Freshness of Spring Recipes

Spring is finally here!  With warmer temperatures comes the excitement and desire to spend more time outdoors. This beautiful season is rich with the growth of plants and offers us a wider selection of fresh foods.  One of my families favourite Spring things to do is spend time on our backyard patio BBQ’ing and enjoying the freshness of what Spring has to offer.   I’d like to share some of my favorite Spring-time recipes with you. Enjoy!

 

Honey Mustard Chicken Kabobs

(from Real HouseMoms)

Ingredients

Kabobs

  • 1-1/2 lbs chicken cut into 1-1/2” cubes
  • 1 lb red potatoes cut into 1-1/2” cubes
  • 1 large red onion cut into 1-1/2” chunks
  • 2 medium zucchinis cut into ¼” slices
  • Salt and pepper

Honey Mustard Marinade

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon Tamari
  • 1 teaspoon EACH parsley, paprika, garlic powder and salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  • Whisk all the marinade ingredients together EXCEPT olive oil (“Reserved Marinade”)
  • Remove ¼ cup marinade to a large freezer bag or shallow dish. Add chicken and 3 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to coat.Marinate in refrigerator for 4-6 hours.
  • Add potatoes to a large microwave safe bowl.Add 2 tablespoons of water.  Microwave covered, 4-5 minutes or just until fork tender; drain.
  • Add zucchini, onions, 3 tablespoons of reserved marinade, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss until evenly coated. Refrigerate.
  • All the remaining unused Reserved Marinade will be used for basting.
  • If using wooden skewers, soak for at least 30 minutes in water before grilling.
  • When ready to cook, thread chicken and veggies onto skewers.
  • Grease grill and heat to medium-high heat.Grill chicken kabobs for approximately 8-10 minutes, rotating a few times until nicely browned and slightly charred on each side and chicken is cooked through, basting halfway through cooking.

Nectarine, Pistachio and Goat Cheese Salad

(from Vanilla and Bean)

Ingredients

Salad

  • 8 cups fresh tender mixed lettuce greens such as read leaf, romaine, beet greens, spinach, bibb
  • 3 nectarines cut into wedges
  • 2 oz goat cheese crumbled
  • 6 tablespoons pistachios roasted and salted; shells removed

Dressing

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons champaign vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon poppy seeds
  • Pinch of fine sea salt

Instructions

  • Add all dressing ingredients into a lidded jar.Shake until well mixed.
  • Add greens to a large bowl.
  • Arrange the nectarines on the salad and top with goat cheese and pistachios.
  • Toss with dressing just prior to serving.

 

Frozen Yogurt & Berry Ice Cream Pops

(from Clean Eating with Kids)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups coconut milk yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 cups of your choice of mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, black berries, cherries)

Instructions

  • Add yogurt, berries and honey to blender and blend until smooth.Stop halfway and scrape down the sides if needed.   It’s nice to leave chunks of berries.
  • Pour into popsicle molds.
  • Freeze for 3 hours until firm.
  • Remove from mold and serve.

Dr. Allison Ziegler’s Maternity Leave Update

I am excited to announce that I am due to have my third child in June 2022!

I will be taking three months away from the office starting July 1st-October 1st, 2022. There will be no disruption in IV therapy while I am away as Dr. Lynn Chiasson has graciously offered to continue them for me.

Due to the inconvenience this may pose to my clients, I wanted to let you know sooner rather than later so you have ample time to book an appointment if needed.

To book please call 306.757.4325.

Who do you know that is self-employed, runs and integrative health care business, or is graduating soon from any of the following fields that would be interested in an affordable office space in an established multidisciplinary clinic to rent on a monthly basis? I have a beautifully furnished room available for individual use while I am away on maternity leave and on a part-time basis when I return.

  • holistic nutrition
  • counseling
  • lactation consultant
  • psychology
  • bodytalk
  • reiki
  • chiropractic medicine
  • massage therapy
  • acupuncture

Our goal is to ensure our community has access to as many integrative health care resources as possible, under one roof, as well as to promote the extensive number of healing professionals that Regina and the area boasts.

Reception is available if required, for additional rental fees.  Contact me by email at allison@zieglerhealth.com if you are interested in discussing our options and touring the available space.

Pre and Post-Natal DHA Supplementation

Optimal nutrition during pregnancy is one of the most important gifts you can give you and your growing baby.  All the nutrients required for healthy development and growth of the baby are passed on through the mother’s diet.  Certain nutrients are required in higher amounts then can be obtained from the diet alone.  One of these is an omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

DHA is the most important of the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids when it comes to pregnancy.  The majority of DHA supplementation comes in the form of fish oils, which consist of two omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).  During pregnancy ensuring a higher content of DHA is essential for the following reasons:

  • It provides the fuel for baby’s developing brain and retina, improving visual acuity;
  • Increases cognitive function, intelligence, and IQ;
  • Reduces the risk of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia and other developmental disorders;
  • Increases gestation time and birth weight; and
  • Reduces severity of allergies.

 

During the first three months of the baby’s life, the brain is developing at a significant rate.  The DHA levels within baby’s brain triple during the first 3 months allowing for development of the brain, spinal cord, and the neurological system.  During this time, DHA makes up about 11% of the dry weight of baby’s brain.  Furthermore, come the third trimester, even more significant brain growth occurs averaging 400-500%.  Needless to say, it is so important that mom obtains adequate levels of DHA throughout her pregnancy.

 

Not only is DHA important for baby’s development, it also helps to support mom’s health as well.   DHA is stored in the brain, tissues and red blood cells.  The placenta takes the stores from the blood and directs it to the baby as it needs.  If mom does not have adequate levels of DHA, the placenta will draw all of moms’ stores for the developing baby leaving mom deficient.  In fact, women’s brain cell volume actually decreases during pregnancy, this is the reason for “baby brain”.  DHA deficiency has been strongly linked with postnatal depression, poor concentration, memory and learning difficulties in the pre and postnatal period for mom.  Ensuring adequate levels of DHA during and after pregnancy helps to improve concentration, focus and mood.

Perils of “the Pill”

The oral contraceptive pill (birth control pill) was originally introduced to the public in the 1960’s as a way to prevent female fertility.  Since that time, the amount of women using the birth control pill has significantly increased to an estimated 100 million around the world.

Natural Menstruation

The menstrual cycle naturally occurs by fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone.  Estrogen levels rise in the first half of a woman’s cycle to prepare ovarian follicles to release an egg and to thicken the uterine lining.  High levels of estrogen prevent the release of another hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH).  Mid-cycle, when the egg is matured, estrogen levels rise even higher reversing its inhibitory effect causing LH to be produced in large amounts.  This LH surge is responsible for the release of the egg, known as ovulation. The second half of the cycle is then marked by rises in progesterone, which helps to create a uterine environment suitable for implantation.  If fertilization and implantation, as in pregnancy, do not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels decline and menstruation occurs.

Birth Control Pill

Birth control pills work by keeping estrogen levels at a sufficiently high amount to prevent the surge of LH and thus ovulation.  If ovulation is prevented, a mature egg is not released and pregnancy cannot occur.  The pill also prevents pregnancy by making the uterine lining inhospitable to a fertilized egg, limiting the sperm’s ability to fertilize the egg and thickening the cervical mucus to hinder sperm movement.

 

Misconceptions About “the Pill”

The Pill Balances Your Hormones

The birth control pill/patch is often prescribed for hormonal issues; however, it does not balance hormones.  Other factors are the cause of hormonal imbalance and they must be investigated.  Birth control pill/patch use promotes a continually high level of estrogen.  Some pills are designed to allow a period only 4 times a year or to be taken continually, which eliminates the period for years at a time, without a break from the estrogen blast.

When the body is under estrogen dominance, as seen when estrogen levels remain high without being balanced by progesterone, the following effects are seen:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Irregular bleeding or spotting
  • Fertility concerns
  • Weight gain
  • Mood changes
  • Increased risk of breast cancer
  • Increased risk of blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
  • Migraines
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Benign liver tumors

 

The Pill Makes Your Period Return

Some women experience a cessation in their period for various reasons and the pill is prescribed to “regulate” it.  Taking the pill only appears to regulate the menstrual cycle.  Withdrawal bleeding occurs during the week break from the active pills or sugar pills, simulating the average period (28 days).  The only reason one bleeds during this break is due to the drastic decrease in estrogen levels, causing the uterine lining to shed.  Birth control pills suppress the normal cycle. The hormonal events while taking the pill are significantly different compared to the natural ovulatory cycle, as ovulation does not actually occur.

 

There are no Long-Term Effects from Taking the Pill

In addition to the risk factors caused by estrogen dominance as listed above, taking the birth control pill depletes several nutrients.  Oral contraceptive pills deplete all B-vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc, tyrosine and coenzyme Q10.  Without these nutrients, ailments such as depression, low libido, lack of energy, focus/concentration and insomnia can result.  It is recommend that women who are taking oral contraceptives also take a high-potency multi-vitamin as well as additional B-vitamins to prevent nutrient deficiencies and promote optimal health.

It is important to understand how oral contraceptive pills function in the body.  Being aware of the nutrient deficiencies can aid in preventing the effects of long-term oral contraceptive use.  Understanding the effects and taking a proactive approach can help you be healthier and feel better.

Immune Boosting Tea

Cold and flu season is here! As we move into the coldest months of winter, I want to share my go-to immune boosting tea.  Whether you are treating a cold or flu, trying to prevent one all together or simply looking for a healthy warm beverage, this tea is delicious and is packed full of nutrients that will keep your immune system strong during the winter months and all year round.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 organic lemon, rind intact and cut into wedges
  • 1 fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cups of water
  • Unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • Raw honey or Manuka honey

 

Directions

Add the lemon, ginger, cinnamon sticks and water to a pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey per cup of tea and Enjoy!

 

Lemon

Lemon is rich in vitamin C, an essential nutrient for optimal immune system functioning.  Lemon also has antibacterial and antiviral properties.  Ensure you use an organic lemon as conventional lemons have wax and other chemicals on the outside that should not be ingested, especially if your immune system is already weakened by infection.  If you do not have access to organic lemons, peel the lemon prior to adding it.

 

Ginger

Ginger has long been classified as a super food due to the many medicinal properties it exhibits.  Gingerol is the main natural oil found in ginger that is responsible for most of the medicinal properties found in ginger.  Gingerol is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.  The antioxidant effect of ginger helps to increase immune function by reducing the amount of oxidative damage to the body.  The anti-inflammatory effect of ginger can help to soothe a sore throat during a cold and reduce body aches experienced during a flu.

Ginger also has antibacterial and antiviral effects to help prevent, as well as reduce the severity of a cold and flu.

 

Cinnamon

The delicious aroma and taste of cinnamon is only a fraction of what this super food has to offer.  Cinnamon has significant antioxidant benefits-superior to most super foods.  Antioxidants are important because they help the body reduce oxidative stress, which damages cells, reduces immune function and contributes to nearly all chronic diseases.  In addition, cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory.  Cinnamon has traditionally been used to treat sore throats as it reduces the associated inflammation and aids in repairing tissue damage.  The antimicrobial benefits of cinnamon also make it a nice addition to any infection fighting tea.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains the “mother”, which is a mix of yeast and bacteria that work as probiotics.  Probiotics have immune-boosting properties that can effectively help to fight influenza-like respiratory infections and the common cold.

 

Honey

Raw honey and Manuka honey are very nutrient dense and exhibit the most antimicrobial action of all honey. Honey has a very low concentration of water and high concentration of sugar.  This combination creates an environment that is difficult for bacteria to survive in. Honey naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which increases in concentration when honey is added to water.  Both properties contribute to the antimicrobial property of honey and is the reason honey is such an effective antibacterial agent.

Holiday Menu

From our homes to yours, we would like to share our favourite recipes as you prepare for your holiday feast.  From all of us, we wish you a very happy Christmas season and many blessings in 2022!

With love, Brittany, Michelle, Julie and Allison

 

Apple Cider & Herb Brined Turkey 

From Nourishing Meals, one of Dr. Ziegler’s favourite cookbooks.

You will want to have your turkey thawed and ready for brining 24 to 72 hours before you plan on cooking it. Pictured here is a 15-pound turkey. The larger the turkey, the longer it will need to soak in the brine. I add all of the ingredients to the pot, except for the water, then add the turkey and add water to cover. It will be about a gallon, give or take some, depending on the size of your turkey. If you add more than a gallon of water (say for a larger turkey), you will want to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more salt, otherwise the brine may not be strong enough.

1 gallon apple cider
1 cup coarse sea salt
2 onions, chopped (I leave the skin on)
2 oranges, sliced
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 small bunch fresh rosemary
1 small bunch fresh thyme
1 small bunch fresh sage
2 to 4 bay leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 whole turkey (12 to 24 pounds)
1 gallon filtered water (or just enough to cover)

Place the apple cider, salt, onions, oranges, garlic, rosemary, sage, bay leaves, and black peppercorns into a large pot or container, stir well, and then place the turkey into it. Cover with filtered water. Place a weight on top of the bird to keep it submerged in the brine (like a glass bowl with a rock or a bag of water in it). If you don’t use a weight you will need to flip the turkey once or twice during a 24 hour period. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 72 hours.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Pull the turkey out of the brine and place into a roasting pan. Pull some of the onions, herbs, and orange slices out and stuff them into the cavity of the turkey. At this point I like to truss the bird with cotton butcher’s twine (you should be able to find this at your local kitchen or grocery store).

Next, remove the remaining solids from the brine and place them around the turkey in the bottom of the pan. This will flavor the bird even more during cooking and create an amazing gravy! Take about 4 cups of brine, along with about 2 cups of filtered water, and add it to the bottom of the pan.

Season the top of the bird with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil.

Place in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to 325 degrees F and continue roasting until juices run clear. I like to baste the turkey a few times during cooking as well. Brining can reduce total cooking time by a little, but you can use these guidelines from FoodSafety.gov for average cooking times (since I am not fully stuffing the cavity, I use the guidelines for an unstuffed turkey). Use a meat thermometer if needed to test for doneness. It should read about 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, though I usually take it out of the oven when the temperature is a little lower to prevent overcooking.

8 to 12 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Once the turkey is done, let it rest in the pan for about 30 minutes before carving. This allows for the juices to go back into the meat. You can then remove the turkey and place it on a large cutting board to carve. Pour the pan juices through a fine-mesh strainer into a 2-quart saucepan. Follow these directions to make Gluten-Free Gravy with them!

Once you have pulled all of the meat from the bones, use the carcass to make a rich, nourishing Turkey Stock

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberry Brown Butter

One of Dr. Zepp’s holiday favourites

4 pounds brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted organic grassfed butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 teaspoon chopped thyme

Preheat the oven to 400°. On 2 large rimmed baking sheets, toss the brussels sprouts with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the sprouts are tender and browned in spots.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, maple syrup, ginger and orange zest. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the cranberries break down and thicken, about 10 minutes.
In a medium skillet, cook the butter over moderately high heat until deep golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the shallot and thyme and stir into the cranberry sauce. Transfer the butter to a bowl, add the brussels sprouts and toss. Season with salt and serve.

Festive Kale Salad

From Oh She Glows, Dr. Wolfe’s pick

SALAD

2 bunches of finely chopped green curly kale
Hefty sprinkle of pecan parmesan (see below)
1 cup pomegranate arils
Optional additions but highly recommended: goat feta, one apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
DRESSING (Sweet apple cinnamon vinaigrette)
6 tbsp apple cider vinegar
~4.5 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
PECAN PARMESAN
1 cup pecans toasted
3 tsp nutritional yeast
3-6 tsp olive oil (start with 3 and work up slowly)
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until fragrant and lightly golden.
Remove the stems from the kale and discard. (Save the stems for a stir fry, broth or smoothie!)
Wash the kale and spin dry. Finely chop the leaves if needed otherwise place them in a large bowl with a glug of olive oil and a splash of lemon juice then massage the leaves until softened.
Make the dressing in a small bowl by mixing all of the ingredients together.
For the Pecan Parmesan: Add the pecans into the processor and process until the pecans are the size of peas or a bit larger. Now add in the nutritional yeast, oil, and salt and process again until it has a coarse crumb texture. Go slowly on this one so as not to overprocess into a fine powder.
Arrange your salad by adding all ingredients into the bowl, top with a hefty serving of the parmesan and serve the dressing on the side.

Super Seed Chocolate Bark

Dr. Sthamann’s delicous dessert

2-3/4 ozs dark chocolate
2 tsps cocnut oil
¼ cup pumkin seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsps hemp seeds

Line plate or baking sheet with parchment paper.
Fill a medium pot with an inch of water and place a small pot or heat-safe bowl on top ensuring the water is not touching the bottom of the smaller pot or bowl. The smaller pot or bowl should rest tightly on top of the pot and any water or steam should not be able to escape. Bring water to a boil then reduce heat to low.
Add the chocolate and coconut oil to the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted completely.
Remove the bowl for the double boiler and stir in the seeds. Mix well until the seeds are completely covered in the chocolate.
Transfer the chocolate and seeds to the prepared parchment paper and spread into an even layer. Place the bark in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until solid.
When solid, break into pieces and store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge until ready to eat.

A Nutrient Cocktail: Intravenous Therapy

Growing in popularity among integrative health practitioners is the use of intravenous (IV) vitamin and mineral therapy. Intravenous administration of vitamins and minerals is a therapy that has potential benefit for a wide range of clinical conditions including inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and colitis), migraines, fatigue (including chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, acute muscle spasms, upper respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, seasonal allergies, cardiovascular disease, depression, athletic performance and adjunctive cancer treatment1.

 

Intravenous therapy is the administration of vitamins and minerals directly into the blood stream using a small needle.  IV nutrient therapy is a way of getting the vitamins and minerals into the blood stream quickly and at a higher amount.  When taken orally, vitamins and minerals are absorbed via the digestive tract.  If the digestive tract is compromised, the nutrients from the vitamin and mineral supplement may not be effectively absorbed and most may be excreted from the body.  For example, when given through IV, vitamin C can reach concentrations 10 times higher than through oral supplementation2. As a result, IV therapy can have great benefit for those who have digestive issues or who cannot tolerate oral supplementation or in conditions when a higher blood concentration is required to have the desired therapeutic action.

 

Dr. John Myers, MD, a physician from Baltimore, Maryland was the first doctor to use IV therapy in 1970’s.  It was from him the term “Myers’ Cocktail” was coined.  Nutrients in a Myers’ Cocktail consist of magnesium, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, B complex and vitamin C1. After Dr. Myers death in 1984, Dr. Alan Gaby, MD continued to develop the field of IV nutrient therapy.  A Myers’ Cocktail is aimed at correcting common nutrient deficiencies, improving energy and boosting the immune system.

 

In the treatment of cancer, high dose ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is shown to have anti-tumor effects.  Since there are mechanisms in the digestive tract that tightly regulate intestinal absorption of vitamin C, a desirable concentration of ascorbic acid to have the anti-tumor action can only be achieved through intravenous injection, as opposed to oral supplementation2.  Studies show that used in conjunction with chemotherapy, intravenous vitamin C can decrease the side effects of chemotherapy, improve quality of life, and decrease tumor size2.

 

IV therapy poses little safety concerns, with no reported severe adverse effects.  In my experience, the most common mild adverse effects are discomfort at the injection site and lightheadedness.  These can easily be corrected by adjusting the administration speed and/or solution concentration.

 

Intravenous therapy is an exciting integrative medical approach that is aimed at correcting deficiencies, improving energy and re-establishing health.

 

References

  1. Gaby AR. Intravenous nutrient therapy: the “Myers’ cocktail”. Altern Med Rev. 2002 Oct;7(5):389-403.
  2. Bao, James, et al. Effectiveness of Intravenous Vitamin C in Combination with Conventional Chemotherapy in Cancer Treatment.  Integrated Healthcare Practitioners 2013 June/July.

Thyroid and Fertility

Fertility is a sensitive subject for many women experiencing difficulties conceiving.  There are many factors that contribute to optimal fertility, one of which is the health of the thyroid gland.  In fact, low functioning thyroid (hypothyroid) is one of the leading causes of infertility; therefore, understanding the role and health of the thyroid gland is essential in the preparation for pregnancy.

 

The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland that overlies the trachea or windpipe and is located at the base of the neck.  The primary role of the thyroid gland is to use iodine from food to produce thyroxine (T4), and small amounts of triiodothyronine (T3).  These hormones are released into the bloodstream to be circulated throughout the body.  T3 is the active form of the thyroid hormone; therefore, once inside the target cell, T4 is converted into T3.  The functions of thyroid hormones are numerous.  These functions include: regulation of metabolism, stimulation of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism, during pregnancy, fetal growth and development is stimulated by maternal thyroid hormone, with help from the fetal thyroid hormone later in pregnancy, and is required for activity of other hormones, like growth hormone, that influences heart rate, blood pressure and proper brain function (1).

 

Another function of the thyroid gland is its influence on the female reproductive hormones.  Thyroid hormone stimulates the proper production of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) from the brain.  FSH and LH are required for the maturation of the egg follicle and production of estrogen and progesterone at the level of the ovary. The proper balance of FSH and LH and subsequent estrogen and progesterone production, will stimulate the release of the egg at ovulation.  Research suggests that women with low functioning thyroids have decreased levels of FSH and LH (2).  Consequently, ovulation can be disrupted and infertility result.  The disruption in reproductive hormones as seen in women with thyroid disorders, often have menstrual cycle abnormalities such as scant or heavy flow and irregular cycles.  Although, thyroid function influences reproductive hormones, reproductive hormones also influence the function of the thyroid.  A high level of estrogen (estrogen dominance) reduces the thyroid function by increasing a protein called thyroid-binding globulin (TBG).  TBG binds and transports T4 and T3 hormones.  The catch is, once bound to the TBG, the thyroid hormones become inactive.  In a normal functioning thyroid, a subsequent increase in thyroid hormone compensates for this.  However, in someone with hypothyroidism, symptoms worsen, as there is less active thyroid hormone (3).

 

The adrenal gland is also a large player in the healthy function of the thyroid gland.  The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidney and produce cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline in response to stress.  Exposure to high levels of stress can increase the production of the stress hormones.  As a result, thyroid function is affected.  High levels of cortisol alter the production of thyroid hormone at the level of the thyroid gland and can prevent the conversion of T4 to active T3 at the level of the cell.   Continued high levels of stress can eventually lead to ‘adrenal fatigue’ or ‘insufficiency’ whereby the stress hormones become low.  This can also lead to a lower thyroid function.

 

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Cold intolerance
  • Low body temperature
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Depression or irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration
  • Brittle nails
  • Decreased libido
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Menstrual cycle abnormalities
  • Infertility
  • Swollen thyroid (goiter)
  • Slow pulse

 

Typically, testing thyroid function is limited to measuring only thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is a hormone produced by the brain to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce T4.  In hypothyroidism, TSH will be high since more stimulation is required in a lower functioning gland. The problem with testing only TSH is that TSH can be within normal range while T4 and T3 are abnormal.  This scenario results when there are issues converting T4 to the active T3 hormonal at the level of the cell (see figure 1).  The most beneficial way to evaluate thyroid function, especially with fertility concerns, is to measure TSH, T4 and T3 levels.  Among experts in the field of thyroid health, a TSH level of 0.3-3.0 mlU/L is considered normal (4). With respect to fertility, research suggests a lower TSH (2.0 or below) is optimal if trying to conceive (5).

Getting the thyroid into shape for pregnancy requires support of the thyroid gland itself and the adrenal gland.  Providing the nutrients for optimal thyroid gland function include getting enough iodine and selenium.  Iodine is required for the production of thyroid hormones.  Dietary iodine requirements increase during pregnancy because there is a higher demand for T4 and T3 for fetal development.  Choosing a prenatal vitamin with an iodine content of 150-200μg per day can help achieve the required amount.

Selenium is another important nutrient required in the conversion of T4 to T3.  Eating foods rich in selenium, such as pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds, can help to prevent deficiency.

 

Adrenal support can be achieved through active stress relieving techniques like meditation, adequate sleep, taking time to do activities you enjoy, and avoiding processed foods and stimulates like coffee.  Herbal support can help improve adrenal and thyroid function.  Some herbs include Ashwagandha, Schisandra, Rhodiola, Licorice root, and Gotu Kola.

 

Evaluation of the thyroid function is essential for those women having difficulty conceiving. Ensuring proper nutrition through whole, nutrient dense foods, and nutrient and herbal supplements can help to balance the hormonal disruption caused by an underactive thyroid.

 

 

References

  1. Helt, M. (Online) Every Woman’s Guide to Hypothyroidism and Fertility 2016
  2. Acharya, N (2011) Gonadotropin levels in hypothyroid women of reproductive age group. J Obstet Gynaecol India. 61(5):550-3.
  3. Arafah, BM (2001) Increased need for thyroixin in women with hypothyroidism during estrogen therapy. N Engl J Med. 344(23):1743-9.
  4. Shomon, Mary J. (2006) The Thyroid Hormone Breakthrough. HarperCollins.
  5. Stagnaro-Green, A et al (2011) Guidelines of the American Thryroid Association for the Diagnosis and Management of Thyroid Disease During Pregnancy and Postpartum. Thyroid. 21(10):1081-1125.

Amazing Lunch Boxes!

With the return to school comes the gentle hope for your child to succeed in whatever the school year holds – school work, friendships, extracurricular and family activities.  An important factor in this success is the nutrition our children receive. What can we provide them in their daily lunch box that will optimize their brain growth, development and behavior?

Our brain’s biochemistry is determined by the food we eat far more than any other organ in the body. Nutrition has significant effects on brain function. It helps with alertness, intellectual acuity, and in-class behavior. It is important to remember that eating habits develop early and most children acquire them from parents and siblings.  Children don’t develop food preferences entirely on their own, they acquire habits by observing others and by what they have access to; therefore, choosing healthy foods at home can improve a child’s nutritional status.

Good nutrition is when the diet provides the required combinations of vitamins, minerals, and vital nutrients allowing optimum physical and mental health to be attained.  For Children, nutrition also paves the way for essential early neurological and physiological development.  Proper nutrition enables the body and the brain to grow.   The development of the frontal lobe in the brain is especially influenced by nutrition.  The frontal lobe is associated with a set of cognitive abilities called executive functions; these include problem solving, planning, using strategies, evaluating and monitoring and staying on the task. These cognitive abilities have been shown to have a direct link to nutrient availability.

When the body is starved of essential nutrients the hormone balance in the brain is affected and the individuals may outwardly express these imbalances as anti-social behaviours. Rather than being relaxed or friendly, an individual may now seem antisocial, introverted, and hyperactive.

When packing a lunch box for yourself or child, it is important to keep in mind 3 parts that every lunch box should contain before it is complete – colourful and fresh, protein and healthy fats.  Keeping these in mind will help to create a balanced and nutritious lunch box.

  1. Fresh and Colourful
  • Include fruits and vegetables in every colour. Find out what your child loves, and keep introducing new options.
  • Traditional apples, oranges and bananas can be rotated with sliced pineapple, kiwis, berries, mango slices, watermelon, grapes or pears.
  • Chop a bunch of fresh fruits in a fruit salad. Make fun fruit kabobs.
  • Veggies are easiest for children to reach for if they are finger sized and fresh. Carrots, celery, red, yellow and green pepper slices can be combined in a container with new choices such as beets, broccoli, cauliflower and cucumber.
  • Dips are a great way to persuade non-vegetable lovers to munch away.

Picky-eater idea: Homemade or store-bought hummus, tzatziki, or bean dips combine fiber and nutrient rich veggies with protein. Hide veggies in pasta sauces, soups, and smoothies.

  1. Protein
  • Many children do not eat enough protein with their snacks and lunches.
  • Lean protein sources can be animal or plant-based, and should be consumed every few hours to help balance blood glucose levels.
  • Adding chicken, fish, nuts/seeds, lentils/legumes, eggs and non-genetically modified soy products to salads, stir-fry, or cut up and eaten as whole foods, can be great ways to assure children are getting the essential building blocks throughout the day.

Picky-eater idea: Make a big batch of lean chicken or turkey breast fingers – Use quinoa flakes or brown rice flour as coating for gluten-free benefits.

  1. Healthy Fats
  • Everyone needs healthy, whole fats in the diet – they are the backbone of our cells and neurological functions.
  • Omega-3-essential fatty acids, especially fish oils, are hugely important in learning and growing. They are found in all types of fatty fish, such as salmon. Other healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

Picky-eater idea: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, mixed with some raw shredded coconut, and dried fruit for mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Fruit and seed bars – see recipe below.

Small changes can make the world of difference in your child’s health, both at home and school.  Providing them with an amazing and nutritious lunch box will give them the foundation to excel in the days to come.

 Seed and Fruit Bar

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup pure honey
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour (or ground flaxseed)
  • 1 tbsp all-natural sunflower seed butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried organic fruit

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Trim parchment paper to line an 8×8-inch baking dish, leaving parchment paper to hang over two sides of the dish.
  2. In a large bowl, add the honey, coconut flour (or ground flaxseed), all-natural sunflower seed butter and salt. Use a spoon to stir until well combined.
  3. Measure 1 cup of coconut flakes. Place coconut flakes on the cutting board and coarse-chop. Add chopped coconut flakes to honey mixture.
  4. Next, coarse-chop any combination of dried fruit you choose and then measure out 1/2 cup. Add the chopped dried fruit to the honey mixture.
  5. Finally, add the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  6. Using a spoon, mix ingredients together making sure they are thoroughly combined.
  7. Place the bar mixture into the parchment-lined baking dish. Fold overlapping flaps down and evenly press the top of the bar mixture firmly to pack-in the ingredients so they hold together better after baking. Then, peel back the parchments flaps from top of bars. (Do not trim, as the flaps make it easier to remove the bars after baking.)
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove from oven and allow to completely cool on stovetop for approximately one hour (or until bottom of baking dish is room temp).
  9. Place in fridge to continue cooling. (Do not freeze as it makes it impossible to cut the bars without them crumbling.) Once cold, remove dish from refrigerator. Then, run a knife along the two edges without parchment. Using the parchment paper ends, lift the bars from the baking dish and place on a cutting board.
  10. Cut into 8 bars and individually wrap and store in the fridge or freezer. Then you can easily take out what you need and place directly into your child’s lunchbox (or yours) – no need to thaw.

Seasonal Allergies

Summer is in the air!  The same factors that make summer such a pleasant time of year, can also be a source of aggravation for many who experience seasonal allergies.  Blooming flowers, spores, pollen, dust and mold that surface after the snow, are common triggers for those not-so-pleasant allergy symptoms.

Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever and allergic rhinitis, affect approximately 25% of Canadians each year with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.  An allergy is an inflammatory immune reaction triggered by a variety of substances called allergens (particles foreign to the body).  In seasonal allergies, airborne pollen, dust, mold and spores are the allergens that typically trigger the immune system.  The first time the immune system is in contact with an allergen, it produces an antibody toward that specific allergen, known as IgE.  Production of antibodies is a way the immune system tries to neutralize the foreign substance.  Once IgE is produced, it binds to an immune cell called a mast cell.  A mast cell contains several chemical messengers, one of which is called histamine.  Upon binding of IgE to the mast cell, the histamine and other chemical messengers, such as leukotrienes, and prostaglandins, are released from the cell into the body.   The release of such a powerful immune cocktail causes the classic allergy symptoms: sneezing, watery eyes, itchiness, hives, congestion, runny nose etc.  Histamine can cause a constriction of the blood vessels, leading to difficulty breathing, as in asthma, or a dilation of the blood vessels leading to leakage of fluid (swelling and congestion) and hives.  Leukotrienes, on the other hand, cause an increase in mucus production leading to a runny nose and increased phlegm.

With each subsequent exposure to the allergen, the above process happens more rapidly as antibodies have already been produced toward the specific allergen.  As a result, allergy symptoms can appear more rapidly and/or they can be more severe.

The Gut Connection

When dealing with allergies, it is important to consider the health of the gut.  The exposed surface of the intestinal walls is under constant challenge by ingested foreign antigens, products of food digestion, bacteria and viruses, and drugs.  It is not a surprise then, that 2/3 of the body’s immune system resides in the gut.  The intestines have the largest accumulation of lymphoid tissue in the body, known as Peyer’s patches.  The lymph tissues in the gut catch debris and present it to the immune system.

Additionally, the intestines have a large amount of healthy bacteria, which not only help digest and absorb nutrients from the food, they also play an essential role in immune reactions by balancing out inflammatory markers produced by the immune system.  The amount of microflora can be compromised by several different factors including antibiotic use and food sensitivities.

Finally, in a healthy gut, the cells of the intestinal wall, known as enterocytes, are tightly packed together.  This alignment of the cells prevents viruses, bacteria, metabolic wastes or toxins, and undigested food particles from escaping into the body.  If the integrity of the gut is compromised, gaps between the enterocytes form (“leaky gut”) and the toxic substances are able to pass through the digestive tract into the blood stream.  Once in the bloodstream, these toxins are foreign to the body and the immune system becomes more active as it tries to protect itself.  The heightened immune reaction contributes, not only to inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmunity, but also to the development of seasonal allergies.

Improving/Optimizing Gut Health

The following tips can help restore and optimize gut health and decrease seasonal allergies.

  • Identify and avoid food sensitivities: Avoiding sensitive foods helps repair leaky gut, decrease inflammation and decrease the exposure of the immune system to toxins entering from the digestive tract.
  • Probiotics:Help re-establish the natural microflora in the gut to balance out the allergic response.
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables: Promotes growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and is a good source of vitamin B and vitamin A to increase the immune system.
  • Deep yellow and orange vegetables:Good source of vitamin A and is a natural fighter of histamine.
  • Ginger:Improves digestive function, decreases inflammation in the gut, helping it to repair.
  • Cabbage:Soothing to the gut, decreases inflammation and promotes the production of antioxidants.
  • Beet tops and beets:High in vitamin A, vitamin C and Magnesium.  Vitamin C is natural anti-histamine.  Magnesium can improve breathing by helping to dilate the blood vessels (vasodilation).

Nutrients and Herbs to Reduce Allergies

  • Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids: Natural anti-histamine.
  • Vitamin A:Boosts the immune system.
  • Vitamin B Complex:Can reduce allergy symptoms but improving the immune response.
  • Quercitin : Natural anti-histamine.
  • Butterbur: A herb that reduces the production of leukotrienes and histamine.
  • Goldenseal: A herb that has anti-microbial and immune boosting properties.

Lifestyle Factors to Reduce Allergies

  • Nasal Rinse:Using a Neti pot or nasal flush bottle, rinse daily to remove dust, pollen and spores from the nasal cavity.  Also helps to improve sinus congestion.
  • Eucalyptus Essential Oil:Add few drops to boiling water, place towel over your head and inhale or apply a drop to a cotton ball and sniff several times a day.  Eucalyptus is healing to the mucous membranes and can decrease congestion.