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Need a Boost?

Need a Boost?

It seems that a large percentage of the population suffers from low energy.

Feelings of fatigue, lethargy, and overall sluggishness are incredibly common, and unfortunately seem to be the norm. It appears that it is so common that many people rationalize their low energy and brush it off as “normal.” Unless you have stayed up all night with a crying infant or danced the night away into the wee hours of the morning, feeling tired is not “normal” –  especially when the feeling is constant. Fortunately, it is very possible to determine the source of fatigue and improve your energy. You do not have to feel like you are dragging yourself throughout the day – life is challenging, but it does not mean that it is an excuse for feeling exhausted on a regular basis.

The first step is identifying the source of low energy. You can begin to assess your own energy levels and lifestyle on your own, but consulting with a Naturopathic Doctor will provide more insight. Naturopathic Doctors know what to ask and how to assemble the pieces of the puzzle that make up your symptoms. Here are a few things you will want to consider when trying to identify the cause of your low energy, and how to improve it:

1. Do I get enough sleep?

Sleep is an obvious potential source of low energy. Inadequate sleep can wreak havoc on your energy levels directly, but also through your digestive system, metabolism, and mood. Poor sleep affects every aspect of your quality of life, so it is important to ensure a good night’s sleep. The specific number of hours required is individually based, but the general recommendation is around 7 hours per night. If you get 7 hours per night but are still feeling sluggish, it could mean that you have poor quality sleep. Poor quality sleep is defined as having difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep throughout the night – which comes with their own causes (anxiety, menopause, heartburn, electronic use). Speak to your Naturopathic Doctor if you relate to this because there are many options to improve sleep quantity and quality, depending on the cause.

2. Do I feel stressed? Do I handle and cope with stress effectively?

Life is not easy – work, family, relationships, finances, commitments, and obligations have us stretched thin, all while keeping in mind that we need to exercise and eat well to stay healthy. Most people experience stress on some level, in their own way. It is a challenge to eliminate stress altogether because it is the world in which we live. However, it is how we deal with the stress that makes the difference. If you are feeling overwhelmed, tense, and pre-occupied, this can take a significant toll on your energy. Your body only has a certain number of resources, and if most of them are allocated to feeling stressed, that leaves very little for anything else. Herbs such as chamomile, lavender, and passionflower can be very gentle and effective for calming the nervous system. L-theanine, often referred to as “yoga in a bottle” is also incredibly helpful for slowing down racing thoughts and making stress feel less intense. Magnesium is a mineral that many of us are deficient in, and can be helpful for reducing muscle tension and headaches, often associated with stress. It can also be found in raw cacao powder and dates. Adaptogenic herbs such as Withania and Eleutherococcus (among many others) can be beneficial for managing your stress response and modulating adrenal gland function (the glands responsible for producing many hormones). Depending on how you experience stress, that will dictate which treatment is best for you.

3. Do I exercise enough?

It may seem counter-intuitive to recommend exercising when you are tired but lack of physical activity – and I do not just mean working out in a gym – can increase lethargy. Exercise has been demonstrated to improve circulation, mood, and metabolism – along with the more obvious benefits such as cardiovascular health and weight maintenance. Our bodies are designed for movement, whether that be walking your dog, playing with your children, or lifting weights in a gym. A sedentary (aka inactive) lifestyle is associated with poor diet, poor sleep, obesity, and poor overall health – all of which impact your energy. I rarely recommend specific exercise guidelines to my patients (unless required or requested) because I believe activity can happen outside of a gym. Get off one bus or subway stop early, take the stairs, or park farther away from the mall or grocery store. Incorporating physical activity into your day does not have to be difficult, expensive, or involve spandex clothing. Just move.

4. Is my diet lacking nutrients?

You are what you eat right? Right. The more you put into your body, the more you get out. Ensuring that you are eating a variety of foods to support optimal functioning is key to good energy. There are also situations when extra nutrition is needed. For example, pregnancy, recovering from illness/surgery or being vegetarian/vegan. These are examples of when you need to be extra conscious of what you are consuming in order to ensure your body gets what it needs. My best advice is to eat a rainbow. The more color something has often means more nutrients. Beige food makes you feel beige because there is no life in it. Fried foods, refined sugars and starches, and dairy do not provide the nutrients needed for adequate energy production. Think about consuming more greens (kale, spinach), purples (blueberries, eggplant), oranges (sweet potatoes, carrots), and reds (strawberries, tomatoes). Another benefit of avoiding beige foods is weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.

5. Do I drink enough water?

Water is essential for all bodily functions. Our bodies are mostly composed of water, so therefore in order to keep it functioning optimally, we need to hydrate. In a caffeinated world like ours, most people are not drinking enough water. For every cup of caffeine you consume (coffee, black tea, green tea, soda), you lose one cup of water. For example, if you drink 3 cups of coffee (regular-sized cups) and you drink 6 glasses of water – you, in fact, have only drunk 3 glasses of water to account for the caffeine that dehydrates you. Dehydration can zap you of energy. One of the most common symptoms of dehydration is waking up exhausted. The exact amount of water required is dependent based on individual needs, but the average recommendation is around 8 glasses per day. However, if you are exercising, drinking lots of caffeine, or in a hot environment then you may need to consume more. Herbal teas and water flavored with sliced fruit/vegetables are other options to ensure adequate hydration.

6. When was the last time I had laboratory blood work done?

This is a big one. A lot of times we sleep enough, manage stress, exercise, eat well, and drink plenty of water. So why are we still tired? Your blood work can tell you and your Naturopathic Doctor a lot. Laboratory testing has the advantage of objectively measuring what is happening inside your body – something that is difficult to assess without it. Often times, the cause of fatigue can be seen in blood work, and maybe relatively simple to resolve. The most common causes of low energy identified in laboratory testing are low iron stores (ferritin, hemoglobin), low vitamin B12, and low thyroid function. Keep in mind that most conventional doctors do not flag some results whereas a Naturopathic Doctor may. Therefore, it is always important to get a copy of your results, regardless of whether or not your doctor says everything is “normal.” Bringing your results to a Naturopathic Doctor allows he or she to interpret them based on what we define as clinically optimal or suboptimal.

There are many other potential causes of low energy and an even greater number of ways in which it can be improved. Feeling sluggish does not have to be your “normal” and you should not settle for feeling less than optimal. Consider what may be causing your low energy and speak with a Naturopathic Doctor for guidance on how to boost it and feel better.

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.

Chocolate: Superfood or Sugar Rush?

Chocolate: Superfood or Sugar Rush?

By Bianca Drennan, ND

Chocolate is probably the most popular and desired “treats” going, especially around this time of year – Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.

I would argue that the majority of the population likes (or loves) chocolate, to one degree or another. Whenever I recommend diet and lifestyle changes to patients, I often get asked “okay, but can I still have chocolate?” The short answer is yes. The long answer is what I am here to talk to you about.

Chocolate comes in many forms: white, milk, dark, powder, syrup, and processed treats. These are not all created equal. Chocolate begins with the raw cacao bean, before being processed into what we commonly consume (however you can purchase raw cacao beans for consumption). Raw cacao contains tremendous health benefits and can be found in raw cacao powders, raw cacao nibs, and even raw chocolate bars. It is full of stress-busting compounds, antioxidants, B vitamins, and magnesium. Keep note that I am saying CACAO and not COCOA. Cacao is the raw form of cocoa. Cocoa still contains benefits, but through heat processing some of these benefits are lost. Often cocoa is found in processed treats which also reduces it’s beneficial properties. White chocolate is not true chocolate as it does not contain any of the actual cacao bean. Rather, it is mainly cacao butter combined with sugar, dairy, and vanilla. It has no significant health benefits or resemblance to cacao. Milk chocolate contains varying amounts of the cacao bean, but is again combined with dairy and sugar (less than white chocolate, more than dark chocolate). Dark chocolate and raw chocolate contain the highest amounts of the cacao beans, and the lowest amounts of sugar and dairy.

Related: Superfood Hot Cocoa

When choosing chocolate, it is important to remember that it is still a treat, especially when it is combined with milk and sugar in the form of a chocolate bar. It is best to select dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cacao content. The higher the percentage of cacao, the greater the benefit and the lesser amount of sugar and dairy. As a result, these chocolates tend to be more bitter and strongly flavoured, which makes it easier to keep portions under control. Raw cacao bars are becoming increasingly popular, and these are made without dairy or refined sugar.  Although raw cacao bars are the healthiest option, they still do contain sugar. Keep in mind that dark chocolate and raw chocolate will have a less creamy, grittier texture compared to milk or white chocolate due to the lack of dairy and sugar. This is not a bad thing, but it is something you may need to get used to if dark/raw chocolate is new for you! Raw cacao powders and nibs contain all the benefits of the cacao bean, without the added sugar and dairy.

Cacao truly is a superfood when consumed on its own, or in recipes that do not contain a lot of added sugar and dairy. Cacao contains a hugely concentrated level of nutrients that surpass many other health foods, and can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Just remember, quality over quantity!

The Sweet Stuff

The Sweet Stuff

Dr. Bianca Drennan ND

I get asked a lot about the different types of sugar and which one is best for health.

It is common knowledge that sugar is not the healthiest of ingredients, and so came about the industry of alternative sweeteners and the extensive interest in it. The truth is, sugar is sugar. Despite the fact that your body does process some sugars differently than others, the body recognizes it all as sugar. Anything in excess, sugar included, will be stored as fat and wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Sugar, in the form of starch, fruit, candy, etc – is addictive. Studies have demonstrated that sugar consumption triggers the same areas of the brain as cocaine. I tell my patients this not to scare them, but to educate them on what kind of substance we are dealing with. Many people struggle with reducing or eliminating sugar from their diets because we’ve been hard-wired to crave it, and it is found in almost everything. The more we feed ourselves sugar, the more we crave it, leading to a vicious cycle. If sugar is something that you regularly consume, considering alternatives may be a start to help you curb the craving. That being said, do not mistake alternative sweeteners as health products. Even though there are some benefits, they are not free passes to allow you to consume more.


I am starting with raw and brown sugar because I have realized that many people are not aware that these are simply white, refined sugars in disguise. Raw sugar is more “natural” in that it has not been bleached like white sugar, but from a metabolic and caloric perspective, it is identical to white sugar. Brown sugar is often thought to be healthier than white sugar (like whole-wheat bread vs white bread), but unfortunately, the color is misleading. Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it to give it a dark, caramel color and flavor. Therefore, it has all the same properties as traditional white sugar.


Honey can be a miracle worker. Honey is composed of fructose and glucose, and therefore affects your blood glucose. However, there are also several healing benefits to honey consumption. In its raw (unpasteurized) form, honey is antimicrobial and soothing. Naturopathically, it is used to heal wounds, cold sores, sore throats, and treat acne. Unfortunately, most of the honey sold and purchased is not raw. Pasteurized honey has been heated to a temperature that destroys it’s antimicrobial and healing properties. Always look for raw honey which can come in several flavors and consistencies. It is normal for raw honey to crystallize at room temperature. It is recommended that raw honey not be given to children under the age of 1 due to their under-developed immune system.


I need to set the record straight on this one. Agave nectar emerged as the next best health product – a sugar that did not raise your blood sugar and therefore suitable for diabetics. The health industry blew this sweetener up and unfortunately led people to believe that it was good for them – and many people still use it today. This is a very clear example of how food trends are not necessarily based on research. Agave nectar is composed mainly of fructose, which has a dramatic effect on blood sugar. In addition, agave nectar does not provide any other benefit to health. Therefore, this is not the sweetener to ever use, diabetic or not.


Dates are a magical fruit. Sweet, chewy, and caramel in flavor. I love to use dates as a sweetener because you get the benefit of whole food. Dates are incredibly sweet and therefore quite high in carbohydrates. However, dates are also incredibly high in fiber, which mitigates their effect on your blood sugar. When fiber is present, your blood sugar is less affected. In addition, dates are also a source of magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. Dates can be eaten on their own as a sweet snack (great for athletes), or they can be blended into something else. Date syrup is concentrated and cooked down dates. It contains a lot of the same benefits as the whole date, with the added bonus of being in liquid form and therefore easier to incorporate in recipes. However, you do lose out on fiber when using date syrup rather than whole dates.


Stevia is relatively new to the market. It comes from a bush in South America and is not truly sugar – it is a sugar substitute. The advantage of using stevia is that since it is not actually sugar, it is calorie-free and does not affect your blood sugar. This makes it more suitable for diabetics. Stevia is available in powdered or liquid form. Stevia is 150 times sweeter than regular sugar, therefore much less is required. This makes using stevia a challenge in baking since it is difficult to determine the correct amount. It can also produce a slightly metallic taste.


Being from Canada, I have a soft spot for maple syrup. Maple syrup has a fantastic flavor and consistency, especially when you do not want to heat your raw honey to liquefy it since you would be destroying its benefits. Maple syrup is composed primarily of sucrose and therefore does affect your blood sugar, but it has only a moderate glycemic index rating. There are some benefits to consuming maple syrup – it is fairly rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals including manganese, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), zinc, and calcium, among many others.


Coconut sugar is also known as palm sugar, and as the name suggests, it comes from the coconut palm. It is mainly sucrose, however, it has a lower glycemic index than most other sweeteners, meaning it has a lesser effect on blood sugar. Coconut sugar is the crystallized form of coconut nectar. Both are available and easy to use in recipes, depending on whether you want liquid or crystals. Coconut sugar is a great sugar to use in baking because it measures cup for cup to white sugar, and is, therefore, an easy substitute, however its flavor and color is more like brown sugar.

My Top 5 Diet Myths

My Top 5 Diet Myths

By Bianca Drennan, ND

As we enter a new year, many of you may be making New Year’s Resolutions.

Often these resolutions center around health, specifically weight loss. I believe that the intentions behind resolutions and the start of a new year are genuine and well-placed. However, in so many cases, people “fall off the wagon” and are left feeling discouraged, only to make the same resolution next year. What if this year, you approach weight loss from a more sustainable, long-term wellness angle? What if this year you chose a more informed and balanced way to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight? There is a lot of misinformation out there about the most effective weight loss methods – it is incredibly confusing. What I am providing you with are my top 5 diet myths out there, based on evidence and clinical experience. Make 2017 the year you decide to achieve balance and overall wellness, and work towards becoming YOUR best self.


Everyone seems to have a serious hate-on for fat. We’re a fat-phobic society and we have been since the 70s. We think if we eat fat, we’ll get fat. Right? Wrong. Our bodies need fat to function. Fat is essential for brain health, nutrient absorption, metabolism, and energy production. Mono- and poly-unsaturated fats from plant oils (olive, nuts, seeds, avocados) are a great source of anti-inflammatory fatty acids that help keep your cells healthy, lubricated, and functioning optimally. Saturated fats can also be a great energy source, especially coconut oil which contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These fats help burn “bad” fat. Saturated fats from animal products are also not something to be afraid of anymore. Research is now showing that in moderate quantities, saturated fats from animals does not lead to poor health as was originally thought. There are some great health benefits from these fats, especially when sourced from grass-fed animals. The type of fat to avoid is trans-fat, which is typically found in processed foods (fried foods, baked goods, some margarine). This is the type of fat that leads to heart disease and weight gain.

What our bodies don’t need are simple sugars – and this is where the problem is. All those “low-fat” and “non-fat” products you see on the shelves are chock-full of unnatural, laboratory-based ingredients, most of which are various forms of sugar. Anything that ends is a form of sugar. The issue is that these sugar-laden, low-fat products are the true culprits to weight gain and poor blood sugar balance. They cause sugar highs and lows, with very little satisfaction which causes you to crave more and feel hungry. What’s more, these sugars end up getting stored as fat anyway! However, when you eat fat (especially the good kind), you are actually burning through it more. Wouldn’t you rather eat something from a plant or animal than a laboratory? Fat is not the enemy, sugar is. Moral of the story: you need to eat fat to lose fat.


Another old-school way to think of weight loss and healthy weight maintenance – you have to count calories to lose weight. The amount of food we eat does have some importance, but it is not the be-all and end-all. Much like low-fat products, low-calorie foods provide very few nutrients, generally a lot of sugar, and zero satisfaction. This often leads to over-eating and a false sense of health. I always give people the same example: whole wheat bread has more calories than white bread. Does that make white bread healthier? I think we can all agree that is not the case. A calorie is not a calorie. Avocados, nuts, plant oils, and oily fish are some of the higher calorie foods that are generally recommended as part of a healthy diet. But these are GOOD calories, ones that improve health, prevent disease and stimulate metabolism. It would be a shame, and a mistake, in my opinion, to omit these foods from your diet because of the high-calorie price tag. You could likely eat a donut for fewer calories than a handful of almonds – but that does not mean that you are making a healthy choice.

Counting calories is not sustainable and can lead to an obsession with numbers. Healthy eating and living are not about micromanaging everything you put into your mouth. This can lead to frustration, preoccupation with food, and potentially eating disorders. It is no way to live. My best advice is to eat REAL food. When you stop eating things with long ingredient lists, calories stop being an issue.


You see the – rows and rows of people killing themselves on the treadmill or elliptical. Or maybe you see them in the group exercise room taking a step class. Cardio exercise, technically meaning exercise that works your heart by raising your heart rate, has become the face of weight loss. But like many weight-loss strategies, this is only part of the story. I watch people in the gym sweating it out on cardio machines, thinking that they must not know the whole story. I have friends tell me that they have to work out for 1-2 hours a day on the elliptical or treadmill in order to lose or maintain weight. That is because the advice that cardio exercise is essential for weight loss is slightly misguided.

Cardio exercise is great for your heart and building endurance. That being said, it is not the most effective for weight loss. During cardio exercise, your body burns calories for that time period only. However, during resistance exercise (weights, etc), your body burns calories during the workout AND up to 72 hours after the workout. This is because resistance exercise increases muscle mass which is more metabolically active than fat mass. In other words, more muscle leads to more calories burned on a daily basis. Cardio exercise can build muscle as well, but when extended too long, it can lead to muscle breakdown, meaning it does not stimulate your metabolism long after the workout. It is also untrue that resistance exercise does not work your heart. Resistance exercise, especially moving weights above your head can certainly increase heart rate and provide a positive cardiac effect. Resistance exercise is also important for bone and joint health, whereas cardio exercise can be damaging.

This is not to say that cardio exercise does not have a place in our workout regimes. However, it is not going to give you the most significant results when it comes to managing your weight.


If you eat less food, less often, you should lose weight right? Not so much. When we cut back calories too far or skip meals, we are essentially starving our bodies. Our bodies are very primal in nature, and when we don’t nourish it adequately, it goes into “starvation” or “hibernation” mode – aka, fat storage mode. Evolution has lead to many changes, but what has not changed is our reaction to inadequate nutrition. When we skip meals or eat too little, our bodies are unsure when it will receive food next. As a result (and for protection), we end up storing all the calories that we do consume as fat. This allows us to have a fuel reserve in the event that we have to enter starvation mode again. My advice is to consume food regularly throughout the day to keep you energized, fuelled appropriately, and constantly burning calories and building muscle. This prevents us from entering this fat storage mode.

Whether you should eat 3 times per day or 6 times per day is up for debate (and depends on your own specific requirements). But, what is known, is that cutting back too much and skipping meals is not the solution to weight loss. It is about making the best food choices to fuel ourselves and keep our bodies metabolizing at a healthy rate.


When we talk about weight loss or weight maintenance, we’re usually talking about the number on the scale. Although this number does carry some importance, it is not the only determinant of weight loss. Through exercise and diet, we are ultimately aiming to lose fat and gain muscle. This will cause the scale to drop, but not always at a rate that we might expect or want. The truth is, muscle weighs more than fat. Unfortunately, most at-home scales cannot differentiate between fat and muscle. Therefore, when we weigh ourselves and do not see the number go down, we get frustrated. However, if we are losing fat and gaining muscle, the scale will not be able to reflect that. The best way to determine how well your weight loss is going is to measure inches. Or, even easier and more practical, is to measure how well your clothes are fitting. Weight loss leads to a change in body composition (ie. more muscle than fat), and as a result, our clothes fit better, and we lose inches. This is a much more accurate measure of weight loss rather than depending on the scale which will not tell you much. Ironically, athletes are often considered overweight or obese based on their weight – which is all due to muscle mass. I think we can all agree that athletes are not actually overweight or obese, which really highlights the limitations of a traditional scale. If you’re really interested in your body composition, you can have it measured at some clinics which can tell you your percent of fat and muscle mass. Monitoring your weight is not about crunching numbers – it is about practical, sustainable, and more holistic measurements of health.

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.

Winter Survival Guide

Winter Survival Guide

by Barbara Adach, R.Ac

Welcome to 2017!  In Canada, the start of a new year means that we are getting reacquainted with winter.

Ahhh, winter … the quick metallic bite of skate blades on a frozen pond snowflakes gracefully falling from the steely sky, the bracing cold bringing color to our cheeks!  That’s a rather idealized picture of the season and it certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  However, winter truly is here and we can certainly learn, at the very least, to get along with it.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has some great advice for getting the most out of winter.

Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, the legendary sage of Chinese Medicine, and his court physician, Qi Bo said we can live long and well when we adapt our lives to follow the changes each season brings.  These seasonal adjustments include how we dress, what we eat, how we spend our time and even how much we sleep.

Of course, we need to protect our bodies in winter.  Dressing warmly in layers of clothing composed of natural fibers is ideal.  While we want to stay warm, we also want to avoid any excessive perspiration that can chill us.  Natural fibres can wick away perspiration to protect us.

There are some specific areas of the body that are deemed especially vulnerable in TCM.  The head, neck and upper back are said to be susceptible to ‘Wind’, the environmental vehicle by which disease can enter the body.  Many acupuncture points in those areas have the word ‘wind’ in their names.  So, we wear scarves, hats and appropriate coats to block the wind and protect our health.

Another at-risk area is the lower back, in the area of the kidneys.  The Kidney is a key organ in TCM, acting as our biological clock, helping us to live and age gracefully.  However, the Kidney can’t do this on its own.  We must cooperate with the Kidney by protecting the low back and keeping it warm and dry.  Full-length coats are considered more appropriate winter gear than short jackets.

Additionally, we need to protect the soles of our feet.  That area is also connected to the Kidney in TCM.  In fact, the first point on the Kidney meridian is on our soles.  To safeguard this area, we should wear warm, waterproof boots outdoors and resist the temptation to go barefoot indoors.  Even if our homes are toasty warm, it is advisable to wear socks and/or slippers that will keep our feet warm and our bodies healthy.

We can also adapt to winter by modifying our diet.  In the spring and summer, we eat lighter fare but in the winter, we can look after ourselves with richer and more warming foods such as soups and stews made of root vegetables.  Root vegetables complement the ‘storage’ theme that is prevalent in winter and they help us to be more settled and secure in this season.  Warmer foods such as red meats (beef, lamb) supplement the diet.  Beans are also considered appropriate food in the winter as they are said to support the Kidney.

As winter is considered a more inward and reflective time, why not invite others to share this peace and joy?  We can join or create a book club.  We could arrange a potluck meal with friends and family and generate a sense of emotional warmth as well. We have to remember to balance this more inner-directed theme with the ongoing need to remain physically active.  We should continue to keep our backs flexible and limber.  Getting outside (warmly dressed, of course) to enjoy a refreshing walk or a bit of cross-country skiing will help us to shake off the cobwebs.  A skating or tobogganing party capped by a pot of hot gingered tea in your home might be suitable too.

Regarding sleep, it is suggested to stay in bed a bit longer during the winter.  We are encouraged to follow the sun’s example by turning in earlier and rising later.

The start of a new year can call to mind changes that we want to make.  For some, this may mean finally committing to a smoke-free life or adopting a healthier diet and losing weight.  If those are goals of yours, please know that there is acupuncture support to help you on your new path.

If the regular activities of the season, such as snow shoveling or scraping ice from the car, cause you pain, or if you overdo it at the hockey rink, acupuncture can also be helpful.  One of the most common reasons to seek out acupuncture is pain relief.

As with any season, winter has fans and detractors.  We may not all be avid skiers or winter camping enthusiasts but we can all learn to accept the wonderful gifts this season has to offer.

To arrange your Winter Tune-Up acupuncture treatment with Barbara, please contact the Pacific Wellness Institute at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request form.

Preventing Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

Preventing Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

You probably already know eating a well-balanced diet is vital for good health.

Essential vitamins and minerals play a role in several body functions including mood, metabolism and nerve function. When deficiencies are present, a variety of health problems, such as depression and anemia, can develop.

In developing countries, vitamin and mineral deficiencies may be due to poverty and a lack of access to a variety of healthy foods. But even in developed nations, vitamin deficiencies occur for several reasons.

Risk Factors for Deficiencies

Although anyone can develop a vitamin deficiency, there are certain factors that increase your chances. Consider the following:

Alcohol abuse: An occasional alcoholic drink should not interfere with the absorption of vitamins. But alcohol abuse is a different story. Alcohol abuse can decrease the absorption of various vitamins including folate and vitamin C.

Pregnancy: If you are not taking a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin during pregnancy, you may be at risk of a vitamin deficiency. Folate is especially important for women of childbearing age. Low levels of folate are associated with certain congenital disabilities.

A diet lacking in vegetables: Vegetables contain several key vitamins including vitamins C and B. People who eat a diet high in fat and simple carbs with few fruits and vegetables may be putting themselves at risk of developing a vitamin deficiency.

Some gastrointestinal conditions: Some gastrointestinal conditions may increase your risk of vitamin deficiency. For example, if you develop abnormal bacterial growth in your intestines, it can decrease the absorption of vitamin B.

Smoking: Smoking is bad for your overall health for a variety of reasons. One reason is it can interfere with the absorption of certain vitamins, especially vitamin C.

Certain medications: Certain medications for conditions including gastric reflux disease and diabetes can interfere with vitamin absorption.

Common Deficiencies

Many vitamins and minerals are essential for good health. Unfortunately, not everyone gets the nutrients they need. Below are some common deficiencies.

Iron: Iron is a critical mineral and helps you produce red blood cells. If iron levels become too low, your body does not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues and organs. Symptoms of an iron deficiency include fatigue, thinning hair, and pale skin.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a role in maintaining healthy bones. It’s an important vitamin, but many people do not get enough. Vitamin D is produced by your body as a result of exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is also found in certain foods and is available as a supplement. Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include high blood pressure, weakness and bone pain.

Folate: Folate is a vital nutrient, especially for women. Symptoms of a deficiency in folate include gray hair, fatigue, and mouth ulcers.

Vitamin B-12: Vitamin B is essential for a healthy nervous system function. It’s also needed to produce red blood cells. If levels are too low, neurological problems can develop including issues with balance, confusion, and tingling in the feet and hands. In some cases, neurological complications from a vitamin B deficiency can be permanent. 

Magnesium: Sufficient levels of magnesium are needed for blood pressure regulation, blood sugar control, and proper nervous system function. Magnesium deficiency is not always diagnosed, since it may not show up on all blood tests. Much of magnesium is stored in your bones, which is why a blood test may not tell the entire story. Symptoms of low levels of magnesium include constipation, headache, and fatigue.

Complications of Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin deficiencies can lead to several complications from mild to severe. Some complications can have lasting effects. The following are possible complications of vitamin and mineral deficiencies:

Anemia: Anemia is a common complication of a deficiency in iron. Women are at a higher risk of anemia due to blood loss during menstruation.

Depression: Although the causes of depression are varied, nutritional deficiencies can contribute to mood disorders. Depression is specifically linked to low levels of vitamin B and magnesium.

Fatigue: A very common complication of several different vitamin deficiencies is chronic fatigue. If your body does not get the nutrients it needs, it won’t function as it should, which leads to low energy levels.

Birth defects:  Certain deficiencies can lead to birth defects and pregnancy complications. For example, a low level of vitamin D is linked to higher rates of preeclampsia and low birth weight.

Preventing Deficiencies

The best way to prevent a vitamin and mineral deficiency is to eat a variety of foods including plenty of veggies, fruits, lean protein, and complex carbs. Nutritional counseling can be very helpful to plan a diet and prevent deficiencies. Also, consider the following suggestions:

  • There are several foods you can add to your diet to prevent low levels of iron. For example, foods high in iron include lentils, beans, beef, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals.
  • To boost magnesium levels consider adding foods to your diets, such as black beans, spinach, almonds, and pumpkin seeds.
  • To prevent a vitamin D deficiency, consider spending about ten to 30 minutes in the sun about three times a week. If you tend to spend most of your time indoors, consider a vitamin D supplement. Good food sources of vitamin D include salmon, fortified milk and yogurt.