Collagen: Everything you need to know

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the body. It is found in muscles, bones, skin, the digestive tract, and blood vessels.

We don’t tend to DIRECTLY eat collagen, as it would involve eating gelatin, connective tissue and bone (no thanks). However, bone broth is one of the few great sources of collagen in the diet.

We make collagen from the protein that we eat, so meat-lovers and vegans alike all produce collagen, as long as we get enough protein from our diets. Read more about getting enough protein here.

It’s important to know that our production of collagen naturally declines as we age. This is why our skin elasticity diminishes and our joints can become painful as we get older. Our demand for collagen may also increase if we have joint or muscle injuries, or digestive dysfunction, like in Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, SIBO, leaky gut, or IBS.

HOWEVER, a collagen supplement doesn’t absorb as a whole entity from your digestive tract into your blood stream! Your body needs to take it apart to absorb the components and then rebuild and integrate it into your muscles, skin, bones, and tendons. Taking a collagen supplement is like buying a lego set for a house: you know all the pieces you need are in the box, you just need to put them together. You could build the same house using pieces from other sets, but you might be missing a few bricks.

Now that we understand how a collagen supplement works, here’s how it may be beneficial:

  1. Skin and Anti-ageing: A Systematic Review of 11 research studies shows that it boosts skin elasticity, hydration, dermal collagen density, and reduces signs of ageing.
  2. Digestion: Research shows that it enhances tight junctions and reduces inflammation in the gut, which improves digestive symptoms in patients with IBS, IBD, GERD and SIBO (a lot of acronyms, but basically any digestive condition!).
  3. Repairs joints: Builds cartilage and connective tissue to support joint repair in people with osteoarthritis and joint pain.
  4. Source of #protein: 1 scoop provides 10g of protein, although it may NOT have all essential amino acids (the one on my counter is missing Tryptophan, which is an important thing to have if you have anxiety or depression!).

There are also different types of collagen, so we want to make sure we make the right choice to target the areas of your body that need support:

  • Types I and III improve gut health, muscle recovery, and skin health
  • Type II is found in cartilage, so it is best used for joint health
  • Type IV and V aren’t typically supplemented
  • Type X is found in bones and helps with fracture healing but isn’t typically supplemented
  • Hydrolyzed collagen is great because it dissolves in coffee (my preferred route!), water, oatmeal, or smoothies.

Do not start any new supplements without speaking with your Naturopathic Doctor, as they may not be safe or beneficial for you.

Please note that I am accepting patients during the COVID-19 isolation via Video Consultations. Appointments can be booked here.

COVID-19: The Facts

There is a lot of fear surrounding COVID-19 (Coronavirus), so here is what you need to know:

1. TRAVEL

  • The Canadian government has recommended avoiding all non-essential travel outside of Canada. I cancelled my vacation, and it hurt my heart. It’s not because I’m worried about being sick, it’s because I don’t want to carry the virus and promote its spread to others. I’m sure you feel the same!
  • If you have traveled anywhere outside of Canada, as of Saturday March 14th at 12:01am, it is recommended that you self-quarantine for 14 days.

2. PREVENTION

  • Wash your hands for 20+ seconds with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available.
  • Don’t touch your face if you’re out in public.
  • Avoid gatherings of more than 250 people. Social distancing should be practiced when reasonable.
  • Sanitize surfaces regularly, including door handles and light switches.
  • Eat healthy, with lots of protein and as little sugar as possible. Prioritize your sleep. Talk to your ND about immune supporting supplements.

3. DISEASE

  • Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
  • If you have a fever or think you may have contracted the virus, contact Public Health BY PHONE (Ontario: 1-866-797-0000).
  • This illness can be dangerous for those who are immunocompromised and in the elderly, as it can cause pneumonia.
  • If you are otherwise healthy, you are unlikely to develop a severe illness. You should phone Public Health, stay home, treat yourself like you would with any other flu, and ensure you’re being monitored as per Public Health recommendations.

4. STOCKING UP

  • Don’t do it. Shop normally, and only buy what you need.

5. ANXIETY MANAGEMENT

  • I understand that this is causing a lot of fear and panic for many people.
  • Yes, we are taking immense precautions to prevent this from spreading throughout our community. This means we’re being careful, not that we’re in over our heads.
  • If you are young and healthy, do your part to protect others. If you are at risk of more serious outcomes, stay home.

6. FOR MY PATIENTS

  • I am offering OPTIONAL video consults in place of in-person consults (note: if you are under quarantine, this is not optional), but I will continue to be in the office if you would like to see me in person. If you have an appointment already booked, you’ll receive an email from me soon.
  • I will continue to monitor our Government recommendations, and I will act with an abundance of caution to protect my patients.

Happy Gut, Healthy Body

Gut health is the basis for which all our other body systems function. When our digestive system is happy, our bodies are happy, and here’s why:

  1. Nutrient absorption – we absorb most of our nutrients in the small intestine, some in the mouth and stomach, and mostly absorb water in the large intestine. If we don’t break down foods well in the stomach, have an unhealthy gut flora, or inflammation or damage in the gut lining, we limit our ability to absorb nutrients from food. The most common issues with absorption are in people who have SIBO, Crohn’s, Celiac and GERD. We often see low levels of Vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and more, which causes symptoms including fatigue, low mood, bone density issues, and others.
  1. Gut micro biome – we’re still learning about how the gut flora impacts our overall health. We know that the microbes living in our gut influence our immune system, inflammation, nutrient absorption, and hormone production and more, so having a healthy gut flora is one of the most impactful elements o how our digestive health influences our health as a whole.
  1. Hormone production – we make most of our hormones, including 90% of our serotonin and 50% of our dopamine (think anti-anxiety and anti-depression), in the gut lining using building blocks from food sources, primarily healthy fats and proteins. If our gut health is off-balance, often seen in people with IBS, boating, IBD and SIBO, our ability to produce hormones impacted, and we can develop concerns with menstrual irregularities, mental health and more.
  1. Immune system – 70% of our immune system originates in the gut. This means our ability to recognize and fight infection, and to regulate chronic #inflammation and limit threats like cancer and autoimmune disease is initiated in the gut lining. A healthy gut flora and gut barrier helps to balance and regulate our immune system.
  1. Waste elimination – our bodies are continually breaking down, detoxifying and eliminating waste through the bowels. When our bowels move too quickly we don’t absorb nutrients well, but if they move too slowly wastes are reabsorbed and build up in the system. A healthy digestive pathway helps keep our bodies from a high toxic burden, which can result in things like fatigue, brain fog, acne, and hormonal concerns.

How do I know if my gut is happy?

We should be having at least one fully evacuated, well-formed, easily passed bowel movement daily. There should be no blood, mucous or undigested food (except corn…) in the stool. You should not feel bloated, excessively gassy, or have abdominal pain. The best way to think about it is that if your gut is happy, your bowels should be something you rarely think about – you go when you go, and the rest of the time your digestion is not a concern.

Our bowel movements are one of the best indicators we have for our overall health. If you are having digestion challenges, it may be your body’s way of telling you that it needs support. When we improve your bowel health, we usually improve many other symptoms across the whole body – pain, headaches, acne, autoimmunity, eczema, fatigue, anxiety… they all originate in the digestive tract.

The healthier the gut, the healthier the body!

Book an appointment to get your digestive health back on track here.

 

Dr. Hilary’s Guide to Herbal Tea

I find it tough to drink plain old water day in and day out, especially when it’s chilly outside. Herbal teas are a great way to warm up and enjoy new flavours, all while making sure you’re hydrated.

Let’s be honest – I’m not a huge fan of prescribing tea as medicine. My treatment plans are research-driven and designed to get results, so teas typically don’t pack enough punch to get us there. Compliance is also really tough: who’s going to drink 3 cups per day of a strong tea EVERY DAY for 4+ weeks to see the desired results? I know I’m not…

However, each herbal tea has its place for supporting the body. For example, if you’re feeling tired you might choose rosemary, or feeling bloated you might choose fennel. Some teas should also be avoided under certain circumstances. So, here’s my quick guide to herbal teas to help you make the best choices in the tea aisle.

1. Licorice Root

  • Helps with: adrenal fatigue, boosting energy and the immune system, soothing digestion
  • Avoid if: you have high blood pressure

2. Fennel

  • Helps with: soothing digestion, bloating and gas, promotes milk supply during breastfeeding
  • Avoid if: you have loose bowel movements (in some people)

3. Lemon Balm

  • Helps with: anxiety, insomnia, stress, and soothes indigestion
  • Avoid if: you’re taking anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, or sleep-aid medications

4. Lavender

  • Helps with: insomnia, anxiety, depression, stress
  • Avoid if: you’re taking anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, or sleep-aid medications

5. Dandelion

  • Helps with: liver and kidney detoxification, swelling and water retention
  • Avoid if: you are on medications, diuretics, or have reduced kidney function

6. Peppermint

  • Helps with: IBS, bloating, indigestion, menstrual cramps, and boosts energy
  • Avoid if: you suffer from heartburn

7. Ginger

  • Helps with: nausea, boosts the immune system, helpful if you have phlegm and congestion during cold and flu
  • Avoid if: you suffer from heartburn or are on blood thinning medications

8. Rosemary

  • Helps with: mental focus, energy, and coughs and during cold and flu
  • Avoid if: you are on blood thinning medication or have history of seizures

9. Smooth-move / Senna

  • Helps with: occasional constipation (*Note: I’m not a fan, I never recommend this tea, even for occasional constipation!)
  • Avoid if: you frequently experience constipation. This is a habit-forming laxative, meaning it causes laxative dependancy over time. DO NOT USE MORE THAN 1-2x MONTHLY.

10. Nettle

  • Helps with: fatigue, nutrient deficiency (it’s like a multivitamin tea), seasonal allergies, lowering blood sugar levels
  • Avoid if: you’re on blood thinning medications or diabetes medications

*A note about pregnancy and breastfeeding: speak to your Naturopathic Doctor before using teas in pregnancy, as there are specifics about frequency of use, trimester, and personal health history that must be taken into consideration.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I’m hopeful it gives you a glimpse into the benefits of herbal teas. Please speak to your ND before regularly drinking large amounts of any herbal tea, and tell your ND if you’re on any medications so they can make sure your teas are safe for you.

Book an appointment to discuss more about herbal teas and tea-combinations that can best benefit your health needs.

Top 5 Marketing Traps

Marketing can be sneaky and misleading! These are the most commonly de-bunked marketing myths I see in my office. Let’s dig into each so that we can understand why these fads are not as healthy as they’re made-out to be.

Probiotic yogurt aids digestion – FALSE

Probiotic yogurt like Activia have convinced us that eating these foods helps build a healthy gut microbiome. To put it bluntly… they don’t! The strain “B. regularis” is not a research-driven strain of bacteria that is part of a healthy microbiome.

Kombucha is healthy for gut flora – FALSE

Kombucha is a fermented tea made with yeast culture. If you have #digestion issues like IBS, Crohn’s or colitis it’s important to be mindful of the types of bacteria you’re introducing into your system. The yeast cultures in kombucha can be like adding fuel to the fire if our gut microbiome isn’t already in a healthy place.

Diet soda is better than regular – FALSE

Diet soda is made sweet with artificial sweeteners that have been shown to be linked to cancer. Research also shows diet soda negatively alters the gut flora within hours of drinking even one can. Interestingly, research also shows that people who consume artificial sweeteners typically eat more total sugar in a day than those who do not because the tongue tells the brain to expect calories that never arrive, so in turn, we crave more sugar.

Lactose-free doesn’t cause indigestion – FALSE

Lactose free dairy IS helpful for people who genetically don’t have the “scissors” needed to snip a lactose sugar molecule in half; you know who you are, my lactose intolerant friends! This is DIFFERENT from someone who has an inflammatory response (aka food sensitivity) to the PROTEINS (not lactose sugar) in dairy. If you have IBS, bloating, IBD or heartburn, simply avoiding lactose isn’t enough because your body reacts to the proteins found in dairy and those are still present in lactose-free products. Simply put: it’s an immune system issue, not a sugar-scissors issue.

Gluten-free is always healthier – FALSE

I’m all for living a gluten free life, however a lot of gluten free products are very high in sugar and other additives. Always read labels to make sure sugar content is as low as possible. More importantly, try to buy whole-food substitutions instead of look-alike products. For example, quinoa, GF oats, lentils, sweet potato and squash are all healthy whole-food sources of GF complex carbs.

The world of online nutrition advice can be tough to navigate, so peer-reviewed research studies are always my go-to for getting to the truth!

Book your apportionment and we’ll create a meal plan based on your personal nutritional needs and preferences.

Lectins: Eat or avoid?

What is a Lectin?

Lectins are molecules found in beans, peanuts, soybeans, lentils, and wheat. Lectins can bind to human tissues if we have a compromised gut barrier (I don’t love the term leaky gut but it helps us understand the concept here).

Once a lectin is bound to your body’s tissues, your immune system sees it as a “red flag” and mistakenly mounts an attack against those tissues. This attack is better known as autoimmunity, and can be part of what causes autoimmune disease. Wherever we see an attack, we see inflammation, and often pain and dysfunction in that area of the body.

Lectin-associated autoimmune symptoms are most frequently seen as joint pain / rheumatoid arthritis, and intestinal barrier disorders Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, SIBO, and IBS.

How do I know if I should avoid lectins?

There are two ways to know if lectins are contributing to symptoms:

  1. Do a Food Intolerance Test to see if there is an immune system response to lectin-containing foods. If one comes up and symptoms are severe, I typically remove all lectin-family foods.
  1. Remove lectins (along with other food triggers) and see if symptoms improve. This can take up to 3 months for full resolution, but we typically see improvement within 2-4 weeks.

Lectins are just a small part of addressing digestive concerns. Book an appointment to address the intestinal barrier, microbiome and other food triggers as part of your overall plan to get your digestive health back on track.

Acne

Our complexion is a reflection of what is happening inside the body. If we’re relying on topical acne treatments alone, we’re usually not addressing the underlying cause of breakouts, and they keep coming back.

The difficult, and often frustrating, thing about acne is that it can be caused by many different factors. Let’s dig deeper into the most common causes of acne:

Food Intolerances

Reactions to foods cause inflammation in the body. Acne caused by this inflammatory response to foods is often seen on the forehead and cheeks, and present as small bumps that can look almost rash-like. Testing for food intolerances can be done through blood work to assess which foods are causing the most inflammation. Food intolerance testing gives us a road-map of which foods to minimize or eliminate from the diet, as well as provides indicators about your overall gut-health. Read more about food intolerances.

Hormone Imbalance

Hormonal acne tends to be around the jawline and chin, and presents as deep, cystic, and painful. This type of acne is more common in women, and it is often accompanied by irregular or heavy periods. However, men with high testosterone levels may also experience hormonal acne. Blood work can help us determine if cystic acne is being caused by high testosterone (as we often see in PCOS), estrogen dominance, or high progesterone levels.

Treatment may involve managing PCOS through nutrition and supplements, supporting liver detoxification of hormones, or balancing the estrogen-progesterone relationship.

Constipation or IBS

You should be having at least one fully evacuated bowel movement per day. If not, your body is not effectively eliminating toxins and waste from the bowel, so instead, it comes out in the skin. Breakouts can be anywhere on the face, and pimples tend to be red with a whitehead.

Treatment may involve assessing the gut flora, increasing fibre and water, and using supplements (not laxatives!) to promote regularity. Learn more about constipation and IBS.

Unhealthy Gut Flora

If you have had many rounds of antibiotics, eat poorly (processed foods and sugar), are stressed, or have taken certain medications, chances are that your healthy gut bacteria have been harmed, and unhealthy strains of bacteria and yeast (aka Candida) have taken their place. An unhealthy gut microbiome causes increased inflammation in the body, which can present as acne. Other hints that may have an unhealthy gut microbiome include bloating, indigestion, mucous in the stool, fatigue, and/or vaginal yeast infections.

There are many other factors that can contribute to acne that should also always be addressed as part of an acne treatment plan, including:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Liver over-burden (alcohol, cigarettes, fatty liver disease)
  • Nutrient deficiencies (zinc, vitamin A)
  • Sugar and/or dairy intake

The bottom line is that it’s important to look at acne as a signal that there is another issue happening in the body. If our body processes are all working well, we shouldn’t be experiencing more than the occasional pimple!

Book an appointment to assess and treat the underlying cause(s) of your breakouts. Let’s take control of your acne!