Let’s talk about vitamin B12.
This is a nutrient that I commonly test for in practice. Deficiency can be prevalent in those that follow a plant-based diet. But they can also be common in those with poor gut health.
Let’s dive deeper.
Vitamin B12 is pretty important. It’s used to build our DNA, form red blood cells, keep our immune system healthy & our nervous system strong.
Most food sources of vitamin B12 come from animal products. This is why those that follow a plant-based diet are more at risk of being B12 deficient.
Vitamin B12 is made by bacteria - it’s not made by plants or animals (including humans).
Animal products contain B12 because they accumulate it from the bacteria in them making it - and are sometimes supplemented with it as well.
Our bacteria make vitamin B12 too, but it’s produced in the large intestine where it cannot be absorbed.
So we must get it from our food.
Let’s talk about iron & gut health.
If you’re a female reading this you’ve probably been told at some point that you have low iron levels, or you know someone that has. Subpar iron levels are VERY common in females.
What does this have to do with gut health? Let’s dive a little deeper.
Iron is NOT produced in the human body so we must obtain it from our diet. There are two forms of iron that we consume. Heme iron comes from animal foods and non-heme iron comes from plant foods.
Iron is a vital micronutrient. It is necessary for the production of hemoglobin - the component in your red blood cells that carries oxygen. It also strengthens the immune system.
Unfortunately, iron deficiency is fairly common. Symptoms of deficiency can include: fatigue, weakness, paleness, cold limbs, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.
The leading causes of deficiency in the developed world are menstruation and blood loss associated with...
Let’s talk about vitamin D & gut health.
Many of you may have heard of the gut-brain axis (ie. the vagus nerve highway that runs from the gut to the brain). But have you heard of the gut-skin axis?!
Ok, truth be told the gut-skin axis is not really as much of a thing as the gut-brain axis - but there is some AMAZING research about the connection between vitamin D and gut health. And vitamin D is produced in the skin.
Vitamin D is produced in the skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet B light from the sun. We can also get a small amount of vitamin D from foods (mainly fatty fish, eggs & fortified foods) and in supplemental form.
We get the majority of our vitamin D from the sun, but when you live at northern latitudes this becomes more difficult. Living above 35 degrees latitude is a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency. To put this in perspective, the Canadian border ranges from 42 to 49 degrees latitude. Uh oh.
This is the reason testing vitamin...
Let’s talk about SIBO.
SIBO - small intestine bacterial overgrowth - is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.
The concentration of bacteria is MUCH higher in the large intestine compared to the small intestine. This is the way the body likes it. If the population of bacteria in the small intestine increases too high, bad things happen. Symptoms of SIBO include: constipation, gas, bloating, loose stool, heartburn, brain fog… the list goes on.
Many of the symptoms associated with SIBO are produced by the excess bacteria fermenting carbohydrates that you eat. This fermentation produces gas which is experienced as bloating, burping & flatulence.
10 years ago SIBO was thought of as a rare condition, but now it is recognized as one of the root causes of IBS.
Under normal circumstances the bacterial population in the small intestine is kept in check by healthy production of stomach acid, digestive enzymes & bile and proper movement of...
Let’s make FRITTERS!
Specifically carrot + parsnip fritters.
My fridge is full of root vegetables right now. I love fall and the hearty produce it brings. I made these with carrot and parsnips because that’s what I had but I’m sure you could substitute sweet potato too.
Root vegetables are full of fibre, which your gut bacteria love to feast on.
Don’t peel your vegetables! Not only does it save you time but there are a TON of nutrients packed in the skin of vegetables.
Switch the veg up to fit what’s in your fridge or pantry. I think sweet potatoes would work great! You could probably use zucchini too but will need to squeeze the water out before you add to the mix.
Switch up the spices depending on taste preferences - ie. italian seasoning, chili powder
Switch up the fresh herbs depending on what you have - ie. basil, cilantro, thyme
Serve with greek yogurt, hummus or chutney to dip!
Carrot & Parsnip...
Let’s talk about prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics are things that feed probiotics, so they are not live. They are food. They are plant fibers that the microbes in your gut use as fuel.
Probiotics on the other hand, are live microorganisms. They are mostly bacteria but there are some fungi as well.
Both prebiotics and probiotics can be found in supplement form. They can also be found naturally in things like fermented foods (probiotics) and in vegetables (prebiotics).
To give you a little bit of background, your gut microbiome is made up of billions of beneficial microbes, but also some bad ones. You need to maintain a good balance of the beneficial to the not so beneficial microbes in order to maintain health. Most researchers believe the balance to be 85% beneficial/neutral microbes to 15% not so good. When the beneficial bacteria are at 85% they can keep the bad bacteria population in check.
A healthy population of microbes supports...
Let’s talk about leaky gut.
According to me, and a lot of the other functional medicine docs out there, leaky gut is one of the secret causes of IBS. And unlike IBS which is basically just a collection of symptoms, leaky gut has a few very clear causes and is 100% treatable.
Leaky gut is a very non-medical term. The medical version of leaky gut is intestinal hyperpermeability - but no one has time to say that.
Leaky gut is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when your gut gets leaky. Under normal circumstances your intestines are semi permeable. This means they let some things in and keep other things out. This is very important as your gut has a direct connection to the external environment and there's lots of scary things out there.
Typically your intestines will let in very small particles, like digested foods. But, sometimes the gut can become leaky and it transitions from semi-permeable to more permeable. Essentially the space between the cells...
Let’s talk about mindful eating.
It’s one of my favourite topics.
Mindful eating is every part of the eating experience except for the food itself. It's the environment you're sitting in. It's what you're doing while you're eating. It's what you're thinking about while you're eating and the time of the day when you're eating.
To eat mindfully you need to pay attention to how you're eating.
Remove the distractions. Don’t watch TV while you’re eating, don’t scroll through Instagram on your phone, and definitely don’t do any work on your computer. Instead, focus on the food that you’re eating.
Sit at a table. Make time for your meals and sit at a table while you’re eating them. Get out of the habit of eating on the go, sitting on the couch or eating while walking around doing other things.
Slow down. Almost everyone can eat slower. To do this, focus on each bite and chew thoroughly....
Let’s talk about bloating.
I work with a lot of patients that experience bloating. It’s very common, but this does not make it normal. I created this post to answer some of the most frequent questions that I get about bloating. What is bloating? What causes it? And what’s going on in the digestive system?
Some people say there's a normal kind of bloating and an abnormal kind of bloating. I don't believe that there is normal bloating. If you’re bloated there's something that has happened to cause the bloat.
Bloating is not the same as being full. When you’ve finished eating your stomach may expand and you might physically feel like your abdomen is sticking out a bit. But there should not be any discomfort.
Discomfort is a hallmark sign of bloating. Other ways I’ve heard bloating described is a feeling of expansion, excess pressure, or like a balloon.
Timing wise, bloating typically happens 30 minutes to 1 hour after eating.
If any of...
The connection between mental health and physical health is becoming well known. Stress can change your breathing pattern, cause tension in your muscles, and it can dramatically affect the state of your digestive system.
A physical or mental stressor is registered by your brain, in the hypothalamus, this sends a signal to the pituitary gland, which sends a signal to your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands release cortisol, which helps you adapt to the stressor. This pathway will be activated for a few hours, and then it will turn off.
When you are consistently facing stress (physical or mental) this pathway can stay on and cause high cortisol levels in the body. Prolonged exposure to cortisol can lead to a whole host of problems, one of them being poor gut health.
Cortisol (your stress hormone) is highly inflammatory. This is a problem for two reasons:
Inflammation damages your gut lining and makes you...