Sea buckthorn is one of the botanical herbs that we use in Naturopathic Medicine. It is also a herb we commonly find in our neighbourhood.
Sea buckthorn has been used for thousands of years, with one of the first recorded being around 600-900 AD. Traditionally, it has been used to help with indigestion, injuries and skin healing, liver issues and cardiovascular issues.
The Sea buckthorn plant is a shrub found in many places around the world including Canada, Tibet, India, Russia, Mongolia and Northern Europe. The plant contains tart, orange-yellow berries which are high in many nutrients. The leaves are also high in nutrients. This makes it an important herb with many different medicinal uses.
Sea buckthorn is high in nutrients such as…
- Vitamin C – good for immune health and antioxidants
- B vitamins – good for stress, cell repair and nerve regeneration,
- Vitamin K – helps promote wound healing and plays a role in clotting
- Vitamin A – a great antioxidant can help with skin and immune health
- Vitamin E – can help with liver function, brain health, skin health and immune health
- Quercetin – helpful in allergies and is anti-inflammatory
The primary benefits of the leaves include their action in wound healing and skin health. There are many ways in which sea buckthorn does this. Using sea buckthorn when healing from an injury can reduce inflammation, increase cell regrowth, amplify collagen production, increase blood vessels to the area, and has some anti-bacterial/ anti-viral effects. For wound healing, Sea buckthorn is usually applied topically, however you should consult your naturopathic doctor for the best way to use this product.
Additionally, Sea Buckthorn is gaining popularity in cosmetic properties because of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and collagen-stimulating effects.
Sea buckthorn is also believed to be liver protection, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, immune supportive, anti-stress, anti-oxidant and possibly even anti-carcinogenic.
This amazing herb has so many beneficial properties, and you just might be able to spot one in your neighbourhood.
Watch the video to learn more: https://youtu.be/U_7PsHIHRx8
Suryakumar, G., & Gupta, A. (2011). Medicinal and therapeutic potential of Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.). Journal of ethnopharmacology, 138(2), 268-278.
At a time like this, mental health matters more than ever. We need to take care of ourselves, our bodies and our minds. Mental healthcare is one of the biggest unmet needs of our time, and is something most people tend to ignore.
This is why it’s important to acknowledge the effects of environmental toxins on our mental health.
In this latest Myers Detox Podcast with Wendy Myers, our very own Dr. Christina Bjorndal ND talks to us about the many toxins that contribute to declining mental health. She believes that the increasing rates of suicides, depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders is largely due to toxins in our environment. You can listen to the podcast here.
The following is a transcript of the podcast where Dr. Chris ND addresses…
- Anxiety and depression are not usually a deficiency in a neurotransmitter. What else leads to imbalances?
- How neurotransmitter receptors can be inhibited by toxins.
- Why Dr. Bjorndal ND believes that the increasing suicides, depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders is largely due to toxins in our environment.
- The specific toxins that dramatically impact your mood and mental health.
- The role of trauma in mood swings and mental health.
- Solution: The 5 pillars of addressing environmental toxins.
The Myers Detox Podcast with Dr. Christina Bjorndal ND
Wendy Myers: Hello everyone. I’m Wendy Myers of myersdetox.com. Thank you so much for joining me today for The Myers Detox Podcast. On this show, we have all types of guests talking about toxins and their role in various health issues. We also discuss how to detox these toxins, as well. Today we have Dr. Christina Bjorndal on the show. She’s going to be talking about environmental toxins and the role they play in contributing to mental health issues like anxiety, depression and eating disorders. It’s a really, really interesting conversation. We talk about the role of nutrition. We talk about the role of all the various toxins that will wreak havoc in reducing neurotransmitter production, like serotonin. They interfere with the receptors that help to make neuro-transmitters. We discuss your organs and if those aren’t working properly, you’re going to have some anxiety and depression.
Wendy Myers: We’ll also talk about the role of trauma. That’s a toxin that plays a role in anxiety and depression. We’ll talk about your hormones, thyroid hormones, sex hormones and how those are interfered with by toxins. That can have a role in your mental health. We’ll discuss everything under the sun, looking at these different underlying root causes that aren’t going to typically be addressed by your conventional medical doctor. They’re going to just write you a prescription. We talk about why that isn’t always the answer and why those aren’t working for some people. It’s a really, really interesting show.
Wendy Myers: I know you guys who are listening are concerned about toxins. You’re wondering what is in your body and what do you need to detox? I created a quiz called the heavymetalsquiz.com, just go to heavymetalsquiz.com and take the two-minute quiz. I’ve asked you a number of lifestyle questions to determine your relative level of toxicity, in your body. Then I give you a free video series that answers a lot of people’s frequently asked questions, like where do I get started with detox? What type of testing is best? What kind of supplements work for detoxification? Where should I start?
Wendy Myers: There’s a whole free video series for you after you take that quiz at heavymetalsquiz.com. Our guest today, Dr. Christina Bjorndal is a naturopathic doctor. She’s considered an authority in the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders and eating disorders. She uses a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual approach. Having overcome many mental health challenges. Dr. Chris is a gifted speaker and writer. She has shared her wellness philosophy with audiences, from platforms such as the Jenny McCarthy Show, The International Bipolar Foundation and many health summits and docu-series.
Wendy Myers: She is recognized as a top naturopathic doctor to follow, by two independent organizations. Her book Beyond The Label is a comprehensive guide to naturopathic mental health. You can learn more about her work at drchristinabjorndal.com. Dr. Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Thanks so much for having me.
Wendy Myers: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your journey in regaining your mental health? What did you learn in that process and how did toxins play a role as well?
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Sure, I’m a naturopathic doctor. It was really through my own journey of regaining my mental health that I have become a naturopathic doctor. My struggles began in junior high when I developed an eating disorder. A key point I want to make was that in the year prior to developing the eating disorder, I was treated with antibiotics to address acne. There’s a lot of research now that shows a relationship between the gut microbiome and the brain, and that there is this bi-directional relationship. This is important because it really highlights taking a patient’s case, and in naturopathic medicine we really want to address what the root cause is. Often, disruption in the microbiome as well as the subsequent exposure to toxins, which I’ll talk about, can play a role in one’s mental health.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Starting with the eating disorder, which was bulimia. I then went on to university. I was doing fine. I was an overachiever type. I found myself in a place I’d never been before in my third year, which was depressed and really anxious. I was prescribed some more medication. I was taking a tricyclic antidepressant at that time. Then about three months later, I spun out of control into a delusional, psychotic manic episode. I was then given a new diagnosis to deal with, which was called bipolar disorder, type one.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: What I did with that was, I pretty much didn’t want to look at it. I didn’t want anybody to know that I had been given this diagnosis. I felt a lot of stigma and a lot of shame around it. I carried forward in the world and just continued wearing this mask of I’m okay on the outside, but I’m actually not doing that great on the inside. I spent most of my time battling depression and anxiety. I had a suicide attempt that left me in a coma with kidney failure and I was on dialysis. I was told I would need a kidney transplant.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I can tell you that when I came out of that coma, I certainly wasn’t a happy camper. I wasn’t happy that this attempt did not work. It also caused me to realize that I needed to figure out another way. The path that I was on with pharmaceutical medication was not leading me anywhere where I was actually getting better. I was really at war with myself most of the time. I was really hating who I was. I was given a book to read by Marianne Williamson. In this book, there’s a quote on surrender which goes along these lines. Surrender is not about breaking out of anything. It’s a gentle melting into who we really are. We let down our armor and we discover that all God needs is just one sincere surrendered moment, where love matters more than anything and nothing else really matters at all.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: For me, the two key words in that were surrender and love. I mean, I didn’t love and accept myself. I figured that that was a really important step in my healing. That’s basically the journey I’ve been on for the last 30 years. Figuring out how to love and accept myself. A key part of that process is learning what foods to eat and learning how to treat my body with the respect that it actually deserves. Learning to view this vehicle that I’ve been given as the most important vehicle. One that I should be investing in.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I eventually made it and I got better. I started seeing a naturopathic doctor. I started seeing a functional nutritionally-oriented psychiatrist and I got better. At that time, it was really hard to find help. This was in the 1990s and it wasn’t as popular as it is today. The information wasn’t as readily accessible as it is today. I ended up making a career change. I had been in the corporate world. There were so few options for help out there and I knew that there were a lot of people suffering, so I made a career change and here I am.
Wendy Myers: I really identify with what you’re talking about because I had the same trials. I had been depressed through most of my 20s and into my 30s. I had an eating disorder that I was struggling with and perfectionism, which can go hand in hand with eating disorders. I was taking medications like Xanax and Lexapro. I tried that for like a year and a half, and was really not having a lot of success there. Then I took stimulants like diet pills and anything that gives you a boost and gives you that feeling of joy, which is what we’re all moving forward towards. We want to feel pleasure and move away from pain. Then I just realized none of that is really going to go anywhere. You have to love yourself and have proper nutrition.
Wendy Myers: I also discovered detoxification. Let’s talk a little about that because I think that many times, people are looking externally for some sort of cause of depression, anxiety or what have you. There must be something going on, like I’m reacting to this event or I’m reacting to this thing. They’re not really thinking about inside, that something maybe going haywire in their chemistry. It’s not as serotonin depletion as the pharmaceutical companies would have you believe. There’s a lot more going on. Can you explain some of those complexities as to why we may not be feeling good?
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: One of the things to understand is basically picking up on what you just said about the serotonin deficiency. Most times, whenever is somebody struggling with depression and anxiety, we do what we’re told, right? We’re told that, “Oh, well, you don’t have enough of this neurotransmitter.” It’s usually serotonin, sometimes GABA, sometimes dopamine and sometimes norepinephrine. We’re going to give you a medication that’s going to increase that within you.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: One of the keys to understand is that there could be toxins, heavy metals or chemicals playing a role, when you take these pharmaceuticals and you don’t feel better. It’s not just about cranking up the dose, but the doctor will say that often, “Oh no, you have got to take more. You have got to take more.” Despite taking more, you’re still not feeling better.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: One of the things we want to understand, especially if you’re prescribed an SSRI medication, most times people are told that you’re depressed or anxious because you have a deficiency of serotonin or whatever the neurotransmitter may be. If you’re taking one of these medications and the doctor keeps increasing the dose, and you’re just not getting better, it can indicate one of two things. It can indicate that you don’t actually have a deficiency. You could actually be making the neurotransmitter with no problem, but there’s something from the environment that’s blocking the cell.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Every cell has receptors and receptors can be blocked by endocrine disruptors, by heavy metals and by other chemicals. If what I’m saying is resonating with you, then this is where you need to speak with somebody like Wendy or myself. Someone who understands how to do a proper, integrated detoxification to help clear these chemicals from the extracellular matrix. In naturopathic medicine, we refer to it as this idea of drainage or biotherapeutic drainage.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: The other indication is it could mean that this is the wrong macro system to be addressing. It could be that you have hormones that are out of balance and those need to be supported. The third area, which is really the focus of what Wendy talks about is the organs of detoxification can also be playing a role in mental health. If you have an imbalance in phase one or phase two liver detoxification pathways, if you’re constipated which leads to something called leaky gut syndrome, if these things are going on within you then they can also be contributing to the mental health symptoms that you’re experiencing.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: It’s really important to investigate what’s the root of the problem or roots. There can be more than one thing going on. If you’re really wanting to get to this place of healing, we don’t want to just always place a band-aid over the problem. We really want to be able to remove whatever it may be that’s causing the problem so that we can restore the body back to function.
Wendy Myers: Can we get into some details there? What kind of toxins would be interfering with your neurotransmitter receptors or interfering or outright causing anxiety or depression?
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: The main ones that I look at can be heavy metals. Lead and mercury are the two main ones from an environmental perspective, but there’s also things like parabens, phthalates, VOCs and solvents. There’s many different chemicals that also can play a role. There’s testing that can be done to determine whether you have high levels of these compounds in you and then what kind of detoxification program is required.
Wendy Myers: What about the thyroid? You mentioned that your hormones can be off and that can be contributing. We know the thyroid produces thyroid hormones. If you don’t have enough, you can be depressed. That’s so common. So many people don’t realize that their thyroid is depressed or they have Graves’ disease. They have hyperthyroidism. I frankly feel like I got divorced because my husband had Graves’ and he had hyperthyroidism. He was anxious and irritated all the time. I just wanted to get away from him, honestly.
Wendy Myers: He found out after our divorce that he actually had Graves’ and that just made him anxious all the time. Mercury is a huge cause of that. What else is interfering with our hormones that can contribute to mood swings, anger, anxiety and depression.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: With hypothyroid, the one that can also be involved is chloride. Chloride and fluoride. Any of the bromine compounds in the periodic table can affect iodine. From a hypothyroid perspective, you need iodine in order for the thyroid to function normally. That’s something that’s important and something that we always talk about, “Oh, drink, lots of water, drink lots of water,” but it’s the quality of the water that you’re drinking. Does it have fluoride in it? If you’re somebody who is swimming all the time in a pool that’s full of chlorine, I mean, your skin is your biggest detoxification organ. Whatever you’re putting on your skin is going to be affecting the other cells in your body.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: There is something I read recently that perfume is now the new secondhand smoke. A lot of people are wearing lots of perfume. They’re lathering themselves with different moisturizers, hairspray, makeup and shampoo. There’s so many chemicals that I don’t think people are as aware of as they could be. It’s not necessarily that one thing, it’s the cumulative effect.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: When the government approves these products for use, they don’t study the cumulative effects of these. They just study these in isolation, but not this cumulative effect. Why are all these conditions on the rise? Why are things like cancer, depression, suicide, type two diabetes, obesity and all these health conditions with so much more information than we’ve ever had before, yet you would think they would be getting better but they’re getting worse.
Wendy Myers: I personally think toxins are one of the biggest contributors to what’s happening. All the toxins in our food supply, beauty products, the air, food and water. It’s just depressing when you think about it, but there’s a lot of things that you can do. There’s a lot in your control. You also mentioned our organs. If our organs are congested and not working optimally, that can lead to anxiety, depression and mental health issues. Can you go into some specifics there?
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: The one thing that I think is really helpful for people to understand is the regularity of having a bowel movement. I don’t know. If you’re like me and I was taking five psychotropic medications. I think I was having a bowel movement maybe once a week, if that. I didn’t know that that was not normal. What happens is your liver and your kidneys are working really hard to break things down so that your body can get rid of it, through the colon or through the urine.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: If your colon is not removing it, or if you’re not eliminating as quickly as you should be, there’s bacteria that can deconjugate the hormones, the toxins and the chemicals that your body’s just worked really hard at getting ready to be eliminated. You end up reabsorbing these and getting another hit or double whammy, so to speak. This contributes to that idea that I was talking about earlier, that there can be something blocking the receptor of the cell.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: We’re wanting to make sure that our bowels are working every day. That you’re having a bowel movement every day. This sluggishness can also contribute to what’s called leaky gut syndrome. This is where you basically want to understand that your one tube, from your mouth to your anus, this tube needs to be solid and tight but what happens through medication use, through stress and through poor diet, instead of the junctions between the cells and the small intestine being tight, they get leaky, so to speak. The food particles go through and then your immune system mounts a response. This then affects the level of cortisol because it’s a stress on the body. The body thinks that it needs to fight, but it doesn’t actually need to. It’s sort of stuck in this state.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Addressing the diet, adjusting your body’s liver function, the function of your colon and all of the organs of detoxification, is actually where I think it would be nice if everybody started there when they’re working with people. Generally, we don’t always start there. Especially in the Western medical world, it’s more about, “Well, how can we stop you from feeling what you’re feeling? Let’s get you out of this state of depression. Let’s get you out of the state of anxiety and give you medication.” They’re not necessarily looking at, “Well, how are these integrated systems within the body functioning together?”
Wendy Myers: Yes, the doctor’s not asking about nutrition, how you’re sleeping or how much you’re pooping. They’re not providing any kind of answers or counsel in that regard, and missing the boat completely. Forget toxins, that’s not even part of the conversation. Let’s talk a little bit about the liver. If your liver isn’t functioning well, if your liver is congested and not functioning optimally, you can very much have bouts of anger. If you’re constipated, you’re not going to feel well. You’re going to be irritated, angry, anxious and things like that. Just that impairment of function alone can make you be really moody.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: In Chinese medicine, they talk about the associated emotion with every organ. Anger is usually the one that’s associated with the liver. Sometimes the question we’re wanting to ask is, “What anger needs to be expressed”. If we translate that back to depression, in the psychotherapy world, a lot of times they ask you, “Well, what are you depressing? What are you pushing down? What is the emotion that you’ve pushed down that you’re not expressing?” Oftentimes, there can’t be this connection with anger.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: On the physiological side, what I think is important for people to understand is the first step in a liver detoxification program, in my opinion, has to be looking at the toxins or the environmental load or burden of your body, in the first place. If you decrease that, then that is going to support your liver. A lot of times people just say, “Oh, let’s take some milk thistle and help the functioning of the liver.” Again, always think about the root cause. If the liver didn’t have so much to deal with in the first place, then perhaps I wouldn’t have to support it as much from a supplemental perspective.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: There’s an environmental quiz that I have in my book and there’s one on my website. You just type in the search, environmental quiz. I encourage people to do the quiz and start making one or two changes. Ideally, for everything you check off, you’re going to want to eventually try to create change. I know Wendy said earlier, this can seem overwhelming, but just start where you can. Start with one thing, then do the next. I’m still working on things. There’s always something to improve upon. Just understanding that decreasing the inputs is really important.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: You’ve mentioned this earlier, the quality of the air, the food, the water, everything that you consume or the most part, we’re really wanting to think twice about it. The next step for me is taking a look at how the liver works. Do you want me to go into that a little bit?
Wendy Myers: Yes, please.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Yes.
Wendy Myers: I think it’s so important. I focus on that a lot. I talk a lot about improving liver health because I think that plays such a huge role in people not feeling well, not digesting their food well, not detoxing well, their emotional life and immunity. There’s such a huge role in that. Let’s delve into that more.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: To break down a hormone, a toxin or a neurotransmitter, the liver puts it through what is called phase one and phase two detoxification. What you want to understand is, oftentimes phase one is going really fast, like an eight lane highway. Then phase two is like a one lane highway. What happens on the planet when we have eight lanes merging into one lane? We get a lot of pollutants and we get a backup. In the body, it’s called a water soluble epoxide.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: It’s broken down partially, but not completely. These water soluble epoxides can get recirculated in the bloodstream before they can get through phase two. This contributes to this idea of inflammation that everybody talks about. Where it comes from is the liver. There’s things that we’re doing that are making phase one go really fast and phase two go slowly. It’s the typical culprits that everybody talks about. Sugar, coffee, alcohol and hydrogenated fats. Those are the top four things that we’re wanting to eliminate for the most part, or reduce as best as we can. What you want to have is your highways, phase one and phase two, moving smoothly so that you’re not creating water soluble epoxide. So that there isn’t this inflammatory process being contributed to.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: There’s foods that you can eat that can support this as well. Things like the cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts. Those foods really help to balance the phase one and phase two pathways. Beets are helpful. A little bit of lemon can be helpful. Leafy greens. Grapes are another food that can help, but we want to be really cautious with grapes because they are on the dirty dozen. There’s a list of foods. We were just saying how the air, food and water is full of chemicals. There’s this list that the Environmental Working Group puts out called The Dirty Dozen. Those are the foods that are the most heavily sprayed and grapes are on that list.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: In my opinion, there’s no point eating grapes unless you grew them yourself or they’re organic.
Wendy Myers: Yes, absolutely. I drink a lot of grape and apple juice, which are big for liver health. I eat those too, but definitely organic. I love Lakeside Biodynamic Organic. It’s even on another level.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Biodynamics. Yes.
Wendy Myers: It’s above organic. Those are the ones I choose for grape and apple juice.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Yeah.
Wendy Myers: I only drink those because of liver health. For you guys out there that are diabetic or have blood sugar issues, it may not be for you. Everyone’s different. I drink those because I’m trying to support my liver health.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: There’s other things that are great. I guess that’s another point to mention, there are so many nutrients that are also required to support phase one and phase two detoxification. The healthier that you eat, the better it’s going to be to support your liver. I want to just mention this idea, which I mentioned earlier about biotherapeutic drainage. We want to clear these pathways from the body, these toxins that are maybe partially broken down or toxins that have accumulated that are stuck in our tissues and not necessarily in the liver. How can our body clear these and get rid of them? You’re wanting to use things like lymphatic drainage or doing exercises as one of the key things. Also sweating, like in saunas, whether you have an infrared sauna or an ozone sauna. Just some way to sweat to really release, is also a really important step in overall detoxification.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I know for myself, I did a year long sauna detoxification program, the year prior to conceiving my son. I mentioned different health conditions that are on the rise, but another one that a lot of people are struggling with now is fertility.
Wendy Myers: Yes.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I really think that the fertility issues really come back to this environmental idea that we’re talking about.
Wendy Myers: Yes, I think we have so many estrogenic chemicals in our environment, xenoestrogens and metals that interfere with our hormones and stress. There’s a lot working against fertility right now. I 100% agree with you. There’s so many health issues right now that are toxin-related. Of course it’s more complex than that, but toxins are playing a huge role. Let’s talk about the five steps, in your opinion, to a comprehensive detoxification program. You mentioned some of them, but can you go over those steps that you think people need to go through to properly detox?
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Yes, the first one is taking a look at the environmental inputs in the first place. Are you warming up foods in a microwave using plastic? Are you drinking out of a plastic bottle? Are you taking Tylenol every time you have a headache? Are you using Teflon pots and pans? Are you using plastic spoons to stir your soup that you’re making. All of these things. Are you letting your child have a bath with those little yellow, rubber plastic ducks?
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: There’s a great book called Slow Death by Rubber Duck. I have it on my bookshelf over here. I think the subtitle is Environmental Toxins And How They’re Ruining Your Health, or something like that. Who knew that these little ducks are toxic and we’re putting them in a hot bath, right? Whenever you’re putting hot water with plastic, that’s causing it to leech. Then you’re sitting in that, you get the bath and your skin, anyway, I’m going on a tangent.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: There’s so many things I wasn’t aware of. Again, coming back to the cosmetics and everything that you’re putting in and on your body. Start looking at this for yourself. That’s step one. Then step two is you want to take a look at the foods that are affecting phase one and phase two, that you may be consuming. The sugar, the coffee, the alcohol and foods with trans or hydrogenated oils. Decrease those. The third step is increasing the foods that support the liver. Increasing the foods and then starting this idea of drainage.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Whether you’re going to see somebody like Wendy or myself, and we’ll support you through giving you the different remedies that you can take to facilitate the body’s ability to get rid of it. Making sure that your colon is working properly. We have to support that. Whether you’re integrating the sauna aspect or exercise. Making sure you’re sweating. That’s all part of that third step. Then the fourth step is to then promote the nutrients that help the liver get rid of these toxins.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Because now once you’ve started to reduce the inputs. Balance phase one and phase two, and you’ve done this drainage idea. Now you’re ready to let your body get rid of more toxins. Where do we store most of our toxins? We store them in our fat cells.
Wendy Myers: Damn it. I know a lot of people don’t realize that they’re having trouble losing weight because their body needs to hold on to these fat cells. It has to store this stuff somewhere.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Yes.
Wendy Myers: You can definitely see the correlation though. The more toxic someone is, typically the more overweight they’re going to be because of the kind of food they’re getting or the toxic exposure. That’s not the only reason that people are overweight but for instance, if you’re trying to lose that last 15 pounds and it just isn’t budging no matter what you do. I’m willing to bet you’ve got liver stuff going on, liver issues, fatty liver perhaps, and toxins or your body just has to store that stuff somewhere and is not going to let them go.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: That’s the classic thing that I see. Someone who wants to lose weight, say they want to lose 30 pounds and they’re successful. Right? You will be successful with doing some food changes and increasing the movement.
Wendy Myers: Or if you starve yourself, our body is going to let it go. If you have to force your body into submission when a normal, healthy diet, calorie restriction or exercise doesn’t work. There’s something else going on.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Also you get to that place where you plateau and you just can’t lose that. You cannot lose that last 10 or 15 pounds. That’s a red flag. That should be where the light bulb should go off in your head. That’s when you switch to the liver, right? The liver is basically stopping the process. It’s saying, “Look, you haven’t decreased the inputs. I’m still dealing with the inputs that you are already asking me to do on a daily basis. Now you’re giving me more over time because you’re losing weight and you’re releasing more crap,” for lack of a better word, “more toxins, more chemicals and more work for me.” It kind of stops it physiologically, in a sense. That’s where moving into working on tuning up and supporting these organs of detoxification can then help, if that is your goal, to want to lose weight.
Wendy Myers: I think something should be said that when people are losing weight and they’re releasing all this stuff out of their fat cells, as their fat cells are shrinking, you want to be taking a binder. All these toxins your body’s producing can produce anxiety where people don’t realize that. They want to instinctively reach for food or something to soothe themselves. I think people don’t realize how anxiety-producing toxins can be, when you’re losing weight.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I think that toxins and chemicals play a role in pretty much every health condition. I think environmental medicine is the way of the future. If people aren’t looking at these things, then they are really missing a critical component. Yes, I do agree that it is multifactorial, but this is a key factor in everyone’s health.
Wendy Myers: Let’s talk about inflammation. How does inflammation affect the brain and our mental health, as well?
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: There’s this idea of the brain-on-fire. Similar to how I was mentioning the idea of leaky gut. There’s also this concept called the leaky brain. It’s really from that idea that these chemicals, these water soluble epoxides can block receptors so that the neurotransmitters that you’re making can’t get into the cell. From a cellular perspective, you end up feeling the symptoms that are going to be reflective of that neurotransmitter. That’s the idea. That’s my understanding.
Wendy Myers: Definitely, we have heavy metals that cause oxidative stress, which can then cause inflammation. That’s what metals do is they cause oxidative stress in the body. They cause DNA breakage. They can cause your immune system to have a reaction which causes inflammation. There’re just a lot of different ways that toxins can create inflammation in the body.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I think the key message too, is for people to understand that there is an explanation to the suffering that they’re experiencing. Whether it lies in this idea of what we’re talking about today, which is the role that the environment can play. Whether it lies just in nutrition that you might not be getting. A lot of these neurotransmitters are derived from essential amino acids. If you’re not getting them because they’re not something that you can make within your body, then you’re going to be depressed and anxious.
Wendy Myers: Yes, absolutely.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I want to highlight that, for me, that’s where it did start with the nutrition piece and supplementation, but I really had to work on my organs of detoxification. My liver and my bowels, because they weren’t working very well. I had taken many, many antibiotics, which created this disruption in the gut flora. I had heavy metals. There were lots of things, lots of pieces to the puzzle. I think the main message that I really want people to understand is that there is an explanation. It’s just a matter of working with somebody who can help you investigate what these root causes are, these contributing factors can be, in your health.
Wendy Myers: I think when people have a health issue that comes up, or some problem they want to solve, say it’s depression or anxiety, they try to pop a pill. They try to take a stimulant or they try to do something to fix that issue rather than thinking of it as a systemic issue that needs to be addressed. Start living your life by some basic health principles, healthy eating, some supplements, getting some sunlight, a little bit of exercise, a little bit of movement and maybe some detox. Start working on these things and a lot of your symptoms just disappear. Not for everyone. I think when you reach a certain point and your health is really starting to spiral downwards, you usually need some outside help and guidance to help you.
Wendy Myers: For me, I know that once I started really taking care of myself in every aspect, like checking every box with the diet, supplements, stress, exercise, sleep and detox, that’s when I started feeling really well. I caution people to not think about, “Oh, just let’s fix the thyroid and let’s fix the gut and let’s fix the depression.” It’s a systemic thing. All of the foundational pieces are checking off all of those boxes, no matter what your symptoms are.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Yes, absolutely. I talk about 10 steps that are helpful. Some things you start where you are and some things will take you so far. Then you might have to look at another piece of the puzzle, right? I know for me it was diet. I talk about diet, sleep, exercise, managing stress and that’s kind of the foundation of your health house. Then the next areas are the role that your thoughts can play, your emotions, the way you behave and react in the world. Are you reacting or are you responding? Then the role of the environment. Right? We’ve been talking about the quality of the air, food and water, but there’s two other pieces too that are factors into the environment, that are important.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: One is this idea of genetics versus epigenetics. A lot of times, especially with my mental health condition, when I asked, “Well, why is this happening to me?” The answer I got was, “Well, it’s genetics. There’s nothing you can do about it.” I feel like that’s such a cop out response. I think it makes people feel like they’re a victim. Like there’s nothing they can do. I’m adopted, so I couldn’t look to the left or my right to verify the truth of, is that actually true?
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I didn’t accept that as the truth. I’ve learned subsequently about Bruce Lipton’s theory of epigenetics, which means genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls that trigger. This lifestyle comes back to the influences of the environment that can affect whether that gene is turned on or not, within you.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Then the third idea, I put under the environment. It is called neuroplasticity, which basically means that your brain has a bendy quality to it. It’s not fixed. It’s not like it’s a lump of cement and this is all you’ve got and you can’t change how your brain functions. That’s completely not true. Through all the things that we’re talking about, that is how you change the functioning of your brain.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Then for me, the last area that’s really important that I don’t think is talked about enough is love, compassion, spirituality and wrapping everything up in that. At the end of the day, to me, that also is a really important piece of it. If you don’t value who you are, then when Wendy and I are telling you to change your toothpaste from Colgate Total to Tom’s of Maine, you’re not going to do it because you don’t value you. That’s a really important piece that also has to be worked on, this relationship you’re having with you.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I said at the beginning, I now look at this vehicle that is my body as the most important investment that I need to be investing in. It matters to me what I put into my mouth. It matters to me the quality of the food that I eat. I guess I feel like I’m a little bit, maybe a little preachy here, so I’ll stop.
Wendy Myers: But it’s so true because it does take a lot of participation on someone’s part.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: Commitment.
Wendy Myers: To love themselves enough, to take the time and spend the money and make their own food and do all the things that you have to do to love yourself, and take care of your temple. Trauma plays a huge role in your emotional life too. This is something that I graduated to. First it was the diet, then it was the supplements and more exercise, then working on sleep, then you go through this whole pyramid of reaching a plateau on one aspect and looking for that next thing. For me right now, I’m definitely working on trauma. That’s a big focus because that has a huge effect on your emotional life. You have no idea that you just have this block that is just draining you, from the past. You may not even be consciously aware of it or think you’ve worked it out in therapy. You’re just stuck in these ruminating thoughts or whatever’s going on.
Wendy Myers: It’s something that can be released. There’s so many great mechanisms out there that I’ve talked about on the show to help with trauma, beyond just talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, working really hard at it and releasing it, so you feel better.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: It’s interesting that you say that. Yeah. I just finished a year’s dive into a psychotherapeutic technique for trauma, which is called compassionate inquiry. It’s taught by Gabor Maté. He believes that every mental health condition for the most part is due to trauma, to something that’s happened in childhood that has resulted in a bit of a dysregulation between our attachment. There’s two main needs in childhood, attachment and authenticity. Oftentimes, if there’s been abuse or some sort of event, we end up sacrificing our authenticity in order to maintain the attachment.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: It may not always be a healthy attachment, but we then make certain events mean things. This is where our core beliefs and limiting beliefs can come in. It’s a very powerful approach to helping heal, heal trauma, bringing in the sense of compassion for yourself. A lot of his work is based in addiction, but it also looks at things like depression, anxiety, ADHD and the common mental health conditions. With everything that has happened, we develop coping mechanisms to be able to maintain the attachment. I found it transformative and very impactful.
Wendy Myers: I definitely have heard about him in the realm of addictions.
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: That’s his book, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
Wendy Myers: Trauma being at the root of addictions and whatnot. I think it really plays a huge role in anyone with health issues as well. Not just mental health, but physical health issues as well. Trauma can be a big root cause. When people have been trying everything, going to different doctors, functional medicine, different programs, supplements, diet and doing all this stuff and none of it’s working. It’s time to look at the trauma aspect. That can bring that shift that brings on the healing, and improving finally.
Wendy Myers: I’ve seen that a lot, working with clients. Well, Dr. Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show. Is there anything else that you want to share with the audience or any insights or where we can find your work?
Dr. Christina Bjorndal: I think for me really, I just really want people to know that there’s an explanation for their suffering. If you’re listening to this and you know someone who’s really suicidal or they’re struggling, or it’s you yourself, please reach out and find somebody local to you or my website is naturalterrain.com or there’s my name, which is drchristinabjorndal.com. There’s a program that I offer that dives a little bit deeper into some of the concepts that we talked about today. Just know that you are here for a reason and there is an explanation for your suffering. It’s just a matter of being able to find it.
Wendy Myers: Fantastic. Well, Dr. Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show and shedding some light on underlying root causes of anxiety, depression and mental health issues. I know a lot of people are having a tough time right now. You also spoke on our coronavirus support summit to specifically help people through these stressful times, as well. If you guys go on coronavirussupportseries.com, there’s lots and lots of resources and support for you, including Dr. Christina’s interview. There are lots of other people on there to help you guys through this stressful time because it’s a lot to deal with.
Wendy Myers: So Dr. Chris, thanks for coming on the show. Everyone, thanks for tuning in to The Myers Detox Podcast, where every week we bring you different guests to talk about toxins, chemicals, heavy metals and the role that they’re playing in a lot of your symptoms. Many ways may surprise you. We talk about how you can get rid of these toxins out of your body and enjoy the health, the wealth and the joy that you deserve in life.
Wendy Myers: Thanks for tuning in. I’m Wendy Myers of myersdetox.com. I’ll talk to you guys next week.
Graduating from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2003, Dr. Michael Mason-Wood ND has spent the past 17 years helping over 3000 patients with a wide range of conditions. We interviewed Dr. Mason-Wood ND to reflect back on the past 17 years.
Q: Why did you go into naturopathic medicine?
A: I was a lost soul, I was 28, had no career in mind, but knew that I couldn’t be a gold and diamond miner all my life. So I went back to university as a mature student. In my final year of my undergraduate degree, I was thinking about doing my master’s in Entomology (the study of insects) when I met my massage therapist, who was studying to be a naturopathic doctor. She explained what naturopathic medicine was and encouraged me to go apply for the next year. I applied and got accepted and the next September I completed a 5-day drive from Whitehorse to Toronto. When I got to Toronto, I did not know much about naturopathic medicine, but as we started to learn about botany, homeopathy and acupuncture, I quickly fell in love with the profession. I am First Nations and I grew up learning about traditional healing from elders and felt that naturopathic medicine aligned with my core values.
Q: What has been the best thing about being a Naturopathic doctor?
A: The best thing about being a naturopathic doctor is the satisfaction of knowing you are helping people on a daily basis. I am able to help over 80% of my patients get better, whether it’s a 5-month-old with eczema, or an 80-year-old with knee pain for the past 10 years. People are happy when they see me, they have better energy, better sleep, pain relief and I feel I am really able to impact my patient’s lives.
Q: How has your practice evolved in the past 17 years?
A: I started out practicing as a general Naturopathic Doctor in Whitehorse, YT. There were many practitioners in the holistic health field and I only saw 6-7 patients per week when I started in practice. After three years, I moved to Fort McMurray and there I started seeing 14-15 patients a day and working 13 -14 hour days. My wife and I later decided to move to Edmonton and become contractors at an already established naturopathic clinic. This allowed us to establish a better work-life balance and care for our son, something that we feel we have been able to continue for the last 15 years. After a couple of years, my wife left the clinic to start Natural Terrain, and I followed her a year later. Over my time as a naturopathic doctor, my practice has expanded into doing IVs, prolotherapy, ozone therapy and other injection therapies. I am always incorporating new treatment approaches to provide the best quality care for my patients.
Q: What drives you?
A: I am driven by my ability to help people. I love being a naturopathic doctor and I am really proud of the work that I do and being able to make people feel better. I don’t think many people can say they wake up every morning, excited to go to work, but I still am after 17 years.
I am also driven by my family. As a child, I grew up eating chocolate ice cream and frosted flakes. I would have 1-2 severe strep throat infections a year that would keep me home from school for 2-3 weeks at a time. As a father and a husband, I want to make sure that I know how to prevent and manage illness to keep myself and my family healthy. I want the best for my family and I think being a Naturopathic Doctor provides so many opportunities and knowledge that they can ask their naturopathic doctors to help them with.
Q: A lot of the therapies you have learned are for pain management. What got you interested in pain management?
A: Part of the reason that I have spent so much time learning about pain and about the different therapies for it is that I’ve experienced pain first hand. Given my own health conditions, severe kyphosis and scoliosis, i have had to learn how to manage chronic pain for myself. I wanted to ensure that I knew how to manage it so that myself and my patients wouldn’t have to let pain affect their daily lives.
Q: What has been your most rewarding moments?
A: There are lots of rewarding moments, but the one that comes to mind is when I was able to help a man who had been suffering for the past 20 years with severe pain after a motorbike accident. I did 2 PRP* treatments and 4 prolotherapy treatments and the patient’s pain went away. I saw the patient 3 years later and he still did not have any pain. I felt I was able to significantly change his life.
*Please note that PRP is not currently allowed to be performed by Naturopathic Doctors in Alberta. If you would like to see PRP returned to the scope of practice for the naturopathic profession, please contact the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta at cnda.net or call 403-266-2446.
Pomegranates not only taste great, but they also have lots of medicinal benefits.
The composition of pomegranates is quite unique, being composed as a mixture of different bioactive compounds. The high levels of bioflavonoids, ellagitannins, catechins and anthocyanins give powerful health benefits to pomegranates.
The Benefits of Pomegranates
Here are 5 benefits of this powerful fruit:
- Pomegranates are loaded with nutrients. Pomegranates are high in vitamin C, potassium, fibre, vitamin K and folate. These nutrients are needed for the body to carry out regular functions, like digestion, breathing and preventing illness.
- Pomegranates may prevent and be used to help treat certain cancers. Some primary research suggests that pomegranates may help prevent cancer development and slow down the spread of cancer, particularly prostate, breast, skin, lung and colon cancers.
- It lowers blood pressure. Pomegranates are considered anti-hypertensives meaning that they can reduce blood pressure. Studies have shown that drinking 1 cup a day of pomegranate juice can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. We love Pom juice! Available at local grocery stores.
- It is anti-inflammatory. Pomegranates are great at reducing inflammation. They have been studied in a number of different inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and cardiovascular disease.
- Pomegranates may help with depression. Pomegranate juice contains phytochemical compounds that stimulate serotonin and estrogen receptors, improving symptoms of depression and increasing bone mass in lab animals
The De-Seeding Technique
Taking the seeds out of a pomegranate is no easy task. It can be a messy, sticky scene. When we eat a pomegranate this way, we lose out on some of the nutrition that is in the pomegranate juice.
Luckily, Dr. Mason-Wood ND has a trick for getting pomegranate seeds out while preserving the juiciness and reducing the mess. Cut the pomegranate in half, put the cut half face down into your palm and fingers. Hold your hand over a large bowl. Then, take a wooden spoon and hit the back of the pomegranate. The seeds should fall out of the pomegranate, through your fingers and into the bowl.
Watch the video to see Dr. Mason-Wood’s ND trick for pomegranates in action.
Pomegranate Recipe Ideas
Because pomegranate seeds are so small, they are easy to add to a number of different dishes. Two of the easiest ways is to throw it into your favourite salad for a burst of flavour or add it to your smoothie. Here are 3 dishes we are excited to try.
Turkey Tacos with Pear Pomegranate Salsa Taco
Adapted from Ali Martin’s Pear Pomegranate Salsa and Dr. Chris Bjorndal ND in The Essential Diet: Eating for your Mental Health.
Pear Pomegranate Salsa
- 2 fresh pears (any kind), cored and diced
- 1 fresh pomegranate, seeded
- half a red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- juice of half a lime
Jack’s Taco Seasoning
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground oregano
- 1⁄2 tsp onion powder
- 1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
- 1⁄2 tsp paprika
- 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper (ground) 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 lb. ground lean turkey
- ¼ cup crumbled cotija cheese
- 3⁄4 C water
- Whole-wheat tortillas
- Optional: fresh lime wedges, extra chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, diced scallions, and tomatoes.
- Make the seasoning by tossing all the ingredients together
- Make the salsa. Toss the pears, pomegranates, red onion, cilantro leaves and lime together until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Break up the ground turkey into small pieces and cook thoroughly (5 minutes). Drain the fat and reduce the heat. Add the taco seasoning mix and water, then stir to blend the spices with the meat. Reduce the heat to simmer.
- Lay one tortilla out on a serving plate. Place a few slices of turkey in a line down the center of the tortilla. Then add a few spoonfuls of salsa and a sprinkle of cotija cheese on top of the Turkey. Serve immediately.
Pomegranate and Orange Salmon from Taste of Home
Taken from https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/orange-pomegranate-salmon/
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 skinned salmon fillet (about 2 pounds)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 medium navel orange, thinly sliced
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
- Preheat oven to 375°. Place a 28×18-in. piece of heavy-duty foil in a 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Place onion slices in a single layer on foil. Top with salmon; sprinkle with salt. Arrange orange slices over top. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds; drizzle with oil. Top with a second piece of foil. Bring edges of foil together on all sides and crimp to seal, forming a large packet.
- Bake until fish just begins to flake easily with a fork, about 25-30 minutes. Be careful of escaping steam when opening packet. Remove to a serving platter; sprinkle with dill.
Pomegranate & Pear Green Salad with Ginger Dressing by Cookies and Kate
Taken from Cookies and Kate
- ½ cup raw pecans (halves or pieces)
- 5 ounces baby arugula
- 2 ounces (about ½ cup) goat cheese or feta, crumbled
- 1 large ripe Bartlett pear, thinly sliced
- 1 Honeycrisp or Gala apple, thinly sliced
- Arils from 1 pomegranate
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, to taste
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- About 10 twists of freshly ground black pepper
- To toast the pecans, place them in a skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring often, until they’re fragrant and starting to turn golden on the edges, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pecans from the heat and roughly chop them (no need to chop if you started with pecan pieces). Set aside.
- Arrange the arugula across a large serving platter (or bowl, but the salad looks prettiest on a platter). Sprinkle the chopped pecans and crumbled goat cheese over the arugula. Fan out your slices of pear and apple and arrange them across the salad in sections (see photos). Sprinkle all over with fresh pomegranate seeds.
- To prepare the dressing, combine all of the ingredients and whisk until blended. Taste, and if it isn’t quite zippy enough, add another teaspoon of vinegar.
- Wait to dress the salad until you’re ready to serve (the dressing will wilt the greens over time). When you’re ready, drizzle the ginger dressing lightly all over the salad (you might not need all of it). Serve promptly.
As a family with two naturopathic doctors, we love to explore new recipes, especially ones that have added immune benefits. We found this recipe from Rebecca Lindamood at Foodie with Family and have been taking a shot of it daily to prevent illness.
What is Fire Cider?
Fire Cider is a concentrated liquid mixture of different herbs and foods. It is beneficial to the immune system and is traditionally used for the prevention of different illnesses such as colds and flu’s and viral infections.
What are the benefits of fire cider?
Fire cider has a number of different herbs that are beneficial to your health. When herbs are used in combination, they can enhance the benefit of others in the mixture. This is called a synergistic effect.
Several of the herbs in this recipe, such as ginger, turmeric, onion, orange, rosemary, parsley and lemon are both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. Anti-oxidants help to promote healthy cells, including immune cells, and anti-inflammatories help to reduce underlying inflammation in the body which can lead to an increased risk of illness.
Garlic and horseradish are great anti-microbials meaning they help to fight off bacteria, viruses and even fungal infections. Horseradish is traditionally used for sinus issues. Garlic has added benefits of helping control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The spicy habanero pepper increases circulation which can help the immune cells get to a site of infection faster.
Thyme is antimicrobial, but it is also great at helping to reduce the amount of coughing and helping to remove any phlegm from the lungs.
Apple cider vinegar is a great digestive aid.
Honey helps to soothe inflamed tissue and helps to add a little sweetness to this recipe.
|· 1 large horseradish root scrubbed very well, ~7” long
· 1 large ginger root ~7” long
· 1 large onion root and stem end removed & peeled
· 1 large orange do NOT peel. Use the whole fruit.
· 1 lemon do NOT peel. Use the whole fruit.
· 16 cloves of garlic peeled
· 2-4 habanero peppers stems removed
|· 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
· 2 tbsp rosemary leaves (optional)
· ¼ cup parsley (optional)
· 2 tbsp thyme (optional)
· 1 tsp black peppercorns (optional)
· raw apple cider vinegar
· raw honey
- In a well-ventilated area, grate the horseradish and ginger roots.
- Roughly chop the peeled onions and garlic, whole oranges, lemons, and habaneros. Keep the peels on the lemons and oranges!
- Add these prepared ingredients into a large container that has a lid, such as a large mason jar.
- Sprinkle turmeric into the container.
- Slowly, pour the raw apple cider vinegar in allowing it to settle in through the crevices and adding more so the contents are fully submerged.
- Lay a piece of parchment paper over the rim of the jar, then screw the lid tightly in place.
- Let the mixture sit in a dark, cool place, allowing it to infuse, for 4 weeks, shaking once daily when you remember it.
- Replace the parchment paper once weekly to prevent rusting of the mason jar lid.
- After 4 weeks, pour the contents into a muslin or cheesecloth-lined colander over a stable pot. Let it drain for 30 minutes, then gather the corners and twist to wring out as much goodness as possible.
- Add approximately 1/4 cup of raw honey to the liquid to taste and pour into a sterilized wine bottle or canning jar. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year, shaking well before using.
How much fire cider vinegar should I have?
For most individuals, the recommended dose is 1 tbsp per day in the morning. You can also try adding the vinegar to salad dressings and on top of cooked vegetables.
In order to make sure our bodies are functioning optimally, we must first address the foundations of immune health. If we can work towards the foundations of health, then we provide the body with a fighting chance against many different illnesses and disease. It is a good idea to come back to these foundations every day, and check in to see where you may need some additional support to ensure that we can prevent illness. The foundations of immune health include…
This week we will be talking about exercise and immune health.
Why is Exercise Good for Immune Health?
There are several different mechanisms that exercise can affect immune health. First, it increases blood circulation in the body. When the heart rate is increased, it means that our white blood cells, our immune fighting cells, will move faster around the body and identify any invader to the body. It also means that the body is able to remove toxins and pathogens from the body faster.
The immune system has a direct impact on the number of white blood cells. Research shows that during exercise our white blood cell levels increase. This means that during exercise we are more able to fight infections.
There are also indirect ways that exercising helps the immune system. Exercising has a huge role in stress management and mental health, which are foundational to immune health. Additionally, exercising outdoors allows you to connect with nature and get additional vitamin D, both of which are incredible for immune health.
What do we suggest for exercise?
- Time: Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week at moderate intensity or 150 minutes a week.
- Type of Exercise: The type of exercise mainly studied was aerobic exercise. However, anything that gets your heart rate up can be beneficial!
- Schedule time in your day to exercise. Stay dedicated to this time. Look at is as a self-care time and understand that it is very important for your whole health.
- Don’t get discouraged. If you don’t hit your goal of exercising, understand that that’s okay. This is a behaviour change and it requires effort, dedication and time.
- Try to get outside to exercise at least 1-2 times a week. The additional vitamin D you get from being outside can add to additional benefits to your immune health. You get extra points if you exercise surrounded by nature. This can decrease stress hormones and provide extra benefits to the immune system.
Optimizing the immune system requires more than taking a simple pill. It is an interplay between lifestyle and diet. The foundations of the immune health require special attention to different aspects of your life such as
This week we will be discussing how diet plays a role in immune health and tips to make sure your diet supports your immune system.
The Connection Between Diet and the Immune System
Throughout the whole immune process, the body requires certain micronutrients to help fend off invading microbes. One of the best ways to get these micronutrients is through the diet. Food provides energy and nutrients to help our immune cells work effectively in prevention and recovery.
Diet also plays a major role in regulating the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome helps to breakdown and present the infectious agents to the immune cells in specialized tissue called the gut association lymphoid tissue (GALT). If we eat unhealthy food, we can experience something called “dysbiosis” which is an imbalance of our good microbiome bacteria and bad bacteria. The bad bacteria cause the body to go into an inflammatory state. When there are high amounts of inflammation in the gut we can develop something called leaky gut. This means that instead of food particles and bacteria entering the body in controlled ways and being checked by immune cells in the GALT, it now can enter your bloodstream unchecked. This can cause an immune reaction throughout the whole body and cause you to get sick.
Dietary Tips for Immune Health
You may be thinking “well then what should I eat?”. The answer is not as simple as you probably thought. The ideal diet should be individualized for every patient, their health concerns, values, beliefs and lifestyle. The best diets come from a partnership with our naturopathic doctors and their patients. Dietary changes should be reasonable and be able to be sustained for a long time.
In terms of immune health, here are our top dietary recommendations
1. Eat a variety of foods
The best way we like to explain this to patients is by telling them that they should “eat the rainbow”. Basically, this general rule suggests that when you look at your plate, you should see 4-5 different colours of food. Colours represent different nutrients that are in the foods. The immune system requires lots of different vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats to function optimally. The gut microbiome also thrives when exposed to a variety of different foods (see below for more suggestions on how to support your microbiome with food). Some other ideas include switching up your meals at least a couple of times a week, experimenting with cooking new foods and ensuring that all your meals have a protein, vegetables and a fat source, such as olive oil.
2. Eat your veggies and fruit
Vegetables are dense in nutrients. They can help provide your body with different vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables have antioxidant properties which help to reduce damage to our cells and optimize the immune system. Almost all vegetables and fruit have benefits to the immune system. Some examples of particularly great immune supporting fruits and vegetables are; berries, spinach, citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and arugula.
3. Reduce inflammatory foods
During acute illness, inflammation is a good and natural process that helps the immune system fight off infections. However, if we are already in an inflammatory state when we get sick, then we are already using the immune system’s resources on other parts of the body that may not require as much energy. Inflammation leaves our bodies more susceptible to illnesses. The number one inflammatory food is SUGAR! It is also a good idea to avoid processed foods and excessive alcohol as they are also highly inflammatory.
4. Spice up your meals
There are a lot of great spices out that don’t just add a bunch of flavour to your meals, but they also have immune-supporting effects. Garlic has a lot of antimicrobial properties that assists the immune system in preventing you from getting sick. Turmeric is highly anti-inflammatory and is a good antioxidant. Ginger is also good for bringing down the inflammation. These foods will help to improve your immune function. Try adding at least one to every meal.
5. Eat probiotic rich foods
Because a lot of our immune cells are in our gut, it only makes sense that taking care of the gut is an important part of immune health. Probiotics help to populate the intestinal lining with bacteria that are helpful for nutrient absorption. Eat probiotics rich foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso frequently.
To get more information and to individualize a diet for your health needs, book an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor today!
Our immune systems are changeable and adaptable. What we do, how we live and what we think plays a direct impact on our immune systems. Because of this, working on the foundational building blocks of the immune system is important in preventing illness.
These foundations include….
- A good night’s sleep
- Stress management
- A healthy diet
- Exercise and time outdoors
- Appropriate supplementation.
In part 2 of our immune foundations series, we will be going over how stress affects the immune system and some tips for improving the immune system through stress management.
How stress affects the immune system
Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of how thoughts affect our bodies and physical health. It is a fascinating science that helps to show that health is really more than just the physical, it’s a combination of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our life. The impact stress has on the immune system works through a couple of different mechanisms. First, nerves in the brain that sense stress goes directly to our lymphatic organs, including the bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes and spleen which is where our immune cells are created and stored. Secondly, when we are stressed, our bodies release hormones and neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, epinephrine and cortisol). These substances can then attach to specific receptors on the immune cells, which reduce their ability to protect the body. Additionally, stress can cause a change in behaviours, such as poor diet, changes in sleeping patterns, drinking alcohol, decreased exercise and smoking which can all lead to lower immune function. In order to optimize the immune system, it is important to identify your stressors and learn how to manage them.
Tips for Stress Reduction
Stressors are all around us. There are a lot of stressors in life that we can’t control but we can control how we cope with these stressors. Here are some tips on how to reduce your stress and manage the stress that you can’t control.
1. Eliminate unnecessary commitments
This is possibly one of the most important tips for stress reduction. We all need to learn how to say “no”. You only have so much time and energy, so make sure you are doing things you enjoy and that are within your current capacity. Having time to rest is a necessary commitment. Remember you don’t have to please everyone.
After you have eliminated unnecessary commitments, identify your stressors. Although we may not be able to eliminate these things from our lives, we can learn how to reframe our thoughts so what was once stressful is now just an opportunity for growth. You can learn about reframing your thoughts here.
When you take deep breathes, you are activating the parasympathetic or relaxing part of the nervous system. It helps to lower your stress response. There are a number of different ways you can deep breathe. One of our favourites is belly breathing. To do this, place one hand on your abdomen and one on your heart. Try to keep the hand over your heart still, and only move the hand on your abdomen with each breath. As you breathe in, you should feel your abdomen expand and as you breathe out you should feel it go back in. Stopping what you are doing and taking 10 deep breathes once an hour is a great way to keep stress low.
Set aside time every day to journal. This is your scheduled time to worry. Right down everything you are thinking, the stresses you are feeling and the things that are on your mind. Getting it out on paper will help you to see your stressors and help to reduce the amount of space they take up in your thoughts. For an extra stress management, end your journaling with writing down 3 things you are grateful for.
Meditation is a great way to bring your mind into the present moment and take a break from focusing on your stressors. There are a couple ways to meditate. You can find a guided meditation on YouTube, or meditate by focusing on your breath or mentally scanning your whole body. Make sure when you are meditating you are sitting in a comfortable position. Sitting on the ground with crossed legs or sitting on a chair with your back supported and feet flat on the ground are great options. Take the time to slow down your breathing and focus on you and your body in the current moment.
6. Schedule time for yourself and practice self-care
Doing things that you love and make you feel good are important for your health. Prioritizing you and your health will help to reduce stress to make you a better parent, spouse, child and/or employee.
To get help with stress management, or learning more about what you can do to keep your immune system healthy, book an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors.
In Naturopathic Medicine, prevention is one of the founding principles that we follow. One of the ways we can ensure the prevention of illness is by ensuring that our immune system is healthy. Having a strong immune system means that we are able to defend against illnesses so that we either do not get sick or have a very short illness period. To build a strong immune system we must look at its foundational building blocks. These include…
- A good night’s sleep
- Stress management
- A healthy diet
- Exercise and time outdoors
- Appropriate supplementation
With the start of school and the current pandemic, these foundations are now more important than ever. For the next couple of weeks, we will be sharing tips about how to best implement the foundational building blocks and some of the best ways to support your immune system.
This week we will be discussing sleep and the impact it has on immune health.
Sleep and the Immune System
When we get sick, we often also get tired. This is the body’s natural way of telling you that it needs sleep to help you get better. Sleep plays a major role in regulating the immune system. When we sleep our bodies produce and release proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are used to help the body effectively fend off any infection or illness coming our way. Sleep is also key in establishing immunological memory. It allows the body to store information about a current infection or illness so that the next time it is exposed to it, the immune system can quickly and effectively fend it off.
Sleep deprivation can leave a person susceptible to many different illnesses. While many supplements can be prescribed to help with sleep, we must first address how lifestyle plays a part in sleep. One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is by establishing a regular routine. This means getting up at the same time every day, creating a relaxing bedtime routine and going to bed at the same time every night. You can read more about the different sleep hygiene tips we have here and here.
If you struggle with sleep and are looking for support, book an appointment so that we can help support you and prevent illnesses.