5 Safe & Easy Steps to Starting a Successful Detox

Thinking about doing a cleanse, but not sure where to start? Concerned about what toxins from the environment are doing to your health, your hormones, your fertility?

You’re Designed to Detox

If my degree in toxicology taught me one thing, it’s that the human body is capable of detoxifying nearly any toxin – miraculously, this includes toxins that are man-made and didn’t even exist on this planet just two generations ago.

And, if my clinical training has taught me one thing, it’s that detoxification is complicated. Since the ability to eliminate toxins effectively is absolutely relevant to your health goals: from overcoming infertility to losing weight to clearing your skin to preventing certain cancers…I want to make it easier for you to navigate through the complexity, set aside the hype and unsafe trends, and put in place some everyday habits that can get the detox ball rolling, safely and naturally – right away if you choose to.

Set off on the right track by following these 5 steps to start your detox:

  1. Commit a Bit of “Purgery”

    Hand opening pantryIngestion is the #1 way toxins get into our bodies. Purge your pantry of foods that contain synthetic chemicals, colourings, preservatives, etc. Remember that refined sugar also depletes your body of valuable minerals it needs to detoxify other chemicals effectively. Next, go plastic-free when it comes to food preparation, utensils and storage. Never heat food in plastic or Styrofoam. I recommend glass and stainless steel for anything that comes into contact with your food. You can also use paper bags, bamboo, silicon and good old cotton tea towels to wrap, store and transport various foods.

  2. Clean Up Your Cosmetics

    Your skin is an absorptive surface. As I teach clients in my Love Your Skin Program, assume anything you apply to your skin will reach your bloodstream, so if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin. Screen cosmetics, sunscreen, deodorant, lotions, makeup, shampoo etc. against the Skin Deep Cosmetics database by Environmental Working Group. As a general rule your products should contain no pthalates, perfumes, petroleum, petrolatum, or parabens.Makeup Brush

  3. Perspiration Prescription

    Sweat it out, girl! You can sweat out toxic heavy metals like mercury and arsenic, and even plastic-derived chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA). Getting your sweat on through exercise will also boost lymphatic drainage, increase your circulation and help you maintain regular bowel function, which are all essential physiological functions for getting those toxins out. Think hot yoga, saunas, steam rooms, and enough of a challenge with your cardio and weights that you break a great sweat. Shower off with cold water after your sweat sesh to close your pores and seal out those toxins you worked so hard to eliminate. NB: Gentleman, talk to your health practitioner before starting a sauna program in the 3-4 months before trying to conceive, as the heat could affect your fertility.Pushup

  4. Ramp Up the Roughage

    Fiber-rich foods like ground flax seeds, chia, whole grains, legumes, fruit and veggies help to bind toxins in your digestive tract and sweep them on out. Aim for 40 grams (yes, I said 40!) of fibre each day. Fibre doesn’t have to be the bland something you have to kind of choke down. Try a fruit smoothie with ground seeds blended in, or munch on unsweetened coconut flakes for a naturally sweet and crunchy fibre-fortified snack when you’re craving a “treat”.Green Smoothie with Fruit

  5. Cleanse Your Medicine Cabinet

    Find out which prescription and non-prescription medicines (including natural supplements!) contain questionable ingredients: the drug itself or the “non-medicinal ingredients” listed on your nutritional supplements or herbs could actually be considered toxic. I recently noted the chemical solvent hydroxybutyl toluene and the hormone-disrupting methylparaben in the list of non-medicinal ingredients of a patient’s superstore-brand prenatal multivitamins! Be sure you’re also avoiding medications that can harm your fertility. For example, when starting or following up on medication most men aren’t told that their antidepressant (SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can damage sperm and reduce their fertility, and most women aren’t informed that ongoing use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like naproxen have been shown to interfere with ovulation. Speak with your naturopath or family doctor before stopping or starting any new medication or supplement.

When’s It Time to Talk With Your Doc?

Not all detox plans and programs are created equally. Many over-the-counter products send you to the bathroom frequently but aren’t effectively removing stored toxins from your body, and many formulas aren’t safe in pregnancy. Be sure to discuss with your doctor your plans to start any detox program so you can get the proper assessment pre- and post- detox, follow a safe protocol and be confident you’re getting the results you’re looking for.

Cholesterol Controversy: Shifting Cholesterol out of Scapegoat Status (& 3 Under-Appreciated Nutrients for Heart Health)

Every 34 seconds, someone in Canada will suffer from a heart attack. Heart disease is a complicated condition to predict – there are over 200 known risk factors, and possibly many more that we don’t know about yet. Cholesterol has become a favourite scapegoat for heart disease. Most of us have heard at some point that we should avoid foods that are high in cholesterol in order to help keep our hearts healthy. In fact, if you google “cholesterol and heart health,” most of what comes up relates to lowering cholesterol in order to avoid heart disease. Unfortunately, this belief has led to claims that even some very healthy whole foods, like eggs, are bad for our heath. Given that half of the people who have a heart attack or stroke have normal cholesterol levels, why does this particular molecule get such a bad rap?

Let’s start with a bit of background. Cholesterol is an oil-based substance that is manufactured in our bodies (via a complex, 37-step process), and can also be absorbed from foods we eat. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), often referred to as “good” cholesterol. LDL and HDL are not cholesterol in and of themselves, but sort of like cholesterol taxis – moving cholesterol itself from one place to another in the body. Most of our blood cholesterol is made naturally in the body, not absorbed from our food. Cholesterol is essential to our health: we need it for our cell membranes, bile production, hormone synthesis and to make vitamin D in our skin. Finally, cholesterol also plays a role in the healing of injuries – and the way it does this may be part of the key to why it is considered a dangerous substance.

Inflammation is beginning to be understood as the root of all chronic disease. When our bodies suffer from chronic inflammation, we sustain microscopic injuries to the inner linings of our blood vessels. The liver produces LDL and blood delivers it to the site of injury where, similar to how a scab forms to cover a cut on our skin, the tiny cuts and nicks are covered over with waxy plaque which protects them while they heal. There is reason to believe then that high LDL levels may reflect the body’s rescue response to chronic internal blood vessel injury. So, blaming heart attacks on cholesterol is like blaming the firefighter for the fire – LDL is the body’s way to put out the flames of inflammation inside our blood vessels. Cholesterol, then, is better thought of as a potential marker of inflammation, not a disease agent in and of itself. For that reason let’s begin to shift our focus onto how we can reduce our exposure to the causes of inflammation. Common sources of inflammation include consuming to many carbs (like bread, pasta and sugar), smoking, alcohol, fried vegetable oils, environmental toxins, foods that you’re sensitive to, infections and chronic disease processes. Your naturopathic doctor can help with a personal assessment of anything in particular that you should watch out for, since every body is different.

For more on the saturated fat and cholesterol controversy, listen to this podcast with journalist Nina Teicholz, as she explains why it may be time to drop the misguided war on cholesterol…and eat more fat instead.

So if we can’t rely only on targeting dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, what else can we consider in our diet instead to improve our heart health? One strategy is to try introducing more antioxidants.

To understand why antioxidants are so great, we need to start by understanding something about free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that have an “unpaired” electron. Imagine a room full of 5-year olds holding a nice treat in each hand. As you look closer, it turns out that some of these kids only have a treat in one hand – these are the free radicals, they’re missing a treat. These kids who are missing a treat are prone to stealing a treat from one of the other kids. If they steal from a child who only has two treats, that child is likely going to create quite a fuss in that room. However, there is a third type of child in the room – those who have an extra treat they can give away without ending up with an empty hand. These are the antioxidants. When a free radical kid gets a treat from an antioxidant child, each ends up happy and a potentially volatile situation is averted.

We all have free radicals in our bodies and these create inflammation, oxidative stress and speed the process of aging – so we all could use a good serving of antioxidants to help deal with them! A healthy diet includes a broad range of antioxidants, which come chiefly from vegetables and fruit (especially brightly coloured ones like berries, cherries, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, green tea, raw chocolate, etc.). Your naturopath will happily lend a helping hand with balancing oxidants and antioxidants for heart health.

Eating well and keeping active are absolute foundations to maintaining a healthy heart. There are three heart-protecting nutrients that you may want to consider supplementing with because they are difficult to get in sufficient quantities in the diet alone: coenzyme Q10, vitamin K2, and omega 3’s.

Coenzyme Q10: This is a powerful natural antioxidant that’s found in the heart.  It reduces blood pressure, reduces blood clots, improves tone in artery walls, and has anti-inflammatory effects. People with higher cholesterol levels have been found to have lower coenzyme Q10 levels. Coenzyme Q10 can be taken for prevention, and it’s an absolute must if you are taking a statin medication because these drugs deplete the body’s natural levels of coenzyme Q10.

(As a bonus for those of you working on fertility, think of coenzyme Q10 like an anti-aging supplement for your eggs. More on this in an upcoming edition!).

Vitamin K2: We have only understood this essential nutrient since the late 1990s, and it’s not found in most multivitamins on the market. This forgotten vitamin is made by bacteria and is naturally found in certain fermented foods and in the fat of grass-fed beef. The main benefit of vitamin K2 is that it may help to prevent calcification of the arteries. Vitamin K2 activates the delivery of calcium from the blood and arteries into our bones – making it equally essential in the prevention of osteoporosis as heart disease. Vitamin K2 also promotes the beneficial effects of vitamin D.

EPA and DHA: Also known as eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid, these omega 3 fatty acids are the key constituents in fish oils. EPA and DHA are essential to a healthy cardiovascular system. They reduce blood triglyceride levels, reduce inflammation, support healthier blood vessels, and can reduce blood clots. Omega 3’s are called “essential fats” because they body can not produce them, so they must be provided from the diet.  The Standard American Diet (SAD) is deficient in omega 3 fats because we don’t eat enough seafood, raw seeds and nuts in our daily diets. We need 2-5 grams of EPA + DHA combined to get the best benefits that these omegas have to offer.

Well there you have it – trade in carbs for fats…savour some fabulous colourful, whole foods with your valentine of choice…and love your heart with real food this month!

With love,

Dr. Liz


Do You Have Food Allergies or Food Intolerances? How to Find Out

Food allergies are common in infants, children and adults. The great majority of food allergy cases that I see in practice are delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions characterized by the presence of IgG (immunoglobulin G) type antibodies in the bloodstream. In people who have IgG-type food allergies, the body forms antibodies to components of food that are incompletely digested and allowed to pass between intestinal cells and enter the bloodstream. Bothersome and seemingly unrelated symptoms can arise in virtually every system of the body – from skin reactions such as eczema or hives to weight gain, headaches, behaviour and learning difficulties, and sleep disruption. Download the full article here.

In contrast, the potentially life-threatening immediate hypersensitivity reactions (anaphylaxis), such as peanut allergy, which are mediated by IgE type antibodies and detectable on skin-prick tests. How do food sensitivities develop? A vicious cycle of poor digestion, immune activation and inflammation is at play. Inadequate digestion due stress, too-early introduction of solid foods or allergenic foods to infants, antibiotics and antacid use can contribute to problems affecting digestion, such as low stomach acid, low digestive enzyme production, imbalanced gut bacteria and liver congestion. When digestion is poor and the gut is inflamed, large food molecules (that were supposed to be broken down to very, very small molecules by the time they reach the intestines) are able to pass through the intestinal lining and reach the blood stream. At this point, the immune system goes on “alert” mode because it interprets these large molecules as “foreign invaders” in the blood and creates antibodies to bind to them – similar to the immune system’s response to viruses and bacteria that infect the body. The immune activation and antigen-antibody complexes cause systemic inflammation, which can lead to the myriad symptoms associated with food allergies.

If you think you might have food allergies, consider getting an IgG food allergy test or trying an elimination diet to help you identify problematic foods. After a period of time and some digestive healing, you may be able to reintroduce these foods in moderation.

Green Energy Drink

So you know this wonderful green leafy veggie is good for you. What do you do with it?  Here is a quick, delicious green drink that even the kids might enjoy!  (I admit, my inspiration from this one comes directly from a veggie drink by Dr. Oz….but this is a much simpler and I believe, tastier version). Enjoy with breakfast or as an antioxidant-rich afternoon pick-me-up.
2-3 fresh kale leaves, washed, chopped, stalks/stems removed
1/2 apple*, washed, skin on, chopped (*i use the sweet Honeycrisp variety)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup water
Blend all ingredients on high until smooth. Enjoy immediately – drink in the green energy!
Total Prep Time:
5 minutes

More vaccine doses correlated with higher infant death rates

An interesting study in this month’s issue of the journal Human Experimental Toxicology has identified a strong correlation between infant death rates and the number of vaccine doses given to infants in a given country. In Canada, infants typically receive 24 doses of vaccine during their first year of life. In the U.S., it’s 26. Yet Canada and the U.S. rank poorly when it comes to infant death rates: 28th and 34th, respectively, representing 5 infant deaths per 1000 live births in Canada, and 6 infant deaths per 1000 live births in the U.S. (Singapore has the healthiest infant mortality rate, at 2.31 deaths per 1000 births).
So what are we doing wrong? This paper suggests that a possible synergistic toxicity of these multiple vaccine doses may be at least partly responsible for the higher rates of infant death in countries where more vaccines are given. The authors also discuss whether some of the deaths attributed to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) or asphyxiation from unknown causes may actually have been vaccine-related deaths, a theory that has been explored previously but that is challenging to prove based on the available evidence. 
We do know that vaccine safety studies are based on single vaccines, rather than possible interactions between multiple vaccines in an infant’s body. Infants are more susceptible to toxicity as their systems of elimination are underdeveloped.
This article raises many areas for research and discussion about the reasons behind this strong and disturbing correlation. 
Delayed vaccination schedules are available to children in Canada, allowing children to receive fewer doses at an older age (when their immune systems can more competently respond to vaccines). A child can NOT be denied access to public school based on lack of vaccination. If your child is unvaccinated and is attending an Ontario public school, a Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief form should be provided to the school:  http://www.niagararegion.ca/living/health_wellness/disease-prevent/pdf/Statement-of-Conscience-or-Religious-Belief.pdf

Fertile Ground

Spring is a lovely time to think about growth, expansiveness, sprouting seeds, starting new projects, and of course, fertility! The natural world is full of fertile inspiration this season as fresh green things emerge almost magically from the earth, birds sing out their special appeals for mates, and the increasing sunlight, mild temperatures and abundance of fresher foods helps us feel that much healthier overall.
What is “overall health”? Beyond just the absence of disease, optimal health is a total state of wellness in body, mind and spirit – giving us the freedom to experience our fullest and best lives. The same factors holding you back from experiencing your best health are often the same as those preventing you from conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy.Last night I spoke to a group at our local public library about getting back-to-basics when dealing with infertility. Rather than trying to force the body to do something that contradicts its wisdom at a given time, we want to try to work with the body-mind to hear its messages and respond to its needs. Dietary habits, environmental toxins, immune system imbalances, anatomical and hormonal issues aside, stress is a significant obstacle to healthy fertility. How many of us have known a friend who’s been trying to get pregnant for a year or more, finally “gives up”, decides to adopt, and then gets pregnant? As Dr. Verna Hunt, ND, DC puts it, “If you were being chased by a grizzly bear, would you lie down and make love?” (Resounding “of course not”!)  Simply put, being in a stressed state or “fight-or-flight mode” is incompatible with “fertile mode”, and it’s all due to two different arms of the nervous system – sympathetic (“fight-or-flight”) vs. parasympathetic (“rest-and-digest”, a.k.a. “let’s make a baby”) and the hormones that correspond to these states. Only one of these nervous systems gets to be dominant at at time. When we’re under chronic stress, we don’t get enough of the “rest-and-digest”, healing or fertile state that our bodies need to be healthy.Consider these simple strategies for diminishing stress:-Chop your to-do list. Planning to get too many things done in one day can lead to the stressful feelings of being overwhelmed, rushed, irritable, then disappointed when we realize we didn’t get it all done. Be realistic with your to-do list. See how you feel when you cut your list of tasks for today in half, and go from there.-Just say “no” to multitasking. Despite having become a strangely revered skill in the employment marketplace, multitasking can lead to feeling scattered, accomplishing less, frustration and even burnout. Recent studies have shown that multitasking can actually be harmful, by decreasing levels of serotonin – our “happy hormone” in the brain. Instead, focus on one thing at a time to decrease stress.

-Get great sleep. Deep, restorative sleep: the ultimate “rest-and-digest” state. While we’re asleep, our bodies and minds recover, rebuild and repair. By contrast, insomnia, sleep deprivation and irregular sleep schedules increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which interferes with sex hormones. A simple way to start getting better sleep is to completely darken your room, eliminating all “light pollution” from windows and electronics. Get your sleep environment so dark that you can’t see your hand when held up in front of your face.

For more natural ways to support healthy fertility and pregnancy, visit www.apnd.org, the web site of the Association of Perinatal Naturopathic Doctors (APND).