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.



Got Gut Culture?

I’d like to draw some attention to the gut and its amazing ecosystem of some 500 species of bacteria making their home in something like 2700 square feet of absorptive tubing know as our digestive tract.

A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal highlighted the importance of populating the gut with healthy bacteria at  birth. The researchers compared natural vs C-section babies and found significant differences in the variety and number of bacteria in the newborns’ guts. If I recall correctly, C difficile was more prominent in those delivered surgically. They missed getting poop-ulating by their mom’s you know what.

There’s also been some great research on the effects of breastfeeding vs formula feeding and the flora of a new little person.

The lining of the gut is like our skin on the inside. The “thickness”  or resiliency of our internal “skin” depends on the balance of good and bad bacteria that dwell in all the crypts and folds of the gut lining. Like our skin, this protective, absorptive surface is also constantly regenerating itself, with new cells coming to the surface every 3 to 5 days. It never stays the same, giving us a tremendous opportunity to constantly improve it by eating good food and good bacteria!

I recently gave my toddler some store-bought coconut yogurt. He loved it, but it was kind of pricey for a regular grocery item. Children could always use a probiotic boost so I endeavored to make my own by saving some of the store-bought stuff and mixing it into a jar of sterilized coconut milk. To sterilize you just heat it on the stove until it starts steaming but not boiling. The jar is sitting on my stove, slightly warm, and I’m going to give it a taste tonight after about 30 hours of culturing. It’s looking pretty good and thick right now so I’m thinking I’ve just saved myself a couple bucks – and maybe a couple bugs!

There are so many other ways to eat your way to a healthier gut microbiome….

The benefits of a healthy gut range from lower risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases, improvements in symptoms of irritable bowel like diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating, as well as better mental clarity and emotional health. The gut talks to everyone, but especially our nervous and immune systems. There are actually more gut receptors for certain neurotransmitters than there are brain receptors, making it a true second brain. Always trust your gut, eh?

In terms of immunity, there’s just one cell separating the gut cells from immune cells. So, if your gut isn’t strong it’s letting pathogens and other weird things in and your gut-associated immune cells are going to fire up an inflammatory response. That could translate to food intolerances, eczema, brain fog or more complex conditions.

Take-home message: Your gut culture has far-reaching implications for your overall health. If you’d like to know more about eating for your insides, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.



Best Memories of 2012

As we say good-bye to 2012, here’s my 12 favourite professional accomplishments I would like to have etched in electrons:

  1. Attended my first exclusive book launch party with new baby and husband as dates.
  2. Repeat publications in alive magazine including one on postpartum nutrition that’s dedicated to my new little Li
  3. Conducted nutrition analysis for a franchised restaurant wanting to make their Nutrition Information public
  4. Provided foods and nutrition research to Canada’s Most Trusted Media Personality
  5. Taught food literacy and simple meal prep to Montessori students in grade 1 through 4
  6. Helped a woman in Newfoundland normalize her blood sugar, lose weight and gain enough confidence to travel to Europe by herself
  7. Wrote my first e-book on heart health
  8. Developed content for an award-winning holistic nutrition App company
  9. Counseled numerous families towards a gluten-free, casein-free, Specific Carbohydrate or GAPS lifestyle
  10. Consoled numerous mothers as they laughed, cried and learned about a gluten-free, casein-free, Specific Carbohydrate or GAPS cooking and the benefits it may have on their family’s health
  11. Experienced my first consult with a Type 1 diabetic managing without insulin because of a raw vegan diet
  12. Helped a juice company in Thailand launch heart disease reversal program (EKFF is national and international!)

Looking back, it was not my best year as a nutritionist in private practice, but certainly one of my most eclectic and humbling as I submitted myself once again to the needs of an innocent child. In 2013, I look forward to continuing my specialization in weight-related metabolic disorders with a hefty serving of pediatrics on the side. I also resolve to invest more time in this website 🙂



Children need hydrating foods

Hey parents, coaches, teachers, grandparents and other child-minders, summertime is all the more reason to give the children in your care water-rich foods along with their favorite electrolytic beverage.

I love summer for it’s long walks in shady parks, splash pads, and WATERMELON – yum! After 20 minutes in plus 25 degrees humidity your garden is likely going to want some watering. Children are our most precious flowers and they need the water (and the minerals and vitamins that come with water-rich foods) more than we do because of their lower surface area.

Whether they are playing hard or just chillin’ under a tree, kids of all ages will enjoy crunchy bell peppers, cucumbers, celery and zucchini sticks, cherry tomatoes, Romaine lettuce and all sorts of fruit for their natural, sweet juiciness. These foods have the added value of immune-boosting vitamin C, calming magnesium and filling fiber. Pair with a cocoa banana smoothie (see below), coconut water, water with lemon, water with mint leaves, or just plain ol’ water at snack time, and you have the winning recipe for children with even-kneel energy, alertness and health.

Parents I advise often ask, “What about juice?” I cringe at the thought of really young children getting juice. What a dentist’s nightmare! They suck it back like mother’s milk, except it displaces mother’s milk or whatever ever milk they are drinking.

From a body weight standpoint there are studies that say juice is bad, or good. For sure, it is bad for blood sugar control as it is just fructose (fruit sugar) or in some cases glucose-fructose (even worse) with no fiber. So what you get is a child on an internal roller coaster of energy spikes and drops. No matter which way you slice it, fruits and vegetables with a tall glass of water will always, always, always be the healthier choice.

Still, juice boxes are a convenient source of calories and fluid when in a pinch. Treat juice like a treat, if this convenience is something your lifestyle demands. Water it down, half in half, and insist on a neutralizing source of protein such as nuts, seeds or cheese afterwards.

Here’s my quick ‘n’ dirty recipe for a smoothie most kids will go for:

Cool Cocoa Banana Blast

1/2 really ripe banana
1 tbsp pure cocoa powder
1 cup almond milk (or whatever milk agrees with your child’s system)
handful of baby spinach (honestly, they won’t taste it)
4 ice cubes (if desired)

Blend it up and serve with a big straw. If on the go, pour into a frosted sippy cup and enjoy the smiles!




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.