Nourish your Well-Being

By Tala Zakhour, dietetic stagiaire at Openspace Clinic

Our body contains connections between our gut and our brain. Our gut is sometimes called the “second brain”.

In fact, 95% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep, is produced by bacteria in our large intestine.
Knowing that there is a connection between our gut and our brain, let’s dive into how certain food items can affect our mood.

Let’s first start with the basics:

Why do we need to eat?
Food is like fuel for our bodies. Just like a car needs gas to run, our bodies need food to work properly. Moreover, the food we eat provides us with essential vitamins and minerals that can play a significant role in our mental and physical well-being. This ensures us with the necessary energy and nutrients needed to feel our best when facing challenges throughout our day.

Let’s look at the Canada Food Guide (CFG) and its recommendations for a balanced plate.

It suggests filling ½ of the plate with vegetables and fruits, ¼ of the plate with protein-rich food, ¼ of the plate with whole grains, and making water our drink of choice.
The idea is that our body needs all these different food groups to have a diverse range of nutrients which provides us with the energy we need to carry out our daily tasks.

Let’s take a closer look at these different food groups and their impact on our mental health.

Starting with vegetables and fruits:
Phytonutrients are naturally occurring antioxidants in fruits and vegetables that give them their beautiful and rich colors. Vegetables and fruits are filled with antioxidants and phytochemicals which help decrease inflammation and repair damage to the cells of our brain.
- An easy way to make sure we are getting a good amount and variety of antioxidants is by trying to add as many colors as possible to our plate. Try to eat the rainbow!

Fun Fact: Did you know?
Certain food items such as apples, kale, berries, grapes, onion, and green tea have high levels of quercetin which is a phytochemical that increases the amount of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in our brain. These are all neurotransmitters that are involved in mood regulation!

Moving on to protein-rich of food:
There is a wide variety of food items rich in protein such as legumes, poultry, meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, nuts/seeds, tofu, and soy products.
Having protein in each meal is important because it contains amino acids which are the foundation needed to produce the key neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation.

As for whole grain:
They are found in food items such as brown/wild rice, oats, quinoa, barley, and so on and offer
multiple health benefits. They are a rich source of B vitamins which help boost our mood and energy. Whole grains are also a rich source of tryptophan. According to Nutrition Australia (2018), tryptophan is an amino acid needed to produce serotonin, the “feel-good hormone” helping to regulate our mood and sleep.

How about fats?
Although fats are not a food group presented in the CFG, choosing products rich in healthy fats, such as nuts/seeds, avocados, fatty fish, soy products, and so on, is essential in a balanced diet. Omega-3, a healthy fat, can be found in many of the products stated above. However, the omega-3 specifically found in fish, seafood, and fish oil, has potentially the most benefits in improving our brain function and interacting with mood-related molecules. According to the Association of UK Dietitians (2020), omega-3 fats may help reduce low mood states in adults.
Fun Fact: Did you know?
-Fat makes up 60% of our brain.

Nutritional practices affecting our well-being:
The CFG also emphasizes the fact that taking care of ourselves doesn’t only stop at the kind of food we eat. It is so much more than that! It is also about where, when, why, and how we eat. Cooking more often and being present in the moment enjoying meals with friends, family, co-workers, and/or neighbors is also part of self-care. It can also be quite beneficial to have a certain consistency in our eating times. Eating something every 3-4 hours, helps to keep our muscles and brain well-nourished and our energy levels stable, which can positively affect our mood. This approach prevents having our blood sugar drop which may lead to feeling irritable and tired. According to an article featured in the British Journal of Nutrition, adequate hydration has also been shown to have a positive effect on our mood.

In short, by paying attention to what we eat, we can have some influence on our mental well-being, thanks to the gut-brain connection. This is an additional way to take control of our mental health.

 

References:

Selhub, E. (2022, September). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

McManus, K. (2019, April). Phytonutrients: Paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/phytonutrients-paint-your-plate-with-the-colors-of-the-rainbow-2019042516501

Głąbska, D. et al.(2020). Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 12(1), 115. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010115

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. (2023). Food and Mood: Eating Plants to Fight the Blues. https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/food-and-mood

Lierberman, H. - Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. (1999). Amino Acid and Protein Requirements: Cognitive Performance, Stress, and Brain Function. The Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Sustaining and Enhancing Performance. National Academies Press (US) – Chapter 14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224629/

The Association of UK Dietitians. (2020, August). Food and Mood. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/food-facts-food-and-mood.html

Harvard T.H. CHAN – School of Public Health. (2023). Whole Grains. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/whole-grains/#:~:text=Whole%20grains%20offer%20a%20%E2%80%9Ccomplete,section%20houses%20health%2Dpromoting%20nutrients

Oldways Whole Grains Council. (2014, June). Whole Grains: Good Mood Food! https://wholegrainscouncil.org/blog/2014/06/whole-grains-good-mood-food#:~:text=Many%20whole%20grains%20are%20naturally,and%20maintain%20steady%20sleep%20cycles

Jenkins, T. A, et al. (2016). Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients, 8(1), 56. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8010056

Mischoulon, D. (2020, October). Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Mood Disorders. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/omega-3-fatty-acids-for-mood-disorders-2018080314414

Chang, C. Y., Ke, D. S., & Chen, J. Y. (2009). Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta neurologica Taiwanica, 18(4), 231–241. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20329590/

Government of Canada. (2023, November). Canada’s Food Guide. https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

Nutrition Australia QLD Division. (2018). How Food Can Affect Your Mood. https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/food-and-mood/

Masento, N. et al. (2014). Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood. British Journal of Nutrition, 111(10), 1841-1852. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24480458/


What you need to know about Ozempic

 

By Alexia Le Blanc, dietetic stagiaire at Openspace Clinic

The prominence of Ozempic in today’s society has been hard to ignore, especially considering its popularity in social media and its innovative role as one of the solutions in the battle against the obesity epidemic. In this article, we take a deeper look at this drug, including the rise of Ozempic, its weight loss mechanisms, and essential considerations.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a medication requiring weekly injection and designated for people with type 2 diabetes. It contains the active ingredient semaglutide, which is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. GLP-1 is an incretin hormone, a type of hormone that is released by the intestines in response to food intake. This means that semaglutide will mimic the action of the natural incretin hormone GLP-1.

Its primary functions lie in increased insulin production leading to decreased blood sugar levels by mimicking the effects of the incretin hormone, while also diminishing the liver's sugar production.

The rise of Ozempic.

Despite Ozempic's explicit disclaimer on its official website that it is not a weight loss drug, the public and culture disagrees. Since Ozempic has been made available in 2018, it’s been making quite a name for itself. As people start noticing its drastic weight loss effects in diabetic patients, it started making waves.

Branded a revolutionizing miracle drug, the enticing and alluring drug is bound to cause a commotion. Countless articles, social media posts and celebrities emphasize and promote the medication’s effectiveness for its weight loss properties, often portraying it as a solution requiring minimal effort on the user’s part.

In fact, the drug has been called “the worst kept secret in Hollywood” due to its popularity among stars, and its dead giveaway of rapid weight loss. 

How does it work for weight loss?

Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic mimics GLP-1, is a hormone that regulates appetite. By activating GLP-1 receptors in the brain, Ozempic reduces feelings of hunger and promotes a sense of fullness, leading to decreased calorie intake. Also, the rate at which the stomach empties will slow down, which prolongs the sense of fullness and decreases physical hunger. This dual effect—suppressing appetite and delaying gastric emptying—prolongs the feeling of satiety, effectively curbing physical hunger. 

Think of the energy balance concept (energy in vs. energy out), its ability to decrease appetite leads to reduced caloric intake. People even report that the medication makes them forget to eat!

The FDA still has not approved Ozempic as a weight loss drug, whereas Wigovy, both semaglutide and working in similar mechanisms, is approved as a treatment for chronic weight management. They can be considered the same drug, however, Wigovy contains a smaller amount of semaglutide than Ozempic.

Considerations.

So far, this drug is starting to sound like the miracle solution for easy and quick weight loss. However, like every medication, there are important considerations and misconceptions to address.

  1. This is a life-long drug, you cannot use it to “jumpstart” your weight loss.

The effects of this drug last as long as you are taking the medication. When you get off the drug for any reason, the lost weight and associated health issues (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.) will return. 

  1. There are short and long-term side effects.

Most common sides effects with semaglutide drugs include headaches, nausea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. They are commonly experienced in the beginning stages; however, they may persist and cause the individual to quit the medication. More severe side effects, such as vision issues, pancreatitis, and certain cancers, are also possible. This drug is relatively new, long-term side effects are unknown and difficult to predict. 

  1. Who can take it?

Many factors and possible contraindications must be taken into consideration before taking this drug. It is important to discuss with a reliable health professional to determine if this drug is appropriate for your specific health situation.

 

Final thoughts.

Propelled by society’s fatphobia mentality, weight loss has been a long driving force for profitable sales in America’s economy. This societal pressure leads to compelled individuals to go great lengths to achieve the elusive “ideal” body figure. Understandably, Ozempic, or any solution related to weight loss, creates immense appeal in such a context.

However, fatphobia must not be held solely accountable for Ozempic’s soaring success and popularity. Obesogenic factors, such as a sedentary lifestyle, increased fast-food intake, and lack of homemade meals are also to blame for the climbing obesity epidemic statistics. 

Although the future of Ozempic and other weight loss-related drugs are promising, maintaining a healthy relationship with food, your body, healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle are important for mental and physical health. Amidst this journey, it is important to remind ourselves that true health and happiness go beyond weight loss.

References:

Ard, J., Fitch, A., Fruh, S., & Herman, L. (2021). Weight Loss and Maintenance Related to the Mechanism of Action of Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 Receptor Agonists. Advances in therapy38(6), 2821–2839. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12325-021-01710-0

Diabetes UK. (n.d.). Ozempic and weight loss: The facts behind the headlines. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/ozempic-and-weight-loss-facts-behind-headlines#:~:text=Ozempic%20is%20taken%20as%20once,glucose%20produced%20by%20the%20liver.

Healthline. (n.d.). Ozempic: Side effects, dosage, uses, and more. https://www.healthline.com/health/drugs/ozempic#drug-images

Medical News Today. (n.d.). Ozempic: Uses, dosage, side effects, and more. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/ozempic-face

NPR. (2023). Ozempic: Weight loss drug and big business. https://www.npr.org/2023/04/01/1166781510/ozempic-weight-loss-drug-big-business

Ozempic. (n.d.). What is Ozempic? https://www.ozempic.com/why-ozempic/what-is-ozempic.html

Singh, G., Krauthamer, M., & Bjalme-Evans, M. (2022). Wegovy (semaglutide): a new weight loss drug for chronic weight management. Journal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research70(1), 5–13. https://doi.org/10.1136/jim-2021-001952

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). FDA approves new drug for treatment of chronic weight management, the first since 2014. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-drug-treatment-chronic-weight-management-first-2014

 


Caffeine

Caffeine

Article by Sella Khouri, McGill Dietetics Student 

What is caffeine: 

 Caffeine, a xanthine alkaloid compound, is consumed widely and daily by humans. It is a popular stimulant worldwide that is frequently consumed to enhance mood, alertness, muscle endurance, exercise performance, and work productivity.

Caffeine is a natural ingredient found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, guarana, kola nuts and yerba mate Caffeine can also be synthesized and is added to foods and beverages, including soft drinks, energy drinks, and energy shots, and to tablets marketed for reducing fatigue. Coffee and tea are among the most popular beverages worldwide and contain substantial amounts of caffeine. These beverages have been consumed for hundreds of years and have become an important part of cultural traditions and social life.

 

 

How does caffeine impact our bodies: 

Caffeine has many impacts on our bodies and has numerous physiological effects, including cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and smooth muscle, as well as effects on mood, memory, alertness, and physical and cognitive performance.

The molecular structure of caffeine is similar to that of adenosine, which allows caffeine to bind to adenosine receptors inhibiting the effects of adenosine. Therefore, caffeine intake triggers arousal and alertness, improves mood, and causes the release of catecholamines, which induce beneficial effects on human behavior. Nevertheless, caffeine has been related to other beneficial effects such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that are important to human health. 

A recent study showed that caffeine taken 0.5–4 h prior to a meal may suppress acute energy intake. Therefore, caffeine may play a role in energy balance by reducing appetite and increasing the basal metabolic rate and food-induced thermogenesis.

In addition, studies had shown that caffeine can reduce the risk of several diseases, such as Alzheimer and Parkinson disease. It also plays a mild diuretic effect by inhibiting fluid reabsorption along proximal renal tubules.

In terms of the relationship between caffeine and kidney stones, data from 3 large cohort studies have reported the association between caffeine consumption and a lower risk of kidney stone disease despite caffeine-rich beverages have been recognized to contain oxalate and increase urinary calcium excretion.

Safe amounts:

Age Group Recommended maximum daily intake
Adults (18 years and over) 400 mg
People planning to become pregnant 300 mg
People who are pregnant 300 mg
People who are breastfeeding 300 mg
Children and adolescents (up to 18 years) 2.5 mg per kg of body weight

 

 Side effects of excessive intake: 

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Caffeine can leave you feeling nervous or anxious particularly at high doses (>200 mg per occasion or >400 mg per day), increase your heartbeat or give you a headache. Caffeine consumption later in the day can increase sleep latency and reduce the quality of sleep all of which can hurt your performance. If you get any of these symptoms, try a smaller dose or simply avoid it. 

If you regularly include caffeine in your diet and you suddenly stop having it, you may have withdrawal effects such as headaches or drowsiness. 

Caffeine in the form of energy drinks and shots may have more adverse effects than other caffeinated beverages since these beverages can be consumed very quickly, and the caffeine is released into your bloodstream rapidly unlike hot coffee or tea which can be sipped slowly. Another factor could be due to lack of clarity on the part of consumers about caffeine content.

Caffeine and exercise: 

Caffeine intake has also shown ergogenic effects, which are attributed to different factors, such as enhanced substrate utilization, fatigue delay, and alertness. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and improves muscle contraction and some motor skills. Therefore, it may help by making exercise feel easier, increasing endurance and improving short-term high-intensity performance. Caffeine can be taken before or during exercise to feel the benefits.

Research show that 1 to 3 mg of caffeine per kg (0.5 to 1.4 mg per lb) body weight taken before or during exercise may improve performance. For a 70 kg (154 lb) person, this equals 70 to 210 mg caffeine, which is the amount found in 1 cup of brewed coffee.

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References:

Barcelos, R. P., Lima, F. D., Carvalho, N. R., Bresciani, G., & Royes, L. F. (2020). Caffeine effects on 

systemic metabolism, oxidative-inflammatory pathways, and exercise performance. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.)80, 1–17. 

Health Canada (2022) Caffeine in Foods, Canada.ca. Gouvernement du Canada. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/food additives/caffeine-foods.html. 

Jee, H. J., Lee, S. G., Bormate, K. J., & Jung, Y. S. (2020). Effect of Caffeine Consumption on the 

Risk for Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders: Sex Differences in Human. Nutrients12(10), 3080. 

Peerapen, P., & Thongboonkerd, V. (2018). Caffeine in Kidney Stone Disease: Risk or 

Benefit?. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)9(4), 419–424. 

Schubert, M. M., Irwin, C., Seay, R. F., Clarke, H. E., Allegro, D., & Desbrow, B. (2017). Caffeine, 

coffee, and appetite control: a review. International journal of food sciences and nutrition68(8), 901–912.

Van Dam, R. M., Hu, F. B., & Willett, W. C. (2020). Coffee, Caffeine, and Health. The New England journal of medicine383(4), 369–378. 


Psychologist Lew Lewis

Leptin and its Role in Weight Loss

Article  By Rosemarie Cianci, dietetics student in McGill’s School of Human Nutrition

There is a lot of talk about hormones and their role in weight loss. Leptin is one of those, so we’ll dive right in!

What is it?

Leptin is a hormone that is secreted by fat cells when you eat certain foods and regulates hunger and fullness cues. It reacts to your body’s insulin following the intake of food items. From there, it provides information to the brain about nutrition status. It regulates body weight by decreasing food intake and increasing energy expenditure. It makes you feel full and also allows the body to burn more calories!

What does it do?

Certain foods stimulate the release of leptin more than others. For example, consuming sugars such as sucrose and glucose will cause insulin levels to increase and leptin to be released. However, fructose, which is often found in the form of high fructose corn syrup, does not trigger the release of leptin. Therefore, when you drink foods that are high in HFCS, such as candy and soft drinks, leptin is not released and the body does not receive the signals to decrease food intake. You end up eating more!

What is leptin resistance?

Leptin resistance occurs when the body does not respond to levels of leptin and does not signal fullness. This often occurs in those who are overweight or obese as they have more fat cells and therefore produce more leptin. Despite the high production, the brain does not receive the signal from leptin and it is blocked.

Leptin resistance and the lack of regulation may explain why some people have a more difficult time losing weight than others. Their brain may not be receiving the signals of fullness and increased energy burning compared to others!

Can it be supplemented?

The current recommendation is that taking a leptin supplement is not effective when compared to the body’s production. For those who have resistance, even supplements of leptin will not work because their brain does not receive signals from the hormone in any way, whether by pill or from the body’s production.

However, more studies are currently being undergone in this field and this is something that may be on the horizon. A review from 2019 showed that leptin’s mechanism of action is still being discovered and this can hopefully improve the efficacy of leptin as a treatment of obesity.

Overall, there is currently not enough research to note that leptin supplements are safe and effective for weight loss. However, since fructose blocks the production of leptin, it may be a beneficial idea to limit sources of the sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup-containing foods such as candy and soft drinks.

 

References:

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/11/2704

https://www.nature.com/articles/0802753?proof=t

https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.proxy3.library.mcgill.ca/pmc/articles/PMC7765993/

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2021.585887/full

 


What are the Main Philosophies of Naturopathy?

 

Article by Antonio Colasurdo Board Certified Naturopath at Openspaceclinic.

 

FIRST, DO NO HARM

Naturopaths hold to the tenet of using non-invasive modalities and medicinal substances to minimize the risk of harmful side effects.

 

VITALITY

The body has an inherent ability to heal itself. Naturopaths act as facilitators to this process by identifying and removing obstacles to health in an effort to support the healing process.

 

IDENTIFYING THE CAUSE

Illness does not occur without a cause, and causes can occur on various levels including physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. Therefore, a Naturopath must identify the cause of illness rather than simply acting on the symptomatic expression of a disease.

 

TREAT THE WHOLE PERSON

Every individual is unique. Naturopaths use individualized protocols by understanding the interdependence between the physical, mental, emotional, environmental, genetic, and social factors which may contribute to illness.

 

NATUROPATHS AS TEACHERS

Naturopaths must take time to educate and empower clients concerning their health. This cooperative relationship has an inherent therapeutic value, which may enable clients to heal.

 

PREVENTION IS THE BEST CURE

The ultimate goal of Naturopathy is disease prevention. Naturopaths thoroughly assess any risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and make appropriate interventions with the goal of maintaining health and preventing illness, as much as possible.

 


Is Lettuce Water the Cure to Insomnia as TikTok suggests

 

Article by Danielle Kasis Akal, Professional Dietetic Stagiare, McGill’s School of Human Nutrition. 

You have probably encountered multiple food and nutrition trends if you have been using the TikTok application lately. Many times, TikTok users are trying out those trends and are swearing on their success. The latest being the use of lettuce water to prevent insomnia. Lettuce water is made when one boils water, pours it over romaine lettuce and then drinks the water once it's cooled a bit. If you are wondering if lettuce could be the new herbal tea to aid with sleeping, here is our dietetic intern trying to find the truth of this matter.  

As many are more interested in the medicinal effect of food as opposed to medications, many are looking at ways to improve their life quality, including the quality of their sleep using nutrition. 

 

But does lettuce water really help with sleep?

No studies published have shown that steeping lettuce or eating lettuce that you buy from grocery stores can help with sleeping. But it is understandable why some people might think it does.

The seed oil of romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) was used in folk medicine long ago as a sleeping aid and a sedative when combined with other ingredients like opium. Today, local herbal shops in Iran continue to provide lettuce seeds to pregnant women to treat insomnia as part of their belief in Traditional Persian Medicine (TPM). In addition, researchers have found that some molecules in lettuce extract act as a sedative and pain reliever in mice. Those molecules are known as lactucopicrin and lactucin, found in romaine lettuce extract, and are studied for their properties of inducing and prolonging sleep. 

 

But what made lettuce water trendy today? 

This new TikTok trend could stem from the new study published in 2017 that you see some have mentioned in their videos. Researchers in this study have found that after young mice were fed a mix of sedative (phenobarbital) and a concentrated extract from lettuce seed and leaves, those mice slept 20 minutes longer than those who were only given the sedative.

However, many limitations exist for this study. The concentrated lettuce extract was tested alongside a sedative, which is not the same as only drinking the lettuce water. Also, the lettuce extract from seed and leaves is much more potent in molecules than just drinking steeped lettuce. Finally, mice are not human, so what works in mice does not mean it will always translate to humans.

 

Could drinking lettuce water be dangerous?

Assuming that you are washing your lettuce well and that your lettuce is not harbouring any salmonella or other microbes, placing your lettuce in boiling water is less likely to cause harm. The only thing you might need to consider is drinking a large amount of fluid before going to sleep. This might make you have frequent trips to the bathroom at night, which can be disruptive to your sleep and counterproductive in general. 

 

Then why are some finding this practice useful?

This could be a placebo effect. In fact, many studies have looked at the role of placebo medication vs no treatment on improving insomnia symptoms. It has been shown consistently that getting any placebo might help in most insomnia symptoms, such as how quickly you fall asleep, your total sleep time and your sleep quality. So, after all, this might be a reason why many are finding drinking lettuce water useful.

 

Then what can I do to improve my sleep?

You need to make adjustments during your whole day and not just at night to improve your sleep. Your diet, environment and general well-being all have an impact on your sleep.

You can start by enjoying more wholesome meals, limiting refined carbohydrates and sugar, eating more fruits and vegetables, and avoiding caffeine after 2 pm. Other changes could include getting regular exercise, a good sleep routine and avoiding electronics before bed.  

What if my sleep is not getting better with all changes?

Poor sleep can sometimes be linked to certain medical conditions. If poor sleep is a consistent issue in your life, see a healthcare provider to help you out.

 

Références: 

Kiefer, D. (2019). Lettuce for Sleep? Maybe, but Not in Salad Form. Integrative Medicine Alert, 22(2).

Kim, H. D., Hong, K. B., Noh, D. O., & Suh, H. J. (2017). Sleep-inducing effect of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) varieties on pentobarbital-induced sleep. Food science and biotechnology, 26(3), 807-814.

Yeung, V., Sharpe, L., Glozier, N., Hackett, M. L., & Colagiuri, B. (2018). A systematic review and meta-analysis of placebo versus no treatment for insomnia symptoms. Sleep medicine reviews, 38, 17-27.

10 tips to beat insomnia. (2021). Retrieved 10 September 2021, from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/10-tips-to-beat-insomnia/

 


Bloating

 

How to prevent bloating, here are some tips to consider:

Do you often hear that someone you know complains of bloating? or it might be you?

Bloating is when your belly feels bloated after eating. This can be due to excess gas or abnormal movement of the muscles in your digestive system.  

Bloating can often cause pain and discomfort that makes your belly look bigger. For some people, bloating is more related to pressure in the abdomen without an apparent abdominal enlargement. Therefore, bloating for them is more due to increased sensitivity to gas or fluid found in the gut.

Although bloating can result from a serious medical problem, a change in food and certain eating habits can often help you eliminate or reduce your bloating sensations. Here are some tips to consider the next time you experience bloating.

 

1- Lack of regularity in bowel movements

Sometimes constipation can make bloating worse. Because the longer the stool stays in the colon, the more the bacteria in the gut ferment what's there. This will lead to gas and possibly bloating.

Eating high-fibre foods is generally recommended for people with constipation, but fibre can make it worse for people who have gas or bloating.

If you are looking for a way to prevent constipation, drink more water and become more physically active. Those are effective in letting you use the bathroom regularly.

 

2- Eating too fast

Eating quickly is not ideal if you want to avoid bloating after your meal as this will cause you to swallow more air, leading to a lot of gas production. 

You can avoid bloating by eating slowly and chewing your food properly. This will reduce the amount of air you swallow and as a result lead to less gas and bloating. 

 

3- Pay attention to the ingestion of air and gas.

Although bacteria normally produce gas in your gut, sometimes we swallow air or gas from drinks or from the way we eat. For example, carbonated drinks contain carbon dioxide bubbles that are released after they reach our stomachs.  

Other factors can contribute to increased amounts of air swallowed through eating habits. These include chewing gum, drinking through a straw and talking while eating.

 

4- Avoid high-dose sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol, are sweeteners used as alternatives to sugar. You can frequently find them in sugar-free foods and chewing gum.

In general, we do not digest sugar alcohols. Our gut bacteria ferment them and produce gas as a by-product. It is important to note that when we consume large amounts of sugar alcohols, they become more challenging to digest, and as a result, we get cramps and bloating.

5- Watch your salt intake

When we eat foods rich in salt, our body tends to retain the liquid we drink, making us feel bloated.

Although you may think you're not consuming too much salt because you don't use your salt shaker frequently, right? Most of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods, not from the salt we add to the table.

Plus, most of these foods don't taste salty, to begin with. This is why we call these sources hidden sources of sodium. Examples of foods include pizza, canned soups, salad dressings and frozen meals.

 

6- Consult a dietitian to help manage your symptoms

In many cases, bloating can be reduced by a simple change in diet. 

Your dietitian can work with you to identify the best diet changes you can make to relieve your symptoms while being the least restrictive possible in your diet. 

 

Références: 

Agrawal, A., & Whorwell, P. J. (2008). abdominal bloating and distension in functional gastrointestinal disorders–epidemiology and exploration of possible mechanisms. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 27(1), 2-10.

Agrawal, A., Houghton, L. A., Reilly, B., Morris, J., & Whorwell, P. J. (2009). Bloating and distension in irritable bowel syndrome: the role of gastrointestinal transit. The American journal of gastroenterology, 104(8), 1998–2004. https://doi.org/10.1038/ajg.2009.251

De Schryver, A. M., Keulemans, Y. C., Peters, H. P., Akkermans, L. M., Smout, A. J., De Vries, W. R., & Van Berge-Henegouwen, G. P. (2005). Effects of regular physical activity on defecation pattern in middle-aged patients complaining of chronic constipation. Scandinavian journal of gastroenterology, 40(4), 422-429.

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Supplements. Go Beyond the Label.

 

 

Article by Antonio Colasurdo Board Certified Naturopath at Openspaceclinic.

When clients initially come to me, quite often, a question that I’m asked by those who take dietary supplements is if their current supplement is “good”. Most people buy them online, from a business, or from a company directly. As a professional however, I cannot give a full honest product assessment based off of a label alone, and therefore require more time to look into the product.

Because of that, often times I would need to get back to the client on my opinion once I’ve conducted further research. Often times my process involves emailing the company that created the supplement directly to inquire further into specific areas.

A product label may look good, however this is the potential problem with stopping one’s inquiry at the product label:

Using a data set of 1800 patients, ingesting 375 dietary supplements with subsequent analysis, it was found that only 44% were labeled correctly. The other 56% contained anabolic steroids or other pharmaceutical agents. Problematic product markets included body building supplements, with a 72% mislabeling rate, weight loss supplements, with a 72% mislabeling rate, energy boosting products, with a 60% mislabeling rate, and general health and wellbeing products, with a 51% mislabeling rate.

 

Naturopathic Doctor News & Review – Herbal mislabeling and liver damage

As you can imagine, this is incredibly problematic, and this problem one of the reasons why, as a health professional, I am extremely picky over my opinions on supplement use. Now, I use supplements in practice; however, my recommendations MUST be based in quality, purity, and backed by current and updated scientific literature.

I need the assurance that what is labeled on a bottle, is actually contained within the bottle. This is why my standards concerning supplements is incredibly high, below are some of the things which I look into:

NPN Numbers.

Making sure that a supplement has an NPN Number is paramount. For a natural product to be sold in Canada it needs an NPN and it must be printed on the bottle sold, without one it is illegal to sell the natural product. Now we shouldn’t need to worry about this, however, one time someone walked into my office with a product that lacked an NPN which is why this is worth mentioning.

Third Party Testing.

Personally, I believe that all supplements should go through Third Party Testing; it adds to the credibility that what is claimed to be within the bottle is actually found there. However, many companies don’t perform third party testing as it can be costly. However, this is non negotiable, for me to approve a supplement it must be tested; preferably by a lab that has no affiliations to the supplement company (directly or indirectly).

Product Monographs.

Another important point, not all companies have these readily available for individuals; the only brands, that I know of, which make product monographs are companies that only give access to supplements to health practitioners.

Yes, research on natural compounds, vitamins, and minerals exist and is readily available. However, I believe that research must be performed on the specific product to validate it’s existence. For this reason, the product itself should have research performed on it.

It’s also important to note, for a Medical Doctor to approve any supplement use (or at the very least say that it won’t interfere with any medications, or that it is safe), a product monograph must be provided. Without one, the answer will always be no.

Without third party testing, product research, and product monographs, I stay away.

Certifications.

After all those hoops, I will look at one final point: is the supplement in question certified by a third party organization such as USP, NSF, Informed Choice, Informed Sport, and/or any other professional certifying organization to validate that a product is continuously being tested.

As an example, to maintain an Informed Sport certification each batch of the product in question must be tested and authenticated to make sure that professional athletes in the NFL, NHL, UFC, etc. are not taking something which can get them banned from their sport such as steroids.

If the company which created the supplement decides to discontinue testing, then the Informed Sport certification becomes null and void.

Because of this, some certifications are not only tough to get, but they are also tough to maintain.

Final Product Validations.

Only after I’ve reviewed each of those components do I look at the product label itself. Because if a product fails in any of the pervious stages, I don’t care what the label itself says.

As you can see, a label is really one cog in a much larger machine. Pushing beyond the label is where you’ll discover the validity of a supplement.

It’s easy to sell a supplement on the market, and it’s easy to make cost effective supplements available to the general public; but is the supplement in question actually beneficial for your health? Well that’s another question entirely…

Final Thoughts.

I know that as a natural health practitioner the tone of this article may seem odd; however, I caution the use of cheap supplements as many of them are filled with extra binders, fillers, lubricants, and coatings; and remember, your digestive system has to process all of these.

Not only that, but the form of a supplement will determine if it is absorbed by the body or if it passes through without or with minimal absorption. Many of the cheap supplements use cheap to manufacture forms which are minimally absorbed by the body. Because of this, you may be wasting your hard earned money.


Functional Foods

 

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

 

Functional foods are modified foods or food ingredients that provide health benefits beyond the traditional nutrients it contains. Although foods can provide macronutrients like carbs, fats, protein as well as vitamins and minerals; some foods also contain other compounds that can provide additional health benefits. Most functional foods are used to lend protection against certain diseases—but only when eaten regularly and in specific amounts. 

Let’s look at some specific functional foods and what they do! 

Fatty Fish 

Fatty Fish, like salmon, sardines, trout or herring are considered to be functional foods. These fish are functional in particular due to their low mercury content and higher omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids are the “special ingredient” here. This is because they are known to reduce blood pressure in those with higher blood pressure and they can help raise your “Good” HDL cholesterol (YES, there is a good cholesterol!). Omega-3s are also very important to consume during pregnancy and childhood. They are crucial for brain growth and development of infants. It is currently recommended to have fatty fish 2-3 times per week. 

Yogurt 

Yogurt is known for being a great source of calcium; but did you know it also contains probiotics and sometimes even prebiotics? Let’s differentiate the two. Probiotics are a type of “friendly” bacteria found in foods. They are microorganisms that are beneficial to gut health and our microbiome. Prebiotics are food components, such as fibers, that are not digested and are instead used as food for the previously mentioned friendly gut bacteria. Together, probiotics and prebiotics encourage a healthy gut. All yogurts contain probiotics and some contain added prebiotics. If not, add some berries to your yogurt to promote optimal digestive health!  

Tomatoes 

Tomatoes are rich in different minerals and vitamins; but the “special ingredient” here is the powerful antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a compound found in tomatoes that has a very strong link to prostate cancer risk reduction. Since it is an antioxidant, it helps prevent cell damage. Whether it be fresh tomatoes, tomato paste or a tomato sauce, everyone, especially men over 50, should try to include more of it in their diet to keep cells healthy and to help prevent prostate cancer. 

Garlic 

Along with many vitamins and minerals, garlic contains organosulfur compounds (Eg. Allicin). Studies have shown promising evidence that these compounds can help to lower total and “Bad” LDL cholesterol. Studies also show that garlic may play a role in reducing blood pressure. Although the studies are not conclusive, we do know that garlic is safe and quite tasty when cooked right! Try to include garlic into your recipes regularly; it may not be a cure-all but it certainly provides many important nutrients and compounds to your diet. 

As you can see, foods can provide so much more than calories and carbs. Every bite of food you take, brings along so many special nutrients and compounds that help feed your body and keep it running smoothly. 

 

References 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22113870/

https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/functional-foods

https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/135/5/1226/4663991

https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/garlic


Going Vegan? Here’s some things to think about.

 

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

Concern for the environment is rising and this is causing a shift in the way we eat. There has been a huge growth in veganism and vegetarianism which has so many benefits for the individual but also for the planet. There are many ways to follow a vegan lifestyle and the definition of the word can vary from person to person. While vegetarians will not consume any animal flesh, they may or may not still consume eggs, dairy cheese, dairy milk and other animal-based products. Vegans, on the other hand, will typically cut out all animal and animal derived foods from the diet. There also exists a form of flexible veganism where one will consume a majorly plant-based diet but allow themselves some animal derived foods on occasion. 

When we cut all animal products out of our diet, we need to think about the nutrients that we may be cutting out as well. 

Vitamin D 

Many of us know that we can get vitamin D from the sun. However, when living in a province like Quebec, it can be very difficult to get adequate Vitamin D from October to May. So, it is very important to get it from your diet. Most food sources of vitamin D come from animals. So, to avoid deficiency when going vegan, it is important to look for food items fortified with vitamin D. Fortified orange juice, soy milk or breakfast cereals can be great options. You can also speak to a healthcare professional about vitamin D supplements. 

Long chain Omega-3 Fatty acids 

Long chain Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning your body cannot produce them and you must get them from your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for the health of your body and brain. Again, most sources of omega-3 fatty acids are animal derived; however, some seeds such as chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds can provide omega-3 fatty acids to the diet. 

Vitamin B12 

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the health of your blood, nerve cells and DNA. Lack of Vitamin B12 can have serious health consequences on the body. Shitake mushrooms and nutritional yeast are great vegan sources of B12. You can also look for fortified breakfast cereals. Just like Vitamin D, there are vitamin B12 supplements available—speak to your healthcare provider to determine if that is a better option for you. 

Iron 

Iron is a mineral that is vital to the growth and development of our bodies. There are two types of iron: heme iron (coming from animal sources) and non-heme iron (coming from non-animal sources). Luckily, non-heme iron can be easily consumed in the diet; it is found in most legumes, nuts, seeds as well as raisins, figs, molasses and dried apricots. It is important to note that non-heme iron may not be as well absorbed in the body as heme iron. Vitamin C can increase iron absorption in the body. So, include some sources of vitamin C such as peppers, broccoli or oranges to increase that iron absorption! 

Calcium 

Calcium has so many important roles in the body. From building and maintaining our skeleton to blood pressure regulation, calcium helps keep our bodies strong and healthy. Everyone knows that we can get our daily intake of calcium from milk; but what if you’re vegan? Calcium can also be found in many vegan-friendly foods. Soy foods, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables can also be sources of calcium for someone following a vegan diet. 

Takeaway

All that being said, veganism and plant-based diets in general can be a great way to support the health of the environment and the health of your body. One 16-week study showed major decreases in weight, fat mass and visceral fat in the vegan participant group. As well, plants provide antioxidants, prebiotics, and fiber to the diet. These compounds and nutrients can support a healthy gut by balancing the gut bacteria; a healthy gut is the first step towards a healthy body! 

It is important to carefully plan your diet to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need to avoid any nutritional deficiencies. All of the nutrients we need to keep us healthy are available from vegan sources—you just have to learn where to look!  

References 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478664/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-101

https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/nutrients/iron

https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-b12-foods-for-vegetarians

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-plant-sources-of-omega-3s

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-guide#faq

https://www.healthline.com/health/vegan-vitamin-d#vegan-sources

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-a-16-week-vegan-diet-can-improve-your-gut-microbes#You-are-what-you-eat

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478664/


Can exercising help you lose weight?

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

This topic is often very controversial. Some believe that exercise plays a vital role in weight loss, while others believe that exercise is insignificant on its own.

There is one thing we do know for sure: exercise offers so many health benefits. Exercise can do wonders for the body; regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and even some cancers. It has also shown to help reduce stress and anxiety in healthy adults. After hearing all that, who wouldn’t want to exercise? 

Now that we know how effective physical activity is in preventing major chronic disease and mental illness, let’s move on to the question you have all been waiting for: does exercise help you lose weight? To answer this question, let’s look at the evidence.

Fat Loss vs Muscle Loss 

When you reduce the number of calories you eat without increasing your physical activity, you lose fat, but you lose muscle as well. When you include exercise in your weight loss plan, it can reduce the amount of muscle you lose. Retaining muscle will work in opposition with fat loss and avoid the drop in your metabolic rate that you experience when you lose weight. Therefore, it will be easier to keep off the weight, which is what we’re all hoping for! 

Cardio 

Whether it’s the treadmill, the spin bike or a simple walk to the park, we’re all familiar with the famous cardio workout, also known as aerobic exercise. Cardio has been very successful in helping people burn calories; however, it plays little role in affecting muscle mass. A study done in 2012 demonstrated that aerobic exercise alone, without any calorie restriction, was extremely effective in increasing weight loss for overweight and obese men and women. Many other studies have been done as well to show the beneficial outcomes of cardio; loss of liver fat, loss of visceral fat (belly fat) and so much more. 

Resistance Training 

Think weightlifting or body weight training—these are examples of resistance training. Resistance training can increase the strength and/or endurance of your muscles as well as burn calories. Increasing the amount of muscle you have, can increase your metabolism, which allow s you to burn more calories continuously—even when you’re taking a rest on the couch. What you can take from this is: cardio is important, but resistance training can be just as, if not more important! Both types of exercise can help you lose weight, but resistance training can help you keep off the weight, which is the hardest part of weight loss!

Does Exercise Help You Lose Weight? 

The truth is: different methods work for different people. While most individuals find exercise to be very effective in weight loss, some find that they don’t lose any weight. Maybe changing your diet will be more effective for you! Most of the evidence shows that a strategy including both a healthy diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off. In the end, consistency is key. Try to stay motivated and stick to a plan that works for you!  

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References

Beavers, K. M., Beavers, D. P., Nesbit, B. A., Ambrosius, W. T., Marsh, A. P., Nicklas, B. J., &

Rejeski, W. J. (2014). Effect of an 18-month physical activity and weight loss intervention on body composition in overweight and obese older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)22(2), 325–331. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20607

Behrens, G., Jochem, C., Schmid, D., Keimling, M., Ricci, C., & Leitzmann, M. F. (2015).

Physical activity and risk of pancreatic cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European journal of epidemiology30(4), 279–298. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-015-0014-9

Bouchard, C., Blair, S. N., & Katzmarzyk, P. T. (2015). Less Sitting, More Physical Activity,

or Higher Fitness?. Mayo Clinic proceedings90(11), 1533–1540. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.08.005

Carter, M. I., & Hinton, P. S. (2014). Physical activity and bone health. Missouri

 medicine111(1), 59–64.

Chaston, T. B., Dixon, J. B., & O'Brien, P. E. (2007). Changes in fat-free mass during

significant weight loss: a systematic review. International journal of obesity (2005)31(5), 743–750. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803483

Donnelly, J. E., Honas, J. J., Smith, B. K., Mayo, M. S., Gibson, C. A., Sullivan, D. K., Lee, J.,

Herrmann, S. D., Lambourne, K., & Washburn, R. A. (2013). Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women: midwest exercise trial 2. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)21(3), E219–E228. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20145

Garrow, J. S., & Summerbell, C. D. (1995). Meta-analysis: effect of exercise, with or

without dieting, on the body composition of overweight subjects. European journal of clinical nutrition49(1), 1–10.

Goedecke, J. H., & Micklesfield, L. K. (2014). The effect of exercise on obesity, body fat

distribution and risk for type 2 diabetes. Medicine and sport science60, 82–93. https://doi.org/10.1159/000357338

Heymsfield, S. B., Gonzalez, M. C., Shen, W., Redman, L., & Thomas, D. (2014). Weight

loss composition is one-fourth fat-free mass: a critical review and critique of this widely cited rule. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity15(4), 310–321. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12143

Hunter, G. R., Byrne, N. M., Sirikul, B., Fernández, J. R., Zuckerman, P. A., Darnell, B. E., &

Gower, B. A. (2008). Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)16(5), 1045–1051. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.38

Ismail, I., Keating, S. E., Baker, M. K., & Johnson, N. A. (2012). A systematic review and

meta-analysis of the effect of aerobic vs. resistance exercise training on visceral fat. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity13(1), 68–91. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00931.x

Keating, S. E., Hackett, D. A., Parker, H. M., O'Connor, H. T., Gerofi, J. A., Sainsbury, A., 

Baker, M. K., Chuter, V. H., Caterson, I. D., George, J., & Johnson, N. A. (2015). Effect of aerobic exercise training dose on liver fat and visceral adiposity. Journal of hepatology63(1), 174–182. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2015.02.022

Lavie, C. J., Arena, R., Swift, D. L., Johannsen, N. M., Sui, X., Lee, D. C., Earnest, C. P.,

Church, T. S., O'Keefe, J. H., Milani, R. V., & Blair, S. N. (2015). Exercise and the cardiovascular system: clinical science and cardiovascular outcomes. Circulation research117(2), 207–219. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.305205

Pan, S. Y., & DesMeules, M. (2009). Energy intake, physical activity, energy balance, and

cancer: epidemiologic evidence. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)472, 191–215. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-60327-492-0_8

Stiegler, P., & Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of

fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)36(3), 239–262. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200636030-00005

Wang, C. W., Chan, C. H., Ho, R. T., Chan, J. S., Ng, S. M., & Chan, C. L. (2014). Managing

stress and anxiety through qigong exercise in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC complementary and alternative medicine14, 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-14-8

Westcott W. L. (2012). Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on

health. Current sports medicine reports11(4), 209–216. https://doi.org/10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8

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increases basal metabolic rate 48 hours after exercise in healthy 59-77-year-old men. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences52(6), M352–M355. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/52a.6.m352

Wilson, M. G., Ellison, G. M., & Cable, N. T. (2015). Basic science behind the

cardiovascular benefits of exercise. Heart (British Cardiac Society)101(10), 758–765. https://doi.org/10.1136/heartjnl-2014-306596


Collagen supplements: truth or trend?

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

What is Collagen? 

Collagen is a protein that is essential to the health and function of connective tissues and ligaments in our bodies. It is the primary structural protein in the body and it is found in our muscles, bones, tendons and more. For this reason, collagen supplements are believed to improve the health of these areas. 

Our bodies create collagen naturally. We make collagen, or any protein, by breaking down the protein we eat into amino acids, which are the building blocks from which our bodies can form new proteins. 

Collagen Supplements 

Collagen has recently become a trending topic. Many individuals claim that collagen powders and capsules have a plethora of benefits ranging from improved skin, bone and joint health to improved gut health. Let’s compare the research to the theory and find out if these claims hold true! 

Skin health 

Some studies show that oral supplementation of collagen leads to improved wrinkle depth, hydration and elasticity of the skin. One study also showed that oral supplementation of collagen can improve the effects of skin aging. 

Joint health 

Studies show that a daily intake of collagen can relieve joint pain and discomfort. One study even explored the effect of collagen supplementation on cases of osteoarthritis; this study found promising evidence that collagen peptides help the body to repair cartilage tissue and therefore relieved the discomfort that patients were experiencing. 

Gut health 

There does not appear to be much scientific research done to test if collagen has any effect on gut health. Most of the claims you see are supported by anecdotal evidence only. 

The Theory 

Now that we explored the scientific evidence, let’s investigate the scientific theory of the matter. 

Once you eat any protein, your body breaks it down into individual amino acids. Then, your body can use the amino acids to build collagen or any other protein in the body. It is important to note that just because the amino acids came from a collagen supplement, it doesn’t mean your body will use them to create collagen in the body. Your body will use the amino acids to make whatever proteins are needed in the body at that moment. Eating more foods rich in the proteins that help build collagen, such as meat, fish, dairy products, soy products and beans, will enhance collagen production in the body. As well, eating more vitamin C-rich foods can be beneficial, since vitamin C is important for collagen production.

To sum it up, there have been plenty of studies done to test the effectiveness of collagen supplementation. While we’re still not sure about its effectiveness, there is one thing we do know: collagen supplementation is safe and does not produce any negative, unwanted side-effects. It is important to note that although there is some promising evidence supporting these claims, there is much more research to be done! 

 

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References

Asserin, J., Lati, E., Shioya, T., & Prawitt, J. (2015). The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of cosmetic dermatology14(4), 291–301. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12174

Choi Bs, D. F. A. (2019, January 11). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. JDDonline - Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. https://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961619P0009X

Choi, F. D., Sung, C. T., Juhasz, M. L., & Mesinkovsk, N. A. (2019). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD18(1), 9–16.

De Santis, A. (2021, March 24). Will Collagen Supplementation Improve Your Skin? Andy The RD. https://andytherd.com/2019/01/07/will-collagen-supplementation-improve-your-skin/

Kumar, S., Sugihara, F., Suzuki, K., Inoue, N., & Venkateswarathirukumara, S. (2014). A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised, clinical study on the effectiveness of collagen peptide on osteoarthritis. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(4), 702–707. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.6752

Magee, H., R. D. (2020). Collagen Supplements: Real or Hype? Hannah Magee RD. http://hannahmageerd.com/collagen-supplements-real-or-hype/

Oesser, S., Schulze, C., Zdzieblik, D., & König, D. (2016). Efficacy of specific bioactive collagen peptides in the treatment of joint pain. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 24, S189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joca.2016.01.370

Proksch, E., Segger, D., Degwert, J., Schunck, M., Zague, V., & Oesser, S. (2014). Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin pharmacology and physiology27(1), 47–55. https://doi.org/10.1159/000351376

Sibilla, S., & Borumand, M. (2015). Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, 4(1), 47. https://doi.org/10.4103/2278-019x.146161

Singh, M., M. D. (2020). Bovine Collagen: Everything You Need To Know About The Gut-Healing, Skin-Clearing Protein. Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/bovine-collagen-the-benefits-side-effects-of-this-popular-protein

T, W., L, L., N, C., P, C., K, T., & A, G. (2017). Efficacy of Oral Collagen in Joint Pain - Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Journal of Arthritis, 06(02). https://doi.org/10.4172/2167-7921.1000233


Do adaptogens help relieve stress?

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

Everyone experiences stress!

While short bouts of stress can be manageable, continuous stress can be hard on our bodies, both physically and mentally. Adding adaptogens to your diet is just one way to manage stress.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a group of plants that can help our bodies cope with stress. Adaptogens can be herbs, fungi or roots; and they work with our bodies to regulate our stress response systems. Adaptogens have been newly growing in popularity; however, they actually have a long history of health benefits. For centuries, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have been using adaptogens to battle fatigue, increase energy levels and reduce stress levels.

Some common Adaptogens

Rhodiola rosea

Schisandra chinensis

Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)

Let’s learn about them! 

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola is an herb that has been proven to help the body cope with its stress response. In addition, it has shown to improve cognitive function and mental performance in individuals experiencing fatigue. One study found that Rhodiola can even help to reduce symptoms of depression.

Rhodiola can be taken as a capsule supplement; however, in my opinion, brewing it and ingesting as tea is best!

Schisandra Chinesis 

Studies show that Schisandra has stress-reducing properties; it has a specific, beneficial effect in reducing stress symptoms under fatigue. There is also strong evidence that it can increase endurance and mental performance in individuals experiencing fatigue and weakness.

Schisandra is available as a supplement; but it can also be purchased as dried whole berries or as a juice.

Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng) 

Siberian Ginseng is a very popular choice among the common adaptogens. It has been proven to increase endurance and improve mental performance in fatigued individuals— similar to Schisandra. As well, many patients with stress-induced depression experienced an overall mood improvement and a better night sleep as a result of taking Siberian ginseng.

Siberian Ginseng root is available in supplement format; however, again, my personal favourite is Siberian Ginseng tea.

The Takeaway

All of these adaptogens have been proven to have beneficial effects on our bodies stress response systems. They also respectively have a long list of benefits for our bodies ranging from mood improvement to improved cognitive function. However, it is important to note that there is no “magic remedy” to stress. Stress is different for every individual and while adaptogens might work for some people, it may not work for everyone.

Please remember that it is always advised to speak with your healthcare professional before taking any adaptogens!

//

References 

Anghelescu, I. G., Edwards, D., Seifritz, E., & Kasper, S. (2018). Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a

review. International journal of psychiatry in clinical practice22(4), 242–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/13651501.2017.1417442

Cropley, M., Banks, A. P., & Boyle, J. (2015). The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other

 Mood Symptoms. Phytotherapy research : PTR29(12), 1934–1939. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5486

Lekomtseva, Y., Zhukova, I., & Wacker, A. (2017). Rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms:

Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial. Complementary medicine research24(1), 46–52. https://doi.org/10.1159/000457918

Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B., & Panossian, A. G. (2009). A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study

of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta medica75(2), 105–112. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0028-1088346

Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms 

Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland)3(1), 188–224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3010188


Carbohydrates are only as complicated as you let them be

Carbohydrates are only as complicated as you let them be

The carbohydrate. An unsuspecting, cyclic molecule consisting of six carbons. Each of these carbohydrates have a water molecule attached to them, thus the name, carbohydrates.

Unfortunately, carbs are heavily demonized by many. But why so?

It’s true that carbohydrates are found in sweet, sugary desserts but they are also found in whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes, legumes and your favourite fruits.  To understand the confusion around carbohydrates, let’s break them down into simple and complex.

Complex carbohydrates are actually kinda simple

A food being high in carbohydrates is not always equatable to being high in sugar. Carbohydrates is the umbrella terms for all the different hydrated carbons .

Complex carbohydrates include whole grains like oats, wheat and rye and fruits & vegetables like bananas, broccoli, apples and carrots.

When we digest a complex carbohydrate, it will take longer to release the individual molecules of sugars. Fibres are a type of carbohydrate that is non-digestible, and is found in high amounts in complex carbohydrates.

These fibres (or carbohydrates) can serve as food for our gut micro-biome, increasing the amount of residing good bacteria. They can also decrease blood sugar and blood cholesterol, which is associated with reduced risk of heart disease.

Simple carbohydrates are actually kinda complex

In contrast, simple carbohydrates like candies, pop, chips, white bread, crackers and cookies don’t contain any fiber. While these foods are good for the soul, they don’t come with the health benefits of complex carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are almost immediately broken down into molecules of sugar by the enzymes in our saliva, and enter our blood stream.

But - “simple” carbohydrates are not always equatable with “bad”. Why? Because nutrition isn’t black and white.

Simple carbohydrates are not a waste of calories, as they provide 4 calories per gram meaning they provide your body with energy. Energy, believe it or not, can actually be useful.

For example, simple carbohydrates in the form of white bread, rice and pasta are crucial for athletes to fuel their muscles prior to exercise. Complex carbs won’t do the job as they take too long to digest and can sometimes cause gas and bloating before exercise.

For those living with type I or II diabetes, simple carbohydrates are life saving. If blood sugar goes too low, a serving of simple carbohydrates absorbs fast (within 15 minutes) into the blood stream to normalize blood sugar levels.

So - what does this mean for you?

Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables have more health benefits than not. Try to aim to have at least 30-40 grams of fiber per day from these foods.

Simple carbohydrates, like sweets and white rice, breads and pastas also have their place. They can spark joy, increase energy or save a life. Don’t demonize them, but don’t over-consume them if you don’t have to.

 


What we know about gut health

What we know and don't know about "gut health"

Our gut microbiome and the science is complicated, but here are some steps you can take based on what we know

Digestive health, or “gut” health is a major nutrition buzzword as of late. Beyond just those living with irritable bowel diseases, such as crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, everyone is getting into gut health to reap the perceived rewards of a healthy and balanced gut.

While it is undeniable that a healthy functioning organ as important as the digestive system is crucial to human health, is “gut health” and it’s available supplements worth the hype?

Let’s dive into what we know and what we don’t know, so you can know what you are getting into before hearing about the next gut health craze.

Short-version: This is what we know about gut health 💥

  • Our gut can be influenced by the food we eat by increase bacterial diversity. More good bacteria can reduce inflammation and less bad bacteria might keep weight stable.
  • Prebiotic fibers are special types of fibers that are used as food by the good bacteria in our gut. While they might reduce inflammation, there is not much evidence for improving any digestive symptoms. 

 

  • Simple lifestyle strategies like regular exercise and stress management are equally important for digestive health. Exercise like walking or jogging literally moves our intestines to help us go regularly, and stress management can improve digestive symptoms.

Long-version: This is what we know about gut health 💥

  1. Our gut microbiome can be influenced by food

Our gut microbiome responds rapidly to changes in diet. For example, consuming a plant-based diet can increase the amount of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, beneficial bacteria that may reduce inflammation and increase diversity of microbes in our gut. 

Increased bacterial diversity is important, as good bacteria may out-compete bad bacteria in the gut. For example, scientists suspect that bacteria belonging to the firmicutes phylum could extract up to 150 calories of energy from the digestion process, which could lead to weight-gain. 

  1. Some types of fibers can help encourage the growth of good gut bacteria 

Fibers are types of carbohydrates that give structure to plants. Fibers cannot be digested by humans, and instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream will travel down into your large intestines.

In the large intestine, certain types of prebiotic fibers like inulin, lactulose and beta-glucan will serve as food for the healthy bacteria in your gut. Through fermentation, the healthy bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids which may reduce inflammation but research finds that it does not improve digestive symptoms

  1. Regular exercise and stress management is important for overall health, and gut health 

Exercise like walking and jogging moves your intestines, and can help reduce constipation and help you go regularly.

For long-term health, exercise is also important. For example, a recent prospective study of over 40,000 individuals found that aerobic exercise reduces the risk of cancer in the digestive system. While this is not a cause-and-effect relationship, it could be another reason to get moving each day.

Stress can also impact the digestive system. Whether through physical or mental stress, your body activates it’s sympathetic nervous system or “fight-or-flight” mode.

Digestion is slowed down as your body conserves energy to fight off the stressor. In our current lifestyle that breeds chronic stress, the state of “fight-or-flight” can always be turned on, resulting in digestive symptoms as less digestive juices are secreted and muscular contractions are reduced.

Written by : Kristen Sunstrum, RD


Wait...Snacking isn't bad ?

Wait .. isn’t snacking “bad”?

Nope. Snacks can get a bad rap from the ultra-processed “snack foods” found in convenience stores and grocery shelves - but consuming snacks can be part of a healthy, normal diet 💪

For example, snacks can:

  • Fulfill your protein needs, especially if you are following an exercise routine or living an active lifestyle
  • Decrease cravings and ravenous hunger, resulting in more balanced meal intakes later in the day 
  • Increase intake of fiber, vegetables & fruits, to help stabilize blood sugar & energy levels while meeting your micronutrient targets
  • Improve quality of life, by allowing yourself to eat the occasional indulgent snack with your family and friends

But … doesn’t snacking spike insulin levels, leading to weight gain?

Insulin is the hormone that helps our body utilize and store energy from food. The hormone rises in response to intake of carbohydrates (sugar) and amino acids (protein).

A big myth that surrounds insulin and weight-gain is that any rise in insulin is equitable to a gain in fat mass, otherwise known as the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity

The truth is that for healthy people¹, eating normal portions of protein and carbohydrates will not drive weight-gain. Why? Because it’s physiologically impossible, as only an excess of nutrients will become transformed into fat for storage.

When consumed in normal amounts, the insulin won’t drive weight-gain, but rather:

  • Stimulate muscle-protein synthesis for the protein you just consumed (a.k.a muscle gains 💪)
  • Stock muscle and liver glycogen, fuelling your muscles and preparing your body for stable blood sugar levels over the next several hours 💫
  • Produce satiety and fullness hormones, helping you feel full and satisfied 🙌

Now that the snack fears are over, let’s get into the building of a perfect snack.

Step #1: Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps build muscle & is the building block for nearly all body functions (enzymes, hormones, nails, skin, hair). 

A snack with protein helps meet your protein needs throughout the day and can also make you feel fuller & more satisfied 💥. 

Aim to have at least 5 grams of protein per snack, such as:

  • 1 egg (6 grams of protein)
  • 1.5 tablespoon peanut butter (5 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (5 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup of hummus (5 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup of skyr icelandic yogurt (5-7 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese (5-7 grams of protein)
  • 3/4 cup of soy milk (6 grams of protein)

Step #2: Fiber

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that humans can’t digest. Some types of prebiotic fibres are digested by the bacteria in your gut microbiome while other fibers reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels 📉. 

Aim to have at least 2-3 grams of fiber per snack, such as:

  • 1 whole fruit (banana, apple, pear) or 1/2 cup berries (3 grams fiber)
  • 1/2 cup cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower) (2-3 grams of fiber)
  • 1 slice of whole-wheat bread (3 grams fiber)
  • 1/4 cup of avocado (3 grams of fiber)
  • 1/4 cup of homemade granola (2-3 grams of fiber)

Step #3: Fat

Healthy fats such as omega-3s are essential, and help reduce inflammation and increase HDL or “good” cholesterol. Fat is also extremely satiating, helping you feel full and satisfied 💫

If your protein or fiber source already contained a source of fat (avocado, nuts, seeds, whole-fat yogurt) you can skip this step. If not, add a small serving of healthy fat to each snack, such as:

  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts 
  • 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado 

Putting it all together… 

Now that we have our three nutrients (protein + fiber + fat) we have the building block for a perfect snack with staying power. Try mixing and matching these together, such as:

  • 1 egg with avocado on whole-wheat toast
  • Banana peanut-butter smoothie with soy milk
  • Yogurt parfait with berries and granola
  • Sliced veggies & hummus or guacamole 
  • Ricotta cheese on whole-wheat toast with tomatoes & walnuts 

What’s your favourite protein + fiber + fat snack? Let us know in the comments 👇

 


Why is Gen-Z obssesed with chlorophyll?

 

“It makes my cells so stoked” says one creator on Tik Tok, enthusiastically showcasing her morning routine of putting 6 drops of a dark, green liquid into a tall glass of water.

Another creator reports that “this stuff is great for digestion, inflammation and overall immunity” as she swirls the dark green, opaque drink with a metal reusable straw.

This mesmerizing, dark green drink has liquid chlorophyll in it — and is the subject of the latest trend amongst Gen Z on TikTok.

What is chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is the pigment that makes plants green and helps the plant perform photosynthesis, or the process of turning sunlight into sugar for plant energy.

As humans, we don’t rely on photosynthesis for energy, but rather food. That being said, chlorophyll is not an essential nutrient for human health.

It is impossible to be deficient in chlorophyll as our body does not have a need for it in the first place. In fact, our body doesn’t even have a receptor for chlorophyll.

Even if we needed it in small amounts, it is likely we already get enough chlorophyll from fruits and vegetables as it is the most abundant plant pigment on earth.

Chlorophyll is not an essential nutrient for human health

 

Does liquid chlorophyll get rid of acne?

Acne is caused by an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria on the skin. There is evidence to suggest that chlorophyll has anti-bacterial properties, so it could potentially improve acne.

However, the chlorophyll used in this study was in gel form and applied directly onto the skin. In the form of a liquid supplement, any potential anti-bacterial properties of chlorophyll will be destroyed by the stomach acid during digestion.

Is liquid chlorophyll good for weight-loss?

The only “evidence” that exists for chlorophyll and weight-loss exists on Tik Tok — and anecdotes aren’t evidence.

The only imaginable connection I can make here is the link between a diet high in vegetables and fruits (where green vegetables contain chlorophyll) and weight-loss.

 

Can liquid chlorophyll enhance energy levels?

The structure of chlorophyl is similar to hemoglobin, or the protein in our red blood cells that helps deliver oxygen to our cells. Problems with hemoglobin can lead to low energy levels in humans.

However, the atom in the centre of the chlorophyll compound is magnesium, while the atom in the centre of hemoglobin is iron.

While low levels of iron, such as those with iron-deficient anemia will see a boost in energy levels from iron, the same thing can’t be said for the magnesium found in chlorophyll.

Can liquid chlorophyll reduce body odour?

A small study published over 40 years ago suggests that chlorophyll given to nursing home residents improved overall body odour, but not much research has been published since.

Body odour happens when bacteria mixes with sweat, which is why soap is effective in removing the bacteria. One study published in 1957 showed that chlorophyll has anti-bacterial properties, but similar to acne any anti-bacterial properties will be lost once the chlorophyll is digested by the stomach acid.

The bottom line

The evidence is ✨ extremely limited ✨

The only “evidence” we really have exists on 20 second Tik Tok videos. If you are seeing health benefits, its more likely due to increased water consumption or the placebo effect rather than liquid chlorophyll itself.

Eating your greens is more important than a supplement

Green vegetables are rich in chlorophyll as it is what makes the colour possible in the first place. Beyond chlorophyll, vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, water and fiber that will likely reap more health benefits than a concentrated supplement with little evidence.

 

Enjoy liquid chlorophyll if it helps you drink more water

If liquid chlorophyll encourages you to drink more water, then by all mean swirl away (just don’t exceed the maximum dosing as indicated by the manufacturer) as there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to avoid the supplements — it might just drain your pocket.


Our relationship with food

Food is such an essential part of our lives – it fuels us, it can bring us joy, it can bring us sadness, it can bring us excitement, and it can bring us frustration. What seems like such a simple aspect of human life, is actually something that many have a complicated relationship with, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 4 ways to start making peace and forming a better relationship with food.  

 

LISTEN TO YOUR HUNGER CUES 

Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. It’s something that seems intuitive, for example looking at babies and toddlers, who will cry when they’re hungry and just stop eating when they’re full. However this “intuitive sense” gets overridden as we live life and are influenced by other factors, eventually losing this ability. Food can often be consumed because it’s a meal time, as a coping mechanism, or simply boredom. By taking a moment and really listening to your body, you’ll be able to have a better understanding of it’s needs, and learn how and when to better fuel it. 

 

LOOK AT FOOD WITH A NEUTRAL PAIR OF LENS

Society has made us believe that foods should be put into categories – “good” foods and “bad” foods. But who’s to say what these definitions of good and bad are? If something is sugary but brings us joy, is that automatically deemed a bad food? My answer to this question is always NO. Different foods serve us different purposes. A strawberry-jam filled donut may not have the same nutritional content as a quinoa tofu power bowl, though both equally delicious, can have very different purposes. That power bowl can be fulfilling our nutritional needs, and a donut can be filling that heart hunger, that craving – and that is okay. One is not better than the other, one is not worst than the other, they are neutral, and the moment we accept that is the moment we release the control food has over us. 

 

EAT YOUR CRAVINGS 

Clients are often in awe when I tell them this – “but won’t I eat too much?” “are you sure?” “I don’t understand”. But yes, you heard me right; if you’re craving a triple chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, allow yourself to eat it! Diet culture and society has engrained that in order to succeed and achieve our goals, you must restrict yourself and deny the urge to give into cravings. However, this does the exact opposite of what you want – rather putting yourself in a vicious circle of restricting, then overeating or binging on that craving and feeling guilty, and then restricting again. Rather, if you just allowed yourself to eat that brownie and ice cream and allowed yourself to enjoy it, you would feel better and continue on with your day. You’d be surprised that when you listen to your body and eat what you crave, that it finds a way to balance out all your needs. 

CONNECT WITH YOUR FOOD 

Given our current fast-paced lifestyles, eating is often a secondary thought as we’re in the middle of a Zoom meeting, catching up on our Instagram feed, or in the middle of a Netflix episode. Eating with these other distractions prevents us from really connecting with our food and truly enjoying all that it has to offer. When was the last time that you ate without any distractions – no phone, no TV, no laptop, no book? I challenge you to try one meal with just you and your food, crazy, I know, but it’s worthwhile I promise. I want you to notice the textures, the taste, the appearance, the aromas, and really taste every bite. If we really love food that much, why not give ourselves the time and space to enjoy it? 

WHAT TO TAKEAWAY 

Many of us have complex relationships with food, and we each have a different, unique and personalized experience with it. Ultimately, we want to make peace with food and have it as a relationship that can contribute positively to your health and well-being. Getting it to this state can be journey, but you don’t have to do it alone – there are many qualified registered dietitians out there that can help guide you through these hurdles. It may be daunting, but even this self-reflection is one step closer to a better relationship with food.