Once considered as two completely independent and separate systems, current research has proved that not only the brain and digestive system work closely together, but also imbalances and deficiencies in one can majorly affect the other. What exactly does this connection look like?
The first way these two organs communicate with each other is through small cells called neurons that carry commands to and from the brain and other parts of your body. There are 500 million neurons found in your gut alone, so this already tells you that your gut is more than just a place where all the food and drinks you consume will end up. The vagus nerve has a huge role in the Gut-Brain Axis, and stress can affect the signals sent by this nerve to the digestive system causing GI problems including but not limited to indigestions, gas, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). One study conducted by Pellissier et al. (2014) showed that people with IBS have reduced vagal tone, which means that their vagus nerve was under-functioning.
The second way the gut and the brain communicate with each other is through small chemicals called neurotransmitters such as Serotonin and GABA. You may be surprised that the normal bacteria flora found in your digestive system produces many of these neurotransmitters and as a result these chemicals are found in abundance in the gut. So, there may be more to the saying “I have a Gut Feeling” after all, as these chemicals control our moods, and any imbalance between their levels is implicated in many common mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and so on.
While most people have heard about the “Leaky Gut Syndrome”, very few individuals may be aware of the “Leaky Brain Syndrome”. So what is this syndrome, and why should we care? After learning that your gut and brain communicate and depend on one another to function, it may not come as a surprise that this leaky brain condition starts in the gut. When there is an intolerance to the food we eat on the daily basis, especially to gluten, this causes increased intestinal permeability, which then will alter the normal and healthy bacterial flora and will give opportunity for pathogenic bacteria to take over and cause havoc by producing by-products such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS). LPS then in turn will leak into the bloodstream and cause systemic inflammation. Moreover, research has shown presence of gluten and dairy antibodies in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with gluten and dairy intolerance. What this means is that the blood-brain barrier protecting the brain from bacteria, toxins and so on is compromised or otherwise leaky, which makes the brains of these individuals more susceptible to infections, and autoimmune conditions.
During the holidays it’s so much more difficult to avoid your food sensitivities, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And just because you have food sensitivities doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your holiday treats. There are so many resources for making your favourite holiday treats without putting your body through the anguish of eating something your gut, your brain, and your body doesn’t like.
You may be suffering from insomnia, migraine headaches, anxiety and depression, and may want to know if your symptoms are stemming from the leaky brain syndrome. The good first step would be to visit a naturopathic doctor to find out if you have a food sensitivity that can be exacerbating your symptoms. They will likely run a food sensitivity test in addition to other specific biomarkers to assess degree of inflammation in your body. Once you go over the lab results with your ND, they will offer you an individualized treatment plan based on severity of your symptoms and your preference, which will involve extensive therapeutic dietary plan, botanical medicine, orthomolecular supplementation, lifestyle recommendations, counselling and pharmaceutical prescription. It’s important to find an ND that takes your preferences, budget and lifestyle into consideration and keeps you well informed and engaged during the whole process since this is your journey and setting up realistic and attainable goals will increase the efficacy and success of your treatment plan. At Butterfly Naturopathic, our doctors have a person-centred approach to helping all our patients, and this approach has fostered sustainable and powerful alliances between our patients and doctors. If you think, Butterfly sounds like the right place for you to become the healthiest version of yourself, feel free to reach out and make an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors.
Here is my fun hearty twist on a classic latka. It’s egg free, dairy free, and gluten free. For me this satisfies a craving for a warm savory comfort food during the winter months. It also goes fabulously well with a side of applesauce too! This works well paired with some fresh herbs and/or veggies that are still growing in the garden, such as kale, fennel and collards , if you are living in a climate like Vancouver.
Mix and mold into pancake size pieces and pan fry for 5 mins on each side on medium heat
Many people are still struggling to get back to their usual sleep pattern even though it’s almost a week past the daylight savings time change! If you or someone you know is one of those people struggling to get sleep back on track you’ll want to check out our tips to get you back to a restorative and refreshing sleep.
Your body with all its intricacies is fine-tuned by a 24-hour light and dark clock called the Circadian Rhythm. This clock ensures that all our bodily functions occur at the times they are supposed to by overseeing the release of various hormones, which in turn control our metabolism, digestions, reproductive hormones and learning abilities. The circadian rhythm is affected by factors outside our bodies such as sunlight, temperature, and stress that can create a temporary or in some cases long-term disconnect in this rhythm, which can contribute to number of health concerns such as brain fog, memory loss, weight gain and more. This is why some people have trouble adjusting to the daylight savings time change. We love helping people to get their much deserved and essential rest! Here are a few tips to help you get back on track
If you have tried all of these previously without success, we can help you with an individualized plan that can help you address the underlying root cause of your sleep issues.
Do you want to stay healthy and resilient throughout the cold and flu season? Are you tired of getting sick and missing work, school, or important life events every time a family member or co-worker catches the cold? Then, you want to stock up your pantry and fridge with this powerful plant ally. Sambucus nigra commonly known as Elderberry is a wonderful plant medicine to help strengthen your immune system even if you do end up with a cold or flu. It helps your body fight bacteria and viruses quickly and effectively! Packed with vitamins A, C, antioxidants and minerals, this herb can help you combat nasty infections. Whether taken as a syrup, tea or tincture, it can help soothe all your mucus membranes in your nose and throat while stimulating your sweat glands to help eliminate toxins through your skin. Below, is our favourite secret recipe for making this powerful plant into a delicious and healthy treat that you can enjoy throughout the colder seasons to boost your immunity.
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
3/4 dried or 1 1/3 cups fresh or frozen elderberries
3 cups water
1 tsp dried cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp dried clove or 1 whole clove
1 TBSP fresh ginger or 1 tsp dried ginger
1 cup raw honey
1. In a large pot, bring the elderberries, water, cinnamon, cloves and ginger to a boil
2. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, until the liquid has reduced by half. It takes roughly 40-45 minutes
3. Allow the liquid to cool, and then drain the liquid using a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth
4. Press all liquid out of the berries using the back of a wooden spoon
5. Let the liquid cool down to lukewarm
6. Add the raw honey and mix well
7. Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months
Instant Pot Instructions:
Put all ingredients except honey in the Instant Pot, seal the lid, and set manually for 9 minutes on high pressure. Once the time is up, release the pressure and strain the liquid and follow steps 3-7 listed above.
Adults can take 1/2-1TBSP daily, and children can take 1/2-1tsp daily to strengthen their immune systems and protect them against colds and flu.
As we welcome the fall season with its shorter and colder days, it is important to keep our immune system happy and healthy. Vitamin D (aka vitamin sunshine) plays a major role in ensuring an adequate response from our innate immune system as we encounter various bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D is essential for modulating our bodies’ inflammatory response mechanism to alert our immunity soldiers called monocytes and neutrophils to fight off these undesired invaders.
While this vitamin can be synthesized in our skin with the help of ultraviolet B (UVB) light, due to the geographical location of Canada and its higher latitudes, UVB availability and the subsequent production of vitamin D is very limited especially during the period of October to April. As a result, most Canadians are deficient in this essential vitamin and would need to replenish their levels with good quality oral supplements. In addition to its role in our immunity, vitamin D is also necessary for bone health, mental health and digestive health.
Aloia. J.F, and LI-NG, M. (2007) conducted a 3-year randomized controlled trial where they divided 208 African-American post-menopausal women into two groups, and they administered a placebo to the control group (n=104) while giving vitamin D supplements (800IU for 2 years followed by 2000IU for the last year of study) to the active group (n=104). They followed up with these women every 6 months for 3 years, and recorded number of times these individuals caught an URTI or Influenza. The results of this 3-year study showed that only 1 out of 104 women in the vitamin D group reported acquiring Influenza while taking 2000IU of vitamin D, while 26 women in the placebo group reported being sick with Influenza.
At Butterfly Naturopathic Clinic, we can check your vitamin D status, so you can be sure you are taking adequate amounts of it to achieve your optimal health based on your body’s individual requirement. Please visit www.butterflynaturopathic.com to book your appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors. We are excited to meet you.
Do you often find yourself feeling tired?
Do you wish you had more energy to do the things you want to do?
Not having enough energy is one of the most common concerns of our patients. While there are many products and supplements that claim to help you with energy, they might not address the root cause of why you are tired in the first place and figuring that out requires the help of a licensed health professional that can look at your symptoms and your blood work to come up with the appropriate treatment plan.
We can't truly help you feel better if we don't address the reason why you are tired and we often find these reasons to be multifaceted, however this is a list of the most common reasons our patients experience fatigue.
1) Nutritional Deficiencies
If you have been feeling tired regularly and haven't had recent blood testing, making sure you're not anemic is a good place to start. Commonly we send our patients for basic blood tests, that include testing for Iron and Vitamin B12 levels. There are different types of anemia and doing basic blood testing is very helpful in getting to the root cause of your tiredness. The first step is figuring out if you are anemic and if you are anemic, we then need to address why it's happening in the first place.
2) Low Thyroid Function
Thyroid disorders are very common in today's population especially when there is a family history of Thyroid conditions. If you have been gradually feeling more and more exhausted over time and don't know why, looking into your thyroid function is critically important. There are many different reasons why thyroid function can be deficient and figuring out why this is happening earlier-on offers a better opportunity for recovery. Managing your thyroid health requires the guidance of a qualified health professional that is willing to test all aspects of thyroid functioning. We find that when patients follow health practitioners that don't test for all aspects of thyroid functioning, they yield poorer overall results in both the short and long term management of thyroid disorders.
We live in a stressed out world with high demands which results in more and more people burning themselves out just to survive. Unfortunately these cases are more the norm than the exception which is a huge cost on our short and long term health. The adrenal glands produce a hormone (cortisol) that helps us to cope with stress and these glands can become fatigued and burned out from chronic stress. This is a signal that we are requesting too much of our bodies in an unsustainable way, forcing our body to do more than it's able to by depleting valuable resources. Helping our patients with the demands of daily life by supporting their bodies is a critical part of treatment. We see this time and time again with patients that care for others full time and put their own health and themselves last.
4) Lack of Sleep/Rest
If you aren't getting enough sleep or rest, you can't recover. Your body naturally requires you to rest and sleep in order to continue to function. When this cycle is interrupted, you don't get the recovery time you need to sustain healthy functioning. Many of our patients struggle with being able to fall asleep, while others struggle with being able to stay asleep. Correcting sleep disturbances involves a mind, body, spirit approach to allow patients the opportunity to address thought patterns, beliefs, hormones, & neurotransmitter imbalances.
5) Poor Diet & Inadequate Water Intake
If you don't give the body the right fuel, it won't run properly. Not eating enough and not staying hydrated deprives the body of what it needs to function optimally. Eating primarily sugary foods & refined carbohydrates causes blood sugar highs and lows which will leave the body feeling exhausted and increase your risk of developing chronic health conditions. Inadequate protein and fats throughout the day doesn't give the body enough energy to sustain itself. Not knowing your personal inflammatory trigger foods can cause your body to feel swollen, bloated, and fatigued and put you at risk for long term health conditions.
This is our list of the most common reasons that we see on a daily basis. There are many other causes of fatigue that we also address at our clinic. Other causes of fatigue that we see are disorders in genetics, toxicity, chronic diseases, & depression to name a few.
1) We do Acupuncture
Our Naturopathic Doctors are trained in Chinese Medicine and are Board Certified in Acupuncture. Chinese Medicine addresses energy states and energetic flow within the body. When we can address stagnation within the body, we can release stuck patterns and old limiting beliefs. We offer traditional needling, esoteric needling, IMS, trigger point, & electrical stimulation techniques. More...
Similar to a Chiropractor, we believe that spinal and joint alignment is fundamental to a healthy body. In an age where sitting at a screen for hours is more the norm than the exception, we are able to help our patients find a more healthy alignment within their bodies so that they can achieve their daily goals. More...
We can order any lab test that your family doctor would order you from LifeLabs for very reasonable rates. We also order specialized lab testing that can identify more rare conditions. Having lab testing at our disposal empowers you, the patient, to obtain vital information for your proper diagnosis. More...
Prescription rights affords us the privilege of using pharmaceutical medicines when necessary and adjust dosages to suit the patients needs. This also provides us the opportunity to be able to do injection and intravenous therapies. More...
Bone broth soups have been used for centuries as a healing food for digestive, skin and joint health. It is an easy and economical way to get the essential nutrients your body needs to be strong and healthy, and has been shown to help with:
Health Benefits of Bone Broth Soups
Bone broth soups are rich in minerals, amino acids and cartilage products.
Minerals: Bone broth soups contain high amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other trace minerals that are essential to building strong bones, maintaining a healthy heart and promoting healthy muscle and nerve function.
Amino Acids: Bone broth soups contain the amino acids arginine, glycine, glutamine and proline.
Author: Dr. Fiona Smulders, ND
Herbal medicine is an ancient healing art with profound effects on the human body. Plants contain unique constituents that help boost and balance your immune system.
They can either stimulate the immune system by directly fighting against viruses, bacteria and fungi or they can modulate and nourish the immune system to enhance the body’s own natural defences.
These are the top 5 common plants that can help you through this year's cold & flu season:
1. Elder berry & flower (Sambucus nigra)
The Elder flower and berry can increase circulation and improve oxygenation of tissues through its diaphoretic effects on the body. Elder is also considered a relaxant and helps relieve spasmodic coughs, making it an excellent remedy for croup and spasmodic coughing in children. The berries and flowers are high in flavonoids, which have an antimicrobial action within the body and helps strengthen cell membranes to prevent virus penetration.
2. Peppermint leaf (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint leaf contains Vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins and potassium to help give your immune system an extra boost. Peppermint is traditionally used as a remedy for fever and chills, which may be partially explained by its paradoxical cool taste and stimulating and warming after-effects within the body. It also fights against microbes and helps sooth the digestive system, making this tea ideal for the flu.
3. Thyme leaf (Thymus vulgaris)
Although thyme is native to the mediterranean, it grows very well here and has become a common addition to any local herb garden. Thyme leaf tea is an excellent cough remedy. It helps the lungs expel excess mucus and helps to sooth inflamed lung tissue. Thyme has a powerful detoxifying and penetrative effect due to its volatile oils, which helps to open pores and thin mucus.
It is also considered an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory for the lungs, and has proved to be an effective traditional remedy against powerful infective organisms like typhoid and diphtheria. Today, thyme is used for postnasal drip, whooping cough in children, sore throats, common colds and bronchitis.
4. Sage leaf (Salvia officinalis)
Sage is also native to the Mediterranean region, but grows well in BC herb gardens. Sage leaf tea is the ultimate sore throat remedy. It has a specific action towards soothing inflammation of the throat, and helps to break up mucus formation. It also contains thujone, a potent antiseptic and antibiotic, which fights against common viruses, bacteria and fungi to assist your body’s immune system and help you recover faster.
5. Osha root (Ligusticum spp)
Osha typically grows in high altitudes along the rocky mountains and cascades, but a less potent relative, the Ligusticum scoticum species, can be found in the forests of BC. The resins within the root relieve congestion by expelling mucus from the lungs and sinuses, and reduce inflammation by naturally increasing your own cortisol production. Osha is best used for cold, flu, sinusitis, influenza, sore throat, and bronchitis. Osha should be avoided during pregnancy.
To learn how to prepare these herbs please visit Dr. Smulders' Medicine Making page
When deciding on where to live, people often consider the safety of the neighbourhood, proximity to work/school/groceries/etc, easy commutes, convenience of transportation, and so on. However, a growing body of research is looking at another important lifestyle factor for optimal health and quality of life: the amount of surrounding green and blue space.
Green space refers to areas of concentrated plant life, like parks, gardens, forests and trees lining a street. Blue space refers to bodies of water like lakes, streams and oceans.
Our “green and blue time” is becoming progressively more important as urbanization continues to push forward.
"We must find a balance between our connection with nature & the convenience of an urban lifestyle."
Through this article, we will explore the positive health benefits of natural environments on your immune system, mood, stress levels, and family health.
WALKING THROUGH THE FOREST CAN BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM.
In Japan, there have been numerous studies on the immune boosting effect of certain plant-derived airborne chemicals called phytoncides. These antimicrobial phytoncides are released by trees to help protect them against certain viruses, bacteria and fungi. When we walk through the mist of phytoncides, we also receive this natural antimicrobial protection.
The air within natural environments is also filled with helpful microbes, which help to rebuild and strengthen our own microcosm of beneficial skin flora to protect against disease.
NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS HELP BALANCE YOUR MOOD AND REDUCE STRESS.
Most people experience the relaxing effect of nature while going for a walk through the forest or along the ocean, it just makes you feel good. This is because nature promotes feelings of positivity and helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Green spaces have been shown to lower cortisol levels and increase parasympathetic nerve activity. Cortisol is your stress hormone, it gets released during stressful events to get you ready to run for your life. The Parasympathetic nervous system is your “rest and digest” mode, it calms the mind and body down to prepare for meals, rest and sleep. Lowering cortisol and increasing parasympathetic activity can help reduce anxiety, lower stress, balance blood pressure, and turn off mental chatter and rumination.
GREEN SPACES PROMOTE HEALTHIER PREGNANCIES AND IMPROVE CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH.
Nature's effect on stress reduction, as discussed earlier, has a very positive effect on pregnancy outcomes. While under stress, blood is shunted away from your major abdominal organs towards the muscles of your arms and legs to get ready to “fight or flight”. By lowering stress, you are ensuring that you and your baby are getting the optimal delivery of oxygen and nutrients needed. Studies have also shown a positive correlation between increased exposure to green spaces and healthier newborn birthweight.
Nature also provides a calming effect on children. Increased exposure to urban green spaces and beaches has been shown to decrease the potential of children developing ADD/ADHD, and reduce behavioural, emotional and social difficulties in children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
I hope this information will encourage you to get out in nature more often. Whether it’s walking through a tree-lined street, visiting your neighbour’s garden or walking along the beach, you and your family’s health will benefit from it.
Author: Dr. Fiona Smulders, ND