Category Archives: Uncategorized

Brain Health – Defending Against Dementia

Dementia scares the heck out of me. I am in my 50’s and have seen how this disease has ravaged family members. Every time I forget a detail or misplace an object I wonder if it is beginning – that long slow slide towards senility.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but there are a number of other types of dementia as well.

The classic medical approach has been to slow progression of the disease and treat symptoms, often with serious side effects. Families are sadly told there is no cure or prevention and to make necessary arrangements for care.

Being a baby boomer has its advantages. A whole lot of other people are around my age, including medical researchers, equally interested in preventing and treating dementia. This means that recently studies have been flooding the medical and scientific journals, studies that point to preventing and possibly even curing Alzheimer’s. I find these studies very exciting, because they are not about the latest and greatest pharmaceutical, but rather about diet and lifestyle factors.

I teach others about these factors, and incorporate them into my own brain health program. Here is a peak at some of the best and latest practices for maintaining brain health:

  1. Sleep – the brain needs enough time to “wash” itself each night. Plan on 6-8 hours of sleep. Be sure your room is perfectly dark, or wear a sleep mask and avoid screens after dinner. If you snore or wake frequently, ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep clinic to test for sleep apnea. Problems with short-term memory and difficulty concentrating are often brought on by insufficient sleep.
  2. Prevent the highs and lows of blood sugar – the brain is very sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels, and causing rapid change can inflame and damage delicate neurons. Don’t eat anything after supper until the following morning. This gives your body a little “fast”, and will help normalize the cell response to sugar and insulin. At first this may be difficult. If you experience wakefulness, try just a piece of fruit before bed, and then see if you can wean off even that. Walking for 15 minutes after a big meal will also help normalize blood sugar. Avoid simple carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour, and eat just to a point of barely feeling full.
  3. Exercise at least 4-6 times a week. Do something, even if it is just a short walk or a yoga workout. All exercise is beneficial. Eventually you want to do some “high intensity short duration” training which will have the most impact on your health. Start with walking, then gradually add in short “bursts” of jogging.
  4. Meditation. 15-20 minutes a day of quieting the mind will decrease cortisol levels which will decrease inflammation in the brain and body. You can do meditation as a secular practice, just deep breathing and relaxing the body, or you can do it as part of a faith practice. The important thing is to develop it into a habit.

    Personally, I have the best success at incorporating new habits one at a time. I will pick one thing to focus on for a week, and then add in the next habit the following week, you might like to try the same approach.

    If you would like a more individualized approach to brain health, including specific functional testing, optimizing your diet and incorporating supplements and herbs known for their ability to prevent and heal the brain, let me know and we will set up an appointment. Working together I am confident we can reduce your risk for dementia.

Free Functional Medicine Summit Online

There is a great line up this year of speakers, well worth a listen! !<a href=”; target=_blank><img src=”; border=”0″></a>

Can my sick thyroid become euthyroid again? It is possible!

Euthyroid is the medical term for normal thyroid. It refers to a a thyroid that tests in the normal range for thyroid antibodies and thyroid hormones. If a thyroid is not testing euthyroid, then people are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, such as Hashimoto’s thyrodits, or hyperthyroidism, such as Graves Disease. A hypothyroid state means you are given thyroid hormone replacement and a hyperthyroid state means the thyroid is irradiated or has a part removed. A thyroid that is partially destroyed will almost always then become hypothyroid and require thyroid hormone replacement.

This is simplifying things a little and I am not talking in this article about thyroid cancers or genetic dysfunctions or other, rarer causes of thyroid disease. These two conditions though, represent the most common thyroid conditions and treatment seen in my clinical practice. Throughout my nursing training and even through naturopathic training, I was taught that Graves and Hashimotos’s were thyroid diseases, that they couldn’t be cured, only treated either with pharmaceutical or natural means which the patient would have to continue for the rest of their life. During my functional medicine courses, however, I learned something different.

The problem with both of these main types of treatment – thyroid hormone replacement or gland destruction/removal, is that they don’t actually cure the thyroid gland itself and get it functioning properly. It is a bit like saying a bucket with a hole in it can hold water because you are continually pouring water into it. Water is still pouring out, but it looks like the bucket is also holding water. Fix the hole in the bucket and the bucket really will hold water.

So why doesn’t your doctor fix the thyroid so that it really will work on it’s own again? For one thing, conventional medicine doesn’t believe that is possible. They do know that if there is iodine deficiency and you give iodine that will help, but iodine levels are not tested. This is because table salt is iodized and so low iodine isn’t an issue anymore, right? No, not true. I learned recently that the salt used in processed foods is not iodized, only our table salt is. So if someone doesn’t use a salt shaker at home or is careful with their salt intake because of high blood pressure or some other medical reason, they might not be getting much iodine at all. There are even studies showing that eating iodized salt is not an ideal way to obtain iodine.

In fact one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism today remains iodine deficiency. Eating some seaweed each day is a much better way to get iodine into your body. For those of you who rub iodine onto your skin every day, that has never been shown to really work to increase levels. I also recommend against taking iodine drops, unless under careful supervision since just a drop or two more than you need might suppress rather than stimulate the thyroid.

Iodine deficiency doesn’t cause all thyroid problems, however. The thyroid is actually part of our immune system, so if we have problems with our immunity, the thyroid can reflect this. Two other very common causes of thyroid problems are gluten or other food intolerance and intestinal overgrowth of bacteria, yeast or parasites.

I saw a patient yesterday who has reverted to a euthyroid state after becoming gluten free (she had elevated levels of deamidated gliadin peptide antibody on her celiac panel, and Candida overgrowth on her comprehensive stool analysis). There is actually about a ten fold chance over the normal population that you will have celiac disease if you have thyroid disease. She went on a gluten-free, high nutrient diet, did a yeast cleanse and now she is euthyroid. No medications or herbal formulas for thyroid are now needed.

This will not necessarily happen in all thyroid conditions since we are all biochemically different. It’s a little like the weight loss infomercials where someone loses 50 pounds in one month and then the very small print tells you that results ‘may vary”. I have seen this euthyroid state reached on at least two occasions in my clinical practice, however.

I have some other patients where we are still seeing progress, the thyroid is getting better and the medication level is less, but there is not yet a euthyroid state . I should also add it takes a lot of work on the part of the patient. It is more difficult to adjust your diet and clean out your system than to pop a pill every day. Even on thyroid medication , though, a lot of people still don’t feel that great. Yes, they may function better than they did before the medication, but they are still tired, overweight and cold.

Consider also that the chance of breast cancer increase 200% when taking thryoid medication (when there is insufficient iodine intake). . So, what can you do if you have thyroid disease? There are four steps to take:

1. Have your iodine levels checked. Meanwhile, add a little seaweed to your diet each day. If you are on thyroid medication, this will reduce your chance for developing breast cancer.
2. Ask for a celiac blood panel, (as long as you are currently eating gluten, otherwise it won’t be accurate). A normal test doesn’t mean you don’t have a gluten intolerance, however it is more of a pointer for celiac disease , so the next step is:
3. Go on an elimination diet. Cut out the most common food sensitivities for a few weeks or a month and then test them back. Any naturopthic doctor can set you up and monitor you through this process.
4. Obtain a comprehensive stool analysis or Organix urine profile to check for high levels of yeast , abnormal bacteria or parasites. These tests are available through most naturopathic doctors. If these organisms are stressing the thyroid, then eliminating them can help the thyroid to heal.

Since every change we make in our life has consequences, I must mention the side effects of taking the above actions. Say the following very fast. “You may experience increased energy, weight loss, better sleep, better sex, fewer colds, a decreased risk of cancers and heart disease and a longer life”. If only every treatment regime could offer this list of side effects! Also, I am not telling you to stop taking your current thyroid medications. Doing so will endanger your life since you need proper levels of circulating thyroid hormones.

I never take patients off their medications when we start working on the thyroid. I do, however, follow the steps outlined above and as we see the thyroid improve by the blood work and signs and symptoms of the patient, I ask the patient to return to their medical doctor and request a reduction in medication. At some point, even on a low dose, the medications may cause blood result readings that are now too high. This means the person is getting too much hormone between their own production and their medication and then I ask them to ask their medical doctor to take them off their medication.

As a child, I grew up blissfully ignorant of the microscopic world within my body. Bacteria were “bad germs” that caused disease and should be removed from hands, toys and surfaces as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Like many kids I regularly got what my mom termed “ear, nose and throat infections”. Naturally the prescribed remedy was always an antibiotic. It was the 1960’s and 70’s and antibiotics were in their heyday. They were the life saving, ultimate germ killing medicine. As long as you didn’t have an allergy to penicillin , antibiotics were passed out freely and not thought to have any side effects.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s we started hearing about the rise in peanut and other food allergies. Asthma was on the increase as well as autism. The incidence of obesity, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes in children as well as adults rose. Every year since then, these chronic disease rates and others have continued to skyrocket.

In the medical community, we started asking questions, trying to find out why these conditions were suddenly reaching epidemic levels. There were many possible theories. Too much fast food? Maybe. Not enough exercise? Maybe. No pets owned as a child? Maybe. A disturbance of the intestinal bacteria? But wait… aren’t all bacteria bad for you? Shouldn’t they all be wiped out with antibiotics? Or do our billions of bowel bacteria have critical roles to play in the maintenance of our good health?

In this book, Martin J. Blaser, MD, does a terrific job of telling the story of the rise and fall of antibiotics and how they have affected the critical world of bacteria within us. Before reading this book, I had always assumed antibiotics were given to animals raised for food to treat or prevent infection. Not always so! Instead they are mostly used to fatten up the animals for market. We then eat the animals and introduce the antibiotic residues into our bodies which go on to cause antibiotic resistance in our own bacteria.

Compared to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, for the it’s prophetic warnings of what unbridled use of antibiotics has done for us in terms of both healing infections and causing many of our chronic illnesses, this book is well-researched and eminently readable for the layperson. Dr. Blasser often draws on research that he has done in his own lab, and writes with a passion that draws the reader into the world of microbiology. Perhaps most useful to our health is the “solutions” chapter that Dr. Blasser provides with suggestions on how to reduce our dependence on antibiotics and possible ways to mitigate the damage that has already occurred. This book is especially important for anyone with children or intending on having children for his advice on preserving and maintaining their micro biome.

This book is available through my affiliate link here:

<a href="http://Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues“>missing microbes

Healthy Chocolate Fudge (No dairy, gluten, nuts or soy)

This works well for fudge cravings and gives you calcium, protein and fiber so it is almost guilt free. About a million calories though, so cut a small piece if you are counting those!

1/2 jar of sunflower seed butter (500 gm jar)

3 Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp real vanilla extract

2 Tbsp of honey

1/2 tsp of salt

Mix it all together by hand, then press into a pie pan. Freeze for a few hours, or overnight, then  cut into small pieces. If you are diabetic or strictly sugar free, you could try this with a little stevia instead of the honey and it should still be pretty good. One of the best ways I know of to eat sunflower seeds!                                                                                                                                                    





Are vitamin supplements just a waste of money?

Recently there has been a wave of vitamin bashing in the media. Esteemed heads of various medical societies have been issuing dire warnings of the uselessness of consuming vitamin pills based on data from the latest studies. These same doctors are reassuring people who everything our body needs can be found in the food we eat and that buying vitamin or mineral pills is a waste of money. If you believe this, please stop reading, grab your phone and order up some fast food. Don’t forget to take your antacid, statin drug, blood pressure medication and your antidepressant. Obviously you are perfectly fine just eating the standard Canadian diet!

Now on a more serious note, nutrition is fundamental to a healthy body. Years ago I saw a young man who was very much into fitness and apparently nutrition. In fact he intimidated me a little as he reeled off the latest facts about bodybuilding and the supplements he was taking. I began to doubt I had anything of value to offer him in the area of healthy eating. His list of vitamins and minerals he was taking seemed a mile long. And yet he had health issues. So, as I do with all my patients, I asked him to complete a week-long diet diary. When he returned for his next visit I didn’t see a single vegetable or fruit on the list! That’s right, this savvy young guy hadn’t eaten a single apple or carrot or piece of lettuce all week! Flabbergasted, I questioned him on this. “Well”, he replied “I don’t need any fruits or vegetables because I have all my vitamins covered through my supplements!”

No! It doesn’t work that way! Vegetables and fruit don’t just contain a certain amount of vitamin C or A or iron, they also have hundreds of other chemicals in them that are vital for our good health. Chemicals that we haven’t even identified yet, chemicals that work together to keep up healthy and strong. Not to mention the fiber and fat and protein and carbohydrate of the vegetable or fruit that can’t be squeezed into the vitamin pill. So a healthy diet is way, way more important than the world’s best supplement protocol. The Gurus of Modern Western Medicine are quite right about that.

Here, though, is the problem. Are Western diets, and now spreading, (no pun intended), to Eastern diets, giving people what their bodies need from their food? Are humans supposed to be spherical in shape, develop diabetes, heart disease and cancer and die when they are middle-aged? Of course not. Just looking around us, we see that something has gone very wrong with our nutrition. I remember when I was a child 40 years ago, that an overweight child was a rarity. We had one overweight child in my grade 5 class and she was teased mercilessly. Now it is not uncommon for half the class to be overweight or obese. Think about your workplace. How many of the people around you actually look rested and energetic and healthy? Can they even stay awake without their morning coffee? How many women are on antidepressants? How many guys are on statins for their cholesterol? Believe it or not, with the rare exception, most of our current diseases are completely preventable. And if caught in time, completely curable. But by what? Nutrition!

In order to compensate for years of poor nutrition or to deal with a current health condition or stress in our life sometimes a jump-start is needed. By using supplements, we can get large amounts of certain vitamins or minerals or enzymes that have specific effects on the health and function of the body. An interesting fact is that genetic individuality exists for vitamins and minerals, so the vitamin D that is enough for one person’s body to work well, may not be enough for the next person. The food that we eat is often genetically modified, chemically treated, picked unripe, again chemically treated, stored and shipped for many days before we eat it and in the process it loses most of its nutrients. So supplements can boost the less than ideal nutrients in food. Acute illness, chronic illness, stress, air pollution, aging, pregnancy and breast-feeding are also indications for increased nutrients. So if you fall into one of these categories, or if you are basically healthy but you want to prevent disease, how do you know whether to supplement or not? Here are a few basic rules of thumb when making a decision about if and what to supplement:

1. Do your research. Just because your friend or relative is taking a supplement, it doesn’t mean it is right for you. Google the supplement online, read the articles and then check out the studies mentioned in the article. When researching the studies, look for the size of the study, the specific type of supplement used and who did the study. Check the authors credentials for product affiliation.
2. Know the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of the vitamin or mineral suitable for your age and gender. This is usually the dose that will prevent deficiency, but is not a treatment dose. It is a safe dose for the age and gender, but may not have much effect on the condition you are supplementing for. This brings us to the next point:
3. Know the amount that can cause toxicity. This is especially important if you have a compromised immune system, liver or kidneys.
4. If you are taking any prescription medications, check with your naturopathic doctor, or if you don’t have one, your pharmacist about interactions with supplements. Don’t ask your medical doctor. Doctors and nurses will usually tell you not to take anything with the prescribed medication. This is not necessarily because it will conflict with it, but reflects their lack of knowledge of possible supplement interactions. So they play it safe by just forbidding all natural supplements. Naturopathic doctors are extensively trained in recognizing drug/nutrient interactions, and some pharmacists have knowledge in this area too.
5. Try one supplement at a time and note any strange reactions. If you start taking a vitamin or mineral and you wake up feeling stiff or your digestion is off or there is another issue you didn’t have before, that supplement may not be right for you.
6. Liquids, chewables and capsules will always be absorbed more easily than tablets. Look out for a long list of fillers, and for supplements that seem like a “bargain”. Cheap supplements usually don’t absorb very well.
7. Keep in mind that some vitamin and mineral needs increase in pregnancy, during recovery from surgery , in times of stress and acute infections.

So, don’t believe everything you hear, good and bad, about nutritional supplements. Do your own research and listen to your body when you try them out. Above all, remember not to let your supplements substitute for a healthy diet full of vegetables and fruit.

How to Heal an Emotional “Fever”

I want to share with you something I have really been thinking a lot about today. Many people don’t have a good understanding of how much our emotional state can damage our mental and physical health. They don’t connect the health problems they have today with the time when someone in their past caused them emotional pain. There is a lot in the literature about how the mind affects the body, but instead of quoting from studies today I want to tell you about my personal experiences and how I was able to heal from them.

Many years ago, as a new nursing graduate , I started work at a small hospital where I was placed on a team with four other people. The senior nurse on the team took a dislike to me from the moment I met her. I never could figure out why. Maybe I carried a bit of a know-it-all attitude with me since I had trained at large hospitals and this was a very, very small hospital. Maybe it’s because I was a happy sort of person, and she seemed to be a miserable sort of person. Whatever it was, she gave me an awful time. Everything I did was wrong, and she made sure all the others on the team knew it. She would smirk, and roll her eyes and make sarcastic remarks about every action I took.

Well, the more she found fault with me, the more nervous I became. The more nervous I got, the more mistakes I made. The more mistakes I made…well, you get the picture. Soon it got to a point where I doubted myself and started doing everything very slowly and carefully, checking and double checking each task. Then I was too slow and got into trouble about that.

Every shift I would hope she would call in sick. Unfortunately, she had extraordinary good health and always reported in on time. My anxiety increased daily. I had trouble sleeping at night. I wasn’t eating properly. My self-esteem plummeted and I became depressed.

I didn’t know how to tell her to stop bullying me and I didn’t want to “tattle” to management. Finally there was a rotation change, and I was moved off of her team. When that change happened my confidence grew and so did my skill level. I stopped feeling so anxious and enjoyed my work more.

When I reached a point where I was able to forgive that nurse, my anxiety went away. I still don’t understand why she treated me the way she did, but I can think about it with much less pain now. I stopped giving her the power to hurt me.

Fast forward a few decades to my separation and divorce. We had been married for twelve years, and like most people who go through the ending of a marriage, I felt angry and betrayed. (You know when a relationship ends it is always the other person’s fault, right?) I totally blamed him for the situation we had ended up in.

I developed jaw pain soon after we split, a jaw pain that wouldn’t clear up. I saw a dentist and a dental specialist. Tests were done, medical recommendations were made.

One day I made the decision to forgive my husband. I didn’t really want too, since continuing to nurse the grievances I had against him made me feel like I had “won” some sort of battle. By forgiving him I thought it would trivialize the pain I felt, somehow excuse his actions. I still went ahead and forgave him. Guess what? My feelings about him and our situation didn’t go away. Our fractured relationship didn’t miraculously knit itself back together. Nothing really changed between us.

But something did change within me. My jaw pain disappeared and never come back.

These two episodes really brought home to me how much emotional health is tied to physical health. When I feel hurt by someone and I replay that hurt over and over in my mind, when I don’t want to forgive them, the pain and hurt is really inflicted on me. When I can forgive that person, it doesn’t suddenly make everything “right”, it doesn’t usually change the situation, but the hold they have on my emotions is loosened, I can start to heal and I can move forward in my life.

So, I am speaking from these experiences when I ask to check your own emotional temperature . Is there anyone in your life that has hurt you at some point in the past, and you are still hanging on to that experience? If you want to release the hold you are giving them over your mental or physical health, forgive them.

Forgiveness will release that hold on you. It will not remove the feelings you still have for them, or take away the memories, or diminish the harm they have done you. It may not change your relationship with them. What it will do is free you to start to heal the mental or physical illness you have developed as a result of that hurt. Remember, forgiveness is a conscious act, something you decide to do, not a “feeling”. It is something you can decide to do, regardless of how you feel toward that person. Check your emotional temperature today. If you are registering “hot”, the remedy is forgiveness.

Five Key Homeopathic Influenza Remedies


Keep these five remedies on hand since they last a lifetime, and can be used to treat anyone, regardless of age, disease condition or other medications. The only contraindication is an anaphylatic type reaction to lactose, since this is the base of these tiny pellets. A person with the usual milder dairy intolerance will not be adversely affected. Use a 6x or a 30 ch potency. If no improvement is noticed in the first two days, a different remedy may need to be used. If the symptoms change, choose a different remedy.  If the person is much worse or much better, stop the remedy. To begin with, give one pellet under the tongue , apart from food or drink, a few times a day. As improvement occurs, give it twice a day, then once a day etc. Use a non-mint toothpaste and avoid coffee. Store the homeopathic remedies away from strong smelling perfumes, cleaners etc. I have written the keynote, (guiding symptom), of the remedy right after the name, so that you can quickly scan the list when looking for the right remedy. Remember that finding the correct homeopathic remedy is not based on the common symptoms of influenza –  fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, achy body, cough, but on what unusual feature one or more of these symptoms has for the person, something that isn’t as common or an exaggeration of a certain symptom. 


1. Gelsemium 6x or 30 ch ( profound apathy and fatigue)

                                          – this was the main homeopathic remedy

                                             used in the influenza epidemic of 1918

                                           – weak, tired and aches throughout

                                              body, trembling

                                           – great torpor and apathy, drooping of


                                           –  paroxysms of sneezing with burning

                                               nasal discharge

                                           –  constantly chilly and wants heat

                                           –  cough is hard and painful

  1.                                    –  fever less severe than aconite 

2. Bryonia 6x or 30 ch (worse with any movement)

                                            – just wants to be alone and still,

                                              worse with movement

                                            – painful dry cough

                                            –  headache and pains

                                               which are better from pressure

                                            – very irritable and thirsty

                                               for cold drinks


3 . Eupatorium Perfoliatum (Eupatorium) 6x or 30 ch (think bone pain)

                                            – used almost exclusively

                                               in the early stages of flu

                                            –  much soreness and

                                               aching of whole body

                                               (a keynote is that it feels

                                                like bones are broken)

                                            –  runny nose with thirst

                                            –  throat and upper chest are

                                               very sore, high fever

                                            –  hoarseness and cough

                                               which hurts chest

                                             – drinking causes vomiting

4. Aconitum Napellus (Aconite) 6x or 30 ch (from a chill )

                                              – used in the early stage

                                                 of a cold or flu

                                                 caused by cold wind or chill

                                               –  great restlessness and anxiety

                                                  (may even feel that they will die)

                                               –  high fever and chilly


5. Baptisa 6x or 30 ch (think diarrhea)

                                                – influenza symptoms with

                                                  putrid diarrhea, stuperous


If there are life-threatening symptoms such as great difficulty breathing, or the person is very old, very young, or has an additional serious medical condition, seek professional medical help immediately. Dr. Wendy Presant-Jahn, ND, CFMP – November 2013

8 week fitness challenge – the end of the first month

Just thought I would check in and let you know we have been consistently doing the “Fitness Blender” program for one month now. Today we retested and we noticed improvement in almost all areas. I was able to knock a minute 7 seconds off my one mile time and increased in all other areas except squats, but the ones I did today were much deeper squats than a month ago. I was also happy with my flexibility which increased in the reach test by four inches. My daughter also improved in all of her areas, most notably in crunches and push-ups.

I am very pleased that I have had no injuries including muscle strains through this program. Usually that has been the case with other exercise regimes, but the narrator guides us well through the exercises. I also like the variety of the videos, I am not bored yet! The videos do occasionally jam, and we have to restart or not watch them. This has only happened a couple of times though.

8 week fitness challenge – Days 11 through 16

This week we took off Sunday, Wednesday and today. Friday we did lots of walking and some swimming instead of the workouts. So Monday, Tuesday and Thursday were workout days with the program. I am finding my endurance improving. I think we have done well to be entering our third week of consistent workouts. Some of the video workouts I can keep up to fine, but I am not able to do a workout with too many burpees or jumping jacks. I think I dislike burpees more than jumping jacks now! Anyway, it is fun working out with my daughter and she will choose one of these workouts over a walk any day.