by Dr. Kristin Schnurr, ND

Many of you may have heard the show, ““Bacteria in your gut affects your mental health.” which aired on the CBC on October 11, 2013. If you missed it, here is the link: CBC.

Listening to this show reinforced for me the importance of ensuring gastrointestinal health for myself, my family and for everyone I work with. We already know that healthy gut flora promotes health by strengthening immunity, improving our digestion and absorption of nutrients, and by promoting healthy metabolism and preventing obesity.

Too much of the wrong bacteria can make us ill and too little of the healthy bacteria can leave us vulnerable to illness. Symptoms of dysbiosis or an imbalance of good bacteria intestinally include: digestive upset, bowel irregularity, fatigue, allergies, skin conditions, headaches, autoimmune conditions, anxiety and depression.

Recently, there has been significant research emerging on the connection between gut flora and mental health. A recent study in the journal Gastroenterology shows that healthy gut bacteria play a major role in mental health and pain sensitivity. Scientists at UCLA showed a direct link between probiotics consumed and elevated amounts of the important mood regulating neurotransmitters: Serotonin and GABA.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. It regulates intestinal movement, mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction and cognitive function such as memory. GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It plays a role in regulating neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. People with low serotonin production typically suffer from depression. And, people with low GABA production typically experience anxiety.

This research is important as it points to the importance of addressing gastrointestinal health in the management and treatment of anxiety and depression. As Gregor Reid, PhD, a professor of microbiology, immunology and surgery at the University of Western Ontario stated, “There isn’t a drug on the market that can match probiotic bacteria for its far-reaching implications on health.

How to Cultivate Healthy Gut Flora

  1. Our first microbes are introduced in the vaginal canal after the natural birth process, and are delivered through breast milk. We inherit our gut flora from our mother at birth, where it settles in the baby’s sterile system and becomes the microbiome of the gut. Breastfeeding is another way the mother passes her beneficial flora to her baby. Bottle fed babies acquire completely different gut flora than those that are breastfed.
  2. Healthy digestive microbes come from ingesting uncooked and live culture fruits, vegetables, and dairy products that contain live probiotics. Routinely eating some fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso or kombucha can also assist in replenishing healthy bacteria. It is important to ensure the products are guaranteed to contain live cultures since many brands destroy the essential bacteria with high temperature processing during the manufacturing process. If it’s in the fridge at the store it is more likely to contain live culture, if it’s on the shelf it has been pasteurized. Making your own yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha or kefir assures an active bacteria content.
  3. For some people, the level of depletion of beneficial organisms in the digestive tract requires the consumption of a daily probiotic supplement in order to replenish beneficial bacteria. It is important to consider that infants, children and adults require different combinations of specific bacteria. And, it is important to be cautious with dosing in the treatment of skin and autoimmune conditions. A ND will help you determine the right bacterial strains and optimal dosing for your individual health.

Dr. Kristin Schnurr, ND is at the Sage Clinic in Victoria BC.


Dr. Juliet Ghodsian, ND shares these 5 steps to keep your terrain clean and functional this winter. The end result is a happier and healthier you.

A French physiologist, Claude Bernard, once said “The Terrain is everything, the germ is nothing.”

An interesting thought, but what does that mean?

It means that simple exposure to a bacteria or virus does not mean you will get sick.

But isn’t that contrary to most of our beliefs about hygiene and health?

…Wash your hands! Don’t put your fingers in your mouth. Flu season is coming!

Let’s take a step back and explain the most important words in the quote:


The Terrain refers to the internal environment in your body: mucous membranes, digestion, detoxification and elimination organs, immune system cells, and energy production cells.


These can be bacteria, fungi or viruses.

We are covered with germs inside and out all the time! Why do some bugs make us sick, but not others? Why did you get sick but not your neighbour?

The answer is simple. The health of the Terrain of your body determines how responsive your immune system will be to infection, and how effective it is at beating it. Boosting your immune health to keep the bugs at bay this winter involves more steps than just “Take some extra vitamin C!”

Here are the top 5 things you can do to clean up your Terrain and super-charge your immune cells for the fall and winter season:

  1. Secure the Borders: Protect your Skin!  Keep hydrated and eat plenty of healthy omega 3 oils to preserve the integrity of your skin, mucous membranes, and the internal skin that lines the entire digestive tract. This is your # 1 defence against invaders.
  1. Take out the garbage: Detox and Eliminate.  The chemical exposures that your body has to process from air, food and water contamination are a real concern. They often surpass the liver’s ability to metabolize, and we end up with deficiencies and backlog of toxins. These toxins cause disruptions in energy, hormone and immune cell production leaving you more susceptible to infection. Visit your naturopathic doctor to discuss the most effective ways to keep your system clean this season.
  1. Stock the arsenal: Keep you diet clean and green.  Be sure to provide your body with plenty of clean, organic produce to make sure you have enough antioxidants and minerals available for immune cell use. Green smoothies and kale chips are great ways to get kids eating superfoods. Come in for an IV vitamin infusion of vitamin C and B complex to start you off on the right foot.
  1. Prepare for Battle: Stay Calm!  Studies have shown that stress causes increases in the hormone cortisol which in turn depress your immune response. Take a deep breath and book in for Bowen therapy or Craniosacral Therapy to balance your nerves and get your cortisol levels under control.
  1. Send in the troops: Immune support.  Naturopathic medicine has a treasure trove of herbal, homeopathic and nutritional substances that will prime your immune cells and prepare them to respond quickly and effectively to any invaders. Talk to your ND today and find the best remedies to fit your constitution and lifestyle.

This article by Dr. Juliet Ghodsian, a licensed naturopathic doctor at Sage Clinic in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood.

This article by Dr. Ingrid Pincott, ND originally appeared in the North Island Midweek.

How is the school year going so far? If you are noticing bad or violent behavior in your children here are a few things to think about to help curb this disturbing trend.

  1. Is your child getting enough sleep? Often this relates to deficiencies of minerals and nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, vitamin D. It is also important to disengage from the mad rush of life one hour before bed such things as as avoiding video games and TV. This helps turn off noisy thoughts to get a good night’s sleep. It is recommended to read a book, take a bath or work on a hobby instead.
  2.  Brains are starving these days due to malnutrition and being exposed to excitotoxins prevalent in the food supply such as MSG and artificial sweeteners. Diet sodas are loaded with artificial sweeteners which have been shown to increase the cravings for sweet and increase the risk of obesity because of its effect on insulin. Fruit juices even though “natural” are not much better due to the sugar content. Instead learn how to make herbal iced teas using stevia or xylitol and show your children how to make them. To help with cravings for sweets make sure your child is getting enough B complex and protein.
  3. B complex is well known to help with irritability and is important at any age. The late Dr. Hoffer, a psychiatrist in Victoria, helped to popularize Orthomolecular Medicine and the use of high doses of niacin to treat psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, attention deficit, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and bipolar disorder as told by Dr. Saul the co-author of Niacin: The Real Story.  These patients are beyond deficient, they are niacin dependent and must remain on high doses of niacin to remain well. This is much better than relying on pharmaceutical drugs for these conditions. In fact the modern symptoms of pellagra, deficiency of vitamin B3 (niacin) include anxiety, hyperactivity, fatigue, headache, insomnia and hallucinations.
  4. Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFA’s) found only in  fish oils are known to change the levels and functioning of both serotonin and dopamine, both of which play a role in feeling pleasure. Omege 3 EFA’s increase the blood flow to the brain. People with depression often have compromised blood flow to a number of regions of the brain. There are many good tasting fish oils on the market including herring oil, sardine and anchovy oils as well as cod liver oil. Our brains need cholesterol to function properly so foods such as eggs, coconut oils and healthy animal fats including organic butter, should be part of the regular diet. Dr. Perlmutter a prominent functional medicine neurologist, advocates a high fat diet for the optimal functioning of the brain, providing that the fats are from healthy sources.
  5. Zinc deficiency is linked with angry aggressive and hostile behavior and is found in my customized popular B complex formula. Food sources include red meat and shellfish.
  6. Anxiety is often a component of bad behavior. The above nutrients are critical for the management of anxiety but I also recommend the use of homeopathic remedies. These are easy to take as they are mixed in a water bottle or taken directly into the mouth. Rubimeds are combination remedies that are very effective at balancing mental and emotional conflicts that are subconscious.

Taking enough of the above nutrients to be therapeutic is important so check with your naturopathic physician about optimal dosages for you and your family and inventive ways of getting your child or teenager to take them! Of course when you treat your child the whole family benefits!

Just as some of us take our cars into the shop before parts break down, so can we go to a naturopathic doctor for regular health maintenance. Most licensed NDs in BC provide acupuncture.  Gathering information takes only 10 to 15 minutes and results in a customized prescription involving a combination of any of the following: needles, laser, magnets, acupuncture, moxibustion (radiant heat), cupping, acupressure or Qigong.

Acupuncture was originally introduced to the West as a form of anesthesia and pain control. But on closer examination, it has a much broader use in treating conditions such as high cholesterol, fatigue, diabetes, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Acupuncture is also a tool for general disease prevention and health promotion. It is with this final approach in mind that early Chinese writings remind us that a primary role of the physician is to prevent illness from occurring; hence, the attending physician is paid so long as the patient stays healthy. (This is admirable to say the least, but unlikely to happen today unless you work for royalty!)

Usually only one or two sessions with a practitioner licensed to provide acupuncture are needed for an uncomplicated health tune-up. The accomplished acupuncturist, in “grasping the essence” of the person’s energy pattern, applies the treatment with tong shen ming (penetrating divine illumination). Amazingly, China’s master acupuncturists grasp this essence using only one needle at the most efficacious point as the total treatment. Students of acupuncture are told to strive for this so that over their careers, they begin with 10 to 12 needles for a treatment and eventually gain the mastery of using only a few needles for the same results.

Identification of a problem using TCM (for example, in the liver) does not mean that the liver has a Western-style disease pathology. The TCM “liver” describes a particular system of function within the body that can be disturbed but does not show up on standard blood tests. The Chinese approach, besides spotting early warning signs, is most helpful for those individuals who “just don’t feel well” or have symptoms for which all the standard medical tests show negative results. The following are the diagnostic tools used to assess the body’s imbalances in Chinese medicine.

  • Pulse diagnosis: Beyond the cardiovascular assessment of a pulse rate, there are 12 identifiable pulse positions (six on each wrist).
  • Tongue diagnosis: the colour, shape and types of tongue coating give information about blood and lymph flow in the internal organs and digestive tract.
  • Abdominal signs: Muscle tension and discolouration on the abdomen are helpful in determining internal organ stresses.
  • Meridian assessment: Techniques are used to evaluate the 12 main meridians (similar to the 12 pulses), plus the additional eight extra meridians that interconnect energies between the main 12.
  • Ten questions: Interview techniques elicit specific general traits experienced by the patient, such as body temperature, thirst levels, urine and stools, types and preferences of food and drink.

Best Times for a Tune-Up

Sometimes life creates increased stresses and strains on the body and mind, and each emotion affects a particular organ. Organ strain can also result from seasonal changes, and an individual’s weak season is determined by signs in the body’s energy rhythms. (In China, acupuncture is traditionally used in the warmer months versus herbal treatment during the winter.) We all have one inherent weakness from birth: liver, heart, spleen, lung or kidney, so it’s important to pay attention to inherent organ weakness. In all these cases, acupuncture is effective for balancing and strengthening both mind and body.

Acupuncture utilizes the messages that our bodies constantly give us through a rich and decipherable language. Paying attention to those messages provides a means for keeping the mind and body whole and renewing the connection to nature.

About the Author

A licensed naturopathic doctor and professor at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in Vancouver, Dr Paul Levendusky runs a private practice in White Rock, BC.

Acupuncture in BC

Naturopathic doctors have been licensed in BC since 1923.  NDs have been providing acupuncture in BC longer than any other health discipline. The regulatory college oversees acupuncture education for NDs.  This includes certified evidence of a minimum of 200 hours of study in Traditional Oriental Medicine, which must include: Syndrome differentiation and formulation of point prescriptions; Traditional acupuncture anatomy, physiology and pathology; Acupuncture and Moxibustion techniques and point location.  Additionally, there must be certified evidence of a minimum of 50 hours of supervised clinical training by a licensed acupuncturist or TCM practitioner.

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is the most popular over-the-counter pain reliever in the United States and around the world. For more than half a century, millions of adults and children have used the drug to treat everything from headaches to fevers.

Tylenol helps countless people deal with pain and recover from illness. It is most effective in the treatment of minor aches and pains, but is also used for long-term chronic pain like arthritis.

Unfortunately, Tylenol also comes with some very serious risks. Because Tylenol is so widely available over the counter, many people assume it is harmless. This is not the case. The maximum dose in a 24-hour period is 4,000 mg, and accidental overdose is a serious problem. Taking too much Tylenol or other medications containing acetaminophen can cause hepatitis and liver failure.

Accidental Overdose

Consumers  may overdose on Tylenol without intending to. They may take two or more medications containing acetaminophen, without realizing it. For example, if someone has the flu, they may take cold medicine and Tylenol, or a decongestant and Tylenol.

What they may not realize is that both products contain acetaminophen, and that they have ingested far more than the maximum dosage. As these compounds build up in the body, the liver gets overloaded and begins producing a toxic compound called NAPQI. Too much NAPQI causes liver damage and can lead to death.

Patients who drink or take certain medications along with Tylenol are at greater risk for liver damage.

If you have any symptoms of liver problems, including dark urine or yellow skin, you should talk to a doctor immediately. Without a liver transplant, patients with acute liver failure are likely to die.

Liver Failure Leads to Lawsuits

Some lawsuits have been filed by patients who believe their liver failure resulted from insufficient warnings about the dangers of Tylenol, including one woman whose liver failed after she took normal doses while fasting, and a family whose 1-year-old died after taking infants’ Tylenol. Federal lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary McNeil Laboratories are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In response, the FDA has required manufacturers to limit the amount of acetaminophen in their products and add warnings about liver failure to the packaging.

Tylenol does have other side effects, including poor interactions with alcohol and the possibility that harmful toxins from the drug could pass from mothers to babies in the womb. Like many drugs, it can also cause nausea, rash or allergic reactions.

The best way to keep yourself safe is to be careful when choosing medications, monitor the amount of acetaminophen you ingest, and be aware of the risk of liver damage.

Jennifer Mesko joined in 2012. She keeps consumers informed about the dangerous side effects of drugs and medical devices.

Drug side-effects are one of the most commonly dealt with issues by NDs.  Many patients are unaware that everyday over-the-counter medications can cause mild and sometimes chronic problems, dangerous side-effects or contraindicate other medications.  This article on Tylenol comes to BCNA from Drugwatch, a portal website with a wide range of patient-focussed drug info.

The multidisciplinary Complex Chronic Diseases Program is now officially accepting patients at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre located in Vancouver.

The program was set up to provide patient and symptom‐centered care with the support of a multidisciplinary team of health care providers. This approach emphasizes that treatment choice takes patient preferences into account, and that self‐care is supported as well as treatment. Central to this is the development of partnership in care, and facilitation of patient involvement during assessment and in the decision making about treatment decisions.

Dr. Alison Bested is the program’s Medical Director. Bested is a specialist who has worked with complex medical illnesses for over two decades. She was most recently the Medical Specialist Liaison at the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. A number of other health professionals are on the team including: specialists, general practitioners, a psychologist, a naturopathic doctor, a nurse practitioner, a nurse, social worker and physiotherapist.

The program is specifically focused on the chronic diseases: Lyme disease, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Medical doctors, nurse practitioners and specialists are able to refer patients to the program for care. In addition, the program is set to evolve into an educational resource providing outreach to patients and professionals across the province.

For more information about the Complex Chronic Diseases Program, please visit

Across the country naturopathic doctors celebrated Naturopathic Medicine Week this May with free lectures, consults, clinic open houses and many more events.

In BC, doctors in Richmond hosted a screening of Hungry for Change, a documentary about making health food choices from the people who brought us Food Matters: You Are What You Eat.  Over 100 local residents attended.  Following the screening a panel discussion with local NDs Neetu Dhiman, Martin Kwok, Jeffrey Lee, Carin Matsushita and Leila Sahabi considered questions on diet, nutrition and overall health.

Free consults were available from doctors in Vancouver (Jennifer Luis), Langley (Andrea Ezebuiro, Mirjana Baspaly), Kelowna (Brett Phillips).

Free testing was available from doctors in Campbell River (Ingrid Pincott), Victoria (Penny Seth Smith), and during the week at the teaching college, Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM)Dr. Martha Reid in Vancouver had an open house with free testing and demonstrations.

Many doctors offered lectures, in their community and/or at their clinic.  These included doctors in Victoria (Penny Seth Smith), Vancouver (Jordana Aziz, Briana Peddle, Lani Nykilchuk) and Anmore (Mirjana Baspaly).

In White Rock, Drs. Taryn Deane and Matthew Greenwood hosted a BBQ.

And at the Boucher Institute, Western Canada’s only accredited naturopathic college, many people turned out for their annual Open House focused on men’s medicine.

(Pictured above: Drs. Jeffrey Lee and Leila Sahabi during the panel discussion at the Richmond screening of Hungry for Change.)

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada. (That’s according to Statistics Canada.) If you want to lower your risk, the usual advice is to see your physician.  Well a study published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal gives surprising evidence that maybe you should see a naturopath instead. House doctor Brian Goldman is here with the details:

Almanac: What’s the difference between the kind of medicine you practice and naturopathic medicine?

Goldman: As a physician, I practice some preventive medicine, but the main focus of my work is to use my understanding of the causes of disease to diagnose and to treat it with medication, surgery, radiation and other forms of Western therapies.  Naturopathic medicine is a system of primary health care that promotes wellness and prevention of illness or disease.  As distinct from primary medicine, naturopathic medicine tries to address the root causes of illness and supports the body’s own natural ability to heal itself.  It uses a variety of techniques that include botanical medicine, physical medicine techniques like massage, acupuncture, clinical nutrition, lifestyle counselling, and sometimes a controversial method called homeopathic medicine.  Doctors of naturopathic medicine are trained at their own professional college.  In some provinces, they are regulated under provincial legislation (Alberta, BC, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan).

Almanac: How did naturopaths stack up against regular doctors in the study?

Goldman: Researchers enrolled nearly two hundred and fifty members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for a yearlong study to see how naturopathic lifestyle counselling would stack up against routine care from a doctor.  The naturopathic doctors provided diet and lifestyle advice for patients to lose between two point three and four point six kilograms through a combination of calorie restriction and regular exercise.  They also dispensed evidence based natural health products such as omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fibre, coenzyme Q10, and other therapies as recommended at the discretion of the naturopathic doctor.  The results were impressive.  Those that received routine medical care plus naturopathic medicine did better on their blood pressure and cholesterol testing; they reduced their risk of heart disease by seventeen per cent.  Those who had routine doctor care alone increased their risk of heart disease.  In absolute terms, for every one hundred people treated with naturopathic medicine, over a ten-year period, three heart attacks or strokes would have been prevented.

Almanac: Why was naturopathic medicine successful at reducing the risk of heart disease?

Goldman: It would be tempting to say that it was the omega-3 fatty acid or the coenzyme Q10 or something else.  But the study wasn’t designed to prove that sort of thing in such fine detail.  It was the entire basket of treatments that made up the naturopathic approach that made the difference.  For all we know, it may have been the increased exercise and weight loss that played the biggest role in lowering the risk of heart disease.  Family doctors are more than capable of dispensing that advice too.  So maybe the patients did well because the naturopaths were practising medicine. But the bottom line is that approach taken by the naturopathic doctors worked.

Almanac: What are critics saying about the study?

Goldman: For one thing, since other therapies may have been provided by the naturopath but not included in the study, it’s possible one of these undocumented treatments reduced the heart disease risk.  Another criticism is that the way the study was set up; naturopaths spent a total of four hours per patient counselling them on how to reduce their risk of heart disease over the course of the one-year study.  For a family doctor, that’s a staggering amount of time to spend with one patient talking prevention.  Critics have said that if family doctors had been given that amount of extra time to spend with each patient, their results might be just as good as naturopaths.

Almanac: How does this study change the debate over the value of naturopathic and other forms of complementary medicine?

Goldman: In an editorial, the CMAJ said complementary alternative therapies are frequently and legitimately criticized for failing to subject its methods to scientific scrutiny.  And yet,  when they publish studies (like this one), the journal gets criticized by mainstream doctors. The journal says physicians have a right to demand that complementary medicine be held to same standards of scientific proof as medicine itself – but no higher.  After that, any objections to the right of naturopathic doctors to practice is just politics.  The fact that Canadians are going to naturopaths in increasing numbers suggests they’re looking for something from them that don’t get from their regular doctors.

The Family Naturopathic Clinic, or FNC, is the only one of its kind in Canada: a free medical clinic serving young adults and children in a lower income group who can’t afford the services of naturopathic doctors.

Funded entirely by donations, the FNC is a joint project of licensed NDs at Acacia Integrative Clinic in Victoria and the Boucher Institute, western Canada’s only accredited naturopathic college.  FNC doctors and students work together as part of an outreach program to serve patients in need in the south Vancouver Island.  All visits are free.  The FNC has been in operation since 2007.

Visits include a detailed history, physical exam and assessment. Therapies may include nutritional and lifestyle counseling, stress management, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine and other modalities.

During May of this year the FNC is hosting a fundraising raffle to support the outreach program and pay for medical supplies.  Prizes include a hotel stay at the Grand Pacific in Victoria, dinner for two at Pagliacci’s and a kayaking lesson for two from Victoria Waterfront Tours.

Help support the FNC by buying a ticket.  You can purchase one in person at Acacia Integrative Health (101-391 Tyee Road) or Hemp & Company (1102 Government Street), or enter to win by making a donation at the FNC website:

If you would like more information about the clinic, or wish to make an appointment, please visit their website or call them at 250 580 3621.

by Nazanine Parent, cancer survivor and Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon volunteer (reprinted with permission from

1. No one should have to worry about children playing in the grass

Children are at greater risk from pesticide exposure than adults because they play closer to the ground and their bodies are still developing. Cosmetic pesticides can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or be swallowed when children place contaminated objects and their hands and in their mouths. Don’t forget about our pets too!

2. It’s a public health issue

There is a growing body of evidence linking pesticide exposure with certain types of cancer, including childhood leukemia and childhood brain cancer.

3. They’re not necessary

Cosmetic pesticides are used to make lawns, gardens and other green spaces look better. We call them ‘cosmetic’ because some think they improve the appearance of lawns and gardens. Regardless, they are not needed for health and safety. Safe and effective alternatives exist.

4. Pesticides don’t stop at the garden gate

Your family can be indirectly exposed even if you do not use cosmetic pesticides. If sprayed, cosmetic pesticides can drift through the environment and mix with the air, soil, or water. Pesticides may even collect on plants & objects we don’t intend to spray.

5. British Columbians support a ban

– 40 municipalities have cosmetic pesticide restrictions

– More than 70% of British Columbians support provincial legislation to restrict pesticide use

– 76% of British Columbians are aware of the link between pesticides & cancer

We’re asking all political parties to support banning the use, sale and retail display of cosmetic pesticides used on public and private lands – something only the provincial government has the power to do.

How can you help? Spread the word, share this blog post with your friends, email BC’s party leaders and find out what they’re doing to help ban the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides.

Authorized by the Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon, registered sponsor under the Election Act, 604-872-4400.