Natural Medicine for Public Servants

Are you a public servant?

Did you know that your health insurance plan covers Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Doctors are experts in natural and complementary medicine. We offer natural solutions to common health concerns such as fatigue, insomnia, hypothyroid, digestive issues like IBS, and many more!  By using safe and effective natural therapies such as nutrition, nutritional supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbal medicines), acupuncture, and lifestyle counselling, Naturopathic Doctors help you feel better and optimize your health.  

To learn more about how Naturopathic Medicine can help you
book your FREE 15-minute  Meet & Greet consultation with Dr. Sarah Vadeboncoeur

Fertility Awareness: An Alternative to the Pill

Looking for a hormone-free form of birth control?

What are the risks of taking the birth control pill?

  • Increased risk of developing blood clots (especially with pills such as Yaz and Yasmin)
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased breast cancer risk

While the pill may be an effective and suitable option for some women, many are seeking natural and safer alternatives to contraception and family planning, such as fertility awareness based (FAB) methods. FAB methods rely of looking at several indicators of fertility that change throughout the menstrual cycle in response to changing levels of estrogen and progesterone. Three of the most commonly observed indicators of fertility are basal body temperature, cervical secretions, and cervical positioning.

1. Basal Body Temperature

Basal body temperature is the body temperature measured immediately after awakening and before any physical activity has been undertaken.  During the phase before ovulation, waking temperatures range from 97.0 ̊ F to 97.7 ̊ F (36.1̊ C – 36.5̊ C); postovulatory waking temperatures tend to rise about 0.4 ̊ F or higher and they usually stay elevated until the next period. Temperatures rise within a day or so of ovulation and are associated with the surge in progesterone, a heat releasing hormone, which occurs at the time of ovulation. When interpreting temperatures, it is important to look at the big picture and not to focus too much on the day to day changes. The key is to look for a pattern of highs and lows: temperatures before ovulation will go up and down in a low range while the temperatures after ovulation will go up and down in a high range.

There are certain factors that can increase your waking temperature, including: having a fever, drinking alcohol the night before, getting less than three consecutive hours sleep before taking it, taking it at a substantially different time than usual and using an electric blanket or heating pad that you don’t normally use.

2. Vaginal Secretions

The quality and quantity of vaginal secretions are influenced by estrogen and progesterone. The different types of secretions either impede or facilitate sperm motility and this determines the state of fertility. When estrogen levels are low, cervical secretions may be minimal, thick, white, and sticky. The acidic environment of the vagina rapidly destroys sperm. Rising levels of estrogen alter the cervical secretions from white and sticky gradually becoming more transparent, stretchy, and wetter (due to increased water content), similar to the consistency of egg whites. Immediately after ovulation, the rise of progesterone causes the secretions to thicken to form a sticky plug which is antagonistic to sperm penetration.

3. Cervical Positioning

Estrogen and progesterone also cause subtle changes in the muscle and connective tissue of the cervix. Women can learn to recognize these changes by gently palpating the cervix at about the same time each day. As ovulation approaches, the cervix tends to rise, soften, and open. It progresses from feeling like the tip of the nose to feeling soft like lips as ovulation approaches. The cervix will drop abruptly into the vagina when estrogen levels fall, and progesterone becomes dominant after ovulation. The fertile time starts at the first sign of the cervix becoming high, soft or open and ends after the cervix has been low, firm and closed for 3 days. These subtle changes can be detected by simply inserting a clean middle finger into the vagina and assessing the following conditions: softness, height, opening, and wetness.

How effective is it?

Studies have found that when using temperature as a single indicator of fertility, the overall failure rate was 5.4% compared with a method failure rate of 1% (this refers to perfect use). This illustrates that using this method alone is only effective if used by highly motivated couples who are able to tolerate lengthy time of abstinence or are willing to use a barrier method during the fertile time. Cervical secretions were found to have a failure rate of around 3% if couples were given good fertility awareness teaching and followed the instructions correctly. However, with imperfect use the failure rate rose to nearly 20%. There are no effectiveness studies using the cervical positioning indicator alone.

These studies find that the failure rate tends to be lower when combining indicators. The most common combination is cervical secretions and temperature which has been found to have a failure rate between 0.43% (perfect use) and 2.2% (overall pregnancy rate). Perfect use refers to using abstinence during the fertile time and therefore is a measure of true effectiveness. Interestingly, one study found that there was no difference in failure rates between the learning phase (first 3 months) and subsequent months of use.  For a contraceptive method to be rated as effective as the hormonal pill, it requires a failure rate of less than 1%. The studies mentioned above found FAB to be as effective as the birth control pill when used perfectly.

What are the benefits?

Despite the limited scientific evidence, there are several advantages to FAB methods. It does not involve the use of chemical agents or physical devices and had no side effects. Educating patients on this method is empowering and fosters a sense of shared responsibility and increased communication for the couple. Also, it is not dependant on medical intervention after the initial visit, thus keeping costs low.

What are the limitations?

There are also some limitations to FAB methods. It can take time to learn and some women find charting difficult. Both partners must be committed to the practice and some couples find abstinence difficult. Times of stress or hormone changes can make charting more difficult and may affect efficacy.

If you are interested in learning more about fertility awareness methods
please contact Dr. Sarah Vadeboncoeur.

I tested negative for Celiac. Can I still be sensitive to gluten?

In short, YES! There are 3 major categories of wheat or gluten-related diseases: celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten sensitivity. It can be very difficult to distinguish between the three based on symptoms alone. For this reason, food allergy/sensitivity testing can be very helpful in identifying what type of food allergies you may have.

Celiac disease

  • Affects approximately 1 in 132 individuals
  • Confirmed by a 3-part test: antibodies to gluten in the blood, atrophy of the small intestine (biopsy), and improvement with a gluten-free diet

Wheat allergy

  • Confirmed by the presence of IgE antibodies to wheat (blood test)
  • Food “allergy” symptoms tend to occur within 24 hours of eating the allergenic food (peanut allergies, for example, involve IgE antibodies)
  • Can present like celiac disease with symptoms including: asthma, eczema and digestive issues

Gluten sensitivity

  • Estimated to be 6 times more common than celiac disease!
  • Confirmed by presence of IgG and/or IgA antibodies to gluten (blood test)
  • Gluten sensitivity can be difficult to identify through food journaling because the symptoms resulting from the sensitivity can occur 24-72 hours after eating gluten and do not always affect the digestive system (see below)

The most common symptoms that can be caused by gluten sensitivity are (and frequency):

  • Abdominal pain (68%)
  • Eczema or skin rash (40%)
  • Headaches (35%)
  • Foggy mind (34%)
  • Fatigue (33%)
  • Diarrhea (33%)
  • Depression (22%)
  • Anemia (20%)
  • Numbness in arms, finger or legs (20%)
  • Joint pain (11%)

If you suffer from one of more of these conditions, consider eliminating gluten from your diet for a minimum of 3 weeks to see if you improve. Food allergy testing can also help identify food allergies and sensitivities to a variety of foods.

Contact me to find out if food allergy and sensitivity testing is right for you!

Source: Doherty, C. (2012). Defining Gluten Sensitivity. NDNR. www.ndnr.com

3 Tips to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

1. Dim the lights

Human beings evolved with very little to no exposure to nightime light. After sunset, darkness would gently signal to the body that it was time to start winding down and prepare for sleep. These days, with city living and our fondness for television, e-readers and iPads, we’re constantly exposed to bright light during our waking hours. A simple way to help your body wind down in the evening is to dim the lights after dinner and use only minimal lighting.

2. Do an Electronic Detox

Our constant use of personal electronics exposes us to an overabundance of information that our mind must process. Exposure to stressful or thought provoking information activates the sympathetic nervous system which creates an influx of stress hormones throughout the body. These stress hormones increase our heart rate and blood pressure which can interfere with good quality sleep. Avoid using all electronics (TV, computer, cell phone) for at least one hour before bed. Use this time to read a novel, take a bath, chat with a loved one, do some deep breathing or journaling.

3. Make your room DARK

Our bodies produce a hormone called melatonin while we sleep. Melatonin is important for helping us get a good night’s sleep and wake feeling refreshed and may even play a role in preventing certain types of cancer. The catch is that melatonin is only produced when we sleep in complete darkness. To help you sleep better, make sure that your bedroom is completely dark- you shouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face. If this proves difficult, invest in an organic cotton eye mask to wear to bed.

Following these tips and still having trouble sleeping? There are natural treatments for insomnia.

7 reasons to go Gluten Free

With all the hype surrounding gluten-free diets, it would be easy to dismiss this new found “miracle” diet as just another fad. I used to think that too until I really started to investigate why gluten is harmful to our health and why so many of my patients (myself included!) see dramatic changes in their health when they eliminate gluten.

7 reasons to go Gluten-Free:

1. It’s not your grandmother’s wheat

Wheat, the greatest source of gluten in most diets, has dramatically changed over the past 100 years. Wheat now has almost twice as many genes as the original species. And more of those genes code for gluten which means our bodies did not evolve eating this type of wheat!

2. It spikes blood sugar & insulin

Carbohydrates found in wheat (and other grains) contain a substance called “amylopectin A” which makes our blood sugar levels skyrocket. The body responds by dumping large amounts of insulin into our blood stream. This combination of high blood sugar + high insulin increases your risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and maybe even cancer.

3. It can contribute to the development of food sensitivities

When we eat foods like wheat and gluten, they can cause significant damage and inflammation in our digestive systems and cause a condition called “leaky gut”. Having a “leaky gut” can cause you to develop food sensitivities, allergies, skin problems and more!

4. It increases your “bad” cholesterol

Gluten can raise fat molecules in the blood (triglycerides) and “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL). To make matters worse, gluten promotes the formation of “small LDL” molecules which are even more dangerous and increase your risk for heart attack and heart disease.

5. It makes your body more acidic

Every food you eat either increases or decreases the acidity in your body. Foods that are more “acidic” such as gluten can increase inflammation in the body which has been linked to arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

6. It makes you hungry

Ever notice how eating carbs makes you crave more carbs? Gluten has effects on both your blood sugar and chemicals in your brain that give you a temporary euphoric feeling. Once that feeling is gone you’ll likely be looking to fix your next sugar craving.

7. It makes you age faster

Gluten and processed carbohydrates create AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which are essentially sugar molecules that bind to proteins in the body. These AGEs have been linked to cataracts, dementia, wrinkles, and premature aging.

Want to see if going gluten free is right for you?

Book your complimentary 15-minute session with me to learn about your options and see if food allergy testing may be helpful.

10 Heart Health Tips

1. Eat 2 tablespoons of olive oil each day (extra-virgin, cold pressed, raw)

Lowers blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol.

2. Eliminate TRANS fats!

Learn to read food labels. Foods labelled “no trans fat” or “trans fat free” can contain up to 0.2g of trans fat per serving.

3. Choose butter over margarine

Despite being a source of saturated fat, butter is a naturally occurring fat. On the other hand, margarines are a source of unsaturated fats but are a completely artificially created “food”.

4. Eat heart-healthy fish twice a week

Fish high in omega-3 fats like salmon, herring and mackerel are great for your heart and are a great source of lean high quality protein.

5. Stop cooking with olive oil

Olive oil is not heat stable and it produces damaging molecules called free radicals when it you cook with it. Cook with coconut oil instead which is a rich source of healthy medium chain triglycerides and save your olive oil for dressings.

6. Limit red meat and pork to one serving per week

Red meat and pork are rich in saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids. Consuming too many omega-6 fats (and too few omega-3 fats) can contribute to inflammation in the body.

7. Avoid low fat and fat-free foods

Focus instead on including sources of healthy unsaturated fats in your diet every day such as olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds, nut butters, avocado. Did you know what your cell membranes are made up of fats? Therefore, the types of fats you eat affect the health of every single cell in your body!

8. Choose paper filtered coffee

Unfiltered coffee (espresso, Americano, latte) contains compounds that raise LDL cholesterol levels. Limit your coffee intake to 2 cups (24 ounces total) daily and always choose paper-filtered coffee.

9. Lay off the gluten

Gluten, a protein found in commonly consumed grains (wheat, rye, spelt, barley) can cause inflammation and make your “bad” LDL cholesterol particles smaller which can contribute to heart disease.

10. Breathe!

High stress levels can raise cortisol (a stress hormone) which puts your body into fight or flight mode. When your nervous system is primed- you will have higher blood pressure and a faster pulse!