Boost your Immune System naturally…

It’s that time of year where sneezes and coughs become part of the background noise. How do you keep yourself immune from the constant onslaught of germs around you? At Aspire, we have some favourite remedies that help keep bacteria and viruses under control. And if you are serious about immune system boosting, consider these top blood tests to give us up to date info on your body’s ability to ward off this season’s offenders.


Flying during the winter season? Prone to bronchitis or other respiratory ailments? Our magic weapon? Xenobioforce. It has a funny name (xeno is pronounced zeno) but it can be your best friend for preventing chest colds and coughs. When you are forced to spend many hours in an enclosed area with little ventilation, you can be exposed to more pathogens. This may be a reality for those of you travelling daily via subway, plane or train. Let’s review the ingredients of our favourite formula:


Astragalus – Chinese medicine herb specific for boosting immune system and targeting respiratory conditions

Vitamin C – Nature’s well-known immune system fighter

Beta carotene – Powerful antioxidant, precursor to Vitamin A, required for proper immune function

Ginger root – Natural anti-inflammatory, increases circulation and assists with healing

Zinc – Often deficient in our diet, this mineral is important for optimal immune system function; assists the body with activating the immune response

Sour cherry– Fights inflammation and is a source of potent antioxidants


And for those of you brave enough to take a remedy that doesn’t taste very good but works incredibly well, we suggest botanical tinctures. At Aspire we can compound various herbal formulas that are specific for your needs. Feeling like an illness is coming? We recommend a tincture of echinacea and goldenseal. Have a sore throat with a headache? We may compound ginger, turmeric and astragalus. The goal? Take these remedies in an ounce of water several times a day and let these herbs work their magic.

As for lab tests to asisst us with knowing immune status, consider the following:

Vitamin D – Studies show that when vitamin D levels are low, one is at an increased susceptibility to infections. Nearing the end of the summer months, your vitamin D levels should be the highest they are all year, thanks to our direct sun exposure. Considering supplementation with vitamin D in the Fall months is generally a good idea to maintain your levels until next summer, but it’s important to know where your starting point is. Through a simple blood test with your ND, you can find out your baseline vitamin D levels so that you know exactly how much to supplement with so you can optimize your levels and your immune system.

Complete Blood Count (CBC) – This is a test that is often run as part of a complete laboratory assessment, however, sometimes it gets overlooked. It includes both your red blood cell count (RBCs) and your white blood cell count (WBC). Our white blood cells are the cells of our immune system and are our first line of defense when we encounter a foreign invader. Therefore, measuring these levels can assess the body’s immune response.

Vitamin B12 – You’ve probably heard us talk many of times about vitamin B12 and that’s because it’s so important when it comes to making sure we have enough energy to perform our daily tasks. Not only is vitamin B12 important for energy production, but it also plays a role in our white blood cell production. Like I mentioned above, these cells are essential for proper immune system functioning. As a lack of vitamin B12 can lower your immunity, we suggest testing your vitamin B12 levels at the beginning of “cold & flu season” to ensure that your levels are optimal.


Come for a visit and we will customize your season’s immune boosting protocol.

Make-up Clean-up

Fall is the perfect time to do a make-up swap. Did you know that companies are not required to put an expiry date on your cosmetics? Beauty experts agree that there are guidelines to follow. Consider replacing your cosmetics with these timelines in mind:

eyeliner – 6 months to 1 year

eyeshadow – 6 months to 1 year

mascara – 3 months

blush – 6 months to 1 year

lipstick – 6 months to 1 year

foundation – 6 months to 1 year

And if you are in the process of replacing some products, why not consider a ‘cleaner’ product in general. We are fortunate that the evolution of greener and cleaner products is here. For many reasons, natural skincare is good for you. Its also good for the environment and your family. This translates to less toxins in us and in our world.

Consider switching to health-conscious brand names like Epic Blend, Green Beaver, Druide, Graydon Skincare, Kaia Naturals & Beautycounter. These exciting lines make it their mission to avoid the use of harsh chemicals, fillers, artificial fragrances & more. Take a glance at BeautyCounter’s Never List. They have taken a stance to avoid the worst offenders seen in commercial beauty products.

While I spend a lot of time with patients discussing their inner beauty, I don’t often have those extra minutes to review outer beauty practices. This is a very important topic that I will try to shed light on in the future via workshops, blogposts and deeper dialogues! To move this conversation along, Aspire has begun taking orders for Beauty Counter products. If you want more info, feel free to delve into this the next time at Aspire. In the meantime, do your best to take another look in your make-up bag. Fall is the time for change. You deserve to make the changes about your own health and beauty. Making informed choices is step #1.

Why Choose a Natural Sunscreen?

Are you on the hunt for a chemical-free, natural sunscreen that will work? There are so many options when it comes to natural sunscreens, but some are better than others. Let’s take a deeper look at why sunscreen is important and why mineral sunscreen is a safer choice.

 

WHY DO WE NEED SUNSCREEN?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the biggest cause of skin cancer. Also, it is estimated that 90% of the signs of aging are caused by the sun. Therefore, sunscreen should be a part of your daily routine, not unlike brushing your teeth or eating your veggies. But you shouldn’t choose just any type of sunscreen.  We suggest using a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen that will protect against UVA (Aging rays) as well as UVB (Burning rays) rays.

 

Top 5 Reasons to Switch to Mineral Sunscreen

 

  • NO SYSTEMIC ABSORPTION: Instead of chemical sunscreen try using zinc oxide, a mineral filter that sits on the surface of the skin as a barrier to bounce or reflect sun’s rays away. A non-nano zinc oxide made up of larger particles will have a lower risk of being absorbed into the skin.

 

  • LESS IRRITATING TO SKIN: Many chemical sunscreens contain a long list of ingredients that may irritate sensitive skin. If your skin is prone to acne or eczema, then considering a mineral sunscreen may be the best option for you.

 

  • NO HORMONAL DISRUPTION: Many generic sunscreen brands contain several chemicals that are known to be endocrine disruptors. Studies have shown that these chemicals can affect fertility, sperm count and may delay puberty. There is also evidence to suggest female exposure to oxybenzone and related chemicals have been linked to increased risk of endometriosis.

 

  • IMMEDIATE SUN PROTECTION: Unlike chemical sunscreen that need to be applied 20-30 minutes before going in the sun, mineral sunscreen works instantaneously.

 

  • REEF FRIENDLY: Many mineral sunscreens are free from oxybenzone and octinoxate, ingredients known to contribute to the collapse of coral reefs.

 

Paleo Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

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Our resident nutritionist Linda Heredia, has shared with us her favourite summer recipe. This recipe is so simple as a no-churn ice cream or popsicle – perfect for these summer months or anytime you are craving a cold, delicious treat! Bonus – it’s packed with more potassium than bananas and loaded with healthy fats to keep you feeling satiated!

Serves: 10 small ice cream bowls or 10 iced pops

Ingredients

  • 2 medium ripe avocados

  • 3 tablespoons cacao powder

  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice such as honey, stevia, monk fruit)

  • 3 tablespoons almond butter

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 2 cups Coconut Milk  (from a can – you can also substitute for your milk preference but a heavier, thicker cream works best)

  • Optional: Cacao Nibs or Cacao Shavings

Instructions

  1. Blend together the avocados with cacao powder, maple syrup, almond butter, vanilla, coconut milk, and sea salt. Blend until smooth.

  2. Pour into container (or you can use ice pop molds if you want popsicles) and freeze overnight (or 9+ hours). No churning required.

  3. If you are using cacao nibs or shavings you can add this on top

If you are making them as pops let them sit out for a minute or two or run under warm water to loosen and then pull out. Enjoy!

Fertility Acupuncture: Support for Natural Cycles & IVF

Many individuals have tried acupuncture for various health conditions. Did you know acupuncture has also demonstrated in research to be an effective tool for fertility support?

Wondering how this may be?

Research suggests that there are 3 potential mechanisms for acupuncture’s effects on fertility.

  1. Acupuncture may release neurotransmitters which may stimulate the release of GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) that has an influence on the menstrual cycle and ovulation.
  2. Acupuncture may increase blood flow to the uterus and nourish reproductive organs.
  3.  Acupuncture may stimulate the production of endogenous opioids (which decrease pain in the body) and may therefore inhibit the stress response.

 According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is believed that acupuncture ‘works’ by promoting the proper flow of Qi and Blood in the body. This energy is then directed to the reproductive organs when the focus is on fertility support.

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In practice,  Dr. Erin Enns and I often use acupuncture for assisting with concerns that are often linked with fertility challenges such as anovulation, menstrual irregularities, lack of period, and PCOS. Once regular cycles are achieved, we determine peak ovulation days. At this stage, we then establish an individualized acupuncture protocol. This may include an acupuncture treatment around the time of ovulation and then approximately 2 weeks after this session, depending on cycle length.

The benefits of acupuncture are often experienced  immediately. Patients usually report a feeling of calmness and a deep sense of relaxation. When the body is calm, this impact can also aid in hormonal regulation and a decrease in cortisol levels, the stress hormone. A reduction in frustration and anxiety which is often encountered in the fertility process, is also a valuable side benefit.

Whether you are trying to conceive for the first time, or planning for IVF, consider adding acupuncture to your routine. Dr. Erin and I have privileges around various Fertility Centers around the GTA including but not limited to ReproMed, Hannam, and Create. We can perform onsite acupuncture for Pre- and Post Embryo transfers.

The fertility journey can be challenging. Many of our patients who have had unsuccessful attempts often tell us they wish they had tried acupuncture sooner. It may not be the answer for everyone, but it is one of the best tools we use for fertility support.

 

Collagen: Debunking Myths

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Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It is now touted as the best anti-aging product available. Collagen can be injected into the face and lips to give a more plump and youthful appearance. It is often added into creams but it has become increasingly popular as a nutritional supplement. As ND’s we like to focus on beauty from the inside out so we thought we would give the facts about this trendy supplement.

 

As with any new health product on the market, we know there is much confusion about its benefits. So, let’s debunk some of the myths about collagen…

 

Myth #1: Collagen is only good for joint health.

Collagen has many more benefits than joint health. It has been shown to:

  • Improves elasticity of the skin
  • Reduces fine lines & wrinkles
  • Improve physical performance
  • Supports gut health

 

Myth #2: Collagen is only good for the elderly.

There is lots of emphasis around collagen being useful in aging joints. However, once we understand the diverse benefits of collagen, it becomes extremely attractive to people of all ages. Recent studies have shown that collagen stimulates cells located in the layers of the skin to improve skin health. Looking for better looking skin? Collagen may be your new best friend!

 

Myth #3: Collagen is only available from animal sources.

You’ve probably heard the word “bovine” tossed around when talking about collagen. This means that the collagen is derived from a cow. Don’t eat meat?! You can also get your collagen from a marine source, more specifically from fish scales. It may not sound all that tasty, but it can work wonders!

 

If we’ve convinced you of the benefits of collagen, there’s one more thing you should know. Not all collagen supplements are created equal. Make sure you find a collagen that is from grass-fed cows or wild-caught fish, and that it has been hydrolyzed (easier for your body to absorb!). In addition watch for those products with numerous non-medicinal ingredients. As Collagen has many benefits for the inside and outer appearance of our body, it tops our list for supplements!

 

To Keto or not to Keto?

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 Thinking of trying a Keto Diet? 

 

The ‘Oh, I can eat bacon and cheese every day’ diet may seem appealing, but a Ketogenic Diet is not for everyone.

Have you been thinking that it’s time to try a new diet? Feeling bloated or experiencing indigestion on a regular basis? Has a friend recommended trying a Keto diet? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, read on…

 

The Ketogenic diet

 

What is allowed? Simply, fat! Yes, this is a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet. The biggest mistake that people make when starting the Keto diet, is that they forget about their vegetables! A Keto diet includes healthy fats like avocados, olives, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. However, alongside our higher fat foods we can’t forget about our nutritious keto-friendly vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, kale, zucchini, spinach, peppers, and Brussel sprouts.

 

What is not allowed? A Keto diet does not include bread, pasta, rice, potatoes (including sweet potatoes), French fries, potato chips, sweets like candy and donuts and chocolate! Foods that are higher in carbohydrates including alcohol, are to be avoided.

 

What is ketosis? The term ketosis (the basis for the name KETOgenic diet) refers to a metabolic process in the body. Ketosis occurs when the body no longer uses glucose as a fuel source. Instead the body begins to use fat as a way to provide energy for the body.

 

Why do we want ketosis? As a result of the body choosing an alternate fuel source, the body uses fat. When this occurs, fat is broken down to provide energy for the body and fat loss can occur.

 

Benefit of this diet? The main reason most individuals try this diet is to achieve weight loss. Research shows that this diet is helpful for epileptic patients where a reduction in seizures is seen. More research for weight loss needs to be performed.

 

The downside? As with any change in diet, some side effects can occur. Oftentimes with a lower carbohydrate diet, individuals may experience headaches, constipation, change in mood (serious grumpiness!), lower energy levels and more. And as carbs are removed, you may develop a loss of essential nutrients like Vitamin C or the B vitamins.

 

Consider these 3 steps before starting a Keto diet:

 

  1. Seek support from your ND: As Naturopathic Doctors, we highly recommend seeking support while making any changes to your diet, including a keto diet. Just as there is no magic pill for everyone, there is no magic diet for everyone. Our focus is on individualized care. While your friend may swear the Ketogenic diet helped her lose 15 pounds, it may not be the most suitable diet for you.

 

  1. Do your research: Patients who need to exercise caution before making any dietary changes include those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. Also, individuals who have mental illness should exercise caution as low levels in blood sugar may also cause mood changes.

 

  1. Consider baseline testing: Why test? If you decide to do the diet, we often suggest vitamin testing before you begin. When fruits and vegetables are restricted, there will be fluctuations in vitamin absorption. Our goal is to prevent deficiencies and correct with supplementation if any are determined.

 

Working with a Naturopathic Doctor has its benefits. We can make sense of the research, do bloodwork and determine the best eating plan for your needs.

 

 

 

 

Easter eggs, naturally :)

shell-2152029_1280Easter is a celebration that focuses on food and fun! Dying eggs to create rainbow coloured eggs has been a long since tradition for many families. For these eggs we’re using all-natural food dyes!  That way you don’t have to worry about any harsh or toxic chemicals around your kids with this fun egg decorating craft.

 

Here is what you’ll need:

  • 1 dozen white eggs, hard boiled
  • 1 head of red cabbage, chopped
  • 4 red beets, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 9 cups of water
  • 12 tablespoons white vinegar

 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place red cabbage, beets, and turmeric into 3 separate pots, with 3 cups of water each
  2. Bring each pot to a boil and then simmer for about 30-minutes
  3. Strain each mixture, once cooled and pour back into respective pots
  4. Mix 4 tablespoons of white vinegar into each pot
  5. Place cooled hard-boiled eggs into each mixture, making sure they’re completely submerged – spoon out eggs once desired colour is achieved (from 1-minute to 30-minutes)
  6. Place them back into the egg tray to dry – once completely dried, you can decorate with paint

 

Happy egg decorating!

How to Keep Your Liver Healthy – Prevention

Have you ever been told by your family doctor that you have a fatty liver? Are you confused by this because you eat well and only occasionally have a glass of red wine? Are you doing a detoxification program and not seeing the results you expect? Well, if you answered yes to the above questions, you are not alone.

The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body. It is central to almost all vital processes. Despite this crucial role, often it is not thoroughly assessed. Unfortunately, there is a gap in the current healthcare system with regards to the detection and treatment of liver conditions. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the term used to described fatty infiltration in the liver cells. This disease is rising amongst Canadians. Currently, the treatment for NAFLD is lifestyle modification.

Did you know?

  • It is estimated that approximately 3 million people, 1 in 10 Canadians, have some form of liver disease
  • Early detection and treatment can lead to the prevention of more progressive forms of liver disease
  • The FibroScan is a non-invasive and simple test that can assess percentage of fatty liver and fibrosis
  • NAFLD is typically seen in obesity, however lean individuals are often diagnosed with this condition
  • Patients with PCOS, elevated blood sugar or cholesterol levels may be at higher risk to developing NAFLD
  • Certain dietary and vitamin interventions may help reduce severity of NAFLD

 

Why is this important?

Early intervention with a focus on lifestyle modification may help to prevent the later stages of liver disease. In the early stages of fatty liver, there is an opportunity to prevent further fatty accumulation. Over time, a fatty liver can lead to non-alcoholic steatosis hepatitis (NASH) which can cause scarring and irreversible damage.

If you are doing a cleanse, you may consider doing a liver scan to assess for liver function. This can assist with determining which cleanse may be most appropriate for you. This can be determined when working with your ND.

 

Action steps recommended by Dr. Gill & Dr. Erin

  1. Ask your family doctor or naturopathic doctor to test for liver function. This can include testing of multiple liver enzymes. If elevated, this could lead to a fatty liver.
  2. If your liver enzymes are elevated, consider testing using the FibroScan.
  3. If diagnosed with a fatty liver, seek preventative care with your naturopathic doctor.
  4. If you have no previous concerns with your liver, consider the test to have as a baseline record of liver health. Prevention is KEY!

 

 

 

Tired of being tired? Dr. Enns & Dr. Gill may have the answer.

B12 picture

Feeling fatigued and low energy on a regular basis? It’s that time of the year again where the days are shorter, and the nights grow longer. We tend to blame this energy shift on the lack of sun exposure, shorter days and frigid weather, however we repeatedly forget that our vitamin and mineral status can have a profound effect on how we feel! Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin to have tested to ensure insufficient levels are not the cause of persistent fatigue.

Holiday stress may lead to an increase in nutrient demand. B12 is crucial for energy production. Who doesn’t want more energy this season?

Experience any of these symptoms below?  If yes, this may point to a vitamin B12 deficiency.

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Waking up tired
  • Forgetful
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Sore tongue
  • Depression
  • Numbness or tingling

The average level of vitamin B12 levels in Canadians is 350 pmol/L. This number is on the lower end of the typical reference range for vitamin B12 (138 – 652 pmol/L). A naturopathic approach focuses on optimal health, where lower levels may be an indication for supplementation. Injections of B12 are also considered based on severity of symptoms.

What could be the potential causes for a vitamin B12 deficiency? As naturopathic doctors, we try to identify the cause of such a deficiency. In our experience, we have found that a vitamin B12 deficiency may be linked to impaired digestion, where patients with IBS, diarrhea, constipation, gastric reflux, GERD, may be at a greater likelihood of decreased absorption.

As well a vitamin B12 deficiency may be linked to inadequate nutrition. For patients on more restrictive diets like a low carbohydrate, vegan, elimination diets, we often encounter vitamin deficiencies.

Certain medications like Metformin and proton-pump inhibitors like Omeprazole, may also be culprits in lowered vitamin B12 status.

 

Feeling any of these symptoms? Take These Next Steps!

Step 1: Get your levels tested! If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, get your vitamin B12 levels tested with us. Prior to supplementing with vitamin B12, it is essential to know your baseline levels to determine the magnitude of benefit.

 

Step 2: Already got your levels tested? If you’re ahead of the game and already have your vitamin B12 levels tested, bring your results in to discuss with us. If your vitamin B12 blood test was performed more than 3 months ago, we suggest that you re-test it to have a more current reading.

 

Step 3: “Normal” levels, but not feeling yourself? We see this commonly in practice. It is often a misconception that you must have deficient levels before supplementing with vitamin B12. We recommend that you discuss your lab work with us in order to determine your appropriate dose of vitamin B12.

 

Step 4: Start feeling your best! Research demonstrates that oral supplementation is as effective as intramuscular injections for those with deficient levels of vitamin B12. Patient compliance in taking supplements can be quite low. Therefore, in our clinical experience, we see greater benefit in overall symptoms in those opting for vitamin B12 intramuscular injections than those supplementing orally.