Earth Hour

March 29th from 8:30-9:30pm local time is Earth Hour.  An hour when people around the world will switch off their lights to raise awareness for the planet.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, protecting and preserving the health of the planet is a significant concern.  Simply because it’s the only planet that we have and also because the health of the natural world has a tremendous impact on human health. 

The research about the effects of spending time in a natural environment shows profound positive impact on the physical and mental health and stress levels of humans.   Two minutes in nature relieves stress, as measured by muscle tension, blood pressure and brain activity.  One hour in nature improves memory and attention span by 20%. Two consecutive days in nature increases white blood cells –the infection and cancer fighting cells of our immune system – by 50%.  As such, preservation of natural habits where people can disconnect from their busy lives is of utmost importance. 

Also, the plants, animals and water that nourish us every day have a huge potential to impact our health –for good or bad – and the health of the planet.   Food produced through factory farming can contain pesticides, hormones, antibiotics – all of which are known to impact human health.  Pesticide exposure has been associated with numerous health conditions including cancer, neurological and psychological problems.   Approximately 80% of all antibiotics produced are used in farm animals to increase their rate of growth and to compensate for poor living conditions. The overuse of antibiotics may be one of the contributing factors leading to widespread antibiotic resistance, a major medical problem. 

Pollution and toxins that are produced at an ever increasing rate as a result of transportation, human consumption and industry can have significant effects on the body.  A recent study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group revealed that more than 200 chemicals are present in the umbilical cord blood of newborns.  Our bodies have elaborate mechanisms to eliminate toxic compounds but at a certain amount, those mechanisms can be overwhelmed and disease occurs.  The World Health Organization estimates that a quarter of the world’s disease burden is related to environmental hazards which are preventable.  This includes illnesses such as asthma, cancer, heart disease and birth defects. 

Why not pull out the candles and show your support for Earth Hour? If you’re reading this blog, health is important to you.  And to have human health, we need a healthy planet. 

Visit parks and natural areas near you, and speak up for their protection.  Vote with your grocery bill – choose farmers’ markets, organic vegetables, and ethically raised meat.  Take transit or ride your bike. Recycle and reuse. We need the planet for our health, and the planet’s health depends on us too!                 


Prüss-Üstün A and Corvalán. Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments. World Health Organization. 2006

Alavanja, M., Hoppin, J., & Kamel, F. (2004). Health effects of chronic pesticide exposure: Cancer and neurotoxicity. Annu. Rev. Public Health, 25, 155–97.

United States Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Summary report on antimicrobials sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved September 18, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention

Pink Ribbon

Guest Post from Dr Andrea Gri

Although treatment and survival rates have improved over the past couple decades, breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, affecting 1/9 Canadian women. Your Naturopathic Doctor is an important source for personalized prevention strategies but here is a summary of 3 general tips:

1. Maintain a healthy body weight through proper nutrition and exercise. Fat is a metabolically active tissue, raising insulin levels and producing small amounts of estrogen. Higher exposure to both insulin and estrogen increases the chances of getting breast cancer.

2. Limit alcohol consumption. The link between alcohol use and breast cancer is well established. Compared to women who don’t drink, one glass of alcohol per day increases a woman’s risk by up to 13%, two drinks per day increases the risk up to 27%, and three drinks or more per day can increase the risk by 40-50%. The World Health Organization reports that alcohol consumption is a greater risk for breast cancer than being overweight, having a low intake of fruits and vegetables, or not being physically active.

3. Include these cancer-fighting foods in your daily diet as much as possible:

  • Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale). These vegetables contain sulforaphane to help the liver detoxify estrogen.
  • Ground flaxseeds – helps the body get rid of excess estrogen, promotes regular bowel movements.
  • Brazil nuts – wonderful source of selenium, which the liver converts to glutathione, one of the most powerful anti-oxidants the body can utilize.

An interesting area that is gaining more research is the impact of environmental chemicals on breast cancer risk. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has released a study linking higher rates of breast cancer with occupational exposure to pesticides, plastics, and heavy metals. While more research in this area is needed, there are a number of simple lifestyle modifications that can reduce your exposure to these chemicals:

1. Replace plastic Tupperware and plastic bottles with glass. If you do use plastic Tupperware, reserve for cold storage only and avoid exposing to heat (microwave, dishwasher, etc).

2. Consider switching to organic produce and meats. Visit the Environmental Working Group website ( for this year’s “dirty dozen, clean fifteen” list. Wanigan offers organic produce at a reasonable price and will deliver fresh produce to your door (

Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Do you buy organic produce? Or have you thought about it? I encourage people to choose organic produce if they are able to but only if that doesn’t limit the amount of vegetables they consume – you all know I want people eating plenty of veggies!

A great option when choosing whether to opt for organic or conventionally grown is to consult the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.  The Dirty Dozen are the produce items which are highest in pesticide residues and should be purchased organic if possible.  While it started off as 12 items, 2 have been added to the list more recently.  The Clean Fifteen are the lowest in pesticide residues and can be bought conventionally.

Dirty Dozen Plus

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry Tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot Peppers
  7. Nectarines
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers
  13. Kale and Collards
  14. Zucchini

Clean Fifteen

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocado
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Sweet Corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mango
  10. Mushroom
  11. Onions
  12. Papaya
  13. Pineapple
  14. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  15. Sweet Potato

While corn makes the list for low pesticide residues, it’s important to keep in mind that much of the corn available is genetically modified.  As a result, it’s best to opt for organic corn products.  The same applies for soy. 

While choosing organic produce does cost more, you may be able to offset this difference by committing to making your food from scratch and planning out your meals before shopping to minimize waste.

Happy grocery shopping!

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Gluten-free Dairy-free Apricot Oatmeal Cake

This fabulous cake is gluten and dairy free and absolutely delicious! The oats add fiber and the apricots add vitamin A. Enjoy!!


  • 1 ¼ Cups Boiling Water
  • 1 Cup Gluten-free Oats
  • 1 ¼ Cups Gluten-free flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1Tsp Baking Soda
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • ½ Tsp Nutmeg
  • ½ Cup Coconut Oil
  • 1 ¼ Cups Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • ¾ Cup Finely Chopped Dried Apricots


  • 3 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • ½ Cup Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Almond Milk
  • 1 Cup Flacked Coconut
  • ½ Cup Chopped Walnuts

Cake: Pour boiling water over oats. Stir and set aside.  Combine next 5 dry ingredients.  Cream coconut oil, brown sugar, eggs together until light.  Stir in oats, flour mixture and apricots.  Mix thoroughly.  Spread batter into a pan coated with ½ tsp coconut oil.  Bake at 350oF for 35 minutes. 

Topping: Prepare topping while cake is baking.  Combine all ingredients thoroughly.  Melt coconut oil in a small sauce pan if needed.  Spread evenly on warm cake.  Broil for 3-5 minutes or until golden.

Superfoods for Weight Loss

Guest Blog Post From Dr. Melissa Willms

These top weight loss superfoods that help to balance blood sugar and insulin, maintain satiety and fight off hunger pains, fuel energy, balance hormones and support your body’s ability to lose weight. Incorporate as many as you can on a daily basis for optimal results.

1) Herbal tea
Herbal tea after meals is a great way to encourage digestion, reduce bloating and fullness, and suppress the desire to reach for a sweet dessert. The best tasting and most beneficial include licorice, ginger, chamomile, peppermint, cinnamon, fennel, lemon balms and passionflower

2) Protein powders
Protein keeps blood sugar stable, keeps you feeling fuller for longer, makes you feel more energetic and is an essential part of any weight loss plan. The following companies make good quality and great tasting powders that can be consumed with water or blended in a smoothie: VEGA, Proteins+, Progressive, Precision.

3) Kale, swiss chard, bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts
You can’t go wrong with green vegetables. Not only are they full of nutrients and vitamins but they contain insoluble fibre that keeps you feeling full at a fraction of the calories. Try sautéing with garlic and onions for a delicious meal.

4) Berries
When it comes to weight loss, you must be conscious of fruit intake due to the additional sugar and calories. Aside from apples, berries are my favourite fruit for weight loss. They are full of fibre, age fighting antioxidants and add a sweet taste to yogurt, cereals, smoothies and oatmeal.

5) Cinnamon
Cinnamon is naturally sweet and helps stabilizes blood sugar. Add to oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, coffee or fruit.

6) Stevia
This natural, ZERO calorie sweetener tastes great when added to coffee, tea, or used in baking. The liquid/drop form is my personal preference vs. the powder.

7) Non-fat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
Just ½ a cup of Greek yogurt contains 12 g of protein, the equivalent to ½ a chicken breast. Purchase the plain flavour and sweeten with berries, stevia, cinnamon or a swirl of honey.

8) Eggs
My favourite breakfast is an omlette made with one whole egg + quarter cup of egg whites with 2 tbsp of cottage cheese and spinach. Sometimes I switch out the spinach for strawberries or half a banana and cinnamon and it tastes just like a crepe.

9) Apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp before meals mixed in juice stimulates the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, thus improving digestion and reducing bloating and fullness after meals.

10) Oats and quinoa
By far the best carbohydrates, these super starches are filling, help control blood sugar levels and contain a decent amount of protein.

11) Coconut oil
Although considered a saturated fat, the medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil are more readily used as energy vs. stored around the love handles. It also tastes delicious and can be substituted for butter in baking.

12) Lemon water
Often when we feel hungry, our body misinterprets hunger pangs for thirst. Next time you feel hungry, reach for a large glass of water with lemon before into your drawer for a chocolate covered granola bar. Water is important for thousands of processes in the body. When properly hydrated you will have more energy, your skin will glow and you will think more clearly.

Melissa Willms is a naturopathic doctor with a passion for hormonal and women's health. She practices at Affinity Health Solutions in Ayr, Ontario and Sellars Chiropractic and Wellness in Waterloo, ON.

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The Fastest Way to Sink or Succeed

Guest Blog Post by Dr. Melissa McCreery

The fastest way to establish whether you’ll sink or succeed with a new project, with changing your weight, your life balance, your stress – even your career may surprise you. It’s probably something you take for granted, do automatically, or aren’t even aware of. I’m going to warn you that when I share it, it will sound very simple. Please, don’t take it for granted. This is the fundamental ingredient that sets and determines your course and your results.

The one, very powerful factor that will facilitate or undermine your progress with the goals you set, the projects you take on, and the dreams that you pursue for yourself is the story that you tell yourself about them.

What you believe about your ability to succeed almost always comes true.

It’s not always easy to capture the soundtrack that runs (sometimes continuously) in your head. But when you do (by listening, journaling, or simply asking yourself about it), it can be extremely enlightening.

We all carry around beliefs:

  • About what it takes to change
  • About our ability to succeed
  • About what kind of effort is required
  • About whether we deserve to be happy or thin or in love
  • About whether it can be easy or peaceful or fun

We take our beliefs and we weave stories that we mutter to ourselves all day long.

I’m fat and lazy. I’ll never make as much money as ______. I can’t stick with anything. I have no self control. If I want to make this happen, I’m going to have to work my butt off. I’m no good at _______. I’ll always struggle with ___________.

They are all stories.

They are just stories.

And they shape our attitude, our perspective, our approach, and our motivation continually. Every time we retell ourselves a version of what we have decided is true, we reinforce our beliefs.

There are stories that discourage us, “keep us in our place,” wear us down, and make success an uphill battle.

And there are stories that have the potential to change the game.

I can do this. I am the woman who succeeds. I keep making progress. I succeed by taking consistent steps and keeping it do-able. Success can feel easy. I am bigger than this struggle. I don’t have to be perfect to get where I want to go. I can learn as I go. Seeking help is a strength. I’m proud of ____________. I’m getting better every day.

We see what we are focusing on. We notice the details that confirm what we already believe. Want to fail? Tell yourself you can’t, you won’t, and it’s just too hard, miserable, or expensive.

Want to get what you want? Start feeding your beliefs, strengthening your confidence, and building a mental path that will create momentum toward your goals.

Copyright (C) 2014 Melissa McCreery, PhD. Psychologist, Author, and Coach Dr. Melissa McCreery focuses on the three O's that ambush successful, high-achieving women--overeating, overwhelm, and overload. Claim your free audio set: "5 Simple Steps to Move Beyond Overwhelm With Food and Life" at

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Resolve To Keep Working At It!

By this point in the year many have lost faith in, given up on or all-together forgotten about their New Year’s Resolutions.  It’s easy to get discouraged when we don’t measure up to the lofty objectives that we set when we have a fresh slate. The good news is that it’s not too late to make a positive change this year! There is still tons of time in 2014 to achieve goals around being a healthier you.

An important concept to keep in mind is that it’s what we do the majority of the time that really counts.  It’s easy for us to have one overly indulgent meal or skip out on one workout and to feel like the entire plan is ruined and give up.  I tell my patients that it’s what they do every day or the majority of days that counts and that the once-a-month treats (within reason, of course) matter much less.  The important thing is not letting those occasional indulgences take you off course.  Rather than beating yourself up or sliding back to old routines, it’s important to get right back to the healthy plan.

Another important part of resolutions is having support.  Have you told anyone about your goals? Have you teamed up with anyone to achieve your goals together? Maybe there’s a family member, friend or neighbour who also wants to commit to walking in the evenings.  Or a co-worker who would like to exchange healthy recipes with you. Have you told me about your health goal for 2014? Whether it’s improving your diet, losing weight, decreasing your need for medication or just feeling better, I’d love to help you achieve it!

New Year’s Resolutions have a certain excitement about them, but really any day works for setting goals.  Working towards goals doesn’t require us to be perfect, but simply to stick with it.  And the more support we have, the better. I hope you have a terrific 2014 and I can’t wait to work with you to make it the healthiest year yet!


Recipe of the Month: Kale Chips

If you haven’t tried them yet, you might think that “kale” and “chips” are two words that don’t belong together.  But if you’re someone who’s tried this trendy super-food, you know what a terrific snack it is! You can find kale chips in many grocery stores but making your own allows you to avoid an additives. And it’s easy! Kale is a powerhouse with the most nutritional value per calorie; it is alkaline and anti-inflammatory.


  • 1 Bunch of Kale
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional seasonings: 1 Tbsp Lemon or Lime Juice, 1 Tbsp Tahini, ¼ Tsp Cayenne Powder, or any other seasonings that you enjoy – be creative!


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Wash kale, dry thoroughly, remove the stems and break into bite-sized pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, toss kale, oil and salt.
  4. Transfer kale to cookie sheets and spread to a single layer.
  5. Roast in oven for about 15 minutes, until edges are dark but not blackened. Watch closely to make sure they don’t burn!
  6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Be sure they are thoroughly cooled before putting into a container (if you can resist the temptation to eat the whole batch!)  

Recipe adapted from The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook by Susan Sampson. (I got it as a gift over the holidays and love it!)

Photo Credit: MorgueFile

NEW Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course

Are you looking to bring calmness to your mind and your life? Or maybe you are looking to better manage that work or family stress? Mindfulness training could be a helpful part of your plan!

I’m very excited to announce a new Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course that will be available in the New Year at the Justine Blainey Wellness Centre.  I will be facilitating this 8-week course based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s successful program.  This course has been extensively studied and shown to reduce stress, decrease anxiety and depression and improve concentration, productivity and sleep.  It’s also been shown to benefit many physical illnesses including fibromyalgia, headaches and arthritis.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to one’s moment-to-moment experience.  It’s about getting out of our heads and living in the present moment rather than dwelling on things that happened in the past or worrying about things that could happen in the future. 

Mindfulness training teaches people to pay attention to their thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in an observant, non-judgemental way.  When we view our thoughts and feelings from the perspective of an observer we notice that even negative ones are only temporary and not always as true as we might think.  By becoming aware of them we can make a conscious choice about how to respond to them.

This course helps participants develop the skills for being mindful through the use of a variety of exercises including meditation and group discussions.  Participants will also be asked to complete daily homework exercises to maximize the benefist of the program.  While there are some education components, most of the classes consist of experiential learning and the development of practical strategies and skills for participants to use in their daily lives.

More Info: Click on the Mindfulness page to learn more.

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Whole Foods

We’ve all heard the term “Whole Foods” mentioned.  It’s a popular marketing catchphrase these days and heck, there’s even a store bearing the name! But what does it really mean to eat whole foods?  

I read about a really practical experiment done in a high school culinary arts class that illustrated the idea of whole foods very clearly.  In the experiment, one student juiced 6 oranges to produce 8oz of juice, drank it in a few seconds and said “I’m hungry, what’s for breakfast?”  Another student was also given 6 oranges but instructed to cut them up and eat them.  After 15 minutes and 5 oranges the student said, “I think I'm going to be sick, I can't eat another bite.” 

While some people consider the orange juice to be a whole food – there was no extra sugar or flavouring added after all – it still differs significantly from the food’s natural state. By juicing it, we’ve removed the fiber which gives our body a signal that it’s had enough and helps to slow the absorption of sugar, lessening the impact on our blood sugar levels.  Also, the liquid format allows us to drink it very quickly without giving the body the opportunity to register the amount of sugar that has been consumed.  Instead, why not eat the whole fruit or add the entire fruit to a smoothie?

Another example of this concept is milk.  While I’m not a proponent of people drinking cow’s milk, if you do choose to drink it, you’re better off choosing whole milk.  A recent study looking at childhood obesity compared weight outcomes with the type of milk children consumed.  Surprisingly, compared to children drinking high-fat milk, those drinking 1% had a 57% increased chance of being obese 2 years later. One possible explanation is that by removing the fat from the dairy product you create a product that is less satisfying which may encourage people to drink more of it. 

Another challenge exists when whole foods are combined with other ingredients.  A bread or pasta may bear the label claim “made with whole grains” because a small portion of the product is whole wheat or brown rice.  However, in many of these products, an equal or even a larger portion of the product is made of refined white flour or a variety of other highly processed ingredients and additives. 

Rather than choosing processed foods with this catchy phrase on their packaging, try to incorporate more foods in their whole, natural form into your meals.  Enjoy a piece of fresh chicken or fish rather than a frozen burger or fish stick. Have a whole apple (with the skin) instead of the apple sauce cup.  Boil some quinoa or brown rice instead of bread, pasta or white rice.  Top your salad with lemon juice and olive oil instead of a bottled dressing. Try making your own homemade granola or cookies using whole grains, nuts and seeds. And don’t forget about your 6-8 servings of vegetables, my favourite whole foods of all!

When making food choices, focusing on whole foods is a great way to ensure that you are getting all of the benefits naturally found in a food and it helps us to eat foods in the right amounts.  Why not try choosing more whole foods today?



Scharf RJ et al. Ach Dis Child. 2013;0:1.