Kicking the Coffee Habit

imagesMmmm…Coffee! 90% of North Americans drink this legal, psychoactive drug each day. It gives energy and brings alertness, it boosts mood and helps you to be “on”. There are even some compelling scientific studies demonstrating that regular coffee consumption prevents heart disease and type 2 diabetes. My issue with regular coffee drinking, is much like my issue with regular alcohol drinking. It’s not for everyone, there is a safe upper limit and there are many other lifestyle and nutritional factors that can be implemented in your health regimen for disease prevention. There are many downsides to the use of coffee and other caffeinated beverages on a regular basis.

For most people, 300 mg of caffeine daily is the safe limit which is equivalent to around 2 to 3 (250 ml) cups. Some of the negative effects associated with chronic caffeine consumption include: hypertension, elevated heart rate, anxiety, panic attacks, muscle twitching, osteoporosis, increased urination, increased elimination of minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, heartburn and insomnia.

If you are thinking about weaning from coffee, do it slowly to avoid the withdrawal symptoms. Headaches, fatigue, lethargy and constipation are some of the symptoms to be weary of.

How to Wean

The weaning process can take place over 2 weeks to 4 weeks or more, depending on how much coffee is regularly consumed.

Step 1: Reduce the size of the cups/container used
Step 2: Drink 1/3 decaffeinated (ie. Kicking Horse – Swiss water method to avoid the chemicals involved in the conventional decaffeination process) and 2/3 caffeinated
Step 3: Drink 1/2 decaffeinated, ½ caffeinated
Step 4: Drink 2/3 decaffeinated and 1/3 caffeinated
Step 5: Replace with green tea (less caffeine, contains antioxidants, boosts metabolism)
Step 6: Switch over to a decaffeinated/herbal tea or stick with green tea (contains approximately 35 mg of caffeine per cup)

Other Tips

-Sleep (get to bed at a decent hour) and add in/boost the frequency of your exercise (improves mood and energy)
-Eat meals regularly (keeps blood sugar and insulin levels stable and prevents craving for sugary snacks)
-Eat fiber to prevent constipation (examples include: hemp seeds, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, fruits and vegetables, steel cut oatmeal and whole grains)
-Drink water and add some lemon (improves digestion, supports liver). There are chemicals in coffee that disrupt the liver’s normal detoxification process.

Supplements  (consult with your ND for individualized dosing)

-Electrolytes (green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, avocados, bananas, Ener-C (natural electrolyte replacement pack), coconut water (natural electrolyte replacement found in nature)
-Vitamin C – an antioxidant that supports the adrenal glands (stress hormone producing glands) and the liver.
-B Complex boosts energy and mood. During times of stress your body utilizes more B vitamins and vitamin C as these nutrients are required for producing stress hormones such as cortisol in the body.

Here is the link to my segment on Global’s News at Noon, where I help the host, Antony Robart, kick his coffee habit.

Simple Kale Chips Recipe

Kale Chips - A healthy snack for movie night. Kids love it too!

Kale Chips – A healthy snack for movie night. Kids love it too!

Kale….Seems like everyone is talking about it these days. This nutrient dense cruciferous veggie (broccoli and cabbage are also in this family), is bursting with vitamins and minerals. It’s high in vitamin A, K, and C. Calcium, iron and magnesium are present and not to mention, fiber. So it’s no wonder people are talking about it. Here’s my simple kale chips recipe that will hopefully make you eat it more. Less talk, more eat!


1 large bunch of organic kale
2 tsp of organic butter (can be omitted if you wish. but butter makes everything taste better and it helps with the absorption of your fat-soluble vitamins)
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite-sized pieces.
Wash and thoroughly dry the kale with a salad spinner or a tea towel.
Melt butter on the stove-top in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Arrange the kale pieces on the parchment paper.
Drizzle the kale with grape seed oil, melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, about 10 minutes.

Natural Fertility

baby-rattle-webI don’t typically share stories but I witness this so often and perhaps someone out there needs some encouragement today. Natural, holistic medicine is so amazing to me. I know that my ND colleagues can relate to this as we see this time and time again.

After months of fertility medications and intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), my patient was told by her fertility doctor that it was time to consider IVF (in vitro fertilization) as her ovarian reserve is too low to conceive naturally. Meanwhile, I soldiered on as any naturopathic doctor would and simply worked with her on nutrition and lifestyle changes including boosting up her iron stores and B12, providing herbal remedies, acupuncture as well as weekly encouragement. She emailed and said that she and her partner would be taking a break from the fertility clinic for the summer, but that she would continue with the natural treatments. A month later, I get an email that she is pregnant, naturally, no IVF nor IUI needed. Love it.

This story exemplifies what naturopathic medicine is all about. Naturopathic doctors help bring mind and body into balance. It’s not always as simple as bringing sperm and egg together. When health is optimized fertility can happen, it may just take some time. #simplesensiblehealth #naturopathy #ilovemyjob

Have a great long weekend!



Natural Insect Repellent Recipe

Alternatives to DEET containing insect repellents

Alternatives to DEET containing insect repellents

Bug Off! Although government health agencies claim that DEET-containing insect repellents are safe; there are many scientists and environmental watch dogs such as the Environmental Working Group that are concerned. DEET has been shown to cause skin irritation, eye irritation, memory loss and neurological conditions such as seizures. So what are the natural alternatives? Soybean oil-based repellents have been shown to be as effective as DEET without the side effects. Citronella-containing insect repellents are the most popular on the market, but effects can last between 30 minutes to an hour. Today on Toronto’s Global News at Noon Show, I discussed natural alternatives to chemical-based insect repellents. Here is a recipe that honestly takes 2 minutes to make and absorbs really well into the skin, without a greasy feel. I recommend applying natural insect repellents more frequently in order to stay mosquito bite-free!

Remember our skin, the largest organ, contains mini-mouths (aka pores) that very efficiently eats any and everything we put on it without filter. Contrast this to when we eat a meal; food and chemicals are processed by our organs (stomach, liver, small intestine etc.) before entering the blood stream.

Here’s my recipe:
1/4 cup organic soy bean oil
1/3 cup water
50 drops of 3 essential oils of your choice (ie. citronella, clove, eucalyptus)
Put in a dark spray bottle, shake well and apply as needed.

Happy long weekend!

Herb and Spice Black Bean Dip

Dr. O's Herb and Spice Black Bean Dip

Dr. O’s Herb and Spice Black Bean Dip

This antioxidant-rich, nutrient-dense recipe is sure to make your taste buds do the tango. Black beans are chock-full of minerals, protein and plant nutrients that support the health of your colon. The herbs and spices contained in this recipe, add flavor and vitamins without the extra calories. Yummo!!

This recipe was featured on Global Toronto’s The Morning Show and the News at Noon this past Monday. My goal was to showcase a recipe that incorporates the herbs and spices discussed during my health segment.



1 large can of organic black beans (try Eden’s Organic and any other unlined can of black beans)/or 2 cups of freshly cooked, pre-soaked black beans

1 whole red pepper, chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

¼ to ½ tsp of thyme, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger spice

3 basil leaves

3 sage leaves

Pinch of salt

1 whole chili pepper, chopped (use more or less depending on how much heat you desire)

1-1/2 tbsp of grape seed oil

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil



Sauté the garlic, peppers and spices in the grape seed oil until soft.

Add in the rinsed and strained black beans and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add in the sage and basil leaves with a pinch of salt if desired.

Remove from heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes.

Add the bean mixture plus the extra virgin olive oil to the food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve with your favorite crackers or vegetables warm or cold.


Winter Skin Exfoliation Recipe

Sugar Mocha Spice Scrub

Is your skin feeling more reptilian than amphibian these days? Well listen up! The skin’s natural shedding process slows during the winter months as there is less moisture in the air. This leads to the accumulation of the dead cells which leaves that dry, ashen appearance on your skin. The typical solution is to load up on heavier creams to compensate, but without removing that dry skin layer, your efforts will be in vain. So, here is a simple homemade solution. This past December, on the Global News at Noon Show, I spoke briefly about a sugar scrub that you can make with simple ingredients found in your kitchen pantry. In fact, the only reason we have white sugar or coffee in our cupboard is to make this wonderful skin nourishing sugar scrub.

Using this scrub a few times a week should bring out a brighter, smoother skin texture. You may also notice less blemishes and a decrease in skin hyperpigmentation. I don’t recommend using this scrub on your face and be sure to patch test if you have sensitive skin.

I also must note that this information is not meant to replace the advice of your health care practitioner. If you have a skin concern, please seek the care of a qualified ND, MD or other health professional.

Thank you and enjoy!

Sugar Mocha Spice Body Scrub


1 cup of white sugar
¼ cup ground coffee (can be used or fresh)
¼ cup dark chocolate/cocoa powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp peppermint essential oil (you can also use essential oil of cinnamon, vanilla or another oil of your choice)
½ cup of grapeseed oil

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the essential oil and whisk in the grapeseed oil until all the ingredients are well combined. Store in an airtight container – A glass jar is best. Should take 5 minutes – tops!


Once in the shower, apply a generous amount of the scrub to wet skin using a circular motion. Rinse well with warm water and if desired, use a wash cloth to take off any excess oils before getting out of the shower. You should not need to moisturize after using this scrub.

Please let the scrub do the work. Do not apply tons of pressure but rather, use gentle strokes and focus on the areas of your body that you’re more concerned with. For most people this includes elbows, underarms, knees and feet.

Another caution note is to be careful in the shower while exfoliating because your shower floor will become slippery.

#Movember! Keep Your Prostate Healthy

For the month of November, men across the country are growing mustaches to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues such as prostate cancer. In my practice, men of all ages are coming in and seeking guidance about how they can prevent this disease. The good news is that there is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that prostate cancer can be prevented.


Know your risk – Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men and is the third leading cause of death among Canadian men. And those of African or Caribbean descent are 65% more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men in their lifetime.


Screening – The PSA or prostate specific antigen test and a DRE or digital rectal exam are the primary tools used to screen for prostate cancer and both of these tests can be done with your naturopathic doctor. Screening should begin in all men at 50 years of age – usually the standard is to have the prostate checked each year. However, if you fall into one of the higher risk groups such as having a close family relative with prostate cancer or breast cancer, your screening for this disease should begin at age 40. Men of Afro-Caribbean descent fall into this high risk group as well.


What can you do? Although susceptibility to this disease may be partly inherited, experts believe the disease is strongly linked to environmental factors such as your diet. It is thought that your lifestyle choices account for up to 80 percent of your risk.

Reduce your consumption of red meat – A recent study determined that the consumption of 2.5 servings of pan-fried red meat can increase your risk of prostate cancer by 40%. The frying of meat creates a chemical that is carcinogenic (ie. Cancer- causing).

Be moderate with alcohol – A 2009 study published in the journal Cancer, found that heavy drinking, especially when it is beer, increases the risk for highly aggressive prostate cancer. Most prostate cancer is slow growing so this is concerning.

Tomatoes and Lycopene – The risk for prostate cancer is lower in men who have higher levels of lycopene in their blood. Studies suggest that diets rich in tomatoes may account for this reduction in risk. Other food sources of lycopene include apricots, guava, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit although tomatoes contain the highest levels. Keep in mind that your body absorbs lycopene from cooked tomatoes better than from raw.

Vegan diet – In one study published in the journal of urology, men with early stage prostate cancer who adopted a vegan diet consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes were able to reverse and in some cases stop the progression of their illness. A vegan diet is not suitable for everyone but eating more fruits and vegetables – at least 5 to 7 servings daily, certainly is. Make half your plate vegetables at every meal, to start.

Walnuts – Interestingly enough, the prostate is shaped like a walnut and walnuts should definitely be included in a prostate-friendly diet since some studies in mice have shown that eating a diet rich in walnuts can reduce the size and growth rate of prostate cancer cells.

Vitamin E – Is a major antioxidant and has been shown to protect and repair our body cells from damage. In a study in Finnish men that took place over 4 years, vitamin E cut the risk of prostate cancer by 33%. The typical supplement has 400IU of vitamin E per capsule, but it’s important to get your dose individualized by your Naturopathic Doctor. Foods that are high in vitamin E include – Sunflower seeds, almonds, and pine nuts.

Vitamin D – The sunshine vitamin that is actually a steroid hormone. Because prostate cancers tend to be slow-growing, exposure to sunlight in your early years to midlife may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Get your levels checked to determine how much you should be taking. Some foods high in Vitamin D include eggs and fish.

Selenium – A trace micronutrient that is another important protector of cellular damage. We would normally get selenium when produce absorb it from the soil, but most of North American soil is low in selenium. Some studies show that humans, who live in areas where selenium is low in the soil, have higher rates of cancer. In one study, after 10 years, the risk of developing prostate cancer was 49% lower in the group prescribed selenium. The typical dose is 200mcg/day, but as usual get this dose individualized by your ND. Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, shellfish and liver are all good sources of selenium.


The Flu – What do Probiotics have to do with it?

Probiotics are microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast that are most commonly known for supporting our intestinal health. We have trillions of bacteria naturally residing in our gut and these microorganisms help make important vitamins such as b vitamins and vitamin k. But the overuse of antibiotics, chronic stress and consuming the typical North American diet can destroy our good bacteria leading to an overgrowth of undesirable bacteria and leaving us more susceptible to chronic diseases.

When most people think of the benefits of probiotics, their important role in bowel health comes to mind; which is true. Naturopathic doctors routinely prescribe probiotics for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases such as crohn’s and colitis. However, probiotics are also prescribed to treat and prevent upper respiratory tract infections such as the flu and work by increasing your white blood cell counts and improving your immune system’s response time. Probiotics are available in supplement form and you can also find them in food such as kefir and yogurt – just beware of the added sugar. Sugar on its own is known to suppress your immunity for up to 4 hours after ingesting it and therefore, will most likely negate the benefits associated with consuming a probiotic in the first place.

So, consider a probiotic to help ward off the flu this season and ask your ND which type and dose is right for you.

Juicing for Gastrointestinal Healing

Still feeling stuffed since Thanksgiving? Here’s what I’m juicing lately to aid digestion. Enjoy!

Tummy Soother
1 apple
1 inch chunk fresh ginger – if you can tolerate more try a 3 inch chunk
½ cucumber
1 fennel stalk
1 slice fresh pineapple (approximately 1 inch thick)

Makes approx 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups).

GI Tonic
½ apple
2 carrots
large handful of fresh spinach
½ head cabbage

Makes approximately 8 ounces (1 cup).
The most important ingredients here are: cabbage (contains glutamine to fuel small intestine cells, promoting gut healing), pineapple (contains bromelain which decreases inflammation, aids digestion and breaks down scar tissue), fennel (reduces gas formation in the gut), cucumber (decreases swelling of tissues), ginger (improves circulation to the GI lining and reduces inflammation and abdominal pain).

Feel free to try different combinations of the above ingredients.

Food Matters

I’ve been a fan of Jamie Oliver for some time now and came across a speech on youtube in which he addresses the problem of obesity in American children. More and more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver disease-preventable diseases! In one segment of the video, children were shown vegetables such as cauliflower and eggplant and were unable to correctly identify them. Oliver emphasizes the need for better quality food in schools as well as the need for schools to teach children what healthy food is and how to prepare healthy meals. Since 1981 there has been a steady increase in the body mass index of Canadian children (1) and poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity are to blame (2). Oliver did not discuss the physical inactivity issue, but it is also a problem that combined with poor nutrition, sets our children up for chronic ill-health and early death.

Proper nutrition starts in the home and needs to be modeled by parents. If parents aren’t eating their vegetables, then unfortunately, children won’t.

Here is the link to the video:

(1) Secular trends in the body mass index of Canadian children

(2) Is the Canadian childhood obesity epidemic related to physical inactivity?

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