Feeling Blue This Week?

Blue Monday is a name given to a day in January reported to be the most depressing day of the year. This is usually the third Monday of the year and happens to land on Monday, January 16th in the year of 2017. Researchers determined this day based on an equation that takes into account factors such as: weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failure of attempt to make a change (i.e. resolution), low motivational level and the need to take action. Are you feeling the effects of Blue Monday this time of year?


The Role of Serotonin

Serotonin is often referred to as our “happy hormone”. It is a neurotransmitter that has a powerful influence over our mood, appetite, sleep, and pain tolerance. It is made in our bodies, however, we are often deficient in the building blocks it needs. Our body makes serotonin by converting tryptophan into 5-HTP and then into serotonin. Low serotonin levels are associated with a range of symptoms and diseases including depression, weight gain, cravings, migraines, sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, and fibromyalgia.


Why 5-HTP?

5-HTP is a direct precursor to serotonin and is a break down product of tryptophan (amino acid found in turkey), which is what causes that sleepy, satisfied feeling. Because it is one step closer to serotonin than tryptophan, it is more effective at relieving the symptoms associated with low serotonin. 5-HTP boosts serotonin levels without unpleasant side effects, and does not create dependence.


5-HTP Benefits

Mood Boost: Depression has been clinically linked to low serotonin levels. Certain antidepressants help keep serotonin circulating in the blood by preventing it from breaking down.

Ample research has shown that 5-HTP is an effective antidepressant agent, even for certain patients who are unresponsive to prescription drugs.

Improved Sleep: Serotonin and melatonin (our sleep hormone) are part of a cycle that relies on the same materials. Therefore, 5-HTP also regulates circadian rhythms and increases REM sleep to improve sleep quality and help relieve insomnia. This allows for natural sleep pattern restoration!

Weight Control: Normal serotonin levels help us feel full and satisfied after eating. Therefore, 5-HTP is an effective weight loss tool as it can help curb appetite and avoid binge eating from carbohydrate cravings. Studies have shown a decrease in caloric intake when taking 5-HTP.

Pain Tolerance: Serotonin also controls neurological pathways responsible for experiencing pain. There is evidence that the body’s serotonin pathway does not work in those with fibromyalgia. Therefore, 5-HTP can help relieve chronic pain and fatigue associated with this condition. Also, low serotonin levels are associated with migraines. By boosting serotonin, 5-HTP has been shown to help prevent recurrence and reduce symptoms.


Other Factors - Gut Health, Blood Sugar Management & Proper Nutrition

The brain and the gut are on a two-way street of constant communication. According to naturopathic doctor, Karen Jensen, “New research shows that gut bacteria communicate with and influence brain function…The gut brain produces a wide range of hormones and around 40 neurotransmitters of the same classes as those found in the head brain…Gut brain problems such as microbiota imbalance can cause symptoms of depression.” This is why proper digestion is of utmost importance! Consider regular probiotics, enzymes and fibre for regular bowel movements, proper absorption and optimal gut health.

Also, maintaining stable blood sugar levels throughout the day is important in sustaining energy, mental focus, mood and craving control. Ensure regular, balanced meals that contain fibre, protein and healthy fats!

For nutritional recommendations, ensure adequate levels of D & B Vitamins as well as Magnesium and High EPA Essential Omega 3 Fatty Acids (i.e. fish oils) for proper mood support!

In addition to low serotonin levels, blood sugar imbalances, nutrient deficiencies and poor digestion/gut health, other factors such as: lack of physical activity, chronic inflammation, over toxicity, poor diet, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, poor lighting, stress, trauma and candida overgrowth can also play a role in low mood.


Consider 5-HTP as it provides the necessary building blocks to boost serotonin levels. It is clinically shown to enhance mood, fight depression, relieve insomnia by improving sleep quality, curb appetite and food cravings, prevent migraines, and relieve pain from fibromyalgia. Look for enteric-coated caplets that are designed to dissolve in the intestines rather than the stomach, significantly reducing the potential for nausea. It is advised to use for a minimum of 1 week to see beneficial effects.


Note: Be sure to consult a Health Care Practitioner in regards to possible interactions and cautions before incorporating a new supplement into your daily regime.

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


8 Tips To Manage Blood Sugar… Naturally!

The Basics.

When we eat carbohydrate foods (breads/pastas/cereals/fruits/sugars), our body breaks them down into glucose, which then enters the bloodstream (blood sugar). Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that carefully lowers blood sugar levels by bringing gluocose into the cells to be used for energy.


The Vicious Cycle.

When carbohydrates break down rapidly in the body, blood sugar levels rise too high (hyperglycemia). As a response, insulin is pumped out in high amounts to control blood glucose and blood sugar swings from high to low (hypoglycemia). People then tend to experience energy crashes, confusion/poor memory, mood swings/irritability, anxiety and hunger cravings in an attempt to raise glucose levels again. If they then reach for the same type of foods that originally spiked blood sugar, this creates a vicious cycle of imbalance (dysglycemia)!


The Dangers of High Blood Sugar.

Over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious long-term health problems. If these surges happen on a continual basis, eventually cells become desensitized and resistant to insulin (the body does not allow it to bring glucose into cells effectively). Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance. Pre-diabetics are individuals who have higher than normal blood glucose but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Did you know? Insulin Resistance is linked to and is the main feature of Alzheimer’s disease. This is why it is known as Type 3 Diabetes!

Other adverse effects include: destruction of thyroid gland, overloaded/fatty liver, overtaxed adrenal glands, weight gain and resistant fat cells, weak immune system, nerve damage in eyes/kidneys/GI system, higher risk of candida overgrowth, osteoporosis, heart disease (excess cholesterol production, arterial damage and poor circulation), etc.


8 Tips to Manage Blood Sugar!

  1. Limit Sugar & Sweeteners - This includes honey, syrup, table sugar, and artificial sweeteners – Try: Xylitol, Stevia, Coconut Sugar instead!
  2. Fruit Selection - Avoid juices and higher glycemic fruits (i.e. bananas, dried fruit). If consuming fruit go for fresh, lower glycemic options (i.e. berries, apple, grapefruit) and enjoy them with some type of protein (i.e. nuts/seeds, Greek yogurt).
  3. Focus On Whole Foods - Avoid foods that are not in their whole form (processed, refined, instant, artificial) These include “white” products like bread, rice, sugar, pasta as well as flour, crackers, pastry, cereal. Also, minimize intake of caffeine.
  4. Choose High Fiber, Complex Carbs - When consuming carbohydrates, ensure moderation, and choose complex and unrefined ingredients that provide good amounts of fiber, such as ”brown” whole grains (wheat, spelt, oats, rice, etc.)! Other great sources of fibre sources include starches (sweet potatoes, squash), pseudograins (quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet), flax and chia, beans/legumes and of course, vegetables!
  5. Eat Balanced Meals: Always be sure to include ingredients that are high in fiber and protein along with good healthy fats to slow down digestion & prevent spikes in blood sugar. Great protein sources include naturally-raised/wild caught meats and fish, free run eggs and organic/grass-fed dairy. Healthy fats include coconut, olive, avocado, nuts and seeds. Consider high quality supplemental protein or fibre powders as an easy way to boost nutrition in addition to a healthy diet! PGX fibre helps to reduce food cravings, control/balance blood sugar levels and reduce the glycemic index of meals by up to 60%!
  6. Never Skip Meals – Try eating smaller meals more often throughout the day and ALWAYS eat breakfast! Tip: try adding cinnamon or brewer’s yeast to help stabilize blood sugar levels!
  7. Consider Natural Supplements – Here are a few key ingredients to consider: Chromium with Vanadium help control blood sugar and cravings by helping insulin activity. Chirositol mimics insulin to reduce cravings, controlling glucose levels Berberine increases the production of insulin receptors. Magnesium improves insulin sensitivity, activity and transport. Vitamin D helps control insulin and blood sugar levels. Garlic decreases and helps stabilize blood sugar levels, prolongs half-life of insulin. Healthy Fats/Omegas (Fish Oils/DHA & EPA, Evening Primrose/GLA) help decrease insulin resistance! Also, Zinc & Vitamin B are common deficiencies for people with insulin resistance.
  8. Lifestyle Factors – Make an effort to maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, manage stress, sleep well, and minimize toxins and common allergens. Consider liver & thyroid support. Improve digestion (probiotics, enzymes), etc. Did You Know? Physical activity moves sugar from the blood into cells and helps reduce insulin resistance and stabilizing blood sugar levels?


What Is The Glycemic Index/Load?

  • Glycemic Index is a number associated with a particular type of food that indicates its effect on a person's blood sugar level by measuring the rate at which a carbohydrate breaks down and releases glucose into the bloodstream (higher GI = foods turn into blood sugar very quickly). A value of 100 represents the standard, an equivalent amount of pure glucose. A lower G.I means it is more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized causing a lower and slower rise in glucose and insulin levels. However, this index does not take into account typical portion sizes of foods.
  • Glycemic Load is a tool that takes into account the Glycemic Index as well as the amount of carbohydrate in a typical portion size of that food. As a general rule, foods with a G.L under 10 are ideal, those above 20 should be eaten sparingly and all those in between should be consumed in moderation.

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


When Your Body Starts To React To Food…

It has become the norm for people to avoid certain ingredients for health reasons. However, there are differences in the type of reactions they experience as well as the appropriate treatment protocol.


Our immune systems exists to defend the body against bacteria, viruses and any other potentially harmful organisms. It can do this in many ways, one of which is by producing cells called antibodies. There are five major antibodies: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, and IgM. Sometimes our immune systems produce antibodies to certain foods by mistaking these particles (known as antigens) as harmful. Although our bodies believe they are protecting us, these reactions lead to a range of negative symptoms. 


There are two types of antibodies commonly produced in these reactions: IgE & IgG. The difference between food allergies and food sensitivities depends on the type of antibody produced and the speed of the reaction.


Classic Food Allergy

These immediate reactions include IgE antibodies and are considered “true allergies”.  They typically occur within minutes of exposure to, or ingestion of, the food antigen and can be life threatening. Symptoms generally include: itchy watery eyes, skin eruptions (i.e. hives) and trouble breathing. After the initial exposure to the food, the body remembers this allergen and has IgE antibodies ready for instant release if it ever comes into the body again. Testing for these types of food allergies is generally done by an allergist, and may involve skin prick tests. This is commonly seen with peanuts.


Food Sensitivity

This refers to a delayed immune food reaction to foods that involves IgG antibodies, which can take hours or days to develop, making it difficult to determine the true source of the symptoms unless testing is done. In these reactions, IgG antibodies attach themselves to the food allergen and create a complex. These are normally removed by special immune cells. However, if there is a large amount and they are frequently ingested, these cells are unable to remove them all, leading to an accumulation that deposits into body tissues. This leads to a release of inflammatory chemicals which cause multiple symptoms that may include: weight gain, fatigue, weakness, itching, swelling, rashes, mood swings, memory problems, behavioral difficulties, asthmatic tendencies, joint pain and stiffness, fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain. Conditions associated with food sensitivities can include digestive disorders (Crohn’s, IBS), migraines and mood/attention disorders! In children, food sensitivities may potentially be an underlying factors in colic, ear infections, bedwetting, eczema, asthma and hyperactivity. The most common foods that provoke IgG reactions include dairy, wheat, eggs, yeast, pork and soy. These types of food reactions can be tested by a food sensitivity test. Note that any symptom can be a sensitivity symptom.


Food Intolerance

These reactions have no immune involvement. They are generally linked to digestive difficulties due to enzyme deficiencies, low stomach acid, added chemicals or artificial ingredients in food.  For example, lactose intolerance is characterized by people who lack the enzyme lactase and then have trouble digesting milk. Other triggers include histamine, MSG, etc.


The Leaky Gut/Food Sensitivity Connection

Essentially, leaky gut syndrome is increased intestinal permeability. The gut becomes “leaky” because of inflammation. When it becomes irritated, the intestinal membrane inflames and normally tight cell junctions loosen up and allow large molecules (toxins, microorganisms, food particles and pathogens) to squeeze through into the bloodstream. The immune system sees these particles as invaders, and stimulates an antibody reaction, leading to silent inflammation, auto-immune disorders, more tissue damage and food sensitivities. This irritation can be caused by multiple factors including incomplete digestion, stress, poor diet, candida overgrowth, drugs, chemicals, bad eating habits, alcohol, etc.


Seek out a health care practitioner who can administer a food sensitivity test if you feel you may be struggling with this issue. These professionals can set you up on an appropriate elimination diet based on your results and offer additional supplement and lifestyle suggestions!


Allergy-Friendly Ingredient Tips!

  • Instead of peanut butter, try using sunflower, almond, cashew, sesame (tahini) or coconut butter in baked goods, on bread/crackers or served with fruit.
  • Gluten- free grains & pseudo grains include: rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat.
  • Instead of dairy products, try coconut, cashew and almond alternatives (i.e. milk, yogurt). Coconut & almond flours can also be used in gluten-free baking!
  • Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is high in protein, fibre, B vitamins and various minerals! It can be used to add a nutty, cheesy taste to dips, sauces, salads, casseroles, cooked vegetables or on popcorn.
  • Ghee is clarified butter, in which casein, whey and lactose have been removed. It stimulates healthy digestion and is rich in fat soluble vitamins. It can be used like butter on toast or to cook your favorite foods because it has a high smoke point!
  • Focus on foods such as hemp, chia, flax, organic fruits & vegetables, wild-caught or naturally-raised meats & fish, cold-pressed virgin oils, avocado, water, herbal teas, etc.


This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


Magical Matcha!

What is it?

Matcha is premium green tea powder from Japan. Just like regular green tea, it comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, however, it is grown differently. These plants are covered and their exposure to direct sunlight is gradually reduced a few weeks before harvest in order to boost the amount of chlorophyll and amino acids in the leaves. This process is what leads to a very high concentration of antioxidants! One cup of matcha is the equivalent of 10 cups of green tea in terms of nutritional value and antioxidant content! The leaves are then harvested and stone-ground. Matcha drinkers ingest the whole leaf, not just the brewed water, so they receive 100% of the nutrients.


What are the Health Benefits?

  • LOADED WITH ANTIOXIDANTS - Matcha powdered green tea has 137 times more antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea. Amongst these is the powerful EGCg (60% of its catechins). Antioxidants are great for skin, heart health and anti-aging! In testing, matcha’s ORAC rating (test used to assess antioxidant potency of foods and beverages) was shown to be 1384 units per gram, compared to pomegranates 29 units/g, blueberies 24 units/g or kale’s 18 units/g!
  • WEIGHT LOSS – Matcha boosts metabolism by up to 4x and burns fat!
  • PROMOTES MENTAL CALMNESS – Matcha is rich in L-Theanine (5-6x more than common black & green teas), which calms the mind and relaxes the body while increasing concentration, focus & improving learning and memory. It also enhances mood by promoting serotonin and dopamine production.
  • ENERGY BOOST – Although it does contain caffeine, matcha is a jitter-free alternative to coffee. It provides sustained energy without crashing or nervous energy and is said to improve physical endurance by up to 24% for up to 6 hours!
  • DETOXES & ALKALIZES – Matcha is much richer in chlorophyll than other green teas due to the way it is grown. It effectively and naturally detoxifies the body of chemicals and heavy metals while balancing pH levels/alkalizing.
  • PACKED WITH NUTRIENTS – Matcha provides vitamin C, selenium, iron, calcium, chromium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and more!
  • DEFENSE MECHANISM – Matcha helps boost the immune system and manage inflammation to prevent sickness and disease.
  • CONTAINS FIBER – The easily absorbable fibre in matcha helps to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels.

How to Use?

Matcha is versatile and flexible. It works in hot, cold, sweet or savory drinks and dishes. Originally consumed as a tea whisked into hot water, matcha is now a popular ingredient in mixed beverages such as morning smoothies, green tea lattes, frappes, as well as yogurt, ice cream and cocktails. People have also incorporated it into both baked (bars, cookies) and non-baked recipes (i.e. fudge, raw bites).

Matcha Recipes


  1. A.Matcha Fudge – 1 cup coconut butter, 1/3 cup coconut cream (from full-fat canned coconut milk), 3 tbsps. coconut oil, 2 tbsps. matcha powder, 2 tsps. vanilla extract and ½ cup pure maple syrup. Melt coconut ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in remaining ingredients and pour into a parchment lined pan. Chill for a few hours, slice and enjoy!
  2. B.Matcha Energy Balls – Combine 8 dates (soaked and pitted), ½ cup raw almonds, ¼ cup raw honey, ¼ cup coconut butter, 2 tbsps. cacao powder, 2 tbsps. matcha powder, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt in a food processor, form into balls, roll in toppings of choice (nuts/seeds, shredded coconut) and chill until firm.
  3. C.Matcha Smoothie – Blend together 1 tbsp. matcha, 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder, 1 tbsp. coconut oil. 1 tbsp. shredded coconut, ½ frozen banana, 1 cup coconut milk and ½ cup ice until smooth!
  4. D.Matcha Latte – Bring ¾ cup almond milk to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk together 1 tsp. matcha powder with ¼ cup of boiling water, then add to milk and stir. Sweeten with pure maple syrup and cinnamon!
  5. E.Matcha Chia Pudding – Soak ¼ cup chia seeds with 1 ½ cups almond/coconut milk. In a separate bowl, add 2 tsps. matcha powder with some hot water and whisk until smooth. Combine matcha and chia seed mixtures. Stir in ½-1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup, a splash of vanilla and top with fruit, granola, nuts/seed, coconut, etc.
  6. F.Matcha Butter – Mash 1 stick of grass-fed butter (room temperature) with 2 tbsps. matcha powder and raw, local honey (to taste).

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


3 Tips To Make Your Baking Healthier!

Tip # 1: Choose Nutrient-Rich Ingredients
When using high-quality ingredients, you create a more flavorful and nutritious product that will satisfy cravings and meet dietary requirements with smaller portions!

•    Organic Whole Grains & Flours – i.e. oats, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, whole wheat, kamut, etc.
o    Substitute white flour with whole grain alternatives. Look for organic, low temperature impact milled, Canadian grown grains. Try using white spring wheat flour for a more comparable product! Spelt is also a great, low-gluten and easily digestible alternative to whole wheat!
•    Healthy Fats – such as organic/grass-fed butter, extra virgin olive oil, raw nuts & seeds, avocado or coconut and their butters/oils/full-fat milks.
o    Try substituting these alternatives instead of canola, vegetable oil or margarine!
o    Consider adding flax/hemp/chia seeds to increase fiber and anti-inflammatory omega fats!
•    High Quality Proteins – look for organic/grass-fed dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheeses or kefir) and organic/free-run eggs.  
o    Try replacing sour cream with Greek yogurt and some lemon juice!
•    Organic or Local, Chemical-Free Produce – include any and all in fresh, frozen, pureed, or dried form for a nutrition boost!
o    Add veggies (beets, carrots, spinach, zucchini, and sweet potato) – enhances vitamin and mineral content.
o    Use fruits (berries, apples, bananas, pumpkin) – adds fiber and antioxidants.
•    Natural Sweeteners –use raw, local honey and pure maple syrup! Note that fruit purees/sugars (i.e. dates, bananas, applesauce) also work well to sweeten recipes naturally.
o    Substitute white sugar for cane sugar as it retains natural molasses (and nutrients)! Tip: make your own healthier icing/confectioner’s sugar by combining 1 cup of organic cane sugar (or xylitol) + 1 tbsp. organic corn starch and blending until powdered.
•    Extra Nutrition Boosters – these provide plenty of flavor, nutrients and health benefits!
o    Organic Spices & Extracts –
o    Cinnamon helps stabilize blood sugar levels, ginger aids digestion and helps fight inflammation, clove has anti-bacterial properties, etc.
o    Tip: replace regular table salt with sea salt in half the amount for added nutrition!
o    Protein/Fibre Powders – help stabilize blood sugar levels to control appetite, sustain energy and prevent cravings!  
o    Matcha Green Tea Powder – rich in antioxidants, helps boost metabolism and burn fat, provides energy and promotes a relaxed, yet alert/focused state of mind.  
o    Cacao Powder or Nibs – great source of iron, magnesium and packed with fiber, protein and a ton of antioxidants!

As a rule, avoid partially hydrogenated oil (or trans fats), processed/refined ingredients and artificial additives and dyes in things such as sprinkles, mixes, frosting, sauces, etc.

Tip # 2: Special Diet Alternatives

    Calorie Conscious?
Substitute up to half the fat in your recipe for Pureed Fruit/Vegetables…or use Greek Yogurt instead to boost protein content!
Try using Stevia as your sweetener of choice! It has 0 calories and 0 glycemic index. Due to the fact that it is up to 300x sweeter than sugar, it is recommended to use 1 tsp. per cup of sugar.
•    Grain & Gluten-Free Alternatives?
Pureed Beans/Legumes (i.e. black beans, chickpeas) or Nut Flours (i.e. coconut, almond) can be used as your base! Keep in mind that almond flour falls apart easily and requires additional binders, while coconut flour absorbs easily and requires additional liquids. Easy tip to avoid grains – make your dessert crustless (like pies)!
For those who are not avoiding grains but are sensitive to gluten, look for a Gluten-Free Flour Blend that uses brown rice flour, xanthan gum & potato/tapioca starches.
•    Managing Blood Sugar?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables.  It comes in at around 30 calories per tablespoon with a very low glycemic index of 7. Xylitol is a natural insulin stabilizer and can be used in a 1:1 ratio with sugar. Look for a birch-derived product!
Coconut Palm Sugar is a natural sugar evaporated from the sap of coconut trees. It has roughly 30 calories per tablespoon and a glycemic index of 35. It is a slow-release food and a great alternative for those looking to manage blood sugar levels! This serves as an ideal substitute for brown sugar because of its caramelized flavor.
•    Allergy-Friendly: Egg, Dairy or Peanut-Free?
Eggs - Combine 1 tbsp. of chia or flax seed with 3 tbsps. of water. Allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes or until it “gels”.
Dairy– Use coconut, cashew or almond milk alternatives instead of cow milk, yogurt, etc.! For buttermilk, add 1 tbsp. of lemon juice & let sit for 10 minutes. Plus, try making dairy-free whipped cream by refrigerating full-fat coconut milk overnight (allowing the fat and liquid to separate), then removing the solid portion and whipping together with sweetener of choice! In addition, ghee is clarified butter, in which casein, whey and lactose have been removed.
Peanuts – Try using sunflower seed, almond, cashew, pumpkin seed, sesame (tahini) or coconut butter in your recipes instead!

Tip # 3: Other Considerations
•    Natural Food Coloring – Try matcha powder for green, beet crystals or phytoberry powder for pink/red and cacao powder or organic coffee for brown!
•    Portion Control – Prepare mini-sized desserts, pre-cut dainty trays or pies into smaller pieces, and portion out cookie dough using a tablespoon. Remember, it is easier to grab one small piece instead of breaking something in half and walking away wanting to finish it. As with everything, moderation is key. The goal is to taste the dessert, not to fill up on it completely – that’s what the main meal is for!
•    Managing Chocolate Intake– Try cutting back on chocolate chips in the recipe and replace with dried fruit, nuts/seeds, coconut as fillers! Also, when a recipe calls for milk chocolate, choose dark instead (70% or higher cacao) for a more nutritious product. You can also make your own healthy chocolate with equal parts liquid coconut oil and cacao powder to half part maple syrup!


This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.-30-

How To Conquer The Holiday Season!

The holidays are intended to be a season of joy, relaxation and laughter. Unfortunately, for many it is often a month of stress, fatigue, irritability, weight gain and digestive discomfort. There are multiple approaches to help you stay healthy this season, including lifestyle tips, nutrition choices and natural supplementation. Here are a few tips to help you fully enjoy this crazy, yet wonderful time of year!


The Secret to Holiday Survival: Adrenal Support

Chronic stress of any kind puts us in a constant state of “fight or flight” which depletes the body of nutrients and leads to elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, taxing the adrenals. Not only does this negatively affect our ability to manage stress, it can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels, weight gain, immunity, mood and more! Adrenal stress has a long list of symptoms including fatigue, depression, cold hands/feet, dizziness, insomnia, cravings, hormonal imbalances (estrogen, thyroid), irritability, headaches, digestive issues, skin problems, etc. Note that factors such as caffeine, high sugar/refined diets, alcohol, smoking, toxins, and dehydration also weaken the adrenals.

Fortunately, there is help available to reduce cortisol levels and regulate stress hormones. Adaptogens are herbs that assist the body in adapting to stress by supporting the adrenal glands. They have a normalizing effect and help the body maintain a constant internal state. Your ability to adapt to long term stressors depends on optimal function of the adrenal glands and cortisol regulation!



Ingredients for stress/sleep management:

Adaptogens – Siberian ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha, suma, schizandra, holy basil, etc.

Calming Herbs – Kava, Valerian, Chamomile, Skullcap, Lemon Balm, Passionflower

Key Stress Nutrients- Vitamin C, B Vitamins and Magnesium (anti-stress mineral)

L-Theanine – amino acid found in tea leaves that promotes a relaxed, focused state (reduces nervousness, scattered thoughts) and improves quality of sleep

Melatonin – addresses sleep disturbances, difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and waking too early, improves sleep quality and duration

GABA – fast acting relief from acute stress, quickly restores mental calmness, controls stress-related eating and food cravings.


Ingredients for mood/appetite control:

5 HTP enhances serotonin (“happy hormone”), improves mood and sleep, reduces appetite & cravings, and increases energy levels.

Chirositol – enhances serotonin, balances blood sugar, control appetite, reduces cravings.

PGX – reduces food cravings, produces feelings of fullness, controls and balances blood sugar levels, and reduces the glycemic index of meals by up to 60%!

White Kidney Bean (Phaseolus Vulgaris) – acts as a starch and fat blocker, stopping some of the excess calories from adding to expanding fat cell accounts.

Green Coffee Bean – acts as a fat burner and helps prevent fat accumulation.

Garcinia Cambogia – reduces appetite, curbs food cravings, inhibits the conversion of carbohydrates into fat, increases fat burning.


Ingredients for digestive support:

Digestive Enzymes- help break down large meals, or specific foods to prevent gas/bloating/indigestion. Consider a formula with HCL for those with low stomach acid.

Bitter Herbs- ease uncomfortable symptoms of indigestion, help the liver digest fatty foods, stimulate digestion to lessen feelings of fullness or gas and are used as a mild laxative.



Food Selection – as much as possible, try to fill up your plate with the whole, natural foods (meats, eggs, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds) and limit processed foods, refined sugars/carbs, caffeine and alcohol. Always ensure to include protein and fibre at each meal to balance blood sugar, keeping energy levels steady and cravings under control. Also, make water your drink of choice.

Eating Tips – eat regularly so you don’t show up anywhere starving, think rationally before making your plate, chew well and eat mindfully, re-evaluate seconds, don’t sit by the snack table and focus on socializing more than the food.

Moderation Rule – don’t deprive yourself completely, we all have a guilty pleasure or two this time of year, and that’s ok! However, it is not necessary to try everything that is available to you. It may help to set guidelines before heading into social gatherings to prepare yourself for what you will allow yourself to enjoy. Choose your indulgences carefully in an appropriate portion, thoroughly love every bite and then put your fork away.



Have Fun & Laugh - make sure you take time to do something you enjoy. Curling up with a hot drink and watching a classic holiday movie is often a favorite.

Sleep Well – despite the demands of the season, aim to get 7-8 hours of good quality sleep as much as possible. A good night’s rest can significantly improve your ability to function.

Exercise Regularly – don’t underestimate the power of doing a little something every day. A half hour walk can make the world of a difference.

Breathe Deep – intentionally stop to take 10 deep breaths at least 3 times throughout the day.

Get Organized – taking some time to plan and strategize your day, week or month can help you use time and energy more efficiently. Charts and lists can be great this time of year!

Set Priorities – decide what is most important to get done and accept that certain things may have to get pushed aside temporarily until things slow down. Make realistic, short-term goals and tackle the toughest, biggest jobs first.

Don’t Be Afraid To Delegate – asking for help is sometimes very hard to do, however, dependency on others is an essential part of life and the sooner we do this, the less stress we will carry on our shoulders.

Consider Acupuncturethis works very well for stress, mild anxiety, fatigue and insomnia.



This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


Stay Healthy While You Travel!

Are you heading somewhere hot over the winter break? Nothing is worse than having your vacation ruined by getting a case of jet lag, infection, motion sickness, upset stomach, body aches, sunburn, dehydration or insect bites! Here are some great precautionary steps to take and items to keep in mind when packing in order to help prevent potential speed bumps on the way.

1)    Prepare for the Plane – support immunity, prevent nausea and sleep well

Support Immunity – When it comes to immunity, probiotics play a huge role. Consuming probiotics (before, during and after travel) is the easiest way to build up good bacteria and keep the immune system strong by protecting against pathogens, reducing inflammation and maintaining intestinal barrier function. Probiotic gum now exists as well - great for on the plane! Ingredients like zinc and Vitamin C are also important immune supporting nutrients. In addition, Echinacea, Oregano & Thyme have powerful antimicrobial properties. Consider bringing any of these along in case of pesky colds. These exist in great throat spray formulas for convenient use.

Prevent Nausea - A good way to help combat motion sickness and nausea is to ensure blood sugar levels are stable by having regular meals and snacks throughout your travel time. These should consist of adequate protein as well as fibre from complex carbohydrates. Other things to consider would be to chew on candied ginger, which is widely known to help ease nausea or consider homeopathic remedies for motion sickness.

Sleep Well - Can’t sleep or find yourself needing to re-adjust your sleep/wake cycle? Try melatonin! This is the body’s natural sleep hormone and can temporarily reset the biological clock, reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, improve sleep quality, increase total sleep time and reduce daytime fatigue associated with jet lag.


2)    Target Tummy Troubles – prevent illness, regulate bowels and avoid heartburn/indigestion

Prevent Illness – Citrus extracts are powerful antimicrobials.  They can clear the body of harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and some parasites as well. They serve multiple uses while travelling because they can be used to purify drinking water, soothe the intestines and fight against food borne illness. Examples include lemon, orange, tangerine and grapefruit seed extract.  

Regulate Bowels - If diarrhea is a concern, then Saccharomyces boulardii is a must. Studies have shown the efficacy of it in the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal disorders such as acute diarrhea, recurrent clostridium difficile infection, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S.), travelers’ diarrhea and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. This can be taken 3-4 days before you start to travel and as needed while you are on your trip. For fast-acting temporary relief, try activated charcoal, which can help correct diarrhea and also be used to combat food poisoning by binding to toxic substances and moving them safely out of the body. On the other hand, if you struggle with constipation, consider either a temporary solution such as senna or something more long term as in magnesium hydroxide with a blend of mild herbs (i.e. triphala).
Plus, remember those probiotics recommended for immune health? They also play a big role in regulating bowels and promoting healthy digestion! Consider bringing a shelf stable formula along for those hotel rooms that don’t offer personal fridges.

Avoid Heartburn/Indigestion – Improper food breakdown can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as gas and bloating, which is not really something you want to deal with while on vacation. Consider taking digestive enzymes (with HCL if stomach acid is low) when eating unfamiliar or abundant amounts of food in order help your body break everything down. Also, try a natural heartburn relief formula made of calcium/magnesium carbonate for temporary relief of acid reflux.

3)    Pain & Inflammation – relief for aches

Relief For Aches - Curcumin, nature’s anti-inflammatory is a top recommendation for joint pain relief and healthy function. Also, white willow bark has been used for centuries as a natural pain reliever as it is a natural source of salicin, which is chemically similar to aspirin. For symptoms such as tension, headache, cramping and spasms, try magnesium. This mineral relaxes muscles and nerves in addition to helping to decrease inflammation.  Also, consider homeopathic arnica gels or creams to help relieve muscle and joint pain, bruises and inflammation.

4)    Sun Safety – avoid burns and prevent dehydration

Avoid Burns - When choosing a sunscreen for your family, look for organic natural ingredients such as sunflower and radish, and active ingredients like zinc and titanium. These ingredients are effective immediately, reflect instead of absorb, and are void of any harsh chemicals. Consider a formula that is reef-safe and biodegradable in order to minimize damage to plant and animal life.

Prevent Dehydration – In addition to drinking plenty of water throughout the day, it is also important to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. Consider bringing powdered electrolyte packages along with you that can easily be added to your water bottle when you are busy.

5)    Skin Solutions – for bites and rashes

For Bites & Rashes – Consider bringing along an all-purpose skin gel with ingredients such as anti-fungal tea tree, anti-inflammatory aloe vera as well as witch hazel to combat irritation, vitamin E to protect and rosemary to promote circulation. Calendula is also an excellent ingredient for rashes, burns, infections and bites!

Other tips include: stay active (walking, swimming, dancing), wash hands often, eat regularly, never skip breakfast, choose whole/real foods as much as possible, manage stress levels and ensure adequate sleep, wear a hat and sunglasses, choose good shoes, be aware of your water source, limit alcohol/coffee intake and don’t stop taking your regular daily supplements.

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


Chronic Constipation An Issue?

Constipation is common in Western cultures where it is often a top gastrointestinal complaint. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know it can wreak serious havoc on your mood, energy levels, ability to think and overall well-being. It is safe to say that those with chronic constipation deal with an almost permanent sense of discomfort as infrequent bowel movements lead to symptoms such as gas, bloating, nausea, pain, lack of appetite, hemorrhoids, etc.

When fecal waste is not quickly and efficiently eliminated from the body, prolonged bacterial fermentation of this material produces harmful chemicals, releasing toxins into the body. This stresses organs and is associated with a range of symptoms. Toxins in the bowel can damage and weaken the intestinal wall, potentially leading to digestive problems and nutrient deficiencies.


Factors that may cause constipation include lack of physical activity, dehydration, poor diet (low in fibre, omegas, enzymes, magnesium and probiotics), stress and insomnia, as well as other underlying health conditions such as digestive issues, underactive thyroid, and more.

While our bodies are all different and we each have our own standard of what feels “normal”, many natural health experts believe 2-3 daily bowel movements is optimal for good health.

The Ultimate Healthy B.M Formula


PERISTALSIS– This is the smooth muscular contraction of the colon. Consider mild, non-tolerant herbs such as aloe, rhubarb and triphala to help stimulate peristalsis. Other nutrients that help to promote natural movement include chlorophyll, Vitamins C & B’s (esp. B5). Note that Senna & Cascara are only for acute cases as they can cause dependency and irritation.


HYDRATION – Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation, so drinking enough water is of vital importance. Also, consider hydrating minerals, such as magnesium hydroxide or citrate, which are used to relax the bowels and draw water into the intestines. Aloe is also said to help soften stool.


BULK – Aim to take in between 30-40g of fibre daily. It is important to consume a balanced blend of soluble/insoluble fibre in order to absorb toxins and excess cholesterol, manage blood sugar while also promoting elimination. Too much soluble fibre can slow down bowels and cause constipation, but too much insoluble fibre can speed up transit time to the point of diarrhea. Try flax as a source of both! In addition, regular intake of probiotics (in food and supplement form) are important as they help to support colon health, bowel regularity and overall digestive function. Look for a probiotic that is rich in bifidobacterium, the most prevalent bacteria in the large intestine!


LUBRICATION – Consuming adequate essential omega fatty acids in foods and supplements (i.e. omega-3 fish oils) will help restore moisture to the intestinal tract. Also, ingredients such as slippery elm, aloe & marshmallow are commonly used to help soothe the intestines.


EXERCISE – Try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity at least 3 times per week. Walking/jogging/running are especially helpful for peristalsis! Yoga can also help strengthen the abdominal muscles and colon.


TIME – It is important not to rush your bowels! Try to have a regular bathroom schedule and aim for a relaxed state. The more you ignore your body’s call to use the restroom, the harder it gets.


POSITION – Try to keep your feet raised on a step stool in order to have your knees above your waist in a squatting posture. This is said to be a more natural and supportive position for bowel movements.


OTHER CONSIDERATIONS – Constipation is common in those who struggle with underactive thyroid, sluggish liver (bile acts a natural laxative), underactive stomach/low HCL (necessary for peristalsis), low digestive enzymes (for proper food breakdown) and stress/overworked adrenals (defecation occurs in “rest & digest” state). Pay careful attention to avoid processed/refined foods, chemicals, sugars and common food allergens (i.e. dairy, gluten). If you suspect any of these underlying issues, you may want to look at correcting them as they may be contributing to your constipation, among other symptoms.

A natural health professional may also recommend colon hydrotherapy, chiropractic spinal adjustments or acupuncture to help treat chronic constipation. Ask your practitioner if these options are right for you.

The “Healthy B.M Formula” is meant to help you achieve daily bowel movements! Consider these factors if you are having difficulties with regular elimination and ask a natural health product advisor for more information on specific foods, supplements and lifestyle tips to help support your journey to optimal health.

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.

Don’t Be “D”-ficient!

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. It is formed naturally in the skin by exposure to sunlight, hence it’s nickname “The Sunshine Vitamin”. Someone with fair skin can produce up to 20 000 IU’s in just 20 minutes with full body exposure in peak seasons. However, for those of us living in Canada, the sun is not strong enough throughout mid-September to mid-May to stimulate adequate Vitamin D production and we experience a rapid drop in stores. Also, as we age, our bodies become less efficient at manufacturing vitamin D. Other factors for lower Vitamin D levels are having a darker skin tone and consuming a vegetarian or vegan diet. This puts us at risk for deficiency and a range of associated symptoms such as impaired immune system, brittle bones, low mood, etc.  

Vitamin D is produced when sunlight/ultraviolet rays converts cholesterol (D1/Cholesterol) in your skin into a form called “calciol”.  The liver then converts it into another form called “calcidiol”.  This form is inactive and is circulated and stored in the body. This is the form that is measured during blood tests.  Then, it is up to the kidneys to convert “calcidiol” into “calcitriol”, its active form.  

When ultraviolet rays from the sun strike “ergosterol” in plant oils, D2 is formed. When they strike “7-dehydrocholesterol” on animal skin, D3 is formed. Vitamin D2 is generally formed synthetically from vegetable oils and is often used to fortify foods. Vitamin D3 is generally the preferred form.

Bones, teeth, joints and muscles all require Vitamin D3 to remain strong and healthy as it is essential for calcium absorption and promotes mineralization. Those with Vitamin D deficiency have a higher risk of osteoporosis, fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, tooth decay, muscle cramps, bone pain as well as reduced muscle strength. It is said that when vitamin D stores are low, only 10–15% of intestinal calcium is absorbed, but when it is adequate, 30–80% of intestinal calcium is absorbed.

Vitamin D helps support normal functioning of the nervous system. It has been associated with the reversal of inflammation from Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Age-Related Dementia.  It can also help with Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka “winter blues”) in helping to improve mood as well as reducing the incidence of depression. It should be noted that depression and suicide peak between January and April. This is also when Vitamin D3 blood levels are generally the lowest.  

Deficiency of Vitamin D has been linked to increased risk of heart attack. As Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption, adequate levels reduce the risk of calcification in the arteries and help control blood pressure.

Vitamin D is essential for the development of the brain, nerves, and skeleton. It also plays a role in helping to prevent bone loss and preeclampsia in pregnancy. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that pregnant/lactating women and children have adequate levels of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is also helps promote healthy hormone function. It is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, and many people with low thyroid are vitamin-D deficient. In addition, it also helps normalize insulin secretion for people with type 2 diabetes!

Vitamin D has been shown to help support immunity as it helps white blood cells recognize foreign invaders and may also influence the release of protective proteins when needed. It can help prevent colds and flus, reduce severity of bacterial infections as well as decrease risk of autoimmune diseases!

In addition, Vitamin D3 has shown to improve lung function, especially in former smokers and inhibit excess skin cell growth associated with psoriasis.  

Did You Know: Vitamin D is not only a vitamin, but a hormone? Every cell in the human body has receptors for Vitamin D3. It regulates cellular production of important nutrients and even affects gene expression (influences roughly 10% of your genes)!

Your body makes vitamin D, but only when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Some use UV emitting devices to get the same effect in the winter months.  However, this nutrient can also be attained in small doses from certain foods such as fatty fish (like salmon), mushrooms, nuts, beans, egg yolks and liver. Supplementation is often recommended to ensure adequate intake when sunlight exposure and diet are deficient.  Look for this in an olive oil base which is an excellent preservative and enhances the bioavailability of Vitamin D.

Current research has suggested that adults take up to 5000 IU’s daily in winter or whenever sun exposure is limited and in certain circumstances, even higher dosages may be recommended by professionals for therapeutic purposes. Ask a health practitioner for advice on what dosage you should be taking to meet your unique needs.


This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


All About Aloe!

The aloe plant belongs to the Liliaceae family and has been known for its health benefits for thousands of years. Aloe vera naturally contains 200 biologically-active components. It can both be taken internally and applied topically to the skin. Aloe vera is a thick, short-stemmed plant that stores water in its leaves. A healthy aloe vera plant contains about 99% water.

Parts of the Plant
The aloe plant is made up of three key components: First is aloe rind, a thick, green, protective skin later that has little benefits. Second is the yellow latex layer, obtained from just beneath the leaf skin (between the rind and gel) and is primarily used as a laxative. Third is the clear, jelly-like gel, obtained from the center of the leaf (inner leaf). The gel contains most of the nutritious compounds in the plant, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and antioxidants. Some aloe products are made from the whole crushed leaf, so they contain both gel and latex.

Internal Benefits

Promotes Healthy Digestion: aloe vera juice helps normalize pH balance in the digestive tract, balance friendly digestive bacteria and assists in controlling yeast formation and harmful bacteria growth.  The latex component of the aloe vera leaf contains compounds that help promote regular bowel movements. Some reports also claim it has helped decrease discomfort in those with heartburn, IBS and colitis. Aloe vera has also often been used to soothe stomach ulcers due to its antibacterial agents and tissue regenerating properties.

Supports Immune System: aloe vera has been shown to help increase white blood cell counts to help the body further support a healthy immune system by creating a first line of defense that hunts down and kills foreign particles in the body.  

Reduces Harmful Toxins: aloe is also used to help cleanse the body as it been known to help reduce toxins and assist in the elimination of waste that can bog down cells and hinder nutrient absorption.  

Oral Health: it has been shown that rinsing your mouth with pure aloe vera can be incredibly effective in reducing dental plaque by killing bacteria and yeast! Also, studies show that aloe can help speed healing of mouth ulcers and cold sores.

Increases Nutrient Absorption: studies confirm that taking daily vitamin supplements with aloe vera juice instead of water can improve the bioavailability (absorption) of the supplements. Studies have shown increases of over 204% absorption of Vitamin E, 210% absorption of Vitamin C and 180% of Vitamin B12!

Reduces Inflammation: aloe provides antioxidant nutrients that help reduce inflammation and fight free radical damage, such as Vitamin A, C, E and phytonutrients. This plays a role in protecting tissues such as in the cardiovascular system and soothing inflammatory symptoms like muscle and joint discomfort.

External Benefits

Skin Issues (Burns, Eczema, Acne): aloe has antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and tissue restorative properties. It is often used as an effective topical treatment for first and second degree burns, helping to soothe & reduce healing time. Aloe vera may also naturally help in the treatment of acne, psoriasis and eczema flare ups and has been shown to help with irritating symptoms such as redness, itching and burning. People often use aloe gel as a remedy for stretch marks, dry/itchy scalp, poison ivy, bites, rashes, frostbite, etc.

Moisturizes/Hydrates/Anti-Aging: researchers report that aloe can nourish and hydrate through three epidermal layers of the skin when used topically. Aloe vera is packed with antioxidants which may also have anti-aging effects on the skin. It is used to reduce the appearance of damaged skin and promote attractive, refreshed, healthy skin appearance!  

What To Look For

It is said that the processing method has the largest effect on the number and amount of active ingredients in an aloe vera product. The International Aloe Science Council developed a certification program that validates the quality and quantity of aloe vera in approved commercial products. Note that “aloin” is the laxative component of the plant and comes from the aloe latex portion. In raw form, this content can be harsh on the body and should not be ingested. Look for a product that contains less than 1 part per million “aloin” content to ensure safety of daily use of for an extended period of time.

How To Take It

It is important to note that aloe vera works differently for everyone so it is recommend to start out slowly. A suggested serving size is 2 oz. (1/4 cup), up to 4 times a day. When using aloe for digestive reasons, try consuming a serving 15-30 minutes before meals.
The natural flavor of aloe vera has a bitter taste to it. It can be mixed with other liquids or foods to improve and mask flavor. The only difference between the juices and gels is consistency.

It is recommended to consult a health care practitioner before using aloe if you are pregnant, breast feeding, having surgery, suffering from any serious medical conditions or taking prescription medications.

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.-30-

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Blog Coordinator

Pamela Thiessen completed an Advanced Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Manitoba before she discovered the power of nutrition and natural health. This new found passion led her to seek employment at Good N Natural. Fascinated by the incredible benefits of healthy eating, she was inspired to enroll into the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition Program, where she attained a diploma in holistic nutrition. She also holds her Canadian Natural Product Advisor certification. This accumulation of knowledge and her desire to promote health and educate individuals has led her into the marketing and consumer education role at the store. Her goal is to help others improve their quality of life and experience the joy that comes along with healthy living, in hopes of improving the community as a whole.

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