Bone Broth: Good For You, But How Good?

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Bone broth. Some say it's the elixir of the gods, with benefits ranging from healthy skin to improved immune function. But how good is it? And what is bone broth anyway?

First off, bone broth is different than stock and regular broth. The most important difference is the length of cooking; stock is cooked up to 2 hours, broth 4-6, and bone broth 24-48 hours. The reason for the long cooking time is to get as much of the nutrients out of the bones as possible. This is believed to be the reason it confers all of the health benefits you'll read about. 

This long cooking time makes the bones leach out high amounts of collagen, the main structural protein in our bodies responsible for making healthy joints, skin, and all other connective tissue including your digestive tract. It's also thought to be a good source of glucosamine and chondroitin, the classical joint support supplements, as well as vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.

For these reasons, bone broth is being toted as one of the healthiest things to consume.  

Unfortunately, there really isn't evidence to support many of the claims for bone broth specifically. 

Most of the research you will see investigates individual components included in bone broth, like collagen supplements for example. There is research to show that collagen can improve skin health (123), but no evidence to show bone broth has this ability. There is research to show that collagen, chondroitin, and glucosamine can help with arthritic joint pain (4), but again no empirical evidence to show bone broth does.  Finally, there is also research to show that gelatin may have an effect on human digestive tract cells (5), but again no evidence that bone broth helps in this regard. 

It's not that I don't love bone broth or think it is an extremely healthy food to consume. I do, but I also think there is too much hype - as is often the case with these “superfoods” (see the recent fuss about apple cider vinegar). 

As a naturopathic doctor, I counsel my patients to be realistic. It's not a miracle cure for whatever ails you; it's a great part of a more complete treatment plan, and a really easy way to catch the cooking bug. Whenever I recommend it, I am honest about the benefits; it is a long-term lifestyle change and the benefit may be very subtle yet important. 

Three tips for making your own bone broth:

The key to a good bone broth is choosing the right type of bones; the really cartilaginous bones like knuckles are great since they have a lot of collagen. 

It’s okay to mix the type of bones in your broth - beef, pork, venison, etc. More types, more better!

Add some vinegar or lemon juice and cook for at least 8 hours (24-48 hours is generally recommended) to elevate the pH in your broth [6]. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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The Key To Our Digestive System

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Digestive issues are one of the most common complaints seen in any doctors office. They also tend to be very complicated. That's why seeing a Naturopathic Doctor can be so helpful; we spend the time to figure out your complex issues. Since it's a complicated system, certain aspects can get missed. 

One aspect of the digestive system that often gets overlooked is the mucous lining. It's exactly what it sounds like: a lining of mucus that covers the inside of your digestive tract. I know, sounds appetizing, but it's a bonafide superstar of your digestive health and therefore your entire health. 

The mucus lining is the unsung hero of your digestive tract: Why is this slimy structure so important?

It houses your good bacteria.

Gut flora, or good bacteria, has been a hot topic in health and medicine for a while now. Like any living thing, they need to be nourished and given a place to live. That's where the mucous lining comes in; it's where they reside. If there isn't a healthy lining, fewer will be able to live happily. It won't matter how many billion you take, what strains you take, or how much money you spend, if your lining isn't healthy, they won't survive. 

It's where your immune system interacts with the "outside world”.

The mucus lining also provides a space for the immune system to interact with pathogens.  Specialized cells will "sample" molecules and either initiate an immune response (so they can recognize it the next time they come across it) or develop tolerance. If this mucus membrane isn't healthy, this interaction is subpar; the pathogens could easily slip past the immune cells, causing allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances. 

It's your first defence against harmful pathogens.

Our immune system is made up of many different types of cells; one of the first-line defenders is Immunoglobulin A or IgA. It is one of the most abundant immune cells, and is present on all mucous membranes. It functions by attaching itself to potentially harmful molecules and preventing them from entering circulation. This is one way your gut lining is connected to your immunity - poorer mucous membrane means less space for IgA to function. 

How do you fix a dysfunctional gut lining? Like anything else, in order to build it, you have to take away the things that will knock it down. In the case of the mucous lining, food sensitivities, processed foods and certain medications are the major demo crew. So avoiding or limiting those things are a good idea. 

If you're one of those people who have a hard time digesting raw fruits and vegetables, it may have something to do with your gut lining. Although they are considered a healthy food, if they aren't being absorbed they aren't helping. Allow your gut to heal by eating well cooked veggies and avoid bothersome fruit for a while.

You can make some food choices that can help repair your gut lining. One of my favourites: bone broth. Either chicken or beef, homemade or responsibly purchased. It is a great option to help replenish electrolytes, provide cofactors for growth, and support the immune system. Watch my blog for a piece in the coming weeks on this amazing food.

And then there is the supplement side of things: it depends on the individual. I always focus on the lifestyle options first, and add supplements if we think they could help.

Key takeaways: Don't ignore the symptoms of poor digestion, consider all parts of digestion, and remember Rome wasn't built in a day, it takes time to reach your full potential. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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The Saturated Fat Myth

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As a Naturopathic Doctor, whenever I talk to patients we always end up talking about their diet, and inevitably get into a conversation about the three main macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. When we get to fat, I frequently encounter patients who misunderstand the connection between its intake and health. This misunderstanding has a lot to do with erroneous media reports, based on a legacy of bribery and fraudulent research practices. 

First, the truth about fat: With the exception of trans fat, all fats are a healthy part of a balanced diet, including saturated fat.

Trans fat, or trans-unsaturated fatty acid, is an artificially created fat and was originally designed to keep food from going rancid. The terms “hydrogenated" or "partially-hydrogenated" are often used in conjunction with trans fat as that's what the process involves, adding hydrogen. These fats are created by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils. This process makes the fat shelf-stable. That’s why it’s usually found in fast food and pre-made desserts. This is good for business, but not good for your health. Research has linked it to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis and numerous other diseases [1].

Saturated fat is naturally occurring and found in all of those foods you used to be told were bad for you, like animal products such as beef, pork, full-fat dairy, and coconut oil. These also happen to be some of the most delicious. They are called “saturated" since all of the molecular bonds are occupied, saturated with hydrogen. 

The misunderstanding that saturated fat is bad began in the 1960's when research was done into the connection between dietary factors and cardiovascular events. Early research concluded saturated fat and cholesterol were the main culprit in heart disease. August institutions like Harvard University and respectable journals like The New England Journal of Medicine published the research, lending it credibility.  This research carried on until the early 90’s.

During that 30-year span, dietary guidelines were released recommending avoiding all saturated fat, and replacing it with carbohydrates and food laden with sugar. Seems crazy now, but this is what following the best evidence looked like at the time. 

But this research shouldn't have been trusted. Why? The sugar industry was funding it.

In November 2016, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released documents which showed that researchers were being paid by the sugar industry to obscure the relationship between sugar and heart disease, pushing them to blame saturated fats instead.

Don't believe me? Here’s an account of what happened [2]. It reads like a crime novel. 

But the widespread belief that fat is bad is hard to erase. The sad fact is, the sugar industry’s diversionary strategy was successful.

But the current science shows that the main culprit in heart disease is sugar consumption. And many of us get too much sugar from sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) [3,4]. SSBs include popular brands like Coke, Sprite, sweetened iced teas, and even juice. To compound the problem, those who drink SSBs may have a less-than ideal diet in other ways, like high trans fat consumption. 

What should you conclude from this story?

Consume as little trans fat and pop as possible (none preferably), and don't be afraid to eat red meat, butter, and any other saturated fat. It's as much a part of a healthy diet as fruits and vegetables - just enjoy everything in moderation. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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The Science Behind ZMA is MIA

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Walking down the sports aisles of your favourite supplement store, it's not hard to get over-whelmed with all the different products boosting unbelievable advantages. One of the products that many websites and some experts will endorse is ZMA. The ingredients are zinc monomethionine aspartate (hence the name), magnesium aspartate and Vitamin B6. 

It's not a supplement I recommend, and here's why. 

ZMA burst onto the market in the late 90's and came armed with some research to support its use. This research found that those who took it had a 33% increase in both total testosterone and free testosterone, and a 15% increase in muscle strength. These results sounded pretty good. But a closer look reveals there is definitely a bias in the research, not to mention a questionable cast of characters behind it.

One of the research authors was Victor Conte. If you followed the Major League Baseball steroid scandal in the 2000's, you may recognize his name. Conte was the man behind the BALCO lab that was implicated in the doping of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Marion Jones among others. He also had a trademark on the "ZMA" name, so he had a direct financial gain by finding positive results for his formulation. A big red flag in the world of research. 

The other author, Dr. Lorrie Brilla, worked for a ZMA manufacturer. Can you say, "conflict of interest”?

Assuming these results were found without bias, they should be reproducible; one of the most important aspects of the scientific research method. In this case, the same results were not found when the study was replicated. There were no enhancements in blood magnesium, zinc, testosterone, or any other hormones measured. Nor was there a strength benefit. And the group doing this research also had a reason to find positive results, it was funding by Cytodyne Technologies Inc, a company that manufactures sports supplements. This makes the results much more trustworthy. 

ZMA, although endorsed by many, is likely not all it's chalked up to be. Be aware.

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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The Real Reason You Hate Mondays

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No, it's not from the thought of the work week ahead of you, dealing with your boss, co-workers or, actually, anything about work. It has everything to do with your sleep - you hate Monday's because you're tired. Here’s why. 

We have a natural sleep-wake cycle largely based on the sun, called our circadian rhythm. In it's simplest form it's the interplay between two hormones, melatonin and cortisol, which are both affected by light exposure, hence the sun's involvement. When we are on a regular schedule, our circadian rhythm is in sync with our lifestyle, and we function better. When you throw two out-of-sync days in the middle of this routine, it messes with your rhythm, making it more difficult to fall asleep, wake up and function to your full potential. 

Both mainstream and naturopathic doctors agree that one of the best long-term treatments for sleep issues is something called "sleep hygiene". No, this is not about how clean you are when you go to bed. Rather it’s about but how "clean" your sleeping situation is in general. 

Although there are many aspects to sleep hygiene, like reducing TV time before bed and limiting naps, the most important and effective is routine. And this is why you hate Mondays - your routine is out-of-whack. 

Let's look at an example. Say someone works a typical 9 to 5 job, they need to wake up at 6:30am during the week in order to get to work on time. Since they get up relatively early, they have lights out at the reasonable time of 11 pm. During the weekend however, this person likes to stay up a little later, let's say until 1 or 2 am, and they sleep in to 9 or 10 am. When 6:30 am Monday rolls around, your circadian rhythm has been thrown off just enough to make Monday a drag. 

If you suffer "from a case of the Mondays" every Monday, do yourself a favour, try keeping your sleep-wake routine consistent. Yes, Saturday and Sunday too. Do this for three or four weeks and while you will still have to report to work for that 9 to 5 job, Monday's should be a little more tolerable. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

The Problem with Intermittent Fasting

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Intermittent fasting (IF) is becoming more and more popular as a weight loss tool. It's less of a diet and more of an eating schedule. There are many ways to do IF and lots of things to consider before starting. (That's where a Naturopathic Doctor can help.)

First, the big question: Does it work for weight loss?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is more complicated, as is the case with any diet. Most diets result in weight loss (Mediterranean and Paleolithic diets, for example) as long as they are hypo-caloric  - in other words, you eat fewer calories than you burn. IF has the advantage of simplicity: you don't have to follow a strict regiment of do and do-not eat foods, just do and do-not eat time periods. 

These time periods can be broken up many different ways, one of them is alternate day fasting. It's exactly what it sounds like, you eat for one day, and fast for the next. For example, your last meal would be Monday at lunch, and you wouldn't eat again until Tuesday at lunch. One of the more aggressive IF protocols. A lot of this time is spent sleeping, so it's not as bad as it sounds. And that's exactly the schedule used in the following study.

This study had participants follow an alternate day fasting program for 6 weeks [6]. They measured all aspects of the participants intake before and after implementing the IF protocol: from protein, carbs, and fat to vitamin, mineral, and total calories. Participants ate 33% less total calories for the 6 weeks compared to their normal diet. So it comes as no surprise that every measure also came in lower. But did this have any effect on performance?

They found the participants had a lower heart rate during the same level of exercise, a decrease in total energy expenditure, and lower blood lactate (the cause of that burning feeling in your legs). The authors concluded that this was evidence of a performance enhancement. They also reported a 4.4% decrease in body weight and a 15% decrease in body fat mass. That’s good. But there was also a somewhat worrisome result: an almost 3% decrease in muscle mass.  This was likely a result of the reduced protein intake.

So the conclusion? IF might deliver some real benefits, but take precautions: consider taking a multi-vitamin and make sure you are getting enough protein from a wide variety of sources while following an IF regimen.

Is C4 All It's Cracked Up to Be?

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In the shiny world of pre-work out supplement bottles, manufacturers resort to hyperbole to get any advantage. That's why shelves are lined with bottles adorned with  words like "pump", "explosive energy", and "extreme". Pre-workouts are a common sight at most gyms, but will these products really make you better? As a Naturopathic Doctor, it's my job to guide clients through this hype.

Cellucor's C4 is one of the most popular pre-workout supplements on the market. It's one of many combination products touted to provide you with "explosive energy, heightened focus and an overwhelming urge to tackle any challenge". Whew! But does it help?

The first 5 ingredients: Vitamin C, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Vitamin B6, Folic acid, and Vitamin B12 are all supplied in such small amounts they have virtually no effect.  It could be argued those first few ingredients are really just filler to make the ingredients label look more impressive

The remaining ingredients are supposed to deliver the goods. 

Beta-alanine is a commonly-used sports performance enhancer. It acts as an intramuscular buffering agent, or in other words, it lessens that burning sensation you get in your arms and legs during intense circuit training sessions. C4 contains 1.6g of beta-alanine, but is that enough? The research says yes. It's on the low end of the effective dose of 1.6 to 6.4g per day, but nonetheless it will have some benefits [1,2], if you use it correctly: for 8 weeks, daily, and for exercise lasting longer than 30 seconds and not longer than 10 minutes [2]. Sorry, marathoners and split muscle group trainees. 

Creatine is likely the best known sports supplement, and for good reason. It has been shown to increase strength and muscle growth [3, 4], a common reason people take pre-workout supplements. The difference in C4? Most studies use creatine monohydrate, an inexpensive, widely available supplement with a load of research to support its use. Cellucor uses creatine nitrate in C4, a form of creatine with the added benefit of nitrate content [nitrates are in beets!]. The problem is it has not been shown to be superior than the simple monohydrate form [5]. The low dose problem also resurfaces - 1g isn't enough to get the results you probably want. 

Arginine is another very popular sports supplement thought to increase blood flow leading to greater oxygen supply to muscles. According to the evidence, we can be fairly certain it doesn't impact performance [6, 7, 8 ]. But C4 uses Arginine Alph-ketoglutarate, a form that is suppose to be better absorbed. Unfortunately, we know it isn't much better than regular arginine and it doesn't have any significant effect on performance [9]. You’d need a dose of arginine 6x higher than that supplied in C4 to see any impact [10].

Finally, how about that "Explosive Energy Blend”?  The only really effective ingredient delivering on that is caffeine [11, 12]. However, the dose is again lower than what we know works [13, 14]. To make matters worse, caffeine is most effective if you don't take it for a few days before an event [15], and as I mentioned above, Beta-alanine must be used everyday for 8 weeks. Having these two ingredients in the same product doesn't make much sense. 

Bottom-line

C4 may help you perform better, but don't let the other ingredients fool you, it's the caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine doing most or all of the work. A word for the economically minded, you can get over double the servings of each, in the correct dose, for the identical price in other products. Don't be fooled by flashy marketing. Be smart in your training, nutrition, and competition and you will see the results. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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Should you go Gluten-Free?

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Gluten remains one of the hottest topics in the health and wellness industry, with many experts and celebs advocating for and against including it in your diet. Go to the internet and a quick search turns up thousands of links, many of which have nothing to do with Kim Kardashian.

So, the question remains. Should you eat gluten?

If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, definitely not. It's a very serious condition with many long-term complications, so eliminating gluten from your diet is a no-brainer. If you suspect you may have celiac disease, get tested. There is a screening blood test that, if positive, is confirmed with a scope and tissue sample. (Not that you need a reason to get tested and have celiac disease medically confirmed, but you can claim gluten-free food on your taxes as a medical expense.)

But if you don't have celiac disease, it gets more complicated.  Perhaps eating gluten just makes you feel bad and you think eliminating it from your diet will make a difference.

Personally, I eat gluten. I don't have an issue with it. But I know many patients and family who don’t. My wife, for example, has celiac disease and has been eating gluten-free for almost a decade.  I know what you're thinking, "You're a Naturopathic Doctor, you're supposed to hate gluten!”. But most Naturopaths like me aren’t strident about gluten; rather, we take a balanced approach to gluten and diet strategies, employing some when they are appropriate and ignoring others when they aren't. 

I'm not saying I have never recommended a gluten-free diet, or any other type of diet that eliminates a certain food. I have, many times. But I describe these recommendations as more of a self-diagnostic tool to see how a client will feel not eating something. If they feel substantially better, I would suggest that they stop eating that food, at least for a while. If they feel only slightly better, we weigh the pros and cons of continuing eating or not eating that food, and continue the search for the culprit.

Another way to look at a gluten-free diet is as a starting point for a healthy change. I am well-aware that lots of unhealthy choices are gluten-free (pop, chips, etc), and lots of gluten-filled options are healthy (whole-grain bread, etc). When you go gluten-free, you are making a mindful choice to eat in a more deliberate way. I have had many patients who have tried a gluten-free diet even though I had a low suspicion that gluten was the culprit. What happens, without fail, is that they began to transform their eating habits - they cooked more meals at home and they read labels. In short, they became more aware of what they were eating. 

These are the first steps to having the most healthy diet you can. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

Beets Beat Disease

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Beet Month, sadly, is coming to a close. Now that you know how they work magic on your bloodstream, how they can boost your performance, and how many you need to eat, we’re going to close out Beet Month by showing you how they can help prevent some nasty diseases...and make your smarter.

Beets Help Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in Canada, responsible for 29% of all deaths. So here's some good news: beets may play a role in preventing heart disease. As we noted earlier this month, the nitrates in beets have a relaxing, widening effect on our blood vessels. This effect is delivered by some types of medications for heart disease. Beets do it naturally.

There is evidence to support it too; beets have been shown to decrease blood pressure by about 4 points (-4.4/-1.1mmHg) [1]. This was achieved with the equivalent of just under 3 cups of sliced beets. So increasing your beet (and other veggie) consumption will decrease your blood pressure.

Beets Reduce the Effects of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is as exactly as terrible as it sounds: it’s lung disease associated with increasing breathlessness. With this breathlessness, your capacity for exercise diminishes. Declining exercise capacity is a strong predictor of worsening COPD. But beets can help: both with exercise capacity and with controlling blood pressure after exercise.

Research found that the consumption of beetroot juice allowed those with COPD to exercise for 30 seconds longer than those who didn’t have any [2]. It also lowered post-exercise blood pressure by 8 points (-8/-6mmHg).

Beets Fight Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition where the blood vessels in your limbs, usually legs, become narrowed. This narrowing leads to decreased blood flow, pain, and decreased exercise capacity.  Once again, beets can help.

Research found that 500mL of beetroot juice lead to an 18% increase in walking distance and 17% longer walking time for those with PAD [3]. Those are impressive gains!

Beets Improve Cognitive Functioning?

As a naturopathic doctor, I am especially excited by this new area of research. Studies indicate that beets have the potential to play a role in keeping your brain healthy as you age. How? By increasing blood flow to areas of the brain, of course.

Beetroot juice with about 5.5mmol of nitrates increased cerebral blood flow and improved cognitive function in a series of mental tests [4]. This means beets may be part of a treatment plan for various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

So what conclusion should we draw from all this science about the crimson tuber? Beets are indeed a super-veggie!

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

How Many Beets Do I Need to Eat?

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Somebody once said that February is the longest month of the year.  So to brighten it up, it’s beet month here on my blog! I’m a Naturopathic Doctor with Newfoundland and Eastern European roots, so the subject of beets is both of scientific and sentimental interest to me. They are not only delicious, they are also good for you.

Last week, I explained how beets can improve performance - you can read it here. If you were keen and clicked on some of the links to the research papers, you would have seen that all of the studies used a beetroot juice supplement

That does not sound delicious. 

Clearly, this is not like the beets in the average person's diet - I like mine baked with a little olive oil and salt. So if you're like me and prefer to get all of your nutrients through diet, how many beets do you need to eat every day?

First we have to figure how many nitrates you get from those baked beets. Nitrates are the magical substances in beets that improve performance and cardiovascular health. With some simple math we can figure out how many beets you need to eat to get the amount you need. 

The recommended daily intake of nitrates is 0.06 millimoles per litre (mmol) per kilogram of body weight. So a person who weighs 68kg (150lbs) should consume 4.08 mmol of nitrates daily. 

One cup (80g) of sliced beets has about 1.88 mmol of nitrate. So to get your daily nitrates requirement, you would have to consume over two cups of sliced beets. The athletes in the studies I referenced consumed the equivalent of twice that amount of beets, or FOUR cups, ninety minutes before exercise.

That’s a lot of beets, even if you love them as much as I do. 

So if you are an athlete and want immediate performance gains, use the beetroot supplements. Here is a link to one of the products used in the research (and yes, the product really is called "Beet It").

But for those of us who just want to improve cardiovascular health, the good news is beetroot is not the only veggie that is packed with high levels of nitrates: 4 cups of arugula has 3.35 mmol, 2.5 cups of spinach has 2.76 mmol, 1.5 cups of shredded lettuce has 2.44 mmol, and 3/4 cup of sliced radish has 2.4 mmol. 

What does this mean for you? If you are looking to improve your acute endurance, strength, or power performance, supplementing short term with beets and beetroot juice may give you an advantage. And for everyone else, a long-term diet full of beets and leafy vegetables provides nitrates and takes stress off your heart. So eat your veggies! 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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How Beets Help You Beat Your Competition

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Last week I highlighted why beets have a magical effect on blood flow and blood vessel health. While it's nice to know that something I have loved since childhood has such a positive impact on our health, the Naturopathic Doctor in me is asking what the effect is. Beets can help you perform longer, faster, and with more power - they could be the difference between winning and losing.

Beets Improve Endurance

If you compete in endurance events like marathons, or even just spinning classes at your gym, you know the smallest advantages can often lead to big results. If you a have personal best you want to beat, or just simply want to be the best, that's where beets can help; they can take your normal performance and instantly improvement it. 

Beets have been shown to decrease the amount of energy you use during endurance exercise [1] by helping your body use oxygen more efficiently [2, 3].  Science backs up this claim: Research has shown beets have been shown to improve race times  [34,] and can help you exercise longer [5]. In fact, one study found that beets helped cyclists shave 12 seconds off their time in a 10 KM trial. That doesn’t sound like much, but just imagine trying to catch a cyclist 12 seconds ahead of you.

So load up on your beets in the days leading up to an event and you’ll see real results.

Beets Enhance Your Strength

But beets won't just add to your endurance. Research shows that beets can make you a rockstar during explosive high intensity interval workouts [67], sprints [8, 9], and weightlifting [10]. 

A recent study showed that weightlifters who consumed nitrates (found in beets) were at a significant advantage - they were able to do almost 20% more reps to failure. Total weight lifted was also considerably higher than their non-beet-eating competitors.

If your wondering how much you need to eat to get these benefits, watch for my post next week. Next week I'll be covering the best way to eat your beets. 

If you have any questions about how to implement some healthy changes to help you reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book and appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Oake

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Beets, Beets, Magical Beets

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For the month of February we will be highlighting one of my favourite vegetables to grow, eat, and recommend: beets!

I come from a Lithuanian background, so I have been eating beets practically since birth. We eat them boiled, steamed, grated into soup (hot and cold), pickled - you name it, we've got a way to prepare beets. 

It wasn't until years later when I became a Naturopathic Doctor that I learned how magical beets truly are. Even though some may describe their flavour as "Earthy" or like a "damp basement”, there is no denying that these purple tubers swing a massive health punch. The foremost of these magical health benefits is improved blood flow and blood vessel health. But why do they have this magical effect? 

It's All About Nitric Oxide

Nitric Oxide (NO) is a substance in our bodies that promotes relaxation of blood vessel walls, leading to widening of the vessels, greater blood flow, and reduced stress on the heart. The more nitric oxide in our bodies, the better.

Our bodies have more than one way to make Nitric Oxide

Of course our bodies naturally have a system for making NO, however, the starting point for each pathway is different. The main difference is: when our bodies make NO it requires oxygen, whereas, when inorganic nitrites are used oxygen is not needed. This means that in situations where oxygen is low (lung disease, anemia, heart disease, exercise, etc), inorganic nitrates could help by increasing delivery of blood to muscle and other tissues.

What does this have to do with beets?

While nitrates are found in all vegetables, it’s especially abundant in beets. Recent research suggests that adding  nitrate-rich beets to your diet can not only decrease blood pressure but also reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance. 

So that’s why I tell my patients to eat their beets! They’re very good for you - and delicious. And that makes the naturopath - and Lithuanian- in me very happy!

Pay attention to next week's post as we will dive into some of the research, as well as provide helpful tips on how to eat your beets.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake, ND

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Why Tom Brady is Wrong... kind of

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Love him or hate him, Tom Brady is one of the greatest athletes of all time. He has won the most Super Bowls, played in the most Super Bowls, and has won the most regular season games of any quarterback in history. Clearly, he is an expert at what he does, but does this make him an expert in nutrition? Brady wrote a book called, "The TB12 Method". It's about his approach to diet and how he believes it led to his longevity in the NFL, a league trending toward earlier and earlier retirement. Let's break down one of the main components from the perspective of a Naturopathic Doctor. 

The "Alkaline Diet"

One of the key strategies Brady highlights is his use of an alkaline diet. He claims (as others do) that by eating food that is more alkaline (the opposite of acidic), you can decrease the acidity of your body, leading to decreased inflammation, improved recovery, and fewer injuries. To provide you with some background information, foods considered alkaline include kale, broccoli, garlic, ginger, and beets. Whereas foods considered to be acid-forming include: alcohol, milk, peanuts, breakfast cereal, and highly processed foods, full of salt and sugar. You don't need to be a Naturopathic Doctor to know which group of food would be better to consume. 

What about the theory?

As I mentioned above, the alkaline diet is supposed to change the pH (measure of acidity and alkalinity) in our bodies. The science, however, says the opposite; we are fairly certain that diet plays little to no role in the pH of our blood or urine [1]. So when Brady says his diet will reduce the pH in your body, there is no science to back it up. 

What about the pee?

Let's assume for a moment that Brady is right: what we eat affects the pH of our bodies. Advocates of this diet say urine pH is a good measure of its effectiveness and even tell followers to test their urine pH at home. But these home tests, called urine dipsticks, have been shown to be inaccurate as a measure of urine pH [2]. So even if we could change our bodies pH with diet and our urine pH changed with it, the test would not be accurate.

What's all the fuss?

Let's make another assumption: everything about the alkaline diet is true; what we eat effects the pH of our bodies, urine pH is a good representation of our body's pH, and it can accurately be measured. So what? Why put a label on a diet and try to prove that your label is the reason the diet is healthy? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that eating lots of fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed food is good for you. This is a classic example of taking something simple and putting a complex label on it, in order to sell it. Just like putting a "gluten free" sticker on a bottle of water and calling it something ridiculous like "gluten free di-hydrogen oxide"; it's still water and it's still good for you. To learn more about gluten-free water, check out this article.

Tom Brady is not wrong when he says eat your vegetables and skip the junk, but he is wrong about the reason. 

Thanks for reading. 

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Vitamin D and Your Full Potential

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Just in time for winter. Throughout December we highlighted the role Vitamin D plays in your performance. Vitamin D is not really a vitamin; it acts more like a hormone with effects on over 900 physiologic processes in our bodies. We have Vitamin D receptors in our intestines, lungs, breast, and bone making it one of the most important vitamins. Research is defining it's role in various diseases but how is it effecting your performance?

Week 1: Vitamin D Deficiency and the Athlete

Of Canadian adults, 32% are considered to be deficient in Vitamin D. That is almost 1/3 of Canadians who do not have Vitamin D levels sufficient to maintain bone mass. To provide some context: blood levels less than 50nmol/L is considered deficient, a level from 50-80nmol/L is considered insufficient, and a level greater than 100nmol/L is considered optimal. 

How does this compare to athletes?

Athletes have consistently shown to have insufficient Vitamin D levels as well, despite outdoor training. From soccer players (1), basketball players (2), gymnasts (3), football players (4), and runners (5) a large proportion have insufficient levels. It doesn't seem to matter if your sport is primarily outdoors or indoors, athletes tend to be low in vitamin D. 

Various reasons have been proposed for this insufficient level in outdoor athletes, including; over use of sunscreen, low dietary intake, and physical stress from training leading to more bone turnover and a greater demand of Vitamin D. It is most likely a combination of these factors that lead to an athletes insufficient levels. 

What this means for you? 

Getting your vitamin D levels tested is the first step in optimizing your levels and one notch closer to reaching your full potential. 

Week 2: Vitamin D and Performance Enhancement

Last week we highlighted how prevalent Vitamin D deficiency is in the general population and in athletes. This week, we'll discuss some of the ways optimal Vitamin D improves your performance and how insufficient levels may be harming it. 

We know that there are Vitamin D receptors on muscle tissue, which means there is a direct effect of Vitamin D on this tissue. This is clearly important when it comes to athletes. What does the evidence say?

  1. In a non-athlete population the highest blood levels of Vitamin D was associated with increased upper and lower body strength (1).
  2. There is some information to point to an increased VO2max (ability to use oxygen) with greater Vitamin D levels (2345).
  3. An animal model shows that high doses of Vitamin D decreases muscle recovery time from injury (6).
  4. A human study showed supplementing with Vitamin D at moderate doses helped participants maintain muscle power after muscle damaging exercise (7).
  5. Finally, and most importantly, Vitamin D status and supplementation has been shown to increase 10m sprint times and vertical jump in an athlete population (8).

Additionally, the effect on bone health is well understood and proper Vitamin D levels may prevent overuse stress fractures (9).

What does this mean for you?

Getting your levels tested and implementing a proper Vitamin D replacement strategy is important to optimize your performance, improve recovery time, and get another check-box on the way to your full potential. 

Week 3: Vitamin D's Hormonal Effects

Like I mentioned above, Vitamin D acts like a hormone, but it also effects other hormones. Certain ones are of interest to athletes since they can promote muscle building and bone strength, among other benefits. 

Testosterone
The male androgenic hormone testosterone is always a popular topic in sports and performance and for good reasons. Testosterone is associated with increased muscle growth, strength and power in both sexes (1). Vitamin D status and testosterone levels are related; men with sufficient levels of Vitamin D had higher levels of testosterone (2). Furthermore, supplementing with Vitamin D was associated with an increase in testosterone (3). 

Estrogen
The female hormone is also a popular topic not only in sports, but also in female and male health in general. Too much estrogen in females can cause uncomfortable menstrual cycles, weight gain, bloating, along with many other issues. Too much estrogen in males can lead to lowered sex drive, loss of muscle mass and weight gain. Vitamin D has been shown to lower estrogen in a female population (4). The reason for this is unclear, but could be related to a decreased aromatase expression (the enzyme responsible for conversion of testosterone to estrogen) (5). 

Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)
SHBG is a protein in the blood responsible for binding testosterone and estrogen (with a greater affinity to testosterone) to decrease circulating levels. The more you have, the less free testosterone available for physiologic processes. Vitamin D is associated with a decrease in SHBG, making more testosterone available (6).

Remember, while these studies show an increase or decrease in a hormone, it is helpful to think that Vitamin D (or other natural options) have a modulating role; increasing levels if they are low, and decreasing levels when they are too high. It is also important to question whether or not the increase or decrease in hormones would be relevant to you. 

What does this mean for you?

Getting your levels tested and implementing a proper Vitamin D replacement strategy is important to optimize your performance, improve recovery time, and can help reach your full potential. 

Thanks for reading!

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Gastrointestinal Health and Your Full Potential

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During the month of November I highlighted some important topics in digestive health and performance in The Full Potential Newsletter; this is a summary of those emails:

One of the most important aspects of sports performance is proper nutrition; fuelling your exercising muscles to improve recovery, maximize performance, and reach your full potential. What is often overlooked is how your gastrointestinal system is functioning, are you absorbing all of those vital nutrients? 

Week 1: The Microbiota and Performance. 

No matter what you call it: the microbiota, gut flora, or good bacteria, it is extremely important when it comes to digesting, absorbing and using the nutrients you consume. Over the past decade or so, these good bacteria have been receiving a lot of attention both in the media and in the research realm. The question is, do they have any role in performance?

The research says "yes". There is a wide range of ways the microbiota can effect your performance:

First, the gut flora plays a role in inflammation. A more diverse microbiota is associated with lower inflammatory markers (1). Furthermore, constant physical and mental stress (similar to what athletes experience) can lead to increased stress hormone release which can increase these inflammatory markers. This inflammation can cause damage to the endothelial lining in our guts, leading to hyper-permeability, AKA "leaking gut" (2). As noted above, a healthy microbiota may help mitigate some of these inflammatory results, leading to greater gut health which results in better nutrient absorption. 

Second, a healthy gut flora may lead to less upper respiratory tract infections (the common cold) (3). In this study they looked at the effect that probiotics had on elite athletes. They found that those taking probiotics trained longer per week throughout cold and flu season and had fewer incidence of the common cold. 

Third, decreases in muscle recovery time were noted in those taking probiotics (4).

Fourth, the link between brain function and gut bacteria is becoming more mainstream (56). This link has important implications for athletes; your ability to focus plays a large role in competition and training. 

Week 2: Food Sensitivities and Performance

Be it gluten, dairy, eggs, or corn, food sensitivities and intolerance are a hot topic in health circles, but is there any benefit to elimination certain foods? How might certain foods be affecting your performance?

To be clear, food sensitivities are NOT allergies; although the terms are often used interchangeably they are quite different. In short, an allergy is an immune mediated response that can be as severe as throat swelling and could require an EpiPen. A food sensitivity is more like your digestive system not handling a food as well as it could. This does not mean that a sensitivity isn't negatively effecting your performance. 

Athletes are especially susceptible to digestive issues since they put themselves through constant physical and mental stress leading to a diversion of blood away from the GI tract to the lungs, the heart, and exercising muscles. This diversion of blood may lead to a decrease in your digestive system's ability to break down and absorb foods. The decrease in function may be more noticeable with certain foods resulting in decreased mental and physical performance. 

Should you eliminate foods from you diet? I can't recommend this without good reason. Especially for an athlete, the more high quality foods you have at your disposal, the better. However, if you suffer from GI distress, headaches or decreased mental function, going through a systematic food elimination and reintroduction may be warranted. 

Be warned, following an elimination diet can lead to issues of its own, such as: nutrient deficiencies and calorie restriction. Seeking guidance with a trained professional is key to maintain performance while determining what foods may be causing issues. 

Week 3 - The Digestive System and the Immune System - A Unique Relationship

We all know the importance of the GI tract and nutrient absorption, but more and more information is being uncovered on the multitude of roles the GI system plays in our bodies. One of these roles is the effect that the GI system has on our immune system. 

The immune system is constantly being developed as we go about our lives; we get exposed to bacteria and viruses and we have responses to these pathogens, often times without even developing symptoms. The GI tract is one of the first places our bodies encounter external pathogens (1) and we know our immune system interacts with the "external" environment through our GI tract, so it would make sense that a healthy GI system would lead to a better immune system. What does the research say?

Researchers have been working on the effect of the microbiota for over a century. We know that the interplay between our immune system and microbiota is largely responsible for the maturation of our immune systems (2). This maturation begins at birth and continues throughout the lifespan, with new antibodies being produced as we encounter different pathogens. 

Furthermore, the mucous layer that covers the inside of our digestive tract provides a layer of protection from pathogens, houses the good bacteria, and provides a medium for our immune system and pathogens to "meet" (3). This mucous layer can be disturbed, and lead to GI distress (diarrhea, bloating, constipation, etc). Maintaining this mucous layer is paramount to keeping your digestive system working optimally. 

So, what does all of this mean for your performance? Athletes put themselves through physical and mental stress on a daily basis, which may decrease immunity leading to a greater risk of infections (especially the common cold). Maximizing the immune system on a long term basis is the best option to prevent illness, decrease duration of illnesses, and get back to performing and feeling your best. A good place to start optimizing your immune system is where it all begins, in your gut. 

Week 4: Melatonin and GI System

Melatonin in a key player in our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle): it helps us fall asleep and is highest in the middle of the night. It is released from a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland in response to visual low-light exposure. In the most simple sense, the interplay between melatonin and cortisol determine when we sleep and when we wake, but it does have effects elsewhere. 

The hormone Melatonin was discovered in 1917, was first found in an animal pineal gland in 1958 and was found in the human digestive tract in 1974. So since the 1970's we have known melatonin to be present in the digestive tract, but we still don't know the full role it plays in digestion.

We do know:

  • There is much more melatonin present in the gut VS the pineal gland (400 times more!)
  • Gut production of melatonin is not dependant on light exposure
  • Gut levels are no dependant on pineal gland production (the gut makes its own)
  • There are many melatonin receptors throughout the GI tract responsible for a lot of different important digestive functions

We also know Melatonin:

  • Has an effect on gut motility (how digesting food moves through your intestines),
  • Decreases fluid excretion into the intestines (reducing diarrhea),
  • Increases various immune molecules and,
  • Decreases inflammation in the gut (1).

How do you optimize it? Dietary source of the amino acid L-tryptophan (melatonin's precursor) can increase gut levels. So eat a wide range of protein sources including: red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and yogurt.

So what does this mean for performance? The level of melatonin in our digestive tract is important for the optimal functioning of this important system. The better this system is functioning the more nutrients will be absorbed, helping you get closer to your full potential. 

Thanks for reading!

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A Sure Way to Succeed at Your Weight Loss Goals

This is the sister post to my previous blog post, A Sure Way to Fail at Your Weight Loss Goals, which can be found here.

As mentioned in this previous post, many of my clients have a weight management goal in mind when they come to the clinic, even if it’s not number one on their list. A common theme I find to be the greatest predictor of success when considering weight loss, is not what you eat, when you eat, or how you eat (although these are all very important). Often times it’s how well you manage your time that makes the biggest difference. For the most part, people already know what a healthy diet is; the problems arise when it comes to following through with this knowledge. Thats where I come in!

As an example, most days of the week you pack your own lunch (comprised of leftovers) with your portions all measured out to match your dietary needs and goals; hypothetically let’s assume this goal is about 300 calories a meal. Realistically on one or two days of the week you will run out of time to pack a lunch and have to go out to eat. You decide to purchase and eat the healthy option of a grilled chicken salad. Even this healthy choice will have about ~400 calories. Although only 100 calories more than your goal, over the course of a week, a month, or a year it could be the difference between losing those extra few pounds or not. Of course this is a simplified example and peoples diets will vary throughout the year, it does get the point across: time management and organization can make the difference in your weight loss goals. It’s a matter of making time in your often-busy schedule to shop for, prepare and pack your meals that will ultimately lead to the greatest results. 

This simple, common sense approach to weight loss is the best way to achieve sustainable results all while eating things you love and living a life you love.

If you have any questions or want to start today, don’t hesitate to contact me or book an appointment today!

A Sure Way to Fail at Your Weight Loss Goals

On almost every client’s intake form I see the word “weight” usually followed by the word “loss” as a goal of treatment. It doesn’t matter what condition they are coming in for, weight is somewhere on their list of goals. For this reason, I spend a lot of time with clients discussing the various weight loss strategies and discussing the pros and cons of each. Throughout these interactions I have found a common theme of our discussions; we spend less time talking about what my clients should eat and more time trying to change their relationship with food. Once your relationship with food has been adjusted, the way you eat adjusts automatically.

I do realize this sounds quite philosophical, so to put it simply, the surest way to sabotage your weight loss goals is to vilify the food you love, which may make you feel guilty every time you eat [insert “unhealthy” food here]. The reason? If you do this you will undoubtedly hate your lifestyle and therefore be unable to maintain it in the long run. As all of my clients know, sustainable and realistic weight loss is the only way to success.

Solution: Instead of vilifying your favourite “unhealthy” food, understand its place in your lifestyle and eat small amounts of it regularly to keep your cravings at bay.  

If you want to start changing your relationship with food or have any questions, book an appointment by calling (519) 967-0660 or contact me here.

Stay tuned for this articles partner blog post: “A Sure Way to Succeed in Your Weight Loss Goals”