Friday, March 20, 2009


Most people think of food allergies as being the most severe kind, involving anaphylaxis, which usually is a reaction of the entire body to a particular allergen. Did you know, however, that excess congestion, runny nose, headaches and joint pain can all be attributed to food allergies?

When the immune system gets run down, and in particular during times of stress, our digestive tracts slow down and digestion gets sluggish. This often means our bodies are not producing enough digestive enzymes to break down our food into its proper constituents (i.e., carbohydrates --> sugars; protein --> amino acids; fats --> triglycerides), leading to poorly digested food.

The undigested food enters our intestinal tract, where low-grade inflammation may result. This low-grade inflammation may go on for years, producing symptoms that are hardly associated with food allergy. This may mean joint pain, mood swings, fatigue, irritable bowel, headaches or migraines, etc. The trickiest part is that we often don’t associate these symptoms with the food that may be causing it, despite how often we eat it (ex: wheat, dairy, corn, etc.).

If you can imagine our intestinal lining to be similar to a nylon stocking in terms of permeability, any inflammation can lead to a “stretching”, or swelling, of the tissue. This becomes truly problematic when undigested protein particles pass through this lining and into the bloodstream. VOILA - you now have a serious immune system reacting to a ‘foreign’ substance.

In order to identify food allergies, you have to work with a nutritionist to eliminate potential trigger foods (for at least 3 weeks) and then re-introduce them and watch for any reaction. In the meantime, you must improve the health of your immune system, while managing stress levels. A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM WILL NOT REACT FOOD. Here is a manageable way to overcome food allergies or intolerances:

1) eliminate allergic foods for at least 3 weeks
2) strengthen the immune system with plenty of rest and a healthy, whole foods diet
3) heal the G.I. tract with soothing herbs, such as slippery elm or marshmallow root (no, not the puffy kind full of sugar that you roast on a fire)
4) slowly reintroduce the allergic food in small quantity and watch for a reaction (*please note: if you are anaphylactic, you must be working with an MD while doing this)

It is possible to “train” the immune system to no longer react to once-allergic foods. Many people have moved beyond their food allergies to enjoy them on a regular basis. It requires dedication and the patience to allow it to happen. You can consult with a nutritionist to see whether you may have food allergies and begin the road to recovery!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cholesterol: It can’t be all that bad!

Mention the word ‘CHOLESTEROL’ at a dinner table surrounded by people, and you’ll likely find at least a few of them squirming in their seats. That’s because more and more people are developing high cholesterol and are being prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications, such as lipitor. When we hear the word ‘cholesterol’, it automatically conjures up negative thoughts. It does, however, play a crucial role within the cardiovascular system.

Our liver produces about 80% of the body’s total cholesterol, with the other 20% coming from food ( What this means is that it is equally important to ensure your liver is in good working order along with focusing on healthy foods that don’t contribute to high cholesterol.

What does cholesterol do anyway?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that floats around in the bloodstream and have numerous benefits. It plays a role in the formation of various hormones, it helps make vitamin D within the skin, and it protects blood vessels from further damage by laying itself down on damaged tissue. Trouble arises when too much damage is happening within the arteries and therefore too much cholesterol being laid down by the body, leading to arterial blockages. Taking a drug to help stop production of cholesterol can also have negative side effects, so follow the tips below to help manage it naturally.

What can be done to help lower cholesterol?

Three steps can be taken to help lower cholesterol immediately:

1) Eat more fiber. Soluble fiber helps to bind free-floating cholesterol so that the intestinal tract can excrete it ( Without enough soluble fiber, the cholesterol gets re-absorbed and will continue to float around in the blood.

Some foods high in soluble fiber include:
- ground flaxseeds
- oatmeal
- oat bran
- apples (skin on) & berries
- nuts (raw & unsalted)

2) Eat good fats. Healthy fats help increase HDL “the good cholesterol”. HDL cholesterol helps to move the bad (LDL) cholesterol away from the arteries so that it can be excreted by the body.

Some sources of healthy fats include:
- cold water fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines)
- flaxseed oil
- hempseed oil
- cold-pressed olive oil

3) Detoxify your liver. A liver that is overloaded with toxins (environmental, pesticides, processed food additives, etc.) will not know when to stop producing cholesterol. Remember that 80% of the cholesterol produced in the body is made by the liver. You must ensure your liver is in good health in order to manage high cholesterol successfully.

Ways to detox your liver:
- Eat bitter foods (stimulates the liver) such as spinach, kale, lemon, apple cider vinegar, artichokes
- Use liver-protective herbs such as milk thistle
- Do a periodic cleanse program (

Last but not least, if you or someone you know has a problem with their cholesterol, consult a nutritionist to help make managing cholesterol EASY!

Monday, February 23, 2009

To cleanse or not to cleanse....

Believe it or not, in some parts of this fine country, spring is near and the topic of “spring cleansing” is a hot one. In springtime, most people feel lighter, more energetic thanks to additional daylight hours, and realize that beach season really isn’t that far away. For those who are health-conscious, the question of whether or not to take on a cleanse or detox regime remains unclear.

In the natural health industry, the topic of cleansing the body has exploded in the past few years. Many manufacturers have jumped on board, producing & marketing their “unique” cleanse programs to anyone who will listen. This has certainly been one of the fastest growing trends in the last while. Rightfully so; many cultures have traditionally undergone periods of cleansing or fasting as a way to purify the body and mind and maintain a good state of health. Most people report feeling better after doing a cleanse, as it aims to optimize digestion & elimination while removing toxins from the body.

The body has 7 organs of elimination:


Keeping these organs in good running order is paramount to a healthy body. No matter how well you eat, and how often you exercise, it is a good idea to periodically cleanse the body of unwanted toxins. These toxins can either be environmental pollutants that we are inevitably exposed to, or can be endotoxins, toxins produced within our own body as a byproduct of metabolism.

Some keys to a good cleanse program include the elimination of possible toxins. This means cleaning up the diet to eliminate refined, processed foods. Artificial preservatives and additives are mostly chemical ingredients that our bodies are not familiar with. Drinking lots of clean water is crucial, as this will help support the kidneys in their excretion of toxins while properly hydrating each and every cell in the body. Ensuring enough dietary fiber is very important to help guarantee that toxins released into the intestinal tract do not get reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Before starting any detox program, make sure your elimination is regular.

Some cleansing foods to include in your cleanse/detox program:

Greens: high in minerals and chlorophyll, green vegetables help to alkalize the body, while providing minerals necessary for optimal cell function. Because most greens are bitter to the taste-buds, they will stimulate the liver to work a little harder at removing waste material from the body.

Lemons and/or limes
: great for stimulating the gall bladder to release bile, fresh lemon or lime juice acts as a great tool to help in fat digestion. Apple cider vinegar would also fall into this category.

Sea vegetables: these are often called ‘SuperFoods’, as they are extremely high in minerals, help to stimulate the thyroid gland due to their iodine content and act as powerful blood cleansers. Some examples include nori, kelp, wakame, chlorella or spirulina. Spirulina is one of nature’s best sources of vegetarian vitamin B12 and high in protein.

Flaxseeds: a great source of soluble fiber, ground flaxseeds help to bind toxins from the intestinal tract so that they are eliminated safely from the body.

While this list is not comprehensive, it is equally important to get rid of unhealthy foods during a cleanse. This includes: sugar, caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, refined foods, fried foods and poor sources of protein (i.e., non-organic animal protein).

So should you cleanse? Yes. Our grandparents were not exposed to the kinds of toxins and environmental pollutants that we are today. Visit a natural practitioner to choose an appropriate cleanse program before getting confused due to advertising.

If you have a question about what cleanse might be right for you, call (604) 357-7534 or email

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fantastic Fiber - it’s time to pass the taboo...

We have been taught since we were young to eat our fiber. When most people think of fiber they think of tasteless, bland, mushy, heavy foods. We also have been mislead by marketing to think that fiber is only for older folks who suffer from constipation. Fiber, however, plays an incredible role in our health at any age, and not just for the health of the intestinal tract.

Eating the right kinds of fiber ensures that our food is properly digested, that the nutrients from our food get absorbed, and that we are able to properly eliminate waste material from the body. If were don’t eliminate these wastes, they will accumulate and the potential to reabsorb toxins exists. Over time, this can lead to hormone imbalance, mood swings, acne or other skin conditions and weight gain (to name a few).

Fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar levels, making it an essential part of a healthy diet if someone is prone to Type II diabetes. By regulating blood sugar, it also helps to curb sugar cravings and is crucial who those who are hypoglycemic (have low blood sugar). Adding dietary fiber will play a major role in any weight loss regime, as it helps to delay digestion, allowing you to feel full longer.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber has the ability to draw water into the intestinal tract, adding bulk and will act as a softening agent. It doesn’t, however, affect the rate of digestion. Good sources of insoluble fiber are: wheat bran, skins of fruit, celery and psyllium husks. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, will act as an anti-inflammatory, curb blood sugar spikes and shorten transit time in the intestinal tract. Good sources of soluble fiber are: apples, oats and ground flaxseeds.

Why talk about fiber? One of the most common digestive complaints today in North America is constipation. People are eating more food, eating less fiber, drinking less water & more caffeine and not moving nearly as much as they should be. If you are not having at least 2 bowel movements per day, you are mildly constipated. Even though many people are eating processed foods that are lower in nutrients that they should be, these same people also not absorbing those nutrients properly because their intestinal tract is not in good health.

What can you do about it? Drink more water. Eat more fiber.
These two small, easy steps will ensure better bowel health and a healthier metabolism. Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day, with at least 1/3 of that coming from soluble fiber.

Here are two healthy, high fiber homemade soup recipes that are downright delicious, nutritious & filling:

Dal Soup

2 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. garam masala (optional)
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 lb canned, chopped tomatoes (drained)
1 cup red lentils
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cups coconut milk (approx. 1 can)
salt & pepper
chopped cilantro, to garnish

1. Melt butter in a lg. saucepan. Add the garlic, onion and stirfry about 2-3 minutes. Add the spices and cook a further 30 seconds.
2. Stir in tomatoes, red lentils, lemon juice, vegetable stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup, uncovered, for about 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender and cooked.
4. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Garnish with cilantro and serve with naan bread.

Serves 4-6. Freezes well.

Lentil Coconut Soup

1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 large apples, cubed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp coconut oil (virgin)
2 cups (400g) organic red lentils
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 can (400ml) coconut milk
6.5 cups vegetable stock or water (or mix of both)
1 lime (juiced)
sea salt to taste


1. In a heavy bottom soup pot, sautee onion, garlic and celery in coconut oil on medium heat for about 15 mins, stirring constantly.
2. Add apples and sautee another 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Stir in curry powder and 150ml water/stock and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.
4. Add lentils and remaining liquid. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer another 20 minutes.
5. Once lentils are fully cooked, add coconut milk.
6. (Optional) Liquify with a soup blender and add lime juice.
Salt to taste.
Serves 6.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

NEW New Year's Resolutions!

So I figured by now that many, if not most, have already thrown in the towel on at least one of their New Year's resolutions, particularly when it comes to “eat healthier, lose weight, get in shape”. The reason many of these resolutions fall through is that most people try to change the entire scope of their eating and exercise habits overnight – and without doing the proper research. Old habits don't change overnight, and taking on a new exercise regime or an entirely new diet is overwhelming and unreasonable for most.

So, I thought it would be appropriate to suggest some EASY food choices that will help to improve digestion, increase energy, and keep your bodies in top working order. Here they are:

On your next grocery order, buy lemons. Real ones.

- Start off your day by squeezing a quarter of a lemon into a glass of water. Drink this before you have breakfast, and upon rising. The bitter taste of the lemon will help to stimulate your liver and help to clean out any leftover “sludge” from the digestive tract. During the night, the liver and kidneys are busy repairing and filtering out any waste material from the body. A glass of water with lemon in the morning is the perfect way to kick start your day and get some extra vitamin C too!

Vow to eat one raw food everyday.

- While this may sound simple, eating raw food helps ease the burden on the digestive system, because raw foods contain higher amounts of vitamin and minerals, often lost during the cooking process. The fresher they are, the more enzymes they will contain, which are responsible for breaking down food once it has been eaten. Apples, carrots, grapes, raw walnuts all make for great healthy snacks!

Cut back on sugar intake in one way or another.

- There is sugar 'hidden' in many foods to help improve taste. Try switching to a sugar-free peanut butter (most commercial peanut butters contain at least 2 kinds of sugar), or buy a sugar-free fruit juice. Many yogurts contain loads of sugar, as to stir-fry sauces, pasta sauces, etc. Make the conscious decision to read the ingredients label and avoid products that add sugar unnecessarily. Yes, your taste-buds may have to adjust to the new flavour, but your body will thank you!

Include one new GREEN food in your grocery basket

- Green foods are loaded with nutrients, vital for energy and good health. Most of us are familiar with broccoli, spinach and occasionally brussel sprouts. Try buying kale, collard greens or swiss chard. When lightly steamed and topped with a little butter, these 'winter' greens are delicious and packed with minerals! High in iron, calcium, magnesium as well as folic acid, they are also stimulating to the liver and provide loads of energy.

These are healthy, easy resolutions to help make 2009 a healthier year. Email me if you have any specific nutrition questions related to your New Year's resolutions!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yogurt: debunked. Are you buying the right kind?

You might be surprised....most of us think of yogurt as a very healthy food. While this is not untrue, the kind of yogurt you are buying will determine whether or not you are eating a nutritious, health-promoting food, or essentially a “junk” food.

We have been lucky in recent years to have had many health professionals endorse yogurt as a bone-building, healthy food that we can consume without guilt. With all the mixed messages in the media surrounding the foods we eat, this is comforting news. There is concern, however, because there are dozens of yogurts for sale in the grocery stores and unfortunately, all are not equal.

I did some browsing around one of my local grocery aisles recently. I must admit, my choice for yogurt in recent years has been nothing but plain, organic 2% (or 3.5%) yogurt. Not very exciting, I realize. With yogurt being such a popularly consumed food, I thought it was appropriate to see exactly what most people were buying (and considering “health food”). What a shock!

I frequently talk about probiotics. These are the friendly bacteria that lie throughout the gastro-intestinal tract, and have numerous health benefits, as they help support the immune system and fight off bad bacteria, as well as parasites and yeast. Most people nowadays know that yogurt should be a source of probiotics, as they have to add bacterial culture to milk in order to make yogurt.

In my search of “other” yogurts, I was shocked at the ingredients I came across:

-glucose (sugar)
-fructose (sugar)
-corn syrup (sugar)
-burnt sugar syrup (sugar)
-aspartame (“sugar”)
-sucralose (“sugar”)
-gelatin (animal derivative)
-potassium sorbate (artificial preservative)
-malic acid (artificial preservative)

I see a pattern here. Loads of sugar, very little (real) fruit, and artificial sweeteners, which are known neuro-toxins. If I can kindly offer some nutritional advice to all the yogurt eaters out there:

1) do not buy non-fat yogurt. Fat is important to absorb the much-needed calcium and other nutrients in yogurt. Choose 2% whenever possible.

2) buy plain yogurt and add your own honey or maple syrup, rather than overly sugared commercial yogurts. Dried fruit can be a great, nutritious way to sweeten yogurt as well.

3) do NOT choose low-cal or low-sugar yogurts, as these usually contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose or splenda. While these substances could quite easily justify an entire blog in itself, know that there is leading evidence that these are potent neuro-toxins and may increase risk of degenerative neurological (brain) diseases.

4) if possible, buy organic yogurt. Yes, it will cost more, but the benefits to your health are numerous, as organic dairy farms do not use pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics on their cows.

So, is yogurt good for you? Yes. Can yogurt be considered a true junk food? Yes. I think I'll stick with what I've got!

Email me with any specific yogurt-related questions, or pass this on to a friend!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

START SMART - Healthy breakfast tips to keep you going all day!

We’ve all heard it before: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So, without buying into the mass marketing of breakfast foods, I thought it would be a good idea to sort out some healthy options and give some pointers on how to make the most of it, nutritionally.

Many of us rush in the morning, getting ready for work, preparing lunches and trying to help our families start their day too. There are some simple things to keep in mind when choosing breakfast foods:

-stay away from the sugar!

Most commercial cereals and granolas are loaded with sugars, which will initially give your blood sugar a boost, but almost guarantees a blood sugar crash by mid-morning.

-include some protein & healthy fat!

Protein and fat take longer to digest, making you feel full longer. This helps to sustain blood sugar and will help you make it to lunchtime without snacking on junk food.

-get enough fiber!

Fiber promotes regularity, and most North Americans do not get their daily required intake of fiber. This will also help to control blood sugar, and help prevent diabetes in the future.

So the question is: what to eat?

1) whole grain toast with nut butter
2) smoothie with fruit, plain yogurt and flax oil
3) oatmeal with apples and walnuts (chopped)
4) soft boiled egg with a half whole grain bagel
5) whole wheat waffles with fruit and yogurt
6) fruit salad and scrambled eggs

What NOT to eat?

commercial cereals with refined grains, sugars and preservatives
any commercial baked goods (muffins, croissants, etc)
white bread toast

Most importantly, remember to at least eat something for breakfast. Even if you’re not hungry, the body needs to break its fast after spending a night of rest and repair.

For any questions or comments on how to make your breakfast of champions, email: