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Glow from the Inside, Out

Glow from the Inside, Out

Bianca Drennan ND

Everyone wants to have good skin. Whether it is at the top of your list of health goals or not, it is something we all think about. It is a consensus – we want healthy, glowing skin.

You might ask yourself, how do some people have such great skin while others struggle? Why do some get acne while others don’t? Why do some people have drier skin or more wrinkles than others? A lot of people will say genetics is a huge factor, which is not completely wrong. Genetics certainly do play a role in skin health, but that does not mean you are guaranteed to have good skin if your parents do – or vice versa, that you will have poor skin if that is in your genetics. That means you do not need to throw in the towel and give up. Achieving and maintaining healthy-looking skin that ages well IS possible.
Most people, including many of my patients, believe that healthy-looking skin is found in a tube, bottle, or spray. There are thousands of products on the market, both synthetic and natural, that are targeted at improving skin health. It is true that many of these products can help protect and hydrate skin, but all the creams and potions in the world will not provide long-term results. They should be used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle.
Skin is the largest organ in the body, which I am sure is surprising to many of you. Just like you would eat well, exercise, and take any necessary supplements for your other organs, the same goes for skin. Often people do not think of skin in the same way they would their heart, liver, intestines, kidneys, and on and on. We need to change that way of thinking because what you put into your body will be far more effective and sustainable long-term to improve the health and look of your skin.

There are several common conditions and habits that can cause poor skin health. Some examples include:

  • High intake of refined (white) carbohydrates – pasta, bread, pastries, grains, sugar, desserts
  • High intake of fried foods
  • Smoking
  • Antibiotic use
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Hormonal imbalances – PMS, fibroids, endometriosis, irregular periods, PCOS
  • Digestive dysfunction – IBS, constipation, gas/bloating
  • Stress
  • Allergies and/or Food Intolerances

The good news is that there is a lot that can be done to improve your skin’s natural glow.  Common recommendations to improve skin health include:

  • Enhance the body’s detoxification systems – diet, hygiene, lifestyle
  • Improve overall diet
  • Balance hormones
  • Optimize digestion
  • Avoiding allergenic and inflammatory foods
  • Omega-3 fats
  • Sweat regularly
  • Manage stress
  • Vitamin D

Seeing a Naturopathic Doctor to target your specific needs and why your skin is out of balance is your best bet. A Naturopathic Doctor can individualize your treatment plan and provide specific recommendations so that you can achieve long-term, healthy-looking skin.

Dr. Bianca Drennan ND, provides nutritional consulting and naturopathic medicine services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments 4 days a week. If you would like to detoxify and trim your body, improve your lifestyle or address certain health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request to arrange your initial appointment. The naturopathic appointments are covered by most employee benefits.

Beer, Barbeque and Balance – from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) nutrition viewpoint

Beer, Barbeque and Balance – from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) nutrition viewpoint

Warmer temperatures combined with long weekends inspire Canadians to joyfully fire up their barbeques to grill food for family and friends.  Typically they will pair their barbequed feast with cold beer. 

by Barbara Adach, R.Ac

Let’s take a look at a typical long weekend supper menu – grilled chicken, potato salad, beer – from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) nutrition viewpoint.

Grilled Chicken

Chicken, classified as warm and sweet, has the ability to nourish our bodies, giving us strength and increasing vitality.  It is said to support healthy digestion and ‘warm the middle’.

Cooking methods impart various energies to food.  Grilling over coals or an open flame adds significant energetic heat to food.  Since chicken is already warm by nature, grilling makes it even more so.  The various spices, rubs or sauces that we add in cooking also contribute to the overall energetic mix.  A typical barbeque sauce has noticeably sweet, salty and spicy flavours that temper the final product.  Most chicken is grilled with the skin on, so there is an additional digestive burden of processing the attendant fat.  TCM nutrition discourages the regular consumption of grilled meats because of the fat content and heating thermal nature.

Potato Salad

Potatoes are said to have a neutral ‘thermal nature’ (we feel neither warmer nor cooler after eating them) and a sweet flavour.  The sweet flavour is clearly not like that of candy or even fruit but again implies the food’s ability to provide solid nourishment to the body.  The potato has a strong influence on the digestive system and has anti-inflammatory effects.

Green onions add a bit of colour and flavour to potato salad.  They are warming and pungent (spicy), and even a small amount can lighten the effects of other heavier foods (meat, potatoes).

A dressing like mayonnaise is cooling and sweet.  It has a moistening effect on the body.  For a thin person who tends to dryness, small amounts are fine.  For a heavier person who tends to have mucus or phlegm, it is considered too dampening and consumption should be limited.

Typically potato salad is served chilled.  As pleasant as this may feel on a warm day, it burdens our digestive system.  The Spleen and Stomach (TCM organs of digestion) have to expend extra energy bringing the food to body temperature before it can start the process of digestion.


Beer has a cool thermal nature and a bitter and sweet taste.   In North America, beer is served as cold as possible, thereby enhancing its cooling property.

In TCM nutrition, balancing Yin and Yang is important.  Cool and cold foods are Yin while warm and hot foods are Yang. It would appear that barbequed chicken served with potato salad and beer are the ideal combination!  However, there are some other factors to consider.  How much food and drink is being consumed in one sitting?  How well is the food being chewed before swallowing?  Will there be at least three hours between supper and bedtime?

We know that overeating is harmful.  This is especially true if it happens on a regular basis. 

In TCM nutrition, overeating makes the digestive system work harder and may overwhelm it.  This can lead to incomplete digestion and ‘food stagnation’, insomnia and irregularity (diarrhea and/or constipation).  Chronic overeating can lead to signs of ‘dampness’ in the body:  nausea, a feeling of heaviness in the head or limbs, mucus and phlegm, weight gain or edema.

Chewing food well has a positive influence on digestion.  Food becomes well mixed with saliva and is broken into smaller, easier to digest particles.  Our digestive organs have enough work to do without having to contend with large pieces of barely chewed food.  Also, eating mindfully lets us enjoy our food and the company of those we share meals with.   TCM nutrition advises a pleasant eating atmosphere to enhance digestion.

The process of digestion takes several hours.  It is best to eat heavier foods earlier in the day when possible.  Giving the body enough time to digest before turning in at night is important.  It is very difficult for the body to digest and sleep at the same time – both processes suffer.

Having strong, effective digestion is considered a prerequisite to good health in TCM.  TCM has been helping people with digestive issues for millennia.  There is a wonderful flexibility to this medicine that makes it applicable to all people, no matter what their constitution or eating habits.  TCM nutrition shows us not only which foods are most suitable for each season of the year but also which are most appropriate for each individual person.  In addition, there are specific herbal formulae that address problematic digestion.  Acupuncture can also help optimize digestion.  There are many acupuncture points on the trunk and also on the limbs that influence digestive function.  Two famous points that promote digestion are Zusanli (Leg Three Miles, ST36), located below the kneecap, and Sanyinjiao (Three Yin Crossing), located above the ankle.

Is this long weekend menu suitable for everyone?  While regular consumption of grilled meats, heavy starchy vegetables and beer is obviously not healthy, it is a fine way to celebrate and enjoy our all too short Canadian spring and summer.

Please request your acupuncture and nutrition consultation appointment with our registered acupuncturist Barbara Adach, R.Ac. by contacting The Pacific Wellness Institute at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request.

Treating Obesity Naturally

Treating Obesity Naturally

In the United States and Canada, obesity has become a serious health problem.

Per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, almost one-third of adults are considered obese. An adult is considered obese if their body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. An adult who has a BMI of between 25 and 29 is considered overweight.

Obesity Complications

Various factors may cause obesity to develop including a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits. Genetics may also play a role. Whatever the cause may be, obesity can lead to several health complications.

People who are obese have a higher rate of acquiring certain medical conditions, including sleep apnea, diabetes, and heart disease. Being overweight or obese can also increase a person’s risk of certain types of cancer. Obesity may not only cause physical complications, but it can also lead to emotional ones as well. Obesity may lead to reduced self-esteem and a decreased quality of life.

How Nutritional Counseling Can Help

Achieving a healthy body weight can decrease a person’s risk for several obesity complications, and may improve their overall wellbeing. When it comes to treating obesity, one of the most important steps to take is to learn more about nutrition and healthy eating. Nutritional counseling is a great place to start.

It can be difficult to understand what foods to eat, what to avoid and what a normal portion size looks like. Nutritional counseling can teach you how to read food labels and calculate adequate calories for your age, height and activity level.

A nutritionist will help you develop a diet including fiber-filled foods, lean meats, fresh fruits, and veggies, along with healthy fats. You will also learn what foods to avoid, such as those containing refined sugar, trans fats, and simple carbs.

Supplements for Obesity

Although there is no magic potion to treat obesity, there are certain supplements that may help make losing weight a bit easier.

Keep in mind, supplements are usually not subject to the same studies and regulations as medications, and the weight loss benefits may not be conclusive. It is also important to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

Consider some of the following supplements, which may aid in weight loss:

  • Chromium: Chromium is a supplement that may help keep blood sugar levels steady, which may decrease cravings and overeating.
  • Green tea: Green tea may help your body burn fat more efficiently, which can aid in weight loss. Green tea is also an antioxidant and has additional health benefits.
  • Conjugated linoleic acid: This supplement may help you feel full and curb your appetite, which can lead to weight loss.
  • Pyruvate: Pyruvate is a supplement that may aid in weight loss by slightly increasing the body’s metabolic rate.

Exercise Considerations

Exercise is one of the key components for successful weight loss. It also increases the chances you’ll keep the weight off. Ideally, you should find some type of exercise you enjoy, so you’ll stick with it. Exercise to lose weight and keep it off should include a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Cardio burns calories and strength training helps build muscle. More muscle mass means you will burn more calories even at rest.

It’s also helpful to change things up occasionally. Changing your workout routine can prevent boredom and continue to challenge your muscles, so you will see results. Also, be sure to keep to a workout schedule. Make it a priority to exercise on most days of the week.

Safety and Motivation

Losing weight takes a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort. It’s also critical to do it safely and stay the course. Consider the tips below to lose weight safely and stay motivated.

Get the green light from your doctor: Before starting a weight loss plan, it’s important to get the green light from your healthcare provider. Your doctor will determine what an effective weight loss rate is for you. He or she will also determine if you are healthy enough to start an exercise program.

Start slow: Making dramatic changes in your diet all at once may be overwhelming. Consider making a few small dietary changes at a time, then gradually adding in more healthy habits. When it comes to exercise, it’s also important to start slow and increase your workouts as your endurance improves.

Avoid fad diets: Fad diets may be popular, but they may not be your best bet for long-term weight loss. Fads, such as dramatically restricting carbs or only drinking liquids, may lead to weight loss, but the diets are hard to maintain.

Have realistic expectations: In most cases, losing one to two pounds a week is a healthy weight loss rate. Expecting to lose more weight all at once may lead to disappointment. Slow and steady is best when it comes to weight loss.

Chiropractic Care for Sports Injuries

Chiropractic Care for Sports Injuries

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a weekend warrior, participating in sports is good for your body and mind.

Physical activities provide an opportunity to socialize, exercise and have fun. But occasionally the demands of sports can lead to an injury. Even if you’re in great shape, overuse, impacts, and strains can lead to damage.

Treatment for a sports injury may vary depending on the type and severity of the injury. Immobilization, physical therapy, and surgery can be part of a treatment plan. In some cases, chiropractic care can also help treat sports injuries.

What Does Chiropractic Care Involve?

Chiropractic care is based on the philosophy that the body can often heal itself if it is in proper alignment. Wear and tear, along with trauma can cause the spine to become misaligned. The misalignment can lead to a variety of problems including making you more susceptible to further injuries.

A large part of chiropractic care involves adjusting or realigning the spinal column, which can reduce pressure on the nerve. When a nerve is pinched, it cannot carry messages from the brain to the body or the body back to the brain as efficiently. Inefficient nerve impulses can cause problems with the muscles, joints, and bones.

Common Sports Injuries and Why They Occur

Common sports injuries include sprains, strains, and dislocations. Sore back muscles and knee injuries are also very common. A variety of factors can contribute to injuries. For example, during certain sports, such as hockey, football, and basketball, contact with other players often occurs. Trauma or force to the body can cause an injury.

Force or trauma does not only occur during contact with another player. Twisting or turning the joints wrong way can also lead to a sprained ankle, back injury or dislocation. In another example, repetitive movements during sports can develop wear and tear on a joint. For instance, sports, such as tennis or baseball may involve the same motions repeatedly which may cause tendinitis.

RELATED: Athletic Injuries and Recovery with Massage

How Chiropractic Care Can Help

Chiropractic care for sports injuries involves spinal adjustments, which are intended to reduce pressure on the nerve and allow the body to coordinate the healing process. After an adjustment, the flow of nerve impulses improves, the pressure is released in the joints, which may decrease muscle tightness and promote healing.

During treatment, a chiropractor takes a medical history, performs an exam and may use x-rays to determine the injury. In many instances, force is applied in a specific way to adjust spinal structures to relieve pressure and realign the spine.

The exact technique used to adjust the spine may vary based on the injury and body part affected. The chiropractor may place you in a few different positions to perform the adjustment. Chiropractors may also use stretches or tools to decrease pressure in the joints gently. Some treatments also incorporate methods, such as heat, electrical stimulation, and ice.

Chiropractic care is not only helping to treat injuries, but it may also prevent future problems. Keeping the spine in proper alignment helps the body work more efficiently. Also, if there is less tension in the body, it may also prevent future injuries.

Choosing a Chiropractor for Sports Injury Treatment

Chiropractors are trained healthcare professionals who have a doctorate in chiropractic. They must also become licensed in the state they wish to practice. Any licensed chiropractor should be qualified to develop a treatment program for an injury related to sports. But some chiropractors also specialize in sports injuries and neuromuscular rehabilitation.

When visiting a chiropractor, it is essential to discuss all your symptoms. Sometimes an injury in one part of the body also causes pain in another area. Understanding all your symptoms, allows a chiropractor to consider various options to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Prevention of Sports Injuries

It may not be possible to prevent all sports injuries. But there are things you can do to decrease your chances of getting hurt, such as the following:

  • Wear proper gear: Always use the appropriate protective equipment and gear for the sport you’re participating in. Gear may include helmets, pads or shin guards depending on the sport. Also, be sure to wear the correct shoes for the sport. Proper footwear and well-fitted gear can often protect you from injury.
  • Use correct form: Whether it is tackling incorrectly in football or using poor form sliding in baseball, using incorrect techniques can quickly cause injuries. Always use proper form and adhere to the guidelines of play.
  • Warm-up: Exercising when muscles are tight can quickly lead to an injury. Before participating in a sport, do some light exercise to warm-up muscles. A combination of light cardio and dynamic stretching can loosen up the muscles and prepare the body.
  • Strengthen muscles: Having strong muscles may help decrease sports injuries. Performing conditioning exercises, especially for the sport you participate in is one of the best ways to keep your body strong and avoid hurting yourself.
  • Don’t ignore pain: Pain in the body is often a signal that something is wrong. Ignoring an injury can lead to complications and longer recovery time. If you sustain an injury, don’t hesitate seeking an evaluation and treatment from a medical
Got (Almond) Milk?

Got (Almond) Milk?

Top 5 foods that will provide you with calcium while maintaining your blood pH and preventing calcium loss

You’ve heard it before, we all have – you need calcium for strong bones, and you should get your calcium from dairy.

While these statements are not completely false, they are also not completely true. I feel very strongly about this topic because there is a significant amount of inaccurate information being spread by media, government, and the medical profession about what we need to do to maintain bone health. I have a serious bone to pick with the food and health industry, pun intended.

While calcium IS important for bone health, there are other vitamins and minerals that contribute to strong bones. Magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and strontium are just a few of the other essential components of bone health. These nutrients are often highly overlooked when people consider taking a supplement or eating for bone health. This is particularly concerning with new research demonstrating that supplementing with calcium solely can be dangerous due to its effect on the heart. Supplemental calcium, especially taken in large doses, can deposit into arterial walls and cause plaques to form. When plaques form, blood is less able to flow smoothly, which can lead to heart disease. Supplementation is most often recommended during and after menopause due to the loss of estrogen which causes bone loss. Be sure to consider taking a supplement that contains magnesium in addition to calcium, as well as vitamin D to improve absorbability.

It also matters where you get your dietary calcium from. Traditionally, we think calcium should come from dairy – because the media says so, our governments say so, and even our doctors say so. The truth is, calcium from dairy sources is highly acidic. Our blood likes to remain at a neutral pH (a balance between acidic and basic) for proper functioning. When we consume acidic foods, our blood becomes more acidic too. In order to restore its neutral pH (its happy place), it will take from more basic sources – in this case, calcium in bone. Calcium is a basic mineral that can help restore acid/base balance. In other words, when we consume dairy, we are making our blood more acidic, forcing it to steal from bones to get back to a more neutral pH. This causes calcium, which is basic in nature, to leach from bones. When calcium leaches from bones, our bones become weaker and more brittle. So actually, consuming dairy as a calcium source has the opposite effect as what many of us think.

Here are my top 5 foods that will provide you with calcium while maintaining your blood pH and preventing calcium loss:

  1. Dark greens: kale, collard greens, swiss chard, broccoli
  2. Nuts & seeds: almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds
  3. Fish: canned salmon, sardines, canned clams
  4. Oranges
  5. Blackstrap molasses

Dr. Bianca Drennan ND, provides nutritional consulting and naturopathic medicine services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments five days a week.  If you would like to detoxify and trim your body, improve your lifestyle or address certain health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request to arrange your initial appointment.  The naturopathic appointments are covered by most employee benefits.

Organic vs. Non-Organic

Organic vs. Non-Organic

I get asked all the time whether it is important or necessary for health to buy organic food. I also get asked which foods are most important to buy organically, versus which ones are okay to buy non-organically.

In Canada and the USA, foods labeled “organic” must satisfy specific standards. Farmers raising organic animals or growing organic crops undergo a certification process in order for their products to be labeled as such. In general, organic foods are grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and they are free of synthetic food additives. Whether organic food is “healthier” is up for debate. There are articles suggesting that organic foods have superior nutrient value, whereas others state that this is false. In my opinion, it depends on what your definition of health is. If healthy for you is more vitamin C or potassium in your food, then the verdict is still out. If however, health for you is putting fewer chemicals in your body, then you could say that organic food is healthier.

Unfortunately, access to organic food can be challenging. There is a greater financial commitment when purchasing organics, which is not a luxury everyone has. In addition, there is often limited variety when it comes to organic foods unless you are shopping at a retailer that specializes in organics. My advice is to choose organic when and if possible. However, if buying organically restricts your intake of vital nutrients due to finances or limited availability, then it is not worth it. Remember that it is important to eat a variety and plentiful amount of plant products, organic or not. Hopefully, in the near future, organic food will become more accessible and less elitist.

Below is a list released recently from the Environmental Working Group ( of the produce that is most important to buy organically and those that are safe non-organically. Focus on buying those in the dirty dozen list organically. I would encourage you to purchase organic meat and poultry whenever possible. I say this because an animal can store and absorb a far greater amount of chemicals and antibiotics than a plant due to its mass and longer life cycle.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen:                                           

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Bell Peppers
  11. Cherry Tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers

EWG’s Clean Fifteen:

  1. Avocados
  2. Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet Peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Honeydew
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cauliflower

Dr. Bianca Drennan ND, provides nutritional consulting and naturopathic medicine services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments five days a week.  If you would like to detoxify and trim your body, improve your lifestyle or address certain health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request to arrange your initial appointment.  The naturopathic appointments are covered by most employee benefits.