Taking ownership of your health

With so many health issues facing the average person, it is more important than ever to take ownership of your health. But what does that mean? Continue reading


Do you keep a medical file at home?

Most people I meet tell me that they do not have copies of any blood or other laboratory tests at home. They take their doctors word for it, when told their numbers are good or too high etc. They are not on top of their own health and I believe by being less than vigilant about keeping their own records, to some extent are not taking full responsibility for their health either. Let me explain. I have the perfect example of what happened to me. I had my vitamin D levels checked along with some other standard blood tests. On my follow-up visit, my doctor proclaimed that “everything was good”. I asked for a copy of the lab paper work and it was only when I got home and read the report in detail did I realize that my vitamin D level was barely in the acceptable range. I quickly increased my vitamin D dose! When any number falls outside of a predetermined acceptable range, the lab typically flags it for the doctor, making it easy to pick up. In the rush of a typical doctor’s day, I am guessing that many doctors do not study lab reports in detail (assuming the patient has no particular risk factors) and they could miss the fact that while some numbers are within acceptable ranges, they have been falling or rising over a period of time, or in my case, barely acceptable. This is where it pays to be pro-active. What would happen if there was a fire or natural disaster at your doctor’s office that wiped out your medical records? Wouldn’t you feel good knowing that you had copies of everything at home? Next time you are at the doctors, don’t be afraid to ask for copies of your tests or anything else you might want. You might be surprised the number of times you will refer to it as you learn and educate yourself on health, nutrition, supplements and medications.
UPDATE, OCTOBER 2014:  I recently called my doctor for a physical, as it had been 4 years since my last visit. I was advised that my doctor had retired 3 years ago! Somehow they missed me when they were calling all her patients. When I asked if they still had my medical file, they said it had been sent to a storage facility and it would cost me $25 to retrieve it. Seeing as I had copies of my lab tests and there wasn’t much else in my medical history, I decided to save myself $25 and not pay for retrieval. Glad I listen to my own advice!

The dangers of sulphites

So what’s the big deal with sulphites? They are yet another assault on our toxic load that our bodies (more precisely our livers) must deal with. Our liver has so much work to do, it is forever working overtime! You may be having problems with them and not even know it.

Sulphites/sulfites are both naturally occuring and a food additive that Health Canada lists as one of the top ten priority food allergens. Sulphites do not provoke a true allergic reaction involving the immune system, but will cause similar reactions in sulphite-sensitive people – such as:
skin, digestive or respiratory problems, headaches, weakness, anxiety, rapid heartbeat and more. Sulphite reactions are more likely to occur and can be more serious in those with asthma.
Sulphites are a used as a preservative and prevent discolouration in foods, prolong shelf life and maintain potency of some medications. You are likely to find them in products such as;

  • bottled lemon and lime juices
  • vinegars
  • wines and beers (even non-alchoholic)
  • condiments
  • processed potato products, including french fries
  • dried fruits (ie. bright orange apricots)
  • canned and frozen fruits and vegatables
  • fruit fillings and syrups
  • jams, jellies
  • cereals, crackers, granola bars, muesli
  • deli meats
  • dressings, gravies, sauces, soup mixes

Sulphites/sulfites or sulfur dioxide are used as a preservative in wine. They have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Red wines contain naturally occurring anti-oxidants acquired from skins and stems during fermentation, so there is no need to add sulphur dioxide to them, but conventional winemakers often add it anyway. White wines and rosés tend to have greater amounts of sulphur dioxide added because they are missing naturally occurring anti-oxidants – they are not left in contact with their skins after crushing. This means they are more prone to oxidation. Sweet wines contain the largest dose. Organic wines are not allowed to contain added sulphites, but may contain naturally occurring sulphites (a byproduct of fermentation) at less than 20 parts per million. Wine made from organic grapes may contain added sulphites, so it is important to note the distinction between organic wine and that made from organic grapes if you want to avoid sulphites.

Arnica To The Rescue!

I recently had the misfortune of tripping over the power cord to my laptop and was not able to break my subsequent fall in time. I landed flat on the bridge of my nose. It was a hard enough fall to cause pain and profuse bleeding.
I was able to locate a small vial of arnica montana (more on that below) and took 3 pellets within 30 minutes of falling and about every 30 minutes after. I went to the hospital to get checked for a broken nose and to see if I needed stitches. Ex-rays confirmed no broken bones (yeah!) and the doctor felt that a bandage for 5 days would do the same job as stitches, so I opted for the bandage.
The doctor advised me that I would probably have 2 black eyes within 48 hours and the expected swelling etc.
I am writing this post 2 1/2 days after the fall and am ecstatic to report I only have very slight redness under 1 eye. No visible bruising or swelling has occurred. I have incurred bruising many times in my life under much less trauma than this and I believe that my face would look very different had it not been for arnica.
So what is arnica montana? Very simply, it is a homeopathic remedy. I took the oral version, which are very small sugar pellets with a remedy coating on the outside. Avoid touching the pellets directly with your fingers, as the remedy can rub off on your fingers.  Arnica dilates your blood vessels, stimulates white blood cells to the injured site, decreases swelling and bruising. When ever you have physical trauma that produces pain, bruising, swelling or inflammation of any kind, reach for Arnica, (in addition to seeking qualified medical help if necessary). Homeopathy is an ancient type of alternative medicine that is based on “like cures like”.
The moral of my story is two-fold:

  • not being present in the moment can have disasterous effects , so take the time to slow down
  • arnica montana is a must in a first aid kit. This rememdy is available at any health store for under $10.

It doesn’t really matter if you have an active lifeltyle, have children engaged in sports activities, are recovering from surgery or are just running an errand, arnica is very useful to have on hand at all times. It comes in such a small vial, it can easily fit into a purse, glove box or back pocket. Get some today because you never know when you might need it!


Grow Your Own Sweetener – Stevia

steviaHave you ever used stevia? Do you know about this sweet herb? Stevia is a calorie free, all natural sweetener native to Paraguay. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but does not cause a spike in blood sugar levels making it diabetic safe. The leaves of this plant can be dried in a dehydrator, hung upside down to dry as you would other herbs or dried in a low temperature oven.

My first successful attempt at growing this herb was last summer when I grew it in a container. I dried it at the end of summer in a dehydrator and used it during the winter as a sweetener in my teas. I didn’t bother to crush the leaves, steeping them with my loose tea and then straining both out. I was so impressed with the ease of growing, drying and using them, that I grabbed 5 plants last week when I saw them at a local organic farm (Simpler Thyme), that I bought my other organic plants from.

Last summer I bought my stevia plant from a Fortinos garden centre, so check around your local nursery or garden centre for this easy herbal sweetener.

Stevia is available in health stores as a powder or liquid extract.  There are several flavours available in extract form and I love to use lemon stevia to make a delicious lemonade in the summer. The liquid form mixes/dissolves easily in water.


1/2 – 2/3 cup of either fresh lemon juice or organic, bottled, not from concentrate lemon juice
1-2 droppers of lemon stevia extract
4 cups of filtered water
1 tbsp. of maple syrup (to neutralize any after taste from the stevia)

I did not use any of my home grown stevia in baking as I just didn’t have enough of it, but I have used store purchased stevia to reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe. Unless you are using a recipe that calls for stevia though, you will need to experiment to find the right balance of stevia to other sweeteners. What you don’t get with stevia is the bulk that other sweeteners give you. When using both stevia and other natural sweeteners together in a recipe, it eliminates any kind of after taste that some may experience with just stevia. I generally find much less of an aftertaste with the liquid flavoured extracts.

This is the perfect time to be on the look out for this herb. Give it a try in your garden or in a container if you have a sunny spot.

The Importance of Betaine HCl (Hydrochloride)

Our stomach expands when we consume food. This triggers the release of hydrochloric acid, pepsinogen and intrinsic factor. Pepsinogen is an inactive enzyme that is converted into the active form of pepsin in the presence of sufficient hydrochloric acid. Pepsin is necessary for the digestion of protein and absorption of amino acids. Continue reading

Antioxidant Levels

We need a constant (daily) supply of antioxidants from our foods to combat the effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. Free radicals are produced in our bodies as a natural metabolic process, but we also introduce them into our bodies by eating poorly (i.e. bad fats from processed foods, charred meats or vegetables from the bar-b-q), excessive sun exposure, stress, environmental pollution (that can be anything from the polluted air we breathe to toxic cleaning products, hairspray etc.), trauma, smoking and more. 
Antioxidants supply the missing electron that created the free radical in the first place.

There is something called the ORAC value of foods. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity and is a test tube analysis that measures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances.  Apparently the USDA recommends we consume 3,000-5,000 daily units. (I would suggest that as a minimum!) Bear in mind that since this is a test tube analysis, we are assuming that the same thing happens in our bodies. While that is unlikely to be completely true, this certainly gives us a good guide as the foods that we should be consuming in abundance.
The table below is from http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/1999/990208.htm and shows the ORAC value in some common foods.

Top-Scoring Fruits & Vegetables
ORAC units per 100 grams (about 3 ½ ounces)
Fruits Vegetables
Prunes 5770 Kale 1770
Raisins 2830 Spinach 1260
Blueberries 2400 Brussels sprouts 980
Blackberries 2036 Alfalfa sprouts 930
Strawberries 1540 Broccoli flowers 890
Raspberries 1220 Beets 840
Plums 949 Red bell pepper 710
Oranges 750 Onion 450
Red grapes 739 Corn 400
Cherries 670 Eggplant 390
Kiwi fruit 602
Grapefruit, pink 483

The category of super foods is one in which we gives us a much larger dose of antioxidants than in some of the more common foods above.  ORAC values below are listed per 100 grams.

Cloves, ground – 314,446
Cinnamon – 267,536
Turmeric – 159,277
Cacao powder – 95,500
Acai berry powder – 102,700
Maqui berry powder – 75,000
Goji berries – 25,300

Free radical damage leads to health breakdown. It can take the form of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases etc. Our busy, hectic, fast paced lives make it more difficult than ever to avoid the free radical damage from stress, never mind all the other areas that contribute to our load. This is why it is so important to eat a diet rich in antioxidants. The foods (note I am not talking about supplements in capsules) that supply us with high levels of antioxidants typically supply us with many other nutrients that all combine synergistically to give us a wide variety of health benefits.

The bottom line is that we need to change our mind set from eating for recreational purposes to eating for health. So, go out there and get loaded up on antioxidants today, tomorrow and every day!