Exercise is no longer my swear word….

I have a confession to make. I have not practiced what I  preach. All my patients over the years have heard me praise the virtues of exercise. Many of them have been motivated by my words to start their own fitness programs. I have just never been very good at it myself.  I have tried. I have joined gyms and quit gyms.  I have started and ended more home exercise routines than I have fingers and toes. Just take a look at the entire shelf of exercise books in my rec room.  Feast your eyes on the treadmill, the re-bounder, the free weights, the Swiss ball and the skipping rope.

The problem was that exercise felt like a duty. Another obligation. Not fun. Boring. When I did start a program I would inevitably spend all day procrastinating about doing a work out and then when it was very late at night promise myself to do it tomorrow instead.

A few weeks ago I was browsing a bookstore at a mall and saw “You are Your Own Gym”, by Mark Lauren. The good looking guy on the front cover drew my eye and I picked it up and read the back. “Forget about gym memberships” (Oh good, lets do that ). ” 125 exercises” – hmm –  that should help with the boredom factor. Although the book said Mark Lauren developed his program teaching special forces, I also saw lots of pictures of women doing the exercises. I liked the way each movement was pictured and described from easy to more challenging. This 50 something woman knew right away she could start with the wall-push-ups and have a chance of doing regular floor push-ups one day, but she also realized that handstand push-ups were about as likely as a berth on the Mars colony ship.

So I brought the book home, and being disinclined to spend a lot of time figuring out an exercise regime , decided to start with his most basic 10 week program because all the exercises were laid out and there were only four of them to do a few times a week. It looked easy. It was not. Much to my chagrin, I found I couldn’t even complete all the exercises in the first most basic arm workout. I was stiff and sore and had to spend extra time napping that day. OK, another failed exercise program headed for the dusty bookshelf.

Then I had an epiphany. Last year I developed back spasms due to my extreme inactivity. I had to start a regular stretching program to keep them at bay. One of the stretches was sitting in a semi-squat position with my back flat against the wall. I did that daily for about a month and then found one day I could stand up from squatting in front of the fruit drawer of the refrigerator without feeling like I would topple over. Without even realizing it I had strengthened my legs.

So based on this experience my thought was to throw out my perfectionist tendencies telling me that if I couldn’t do it “right” not to bother at all, and to instead do it as well as I could with the hope of increasing my strength over time. This is what I am  doing, and it is working. I am not as sore and exhausted.

I was interested to learn after my first couple of workouts that Mark Lauren also has a book specifically for women titled “Body by You”.  I did get this book out of the library, but it was mostly what I had started doing anyway, a more gradual approach to the body weight exercises.

So how is the program going now? I am  half-way through week four.  Last week a strange thing happened, though. I started to look forward to my workouts. I feel good after them now, a little sore and stiff but nothing major. I make sure to have a green smoothie with protein powder right after a workout and I think that has done a lot to reduce inflammation. I am feeling happier, and pleased with the butt and arm toning I am already noticing. This is the first exercise program ever that I miss on my rest days. I repeat, I actually miss exercising the days I am not doing the workouts. This is not me. This is some strange alien fitness loving replacement of me!  I like the alien me, though. I feel better and look better. I am slowing down aging and getting stronger and feeling calmer. I expect that I will use this book for years, there are so many variations of the body weight exercises. It will also be a book to pack when I travel, since the workouts can be done anywhere. Mark Lauren has an app out with his exercises as well, which even eliminates the need to pack the book.

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon. It is my affiliate link. You could also get the book out from the library first, and perhaps get out “Body by You” at the same time to compare them to see which one you prefer. Give his workouts a try and see if you, like me, will  no longer consider the word exercise as a swear word……


No BBQ? No Problem! Fast and Healthy Summer Meals

         Summer is here, and we like to spend a lot of time outside the house, so my  priority is to make meals with maximum nutrition but a minimum of fuss! My meals are also all “BBQ and microwave free”, since I don’t own either one! Convenient, prepared food is also kept to a minimum since it usually contains too many additives I don’t want in our diet.
          It can be such a temptation to grab “fast food” after a long day, so here are some of the ideas from my kitchen which keep us well fed. I have most of these foods in stock, but I do vary this list a bit from week to week depending on budget and what is available. It is also very helpful that I shop only once a week but get an organic fruit and veg bin delivery mid-way through the week.
          I love cold dishes for meals when it is hot outside, so many  of the following are variations on salads.They are also lean toward paleo which means they are light on grains, and light on dairy. I do use some legumes, however.  As well these meals and snacks are very low in added sweeteners and contain no refined sugars. A bottle of maple syrup or honey lasts us a very long time as I have found that a tiny bit of either will go a long way!
         Here are the sorts of food I stock and pick up with most grocery orders in the summer:
Cupboard – cans of Pacific pink or red salmon, cans of light tuna, cans of chick peas, black beans, kidney beans (or use frozen previously cooked beans), brown rice pasta, bacon crumbles with no preservatives. olive oil, healthy mayo, coconut oil, potatoes, low sugar cereal or granola or seed type cereal, semi-sweet chocolate chips, raisins, cocoa, banana , pasta sauce, honey or maple syrup, herbal tea bags, spices,  dried herbs
Fridge – mini carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, broccoli, red peppers, avocado, strawberries, melon, other seasonal fruit, eggs, plain yogurt, milk or a milk alternative, pecans, almonds, walnuts, fresh seasonal herbs, sauerkraut or other fermented veggies.
Freezer – blueberries, frozen organic corn, broccoli, mixed veg, grass fed beef and chicken burgers, pastured small sausages.
           Sunday night or a night before a stretch of really busy days the following prep will take you about 45 minutes :
          Wash and put a bunch of potatoes in to boil. (Perhaps 1/2 5 lb bag for two people, the whole 5lbs for 4) . Use organic potatoes if you can. I don’t peel them, since a lot of the nutrition is in the skin. Also, I will refrigerate these potatoes after which creates resistant starch with a lower glycemic index. A trick for cooking them  is to boil them for about 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit in water until cooked.
           At the same time, place 6 eggs (for 2 people),  8 or 12 eggs (for four) in cold water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, covered, boil for 5 minutes then just let sit until water is cool.
           While the potatoes and eggs  are cooking on top of the stove, peel and wash several large beets, or butternut squash. Put in a roasting pan or casserole dish with water and a little olive oil – perhaps some rosemary sprinkled on top -and bake for 1/2 hr at 350 then turn the oven off and let cool.
            Get out your book and glass of wine and relax while the foods are cooking themselves! When they have cooled to about room temperature, refrigerate promptly.
             Now  you have  lots of fast, healthy foods to throw together in different combinations! Here are some ideas:
-eggs with hash browns and seasonal fruit
-yogurt with berries
-cereal with yogurt or milk alternative
-eggs and sausages and fruit
-omelette with chopped red pepper, crumbled bacon pieces
Lunch or Dinner:
– Chop egg mix with cooked beets and potato add mayo for a healthy salad
– chickpeas in food processor with olive oil and seasonings to make hummus – use as a dip for raw veg.
– boil rice pasta, drain, cool, add thawed frozen corn, black beans, red pepper diced , avocado and seasonings for a southwest type salad
– guacamole with raw vegetables
– black beans, olive oil, fresh cilantro for a black bean dip to have with veggies
– salmon or tuna in food processor with mayo and seasonings – process and serve on top of romaine lettuce with cherry tomatoes
– beef burger cooked in frying pan or on grill with sauteed broccoli and red peppers
– pasta sauce with leftover beef burger broken up, kidney beans and seasonings for “chili”
– chicken burgers with reheated roasted beets or butternut squash, green salad
Desserts and snacks:
– yogurt with berries or other fruit
– nut, raisin and chocolate chip mixes
– plain piece of melon or other seasonal fruit
– chocolate banana or fruit smoothie using milk or milk alternative, banana and cocoa powder in blender, add fresh mint for a “green smoothie” mint chocolate taste!
– I will often drop one or two herbal tea bags into a glass pitcher or large glass jar , fill with water and refrigerate for a few hours for a refreshing “iced tea” – no sweetener needed –  this can also be poured  into Popsicle molds.
– freeze bananas or other fruit, let thaw for a few minutes then make a “ice cream” in the food processor – this can be “chocolate” flavoured with the addition of cocoa
            Many of these foods can also be grabbed for a spur-of-the moment picnic as well. If you do eat grains, consider adding some whole grain crackers to your cupboard list, and if dairy is a good fit, some high quality goat or cow’s milk cheese can also be used. Have fun this summer, and enjoy the wonderful food and activities this time of year offers!

Take a Sick Day

Yesterday my neck was aching and I had a mild headache. Today my throat is dry, bordering on sore. In all likelihood I am fighting off a virus. Here is what I do when these warning signs hit:
1. I scale back on activities and sleep as much as possible. I was impressed a few years ago when we had a Korean university student boarding with us, because whenever she had cold symptoms she immediately went to bed and slept for hours and hours. She usually only needed one day off school, then she was fully recovered. How many of us try to ignore these initial symptoms, bravely going to work and soldiering on through the day? Did you know that you are the most highly contagious during the first 48 hours of a virus? So yesterday I skipped church, went back to bed and didn’t do much at all. Today is following in a similar pattern. I return to bed whenever I am tired, otherwise I am doing low key activities (like writing this).
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I drink liters of water when I am ill. I vary that with ginger tea. Ginger tea is a potent anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial. Purchase fresh ginger root, grate or finely cut about 1 tsp or more per cup of tea, boil in a covered pot for 10 minutes, strain and enjoy. A small amount of unpasteurized honey can be added to sweeten. Avoid ginger if you are on blood thinners such as Heparin or Warfarin.
3. Vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin A – I will take these in varying amounts, depending on what my current use is for them. They all help support the immune system. I have found taking vitamin D regularly has really cut the frequency of upper respiratory infections. Use discretion in dosing and length of time for these – especially when dealing with babies and young children. Consult a health care professional for further advice.
4. Herbal tinctures. I personally alternate these depending on what I have available in the house. Again, I am being a little vague here, since I think that specific herbs and dosing should be based on your health history, what other medications you are taking etc. So educate yourself, or seek out advice!
5. Homeopathy – a very safe form of treatment. I will occasionally use an indicated remedy for my symptoms. If you are interested in using homeopathy for your family there are good books you can pick up that will give you the indications for the appropriate remedy.
6. Lymphatic massage and drainage. If you go to our SANP FB page, there is a great little video on how to do lymphatic drainage. Very useful for helping the body get rid of waste products and encouraging the flow of white blood cells to combat the infection.
7. I stay off sugar. Very, very important. Up to 50% of our white blood cells are destroyed for up to 6 hours after consuming a teaspoon of sugar. Kind of like helping the enemy rather than defeating it. This also means no orange or other types of juice when sick.

What I don’t use when I am sick:

1. Essential oils – surprising, I know. Many of my patients use these, I don’t because I have homeopathic remedies in the house which I can’t expose to scents. I also have allergies and lots of my patients do as well. Essential oils can be quite effective, however. Essential oils are safest used diluted and on skin or inhaled, but not taken orally. You must dilute because they can burn skin, or cause allergic reactions. Be careful as well with inhalation, there was a case recently of a daycare where essential oils had been put in a diffuser and several people became ill. I hear my patients talk about Thieves oil working well for them.
2. Cold and Flu products from the drugstore. Yuck. I have never used these. Full of chemicals and they do not aid my body in getting better, they just give my liver and kidneys more work to detox.

Inflammation – The villain at the heart of all chronic illness

Why do I call inflammation a villain? Isn’t it a normal and necessary body reaction? Yes – but only in acute situations such as a cut or an infection. In these situations you need the response of inflammation which is the rapid mobilization of the immune system to send white blood cells to the affected location. This fights the bacteria or virus off, and then prompts the injured site to swell to allow time to recover and heal. Without this process, we would never recover from the injury or infection.
However, inflammation’s evil twin, the villain, occurs in chronic conditions. Asthma, many cancers, obesity, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, irritable bowel disease, gout, and all autoimmune conditions have inflammation at the heart causing the various different signs and symptoms of each condition. Each of these illnesses begins from a failure to eliminate an insult to the body which may be some low level continuing irritation of the tissue or an autoimmune reaction to something which is usually supposed to considered normal by you.The body brings inflammation into play, and the symptoms just accelerate causing more inflammation and more symptoms. Then you see your medical doctor and complain of wheezing, forgetfulness, joint pain or digestive problems. Your blood work may show an elevated LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. A medical doctor will prescribe statins, Tylenol or steroid drugs, all designed to decrease your inflammation but not to actually remove what is causing these symptoms in the first place. The only true treatment here is achieved by discovering what is causing the inflammation. Is it a food allergy or sensitivity? Is it damage from lack of antioxidants or essential fats in the diet? Heavy metals? Too much or too little exercise? Hormone imbalance? Genetic factors?
Once the cause is determined, the true treatment can begin. The irritating agent can be removed, the nutritional deficiencies corrected, the food sensitivities detected, the lifestyle altered all to restore normal body function.
Did you know that if you are obese and lose weight that the inflammation in your body will improve? That curing your insomnia will also help? That if you regularly eat ginger, turmeric, fish, green tea and tart cherries you will naturally decrease your inflammation?
Did you know you can actually figure out what factors are causing inflammation in your body? Dr. Wendy Presant- Jahn has twenty years of experience as a “medical detective” and through a detailed case consultation and with access to a vast array of functional testing services can help you figure out what is contributing to your chronic illness. A schedule of the doctor’s appointment availabilities as well as fees can be accessed through the “book online” link below:

Dr. Wendy Presant-Jahn, ND, CFMP
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
(306) 543-4880
web site –  www.wendynd.com
book online – http://drwendynd.simplybook.me/sheduler/manage/

Brain Health – Defending Against Dementia

Dementia scares the heck out of me. I am in my 50’s and have seen how this disease has ravaged family members. Every time I forget a detail or misplace an object I wonder if it is beginning – that long slow slide towards senility.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but there are a number of other types of dementia as well.

The classic medical approach has been to slow progression of the disease and treat symptoms, often with serious side effects. Families are sadly told there is no cure or prevention and to make necessary arrangements for care.

Being a baby boomer has its advantages. A whole lot of other people are around my age, including medical researchers, equally interested in preventing and treating dementia. This means that recently studies have been flooding the medical and scientific journals, studies that point to preventing and possibly even curing Alzheimer’s. I find these studies very exciting, because they are not about the latest and greatest pharmaceutical, but rather about diet and lifestyle factors.

I teach others about these factors, and incorporate them into my own brain health program. Here is a peak at some of the best and latest practices for maintaining brain health:

  1. Sleep – the brain needs enough time to “wash” itself each night. Plan on 6-8 hours of sleep. Be sure your room is perfectly dark, or wear a sleep mask and avoid screens after dinner. If you snore or wake frequently, ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep clinic to test for sleep apnea. Problems with short-term memory and difficulty concentrating are often brought on by insufficient sleep.
  2. Prevent the highs and lows of blood sugar – the brain is very sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels, and causing rapid change can inflame and damage delicate neurons. Don’t eat anything after supper until the following morning. This gives your body a little “fast”, and will help normalize the cell response to sugar and insulin. At first this may be difficult. If you experience wakefulness, try just a piece of fruit before bed, and then see if you can wean off even that. Walking for 15 minutes after a big meal will also help normalize blood sugar. Avoid simple carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour, and eat just to a point of barely feeling full.
  3. Exercise at least 4-6 times a week. Do something, even if it is just a short walk or a yoga workout. All exercise is beneficial. Eventually you want to do some “high intensity short duration” training which will have the most impact on your health. Start with walking, then gradually add in short “bursts” of jogging.
  4. Meditation. 15-20 minutes a day of quieting the mind will decrease cortisol levels which will decrease inflammation in the brain and body. You can do meditation as a secular practice, just deep breathing and relaxing the body, or you can do it as part of a faith practice. The important thing is to develop it into a habit.

    Personally, I have the best success at incorporating new habits one at a time. I will pick one thing to focus on for a week, and then add in the next habit the following week, you might like to try the same approach.

    If you would like a more individualized approach to brain health, including specific functional testing, optimizing your diet and incorporating supplements and herbs known for their ability to prevent and heal the brain, let me know and we will set up an appointment. Working together I am confident we can reduce your risk for dementia.

Free Functional Medicine Summit Online

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Can my sick thyroid become euthyroid again? It is possible!

Euthyroid is the medical term for normal thyroid. It refers to a a thyroid that tests in the normal range for thyroid antibodies and thyroid hormones. If a thyroid is not testing euthyroid, then people are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, such as Hashimoto’s thyrodits, or hyperthyroidism, such as Graves Disease. A hypothyroid state means you are given thyroid hormone replacement and a hyperthyroid state means the thyroid is irradiated or has a part removed. A thyroid that is partially destroyed will almost always then become hypothyroid and require thyroid hormone replacement.

This is simplifying things a little and I am not talking in this article about thyroid cancers or genetic dysfunctions or other, rarer causes of thyroid disease. These two conditions though, represent the most common thyroid conditions and treatment seen in my clinical practice. Throughout my nursing training and even through naturopathic training, I was taught that Graves and Hashimotos’s were thyroid diseases, that they couldn’t be cured, only treated either with pharmaceutical or natural means which the patient would have to continue for the rest of their life. During my functional medicine courses, however, I learned something different.

The problem with both of these main types of treatment – thyroid hormone replacement or gland destruction/removal, is that they don’t actually cure the thyroid gland itself and get it functioning properly. It is a bit like saying a bucket with a hole in it can hold water because you are continually pouring water into it. Water is still pouring out, but it looks like the bucket is also holding water. Fix the hole in the bucket and the bucket really will hold water.

So why doesn’t your doctor fix the thyroid so that it really will work on it’s own again? For one thing, conventional medicine doesn’t believe that is possible. They do know that if there is iodine deficiency and you give iodine that will help, but iodine levels are not tested. This is because table salt is iodized and so low iodine isn’t an issue anymore, right? No, not true. I learned recently that the salt used in processed foods is not iodized, only our table salt is. So if someone doesn’t use a salt shaker at home or is careful with their salt intake because of high blood pressure or some other medical reason, they might not be getting much iodine at all. There are even studies showing that eating iodized salt is not an ideal way to obtain iodine.

In fact one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism today remains iodine deficiency. Eating some seaweed each day is a much better way to get iodine into your body. For those of you who rub iodine onto your skin every day, that has never been shown to really work to increase levels. I also recommend against taking iodine drops, unless under careful supervision since just a drop or two more than you need might suppress rather than stimulate the thyroid.

Iodine deficiency doesn’t cause all thyroid problems, however. The thyroid is actually part of our immune system, so if we have problems with our immunity, the thyroid can reflect this. Two other very common causes of thyroid problems are gluten or other food intolerance and intestinal overgrowth of bacteria, yeast or parasites.

I saw a patient yesterday who has reverted to a euthyroid state after becoming gluten free (she had elevated levels of deamidated gliadin peptide antibody on her celiac panel, and Candida overgrowth on her comprehensive stool analysis). There is actually about a ten fold chance over the normal population that you will have celiac disease if you have thyroid disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9872614 She went on a gluten-free, high nutrient diet, did a yeast cleanse and now she is euthyroid. No medications or herbal formulas for thyroid are now needed.

This will not necessarily happen in all thyroid conditions since we are all biochemically different. It’s a little like the weight loss infomercials where someone loses 50 pounds in one month and then the very small print tells you that results ‘may vary”. I have seen this euthyroid state reached on at least two occasions in my clinical practice, however.

I have some other patients where we are still seeing progress, the thyroid is getting better and the medication level is less, but there is not yet a euthyroid state . I should also add it takes a lot of work on the part of the patient. It is more difficult to adjust your diet and clean out your system than to pop a pill every day. Even on thyroid medication , though, a lot of people still don’t feel that great. Yes, they may function better than they did before the medication, but they are still tired, overweight and cold.

Consider also that the chance of breast cancer increase 200% when taking thryoid medication (when there is insufficient iodine intake). http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/taking-thyroid-hormone-increases-breast-cancer-risk-by-200/ . So, what can you do if you have thyroid disease? There are four steps to take:

1. Have your iodine levels checked. Meanwhile, add a little seaweed to your diet each day. If you are on thyroid medication, this will reduce your chance for developing breast cancer.
2. Ask for a celiac blood panel, (as long as you are currently eating gluten, otherwise it won’t be accurate). A normal test doesn’t mean you don’t have a gluten intolerance, however it is more of a pointer for celiac disease , so the next step is:
3. Go on an elimination diet. Cut out the most common food sensitivities for a few weeks or a month and then test them back. Any naturopthic doctor can set you up and monitor you through this process.
4. Obtain a comprehensive stool analysis or Organix urine profile to check for high levels of yeast , abnormal bacteria or parasites. These tests are available through most naturopathic doctors. If these organisms are stressing the thyroid, then eliminating them can help the thyroid to heal.

Since every change we make in our life has consequences, I must mention the side effects of taking the above actions. Say the following very fast. “You may experience increased energy, weight loss, better sleep, better sex, fewer colds, a decreased risk of cancers and heart disease and a longer life”. If only every treatment regime could offer this list of side effects! Also, I am not telling you to stop taking your current thyroid medications. Doing so will endanger your life since you need proper levels of circulating thyroid hormones.

I never take patients off their medications when we start working on the thyroid. I do, however, follow the steps outlined above and as we see the thyroid improve by the blood work and signs and symptoms of the patient, I ask the patient to return to their medical doctor and request a reduction in medication. At some point, even on a low dose, the medications may cause blood result readings that are now too high. This means the person is getting too much hormone between their own production and their medication and then I ask them to ask their medical doctor to take them off their medication.

As a child, I grew up blissfully ignorant of the microscopic world within my body. Bacteria were “bad germs” that caused disease and should be removed from hands, toys and surfaces as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Like many kids I regularly got what my mom termed “ear, nose and throat infections”. Naturally the prescribed remedy was always an antibiotic. It was the 1960’s and 70’s and antibiotics were in their heyday. They were the life saving, ultimate germ killing medicine. As long as you didn’t have an allergy to penicillin , antibiotics were passed out freely and not thought to have any side effects.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s we started hearing about the rise in peanut and other food allergies. Asthma was on the increase as well as autism. The incidence of obesity, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes in children as well as adults rose. Every year since then, these chronic disease rates and others have continued to skyrocket.

In the medical community, we started asking questions, trying to find out why these conditions were suddenly reaching epidemic levels. There were many possible theories. Too much fast food? Maybe. Not enough exercise? Maybe. No pets owned as a child? Maybe. A disturbance of the intestinal bacteria? But wait… aren’t all bacteria bad for you? Shouldn’t they all be wiped out with antibiotics? Or do our billions of bowel bacteria have critical roles to play in the maintenance of our good health?

In this book, Martin J. Blaser, MD, does a terrific job of telling the story of the rise and fall of antibiotics and how they have affected the critical world of bacteria within us. Before reading this book, I had always assumed antibiotics were given to animals raised for food to treat or prevent infection. Not always so! Instead they are mostly used to fatten up the animals for market. We then eat the animals and introduce the antibiotic residues into our bodies which go on to cause antibiotic resistance in our own bacteria.

Compared to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, for the it’s prophetic warnings of what unbridled use of antibiotics has done for us in terms of both healing infections and causing many of our chronic illnesses, this book is well-researched and eminently readable for the layperson. Dr. Blasser often draws on research that he has done in his own lab, and writes with a passion that draws the reader into the world of microbiology. Perhaps most useful to our health is the “solutions” chapter that Dr. Blasser provides with suggestions on how to reduce our dependence on antibiotics and possible ways to mitigate the damage that has already occurred. This book is especially important for anyone with children or intending on having children for his advice on preserving and maintaining their micro biome.

This book is available through my Amazon.ca affiliate link here:

<a href="http://Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues“>missing microbes

Healthy Chocolate Fudge (No dairy, gluten, nuts or soy)

This works well for fudge cravings and gives you calcium, protein and fiber so it is almost guilt free. About a million calories though, so cut a small piece if you are counting those!

1/2 jar of sunflower seed butter (500 gm jar)

3 Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp real vanilla extract

2 Tbsp of honey

1/2 tsp of salt

Mix it all together by hand, then press into a pie pan. Freeze for a few hours, or overnight, then  cut into small pieces. If you are diabetic or strictly sugar free, you could try this with a little stevia instead of the honey and it should still be pretty good. One of the best ways I know of to eat sunflower seeds!                                                                                                                                                    





Are vitamin supplements just a waste of money?

Recently there has been a wave of vitamin bashing in the media. Esteemed heads of various medical societies have been issuing dire warnings of the uselessness of consuming vitamin pills based on data from the latest studies. These same doctors are reassuring people who everything our body needs can be found in the food we eat and that buying vitamin or mineral pills is a waste of money. If you believe this, please stop reading, grab your phone and order up some fast food. Don’t forget to take your antacid, statin drug, blood pressure medication and your antidepressant. Obviously you are perfectly fine just eating the standard Canadian diet!

Now on a more serious note, nutrition is fundamental to a healthy body. Years ago I saw a young man who was very much into fitness and apparently nutrition. In fact he intimidated me a little as he reeled off the latest facts about bodybuilding and the supplements he was taking. I began to doubt I had anything of value to offer him in the area of healthy eating. His list of vitamins and minerals he was taking seemed a mile long. And yet he had health issues. So, as I do with all my patients, I asked him to complete a week-long diet diary. When he returned for his next visit I didn’t see a single vegetable or fruit on the list! That’s right, this savvy young guy hadn’t eaten a single apple or carrot or piece of lettuce all week! Flabbergasted, I questioned him on this. “Well”, he replied “I don’t need any fruits or vegetables because I have all my vitamins covered through my supplements!”

No! It doesn’t work that way! Vegetables and fruit don’t just contain a certain amount of vitamin C or A or iron, they also have hundreds of other chemicals in them that are vital for our good health. Chemicals that we haven’t even identified yet, chemicals that work together to keep up healthy and strong. Not to mention the fiber and fat and protein and carbohydrate of the vegetable or fruit that can’t be squeezed into the vitamin pill. So a healthy diet is way, way more important than the world’s best supplement protocol. The Gurus of Modern Western Medicine are quite right about that.

Here, though, is the problem. Are Western diets, and now spreading, (no pun intended), to Eastern diets, giving people what their bodies need from their food? Are humans supposed to be spherical in shape, develop diabetes, heart disease and cancer and die when they are middle-aged? Of course not. Just looking around us, we see that something has gone very wrong with our nutrition. I remember when I was a child 40 years ago, that an overweight child was a rarity. We had one overweight child in my grade 5 class and she was teased mercilessly. Now it is not uncommon for half the class to be overweight or obese. Think about your workplace. How many of the people around you actually look rested and energetic and healthy? Can they even stay awake without their morning coffee? How many women are on antidepressants? How many guys are on statins for their cholesterol? Believe it or not, with the rare exception, most of our current diseases are completely preventable. And if caught in time, completely curable. But by what? Nutrition!

In order to compensate for years of poor nutrition or to deal with a current health condition or stress in our life sometimes a jump-start is needed. By using supplements, we can get large amounts of certain vitamins or minerals or enzymes that have specific effects on the health and function of the body. An interesting fact is that genetic individuality exists for vitamins and minerals, so the vitamin D that is enough for one person’s body to work well, may not be enough for the next person. The food that we eat is often genetically modified, chemically treated, picked unripe, again chemically treated, stored and shipped for many days before we eat it and in the process it loses most of its nutrients. So supplements can boost the less than ideal nutrients in food. Acute illness, chronic illness, stress, air pollution, aging, pregnancy and breast-feeding are also indications for increased nutrients. So if you fall into one of these categories, or if you are basically healthy but you want to prevent disease, how do you know whether to supplement or not? Here are a few basic rules of thumb when making a decision about if and what to supplement:

1. Do your research. Just because your friend or relative is taking a supplement, it doesn’t mean it is right for you. Google the supplement online, read the articles and then check out the studies mentioned in the article. When researching the studies, look for the size of the study, the specific type of supplement used and who did the study. Check the authors credentials for product affiliation.
2. Know the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of the vitamin or mineral suitable for your age and gender. This is usually the dose that will prevent deficiency, but is not a treatment dose. It is a safe dose for the age and gender, but may not have much effect on the condition you are supplementing for. This brings us to the next point:
3. Know the amount that can cause toxicity. This is especially important if you have a compromised immune system, liver or kidneys.
4. If you are taking any prescription medications, check with your naturopathic doctor, or if you don’t have one, your pharmacist about interactions with supplements. Don’t ask your medical doctor. Doctors and nurses will usually tell you not to take anything with the prescribed medication. This is not necessarily because it will conflict with it, but reflects their lack of knowledge of possible supplement interactions. So they play it safe by just forbidding all natural supplements. Naturopathic doctors are extensively trained in recognizing drug/nutrient interactions, and some pharmacists have knowledge in this area too.
5. Try one supplement at a time and note any strange reactions. If you start taking a vitamin or mineral and you wake up feeling stiff or your digestion is off or there is another issue you didn’t have before, that supplement may not be right for you.
6. Liquids, chewables and capsules will always be absorbed more easily than tablets. Look out for a long list of fillers, and for supplements that seem like a “bargain”. Cheap supplements usually don’t absorb very well.
7. Keep in mind that some vitamin and mineral needs increase in pregnancy, during recovery from surgery , in times of stress and acute infections.

So, don’t believe everything you hear, good and bad, about nutritional supplements. Do your own research and listen to your body when you try them out. Above all, remember not to let your supplements substitute for a healthy diet full of vegetables and fruit.