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.
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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?

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• 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

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Are you Getting Enough Vitamin D?


Most of us in North America have heard about the importance of vitamin D, but do you know the signs and symptoms of deficiency, and when to know if it’s something you should be supplementing with?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and while a small amount can be found in the diet, most of it is made in the body in response to sun exposure.

A Few Facts About Vitamin D
• Required for the absorption of calcium
• Needed for the proper formation of bones & teeth
• Assists in regulation of the heartbeat
• Aids in healthy thyroid function
• Important for proper blood clotting
• Essential for healthy neuromuscular function
• Helpful in maintaining healthy eyesight
• Enhances immune function (cancer prevention)
• Helps with depression and anxiety

Symptoms of Deficiency
• Muscle aches and pain, weakness
• Bone aches and pain. Bones can feel painful to moderate pressure.
(often more noticeable in the ribs or shin bones)
• Malformation of bones
Osteomalacia (weakening of the bones – demineralization)
• Osteoporosis (thinning of bones, loss of bone density)
• Insomnia
• Myopia (nearsightedness)
• Depression
• Children with severe deficiency may have soft skull or leg bones. Their legs may look curved (bow-legged).
They may also complain of bone pains, often in the legs, muscle pains or muscle weakness. This condition is known as rickets.

A lack of vitamin D over a period of just a few months can cause the beginning stages of osteomalacia; skeletal demineralization of the spine, pelvis and lower extremities. Signs and symptoms of osteomalacia include: burning in the mouth and throat, bone tenderness, muscle  weakness, nervousness, diarrhea, and insomnia.

Causes of Deficiency
• Metabolic abnormalities with absorption or metabolism of vitamin D
• Sedentary indoor lifestyle
• Those who always cover up when outside, including those who wear traditional veils or burqas.
• Regular use of sunblock
• People over the age of 65. The elderly tend to have thinner skin which means it contains less fat/cholesterol to be turned into vitamin D by the sun.
• Having dark skin (darker skin absorbs less vitamin D)
• Liver of gallbladder dysfunction
• Kidney and liver disorders
• Intestinal ailments such as IBS, Crohn’s and celiac disease
• Low fat diets

Types of Vitamin D
There are several forms of vitamin D. D2(ergocalciferol) comes from food sources such as: fish, cod liver oil, eggs, dandelion greens, mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potatoes, alfalfa, nettle, and parsley. Vitamin D3(cholecalciferol) is synthesized in the skin in response to sun exposure. Both types are available in supplement form, D3 being the most active and bioavailable.

Vitamin D has a potential for toxicity. Unless diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, supplementing more than 1,000 IU for adults and 400 IU for children is not recommended.  Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means your body has a hard time getting rid of it if you take too much. When you take large amounts of vitamin D, the liver produces a chemical called 25-hydroxy-vitamin D [25(OH)D].

Excess vitamin D increases calcium buildup in the blood and can increase the risk of kidney stones. High blood calcium is a condition called hypercalcemia.
Symptoms of hypercalcemia include: poor appetite or loss of appetite, thirst, frequent urination, abdominal pain, confusion, fatigue, and muscle weakness.

A 25-hydroxy vitamin D test is the most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in the body. Testing should be done at least once a year, especially at the beginning of winter. If you are supplementing, monitor your vitamin D levels approximately every 3 months until you are in the optimal range. If you are taking high doses as recommended by your doctor, ask to also have your calcium, phosphorous, and parathyroid hormone levels checked every 3 months.

Since everyone is different, Vitamin D toxicity can happen even at low levels of supplementation. (1)
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, my professional opinion is that we should all be supplementing wisely when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins.

Optimal Levels
•  Dangerously Low Levels = Less than 12 ng/mL: Vitamin D deficiency, leading to rickets in infants and children and osteomalacia in adults
Low Levels = 20-30 ng/mL: Vitamin D insufficiency
Normal = Greater than 30 ng/mL: Sufficient
Optimal = 50-80 ng/mL: Recommended
High = Greater than 100 ng/mL: Emerging evidence links potential adverse effects to such high levels

Vitamin D and Thyroid Conditions
Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining proper thyroid function and  balancing the Th1 and Th2 cells of the immune system. It behaves as a co-hormone, as sufficient levels of vitamin D are essential for proper uptake of thyroid hormones by the cells. Studies show that vitamin D deficiency goes hand-in-hand with hypothyroidism.(2)

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with numerous autoimmune diseases, including MS. Since vitamin D is absorbed in the small intestine, an inflamed GI tract, which is extremely common in people with multiple sclerosis, reduces its absorption. Many medical doctors prescribe megadoses of vitamin D to patients with MS.  It is always wise to have blood serum levels checked before taking high doses of any fat-soluble vitamin.


Stress and High Cortisol
High cortisol levels caused by stress or medications are also associated with lower vitamin D levels. The synthesis of active vitamin D from sunlight depends on cholesterol. Stress hormones are also made from cholesterol. When the body is in an active stress response, most of the cholesterol is used to make cortisol and not much is left over for the production of vitamin D. (3)

Obesity reduces the bioavailability of active vitamin D. Those who are overweight typically have lower serum levels since it’s extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D. (4)

Poor Fat Metabolism
Poor fat metabolism is another factor contributing to malabsorption of this important vitamin. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it requires fat to be absorbed. It also requires conversion by the liver and kidneys before becoming fully active. Those on low-fat diets and people with conditions that impair fat absorption like IBS, IBD, gall bladder dysfunction, liver or kidney disease are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D and are at higher risk for osteoporosis.

Some medications are known to reduce absorption or biologic activity of vitamin D such as antacids, replacement hormones, corticosteroids, anticoagulants, blood thinners and laxatives.

Inflammation of any type reduces the utilization of vitamin D, which is why those with any inflammatory health condition should be following a well balanced, hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory diet! (5)



Winter Skin Care Tips

Winter weather can wreak havoc on our skin and as a natural health and wellness consultant, I’ve been hearing many people complain about dry skin lately so I thought I’d share some of my favourite winter skin care tips.

It so important not to just care for our skin from the outside, but did you know that we can also nourish our skin from the inside-out! This time of year can be especially harsh on the skin, causing painful chapping and cracking. Luckily, there’s a lot we can do to avoid all that…and this is how!

– Moisturize From The Inside Out –

The skin is made from the proteins elastin, collagen and keratin. When these proteins are damaged due to prolonged sun exposure, cold winds or oxidative stress, the result can be fine lines, brown discolourations, enlarged pores, and sagging skin. Dry skin can result from both a lack of oil and moisture. Chapping and cracking are signs of extremely dry, dehydrated skin.

Dry skin can be caused or aggravated by a poor diet, and environmental factors such as exposure to sun, wind, cold temperatures, chemicals, cosmetics, or harsh soaps. Nutritional deficiencies can also contribute to the problem. If the skin or dry or chapped, increase water intake and consumption of essential fatty acids.

Keep Hydrated
Dehydrated skin will accentuate fine lines and wrinkles. Keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Ditch chemical-laden drinks like soda, alcohol, and sugary drinks. Sugar can accelerate aging through a process called glycation. Instead, try sipping on antioxidant-rich herbal teas, lemon water, fresh vegetable juices, soups, and eating fresh fruit.

The Skin Loves Healthy Fats!
A lack of essential fatty acids will be reflected in the skin and hair. Omega–3 essential fatty acids help maintain cell membranes, allowing water and nutrients in, but keeping toxins out. These healthy fats also reduce inflammation throughout the body, which can result in fewer skin breakouts, and an overall more even skin tone.

Consuming foods high in omega-3 fats help keep the skin supple and soft, and increases elasticity, which minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Signs of Omega-3 Deficiency: Rough dry skin, dry brittle hair, scaly skin, eczema, psoriasis

Foods high in Omega-3: Flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, pecans, avocados, wheatgrass, seaweed, nori, spirulina, wild caught, cold water fish, fish oil

Fill up on Fiber For Radiant Skin
A lack of dietary fiber in the diet can lead to sluggish bowels and constipation, which will have a direct effect on the appearance of your skin. When bowel movements are less than once a day, toxins and waste, which should ideally be excreted everyday, will be recirculated back into the bloodstream. Constipation can not only lead to dry, rough skin and acne, but other serious health problems of the gastro-intestinal system. The soluble fibre in found apples, flax seeds, oat bran, fruits and vegetables acts as a cleanser and eliminates toxins from the body.

Fibre also helps to improve circulation, keeps the blood thin, and improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients to skin cells, thus improving your skin’s appearance from the inside out. A high-fiber diet with plenty of fluids will ensure skin that is soft, well-hydrated and flawless!

• Eat at least 2 cups of dark leafy greens a day
• Consume high fiber fruits with the skin such as apples, pears and berries
• Include a variety of whole grains in your diet
• Eat a variety of beans, legumes and lentils

Zinc is necessary for tissue and cell formation, required for collagen production and regulates the activity of oil glands. Using zinc topically and taking it orally has shown some potential in preventing and alleviating the inflammation and scarring associated with acne and wind burn and can help to heal wounds, scars and overly dry skin.

Signs of Deficiency: white spots on the fingernails, thin fingernails that peel, acne, skin lesions, frequent infections, slow healing cuts or wounds, loss of taste or smell, premature hair loss, dry skin

Food Sources of Zinc Include: kelp, legumes, lima beans, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grains, alfalfa, cayenne, parsley, sage, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, fennel seed, milk thistle, wild yam, eggs, fish, oysters, liver

Factors that Impair Zinc Absorption: Do not take supplemental oral zinc with foods which interfere with absorption such as: bran, coffee, phytates, phosphorus, calcium, iron and medications that inhibit stomach acid. Zinc levels are lowered by diarrhea, kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver and diabetes. Significant amounts of zinc are lost through perspiration.

Hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring substance present throughout the human body and is distributed widely throughout connective, epithelial, and neural tissues. Its function in the body is, among other things, to bind water and lubricate the joints and muscles. Because of its ability to hold water, it also hydrates and plumps the skin and is added to many anti-aging skin formulations and moisturizers. Because HA is one of the most hydrophilic (water-loving) molecules in nature with numerous benefits for the human body, it has often been described as “nature’s moisturizer”. Pure hyaluronic acid can be purchased for topical use (I like adding a few drops to my avocado oil and zinc moisturizer). It can also be taken internally as a supplement.

Hyaluronic acid is only present in a limited number of foods, but not many. Root vegetables, fruit, beans and legumes contain the nutrients needed to stimulate the production of HA. Incorporating the following foods into the diet can encourage the body to make additional hyaluronic acid.

Food That Stimulate The Production of Hyaluronic Acid: Purple potatoes, beets, daikon, radishes, turnips, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, celery root, beans, tempeh, apples, bananas, lemons, melons, carrots, berries, kale, spinach

* The best way to cook starchy root vegetables is to steam them, which not only preserves the nutrient value but lessens the formation of acrylamide and advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

Grilling, deep frying and baking result in the production of acrylamide, one of the hundreds of chemicals known as Maillard reaction products (MRPs), which form when foods are heated at high temperatures. Studies have shown that acrylamide is a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical

Acrylamide is known to form adducts to DNA, potentially leading to DNA mutations, contribute to oxidative stress and increase the signs of aging. Potato chips, french fries, burnt toast and baked, grilled or roasted carbohydrate foods contain the highest levels of acrylamide. These levels increase the more cooked and burnt the food is.

– Moisturize From The Outside –

Avoid Abrasive or Drying Facial Cleansers
Most facial cleansers on the market contain alcohol, as well as other harmful preservatives and chemicals, which can be very drying and damaging to the skin. Try exfoliating with granulated sugar and honey, or coffee grounds. Exfoliate your skin twice a week to increase cell turnover.

Natural Moisturizers
Using natural, cold pressed plant-based oils help protect and hold moisture in the skin without clogging the pores. Natural oils are high in antioxidants, protect the skin from free radical damage, and can heal dry and chapped skin that can result from cold winter winds.

Plant based oils also draw impurities out of the skin by unclogging pores. People with oily skin might have reservations about applying oil to the face, but oils can actually help balance the production of sebum, while balancing out the natural pH of the skin.

Oils are lipophilic (fat loving), and they pass though the lipid layer of the skin faster, preventing water loss and plumping skin with moisture more effectively. Natural oils are extremely nourishing and moisturizing for the skin. Experiment and find which oils work best for you! The oils listed below will not clog pores, or cause the skin to be oily.

Castor Oil: Extremely moisturizing for severely dry skin. This is thicker oil and takes a bit more time to absorb so it’s best to apply it at night about an hour before bed. Castor Oil is very anti-inflammatory and penetrates deep into the skin which helps to soften, hydrate and plump the skin, minimizing the appearance of wrinkles. It is also great for healing cracked, chapped skin.

Jojoba Oil: Great oil to use for hair and oily skin. Helps lighten and heal scars and reduce wrinkles and stretch marks. Creates a protective film over the skin and hair shaft to seal in moisture. Dissolves clogged pores and returns skin to a natural pH balance.

Olive Oil: High in vitamins A and E. Great to use an evening moisturizer.
*Personal note: For years, I’ve been using olive oil to remove eye make-up. It leaves the skin around the eyes nourished and moisturized. It even works for water-proof mascara.

Argan Oil: High in vitamin E and fatty acids. Helps with dry skin, acne, psoriasis and eczema. Treats split ends and tames dry, frizzy hair. Use as an all over body moisturizer, including the face and neck.

Rosehip Oil: Absorbs easily. Contains vitamin C, A and lycopene which repairs the skin’s surface, restores elasticity and protects against sun and wind. Reduces the appearance of scars, age spots and hyper-pigmentation.

Avocado Oil: Extremely moisturizing and rich in vitamins and fatty acids. Keeps the skin moist and smooth. Contains high concentrations of Vitamins A and E. Soothes sensitive skin and especially useful for dry, scaly skin and scalps.

Sweet Almond Oil: Great for all skin types. Alleviates dry skin, soothes inflammation and relieves itching caused by eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.

Goji Berry Seed Oil: Contain a high amount of vitamin C, which is known to support the production of collagen, to speed wound healing, and to protect the skin from free radical damage. It’s also been shown to help fade sun and age spots.

Tamanu Oil: Promotes the formation of new tissue, thereby accelerating wound healing and the growth of healthy skin. Relieves and protects the skin against inflammation and redness. Moisturizes, nourishes and repairs the epidermal cells of dry and damaged skin.

Sea Buckthorn Oil: Great for irritated or inflamed skin. Contains omega 3, 6, 9 and 7, which helps reduce redness, burning and itching while vitamin E helps heal skin quickly and reduce scarring. Helps maintain the skin’s elasticity and smoothness.

Coconut Oil: Great moisturizer for irritated or inflamed skin. Not the best choice to use on the face if one is prone to clogged pores or acne. Helps relieve dandruff and eczema due to its anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.

Hemp Seed Oil: Anti-inflammatory, reduces redness. Easily absorbed by the skin. For very dry skin, it should be mixed with a thicker oils as hemp oil absorbs quickly and is known as a “dry” oil.

Natural Skin Care Recipes

Castor Oil Face Wash
Helps to deep clean pores and remove blackheads without stripping the skin of moisture! To wash your face with castor oil before bed, dampen a face cloth, add a quarter sized drop of castor oil to the cloth, cleanse the face in small circular motions, and rinse. Blot dry and apply a natural moisturizer to the face and neck.

Sugar and Honey Exfoliator
Combine 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon honey, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and mix well. If the mixture is a too runny, add a bit more sugar.

Coffee Scrub
Combine 1 tablespoon of ground coffee with 1 tablespoon of water or olive oil.
To make this exfoliating face scrub more economical, use the wet coffee grounds from your brewed morning coffee.

Other Tips

Cover up!
This might seem obvious, but when you are heading outdoors, keep your face and body covered with proper winter clothing. Always wear gloves and a scarf, and keep your face covered in cold and windy  weather.

Humidify Your Home
Indoor heating is especially drying to the skin, as well as the nasal passages. If the air inside your home is dry, use a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air.
If you do not have a humidifier, keep a pan of water in each room, which will help prevent the skin from drying out.

Dry Skin Brushing
Dry skin brushing is a unique skincare method, which uses a natural bristle body brush to exfoliate the skin. Dry skin brushing on a daily basis provides numerous benefits such as improved circulation and new cell renewal. It helps shed dead skin cells, resulting in smoother, brighter skin. Dry skin brushing also stimulates the lymphatic drainage, which helps to eliminate toxins from the body.