Expert Suggestions for Heart Health!

With over 20 years of experience in the holistic health and wellness field Nelson Narciso, DNM, is a holistic nutritionist, herbalist, Reiki practitioner and member of the Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners and the Canadian Society for Orthomolecular Medicine. Nelson is a well-respected writer, consultant & educator on Natural Health Product’s as well as a frequent radio & television guest. Here are his key tips on how to “keep your ticker ticking”!



“Researchers have shown that for every 1 serving of a day increase of fruits or vegetables there’s a subsequent 4 percent drop in coronary heart disease. Combine the two together and increase servings by more than one a day and one can expect even more dramatic results. Researchers at Oxford University published a study showing that consuming at least 8 portions of fruits and vegetables a day had a 22 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease. Remember to vary your fruit choices and choose fruits and vegetables that reflect a rainbow of colours. These colourful foods are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals all of which are heart friendly.”



“We now have evidence that healthy fats in fact support a healthy heart. Of particular importance are the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. These include fish, flax, chia, hemp, walnuts and dark leafy greens. Fish are an especially important source because they not only have the omega-3 fats alpha linolenic acid but they also possess the all-important EPA and DHA fats needed for optimal health in general and heart health in specific. Polar opposite to healthy fats are trans fats. These have been shown to dramatically raise the risk of heart disease. Avoid foods that say trans or hydrogenated fats and don’t just read the “nutrition facts table” but also read the ingredient list.”



“Sugar intake has been shown to increase several markers of heart disease. This may be in part due to the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which have been increasingly implicated in heart health especially for diabetics. Especially noteworthy is the fact that high fructose corn syrup is especially problematic in that it seems to have greater impact than does glucose.”



“Exercise was shown to lower levels of a blood marker known as C-reactive protein that have been linked to an elevated risk of heart disease. Exercise benefits the heart in numerous ways: strengthens heart and cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, lowers bad LDL and raises good HDL cholesterol and helps with weight management.”



“Chronic stress may in fact predict the occurrence of heart disease. It’s not entirely clear what mechanism or mechanisms are involved in this association but nonetheless it is worth noting. Therefore it is prudent to manage stress and engage in stress reducing activities like yoga and Tai Chi. In fact both have been shown in research to benefit the heart.”



  • Multivitamins
    • Men and women that use a multi have fewer heart attacks than those that don’t.
    • Antioxidants (i.e. vitamins A, C, E and beta carotene)
      • Prevention of atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries. Protects vascular endothelium – cells that line interior surface of blood vessels.
    • Fish oil
      • Lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel elasticity
      • Look for a blend of cold water, wild caught fish harvested using sustainable methods, processed through molecular distillation to remove unwanted contaminants and IFOS approved to verify purity and potency!
    • Vitamin D
      • Low levels were associated with increased risk of “heart failure, sudden cardiac death, stroke, overall cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular death.”
    • Vegetables and Fruits
      • Average daily intakes are well below recommended levels making supplementation with greens and berry powders worth considering. These products are also rich in antioxidants.
    • Whey Protein
      • May lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and elevate glutathione levels all of which are important to heart health!
    • Phytosterols
      • Lower LDL cholesterol, maintain healthy cholesterol levels and block cholesterol absorption in the small intestine.
    • Ashwagandha
      • Reduces C-reactive protein levels.
    • Taurine
      • Has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and prevent cardiac arrhythmia.
    • Magnesium
      • Deficiency has been linked to vascular damage, atherosclerosis and hypertension. Magnesium has been shown to help prevent cardiac arrhythmia and lower blood pressure.
    • Folate & B12
      • These vitamins have been shown to lower homocysteine levels, which is an amino acid that, when elevated, is a predictor of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
    • Astaxanthin
      • Protects against cardiovascular oxidative stress and inflammation, lowers C-reactive protein and triglycerides and raises HDL cholesterol.

In closing, Nelson mentions that “heart disease can be readily prevented through strategic dietary, lifestyle and supplement choices”. Following a program that incorporates all three should dramatically lower the risk of developing heart disease and/or help reverse it!

-This Article is Sponsored by Good N Natural -

8 Reasons Why…You Have Low Energy!

1) Improper Food Selection, Dehydration & Overacidity

Poor nutrition and dehydration can lead to decreased energy levels and physical performance. Healthy Ingredients in adequate portions and Plenty of Water can help maintain muscle, increase energy and support metabolism! Focus on eating primarily: Whole, Raw, Alkalizing, Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant-Rich, Nutrient-Dense, Organic, Naturally-Grown/Raised ingredients. Also, consider Basic Supplementation to ensure you are getting enough nutrients to function properly and giving the body what it needs (i.e. Multivitamin/mineral + Vitamin D). Note that both B-Vitamins & Magnesium play critical roles in energy production! Also, over acidity in the body is the result of an acid-forming diet and mineral imbalances which depletes oxygen in the body. Consider Alkalizing Minerals (i.e. magnesium, calcium, potassium) in supplemental form and foods such as lemons, green foods/drinks/powders, etc.

2) Blood Sugar Imbalance

Refined foods and sugars spike blood sugar levels quickly, ultimately leading to a rebound crash response. Since the body cells use glucose as their main source of fuel/energy, inconsistent supply leads to energy crashes. In order to stabilize blood sugar levels and attain a steady release of prolonged energy, balanced meals/snacks should be eaten regularly (don’t skip meals – especially breakfast) that contain adequate Protein & Fibre as well as high quality fats! Note that low energy levels and fatigue are symptoms of protein deficiency. If you have trouble getting adequate amounts from your diet, consider supplemental powders. Be sure to stay away from refined foods and sugars and focus on whole, natural ingredients. Also, consider natural Blood Sugar Management Ingredients such as chromium, chirositol, berberine, etc.

3) Depression & Low Neurotransmitters

Depression is often characterized by low energy levels, excessive sleep and fatigue. This may be by a biochemical change in the brain. Low levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are linked to low mood and motivation. Ensure adequate Mood Supporting Nutrients such as Amino Acids (i.e. Tyrosine, Tryptophan - building blocks for neurotransmitters), Essential Fatty Acids (i.e. High EPA Fish Oils – improve neurotransmitter reception) & Supporting Co-Factors (i.e. Magnesium, B-Vitamins, Zinc, Vitamin C & D - involved in all processes/conversions). Consider a 5-HTP supplement, which acts as a direct precursor to serotonin to increase levels. Note that the brain and gut are on a two-way street of constant communication/influence and that gut bacteria imbalance can cause symptoms of depression!

4) Underactive Thyroid

The thyroid governs our metabolic rate and when weak has difficulty sustaining energy output. Therefore, major symptoms of an underactive thyroid are low energy, tired head and muscle weakness. A TSH value greater than 2.0 can cause symptoms of low thyroid. Consider a Thyroid Support Formula with ingredients such as iodine, tyrosine and selenium.

5) Iron Deficiency

Iron is needed for hemoglobin production, a type of protein in red blood cells used for transporting oxygen to cells throughout the body! Therefore, iron deficiency is characterized by exhaustion and weakness. Also, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid work together to help make red blood cells and support iron function in the body. Note that low stomach acid, coffee/black tea consumption and phytic acid can inhibit the absorption of iron but Vitamin C can help increase it! If blood tests indicate low stores, consider incorporating Iron-Rich Foods and Supplements!

6) Stressed Lifestyle, Insomnia & Overworked Adrenals

Cortisol is a hormone whose levels normally fluctuate throughout the day in a circadian rhythm. Levels are naturally high in the morning to give us energy but fall in the evening. However, high amounts of chronic stress, lack of sleep and caffeine intake cause the adrenals to increase cortisol production and interrupt this natural cycle. This can lead to exhaustion as eventually overworked adrenal glands become completely fatigued, losing the ability to make even normal amounts of cortisol and meet demands. The stress response also depletes nutrients and affects sleep patterns. Consider Stress Management Techniques, Natural Sleep Aids as well as adaptogenic ingredients (ashwaghanda, rhodiola, schizandra, and ginseng) in an Adrenal Support Formula to support your body in dealing with stress and to help regulate cortisol.

7) Poor Digestion & Inflammation

Digestion is impaired from poor eating habits, low enzymes/stomach acid, food sensitivities, stress, etc. This leads to imbalanced gut bacteria (dysbiosis), risk of overgrowth/infection, and tissue damage (i.e. leaky gut) which results in an inflammatory overactive immune response. These inflammatory compounds are directly associated with fatigue. In order to gain proper gut balance we should Improve Digestion/Gut Health (enzymes, HCL, L-glutamine & probiotics), as well as Avoid Triggers (poor diet, stress, chemicals, medications, common food allergens – i.e. dairy/gluten). Also, consider Natural Anti-Inflammatories in foods and supplemental form, such as essential omega fatty acids (i.e. high EPA fish oils) and curcumin.

8) Toxic Overload & Infection/Overgrowth (Candida, Parasites)

Fatigue can be caused by the buildup of toxins in the system which damage & disrupt cell function. These can be from either internal factors (poor digestion, constipation or infection/overgrowth – i.e. candida, parasites) as well as external factors (chemicals, heavy metals, medications, smoking, hormone mimickers, and artificial ingredients). Consider a Liver/Colon Cleanse and be sure to Prevent Constipation (fibre, magnesium, herbs). Also, Minimize Toxins in food, environment, body care and cleaning products, and Treat Overgrowth/Infection if necessary (with natural antimicrobials, probiotics and proper diet).

*Natural Energy Boosters: Maca, Yerba Mate, Bee Pollen, Moringa, Matcha, Aerobic Oxygen, Spirulina/Chlorella, Prairie Grasses (Oat, Barley, Wheat, Alfalfa), Peppermint & Citrus Essential Oils as well as Regular, Moderate Exercise!

Ask a health care professional or product advisor for more information on these natural treatment options & ingredients to help counteract low energy!


-This Article is Sponsored by Good n' Natural-

The Art of Sourdough Bread

According to local baker, Holly Sobering, “Sourdough bread takes time…long and slow fermentation is the key to delicious healthy bread... it is an art.” So what exactly is sourdough and how is it different?

The Sourdough Starter Process

Sourdough is made by the ancient method of fermentation using naturally-occurring bacteria and wild yeast. In traditional recipes, all that is required is a sourdough starter (flour + water), salt and flour! The original sourdough starter mixture develops a harmonious symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria through a 3-7 day cycle of feeding, stirring, discarding and waiting. Within this process both acid and alcohol fermentation occur as both yeast and bacteria have a preferred carbohydrate fuel from the grains. Essentially, the yeast produce ethanol and carbon dioxide and from bacterial action, acids are produced. The bacteria in sourdough provide the yeast with the acidity necessary to thrive. The dough rises as a result of the bubbles of carbon dioxide becoming trapped. This produces a delicious bread full of holes with a firm, springy crust. Sourdough bread has a mildly sour taste not present in most breads made with regular baker's yeast.

What’s The Difference?

The big difference between sourdough bread and regular supermarket bread you buy or bake today is the source of the yeast.

As of the 20th century reliable, specialized, ready-made baking yeast is now available for large commercial bakeries. The yeast used is very fast-acting and easy to produce commercially which has sped up production and lowered costs. However, it doesn’t adapt well and is intolerant of acidic environments. Other adjustments that have taken place in modern times are the incorporation of additives, extra yeast, extra gluten, fat for softness, emulsifiers to produce bigger, softer loaves, etc.

Traditional sourdough contains a complex blend of bacteria and yeast. These yeasts thrive naturally on the surface of grains, fruits, vegetables, and even in the air and soil. The exact strains of yeast and bacteria will vary depending on the origins of the starter.

What Makes Sourdough Better?

Improved Digestion & Nutrition - The fermentation process used in sourdough causes many of the simple sugars present in the grain to be eaten up in the process. Essentially, it is predigested for us. The process also makes the bread higher in nutrients, especially B vitamins, and easier on blood sugar levels.

Sourdough breads require a longer rising/soaking time. This allows for the breakdown of the proteins (gluten in wheat) into amino acids, making it easier to digest.

Finally, the bacteria present in the sourdough help activate the enzyme, phytase, which breaks down phytic acid, an anti-nutrient found in all grains and seeds which can bind with minerals and take them out of your body!

Holly mentions that “people are discovering that by switching to sourdough bread from supermarket bread they are experiencing positive health changes and no longer have bloating.”

Natural Preservative – The acid produced in the sourdough process is good for yeast but inhospitable to other organisms and therefore acts as a natural preservative, inhibiting the growth of molds.

SustainableOnce established, a sourdough starter is easy to care for, can last indefinitely, and can be used to make a variety of baked goods such as pancakes, cookies, pizza crust, muffins, etc. All that is required is a single homemade starter as opposed to a yeast packet!

Holly adds, “Perhaps the best quality of sourdough bread is flavor! The crust provides a caramelized flavor that triggers your palette and the springy aromatic bread inside will be the most delicious bread you will ever try. Each loaf will reward you with chewiness, flavor and a satisfying depth that cannot be compared to Wonder Bread. Whether you eat your bread toasted or even stale-which doesn’t happen quickly-this bread will have you hooked!”

Look for locally-produced bread, made with organic, low temperature impact milled, whole grain flour made from Canadian grains for a highly nutritious product.

This column is sponsored by Good ‘n’ Natural in Steinbach.


10 Ways to Keep a Happy Heart!


February is Heart Health month! According to The Heart & Stroke Foundation “Heart disease affects 1.3 million Canadians…and 8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease & stroke is preventable through healthy lifestyle behaviours.” Let’s talk about common risk factors and natural heart health tips!

Common Problems & Potential Risk Factors

A. High Cholesterol/Atherosclerosis (Hardening, Thickening and Narrowing of Arteries)

o Blood Sugar Imbalances & Insulin Resistance, Toxin Exposure & Overloaded Liver, Infections, Stress, Over Acidity, Poor Gut Health & Silent Inflammation, Increased Blood Pressure, Physical Inactivity, Obesity, Estrogen Imbalances, Poor Diet.

B. High Blood Pressure/Hypertension (Increased Pressure on Artery Wall)

o Increased Blood Flow – Due to Chronic Stress, Caffeine Intake o Arterial Stiffness/Resistance - Due to Age (naturally lose flexibility) or Atherosclerosis o Fluid Retention (increases blood volume & pressure) – Due to Poor Kidney Function, High Dietary Sodium Intake or Low Potassium/Magnesium.

A Note on Cholesterol

Dietary Cholesterol is not all bad! This is a common misconception. 80-90% of the cholesterol in your body is produced by your liver and does not come from your meals. Your liver is able to adjust how much is produced based on your dietary intake. It is dangerous free radicals, toxins, excess blood sugar, cortisol (stress hormone), homocysteine, fatty protein and infectious microbes that damage arterial lining, which leads to harmful inflammation and arterial plaque build-up. Cholesterol then must be carried through the body to reach its destination and LDL & HDL are its carriers. HDL’s job is to bring cholesterol away from the body and to the liver in order to be metabolized and eliminated. LDL brings cholesterol to sites in the body that need it for repair, protection or synthesis of vital compounds. It can also transport twice as much cholesterol as HDL. In this regard, cholesterol is actually used to try to keep the body healthy! Cholesterol accumulates only in an attempt to heal vessels. We need adequate cholesterol to build cell membranes, hormones, convert vitamin D3 and make bile acid.

10 Suggestions for Heart Health!

1. Manage Blood Sugar – Excess blood sugar damages blood vessels, increases blood fats, increases inflammation and lowers good cholesterol. Ensure adequate fibre & protein as well as ingredients such as chromium, chirositol and berberine. Soluble Fibre acts as a sponge, absorbing excess cholesterol and removing it from the body!

2. Cooking Methods - avoid frying foods with unstable oils. This produces dangerous free radicals. Choose coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee for high temperature cooking.

3. Manage Stress– excess cortisol from stress raises blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol. Consider cognitive techniques, relaxation and natural supplementation (i.e. adaptogenic formulas). Remember, laughter dilates blood vessels!

4. Manage Thyroid (if necessary) – hypothyroidism can worsen heart disease and affects cholesterol elimination. Look for ingredients like tyrosine, iodine and selenium.

5. Avoid Toxic Ingredients – such as drugs, tobacco, alcohol, additives, heavy metals, pollution, chemicals, and synthetic hormones.

6. Regular Exercise – maintain a healthy weight and take part in consistent, moderate exercise.

7. Balance Hormones (if necessary)-proper estrogen levels can have a protective effect. Consider ingredients such as Indole 3 Carbinol, DIM and Calcium D-glucarate.

8. Support The Gut – consider gut repair nutrients (L-glutamine) and digestive enzymes. Probiotics play a role in cholesterol re-absorption and inflammation management.

9. Dietary Recommendations– Emphasize anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, high fibre, mineral-packed, omega-rich ingredients!

• Avoid artificial, instant, refined/”white”, processed ingredients (i.e. flour, sugar, etc.) and be aware of common sensitivities (i.e. gluten & dairy). • Replace coffee with tea and avoid alcohol. • Moderate salt intake and choose sea salt over regular table salt! • Consume saturated fats (from animal products) in moderation and choose organic, grass-fed sources. • Eliminate rancid or trans-fats and choose olive, avocado and camelina oils! • Aim for an omega 6 to 3 ratio as close to 1:1 as possible (as least 4:1 is recommended).

Top Heart Superfoods Include: Flax, chia, pumpkin seeds, olives, walnuts, almonds, quinoa, pomegranate, berries, apples, spinach, beans, lentils, avocadoes, hemp, coconut, salmon, garlic, oats, prunes, beets, grass-fed beef, buckwheat, oats, dark chocolate (in moderation).

Did You Know? Beets provide nitrates for nitric oxide production which dilates vessels and helps to lower blood pressure. Omega 3 fats (High EPA) help to reduce serum triglycerides, blood pressure, free radicals and cholesterol, plus they act as anti-inflammatories! Omega 9 fats are shown to lower LDL & raise HDL cholesterol!

10. Supplement Suggestions – consider natural support to lower blood pressure, control cholesterol as well as fight inflammation, protect arteries and repair damaged tissue.

Sytrinol lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, plus acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Coenzyme Q10 (active form Ubiquinol) works to lower blood pressure, maintains a healthy cholesterol ratio as well as an antioxidant. Note that statin drugs deplete CoQ10! Magnesium works to lower LDL & increase HDL cholesterol as well as lowers blood pressure, improves vascular function and regulates fluid balance. Vitamin B3/Niacin (as nicotinic acid) improves cholesterol ratio and lowers triglycerides. Collagen, Vitamin C, Proline & Lysine increases flexibility in the arteries, helps to repair connective tissues, regulates cholesterol metabolism, and improve circulation. Garlic & Hawthorn have both been shown to improve blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Berberine lowers blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol & blood pressure.

Did You Know? Vitamin C has been referred to as “nature’s perfect statin” and is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting off free radicals that cause arterial damage! As humans, we cannot produce Vitamin C within our bodies so we must rely on dietary intake to get adequate amounts.

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach. -30-

Shea Butter: Skin’s Best Friend!

What Is It?

Shea Butter is a fatty extract from the shea nuts which is found in the shea fruit produced by the shea (karate) tree. Shea trees grow naturally in the dry Savannah region of West Africa, and the area of Northern Uganda, and Southern Sudan. A tree produces its first fruit when it’s about 20 years old, and reaches its full production at about 45 years old. The tree can produce fruit for up to 200 years before reaching maturity! Shea fruit has a very sweet taste and is edible. After eating the fruit, a shea nut in a shell is obtained.
Did you Know? Shea is known as the “women’s gold” in West Africa, because it’s processing provides economic opportunities for women and girls, while helping to protect the environment!

How Is It Made?

The first step in making shea butter is to crack the shell by hand in order to release the shea nut. The second step is to wash the nuts, and leave them to dry in order to remove the moisture. The third step is to pound the nuts, and crush them into small pieces. The forth step is to roast the small pieces, and transform them into a paste with a dark chocolate color. The fifth step is to add water to the paste, and whip it, so it will mix well. The sixth step is purifying the paste by washing it over and over with distilled water. The seventh step is to heat the purified paste over fire, so the fats rise to the top, and the oil settles at the bottom. The final step is to skim off the fat and let the oil settle at the bottom. The oil becomes hard and is then used as Shea butter.


Shea butter is rich in fatty acids such as Oleic (Monounsaturated - Omega 9), Stearic (Saturated) & Linoleic (Polyunsaturated - Omega 6). Therefore, it is also a great source of fat- soluble vitamins! Vitamin A has exceptional skin healing qualities, while Vitamin E works as a powerful antioxidant to fight free radical damage. It also contains the anti-inflammatory substance, Cinnamic Acid! One of the interesting things about Shea butter is that its chemical composition may vary depending on where it comes from.

When applied topically, shea butter has restorative properties. It is quickly absorbed by the skin and penetrates deeply. It works as a humectant, retaining and preserving moisture. It also acts as an emollient, providing softness and smoothness. Therefore, it is an extremely moisturizing, soothing and hydrating ingredient and works great for those with dry skin conditions!

It also helps with circulation in order to promote tissue cell regeneration and acts as a collagen production booster! It has been said to have anti-aging properties by helping to reduce wrinkles and stretch marks. It has also been shown to aid in numerous skin conditions such as blemishes, sunburn, diaper rash, cellulite, muscle fatigue, dermatitis, etc. Shea butter’s conditioning properties also work great on the scalp and hair to help moisturize and alleviate dandruff.


Shea butter is a key ingredient in natural beauty products and is typically used in cosmetics, moisturizers, salves, lotions, soaps, lip balms, shaving creams, hair conditioners, etc. Shea butter melts at body temperature and will become solid again when cool. To use, warm it up in your hands, then massage into skin or hair.

Shea butter is also edible and can be used in food as well. It can be found in certain grocery items as a cocoa butter substitute.

What To Look For

You can find shea butter at your local health food store. Look for organic, handmade, raw shea butter that is free from chemicals and artificial ingredients.

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


Feeling Blue This Week?

Blue Monday is a name given to a day in January reported to be the most depressing day of the year. This is usually the third Monday of the year and happens to land on Monday, January 16th in the year of 2017. Researchers determined this day based on an equation that takes into account factors such as: weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failure of attempt to make a change (i.e. resolution), low motivational level and the need to take action. Are you feeling the effects of Blue Monday this time of year?


The Role of Serotonin

Serotonin is often referred to as our “happy hormone”. It is a neurotransmitter that has a powerful influence over our mood, appetite, sleep, and pain tolerance. It is made in our bodies, however, we are often deficient in the building blocks it needs. Our body makes serotonin by converting tryptophan into 5-HTP and then into serotonin. Low serotonin levels are associated with a range of symptoms and diseases including depression, weight gain, cravings, migraines, sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, and fibromyalgia.


Why 5-HTP?

5-HTP is a direct precursor to serotonin and is a break down product of tryptophan (amino acid found in turkey), which is what causes that sleepy, satisfied feeling. Because it is one step closer to serotonin than tryptophan, it is more effective at relieving the symptoms associated with low serotonin. 5-HTP boosts serotonin levels without unpleasant side effects, and does not create dependence.


5-HTP Benefits

Mood Boost: Depression has been clinically linked to low serotonin levels. Certain antidepressants help keep serotonin circulating in the blood by preventing it from breaking down.

Ample research has shown that 5-HTP is an effective antidepressant agent, even for certain patients who are unresponsive to prescription drugs.

Improved Sleep: Serotonin and melatonin (our sleep hormone) are part of a cycle that relies on the same materials. Therefore, 5-HTP also regulates circadian rhythms and increases REM sleep to improve sleep quality and help relieve insomnia. This allows for natural sleep pattern restoration!

Weight Control: Normal serotonin levels help us feel full and satisfied after eating. Therefore, 5-HTP is an effective weight loss tool as it can help curb appetite and avoid binge eating from carbohydrate cravings. Studies have shown a decrease in caloric intake when taking 5-HTP.

Pain Tolerance: Serotonin also controls neurological pathways responsible for experiencing pain. There is evidence that the body’s serotonin pathway does not work in those with fibromyalgia. Therefore, 5-HTP can help relieve chronic pain and fatigue associated with this condition. Also, low serotonin levels are associated with migraines. By boosting serotonin, 5-HTP has been shown to help prevent recurrence and reduce symptoms.


Other Factors - Gut Health, Blood Sugar Management & Proper Nutrition

The brain and the gut are on a two-way street of constant communication. According to naturopathic doctor, Karen Jensen, “New research shows that gut bacteria communicate with and influence brain function…The gut brain produces a wide range of hormones and around 40 neurotransmitters of the same classes as those found in the head brain…Gut brain problems such as microbiota imbalance can cause symptoms of depression.” This is why proper digestion is of utmost importance! Consider regular probiotics, enzymes and fibre for regular bowel movements, proper absorption and optimal gut health.

Also, maintaining stable blood sugar levels throughout the day is important in sustaining energy, mental focus, mood and craving control. Ensure regular, balanced meals that contain fibre, protein and healthy fats!

For nutritional recommendations, ensure adequate levels of D & B Vitamins as well as Magnesium and High EPA Essential Omega 3 Fatty Acids (i.e. fish oils) for proper mood support!

In addition to low serotonin levels, blood sugar imbalances, nutrient deficiencies and poor digestion/gut health, other factors such as: lack of physical activity, chronic inflammation, over toxicity, poor diet, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, poor lighting, stress, trauma and candida overgrowth can also play a role in low mood.


Consider 5-HTP as it provides the necessary building blocks to boost serotonin levels. It is clinically shown to enhance mood, fight depression, relieve insomnia by improving sleep quality, curb appetite and food cravings, prevent migraines, and relieve pain from fibromyalgia. Look for enteric-coated caplets that are designed to dissolve in the intestines rather than the stomach, significantly reducing the potential for nausea. It is advised to use for a minimum of 1 week to see beneficial effects.


Note: Be sure to consult a Health Care Practitioner in regards to possible interactions and cautions before incorporating a new supplement into your daily regime.

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


8 Tips To Manage Blood Sugar… Naturally!

The Basics.

When we eat carbohydrate foods (breads/pastas/cereals/fruits/sugars), our body breaks them down into glucose, which then enters the bloodstream (blood sugar). Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that carefully lowers blood sugar levels by bringing gluocose into the cells to be used for energy.


The Vicious Cycle.

When carbohydrates break down rapidly in the body, blood sugar levels rise too high (hyperglycemia). As a response, insulin is pumped out in high amounts to control blood glucose and blood sugar swings from high to low (hypoglycemia). People then tend to experience energy crashes, confusion/poor memory, mood swings/irritability, anxiety and hunger cravings in an attempt to raise glucose levels again. If they then reach for the same type of foods that originally spiked blood sugar, this creates a vicious cycle of imbalance (dysglycemia)!


The Dangers of High Blood Sugar.

Over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious long-term health problems. If these surges happen on a continual basis, eventually cells become desensitized and resistant to insulin (the body does not allow it to bring glucose into cells effectively). Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance. Pre-diabetics are individuals who have higher than normal blood glucose but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Did you know? Insulin Resistance is linked to and is the main feature of Alzheimer’s disease. This is why it is known as Type 3 Diabetes!

Other adverse effects include: destruction of thyroid gland, overloaded/fatty liver, overtaxed adrenal glands, weight gain and resistant fat cells, weak immune system, nerve damage in eyes/kidneys/GI system, higher risk of candida overgrowth, osteoporosis, heart disease (excess cholesterol production, arterial damage and poor circulation), etc.


8 Tips to Manage Blood Sugar!

  1. Limit Sugar & Sweeteners - This includes honey, syrup, table sugar, and artificial sweeteners – Try: Xylitol, Stevia, Coconut Sugar instead!
  2. Fruit Selection - Avoid juices and higher glycemic fruits (i.e. bananas, dried fruit). If consuming fruit go for fresh, lower glycemic options (i.e. berries, apple, grapefruit) and enjoy them with some type of protein (i.e. nuts/seeds, Greek yogurt).
  3. Focus On Whole Foods - Avoid foods that are not in their whole form (processed, refined, instant, artificial) These include “white” products like bread, rice, sugar, pasta as well as flour, crackers, pastry, cereal. Also, minimize intake of caffeine.
  4. Choose High Fiber, Complex Carbs - When consuming carbohydrates, ensure moderation, and choose complex and unrefined ingredients that provide good amounts of fiber, such as ”brown” whole grains (wheat, spelt, oats, rice, etc.)! Other great sources of fibre sources include starches (sweet potatoes, squash), pseudograins (quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet), flax and chia, beans/legumes and of course, vegetables!
  5. Eat Balanced Meals: Always be sure to include ingredients that are high in fiber and protein along with good healthy fats to slow down digestion & prevent spikes in blood sugar. Great protein sources include naturally-raised/wild caught meats and fish, free run eggs and organic/grass-fed dairy. Healthy fats include coconut, olive, avocado, nuts and seeds. Consider high quality supplemental protein or fibre powders as an easy way to boost nutrition in addition to a healthy diet! PGX fibre helps to reduce food cravings, control/balance blood sugar levels and reduce the glycemic index of meals by up to 60%!
  6. Never Skip Meals – Try eating smaller meals more often throughout the day and ALWAYS eat breakfast! Tip: try adding cinnamon or brewer’s yeast to help stabilize blood sugar levels!
  7. Consider Natural Supplements – Here are a few key ingredients to consider: Chromium with Vanadium help control blood sugar and cravings by helping insulin activity. Chirositol mimics insulin to reduce cravings, controlling glucose levels Berberine increases the production of insulin receptors. Magnesium improves insulin sensitivity, activity and transport. Vitamin D helps control insulin and blood sugar levels. Garlic decreases and helps stabilize blood sugar levels, prolongs half-life of insulin. Healthy Fats/Omegas (Fish Oils/DHA & EPA, Evening Primrose/GLA) help decrease insulin resistance! Also, Zinc & Vitamin B are common deficiencies for people with insulin resistance.
  8. Lifestyle Factors – Make an effort to maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, manage stress, sleep well, and minimize toxins and common allergens. Consider liver & thyroid support. Improve digestion (probiotics, enzymes), etc. Did You Know? Physical activity moves sugar from the blood into cells and helps reduce insulin resistance and stabilizing blood sugar levels?


What Is The Glycemic Index/Load?

  • Glycemic Index is a number associated with a particular type of food that indicates its effect on a person's blood sugar level by measuring the rate at which a carbohydrate breaks down and releases glucose into the bloodstream (higher GI = foods turn into blood sugar very quickly). A value of 100 represents the standard, an equivalent amount of pure glucose. A lower G.I means it is more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized causing a lower and slower rise in glucose and insulin levels. However, this index does not take into account typical portion sizes of foods.
  • Glycemic Load is a tool that takes into account the Glycemic Index as well as the amount of carbohydrate in a typical portion size of that food. As a general rule, foods with a G.L under 10 are ideal, those above 20 should be eaten sparingly and all those in between should be consumed in moderation.

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


When Your Body Starts To React To Food…

It has become the norm for people to avoid certain ingredients for health reasons. However, there are differences in the type of reactions they experience as well as the appropriate treatment protocol.


Our immune systems exists to defend the body against bacteria, viruses and any other potentially harmful organisms. It can do this in many ways, one of which is by producing cells called antibodies. There are five major antibodies: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, and IgM. Sometimes our immune systems produce antibodies to certain foods by mistaking these particles (known as antigens) as harmful. Although our bodies believe they are protecting us, these reactions lead to a range of negative symptoms. 


There are two types of antibodies commonly produced in these reactions: IgE & IgG. The difference between food allergies and food sensitivities depends on the type of antibody produced and the speed of the reaction.


Classic Food Allergy

These immediate reactions include IgE antibodies and are considered “true allergies”.  They typically occur within minutes of exposure to, or ingestion of, the food antigen and can be life threatening. Symptoms generally include: itchy watery eyes, skin eruptions (i.e. hives) and trouble breathing. After the initial exposure to the food, the body remembers this allergen and has IgE antibodies ready for instant release if it ever comes into the body again. Testing for these types of food allergies is generally done by an allergist, and may involve skin prick tests. This is commonly seen with peanuts.


Food Sensitivity

This refers to a delayed immune food reaction to foods that involves IgG antibodies, which can take hours or days to develop, making it difficult to determine the true source of the symptoms unless testing is done. In these reactions, IgG antibodies attach themselves to the food allergen and create a complex. These are normally removed by special immune cells. However, if there is a large amount and they are frequently ingested, these cells are unable to remove them all, leading to an accumulation that deposits into body tissues. This leads to a release of inflammatory chemicals which cause multiple symptoms that may include: weight gain, fatigue, weakness, itching, swelling, rashes, mood swings, memory problems, behavioral difficulties, asthmatic tendencies, joint pain and stiffness, fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain. Conditions associated with food sensitivities can include digestive disorders (Crohn’s, IBS), migraines and mood/attention disorders! In children, food sensitivities may potentially be an underlying factors in colic, ear infections, bedwetting, eczema, asthma and hyperactivity. The most common foods that provoke IgG reactions include dairy, wheat, eggs, yeast, pork and soy. These types of food reactions can be tested by a food sensitivity test. Note that any symptom can be a sensitivity symptom.


Food Intolerance

These reactions have no immune involvement. They are generally linked to digestive difficulties due to enzyme deficiencies, low stomach acid, added chemicals or artificial ingredients in food.  For example, lactose intolerance is characterized by people who lack the enzyme lactase and then have trouble digesting milk. Other triggers include histamine, MSG, etc.


The Leaky Gut/Food Sensitivity Connection

Essentially, leaky gut syndrome is increased intestinal permeability. The gut becomes “leaky” because of inflammation. When it becomes irritated, the intestinal membrane inflames and normally tight cell junctions loosen up and allow large molecules (toxins, microorganisms, food particles and pathogens) to squeeze through into the bloodstream. The immune system sees these particles as invaders, and stimulates an antibody reaction, leading to silent inflammation, auto-immune disorders, more tissue damage and food sensitivities. This irritation can be caused by multiple factors including incomplete digestion, stress, poor diet, candida overgrowth, drugs, chemicals, bad eating habits, alcohol, etc.


Seek out a health care practitioner who can administer a food sensitivity test if you feel you may be struggling with this issue. These professionals can set you up on an appropriate elimination diet based on your results and offer additional supplement and lifestyle suggestions!


Allergy-Friendly Ingredient Tips!

  • Instead of peanut butter, try using sunflower, almond, cashew, sesame (tahini) or coconut butter in baked goods, on bread/crackers or served with fruit.
  • Gluten- free grains & pseudo grains include: rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat.
  • Instead of dairy products, try coconut, cashew and almond alternatives (i.e. milk, yogurt). Coconut & almond flours can also be used in gluten-free baking!
  • Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is high in protein, fibre, B vitamins and various minerals! It can be used to add a nutty, cheesy taste to dips, sauces, salads, casseroles, cooked vegetables or on popcorn.
  • Ghee is clarified butter, in which casein, whey and lactose have been removed. It stimulates healthy digestion and is rich in fat soluble vitamins. It can be used like butter on toast or to cook your favorite foods because it has a high smoke point!
  • Focus on foods such as hemp, chia, flax, organic fruits & vegetables, wild-caught or naturally-raised meats & fish, cold-pressed virgin oils, avocado, water, herbal teas, etc.


This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


Magical Matcha!

What is it?

Matcha is premium green tea powder from Japan. Just like regular green tea, it comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, however, it is grown differently. These plants are covered and their exposure to direct sunlight is gradually reduced a few weeks before harvest in order to boost the amount of chlorophyll and amino acids in the leaves. This process is what leads to a very high concentration of antioxidants! One cup of matcha is the equivalent of 10 cups of green tea in terms of nutritional value and antioxidant content! The leaves are then harvested and stone-ground. Matcha drinkers ingest the whole leaf, not just the brewed water, so they receive 100% of the nutrients.


What are the Health Benefits?

  • LOADED WITH ANTIOXIDANTS - Matcha powdered green tea has 137 times more antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea. Amongst these is the powerful EGCg (60% of its catechins). Antioxidants are great for skin, heart health and anti-aging! In testing, matcha’s ORAC rating (test used to assess antioxidant potency of foods and beverages) was shown to be 1384 units per gram, compared to pomegranates 29 units/g, blueberies 24 units/g or kale’s 18 units/g!
  • WEIGHT LOSS – Matcha boosts metabolism by up to 4x and burns fat!
  • PROMOTES MENTAL CALMNESS – Matcha is rich in L-Theanine (5-6x more than common black & green teas), which calms the mind and relaxes the body while increasing concentration, focus & improving learning and memory. It also enhances mood by promoting serotonin and dopamine production.
  • ENERGY BOOST – Although it does contain caffeine, matcha is a jitter-free alternative to coffee. It provides sustained energy without crashing or nervous energy and is said to improve physical endurance by up to 24% for up to 6 hours!
  • DETOXES & ALKALIZES – Matcha is much richer in chlorophyll than other green teas due to the way it is grown. It effectively and naturally detoxifies the body of chemicals and heavy metals while balancing pH levels/alkalizing.
  • PACKED WITH NUTRIENTS – Matcha provides vitamin C, selenium, iron, calcium, chromium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and more!
  • DEFENSE MECHANISM – Matcha helps boost the immune system and manage inflammation to prevent sickness and disease.
  • CONTAINS FIBER – The easily absorbable fibre in matcha helps to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels.

How to Use?

Matcha is versatile and flexible. It works in hot, cold, sweet or savory drinks and dishes. Originally consumed as a tea whisked into hot water, matcha is now a popular ingredient in mixed beverages such as morning smoothies, green tea lattes, frappes, as well as yogurt, ice cream and cocktails. People have also incorporated it into both baked (bars, cookies) and non-baked recipes (i.e. fudge, raw bites).

Matcha Recipes


  1. A.Matcha Fudge – 1 cup coconut butter, 1/3 cup coconut cream (from full-fat canned coconut milk), 3 tbsps. coconut oil, 2 tbsps. matcha powder, 2 tsps. vanilla extract and ½ cup pure maple syrup. Melt coconut ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in remaining ingredients and pour into a parchment lined pan. Chill for a few hours, slice and enjoy!
  2. B.Matcha Energy Balls – Combine 8 dates (soaked and pitted), ½ cup raw almonds, ¼ cup raw honey, ¼ cup coconut butter, 2 tbsps. cacao powder, 2 tbsps. matcha powder, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt in a food processor, form into balls, roll in toppings of choice (nuts/seeds, shredded coconut) and chill until firm.
  3. C.Matcha Smoothie – Blend together 1 tbsp. matcha, 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder, 1 tbsp. coconut oil. 1 tbsp. shredded coconut, ½ frozen banana, 1 cup coconut milk and ½ cup ice until smooth!
  4. D.Matcha Latte – Bring ¾ cup almond milk to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk together 1 tsp. matcha powder with ¼ cup of boiling water, then add to milk and stir. Sweeten with pure maple syrup and cinnamon!
  5. E.Matcha Chia Pudding – Soak ¼ cup chia seeds with 1 ½ cups almond/coconut milk. In a separate bowl, add 2 tsps. matcha powder with some hot water and whisk until smooth. Combine matcha and chia seed mixtures. Stir in ½-1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup, a splash of vanilla and top with fruit, granola, nuts/seed, coconut, etc.
  6. F.Matcha Butter – Mash 1 stick of grass-fed butter (room temperature) with 2 tbsps. matcha powder and raw, local honey (to taste).

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.


3 Tips To Make Your Baking Healthier!

Tip # 1: Choose Nutrient-Rich Ingredients
When using high-quality ingredients, you create a more flavorful and nutritious product that will satisfy cravings and meet dietary requirements with smaller portions!

•    Organic Whole Grains & Flours – i.e. oats, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, whole wheat, kamut, etc.
o    Substitute white flour with whole grain alternatives. Look for organic, low temperature impact milled, Canadian grown grains. Try using white spring wheat flour for a more comparable product! Spelt is also a great, low-gluten and easily digestible alternative to whole wheat!
•    Healthy Fats – such as organic/grass-fed butter, extra virgin olive oil, raw nuts & seeds, avocado or coconut and their butters/oils/full-fat milks.
o    Try substituting these alternatives instead of canola, vegetable oil or margarine!
o    Consider adding flax/hemp/chia seeds to increase fiber and anti-inflammatory omega fats!
•    High Quality Proteins – look for organic/grass-fed dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheeses or kefir) and organic/free-run eggs.  
o    Try replacing sour cream with Greek yogurt and some lemon juice!
•    Organic or Local, Chemical-Free Produce – include any and all in fresh, frozen, pureed, or dried form for a nutrition boost!
o    Add veggies (beets, carrots, spinach, zucchini, and sweet potato) – enhances vitamin and mineral content.
o    Use fruits (berries, apples, bananas, pumpkin) – adds fiber and antioxidants.
•    Natural Sweeteners –use raw, local honey and pure maple syrup! Note that fruit purees/sugars (i.e. dates, bananas, applesauce) also work well to sweeten recipes naturally.
o    Substitute white sugar for cane sugar as it retains natural molasses (and nutrients)! Tip: make your own healthier icing/confectioner’s sugar by combining 1 cup of organic cane sugar (or xylitol) + 1 tbsp. organic corn starch and blending until powdered.
•    Extra Nutrition Boosters – these provide plenty of flavor, nutrients and health benefits!
o    Organic Spices & Extracts –
o    Cinnamon helps stabilize blood sugar levels, ginger aids digestion and helps fight inflammation, clove has anti-bacterial properties, etc.
o    Tip: replace regular table salt with sea salt in half the amount for added nutrition!
o    Protein/Fibre Powders – help stabilize blood sugar levels to control appetite, sustain energy and prevent cravings!  
o    Matcha Green Tea Powder – rich in antioxidants, helps boost metabolism and burn fat, provides energy and promotes a relaxed, yet alert/focused state of mind.  
o    Cacao Powder or Nibs – great source of iron, magnesium and packed with fiber, protein and a ton of antioxidants!

As a rule, avoid partially hydrogenated oil (or trans fats), processed/refined ingredients and artificial additives and dyes in things such as sprinkles, mixes, frosting, sauces, etc.

Tip # 2: Special Diet Alternatives

    Calorie Conscious?
Substitute up to half the fat in your recipe for Pureed Fruit/Vegetables…or use Greek Yogurt instead to boost protein content!
Try using Stevia as your sweetener of choice! It has 0 calories and 0 glycemic index. Due to the fact that it is up to 300x sweeter than sugar, it is recommended to use 1 tsp. per cup of sugar.
•    Grain & Gluten-Free Alternatives?
Pureed Beans/Legumes (i.e. black beans, chickpeas) or Nut Flours (i.e. coconut, almond) can be used as your base! Keep in mind that almond flour falls apart easily and requires additional binders, while coconut flour absorbs easily and requires additional liquids. Easy tip to avoid grains – make your dessert crustless (like pies)!
For those who are not avoiding grains but are sensitive to gluten, look for a Gluten-Free Flour Blend that uses brown rice flour, xanthan gum & potato/tapioca starches.
•    Managing Blood Sugar?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables.  It comes in at around 30 calories per tablespoon with a very low glycemic index of 7. Xylitol is a natural insulin stabilizer and can be used in a 1:1 ratio with sugar. Look for a birch-derived product!
Coconut Palm Sugar is a natural sugar evaporated from the sap of coconut trees. It has roughly 30 calories per tablespoon and a glycemic index of 35. It is a slow-release food and a great alternative for those looking to manage blood sugar levels! This serves as an ideal substitute for brown sugar because of its caramelized flavor.
•    Allergy-Friendly: Egg, Dairy or Peanut-Free?
Eggs - Combine 1 tbsp. of chia or flax seed with 3 tbsps. of water. Allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes or until it “gels”.
Dairy– Use coconut, cashew or almond milk alternatives instead of cow milk, yogurt, etc.! For buttermilk, add 1 tbsp. of lemon juice & let sit for 10 minutes. Plus, try making dairy-free whipped cream by refrigerating full-fat coconut milk overnight (allowing the fat and liquid to separate), then removing the solid portion and whipping together with sweetener of choice! In addition, ghee is clarified butter, in which casein, whey and lactose have been removed.
Peanuts – Try using sunflower seed, almond, cashew, pumpkin seed, sesame (tahini) or coconut butter in your recipes instead!

Tip # 3: Other Considerations
•    Natural Food Coloring – Try matcha powder for green, beet crystals or phytoberry powder for pink/red and cacao powder or organic coffee for brown!
•    Portion Control – Prepare mini-sized desserts, pre-cut dainty trays or pies into smaller pieces, and portion out cookie dough using a tablespoon. Remember, it is easier to grab one small piece instead of breaking something in half and walking away wanting to finish it. As with everything, moderation is key. The goal is to taste the dessert, not to fill up on it completely – that’s what the main meal is for!
•    Managing Chocolate Intake– Try cutting back on chocolate chips in the recipe and replace with dried fruit, nuts/seeds, coconut as fillers! Also, when a recipe calls for milk chocolate, choose dark instead (70% or higher cacao) for a more nutritious product. You can also make your own healthy chocolate with equal parts liquid coconut oil and cacao powder to half part maple syrup!


This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.-30-

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Blog Coordinator

Pamela Thiessen completed an Advanced Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Manitoba before she discovered the power of nutrition and natural health. This new found passion led her to seek employment at Good N Natural. Fascinated by the incredible benefits of healthy eating, she was inspired to enroll into the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition Program, where she attained a diploma in holistic nutrition. She also holds her Canadian Natural Product Advisor certification. This accumulation of knowledge and her desire to promote health and educate individuals has led her into the marketing and consumer education role at the store. Her goal is to help others improve their quality of life and experience the joy that comes along with healthy living, in hopes of improving the community as a whole. is Steinbach's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.