to help make the world a more peaceful and healthy place.  For me, this message serves as a great reminder and a great motivator moving forward into 2014.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Getting Grounded

One of the most important ways we can support our overall health (and make a cleanse easier to manage) is to aim to keep our selves grounded in the face of our busy lives.  In the January 2014 issue of Shambhala Sun magazine, author Andrea Miller writes about her experience at a retreat offered by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.  In her piece, Miller describes learning about the importance of integrating a singing bowl/bell into our daily lives as a source of grounding and centring support.  Miller also mentions that the bell can be a bell of mindfulness that we cultivate within and that we can utilize regular parts of our daily routine as reminders for us to ring the bell/focus on feeling more grounded and more mindful.  I found this article very inspiring and really appreciate how it offers another very simple and easily integrated way to continue to work on being more mindful, more centred, and more aware on a daily basis.  Even if we choose just one part of our daily routine to serve as a reminder (before we get dressed in the morning, before we turn on the computer for the day, before we sit down for lunch in the afternoon etc.) to ring our internal bell of mindfulness, we have already created more space for increased grounding which offers great support for our overall health.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome New Year! Welcome January 2014 Cleanse!

Happy New Year!  Best wishes to everyone for a new year that is filled with continued growth and balancing, health and happiness wise.  
For me, the start of a new year also means the start of my annual January cleanse.  I have been doing a cleanse for the month of January since 2001, and even though I am always glad when it is over, I do look forward to it every year.  I like the simplicity that the cleanse offers after the busyness of the holiday season.  I also appreciate the opportunity the cleanse provides to ground my self in my body and listen more carefully to the messages my body shares.  I have a feeling that this cleanse will again be made up of mainly simple suppers, so there may not be too many recipes to share.  I do hope though to post other interesting bits of information and I look forward to connecting more over the month!