We all know that once the bowl of leftover Hallowe’en candy at front reception dries out, holiday themes will advance at full steam. Holt Renfrew was on it the second October ended. Yes, holidays are a time to both look forward to and dread for endless reasons. It’s an increasingly emotional two months unless you are a Vipassana meditator, in which case you will be equanimous and immune to frenzy.
I want to remind everyone that passive restriction can often lead to unintended binging. So let’s enforce some strategies that could delay some of those rapid, impulsive actions when colleagues start dishing out cute holiday-shaped cookies and other sugar-molded shapes.
1. ONE. This number is your friend. Make a non-negotiable decision to participate in one (not two or four) of each treat available.
2. PICK. Two days. Two cheat days, per week where you indulge in whatever is being offered (outside of your brown bag). Feel free to play it by ear and cash in when it’s worth it.
3. WALK. It off. Let’s take the stairs over the next two months. Walk an extra stop; walk the full way to work.
4. STOP. Pay attention to when you justify indulging in that pain au chocolat because it’s been a rough week and you “deserve it”. Maybe it was a rough week just so you could use it to rationalize some later, less proud decision. How can you know for certain. In any case, it’s not a good reason. As Deepak once said: What are you REALLY hungry for? Best to figure it out. Avoidance exacerbates anxiety.
5. DRINK. A full glass of water before what could be admission into a mealtime extravaganza. If you eat slowly and chew thoroughly, this will give the body time to release satiety factors and signal to your brain that you’re full. Your digestive system also appreciates it when your mouth doesn’t offload its work down the line.
6. RESPECT. Ever ask yourself why there is a need to achieve dietary inebriation? Ask yourself. Whether it originated from culture or habit, it goes without saying that feeling satisfied serves you best, physically and emotionally.
It can be a very challenging time of year, not just because of colourful chocolate calendars, but also because of the usual end-of-year deadlines, get-togethers, familial events, and extra spending. Just know that we are all under stress at this time of year so being kind to each other, especially ourselves, goes far. This doesn’t mean taking on extra work than we’d like (no no) or getting seconds on cruel treatment, but knowing that how people act isn’t personal. We’re all preoccupied with things we wish to resolve (consciously or subconsciously) and it often comes out in fun/interesting ways.
One of the things I started to do over ten years ago (rather than a New Years resolution), was generate a list of the top ten things I accomplished/was glad to experience/learn that year. Once done, if you review several years prior, it shows a clear picture of where you’re headed. It’s a nice reminder.
So stand tall, fix your office posture and know that you’re doing the best you can. And that this holiday season, you will aim to be just a little bit kinder to yourself than last. Sláinte.
Just like a clownfish to a sea anemone, the human microbiome (diverse population of bacteria) has a symbiotic relationship with us. A balanced and diverse microbiota has been connected to many beneficial effects in the human body other than just healing the gastrointestinal tract.
Our digestive system hosts over 500+ species of bacteria and over 100 trillion individual bacteria. This bacteria combined makes up the microbiome and this mini-biosphere is essential for human health, immunity, and nutrition. Having good gut bacteria is a privilege. Maintaining a good gut microbiome requires a lot of work since many factors in our daily lives may temporarily or permanently disrupt this delicate balance. There are many well-researched and scientifically supported articles regarding the use of probiotics. Even though there are many species, only a handful of probiotic strains have been clinically proven to help with human health. The different bacterial strains are introduced depending on specific health concerns.
Some risk factors for gut microbe imbalances:
Method of birth (ie. C-section or natural birth)
Diet and food choices
Lack of sleep
Antibiotic or other medication use
– Adding a daily probiotic may decrease the risk of preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension, gestational weight gain. 1
– Positive impact on infant health1
– Positive impact on pregnancy outcomes1
– Exposure to healthy bacteria during delivery may positively or negatively influence a child’s health development, both short-term and long term.2,3
– Development of asthma, immune-related problems, skin issues, prevent childhood obesity, decrease risk for childhood autoimmune diseases (type 1 diabetes) etc2,3
Children (all ages)
– Modification of gut microbiota may impact currently existing diseases and prevent many more.4,5,6
Adults (all ages)
– Negative changes in microbiome of adults have been implicated in many diseases such as chronic pulmonary diseases, asthma, allergies7, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis 8,9, and inflammatory bowel disease10.
– Studies have shown specific bacteria in abundance may play a role in regulating blood sugar and insulin levels which would help maintain leaness11.
– Immune support: 70% of immune cells are trained in the gut. 12
Aging Adults (50+)
– We understand that neuroinflammation (mild swelling of the brain) is an important factor in cognitive decline. Emerging research shows neuroinflammation is triggered by changes in the gut flora. A disturbance in the microbiota may cause the blood brain barrier to be more susceptible to circulating substances that normally would not be able to cross the barrier, which leads to cognitive dysfunction. 13,14
1. Dunlop A et al. The maternal microbiome and pregnancy outcomes that impact infant health: A review.Adv Neonatal Care. 2015;15(6):377-35.
2. Matamoros S et al. Development of intestinal microbiota in infants and its impact on health.Trends Microbiol. 2013;21(4):167-173.
3. Li M et al. Early development of the gut microbiome and immune- mediated childhood disorders.Semin Reprod Med. 2014;32:74-86.
4. Koleva P et al. The Infant Gut Microbiome: Evidence for Obesity Risk and Dietary Intervention. 2015;7(4):2237-2260.
5. Kalliomaki M et al. Probiotics in primary prevention of atopic disease: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. 2001;357(9262):1076-9.
6. Cruchet S et al. The use of probiotics in pediatric gastroenterology: a review of the literature and recommendations by Latin-American experts.Paediatr Drugs. 2015;17(3):199-216.
7. Shukla SD et al. Microbiome effects on immunity, health, and disease in the lung.Clin Transl Immunology. 2017;6(3):e133.
8. Huang L et al. Dysbiosis of gut microbiota was closely associated with psoriasis.Sci China Life Sci.
9. Scher J et al. Decreased bacterial diversity characterizes the altered gut microbiota in patients with psoriatic arthritis, resembling dysbiosis in inflammatory bowel disease.Arthritis Rheumatol. 2015;67(1):128-139.
10. Takahashi K et al. Reduced abundance of butyrate-producing bacteria species in the fecal microbial community in Crohn’s disease. 2016;93(10):59-65.
4. Aguirre M et al. The gut microbiota from lean and obese subjects contribute differently to the fermentation of arabinogalactan and inulin. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(7):e0159236.
12. Bermudez-Brito M et al. Probiotic Mechanism of Action.Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;61(2):160-174.
13. Solas M et al. Inflammation and gut-brain axis link obesity to cognitive dysfunction: plausible pharmacological interventions.Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2017;37:87-92.
14. Noble E et al. Gut to brain dysbiosis: mechanisms linking western diet consumption, the microbiome, and cognitive impairment.Front Behav Neurosci. 2017;11:9.
How to restore gut bacteria balance?
REVIEW: Come and talk to our Naturopath to review all signs and symptoms, along with options for testing (often stool testing or food sensitivity testing) to determine where the dysbiosis could be. At the same time, the Naturopath may rule out other medically relevant diagnoses that may mimic digestive imbalances.
REMOVE: Removing the undesirable organisms or re-balancing a microbiome that has been shifted out of balance. This is often accomplished using a combination of herbs and supplements. In this step, we also make sure we remove all foods that may be aggravating to the intestine.
REDUCE: Reduce bad lifestyle choices and learn about what type of foods would throw off the microbiota balance.
REVIVE: Often times, after we give the intestines a break from things that may aggravate it, we start the healing process that may repair intestinal linings, promote healthy mucosal lining, and repair any imbalances to the microbiome. This is also combined with healthy enzymatic support to ensure maximum breakdown of all nutrients.
RETAIN: Having a full plan that is tailored to individual lifestyles to maintain normal GI microbiome. This requires a healthy diet, proper vitamin and mineral intake, appropriate nutritional balance, exercise, healthy detoxification, good emotional or stress control, and lastly, proper sleep.
Naturopathic medicine can help mitigate some of the risk factors through positive lifestyle changes. We work together with our patients to agree on a path to change that is possible to include in their lives. We cannot erase the damage done to the microbiome by past experiences, but we can help shape the microbiome to be in a healthier state going forward.
If you book your Naturopathic visit regarding gut health between May 1st and June 30th, 2019 you will receive a gift of a 7-10 day supply of prebiotic (food to promote good microbial growth). This will give you a kick start to better health.
In today’s consumer world, buying products that are individualized with unique aspects that defines them is a common occurrence.
In the field of health care, individualization can play an important role. Afterall, not everyone gets the flu during flu season, some family illness seems to skip generations, and people can get illness that are without a label. All those examples are areas where we see variability in our health and humanity. It is also one of the core reasons why cookie-cutter protocols of 1st line therapies in the conventional medicine will not work for a fraction of people.
In order to answer the question of what it means to have personalized lifestyle and medicine, we should talk about our genetics and epigenetics. According to the New England Journal of Medicine published by John Hopkins Professor, Andrew Feinberg, MD, MPH, epigenetics are “in addition to changes in genetic sequences” which include process that modifies genetic function without changing our DNA. The modification can be done through series of signals that travels between the cells. Those signals turn on specific genes in response to the exposures we experience in the outside world. For examples, some well-known influencer of epigenetic changes are heavy metals, pesticides, tobacco smoke, hormones, viruses, bacteria, radioactivity exposure and much more. Without a trigger, our less-desirable genes may never be activated to display its full effect. 
In the 21st century living where we are constantly bombarded with information about health and wellness, we can be confused as to what to do. Do we go to the gym or exercise outside? Do we eat gluten or it does not matter as long as we feel fine? Do we follow the new diet trend or shall we do what we know works? All those questions have one thing in common: we are seeking for a lifestyle that can make us last a long time on this Earth. With new discovery on epigenetics, we now know that the lifestyle changes we make right now may last longer than us by influencing the next few generations. By changing our environment, we may change our epigenetic signalling to improve functionality in our lives. When we choose to change our lifestyle, not only would we be able to prevent diseases from progressing, we can prevent it from happening in the first place. In addition to disease prevention, we can boost cognitive, emotional and physical function by balancing out our lifestyle in a way that make the most sense to our lives. Changes do not have to be difficult and painful, it can be stepwise direction on the right path. Even by eliminating a single trigger, we may prevent countless hours of suffering. People may find higher productivity, better emotional control at time of duress and feeling physically stronger by modifying their behaviours in the correct way.
Personalized lifestyle medicine is a powerful tool for the chronic diseases we see today – cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune, Alzheimer’s disease – just to name a few. We know now that those diseases are called ‘chronic’ disease because they are probably stemmed from inflammation in the body that began decades ago. We work upstream and systematically with lifestyle changes: what we eat, drink, move, think and supplement. This way, we prevent inflammation which can lead us to avoid the diagnosis. 
In today’s society, a lot of our thinking is still rooted in the past medical way which is a pill for every ill we have. However, it has not always been successful with our chronic diseases. Instead, we should look at a multi-dimensional approach where we utilize multiple concepts of how a disease can be controlled, and use them synergistically together. This is where naturopathic medicine really shines.
Naturopathic doctors function similarly to a family doctor in terms of diagnosis. The similarity ends there. Not only do we understand how conventional medicine approach a problem, we know pharmacology to avoid interactions; we know western herbs along with Chinese herbs; we learned about the traditional German and Europe medicine as much as we did for traditional Chinese medicine. On top of that, we understand and can perform the function of most alternative therapies such as chiropractic manipulation, ultrasound for pain management, physiotherapy and massage. Referral is common for you to obtain the best care for your personal needs. Because naturopathic doctors spend more time with a patient, they truly can apply the concepts of personalized care. Dr. Wendy Zhou at Pacific Wellness Institute routinely screen for ways to optimize a patient’s health – physically, cognitive and mentally. She believes naturopathic medicine can be used as ‘complementary medicine’ not just as an alternative to conventional care. Book a consultation with her this January to kick start your 2019 in the right direction. Personalize your lifestyle. Personalize your Health.
 Feinberg AP. The key role of epigenetics in human disease prevention and mitigation. N Engl J Med. 2018;378:1323-1334.
 Weinhold B. Epigenetics: the science of change. Environ Heath Perspect. 2006;114(3):A160-A167.
 Hunter P. The inflammation theory of disease. The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment. EMBO Rep. 2012;13(11):968-970.
Dr. Wendy Zhou has been providing naturopathic services at the Pacific Wellness to existing and new patients. She has experience treating stress-related illnesses, digestive issues, hormone imbalances, thyroid dysfunction, and autoimmune diseases. She also welcomes cancer patients for naturopathic adjunctive cancer care consultations.
As a collective, we do not talk about our periods enough. In practice, I screen every woman for hormonal irregularities. What I discovered is shocking: more than half of my female patient population accepted their PMS symptoms as a normal part of their lives. There are many types of PMS a woman can experience. The type of PMS will determine our treatment method. Take the short quiz below to find out which type of PMS you are experiencing.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Type QUIZ:
Instructions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. You may put more than one answer per question if you think it fits your symptom picture better. All questions pertain to the two weeks prior to first day of menses.
What do you find yourself doing that is out of character prior to your period?
Feeling extremely irritated that your choice of lunch is not available, when it normally does not bother you.
Finding grocery shopping has never taken this long because you seem to be craving all the chocolate bars and chips in Aisle 1.
Crying just for no reason, or you discovered that you wore the wrong pair of shoes to work.
Hugging anyone is not possible until your period gets here.
How does your brain feel prior to your period?
Anxious or irritable… or both at the same time.
Headache or dizzyiness
Low mood and difficulty focusing
Sluggish and heavy – like it is soaked in water.
Physically, what symptoms do you have?
Mood swings that can launch you across Canada
You cannot seem to control your eating habits – when you are usually so good at it.
Sleep has not been a friend lately
Gained 5 watery pounds.
What do you usually see with the start of your period?
Full of clots, dark in colour
Light cycle, hardly had any bleeding
Losing blood, water (from bladder), and weight.
CHECK YOUR ANSWERS HERE:
If you find yourself answering ‘A’ a lot, you might have PMS-A (anxiety)
Key symptoms: Feeling overwhelmed, sensitive to perceived rejection or criticism more so than usual, feeling on edge, irritable, mood swings, and very quick to bite people’s head off.
Imbalance: Relative excess estrogen to progesterone ration + irregular cortisol control (adrenal fatigue).
Tips: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts can help metabolize estrogen. Manage your stress levels and remember to take deep breaths throughout the day.
If you find yourself answering ‘B’ a lot, you might have PMS – C (craving)
Key symptoms: craving sweets and carbohydrates along with any foods that are unhealthy. Gets headaches and dizzy on occasions due to poor sugar/insulin control.
Imbalance: relatively low serotonin levels that causes carbohydrate cravings which temporarily will increase your dopamine level for you to feel ‘good’.
Tips: Balance your blood sugar level with splashes of cinnamon. Increase your protein level to make yourself more ‘full’ while decreasing the time that you can be tempted to search up the nearest carbohydrate fix.
If you find yourself answer ‘C’ a lot, you might have PMS D (depression)
Key symptoms: low motivation and lower mood that can sometimes lead to forgetfulness, lack of energy and confusion.
Imbalance: Relative low thyroid functioning and low serotonin levels. Progesterone levels are higher than estrogen levels (relative).
Tips: Exercise can improve serotonin levels and eating phytoestrogen containing foods such as ground up flaxseed is important to bring up estrogen levels.
If you find yourself answering ‘D’ a lot, you might have PMS H (hydration or water retention)
Key symptoms: Everything just balloons up – bloating, breast tenderness, water retention, swelling, weight gain without changing diet.
Imbalance: Estrogen excess and stimulated adrenal glands that secretes aldosterone to cause salt and water retention prior to your period.
Tips: lower salt intake levels in diet, lower your coffee intake and eat more vegetables.
On the Pill
Take a hard look at why you are on your oral contraceptive pills. I call them ‘the band-aid’ of all hormonal problems – because that is what your medical doctor knows best. We have a lot more ways to help regulate hormones than just giving you the pill to mask all your symptoms. In that regard, we are better at managing and correcting hormonal imbalances than medical doctors. Also, did you know that the World Health Organization has published multiple articles on how OCP deplete nutrients such as vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, folic acid, magnesium, selenium, zinc, CoQ10 and tyrosine? Book an assessment with me to see how Naturopathic medicine can help.
Your PMS is not around just to make your life miserable every month, it is also signaling you on how ready your body is to get pregnant. Your chances of naturally conceiving decreases as your hormones get disrupted by every-day stressors such as work, caffeine intake, late nights, alcohol, poor food choices, and lack of exercise. If you have been trying to get pregnant for six consecutive months or more, come in for a consultation to see how we can optimize your female hormones by optimizing your health. Furthermore, remember that it takes two to make a baby. Your partner’s hormone health is just as important as yours.
Hormone Testing (D.U.T.C.H Test)
Let me tell you a secret – YOU DO NOT HAVE TO live with all those symptoms. We have an accurate test that can find out your hormonal imbalances. It is called the D.U.T.C.H test (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones), and we offer it right here at Pacific Wellness Institute. With this test, we can accurately pinpoint which of your hormones (including your stress hormones) is giving you all those nasty mood swings, breast tenderness, cramps, spotting issues, infertility, etc. Why is it necessary for you to get tested? Because there are so many possibilities for your hormones to be out of whack. With a simple symptom based intake, it is not enough for any doctor to accurately tell you which of your hormones (estrogen, progesterone, FSH, LH, cortisol, androgen, testosterone, DHEA… you get the idea) is giving you a hard time. To make this science exact, we need extensive testing to save you the pain, inconvenience, supplements, or an even worse sequelae of not treating your hormonal imbalances (fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome are included on that list).
This is the reason why I created the detox program at the Pacific Wellness Institute. I see too many people that simply just need a reset in life. That reset can bring about a good habit setting and improved energy to get you through to the Christmas holidays. With 10 short days, you can press that reset button with me and create a better version of you in time for the holidays!
This is a two week commitment starting with your initial visit, during which we will make sure that you are fit and eligible for a detox. This is especially true if you are on any medications, supplements or having a pre-existing health condition. We will also get you all prepared and ready to start and provide you with your detoxification kit. During the 10 days, you will get a 15 minute check-in to answer your questions and help you stay on track. We will have a 30 minute wrap up after the detox is done to reassess your health and address the left-over symptoms from prior to your detox program (if there are any!).
Hurry and sign up! Spots are limited to 10 people! With the detox program, you save 60 dollars on the kit and save 40 dollars on your initial visit. The down payment for the detox program is $102 CA. Call the Pacific Wellness Institute today at 416.929.6958 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Living with a diagnosis is not an easy feat – one of the most common feelings for both patients and their families is the feeling of helplessness.
Dr. Wendy Zhou , ND
Doctors as teachers can educate patients on their diagnosis and talk about appropriate interventions. However, the time of interaction that patients have with medical doctors is not enough to make them feel like they are in the driver’s seat of their own health. Veering away from the idea of patients playing passive roles in their healing process, naturopathic doctors actively educate and encourage patients to play a more active role in maintaining their health during and after treatment. By spending more time to investigate the daily lives of patients, we have a more comprehensive understanding of the root of the symptoms or lifestyle factors that may contribute to symptoms. While pharmaceuticals take away emergent symptoms, it is ultimately changes made to address the root causes of the disease that may sustain the positive changes which we see in patients. Not all naturopaths are trained in dealing with cancer patients. Dr. Wendy Zhou ND has completed a year-long elective on adjunctive cancer care along with a one-year clinical internship in adjunctive cancer care. She can add value by working closely with patients to help them sustain the positive changes in their conditions that medical doctors work so hard to achieve.
A Problem Worth Solving
Estimated 439.2 per 100,000 men and women per year will be diagnosed with cancer. It is predicted that as population ages, more prevalence is likely and cost of care would be more expensive due to new treatment being adopted as standards of care. Out of those who has a diagnosis of cancer, it is common for people to prematurely terminate their treatment due to inability to tolerate chemotherapy. It is also common for patient to experience anxiety and depression pre & post treatment. The limited time an oncologist may spend with their patient is very limited and often not enough to provide individualized, supportive care that the patients were expecting. Furthermore, cancer care is very complex in both pathophysiology and treatment. It requires a health care practitioner to be very careful, research-focused, and willing to stay on top of the literature to provide the best care available for their patients. Providing supportive options that does not interfere with current treatment is key to providing the possible care for patients.
As a naturopathic doctor, we have many tools in our tool box to provide solutions to current health care problems. Acupuncture, nutritional support, lifestyle advise, herbal stimulations are some examples of modalities we use.
A Naturopathic Solution:
“First, do no harm” – Doctor’s Oath. Abiding by the oath, I always strive to create treatment plans that:
Do not increase toxicity of conventional therapies
Do not reduce the effectiveness of conventional therapies
Do not create false sense of security without evidence provided
Remove any obstacles to cure by optimizing lifestyle, diet, stress management, sleep, mental/emotional support
Facilitate completing conventional treatment on the right schedule by managing and mitigating side effects of conventional care
Facilitate completing conventional treatment on the right schedule by managing and mitigating side effects of conventional care
Provide advise and support for primary or secondary cancer prevention
Prevent or ease detrimental course of the disease to the best of our abilities
Encouraging patients to play a more active role in treating their cancer
Dr. Wendy Zhou , ND has experience treating stress-related illnesses, digestive issues, hormone imbalances, thyroid dysfunction, and autoimmune diseases. She also welcomes cancer patients for naturopathic adjunctive cancer care consultations.
She is available for naturopathic medicine appointments on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Pacific Wellness