Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a frustrating, often lonely condition that can leave people with little to no hope of having a ‘normal’ life again.
Often, people with chronic pain are told that their treatment options are limited, and that they may never live pain free again. It can be hard to stay positive when no hope is given.

As a naturopathic doctor with a focus on chronic pain, I’m here to tell you there is hope and I’m going to share the same tips I give my clients.
Tips you can do at home, without making massive changes to your lifestyle.

These tips are focused on helping to reduce pain, making the unbearable, bearable again, so you can do things like your shopping, go for a walk, even sit without being constantly reminded of the pain.

My goal is to share these with the hope it can offer relief from the pain and frustration and improve your quality of life.

In this article I’m going to share:

  • How chronic pain is defined
  • What causes chronic pain
  • Treatment goals for chronic pain
  • Natural treatments that have shown to reduce pain
  • The top 5 things you can do now to help with chronic pain

Disclaimer: The information shared in this post is for informational use only. It does not substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is not intended as a recommendation or endorsement of any specific tests, products, procedures, opinions, or any other information.

Chronic pain is caused by a variety of reasons and health conditions, so it is important that you seek medical care prior to implementing any recommendations. Some of these treatments may or may not be suitable for you, which is why we must individualize your treatment plan and ensure it is safe and effective for you.
If you wish to discuss how a naturopathic doctor can help with chronic pain, you can book a free call with Dr. Madeleine by clicking here.

How Is Chronic Pain Defined?

Chronic pain is defined as pain that remains constant or comes and goes for a time period of 3 months or greater. This can be experienced anywhere in the body, and often interferes with activities of daily living. Pain is subjective, meaning only the individual experiencing it can describe what it feels like.

Chronic pain is often difficult to diagnose, and typically requires a team of healthcare providers for both diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

When we ask patients to describe what their pain feels like, common words we hear are: aching, shooting, burning, stiff, throbbing, squeezing, and more.

What causes chronic pain?

A variety of conditions can cause chronic pain. Some examples include:

• Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Osteoarthritis
• Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
• Headaches/Migraines
• Post-Traumatic Pain (due to physical, mental, emotional trauma)
• Cancer
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease
• Endometriosis
• Interstitial Cystitis
• Vulvodynia
• Lupus
• Multiple Sclerosis
*Note: This is not an exhaustive list of conditions that can cause chronic pain.

Goals of treatment for chronic pain:

• Improvement of symptoms, daily functioning, and quality of life
• Working proactively to prevent any worsening of symptoms
• Providing emotional support throughout the journey
• Prevention of new associated symptoms that can arise

The Top 5 Things You Can Do Now To Help Relieve Pain!

1. Increase anti-inflammatory foods in your diet.

In many cases, chronic pain can be caused by high levels of systemic inflammation. This means that trying your best to increase anti-inflammatory foods and decrease inflammatory foods in your diet is very important.

Anti-inflammatory foods to INCREASE:

• Fatty fish (meaning high in omega-3s) including salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout
• Raw olive oil
• Nuts/seeds (walnuts, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds)
• Leafy green vegetables (spinach, Swiss chard, bok choy, broccoli, collard greens)
• Berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries)
• Spices and herbs (turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic)
Inflammatory foods to AVOID:
• Artificial sugars (soft drinks, fruit juices with added sugars)
• Refined grains (white bread, pasta, cereals, pastries)
• Fried foods
• Processed meats (bacon, lunch meats, cured meats)
• Alcohol

It can be hard to know what to cook or eat when dealing with chronic pain. Cooking can take a lot of time and exhaust you even further.
When working with Dr. Madeleine, she will create a customized nutrition plan for you, that is both manageable and sustainable for you and your needs.

2. Optimize your sleep by practicing sleep hygiene techniques.

The relationship between sleep and chronic pain is a complicated one. This is because chronic pain often causes sleep issues, while a lack of sleep leads to worsening of pain.

Studies have shown that a lack of sufficient sleep and poor sleep quality are risk factors for developing chronic pain. Why? Several mechanisms have been considered, one being the effects of sleep deprivation on the opioid system (our pain regulation system). It has been shown that sleep disruption impairs our body’s ability to turn off pain signals.

Where can we get started?

Sleep hygiene, a fancy way of saying healthy sleep habits, is very important to ensure our bodies are resting and recovering over night. Research has shown that daily pain intensity is correlated to the quality and duration of sleep from the night before.
It is so important to ensure you are getting a good night’s rest, and as Naturopathic Doctors, there is a lot we can do to help you optimize sleep. Try starting with this.

Sleep hygiene techniques:

• Set up a sleep routine: consistent bedtime and wake time every day of the week, consistent length of naps if needed
• Create a comfortable sleep environment: a dark and quiet room with a pleasant temperature, mattress and pillow that are comfortable for you
• Calming habits before bed: reading a book, listening to relaxing music, practicing yoga/meditation, taking a warm bath, journaling, etc.
• Use bedroom for sleep and intimacy only. Ideally, your office and social spaces should be separate from your bedroom.
• Avoid before bed: caffeine, alcohol, large meals, simulating activities (watching TV, using your phone/computer, all of which use blue-light which negatively impacts our sleep)

3. Manage your stress levels as best as you can.

Stress has a profound effect on chronic pain, and high levels of persistent stress have been associated with worsening of pain levels. This is in part due to our stress hormone, cortisol, that when released for prolonged periods causes inflammation and heightens our stress response – the opposite of what we want it to do. We want it to regulate our stress response in a balanced way. When our bodies go through this chronic stress response, the pain we experience is significantly worsened.

Managing your stress can be tricky, as experiencing chronic pain often significantly adds to stress levels. It makes sense. When we’re not feeling great, we typically experience some worry and stress around it. On top of that, things that we can’t control come our way and can add an extra layer of overwhelm.
Be patient with yourself and try to start somewhere.

The best place to start is with your BREATH. Here is a simple breathing technique that can help calm your nervous system and allow you to reset your thought patterns.
4-7-8 Breathing:
Breathe in for 4 counts, hold the breath in for 7 counts, and exhale the breath for 8 counts. Do this around 3-5 times.
This technique can significantly reduce symptoms of acute stress and anxiety.

4. Try to get your body moving every day.
Physical movement with chronic pain is so important, as it maintains the body’s mobility and range of motion, and can help to prevent worsening of symptoms.
With chronic pain, there is a tendency to avoid and be skeptical of physical movement. However, keeping the body moving helps to prevent pain levels being worsened by immobility and stiffness.

It can be challenging to get up and moving depending on the severity of your pain. If you need some relief prior to getting moving, using a heat application can really help. Applying heat to the locations of chronic pain increases blood flow to those areas and relaxes the musculature. This can help reduce pain and stiffness acutely to help you get up and moving.

When we say physical movement, we don’t necessarily mean vigorous exercise. We mean generally getting your body moving, if possible. That being said, if it hurts too much to move right now, don’t worry about this tip. We can work together to get you there.

It is important that your physical activity needs are properly assessed prior to implementing any major changes. As Naturopathic Doctors, we can help determine what type of physical movement is best for you and your needs.

Examples of physical movement for chronic pain:
• Short, regular walks
• Avoid sitting for extended periods of time and try to move every 30-60 minutes
• Gentle stretching, yoga, and/or Pilates
• Swimming or water aerobics, to allow for movement that doesn’t impact joints
• Light weight lifting

5. Anti-inflammatory supplementation, nutrients and/or herbs.

Supplements, nutrients, and herbs that have shown effectiveness for chronic pain include omega-3 fish oil, natural eggshell membrane (NEM), palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), magnesium, vitamin C, curcumin, boswellia… and the list goes on!

There are a couple of basic mechanisms that can explain how these products help with chronic pain. In many cases, pain is caused by systemic inflammation, and some of these supplements and/or herbs are known to be strong natural anti-inflammatories. Additionally, a couple of these supplements relieve joint pain and stiffness by adding lubrication to the joint capsule… kind of like adding oil to a stiff door hinge!

We recommend that you work with a Naturopathic Doctor to determine which products are best suited for you, in terms of safety and effectiveness. Depending on your case, some supplements and/or herbs may be better suited for you than others. That’s where we come in with our clinical experience and decide what will help you the most.

Chronic pain can be a challenging thing to live with. Thankfully, there are ways we can help you manage the severity, and our hope is to help improve your quality of life.

The 5 tips above are ways you can get started today. If you are looking for more individualized care with a treatment plan that is customized to your specific needs, book a free 15-minute consultation with Dr. Madeleine, one of our Naturopathic Doctors. She is passionate about helping individuals with chronic pain feel relief and hope for their futures.

Click here to book a free consultation with Dr. Madeleine.

FAQ about Chronic Pain:

What is better for chronic pain relief, hot or cold applications?
With pain that is chronic in nature, we see relief with hot applications as they improve circulation by increasing blood flow to the pain site. Hot applications also relax the local muscles and reduce joint stiffness. In terms of cold applications, they are typically recommended for pain or injuries that are acute in nature. This is because acute injuries involve high levels of local inflammation, and cold applications help reduce that inflammation quickly.

Does cold and/or damp weather worsen chronic pain?
We typically notice that cold and/or damp weather leads to worsening of symptoms with chronic pain. This is usually the case for arthritic and inflammatory causes of pain. Cold damp weather causes muscle and joint stiffness which can significantly worsen pain. Keeping your body moving to prevent stiffness is one of the best ways to ease this weather-related pain.

Do vitamin B12 injections help with chronic pain?
There is research to support that vitamin B12 injections are beneficial for neuropathic pain specifically, especially in individuals who are deficient in the vitamin. Vitamin B12 supports nerve repair and has shown to inhibit some pain-signalling pathways. We can test your vitamin B12 through blood work to assess if you have adequate levels, and this will help determine if an injection or supplementation is needed.

What are the most commonly prescribed medications for chronic pain and what are the downsides of taking them?

The medications we commonly see prescribed to patients are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and opioids including oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin).

Long-term use of NSAIDs has been associated with gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeds, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, liver and kidney injury, and more. Opioids are stronger pain medications and are highly addictive. Over time, our bodies get used to taking opioids, causing us to need more and more to get the same relief. High doses can cause serious side effects, which is why they are typically prescribed as a last resort compared to other pain medications.

As Naturopathic Doctors, we use an integrative approach where we work alongside the pharmaceutical medications our patients are taking, while ensuring they are aware of the benefits and risks. We work with our patients to determine what their wants and needs are for pain relief and create a realistic plan unique to them.


Immune System

Immune System

As a naturopathic doctor I believe having a healthy immune system is one of the most important factors when it comes to overall wellness.

It’s hard to improve your health and move it forward when you’re constantly run down, sick, or taking a long time to recover from the latest cold or flu.

I would say, before you can have more energy, better sleep, better skin, weight loss,  better mood…all the things people want when they come to see me…

You really need to focus on having a healthy immune system.

Immune health is the foundation for living in vibrant health – or as I like to say, “HIGHER HEALTH”.

Since we are in the cold/flu season, proactive immune support should be a top priority, and I want to help you do just that with my top tips for a strong and healthy immune system.

Those of you who follow me, you know I am big believer in IV drip therapy for immune health. For this article, I want to share tips you can do at home.
I can almost guarantee there will be a few you didn’t realize were as important as they are.

The good news is you can easily add these to your life right away without making huge lifestyle changes.

Quick disclaimer. The info I am about to share is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is not intended as a recommendation or endorsement of any specific tests, products, procedures, opinions or any other information.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s dive in!


Vitamin D
vitamin d

Between 70% and 97% of Canadians demonstrate vitamin D insufficiency.

Which is why I’m going to start with Vitamin D . – Having optimal Vitamin D levels are very important for maintaining a healthy immune system.

When our Vitamin D levels get too low, you can experience a decreased resistance to viruses, think cold and flu; meaning it’s easier to catch whatever is going around!

With typical viral infections, there are two phases… an inflammatory and an anti-inflammatory phase.  The inflammatory phase fights and clears the infection. This inflammatory phase is a good thing.

That’s where Vitamin D comes in.  Vitamin D helps to initiate the anti-inflammatory phase, where the healing begins.

If your Vitamin D is too low, it can become more difficult to move to the anti-inflammatory phase, and you can stay stuck in the inflammatory phase and symptoms persist.

Which means your colds will linger and it will take you longer to recover.

Vitamin D can also help fight inflammation…which we’re going to touch on a few times as it’s a huge factor for your immune health and overall wellness.

Anytime I run bloodwork, I will strongly recommend including Vitamin D – regardless of summer months, or even when someone is already taking it as a supplement.

Because, I’ve found many people to be unexpectedly low.

Living in the northern hemisphere, we are much less exposed to sun rays that help our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D.

When we are in the sun for those 2 glorious Canadian summer months, we are often wearing sunscreen, which does protect our skin from burns and accelerated aging, but also blocks the sun rays we need to convert to vitamin D.

When you cannot get your Vitamin D from the sun, here is how to make sure you are reaching your optimal levels.

The best way to get your vitamin D through supplemental form is in a healthy fat, which usually comes in drop or gel form.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it absorbs better into fat.

Drops or gel forms are emulsified, meaning they are broken down into tiny little fat molecules, making it much easier to absorb the fat molecules that contain the D.

Always ensure taking your Vitamin D with a healthy fat to aid further in the absorption – such as avocado, olive oil, fish oil, eggs, nuts, etc.. for a longer list feel free to reach out.


Glutathione scienc eimage
Now we’re going to briefly touch on oxidants. This is a huge subject and I’m going to focus on one very important piece for immune health.

Oxidants are everywhere – from walking down the street and breathing in car exhaust, eating certain foods, using house hold cleaning products, and even healthy activities like exercise, create oxidative stress. And guess what… viral infection causes massive oxidative stress on your body.

Too much oxidative stress can impair your immune health (and create further inflammation).

The answer is to give your body antioxidants, which you have probably heard about, but you might not have understood the role of antioxidants specific to immune health.

You want antioxidants in your system to neutralize oxidants BEFORE they can cause cellular damage and lead to inflammation.

Just follow a perfectly healthy diet and you’ll get all the Antioxidants you need, right?

Unfortunately in today’s world that is much easier said than done, so you need to consider supplementing.

My favourite antioxidant, is Glutathione – it’s arguably your body’s most powerful antioxidant which helps support healthy lungs, detoxification, liver function, and fight inflammation.

Glutathione is found naturally in your body and is actually produced by your liver and nerve cells.  It is made from three amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine.

To help your natural glutathione production you need to up your antioxidant glutathione supportive foods.

  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, watercress and mustard greens.
  • Allium vegetables, including garlic, shallots and onions, also boost glutathione levels.

There are also Glutathione supplements that you can take.

They come on many forms and each one has its own benefit. Whether you take an oral, suppository, nebulized form, or by IV Therapy, make sure you are getting it from a reputable source.


Melatonin and your health


Melatonin has been known for helping people sleep as well as helping with anxiety support.

It is also key for immune health because of its powerful antioxidant benefits, particularly when fighting viral infections.

It is very good for lung health and reducing fibrosis or scarring – which is a negative consequence with significant viral infections that can affect breathing and oxygen status.

Here are 2 ways you can start increasing your melatonin levels.

Up your melatonin with light exposure first thing in the morning. Rain or shine!

You see, it’s actually your exposure to light in the morning that builds your storage of melatonin to then be released later at night.

It’s like you’re filling your gas tank in the morning so that you can drive your car later in the evening without issues.

You can also add a melatonin supplement to your nightly routines.

When choosing a melatonin supplement, I like liquid melatonin – because it absorbs right under your tongue (making a lower dose effective).

It’s very important to pay attention to dosing – everyone has their sweet spot…  too much and you will feel groggy the next day, not enough and you’ll be wondering what you spent your money on!

If it is in your budget I would suggest finding out where your melatonin levels are at.

There are some advanced tests that look at melatonin levels, and one of my favorites is the DUTCH.

If it’s not in your budget, then we need to find out what dose is best for you. Depending on what we find out during the intake process, I will usually start with 1-3mg, and then build from there.

Some people respond best to a low dose, others to 5mg, and others to 10-20mg.

You can also get an extended-release melatonin, which means it slowly releases in your system so that you can “stay asleep” (or fall back to sleep easier if you are woken by external causes).

One last thing on melatonin. I want to Circle back to melatonin for sleep and anxiety.

Your general immunity can be impaired by anxiety and sleep deprivation, so it makes sense to ensure your melatonin levels are optimal and your sleep wake cycles are in rhythm.

Melatonin really helps with this.

As we get older our bodies produce less Melatonin, so it’s something to strongly consider supplementing with as you age.


Stop the sugar

SUGAR AND Your Immune Health

I love my sweets and I wish there was another way to tell you this, but sugar does not help you have a healthy immune system in any way, shape, or form.

In my practice, high-sugar diets are probably the biggest driver of chronic inflammation which impacts immune health.

I’m going to share some of the why its bad for your health, and then some tips to help you move away from the cravings.

How does sugar drive inflammation:

  • By causing high blood sugar leading to a proinflammatory state.
  • By feeding proinflammatory gut bacteria which leads to leaky gut and decreases nutrient absorption.
  • By increasing fat production in the liver and creating inflammatory metabolites.
  • By raising insulin levels and decreasing the production of anti-inflammatory ketones.
  • By driving weight gain and obesity leading to to more inflammation.

Remember – Sugar calories are empty calories.

When you overeat (or overdrink) them, your body tries to get more in search of missing nutrients… but it never fills the void of missing nutrient.

The excess sugar gets stored as fat… and you contribute further to the endless inflammatory loop.

It is a very vicious cycle.

Do right away/start today:   To get the sugar monkey off your back, focus on healthy fats and proteins first.

Plan your meals to ensure good fats and proteins are part of every meal! This can help reduce sugar cravings.

And make your first bite of food in each meal the protein/fat option, which will slow the release of blood sugar into your blood stream.

This helps to create a more balanced insulin/blood sugar response, keeping you satiated for longer and minimizing excess sugar/glucose consumption.


Eat more protein
protein image


This is a good follow up to sugar, because not only will more protein help curb sugar cravings, it will also help your immune health.

Protein plays an important role in powering specific immune cells called T cells, which identify and attack viral invaders in your bloodstream causing infection.

A diet low in protein leaves you open to fatigue, weakness, and a low immune response.

Getting your protein from food is better than taking supplements and powders.

If you cannot get enough through food then look for a high-quality, bio available protein powder from a reputable company.


Immune System water

More water can mean better immune health.

So many of us walk around highly caffeinated and under hydrated.

Just as your lawn needs water to grow, your car needs gas to run, your immune system needs proper hydration to function optimally.

When you’re not properly hydrated, eliminating toxins and waste materials become a difficult task and eventually will contribute to wearing down your immune system.

Not only that, not staying hydrated diminishes energy levels and immune function over time.

If you are drinking less than 2L of water per day, it’s really important to figure out strategies to improve your hydration for improved immune health.

You can set a timer to remind you to get stand up and take a drink of water very hour. Sounds silly? Not at all. It works!

There are some people who just don’t like the taste of plain water. I would recommend adding some healthy flavors to it.

I always have chlorophyll in my water. It gives it a minty taste and has some antioxidant properties to it.

What ever you need to add to get more hydration into your body…make sure it does not have any sugar!


Stress and your Immune System
Immune System stress

Constant Stress Can Weaken Your Immune System.
Stress stress stress! There is no arguing, we live in stressful times.

I wish more emphasis on stress management was part of everyone’s health practice.

I’m talking about stress from work, family, and simple things like traffic, watching the  news.. this is the type of stress that is constantly spiking your cortisol and stress metabolites (catecholamines).

Chronic stress eventually exhausts your cortisol release, which then drives up inflammation and will lead to a weakened immune system.  *Note: cortisol is your natural anti-inflammatory hormone.  When you exhaust your stores, you are less able to manage inflammation.

When you are going through stressful times… double down on anti-inflammatory support such as antioxidant foods, supplementation, make sure you are hydrated, avoid sugar,  increase protein; and all the things we have covered so far.

When feeling stressed, or you knowing you’re about to enter a stressful situation, you want to shift from being in a…

Stress mode = Sympathetic fight flight mode.

To a rest mode = Parasympathetic mode.

The following simple exercise can help put you into a parasympathetic mode, calming your cortisol release, and lowering inflammatory processes.

Navy Seals are taught this to help them in stressful situations. It’s called BOX BREATHING and has been shown to lower stress and help you re-center.

 It’s really simple!

Step 1: Breathe in through your nose counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs as you visualize trace one side of an imaginary box or a door frame.

Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds, as you visualize tracing the second side of the box or door frame.

Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds, as you visualize tracing the 3rd side of the box or door frame.

Step 4: Hold your breath for 4 seconds as you visualize tracing the 4th side of the box or door frame.

***Repeat steps 1 to 4 until you feel your stress going down.

You can do this multiple times a day and just about anywhere. I often find myself doing this when in traffic!

#8 (bonus!)
I know, I said 7, but I cannot talk about immune health and leave out IV Drip Therapy.

Some of the benefits this IV Drip can give you:

  • Supports your immune system with high doses of targeted nutrients
  • Reduces inflammation which helps decrease tissue damage associated with infections
  • Provides your system with antimicrobial and antiviral help to your system stay strong

There you have 7+ 1 tips and hopefully took away at least 1 that you can start using today to help improve your immune health.

There is so much more to having a strong immune system, from GI health to hormones and more, and each person has their own unique needs.

If you want to discuss how we can help you reach your best health or help you with a specific condition, you can book a free discovery call.



Mistletoe Therapy

Mistletoe Therapy

Mistletoe therapy has been used in cancer care since 1917 and is now among the most prescribed adjunctive cancer therapy in Europe for patients with cancer.
Mistletoe therapy can improve quality of life by lessening side effects such as fatigue, nausea/vomiting, low appetite, low energy, and pain associated with cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and/or radiation while simultaneously protecting healthy cells from damage. It has also been shown to improve overall survival in cancer patients.

How Does It Work?

Mistletoe extract contains lectins and viscotoxins that stimulates key cancer fighting immune cells such as NK cells and cytotoxic T-cells to improve our bodies defense against cancer. Cell studies have showed the ability of mistletoe extracts to directly target cancer cells through apoptosis which helps to supress tumor growth and spread.

Mistletoe extracts also contain flavonoids and triterpenoids which protect healthy cells from damage caused by excess radiation/drugs through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action.

Is There Scientific Research To Support Mistletoe Therapy For Cancer?

Studies on the use of mistletoe therapy in cancer are ongoing, such as at Johns Hopkins Medicine in the USA. There are also more than 3000 publications and 150 clinical studies have been done on mistletoe thus far.

A summary of current findings:

  • Improvement in quality of life (reduces fatigue and pain; improves energy, mood, and sleep quality)
  • Improvement in overall survival
  • Safe to use alongside conventional therapies studied
  • Strong immunomodulatory effects (increases immune function, decreases tumor growth)

Breast cancer: In patients with breast cancer undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, mistletoe extract had no adverse interactions alongside chemotherapy and improved overall pain, appetite loss and neutropenia (decreased white blood cell count) as well as perceived quality of life.

As compared to breast cancer patients who received standard of care only, the administration of mistletoe was found to decrease adverse reactions (nausea, diarrhea, depression, fatigue, and mental symptoms) associated with standard of care cancer therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy.

Pancreatic cancer: In patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer who received no further treatment for pancreatic cancer other than supportive care, administration of mistletoe extract was associated with improved pain, fatigue, appetite loss, sleep quality, body weight, and prolonged overall survival. No mistletoe-related adverse events were observed.

Colorectal and stomach cancer: In patients with carcinoma of the colon, rectum and stomach, long term use of mistletoe extract was found to prolong survival time.
Lung cancer: In patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who were provided with standard of care conventional treatments, quality of life was significantly improved for patients who were treated with concurrent mistletoe extract treatment.
In addition, the occurrence of adverse events associated with standard of care treatments were less frequent in the mistletoe treatment group.

How Is It Administered?
You can find many different ways to give mistletoe extracts, but it is most often given as an injection. Less common methods include orally or through an IV Therapy drip.
Mistletoe is most often injected under the skin (subcutaneously) on the abdomen or thigh 2-3 times a week, starting from a low dose and working up towards higher doses to continually stimulate immunity and provide quality of life benefits. Mistletoe therapy is a long-term treatment.

After careful screening of patient history and current health status, we will determine the type of mistletoe therapy best suited for you.
We will then familiarize you with the treatment, demonstrate how to self-administer mistletoe, and provide you will all the supplies needed to continue the therapy independently at home.

Is It Safe?
Mistletoe therapy has an excellent safety profile. It can be safely used during chemotherapy and/or radiation to enhance treatment outcomes and increase treatment tolerability.

It can also be used after curative treatment, or in palliative therapy to improve quality of life, stabilize disease, and reduce progression or recurrence. In general, mistletoe therapy is well tolerated in adults and has little side effects or negative interactions with other therapies.
Mistletoe therapy is not recommended for individuals with multiple sclerosis, lupus or uncontrolled hyperthyroidism with tachycardia due to its immune stimulating effects and potential for aggravating symptoms.

Does It Have Any Side Effects?
There are desired local reactions to mistletoe therapy that is caused by infiltration of activated immune cells. This reaction indicates to the practitioner that it is positively stimulating anti-cancer immunity and can help to determine the maximum dose for the patient at a given time. Desired effects:

  • Temporary localized redness < 5 cm in diameter and minor swelling and itching of the skin
  • Temporary elevation in body temperature
  • Improvement in general condition
  • Improved tolerability of chemotherapy and/or radiation
  • Long term: stabilization of disease progression

An anaphylactic allergic reaction to mistletoe extract is rare. It is important to let your health practitioner know of any pre-existing allergies before initiating mistletoe therapy.

How Much Does It Cost?
$20-25 per treatment (2-3 treatments per week) per injection. If you were to use IV Therapy for mistletoe therapy, prices can range from $125 and up.
There are also oral supplements with mistletoe extract on the market. These range in quality and it would be suggested to talk to a professional about the brand before ordering online.

How Do I Start Therapy?

If you want to take full advantage of mistletoe therapy, make sure that it’s part of your overall health plan. This means you could also add IV therapy and would want to look at the foods you are eating.

Before initiating mistletoe therapy, an initial consultation is required for a comprehensive assessment of your health history and current health status. This consultation will also help to determine the type of mistletoe extract and treatment plan best suited for you.

Following the initial visit, a shorter consultation is required to familiarize you with the treatment, demonstrate how to self-administer mistletoe, and provide you will all the supplies needed to continue the therapy independently at home.

Follow-up visits are scheduled to monitor tolerance and response to treatment as well as if there are any changes to your conventional treatment which may require modification of mistletoe therapy.

Naturopathic medicine is a great option for those who are looking to supplement their conventional cancer treatment with something that will help them feel better, not just during the process of fighting it but also after surgery or chemotherapy.

If you want to find out more about mistletoe therapy, you can book a free 15 minute call with Dr. Irina Chan, ND by clicking here.


Does Facial Acupuncture Really Work Without Side Effects Of Botox, Laser, And Chemical Peels?

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of acupuncture or maybe even tried it in the past. Have you ever thought about facial acupuncture for wrinkles and rejuvenating your skin without the serious side effects of Botox, laser treatment, and chemical peels?

If you haven’t yet, then this article will tell you everything you need to know about how facial acupuncture can help you look and feel younger.

As you age, your body’s ability to produce collagen decreases which contributes to visible signs of aging: wrinkles, dry skin, dull complexion, and sagging skin. All things we would rather live without!

There are many lotions, creams and expensive serums people use to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. While some work better than others, the results are temporary.

Looking for a more long-lasting solution, some people turn to more invasive procedures that come with an elevated risk of side effects. With some being quite serious.

Some of these facial treatments include:

  • Botox – You are literally injecting a toxin into your face
  • Chemical peels – A chemical peel literally uses chemicals to remove layers of skin
  • Laser treatment – You are using a laser beam destroy the outer layer of your skin

All have some serious side effects you really want to avoid.

Naturopathic Doctors are trained in acupuncture, and some get additional training for facial, or cosmetic, acupuncture.

What Exactly Is Facial Acupuncture?

Cosmetic (or facial) Acupuncture & Facial Rejuvenation is the new and improved way to get rid of those unwanted signs of aging!

It works by guiding fine needles into key points on your face, neck or other areas where you want to rejuvenate.

This treatment helps reduce visible skin imperfections such as wrinkles while also promoting radiant looking healthy glowing complexion. There are minimal side effects so there’s no need for risky invasive treatments with a lot of harmful side effects.

You can see 3 sizes of facial acupuncture needles next to a quarter to give you an idea of just how tiny they are.

How Does Facial Acupuncture Work?

Facial acupuncture involves the insertion of ultra-fine, sterile needles into the superficial layer of the skin.

This process accelerates collagen and elastin production to increase volume and smooth out fine lines located on the forehead (frown lines), eyes (crow’s feet), cheeks, around the mouth (smile lines), and neck area.

In addition, facial acupuncture promotes circulation and increased blood flow to the face. By increasing blood flow, additional moisture and nutrients flow to the surface of the skin to promote healing and regeneration of new dermal tissue, which is useful for reducing the appearance of age spots, acne scarring and hyperpigmentation.

Additional acupuncture points can be added to treatment to address other concerns such as sleep, stress, anxiety, pain, and digestion.

Why should you try Facial Acupuncture:

  • Helps to naturally reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen production
  • Lightens acne scarring, age spots, hyperpigmentation, and other scars
  • Increases blood flow the surface of the skin to promote skin healing
  • Helps lymphatic drainage of the face to detoxify the skin of dirt, toxins, and other impurities
  • Improves skin tone, texture, and elasticity for younger-looking skin
  • It’s 100% natural. You are not injecting toxins, using chemicals or harmful lasers

How Long Is a Facial Acupuncture Session?

A typical session is 45-60 mins long and includes facial massage, gua sha and jade rolling that can promote lymphatic drainage, reduce puffiness, and release muscle tension in the face.

Is facial acupuncture safe?

Yes, facial acupuncture is considered safe when performed by a licensed acupuncturist or Naturopathic doctor. The needles used are sterile, thin, and disposable.

However; facial acupuncture is not recommended for those who are concurrently getting microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser resurfacing or have had cosmetic surgery less than four months prior.

It is also not recommended for those who have severe migraines or who are currently taking Accutane or oral isotretinoin.

What can I expect during a facial acupuncture treatment?

During a facial acupuncture treatment, very fine needles are inserted into specific points on the face. You may feel a small prick when the needles are inserted. After the needles are inserted, you will likely feel relaxed and may even fall asleep. Most treatments last between 45 minutes to 1 hour.

facial acupuncture
Dr. Tara Campbell receiving a treatment from Dr. Irina Chan

Does facial acupuncture hurt?

No, this treatment should not hurt. The needles used are very fine and most people report feeling relaxed during the treatment.

How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments needed will vary from person to person depending on your individual goals and needs. For general anti-aging purposes, most people receive 1-2 treatments per week for 5-7 weeks. For more specific concerns such as acne, a series of 8-10 treatments may be recommended.

Benefits vary from person to person and can last for years following 10-14 sessions. Most people feel improvements in hydration, radiance, and muscle tone after just a few sessions. However, repeated treatments are required to see noticeable improvements in skin texture, elasticity, and discoloration. We recommend monthly sessions for maintenance of benefits.

What are the side effects of facial acupuncture?

The most common side effect of facial acupuncture is minor redness or temporary discomfort at the needle sites. Other possible side effects include bruising, dizziness, headache, and fatigue. These side effects are typically mild and resolve on their own within a few days.

Is facial acupuncture covered by insurance?

Facial acupuncture is not typically covered by insurance. However, some insurance plans may cover facial acupuncture if it is being used for medical purposes such as headaches or pain relief. Please check with your insurance provider to see if facial acupuncture is covered under your plan.

Does facial acupuncture really reduce wrinkles and help skin look younger without all the side effects of Botox, Laser and Chemical Peels?

Yes, facial acupuncture can help to reduce wrinkles and promote radiant skin without the side effects of Botox, laser, and chemical peels. Facial acupuncture is a natural, non-toxic, minimally invasive treatment with little or no side effects or recovery time.

Can facial acupuncture help acne?

In addition to addressing diet, lifestyle and other factors, facial acupuncture helps to reduce the severity and frequency of acne lesions by reducing inflammation (redness and swelling) and preventing the build-up of dead skin cells, oil, and impurities on the face. It can be also very beneficial for acne scarring. Needling into scars induces small skin perforations that stimulate the break down of scar tissue and enhance the regeneration of new skin tissue. The result is a lesser appearance of acne scarring and hyperpigmentation over time. Compared to chemical peels or laser resurfacing, facial acupuncture does not artificially get rid of the superficial layer of the skin that can result in complications such as burning, prolonged redness and swelling, dryness, scabbing or infections.

What to do after a treatment?

  1. Avoid applying makeup for at least 24 hours.
  2. Avoid prolonged direct sun exposure for 72 hours.
  3. Avoid swimming, hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas for at least 72 hours.
  4. Avoid facials, glycolic acid (such as alpha hydroxy acid), salicyclic acid, and retinol treatments for 1 week.
  5. Avoid exfoliants, scrubs, or using powered cleansing brushes (like Clarisonic) for 1 week.
  6. No tanning beds for a least 1 week.
  7. Do use a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water to wash your face. Gently pat your face dry.
  8. Do wear sunscreen to protect your skin from UV damage.
  9. Do drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated.

Who is facial acupuncture for?

This treatment is beneficial for anyone 21 years and older who is looking for natural treatment to prevent and minimize visible signs of aging, minimize acne and acne scaring, and maintain youthful, radiant skin.

It is not recommended for those who are concurrently getting microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser resurfacing or have had cosmetic surgery less than four months prior.

It is also not recommended for those who have severe migraines or who are currently taking Accutane or oral isotretinoin.

Is this only for women?

NO! This is a great treatment anyone can do.

I hope this article has helped you decide if this type of acupuncture is for you. If you want to find out more about this treatment, you can book a free 15 minute call by clicking here.


IV Drip bag

Is IV Therapy Safe?

This is one the questions I get asked most when introducing someone to IV therapy for the first time. Is IV therapy safe?

The short answer, after doing thousands of IV drips on clients over the last 12 years of clinical practice, including doing them myself (even during pregnancy) as part of my health routine, the short is yes.

I’m sure if you’re wondering, “Is IV Therapy Safe?” then you’ll want some more detailed info, which I will share in this article.

First off, all the nutrients in the IV Drip bag are water soluble – meaning your body/your cells will take in what they are able to absorb. Much like increased intake of water overtime, your body learns how to absorb the increased supply of nutrients in your blood stream. Water soluble means you pee out whatever your cells do not take in, where fat soluble nutrients can reach excess.

You cannot overdose on water soluble vitamins contained in the IV Drip, but you can overdose on fat soluble nutrients if not monitored properly. IV nutrients are only water soluble.

Additionally, the IV Therapy doses for wellness are actually quite a low dose (5-20g) within your blood stream when compared to other IV treatments.

When people say you pee out IV vitamins, this is true. You also pee out all food and oral based vitamins as well. In fact, you pee out medication. Our bladders and kidneys are constantly working to clear nutrients after our cells have taken in what they need.

Is IV therapy safe when pregnant and when breast feeding?

Is IV Therapy Safe during pregnancy

IV therapy is safe for pregnant women and for women who are breastfeeding. It’s safe because it’s the nutrients you get naturally from your food. There aren’t any drugs or foreign substances going into your bloodstream. You’re just getting more of what’s biologically available anyway. Because the nutrients we use are all water soluble, your cells decide what to take up and how much to let in. The nutrients don’t build up in your body.

I had my baby at 40 and believe doing regular IVs throughout pregnancy not only helped me have a healthy baby, but helped to speed up my recovery after birth.

Is IV Therapy safe when taking medications?

I’ve given IV treatments from teens, to pregnant women (myself included), to 90+ years of age and on multiple medications.  When someone is on medications, we always look at which medications the person is on and the impact that the nutrients in the IV drip bag may have.

For example, I avoid calcium when patients are on calcium channel blocker medication for hypertension or has an arrhythmia.  We avoid potassium when kidney concerns, and we avoid calcium when a patient is on antibiotics.

Before you receive your first IV drip, we have an initial consultation which covers and current medication you are on.

Is IV therapy safe from getting an infection from the needle?

The chance of infection from the needle stick is extremely minimal. There’s so much precaution leading up to inserting a needle into a vein. We’re very careful to use sterile techniques. It goes without saying that we never reuse needles.

On top of that, we are extremely skilled at putting in the needle. After thousands of IVs, I’d challenge anyone to find a team of more veteran vein-finders than we have on staff.

Every once in a while, inserting the needle can cause a slight bruise. Or there might be some slight irritation from the skin. This can be reduced or avoided by being well-hydrated before starting the treatment to dilute the very slight acidity of the IV fluid.

But typically, the most common side effect people feel is a warming sensation, and that’s the B vitamins, which dilate the blood vessels, so that’s a healthy sensation.

While we work with needles, and many of us have baggage when it comes to needles, our process is entirely safe, sterile, and simple.

Does IV Therapy Hurt?

A question I often get asked before someone starts IV therapy is “Does it hurt?” Well, everybody has their own pain threshold, but basically, there’s very, very little discomfort.

We use a butterfly needle at Higher Health, which is the smallest needle possible, so most people barely feel it when it’s inserted.

Butterfly needle. Is IV Therapy Safe
(Inserting a butterfly needle. It’s tiny!)

In fact, even the most needle-phobic people are surprised at how little they feel it. Sometimes these patients, who can’t bear to watch me put the needle in, ask me when I’m going to do it. I have to tell them it’s already in place!

There’s just that initial tiny pinch, and then there’s no discomfort while you’re on the IV. We also have cream that we can put on that desensitizes the area.

You may also have a hospital or blood drawing story where a nurse couldn’t find your vein, poking your arm 15 times to get it right. I’ve heard plenty of those stories, and I can tell you we are vein whisperers.

Where Do the Vitamins Come From?

We receive our vitamins in vials from a highly regulated licensed compounding pharmacy, which follows standardized compounding procedures to make the vitamins from a synthetic base, producing a sterile pharmaceutical grade end product. We also purchase sterile bags of medical-grade solution. The vitamins are pure and contain no preservatives or additives.

Then at our clinic, in an isolated room designated for sterile compounding, our specially trained technicians, wearing sterile gowns and gloves, compound the vitamins and the solution, creating the vitamin infused bags you see in the IV lounge.

A base IV drip bag contains Vitamin C, Magnesium, calcium, minerals, B vitamins, specific amino acids and antioxidants.  Depending on your health goals, we add additional nutrients.

How long has IV therapy been in use for improving health?

The Origins of IV Vitamin Therapy

Most of us are familiar with the IV therapy commonly used in hospital settings, where an IV bag delivers medicine or nutrients into a patient’s bloodstream.

In this case, it’s referred to as “parenteral nutrition” or TPN. A person may need TPN because of a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder (or other) that severely limits the ability of their digestive tract. A person may not be able to swallow food, move the food through the digestive system, or absorb nutrients from the food, conditions common to those with Crohn’s disease, cancer, short bowel syndrome, or ischemic bowel disease.

However, critically ill patients who cannot receive nutrition orally for more than four days are also candidates for TPN

Naturopathic medicine posits that if total parenteral nutrition is good for someone who can’t eat, it can also ‘s good to optimize your health.  It makes sense to think that with improved nutrition, by any means, you can feel better. for you when you’re not feeling your best.

In the 1960s Dr. John Myers, a physician from Baltimore, Maryland, pioneered a treatment of vitamins and minerals delivered intravenously. He noticed the patients he was giving micro-doses of vitamins to were doing better than his other patients who weren’t taking the IV solution. Later dubbed the “Myer’s Cocktail,” it included magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin C.

In the years since Dr. Myers, other micronutrients have been found to be effective in treatments. The IV dip has likewise been used to treat a range of illnesses.

While little was known about IV therapy a few decades ago, today an ever-expanding body of research shows its application in a number of studies.

At Higher Health we use IV Therapy to treat many conditions. You can find more on that by clicking here. 

Research also shows that “high dose intravenous vitamin C appears to be remarkably safe. Physicians should inquire about IV vitamin C use in patients with cancer, chronic, untreatable, or intractable conditions and be observant of unexpected harm, drug interactions, or benefit.”

In recent years, most new patients walk in with the understanding they need way more nutrients than those they get from food. Social media has played a big part in increasing the awareness of IV Therapy and its wellness benefits, as celebrities and health-conscious influencers have helped accelerate the prevalence of IV therapies.

I hope this article has helped you decide is IV Therapy safe for you. If you have any questions about IV Therapy or your health in general, you can book a free introductory consultation by clicking here.

Sincerely, Dr. Tara Campbell, ND


Choosing the right diet

Cancer Prevention Diet

What is the easiest Cancer prevention diet and why should we be paying attention to our diet when it comes to cancer?

To start, the World Health Organization states that ‘between 30 and 50% of cancers can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies.’ This includes maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity, reducing alcohol and tobacco use and other environmental exposures.

When it comes to diet, a study found that the highest quality diets as assessed by the Healthy Eating Index is associated with not only a 16% decrease in cancer incidence but also a 22% reduction in cardiovascular disease, 18% reduction in type 2 diabetes, and 15% reduction in neurodegenerative diseases. Among cancer survivors, diets of the highest quality resulted in a 12% reduction in all-cause mortality and 10% reduction in cancer mortality.

As you can see here, eating healthy plays a key role in reducing cancer risk, as well as other risk factors like preventing any heart complications, type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.

To take that one step further, you may want to focus on a cancer prevention diet.

In this article Dr. Irina Chan, ND, discusses the research around the ideal way of eating when it comes to a cancer prevention diet. What foods to eat and more importantly…why.  We will also touch on which ones to avoid, no matter how strong the cravings!

So what is the ideal cancer prevention diet?

There is growing information and research suggesting that a Mediterranean diet can lower cancer risk.

What makes a Mediterranean diet so great when it comes to reducing cancer risk?

For starters, it’s high in antioxidants, which prevents oxidative damage.

Antioxidants fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals can cause harm if their levels become too high, and they’re linked to many illnesses including diabetes, heart disease or cancer among others!

Your own antioxidant defenses keep them under control, but you may want a little help from food like following a Mediterranean diet.

Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to increased risk of bladder, breast, colorectum, endometrium, kidney, liver, and pancreatic cancer. A Mediterranean diet is high in fiber which helps to maintain a healthy blood sugar balance, thereby preventing the development of type 2 diabetes.

But wait, there’s more!

The high fiber content associated with the Mediterranean diet also helps support a healthy gut microbiome and a healthy immune system, which is our bodies natural defense mechanism against cancer.

So how effective is the Mediterranean diet when it comes to lowering cancer risk?

To answer this question, a systematic review looked at over 117 studies with over 3 million participants. This is quite a large sample size and something we want to look at.

The authors of this study concluded that those who had the highest adherence to a Mediterranean diet had a 13% decreased risk of cancer death, 6% decreased risk of breast cancer, 17% decreased risk of colorectal cancer, 44% decreased risk of head and neck cancers, 16% decreased risk of lung cancer, 13% decreased risk of bladder cancer, 30 % decreased risk of stomach cancer, and 36% reduced risk of liver cancer.

Those are some pretty amazing reductions you can achieve by changing the way that you eat. One of the great things about eating a Mediterranean diet is that it’s easy to prepare, tastes great, and will keep you satisfied long after you’ve eaten.

So what consists of the Mediterranean diet?

You can find on the internet a lot of different resources on the Mediterranean diet including what you should be eating and how many servings you should be having of each food item. But I really like the diagram below (from Intermountain Healthcare) because it shows an easier and more flexible way of adopting a Mediterranean diet.

cancer prevention diet
cancer prevention diet ok to eat
cancer prevention diet
cancer prevention diet, sometimes ok to eat
cancer prevention diet
cancer prevention diet. never ok to eat.

The Mediterranean diet includes ample amounts of fruits and vegetables along with whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds every day. In addition, you can enjoy approximately two to three servings of fish and seafood, poultry and eggs, as well as cheese and yogurt on a weekly basis. Foods to limit include red meat (no more than 1 steak a week), processed meats, alcohol, added sugar, high salt intake (less than 1 tsp a day), and processed foods.


Why limit such foods?

Studies looking at the incidence of cancer in those who consumed the highest amount of red meat vs those who consumed the lowest amounts had a 9% increased risk of breast cancer, 10% increased risk of colorectal cancer, 26% increased risk of lung cancer, and 22% increased risk of liver cancer.

Similarly, studies looking at the incidence of cancer in those who consumed the highest amount of processed meat vs those who consumed the lowest amounts had a 6% increased risk of breast cancer, 18% increased risk of colorectal cancer, 12% increased risk of lung cancer, and 24% increased risk of stomach cancer.

Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and juice is associated with a 12% increased risk of cancer. Moreover, consuming excess sweets that are high in refined carbohydrates and added sugars can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes which has been strongly linked to increased cancer risk.

When it comes to salt intake, higher dietary salt intake is associated with a 25% increased risk of stomach cancer. Not to mention, excess salt intake can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney failure.

What about BBQ and fried foods?

It’s not just what we put into our bodies that matters; it’s also how we prepare it. There are many healthy ways to prepare your meals including lightly sautéing, boiling, and steaming. However, one should limit consumption of fried, smoking, charred, BBQ and grilled meats.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are formed when protein such as fish or meat is smoked or cooked at high temperatures. This includes grilling, BBQ, charring, roasting or frying. Any method of cooking that can char or burn food will produce PAHs. The smoked and burnt bits of meat are laden with PAHs that have been found to be highly toxic and carcinogenic to humans. Cumulative exposure to PAHs has been associated with elevated risk of breast, lung and bladder cancer. Other sources of PAH include cigarette smoke, car exhaust fumes, and smoke from wood or coal burning,

If you wish to enjoy BBQ ribs or grilled steak and want to limit PAH exposure and cancer risk, consider choosing leaner cuts of meat to reduce fat dripping and burning, cooking at lower temperatures for a longer duration of time, and removing the blacken portions from the meat.

How you eat is as important as what you eat. Up until the last few years we were advised by experts to eat a certain way, which as we dive into the data, is clearly not the healthiest way.

How do I get started?

When it comes to how to eat a cancer prevention diet, you can slowly incorporate tasty, plant-based and minimally processed whole foods as part of your daily diet.

The harder part will be removing refined sugars and processed foods from your life. In practice, I don’t usually advise anyone to completely eliminate such foods from your diet. Going cold turkey is not the best way to lead a healthy and sustainable diet. Restrictive diets can result in insufficient caloric consumption, dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, and can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.

We all have cravings. We can celebrate with cake and champagne. We can have pizza nights.

The most important part of maintaining a healthy diet is to develop mindful eating habits, such as listening to hunger cues, not overeating, and noticing how food affects our mood and overall health. When we are more aware of what foods we are putting in our bodies and how they make us feel, it influences healthier food choices.

Remember, every small step towards a healthier you is worth celebrating!

If you have any questions about your health, cancer prevention, or integrative cancer care, you can always book a free consultation with Dr. Irina Chan, ND by clicking here.


Sad Diet

Why You Must Avoid A SAD Diet

Why is the SAD diet so bad…most of us eat it everyday!

Between work, school, family, and social life our increasingly busy schedules have favored convenient foods that can quickly satisfy our cravings.

In this article Dr. Irina Chan, ND, discusses the research around why you should avoid a SAD type diet. Especially if you are concerned about elevating your risk for cancer.

Maybe we can all relate here. It’s become increasingly difficult to make healthy and nutritious meals all the time. Overtime, we have lost touch with where food comes from and how it’s prepared with the introduction and rise of food processing and widespread distribution, preserved and packaged foods, microwavable meals, drive-thrus, food delivery services, and convenience stores.

It’s important to recognize that it’s not simply a matter of individual choices, but a more complex issue that involves government bodies, societal pressures, businesses, and corporations leading us to eat this way.

We are seeing that over time, fresh and perishable food items have become less accessible and less affordable, meaning that for a lot of people eating healthy every day is not a practical option. Meanwhile, we’re seeing that junk food has become more widely available, more affordable, and very intensely marketed, especially towards lower income communities and children.


The SAD diet or the Standard American Diet (I guess we could call this the Standard Canadian Diet too), is a modern-day diet that has been attributed to poor health.

Some of the issues I have with the standard American diet is that it’s highly processed. The more a food is processed, the less nutrients the food will have. Highly processed foods can literally end up with no nutritional value and cause your body more harm than good.

It’s also pro-inflammatory, meaning that it promotes inflammation in our bodies. Chronic inflammation can damage healthy cells, tissues, and organs over time. Chronic inflammation contributes to a wide range of disease including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, obesity, asthma and dementia.

The SAD diet often consists of artificial colorings, which in high amounts can be toxic to the liver as well as other organs. Artificial food dyes may also contain contaminants such as benzidine, 4-amino-bipheny, and p-cresidine that are known cancer-causing substances. Artificial food dyes are associated with hypersensitivity reactions, changes in behavior, mood, concentration, and headaches in humans and tumor formation in rats.

High glycemic foods such as white bread, pasta, sodas, and desserts are low in fiber and high in sugar. This means that when ingested, they are rapidly digested, absorbed through the intestines, and can cause significant spikes in blood sugar. Over time, this can lead to poor blood sugar control and diabetes.

On average, American adults eat 10-15 grams of total fiber a day which is far off from the recommended 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams of fiber per day for men. Lack of fiber in our diets can promote poor blood sugar control, elevated cholesterol levels, and poor digestive health. A diet high in fiber helps to increase the composition and diversity of our gut microbiome, which enhances our immune response to pathogens and cancerous cells.

Pesticides, which are widely used in agriculture, and hormones, which are often added to animal feed, can be toxic to humans. Pesticides are known endocrine-disruptors and is associated with elevated rates of breast cancer. Furthermore, pesticide exposure during pregnancy is associated with increased rates of leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and brain tumor in children.

On average, Americans eat more than 3400 milligrams of sodium per day. However, the recommended daily limit for sodium intake is less than 2300 milligrams or approximately 1 teaspoon of table salt per day. Diets high in salt is associated with elevated risk of developing high blood pressure, which is a major cause of stroke and heart disease.

And lastly, the SAD diet is often high in trans-fat and saturated fats, which can lead to inflammation and obesity. It can also lead to buildup of fatty deposits in our blood vessels and the development of coronary artery disease, putting one at risk for heart attacks and strokes.

The graph shown here depicts the rate of cancer incidence and mortality between 1975 to 2018. Between 1975 to approximately 2000 there has been an increase in cancer incidence and mortality in both men and female. This upward trend has been linked to the increased intake of unhealthy fats, cholesterol, and refined sugar.

You will also notice a decrease in rates after approximately 1995. This is most likely due to increased cancer surveillance, advancements in cancer treatments, and cancer prevention programs focused on nutrition, physical activity, and other modifiable risk factors.

Now let’s get into the research involving the cancer risks with certain foods we are consuming.

Studies looking at the incidence of cancer in those who consumed the highest amount of red meat versus those who consumed the lowest amounts had a 9% increased risk of breast cancer, 10% increased risk of colorectal cancer, 26% increased risk of lung cancer, and 22% increased risk of liver cancer.

Similarly, studies looking at the incidence of cancer in those who consumed the highest amount of processed meat versus those who consumed the lowest amounts had a 6% increased risk of breast cancer, 18% increased risk of colorectal cancer, 12% increased risk of lung cancer, and 24% increased risk of stomach cancer.

There is a 12% increased risk of cancer associated with sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and juice. Moreover, consuming high glycemic foods (foods that are high in sugar and low in fiber) can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes which has been strongly linked to increased risk cancer including cancer of the bladder, breast, colorectum, endometrium, kidney, liver, and pancreas.

In addition, high amounts of dietary salt intake have been shown to increase risk of stomach cancer and esophageal cancer.

Before we end this article, I want to touch on obesity.

Recent work has revealed that overweight or obesity, as measured by weight or body mass index, does not increase cancer risk; rather excess visceral adiposity or the fat that covers our organs, as measured by waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, is.

Specifically, abdominal obesity is associated with a 42% increased risk of colorectal cancer, 32% increased risk lung cancer, and 6% increased risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.

Researchers looked at women diagnosed with breast cancer and followed them for 9 years. They found that compared to women who were able to maintain a stable weight, those who gained a median weight of 6 pounds after their breast cancer diagnosis was associated with a 35% increased risk of death from breast cancer. And those who gained more than 17 pounds had a 64% increased risk of death from breast cancer.

Similarly, compared to men who were able to maintain a stable weight, those who gained more than 4 pounds had twice the risk of prostate cancer recurrence.

From such studies we can extrapolate the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight to prevent the development and recurrence of cancer.

There are many health risks associated with the SAD diet, especially when it comes to cancer. While I know how hard it is to change habits, especially when it comes to eating, I think it’s important to try.

There are many healthy ways of eating to choose from. Pick one that suits your lifestyle and start making small changes towards a healthier you!

If you have any questions about your health, cancer prevention, or integrative cancer care, you can always book a free consultation with Dr. Irina Chan, ND by clicking here.


cancer fighting foods

Cancer Fighting Foods

Cancer fighting foods. Which foods, diets, and nutrition help reduce cancer risk.

In this article we’re going to look at:

  • Functional foods for cancer prevention.
  • Foods to avoid, and foods you thought you needed to avoid, but should not!
  • To finish off, a few types of diets and how they can affect your cancer risk as well as help with prevention.

If you want to discuss cancer prevention, or integrative cancer care, you can always book a free consultation with Dr. Irina Chan, ND by clicking here.

What are Cancer fighting foods? Also known as Functional Foods?

Functional foods are foods that have been linked to lowering cancer risks. They work by improving the immune response, reducing inflammation, promoting detoxification, or protecting our DNA from oxidative damage.

In recent years there have been laboratory studies showing that these specific foods have been effective in either indirectly or directly blocking tumor growth.

In fact, you can find these types of food items on almost any grocery store shelf!

Some cancer fighting foods to incorporate into your diet include garlic, and this can also include leeks and onions. Garlic may help to prevent cancer by improving the immune response, reducing inflammation, detoxification, and protecting DNA from oxidative damage. Garlic intake is inversely associated with risk of stomach, colorectal, prostate cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts contain sulforaphanes and isothiocyanates that may help to prevent cancer by improving detoxification and limiting the accumulation of excess hormones that can promote breast cancer or prostate cancer.

Cruciferous vegetable intake is inversely associated with risk of breast, kidney, bladder, lung, colorectal and prostate cancer.

Mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake and even white button mushrooms are great to include in your diet of cancer fighting foods. Higher mushroom consumption is associated with lower risk of cancer stemming from their potent antioxidant properties. Mushrooms also contain β-glucans which have been implicated as having antitumor and immunomodulation properties. By improving our immunity, we are improving our body’s natural defense against cancer.

And lastly, green tea contains catechins, which are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to inhibit the growth and spread of tumor cells in laboratory studies. Green tea consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of oral, stomach, colorectal, lung, breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

Oftentimes, I recommend having three to five cups of green tea a day.

Next, I’ll be covering some of the frequently asked questions associated with diet, nutrition and cancer risk.

I’m going to start off with soy. Oftentimes both men and women, are told to avoid soy because of its estrogenic effects. However, when you look into the research, soy consumption is associated with a reduction risk of breast cancer, as well as prostate cancer. Even in those who take it after their breast cancer diagnosis, it was shown to help prevent the recurrence. This is most likely due to soy binding to the estrogen receptors more weakly than estrogen itself. So when soy binds to the estrogen receptor, it actually inhibits estrogen from binding to these receptors. And that’s why we see a benefit here.

What about alcohol intake? Alcohol consumption increases risk for all cancers and the risk increases as you drink more. That means, that there is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed. There seems to be one exception. Higher consumption of wine seems to contribute to elevated breast cancer risk; however, lower doses (a third of a cup a day) does seem to have some protective effects, most likely due to the polyphenol and resveratrol content within the wine.

What about coffee? Coffee is good! Black coffee is actually rich in polyphenols which have protective effects against certain cancers like liver, endometrial, prostate, oral, and colorectal cancer. Just be mindful of what you’re adding to your coffee before drinking it (i.e. sugar and cream).

Should you be avoiding dairy? When it comes to cancer prevention, there seems to be inconsistent data on the consumption of dairy products in general. However, there seems to be protective effects associated with the consumption of fermented dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. If you would like to include dairy in your diet, it is best to choose organic products that do not contain residual antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides.

Are carbohydrates really that bad? Another big question is if one should avoid sugar and carbs. When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into sugars, which is the primary fuel source our cells use to give us enough energy to sustain our daily activities. But sugar in excess amounts can contribute to diabetes and weight gain, which is associated with the elevated risk of cancer.

Rather than eliminate carbs entirely from our diets, focus on reducing simple carb intake (e.g. white pasta, bread, white sugar, candy, desserts) and incorporate more complex carbs (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans) that can stabilize blood sugar levels and have additional cancer-fighting nutrients. If you have a sweet tooth, choose lower glycemic index options (less sugar spiking effect) such as dates, bananas, monk fruit, stevia, xylitol, raw honey, or coconut sugar.

What about eggs? Data is mixed. Some have failed to find an association, but some have found that consuming ≥ 5 eggs/week was significantly associated with an increased risk of breast, ovarian compared with no egg consumption. Men who consumed 2.5 or more eggs per week had an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer compared with men who consumed less than 0.5 eggs per week.

Similarly, those who consumed >3 eggs a week had increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer compared to those who consumed <3 eggs a week. Based on these studies, perhaps it’s best to limit our egg intake to less than three or five a week.  But more research is needed to confirm the cancer risks associated with egg consumption.

Intermittent fasting, is it all that? Intermittent fasting has really become a trend lately. In terms of cancer, preliminary studies have shown that prolonged fasting is safe and potentially capable of decreasing toxicity associated with chemotherapy, as well as having some benefit towards reducing tumor growth. Intermittent fasting may also be considered in adults seeking cancer-prevention benefits through means of weight management. However, intermittent fasting is not suitable for everyone especially if you have diabetes, unintended weight loss, fatigue, a history of disordered eating or mood disorders, or are pregnant or lactating.

Should I be vegetarian? A plant-based diet is best for cancer prevention. However, it is important to eat enough protein to meet your energy needs which may be challenging while on an entirely plant-based diet. Modest amounts of fish or white meats can help you meet your daily protein requirements and provide additional cancer-prevention benefits (such as omega-3).

Lastly, I want to touch on the keto diet. With the keto diet, there is currently no conclusive evidence to support its use for improved survival in cancer patients. There are risk factors associated with being on a keto diet, such as losing weight, headache, brain fog, fatigue, nausea, and constipation. It is also a diet that is challenging to adhere to.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have any questions about cancer prevention, or integrative cancer care, you can book a free consultation with Dr. Irina Chan, ND, by clicking here. 




PMS. Premenstrual Syndrome is a very real phenomenon experienced by a vast majority of women during their menstruating years.  It is estimated that almost 90% of women experience some premenstrual symptoms!

In this article we’re going to cover:

The premenstrual symptoms
What causes PMS
What natural treatments you can use for PMS
The top 5 things you can do today to help PMS

If at any time you wish to discuss how a naturopathic doctor can help with PMS, you can book a free call with Dr. Keara by clicking here.

PMS is defined as recurrent physical, psychological and emotional symptoms that affect quality of life and occur cyclically during the luteal phase of the cycle (the week or two before your period begins).

While the exact causes of PMS are unknown, it is thought to be related to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. Whatever the cause, PMS can be a real challenge to deal with.

Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to help ease the symptoms of PMS. If you or someone you know is struggling with PMS, then keep reading as we are going to cover the symptoms of PMS, likely causes of PMS, treatments, and things you can do right away to help PMS.

Many people think that moodiness and irritability during PMS is all there is to it, but in actuality this can be just one symptom of PMS among many others. There are so many more things you need watch out for!

Some of the most common premenstrual symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Bloating
  • Water retention
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

It’s true that PMS can be pretty uncomfortable and inconvenient. As you can see there is a lot more to PMS that needs to be looked at and addressed. The more you know about your symptoms, the better!

The good news is that PMS can be managed once you have identified the symptoms specific to you.

Before we dive into what you can do to help your PMS symptoms, it is important to understand where your PMS is coming from.

So what causes PMS?

You may have heard that PMS is caused by a hormone imbalance.  This isn’t exactly true, as women with PMS have been shown to have the same levels of hormones compared to those without PMS.

Instead, PMS is believed to be caused by a sensitivity to the fluctuating levels of ovarian hormones.  Since these hormones influence neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA, this sensitivity leads to the symptoms of PMS.

How do we test for PMS? Is it in the blood?

Blood work can tell reveal many things that are going on in the body, but unfortunately not in the is case.

The doctors of yesteryear thought that reviewing blood work could show us different levels when symptoms of PMS were present. As more attention was put on PMS we have seen that when it comes to blood tests, hormone levels are usually found in the normal range.  Blood testing is not helpful for diagnosing and treating PMS.

What is the Best Way to Assess PMS?

The best way to assess for whether hormones are at the cause of your symptoms is to track your symptoms across your menstrual cycle for a full 2-3 cycles/months.

The easiest way to do this is to download a period tracking app like Clue, Period Tracker, or Flo.  Of course, you can also use a paper calendar and pen! The first day of your period is considered day 1 of your cycle, and through the whole cycle (likely anywhere from 24 to 34 days), you want to take note of your symptoms (mood swings, irritability, bloating, breast tenderness, energy, etc.).  The hardest part is remembering to keep track, so I recommend doing this at the same time each day, i.e. before bed, to make it a routine.

Once you have gathered all this information, you want to take it to a Naturopathic Doctor who focuses on hormonal health.

With this information, you can consult your Naturopathic Doctor who will be able to identify trends and see whether hormones may have a hand in the symptoms that are bothering you.

How do we treat PMS?

As Naturopathic Doctors, we take a holistic and comprehensive approach to treatment. In terms of PMS, a naturopathic doctor uses nutrition, nutraceuticals  as well lifestyle changes such a diet or exercise plans in order support hormone balance throughout your entire cycle so you can feel good all month long.

Before I share some general tips that can help you, I want you to remember that each person is unique, and while these can help, it is important that you get to the root of your unique symptoms.

Here are the top 5 ways you can get started today!

1. Consume more whole grains and complex carbohydrates.

This one might surprise you. What if I told you that the most important macronutrient to minimize PMS symptoms is carbohydrates?  The type of carbs matters too! Research shows that the most important macronutrient to minimize PMS symptoms is carbohydrates, and specifically – complex carbs!

Increasing whole grains reduces both the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS.  A quick way to get started is to incorporate foods like wild or brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, rye bread, sweet potatoes, etc.

2. Don’t Stress!
I know, so much easier said than done.  Higher levels of perceived stress are associated with increased premenstrual symptoms.

The fact is that stress is an inevitable part of our modern-day lifestyle, and trying to remove all stressors is not realistic.  It’s really important to get your stress response under control.

What really matters when it comes to our health outcomes is our perceived stress.  i.e. how well we feel we can manage the stressors in our life.  Here are some things to think about to assess your levels of perceived stress:

-Do you feel confident in your ability to handle issues that come up day to day?

-Do you often feel nervous or stressed out?

-Do you feel like you are on top of things in your life?

-Do you feel easily angered by things that are outside of your control?

A huge first step in managing your stress it to be aware of your stress levels.  It’s important to bring in some practices and strategies to manage the stressors.  That could include exercise, good quality sleep, adrenal support, engaging in hobbies, being in nature, etc.

3. Exercise

Whether you have just started your period or are approaching menopause, exercise is an excellent way to manage PMS symptoms. Not only does it improve mood but can also reduce bloating and the other physical discomfort symptoms associated with your period.

Start by engaging 20-30 minutes of activity 4 days per week so that soon enough these sessions will become part ‘wants’ rather than ‘chores’ because they’re good for us both inside AND out. It can be anything that you enjoy – a brisk walk in nature, a yoga class, sex, weight lifting, etc.

4. Continue tracking your menstrual cycle and know which phase you are in!

 Not only does tracking your symptoms help to diagnose PMS, but continuing to track your menstrual cycle and knowing which phase you are in can help to improve your PMS experience.  When you know that you are in your luteal phase (the week or two before your period) and are more susceptive to symptoms of PMS, this can in and of itself help to make the symptoms feel more manageable.  It is empowering to know what is happening in your body, and is super important and useful and you continue to work on the underlying causes.

5.Consider nutraceuticals like vitamin D, chaste tree, and calcium.  

 A few of the herbs and nutrients that have been shown to be effective for PMS in our tool kit include chaste tree or vitex berry, calcium, and vitamin D. We always recommend working with an ND to determine which supplements and at what dose will be the most effective and safe for you.

Premenstrual syndrome is a group of symptoms that many women experience in the days leading up to their menstrual period. While the exact cause of PMS is still unknown, we do know that it can be caused by a combination of factors including hormone fluctuations, diet, stress, and lifestyle choices.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help manage your symptoms. If you’re looking for some immediate relief, start with the five tips you can start using today.

For more long-term solutions, book a free consultation with Dr. Keara, one of our naturopathic doctors – she will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs. We hope this article has been helpful – please share it!

Here’s to feeling like yourself again – all month long!

Dr. Keara Taylor, ND is passionate about helping women to feel at home and guided by the wisdom of their bodies.  She believes that our symptoms are indications that our bodies and lifestyles are out of balance. Dr. Keara combines comprehensive evaluation with in depth lab testing when necessary to determine the root cause of symptoms.  She uses evidence based and traditional forms of medicine to come up with an individualized treatment plan that may include clinical nutrition, botanical medicine and nutrient supplementation, IV Drip therapy, BHRT and acupuncture.

You can book a free consultation with Dr.Keara by clicking here.




Burnout, what is it and what you do about it.

Burnout is a very real problem in today’s world. A result of constant long term stress either from work, your personal life or a combination of the two. The burden of responsibilities and tasks becomes overwhelming, and there is not enough time to rest and restore to some sense of balance.

Essentially, you are running on empty.

We know that stress is a part of everyday life, for everyone alive. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what you do, we will all face stress. Your body has an internal system that helps respond and cope with the everyday stress of life.

But what happens when these systems don’t work the way they should? What happens when they break down?

A lot of the recent research has focused on the burnout rates amongst health care providers, working extremely long hours, and putting themselves and their needs last, essentially draining themselves of their internal coping mechanisms.

Let’s face it however; health care providers are not the only people who are vulnerable to burnout.

Everyone is susceptible to burnout.

It’s not just the high achieving, or people with a stressful or demanding job, or parents of young children. More and more people are trying to balance busy lives and giving so much of themselves to everyone else that they don’t realize they are burning the candle at both ends.

How can you define burnout?

Burnout has three dimensions and is described as

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • Reduced efficacy in all parts of life

When you’re in a state of burnout, it can be difficult to fulfill your job’s demands, while also showing up in your personal life. This may lead to feelings of failure, anxiety, depression, low productivity and strained relationships. Burnout affects mental, emotional, and physical health.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

Burnout can look different for everyone but these are some of the symptoms you may experience. It is important to note that there is both a combination of emotional, mental, and physical symptoms with burnout.

Symptoms may include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Detached, feeling alone in the world
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
  • Reduced performance
  • Difficulty with memory and concentration
  • Chronic headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Vulnerability to illness such as colds and flus
  • Anxiety/ depression
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • High blood pressure and heart issues

These are some questions we would ask you to ask yourself…

  • Do you feel stuck in your current situation, wanting to make a change, but not having the energy to do so? Unsure where to start?
  • Do you wake up tired, unrefreshed, and unmotivated for the day, unsure how you will get through it?
  • Do you have trouble focusing, and overthink everything leading to overwhelm?
  • Are you beginning to question yourself in everything you do?
  • Do you see other people with abundant energy, and feel disappointment in yourself asking ‘why can’t I do this?’
  • Are you gaining unwanted weight because you’re eating differently to try to increase energy – going to the wrong foods for quick energy, leading to shame, guilt, and inadequacy?
  • Do you worry that feeling this way is a sign you’re getting older faster than you should and that your best years are behind you?
  • Are your relationships with your family, friends and colleagues suffering because you aren’t able to engage with them like you used to?

If you’re nodding your head to some or all of the above  then you may be experiencing burnout.

How do you test for burnout?

When considering burnout, it’s important to rule out other conditions that may mimic these symptoms. Your Naturopathic Doctor will do a thorough health history and investigation, along with some blood work and physical exams to rule out other underlying deficiencies or disorders that may be contributing to your symptoms.

Some common testing that is helpful to help rule in/out burnout includes:

Specifically for burnout, your naturopathic doctor may discuss the 4 point cortisol salivary test, or the Dutch Test’s Cortisol Awakening Test.

This test measure cortisol levels at 4 specific times of the day, to assess the diurnal pulsation of your cortisol, as well as your cortisol awakening response.

In clients who are experiencing burnout, we typically see a blunted or negative cortisol awakening response, as well as low cortisol levels throughout the day.

What are the treatment options for burnout?

You may be thinking, doesn’t everyone suffer from this? Isn’t it normal to feel like this, isn’t that just life to feel exhausted?

Although burnout is unfortunately common, it is not normal to experience, suffer, or endure.

Our Naturopathic Doctors can’t take away the responsibilities and stress that comes with life (although they wish they could). What they can help with is your body’s ability to buffer these stressors, the stamina to cope with them, and provide you with the tools and resources to help you recover.

They will have a thorough discussion with you about the things you can control, like nutrition, exposure to nature, physical activity, and daily habits that can allow your body to recover from burnout in a vary strategic manner.

They may also discuss IV drip therapy to provide your cells with the micronutrients needed to replenish ATP and cellular energy systems contributing to depletion, or supplements such as adaptogens and specific vitamins/minerals which support your body’s stress pathways, hormones (like cortisol, thyroid, melatonin and other), and ability to buffer stress.

The symptoms and experience of burnout is specific to the individual, and therefore the treatment plan should be individualized as well.

If you think you may be suffering from burnout, reach out to one of our Naturopathic Doctors today. Although it may be common, it is not normal to feel this way!

You can book a free consultation by clicking here.