More than a Few Steps Forward
Canada’s new food guide looks familiar. Perhaps you’ve hear of Dr. Terry Wahl’s. She is the doctor who was diagnosed with MS and confined to wheelchair. She healed herself with diet & lifestyle. Now she helps people do the same. Her food pyramid has a lot similarities with ours:
- More emphasis on quality & less on servings. The old guide would ‘prescribe’ how many servings of each of the four food groups.
- Specific warnings about eating processed and prepared foods.
- Sugary drinks including fruit juice, soda & alcohol are also excluded. Instead Canadians are encouraged to hydrate with water.
- The social element of food is recognized based on research that came out of successes in Brazil: “Be mindful of your eating habits;” “cook more often;” “enjoy your food;” and “eat meals with others.”
Fats or Grains?
The Wahl’s protocol focuses on the importance of healthy fats while leaving out grains. However Canada is still warning us about the dangers of saturated fat & saying whole grains are essential. I disagree.
The research is clear that fats like coconut oil and butter from grass-fed animals are healthy foods. I know from my patient population that most people feel better when they increase healthy fats and reduce foods high in lectins like grains, pea protein powders and legumes. Lectins are hard on the gut lining causing symptoms in many people.
Both approaches suggest eating nut & seeds. These have excellent fats but are also lectins. They can cause irritation in higher amounts or in concentrated forms like nut butters.
What About Dairy & Bread?
Dairy isn’t included on the Wahl’s protocol and has been very side-lined on the Canadian guide. While industrial produced dairy is problematic for several reasons, small amounts of grass-fed dairy is a healthy source of calcium and K2. I recommend goat or sheep dairy for those who are lactose intolerant.
Bread is still on the Canadian food guide. Bread is a highly processed convenience food. Gluten can cross react with dairy and contribute to an immune response. There just aren’t nutrients in bread. It is a filler food.
Overall this new food guide is a positive move for Canadians. I love that we are looking to countries like Brazil to understand what creates happiness and a thriving, healthy population.
Why I Love Collagen
Collagen helps to balance the branch chain amino acids in our bodies. This has far reaching effects. Many of you understand the importance of balancing healthy fats to ensure you get enough omega 3’s. There is a similar balance when it comes to amino acids. Most of us get too much methionine and not enough glycine. Glycine can be taken on its own or consumed in either bone broth or collagen.
The reason I love collagen is because of convenience. I make bone broth but not as often as I need to consume it. Collagen is convenient. It can be added to my morning matcha, power balls or an afternoon workout drink.
Grace & Beauty
Collagen nourishes all of our connective tissue. Its great for anyone who wants a faster recovery time post workout or is experiencing tendon or joint pain. Connective tissue includes skin, hair and nails. You may notice collagen being marketed as a beauty aid. Certainly when we are pain free and nourished, we have a healthy glow.
Adequate amounts of glycine also supports phase two of liver detoxification. This is often sluggish due to the modern lifestyle and the high stress that comes with it. We can talk about this from an evolutionary standpoint and it makes a lot of sense. We evolved eating a wide variety of foods that included some fish and animals. We valued these sources of nutrient dense food by eating everything. This gave us a balance of amino acids that nature provides.
Glycine is a neurotransmitter as well! It has the ability to be both excitatory and inhibitory, meaning it can function both to stimulate brain and nervous system activity, or to quiet it. Let’s put a few things together.
- Calms the brain
- Helps us sleep deeply to support repair
- Supports organ function especially the liver which cleans our blood at night
- Liver also regulates all emotions. When it’s not functioning optimally, we tend to feel frustrated or angry. When the liver is well we are able to grow in a direction that feels right
- Grace is a feeling of ease with how life is. This comes with a happy liver
Strong Bones Long Term
There is more collagen in our bones than calcium. Remember this applies also to our skin, joints, ligaments and hair. If you haven’t taken collagen before you can try taking it up to three times a day. Ideally we’d have 30% of our protein from collagen rich foods.
Blood Sugar & Hormones
Protein can stabilize blood sugar so collagen can be an excellent way to support a higher protein intake. Collagen is a great way to increase the cascade of dopamine first thing in the morning. Patients report a huge benefit from beginning their day with a warm, protein rich breakfast.
If you aren’t a breakfast person collagen in your hot morning drink can suffice. For hormone health this is a much better choice. I often see people using caffeine and fat to suppress their normal morning appetite. It works for awhile but then hormone and lipid markers start to go out of range. Symptoms can include afternoon crashes, late night hunger, brain fog, thyroid problems and insulin resistance.
Baseline is a term I learned doing wilderness immersion work. Its defined as a minimum or starting point to use for comparisons. For me it invokes an image of being connected with our surroundings, taking only what is needed and observing with all our senses. By simplifying our diet and lifestyle we press a deep reset button that is coded into our DNA. We learn what and what is hurtful. Energy is freed up and we may feel more alive. Our sense of self widens and we have more confidence.
What do your particular constitution need at this time?
Choose a time to set your new baseline. Each person has specific needs but there are some general guidelines that are very helpful to follow.
BASELINE is the name of a 30-day reset for health that guides you through:
- what to add and remove from your diet to give your body a deep recovery
- what lifestyle habits are most helpful to cultivate so you can enjoy life and thrive
- creating a support team around you and in your kitchen so this becomes a way of being
- deciding what supplements are most helpful right now
- doing lab work to inform yourself of what may be limiting you
- making goals for the future of your health that are lasting and reliable
The importance of saying NO!
The five element theory relates the renewal of spring with our liver. Have you ever felt ‘livery’ or agitated? This is the feeling of needing to move and grow just like all the little sprouts coming up at this time of year. Imagine a bear waking from its hibernation. She may be a little grumpy and ready to get on with things. The movement of spring and the liver are also related with youth and wanting to stand up for what is right.
Are you connected with your sense of being able to say ‘no’ to something in order to live for a greater good? Are you able to do this with yourself in terms of limiting foods and habits that you know limit you from feeling well. Baseline is an opportunity to explore your relationship with these and make positive changes.
Focusing on the YES
We begin by focusing on what to do. Learning new skills and habits is incredibly rewarding. Please do send me any questions and I look forward to working together!
After I was diagnosed with scoliosis in 2014, everyone and their mother suggested that I get acupuncture done. Mind you, none of these people had ever done it before themselves, but they still swore that it would relieve my chronic pain and ease my anxiety in general. I accepted their recommendations with a stiff smile, only to roll my eyes privately.
Until very recently, I didn’t have much experience with holistic health treatments. The chiropractor was as far as I would get from mainstream modern medicine, and that was good enough for me, thanks very much. Also, I’m deathly scared of needles. But when I kept waking up with a nasty backache every morning, I knew it was time to try something different.
Along with acupuncture and ancestral diet therapy I now offer lab testing for hormone balancing, insomnia and food allergies/sensitivities. If you suffer from seasonal allergies you may also consider lab testing as part of your treatment.
I’ve been experimenting with adding a variety of spices and coconut cream to my warm drink in the morning. Cinnamon, tumeric, black pepper, ginger and cloves all have wonderful medicinal properties and taste wonderful. My mom would always cook with all of these and tell us how nutritious they were. Gratitude to mom and to my teacher Dr. Mike Smith who wrote the article below. Niko is the herbalist at my clinic who originally inspired me along this route…great minds think alike!
Medical Grade Golden Milk
Below is an excerpt from my colleague Chris Kresser, L.Ac.
What is the biggest factor that determines the health of the gut microbiome? I think it is the type of carbohydrate that you eat, and specifically, it’s the ratio of acellular to cellular carbohydrate. Now, that sounds very geeky, I know, but just give me a chance to explain it a little bit because it’s a very useful concept to understand, and I think it answers a lot of questions, and you’ll see what I mean as we go through this.
This concept of acellular versus cellular carbohydrate and the importance of it to the gut microbiome comes from one of my favorite research papers ever, which was written by Professor Ian Spreadbury, and he’s actually going to be a presenter at the Ancestral Health Symposium conference in New Zealand, the New Zealand version of that conference, which is happening in October of this year. And the paper is called “Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity.” That’s a mouthful. The study will be in the show notes, so you can check it out. The full text is free, and you can read it if you’d like, but the basic idea is that all carbohydrates that were part of the ancestral diet, which would be tubers, fruits and vegetables, plant parts like stems and leaves, store their carbohydrates in fiber-walled, living cells, and those cells remain largely intact during the cooking process, and they also resist digestion or absorption in the small intestine, and therefore, the fiber remains intact all the way down to the colon, where it then becomes food for beneficial gut bacteria that are living in the large intestine. So those are the cellular carbohydrates, and they’re, like I said, found in all ancestral carbohydrate sources.
On the other hand, in the Western or industrialized diet, you have a lot of acellular carbohydrates. These are things like flour, sugar, and other processed starches that have no living cells. These industrial foods are much higher in carbohydrate density than anything the microbiota of our upper GI tract would have encountered during our long evolution. And these foods, because they have no living cells, they’re absorbed higher up in the GI tract, and they can stimulate the overgrowth of bacteria in the upper GI tract, AKA SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and they preferentially will feed some species of bacteria over others, and that can in turn lead to an inflammatory gut microbiota.
Dr. Spreadbury makes the argument, which I agree with, that this difference in carbohydrate type could be the single most important difference between ancestral and industrialized diets. Now, notice I didn’t say carbohydrate quantity, the amount of total carbohydrate that you eat. I don’t think that’s the issue for most people. The issue is carbohydrate quality, and I know I’ve been beating this drum for a long time. I wrote about it in my book. Professor Spreadbury talks about it in the paper. He points to traditional cultures like the Kitavans and East African groups who eat from 35% to 70% of calories as carbohydrate, but all of these carbohydrates come from foods with living cells, like tubers or fruit or other plant parts, and the reason that industrialized diets are so harmful is not because of the overall amount of carbohydrates that they contain, as some people have argued, but because they don’t have those living cells, and as a result, they have a completely different impact on the gut microbiota than the ancestral carbohydrates, the real-food carbohydrates.
Steve Wright: Is it living, Chris? Or is it more of the complexity and the molecular structure of the differentiation? Because we can take those tubers and cook them. Now they’re not living anymore. But I was kind of under the understanding that you have a cell wall that contains all the parts of the cell and it’s a… complex isn’t necessary the perfect word here, but the actual molecule is still intact, whereas the processed foods, the molecule has been stripped down.
Chris Kresser: That’s right. Yeah, it’s been predigested, essentially, and broken down. And the cellular structure, like I said before, remains largely intact even during cooking, so the carbohydrates are locked into the fiber-walled cells, and that’s why in some cases the carbohydrate portion of that food is inaccessible, and that’s why it’s considered to be fiber. Fiber is not a nutrient technically for humans because we can’t absorb the carbohydrate that’s contained in those cells and make use of it ourselves, but those cells are instead nutrients for the bacteria that live in our large intestine because they survive in that form all the way down to the large intestine.
Another way to think about it is these real-food carbohydrates in these tubers and plant foods, especially the ones that are resistant to digestion, are not nutrients for us; they’re nutrients for our gut microbiota. On the other hand, the flour and sugar and processed starches, they are absorbed completely by us, and furthermore, they’re absorbed in a different part of the GI tract and they feed bacteria and can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria in that part of the digestive tract because they lack that cellular structure. And so they have a completely different impact on the gut microbiome. When you compare diets and you take one diet that has 25% or 30% of calories as carbohydrate in the form of these cellular carbohydrates, the tubers and the fruits and the vegetables, and then you have another diet that’s 30% of calories as carbohydrate in the form of flour and sugar, those are going to have a completely different impact on the body. And Spreadbury’s argument is the thing that’s mediating that difference in impact is the gut microbiome.
Pregnancy and the first year of a baby’s life are challenging on a mother’s health. Below is an excellent article to honour the ongoing strength it takes to raise a child in today’s world.
Below is an excerpt from my colleague Chris Kresser, L.Ac. This article clarifies how acupuncture works. Enjoy!
Broadly speaking, acupuncture has three primary effects:
- It relieves pain.
- It reduces inflammation.
- It restores homeostasis.
Homeostasis refers to the body’s ability to regulate its environment and maintain internal balance. All diseases involve a disturbance of homeostasis, and nearly all diseases involve some degree of pain and inflammation. In fact, research over the last several decades suggests that many serious conditions like heart disease previously thought to have other causes are in fact primarily caused by chronic inflammation. If we understand that most diseases are characterized by pain, inflammation and disturbance of homeostasis, we begin to understand why acupuncture can be effective for so many conditions.
Several modes of action have been identified for acupuncture, which I’ll discuss below. The mechanisms can get quite complex. But ultimately acupuncture is a remarkably simple technique that depends entirely upon one thing: the stimulation of the peripheral nervous system. It’s important to point out that when nerves supplying acupoints are cut or blocked there is no acupuncture effect.
A large body of evidence indicates that acupoints, or “superficial nodes” as they are more accurately translated, have abundant supply of nerves. According to Chen Shaozong, “For 95% of all points in the range of 1.0 cm around a point, there exist nerve trunks or rather large nerve branches.”
The following is a list of mechanisms that have been identified so far:
- Acupuncture promotes blood flow. This is significant because everything the body needs to heal is in the blood, including oxygen, nutrients we absorb from food, immune substances, hormones, analgesics (painkillers) and anti-inflammatories. Restoring proper blood flow is vital to promoting and maintaining health. For example if blood flow is diminished by as little as 3% in the breast area cancer may develop. Blood flow decreases as we age and can be impacted by trauma, injuries and certain diseases. Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow and vasodilation in several regions of the body.
- Acupuncture stimulates the body’s built-in healing mechanisms. Acupuncture creates “micro traumas” that stimulate the body’s ability to spontaneously heal injuries to the tissue through nervous, immune and endocrine system activation. As the body heals the micro traumas induced by acupuncture, it also heals any surrounding tissue damage left over from old injuries.
- Acupuncture releases natural painkillers. Inserting a needle sends a signal through the nervous system to the brain, where chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine and enkephalin are released. Some of these substances are 10-200 times more potent than morphine!
- Acupuncture reduces both the intensity and perception of chronic pain. It does this through a process called “descending control normalization”, which involves the serotonergic nervous system. I will explain this process in further detail in the next post.
- Acupuncture relaxes shortened muscles. This in turn releases pressure on joint structures and nerves, and promotes blood flow.
- Acupuncture reduces stress. This is perhaps the most important systemic effect of acupuncture. Recent research suggests that acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone and signaling substance that regulates the parasympathetic nervous system. You’ve probably heard of the “fight-or-flight” response that is governed by the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system has been called the “rest-and-digest” or “calm-and-connect” system, and in many ways is the opposite of the sympathetic system. Recent research has implicated impaired parasympathetic function in a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including arthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Several other mechanisms have been identified, but the ones I’ve listed above are the most relevant and clearly understood.
Harvard Unveils MRI Study Proving Meditation Literally Rebuilds The Brain’s Gray Matter In 8 Weeks
Announcing my new downtown space in the Parkside Building on Blanshard between Humbolt and Fairfield. The clinic does have access to the pool for hydrotherapy.
You may be familiar with Tre Fantastico and the beautiful three storey atrium. My son watching the fish and following them outside where you can walk up to the clinic. On the Fairfield side of the building you’ll find Physio Plus where I’ll be offering health assessments and acupuncture on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
People have been asking how to find me and if I will be available downtown. Finally I can say yes! A update on my work is coming soon but for now I’ll can let you know that private practice has been a welcome change. I have been learning a tremendous amount from the people who I’ve been seeing at my Oak Bay clinic. Orthopedics and cupping have become part of my practice these past few months. In depth internal medicine beginning with gut health continues to be a focus. I have just begun assisting another meditation class on somatic heart practices with over 260 students worldwide.
Thank you to Dr. Conrad for all his knowledge and presence last semester while I was his TA in Orthopedics.
Below is the published results of a
study showing the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of depression. It is worth highlighting that acupuncture has none of the side effects of fluoxetine commonly known as Prozac.
Song C1, Halbreich U, Han C, Leonard BE, Luo H.
An increase in inflammatory response and an imbalance between T-helper (Th) 1 and 2 functions have been implicated in major depression. The aims of the present study were to 1) study the relationship between pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and between Th1 and Th2 produced cytokines in depressed patients and 2) evaluate and compare the effect of treatments with electroacupuncture (EA) and fluoxetine on these cytokines.
95 outpatients with major depressive disorder were treated for 6 weeks with EA, fluoxetine or placebo. Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and Clinical Global Impression (CGI) were used to assess severity and therapeutic effects. 30 volunteers served as controls. Serum cytokine concentrations were measured by ELISA.
Increased proinflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-1beta and decreased anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 were found in the depressed patients. By contract, Th1 produced proinflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interferon (IFN)-gamma were decreased, and Th2 produced cytokine IL-4 was significantly increased in depressed patients. The ratio of IFN/IL-4 was also increased. Both acupuncture and fluoxetine treatments, but not the placebo, reduced IL-1beta concentrations in responders. However, only acupuncture attenuated TNF-alpha concentration and INF-gamma/IL-4 ratio towards the control level.
These results suggest that an imbalance between the pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1 and IL-10), and between Th1 and Th2 cytokines (INF-gamma or TNF-alpha and IL-4) occurred in untreated depressed patients. Both EA and fluoxetine had an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing IL-1beta. EA treatment also restored the balance between Th1 and Th2 systems by increasing TNF-alpha and decreasing IL-4.
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart – New York.
As you may know my study of medicine began in an oral tradition through a barefoot doctor program in Nelson, BC. The director was a Doctor of TCM who trained us in anatomy, ancestral and modern nutrition, qi gong and clinical hands on practice. This was my introduction to functional medicine. Today I’d like to give you a sense of what this means because it is the foundation of the emergent healthcare system of the 21st century.
The core principles of functional medicine are:
These principles align with traditional indigenous medicine as I was introduced to it in an oral tradition. They are also implicit in TCM theory and practice. although each practitioner will embody the medicine differently based on the transmission they received from their teachers.
Below is more information from the Institute for Functional Medicine in Washington.
Why Do We Need Functional Medicine?
- Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
- The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care, the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom.
- Unfortunately, the acute-care approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases it does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society.
- There’s a huge gap between research and the way doctors practice. The gap between emerging research in basic sciences and integration into medical practice is enormous—as long as 50 years—particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness.
- Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.
How is Functional Medicine Different?
Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. Hallmarks of a functional medicine approach include:
- Patient-centered care. The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care, promoting health as a positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the practitioner brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.
- An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. Functional medicine practitioners look “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is considered, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.
- Integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with what is sometimes considered “alternative” or “integrative” medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.
– See more at: https://www.functionalmedicine.org/about/whatisfm/#sthash.iYlKb9W5.dpuf
Please have a look below if you are interested in the benefits of acupuncture for fibromyalgia. In practice I have seen lasting results from just one treatment for pain associated with this diagnosis.
What is Enough? A five element perspective.
Industrialization brought “more” hoping to increase quality of life. In some ways it succeeded but we now know that without limit “more” becomes pathological. The concept of enough provides an antidote.
The Chinese character Sheng translates as life or vitality and is a symbol of a tree. A tree needs enough soil and water. In human terms this means the right amount of food, rest and relaxation. This is the foundation that protects against exhaustion and illness.
The tree trunk represents growth, change and challenge giving purpose and vision to life.
The leaves on the tree absorb sunlight in a similar way that companionship warms and nourishes us.
The leaves also breathe in and let go when appropriate.
The branches provide shade and protection symbolizing time alone for reflection and stillness.
Producing seeds and flowers brings meaning and appreciation.
Knowing when to stand up for what is right and say, “enough is enough” is a healthy expression of the wood element. In the post-industrial world the need for this has become increasingly important. So has the ability to adapt and be flexible. These are ancient human strengths that are available to us all the time especially as we cultivate them.
Pursuing a path in line with our heart and the good of the whole makes it easier to recognize erosive influences and distractions that compromise vitality. This occurs on both the personal and collective level.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the five elements as part of a diagnostic system to restore balance and allow you to thrive in today’s world.
I discovered the benefits of Omega 3 oils first when I was training six days a week as a dancer. My knees were starting to feel the impact but supplementing my diet with flaxseed oil was enough to allow me to continue training. Thanks to my mother for figuring this well before it was common knowledge.
Years later in Biochemistry class I learned why this works. Dietary oils can assist with joint pain for a few reasons. Consuming more Omega 3’s in relation to saturated fats optimizes the health benefits. Both are necessary and its really the balance that’s important.
Good fats are incredibly important for brain function, synovial fluid, cardiovascular health and mood. Omega 3’s are excellent at reducing inflammation and can assist in the management of Type II diabetes.
These days I find myself talking with at least half of my patients about fish oil and flaxseed oil. Both will help with joint pain. Flaxseed oil is a phytoestrogen and therefore especially good for women to have as part of their diet long term. Fish oil is a better choice when treating depression or other issues with mood. I like to remind people that traditional the First Nations of this area consumed significant amounts of fish. This contributed to their ability to thrive in this bioregion.
It is important to look at third party tested fish oils. I recommend the smaller fish combinations as these will not accumulate the heavy metals that other fish might. There are some that will have a higher concentration of DHA and EFA which is what you want.
Flaxseed oil needs to be fresh and cold pressed. Use it like butter on toast or rice. It makes an excellent base for any dressing to go on steamed vegetables or salad. Add to a soup after its served for a nutty flavour. Keep it cold and never heat it as this ruins the benefits.
Its best to cook with coconut oil which keep its molecular integrity at high temperatures and is a healthy saturated fat. If you prefer the taste of olive oil add a bit of water and use a cooler temperature. Olive oil is an omega 9 unsaturated fat. Organic butter is also good.
Often I’m asked if flax seeds can be used instead of the oil. I always say in addition to. The seed is beneficial in that it is an excellent fibre but will not provided the benefits of the oil in terms of lubricating joints and balancing saturated fats.
Keep your kitchen clear of canola, sunflower and other vegetable oils. By ensuring you have good saturated fats (coconut oil and healthy animal fats) with high doses of omega 3’s you reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because “good cholesterol” or high density lipoproteins are essential for health. Some patients say they feel better within a week of increasing their omega 3 intake. Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you!