Medical Docs acknowledge the importance of gut bacteria

This post is long overdue. The article came out months ago and news about the microbiome and early human development has steadily increased.

This February 2013 commentary on a study about birthing methods and breastfeeding states what many holistic nutritionists and integrative practitioners base their care plans on:

Bacteria in the gut play an important role in health, helping digest food, stimulating the development of the immune system, regulating bowels and protecting against infection. Disruption of the gut microbiota has been linked to a range of diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, asthma, cancer and others.

We can’t help how we are born, or how our mothers fed us during those critical early days. (Please moms, no guilt and no pressure here. I’m one of you.) But we can help what we do to safeguard the community of gut bacteria that make up 80% of our immune function later in life. One very common disruption to the microbiota is antibiotic use.

Who hasn’t had a doctor prescribe antibiotics for a minor ear infection, or another pesky infection that needs to be treated? It’s standard practice and stops a small infection from blowing up into a big deal. 

Have you ever noticed that your digestion just isn’t quite the same during and for some time after antibiotic use?  That’s because antibiotics kill good bacteria as well as pathogenic ones – a catch 22, really. Your immune system is temporarily dampened during a run of amoxicillin, or what have you, as the drug takes out the good bugs with the bad.

There’s a place for antibiotics and other drugs that mess with our guts.

There are also methods of re-establishing balance after the offending bacteria is eradicated. An immune-boosting diet is rich in zinc, vitamin C, beta-carotene or vitamin A, essential fats and lean protein is essential during or after drug use.

Certain nutraceuticals, like probiotics to the tune of at least 30 billion colony-forming units, are also useful for helping gut flora bounce back to a level where the good outweigh the bad.

The exciting thing about this CMAJ article is how it signals the direction of medicine to come. The days of MDs and NDs operating in separate settings are soon going to be passé. Soon, you won’t have to sleuth out a clinic that has the two professions working collaboratively to achieve sustained health improvements. 

Naturopathy, which relies heavily on nutrition and alternative modalties, is already acknowledged by MDs to be effective for heart disease.

My hope is that all these forward-thinking MDs and NDs will also pick up a nutritionist or two to join their care team, providing therapeutic meal plans, recipes and coaching to patients who want to do more to help themselves.

Check out these links for more about what’s happening with the melding of the medical and naturopathic approaches:

Naturopathic Medicine: From the margins to mainstream 

Hospital houses teaching clinic for naturopathy

Keys to Collaboration

Also worth checking out…this  latest from the New York Times  on early human development and gut bacteria – truly fascinating!

Does your doctor talk to you about gut bacteria?

What about the ob/gyn who’ll delivery your baby?




So nice to get a “Thank you” (case study)

A couple weeks ago a past client made my day by emailing me her lab results and a note of thanks.  I’d like to share her story but let me begin by saying that the results that this patient is enjoying may or may not be the results you will achieve. Maybe you’ll do even better!

VC stands 5′ 1/2”, weighing in a 141 lbs prior to starting nutrition consulting. She is a busy grandma and wanted to stay health for herself and her family by managing her digestive issues and diabetes through non-drug methods. She had already been to the Diabetes Education Centre, which left her with some questions.

Her most recent baseline blood work results revealed a random fasting glucose of 9.4 mmol/L and a hemoglobin A1C (measure of long-term blood sugar control) of 0.070.

After an initial nutrition assessment, VC was given a personalized 6-day meal plan which accounted for her food intolerance and included three meals, two snacks and recipes.

She followed her customized meal plan with a few deviations, and followed through on a regular exercise routine. After just over two weeks, she reported a six pound weight loss, and had discontinued use of Januvia, a prescription DPP-IV inhibitor for diabetes management.

At our next follow-up a week later, weight loss was still continuing at a rate of three pounds per week and her blood sugar was within normal limits without the use of pharmaceuticals.

Having gotten her diabetes under control in three nutrition consults (two of which were done without her leaving the comfort of her home), VC is now confident in her ability to stay on track, lose more weight and maintain glycemic control through diet and exercise alone.

Nutrition care is always available if she ever needs it again. Attaining better health is only half the battle, eh. Keeping it there, that’s the tricky part.

Ask me how you may be able to reduce your reliance on medication and improve blood sugar control without taking time out of your work day.



I want you to be your own nutritionist

As stated on my “About Emily” page, I want you to become your own nutrition expert. Personal consulting is the “bread and butter” of many private nutrition practices, – and don’t get me wrong, I love love love working with clients one-on-one – but I don’t want to counsel you forever!

A good nutritionist sets up her program to be a finite number of weeks based on what research shows is a good amount of time for solidifying eating behavior change. Whether or not the client achieves their initial goals within the alloted amount of time is partly an effect of the clinician’s skill, and of course, the client’s compliance to her professional advice. My favorite clients are the ones that ask lots of questions, do their journaling, and at the end of the program, have not only achieved their goals but surpassed them while learning a lot about themselves, their food, and their own unique physiology.

Then, we shake hands, and they walked out the door (with insurance receipt in hand), never to be heard from again.

It’s like seeing your student graduate and go on to bigger and better things. Occasionally, you get an email, but for the most part, my best clients are very confidently making the best food choices for their health and well-being. They may occassionally relapse into old ways (which is normal) but they know how to regain control and go back to eating for prevention and optimal performance without me. It’s so rewarding!

The grocery store is a labyrinth with false turns at every corner. Does it mean you stop eating, or enjoying the food you buy? No! It means you, the consumer, need to make educated decisions so that through your purchases you “vote” for only the best foods available to you.

Are you ready for your best foods? Check out my services, and start on the path to becoming your own nutrition expert.


My beef with baby food

I don’t have a lot of time so I’m going to come right out and say it: What’s with the sugar, hydrolyzed cow’s milk protein, corn maltodextrin, and palm olein in baby formula and baby food? Moms these days are ridiculously savvy when it comes to their child’s health and everyday they have their “food fraud” radars on, demanding the best for their kids through informed consumption. So why does the most popular brand of baby formula/food still have pro-inflammatory, allergenic, obesity-promoting ingredients that just burden young immune systems so that they are start life off with a GI tract that is already in a state of shock? Either parents haven’t caught on, or the powers that be just don’t care enough to change.

This past weekend I attended the Baby Time Show to promote a nutrition company that encourages moms to make their own organic baby food. It was a pleasure to speak with moms and hear their concerns over their little one’s first foods, growth rates, picky eating and potential allergies. And, of course, I’m just gaga over some of the chubby bunnies that rolled into the booth to sample our fresh mash of avocado, blueberries and banana.

Baby’s first food should be as close to natural as possible. Organic baby food is big business but that’s not the point. You don’t have to shell out for one-jar-fits-all commercial baby food. Once baby is ready for solids around the 4 to 6 month mark, he/she should eat what your family eats, i.e. you’re having brown rice, puree some brown rice for junior. Carrots and broccoli going into a stir-fry? Toss a few into boiling water to steam and puree it for baby. This way you’re on the road to dining together instead of making separate meals for the kids.

Discussions about first foods easily turned into questions over ideal body weights. Thin is always in – except in the nursery. Every mom seems to want a chunky monkey with rolls and creases to squish and clean in between. I genuine feel for those who approached with equally adorable babes to confess,”he’s 10 months and only 16 pounds.” But who’s to say that’s not a healthy weight for that child? And, more importantly, who’s to say that the 10 month old who weighs 25 pounds is more healthy?

To answer that question, one must look at the child’s diet. Are they getting fat off the ingredients I listed above, or are they reaping the benefits of breast milk from a mother who cares enough to eat a variety of greens and good fats with minimal refined sugar and trans fats? Research proves that high maternal intake of trans fats in particular will change the fat composition of breast milk in favor of obesogenic, atherogenic fats. (I write about this is my upcoming alive article.)

So don’t judge your baby by it’s number on the scale, and keep making food that is wholesome and naturally yummy, okay Mummy?

Here’s a quick recipe for iron-rich baby cereal:

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup quinoa or quinoa flakes
1 tsp blackstrap molasses
expressed breast milk or goat’s milk as needed to thin to desired consistency

Bring the water to a boil, then add the quinoa. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered for 15 minutes. Add molasses, then blend. Add ebm as needed and blend again. Fresh fruit can also be added for iron-aiding vitamin C and extra yumminess.



Vitamins: What role do they play in health?

This is a fascinating question, and, in part, the reason why I dubbed my practice Vitamin e Nutrition.

Something like 63 percent of Canadians currently take some sort of supplement, according to the Canadian Health Food Association, and – that number is only expected to rise. Good for those supplement companies. But is it doing us any good?

In researching orthomolecular medicine and the works of Linus Pauling and other vitamin advocates, its clear that many physical and mental health afflictions can be corrected through proper supplementation. If the disease has a biochemical root cause (i.e. abnormal blood lipid levels, or neurotransmitter imbalances), it makes sense that providing the right chemicals that natural occur in the body when it is healthy would help us to regain balance.  The trick here is using the right dose. If nutrients are to be thought of as the natural alternative to drugs, then administering them should entail similar regimentation, i.e. 1000 mg vitamin C, three times a day with food, for one week.

The problem I see is that most of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who report use of supplements do so willy nilly with no thought to what dosage is appropriate for them, what effect they hope to achieve, and how to measure its affects. It great that the package says “supports the develop of strong bones and teeth” or “promotes healthy heart function” and provides directions as to how many capsules are considered a safe dose, but is it an effective dose? You won’t know without consulting a natural health professional.

At the end of day, the simply answer to this question is, yes, vitamins play a role in health. What role they play in your health is between you and your nutritionist.

Would you take a prescription drug without asking a doctor or pharmacist about it first? Vitamins can be seen as “nutraceuticals” and should be taken under the professional guidance of a naturopath or holistic nutritionist.

You can judge a nutritionist by their use of supplements

Nutritional supplements aka multivitamin and mineral formulas as well as single vitamins, minerals and herbal concoctions are a massive and fairly recent player in the realm of self care and natural health. Grandma and grandpa certainly didn’t collect supplements in their kitchen cabinets. In any case, natural health products are a multi-billion dollar industry right alongside weight loss and anti-aging.

The use of supplements in dietetic practice tends to be a polarizing subject. Certainly, any nutritionist worth their weight in pounds or kilograms will teach foods above supplements as the best source for nutrients. However, with the current “law of diminishing returns” when it comes to the nutrient density of vegetables and fruits that have ripened on a truck or in storage with the aid of ethylene gas, the quality and quantity of nutrients obtained from foods becomes suspect.

Does everyone need to supplement with at least a daily multivitamin if not additional omega-3, fibre, vitamin D and calcium?

In short, yes – a quality one a day multi is a good idea, even for the most conscientious eater. Why? Because nobody is perfect and nutrient needs vary with changes in stress and activity levels. A good multivitamin and mineral formula will “fill in the gaps” though not excusing you from your leafy greens.

As for other supplements, I operate under the Hippocratic “first do no harm” principle because single nutrients in particular – like vitamin C, hormonal vitamin D, iron or herbs like St.John’s Wort -are far from harmless.  Supplements, or nutraceuticals, if you will, are to nutritionists as pharmaceuticals are to physicians. The dose-response relationship is critical when recommending any supplement.

I encourage you to do some research on the indications and recommended daily allowances of supplements of interest. You can judge your nutrition practitioner by how readily they “prescribe” supps and how well they individualize the dosage to your specific health requirements.

Cooking is medicine made delicious!

Wouldn’t it be great if your doctor referred you to a holistic nutritional cook instead of a specialist?

A very special person’s birthday is tommorow so I’m up at 11:30 p.m. making the following menu ahead of time so that I can relax and savour the party:

Cobb Salad St.Tropez
Steelhead Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Zucchini Noodle Salad

And for dessert, there’s orange flower golden cake with chocolate buttercream icing served with sparkling peach jello with seasonal berries. All from scratch, all inspired by recipes (though not strictly followed), and all made with love.

I firmly believe that the current state of distainful diabesobesity can be remedied with more good ol’ fashion home cooking.

Seriously, as my potatoes steam on the stove, I’m thinking, “This really isn’t that hard.” Cooking really isn’t that hard, nor is it servile, and it definitely isn’t boring!

I stir with my knife. My “measurements” are all eyeballed. I conjure up my menu the day before in a flight of whimsy. The only tool I swear by in the kitchen is my timer. Everything else is organized chaos – and beautiful, creative cuisine. Aside from one anomalous dinner guest that didn’t eat vegetables, everyone leaves happy and satisfied.

Freedom from pharmacopeia could be only a cookbook away! Or, better yet, contact me to get information on healthy cooking lessons hosted by professional nutritionists who share my enthusiasm for flavourful food.