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Cushing's Syndrome Explained

Posted on May 13, 2017 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Are you gaining weight in your midsection and face, but dropping it in your limbs? Maybe you’ve noticed muscle weakness or an intolerance to glucose? If so, listen up, because you’re displaying symptoms of a disorder known as Cushing’s Syndrome.

What is Cushing’s Syndrome?

Cushing’s Syndrome refers to “a condition of excess glucocorticoids” (Lessard-Rhead 2013). In layman’s terms, glucocorticoids are a type of steroid hormone that regulate the metabolism of glucose. They are made by the body naturally, and have an anti-inflammatory effect. You’re probably thinking, “hey these gluco things sound pretty good, why would having too many be bad?” Read on to find the answer.

What are the Symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome?

People with Cushing’s Syndrome present with some common characteristics. They generally display “obesity of the trunk, a moon-shaped face (due to fatty deposits in the face), and thin limbs” (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

When glucocorticoids are increased for a significant period of time, “fat and protein are transferred from the periphery of the body (the limbs), to the liver. Here they are converted to glucose, which stimulates insulin secretion, which triggers the liver to convert everything back to fat and store it centrally in the body” (Lessard-Rhead 2013). This is where the characteristic features of Cushing’s Syndrome stem from. But this cycle is dangerous. Apart from this pattern of weight gain/loss, people with CS are at risk of thinner/delicate skin, osteoporosis, weak/wasted muscles, and a low basal metabolic rate (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

Furthermore, prolonged insulin secretion in response to high glucose levels results in something called insulin insensitivity. Eventually, the body no longer responds to insulin and Type 2 diabetes develops (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What Causes Cushing’s Syndrome?

Cushing’s Syndrome is seen more often in women than in men, and a common cause of CS is an adrenal tumour secreting cortisol, which is a type of glucocorticoid. It may also be caused by a pituitary tumour secreting more ACTH. ACTH stands for Adrenocorticotropic hormone – and its role in the body is to regulate cortisol. Thus, if secretion of ACTH is increased, cortisol levels will increase (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

The aforementioned causes were both natural, but Cushing’s Syndrome can also come about due to the “administration of high doses of cortisol as an anti-inflammatory” (Lessard-Rhead 2013). Corticosteroids are often prescribed by doctors for many inflammatory conditions, such as psoriasis, arthritis, lupus, etc.

What Can You do About Cushing’s Syndrome?

Hormones play such a large role in everything we do, therefore tackling Cushing’s Syndrome is best approached from a holistic viewpoint. It requires significant changes to your diet and lifestyle and definitely should not be undertaken alone. I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking guidance from a holistic nutritionist when addressing disorders involving the adrenals. To find harmony today, contact Harmony in Health!


Brenda Lessard-Rhead (2013): Nutritional Pathology

Exercise: Why Nordic Pole Walking is the Answer

Posted on May 5, 2017 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Are you in a panic to lose weight? Before you jump full tilt into an exercise program, risking injury and sickness, read this blog post!

Chances are you’ve heard the saying “no pain, no gain”. It’s a popular phrase, often incorporated into exercise and fitness ads, but this saying is absolutely incorrect! If you are experiencing a lot of pain then you are either doing too much too soon, or doing it incorrectly.

In this post, we’ll cover the up and downs of exercise/fitness, as well as an excellent method of exercise: Nordic pole walking.

The Ups

The benefits of exercise are wide spread and generally well known. Besides burning calories, building muscle, and reducing weight, exercise can also improve your mood, energy levels, sleep patterns, and even your libido. You’ve probably also heard of the heart-healthy effects of physical activity. This benefit stems from the fact that physical activity ultimately reduces “bad” cholesterol – or LDL - and increases “good” cholesterol – or HDL. It also lowers triglycerides, further contributing to heart health. In fact, physical activity can have a positive effect on virtually any health condition – from diabetes to arthritis (Mayo Clinic, 2016).

Exercise can also have a positive social impact. It can be an activity you do with friends and/or family, or maybe even a way to meet new friends if you join a group or class.

The Downs

Many people hear the multiple benefits of exercise and think “oh boy, I had better get exercising – the more intensely the better!” In fact, this is exactly where the pitfalls kick in.

If you are new to exercise and dive in head first with an intense regime, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. Higher intensity activities are associated with musculoskeletal injury and muscle soreness. Moreover, your risk of experiencing a heart attack increases when performing “unaccustomed vigorous physical exertion” – especially if you were quite sedentary to begin with. It is important to note that this risk decreases as you partake in exercise more regularly (Medscape, 2017). Thus, the dangers of exercise are very real and not to be taken lightly.

The Answer

As you can see, it is important to begin with light or moderate intensity activities with lower risk of injury associated with them. Walking is one such activity, and Nordic pole walking is even better! Giving you the best of both worlds, it combines the low-impact nature of walking with the calorie-burning, muscle-utilizing benefits of a more intense workout.

Nordic pole walking is appropriate for anyone, and many people with heart problems, Parkinson’s, arthritis, or balance issues find they can walk easier with Nordic poles. Nordic pole walking takes the act of walking to the next level:

  • Nordic pole walking burns up to 46% more calories than regular walking and incorporates 90% of all body muscles
  • It increases your heart rate and cardiovascular training as well as increasing oxygen respiration
  • Nordic pole walkers find that their posture is greatly improved as it helps to eliminate back, shoulder and neck pain
  • Joint problems become less of an issue as there is 30% less impact on the joints 

If you are interested in learning more about finding the exercise regime that fits your level of fitness and lifestyle, contact Harmony in Health today!


Mayo Clinic (2016): Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity

Medscape (2017): Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults

IBD: How a Holistic Nutritionist Can Help!

Posted on April 28, 2017 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Are you plagued by unpleasant abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss? Do you find yourself running to the bathroom twenty times a day and suffering bloody diarrhea? Throw in food sensitivities and allergies, and we’ve got ourselves a case of Inflammatory Bowel Disease – or IBD for short.

What is IBD?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease refers to a state of bowel inflammation so severe that malabsorption and dysbiosis are prevalent. This irritation weakens the immune system, ultimately leading to the development of an autoimmune disease (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

There are two autoimmune diseases associated with inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In Crohn’s disease, generally the lower ilium (the last part of the small intestine) and colon (or large intestine) are inflamed. In ulcerative colitis, only so far as the colon is inflamed. Ulcers also develop along the colon, hence the name ulcerative colitis (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What are the symptoms of IBD?

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases, thus they share some symptoms. Among those shared include (Lessard-Rhead 2013):

  • “Abdominal pain
  • Bloody, watery diarrhea with mucus and pus
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding and fissures
  • Arthritis
  • Food sensitivities, especially to dairy, wheat, and yeast
  • Allergies to vaccines and some drugs like salicylic acid”

There are also symptomatic differences between the two conditions. For instance, anorexia is common in Crohn’s, while bloody diarrhea and increased urgency to defecate (sometimes up to twenty times a day!) is more common in ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis can also be cured by surgery, while Crohn’s cannot.

What causes IBD?

While the etiology of these inflammatory bowel conditions is not certain, there are many theories as to why they may develop. They range from “genetics, to infectious agents, to environmental toxicity”. “Food sensitivities and dietary factors” are also believed to play a role in the development of these conditions (Lessard-Rhead 2013). Speaking with a Holistic Nutritionist can help you learn more about the influence of diet on the developments of IBD.

It is believed that, when a severe form of dysbiosis develops in the gut, the number of pathogenic organisms increases and they take over the “good guys”. All of these “bad guys” cause gut inflammation, which then triggers the immune system. The immune system responds by attacking what it now sees as an invader – the gut itself. Hence, an autoimmune disease has developed (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

The gut inflammation makes it more permeable, allowing undigested food particles to pass through into the bloodstream. This is the crux of allergy formation, because the immune system is now going to identify that particle as an invader and attack it (Lessard-Rhead 2013). Can you now see why allergies and skin conditions can be symptoms of IBD?

The pathogens, inflammation, and mucus all disrupt digestion as well, which leads to malabsorption and a compromised immune system (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What can you do about IBD?

IBD is an inflammatory malabsorption condition and is a definite indicator of poor gut health. To treat IBD and prevent the development of possible complications associated with the condition, restoring gut health needs to be your number one priority.

Tackling IBD requires significant changes to your diet and lifestyle. Playing with gut health is tricky business, and definitely should not be undertaken alone. I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking guidance from a holistic nutritionist when addressing anything gut-related (which is basically everything!). To find harmony today, contact Harmony in Health!


Brenda Lessard-Rhead (2013): Nutritional Pathology

Celiac Disease: Do These Symptoms Sound Familiar?

Posted on April 17, 2017 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Are you losing weight and suffering from frequent diarrhea, digestive upset, and abdominal pain? How about pale stools, headaches, and allergies, sound familiar? These symptoms should not be ignored, as they all point to a condition known as celiac disease.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease “refers to malabsorption, weight loss, and diarrhea resulting from immunological intolerance to gluten-containing foods, especially wheat, rye, and barley” (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Celiac disease may present in infancy, or not until later in life, but symptoms remain the same no matter the age of onset. “It presents with frequent diarrhea, occasional constipation, pale stools (which are often greasy, foul smelling, or frothy due to fermentation), digestive upsets, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, irritable bowel and colitis, as well as headaches and allergies” (Lessard-Rhead 2013). Furthermore, “it can present as schizophrenia or other psychological manifestations” (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What causes celiac disease?

The etiology of celiac disease is not certain. For a long time, gluten was seen as the villain in this disease, and it was believed that avoiding it was all that was required to prevent unpleasant symptoms (Lessard-Rhead 2013). It was believed that the “inability to digest gluten” damaged cells composing the intestine, which flattened intestinal villi and “compromised digestion” (Lessard-Rhead 2013). Think of intestinal villi as little fingers lining the intestine. They increase surface area and absorb nutrients as matter moves through the intestines.

However, there is now reason to believe the etiology of celiac disease is not so cut-and-dried. For one, many people diagnosed with celiac disease “do not get significantly better on just a gluten-free diet” (Lessard-Rhead 2013). For another, flattened villi are seen in other conditions in addition to celiac disease. It is also seen in “malnutrition, cholera, parasitic gut infections, IBS, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, soy/dairy intolerances”, and more (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

Another common factor between these conditions is “a problem digesting starch and disaccharides”. You’ve probably heard of sucrose, lactose, and maltose. These are all disaccharides, which is a fancy word for sugar so named for its chemical make-up. For this reason, researchers are now suggesting that it is the inability to digest disaccharides, not gluten, that produces the symptoms associated with celiac disease (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What can you do about celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a malabsorption condition and is a definite indicator of poor gut health. To treat celiac disease and prevent the development of further malabsorption syndromes, restoring gut health needs to be your number one priority.

Tackling celiac disease requires significant changes to your diet and lifestyle. Playing with gut health is tricky business, and definitely should not be undertaken alone. I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking guidance from a holistic nutritionist when addressing anything gut-related (which is basically everything!). To find harmony today, contact Harmony in Health!


Brenda Lessard-Rhead (2013): Nutritional Pathology

The Low-down on Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Posted on April 13, 2017 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Are you experiencing abdominal pain, bloating, and flatulence? How about alternating diarrhea and constipation? And let’s throw anxiety into the mix. What’s that expression - two’s company three’s a crowd – feeling crowded yet?

If you’re experiencing these symptoms frequently and have been suffering for some time now, you may have something denoted as IBS.

What is IBS?

IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is often confused with IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease, but the two are different disorders and should remain distinct from one another.

IBS is a “motility disorder”, not an inflammatory disorder like IBD. It involves the entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes all of the pertinent digestive organs, from your mouth to your anus. It is a term used to donate a group of symptoms occurring chronically, or over a long period of time. What are these symptoms you ask? Read on to find out.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

IBS generally presents in a consistent manner in individuals. You may experience “abdominal pain and distension” as well as other signs of indigestion, such as “flatulence” (passing gas in layman’s terms) and a “change in bowel function, either constipation or diarrhea” (Lessard-Rhead 2013). As if that wasn’t unpleasant enough, anxiety is often present as well.

What causes IBS?

The exact cause of IBS is not known, but we do know that “a low fibre intake is part of the problem (Lessard-Rhead 2013). This is due to the fact that “fibre is needed for normal peristalsis. Sidebar: Peristalsis refers to the wavelength movement of the intestine as the muscles contract and relax to push contents forward (Encyclopedia Britanica 2017). Without fibre, constrictions or narrowing of the gut wall occur because the muscles have nothing to work against” (Lessard-Rhead 2013). Take low fibre and add on “poor digestion and lots of gas-producing microbes in the gut”, and you get a “hypersensitive and inflamed gut that does not handle digestive loads well and alternates between diarrhea and constipation” (Lessard-Rhead 2013). Voila, say hello to IBS ladies and gentlemen.

Stress can further exacerbate IBS symptoms, as it slows down digestion and contributes to “narrowing of the intestines. Smooth muscles – which help form the intestines – contract in response to stress (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

Intestinal Parasitosis, fungal infections, or dysbiosis are other potential causes of IBS. If you missed our previous post on dysbiosis, check it out here

What can you do about IBS?

It’s very important to note that when your gut is unhealthy, as is the case with IBS, you won’t be absorbing nutrients. This will inevitably lead to malabsorption syndromes. IBS is one such syndrome, and others include Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis to name a few. To treat IBS and prevent the development of further malabsorption syndromes, restoring gut health needs to be your number one priority.

Tackling IBS requires changes to your diet as well as your lifestyle. Playing with gut health is tricky business, and definitely should not be undertaken alone. I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking guidance from a holistic nutritionist when addressing anything gut-related (which is basically everything!). To find harmony today, contact Harmony in Health!


Brenda Lessard-Rhead (2013): Nutritional Pathology

Heartburn, Indigestion, and Chest Pain, Oh My!

Posted on April 6, 2017 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (1)

Ow Ow Ow, my heart is burning! You likely know the feeling, so you also know there’s nothing pleasant about the deep-seated burn that seemingly comes from your heart, commonly occurring after you’ve eaten a meal. Chances are you’ve experienced the phenomena commonly known as acid reflux and heartburn in your lifetime. When it occurs occasionally, it is viewed as normal (side note: it shouldn’t be happening!), but when it occurs more frequently and interferes with your daily life, your doctor may diagnose you with something known as GERD.

What is GERD?

GERD is defined as “a condition in which acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus causing discomfort, and sometimes damage, to the esophageal lining” (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What are the symptoms of GERD?

GERD generally presents in a consistent manner. You may experience “heartburn, indigestion, and non-cardiac chest pain” (meaning it’s not heart pain due to heart disease, but it may mimic it by “radiating to the neck, jaw, and/or arms”) (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

Less common symptoms, but still notable ones, include “asthma, coughing, hoarseness, difficulty in swallowing, or nocturnal regurgitation” (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What causes GERD?

There are many possible causes of GERD, but they all have one thing in common: weakness of the cardiac sphincter. For reference, the cardiac sphincter is a ring of muscle between the lower part of the esophagus and the stomach, located where the two organs join.

GERD may be caused by a “hiatal hernia – a protrusion of the top of the stomach through the diaphragm”. In this state, the cardiac sphincter is weakened, and stomach contents can easily flow back up into the esophagus. If you are aware of your hiatal hernia, you can take proper precautions to reduce the symptoms of GERD. These include avoiding food that will “increase acid production, “not eating after 6 p.m., and elevating the head of the bed when sleeping” (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

Other conditions that may open or weaken the cardiac sphincter, thus causing GERD, include (Lessard-Rhead 2013):

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Overeating 

 An underactive stomach may also cause GERD. You may not have heard of this before, but an underactive stomach occurs when it isn’t producing enough HCL (hydrochloric acid). Remember last week’s post about dysbiosis? We mentioned how microbes are often found in the intestines, but not the stomach. That’s because HCL makes the stomach too acidic for their liking. Without this HCL microbes can grow. They then produce “acids and gases”, creating the unpleasant sensation of “bloating and discomfort” after eating. Naturally, the gas microbes produce tries to “escape upwards”, ultimately “opening up the cardiac sphincter”. As the gas flows upwards, it pulls the acids along with it, creating that acidic heartburn feeling we are all familiar with (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What can you do about GERD?

Now that you know what truly causes GERD, you can hopefully see how the modern treatment – antacids – is actually exacerbating the problem. If low stomach acid (HCL) is promoting microbial growth, and the microbes produce acids and gases that push back up against the cardiac sphincter to re-enter the esophagus, and this leads to the host of symptoms known as GERD, then WHY would we try to fix this problem by taking antacids – which reduce stomach acid even further? Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

If you stick to these modern-medicine methods to treat GERD, you will sadly be stuck in a “vicious cycle of chronic antacid abuse to alleviate heartburn, which is actually exacerbating the problem”. I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking guidance from a holistic nutritionist when addressing GERD. To find the guidance you need in your journey, contact Harmony in Health today!


Brenda Lessard-Rhead (2013): Nutritional Pathology

There's WHAT in my gut!?

Posted on March 29, 2017 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

It may surprise you to learn that you are, in fact, only 10% human (Collen 2015). Hear me out on this. The human body is host to a vast array of microbes (mostly bacteria) that live peacefully within us. For every one “body” cell we contain, there are nine microbe cells (Collen 2015). If you do the math, that makes us about 10% human and 90% microbes, which are collectively referred to as your microbiome.

Many of these microbes live in the small intestine (mostly the lower end of it), as well as the colon, or the large intestine. There are those called symbionts, with which we have a “mutually beneficial relationship”, in that we help them and they help us. There are others called “commensal microbes” with which we have a neutral relationship (they don’t harm or help us). Lastly, there are “pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites”, which are harmful to us, especially when the natural balance of microbes is disturbed, a state referred to as dysbiosis (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What is dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis is defined as an imbalance of intestinal microbes, where there are more harmful organisms than beneficial ones. When the harmful organisms are fed, they produce many different toxic chemicals. These chemicals can then be “absorbed into the bloodstream”, where they do damage by causing inflammation or “overburdening the immune system” (Lessard-Rhead 2013).

What are the symptoms of dysbiosis?

How dysbiosis symptoms present is different for everyone, depending on what type of pathogens are present and in which part of the body the overgrowth is occurring. With that said, here are some common symptoms of dysbiosis (Lessard-Rhead 2013):

  • “Craving sugar and sweets
  • Constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Having itchy skin or skin rashes
  • Feeling vaguely unwell, in the absence of other health conditions  
  • Suffering from recurrent vaginal, prostate, or urinary tract infections
  • Feeling “spaced out” or having difficulty with memory or concentration
  • Hormonal disturbances such as PMS, menstrual irregularities, or sexual dysfunction” 

What causes dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis results from one of two conditions: 1) “The death of good microbes”, or 2) overgrowth of pathogenic microbes.

Here are some of the ways good microbes can be killed (Lessard-Rhead 2013):

  • Taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill all microbes, whether they’re good or bad
  • Diarrhea. No matter the cause, diarrhea flushes out helpful microbes
  • Starvation. Microbes rely on the food you eat to survive, just like your body does
  •  General illness, which “affects nutritional status, the immune system, and microbial levels”
  • “Junk food, alcohol, drugs, pollutants, tobacco, and x-rays can all affect the growth of good microbes”
  • “Chlorine in water is an antimicrobial, and will kill gut microbes”
  • “Drugs, such as steroids, can kill off good bacteria” 

Certain habits also support the overgrowth of pathogenic microbes. These include (Lessard-Rhead 2013):

  • Overeating, or eating a very large meal, especially one laden with sugar 
  • “A reduced capacity to digest even a normal volume of food” 
  • Stress, which “shuts down digestion and leaves food in the gut for microbes to digest” 
  • Certain drugs, like steroids, can “promote the growth of pathogenic organisms” 


 What can you do about dysbiosis?

It’s very important to note that when your gut is unhealthy, you won’t be absorbing nutrients. This will inevitably lead to malabsorption syndromes such as Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Ulcerative Colitis to name a few. To avoid this, restoring gut health needs to be your number one priority.

Tackling dysbiosis requires cleansing and detoxification. Playing with microbes is tricky business, and definitely should not be undertaken alone. I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking guidance from a holistic nutritionist when addressing dysbiosis. To find harmony in your microbiome, contact Harmony in Health today!


Alanna Collen (2015): 10% Human: How Your Body's Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness

Brenda Lessard-Rhead (2013): Nutritional Pathology

Organic Wine: Why You Should Be Drinking It

Posted on March 22, 2017 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The general population is becoming more and more versed on the importance of eating organically grown food. We see the term “organic” in the news, in our local farmer’s market, and even on select items on the grocery store shelves.

In this day and age, you’re (hopefully) more aware of the food you eat and the benefits of eating organically, but have you extended this consideration to the drinks you’re drinking?

Specifically, that all-time favourite libation often consumed while cooking dinner, hosting a girl’s night, or relaxing in the tub. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about wine!

So how important is it to drink organic wine? Read on to find out!

First off, let’s recap on the general benefits of eating organically grown food (Robinson et al., 2016):

  • Organic food is fresher (and contains no nasty preservatives!)
  • Organic food contains less pesticides
  • Organic food is not genetically modified
  • Organic farming is more environmentally friendly

Each of these benefits applies to organically grown wine. Many people never realize that grape vines not grown organically are sprayed with fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides. These chemicals are sprayed on both the vine and the grape, and never get thoroughly removed. As if that wasn’t enough, there are certain chemicals that are then added during wine making itself. Thus, when you sip that rich red or crisp white, you’re getting way more than you bargained for as you ingest all of those nasty chemicals along with the wine. It’s worth considering that perhaps this is one reason why so many get ill affects after drinking. (And then again, it might be because they can’t stop at one glass and feel the desire to finish the bottle. No judgement, we’ve all been there.)

You’ve likely heard of red wine containing an antioxidant known as resveratrol. It’s touted for its ability to “protect against cancer and heart disease, provide anti-aging benefits, and (possibly) even extend your lifespan”! Yes, red wine has it, but concentrations are, on average, “32 percent higher in organic wines” than their conventionally grown counterparts (Tsakos, 2014).

Organically grown wine is also more environmentally friendly. Growing grape vines 100% organically has “no adverse effects on the environment”, as it “does not pollute the air, water, and soil in any significant way” (Organic Wine, 2017).

The take home message? Once again, “Grow Organic, Go Organic”! Organic is always best, for you, for the environment, for the local organic farmers you’re helping to support. Now you can go forth and sip your organic wine guilt-free, without handfuls of chemicals slipping past your lips.

If you would like more information about how to prioritize eating organically on a budget (I’m looking at you, Dirty Dozen), contact Harmony in Health today!


Organic Wine (2017):

Robinson et al. (2016):

Tsakos (2014):

The Skinny on Fats: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Posted on March 16, 2017 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

“Fat free”, “Zero trans fats”, “Low fat”; we’re bombarded by fats each and every day, from grocery store shelves to commercials on TV, society is obsessed with fats. Add in the concept of body fat and weight loss, and it’s likely our mind’s aren’t getting a break from thinking about fats.

But what is fat fact, and what is fiction? Should you really be eating fat-free to lose weight? (Spoiler alert: absolutely not!). Fat is your body’s main source of energy, and it is essential for you to eat. The kicker is, you need to be eating good fats, and leaving the others behind. Read on to get the skinny on fats.

The Good

The good fats are those known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The “unsaturated” refers to the fact that, within the chemical make-up of the fat, there is a double bond. “Mono” unsaturated fats have one double bond, while “poly” unsaturated fats have more than one. These fats are always liquid at room temperature, so they are easy to recognize.

Healthy sources of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados, and nuts.

Polyunsaturated fats are known as “essential fats”, meaning your body needs them and can get them from food alone (it cannot make them) (Harvard Health Publications, 2015). Polyunsaturated fats include Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids.

Good sources of Omega-3 include high-fat fish such as salmon and sardines, flax seeds, and some nuts (especially walnuts). Good sources of Omega-6 include sunflower seeds, grape seed oil, poultry, and eggs. In a healthy diet, one consumes more Omega-3 fats (which are anti-inflammatory), and fewer Omega-6 fats (which are inflammatory). This is known as the Omega 3 to 6 ratio, and it is drastically out of whack in today’s western diet, with much more Omega-6 fats being eaten than Omega-3’s. In this case, a good fat can turn bad when eaten in improper proportions.

The Bad

Saturated fat is so named due to the chemical structure of the fat. The carbon chain is “saturated” with hydrogen atoms and contains no double bonds. This fat has been given a bad rap, touted for increasing “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increasing your risk of heart disease. Animal sources are the most well-known, and include dairy products like cream, milk, cheese, as well as fatty meats such as red meat.

But there’s a light side to this fat. Vegetable sources of saturated fat include coconut oil. When eaten in its cold-pressed, raw, organic form, coconut oil has a host of health benefits and can actually promote fat-loss in people trying to lose weight.

The Ugly

There is absolutely nothing pretty about trans fats. They are the worst type of dietary fat and many processed products are banning it entirely. (Note: this still doesn’t make these products healthy.) Remember those good fats mentioned earlier that are liquid at room temperature? Trans fats are previously “good for you” oils that have gone through a process called hydrogenation, which changes their chemical structure and makes them solid at room temperature.

According to the American Heart Association (2015), “trans fats raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower your good cholesterol (HDL). Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and it’s associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes”.

So the truth about trans fats: please please please cut this ugly fat out of your diet!

There it is, the skinny on fats. If you would like more information about how to incorporate the right fats into your diet, contact Harmony in Health today!

The Truth About Chocolate

Posted on March 8, 2017 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Ahhh chocolate. The smooth creamy feel of it as it melts in your mouth, the rich aroma when you peel back that wrapper, and the sweet satisfying taste that it leaves on your tongue. The stores are already filling their shelves with Easter goodies, and chocolate is chief among them. We all love it in various forms, but is it really good for us? The answer may surprise you!


The Good

When it comes to chocolate, the saying “less is more” certainly applies. Chocolate, when eaten is small amounts, can have some health benefits. However, it depends on the quality of chocolate you’re eating. Go for at least 86% organic, dark chocolate versus its sugary, milk chocolate counterpart. According to Authority Nutrition (2012-2017), eating dark, organic chocolate (in small amounts) provides many benefits:

  • It contains soluble fiber and many minerals, including iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese, as well as potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. (Fun fact: chocolate cravings are a good sign of magnesium deficiency!)
  • It is high in antioxidants, such as “polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins, among others”
  • It may mildly lower blood pressure
  • It can raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL) – this contributes to its ability to reduce one’s risk of cardiovascular disease


The Bad

The health benefits of chocolate look great, but you have to remember what they come with. Those minerals come bundled up with approximately 170 calories per ounce of dark chocolate that is 70-85% cocoa (Calorie King 2017). You’re also getting 35% of your daily saturated fat and 6.8 grams of sugar (Calorie King 2017). That’s just in ONE OUNCE of dark chocolate. (Be honest, most of us eat more than that when we reach for the chocolate.) For reference, a Lindt 70% cocoa dark chocolate bar contains approximately 3.5 ounces in total.


The Really Bad

Keep in mind all the information provided thus far is for DARK chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa. Many people stick clear of dark chocolate and choose instead to indulge in milk or white “chocolate”. The truth is, these “chocolate” treats are packed with so much sugar, milk products, and other additives that their true nature as “chocolate” is lost. It is the cocoa that provides the many health benefits listed above, and when chocolate is stripped of a large portion of this cocoa, well then it’s not really chocolate anymore, is it?

Moreover, moderation is key. Eating too much dark chocolate is not healthy either. (Sorry, chocolate lovers.) Keep in mind the Lindt dark chocolate bar we mentioned above. Consuming the entire thing at once would mean you just ate around 122% of your recommended daily saturated fat intake, not to mention the approximate 24 grams of sugar!


Bottom line, if you want to indulge go for the best and eat less! If you have more questions about chocolate, or want to learn more about eating holistically for your health, contact us today!


The Dangers of Sugar

Posted on March 3, 2017 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy Friday everyone! How do you celebrate the end of the work week? By drinking a glass of wine, enjoying a chocolate bar, or perhaps snacking on a sweet gummy treat? All of these things have something in common: they all contain added sugar. Eating something sweet is a natural form of self-reward in today’s society. (Just think about the last time you “treated yourself” to that slice of chocolate cake for dessert.) The fact is, the consumption of sugar is so ingrained in our society, that we’re even feeding it to one year old babies on their birthdays! This “natural” behaviour needs to change, and we need to open our eyes to the poison we’re eating!

Added sugar refers to “all sugars, corn syrups, honey, and maple syrup added to foods and beverages” (Canadian Sugar Institute 2017). According to the Canadian Sugar Institute (2017), the average Canadian eats 13 teaspoons of added sugar EVERY DAY! (As a side note, our American counterparts are consuming 21 teaspoons of added sugar per day!) Apart from the inevitable dental cavities to be had, why is this so bad? Let’s find out.


What is Sugar?

Sugar is classified as an anti-nutrient, meaning it actually REDUCES the amount of vitamins and minerals in your body. When you eat sugar, your body has to use stored vitamins and minerals in order to process it. Processing sugar requires “some B vitamins (particularly vitamin B1 (thiamine), and B3 (niacin)), some vitamin C, calcium, and trace amounts of potassium, magnesium, zinc, chromium and sodium” (karlwhitfield 2014). Therefore, eating a lot of sugar without eating foods to replace these vitamins and minerals, can lead to deficiencies.


What Does Sugar do to the Body?

There’s a dark side to sugar, and it’s not so sweet.

Sugar, just like a drug, is addictive. It’s classified as addictive for two reasons: 1) “eating even a small amount creates a desire for more sugar; some people can’t stop once they start”, and 2) “quitting sugar cold-turkey brings on withdrawal symptoms that can last from three days to three weeks: strong cravings, fatigue, depression, lassitude, mood swings, and headaches. (Colbin 1986)”

Excessive sugar intake is linked to many common diseases and disorders, including “hypoglycemia, diabetes, heart disease, dental caries, high cholesterol, obesity, indigestion, myopia, seborrheic dermatitis, and gout”, to name a few (Colbin 1986). This link is in large part due to the fact that sugar causes inflammation in the body. This means sugar feeds those nasty cancer cells, giving you yet another (very good!) reason to quit sugar!


Saying NO to Sugar

I think I’ve made a strong case against sugar. We are constantly bombarded with sugar in today’s society, from bags of sugar on the grocery store shelves, to sneaky added sugar in things like ketchup and salad dressing. Going sugar-free is the right thing to do, and it’s what you NEED to do if you want to live a healthy lifestyle.

If cutting sugar from your diet seems intimidating, Harmony in Health is here to help you! We can suggest how to get your sugar-fix from naturally sweet, whole foods, as well as how to use safe sugar alternatives in your daily life. Contact us today to get started!



Colbin, AnneMarie (1986) Food and Healing: How what you eat determines your health, your well-being, and the wuality of your life.

Whitfield, Karl (2014)

Canadian Sugar Institute (2017)


The Microwave: How it Affects Your Food

Posted on February 22, 2017 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (7)

Close your eyes and think about how many times you use a microwave in a day. Maybe you heat up your lunch at the office, freshen up that afternoon tea you didn’t quite finish, or zap those leftovers that have been sitting in the fridge for dinner. You aren’t alone. Microwaves have become a staple in the Western world, so much so that a house without one is an anomaly.

Touted as a simple and conveniently fast way to cook a meal or heat food and drink, microwaves are less of a blessing than one might think. The truth is, the food that you put in the microwave is not the same when the time comes to take it out. To understand why, we need to look at how a microwave works.


How a Microwave Works:

A microwave emits energy, in the form of electromagnetic microwaves, which heats up food particles directly. This is why microwaves heat food so quickly, because they target the food molecules themselves. Microwaves are emitted at a frequency most easily absorbed by things like “water, fat, and sugar”, which is why food heats up so effectively (Business Insider, 2014).

So you’re probably thinking “what’s the problem? I’m super busy and I use my microwave all the time, sounds like a great invention to me.” The problem is, the microwaves not only target these food molecules, they actually alter them. That’s right. Microwaves change food proteins, which means the food you “zap” is actually altered while being heated! Microwaves contain energy, and this energy speeds up the vibration of protein molecules, which can break the chemical bonds shaping them (Science Focus, 2016). This diminishes the nutritional content of food. For example, a study found that microwaving food reduced the amount of vitamin B-12 by 30 to 40 percent! (Medical Daily, 2013).

Furthermore, many people put plastic containers and other dishes in the microwave along with their food. Just as the microwave changes food particles, it also affects these containers. Chemicals from these containers can leach into the food being microwaved, therefore contaminating what you intend to eat, potentially with carcinogens. (Which is a fancy word for cancer-causing substances.)


Better Cooking Methods:

So if the microwave is out, how should you cook your food? First off, who says you have to? Eating raw is a great way to ensure you’re getting the full nutritional benefits from a piece of food. When you do want to cook your food, try to steam veggies to retain the maximum amount of nutrients.

If you’re looking for more information about a well-rounded, balanced diet beyond the discussion of cooking techniques, contact Harmony in Health today!


Is your Gut Making you Sick?

Posted on February 14, 2017 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

What Is The Gut?

When people mention the term “gut” in passing, they may be referring to some extra fat in their abdominal region. In fact, “gut” is short for “gastrointestinal tract”, which means something else entirely. Your gastrointestinal tract begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. It can be envisioned as a long tube, including your esophagus (which food travels down), stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.

What most people fail to realize, is the fact that gut health is at the root cause of most illness and disease! Let’s examine why this is the case.


How Does The Gut Impact Health?

One well-known role of the gut is to process and breakdown food. But while its digestive functions are largely known, its immune-related functions are not. Did you know that “80% of your immune system is located in your gut” (Mercola, 1997-2017)!? This means gut health has huge implications on how you feel, from stomach pain all the way to mood and memory!

The gut houses your microbiome, which is a fancy word for microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, parasites, etc.. There are many different types of microorganisms in your digestive tract, existing at different levels. In harmony, these microorganisms are balanced in the correct relations to one another. But when the good and bad gut microorganisms are out of balance, a state known as dysbiosis occurs.

When dysbiosis occurs, and the bad guys outnumber the good guys, the lining of your gastrointestinal tract becomes permeable. Imagine it as a garden hose. When microorganisms are balanced, the hose functions normally, moving water from one end to another. When bad guys prevail, little holes are punched in the hose and water can escape along the line. The same can be said for your gastrointestinal tract. Permeability means food proteins can escape into the bloodstream, activating your immune system, resulting in inflammation, food sensitivities and allergies, along with many more symptoms. Other symptoms associated with leaky gut include bloating, chronic pain, poor memory or brain fog, and depression, to name a few (San Jose Functional Medicine, 2016).


How Do You Get a Healthy Gut?

Now that you understand how the gut works and what happens when the microbiome is unbalanced, you can understand why gut health is at the root cause of most illness and disease!

So what can you do to maximize your gut health? First off, SEE A HOLISTIC NUTRITIONIST! For reasons that should now be clear, playing around with your gut health is no joke, and should not be undertaken without guidance. Holistic nutritionists are trained to understand how to heal the digestive system and address symptoms of disease. I cannot stress this enough, please please please consult a Holistic Nutritionist before attempting to tackle any gut-related issue (which you now know is basically everything).

Harmony in Health is here to help you maximize your gut health, and consequently your overall health. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you!


You Are What You...Drink?

Posted on February 9, 2017 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Chances are, if you’re trying to switch yourself over to healthy habits, you’re focussing on what you’re putting in your body. But while people focus on eating good quality, fresh, whole foods, many forget the importance of making smart drink choices as well.


While alcohol and soda pop are generally easily distinguished as unhealthy, did you know your morning tea or coffee can also be affecting your body negatively? Let’s examine alcohol, soda pop, tea, and coffee in more detail.




Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant or sedative. That means it slows the brain actions and affects physical coordination and reaction time. It is also irritating to the gastrointestinal tract and liver, which handles its detoxification. Furthermore, the chemicals used in the production and growing include pesticides, herbicides fungicides, sulfites and heavy metals, which also cause concern. If that isn’t enough reason to cut back or eliminate it all together, alcohol also impairs the absorption of nutrients.


Soda Pop


These beverages have a fairly destructive nutritional pattern and are greatly abused. With no nutritional value, they are carbonated with carbon dioxide gas, have high amounts of phosphates which can influence calcium and bone metabolism, and often contain tremendous amounts of white sugar or chemicals that may rot the teeth and body. Colas contain high amounts of caffeine which can lead to addiction and other caffeine-related symptoms. These drinks can deplete the body of nutrients as well as overstimulate the body.




Regular commercial black tea should be considered more of a drug than a tea. It contains theobromine, a central nervous system stimulant like caffeine, and tannin, or tannic acid, which can be an irritant to the intestinal mucous linings and kidneys. It is fairly high in fluoride and provides little nutrition.


Herbal teas are a better choice as they do not contain the theobromine, caffeine, or tannic acid. Specific herbs have therapeutic properties that can aid in healing.

Green tea, although caffeine-containing, has antioxidant effects and health benefits.

Rooibos tea has the most health benefit out of all the teas. It contains similar amounts of polyphenols and has been shown to be anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral. It’s recommended you drink it before going to bed as it can help with insomnia. It’s also very low in tannins. It contains calcium, manganese, and fluoride to help build strong teeth and bones. It contains alpha hydroxy acid and zinc making it great for the skin. You can even apply it directly to the skin to help with acne, eczema and sunburn!





Coffee (in the form of caffeine) is the most commonly used and abused drug. Caffeine has a number of metabolic effects as a nervous system stimulant. It increases the heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, gastrointestinal activity, stomach acid output, kidney function, and mental activity. Coffee abuse may create cardiac sensitivity, with abnormal heartbeats, anxiety and irritability, stomach and intestinal irritation, insomnia, and withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue and headaches.


Common negative effects of caffeine include; loss of vitamins and minerals, reduced absorption of some nutrients, diarrhea, kidney stones (which can occur as a result of diuretic and chemical effects), adrenal exhaustion/stress/fatigue/hypoglycemic syndrome, increased heartburn from stomach hydrochloric acid production, excess nervousness, irritability, insomnia, restless legs, and dizziness to name a few.


If you would like to learn more about how drinks can both help and hurt you on your holistic health journey, contact Harmony in Healthy today!