Monday, August 4, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Protein Powder

By Dr. Anthony Moscar, ND

Protein powders have become very popular in the last few years. Initially they were associated with muscle building and athletes. They are now being used to assist with weight loss, to increase lean muscle, as a meal replacement, for recovery after illness or surgery and as a protein source for those that not consuming enough protein or nutrients.

Benefits of Protein Powders

The occasional use of protein powders can be very effective in maintaining or achieving health. Long-term use or using protein powders more than once a day generally should be avoided.

The benefits of protein powders include:
  • Easy to digest
  • Quick and convenient drink
  • Can assist with controlling hunger
  • Helps with weight loss (short-term)

Concern with Protein Powders

Protein powders can be very helpful, but there are a number of concerns including:
  • Protein powders lack the fiber that is found in whole foods.
  • There are a number of other vitamins, minerals and nutrients found in whole foods that are often not included in protein powders.
  • Protein powders take less digestive ability and can add to the reduction in digestive function over time as they can make the digestive system lazy and can contribute to hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid).
  • Because the protein from protein powders are easy to digest it is easy to end up with excessive protein intake which can adversely affect health, especially kidney function.

Types of Protein Powders

There are many different types of protein powders, each one with its own pros and cons.

Type of Protein
Most popular form of protein.
Whey Protein Isolate – easily absorbed
Whey Protein Concentrate – contains more fat and lactose.
Hydrolyzed Whey Protein – predigested, debate as to whether that is better than an isolate.
·  Quickly absorbed by the body
·  Commonly used to build lean muscle and to aid fat loss

·  Whey is the sugar found in milk and there is a high risk of intolerance to whey

Casein protein comes from udder. It is applied to liquid milk and can concentrate or isolate the milk protein from the carbs and fats.
·  Similar benefits as whey protein.
·  Digests slower than whey, hence makes you feel full longer
· Casein is a by-product of milk and there is a high risk of intolerance.
· Slowly digested so not great after a workout.
· Often contains a number of artificial ingredients.
Soy protein is one of the few plant-based proteins that offers all the essential amino acids.
·  Inexpensive
·  Associated with immune health and increased bone health.
·  May be associated with decreased cardiovascular disease risk.
· Hormonal effects
· Food intolerances to soy protein are very common.
Vegetarian protein source.
·  Good source of complex carbohydrates, Vitamin B and fiber.
·  Low risk of allergies or intolerances.
·  Easily digested.
· Lower protein levels.
· Deficient in some amino acids.
Derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant.
·  Complete protein source with added mix of essential fatty acids and fiber.
·  Associated with improved metabolism, brain function, and circulation.
·  Low risk of food intolerances.
·  Low risk of food intolerances.
· Expensive protein source.
Derived from pumpkin seeds. The high amount of tryptophan found in pumpkin protein converts to serotonin, which gets converted into melatonin promoting a restful sleep.
·  Good source of protein.
·  Low risk of food intolerances.
·  Great source of tryptophan and Vitamin K
· Should not be the only protein source in a diet.
Often derived from yellow split peas.
·  Popular choice for vegans and vegetarians.
·  Low risk of food intolerances.
·  Easily digested.
·  Associated with increased weight loss.
·  Should not be used as the primary source of dietary protein.

Choosing the Right Protein Powder

  • Ensure that you avoid protein powders where you are intolerant or allergic to the base protein. If you are not sure what proteins you are intolerant to, talk to your naturopathic doctor about getting a food intolerance test done.
  • Avoid artificial flavors, xantham gum, soybean and other oils, artificial sweeteners, sugar (anything that ends with "dextrose" on the end is a sugar), carrageenans and other artificial ingredients.
Work with your naturopathic doctor to determine what protein powder is best for you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Comes With Your Protein?

by Dr. Anthony Moscar, ND

Protein is an extremely important macro-nutrient.  There is almost no conversion of this macro-nutrient to any type of body fat, so virtually any protein that isn't used is excreted.  When considering protein what you want to consider is what comes with your source of protein.  Considerations such as amino acid profile, minerals/vitamins/fiber, toxins and cooking methods are all part of determining what protein is best for you.

What are Proteins?

Protein is created using small amino acids that are then folded into complex shapes.  They can be found in the body as muscles, tendons, organs, as well as enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters. Amino acids are classified into essential - which the body can't produce and we need to get from our diet or supplementation; and non-essential - which our body can make from other amino acids.  Complete proteins are so important because they have an adequate balance of all 9 essential amino acids.

Protein Sources are Everywhere

  • Eggs, dairy
  • Chicken, turkey
  • Red meat (beef/lamb)
  • Fish, shellfish
  • Pork

  • Grains
  • Nuts, Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables
  • Soy

Protein is found in different food sources, but not all sources are complete.  All animal sources contain complete amino acids, but plant sources are not complete and require some planning to ensure a complete protein profile.  The recommendation of protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (.36 g/lb). For an average sedentary woman that's 46g per day, and for a man its even more at 56g.  Those are just the averages and people range significantly based on personal need, age, activity or exercise level, muscle mass, and other life factors, such as health status, if someone is pregnant or anemic, to name a few.

Increase protein intake
Decrease protein intake
  • Pregnant
  • Malnutrition/ketosis
  • B12 or iron deficiency (using animal protein)
  • Increased muscle breakdown or recovery
  • Weight loss
  • Elderly population
  • Kidney disease
  • High uric acid / gout

Minerals, Vitamins, Fiber and Fat

Protein is critical, but what comes with your protein is just as important.  For example, media has recently promoted decreased consumption of red meat. Yet the negative effects may be from the fat that comes with the meat as well as how it's cooked, and less from the red meat protein.  So trimming the fat off meat to make lean cuts might be healthier than cutting out the red meat all together.  Critics of vegetable protein state that vegetarians are protein deficient. Ensuring the full compliment of amino acids can be challenging, but when a person eats a balanced plant-based diet (and not just refined carbohydrates), vegetarians, on average, reach adequate levels of protein but often lack the required B12.  

"Protein is critical, but what comes with your protein is just as important"

Animal Protein
Plant Protein
  • high protein per gram
  • High heme iron
  • Main source of B12
  • No fiber
  • Variable fat - saturated
  • low protein per gram
  • Non-heme iron
  • No B12
  • High fiber
  • Low fat - monounsaturated and polyunsaturated


The harmful toxins that you have to consider in animal-based protein includes antibiotics, hormones and pathogens. The majority (80%) of antibiotics produced are used for livestock and poultry.  This contributes to anti-bacterial resistance and puts everyone at risk. Hormones contribute to a host of hormonal-induced health effects. Lastly, on the side of animal toxins - pathogens are a real concern with animal protein, but this is an area where standards continue to improve, decreasing rates of infection.

Plant protein sources pose a set of different risks. Pesticide residues on plants cause damage to neurological, immune and reproductive systems.  Look at the main culprits with high pesticide residues. Soybeans are used as a meat substitute because of their amino acid composition. But it's one of the largest genetically modified (GMO) crops and, as a GMO, poses serious health risks. Lastly, many high protein plant sources have plant chemicals that help to protect the plant by causing harm to whatever eats it, including humans.  Typically, the harm is extremely mild because, with selective breeding, we have propagated only the plants with the best characteristics and that are least harmful.  See the chart below for some of the plant chemicals, including phytic acid which decreases availability of iron and zinc.

Animal Toxins
Plant Toxins
  • Antibiotics
  • Hormones
  • Pathogens (bacteria, parasites, viruses)
  • Pesticides
  • GMO
  • Plant chemicals: saponins and lectins, phytic acid

Cooking Methods

When meat is cooked at high temperatures over open flame, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) chemicals can be formed.  The formation of these chemicals are associated with increased cancer risk.  The fat component in meat tends to be the largest contributor in the formation of these chemicals, so leaner trims of meat will decrease the potential risk.  Cooking plant-based protein is doubled sided because some nutrients, including potassium, vitamin C, folate and thiamine are sensitive to cooking and heat will degrade them, but in other situations heating helps increase availability of nutrients such as vitamin A, calcium, iron and lycopene (found in tomatoes). 


No matter what protein source you use, knowing how to maximize the beneficial aspects and mitigate any negative components should always be considered. Below is a list of recommendations to consider when selecting your protein sources

Animal Recommendations
Plant Recommendations
  • Pair with fiber sources
  • Free range and organic
  • Trim fat, lean cuts
  • Avoid direct cooking flame
  • Pair with B12 sources
  • Non-GMO and organic
  • Add healthy fats (olive )
  • Wash, soak, ferment legumes

Testing for Protein Levels

Protein levels and specific amino acids can be tested using blood or urine. There are indirect measures of protein status by looking at a diet diary, B12 levels, or ketones in the urine which are a byproduct of protein breakdown and indicate a lack of carbohydrates.  More direct measures include urinary amino acid level that detects metabolic disorder and micronutrient deficiencies or toxic abnormalities that can interfere with amino acid utilization. Plasma levels of amino acids reveal long-term nutritional status providing amino acid information on tissue stores.

If you have been modifying protein intake are have any concern that you may be protein deficient, either due to inadequate protein intake or the inability to breakdown protein, your naturopathic doctor may recommend testing your amino acid levels.  Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor if protein status is a concern and to learn more about what treatments are best indicated for your health concern.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

B12 Deficiency, a Growning Concern in Children and Adults

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in foods that come from animals, including fish and shellfish, meat (especially liver), eggs and milk products, as well as fortified cereals and other fortified foods. With changes in dietary patterns and other factors, vitamin B12 deficiency is becoming a major concern.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis.

Signs of B12 deficiency in adults include:

Signs of B12 deficiency in children include:
  • developmental delays or regression in behaviour and impaired neurological development including seizures, mental retardation and even Autism.
  • irritability, apathy, as well as, ADD and ADHD type behaviour. 
  • Treating B12 deficiencies in children is critical for their development, both physically and mentally.

What causes a deficiency?

A deficiency of B12 can be caused by:
  • food intolerances can result in blow B12 levels
  • digestive issues, especially hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) or any condition that impairs the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal track
  • decreased consumption of dietary red meat, fish or eggs
  • vegetarian diets increase the risk of deficiency for both an individual and for any breastfed children
  • increased consumption of folate-fortified foods and supplements
  • some parasites and bacteria compete for the available B12 which can result in a deficiency
  • there are some conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, endocrine disorders, hemorrhage and other conditions that deplete B12 levels
  • surgeries that involve the removal of part of the colon often results in B12 deficiency
  • exposure to medication which depletes B12 status or block Intrinsic-Factor-mediated B12 absorption (birth control, antacids, heartburn medications, anti-epileptics, etc.) 

The Link between folate and Vitamin B12

Over the last twenty years specific foods have been fortified with folate. Folate fortification and maternal supplementation were a public health initiative aimed at reducing folate-deficiency neural tube defects at a time when populations were eating large amounts of red meat (B12 rich) but few fruits and vegetables (folate-rich).

Part of the rise in Vitamin B12 deficiency rates is due to the high amounts of folate-fortified foods that individuals have consumed over an extended period of time. High levels of folate block Vitamin B12 and can both mask and exacerbate B12 deficiency symptoms.

Testing for Vitamin B12 deficiency

The normal blood testing for Vitamin B12 levels is often not diagnostic and normal values do not exclude B12 deficiency. If you experience any of the symptoms above, I encourage you to ask your naturopathic or medical doctor to run a blood test for both Vitamin B12 levels and for RBC folate.  A high level of folate will result in a Vitamin B12 deficiency, even if your blood level of Vitamin B12 is normal.

Because of the strong link between Vitamin B12 levels and decreased cognitive function, it is often recommended that anyone with signs of memory loss be tested for Vitamin B12 deficiency.

Another way to gauge Vitamin B12 deficiency is to request an intra-muscular injection of Vitamin B12 and see if you notice any symptoms.  Generally speaking, a positive result to a Vitamin B12 injection will be noticed within 48 hours.

Treating Vitamin B12 deficiency

Monthly intra-muscular injections of B12 are the most efficient way of building up low levels of B12 in the body. Often after the first injection there is a notable improvement in either energy, cognitive function or sleep. Vitamin B12 injects are generally regarded as very safe.

Depending on your levels, it can take between 3 and 6 months, or more, to re-establish normal B12 levels. For mild symptoms or once levels have been re-established with intra-muscular infections, sublingual Vitamin B12 may be indicated, especially if there is also a decreased consumption of B12 rich foods.

There are three types of B12:
  1. cynocobalamin is the most common and least expensive form of B12. It is the form that is often used in the United States for intra-muscular injections.
  2. hydroxycobalamin lasts longer in the body and requires less frequent injections. It is often considered more potent than cynocobalamin.
  3. methylcobalamin is the most expensive form of B12. It is more effective when B12 injections are being used for cognitive concerns or for peripheral or diabetic neuropathy.
If you suspect that you have a B12 deficiency and you have been taking B12 injections without much improvement, I encourage you to request a different form of B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is very common and is very easy to treat.  If you are suspect that you may be deficient I encourage you to get tested.  For more information talk to your naturopathic doctor.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Over-the-Counter Anti-histamines vs. Naturopathic Alternatives

by Dr. Jacqueline Cooper, ND

The majority of individuals who suffer from allergies rely on over-the-counter anti-histamines to control their symptoms. While anti-histamines provide effective short term relief, using them regularly may create more serious problems in the long run. 

Allergies are an indication that your immune system is in an hyper-reactive state. There are many factors that contribute to the development of a hyper-reactive immune state, such as underlying food intolerances, nutrient deficiencies, chronic inflammation and others. If left unchecked, or if the underlying factors contributing to the problem are not addressed, this hyper-reactive state tends to progress to some form of degenerative disease over time. A typical sequence of events is the onset of allergies  followed by the development of asthma which later in life often shifts to a more serious respiratory condition such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder

The biggest problem with anti-histamines is that they are suppressing allergy symptoms without doing anything to improve the underlying causes of the hyper-reactive immune state. When the symptoms subside, there is a false sense that the problem has been addressed. The naturopathic approach, on the other hand, is two pronged. Naturopathic allergy remedies are effective at providing the same symptomatic relief but a naturopathic doctor will generally also recommend dietary changes or will provide other treatments and recommendations to address the cause of the allergies.  

Anti-histamines can be very effective and fast acting, but they may not be the best treatment long-term. Times when a pharmaceutical anti-histamine may be very valuable include: 
  • If a person begins to experience swelling in the face, tongue, throat etc. 
  • Acute hives or swelling
  • Extreme, intolerable discomfort that prevents ability to engage in daily activities.

For those with chronic or severe allergies who have taken anti-histamines on a daily or seasonal basis prophylactically, it is important to bridge - i.e., start taking naturopathic remedies that begin to moderate the hyper-reactivity of the immune system before discontinuing anti-histamine use. At the same time, work with a naturopathic doctor to determine what else needs to be changed or be addressed.

Allergies can be well controlled and eventually eradicated with an individualized treatment plan that manages symptoms naturopathically while simultaneously addressing the deeper causative factors that lead to a hyper-reactive immune state. 

For more information on how naturopathic doctors address allergies, request a free 15 minute info-session with myself or one of the other doctors at our clinic

Alkaline Hydrotherapy - Cultivating Health From the Inside Out!

by Dr. Jacqueline Cooper, ND

Hydrotherapyor water therapy, has been used for hundreds of years to effectively treat a wide variety of health conditions from the common cold to cancer. Most people's recognition of hydrotherapy is limited to using ice packs to quell inflammation and hot applications to decrease muscle tension, alleviate cramps and stimulate healing. However, the reality is hydrotherapy is effective at treating a wide range of symptoms and conditions. 

A common misconception is that the more serious or longstanding a health concern is, the more aggressive the treatment must be. This can lead people to pursue dramatic treatments that can actually hinder their health, while overlooking simple yet powerful practices that promote it. Hydrotherapy is an example of a gentle yet powerful tool that is often overlooked. While water itself is deeply healing, adding alkaline salts further increases the therapeutic value of hydrotherapy treatments.

Benefits to Alkaline Hydrotherapy 

Alkaline hydrotherapy has profound effects despite its simplicity. One of the main things to consider with alkaline hydrotherapy is that the longer and more frequent the treatments sessions, the faster and more dramatic the results. You cannot overdo it. 

That being said, some individuals may find initially they experience a worsening of skin symptoms - this is rare, but possible. Individuals who experience this tend to have extreme toxicities or deficiencies that need to be corrected. If you experience a worsening of symptom,s it is important that you consult with a naturopathic doctor to address the underlying factors responsible. 

The physiological benefits derived from alkaline hydrotherapy include:
  • Increases the elimination of chemicals via the skin, thereby preventing the accumulation of toxins and alleviating stress on other organs, particularly the kidneys. 
  • Effetively eliminating toxins improves the circulation of blood and lymph. This improves organ function, relieves strains on the musculoskeletal system and improves skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and cellulite. 
  • Facilitates the elimination of lactic acid, thereby improving muscle relaxation and recovery. 
  • Provides relief following a sunburn, as well as healing skin that has been chronically over-exposed to the sun
  • Rehydrates the skin by causing the skin to self-oil, therefore moisturizing the skin from within

Choosing the Right Salts

  • Epsom salts are great for promoting muscle relaxation. However, they do not alkalinize the water and therefore, do not facilitate detoxification the way alkaline salts do. Epsom salts can also leave the skin feeling dry as opposed to alkaline salts which promote self-oiling.
  • Avoid salts that contain fragrances. Fragrance is one of the most toxic ingredients you can find in a product. One of the reasons being that companies do not need to declare what chemicals they put in their fragrances, as it is considered a trade secret. If you want a fragrance add essential oils to the bath or the salts yourself. 
  • Alkaline salts assist in preventing muscles from tightening (similar to epsom salts). However, they also promote muscle recovery by helping the muscles to process lactic acid and detoxify the system as a whole. 
Here at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic we use AlkaBath alkaline salts. When prepared in the proportions described above, an alkalinity of 8-8.5 pH is achieved (depending on the hardness of the tap water). In addition to making the water alkaline, AlkaBath salts also contain small measures of eight precious stones: agate, carneol, citrine, chrysoprase, onyx, rock crystal, sapphire and chalcedony. The presence of these stones amplifies the therapeutic properties of the bath immensely. Lithotherapy is the use of stones to restore optimal physiological balance and realign the body energetically. Lithotherapy has been used in varying degrees for thousands of years by almost every traditional form of medicine - Chinese, Aryuvedic, Ancient Egyptian & Greek physicians, American Shamans, etc. 

Methods of Utilizing Alkaline Hydrotherapy

Full Baths

Benefits: Provides maximal skin exposure to the alkaline water and therefore is the most effective application. 


  • Add 3 heaping tablespoons of alkaline salts to your bath tub after filling with water (approximately 36-38 degrees Celsius). The bath does not have to be hot in order to be therapeutic. If the water is too hot, you may have a hard time staying in for long periods, and emerge from the bath feeling weak and exhausted. If this is the case, try starting with the water at a cooler temperature. Because the alkaline salts cause you skin to self-oil, you will discover that you do not feel cold, even as the water cools down. Conversely, if you want the heat you can leave room in the tub to add hot water as time passes.
  • Stay in the bath for at least 30 minutes, 45-60 minutes is ideal. For those with chronic concerns, longer durations are recommended (often 2 hours is the prescribed time allotment). 
Acute Uses
  • After exercise to facilitate muscle recovery 
  • During a cold or flu, an alkaline bath helps alleviate muscle aches, control fevers and draw out the infection
  • When afflicted with a virus that has skin symptoms such as: chicken pox, shingles, molluscum, measles, etc
  • Following sun exposure to minimize burn & subsequent skin damage and cancer risk
Chronic Uses 
  • Ideally should be incorporated weekly as part of a general wellness regimen
  • Performed regularly by athletes, dancers or those who are generally active (or were heavily active in the past) as a means of preventing arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. 
  • For the eradication of 'liver' or 'age' spots 
  • Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and fungal infections. 

Foot Baths

Benefits: Good for those who do not have a bath tub or cannot use one due to mobility issues. In Traditional Chines Medicine the kidney channel (which is associated with the excretion of impurities) begins in the foot, so the feet are considered elimination 'hot spots' - just like the underarms. Excessive sweating can sometimes be associated with an increased toxic burden. 

  • Add 1 heaping teaspoon of alkaline salts to a basin of water large enough to submerge both feet. Your feet can tolerate warmer temperatures (38-41 degrees Celsius is typically a soothing temperature for a foot bath). 
Acute Uses
  • After a run/long walk or standing on your feet for a long period
  • Following a sprain or strain of a toe or ankle
Chronic Uses 
  • As a general part of an ongoing wellness regimen
  • Arthritis 
  • Athletes foot and/or toenail fungus 


Benefits: They provide a way for localizing treatment when a particular area of the body requires detoxification and healing. 

  • Specifically designed wraps can be purchased or you can improvise at home. A non-dyed cotton is the best material for a therapeutic wrap. The size and length of the wrap depends on what area of the body it's being applied to (it should be able to wrap around the body part its being applied to 4-6 times) 
    • Ankle/Wrist 
    • Knees/Elbow
    • Shoulder
    • Neck 
    • Upper Torso - you can improvise with a t-shirt. Wring it out, put it on, and then put a dry t-shirt or sweatshirt on over top. It is important to make sure you stay warm.  You do not want to become chilled. If you are prone to being cold, consider bringing a hot water bottle to bed with you. 
  • Add 1 heaping teaspoon into a bowl of water and then soak half of the wrap and wring it out slightly. Wrap the wet half around the affected body part and continue wrapping so that the dry half of the wrap is wrapped over top of the wet half. Use safety pins to fasten it. 
  • Wraps are ideal to wear to while puttering at home, watching TV, or for maximal length exposure can be worn to bed. 
Acute Uses
Chronic Uses
  • Chronic injuries (i.e. frozen shoulder, knee issues, ankle weakness etc.) 
  • Chronic headaches or migraines (use a neck wrap - ideally wear to bed) 
  • Thyroid issues (neck wrap) 


Benefits: Cuffs are worn around wrists & forearms or ankles & lower legs. Similar to wraps, they can be worn around the house or to bed. 

  • You can purchase cuffs or improvise at home home by cutting the toe off a sock. 
  • Prepare using same salt to water ration as wraps (1 heaping teaspoon of alkaline salts in a small-medium size bowl of water).
  • Dip the cuffs into the water, wring them out to desired level of dampness and then put them on. 
  • Like all other forms of alkaline hydrotherapy, ensure at least 30 minutes of length, but aim for longer (overnight even) if possible. 
Acute Uses
  • During exercise to assist in processing & eliminating lactic acid, thereby improving muscle endurance & recovery. 
Chronic Uses
  • Ankle weakness/instability - this is especially important as we age for preventing falls. 
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome 


Benefits: Provides a quick easy deliver of alkaline hydrotherapy that can be used intermittently between other forms of treatment to expedite and maintain desired outcomes. 

  • Find a spray/spritz bottle of any size. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of alkaline salts for approximately ever 100 ml of water. If you find that the spray bottle is not spraying you may need to dilute the solution. 
Acute Uses
  • Itch relief from bug bites or eczema
  • Promotes healing and assists with disinfection of wounds. 
Chronic Uses
  • Skin conditions such as cellulite, acne, eczema & psoriasis - spritz the affected area daily after showering and again before bed. 
  • Alternatively to deodorant or anti-perspirant - it prevents body odor while also detoxifying the area. This is important since conventional anti-perspirants not only suppress the body's natural detoxification mechanisms, but also contain many toxic substances. Aluminum, in many women's deodorants, has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. 
  • Homemade facial toner - You should only use a cleanser at night to clean off make-up and dirt that have accumulated through the day. In the morning simply wash with water and/or use a toner followed by your daily moisturizer. 

At Naturopathic Foundations, our aim is to provide patients with tools that they can use at home on an ongoing basis to maintain their health. If you have not tried AlkaBath salts before, drop by our clinic to pick up a free sample and speak with myself or one of the other doctors about the health benefits they provide. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Concern of Genetically Modified Foods

by Dr. Anthony Moscar, ND

Genetically Modified (GM) foods are often considered the most under-rated and least publicized health-care crisis in North America. There is a mistaken belief that it is not a big deal and that foods that are genetically modified are not very prevalent. Or maybe it is just that many people are so overwhelmed with environmental concerns and economic or world crises that they just don't want to face the reality of the problem. Genetically modified foods are not going away anytime soon and it is important that people understand the impact that they have on health.

The way that the government has handled genetically modified foods can be compared to the tobacco industry.  The health risks of smoking where known in the 1950's yet it took over thirty years before government agencies started to make labeling cautions mandatory and until programs were put in place to decrease the percentage of smokers and the exposure to second-hand smoke. Even with that, it took another twenty to thirty years to see any significant changes, such as a decline in teen smoking rates from 34% to 19%.

History has a way of repeating itself.  Many scientists are speaking up loudly about the health risks of GM foods. The North American food industry is using the same approach as the tobacco industry and implying that GM foods are safe. To add to the problem, the North American food industry is also making it difficult to know which foods are genetically modified by fighting food labeling laws. European countries have had extensive labeling laws since 2004 and many products grown in North America are denied import into Europe due to genetic modification as well as the lack of labeling.

What does Genetically Modified mean?

In the past, farmers would use a process called hybridization which took 2 compatible plant species and crossed them to create a desirable plant.  This is a natural process that occurs in the wild, and human involvement was only used to guide the process to control the outcome.  Genetic modification is completely different as it is not naturally occurring and involves mixing genes from completely different kingdoms.  For example, taking a gene from a bacteria, such as the Bt toxin, and putting it in corn so it can kill pests.

The impact GM foods have on the body is two-fold. Gene fragments from food are circulated and sometimes integrated into chromosomes of humans, potentially causing a number of issues.  Secondly, our body is able to recognize invading bacteria based on their markers that are encoded by genes. Since all GM food have some form of bacterial genetic information, the potential of our body to react to the bacterial component is very high, causing a cross-reaction to food that previously would not cause an allergic response.

Who should be most concerned?

The first group that should be most concerned with eating GM foods are those planning to have children.  Animal studies continue to show that GM foods are linked to birth defects, smaller babies and infertility.  In a study conducted with GM soy, the testicular cells of mice and rats changed significantly over the course of the study.   The second group of individuals that should be concerned is everyone else! Aside from reproductive health, GM foods are linked to accelerated aging, dysfunctional immune regulation, organ damage, gastrointestinal distress and immune system damage.

GM foods have been linked to
·         Damaging reproductive health in animal models
·         Allergy development
·         Abnormal organ growth and impaired liver function

What are the main GM food sources?

With a little knowledge it is possible to avoid many GM foods.  The main sources of GM foods in Canada include corn, canola, soy and sugar beet found in a range of processed foods.  

1)      Corn: Corn flakes, corn chips, cornstarch, corn syrup, corn oil, sweeteners like glucose and fructose, eggs, milk and meat
2)      Canola- Canola oil, eggs, milk and meat
3)      Soy- Soy oil, soy protein, soy lecithin, tofu, soy beverages, soy pudding, eggs, milk and meat
4)      Sugar beet- Sugar

The following are other foods that are grown in the United States that are genetically modified. The number in brackets represents the percentage of the total crop that is GM: cotton (93%), papaya-Hawaiian (80%), squash /courgette (13%), wheat (unknown since genetically modifying wheat it not legal but GM wheat has shown up on some farms). Other crops such as potatoes, wheat or rice are commonly thought to be genetically modified, and indeed were at one point, but due to overwhelming crop issues they are not commercially produced. 

How do you avoid Genetically Modified Foods
  • Although labeling guidelines for genetically modified foods are not mandatory in Canada, those companies that make the effort to select non-GM foods will generally include a non-GMO symbol on the label. 
  • Avoid foods in the main GM food category (corn, soy and sugar beet) unless the label says non-GMO or organic. 
  • Consume foods that are non GM.
  • Stay informed. Request automatic updates from websites such as and Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.  They will answer most of your questions about GMOs.

Steps for living in a world with GM foods

There is little research about how to detoxify your body from the toxins that GM foods produce or from the altered genetic material itself.  The most commonly agreed upon approach is similar to how people would detoxify their body from any other toxins that shouldn't be in the body.
1)      Stop introducing new GM foods. Fresh produce (except corn) is mostly GM free. Look for “non-GMO”, “100% organic”, or “organic” packed foods, and shop at farmers markets making sure to ask farmers about their seeds.
2)      Increase fiber consumption to help with eliminating toxic substances your body doesn't need
3)      Stay hydrated so you continually urinate out water soluble toxic components
4)      Consume probiotics and fermented foods to ensure a healthy bacterial population in your digestive tract.
5)      Increase routes of excretion by sweating through sauna, exercise or alkaline hydrotherapy
6)      There are a variety of herbs and supplements that increase detoxification processes of the liver and improve energy production and cellular oxygenation.

Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor to learn more and see what treatments are best indicated for your health concern.

Links for further information on Genetically Modified foods