Beat the Winter Blues Before They Start!

It’s dark when I wake up in the morning and dark before I leave work! I don’t know about you, but I’m already starting to miss the sun! These cold, short days are getting to me early this year.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to a change in the seasons. It can start in the fall and continue into the winter months, draining your energy and making you feel moody. We might not be able to change the seasons, but we can change what we do and how we respond. Sometimes we just have to create our own sunshine!

Here are some of my tried-and-true tips for boosting your mood during the dark days of winter!

1. Boost Your Happy Hormones

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and hormone that regulates sleep, mood and appetite. An imbalance of serotonin can cause anxiety, irritability, chronic pain and depression.

Ways to Increase Serotonin

Choose positive thoughts: When we choose to remember happy events in the past, or focus on what we’re grateful for, our brains produce more serotonin. You are the gatekeeper of your mind and your mind has the power to shape your reality. Every thought we have  impacts a field of energy around us. Allow positive thoughts and gratitude to guide you.

Fun in the sun: Exposure to sunlight aids in the production of serotonin. Increase outdoor activities as best you can. When the snow comes, try to enjoy fun winter activities like ice skating, skiing, tobogganing, building snowmen, or simply take a bundled up walk through a park with some hot chocolate. Dark chocolate of course!

Low intensity exercise: Serotonin increases from aerobic exercise and lingers in our system afterwards. A study from Harvard University suggests fast paced walking for about 35 minutes a day five times a week, or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression. A preliminary study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, symptoms of depression, and vitality.

Friendly food combining: Foods high in the essential amino acid tryptophan are a precursor to serotonin. Try eating slow release complex carbohydrates in combination with those containing tryptophan. The release of insulin from the carbohydrate will allow the tryptophan to be carried to the brain.

When most people hear the word tryptophan, they probably think of turkey and Thanksgiving dinner, but there are plenty of other food sources of this wonderful amino acid! Notice how some foods on the list below are both a source of tryptophan and complex carbs. Bonus!

Tryptophan Containing Foods
Brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, sprouted tofu, bananas, oats, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, watercress, turnip greens, seaweed, spirulina, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, eggs, chicken, turkey, whey protein powder

Complex Carbs
Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots, peas, quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oats, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, beans, lentils, legumes, chickpeas, chia seeds

Mood Boosting Meal Ideas
Hummus collard wrap and sweet potato salad with pumpkin seeds and walnuts
• Strawberry banana, coconut yogurt smoothie with ground chia seeds
• Fully Loaded quinoa breakfast bowl
• Banana nut cinnamon oatmeal sprinkled with hemp seeds
• Quinoa salad with chickpeas and broccoli florets topped with ground flax seed

2. Eat a Balanced Diet

A lot of us crave sweet, salty, high-fat foods in high stress situations or when we’re depressed because these types of foods stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension. This soothing effect is so addictive and habit-forming that we literally train ourselves to crave comfort foods every time we feel anxious.

A lack of healthy food in the diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. This will create imbalances in the body and contribute to low moods and depression. Eat a large variety of whole foods to ensure you are getting enough of the following vitamins and minerals.

Common Deficiencies That Contribute to Low Moods and Depression

B vitamins
B vitamins are necessary for the normal functioning of the nervous system and naturally boost our energy levels. They are also known as anti-stress vitamins and are an important contributor in the biochemical production of serotonin. A deficiency in any B vitamin, especially B6, B1, B3 and B12 can impair the body’s ability to manufacture serotonin.

The good news is there is a bountiful list of foods containing B vitamins, many of which also contain tryptophan! It’s always a good idea to get B vitamins from eating whole foods, but if you choose to take a supplement, look for a full spectrum B complex.

Food Sources of B Vitamins: Cabbage, cantaloupe, green leafy vegetables, spinach, walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, bananas, turnip, cauliflower, oats, bell peppers, peas, collards, avocado,  nutritional yeast, rice bran, blackstrap molasses, whole grains, quinoa, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod, chicken and turkey.

* Beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods also help manufacture B vitamins right down inside your gut. This means enjoying things like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha not only help with digestive health, but also contribute to serotonin production!

Essential Fatty Acids
A great deal of scientific data links low tissue levels of EPA and DHA to a host of mental/emotional disorders, including depression.

Food Sources: Fish, fish oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, almonds, avocado

Vitamin D
A deficiency in vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, can be linked to depression, lack of energy and low moods. This time of year, short days means less exposure to sun, and less vitamin D. Are you getting enough? Read up on it  >> here.

Chronically low magnesium levels coupled with a lack of sunshine can have a significant impact on mood and energy levels. Magnesium helps reduce anxiety, improves circulation and is a major factor in the production of serotonin and melatonin, both of which can play a crucial role in seasonal affective disorder.  

Magnesium Foods: Oats, almonds, hemp seeds, peas, brown rice, sweet potatoes, salmon and dark chocolate.

Zinc is another important co-factor required for increasing serotonin levels. Zinc supplementation has been shown to have antidepressant effects. Studies have shown that blood zinc concentration levels in depressed individuals is lower than in non-depressed control groups. Additionally, there was evidence that incrementally lower zinc levels correlated positively with the severity of clinical depression.

Sources of Zinc
Kelp, legumes, lima beans, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grains, alfalfa, cayenne, parsley, sage, dandelion, fennel seed, wild yam, eggs, fish, oysters, liver

3. Skip the Sugar, You’re Sweet Enough Already!

Studies have shown that sugar actually lights up the pleasure and reward center of our brain, the same way it does when we’re falling in love.  Sugar and other quick fix carbs give us an instant lift because they trigger the release of serotonin, which calms and soothes us – our very own built in chill pill, if you will.  But, when we use sugary snacks to boost serotonin, we create a bigger problem by depleting our natural serotonin stores over time.

Low serotonin can often intensify cravings for sugar. This is the body’s way of trying to increase serotonin since eating sugar produces insulin, which helps carry tryptophan to the brain. Too much sugar however can eventually lead to insulin resistance.

Instead, try satisfying your sweet tooth in a healthier way with low glycemic fruit such as apples or blueberries, or with a protein packed snack like almond butter or hemp butter on celery or apple slices. Replace white sugar with more nutrient dense sweeteners like coconut sugar or maple syrup.

4. Feel Serene With L-Theanine

You might not have ever heard of L-theanine, but there’s a good chance you’ve had it without even knowing it!  L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. Studies have shown L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha waves in the brain, creating a feeling of relaxation, while maintaining mental alertness and the ability to focus. L-Theanine is also available in capsule form or chewable tablets.

5. That Magic Touch

Not only does physical touch help manage stress levels by lowering cortisol and increasing dopamine and serotonin, but studies have also shown it can boost the immune system and even slow the progress of disease.  One study conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine shows that massage increases serotonin by 28% and decreases cortisol by 31%.

Other forms of healing touch include hugging your partner, cuddling, Reiki, contact between breastfeeding mothers and their babies, and owners interacting with their pets.

6. Himalayan Salt Lamps

Himalayan salt lamps are made from large rock crystals of salt. They give off a soft, soothing light and have been credited with providing various health benefits including relief from allergies, fatigue and depression. Positive ions are released by electrical devices such as computer screens, televisions, and telephones. Exposure to excess positive ions can cause feelings of lethargy, fatigue, and even depression. Salt lamps can help bring emotional balance into our lives because they generate negative ions, which help us to feel more energized and uplifted.



6 Week Program: A Holistic Approach to Managing Multiple Sclerosis

Starting this January, if you’re living in the Kitchener/Waterloo area,  I’ll be offering a FREE 6-week program on how to take a holistic approach to managing multiple sclerosis.

If you can’t make it out to these classes, don’t fret, the full 16 module program will be available online this December!

Multiple Sclerosis is a complex, multifaceted disease with many possible outcomes. Nutrition should never be considered an alternative, but rather an integral part of any health protocol. Taking a holistic, nutritional approach to managing MS involves addressing the body as a whole in order to modulate the immune system and stop your body from initiating an autoimmune attack against itself.

Whether you’re recently diagnosed, or your condition has progressed to advanced stages, it’s never too late to start incorporating healthy diet and lifestyle habits.

To register for this 6 week program, send an email to:
Please include your name, phone number and how many people you are registering for.

This class takes place at the location below. 
Sobeys – Northfield Community Room
640 Parkside Drive
Waterloo, ON
N2L 0C7

Please register early to reserve your spot!

Holistic Approach to Managing Multiple Sclerosis: 6 Week Program Details

Class #1: Autoimmunity and Gut Health
Tuesday, January 16
1:00 pm-2:30pm

In this class, we’ll discuss the very important connection between multiple sclerosis and gut health. This is one of the most important topics in this program because it addresses the root cause of why autoimmune conditions develop.

Class #2: Putting out the Fires of Inflammation
Tuesday, February 6
1:00 pm-2:30pm

If we know anything about multiple sclerosis at all, we know that it’s an inflammatory condition. In this class, we’ll discuss very specific ways to reduce inflammation in the body.

Class #3: Brain Friendly Foods and How to Repair Myelin
Tuesday, Feb 20
1:00 pm-2:30pm

Class #4: Correcting Nutritional Deficiencies and The Crucial Role of B-Vitamins
Tuesday, March 6
1:00 pm-2:30pm

This class details the most important nutrients one needs to get when battling MS.

Class #5: Sleep, Stress management and the Importance of Exercise
Tuesday, March 13
1:00 pm-2:30pm

Class #6:  Putting Your Wellness Plan into Action and Symptom Relief Tips
Tuesday, March 27
1:00 pm-2:30pm

To wrap up the program, we’ll discuss how to put your holistic wellness plan and discuss effective symptom relief tips. 




Are You Getting Enough Potassium?

Muscle cramping, weakness, fatigue, tingling or numb extremities, heart palpitations…are you getting enough potassium?

There can be several different underlying causes for some of the symptoms above. In my nutrition practice however, I analyze a lot of food diaries submitted by my clients and over the years I have noticed that many people are not getting enough potassium.

Potassium is both a mineral and electrolyte. It is the third most abundant mineral in the body and required for the proper functioning of several organs, including the heart, kidneys, brain and muscular tissues.  Potassium also plays an important role in keeping the body hydrated and works with sodium to support cellular function with your body’s sodium-potassium pump. Low levels of potassium can have severe effects on the heart, nerves and muscles.

Signs of Potassium Deficiency

  • Muscle cramping
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling or numb extremities
  • Heart palpitations
  • Passing large amounts of urine or feeling very thirsty most of the time
  • Low blood pressure
  • Depression, confusion, irritability

Factors That Deplete, Destroy or Compromise Potassium Absorption
Dehydration, diarrhea, excessive sweating and laxative abuse are common causes of low potassium levels.

A blood test can check potassium levels, kidney function, glucose, magnesium, calcium and phosphorous if an electrolyte imbalance is suspected. 

Recommended Dietary Allowance
The recommended dietary intake for potassium is between 2,500 – 4,700 mg. Aim for the higher end if you are more active and sweat a lot, or if you experience frequent loose stools. 

The kidneys control the balance of potassium by removing excess potassium into the urine. Those with kidney disease should use caution when it comes to eating potassium-rich foods. In some people with chronic kidney disease, the kidneys may not remove extra potassium from the blood.

Potassium-Rich Foods
The great thing about this wonderful mineral and electrolyte is there are so many foods that contain large amounts of it. For example, just one avocado contains 1,067 mg.

Potassium Foods

Avocado 1 whole

1,067 mg

Acorn Squash 1 cup


Spinach 1 cup (cooked)


Salmon 1/2 filet


Tomato sauce 1 cup


Yogurt 1 cup


Beets 1 cup (cooked)


White beans ½ cup


Banana 1 large


Sweet Potato 1 large


Coconut water 1 cup


Black beans ½ cup


Lentils ½ cup


Kale 1 cup (cooked)


Soy milk 1 cup


Almond milk 1 cup


Oats 1 cup


Quinoa ½ cup (cooked)


Hemp Seeds 1 Tbsp.


To give you an idea of what the ideal amount of potassium for the day might look like, I made two sample meals plans. These meal plans do not take into account other nutritional needs. They are just an example of how to include more potassium-rich foods into your diet if you are deficient. If you still have a difficult time meeting your potassium needs, try adding fresh salads, green smoothies, more fruit and vegetables or coconut water into your meal plans!

Sample Potassium Meal Plan #1


Potassium in mg

1 cup rolled oats (cooked)


1 banana


1/2 cup blueberries


1 cup soy milk


1 Tbsp. hemp seeds



1 medium apple


Almond butter – 1 Tbsp.



1 cup quinoa


1/2 cup cooked spinach


1 cup broccoli


1/2 sweet potato



1/2 cup black beans


1/2  cup lentils


1/2 cup cooked spinach


1/2 avocado



4183.5 mg

Sample Potassium Meal Plan #2


Potassium in mg


1 cup rolled oats (cooked)


1 banana


1/2 cup blueberries


1 cup almond milk


2 Tbsp. hemp seeds



1 medium apple


Almond butter – 1 Tbsp.



1 salmon fillet


1/2 cup quinoa


1/2 cup broccoli


1/2 sweet potato



1/2 chicken breast


1 cup cooked spinach


1 carrot


1/2 avocado



3,933.5 mg



MS and the Connection to Gut Health

On September 28th, 2017 I was invited to do a talk for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada to discuss the fascinating link between multiple sclerosis and gut health.

I’m always so grateful to be given the opportunity to do these talks. I received such good feedback from the lecture that I decided to release an audio recording for those who either missed the talk, or for who don’t live in my area.

If you’re interested, you can also download a free copy of the handout that was given out.  If you follow the along while listening to the audio recording, it will be like you were right there in the room with us!

Topics include:

    • The impact of gut bacteria on MS
    • Multiple sclerosis and the leaky gut connection
    • 7 causes of that lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria
    • Tips to improve digestive health and balance the gut microbiome
    • Nutrients and substances that help reduce gut related inflammation

Download a free copy of the Autoimmunity and Gut Health handout using the link below.
Add to Cart


Finding the Best Care for a Senior When You Live Far Away

by Marie Villeza

Photo by Pixabay


When your elderly loved one is in need of extra help, it can be a frightening and frustrating time — for both of you. But when that loved one lives far away, it’s  even more difficult. You need to find a place to take care of your loved one, but you can’t be there every day to make sure everything goes smoothly. If you do enough research and prep, you can be confident of your decision.

First, you have to know the different types of care facilities. Here are some of the options available.

Assisted living — This is for people who need help in one or two activities per day, such as dressing or bathing. The staff at an assisted living facility will keep an eye on their residents in case of emergency. They often serve meals in a central location, and will have more mobile seniors than in other facilities. They can help arrange transportation to medical appointments, too. If you need a nurse’s help, you may have to hire visiting nurses.

Memory care — This is for people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Memory care usually has tighter security measures to keep residents from wandering off.

Skilled nursing — This is for people who need nursing help every day, are confined to their bed or have more complicated behavior issues. This what is commonly called a nursing home.

Choosing a place

When you tour a facility, you’ll start with an administrator who will show you around and give you the official tour. But come back another time and see it for yourself. A good time to visit is in the morning, when the staff are getting patients out of bed. Pay attention to the demeanor of the staff. Are they smiling and courteous to each other as well as patients? Do they know patients by name? Do the residents seem happy to see the staff? Visit again in mid-day to see if the residents are active. Some won’t be, of course, but the ones who are should be participating in activities. Look for a homey feel, not so much like a hospital. Overstuffed couches, a library, a cozy dining room and animals like birds and fish give residents a reason to smile.

Ask if the specific needs of your loved one can be met. Find out if residents can bring their own furniture so they feel more at home. Are there religious services available or are the residents taken off-site? What types of activities are available? Is there a daily routine for people with dementia? Does a doctor visit regularly? Ask the staff if they work a lot of overtime or take extra shifts, as this can be a sign of a staffing shortage.


All levels of care are expensive, so cost might be a factor in your decision. If your loved one has long-term care insurance or the means to pay for it, then the decision is much easier. But without it, costs are very high. Assisted living begins around $3,600 a month, and skilled nursing can cost as much as $10,000 a month.

Most people begin their nursing care by paying out of pocket. As resources dwindle, they become eligible for Medicaid, and that can help pay for care. But Medicaid has strict requirements for what’s covered, including requiring a roommate. Check if the facility takes both private pay and Medicaid, so that your loved one doesn’t have to change facilities later. And keep in mind that Medicare doesn’t cover long-term facilities. Comb through your loved one’s finances to find ways to stretch his or her funds. For extra help, utilize online calculators and budget worksheets.

Budget and careful planning will also be necessary when it’s time to help your senior loved one downsize and prepare for this type of move. If it’s feasible, hire movers to help make this process a quick and smooth one. In the end, it will benefit your loved one and give you more time to focus on helping them settle into their new living space.


Once you find the best option for your senior loved one, make sure the facility understand that you’ll be checking in from afar, and that you won’t be able to drop everything and be there for small things. Most facilities should be familiar with situations like yours.

You should also be able to talk to your loved one at almost any time. Regular phone calls and communication remind your loved one that you are there and you love them. If your senior loved one is in a position to use video calls, this is a great way to connect when you can’t be close by. By actually seeing someone on the other end, you can get a better sense of how your loved one is doing and they will find comfort in your friendly face.

Making this sort of transition can be a difficult step for everyone in involved, which is why it’ so important to apply careful planning. You can help your senior loved one find a comfortable, caring environment where they can enjoy this chapter of their lives, even if you’re not close by. Not only will your loved one have peace of mind, but so will you.



Is Juicing Good or Bad For Multiple Sclerosis?

To Juice or Not to Juice?

Juice cleansing. Juice fasting. Juice feasting. Is it right for everyone?

Juicing is a centuries-old health practice that can be traced back to ancient cultures. Some sources state that juicing was even mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls that date back before 150 BC and over the last 10 years, the popularity of juicing has really soared.

So what’s the hype all about?

Juicing and blending provides an easy and delicious way of increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we consume each day. Fresh juice also provides the body with an easy way of absorbing all of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants contained within these foods. There are however, a few things one needs to consider before rushing out to buy a juicer.

Every single one of us has different nutritional needs based on our current state of health, stage of life and activity level. Whenever someone is looking to make a change to their diet, it’s wise to start with small changes and introduce new foods or ways to prepare food, in a slow manner. We never want to shock our system or quickly throw our bodies into detox mode.

Toxins, chemicals and heavy metals store and bio-accumulate everywhere in the body including the brain, bones, organs and fat tissue. Whenever one makes a dramatic change to their diet, like quickly moving to a raw foods diet or doing a juice cleanse, there is a possibility of toxins quickly releasing into the bloodstream. This can cause many problems and holds the potential to exasperate any health condition. One thing that isn’t mentioned too often in the juicing world, is the symptoms of detox and health complications related to detoxification. Those with cancer or autoimmune conditions should always use caution and consult a certified natural health practitioner before radically altering the diet or embarking on a juice cleanse.

Common Symptoms of Detox Include:

  • headaches
  • lethargy
  • muscle aches and pains
  • mucus or other discharge
  • skin rashes, hives, acne breakouts
  • white coating on the tongue
  • flu-like symptoms
  • irritability
  • difficulty sleeping
  • weakness
  • cravings
  • nausea
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • digestive upset


1. Autoimmune Conditions
There are many factors which have been known to exasperate autoimmune conditions. For those diagnosed with an autoimmune condition such as Multiple Sclerosis, you are probably aware of how stress affects your condition. Any kind of stressor, whether it be nutritional, emotional, mental, physical or environmental can have a negative impact on MS. A sudden change of diet is no exception.

Myelin, the fatty covering the nerves is also a target site for toxin accumulation. Whenever the body begins to cleanse the accumulation of toxins in this area, the nerves may become irritated and trigger symptom flare-ups.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start including fresh juices into your diet. It just means it’s best not to make any sudden or drastic change like doing a juice cleanse if you haven’t already cleaned up the diet, or if your condition is unstable.

My own personal experience in taking a holistic approach to managing MS is that I transformed my diet slowly, making small changes over the course of a year. It wasn’t until I was completely off of processed food that I started juicing. I wouldn’t say that I planned it that way, it’s just how my life and health transformation played out.

2. Diabetes and Blood Sugar Imbalances
Anyone with blood sugar imbalances should use caution when juicing. In order to avoid spiking the blood sugar, it’s best to juice more vegetables than fruit and to juice fruit in small amounts, sticking to those low on the glycemic index.

Do you have any of the following symptoms of unstable blood sugar?

  • Are you cranky, irritable or suffer from headaches if meals are late or missed?
  • Do you get light headed or dizzy if meals are late or missed?
  • Do you often crave sugary snacks, carbs and caffeine in the afternoon?
  • Are feelings of anxiety or nervousness relieved by eating?
  • Do you often experience fatigue or hunger a few hours after meals?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you could be suffering from unstable blood sugar levels. In this case, it’s best to eat fruit and vegetables in their whole form, where the fiber is still intact. Protein and fiber is what helps stabilize blood sugar levels. When you eat the whole fruit with the skin, which contains the fiber, the natural fruit sugars are released into the bloodstream much slower, resulting in better blood sugar control.

3. Thyroid Conditions
No doubt cruciferous vegetables possess many antioxidant, cancer-fighting nutrients, but they also contain isothiocyanates, a compound which acts as a goitrogen. Goitrogens are naturally-occurring substances that can interfere with the function of the thyroid gland.

In healthy people who do not have a thyroid condition, these compounds will not cause a thyroid imbalance or negatively impact your health, but for those with a pre-existing thyroid condition, one should consider limiting their consumption of raw cruciferous vegetables. In studies, cooking has been shown to inactivate these goitrogenic compounds. As much as one third of this goitrogenic potential may be deactivated when foods are steamed and boiled.

For those with thyroid conditions, the following list of foods are best eaten cooked, not juiced or consumed raw.

Kale • Spinach • Collard greens • Swiss chard • Arugula • Watercress • Bok choy • Broccoli • Cabbage • Cauliflower • Mustard greens

4. Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
Juicing can be a healthy way of getting more nutrients to an expectant or breastfeeding mother, but it is not advised to quickly transition from a nutrient poor diet to drinking an abundance of fresh juice. Even a mild detox can release toxins to the fetus. Numerous studies have shown that breast tissue is a major site of toxic build-up and these toxins can be released into the breast milk. It is recommended that one cleans up the diet at least six months prior to becoming pregnant and it is not advised to practice a juice fast while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Take Home Message
It’s always best to make small changes to your diet slowly over time. Add one fresh juice a day, but watch for symptoms of blood sugar imbalance or any other symptoms related to detoxification listed above. Keep a food/symptom diary and write down how you feel, both emotionally and physically after eating. Record symptoms you experience after meals or when new food is introduced into the diet. Pay attention on how your body reacts to stress, food, sleep and exercise.

Learning to be in tune with your own body allows you become your own personal health expert!


Autoimmunity and Gut Health

The human body is host to trillions of bacteria – at least 1,000 different strains. There are exciting studies on this subject, which are constantly emerging, and they explore the connection between gut bacteria and several inflammatory, autoimmune conditions. Modern day researchers are even suggesting that an imbalance of gut bacteria may have a direct link to multiple sclerosis.

The gut microbiome (which is just a fancy expression for the microscopic bacteria that live within the intestinal system) play a very important role when it comes to the development and progression of autoimmune conditions. In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers found that MS patients have a distinct microbiome compared to their healthy peers.

The study in question found that the gut bacteria in patients with remitting relapsing MS was not significantly different from that of the healthy controls. However, when RRMS patients were further divided into groups that separated those with active disease and those in remission, there was less diverse gut bacteria in the patients in active relapse compared to the healthy controls.

 It would seem that not all gut bacteria are created equal!

The “good” bacteria in the gut help to digest food, manufacture specific vitamins, and protect the lining of the digestive tract. The “bad” bacteria, concurrently, can lead to digestive disturbances, contribute to brain fog, and inflames the digestive tract. Any factors that irritate or stress the digestive tract can lead to systemic, wide-spread inflammation. By controlling inflammation in the digestive tract, we can begin to balance the immune system and potentially stop it from sending an inappropriate immune system response, which causes the body to attack its own tissues. The more we learn about our own inner ecology, the more we discover just how influential this internal environment is.

7 Factors That Contribute to an Imbalance of Bacteria in the Gut

1) Poor Digestive Health
One of the major ways we can work towards balancing our gut bacteria is by improving digestion. An inability to fully breakdown and digest proteins can result in a meal that takes longer to digest. The longer food remains stagnant inside the intestinal system, the more gases and toxins are created (which act as fuel for the wrong types of bacteria). To improve digestive function, try following the simple suggestions listed below:

  • Eat slowly and chew well – to stress and rush through a meal impairs digestion by allowing too much air to mix with the food, and prevents saliva (which contains digestive enzymes to thoroughly coat the meal as we eat).
  • To maximize digestion, it is not advised to drink water (or any other liquid) 30 minutes before or after eating. If you have difficulty swallowing, small sips are acceptable, but take the time to eat slowly and properly chew the food until it becomes a paste in your mouth before swallowing.
  • Avoid over-consumption – stop eating at a comfortable spot (when you are 80% full). Overeating causes undue stress on the body, which impairs the integrity of the intestinal walls, and can lead to widespread inflammation.
  • Populate the gut with “friendly bacteria” by consuming foods that are rich in probiotics. Probiotic foods are those that have been cultured or fermented (such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi and kombucha).
    NOTE: If you are using yogurt as a probiotic, it must be plain and unsweetened. If yogurt contains fruit or added sugar, it has no probiotic benefit, no matter what the label may suggest. The healthy bacteria in the yogurt will feed on the fruit in the yogurt, instead of balancing out the bacteria present in your gut. If you use yogurt as a probiotic, choose plain, unsweetened kefir.
  • Avoid antacids – the body needs stomach acid to release protein-digesting enzymes, kill harmful microbes, and to trigger the release of other digestive enzymes from the pancreas so that food may be properly digested and absorbed.
    If you suffer from heartburn and/or indigestion, consult a natural health practitioner about addressing the root cause of instead of masking symptoms with antacids or proton pump inhibitors.
  • Consider taking a digestive enzyme before meals, but always consult a qualified health practitioner before taking any supplement(s).

2) Yeast/Candida Overgrowth
Candida is a type of yeast that is generally found in the flora of the intestinal system. Although candida organisms are naturally present in the body, they can cause problems if overgrowth occurs, resulting in candidiasis. In chronic candidiasis, rapidly multiplying candida can spread systemically throughout the body. Candida organisms are known to produce over 75 toxic substances. These toxins are absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body, causing a wide array of symptoms. Yeast produce their energy by converting sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol, which can cause symptoms such as digestive disturbances, joint pain, and brain fog.

The good bacteria in your system are responsible for keeping candida under control – however, there are many factors which can disrupt this balance, such as antibiotics, birth control pills and oral corticosteroids.

 3) Slow Bowel Transit Time
“Bowel transit time” is the length of time that it takes for food to travel through the digestive tract (an elapse between the time food enters the mouth until it is eliminated as waste). The longer food remains sedentary in the intestinal tract, the more it will ferment and produce gases. Candida organisms feed off putrefying waste in the intestines. If you suffer from constipation, increase your consumption of high fiber foods, ensure you are drinking enough water, and include healthy fats in your diet.

4) Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities (or allergies) can also contribute to irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract, which can result in an imbalance of gut bacteria. Each person has their own unique biochemistry – what contributes to inflammation in one person, might not be an issue for another. All food is capable of initiating an inflammatory response in the body. Food sensitivity testing, followed by an elimination diet, is key in determining diet-related causes of gut-related inflammation.

5) Inflammatory Foods
Over-consumption of stimulants (such as caffeine and sugar), as well as heated oils, alcohol, artificial additives and preservatives, stress the digestive system and can interrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. It is recommended that you focus on whole foods – fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and high quality protein.

6) Blood Sugar Imbalances
“Bad bacteria” in the gut are fed by elevated blood sugar levels, which allow them to grow quickly out of control. The elimination of refined sugars is recommended, as well as ensuring that protein and fiber-rich foods are part of every meal and snack.

Any food that creates dramatic spikes in blood sugar should be avoided – these include white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and concentrated fruit juice.

 7) Chronic Stress
Stress taxes the adrenal glands, and elevates cortisol (a stress hormone). These factors raise blood sugar levels, which can feed the unwanted forms of bacteria in the gut. Chronic stress, anxiety and/or negative thinking all add to the total body burden of internal toxins that can interfere with proper digestion, and disrupt the balance of “good” gut bacteria.

We would be wise to adapt new and healthier/positive methods of dealing with stress. It is critical to maintain healthy amounts of sleep, and practice stress-reduction techniques (such as deep breathing, meditation, journal writing, listening to music, enjoying nature, and spending quality time with family and loved ones).

Interested in learning more about how to improve your digestive health?
Click here to take our online course: A Holistic Approach to Digestive Health


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Do You Really Need to Detox Your Liver?

The liver is the most important organ in the body when it comes to getting rid of toxins!

Since the liver is responsible for whole-body detoxification, you’re actually detoxifying your entire body when you support optimal liver function.

The liver, known as the master organ of detoxification, needs to be supported on a daily basis. Due to the chemicals we are exposed to every single day, it is sometimes not enough to just rely on your body’s natural processes.

What can overload or impair the liver’s ability to detoxify?

  • High exposure to environmental toxins, alcohol, and heavy metals.
  • An inflammatory diet, trans fatty acids and excess sugar can inhibit both phase I and phase II liver detoxification pathways.
  • Several differet medications can either inhibit or modify detoxification enzymes.
  • Free radicals from immune complexes or viruses.
  • Nutritional deficiencies. Sufficient levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and sulphur containing amino acids are required to ensure optimal liver function.

    sluggish liver If you have 3 or more of the symptoms above, you might benefit from the following tips to better support your liver health in our new online eCourse: Everyday Detox – Spring/Summer Edition – An Evidence-based, Whole Food Approach To Detoxification! 




101 Cruelty-Free Companies

I don’t normally share with kind of thing but I recently stumbled across truly heart-breaking information regarding animal testing. I personally switched most of my makeup and cleaning products to nontoxic, cruelty-free brands years ago but left it at that. Out of sight – out of mind, so to speak. But when I came across this image of beagles being forced to inhale toxic chemicals, I immediately felt sick to my stomach. No living creature should have to endure this kind of suffering.

According to several sources, beagles are the dog breed most often used in animal testing, due to their size and passive nature. As a kid, I grew up with a basset hound. Her name was Georgy Girl and these cute, yet sad little beagle faces made me think of her. This prompted me to compile a list of companies that do not test on animals.

These days, it’s pretty easy to find a wide range of cruelty-free products. A lot of popular grocery store chains are even starting to carry them. Just look for any of the symbols below, which indicates the product has not been tested on animals.

If you have anything you would like me to add to this list, please let me know!

Alba Botanica : Skin and hair care
Alima Pure : Mineral makeup
Amazonian Skincare : Natural skin care
Andalou Naturals : Skin and hair care
Annointment : Skin, soap, men, women, baby
Arbonne : Skin, makeup, bath & body
Attitude : Bath & body, natural cleaning products, pet care
Aubrey Organics :Skin & hair care, men, women
Avalon Organics : Skin, hair, bath & body
Badger Balm : Bath & body, sunscreen
Bare English : Lip gloss 
Bare Organics : Bath & body, makeup
Batty’s Bath : Bath & body
Beautycounter : Bath & body, makeup
Better Botanicals : Natural Bath & body, hair care
Belvedere International :Bath & body, hair care
Boi Cosmetics: Nail polish
Boo Bamboo : Natural bath & body, hair care, baby
Buck Naked Soap Company : Natural bath & body care
Butter London : Makeup
Cake Beauty: Bath & skin care
Cheeky Cosmetics : Makeup
Clear Conscience : Cruelty free eye drops & contact lens solution
Cocoon Apothecary : Bath & body
Colorevolution : Makeup
Consonant Skin Care : Bath & body
Conscious Choice : Organic bath & body
Cosmic Tree Essentials : Bath & body, makeup
Cover FX : Makeup
Crate 61 : Organic bath & body, soap, lip balms
Dalish Cosmetics : Makeup
Decode : Personal care for men
Demo Soap: Soaps
Derma-e : Skin care
Dessert Essence : Bath & body, hair, dental care
Every Man Jack : Men’s line of shaving cream, deodorant, body  wash
Dr. Bronner’s : Castile soap, bath & body, dental care
Druide : Natural bath & body, hair care, essential oils
Earth Mama Angel Baby : Mama & baby
Earth Science Naturals : Bath & body, hair care
Eco-Max : Natural household cleaning
Eco Nuts : Natural household cleaning
E.L.F. Cosmetics : Makeup
Eminence Organics : Skin care
Freeman Beauty : Face, body, hair care
Giovanni Cosmetics : Natural hair & body care
Green Beaver : Natural castile soap, lotions, soaps, sunscreen, lip balm
Ground Soap : Soap & skin care
Herbal Glo : Skin & hair care
Hugo Naturals : Bath & body, hair care, lip balm
Jason : Bath & body, hair care
John Masters Organics : Bath & body, hair care
J.R. Watkins : Bath & body, natural cleaning products
Juliet’s Room : Organic bath & body
Kiss My Face : Natural Bath & body, hair care, lip, dental care
La Couleur Couture : Non-toxic nail polish
LaRitzy : Makeup
Lipani Skincare :Skin care, makeup
Live Clean : Natural bath & body, baby
Lise Watier : Makeup
Lōa Skin Care : Skin care
Logona :Skin care, makeup, hair care
LOVEFRESH : Natural bath & body, deodorants
Lush : Bath & body, makeup
Mad Hippie : Natural skin care
Maple Holistics: Body, skin, hair care
Marcelle : Makeup, skin care
Max Green Alchemy : Natural bath & body, hair care, men’s
Method : Natural cleaning products
Meow Meow Tweet: Body, face, baby
Mineal Fusion : Natural mineral makeup
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day : Natural soaps, body care, cleaning products
Natracare : Natural feminine hygiene products
Nature Clean : Natural cleaning products
Nature’s Gate: Natural body & skin care, hair, baby
Nellie’s All-Natural : Natural cleaning products
Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics: makeup
Pacifica : Natural skin & body, hair, makeup
Paula’s Choice : Skin care
Pixi : Makeup
Prairie Naturals :Natural skin & hair care, supplements
PUR Minerals : Skin care, makeup
Purelygreat Deodorant : Natural deodorant
Rockin’ Green : Household cleaning products
Rocky Mountain Soap Co. :  Natural bath & body, soaps, aromatherapy
Samana Naturals : Natural skin & body, hair, lip balm
Seventh Generation : Natural cleaning, feminine care
Skin Essence Organics : Natural skin care
Soap & Glory : Bath & body
Spa Sisters : Natural bath & baby
Sukin : Natural skin care, hair
Tarte Cosmetics: Makeup
Tom’s of Maine : Natural personal care products
Trust Fund Beauty: Makeup
The Ausable River Soap Company : Organic handmade soap
The Laundry Tarts : Natural laundry products
Urban Decay : Makeup
Weleda : Natural bath & body, hair, baby
X-Pur : Gum, dental care
Yes to Carrots : Bath & body, hair, makeup, baby
Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics : Makeup



What Does Your Bowel Transit Time Say About Your Health?

Hippocrates said it best “All disease begins in the gut”

“Bowel transit time” is the length of time it takes for food to travel through the digestive tract, from mouth to colon. Once food is chewed and swallowed, it moves to the stomach, where it is mixed with stomach acid and digestive enzymes. From there, it travels through the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed. The food then moves to the large intestine. What hasn’t been fully digested and absorbed in the small intestine, combines with bacteria and other waste products and gets eliminated through the colon.

Your bowel transit time is dependent on a few different factors: The type of food you eat, hydration, the amount of fiber in the diet, and exercise. Certain medications and neurological conditions can also affect your transit time.

Testing Your Bowel Transit Time

The ideal bowel transit time is anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. A transit time longer than 2 days can increase the risk of cancer, diverticulosis and candida (overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria), which weakens the immune system and puts one at higher risk for all types of cancer. A transit time less than 10 hours can mean lack of absorption, which can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies and weakened immunity.

Testing your bowel transit time is fairly easy. Simply consume something that will be easily identified such as: a cup of corn, beets or a few tablespoons sesame seeds, and count the number of hours it takes to appear in your stool.

This is where most people get confused!

A daily bowel movement does not necessarily indicate a healthy colon. Even if you are having a bowel movement every day, you still could be suffering from constipation. Without doing a bowel transit test, you could be unknowingly eliminating something you ate 4 or 5 days ago. The longer a meal remains inside the colon, the longer toxins and putrefaction of digesting food have time to do damage.

Anything less than one bowel movement a day means toxins and waste are recirculating back into the bloodstream and can result in symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, gas, bloating, acne, allergies, muscle and joint pain.

A fast transit time (shorter than 10 hours) means food is passing through your system too quickly, and you might not be absorbing nutrients from your food, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. A fast transit time combined with loose stools is something to be very concerned about. This can lead not only to severe nutritional deficiencies but also electrolyte imbalances, leg and muscle cramps, anemia and osteoporosis.

Anyone who suffers from chronic diarrhea or loose stools, abdominal cramping, and a bowel transit time of less than 10 hours should seek the advice of a medical professional. It is advised that you be assessed for inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, Crohn’s, endocrine disorders and for food allergies and sensitivities. The ideal bowel transit time is anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. A healthy stool is one that is well formed and can be easily eliminated with no pushing or straining.

There are many factors that contribute to a poorly functioning digestive system.
Do you suffer from digestive issues, gas and bloating, constipation, loose stools or food sensitivities?

If you have answered YES to any of these questions, you could benefit

from the information provided in the Eat Heal Love Online eCourse: Fix Your Digestion – An Owner’s Manual.

Some of the Topics Discussed in This Course Include:

• How to fix fast bowel transit times (loose stools)
• How to improve digestion and elimination
• Treating the underlying cause of candida
• How to heal leaky gut syndrome
• Tips to relieve heartburn and GERD
• Stool analysis chart
• How much fiber we really need
• Natural remedies for common digestive complaints
• A closer look at supplements for optimal digestive health
• How to follow an elimination diet
• Everyday healthy digestion tips

Take this course today and learn how to be your own digestive health expert!