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Men’s Quiz: Is My Testosterone Low?

My work in hormone balance isn’t just with women – men can experience symptoms of hormone imbalance with age as well.  Testosterone is about much more than libido – it is also essential for mood, energy, muscle strength, bone density and many, MANY other actions in the body.

We know that testosterone levels decline with age – with that decline starting as early as 30 years old.  Additionally it has been found that men today are making up to a quarter less testosterone than their grandfathers did.

If you suspect you may have low testosterone, take this quiz.  And if the results suggest you have low testosterone book an appointment to discuss further testing, lifestyle and treatment options.  There are options available, including bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.

 

ADAM – Androgen Deficiency in Aging Men

This symptom based questionnaire will help diagnose low testosterone levels in men. When used with laboratory testing a diagnosis of low testosterone, or andropause, can be made.

If you answered yes to questions 1 or 7, or at least three of the other questions you may have low testosterone levels. Be sure to discuss the results of this quiz with your Naturopathic Doctor, don’t delay – the effects of low testosterone can negatively impact your quality of life and future health.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Empowered Menopause: Hot Flashes and Acupuncture

The most common complaint in menopause, hot flashes (and the dreaded night sweats) are experienced by 80% of women. For at least half of women these symptoms can last 7 to 10 years (years!!) and impact sleep, mood, comfort and quality of life.

There are many excellent treatments for hot flashes, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, black cohosh, chaste berry, phytoestrogens and others, but acupuncture has been found in studies to be another excellent choice for women.

Acupuncture for Hot Flashes

Studies in the past 10 years have found that women with mild to moderate hot flashes and night sweats, acupuncture administered weekly can reduce the frequency of hot flashes by half (and for some women there was a nearly 90% reduction!) Compared to women who did not have acupuncture, who reported only a 10% reduction over the 8 week study, acupuncture was a very successful intervention.

How Acupuncture Works

While we don’t know all of the reasons acupuncture works so well, many researchers think that it may be due to the impact on the hypothalamus – the master regulator of our body temperature. Acupuncture has also been found to promote blood vessel dilation, increase the release of different pain-reducing endorphins, and balance the production of stress and reproductive hormones.

Why Acupuncture?

For women looking for a low risk intervention, with virtually no side effects, acupuncture can be an ideal option. Acupuncture is also very cost effective, especially for women with health care insurance coverage.

You will know within 4-6 weeks whether acupuncture is going to benefit your hot flashes. And if acupuncture is effective for you the great news is that it may continue to be effective even after you are done your sessions. One study found that the benefits seen 6 months of treatment was still providing benefit 6 months later.

If you are experiencing hot flashes or night sweats, book in today to discuss with Dr. Lisa whether acupuncture is the solution you have been looking for.

Select References

Avis NE, et al. Acupuncture in Menopause (AIM) study: a pragmatic, randomized controlled trial. Menopause: June 2016;23(6):626-637

De Valois BA, et al. Using traditional acupuncture for breast cancer-related hot flashes and night sweats. J Alt Comp Med. 2010;16(10):1047-1057

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

66 Vegan Proteins

Raise your hand if anyone has every responded to your vegan diet with the question “but how do you get enough protein??” I can’t see your hands – but I KNOW a lot of them are in the air (wave them around a bit while they’re up there… just for fun.) It is absolutely the most common question I get asked. But in my 30 years of eating a vegetarian diet, and 10 years as a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto I have gotten really good at answering this question!

And today I’m sharing with you the most complete list of vegan (and vegetarian) proteins I have ever compiled. I hope that it will give you confidence to respond to all those people who question the protein density of a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet.

But first – how much protein do you need??

A general guideline is 0.8g per kg of body weight.  I suggest that vegans aim a bit higher – around 1g per kg of body weight to account for the lack of certain amino acids in various vegan proteins.  More on this later… read on…

And now, lets get into it!

66 Vegan Proteins

Beans

Black beans
1 cup*: 15g protein

With 15g of protein and 15g of fiber, black beans are a sure fire way to keep you feeling full and energized.

Garbanzo beans (Chick peas)
1 cup: 15g protein  

Most of the fiber in chickpeas is insoluble, meaning it passes through your body unchanged until it reaches your large intestine where the healthy bacteria metabolize it into short chain fatty acids needed to support your intestinal wall. This can help to reduce the incidence of colon cancer, while also keeping you feeling full and having healthy bowel movements.

Kidney beans
1 cup: 15g protein  

Full of molybdenum, essential for detoxifying sulfites (hello wine), kidney beans are also a super source of fiber and protein.

Lima beans
1 cup: 15g protein 

Buttery and a good source of manganese, essential for energy production, lima beans also provide nearly a quarter of your daily iron – bonus!

Miso
1 cup soup: 6g protein 

One of my personal favourites, a cup of miso soup gives a respectable 6g of protein. I like to have a cup in the mid-afternoon to boost energy instead of coffee or tea.

Navy beans
1 cup: 15g protein

Navy beans are small white beans (it got its name not from its colour, but from its popularity with the US Navy!) and are a great source of vitamin B1 which is essential for memory and concentration.

Pinto beans
1 cup: 15g protein 

Pretty pink polka dotted pinto beans provide an excellent source of potassium, which can help keep your blood pressure and stroke risk low.

Soy beans (Edamame)
1 cup: 25g protein 

Unique among the beans, soy beans are not deficient in methionine, and are considered a complete protein (containing all the essential amino acids humans need).

Tempeh
1 cup: 31g protein

A source of highly bioavailable calcium, tempeh can provide a healthy source of calcium to vegans and dairy-free vegetarians. Fermented soy foods, like tempeh, also provide bone supporting vitamin K.

Tofu
1 cup: 20g protein (firm tofu) 

With increasing protein with increased firmness, firm and extra firm tofu are powerhouses of protein. Soft tofu is also excellent for desserts and to provide a creamy texture to soups.

White kidney beans (Cannellini beans)
1 cup: 12g protein

The delicious relative of the navy bean, cannellini beans are high in fiber and protein and make delicious dips and spreads as well as being a superstar in soups.

*All portions are for cooked beans

Lentils

Brown lentils
1 cup*: 18g

Along with beans and peas, lentils are a member of the legume family. Full of fiber and folate, lentils are also a great source of iron.

Green lentils
1 cup: 18g protein

A more sturdy member of the lentil family, green lentils are excellent in soups and salads, providing a hearty filling protein and loads of fiber.

Red lentils
1 cup: 18g protein

All lentils are high in lysine, but deficient in cysteine and methionine, making them an incomplete protein. Combined with healthy whole grains these little wonders provide a dynamic duo of vegan protein.

 

*All portions are for cooked lentils

Peas

Black eyed peas
1 cup: 4g protein

Thought to bring luck if eaten on New Years Day, black eyed peas also provide around 2mg of iron and half of your daily folate needs.

Green peas
1 cup: 7g protein 

Who knew these little spheres could pack such a powerful punch? An good source of iron (2mg per cup), peas are also a source of coumestrol – a compound that has been found to lower the risk of stomach cancer.

Split peas
1 cup: 16g protein 

Split peas, or dried peas, are known sources of healthy hormone balancing isoflavones, like daidzein, that help to reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancers.

 

Nuts

Almonds
1/4 cup: 5g protein 

Almonds are an excellent source of manganese and copper – two cofactors necessary for energy production in our cells. All packaged together in a delicious little nut – thanks Nature!

Brazil nuts
1/4 cup: 5g protein

In Brazil it is illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree – and many nuts we eat come from wild collection rather than plantations. Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium, an essential nutrient for immune and thyroid health, and one that is often deficient in North American soils.

Cashews
1/4 cup: 6g protein 

Did you know, cashews are actually the seed of the cashew apple?? I had no idea. Learning something new every day. Cashews are lower in fat than other nuts, and most of their fats are the heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.

Hazelnuts (Filberts)
1/4 cup: 5g protein 

While they may be best known for their infamous chocolate-hazelnut spread, one serving of hazelnuts provides 100% of your daily needs for vitamin E – one of our most important antioxidants.

Macadamia nuts
1/4 cup: 3g protein  

One of the highest fat nuts (and one of the most delicious), macadamia nuts can provide you with a full dose of vitamin B1, necessary for turning protein and carbohydrates into energy. Delicious and energy rich!

Peanuts
1/4 cup: 9g protein 

Higher in protein than most other nuts, peanuts are also an excellent source of biotin – a B vitamin essential for healthy hair and nails. Keep in mind most commercial peanut butters are full of sugar, so opt for shelled peanuts or 100% peanut butters.

Pecans
1/4 cup: 2.5g protein  

No matter how you pronounce it, pecans are one of North American’s favourite nuts.   Most often used in sweet treats, pecans can provide a bit of vegan protein and a healthy wallop of manganese to keep your energy up!

Pine nuts
1/4 cup: 4.5g protein 

With nearly 2mg of iron in each ¼ cup of pine nuts, these savoury bites are a great vegan food. Known mostly for their presence in pesto, pine nuts can also be sprinkled on salads and stir fry.

Pistachios
1/4 cup: 6g protein 

The pleasure of eating pistachios from the shell is increased by knowing that a serving of pistachios can give you half of your daily amount of vitamin B6. B6 is a vitamin essential for hormone balance and the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with happiness.

Walnuts
1/4 cup: 5g protein 

Walnuts may not be the most delicious nut, they may have the distinction of being the healthiest nut. Richest in omega 3 fatty acids, walnuts also have high amounts of gamma tocopherol – a type of vitamin E that is incredibly protective for our hearts.

Seeds      

Chia seed
2 tbsp: 4g protein 

Ok, who still feels like they are butchering their childhood chia pet? Just me… that’s ok too. One way or another chia seeds are finding their way into our lives! The best way to enjoy chia is in your morning smoothie or to make super yummy chia pudding – pudding for breakfast and dessert? And 4g of protein? Yes please!

Flax seed
2 tbsp: 2.5g protein

The best vegan source of omega 3 fatty acids, flax seeds are a powerhouse of nutritional benefits for plant based diets. Add to smoothies, sprinkle ground flaxseed on oatmeal or salads, or just about anything!

Hemp seed
2 tbsp: 10g protein 

They aren’t going to get you high, but they will give you some stellar omega fatty acids and a massive hit of protein as well! Unlike flaxseeds they don’t need to be ground for us to digest them, just sprinkle them on your foods, or throw them in your smoothie for a powerful protein punch

Pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp: 2g protein 

One of the top plant sources for zinc, a nutrient essential for thinking and for immune function, a ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds (10g of protein!) will also give you a few mg (2.8) of iron as well! A healthy plant based snack or a tasty addition to salads.

Sesame seeds
2 tbsp: 3g protein 

Open (your mouth to) sesame!! (Funny? Not funny? I chuckled a little…) Sesame seeds may be small, but they are a great source of vegan calcium and can easily be added to just about any food for a mild nutty taste.

Sunflower seeds
2 tbsp: 4g protein  

Has anyone ever told you to eat sunflower seeds because you burn more energy cracking them than you get from eating them? Well sadly that isn’t true (you’d only burn around 70 calories and a cup of sunflower seeds has nearly 270 calories). But don’t let that stop you! Sunflower seeds are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant vitamin E.

Poppy seeds
2 tbsp: 3g protein 

Step aside hemp seed, if you want to get high this might be the seed for you. Well, not really… While the opiate compounds in poppy seeds can cause you to fail a drug test, the tiny amounts (around 0.5-10 mcg per gram) of morphine are no where near the amount necessary to produce anything close to a high (5000 to 30 000mcg). So sprinkle away without any fear (or hope) of intoxication!

Grains

Amaranth
1/2 cup*: 4.5g protein  

A complete protein (unusual amongst the grains), amaranth provides all the essential amino acids. As a whole grain (germ intact!), amaranth has a decent amount of fiber (5g) and B vitamins to help you turn your food into energy.

Barley
1/2 cup: 3g protein 

Nourishing, filling barley gives you a healthy dose of fiber, and the high magnesium content may help to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

Buckwheat
1/2 cup: 3g protein 

A diet high in unrefined grains, like many of those on this list, has been found to reduce the incidence of gallstones in women. This is likely why vegans have a lower risk than the average population!

Bulgur
1/2 cup: 3g protein 

A type of wheat, bulgur should be avoided by those with celiac disease or known gluten intolerance. If you can tolerate it, it makes a nice substitution for rice.

Ezekiel bread
2 slices: 8g protein

“Take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, put them in one vessel and make them into bread for yourself” – Ezekiel 4:9. This biblical recipe makes for one delicious and nutritious bread. Containing all 9 essential amino acids, this sprouted bread is also easy to digest. Look for it in the freezer at your grocery store.

Farro
1/2 cup: 4g protein

One of the many foods on this list you may not have heard of, farro is an ancient wheat grain with an amazing nutty taste. As a member of the wheat family, it does contain gluten.

Freekeh
1/2 cup: 12g protein

Another wheat cousin with a fun sounding name, Freekeh, also known as Farik, has more protein than many of the other grains on this list. It’s also high in zinc and iron. But remember, as a member of the wheat family it does contain gluten.

Kamut
1/2 cup: 5.5g protein 

Yet another wheat (is anyone keeping a tally??), kamut is a gluten-containing grain that is so ancient it has been found in pharaoh’s tombs. Excellent as a replacement or companion for barley in soups and salads.

Millet
1/2 cup: 3g protein 

You may be feeding it to the birds in your garden, but maybe you should consider keeping some of the millet for yourself. Millet makes an excellent breakfast porridge or enjoy it (in moderation) as the popular roti flatbread.

Oats
1/2 cup: 5g

We all recognize this whole grain! And those of us who eat oatmeal regularly may also have a smaller waist circumference according to some studies. Go for the steel cut oats rather than the processed oats for maximal health benefits.

Rice
1/2 cup: 2.5g

Brown rice and white rice are essentially the same grain, but with white rice the nutritional hull is removed, destroying the vast majority of nutrients in the rice. So stick with brown rice and get all the B1, B3 and B6 rice has to offer.

Rye bread
2 slices: 5g 

Unlike wheat, rye is difficult to separate from the hull, leading to a higher fiber gluten-containing bread. While bread should only be consumed in moderation, a bit of rye can provide protein and double the fiber of wheat bread.

Seitan
1/2 cup: 31g protein  

Many of the grains listed here contain gluten, but seitan IS gluten – sometimes it is even called gluten (or wheat meat or wheat protein). Made by isolating the gluten from wheat, seitan is more meat-like than most other vegan proteins and is popular in vegan restaurants.

Sorghum
1/2 cup: 8g protein 

A gluten-free ancient grain, sorghum is hearty and chewy (similar to quinoa) and is fantastic in pilafs and risottos. Also a good source of vegan iron (4mg per ½ cup!)

Spelt bread
2 slices: 6g protein  

Yet another member of the wheat family (contains gluten), spelt is often used to make bread and other baked goods instead of traditional wheat. Spelt has more niacin, copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus than wheat, meaning that choosing spelt bread may give you an edge over your old fashioned wheat bread.

Teff
1/2 cup: 5g protein  

Technically a seed rather than a grain, teff is native to Ethiopia. It cooks up similar to quinoa, but cooks a bit faster (great for a quick dinner!) Teff is a great source of manganese, which helps you make energy to keep you going all day.

Triticale
1/2 cup: 12g protein 

The laboratory love child of wheat and rye (brought to us by 19th century Scottish and German scientists), triticale is higher in protein and lower in gluten than wheat (but keep in mind it still does contain gluten). A sturdy grain, it makes an excellent salad or cereal.

Quinoa
1/2 cup: 4g protein

Remember when no one knew what quinoa was? Oh, the simpler times of 5 years ago… who knows which of the foods on this list will rise to superstardom next (remember you read about them first here!) Quinoa is also a seed, rather than a grain, and has the full amino acid profile needed to be considered a complete protein.

Wheat (whole)
2 slices: 7g protein
1/2 cup pasta: 4-7g protein  

The most commonly consumed grain in North America, wheat provides the majority of its protein in the form of gluten, a no-no for celiacs and those with gluten intolerance. White bread, a highly processed form of wheat, only provides 3g of protein for 2 slices.

Wheat berries
1/2 cup: 6.5g protein 

Wheat berries, not actually a berry, but actually a whole grain form of what, are what wheat looks like before it undergoes any processing. Wheat berries take a while to cook but stand up amazingly well in grain salads.

Wild rice
1/2 cup: 3g protein  

Another misnomer in this category is wild rice. Not actually a rice at all, wild rice is an aquatic grass that can be grown in lakes in Canada and the US. Wild rice doesn’t have the full complement of amino acids to be a complete protein, similar to many of the other grains, but combined with beans can be an excellent addition to your diet.

*All portions are for cooked grains

Vegetables

Artichokes
1 cup: 6g protein

Delicious, and completely worth the effort, artichokes are one of the top protein containing vegetables. Some early research also suggests that artichokes have the potential to lower cholesterol – an added bonus to an already delicious food.

Asparagus
1 cup: 4g protein 

A good source of quercetin, asparagus could help to reduce allergy symptoms – important since asparagus is freshest during the Spring when allergy season kicks in for many sufferers.

Avocado
1 cup: 4g protein

Best known for its healthy fats, avocado can also provide you with a nice bump in your daily protein intake. With 1 avocado providing around 4g of protein you will be looking at your avocado toast with newfound respect.

Broccoli
1 cup: 4g protein  

Love it or hate it, broccoli is a stellar anti-inflammatory with the ability to suppress inflammation with its high content of isothiocyanates (that’s a mouthful). Better yet, get a mouthful of broccoli – or the other types of broccoli like broccoli rabe or rapini.

Brussels sprouts
1 cup: 4g protein 

Lots of research has been published looking at the cancer risk reducing impact of eating Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts support three essential actions in reducing cancer risk – detoxification, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Corn
1 cup: 3g protein 

Perhaps not the healthiest option on this list, corn is also not in the right category. Technically a grain, since we all treat it like a vegetable I’ve opted to stick it here. Corn isn’t particularly dense in any nutrient, so use it sparingly and opt for fresh corn over processed corn foods.

Guava
1 cup: 4.2g protein  

Guava is a fruit that is ready to come to the table. With the highest amount of protein of all the fruits (and more than many of the veggies on the list), maybe we should be making space for guava in the fruit bowl more often!

Kale
1 cup: 2.5g protein  

Is there anything kale can’t do? It’s the superhero of vegetables everywhere. And with the highest content of lutein, a eye healthy antioxidant, you could spend a long happy life looking at all that kale in your shopping basket.

Mushrooms
1 cup: 2g protein 

A potential source of vegan B12 (scientists are still hotly debating this issue), mushrooms are also a good source of eight different vitamins and six minerals, including zinc for immune health and DNA replication.

Spinach
1 cup: 5g protein  

We all love spinach as a source of vegan iron, magnesium and folate, in addition to a nice selection of B vitamins, but spinach also has a nice amount of protein. And it’s so easy to incorporate into smoothies, salads, soups, and more!

Spirulina
1 tbsp: 4g protein

This seaweed is about 60% protein so a little bit can go a long way towards helping you meet your daily protein requirements. With a unique mineral profile, providing calcium, iron, magnesium and iodine, spirulina can support metabolism and energy production.

           

Protein Combining

Just a quick note on protein combining. Many vegan proteins are not complete proteins – meaning they are lacking one or more of the 9 essential amino acids necessary for human health. Nutrients are considered essential when we can’t make them ourselves and need to consume them in our diet. The nine essential amino acids are:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

In general beans are deficient in methionine and grains are deficient in lysine and threonine. In order to balance the amino acids you should aim to consume foods in both these categories each day – it doesn’t have to be in the same meal, but aim to provide your body with balanced amino acids every day.

Food Deficient Amino Acid Complementary food
Beans and legumes Methionine Grains, nuts, seeds
Grains Lysine, threonine Beans and legumes
Nuts and seeds Lysine Beans and legumes
Vegetables Methionine Grains, nuts, seeds
Corn Tryptophan, lysine Beans and legumes

 

Did I miss any of your favourite vegan proteins? Let me know in the comments below!

 

QUIZ! Do you have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

B12 deficiency is one of the MOST common nutrient deficiencies – and one that is not taken as seriously as it should be.  Vitamin B12 is essential for the synthesis of DNA – which is only important in cells that have DNA (i.e. ALL OF THEM).  If you don’t have B12, your cells can’t divide and grow appropriately and you feel terrible.

B12 is also essential for the healthy of the nervous system, being essential for the formation of myelin – the protective coating around our nerve cells.

B12 is also necessary for carbohydrate metabolism – using sugar for food in both the nervous system and to create abundant energy in our bodies.

If you are concerned your B12 levels may be low, take the quiz below.  If you answer YES to more than SIX questions, get your tired ass to your Naturopath for a blood test.  And if you know your B12 levels are low, do something about it!  It may be as simple as a daily supplement, or it may require B12 injections.  Talk to your ND to determine the best course of action for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

B12 Deficiency Quiz

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

References:

British Columbia Medical Association. B12 Deficiency – Investigation and Management of Vitamin B12 and Folate Deficiency. Victoria, Canada: Guidelines and Protocols Advisory Committee; 2007.

First Consult: Megaloblastic Anemia  www.mdconsult.com

Rakel: Textbook of Family Medicine, 7th Ed.  2007.  Common Laboratory Testing.

 

The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Yeast Infections

If you have been reading my blog (yay you!), then you know my core mission is to empower women to demand more from their health. No more accepting mediocrity in our bodies and our wellness. You CAN feel better.

And the one condition I am constantly amazed that women are living with, without successful treatment, are yeast infections.

Ladies! You don’t have to live like this. If this is your first yeast infection, congratulations. You are going to learn how to deal with this right, the first time. If this is your third, or fourth, or fortieth – I am so glad you are here. Because we are going to get into some serious action-oriented information that you need to learn.

So let’s do this.

 

What is a Yeast Infection

A yeast infection is an overgrowth of yeast, usually Candida albicans that causes irritation to the vagina and vulva. Also known as VVC (vulvovaginal candidiasis), candida is most often self diagnosed and treated with over the counter creams and capsules.

While most women think of a yeast infection when they experience a thick, whitish discharge, only 20% of cases actually have this symptom.   The more common symptoms of a yeast infection are itching, swelling of the vulva and pain on urination (especially after peeing).

What is NOT a Yeast Infection

While most women self diagnose yeast infections, there are a number of imbalances that can occur in the lady garden that look like yeast infections, but aren’t.

Vaginitis – an infection of the vagina with inflammation. A yeast infection is a type of vaginitis, but this can also be caused by other infections, like trichomoniasis.

Vaginosis – the overgrowth of vaginal bacteria without inflammation. Most commonly caused by Gardnerella, BV (bacterial vaginosis) is incredibly common – even more so than yeast infections. But that is the subject of another article (coming very soon!)

Other conditions that are not yeast infections – contact irritation, allergic reactions, atrophic vaginitis, menopausal dryness, cytolytic vaginosis (Write this article too) and sexually transmitted illnesses like Chlamydia and gonorrhea.

What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You About Yeast Infections

Yeast infections don’t need to be difficult to treat. They don’t need to be recurrent. The problem is that doctors aren’t offering complete solutions to women with yeast infections.

When you talk to your MD about yeast infections, most often you are told to take an over-the-counter antifungal medication that will kill the yeast. Sounds ok right? Well, no… not right.

Killing the yeast is important, there is no doubt about that. But killing the yeast does nothing to change the environment that the yeast was growing in. And since yeast is everywhere (yeast spores are airborne – you are going to be exposed to them both in your environment and from your digestive tract every day of your life) if you don’t change the environment, you’ll like just get another yeast infection.

The Empowered Approach to Yeast Infection Treatment

I’m going to present you with my empowered approach to fighting yeast infections. It takes a bit longer than the typical over-the-counter remedies – but it works a lot better. So if you’re ready to conquer candida, for once and for all, read on.

  1. Pay attention to pH

The healthy normal pH of the vaginal tract is around a 3.8-4.5. When you have candida (or BV), that pH can be increased above a 4.5. This occurs due to a change in the healthy bacteria, Lactobacillus, that should be the main bacteria in the vagina.

If you want to resolve your yeast infection, you need to pay attention to pH. If you optimize the normal, acidic pH of the vaginal tract, the yeast and nasty bacteria can’t thrive and the lactobacillus species can.

The best way to do this is with boric acid suppositories. Boric acid sounds scary – but remember, the vaginal tract is meant to be acidic. Using boric acid will restore the optimal pH and support the healthy bacteria populations. Made by a local compounding pharmacist, boric acid is simple to use and very effective.

  1. Eradicate the yeast

Ok. Yes, we do need to eradicate the yeast. But as I mentioned above, it can’t be the ONLY step in a successful yeast treatment. Most often I recommend using nature’s favourite antifungal – garlic – often combined with some caprylic acid (from coconut). Taken orally, or sometimes vaginally, these two are a powerhouse of antifungal activity.

But we don’t stop there. We also look at your diet. Yeast thrives in a high sugar environment, so I suggest avoiding all sugar (including dairy and bread products), alcohol and some fruits for at least a month while treating your yeast infection.

  1. Restore beneficial bacteria

yeast infection, candida, candidiasisWho hasn’t heard of the amazing benefits of probiotics? Those 300 trillion lovely little bugs that live in and on our body are a huge part of what makes us healthy (or not.)

In our lady garden, our boss bacteria is Lactobacillus. And imbalances in healthy levels of Lactobacillus are associated with BV and yeast infections.

The main source of bacteria for the vagina is from the “proximity exposure” to the exit of our digestive tract. So taking probiotics by mouth can be really effective for supporting healthy bacteria levels. Using vaginal probiotics is also highly recommended for yeast treatments, especially when using boric acid.

  1. Prevent recurrence

Eradicate yeast? Check.

Promote healthy pH? Check.

Lots of Lactobacillus? Check.

Now how do we stop this from happening again? Avoiding triggers that can lead to yeast infections – like a diet high in sugar, dairy and wheat, diabetes and unstable blood sugar, tight clothing and artificial fiber underwear (cotton ladies, cotton) is imperative. You can discuss with your ND whether you should embark on a longer “Candida Diet” – this isn’t necessary for everyone, but can make all the difference for some.

  1. Don’t accept mediocrity from your lady garden

I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it once more – yeast infections are not normal. And you don’t have to live with them. Now that you know better, I hope you will want better for yourself. And go out there and do it. You have been empowered – and I’m cheering you on.

Want a personalized treatment plan to get over your yeast infections?  Book in and let’s talk.  I’m ready when you are.

DUTCH test, hormone testing,hormone test, women's hormones, hormone health

DUTCH: Gold Standard in Hormone Testing

In my work with women’s health and hormones, one of the biggest areas of debate is hormone testing. Women are confused about when and how to test their hormones, and if I’m honest, a lot of doctors are confused as well. Which is leaving women under-diagnosed and under-treated for their very real (and very annoying) hormone imbalances.

But no more. Science has come a long way and right now we have the ability to test for hormones in ways that we never have been able to before. And women everywhere can benefit. So if you’ve ever wondered, “Do I have a hormone imbalance?”, now we can easily answer that question.

The DUTCH Test

Hormone testing with the DUTCH testDUTCH is an acronym that stands for Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones. It is a simple, but sophisticated test that looks not just at your hormones, but how your body processes and metabolizes them.

The DUTCH test looks not just at your reproductive hormones (although it does look at those quite thoroughly), but it also looks at your stress hormones, your androgens (male pattern hormones), your melatonin and the new DUTCH test also looks at organic acids – markers for mood and nutritional balance in the body.

8 Reasons the DUTCH Test is the Gold Standard for Hormone Testing

  1. Simple collection

Nothing is easier than peeing on a piece of filter paper. (Ok… some people might get a little pee on themselves, but still… is that the worst thing that can happen to you today?)

  1. In depth hormone levels

If you have a question about your hormones, the answer is likely to be found in the DUTCH test. While your Naturopathic Doctor may still recommend blood testing for hormones like thyroid hormone, FSH or LH, just about every other hormone is covered in the DUTCH test.

  1. Metabolism matters

Hands down, the reason the DUTCH test is the best, is that it measures metabolites. The absolute level of your hormones matter – but what can matter more is what your body does with those hormones. This is metabolism – does your body turn testosterone into nasty acne-promoting 5a-DHT?? Does your body turn estradiol into DNA damaging 4-OH estrone? Are you healthfully metabolizing and eliminating estrogen from your body? The DUTCH test can tell you.

  1. It’s all about those curves

Not every hormone has stable levels over the entire day. In particular, our primary stress hormone, cortisol, and its metabolite cortisone, have a curve that changes over the course of the day. Blood tests only give us a single snapshot of your cortisol levels, but the dried urine test gives us not only the total levels of cortisol and cortisone, but also the curve – how those levels change over the day. This is some VALUABLE information for people who are struggling with stress, fatigue, anxiety, decreased libido, trouble sleeping and insomnia.

  1. Balanced estrogen

Estrogen is one of the most important hormones in our bodies, and it has so many benefits for our health, but it can also have negative impacts if it is not in balance.

Typical hormone testing for estrogen looks just at estradiol, the dominant estrogen in the body. But that only tells us such a small bit of information. If we want to balance our estrogen, and prevent complications of estrogen dominance, then we want to understand how our body copes with our burden of estrogen. What metabolism pathways does our body use? Are those the best pathways?

If you are considering bioidentical hormones (BHRT) for perimenopause, or menopause symptoms, then the DUTCH test is highly recommended at the initial visit to understand how you will metabolize the hormones.

  1. Androgens and acne and hair health

In my work with women, no one condition is more loathed or baffling than acne. WTF, am I right ladies? How did we reach our 30s and still have to deal with acne?? Often it’s an issue of androgen metabolism. But typical hormone testing just looks at the amount of testosterone being made, and not what your body is doing with it. If your body is sending more testosterone towards the DHT metabolites, you will have more acne and possibly hair loss (and chin/ upper lip hair growth!) The DUTCH test will tell you if this is happening – and then we can talk about what to do about it!

  1. Melatonin

If you are having difficulty sleeping, knowing your melatonin levels is amazing information to have. But not only those with insomnia or sleep challenges should know their melatonin levels. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant in our bodies, and optimal levels of melatonin have been found to reduce the incidence of hormonal cancers (including breast cancer). No other hormone test looks at melatonin, but the DUTCH test does.

  1. Organic acids

Natural treatments and testing for depression and anxietyA new addition in 2018 to the DUTCH test is the 6 OAT (organic acid tests). I’m so excited for this new information!

Three new markers for neurotransmitters – to help us understand your mood. If you struggle with depression, anxiety or insomnia, this information can be very significant. If you have tried antidepressants without benefit, your organic acid markers for specific neurotransmitters, like serotonin, may tell you why.

Additionally there are three new markers for nutritional levels – looking at your B6 and B12 metabolism as well as your glutathione status. If you are concerned about weight gain or inflammation as part of your hormone imbalance, now we may be able to identify why.

The 1 Reason I don’t love DUTCH Testing

  1. The test results are ugly

I know. Such an aesthetic issue. But the test results are ugly – seriously. The results are clear. The information is valuable. But the results look a lot like a airplane dashboard, and some patients find this overwhelming. So take the time to talk through the results with your ND to understand what they mean for you.

Toronto, naturopath, doctor, naturopathic doctor, holistic, functional doctor

Next Steps

If you are interested in DUTCH testing, I suggest booking a 15 minute complimentary meet and greet to discuss the details. It is an amazing, useful, sophisticated test. But it’s not the right test for everyone. So let’s talk and see if it is the right test for you.

Dr. Lisa

Further Reading

https://dutchtest.com

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/05/08/dutch-hormone-test.aspx

 

Your Guide to Pain Free Periods

Painful periods and menstrual cramps

This is the one article series a lot of women have been asking for – what to do about painful periods and period cramps. Half of women experience pain during their menstrual cycles (and around 90% of teen girls) and 1 in 10 women have periods that are so painful they are unable to work or function for up to a week each month.

So what are we going to do about it ladies? I’m not one to just take things as they are – and I don’t want you to either! Let’s learn a bit more about why some of us get such significant pain during our periods, and then we’ll talk about what we can DO to lessen our pain, and live our amazing lives, every damn day of the month.

Dysmenorrhea

The medical term for painful periods is dysmenorrhea. And it encompasses anything from cramps in the lower abdomen to low back pain, pain/pulling sensation in the inner thighs, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache and fatigue. Dysmenorrhea is basically anything miserable during a period that interferes with our ability to function.

There are two different types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary.

Primary dysmenorrhea – no underlying cause, just the result of our body’s natural physiology

Secondary dysmenorrhea – occurs as a result of something else – an underlying condition that can lead to pain during periods – endometriosis, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, a narrow cervical opening, etc.

Ultimately we need to understand if there is a secondary cause for the painful periods – and treat that. If your periods started being painful right from your first period in your teens, then it’s most likely primary dysmenorrhea. If you had years of pain-free periods, then a full workup for secondary dysmenorrhea is highly recommended. In either case read on and learn more about what you can do to help yourself manage your period pain.

Why Are My Periods Painful?

A couple of specific physiological changes occur at the start of our periods that contribute to pain during periods.

Just before the start of our period flow the blood supply, and thus oxygen delivery, to the uterus is significantly restricted. In order for the lining of the uterus to be shed there is also an increase in the production and release of inflammatory compounds (called prostaglandins) that stimulate uterine contractions. This combination of low oxygen delivery (called ischemia), inflammatory prostaglandins, and contractions causes the pain associated with our periods.

But Dr. Lisa, not every woman experiences painful periods (lucky b*tches)

Yes, dear reader, this is absolutely true! Some factors need to be considered in those of us who do have painful periods.

Women who have painful periods produce on average 8-13 times more prostaglandins than women who do not experience painful menstrual cramps (more on this in the treatment section). Women who do not ovulate during their menstrual cycle also do not have painful periods – the drop in progesterone is what triggers the inflammatory prostaglandin production and painful uterine contractions. As we get older and make less progesterone, we also can experience much less painful periods.

And lifestyle makes a difference for some women too. Women who already have poor oxygen delivery to the uterus – smokers, women who are overweight, women who are sedentary – they tend to have cramping that is either more intense, or lasts longer, or both.

Treatment of Painful Periods and Menstrual Cramps

There is a LOT that we can do to manage our menstrual cramps. Many of the lifestyle and natural treatments are very effective for reducing pain during our periods and can give women back their vitality every day of the month. Ultimately it can be a trial and error to determine what will be the most effective for you, and working with a Naturopathic Doctor can accelerate your progress.

Below I’ve given you my top ten lifestyle modifications for managing period cramps.  Once you’ve made those changes, check out my article on Natural Treatments for a Pain Free Period. And then when you’re empowered with all that knowledge, book an appointment so we can put together the very best plan for you.

Lifestyle for Pain Free Periods

Studies have found a number of factors that can contribute to painful periods – women who eat more sugar, junk food, fast food and saturated fats tend to have more painful periods. Women who exercise regularly (not just during their periods) tend to have less menstrual cramps. Using tampons can make menstrual cramps worse, as can constipation or food sensitivities.

Below you’ll find my top ten lifestyle tips for reducing period pain

  1. Cut the sugar

Not really a newsflash, but sugar makes just about everything worse – including period cramps. Sugar interferes with the body’s ability to absorb and use B vitamins and minerals, both of which can worsen muscle tension and increase the force of uterus cramps. So quit it – you already knew you should.

  1. Ditch dairy

Prostaglandins, those inflammatory molecules produced by our uterus that cause pain, are made in our body from arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid comes mostly from our diet, in particular dairy products (although poultry is also a high source of arachidonic acid). Reducing or eliminating dairy is a great idea for women who get period pain – and it has been suggested that eliminating dairy may provide a significant benefit (with no other treatments) for up to one-third of women with painful periods!

  1. Avoid alcohol

Ladies, I get it. The urge to have a lovely glass of wine to dull the cramping and misery, and really, you just want it. But I’m a teller of truths – alcohol is a no-go for painful periods. Alcohol is well known to deplete B vitamins as well as muscle-relaxing minerals such as magnesium. Not only that – it interferes with the liver’s ability to metabolize hormones. All of these contribute to more cramping and heavier periods (which lead to more clots, which trigger more uterine spasms, which causes more pain…)

  1. Skip the salt

Salt is something many people think they are avoiding, but that stuff sneaks into everything. While I’m not opposed to a bit of sea salt on my edamame, the primary source of salt in the diet is processed or packaged foods. Salt can increase fluid retention, which can worsen bloating and discomfort as well as period pain. So skip the salt and season with spices instead.

  1. Load up on the legumes, nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of minerals like magnesium and calcium – both of which can lessen muscle tension and reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. Additionally, eating a diet higher in plant proteins and lower in animal proteins has been found to reduce the incidence of dysmenorrhea. So skip the chicken and have some chickpeas and cashews instead.

  1. Eat your veggies

Really, is there anything vegetables CAN’T do? They are the most important component of the human diet, and eating more of them cures just about everything – including period cramps. Women who eat more fruits and vegetables have the lowest rates of painful periods. Vegetables are excellent sources of minerals, like calcium and magnesium, as well as fiber to reduce bloating and discomfort.

  1. Understand your food sensitivities

Wait, what? Food sensitivities? What do those have to do with my period cramps?

It turns out, quite a lot!

Food sensitivities can damage the lining of the digestive tract, altering the absorption of B vitamins and minerals, resulting in more cramping. Additionally, food sensitivities can cause increased production of inflammatory molecules, leading to more inflammation (and more pain) when period time rolls around. Add to the mix the irregular bowel movements that can result from food sensitivities and you have the perfect storm for period pain. So if you’ve ever wondered if you have food sensitivities and you get painful periods, I’d considering having the food sensitivity test. It may be just what you need.

  1. Exercise regularly

Exercise improves blood flow to, and from, the uterus. Exercise also helps to alter the production of prostagandins, leading to less pain. And it’s not just exercise during your period that helps – most studies show that women who exercise regularly have less painful periods than those who don’t. There are also some specific exercises that have been found to help manage period pain – you can read more about those here.

  1. Toss the tampons

We are entering a new age of period empowerment. No longer are we having to choose between bulky pads and bleached cotton tampons. There are so many options now for women to comfortably accommodate their periods.

Pain free periods. Natural treatments for period cramps

From the Diva Cup to Thinx period panties, to all natural pads that are thin and comfortable. Women who use tampons have more painful periods than those who don’t, and most of those tampons are full of chemicals that can be absorbed across the mucosal barrier of the vaginal canal – not a good thing! So toss those tampons and join women in the age of period empowerment!

  1. Try a Natural Approach

While we may be tempted to manage our period pain with Midol and Advil and other pain killers, there are a number of natural supplements – nutrients and botanical (plant) medicines that can provide amazing relief. And without the side effects of those pain killers as well! Start by reading my article on Natural Treatments for Pain-Free Periods and then work with a Naturopathic Doctor to personalize a treatment plan that can give you relief from your menstrual cramps.

Natural Treatments for Pain-Free Periods

Natural treatment options for period cramps

Ok ladies. In the last article we talked about why your periods can be painful – conditions l

ike endometriosis, fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease, and lifestyle factors. We also talked my top ten lifestyle tips for pain-free periods. (If you haven’t read that article, pop over and read it now, then come on back and join me here. I’ll wait.)

In this article we’re going to go deeper into the science on period pain and discuss ten of most promising natural treatments for managing period cramps and painful periods.

But remember, these won’t work if you don’t have a healthy foundation in place, so start with the lifestyle changes, and then work with your Naturopathic Doctor to layer in some of these treatments to help you achieve your pain-free period!

Nutrients for Menstrual Cramps

B1 – Thiamine

Ah, thiamine, vitamin B1 – named so because it was the first B vitamin discovered! I’ve got a weak spot for B vitamins (and all vitamins really) because they are literally how our bodies get sh*t done! Thiamine is needed for your body to make energy from food – especially the grains that it is abundant in.

The mechanism by which this B vitamin can help period cramping stems from it’s action on the central nervous system and neuromuscular system – all coming down to it being effective for reducing spasmodic uterine pain (i.e. cramping). One study (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8935744) found that taking vitamin B1 daily for 3 months completely alleviated period pain in 87% of study participants – damn! Worth a shot I think!

B6 – Pyridoxine

Vitamin B6 has fast become one of my favourite B vitamins (sorry B12!) due to it’s profound actions on female hormone balance. In addition to supporting energy production (just like all the B vitamins), vitamin B6 is needed to make progesterone, serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin.

When used with its BFF, magnesium, vitamin B6 may be helpful in decreasing period cramps. When used for 10 days prior to the period, women have reported less painful periods (and less premenstrual acne!) when using a combination of B6 and magnesium. While it may not be enough on its own, it can be an important part of a treatment plan for period cramps.

Magnesium

Magnesium, known primarily for its ability to relax muscle (making it incredibly useful for blood pressure, muscle cramps and asthma), is unfortunately one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in North America. Found mostly in unprocessed foods (like leafy greens, nuts and seeds), magnesium deficiency can cause:

  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • weakness
  • muscle spasms
  • menstrual cramps
  • poor nail growth (I get asked about this issue all the time!)
  • insomnia
  • sugar cravings
  • anxiety

It has been suggested that the majority of women with PMS have a deficiency of magnesium – unfortunately magnesium is not easily tested for in laboratory tests, so deficiency often goes undiagnosed.

But the benefits of magnesium are not going unnoticed! A Cochrane study found that using magnesium for period cramps was effective for pain relief and resulted in women using less pain medication during their periods. Win! Magnesium: 1, period pain: 0.

Omega 3s

The last of our nutrients for period cramps, are our omega 3 fatty acids. These amazing compounds decrease inflammation (by altering prostaglandin production – remember this from the last article?) and taking relatively high doses (around 2 grams per day) has been found to reduce pain scores in women with period pain. And with all the side effects of omega 3s (healthy skin, less inflammation, improved mood, better heart health), it sure won’t hurt to give these a try.

Botanicals for Menstrual Cramps

While nutrients help our body to function optimally (that’s what they do!), botanicals, or plant medicines, act more like medications – changing or encouraging our bodies to function in specific ways. Most often I have my patients on a combination of nutrients (Woot! Optimal health!) and plant medicines to get the best outcomes.

Valerian

Best known for it’s sleep supporting actions, valerian (Valerian officinalis) can be very supportive for managing painful periods. With the ability to bind to GABA receptors in our brain (the same ones Valium uses), valerian can reduce pain, anxiety and insomnia. It has also been found to reduce spasmodic contractions – those same ones that lead to all the pain of period cramps. Valerian doesn’t need to be taken all month – just during your period to manage the discomfort and misery of painful periods.

Crampbark

Well doesn’t the name just say it all?? Crampbark (Viburnum opulus) has been used for generations for period cramps. Acting as a uterine relaxer and antispasmodic, crampbark is your best friend if your period cramps are accompanied by low back pain or pain that radiates into your thighs.   Taken in a similar manner as ibuprofen, one capsule of crampbark every 3-4 hours can help to reduce cramping and pain.

Ginger

I hate to play favourites (no, that’s not true. I totally love my favourites), but ginger is the BOMB when it comes to managing period pain.

With antispasmodic effects as well as the ability to inhibit the production of inflammatory and spasmodic prostaglandins (again with the prostaglandins!), ginger is a powerhouse of period pain management.

There have been studies comparing ginger with ibuprofen and found no difference in the effectiveness of the two treatments for period pain – in fact, more women in the ginger group were completely pain free than in the ibuprofen group. BOOM!

Ginger is most effective starting a few days before your period, and continuing through the first days when cramping is most likely to occur.

Black Cohosh

One of the best researched botanical medicines in the world, black cohosh’s claim to fame is in managing symptoms of menopause. But that’s not all it is good for.

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) is another uterine relaxer that can be useful for period cramping. It’s best for women who also have significant water retention (think swollen ankles, bloating and tender breasts), irritability during PMS, and delayed or irregular menstrual periods.

Other Natural Supplements

A few other natural medicines can help you achieve your dream of a pain-free period. And I certainly couldn’t leave them out! These two treatments are best used under supervision or advisement of your Naturopathic Doctor – so have a talk with them about whether to include these in your plan for a Pain-Free Period!

Melatonin

Melatonin for period crampsMelatonin is most commonly thought of as our sleep hormone, produced by the pineal gland in our brain to support sleep-wake cycles. But it does so much more than that!

Melatonin levels are lower during the second half of our menstrual cycle (during our luteal phase), and this is thought to be a factor in the development of period pain.

When melatonin levels are high, it can decrease the contractile force of the uterus – decreasing painful cramps. As well melatonin is known to have analgesic properties – decreasing pain. Melatonin also inhibits the production of those pesky prostaglandins that lead to most period pain.

Safe for most women, melatonin should be used for a few days prior to the onset of the period and for the first few days of the period. Taken before bed, you’ll likely get some stellar sleep as well!

BHRT Progesterone

For women whose period pain does not improve, no matter how many things they try, bioidentical progesterone can be a game changer.

Progesterone is the hormone that dominates the second half of the menstrual cycle, and a drop in the level of progesterone leads to an increase in inflammatory arachidonic acid and prostaglandins from the uterus. Welcome to Pain City.

If we can lessen the severity of this drop, or delay it, then often we can reduce the pain and intensity of uterus contractions that come from a hard drop in progesterone.

Best indicated for women in their 30s and 40s, bioidentical progesterone should be prescribed by a knowledgeable practitioner. Used for somewhere between 3-12 days before the onset of the period, progesterone may be exactly what some women need.

Onwards in your Pain-Free Period Journey!

Ladies, you don’t have to suffer. There are SO many things you can do to manage your periods so that they do not negatively impact your life. If you want to learn more, browse through some of the other articles on this website, or book an appointment to get your periods back on track!

Best Doctor in Toronto 2017

A huge burst of gratitude to everyone who voted for me in the Now Magazine Reader’s Choice Awards.  I am so humbled and flattered to be voted by readers as the Best Doctor in Toronto 2017!  (#humblebrag)

While I certainly am not perfect, I will strive to live up to the title of being the Best.

The Best cheerleader for my patients.

The Best teacher of healthy living.

The Best hormone whisperer.

The Best seeker of knowledge.

The Best reader of books.

The Best drinker of chai tea.

The Best maker of things.

The Best tall lady in high heels.

The Best unperfect parent.

The Best Me.

And I hope you will strive to be the best YOU as well.  While no one may have voted for you (yet!), you can cast your vote for a better you.  Don’t accept mediocrity or “meh” from your life.  Be your best.  Do your best.  Do you.

xo

Dr. Lisa

WTF is MTHFR?

The world of genetics is confusing AF.  But trust me, you will be hearing more and more about genetics in the coming years.  In 2003 researchers completed The Human Genome Project, a many year endeavour to sequence the human genome and understand what our genes can tell us about our health.  And one of the most important genes identified was MTHFR.

MTHFR

MTHFR is the acronym for the gene that makes methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This is an essential step in the methylation pathway – a complex pathway that results in the production of neurotransmitters (mental health), glutathione (liver, inflammation and antioxidant health), and processing of estrogen and testosterone (hormone health). Methylation has been considered by many to be the most important enzyme function in the human body.

MTHFR Polymorphisms

Somewhere between 30-50% (perhaps more) people carry a mutation (also called a single nucleotide polymorphism – or SNP) in the MTHFR gene, with an estimated 14-20% of people having a more severe mutation. First identified by the Human Genome Project, researchers noted that people with the MTHFR mutation were more likely to develop certain diseases, including ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis and autoimmune disorders.

Autism Alzheimer’s ADHD Atherosclerosis Miscarriages Fibromyalgia
Deep vein thrombosis Neural tube defects Gluten intolerance Pernicious anemia Schizophrenia Chronic fatigue syndrome
Post-menopausal depression Chemical sensitivities Parkinson’s Irritable bowel syndrome Pre-eclampsia Stroke
Spina bifida Bipolar disorder Male infertility Vascular dementia Blood clots Congenital heart defects
Gastric cancer Migraines with aura Low HDL cholesterol Epilepsy Atherosclerosis Oral clefts
Type I Diabetes Cervical dysplasia Glaucoma Prostate cancer Multiple sclerosis Essential hypertension
Thyroid cancer Premature death Heart murmurs Placental abruption Myocardial infarction Tongue tie
Asthma Bladder cancer Low testosterone Heavy metal toxicity
Conditions Associated with MTHFR Polymorphisms

It is important to remember that just because you have inherited a gene (thanks mom and dad), does not mean you will develop one of these health conditions. There are many factors (diet, lifestyle, nutritional status, environment) that contribute to gene expression.

Your genes are not your destiny, but they are your tendency

MTHFR C667T and MTHFR A1298C

Two main MTHFR mutations have been identified and are the focus of most research.

Mutations are inherited from our parents, and as such we have two copies of each gene. A mutation on either of these genes can be heterozygous (+/-) – meaning only one copy is abnormal – or homozygous (+/+), meaning both inherited copies is mutated. Homozygous mutations are more likely to cause health problems. And having a homozygous mutation in both MTHFR C667T and MTHFR A1298C is considered to be the most problematic.

The Consequences of MTHFR Mutations

The importance of the methylation cycle, impacted by MTHFR mutations, can not be understated. Some of the consequences of altered MTHFR function include:

  • Decreased methylationMTHFR, naturopath, nutrigenomics
  • Increased heavy metal toxicity (iron, copper, lead, mercury)
  • Low iron (often secondary to elevated copper)
  • Increased homocysteine leading to vascular inflammation (cardiovascular disease, increased blood pressure, increased risk of vascular dementia)
  • Poor conversion of homocysteine to glutathione (increased stress, fatigue, toxin build up, cellular stress)
  • Poor conversion of homocysteine to methionine (increased atherosclerosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, anemia, inflammation)
  • Decreased production of SAMe and decreased serotonin levels (depression)

Nutrigenomics for MTHFR

One of the main reasons I became interested in genetic medicine, is the ability of nutrients, diet and lifestyle to strongly influence the function of our genes.  This field of study is known as nutrigenomics. 

When we know what our genetic tendencies are, we can alter and optimize them through dietary and supplemental choices. It’s an empowering way to look at our bodies.

In order to optimize MTHFR function, there are some things that need to be avoided:

  1. Synthetic folic acid – further slows the MTHFR function
  2. Cyanocobalamin – a form of vitamin B12 that slows methylation
  3. Birth control pills – block the uptake of folate in the gut
  4. Methotrexate – another medication that blocks folate uptake
  5. Proton pump inhibitors – a medication for heartburn that alters stomach acid levels and decreases vitamin B12 absorption
  6. Processed grains – contain synthetic folic acid
  7. Mercury amalgams and heavy metals – can lead to greater heavy metal toxicity due to poor metal clearance

Individuals who have MTHFR polymorphisms will often thrive with appropriate nutritional support. Supplements that can help to improve methylation are the cornerstone of MTHFR therapy.

Supplemental Support for MTHFR

Folate – natural folate, from leafy green plants (foliage – that’s how folate got its name!) and natural supplements will help to improve methylation. Especially important during the months prior to pregnancy, women of reproductive age with MTHFR mutations should be taking folate regularly.

Vitamin B6 – an essential cofactor in the methylation pathway, vitamin B6 helps to ensure folate works properly.

Vitamin B12 – vitamin B12 is a methyl donor – it contributes a methyl group to the methylation pathway, allowing it to function at optimal capacity. B12 should be taken in the methylcobalamin or hydroxycobalamin form, and never in the cyanocobalamin form.

Treatments for MTHFRTMG (Trimethylglycine or Betaine) – another methyl donor, providing three methyl groups to the methylation cycle, this nutrient is commonly deficient in people with MTHFR. Stress, infections, inflammation and high levels of heavy metals will all increase the demand for THM. In a healthy body, plenty is made, but it is also available as a supplement and in foods such as broccoli, beets and other vegetables. TMG is especially useful for people with depressive symptoms as it increases the production of SAMe.

SAMe – a consequence of poor MTHFR function is low levels of SAMe. Essential for the production of serotonin, low SAMe can be associated strongly with depression. SAMe acts as a methyl donor in the body, and is made in the body through methylation processes. Supplementation is available although often levels improve with supplementation of methyl donors, B12 and folate.

NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) – a direct precursor to the production of glutathione. NAC can be used to support detoxification and decrease oxidative damage in people with MTHFR mutations.

Confused? 

You’re not alone!  The study of genetics, and the influence of our genes on our health, is some pretty deep, dark science stuff!  But it’s also incredibly informative, and empowering.  And if you’ve ever wondered how your genes are impacting your health, you should consider genetic testing and working with a Naturopathic Doctor,  Geneticist or Functional Medicine Doctor who can help you understand your genetic tendencies, and realize your optimal health potential.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.