How Is Perimenopause or Menopause Affecting Your Brain? (And a Few Natural Ways to Counteract It)

 Jul 12, 2019 4:00 PM

Over the years I’ve had hundreds of perimenopausal and menopausal women walk into my practice desperate to get rid of the hot flashes and most urgently - address the insomnia that comes in tow, but I won’t be focusing on those annoying symptoms today. Nope, today is all about BRAIN health and hormones.

A few other symptoms emerge during these years that are perhaps more subtle, but also more concerning than any others: mood swings, memory loss and brain fog. Women today are often at the peak of their careers, sandwiched between elderly parents and small children and they are under pressure to perform, and they want to perform. Cognitive changes are very much tied to estrogen loss (or decreasing levels), and they are very noticeable, once you realize it’s all apart of this under addressed river of change that every single woman has to cross. This is very clear in what is reported by patients in clinical practice and what is also emerging in the research.

Unfortunately, these changes aren’t discussed in a direct way, and often women end up on sleeping pills, anti-depressants and other medications. Our culture simply hasn’t found a useful, honest and gracious way to dialogue about this crucial issue. It’s like the old days when nobody warned girls about their periods or talked about postpartum depression. I have no idea why, but sadly perimenopause and menopause are swept under the rug and really not addressed at all. We’re supposed to just tough it out and suck it up, ...seriously?!? Well not in my life and not for the women in my practice because there are in fact safe, useful interventions we can and should use. We’re not going out to pasture just yet ladies. We’re going to rock this middle age thing.

First a few basics:

It’s All About Estrogen (And a Bit About Her Sister Hormone, Progesterone Too)

Menopause is, of course, a normal consequence of being lucky enough to be alive beyond middle life. We launch ourselves at the future, throw ourselves into work and carry on like it’s nothing, but really, in no uncertain terms, it was extremely recently in human history that we have lived much beyond middle age. Hell if you made it to 50 you were considered a sage, ancient miracle of a being. And now we want to rocket on through these years but we have a problem - there’s no gas in the tank. Hormones - and not just estrogen and progesterone - are all, well, not working as well or not there at all. It’s ageing folks and nobody escapes it. But there is a way to go through it more gracefully and more healthfully, and this is what I dedicate a lot of time to in my practice.

So, menopause. The term is used to describe the changes a woman goes through as she stops menstruating, marking the end of her reproductive period. Technically, you are “in menopause” once you haven’t had a period for one year. The 10 (or so) years leading up to this time, is perimenopause. These years are characterized by more pronounced PMS, sleep starts to get disturbed, mood and memory are already changing and eventually, menstruation becomes irregular until it finally stops.

The process is essentially governed by a hormone called estrogen, and to some extent also progesterone. As women age, their ovaries stop producing regular amounts of these hormones, which essentially control the reproductive system. This process can start at different times for different women, but normally begins during a woman’s mid-40s and ends in the early 50s.

Throughout perimenopause and into menopause, the levels of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body begin to fluctuate. On any given day, the body may not produce enough estrogen, while the next day it may produce too much. This is what causes the irregularities in periods. When the body stops producing estrogen, menstruation ceases.

For decades, research has shown that these fluctuations in estrogen levels are a normal part of perimenopause and menopause, but it hasn’t been until more recently that medical research has started understanding the significant connection of estrogen levels to women’s mental health.

This link is now well documented, although researchers are still trying to figure out exactly why it occurs and the mechanism. The essential hypothesis currently is that cognitive disruptions occur because estrogen plays an important role in the brain’s internal signalling system because it participates in communicating what parts of the brain need blood flow. This is hugely significant given that estrogen levels fluctuate wildly, and eventually, we have none at all. *

Cognitive Changes Linked to Menopause

Amongst the many conditions that researchers have now linked to menopause (but will begin in perimenopause), the most well-documented are:

  • Mood swings: Studies have shown that mood changes have been observed in up to 23% of peri- and postmenopausal women. Additionally, symptoms of anxiety—tension, nervousness, panic, and worry—are reported more frequently during perimenopause than before it. Thus this becomes particularly concerning if you have a pre-existing condition.
  • Brain fog: Brain fog is a term that lumps together different components that stem from mental fatigue, including confusion and attention issues. According to one study, researchers found that 60 percent of middle-aged women report difficulty concentrating and other issues with cognition. These issues spike in women going through perimenopause.*
  • Memory loss: Researchers have discovered that areas of the brain involved in memory are estrogen-sensitive. In addition to this, other studies show that women taking estrogen demonstrate more activity in brain areas associated with memory and performed better on memory tests than those not on hormone replacement therapy.
  • Alzheimer's: A recent study by a team at the University of Arizona found that menopause causes metabolic changes in the brain that may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. This occurs because estrogen is apparently a key neuroprotective element in the female brain and losing it leads to a higher vulnerability to brain ageing and Alzheimer's disease.

Can These Changes Be Reversed?

YES THANK GOD, ladies there is indeed hope. Most of the changes caused by menopause on the brain can be reversed, at least it for most women.

While this doesn’t mean that estrogen levels can be magically fixed, our bodies are resilient and eventually adjust to functioning at high-capacity despite hormonal changes.

This is shown beautifully in a study published in the Journal of Neurology. The study followed a group of 800 women over six years, testing them each year. What the data showed was amazing: while cognitive decline worsened as menopause progressed, none of the cognitive effects were permanent. In fact, by the end of menopause, cognitive decline had stopped, cognitive levels were restored, and there was no evidence of structural damage to the brain.

While this is promising, it’s also important to note that it doesn’t apply to all women. Unfortunately, for the few women whose estrogen deficiency contributes to leading to Alzheimer’s, there may be no way to stop the decline.

Natural Treatments to Support Cognitive Health in Perimenopause and Menopause

As you know by now, my first strategy is to use nutrition and lifestyle as the foundation for treating hormonal conditions. Alcohol, food, toxins, exercise and stress play a HUGE role in impacting hormones so this foundational approach tends to take pressure off of my patient's systems so that I can see what else remains and accurately assess how to treat it.

Ultimately naturopathic medicine has various useful ways to help reduce brain fog, memory loss and other mental health-related symptoms tied to menopause. In practicing personalized medicine, I use a unique approach with each patient that may include botanical medicine (herbs), supplements and possibly bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to get hormonal balance restored in my patients.

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy as a Safe Supportive Therapy in Perimenopause and Menopause

There is absolutely a role for bioidentical hormone replacement in terms of helping manage these cognitive changes. This requires a very individualized approach in medical practice as some women may not be appropriate candidates. Things that escalate your risk are (most of these escalate your risk even more than even being on hormone replacement therapy itself) are: having had breast cancer or an immediate family member who has had it, drinking more than 4 units of alcohol a week, not exercising 3-4 times (at minimum) a week, being more than 10lb overweight, smoking or having a long history of smoking, a diet high in processed food, having been on birth control pills for many years. So the take home is: see a doctor who is trained in this specialized area of women’s health and thus knows how to assess your candidacy and treat you safely. I do this every day in my practice and women are feeling SO much better for this extremely supportive therapy.

Consulting with Dr. Smith

If you are undergoing perimenopause or menopause and are experiencing brain fog, memory loss or depression, consider booking a consultation with me. I will take a comprehensive medical history, possibly order lab tests and properly ascertain whether your state may be linked to fluctuating estrogen levels.

Call (416) 929-0707 to book a complimentary 15-minute alignment call if you wish to see if this approach to health care is something you wish to pursue.


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  

Is It A Painful Period….Or Endometriosis?

 May 5, 2019 2:00 PM

When it comes to their period, most women know that some mild pain can be normal. But what if the pain you’re experiencing is extreme? What if, for a couple of days every month, you are crippled with an excruciating sensation that leaves you struggling to get out of bed, or even worse, vomiting?

If that is the case, you could be experiencing something way beyond normal period pain and may be suffering from a condition known as endometriosis.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis typically occurs in women of reproductive age and effects 5-10% of women. It is a painful disorder that arises when the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus (aka the endometrial tissue) starts growing outside of the uterus.  When this happens, the tissue becomes inflamed and causes a world of pain for women. 

This pain is exacerbated during menstruation, as the endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus tries to do exactly what it would if it were inside: it thickens, breaks down, and tries to bleed away. But because this occurs outside of the uterus, the tissue cannot exit the body during menstruation, becoming trapped and putting even more pressure on the nerves that line the outside of the uterus.

This can cause extreme pain that may have some women wondering if what they are experiencing is normal.

What Causes Endometriosis?

Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what causes endometriosis. So far, they have a number of theories regarding factors that may contribute to the development of this painful condition, a few of which are linked to hormonal imbalances caused by high estrogen levels. 

These factors include:

  • Retrograde menstruation - where menstrual blood reluxes back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity 
  • Metaplasia - changing one type of tissue to another
  • Transportation of endometrial cells into the outside of the uterus through blood vessels 
  • Immunologic - inflammatory products are out of control, autoimmunity
  • Slow liver detoxification of estrogen or pollutants that mimic estrogen - research shows specific toxins can be a major contributor**
  • Nutrition - diary and meat products
  • Genetic factors - women with first degree relatives with endometriosis are predisposed to have the disease

How do I know if I have Endometriosis?

If you experience extreme pain during menstruation that gets worse over the years and prevents you from living a normal life, you may be suffering from endometriosis. The gold standard for diagnosis is laparoscopy which is a surgical procedure where a scope with a lens and light is inserted via the abdominal wall (tiny incision) to visualize what is going on and to look for the displaced tissue. This is done by a gynecologist.

Symptoms of endometriosis include but are not limited to:

  • Severe pelvic pain during menstruation
  • Pelvic pain
  • Back pain and lower abdominal pain during menstruation
  • Pain with exercise
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Difficulty conceiving
  • Painful urination and painful bowel movements

If you are experiencing one or all of these symptoms you should consider booking an appointment with a naturopathic doctor to discuss assessment for an endometriosis diagnosis and learn about natural treatment options that may reduce your pain.

Natural Treatments for Endometriosis

As you know by now, my first strategy is to use nutrition and lifestyle as the foundation for treating hormonal conditions. Alcohol, food, toxins, exercise and stress play a HUGE role in impacting hormones so this foundational approach tends to take pressure off of my patient's systems so that I can see what else remains and accurately assess how to treat it.

Ultimately naturopathic medicine has various useful ways to help reduce the pain, so it is well worth pursuing. In practicing personalized medicine, I use a unique approach with each patient that may include botanical medicine (herbs), supplements and possibly bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to get hormonal balance restored in my patients.

The end goal for me - always- is to coach my patients to get their lifestyle dialled up to the point that they require fewer supplements and medicines, and learn how to manage menstrual pain through changes in their day-to-day lives.

Consulting with Dr. Smith

If you are experiencing severe menstrual pain that you suspect may be linked to endometriosis, consider booking a consultation with me. I will take your history and properly ascertain whether it makes sense to assess for endometriosis, or if your period pain may be caused by other issues.

Call (416) 929-0707 to book a complimentary 15-minute alignment call if you wish to see if this approach to health care is something you wish to pursue.


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  

EnviroMed’s Spring Cleanse 2019!

 Mar 18, 2019 4:00 PM

EnviroMed's 2019 Spring Cleanse!
Two of the Most Effective Ways to Detoxify Your Body

(that if you’re not doing when cleansing, you’re not cleansing…)

Feeling sluggish, grey and tired after a long winter? Perhaps feeling you are ready to shake that winter pudge? Up for a major energy boosting, skin revitalizing re-set? If yes (who really would NOT be thinking YES?), we’re in full swing with our Spring Cleansing program at EnviroMed Clinic, and as many of you know, this is where we shine. A spring cleanse can help rid your body of toxins, boost your energy and get your skin glowing.

Cleanses come a dime a dozen, but the reality is good results happen when cleanses are customized for individual needs, medical conditions and goals. Many people try to do cleanses that come out of a box from a health food store, which can range from ineffective to dangerous, (oh the stories from patients I could tell you…..).

Professional medical cleanses are safe, and actually have the desired effect - detoxifying and rejuvenating your body with proper nutrients. You feel it, (oh you so feel it), and you may even become a committed fan. For the dedicated, we actually recommend doing them in the spring and fall.

I always recommend certain herbs and dietary restrictions as the foundation, but the two ways to get next level results are by combining colonic hydrotherapy and Intravenous (IV) Nutrient Therapy. Both are effective individually to treat a range of symptoms and illnesses and aid with cleansing, but when combined - a complete powerhouse.

So how do they work??

What is Colonic Hydrotherapy?

Colonic hydrotherapy, also known as colonics or colonic irrigation, is a process in which water is used to remove accumulated fecal matter (and other toxic buildup) from the colon. The process is safe, respectful and extremely effective.

Clearing out all fecal build up from the colon not only eliminates the toxins stored in that fecal matter but also allow other toxins to move out of your body quicker. The quicker these toxins leave, the better you feel: your bowels function better, you look better, and you have increased levels of energy.

As crazy as this may sound, patients normally notice positive changes in their energy levels and attitudes after even just one colonic treatment.

The treatment has another benefit - it exercises the colon’s muscle tissue. This helps patients have cleaner and stronger colons, improving the colon's functioning as an organ for vital nutrient absorption and proper elimination, and helping fight the causes of chronic fatigue and brain fog.

What is Intravenous (IV) Nutrient Therapy?

Intravenous nutrient therapy, also known as IV Therapy, is a treatment in which vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are given to a patient intravenously.

By administering nutrients directly into the bloodstream, they are absorbed faster and at higher concentrations than in oral supplements, helping prevent illness, treat chronic health conditions or bring you back to your vibrant self more quickly and efficiently. For cleansing purposes we have an IV formula for this specific purpose called Remove & Clear.

Different nutrients are used to treat different symptoms (you can see a full list here), and but they all help restore your health by reintroducing vital nutrients into your body.

The Powerful Combination of Colonic Hydrotherapy And IV Therapy?

Evidence suggests that this combination can be of benefit in the following conditions:

  • Acute or Chronic fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Acute colds and flu
  • Acute muscle spasm and chronic muscle pain
  • Anxiety or fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic digestive concerns such as Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s or Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • And many more...

Our Spring Cleansing Deals for 2019:

(please note, for patients who would like a more comprehensive detoxification program that also includes diet and herbs, please book a consultation with me)

We have 2 special Cleansing Packages:

Colonics Only

This includes 4 colonic sessions for only $325 (normally $400)

Colonics & IV Treatments

This includes 4 colonic sessions and 2 spring IV Nutrient Therapy treatments (including detoxification nutrients and Glutathione) for $545 (regular price $680).

Call the clinic at (416) 929-0707 to book your sessions.

Happy spring!

 


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  

The Unexpected Connection Between The Gut And Hormones

 Feb 21, 2019 12:00 PM

Most of us don’t need an expert to tell us that the food we eat has an impact on our health at least in the most basic way: you eat crap you get a food hangover and gut rot, but the fact is, the impact is actually much, much bigger than that. What you put on your fork will have the single most significant impact on your health. Period.

In recent years we have gained more insight into the ways that food affects health because scientists have been delving into the vast world deep in our intestines...: the gut microbiome. So far we’ve really just seen the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but what we do know so far is that it plays a HUGE role in our mood, immune function and yes, ….even hormones.

So... what is the gut microbiome?

If you grew up in Canada when you hear the word “biome” you’re probably transported back to grade 4 science class. That’s when we typically started learning about habitats such as a rain forest or a desert, where particular plants and animals are found and live in symbiotic relationships.

The gastrointestinal microbiome is not so different than the biome of any other habitat in that it is home to millons of different species but in this case of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes -- that feed off of the food we eat and thrive in certain conditions, and get unbalanced in certain conditions.

Advances in genomic sequencing have allowed researchers to start identifying more microbes and studying them in greater detail allowing them to start determining what they do and what they require to thrive. Most importantly, it is allowing them to ascertain what a healthy gut microbiome actually is -- with the right species of bacteria and in the right amounts -- and how it is absolutely central to our health.

So how can a dysfunctional gut microbiome affect my health and hormones?

Studies published in the world’s top scientific journals show that when people have an unhealthy diet, are extremely stressed or take too many antibiotics, their gut microbiome becomes disrupted and unbalanced. This imbalance is called dysbiosis, and can have pretty radical effects on your health and wellbeing. It is something I am dealing with all day every day in practice because it impacts just about everything.

While scientists are only starting to understand the mechanisms around how the gut microbiome impacts hormones, at this point there is mounting evidence that it can contribute to causing various conditions. In clinical practice I see this evidence play out daily.

A good example of this is that women who have plant-based (this doesn’t mean vegetarian incidentally), nutrient rich, whole foods diets who are well hydrated, don’t drink much alcohol or caffeine, manage stress well and exercise regularly, have FAR less hormonal symptoms through perimenopause and menopause. FAR less. Without exception. I also have patients who manage 80-100% of their PCOS just with their lifestyle. Think about that for a minute.***

To date, the following conditions have been linked to dysbiosis with the list continuing to  grow as scientists learn more about the relationship between our gut and hormones:

Enter: the Estrobolome...

Within your gut’s microbiome there are a sub-set of proteins that are able to interact with estrogens in the body otherwise known as, the “estrobolome”. The estrobolome is capable of detoxifying estrogens which is important to hormone balance. An enzyme called beta glucuronidase disturbs this process resulting in impaired ability to detoxify estrogen, resulting in higher circulating levels.

The implication here is that higher estrogen levels lay the foundation for the potential development of various estrogen dominant conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, painful periods (dysmenorrhea), or estrogen related cancers.

The goal is, as ever, to find balance. The great news is that there are things we can do that decrease the levels of beta glucuronidase in our gut which can help to mitigate the levels of estrogen in your body.

What INCREASES beta glucuronidase and thus estrogen?

  • alcohol
  • antibiotics
  • oral contraceptive pills
  • higher amounts of adipose tissue (ie fat cells)
  • high cholesterol (measured in the blood)
  • eating processed food and thus not enough fiber*

What DECREASES beta glucuronidase and thus estrogen restoring hormone balance?

  • Eat a diverse range of fiber containing plant foods including legumes, beans and fruit
  • Eat fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir
  • Limit your intake of sugar, refined flour (bread, pasta), and artificial sweeteners that stimulate growth of unhealthy bacteria
  • Eat whole grains but not too much (decrease these and up the veg)
  • Try a plant-based diet which does not mean becoming a vegetarian it simply means GREATLY increasing your veggie intake (so happy the new Canada Food Guide has ½ the plate covered in veggies!!)
  • Take antibiotics only when necessary as antibiotics kill bad and good bacteria alike
  • Use probiotics to add certain microbes to your gut, in particular lactobacillus probiotic strains (reuteri, gasseri, and acidophilus)
  • Exercise
  • Decrease alcohol intake

Concerned that dysbiosis may be impacting your estrogen levels? Are you dealing with any of these conditions?

  • Perimenopause
  • Menopause
  • PMS
  • Stress and depression
  • Insomnia
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Sexual health and libido
  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Breast cancer prevention/ remission optimization
  • Weight gain challenges

Consider coming to see me and learn about what I do to get my patients back into balance. As you now know, I use nutrition and lifestyle as the foundation for treating hormonal conditions but the fact is, in reality it is hard. Getting people to change their habits around food, exercise, alcohol intake, etc. is deep level work, is about the long game and is the most important thing I probably do in my work, but it takes time.

In the short term to get things rolling and people feeling better, I often will use a combined approach that may include botanical medicine (herbs), supplements and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to get hormonal balance restored in my patients. The end goal for me - always-, is to coach my patients to get their lifestyle dialed up to the point that they require less supplements and medicines.

Consulting with Dr. Smith

If you are suffering and dealing with estrogen-related conditions or are concerned you may be, call the clinic at (416) 929-0707 to book either a 15 minute (complimentary) meet and greet appointment or become a patient and book your initial appointment (one hour) with Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith has expertise in dysbiosis and other hormone-related conditions and is open to discuss your health goals and any questions you may have regarding your situation.


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  

Do you really have IBS…or is it actually SIBO?

 Jan 10, 2019 7:00 PM

When it comes to gastrointestinal conditions, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is commonly over diagnosed when the root of the problem is something entirely different that is both diagnosable and treatable.

Unfortunately, in recent years, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has become a somewhat ubiquitous diagnosis. It seems as though anyone who has gas, stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation gets labelled with it, and is told that all they can do from now on is manage their symptoms or perhaps try food eliminations. This leaves people pecking away on the internet desperately trying to self treat with all manner of diets, probiotics, enemas - you name it.

IBS does of course exist, but studies show that a vast portion of those given this diagnosis in fact 30 - 85% of those diagnosed with IBS, actually have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) which can cause the exact same symptoms. WHAT!!??? Indeed, it is a major new area emerging in gastroenterology.

Thus it should then come as no surprise that I recommend you get tested for SIBO if you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, especially if you are having a hard time managing your symptoms and your quality of life is impacted. It’s treatable for goodness sake... life without bloating is in reach!!

What is SIBO?

SIBO is a gastrointestinal condition that arises when an abnormally high number of coliform bacteria appear in the small bowel. While it has the same symptoms as IBS (mainly diarrhea or constipation, gas, abdominal pain and bloating) it is treatable … there actually is a solution.

In order to understand SIBO, it helps to get some basics down in terms of how our intestines function.

The stomach liquifies food and then the small intestine breaks it down further so that nutrients can be absorbed across the lining into our bloodstream. Once this occurs, the excess waste moves into the large intestine, where the water is reabsorbed and a stool is formed. During this process, fermentation occurs and bacteria play a crucial role in this process.

In a healthy gastrointestinal tract, millions of bacteria are found in the large intestine, while only a tiny fraction is meant to be in our small intestines - and of only very specific types of bacteria. In SIBO, bacteria that is not supposed to be in the small intestine is living there and causing symptoms which result from the bacteria off-gassing methane and hydrogen (read: bloating) from munching on fiber and metabolizing it. This leads to the gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and/or constipation, even heartburn and stomach pain - all of which (and more) can be present in SIBO.

What causes SIBO?

Currently, we know that the main cause of SIBO is that the Migrating Motility Complex (MMC) is damaged and under-functioning. This is a microscopic movement of food DOWN through the digestive tract, so when damaged we can self inoculate getting bacteria that is normal to be found in the large intestine into the small intestine where it does not belong. A number of factors can damage your MMC - antibiotics, food poisoning, a bad round of stomach flu and possibly other health conditions and genetics. More research is on-going in these crucial areas.

Why is SIBO under diagnosed?

The truth is I don’t know. Naturopathic doctors are educated about it as are many family doctors and gastroenterologists in the US, the UK, Australia, but it is rare that Canadian doctors are SIBO literate. I cannot speak to why, but it has really got to change. On a positive note, I am observing that more and more patients who take their test results to their doctor are finding that their doctor has heard of sibo or is even somewhat informed. This is a great sign that things are starting to evolve in the right direction.

Getting tested

Visiting a licensed naturopathic doctor is the optimal approach when working towards getting a comprehensive diagnosis of your gastrointestinal issues. We play a vital adjunctive role in your care and are often diagnosing conditions and infections. Naturopathic doctors use various functional diagnostics (some out of the US, some Canadian) to assess for gastrointestinal conditions that are very rarely ordered by MDs in our country at this point in time. For SIBO specifically, you need a test kit that includes lactulose breath testing (not glucose) that is ordered by an ND or MD, however, it may be determined by taking a careful history that other tests are indicated.

When I work with SIBO patients I prescribe as per the current research typically involving antibiotics, botanical antibiotics and various other interventions that heal your gut. I have my SIBO patients go through a Preparation phase, an Eradication phase, then a gut healing Recovery phase. Sometimes other type of work/ assessment are also indication such as:

  • Eradicating yeast
  • Cleansing and restoring homeostasis in the digestive tract
  • Healing the digestive tract to ensure optimal nutrient absorption
  • Restoration of digestive enzymes and stomach acid
  • Customized dietary and lifestyle recommendations

Consulting with Dr. Smith

If you live in Toronto and are unsure whether your IBS diagnosis is correct, book a consultation with Dr. Smith who will take your history and properly ascertain whether it makes sense to test for SIBO, or if your digestive issues may be tied to other conditions such as:

  • Other types of dysbiosis
  • Candida / yeast overgrowth
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Stomach/Intestinal Ulcers
  • Colon Cancer
  • Poor fat digestion/fat malabsorption
  • True IBS!

Call (416) 929-0707 to book a complimentary 15-MINUTE meet and greet discussion with Dr. Smith, ND.

Dr. Smith has expertise in the emerging area of treating SIBO (and other gastrointestinal conditions), and is open to discussing your health goals and any questions you may have regarding your situation.

 


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  

5 Amazing Benefits of Intravenous Vitamin Therapy

 Dec 3, 2018 3:00 PM

In an ideal world, our diets would provide us with the optimal amount of essential nutrients we need to not just to survive, but thrive. Unfortunately, modern living and agricultural practices make it harder than you’d think.

In a time when the average person is truly struggling with the basics such as getting enough fresh air and sleep, eating a balanced diet that is appropriately nutrient dense is challenging, and even when we try chronic stress, environmental pollutants, and nutrient-depleted foods make it nearly impossible for us to get the number of vitamins and minerals we really need.

Additionally, there is mounting evidence looking at the mineral density in the soil being gravely poor due to pesticide use and other modern agricultural practices.

And what of supplements?

Well, of course, there is a role for supplements but issues around compliance and quality often result in people still ultimately being underpowered.

Thankfully, Intravenous Vitamin Therapy (IV Therapy) has emerged as a fantastic way to complement our diets and give our bodies optimal vitamin and minerals levels. This allows essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to go right into our bloodstreams goes right to the cell, bypassing the digestive process, and delivering faster, more effective and efficient results.

At our clinic, we prescribe these often to address myriad health conditions and goals or to amplify the work a patient has already done, and it definitely plays a vital part in how we work to truly optimize our patients.

Vitamin infusions have been proven to help prevent illness, treat infections, treat acute or chronic health conditions and give us energy boosts that make us feel rejuvenated and replenished. And the best part is that there are so many, many subsequent benefits to optimizing our vitamin and mineral levels.

But how exactly do they work, and why are they so awesome?

How IV Therapy Works

In Ontario and in many other jurisdictions, to receive IV Therapy from a naturopathic doctor, you must first become their patient. To perform or prescribe IVs we must have an additional license to do so, and with it comes a lot of specific training, education and… more board exams(!!).

This is done for your own safety. It ensures that someone with high-level training will review your medical history, family history, current health challenges and goals before they prescribe a treatment of any kind. It is also important because there are many formulations (and customization is also frequently done) and success depends on getting the right prescriptions for YOU.

If Dr. Smith determines that IV Therapy is appropriate for you, she will assess your personal needs and customize an infusion to help restore your health.

The infusion is administered through an intravenous drip, and are usually relaxing. We use an angiocath which means you can move your arm and the experience is pain-free. Treatments most commonly take about 30 minutes but may take up to 120 minutes or longer depending on the type of IV prescribed.

Treatment frequency varies and is dependant on many factors. It can range from weekly to monthly or as needed during times of high stress or immune challenge.

When is IV Vitamin Therapy most prescribed?

IV Vitamin Therapy is good for:

  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Stress and burnout
  • Pre and post-athletic event/ Performance
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Acute viral/bacterial illnesses and colds
  • Detoxification
  • Anxiety
  • PMS
  • Anti-ageing
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Migraines & tension headaches
  • Macular degeneration
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Depression
  • Chronic disease
  • Cancer
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Chronic or acute muscle spasms

See our IV Therapy services.

Why should you consider IV Therapy?

Many people with immune deficiencies, chronic fatigue and pain are forced to bounce from doctor to doctor without ever receiving concrete answers as to what is wrong with them. Many of these people suffer from nutrient deficiencies and other imbalances that can be helped through IV therapy. This treatment is a unique and powerful option that is very useful for certain conditions because it achieves better results, faster.

Whether you want to enhance your energy, improve your overall health, treat specific medical conditions, or maintain optimal health and work on preventing future conditions, IV vitamin therapy can replenish the nutrients your body needs for optimal health.

1. Customized, potent treatments for many conditions

Naturopathic doctors who provide IV therapy are highly trained and board certified to identify medical conditions and prescribe appropriate IV therapies that address the nutritional deficiencies and treatment goals of each patient.

2. It's fast and effective

Most medications including vitamin supplements are taken orally, which means that they go through the digestive system. This process is slow and is entirely contingent on the person having optimal digestion (which sadly is rare these days…), and it limits the impact and access of the nutrients. With IV therapy, we know the vitamins are completely absorbed into your cells so that your body will benefit from them immediately.

In other words, you can begin to feel the positive effects almost instantly. Within several hours to a day, you can feel the effect of the IV nutrients, as you’ll have more energy, be able to think more clearly and enjoy an improved mood.

3. It reduces your pill load

Customized IV therapy allows you to cut back on the supplements reducing cost over time and it’s less of a hassle.

4. It's safe

Naturopathic doctors who administer IV Therapy have an entirely separate and additional license to do so. To maintain that license they have to do regular continuing education.

Regulatory bodies in Ontario ensure that NDs are trained at the highest level and have the knowledge and skill to assess their patients for candidacy and safely administer the therapies. This is a true area of expertise in the naturopathic medical field.

It is extremely rare that any, even minor adverse reaction or event occurs with IV therapy, however, a full discussion about what to expect and safety occurs at the clinic with a doctor.

5. It's THE ideal preventative therapy

Modern medicine mostly pivots around reacting to disease but has a little to no use in the prevention of it. This is a sad truth, but you can’t be everything to everyone - so thank god for naturopathic medicine!!

IV therapy is different. When the body receives proper amounts of nutrients, it helps treat disease by helping the body do what it is designed to do which is to attain homeostasis. Additionally, due to research, we know that higher doses of certain vitamins and minerals will have a healing effect in certain situations.

Therapeutic doses of vitamin C have been shown to be toxic to cancer cells and are well-known for their effectiveness in building immunity and at higher doses can act as an anti-viral.

Ask about IV Therapy

If you live in Toronto and are interested in learning more about IV Therapy feel free to call (416) 929-0707 and book a COMPLIMENTARY 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith, ND, is a leading expert in the field of Vitamin IV therapy which she has been using in her practice for over 10 years, and she is open to discussing your health goals and any questions you may have regarding this valuable therapy.


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  

7 Ways To Boost Your Immune System

 Nov 19, 2018 11:00 PM

Do you catch colds easily, or get sick a lot?

If so, your immune system may be compromised.

The cause of depressed immune systems range from an unbalanced diet to exposure to mold and chemicals, or to autoimmune diseases.

Boosting your immune system is essential to living a healthy life. The immune system plays an important role in fighting off bacterial, parasitic and viral infections while also restricting the growth of tumours inside the body. 

Symptoms of a Suppressed Immune System

According to the experts from the prestigious Mayo Clinic in New York, the main symptoms of a suppressed immune system include:

  • Frequent and recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, meningitis or skin infections
  • Inflammation and infection of internal organs
  • Blood disorders, such as low platelet counts or anemia
  • Digestive problems, such as cramping, loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhea
  • Delayed growth and development
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes

How To Boost Your Immune System

In recent years, scientists have discovered hundreds of things that suppress our immune systems. While many of these are a result of a genetic lottery (some of us just HAVE more weakened immune systems than others), others can be controlled.

In other words, this means that environmental factors and lifestyle choices contribute to weakening our immune systems, causing a number of conditions that range from mere colds to more serious things like cancer.

Here are seven things you can start doing right now to boost your immune system:

1. Beware of Vitamin Deficiencies

In order to function properly, our bodies need the proper amount of vitamins and minerals. These vitamins feed vital cells in our immune system, allowing them to grow. They also give them the energy they need to find and destroy germs.

Poor food choices and things like digestive tract issues that hinder good nutrition also deplete our immune system of the energy it needs to work correctly. That's why a whole foods, organic diet full of healthy fats, low on inflammatory grains, and high on quality protein and vegetables go a long way in terms of supporting us, even at the deepest level. No medicine goes a further distance than what is on your fork.

Common vitamin deficiencies that lead to a suppressed immune system include Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and Iron. Today, we have tests that can easily show if you are lacking these vitamins. We also have easy ways to replenish them -- like supplements and diet overhauls -- that will help boost your immune system.

One of the most potent ways to boost your immune system is by getting intravenous vitamin infusions that ensure optimal levels of nutrients and help prevent various infections by supporting your immune system on a cellular level. To see the spectrum of unique formulas we work with click here, however, we always customize them to some extent depending on our goals.

2. Avoid Exposure to Mold and Chemicals

Exposure to certain toxins such as those found in mold spores and other toxins has been proven to have an impact on our immune systems.

In 2000, a group of scientists in Washington DC at the Environmental Working Group, spearheaded a series of groundbreaking investigations on the pollution in people, from newborns and grandparents to mothers and teens. They found pollutants in everyone. And they've found hundreds altogether, in combinations that have never been tested for safety.

The toxins many people have in their bodies revealed by these studies exposes alarming gaps in the scientific understanding of our exposures and in our system of public health protection. In one study conducted they discovered that 457 of 538 chemicals tested were found in the blood, urine, umbilical cord blood of infants, and breast milk from a sample of 94 people.

3. Manage Stress

Stress has been proven to have a major negative impact on your immune system.

When you experience continued stress, your adrenal glands release extra cortisol to help your body cope. These elevated cortisol levels impact the production of prostaglandins, which support healthy immune function, causing inflammation and immune suppression.

Studies have shown that during a period of elevated cortisol levels, Natural Killer Cells, which are vital pieces of our immune system, die off, reducing our body's ability to fight off foreign invaders.

In this context, it is evident that managing stress through things like counselling, massage, meditation, yoga, or hobbies is a great way to boost the immune system. 

4. Create a Regular Sleep Schedule

Good sleep is essential for immune system health.

A study conducted in 2012 found that sleeping fewer than seven hours each night can significantly impair the ability of the immune system to work properly. That's because during sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines, which help fight infection and inflammation.

The same study found that infection-fighting antibodies and cells were also reduced during periods of reduced sleep, which explains why the researchers observed that immune response in subjects who slept four to six hours per night was much lower than that of those who slept seven to nine hours. 

Creating a regular sleep schedule that allows you to sleep eight hours a night is a great way to make sure 

5. Lay Off the Booze

Drinking too much alcohol can also reduce the ability of white blood cells in your body to kill germs.

Researchers have proven that there is an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia. In recent decades, this association has been expanded to a greater likelihood of acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS), sepsis, alcoholic liver disease (ALD), and certain cancers; a higher incidence of postoperative complications; and slower and less complete recovery from infection and physical trauma, including poor wound healing.

Clinicians believe that this occurs because excessive alcohol can impair the ability of the immune cells to function properly, increasing your risk of infectious diseases and cancer. While moderate alcohol consumption is probably not dangerous, making sure you keep your booze in check is a great way to keep your immune system in good shape. 

6. Exercise More

Getting regular exercise has been scientifically proven to boost your immune system. Studies have shown that exercise helps strengthen the cells in your body that attack bacteria. These cells also appear to work more slowly in people who do not exercise, showing a causal relationship between exercise and a healthy immune system. 

7. Quit Smoking (there are people still smoking?!)

We have known for a while that smoking can increase your risk of lung cancer. Did you know that smoking, or even second hand smoke, can weaken or damage your immune system? Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals, all of which are extremely toxic to the body.

Can't Figure Out Why You Have a Weakened Immune System? Come in for a Visit.

Many people with poor immune response fail to get concrete answers from medical doctors. These doctors, while invaluable to our health, many times are not trained to determine if your weakened immune system is the result of things like mold or chemical exposure.

If this is your case, you should definitely give us a call. 

If there are aspects of your case that may indicate some kind of toxic exposure, I take a thorough environmental exposure history regarding residential, occupational, medical and dental exposures. I then use urine and blood tests to identify the presence of heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals that are stored in the body to show evidence of toxic exposures.

These tests also allow me to see if there are any vitamin deficiencies leading to a weakened immune system, allowing me to prescribe treatment options that will help get things back on track. These treatment options can include IV therapies, lifestyle and dietary overhauls and other naturopathic options.  

In other words, I will be able to determine what is causing your immune system to become suppressed, and how to boost it.

For a complimentary 15-minute consultation (in office or by phone) to discuss your unique situation, please call the office at (416) 929-0707.

 


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  

6 Things You Can Do Now To Lower Your Risk of Developing Breast Cancer

 Oct 17, 2018 10:00 AM

Every October, research and advocacy organizations around the world come together to launch Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign that hopes to increase awareness of the disease and raise much needed funds for research.

The need for this campaign is more than evident: although survival rates have increased in the last few decades, breast cancer remains extremely pervasive.

Breast Cancer Quick Facts

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, in 2017:

  • Today, 1 in 8 Canadian women are diagnosed with the disease, making it the most common type of cancer affecting women in this country.
  • 5,000 women died from breast cancer. This represents 13% of all cancer deaths in women in 2017.
  • On average, 72 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer every day.
  • On average, 14 Canadian women died from breast cancer every day.
  • 5-year-net survival rate for breast cancer is 87%.

Okay so enough fear mongering already. What are we going to do about it?

LOTS. Because here's the thing: many of these cases can, in fact, be prevented.

Although inherited genetic mutations can elevate risk and possibly cause some breast cancers, certain habits that lie within our control such as drinking, smoking, overeating and being sedentary have been scientifically proven - repeatedly -  to increase our risk of developing breast cancer.

Additionally, emerging research shows that exposure to certain chemicals in the air, water and soil interfere with hormones and various bodily functions, and can thus act as carcinogens, meaning they can play a role in causing cancer.

We can make choices that decrease our exposures to these carcinogenic toxicants, and we must.

While I think it’s safe to say that we all find breast cancer really frightening, we have to move our minds to a more empowered position and take action because the fact is, we can actually do things that de-escalate our risk.  

A Brief Review Of What We Can’t Control... Genetics

Research has established that some women have a strong genetic predisposition to develop breast cancer. This genetic lottery causes some women to inherit a mutation in genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2, which elevate the risk of developing breast cancers.

These mutations, along with others, are found in about 20-25% of all breast cancer cases. It is important to note, however, that having these markers doesn’t mean you will definitely get breast cancer (and conversely, not having them is no guarantee you’re not getting it either), they just elevate risk.

6 Things You Can Do Now To Lower Your Risk of Developing Breast Cancer

While researchers are still trying to understand exactly what causes breast cancers, the science points to an interplay between genetic and environmental factors that increase our risk. 

1. Food Glorious Food...

Various dietary factors have been highlighted in the research to be of significant interest in terms of impacting risk.

According to one study, the consumption of processed food increased the risk of developing breast cancer by 10%.

While another study found that "that grilled meat and high-cholesterol food intake and irregular eating habits may be associated with a higher risk of breast cancer."

Other research has shown that the following dietary changes can decrease your risk of developing this deadly disease:

Eat organic, fresh, pesticide-free food

  • Eat a primarily a Mediterranean diet/ more plant-based*
  • Eat mindfully and avoid rushing during meal times
  • Eat with a 12 hour (minimum) fast overnight every night
  • Eat low-glycemic carbohydrates (blood sugar stabilization is important)
  • Eat lots of fiber...it helps us detox carcinogenic compounds*
  • Avoid preservatives and processed foods
  • Avoid canned food / plastics on foods - plastics are xenoestrogens (which elevate cancer risk). Replace your Tupperware with glass or ceramic. Absolutely no microwaving in plastics or food covered in wrap.

So...What Should We Be Eating? 

  • Antioxidants (berries, acai, pomegranate, dark chocolate,  all fruits and veggies that are dark in pigment/ colourful)
  • Legumes - an awesome source of fiber and protein
  • Quinoa, chia, slow cooked oats, ground flaxseed
  • Nuts and seeds (raw, unroasted, unflavoured)
  • Healthy fats (raw coconut oil, avocado, omega 3s, pure dark green bitter olive oil)
  • Cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, cauliflower, broccoli - the research on these is particularly amazing**!
  • Shitake, Reishi, turkey tail mushrooms
  • Dark leafy greens 

2. Move that Bod, Lady

Regular exercise is an extremely efficient and easy way to decrease your chances of developing breast cancer, as is maintaining a healthy weight.*

According to the American Cancer Society, studies conducted over the past 20 years have shown that an increase in physical activity is directly linked to a lower breast cancer risk.

Why this happens is not fully understood, although many experts believe that it has to do with the fact that physical activity regulates hormones including estrogen and insulin, which can fuel breast cancer growth. It also helps us to better detoxify not just our bodies own metabolites, but toxicants that are carcinogenic.

Regular exercise also helps us stay lean, which is essential in terms of reducing the potential for having too much estrogen (which can be made in fat) and helps support immune function.

This is critical to register in your mind: studies show that even being 10-15lbs over weight greatly increases your risk of developing breast cancer because estrogen develops in fat...

3. Smoking. Seriously? (Someone out there still smokes?)

According to experts from breastcancer.org, cigarettes contain a number of toxins that are linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women.

Research is also showing there may be a link between heavy second-hand smoke exposure and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

Smoking also can increase complications from breast cancer treatment, including:

  • damage to the lungs from radiation therapy
  • difficulty healing after surgery and breast reconstruction
  • higher risk of blood clots when taking hormonal therapy medicines

4. Cap the Booze

Research shows repeatedly that alcohol is an all-cause carcinogen, however, there is also research connecting it directly to breast cancer with over-consumption increasing a woman's risk of developing breast cancer by up to 15%.

This occurs because alcohol increases levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with a type of breast cancer known as hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol also may increase breast cancer risk by damaging DNA in cells.

So What is “Over Consumption”?

Experts and doctors recommend less than 5 drinks per week (maximum) to reduce your risk, and in some cases, further reduction is recommended if for example you already have a variety of other risks in play*.

This will not only allow you to maintain your hormones at a healthy level, but it will also help you maintain your weight and function at your best.

5. Stress Management (as ever, is crucial)

Researchers are only now starting to look at the connection between stress and breast cancer.

While the evidence isn't completely conclusive at this point, researchers are concerned that due to the impact of stress on the neuroendocrine and immune systems, this could likely escalate risk. 

Given this relationship, it is wise to regulate stress to allow your immune system to help it fight potential cancer cells and to avoid negatively impacting your hormones. This can be done in a number of ways of course including meditation, yoga, therapy and regular exercise, to name a few. 

One of the most important reasons to do this is to improve your quality of sleep. A 2012 study found that women who chronically lacked sleep developed more aggressive breast cancers.

These findings suggested there may be a link between long term sleep deprivation and the development of more aggressive tumors. Sleep deprivation is a major stressor for the body.*

6. Screening...?

By now, most of us know that early detection is incredibly important.  Most doctors suggest that women over the age of 40 get annual mammograms however some recommend longer gaps between imaging. It is wise to have a conversation with your doctor about your individual case and what approach to screening makes sense for you.

While imaging is important, it is also valuable for women to get blood tests that promote prevention and optimal health because there are so many ways we can respond to this research.

Blood sugar optimization, hormone balancing, nutritional work, lifestyle changes, diagnosing and treating the root of your insomnia, addressing critical vitamin deficiencies (such as Vitamin D which also elevates cancer risk if low), all contribute to not only making you experience a whole new you in the now, it is PREVENTION.

In my practice, I order blood work that typically spans well beyond what you may get at your annual physical (if it’s annual), examining a spectrum of hormones, vitamin levels, liver and kidney function, inflammation and blood sugar markers, all of which provide me with key information.

When a patient has concerning family or personal medical history pertaining elevating the risk of breast cancer, I will also order DUTCH testing or dry urine testing which shows us not just your hormone levels but if you are pushing towards the types of estrogen metabolites that damage DNA and elevate your risk.

In some cases, I will also order environmental toxicant testing after taking a thorough environmental exposure history regarding residential, occupational, food, medical and dental exposures - and when this intake indicates there may be a problem. Once I’ve identified if there are unsafe levels of heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, phthalates and other chemicals I create a medically supervised cleansing program and commence detox.. The fabulous news is that you can drastically reduce these levels with a doctor trained in environmental medicine.

Since we know that many of these factors are influential in this disease, this working with this approach to your health is a way to be more on top of your game.

So, What Next?

  • Keen on prevention?
  • Want to stay in remission?
  • Concerned due to breast cancer being in your family?
  • Concerned about your lifestyle?

Book an appointment

Take care of YOU. (You can’t take care of everybody else unless your oxygen mask is on first.)

Not only can I help give you the tools you need to get going with healthy habits, but we will work to get your labs values back into a range that is humming which also typically results in feeling vital and energized.

For a complimentary 15-minute consultation with me (in the office or by phone) to discuss your unique situation please call us at EnviroMed Clinic at (416) 929-0707.

 


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  

Are Your Hormones Stopping You From Losing Weight?

 Sep 21, 2018 5:00 PM

Do you find that no matter how desperately hard you work on calories and exercise, you can barely move the needle? Do you look in the mirror and have negative self talk - often times without even realizing it? Calling yourself...fat?

FAT.

Many women (and quite a few men frankly) struggle with the F word. Such a powerfully negative three letter word. And the thing is, it truly is such a harmful word. It drips with judgement, contempt and shame because it infers the person who is struggling with their weight is lazy, gluttonous, just doesn't care, or has failed themselves (and that is almost never the case).

One could safely argue that the mental burden of being shrouded in this toxic cloud of potent negativity is a bigger health risk than the fat itself, and the impact on our physical being.

But here’s the thing: often when someone can't lose weight there is a tangible, measurable, metabolic reason…. that is treatable. You read that correctly. What if you are struggling so hard and your impaired ability to get to a healthy weight is, in fact, all because, or partially because of ... your hormones? Because this is something I see and treat every single day, this is something you should seriously consider investigating.

Many hormonal imbalances make it extremely difficult for people to lose weight, and in some cases can even lead to an increased risk of gaining weight. And in many of these cases, as I’ve already alluded to, you could be running on fumes and working out daily and going exactly nowhere.

Here is a list of the five most common hormonal imbalances that affect weight loss, and tips to how to correct them.

1. Serotonin - not just about happiness

Serotonin is a powerful hormone that influences a ton of natural processes in our bodies. It is infamously known as the “happy hormone”, but it can impact not only our mood and emotions, but cravings, self-esteem, sleep quality and our appetites, all of which impact our ability to lose weight. If serotonin levels are too low, the messages sent by our brains start getting mixed up, which can lead to mood swings and sugar cravings.

How can we balance serotonin levels?

Serotonin levels can be balanced with plenty of sunlight, taking B vitamin supplements, regular exercising and eating more tryptophan-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, turkey, eggs, lentils - the list goes on.

Increasingly both in research and in clinic, we are learning that practicing mindfulness, meditation, and yoga does help deal with mental health symptoms associated with low serotonin levels and will also help remove some of the mental barriers that are working against your ability to lose weight. In some cases, patients require - and greatly benefit from, botanical or prescription medications that increase serotonin - it is crucial to see your ND or GP if you’d like to learn about pursuing this route.*

2. Cortisol - not just about stress

Cortisol levels rise when we are in high stress situations and a sad fact about modern living is that most people are living in a state of sustained high stress. They never or very rarely get off the ride. This is not a small problem, that we as a society largely face. This escalates cardiovascular risk, digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety and yes, weight gain due to the sugar cravings that come or as many call it, “stress eating”. You see, cortisol is an alpha hormone or as I often say, it’s the conductor of the hormone orchestra. It has a tremendous influence on your other hormones – thyroid, insulin, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone and more. When headlines say high stress will have a global impact on destroying your health, this is really not to be taken lightly. High cortisol can mess you up. Badly.

How can we balance cortisol levels?

While we can’t eliminate stress from our lives the first step in managing our cortisol levels and protecting our health, is to learn to manage how we respond to stress. We can’t control the weather, but we can control how we adjust our sails (said someone once who must’ve been wise).

Incorporating daily practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are essential. I have patients who use apps with 10 minute guided meditations in the morning that report that this alone positively affects how they weather the day. Regular exercise is also crucial. Additionally, melatonin, phosphatidyl serine and magnolia bark have also been proven to help lower cortisol however it is best to see your naturopathic doctor to get effect and safe recommendations when supplementing in this area.*

3. Estrogen: not just about reproduction

Researchers have identified that high levels of estrogen are a risk factor for obesity for both men and women alike. This is because estrogen receptors in our brains control things like food intake, energy expenditure, and body fat distribution.

There are various reasons why we may accumulate estrogen in our bodies: overproduction, over-absorption of xenoestrogens through our diets (read: pesticides, growth hormones) or environment (read: plastics of all kinds), genetics, prescriptions medications of hormones, etc.

Although excess estrogen affects both men and women, women suffer the most from it. Women with high levels of estrogen are more likely to have more intense mood swings associated with premenstrual syndrome and have a higher propensity to build up body fat around the hips and tummy areas.

On the flip side, having no estrogen causes that post-menopausal 10lb weight gain right around the middle also. So too little is also a contributing factor in weight management.

How can we balance estrogen levels?

There are a few approaches to balancing estrogen naturally including but not limited to acupuncture, regular exercise, certain herbs and definitely dietary overhauls - steering clear of processed foods, refined grains/ flours, sugar and eating lots of fiber and veggies from the brassica family (kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage). For those with excess estrogen there are herbs and nutrients that help us clear it quickly, and for those who are menopausal or post-menopausal, there is bioidentical hormone therapy. These options are to be discussed with your naturopathic doctor to review candidacy, safety and monitoring.

4. Testosterone: not just about libido

Oh, testosterone, how we all love you. Love. You.

You crank our libido, improve bone density, muscle mass, strength, motivation, memory, and hell, burn our fat -- and in both genders no less!! When testosterone levels sink, fat comes and muscle fades even if you’re exercising up a storm and eating clean.

Testosterone levels decrease as we age, which is why most humans are a little more portly as they get into the last couple of decades. And remember, low estrogen will also bring an extra spare tire. (The joys of aging really deserve a whole other post…) And sadly, we are seeing both clinically and in the research that men are showing lower testosterone levels at an earlier age likely due to endocrine disruption from chemical and EMF exposures.

Numerous doctors and scientists such as Dr. Mitchell Harman, an endocrinologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, blame on the proliferation of endocrine-suppressing, estrogen-like compounds used in pesticides and other farming chemicals.

How can we balance testosterone levels?

Experts suggest that testosterone levels are affected by a number of things, including high sugar diets, high alcohol consumption and high intake of pesticides through consumption of unwashed and non-organic foods.

Decreasing alcohol and sugar consumption, and eating organic foods is a great start balancing out testosterone levels and start getting on track to lose that annoying weight. Additionally, building up muscle will also help you make more testosterone - so get into the gym and do some weight training. For those interested in testosterone hormone therapy, seek advice from your family doctor or book a complimentary consult with me to discuss this therapy and your options.*

5. Thyroid hormone - ALL about metabolism

Hypothyroidism is the medical term for an under-functioning thyroid gland. Without enough free T3 (the active metabolite of the thyroid), every system in your body slows down and the symptom list reflects this: exhaustion, brain fog, low mood, hair loss, constipation and of course, weight gain.

How can we balance the thyroid?

You can improve thyroid imbalances to some extent by spending more time in the sun, exercising regularly, and working hard to minimize stress (lower your cortisol!), but at the end of the day this is a medical condition that usually requires medication from a licensed naturopathic doctor, family doctor or endocrinologist. This is a condition where the medication and hormones levels must be closely monitored by a doctor. I don’t advise using herbs you’ve read about google on your own, ever. Always consult a naturopathic doctor if you would like to learn more about this route in thyroid health management as there are just as many safety concerns as if you were taking thyroid prescription medicine.*

So.

Are you doing everything right and still having a hard time losing weight? Do you sense something is wrong?

If yes then you need to get some blood work done to assess your hormones (among a few other things) and then an individualized treatment plan by someone with experience.

Book a complimentary 15-minute consultation (in office or by phone) to discuss your unique situation with me. During this consultation, we will do a brief review of your situation and see if it makes sense for us to work together to get you healthier and happier.

To set up this complimentary consultation, please call my reception staff at (416) 929-0707 and they will work to find a time that works for you.

 


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  

Hair Loss In Women - Why Is My Hair Falling Out?

 Jul 24, 2018 7:00 PM


While a little hair loss in the shower or when brushing your hair is completely normal, losing large amounts is not.

When a woman’s hair starts to fall out, it causes anxiety and crushes self esteem. Our hair is a symbol of health, femininity, youth and is a part of what makes us feel like ourselves. Often people are in tears with worry and despair in my office with this not so uncommon problem.

Hair loss is something I see a lot of in my practice which is no surprise seeing as I see a lot of patients with hormonal disorders. It is, in a word, catastrophic for these women and I feel so much compassion for them. 

The Most Common Cause of Hair Loss In Women: Androgenic Alopecia

When sex hormones are out of balance it can cause a condition called androgenic alopecia. In women, this begins as a gradual thinning of the parting line and then radiates out from the top of the head.

This essentially means that hormones are the root issue, and you are converting some of your hormones into a form of testosterone that is causing the hair to fall out in a diffuse pattern. 
Androgenic alopecia can be caused by an array of hormonal disorders such as:

  • PCOS
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Congenitial adrenal hyperplasia
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Prolactinomas
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Adrenal or ovarian tumours, 
  • Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis disorders. 

To effectively diagnosis and treat this, a solid knowledge of the endocrine (hormone) system is critical and comprehensive lab work must be ordered. In addition to the above conditions, thyroid conditions must also be ruled out in a comprehensive hormonal assessment.*

How Do You Treat Androgenic Hair Loss?

There are various potential causes of hair loss but with thorough assessment and laboratory testing we can most often get to the root cause which dictates treatment. Often women are trying a “throw as much mud at the wall and see what sticks” approach - taking loads of supplements and medications, and yet many of the things they’re using they don’t need for the type of hair loss they have.

Sadly, it is often the case that the assessment women are getting is incomplete, so it is out of desperation that women are swallowing loads of supplements and using potions all on their own, without professional direction. Almost without exception I order lab work to fill in the holes and get the information required to get a clear picture of what is happening, so that I can fix it with targeted, individualized treatment.

Almost always with hormones it is never as basic as simply blocking this pathway or replacing that hormone but thankfully there is a way to get the hair loss to stop. Usually this involves working on a few different hormonal pathways simultaneously to get back into balance. Sometimes this involves blocking certain hormones, sometimes it involves hormone replacement, and sometimes it involves supporting hormone production; it is always highly individual. 

A great example is the issue of managing blood sugar levels as being core to treatment with androgenic alopecia. A lot of people don’t realize it, but it is vital to address insulin resistance when treating androgenic alopecia and this in turn requires assessing adrenal health, diet, stress management and sleep. 

In my practice treatment involves using a variety of interventions to arrest the hair loss through balancing the hormones including any combination of prescribing again herbs, to nutritional changes, to hormone replacement, to lifestyle changes. 

Between detailed analysis of a comprehensive lab work up, taking a good history with my patients and spending the time to customize their treatment plans, usually this can make a world of difference.


Dr. Smith is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor in the province of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

 

  
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