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.

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!

 

 

Burger Showdown: Beyond vs. Beef

There’s lots of hype about the new Beyond MeatTM products, so naturally, we should make sure we’re making informed decisions about what we’re eating! Let’s take a look:

Ingredient Comparison

Beyond BurgerTM Ingredients:

  • Water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, natural flavours, cocoa butter, mung bean protein, methylcellulose, potato starch, apple extract, salt, potassium chloride, vinegar, lemon juice concentrate, sunflower lecithin, pomegranate fruit powder, beet juice extract (for color).

Breakdown of the Beyond BurgerTM ingredients

  • These ingredients are free from the top preservatives, thickeners, and other “junk” that are often found in “alternative” products.
  • I’m impressed they used natural extracts for colouring instead of the cheaper and more common route of using red dye #4, which is found in many pre-made beef burgers and sausages.
  • I never love the words “natural flavours”, and canola oil isn’t the healthiest choice, but I understand the need to create a similar texture to beef using fats.
  • Overall, it’s better than most pre-made burgers on the market, but not as great as a home-made beef burger (*insert plug for turkey burgers here*).

Nutrition info comparison

Beyond BurgerTM, 4oz

  • Calories 250
  • Total fat 18g
    • Saturated fat 6g
    • Trans fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 390mg
  • Total Carb 3g
    • Fiber 2g
    • Sugars 0g
  • Protein 20g
  • Calcium 8%
  • Iron 25%

Comparison #1: Lean Ground Beef*, 4oz

*NOTE: Most burgers aren’t made of just 4oz of lean ground beef! If you buy pre-made burgers, please read the label and see Comparison #2 below.

  • Calories 284
  • Total fat 17.5g
    • Saturated fat 7g
    • Trans fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 102mg
  • Sodium 82mg
  • Total carb 0g
    • Fibre 0g
    • Sugar 0g
  • Protein 29g
  • Calcium 2%
  • Iron 16%

Comparison #2: PC Thick and Juicy Beef Burgers (note, this is 6oz… most burgers are bigger than the 4oz in Beyond BurgersTM!)

  • Calories 441
  • Total fat 17g
    • Saturated fat 7g
    • Trans fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 105mg
  • Sodium 547mg
  • Carbs 0g
    • Fibre 0g
    • Sugar 0g
  • Calcium 3%
  • Iron 16%

Breakdown of the nutritional information:

  • Typically, we don’t make just plain lean ground beef into burgers, and if we do, we consume more than 4oz. So total calories tend to be higher for beef than Beyond.
  • Total protein of the real stuff is higher than its plant counterpart, but both meet my minimum requirement for most people of 20g of protein per meal.
  • The biggest shock is that they’re comparable in fat profiles, so if you’re think you’re cutting down on fats, think again. However, I can’t stress enough that as long as there are no trans fats, I’m okay on the amount and type of fat in both product options. Fat doesn’t make us fat!
  • A huge win for Beyond is that it is significantly lower in cholesterol when compared with beef burgers. If you have cholesterol concerns, consider choosing Beyond more often.
  • One thing that may be misleading is the amount of iron and calcium. I love that Beyond has fortified their product so that we can eat it without missing out on some key nutrients. However, nutrition labels don’t have to list things like B vitamins (most v/veg are deficient in vitamin B12) and most minerals, all of which are most likely much higher in beef burgers than Beyond.
  • Bottom line: it’s not a perfect match to the nutrients we get from animal proteins, but they’ve done a great job of creating a comparable product to beef, and a far superior job when compared with most other v/veg “burger” patties on the market.

Other considerations in favour of the Beyond Burger TM

  • More environmentally sustainable than a beef burger
  • It’s gluten-free and soy-free, and is verified non-GMO
  • The high protein content makes it leaps and bounds better than most other v/veg “burger” replacement products.
  • A healthier decision for people with high cholesterol, heart disease risk, and gout.
  • I think it tastes pretty darn good!

Is this really helping our vegan/vegetarian friends?

  • V/veg often don’t want something that looks and has the texture of meat
  • My guess is that it has a lower B12 and mineral content compared with beef, so we need to continue to remind ourselves this is not a perfect substitute, and v/veg need to eat a wide variety of protein sources
  • Often prepared on the same grill as meat products, so many v/veg and people who don’t eat beef for religious reasons may choose to abstain

Dr. Chambers’ overall assessment:

  • I think the media attention and wide availability of Beyond Meat is spearheading a cultural shift toward healthier and more sustainable food choices becoming more accessible and accepted by the general population.
  • Although it isn’t a perfect match for animal-protein, it is the closest thing to a healthy meat-less alternative that meat-eaters can embrace without too much upset to their regular mealtime routines.
  • This product gets my stamp of approval as part of a healthy diet for meat-lovers and v/veg alike.

 

*Dr. Chambers is in no way affiliated with Beyond or any aspect of the food industry.