Food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances: Same or different?

Food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances: Same or different?

It is becoming more and more common to hear that someone cannot eat a particular food because they are sensitive or allergic to it, while others may be having various symptoms and cannot quite figure out what the offending foods are. Reactions to foods may not be due to one type of mechanism but may be multiple mechanisms occurring simultaneously or individually.

Often the terms allergy, sensitivity and intolerance are used interchangeably, when in fact, they are not the same thing. These different types of reactions are immune-mediated or non-immune-mediated reactions.

Immune-mediated mechanisms

As Josh Gitalis (Functional Medicine Practitioner and Certified Nutritionist) writes, think of the immune system as law enforcement agents, where there are different branches and players that respond to different threats. For example, in Canada there are border police, RCMP, transport enforcement, sheriffs, park wardens, etc.; they all work for the same organization, but respond to different dangers or risks. Similarly in the immune system, there are different players reacting to different threats. Some of these immune system players are called immunoglobulins (Ig) and are given a letter to distinguish between them. There is immunoglobulin G (IgG), immunoglobulin E (IgE), immunoglobulin A (IgA), immunoglobulin M (IgM), and immunoglobulin D (IgD), where each of the different immunoglobulins is in charge of a different response. (Gitalis, J., 2016).

A true allergic reaction is one that is mediated by IgE (one of the types of immune responses). Allergic reactions are immediate (occurring within minutes to hours) and can be systemic, including potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis, or localized, such as hay fever, asthma, hives as well as vomiting or diarrhea. An example of a food allergy is a peanut or shellfish allergy. Often, referral to an allergist is recommended in the case of serious food allergies (ex. anaphylaxis, difficulty breathing).

Another type of immune-mediated reaction to food is an IgG reaction. This is known as a food sensitivity. This type of reaction is often confused with an IgE or allergic reaction, but it is different. IgG reactions are delayed, meaning they can take hours or days to develop. This often contributes to confusion in determining the food culprit of one’s symptoms. Food sensitivity symptoms are often varied and can include (but are not limited to): fatigue, skin rashes such as eczema and psoriasis, mood and memory disturbances, migraines, asthma, joint pain, weight gain, nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, variations in stool type (diarrhea, constipation or alternating between constipation and diarrhea).

IgG food sensitivity testing is becoming an increasingly popular choice for many looking to determine what foods may be causing symptoms. There are many independent labs that offer food sensitivity testing, which can be accessed and performed by Naturopathic Doctors. Often, if you have a food sensitivity that shows up on an IgG test, it can indicate that you have “leaky gut syndrome” or intestinal hyperpermeability. Essentially, our digestive tracts are one tube from our mouth to our anus, and that tube has to properly control what passes through the lining of the intestines. When it becomes “leaky” allowing food particles to pass through that typically aren’t allowed to pass through, the food particles are recognized by our immune system and can cause the variety of symptoms (as mentioned above). This immune response is what is measured with testing. To help address the root cause, foods must be eliminated and the gut must be healed. (See article on leaky gut)

Conventional immunologists do not recognize the validity of these tests and often discount them as credible tests aimed at uncovering foods causing symptoms. This is because the tests are not standardized and each laboratory has their own methodology in determining food sensitivities, which is in contrast to standardized IgE testing. However, IgG food sensitivity testing can still be beneficial in determining what foods may be causing or contributing to one’s symptoms.

As an example from my own personal experience, after I completed an IgG food sensitivity test, I found out that I was sensitive to dairy. Once I eliminated dairy from my diet, I felt what it was like to no longer have digestive symptoms (bloating, gas, constipation) and my acne improved. Another example is of a patient who was about 10 years old at the time and had full body skin rash that wasn’t resolving with conventionally prescribed corticosteroid creams or would mildy improve then return once she stopped applying the cream. She did the food sensitivity test and found out she was sensitive to gluten. After avoiding gluten, her skin rash resolved.

Other patients have completed the food sensitivity test and their results haven’t been as remarkable or in some cases, there hasn’t been any improvement or any reaction to foods despite symptoms. This can occur because the reaction could be coming from a different component of the immune system other than IgG or because the reaction isn’t immune-mediated at all.

Non-immune-mediated mechanisms

After eating certain foods, some people experience symptoms that do not involve immune system mediated reactions. These non-immune reactions are called food intolerances. Similarly to food sensitivities, food intolerances can have a delayed onset of symptoms, as well as symptoms that vary, including digestive symptoms (bloating, gas, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), skin rashes, itching, headaches, fatigue, joint pain and restlessness to name a few.

Food intolerances can have a variety of different causes, which include:

  • Enzyme defects
    • Enzymes help with breaking down substances found in certain foods. If enzymes are faulty or low in supply, then the food will not be digested properly.
    • For example, in individuals with lactose intolerance, their body may either lack the enzyme (known as lactase) or have a faulty lactase enzyme required to break down lactose (type of sugar) found in dairy products. If not properly digested, lactose will not be absorbed and will be digested by naturally occurring bacteria in the digestive tract, causing symptoms of gas, cramping/pain, bloating and diarrhea.
  • Chemical
    • Some foods contain chemical substances that can have an affect on the body, where some people may be more sensitive to those chemical components than others and thus develop symptoms.
    • For example, a substance called methylxanthine found in coffee, chocolate, tea and cola can cause heart palpitations, restlessness and anxiety in some individuals. Another example is histamine-containing foods or foods that can develop a buildup of histamine, such as fish, cheese, sauerkraut. These can contribute to symptoms such as headaches, rashes, itching, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Other chemical substances can include additives, preservatives and food colourings/dyes.
  • Toxic
    • Substances exerting a toxic effect can occur within a number of foods leading to symptoms.
    • For example, aflatoxin, a carcinogenic compound produced by certain molds/fungi, is found in peanuts, peanut butter and corn, amongst other foods. Though poisoning is relatively rare (and depends on various factors), symptoms of aflatoxin exposure include stunted growth and delayed development in children, liver damage, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs), kidney and heart damage and convulsions.

Where to start?

It can be challenging to navigate the different types of food-related reactions that may be causing you symptoms. One of the best places to begin is by keeping a food journal/diary, tracking what you eat and what symptoms are experienced. Next, you might want to consider an elimination diet and/or testing. Naturopathic doctors can offer assistance in determining food-related reactions and which route to take to determine what’s contributing to your symptoms and how best to alleviate them.


Aflatoxin Could Be in Your Peanut Butter & More. (2016). Retrieved January 03, 2017, from

Aflatoxin Poisoning: Symptoms, Treatment & Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2017, from

Allergy or Intolerance? (2016, April). Retrieved January 03, 2017, from

Gitalis, J. (2016, October 03). What Are Food Allergies and Sensitivities? Retrieved January 03, 2017, from

IgG Food Sensitivity: Clinical Information for Professionals. (2014, January). Retrieved January 03, 2017, from

Greening the Cancer Cause: Changing the Way Women Think About Breast Health

From April to October, one well-intentioned organization after another is asking for money to support “a cure for cancer” or cancer research. As a cancer survivor and naturopathic doctor, I donate to a brilliant program created by three courageous women in Canmore, Alberta -the Pink and Green Ribbon campaign. (Now called Rethink Breast Cancer). Committed to stopping cancer before it starts these women put into action local initiatives designed to clean up the environment and bring awareness to the chemicals we put in our bodies with the goal of making our communities healthier places to live.

The pink represents a commitment to creating breast cancer-free communities through promoting healthy breast education and focusing on prevention. The green reflects a stand for addressing the connection between the environment and women’s health.

With the slogan, “Love Your Planet. Love Your Body. Love Your Life,” the campaign co-founders, including my naturopathic colleague Dr. Monika Herwig, create local initiatives designed to clean up the environment and make our communities healthier places to live.

These women, all mothers of daughters, also want to change the way women think about breast health. They’re not comfortable with the current statistics and predictions for breast cancer (i.e., One in nine will develop breast cancer). In their desire to make a difference, they declare the opposite: “Eight in nine women will have healthy breasts for their lifetime.” This subtle positive shift is extremely empowering. I find that one’s mental health is often an overlooked aspect of one’s physical health – and the two are intimately connected to our overall sense of well-being. What would happen to the current statistics for breast cancer if we took a positive approach? Let’s do more than wonder! They posed the following questions and started a conversation around the topics below:

  • What if we all started talking more about breast health?
  • What if healthier breast tissue and less exposure to carcinogens made our breasts less susceptible to cancerous changes?
  • What if all the products available to us as consumers were good for the planet (soil, water and air quality) and for our bodies?
  • What if girls at puberty were taught simple healthy breast practices?
  • What if all women understood the anatomy of their breasts?
  • What if all communities in North America became pesticide-free?

The campaign started on Earth Day and ended on Rachel Carson Day. Rachel Carson was an environmentalist in the 1960’s who wrote a book called “Silent Spring”. She was a pioneer in creating awareness regarding the link between our health and the environment. The Rocky Mountain Soap Company hosts a running event during this time and it is an amazing event that typically sells out – I encourage you to participate in this event.

The campaign also provided daily practical solutions for keeping the critical relationship between the environment and health in mind, using the topics soil, air, water, our energy and our bodies.

Our soil

In naturopathic medical school, Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur  ND was one of my favourite teachers. Kaur, who has a naturopathic practice in Owen Sound, Ontario, specializing in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, says, “Not unlike our bodies, soil is a living biological entity composed of a community of organisms, organic matter and minerals. A healthy soil provides a high mineral and nutritional reservoir to nurture the vitality of the plants and, in turn, the animals (including humans) that are sustained by it. To establish good health, we need to honour the cycle of life, restore mineral balance to the soil and our food, and eliminate from the environment and our bodies harmful chemicals and heavy metals.”

Healthy soil action steps…

  • Purchase organically grown food or grow your own food and discourage the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
  • Embrace your playful spirit and dig in the dirt.
  • Connect with the earth and see what you find. Encourage children to join you.
  • Purchase organically grown food or grow your own food and discourage the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Watch CBC’s Wendy Mesley in “Chasing the Cancer Answer”. I was struck how, in documenting her own breast cancer journey and quest for answers, Mesley also revealed that cancer has become a business-an extremely profitable business for pharmaceutical companies.

Our water

“Rivers and lakes are the earth’s umbilical cord that brings us water and minerals; the oceans are our collective amniotic fluid. If the rivers and oceans are contaminated, so will the water be that makes up 70 percent of our physical structure,” says Dr. Kaur ND.

Healthy water action steps…

  • Filter your water and store in a glass container. My favourite is a reverse osmosis system with builtin activated charcoal, if you can afford it. Otherwise, go with the activated carbon block filter without silver. Store your filtered water in a glass container.
  • Stop using plastic water bottles. Health Canada has acknowledged the health risks associated with bisphenol-A, a toxic compound found in plastic – make the switch to a glass or stainless steel water bottle available at many health food stores. This will reduce the toxic load on your body, as well as decrease plastic refuse for the planet.
  • Drink water: The basic rule of thumb is to consume half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water – this is a MINIMUM recommendation. For example, a 140- pound person needs to drink a daily minimum of seven 10-ounce glasses of water each day.
  • Make a commitment to the purity of your drinking water and to the lakes, rivers and water table in your area. Clean up a local river, shoreline or stream by going for a hike and picking up garbage.
  • Prevent dehydration. When we are water deficient, the ability of our kidneys to filter toxins suffers and we have fewer stools. Headaches, fatigue, joint pain, inability to concentrate and digestive disturbances increase.

Our air

According to Dr. Kaur ND, “New plant growth continues to release oxygen, while carbon dioxide is absorbed by plants. The balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide ensures the quality of the air we breathe…Take steps to restore clean air in our homes, workplaces and communities.”

Healthy air action steps…

  • Reduce carbon emissions and choose to ride your bike, walk, car pool or take transit.
  • Discover the benefits of deep breathing and how it affects all facets of your life.  Being conscious of your breath in difficult moments can completely change your outlook!
  • Get some relief and take off your bra! Feel the air you breathe. There is a 21-fold greater chance of developing breast cancer in women who wear their bras more than 12 hours daily and a 113-fold increase in breast cancer incidence among women who wear their bras all the time. One of the factors that promotes tumour growth is poor microcirculation in the area where tumours develop (often due to impingement of tissue by underwire bras).

Our energy

“Our sun, from which we derive most of our planetary heat, light and energy, has existed for five billion years, and, like many of us, is considered to be in middle age. Without the sun, there would be no plant or animal life on Earth…” says Dr. Kaur ND.

Healthy energy action steps…

  • Invest your energy in activities, hobbies, volunteer work or causes you feel dedicated to and excited about that develop your skills and abilities.
  • Learn to define your needs and gifts.  Connect with groups of like-minded individuals throughout your life who support and validate you.
  • If possible resolve conflict as it occurs, rather than holding it inside you, or let it go. Find an outlet for expressing your feelings (be they anger, grief or despair) – such as journaling, art, counseling, song writing, etc. And then if that really isn’t working, do up your shoelaces and get out for a walk, run or bike and breathe it off.
  • Find a spiritual practice or exercise that you feel connected to. It is my personal belief that a connection to a spirit, whatever your chosen practice is, is critical and vital to healing yourself and the current state of the planet. If possible resolve conflict as it occurs, rather than holding it inside you, or let it go.

Our bodies

“The dramatic rise in breast cancer rates over the last half-century is not so much due to female hormones but to environmental chemicals that mimic female hormones and our body’s inability to eliminate them,” notes Dr. Kaur ND.

Healthy body action steps…

  • Minimize your exposure to xenoestrogens (see below), such as those found in plastic.
  • Eliminate plastic residues from your body by doing a supervised sauna detoxification.
  • Avoid plastic cling wrap. Use paper towels to wrap sandwiches. Reduce consumption of fatty foods packaged in plastic and heat-sealed containers.
  • Before accepting the new plastic coating treatment for your children’s teeth, ask your dentist whether it contains bisphenol-A.
  • Learn to read labels and properly dispose of unhealthy household cleaners.
  • Get comfortable with doing a self breast-exam. Your breasts will be easiest to examine right after your period. If you are not comfortable doing a self breast exam, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. Ask her/him to teach you how to do a self breast-exam. Get comfortable with the importance of breast massage.
  • Lastly, I encourage you to purchase her books, available online at Chapters/Indigo. Also, make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor and to take the necessary steps you need towards loving yourself, the planet and your life.

With one in nine women developing breast cancer, most women think they are going to be a cancer statistic, and the current media is cultivating a culture where we just assume we will get cancer. This needs to change. More specifically, we need to revolutionize how we think about and address our health.

Understanding Hormones and Breast Health

An article about breast cancer would be incomplete without mentioning the impact of hormones on our health. Hormones are chemical messengers our endocrine system, responsible for regulating many cellular processes. Hormone receptors are located throughout the body. Breast tissue is one area that contains a high amount of receptors for the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

There are three forms of estrogen (estriol, estradiol and estrone). Estradiol (E2) and estrone (E1) are associated with increased breast cancer risk while estriol (E3) may have protective properties.

The other important estrogen to know about is xenoestrogen-manmade synthetic chemicals found in our environment and known as estrogen imposters or hormonal disruptors. Sources of xenoestrogens include synthetic estrogens (birth control pill, HRT, fertility drugs, and hormones in meats and dairy products), chemicals leached into food from microwaving in plastic containers or in plastic wrap, certain detergents, plastics, cleaning supplies, herbicides and pesticides.

The body cannot tell the difference between a man-made chemical xenoestrogen and the estrogen the body naturally produces. As such, xenoestrogens disrupt our hormonal balance and messaging system. In addition, they attach more firmly to estrogen receptors and persist in our bodies and the environment longer than natural hormones because we do not have efficient ways to eliminate them. As a result, we are chronically exposed to a higher level of estrogen stimulation than necessary.

To add insult to injury, the accumulation of xenoestrogens typically occurs in our fatty tissue, such as the breasts. The cellular accumulation of fat-soluble toxins and xenoestrogens in the breast tissue can make the cells there more vulnerable to abnormal changes and cancer.

On a positive note, there are ways to help remove toxins from our bodies, including proper naturopathic detoxification methods, sauna protocols and homeopathic drainage protocols. Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the essential approach is to address the cause by decreasing the presence of these compounds in our lives and on our planet.

How Sugar Affects Your Health

After Halloween and Thanksgiving, do you find that you can’t get through the day without a sugary snack? You may be one of many people who are “addicted” to sugar. Signs of sugar addiction include irritability, frequent colds/flus, headaches, mood swings and insomnia. Sugar addiction is, in part, a by-product of sugar’s purity – the body is not suited to accommodate this level of refinement. Simple sugars – found in white table sugar, corn syrup, fructose, honey, white flour or any other super-refined carbohydrate- are refined to the point that digestion is practically superfluous. When you consume simple sugars, they are passed quickly into the bloodstream. Blood sugar levels skyrocket, and you experience a lift in energy. But that feeling of increased energy and mental alertness is temporary. As most of us can confirm, sugar highs lead to sugar crashes. And when that buzz wears off, the body cries out for more sugar. This dangerous blood sugar roller-coaster ride sets people up for future health problems, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Simply providing the body with more sugar does not address the root problem.

Some of the underlying causes for sugar cravings include: low endorphin levels, hypoglycemia, endocrine imbalances, candida overgrowth and nutritional deficiencies. In addition, sugar negatively impacts our immune systems and our moods. In the wake of flu season and the hysteria surrounding H1N1, it is advisable to decrease your consumption of sugar as it compromises the functioning of our immune systems. Also, with the winter months looming, many people are susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD – a lower mood or depressive state that results in the winter as a result of declining levels of sunlight and Vitamin D. Incidentally, Vitamin D has anti-viral properties, so it is an important player in the optimal functioning of our immune systems as well. Sugar cravings are often a misguided attempt by the body to increase serotonin levels in the system in order to elevate mood, albeit temporarily. The good news is that there are many other foods that increase serotonin levels without setting you up for negative long term health consequences like sugar.

Withdrawing gradually from sugar is recommended as quitting cold turkey can lead to restlessness, nervousness, headaches and depression. A first step to get off the blood sugar roller coaster is to increase the amount of complex carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grains and legumes) and protein in your diet – these take longer to digest and lead to a steady increase in blood sugar levels that decline gradually over time. Contact your Naturopathic Doctor to customize a nutritional plan for you today – visit to find a practitioner near you.

Healing is in the Feeling

When talking to my mom the other day, we were having a discussion about our family dynamics with particular reference to the current season of Christmas. This is often a time when emotions can be running higher than normal for many reasons: expectations, past hurts or disappointments, pressure to see and do too much in a short period of time, over indulgences in foods and drinks that we don’t normally consume outside our regular routines, etc. For me personally, Christmas was such a joyous time as a child. My parents did such a wonderful job at creating the magic of it all for my brother and I. I was always so excited for Christmas day and setting out the cookies for Santa and his reindeers. To this day, I find myself reminiscing about the traditions they created for my brother and I. From the “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree that my dad and brother would usually cut from our property or the forest, from me forcing the question of “Who is the Jesus character anyways and why is He so important?”, from the most scrumptious Christmas treats my mom would bake and the turkey feast we would eat, the meaningful decorations around the house, visiting with my family from both sides, and of course, waiting for Dad to have his morning coffee and something to eat before we could open any presents (and I should mention that I was usually up first, as the youngest member of the household and the rest of my family would tell me to go back to sleep until the more “reasonable” hour of 6 am).

When I was a teenager, I started to notice more things. My parents didn’t seem that happy in their relationship. My brother, who is 4 years older than me, seemed to be up to no good with his teenage antics and he served as a wonderful teacher to me as to what NOT to do when I was his age. Eventually, my brother went traveling when he was 19 to Australia for an indefinite period and my parents divorced that same fall – the year I entered another new school and started grade 11 at Senior High School (1983). And from 1983 until 1990, Christmas was really not much fun anymore for me. I felt torn between my dad and mom, I felt obligated to make Christmas a “joyous” time for my mom and I wanted everyone to get along.

Over time, my mom shared with me why Christmas was such a hard time for her. She grew up in an alcoholic home, with a father that drank away the income he earned and a mother that had to sneak out of the house to get a job to feed her children. She looked after her younger brother because of this and did most of the household chores so that her father would not take his anger out on them anymore. It is completely understandable why she has bad memories and equally understandable why she sought a better experience for her own children when they were young. Interestingly enough, my grandfather died in December 1967, six months after I was born and my parents adopted me, in a drunk driving accident at the age of 50. Thankfully, only he died and only the telephone pole and vehicle were the collateral carnage in the wreck. Emotionally, my mother was able to relax a little knowing the worry of her fathers antics were finally over and the healing of the first 21 years of her life could finally begin.
And, at the age of 66, she is still healing. As she said to me the other day on the phone, “I don’t get it, I keep busy, I keep on doing things and then out of the blue, the feelings just whelm up inside of me and the tears start flowing. I know where it stems from – my dad, and now your brother”. My response to her was this: “Mom, the wound from the memory of your dad is so deep that it cuts to the center of your being. The healing comes when you fully stop, let all the tears flow and on the other side, you will find joy. The reason you keep so busy is to avoid feeling. God forbid any of us should stop and truly feel the pain of life. The healing is in the feeling.

It takes time, sometimes it takes a lifetime, but you only have this one life to live – so it is your choice, keep on doing and running. Or STOP and feel it – all of it. Let the tears flow like a stream, river, lake, ocean, fountain or tsunami and trust in the healing process. Trust me, eventually you will feel better and the tears will stop flowing. Right now, it is like you have a dam or wall of protection built up inside you from the experience of your first 25 years on the planet. You don’t have to defend yourself anymore and you can release that pain for good. Visualize all the pain that these two have caused you like a sack of rocks that you have been carrying over your shoulders for 66 years. It is pretty heavy. Now, imagine setting that sack down, walking away and notice the lightness you are able to feel in your being when you sigh a deep breath of relief – just one breath – from letting go. Now is the time to let go of Grandpa and of my brother, Greg. May you finally have peace this Christmas, even if I am not there to hug you”.

And the best part of this story, my mom is taking my 3 year old step-niece to the neighborhood church in their Swedish town this Christmas to introduce her to the music and the true meaning of this season.

Peace and good will to all
May everyone create meaningful memories and traditions this Holiday season.

Dr. Christina Bjorndal, Leader in Optimizing Health

Environmental Toxins – Do You Know Your Body’s Levels?

What does your Teflon frying pan, microwave popcorn, pizza box and lipstick have in common? How about a receipt from the store, a can of tuna and a plastic water bottle? Let’s not forget that cute rubber duck in the bathtub, anti-bacterial hand soap near the sink, Colgate Total toothpaste and the deodorant in the bathroom cabinet. The answer is chemicals – namely perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), bisphenol-A (BPA), mercury, triclosan and phthalates. According to the Canadian authors of “Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects our Health” – this is a bad news story with a positive outcome.

The bad news is that our bodies are affected on a daily basis by chemicals from environmental pollutants, medications, contaminants in our water supply, pesticides, hormones in our food supply, cooking utensils, pots and pans (Teflon and plastic), cosmetic products, alcohol, children’s toys, canned foods and the list goes on. The cumulative effect of these chemicals can contribute to a wide variety of health concerns, such as: reproductive problems, hormone imbalances, breast cancer, testicular cancer, fatigue, immune dysfunction, asthma, birth defects, liver damage, attention deficit disorder and dementia – to name a few.

Some of the chemicals mentioned above have a short life in the body and others are persistent which is a problem not only for you as an individual, but also for the planet. However, it is not a doom and gloom story. As the toxic load in our bodies continues to increase, detoxification is critical to maintain optimal health. The first steps include:
1) understanding your body’s natural detoxification processes
2) learning what factors in our everyday lives disrupt this process and
3) taking the necessary steps to get back on track. This includes a carefully designed nutritional detoxification program that is supported by research and science.

Keep in mind that your body’s ability to detoxify may be impaired by factors such as: prescription medications, constipation, poor kidney health, insufficient detoxifying enzymes, poor liver health and/or inadequate nutrients, vitamins and minerals that the liver and other detoxification systems need to perform effectively. At our clinic, we offer an Environmental Pollutants test which measures the level of parabens, phthalates, and volatile solvents in the body. Then based on the results to various pollutants, a treatment program is customized for each patient which supports the organs of detoxification (ie liver, kidneys, colon, lungs and skin). We also recommend the following simple steps to protect your family:

1. Read ingredients on products, as phthalates often are not listed; however, the word “Fragrance” or “Parfum” near the end of the ingredient list is your clue that the product contains phthalates.

2. Unplug air fresheners as many contain phthalates. Baking soda is a natural alternative that can be used to absorb bad odors.

3. Visit to check out ingredients in the toys you own or want to purchase to ensure they are not harmful for your children.

4. Avoid too much fast food – hamburger, pizza or microwavable popcorn packaging may be coated with PFCs (perfluorinated compounds).

5. BPA leaches from containers into the contents and we end up consuming it. Containers do not need to be heated for this to occur. Switch to glass or stainless steel containers where possible. Do not microwave your leftovers in polycarbonate or plastic containers – use glass containers instead. Do not use a plastic lid cover in the microwave to prevent food from spraying. Better yet, don’t use a microwave.

6. Change cookware from Teflon (especially if its scratched) to stainless steel or cast-iron and change plastic cooking spoons and spatulas to wood or metal.

7. Buy flaked, skipjack or chunk light tuna instead of solid white (albacore) tuna, which has the highest amounts of mercury. Check out the US Natural Resources Defense Council tuna calculator to see how the fish you are eating affects your mercury levels. King mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish also contain high amounts of mercury so avoid these as well.

For more information see:

8. Avoid products labeled “antibacterial” that contain triclosan (ie Microban, Biofresh, Lexol 300). Wash your hands the “old fashioned” way, with a good 30-second lather of soap and water. Colgate Total toothpaste also contains triclosan.

9. Check out to find out what’s in your cosmetic products. If your products rate greater than 5 out of 10 on the toxicity scale, find healthy alternatives by visiting a health food store.

10. When puzzling over the small recycling numbers on the bottom of plastic containers, remember this pneumonic: 4, 5, 1 and 2; all the rest are bad for you.

11. Use cloth bags instead of plastic bags for shopping.

12. Encourage politicians to introduce legislation to phase out PFCs from food wrapper and other consumer products, to legislate for better control of triclosan, and to demand non-toxic toys for your children.

13. Refer to the Environmental Working Groups dirty dozen and clean 15 lists to see which vegetables and fruit contain the most and least amount of pesticides (

14. Get your levels of chemicals tested – Naturopathic Clinics can run an Environmental Pollutants Panel – ask your Naturopathic doctor if you need to be tested.

Earth Day and Detoxification

With the 51st anniversary of Earth Day just around the corner, we encourage you to make a positive change for your health and the environment. Here are a few tips for you:

1. Review the “dirty dozen” list (see below)– which is a list of the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides – and commit to purchasing them organic. We know it is more expensive, however, you are what you eat, absorb and don’t excrete, right!?

2. Dispose of cosmetic and personal hygiene products that contain: chlorinated pesticides, heavy metals, PCBs and solvents. Visit the Environmental Working Groups cosmetic database to see how your cosmetics rate environmentally. Click Here to see the database. 

3. Get moving! Dust off your bike or lace up your walking shoes and instead of driving to the store for a few groceries, walk or ride! Every trip where you do not turn on your ignition saves the environment by reducing emissions. And remember, no one wins when you idle your vehicle – not your pocketbook, not your children having to breathe in more pollutants and especially not the environment.

4. Stop buying water from the grocery store: watch The Story of Bottled Water and remember that a home filtration system and Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottles are great steps to take for the environment, your health and pocket book (in the long run).

5. We encourage patients to read “Clean, Green and Lean – Get Rid of Toxins that Make you Fat” – by Naturopathic colleague Dr. Walter Crinnion. Remember to take the environmental toxin quiz to find out the level of toxins in your body. If you are exposed to lots of toxins, book an appointment with Dr. Mason-Wood ND who can help you detoxify your body.

6. Along the detoxification theme, we are pleased to promote our colleague, Dr. Carol Morley’s ND new book titled: “Delicious Detox” – a cookbook to help you through the detoxification process”. Click here to buy the book.  Congrats Carol!!

7. Participate in an event on Earth Day!  For ideas to create your own event in your community check out!


1. Strawberries
2. Spinach
3. Kale, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens
4. Nectarines
5. Apples
6. Grapes
7. Cherries
8. Peaches
9. Pears
10. Bell and Hot Peppers
11. Celery
12. Tomatoes



  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Brocolli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwi
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew Melon
  15. Cantaloupe



Guidelines for Eating a Healthy Diet by Dr. Chris, ND

Diet is the foundation of health! You are what you eat, what you absorb and what you don’t excrete. Profitability drives our society and it, not your nutritional health, is the key motivating force behind the food industry. Many high-sugar, high salt, and high-fat foods are intensely marketed and often, the advertising influence of companies impacts our diet and health more than information from health professionals. As food technology has continued to advance, shelf life has replaced health life. Technological developments have provided benefits, but most often I find the time-saving, mass processing of food is not in the best interest of nutrition.

Many diets consist of a high intake of red meat, saturated fat, sodium and alcohol; such a diet provides less nutrition per calorie consumed than does a wholesome diet of natural foods. The decreased consumption of vegetables and complex carbohydrates means a lower intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Research has linked many well known diseases (i.e. obesity, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer, behavioural problems, mental health issues) with poor diet. Perhaps you don’t consider yourself as being at risk for developing a serious disease, yet you experience the following symptoms: fatigue, headaches, mood swings, indigestion, constipation, skin problems, menstrual discomfort and weight problems. These symptoms not only interfere with your ability to fully enjoy life, they are early warning signs for future problems. Eating a healthy diet can improve these complaints, as well as, protect you against serious disease. The following effects are experienced when you make a consistent effort to eat well: more energy, decreased cravings, better digestion, improved concentration, increased ability to handle stress, glowing hair, skin and nails and painless menstrual periods. Prevention is the best medicine and as Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said: “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”.

When it comes to food and eating right, I find many people are unclear about how to read food labels and what “types” of food to eat. Here is what I explain to my patients:

  • There are three macromolecules: fat, protein and carbohydrates. All three are important to our well-being.
  • Each macromolecule can be divided into two “micro-molecule” categories:
    • fat = saturated “bad” fat and polyunsaturated “good” or “essential” fat
    • protein = non-essential and essential amino acids
    • carbohydrates = refined and complex carbohydrates
  •  The idea is to eat more of the essential fats and proteins, as well as complex carbohydrates and limit the “bad” foods. We need to do this because our body cannot make these essential foods. That is why they are “essential” and we must get them from our diets or nature. The easiest way to do this is to shop only around the perimeter of the grocery store. Or if you must go up and down the aisles, choose boxed, canned or processed foods with 5 or less ingredients. When you are reading ingredients, start from the bottom of the list and read backwards. If there are many fancy words that you have never heard of – this should be your first warning sign that maybe this food isn’t such a good idea. You want your food to fuel you and satisfy your hunger, not burden your organs of detoxification and fill up your fat cells.  It is also very important to chew your food thoroughly. I am finding that in our “fast food nation” many people forget that the digestive process actually starts in the kitchen with the sense of smell when we are cooking our food. This sense of smell triggers our brain and sends the message to our stomach that food is coming. The stomach, in turn, starts secreting all the digestive enzymes we need to adequately process our food so that it can be broken down into micronutrients or “fuel” that our body needs to survive.
  • The next challenge for patients is really a simple math equation. Food is measured in calories, but listed on labels as calories per gram. So, for the three macronutrients, you need to remember two numbers: 9 calories/gram for fats and 4 calories/gram for protein and carbohydrates. The problem with nutrition labels is that they list total calories as a percentage of daily value, but many of us have a different “daily value”.
  • My daily value for the three food groups is a balance of 30% complex carbohydrates, 30 % protein (ensuring more essential proteins) and 30% essential polyunsaturated fat (primarily omega 3) and the rest of my daily calories comes from “fun” foods. What this means is that if you want to eat an energy bar and the label reads as follows:
Total calories: 243 calories per 55g serving.
Label Actual Calories Consumed Food Nutrients
Fat 11 grams
– sat fat 1.5 g
– trans fat 0 g
11 grams of fat X 9 calories/gram = 99 calories from fat (most of this fat is the “good” or essential fat. This is a good thing.) 99 calories/243 total calories = 40.7%
Carbs 29 g
– Fibre 2 g
– Sugars 14 g
29 grams of carbs X 4 calories/gram = 116 calories from carbs 116 calories/243 total calories = 47.7%
Protein 7 g 7 grams of protein X 4 calories/gram = 28 calories 28 calories/243 total calories = 11.6%
Total calories99+116+28=243=100%

The questions you have to ask yourself are: 1) Does this food choice fit into my overall eating objective? and 2) Will this food choice help me reach my goal?  Even though this energy bar does not break down into the perfect ratio of 30-30-30, it meets my other food criteria: high in essential fats, high in complex carbohydrates, ingredients I understand and most importantly – I like this energy bar! In summary, my top seven tips for feeding your body what it needs includes the following:

  • Eat a good breakfast and don’t skip meals: It is important to have a small amount of protein (nuts, eggs, and yogurt) and a variety of fruit and hearty whole grains for breakfast in order to carry you through until lunch time. If you skip a meal, you increase the likelihood that you will be excessively hungry later in the day and more likely to eat too much of the “wrong” type of food.
  • Eat slowly: take at least 20 minutes to eat a meal as it takes this long for your stomach to send the “full” message to your brain. By rushing your meals, you can eat too much before you realize you are satisfied.
  • Shop smart: Nutritious foods are found around the perimeter of grocery stores, not in boxes in the food aisles. Do not go shopping when you are hungry and avoid buying obvious high-fat junk foods. Learn to read labels and do not buy items that have the following words listed as ingredients: refined, sugar, glucose, sucrose, hydrogenated, high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol) and artificial sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, Nutrasweet, Equal).
  • Prepare for times of weakness: recognize times or events that signal you to eat, such as an argument, hard day at work, talking on the phone, watching TV, being bored. Plan activities that don’t involve food for these times, such as exercising, taking a long bath or reading a good book.
  • Be your own best friend: if your friend makes a mistake, you don’t call them a failure or tell them to give up. If you stray from your eating plan, don’t be hard on yourself. Treat each lapse as temporary, not a sign of failure. Simply resume your program and don’t look back.
  • Drink plenty of water (filtered with minerals remaining): water flushes toxins from your body and helps keep your appetite under control
  • Exercise: You put on weight if your daily caloric consumption exceeds your caloric expenditure. By exercising, we influence an important part of the weight formula – so let’s get moving!!!

Contact us at 587-521-3595 to get your health on track today!

I Have a Leaky What? Leaky Gut Explained

Think, for a moment, of the intestinal lining in your digestive tract as a tile floor. For a tile floor to not leak, we put grout between the tiles. When the grout is damaged, the floor leaks.

The same goes for your intestinal lining. The space between the cells (called Tight Junctions) is like grout, ensuring that undigested food does not make it into your body.

Food must be digested all the way down to the most simple substances (glucose, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, phospholipids) in order to be transported across the cell wall, through the cell, back out the other side, then through the space between the intestinal lining and the blood vessels, and finally into the blood stream.

When the “grout” in the intestinal lining is damaged (due to stress, antibiotics, yeast or candida, gluten, to name a few causes), then partially digested food can get between the cells into the area where your immune system is “on guard” waiting to attack “foreign substances.” Stress reduces our ability to digest food as digestion is a parasympathetic nervous system function.

This is where IgG food intolerances develop. This is how we develop an IgG food intolerances. You have five immunoglobulins (Ig) at your defence: IgG, IgA, IgM, IgE, IgD. For example, an IgE immune reaction is when you have an anaphylactic or life threatening allergic response (ie eat a peanut and you feel your throat closing). With food intolerances, IgG is mounted. In an IgG reaction, the IgG antibodies attach themselves to the food antigen and create an antibody-antigen complex1. These complexes are normally removed by special immune cells called macrophages. However, if they are present in large numbers and the reactive food is still being consumed, the macrophages can’t keep up.  The food antigen-antibody complexes accumulate and are deposited in body tissues. Once in the tissue and the immune system is activated, it sends inflammatory signals throughout the body which play a role in numerous diseases and conditions. This is why symptoms of food intolerances and leaky gut can appear anywhere, not just in the digestive tract

Just as a drop of ink discolors an entire gallon of water, one exposure to an intolerant food can cause severe symptoms (usually within 1-4 days) after consumption. But not only that – the exposure becomes an additional stress on the body which perpetuates the susceptibility to illness. It makes sense that the immune system reacts to the foods that are coming through – which is often the foods that you regularly eat. In treatment, the priority is to heal the leaky gut, not just to avoid the foods that are triggering the reaction.

How do you know if you have leaky gut?

There are tests available that specifically measure whether substances that don’t usually traverse the intestinal lining, are getting through. The most common way to identify this is by doing an IgG food intolerance panel. Based on the number and severity of IgG reactions, as well as the types of foods that show as reactive (wheat, for example), we can determine that leaky gut exists.

How to heal leaky gut?

The treatment we suggest at our clinic is a five step process called “The 5 R’s” – 1. Remove the offending foods 2. Repair the GI tract 3. Reinoculate the digestive tract with good bacteria 4. Reintroduce the foods you initially reacted to. 5. Treat the Liver. Avoiding the foods that the immune system is attacking is the first step to healing leaky gut because it helps to reduce inflammation and to prevent the perpetuation of leaky gut.

The single best thing you could do to address the underlying cause is to avoid gluten because it directly causes leaky gut by disrupting the “grout” (by stimulating a substance called zonulin). Taking digestive enzymes and probiotics (and hydrochloric acid when needed) helps to ensure that all food is fully digested by the time it gets to the intestines.

It is also important to address intestinal yeast or candida overgrowth, heavy metal toxicity, and infection anywhere in the body (Lyme, Mono, tooth infection, etc) when it is present.

The second step in addressing leaky gut is to take nutrients and herbs that have been shown to heal it. These include, but are not limited to, L-glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, zinc, berberine, herbal licorice (Glycyrrhiza), quercetin and aloe vera leaf extract.
What is the impact of leaky gut?
While leaky gut (also known as Intestinal Permeability) is established in the medical community, and significant research on the subject is coming out every year, it is not often addressed in conventional medical care. Meanwhile, it is a major underlying cause of illnesses of all sorts, in every system of the body. From chronic fatigue, sinusitis, and interstitial cystitis, to anxiety, depression, hypothyroidism, autoimmunity (of all types) and cancer, leaky gut is both an originator of illness and a result of illness.

Stress and the adrenal response (cortisol and adrenaline) are both a result of leaky gut and a cause of leaky gut, due to suppression of digestion, immunity and hormone function. Supporting and rebalancing adrenal function is an important part of healing leaky gut.

How long does it take to heal?

Putting a stop to this snowball effect and vicious cycle associated with leaky gut is not done overnight. It requires diligence, consistency and changes both in diet and lifestyle over months to years.

The good news is that it is possible to heal. I’ve seen it in practice. Patients report a gradual decrease in symptoms over 1 to 12 months.

Overall, healing leaky gut is a TOP priority for achieving optimal health, which I am here to help you accomplish!



Mind Body Spirit – Give Yourself the Gift of Health

The reason I became a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) is simple: I was sick and tired of being tired and sick. I had a high profile job reporting to a high profile CEO in the investment management industry and had been diagnosed with several health challenges: cancer, depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure due to stress. In addition, I was recovering from an eating disorder and an addiction to exercise given my talent as a track competitor at the National level and Ironman triathlete background.

I was used to the “traditional” medical model – go to your MD, get referred to specialist A, B, C or D and stay in the “system”. After 15 years of being in “the system” and not getting satisfactory results, I conceded to my friends requests and agreed that there MUST be another way to address all my health problems – including my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual states. I started seeing an ND in 1996, after waiting 2 years to get an appointment. And, I have not looked back. I even made an extremely difficult choice when I was 33 years of age and passed up an incredible job opportunity after asking myself one question: “If money didn’t matter, what would I be doing with my life, career-wise?” The answer came immediately to me: Become a Naturopathic Doctor and help people recover from the same illnesses you have dealt with using a balanced approach that involves more than simply suppressing symptoms with pharmaceuticals.

This issue of Connect is about your Mind, Body and Spirit – to date, Naturopathic Medicine is the only medical model that I know of, that addresses all these aspects in an individual. Naturopathic medicine refers to a distinct system of primary healthcare that uses natural methods and substances to support and stimulate the body’s inherent self-healing process. It is a system of medicine that is based on prevention and promotes the optimum health and wellness of individuals by taking into account the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of one’s life when diagnosing and developing a treatment plan.

Naturopathic doctors view individuals as an integral whole where symptoms are seen as warning signals of improper functioning or imbalances in the body and with one’s environment. The objective of Naturopathic medicine is to address the root or underlying cause of disease, rather than to simply treat or suppress symptoms and we work as leaders on your health care team, in conjunction with medical doctors and specialists, for your benefit. Give yourself the most important gift of a lifetime – the gift of health. Consult with a Naturopathic doctor today to optimize your health – do it for yourself, your family and perform better at work as a positive side effect!

Naturopathic Guidelines for Depression & Anxiety

Statistics report that 1 in 4 people experience depression or anxiety in their lifetime. The good news is that it is a very treatable condition. The naturopathic approach to depression and anxiety focuses on identifying and treating the cause using a combination of dietary, lifestyle and herbal/supplement recommendations, as well as cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Nowadays, the terms “depression” and “anxiety” are used loosely so both internal and external imbalances can be the cause. By internal influences I am referring to an imbalance in brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that leads to distorted moods, thinking, and behaviour. That is why a person who seemingly has everything going for them with no apparent reason to be depressed or anxious can be.

There are many alternatives to treating depression and anxiety. Our diet has a significant influence on our brain’s behaviour. A poor diet, especially one high in junk food, is often a contributing factor.

The levels of neurotransmitters in our brain are controlled by what we eat. One very important neurotransmitter is serotonin – serotonin plays a role in mood, sleep, and appetite. Low levels of serotonin may result from diets too high in simple sugars/ carbohydrates (e.g., white sugar, white flour, sweets, and processed foods) and lead to depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

Diets high in complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, help to increase serotonin and elevate mood. In general, eat a diet that is high in raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains (e.g., brown rice, oats, and millet), raw unsalted nuts and seeds, and legumes (e.g., chick peas, kidney beans, peas, lentils). Such a diet will ensure adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates to increase and balance serotonin levels in the brain.