Follow Your Energy

These words resonated with me today. Some of the biggest changes and growth occurred when I stopped thinking and just followed my energy.

I remember when I was in my 4th year of university. I was majoring in biochemistry. Early in the program, I loved it because I was able to relate it to my love of nutrition and human physiology. But in 4th year the program shifted focus to research.

Going to each class, I felt anxious and nauseous. I was exhausted by midday. At home, I would read all about herbs and nutrition.

I began to realize I had somehow deviated from my original path. But I worked so hard, I was doing well and I could not just stop now!

So I continued and the feelings kept building. Eventually, after my last set of final exams, I could not take it!

I hopped on a midnight greyhound bus from Prince George back home to Vancouver Island. I had no idea what I was doing. My energy was leading me so I followed!

I went back to my old job washing dishes! It was a scary and hard time. At first, I felt like I failed. But, I began connecting with new people that made me feel good and energized!

This brought me to meeting Heidi and we now have two amazing kids!

After taking some time to just breathe and live, I began thinking about going back to university. It was at that time I realized I had already completed my degree in integrative sciences!

Later Heidi and I went back to Prince George to study for a year. This time, I decided to follow my interest in nutrition, herbs, psychology and human physiology. When I realligned with my core values and intentions, life seemed to flow more naturally. This brought me to naturopathic medicine.

Life takes us on some pretty amazing twists and turns. No matter which path we take we can always find meaning and redirect our goals by following our energy!

Hidden Food Sensitivities

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"Poor gut health influences every aspect of wellness - including the brain, heart, immune system and much more. Over the long term supporting your gut is key to overcoming food sensitivities."

As an ND I work a lot with dietary changes. If you are a patient of mine you know that I will often recommend going on a whole food, gluten-free diet. Why? Because gluten causes a transient leaky gut in everyone.The medical term for this is intestinal hyperpermeability. Gut health remains as a central part of my practice because ultimately it is the gatekeeper for nutrients into the body.

It also hosts our healthy bacteria which also contribute to good health. Poor gut health influences every aspect of wellness - including the brain, heart, immune system and much more. Over the long term supporting your gut is key to overcoming food sensitivities.

I regularly have patients that are making exceptional dietary decisions. Yet they are still experiencing symptoms like skin problems, IBS, bloating, joint pain, recurring colds, GERD and fatigue. So what is going on? Well, one thing I often search for is hidden food sensitivities or intolerances. With food sensitivities, even healthy foods may be contributing to problems!

Many people get food sensitivities confused with allergies. With an allergy, the body produces an immune response with a substance called IgE. I tell people the "E" means emergency. Symptoms are quick to start and often severe. This may include sudden shortness of breath or narrowing of the airway. This can be an emergency situation. Your doctor may send you to an allergist for a skin prick test to determine this type of allergy.

A food sensitivity is a slower and less severe reaction to foods. Symptoms can be vague and range from classic gas and bloating to behavior and mood changes. It can zap your energy. Food sensitivities may be due to many reasons. Your immune system may be producing something called IgG towards the food or you may lack the enzymes to digest it. Symptoms can appear hours or even days after eating the food which makes them difficult to identify. 

There are many ways to look for food sensitivities. The most common method is an elimination diet. The draw back is that this takes time and patience. If you do this method then I recommend keeping it simple to a max of 4 foods at a time. I generally get patients to first eliminate dairy, wheat, soy, corn and citrus foods for 10 days and see how they feel. If symptoms resolve then great, we are on the right path! After 10 days, they can reintroduce the food one at a time for 3 days per food. If symptoms reoccur after eating the food then this is likely a food sensitivity.

In many cases, the situation is more complicated and your sensitivities often remain hidden. There are several screening tests available that may be helpful in these cases.

My favorite is the electrodermal screening (EDS) food method. I like it because it is non invasive and clinically relivant. I have also had my own personal experiences with EDS for both myself and my kids. With the EDS method (also known as vega testing), the electrical capacity of the body is measured in the palm of your hand to first get a baseline. We then introduce a food to the electrical circuit and if there is a change in the electrical output of the body then we flag this food as a potential sensitivity. At the end of the session, we generate a list from over 200 possible foods, molds, and environmental chemicals to avoid for 2 months. It's a fascinating experience and as we uncover potential sensitivities. Many people come across foods they have already suspected and more. After avoiding the foods for 2 months we meet again to retest the foods to generate a smaller, more focused long-term avoid list. This follows up step is an important part of the process. 

Many people are surprised to hear that food sensitivities are always changing. Some are fixed but most change over time. So when a food sensitivity is suspected, as long as it's not an IgE allergy, then you should be able to eat the food again after a break from it or after improving your gut health. If you find you are reacting to a healthy food, like broccoli, we can usually get you eating it again!

Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback

Your heart and mind are actually communicating all the time! Interestingly, the more they communicate the better your resistance to stress and overall wellness!

You can measure how well your heart and brain communicate through heart rate variability (HRV).

To measure this, we can attach a heart rate monitor to you and then analyze the variation between your heartbeats. With some mathematical calculations, we generate your unique HRV values.

You are not conscious of how your heart and brain communicate because it is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (the automatic part). This branch of our nervous system controls other aspects of physiology including digestion, metabolism, stress balance and recovery. This is exciting because these are the systems we are constantly supporting on our wellness journies.

What does this mean?

HRV can be used to assess how well you are balancing stress which is important these days. It's a useful biomarker of overall wellness. This is exciting because as you progress with your health journey and optimize your organ systems (gut, liver, stress, sleep) your HRV markers will improve. This can provide you with positive feedback that you are on track! We call this HRV biofeedback.

With you HRV biofeedback we train our nervous system to:

  • Improve sleep

  • Reduce stress and anxiety management

  • Optimize performance and endurance

  • Weight management

  • Pain management

  • Food sensitivities

  • Enhance your nutritional programs like the keto diet etc.

  • Guide your meditation and mindfulness practice

So synchronizing the heart-brain connection is possible with HRV biofeedback coaching.

In many ways its cool to think that in order to enhance our HRV and overall wellness, we need to reconnect with our heart!

If you are susceptible to stress then chances are this connection is not as strong as it could be. With coaching, we can strengthen this connection!

It's like strength training for the brain and nervous system.

Is your pain due to silent inflammation?

In my last post, I talked about pain being generated from the muscles. Muscle pain tends to be confusing. It is the great mimicker and many will confuse it with conditions like sciatica, TMJ pain, sinusitis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Muscle pain may also wake you at night with an intense burning sensation. It can be so intense it may make you cry. If your pain is generated due to muscle trigger points then the fix is pretty simple and I have to admit pretty darn satisfying for me too!

So what else causes pain?

Well diffuse achy pain is also extremely common too. People often experience general joint pain or they feel achy all over. They blame this on getting older and just accept its normal. Well its not! This type of pain tends to come from what we call silent or chronic inflammation.

We all have experienced the classic signs of acute inflammation, like stubbing a toe. After an injury we get - redness, swelling, heat and pain. WIth this type of inflammation you get a fairly fast resolution once the damage is repaired.The inflammation then stops.

On the other hand, silent inflammation is the same just at a lower intensity so it does not produce these symptoms. Instead you often get:

  • Diffuse aches and pains,

  • Low mood or low motivation

  • Overall just not feeling as energized.

Most carry on for years and never address the inflammation. Over time this can lead to chronic health problems like heart disease, stroke and immune system dysfunction (like autoimmune disease).

Luckily there is a lot on the natural toolbox that can help. So let’s talk herbs!

Boswellia serrata is a traditional herb is a potent anti-inflammatory and acts by inhibiting the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) enzyme. This is the main enzyme involved with inflammation and pain. There are also drugs that act in this pathway too. Since it disrupts inflammation, this makes it exceptional for autoimmune disease. But it’s not just limited to pain. We are learning it can kill bad bacteria in the gut, prevent cancer and support detox! You may have heard me say that herbs have some side effects that we all want - those that promote health. Herbs are pretty amazing!

For those into the science here is a great article

Curcuma Longa or tumeric. We have all likely heard of this spice for cooking and its popularity is increasing for pain. It is an amazing anti-inflammatory for joint pain but I am also now using for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and to support memory protection.

If you want to learn more about this here is a fantastic review article!

Bromelain, Serratopeptidase - these are enzymes that can absorb into the bloodstream and then find their way into the joints to break down inflammatory mediators. They may also find their way into the sinuses and help to digest mucous and candida! It’s great for chronic sinusitis as well.

So these are some of my post popular herbal anti-inflammatories that can protect from silent inflammation. Remember through that pain is complex and most will have a mixture of trigger points and silent inflammation.

In upcoming posts, I will discuss the underlying causes of silent inflammation ranging from the gut microbiome to stress!

Trigger Point Injections

Many of us take magnesium for muscle pain. including myself. But what else can you do if your pain still exists. Lots!

Trigger point injection therapy has been my go to treatment for the past 4 years now. I love it because its some simple and effective.

If your muscles are sore with all the summer activities (gardening, biking, swimming, skiing) then trigger point injections will be your friend!

I use a very thin needle and saline to cause your muscles to relax, with fast pain relief.

In this treatment I add electrolytes to hydrate your tight muscles. The needling physically stimulates the release of substances like growth factors that help direct the immune system to heal the area.

I have been getting excellent results for:

  • Headaches

  • Sinus pain

  • Neck pain

  • Shoulder pain

  • Back pain

  • Leg pain

For best results I recommend a series of 4 treatments spaced 1 week apart.

Also check you extended health insurance plan for naturopathy. We are happy to directly bill your visit to your extended health plan, reducing your out of pocket expense.

We need more natural pain solutions. There is a huge over emphasis on drugs and many unfortunately are never given the chance to try a natural solution. Most have never even heard of this.

If you have a friend or family member is in pain, please forward this message to them. At least so they are aware of these effective alternatives.

Click here to read more about trigger point injections

Why Magnesium?

Magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body. The daily dietary intake in adults is about 450 mg. Some great food sources are green vegetables, legumes, and nuts. When looking at diet alone I find most don't meet this requirement. We are just not getting our veggies high enough.

What makes evaluating an Mg deficiency even more challenging is that it is mainly found inside cells. So blood markers are not very useful for assessing for a deficiency. The best blood test is called the intracellular RBC test. Although better then a serum Mg test, it is still likely unreliable reading for what is occurring in the various tissues.

So why is Mg important?
1. An essential cofactor in the energy production pathways
2. Anti-inflammatory properties
3. Muscle relaxation and reduces pain
4. It even stabilizes the insulin receptor and may be helpful for blood sugar support
5. Calms the brain
6. Supports bone mineralization
7. Supports blood pressure
8. Can soften stools, improving regularity.

It truly is a super nutrient!

Not only are we not eating enough Mg-rich foods, when under stress Mg will be used up to meet the demands. Because of these factors, it is estimated that Mg deficiency is extremely common. This can lead to aches, pains, fatigue and constipation.

Mg glycinate is bound to an amino acid. This helps to bypass the Mg transporters in the gut which quickly become saturated with other forms like Magnesium Citrate. Ultimately this means you can get greater absorption with fewer side effects with the glycinate form.