Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Understanding Your Body’s Stress Response System


Chronic stress is detrimental to health. Our modern lifestyle is fast paced and dynamic. It can be hard for our bodies to keep up.

Stress is one of the root causes of many health concerns. The naturopathic doctors at Annex Naturopathic Clinic assess their patient’s stress and make connections to how it may be affecting other areas of their health.

Stress Response - Stage 1

Let’s begin by understanding the stress response.

First we must acknowledge that the human body and its physiology has not changed significantly from that of our ancestors 50 000 years ago. However, the environment that humans live today is drastically different from hunter-gatherers.

To ensure the survival of our species, upon encountering a threat- let’s say a bear- our “fight or flight” response creates a hormone cascade- including adrenaline- that would enable out body to fight the bear or run away as quickly as possible.

This initial response is called the “alarm” stage.


Stress Response - Stage 2

The second stage of the stress response is the “resistance” phase.

The body responds to the inflammatory environment created by the “alarm” stage . At this point, the brain signals to the adrenal glands to increase the production and release of cortisol. Cortisol, a hormone with anti-inflammatory properties (amongst many other actions), acts to quiet the immune response.

Once a certain amount of cortisol is reached in the blood stream, the brain stops singling the adrenal glands to respond, and cortisol production is normalized.


Stress Response - The Problem

The stress response outlined above is protective and beneficial if activated sporadically.

The problem that we encounter is modern society is that our stress response doesn’t know the difference between encountering a bear and being in a high stress work environment.

Deadlines at work, traffic, finances, relationships, overextending ourselves socially,  and information overload via technology are repeated and chronic stressors that leave the stress hormone cascades turned on and levels of cortisol and adrenaline higher than appropriate.


Our bodies are only meant to see surges in these hormones in fleeting glances.

When we are exposed to repeated stressors, too close together our hormones become out of balance (notably, chronically elevated cortisol) and negative health outcomes ensue including altered circadian rhythm, elevated blood sugar, gastrointestinal concerns and altered immune response.

Naturopathic doctors are able assess stress and its effects through specialized testing and comprehensive intake and offer solutions that can make the body more resilient in the face of modern living.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health

Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D 
Annex Naturopathic Clinic 
572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1 

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Health Benefits of Collagen and how to Incorporate this in to your Daily Diet

health benefits of collagen jello | Annex Naturopathic Clinic Toronto Naturopathic Doctor in the Annex

There is so much talk these days about supplements like; vitamins, minerals, protein powders, etc., that you're supposed to consume if you want to be considered healthy. But you hear very little about the health benefits of collagen and it's role in proper health. As a naturopathic doctor, I feel that there isn't enough being taught about this important nutrient's role in our health and well-being. So...

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in our body and is the most abundant protein of connective tissue.  Collagen is in our skin, bones and teeth, eyes (corneas) joint tissues (such as cartilage, spinal discs and ligaments), blood vessels and organ tissues.

Collagen can be supplemented through our diet; however, typical western meat-eater diets usually don’t contain these parts of an animal, so our dietary sources can actually be quite limited.  Dietary collagen intake has been shown to have a number of health benefits.

Collagen is a rich source of the amino acids, mainly:

Non-essential amino acids

  • Glycine - most abundant
  • Proline
  • Alanine
  • Hydroxyproline
  • Glutamic acid
  • Arginine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Serine

Essential amino acids:

  • Lysine
  • Valine
  • Threonine

Healthy intake of these amino acids provide strength to our connective tissue and aid in tissue repair. As you can see, most of the amino acids that make up collagen are non-essential (meaning our bodies can make our own), so why is it important to have a dietary source?  As our bodies age and wear down, the need for these amino acids can become greater than our bodies can produce.

There are a number of health benefits to supplementing collagen.  Dietary collagen is absorbed by our digestive tract (small intestine), in to the bloodstream, and accumulated in to the skin for up to 96 hours.1  Collagen supplementation improves your body’s own production of collagen through stimulating the cells that make collagen (fibroblasts)1,2

  • Skin hydration and elasticity: Collagen is a natural protein that is responsible for providing elasticity to our skin.  Healthy collagen production will improve elasticity, flexibility, and firmness of the skin.  Studies have found that supplementing with oral hydrolyzed collagen powder can improve skin elasticity within 8 weeks1 reduce the formation of fine lines and wrinkles after 8 weeks,2 and can reduce cellulite after 6 months use.3  Collagen supplementation has also been found to accelerate wound healing.4
  • Joint strength and pain relief: The effect of collagen has been detailed by one significant study. The results of this study found that collagen supplementation in young active individual significantly improved joint pain at rest, walking, standing, running in a straight line and making quick directional changes while running, compared to those receiving placebo.

    This study also explains that collagen supplementation may help reduce joint deterioration in those who are at high risk.5  Collagen absorbed through the digestive tract accumulates in the cartilage and stimulate the production of type II collagen, the main protein of joint cartilage.  Other studies have found dietary cartilage supplementation improves pain in those suffering from osteoarthritis6

  • Other tissues: Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body.  Although there hasn’t been extensive research on collagen in other parts of the body, the positive effect it has on the skin and cartilage may also translate in to other connective tissues.  Areas where collagen can play a positive role
    • Building strength and durability in the hair and nails
    • Improving the elasticity and repairing damage to our blood vessels - so helping those with cardiovascular disease
    • Improving digestion by restoring the epithelial lining of our intestines (repairing inflammation and leaky gut!)

Also by having a good source of these amino acids, the liver can function more efficiently as the rich level of glycine of collagen provides support to phase 2 detoxification!

health benefits of collagen chicken soup | Annex Naturopathic Clinic Toronto Naturopathic Doctor in the Annex

Collagen sources

I have historically recommended that my patient get collagen naturally by making your own bone broth.  Boiling the bones of organic chicken, beef or turkey bones to extract collagen after you’ve consumed the meat is an excellent way to use the whole animals for all the nutrients they have to offer.  Also not only do you get collagen this way, you also extract many vitamins and minerals!  However it isn’t always the most convenient way to get a daily dose of collagen, which is when supplementation is useful.

Hydrolyzed collagen peptides has been the form of choice by most research studies.  This form is almost tasteless, can dissolve in any type of liquid (hot and cold), or snuck in to recipes to up protein content without anyone being the wiser.  Make sure you get a form from a reputable company that practice ethical farming produces (such as grass-fed cows) to avoid any negative influences that can make the collagen sub par.

Gelatin is also a form of dietary collagen - this is best used when you want to make something “jelly-like” such as making jello, or marshmallows, because it gels up when added to liquid.  This form has been touted the best for digestive problems as it has the ability to coat the digestive tract.

None of the studies cited reported any adverse or negative effects of collagen supplementation.

Also, collagen production by our bodies REQUIRES vitamin C so ensuring that your diet is also rich in this vitamin is very important to note when supplementing with collagen.

Though studies are limited, the pool of research out there has nothing but positive things to say about this dietary supplement.  Considering the impact and abundance of collagen in our bodies, this is a great protein addition to our diet, and can help improve the quality, strength and health of our connective tissues.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health

Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic
572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1

  1. Proksch E et. al. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
  2. Proksch E et. al. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis.Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(3):113-9
  3. Schunck M. et. al., Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology.J Med Food. 2015 Dec;18(12):1340-8
  4. Lee SK et. al. Pressure ulcer healing with a concentrated, fortified, collagen protein hydrolysate supplement: a randomized controlled trial.Adv Skin Wound Care. 2006 Mar;19(2):92-6.
  5. Clark KL. et. al. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain.Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 May;24(5):1485-96.
  6. Zuckley L. et al. Collagen hydrolysate improves joint function in adults with mild symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2004;36(Suppl):S153-S4


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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Digestive Problems Got you Down? You May have SIBO and therefore a Solution

Annex Naturopathic Clinic Toronto Naturopathic Doctor in the Annex
Have you been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?  Have your digestive concerns been worked up though ultrasounds, endoscopies and colonoscopies, only to come back completely normal?  Have you been told that your digestive problems are “just are what they are” and are left to just fend for yourself, avoid all the food, and live your life always worrying about how your stomach will react?
There might be an actual name for your nameless digestive problems, and it might just be called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).  At the Annex Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto, we can help you identify the source of your digestive problems and discover if you actually have SIBO or not.

What is SIBO?

In a healthy intestine the majority of bacteria resides in the large intestine, with minimal amounts present in the small.   SIBO occurs when an abnormal amount of bacteria colonize and grow in the small intestine, creating digestive problems that can affect the entire digestive tract including the intestines (small and large) stomach, liver, gallbladder and pancreas.
SIBO has well-documented in medical literature for a number of years, but it’s not until now that it’s becoming a well-accepted CAUSE of irritable bowel syndrome and chronic digestive concerns.  Studies have found that up to 85% of those diagnosed with IBS have test positive for SIBO  - this is a significant number that shouldn’t be ignored.

How does one develop SIBO?

Past gastrointestinal infections

Many cases can start with a simple stomach infection - this could have been on a trip to an all-inclusive resort, drinking pond water, or eating dirt as a child, and/or eating an undercooked burger.  A self-limiting, seamlessly harmless infection can disturb the normal intestinal flora, affecting and “reprogamming” the nervous system of the digestive tract, subtly causing dysregulation that can eventually becoming clinically significant as the years roll by.

Poor eating habits

Another reason why someone may be susceptible to developing SIBO is eating too frequently.  The contractions of the small and large intestines to move food forward are tightly timed to when you last ate.  It actually takes up to 2-3 hours for food to be pushed in to the large intestine from the small, and eating before this can actually halt this process.  This habit can eventually confuse the normal digestive program, and can eventually lead to improper signals and contractions in the intestines which can push bacteria around, flushing it in to the small intestine.
SIBO Digestive Problems | Annex Naturopathic Clinic Toronto Naturopathic Doctor in the Annex

How to detect SIBO

SIBO is diagnosed through a simple breath test.  We offer this test at our office and many other functional medicine practitioners do as well.  Symptoms are major clues as to whether we determine if testing for SIBO would be appropriate for your case.  These include:
  • Long-standing Diarrhea and/or Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Pain or discomfort after eating
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Excessive gas and belching
  • History of appendicitis
Existing digestive conditions that can also contribute to the development of SIBO
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Iron deficiency
  • Pancreatic enzyme deficiency
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis
It’s important to treat SIBO as there are a number of conditions that can arise from untreated SIBO, such as
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Acne and Rosacea
  • Leaky gut syndrome and food sensitivities
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Appendicitis

What do we do about it?

Treatment is based on wiping out the overgrowth using natural (but strong) herbal antimicrobials, as well as supporting the body’s natural detoxification centers (such as the liver).  We then botanicals, nutrients and dietary approaches to tone and strengthen the muscles and the nervous system of the digestive system, to create a system that is healthy, efficient and properly colonized by beneficial bacteria.

How long before I feel better?

SIBO Treatments if done properly, give people relief within TWO WEEKS and full treatment of SIBO typically lasts for 4-6 weeks in total (this can vary case by case).  If implemented properly, treatments are simple and straight forward.
If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.
Yours in Health
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic
572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1https://goo.gl/maps/uVRBvcyoUa62

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Why Working With a Naturopathic Doctor can Benefit your Health

naturopathic doctor can benefit your health | Annex Naturopathic Clinic Toronto Naturopathic Doctor in the Annex
In the spirit of Naturopathic Medicine Week, we wanted to write an article that lets you know why a naturopathic doctor is a great addition to your healthcare team.

The body has an amazing ability to adapt to its surroundings - this is why we are able to fight off viruses, regulate to changing weather and deal daily stressors.

The problem is that when our bodies are forced to adapt to chronic unhealthy situations, these adaptations can result in unfavourable systemic changes that lead to chronic disease.  Disease doesn't "just happen"- if you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism in June, it doesn't mean that the disease started in June.

The body’s ability to adapt allows us to function in disease-promoting environments  for months to years - we often don’t know this is happening until symptoms become too unbearable to cope with in our daily lives.

Multiple factors that lead to chronic disease include poor dietary choices, chronic stress, lack of proper sleep and exercise (to name a few).

During this transition, we actually have many symptoms that warns us something is off, many of which we think are “normal” symptoms - feeling unhealthy or unwell, even if mild, is not normal if it becomes a consistent feeling.  Symptoms are the body's way to alert us that there may be something about our health that requires tuning and treatment.

If these signals are ignored then disease will continue to flourish.  Many of these symptoms are non-specific, such as:
  • chronic headaches
  • low energy, low concentration, low moods
  • sleep problems
  • weight gain
  • gas/bloating
  • trouble with bowel movements
  • severe PMS
  • joint pain
  • weak immune system
If you have any of the symptoms, it’s time to see a professional that can help you manage these symptoms and prevent chronic disease. As a society, our ability and awareness to detect if our body is out of balance has been greatly lost, and we are led to believe that these symptoms are "fixed" by popping a pill that makes symptom go away.

Annex Naturopathic Clinic Toronto Naturopathic Doctor in the Annex

Benefits of Seeing a Naturopathic Doctor

Seeing a naturopathic doctor can benefit anyone who is determined to take control of their health, whether you suffer from chronic illness (disease state), or if you feel slight imbalances in your health (imbalanced state).

Naturopathic doctors have a reputation of being the "last resort" to many people - usually after failed attempts with conventional treatment, and realizing the impact nutrition and lifestyle can have on health, many people seek out our care without realizing that they could have been doing this from the start!

Our treatments compliment what you are doing with your family physician and specialist, so you don’t have to choose one system over the other.

The primary goal of naturopathic treatments is to awaken and encourage the body's natural and innate system of healing by treating the ROOT CAUSE of the complaints.Naturopathic medicine works BEST when we are treating the "imbalanced" state - the further in to the "disease state" you are, the longer it may take to see results.

The length of time it takes to see good results using naturopathic treatments depends on 1) the severity of disease 2) the compliance of the patient.

So no matter if you have mild digestive issues or have been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, naturopathic medicine as well with your determination and commitment can drastically improve your health!

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health
Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D.
Annex Naturopathic Clinic
572 Bloor St W #201, 
Toronto, ON M6G 1K1

To get more ways about health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: Annex Naturopathic

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Change of Season Soup – Helping your Body and Immune system Transition through the Seasons

Change of Season Soup | Annex Naturopathic Doctors Clinic Toronto
The change of seasons is here! This means every day is a constant battle of what coat to wear, whether you should bring an umbrella, and determining if that sniffle is due to allergies, or if you’ve caught the dreaded change of season cold.
The change of season is a common time when people tend to catch cold and flu bugs. The body has to keep up with and adjust to the fluctuating temperatures, weakening our immune responses to viruses in the air.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the lungs are responsible for BOTH temperature regulation as well as immune strength so when our lungs are busy regulating temperatures, they are not as focused on protecting the system from respiratory viruses.
So, of course, TCM came up with a herbal formulation that uses a specific combination of 4 “tonifying” (tones, strengthens, and nourishes the body tissues) herbs called Change of Season Soup that helps our bodies acclimatize to new temperatures, mainly through strengthening the lungs and boosting the immune system.
It contains the following herbs:
  • Codonopsis root (Dang Shen):This herb is thought to help tonify and strengthen energy and helps to build blood and nourish our body fluids.
  • Astragalus root (Huang Qi):  Astragalus helps strengthen our protective defences, strengthen energy, nourish the spleen, and tonify the blood and lungs
  • Dioscorea (Chinese yam) root (Shan Yao): Dioscorea is a herb which tonifies and balances the lungs and the kidneys.
  • Chinese Lycii berries (Gou Qi Zi):  Lycii berries is believed to strengthen the liver and the kidneys.
Use this soup during the change of seasons strengthen your immunity and prevent the respiratory illness.
Being a naturopathic clinic in Toronto, we package these herbs and sell them to the public. Likewise, you can grab them from your local trusted herbal medicine store (Herbie’s Herbs at Queen and Bathurst or Kyu Shon Hong Co. Ltd. in Chinatown at 439 Dundas St. W).
Bowl of Healthy Soup | Annex Naturopathic Doctors Clinic Toronto

How to Make this Change of Season Soup Decoction

Fill a large stock pot with water (2-4L). Add the above herbs to the pot and place the lid on. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2-4 hours. If the water level boils down, add water to refill if necessary.  Using a slotted spoon, or strainer, remove the herbs from the pot.
Drink 1 cup of the decoction daily (you can reheat it daily), for 1 week (1/2 cup for children over 2 under 10). The soup has a slightly bitter taste - add a 1 tsp of honey if you don't like the taste, or use it as a base for chicken soup.
Enhance the immune boosting properties by combining this with a homemade bone-broth soup.
**note - herbal remedies should always be taken with caution. Please make sure you do not have allergies to these specific herbs.  This soup is used to boost immunity and therefore is used as a preventative to the cold and flu. If you are running a fever, do
not take this soup with the herbal ingredients.  Please consult with a medical professional familiar with herbal medicine if you have any concerns.
Yours in Health
Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic
572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1

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