Eating stimulates a whole digestive cascade that goes on to ensure we properly absorb our food. Once food hits the stomach, we need to be able to break it down as it moves into the small intestine. To absorb the fats in our food we need bile which comes from the gallbladder and liver.
Bile acts to emulsify the fats, allowing us to extract all the wonderful essential fatty acids out of the food, allowing us to incorporate the fat into our cells, further breaking it down to become the backbone for our hormones and finally helping us to excrete fat soluble nutrients out of the body.
We also need bile to absorb all our fat soluble vitamins- A, D, E, and K. Phew! Talk about important stuff.
How do you know if you have gallbladder issues?
One of the big issues we see is if you eat a fatty meal and it doesn’t sit well with you, this could be a sign that your gallbladder isn’t functioning optimally and needs support. If you see fat in your stools, they are bulky or difficult to flush, have a foul-smell or are oily or pale; these are all signals of impaired digestion and absorption, which may have their root in a sluggish biliary system.
Other common symptoms of gallbladder problems include:
● Feeling full after a small meal
● Right sided heaviness at the base of your rib cage
● Right shoulder tightness or pain by your scapula
● Diarrhea when eating too much fat
● White or gray colored stools
● Stools that float or are frothy
● Intolerance to eating fat of any type: oils, salad dressing, fatty vitamins, nuts, seeds, ice cream, dairy products, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc.
● Yellowish coating on your tongue
How to stimulate bile flow?
Bile is formed in our liver and stored in the gallbladder. So what happens if you don’t have a gallbladder anymore? Well, you still make bile, but instead of storing some in the gallbladder so that it may be quickly excreted on demand when you eat fat, it’s a slow, constant drip.
If you find difficulty with eating rich meals, or fats in general, you may want to consider using a bile supplement with your food. Adding bile to your body can actually stimulate your liver to produce more bile naturally. Bile production is also stimulated by eating bitter foods—probably the least favourite flavour, but consider adding some leafy greens, like; kale, endive, dandelion leaves, radicchio, arugala, beet greens and chard. If you work on incorporating some of these into your diet on a regular basis, you will help to stimulate bile formation, and if you eat these with fats, you’ll definitely improve your absorption!
What is bile?
Bile is composed mostly of water, but also contains important bile acids and salts and other organic compounds, as well as metabolic waste. In addition to the important roles it plays in the digestion and absorption of dietary fats, bile also facilitates the removal of waste, cholesterol and toxins from the body. To ensure good detox pathways through the liver and colon we need to have good bile flow.
A less commonly known function of bile is to support a healthy amount of bacteria in your small intestine, which can be important in controlling SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Bile acts as a natural antibacterial agent. A lack of bile in the small intestine may be the root of many cases of SIBO!
Bile also helps to stimulate bowel movements, coffee contains both bitters and caffeine, which stimulate bile flow, which is why so many of us find a cup of coffee in the morning can get everything moving!
If you’ve learned something new about bile and digestion, stay tuned for more mind-blowing info next week when we’ll discuss how bile is essential for your hormones!
Because when you test, you know and when you know, you can take action.
Having a way to assess and measure your health can help you to determine if you’re on the right track, if you need to work on a particular area or if you’re falling off the wagon.
In our At-Home Wellness Test Kit, we have included a few tests that can really help steer you in the right direction for your health, energy and immune status.
Below is a description of some of the tests that you may not be familiar with but are the mainstay of in-office naturopathic testing.
Testing your energy
The Koenisburg test (Adrenal function urine test)
This test is one way that you can quickly assess your adrenal gland function. This test will look at how much sodium you are putting out in your urine. Sodium output can be related to sodium intake, but it is also regulated by the kidneys and adrenal glands and if these two are under functioning or over functioning (in overdrive) then we will see this in the urine.
This test is great if you’re having energy issues, anxiety, burn out, or feel like you’re gaining weight around your middle. It’s also great to see how you have progressed if you’ve been working on your adrenal health or had a CHI or DUTCH test that said you needed to work on your cortisol levels, this is an inexpensive way to reassess how you are doing.
To perform the test, you will mix a reagent into to your urine sample and you will continue adding until a precipitate forms and remains in your tube—it changes from bright yellow to brick red. (Note: you will need to shake the tube as you add the drops one by one, to make sure you have reached the saturation point, it is pretty dramatic when it changes colour!).
Testing your overall health
The Free Radical Test
Free Radicals are the waste products that is created when our cells are metabolizing. We want our bodies to be able to neutralize this waste through the intake of adequate amounts of antioxidants. If you’re making more waste than you’re getting rid of, we create cellular damage, rapid aging and this is were a lot of disease begins.
This test helps us to know if we’re consuming enough antioxidants in our diet and with our supplements. If you have previously done a CHI, DUTCH or Organic Acids test, then you will have an idea about where your antioxidant status is (measures of 8-OH2GD or Glutathione) and if you have been taking more antioxidants, then this will be a great way to know if you’re on track.
For this test you collect a first morning urine sample and add it to the reagent to see what level of pink/redness results. The darker the color, the more free radicals you have.
Testing your minerals
The Zinc Tally Test
We are all concerned about our immune health these days. A quick and easy test to check your zinc status is to take the zinc tally test. Zinc is an important part of your immune system function. Drink 10 mL of the zinc tally liquid and hold in the mouth for up to 30 seconds. A lack of taste or a delayed taste perception suggests a possible zinc deficiency. An immediate taste perception or a feeling of a furry tongue or cotton ball in the mouth sensation suggests zinc status is likely adequate.
Sulkowich Test for Calcium levels
We often see women who are concerned about their calcium intake as they get older because we all want to have strong bones and stave off osteoporosis! Blood tests for calcium are not helpful as this number only goes out of range if there is something seriously wrong, like hyperparathyroidism or a tumor. So, for those of you who want to know if you are breaking down bone mass and excreting it in the urine, this test is for you.
Want to know more? We have all these tests and others in our At-Home Wellness Test Kit, these are great tests that we would like everyone to do at least once a year to keep you healthy and on track!
Check out these Tips to Learn How to Support your Liver
Cleansing your liver is not just about pushing toxins out and giving your digestive system a rest we also want to provide support for the liver to function well.
Sour and bitter foods are ideal flavours for the liver and gallbladder and assist the cleansing process. Foods become lighter and easier to digest this time of year, which also assists with weight loss. We can also start to incorporate more raw vegetables as the weather gets warm outside.
Foods that support and cleanse the liver include:
● apple cider vinegar
● lemon, lime, grapefruit and citrus peel
● red peppers
● garlic and onions
● sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
● greens of all kinds
● amaranth, quinoa and rye
● flaxseed oil, olive oil and hemp oil
Green foods that the liver loves include: asparagus, romaine lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, dandelion greens, and Swiss chard. Some of these vegetables come as sprouts and microgreens that may be a good substitute for salad and add something delicious and fresh to your meal. Steaming, sauteing, grilling, baking and adding to soups are another ways to get these greens if you are having trouble digesting them.
Sauerkraut is a great way to incorporate cabbage and add some beneficial probiotics.
It’s spring! There is no better time of the year to focus on regeneration and renewal than spring. For our bodies, now is when we want to push our detox pathways and clean out the sluggishness in our bowels and liver. In short, it’s time to CLEANSE.
Have you ever done a spring reset? With a Reset we remove all the junkie stuff from our diet; no processed foods, no sugar, no refined oils, no artificial sweeteners.
Next, we support the detox pathways through the liver, this is achieved with specific herbs, amino acids and nutrients that can upregulate this function in the body. The digestive tract should have good stimulation of stomach acid to breakdown our food, followed by stimulation of the intestines to move food along and out the other end.
When all these steps are working together, your body is like a well oiled machine– it absorbs, breaks down and excretes perfectly. Honestly, we should be like this everyday, but sometimes things happen and all of a sudden, things don’t move like they used to.
Have no fear, spring is here and we are ready to help you get back in the groove!
Why detox this spring?
● Clear out the COVID bad habits ● Reset a healthy rhythm ● Improve digestion ● Enhance liver function ● Reduce seasonal allergies ● Weight loss ● Better sleep ● Set a goal and achieve it!
What is this Reset Program like?
This month we have a fantastic detox protocol for you, it is so simple because there is very little cooking, you’re actually drinking two shakes a day, and eating one healthy meal with protein and vegetables.
We have both completed many cleanses, however, Dr. Sagan specifically tried this one out and this is what she had to say. “I did this cleanse in the fall for 14 days and it was great. I thought it would be hard to not eat the same thing as my family, but it really wasn’t. I thought it would be hard to go for 14 days, but the plan was so simple that it didn’t feel like that much work. I found it easy to add fruits and vegetables to my blender and I didn’t have to spend much on groceries because most of my protein from the day was in the shakes”.
You can even add cocoa powder to some smoothies to make it taste like dessert. There is an App to help remind you of water intake and to give you ideas of what to eat at meal times and snacks. You can also track your food, water and exercise (by syncing with your smart watch). The App really helps keep you accountable and provides support.
After 14 days, you will feel lighter in your belly, clearer in your mind and you will feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a program.
Stay Healthy, Dr. Rebecca Sagan, ND and Dr. Hajnalka Pinter, ND
If you’re constantly craving sweets and snacking through your day or night, then you’re probably not getting enough protein in your diet.
Protein is one of our major macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fats. Protein is essential for building muscle and fueling our body for longer energy vs. quick energy like those from sugar or carbs.
Protein contains essential and non-essential amino acids required for thyroid function, gut repair, and immune function. Without these amino acids, our bodies can’t perform basic functions — like keeping us alive — much less repair the damage from disease! Not getting enough protein could lead to blood sugar imbalances — eating animal based proteins also lends the added benefit of nutrients, like selenium, zinc, iron and B12, these are critical for healthy thyroid function, immune system function and skin.
Are you getting enough protein?
As you think about your morning routine, are you getting enough protein? Here’s a brief overview to help you determine if you’re eating enough:
Daily Average: Most people should consume 0.45-0.55 grams of protein for each pound that they weigh. This translates to roughly 75 grams of protein per day for a 150 pound person.
Chronic Conditions: Higher protein intake (0.55-0.68 grams per pound of body weight) is recommended for most older adults who have acute or chronic diseases. A person who weighs 150 pounds should aim for 83-102 grams of protein per day.
Active People: Typically, the more active you are, the more protein you need. So a 150 pound person would want to aim for 150 grams of protein each day!
If you’ve never tracked your diet before, you may not realize how little protein you’re actually eating. We suggest trying an App like MyFitnessPal that will allow you to look at your macro amounts in grams for the day. Even if you do this for a couple of days, you will notice what your tendencies are and you will see that eating 100g of chicken breast, does not equal 100g of protein.
Aim to have a serving of protein in all of your meals and some of your snacks to ensure that you are getting enough throughout the day.
We find most people struggle with getting enough protein in the morning, mostly because typical breakfast options are high in carbohydrates; like cereal, granola, oats, bread, pancakes and muffins. Eating more meat in the morning may be a good option for some; breakfast sausages or patties, and turkey slices can all be good options when paired with vegetables.
Eggs are a great source of protein in the morning, but we know that many people have sensitivities to eggs, so this is not a great option for all. Dairy products can also be a good protein source but again we find many of our patients have some level of intolerance to dairy so that eating cheese and yogurt, or having whey protein, may not be the best option.
Vegetarian sources of protein come from beans and legumes, nuts and seeds. Grains contain some protein but should not be considered part of your protein intake. If you’re looking for a good vegetarian protein powder, pea protein is often a great choice with a decent texture and mild flavour. Other possible sources are hemp, pumpkin seed, rice or soy.
Pressure Cooker Chicken Taco stuffed Sweet Potato
2 servings 50 minutes Ingredients ● 2 Sweet Potato (medium, pierced with a fork) ● 8 oz Chicken Breast (skinless and boneless) ● 1 tsp Chili Powder ● 1/2 tsp Cumin (ground) ● 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika ● 1 cup Organic Chicken Broth ● 2 Tbsp Organic Salsa ● 1/2 Avocado (mashed) ● 1 Tbsp Cilantro (optional, chopped) ● 1 Jalapeno Pepper (optional, sliced)
1) Preheat the oven to 400ºF (204ºC) and place the sweet potato on a pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until cooked through.
2) Add the chicken breast, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and chicken broth to your pressure cooker. Set to “sealing” then press manual/pressure cooker and cook for 10 minutes on high pressure. Once it is done, press cancel and let the pressure release naturally (this can take 15 minutes or so).
3) Remove the lid carefully. Remove the chicken and shred it with two forks.
4) When the sweet potatoes are finished cooking, slice them down the middle and top with the shredded chicken, salsa, mashed avocado, cilantro, and sliced jalapeño. Enjoy!
NOTES Dairy Lover Top the stuffed sweet potato with shredded cheese, yogurt or sour cream. Meal prep Cook the sweet potatoes ahead of time for a quick weeknight meal. Leftovers Keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Black Bean Brownies 9 servings 40 minutes Ingredients ● 2 cups Black Beans (cooked) ● 3 Eggs ● 1/4 cup Coconut Oil (melted) ● 1 tsp Vanilla Extract ● 1/4 tsp Sea Salt ● 3/4 cup Cocoa Powder ● 1/4 cup Coconut Sugar ● 1/4 cup Raw Honey ● 1/2 tsp Baking Powder ● 3 1/2 oz Dark Organic Chocolate (chopped and divided) ● 1/4 cup Sliced Almonds
1) Preheat oven to 350ºF (177ºC) and line an 8 x 8 baking dish with parchment paper. (Use a bigger dish if making more than 9 servings.)
2) Add the cooked black beans and eggs to a food processor. Turn it on and stream in the coconut oil. Let the food processor blend for about 60 seconds, or until the black beans are very smooth.
3) Add vanilla, salt, cocoa powder, coconut sugar, honey and baking powder to the black bean batter. Blend until all incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.
4) Add half of the chocolate to the brownie batter and pulse 5 or 6 times until it is mixed in.
5) Transfer brownie batter to the prepared baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate and the sliced almonds evenly over top of the brownies.
6) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
7) Let the brownies cool completely before transferring to the fridge, cool for at least 4 hours before cutting into squares. Enjoy!
NOTES Less Ingredients Omit the dark chocolate and almonds if desired. Leftovers These brownies keep well in the fridge for up to 4 days. Freeze for longer.
How to incorporate more protein
We love using our PurePaleo Protein powders as an easy add to smoothies or chia puddings. This grass fed beef sourced protein powder is well tolerated and easily digested.
Similarly, collagen powders offer a great flavourless option to add extra protein—if you’re a fan of the bulletproof lattes (coffee or matcha) then you may already be adding this tasteless, easily dissolved protein to your morning drink. If not, give it a try. We like our liquid collagen that tastes like raspberries and cranberries that can be taken off the spoon.
If you’re thinking about adding a protein powder to your diet, be sure to ask us what might work best for you, especially if you’ve been struggling with digestive issues like bloating and gas. Remember, not all proteins will work for all people.
Check out the recipes we’ve included, both have bumped up protein levels and could be eaten any time of the day—breakfast included!
Stay Healthy, Dr. Rebecca Sagan, ND and Dr. Hajnalka Pinter, ND
It’s February and it’s heart month and unless you have heart disease or heart attacks run in your family, you may not really feel like this is important for you, but hear us out—having a healthy activity level, eating the right diet is important for everyone, and when it comes to nutrients for the heart, having the right fats in your body is as important as having the right vitamins!
The right fats help to keep our cell membranes flexible this means that we have cells that are easily able to move and detoxify better. This leads to improved circulation and oxygen uptake.
That’s right, good cell walls help us to move the nutrients in and the junk out! We also need good cell membranes so that our cells can repair themselves from damage and prevent disease.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are the necessary fats that humans are not able to synthesize, and must be obtained through the diet. They are long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids and are found in two families: Omega 3 and Omega 6.
The big deal about EFA’s is that most North Americans are deficient in them, especially Omega 3, due to our over-processed diets.
Pretty much everyone has heard of essential fatty acids (EFAs), and knows that omega-3s are good for you, but do you know why?
Omega-3 fats help to keep your cells soft and supple. If you’re short on omega-3s your cells get hard and rigid, they don’t bend and the don’t bounce back. This applies to your heart and blood vessels, but also to your skin, muscles and joints.
Omega-3s are like the lubricant for your body and every cell. If you only feed your body commercially raised chicken, beef and pork and you skip the fish, egg, flax, walnut, hemp and chia, then you’re going to be missing the bounce in your flesh! Before you give up beef, let’s clarify that if you eat grass fed beef you will get omega-3s from your meat.
Fish that are high in omega-3s are; salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, cod, halibut, herring and bluefish. There are two main types of omega-3s, these are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA is known as the anti-inflammatory fat and DHA is known for it’s brain health properties. Both fats are important for immune function, cardiovascular health, cholesterol levels, blood clotting, reproductive health, cell growth and repair.
Cod liver oil contains high levels of EPA and DHA as well as vitamins A and D. Many of the benefits of cod liver oil are believed to be from its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Some people prefer to take this oil in the winter to boost their immune system.
Also, another important point to understand is EFAs from plant sources, are actually precursors known as alpha linolenic acid (ALA), and are used to make EPA and DHA. Sometimes people have a hard time converting these plant oils to their active forms and so eating fish and using fish oils allows us to have readily available fatty acids that are not dependent on our body processing. Plant oils that are high in omega 3 (ALA) are flax seed oil and perilla seed oil.
Perilla seed oil is hypoallergenic and well tolerated with high bioavailability for those not able to take flax oil or dislike the taste.
If you are allergic to fish, nuts or seeds, there is an algae source of omega-3s which can be a good alternative and helpful to support your omega-3 levels.
The scoop on Omega 6
Omega-6 essential fatty acids are the fats that we get abundantly from other plants—sunflower, canola, safflower, vegetable oil, soybean and corn oils are all high in omega-6 fats. These are considered essential, but they have become over abundant in the modern diet through over consumption of processed foods. Due to the excess of omega-6s, many of us have an imbalance between our omega-6 and omega-3s vs having the ideal 1:1 ratio and this leads to inflammation.
There are some highly beneficial omega-6 fats, such as evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil and borage oil that contain gamma linolenic acid (GLA), and this oil is quite amazing at balancing our hormones as well as acting as internal moisturizers for the skin, especially for those who suffer with eczema. When it comes to omega-6, we need to limit a lot of the processed vegetable oils, while possibly supplementing with primrose, black currant and borage oils. Good sources also include sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Omega 9 fatty acids
Omega-9 fats are actually NOT essential because we can make these from the other fats, if we need them. The body can manufacture a limited amount on its own, provided essential EFAs are present. We can also easily consume these fats from; olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, cashews, almonds and walnuts. These oils can help with lowering cholesterol in some situations, but they are not necessary to supplement, so don’t waste your money on a 3-6-9 supplement. Olive oil is the best oil in this category with many health benefits.
How much should I be taking?
When reading the labels on omega supplements, you want to be sure to turn the bottle around and see the amounts of EPA and DHA, usually these are in a 2:1 ratio and you want to make sure that you’re getting at least 1000 mg of EPA and at least 600 mg of DHA per day. The total omega will vary with each supplement and often appears to be a good amount but the active ingredients (EPA and DHA) are what matter; for most to get this dose, it is likely 2 capsules a day or 2 tsp per day. Regardless of your preference for omega 3 oils, it is important to take them with food, they will absorb better and are less likely to repeat. A good quality oil is important too, why leave it up to chance? It is about your health.