Bio-Hacking A Hangover: Understanding Alcohol's Effects While Drinking Responsibly

How to get over a hangover or avoid it altogether | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

As naturopathic doctors, we tend to suggest that our patients avoid alcohol for many different reason.

But that's easier said than done, even for naturopaths.

So what's the best way to avoid a hangover then?

Abstain from alcohol.

That being said, let's explore alcohol's effects on the body, and ways we can both drink responsibly and mitigate hangover symptoms.

What are the symptoms of a hangover:

  • Fatigue, weakness and thirst

  • Headache and muscle aches

  • Nausea, vomiting and stomach pain

  • Decreased sleep, decreased REM, increased slow wave sleep

  • Vertigo and sensitivity to light and sound

  • Decreased attention and concentration

  • Depression, anxiety and irritability

  • Tremor, sweating and increased pulse and systolic pressure

What are the direct effects of alcohol?

What can we do to help the body?

Dehydration and Electrolyte imbalance 

  • Alcohol causes the body to increase urinary output (it is a diuretic) by inhibition of antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin).

  • 4 drinks (50 gm of alcohol in 250 ml) causes the urinary output of 600-1000ml.

  • sweating, vomiting and diarrhea during before or during a hangover exacerbate dehydration. 

Help your body by drinking a glass of water between each drink.

Understanding Alcohol's Effects | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

Gastrointestinal Disturbances 

  • Alcohol irritates the stomach lining leading to inflammation.

  • Alcoholic drinks like beer and whiskey (often bitter in quality) increases the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes- leading to heartburn and gut rot. 

Help your body by consuming food when having alcoholic drinks.

Disruption of Sleep and biological rhythms

Alcohol induced sleep may be of shorter duration and poorer quality because of rebound excitation that occurs when blood alcohol levels drop.

The body is used to having a depressant- the alcohol in its system and when that depressant is taken away one experiences sweating, anxiety, palpitations and disturbed sleep. 

Help your body by discontinuing alcohol intake about 3 hours before you intend to go to bed.

More comprehensive approaches to hangover mitigation exist- including nutrient IV therapy, targeted supplementation and hepatoprotective (liver support) herbal medicine.

But you will have to talk to your ND about those options!

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

Yours in Health,

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


Discover more info on health, wellness, naturopathy, and medicine at: naturopathic clinic

Toxic Burden Hormonal and Metabolic Disruption from Environmental Toxins

Toxic Burden Hormonal and Metabolic Disruption from Environmental Toxins | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

Chemicals in the environment, called endocrine disruptors, can interact with and change the way our body's hormones naturally function.

Hormone disruption can manifest in a variety of signs and symptoms including:

• Obesity and difficulty losing weight.

• Sleep disturbances.

• Elevated blood sugar.

• Thyroid dysfunction.

• Dysregulated cortisol levels.

• Menstrual irregularities (Endometriosis, PCOS).

Where do “Endocrine Disruptors” come from?

Toxins, xenoestrogens, and other chemicals come from a variety of sources:

• Plastic food and beverage containers.

• The lining of canned foods.

• Non-organic foods.

• Highly processed foods.

Vegetables that help with environmental toxins | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

What are Xenoestrogens?

Xenoestrogens are synthetic natural compounds that imitate estrogens, often exerting a strong effect on estrogen receptors.

Xenoestrogens include:

• PBCs.

• BPAs.

• Phalates.

How can you reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors?

• Don't microwave plastic containers.

• Use natural make-up and skincare products.

• Drink filtered water.

• Buy organic whenever possible.

• Avoid GMO foods.

• Eliminate/Reduce the consumption of foods from cans.

For most of us, it is impossible to completely eliminate exposure to chemicals that disrupt our metabolism and hormones.

In addition to reducing exposure, there are various actions you can take to eliminate toxic burden from your body.

How can you support the elimination of toxins from your body?

• Seek naturopathic assessment and treatment.

• Support the liver - our liver is responsible for processing toxic compounds. Targeted herbal and nutritional treatment can effectively enhance liver function.

• Increase fibre - fibre from food and supplements prevents the absorption of toxins from our gut.

If you're curious to learn more, please book a naturopathic consult.

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

Yours in Health,

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


Discover more info about health, wellness, naturopathy, and medicine at: naturopathic clinic

Best Foods to Choose For Transitioning in to Spring

Best Foods To Choose For Transitioning In To Spring | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

If you're currently living in Southern Ontario, you're well aware of the crazy changeable temperatures of this apparent “spring”.

The change in weather patterns challenges our immune system, making us susceptible to getting sick.   As mentioned in a previous blog post, change of season soup is a great way to help our bodies cope with this up and down weather by enhancing our immune health.

Aside from this amazing soup, there are number of foods that are meant for us to start consuming once the weather starts warming up and spring finally arrives.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory believes that the cyclical nature of the seasons influences human health and that our bodies should always be aligned and attuned to each season.

Specific organs are more active than others with each passing season, and consuming the specific foods and flavours harmonizes these organs (and thus our whole bodies) to the external environment, resulting in stronger health and wellness.

Spring (the Wood Element) is the time for new life, increased energy, rising up and expanding out from the hibernation of winter.

Use newly sprouting plants as a way to view these properties of spring - they rise up and expand from the soil generating new life and energy in response to more light and rising temperatures, leaving behind the heaviness of winter.

The organs associated with spring are the Liver and Gallbladder - primary organs of detoxification - are meant to be activated and nurtured during the spring in order to cleanse the body of fats and heavy foods that we consume during the winter months.

During spring, your diet should be the lightest of the year in order to align the body with this ascending energy of spring.

It's best to consume a diet rich in fresh young greens and sprouts offered by the new growing season (think baby leaves such as baby spinach, baby kale, micro greens etc.).

These foods make sense to consume as they contain significant amounts of antioxidants, vitamins (K, A, C, Bs), minerals (Mg, Fe, Cu, Mn), fibre and may phytochemicals, all essential for efficient liver function.

Taste/flavour are also properties of foods that align with the seasons.

The flavours that are encouraged to during the spring season are “pungent” and “sweet”.

In TCM, pungent foods are expansive, rising, and have warming properties, just like spring.

These properties improve digestion, and break up mucus caused by the dampness and cold of winter. ”

Food that you should eat when transition happens | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

What is a pungent flavour?

That's really hard to explain as in Western culture doesn't really have a word for this but I would associated this flavour with the super scientific word, “herb-y” to “spicy”.

Foods that carry the pungent flavour that are appropriate for spring are typically more neutral herbs and spices such as basil, marjoram, bay leaves, rosemary, fennel.

Extremely pungent flavours of garlic and onions (and other alliums like ramps!) can further help with detoxification by binding  excess cholesterol and the ridding the body of unwanted microbes.

Spicier/hotter herbs such as cayenne and ginger are also considered pungent, but are reserved for summer as they are a bit too stimulating for spring.

Sweet flavour is appropriate for all seasons but there are specific sweet foods that are warming and expansive, making them appropriate for your spring diet as well as the transition in to spring.

I'm not talking about sugar bomb sweet - we're talking about subtle natural sweetness that may not register as sweet to those who are use to eating high-sugar diets.

Sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, yams, peas, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and spearmint (also pungent) are all good representations of the sweet, ascending flavour.

Grains and legumes are also naturally sweet in nature and are also encouraged to eat during the spring season - sprouting grains and legumes before consumption improves the “sweetness” property and also make these foods easier to digest.

Nuts are also considered sweet and are great additions to your daily meals

Combining pungent foods with sweet will also improve the digestion of the sweeter foods such as grains and legumes.

During spring, go light on the heavy, salty foods, such as high sodium foods, excessive fat and meats, which tends to create heaviness and burden on the newly activated liver.

Eating foods raw, or lightly cooked, is the best way to eat foods in the spring.

If eating raw foods, stick with young greens and sprouts as they are highly nutritious, easy on digestion, with their energy matching the young, vibrant nature of spring.

As the weather becomes hotter in to summer, the more raw foods you can consume, but be careful because overconsumption of tough, raw vegetables can leave people with significant amounts of indigestion and is not recommended, especially if you don't chew your food properly.

If you are cooking vegetables, cook on high heat for a short amount of time in order to maintain the nutrients and “crunch” but breaking down some of the fibre in order for these foods to be easier on digestion.

I really love the concept of aligning our daily health routines to our external environment.

There are hundreds of studies that demonstrate how misalignment with our extremal environment (such as sleep-wake cycle disturbances, altered eating patterns etc.) is a major factor in chronic disease.

Using these TCM principles that have been followed for hundreds of years allows us to become more self-aware and intuitive of what our bodies need with changes in our environment, and how we can to provide our bodies and minds with the correct foods and nutrients in order to function optimally throughout the changing seasons.

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

Yours in Health,

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


Learn additional tips on health, wellness, naturopathy, and medicine at: natural doctors

Staph Infections: Educate Yourself on How to Fight This Common Bacteria

It's safe to say that beneficial bacteria are an essential part of human biology. They perform certain functions, such as helping improve our digestive health and protect us from gastrointestinal diseases. These bacteria are known as probiotics.1

On the other hand, there are certain types of bacteria living in you that do not provide any benefits at all. One example of such parasitic bacteria is Staphylococcus aureus, or simply known as “staph.”

You May Be a Carrier of Staph Bacteria and Might Not Know It

If you're a healthy person, there's a 15 to 40 percent chance that you're a carrier of staph bacteria. This means that your body contains a small colony of inactive bacteria that won't cause any disease or infection. Normally, staph bacteria live in your nostrils or flexures (skin folds), such as your elbows and armpits.2

However, if you're exposed to additional amounts of these microorganisms from an outside source, your immune system won't be able to fight them back. Should this happen, there's a high chance you may develop a staph infection and pass it to others.

Common Infections Caused by Staph Bacteria

There are two types of infections staph bacteria can cause: skin infections and invasive infections. If you have a staphylococcal skin infection, various infections may arise depending on what part of the skin the bacteria will infect. Invasive staph infections are similar to skin infections, but with the difference being that the bacteria target your internal organs, hence, the name “invasive.” Some of the most common staph infections include:

Food Poisoning: This occurs when staph bacteria are directly ingested due to bacteria-laced food, causing diarrhea and vomiting. Stomach pains are common as well.3

Pneumonia: A condition wherein staph bacteria infect the air sacs in your lungs, causing difficulty in breathing, coughing and a fever. Additional symptoms include chest pains and fatigue.4

Impetigo: Common among toddlers and infants, impetigo is a skin infection characterized by large, red spots. Blisters and crusting of the skin may also occur.5

Boils: An infection of hair follicles or oil glands, boils are red, swollen spots that are painful and tender to the touch. They're often filled with pus, and may eventually break open and drain.

Wound Infections: Cuts and wounds, such as those you might get from spending time outdoors, can create an opening in your skin. When staph bacteria invade these openings, they can infect the wound, creating a buildup of pus, along with swelling and pain.6

Learn All About Staph Infections in This Guide

Staph bacteria can cause various skin and invasive infections, some of which may be life-threatening if not treated immediately. This guide will help you learn about different diseases staph bacteria can cause, their symptoms and their corresponding treatments. You will learn various prevention methods as well, because staph is highly contagious and you may infect someone if you're not careful.


Staph Infection: Introduction

What Is Staph Infection?

Staph Infection In Children

Is Staph Infection Contagious?

Staph Infection Duration

Staph Infection Causes

Staph Infection Types

Staph Infection Symptoms

Staph Infection Treatment

Staph Infection Prevention

Staph Infection Diet

Staph Infection FAQ

Next >

What Is Staph Infection?

Can Your Eyes Reveal Health Problems?

To get additional ways about health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: - 

By Dr. Mercola
Because dozens of diseases and illnesses are known to show symptoms in your eyes, ophthalmologists and optometrists are often among the first to help you recognize certain medical conditions.1 An internal study of 120,000 patients by insurance company VSP Vision Care highlights the value of vision care. Their data suggests an eye exam was the first indicator of problems in:2

62 percent of imbalanced cholesterol cases
39 percent of high blood pressure cases
34 percent of diabetes cases

If you are unsure what your body might be trying to tell you with respect to changes in your eye health and vision, you'll want to continue reading. While your eyes may be a window to your soul, they can also reveal health problems elsewhere in your body.
Changes in Blood Vessels...
[Read More ...]

Unique Care Facilities Offer Hope for Dementia Patients

For more natural health and wellness tips, visit: - #TW

By Dr. Mercola
Like autism among children, Alzheimer's among seniors has reached epidemic proportions, with no slowdown in sight. On the contrary, evidence suggests the trend is worsening. At present, Alzheimer's affects about 5.4 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.1 The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, 1 in 6 adults will be living with dementia, which means elderly dementia care facilities will soon be in critical demand.

More than 80 percent of current care home residents have significant memory problems or full dementia.2 More than 15 million Americans also provide unpaid care for family members with dementia, and 35 percent of caregivers say their personal health has declined as a result of the strain, compared to 19 percent...
[Read More ...]

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are probably one of the top vegetables that often get a bad rep, and are often disliked by many children and adults. But this nutrient-dense food is often misunderstood - and improperly cooked - which is why their delicious flavor isn't always maximized.

A member of the Brassica family, along with broccoli, kale and cauliflower, Brussels sprouts look like small, cabbage-like buds that grow on a large stalk.   This plant was cultivated in Italy during the Roman emperors' reigns, and was named after the city of Brussels, Belgium. The cultivation and consumption of this vegetable has been referenced since the 1200s.

The thing about Brussels sprouts is that they can be tricky to cook. Leave them on the stove for too long, and they will turnmushy, overly smelly and will lose their bright green color - a sign that they're overcooked, making them unappetizing.
However, if properly cooked, these vegetables will have a bright green color, a pleasant, nutty-sweet flavor and a mildly crisp texture.

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts: Prep Them Properly First

Whether you're making pan roasted, baked, sautéed, grilled, fried or steamed Brussels sprouts, there are three important preparation steps you need to follow: washing, trimming and cutting. Here are some basic steps to get you started. ,

  • Wash the Brussels sprouts using lukewarm water, either by running them under the tap or submerging them in water in a bowl for 10 minutes. Remember to use lukewarm water specifically, as it is better in removing dirt and chemicals than cold water.

While the first one is faster, the second method actually cleans them better, dislodging dirt and chemicals both on the exterior and in the inner folds of the leaves. You can also add baking soda to help clean Brussels sprouts more thoroughly. This is crucial if you're working with conventionally produced vegetables, as baking soda has been found to help remove pesticides better than just water.

According to one study, baking soda can remove as much as 96 percent of toxic pesticides that contaminate most  produce, such as the fungicide thiabendazole and the insecticide phosmet. The researchers used a concentration of about a teaspoon of baking soda for every two cups of water, which they deemed an effective ratio, and used it to gently scrub the produce for 12 to 15 minutes.

The only disadvantage with soaking them is that the Brussels sprouts can become waterlogged. If you're going to sauté, grill or roast them, you have to allow them to dry first.

  • Using a ceramic knife, trim a little bit of the tough stem off, which will make the vegetable more tender. Remember not to remove too much, no more than an eighth of an inch, or the leaves will fall apart while cooking. Afterward, remove any brown or yellow leaves, as they're already wilted.


  • Cut an X shape into the top of the sprouts if cooking them whole. This is because the outer leaves cook faster, and by the time the center is cooked, they will already be mushy and overcooked. By carving an X into the sprouts, they will cook more thoroughly. 

  • If cutting into smaller pieces, make sure that they're all the same size so they will cook evenly. The website Enjoy How to Cook recommends Brussels sprouts with diameters bigger than 1 1/2 inches to be cut in half. If you have a variety of sizes, bigger ones should be cut in quarters and medium sprouts in half.


Once you're done prepping, you can now try any of these methods to cook the sprouts. The sweet, delicate flavor of Brussels sprouts pairs well with bacon, beef and other meats, making them a delicious side dish. Each cooking method has its own advantage and disadvantages, so select the one that best suits your preference.

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts on the Stove: 3 Methods You Can Try

There are three ways to cook Brussels sprouts atop your stove: You can either sauté or fry them in a pan, boil them in a pot or steam them. Check out the differences between these methods:

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts in a Pan

Cooking Brussels sprouts in the pan not only retains their beneficial compounds better than steaming or boiling, but they also don't get too overcooked and they won't have a strong smell. Plus, it also lets them caramelize, bringing out their delicately sweet and nutty flavor. Here's how to cook Brussels sprouts in the pan:


1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise

1 1/2 tablespoons raw butter

1 tablespoon Dr. Mercola's coconut oil

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan with the coconut oil, over moderate heat. Add garlic and cook until pale golden. Transfer to a small bowl.

  • Reduce heat to low and arrange the sprouts in the pan, cut sides down, in one layer. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Let cook, without turning, for about 15 minutes or until the undersides are golden brown and crisp tender.

  • Transfer sprouts to a plate, browned sides up. Add more garlic and remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the pan and let cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the nuts are more evenly pale golden, about 1 minute.

  • Spoon this mixture over sprouts and sprinkle with pepper.

As a side dish, this recipe makes two to three servings.

How to Boil Brussels Sprouts

Take note that boiling Brussels sprouts can cause some of their flavor to leech out. However, if you're after a mild-tasting dish, then this would be perfect for you. Here's how to do it.


1 quart Brussels sprouts, washed and prepped

1 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons raw butter

Pepper, to taste


  • Place the sprouts, salt and water in a saucepan, until completely submerged. Add more water if needed.
  • Cover the pan and boil sprouts gently, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crisp tender.
  • Drain and season with butter pepper. Serve while hot.

How to Steam Brussels Sprouts

Steaming is a good way to cook Brussels sprouts, especially if you don't want to use oil or butter. It makes them tender but not overcooked, and they do not end up waterlogged or soggy. You can use a steam basket or just place the vegetables in the pan.

Direct Steaming Method:

  • Fill the pan with a half-inch of salt water and let boil.

  • Add the sprouts, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let cook for five minutes or until sprouts have become tender to the bite or the water has evaporated.

Using a Steamer Basket:

  • Place an inch of water in a pan and let boil.

  • Place the sprouts in a steamer basket and place over the boiling water. Let steam for five minutes or until tender to the bite.

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts in the Oven

Roasting is a wonderful way to enjoy Brussels sprouts, mainly because it gives them a deeper flavor. The natural sugars in the vegetables are caramelized, highlighting their inherent sweetness. Here's what you should do:


Brussels sprouts, prepped and halved or quartered

Coconut oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Herbs and spices (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  • Toss the sprouts with salt, pepper and coconut oil, and any herbs or spices you might like. Make sure the vegetables are thoroughly but thinly coated so they will not dry out.

  • Place the sprouts in a roasting pan, in a single layer and into the oven. Let cook for 35 to 40 minutes until they are nicely browned. Halfway through cooking, stir them. You can also add in pine nuts, cheese or almonds.

  • Serve and enjoy.

A great ingredient that will add a depth of flavor to oven-roasted Brussels sprouts is balsamic vinegar. You can check out my Balsamic Drizzled Brussels Sprouts recipe, a variation of the recipe above.

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts on the Grill

If you love hosting barbecues, then grilled Brussels sprouts will be a wonderful dish you can make. Grilling adds a smoky flavor to the sprouts, complementing its natural sweetness. Try this recipe:


16 ounces of Brussels sprouts, halved

2 tablespoons raw butter, melted

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

A pinch of salt

1 lime, halved


  • Brush butter over the sprouts and season with pepper, garlic powder and salt.

  • Place the sprouts on the preheated grill and let cook until tender, and have grill marks. This would take about 10 minutes.

  • Before removing from the grill, squeeze lime juice over the sprouts. Serve while hot.

Here's a Healthy Meat Recipe That Features Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are versatile - as noted above, they can perfectly be served on their own, as a side dish or a healthy snack. However, you can also use them as an ingredient for another dish. Here's an example: Braised Pork Shanks recipe by Australian chef Pete Evans.


2 organic pork shanks (about 2 pounds each)

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons good-quality animal fat, plus extra if needed

6 French shallots, halved

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons Dr. Mercola's apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked and roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted

2 teaspoons paprika

14 ounces canned organic whole peeled tomatoes

6 cups organic chicken bone broth

2 bay leaves


  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Season the pork shanks with salt and pepper. Melt the fat in a large flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add the pork shanks and cook, turning occasionally, for six minutes until golden brown. Remove the shanks from the dish and set aside.

  • Add more fat to the dish, if needed, then add the shallots, garlic and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.

  • Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a further minute until the vegetables are lightly caramelized. Add the vinegar, stir to deglaze and cook until the vinegar has evaporated, two to three minutes.

  • Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth, bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by half, about five minutes. Return the pork shanks to the dish, then add the Brussels sprouts, chili flakes (if using), rosemary, fennel seeds, paprika, tomatoes, remaining broth and bay leaves. Stir and bring to a boil.

  • Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for two hours.

  • Flip the pork shanks in the liquid, add more broth or water if needed, and cook for another two hours until the pork is tender and falling off the bone.

  • Remove the shanks and vegetables from the braising liquid with tongs.

This recipe makes 6 to 8 servings.

Brussels Sprouts Nutrition and Health Benefits

Despite being overshadowed by other Brassica family members, Brussels sprouts are one of the most nutritious vegetables out there. It's a good source of manganese, potassium, fiber, choline and even B vitamins.

In addition, they boast of an impressive array of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which may help fight diseases like cancer. Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that your body uses to make isothiocyanates, which activate cancer-fighting enzyme systems in your body. These vegetables have been actually linked to the prevention of various cancers like colon, ovarian cancer and more.

Brussels sprouts also help prevent inflammation. Aside from vitamin C, they contain important antioxidants like isorhamnetin, kaempferol, ferulic and caffeic acids, and the relatively rare sulfur-containing compound called D3T (3H-1,2-dithiole-3-thione). These antioxidants help ward off chronic oxidative stress and curb inflammation in the body.

Don't Say 'No' to Brussels Sprouts - Learn to Cook Them Properly Instead

Brussels sprouts get a lot of hate from adults and children alike, but that's likely because they're not properly prepared. Follow the tips above when cooking these vegetables, so you can truly enjoy their crunchy texture and sweet, nutty flavor - who knows, this nutrient-dense green veggie may just turn out to be your new favorite food!

How Our Microbiota Keep Us Healthy

Annex Naturopathic

How Our Microbiota Keep Us Healthy | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

I'm going to be writing more on the new research that I read on the microbiome.

The existing and emerging research continuously reinforces the fascinatingly strong influence these bugs have on our current health and heath outcomes.

I will get in to specifics in future blogs, but today I wanted to give a brief synopsis on how the microbiome influences our health.

This dynamic, complex system (technically, organ) of bacteria, known as the Microbiome, that resides all over and inside our bodies has been found to have such an important role in our health and the way we adapt to our external environment.

The largest portion of the human microbiome is housed in the large intestine (the gut), containing over 10 trillion bacteria (to put that in to context, that is about 10 times more than the amount of human cells in your body).

One of the most important roles of the gut microbiota is the influence on our immune system.

The our immune cells read “codes” called Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs) on the bacteria that tell our immune systems what to do - these codes are specific to each bacteria - good “commensal”  teaches our immune system to be balanced, and pathogenic bacteria contain codes that signal dysregulation.

Imbalances in the immune system play a role in virtually every disease.

Many seemingly separate conditions have been tied to the same imbalances of the immune system; inflammation and it's role in hypertension, mental health and the development of cancer, and autoimmune processes and their affinity on multiple organ systems in the body.

What's interesting about the microbiome is that these bugs are what teach our immune systems how to react and adapt to the given environment.

We have a mutualistic interaction with our microbiome, especially the gut microbiome. When the microbiome is well-balanced, nourished and overall healthy, we are the same.

The interactions of a healthy microbiome with the “host” (us) results in immune regulation/balance, efficient energy production and metabolism, great digestive health and a well-functioning liver.

Healthy microbes teach the immune system how to properly adapt to the environment, preventing unnecessary inflammation, and they also produce biochemicals and vitamins that help our bodies function efficiently.

Our Microbiota image | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

A healthy microbiome will also protect you from invasive pathogens that want in on the real estate.

When the microbiome becomes “dysbiotic” (which means overgrowth with bad kinds of microbes, or even too much of a good type), it sends the immune system the wrong signals, promoting inflammation, and producing noxious metabolites that burden our bodies rather than helping it.

Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome in particular has been linked to many diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, allergies, autoimmune disease and asthma.

Dysbiosis can be caused by many different factors.

For many people it actually starts from birth.

It's been established and well-accepted by the scientific community that babies born via C-section, or who are not breast-fed, have a different, dysbiotic, gut microbiome than babies who were born vaginally or are exclusively breast fed, leading to higher rates of asthma, allergies, Celiac disease and obesity.

This is why it's important to intervene early with probiotics a child is not born vaginally or is not breast-fed for many reasons.

Dysbiosis can also be caused by taking multiple rounds of antibiotics, especially if not counteracted by using probiotic during and after using the antibiotics.

As antibiotics wipe out the infective bacteria, it wipes out some of our good bacteria with it, leaving space.

This type of dysbiosis makes us more susceptible to catching bad, invasive bacteria and parasites that now have opportunity to occupy this space.

Dysbiosis can also occur if you've caught a parasite, or some invasive bug while drinking water in a different part of the world, or if you eat something not quite cooked.

Most importantly, dysbiosis is highly promoted by an unhealthy diet.

Just like us, your microbiome needs to be fed the right substances to be healthy, strong and efficient.

If you feed it bad food, such as refined sugars and starches, transfats, a diet full of meat, and nutrient-void foods, your microbiome will not be strong, leading to poor health.

You'd be surprised how many of our everyday foods actually are considered “prebiotics” and aid in the health of our gut microbiome.

You won't be surprised to hear that colour fruits and vegetables, healthy fibres from non-GMO grains, and colour spices are great sources of prebiotics.

Fermented foods such as saurkraut, kimchi, kefir, and properly made yogurts are major sources of prebiotics if you want to get serious about feeding the microbiome.

Naturopathic doctors have been aware of and treating the microbiome for decades - we are excellent sources for dietary recommendations on how to maintain the health of your microbiome as well as strategic treatments on how to rebalance your gut microbial flora.

Obvious signs that you might have problems with the balance of your microbiome include digestive problems, or recurrent infections of any sort - if you suffer from these afflictions, it would be helpful to consult with a doctor that can help you rebalance your flora and prevent chronic disease.

Stay tuned for more up-to-date information and interesting research on the microbiome and its affect on your daily health.


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

Yours in Health,

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1



  • Azad MB et. al. Gut microbiota of healthy Canadian infants: profiles by mode of delivery and infant diet at 4 months. 2013 Mar 19;185(5):385-94

  • Min YW, Rhee PL.The Role of Microbiota on the Gut Immunology.Clin Ther. 2015 May 1;37(5):968-75.

  • Palm NW et. al. Immune-microbiota interactions in health and disease.Clin Immunol. 2015 Aug;159(2):122-127

  • Rutayisire E. et. al. The mode of delivery affects the diversity and colonization pattern of the gut microbiota during the first year of infants' life: a systematic review.BMC Gastroenterol. 2016 Jul 30;16(1):86

  • Schnabl B, Brenner DA. Interactions between the intestinal microbiome and liver diseases. 2014 May;146(6):1513-24

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Botanical of the Month – Maiden Hair tree (Gingko biloba)

Annex Naturopathic

Gingko biloba benefits | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

As a naturopath, when I think of Gingko biloba, I think of words such as hope, vitality, resiliency, and patience.

This majestic tree has shown us that it embodies these exact words in the most horrific circumstances - 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb destroyed everything within its epicentre, except six Gingko biloba trees, which even sprouted new greenery days after the terrible event.

This example of the resilience and vitality of this beautiful herb is translated in to its medicinal use and how it can help us become representations of these words.

Gingko biloba produces fruit that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

When they fall and start to decay, they produce a very unpleasant odour, one could compare to a pair of stinky feet.

So many who front this tree on their lawns must bare with this one downfall of having this tree in their presence.

This downfall, however, is completely superseded by the amazing beauty, elegance and medicine benefit of being around such a remarkable creation of nature.

Parts Used

Leaf, (seeds in Chinese medicine, not typically used in Western Medicine)


Astringent, Bitter, Warming, Moving



Ginkgo is not considered an edible plant


The actions of Gingko biloba on the human body can be represented as low and slow, and requires patience.

The medicinal properties of this tree are the strongest when used over a course of time.

Memory and circulation

The most commonly known medicinal property for Gingko leaves is its effect on memory, making this herb a “nootropic”.

Gingko has been heavily marketed to the public to be used to “improve and strengthen memory”, as people bought in to this claim, it's not surprising the feedback that many found that they didn't feel this at all worked.

Gingko indeed does improve memory but the application of this herb in this context is flawed.

This herbs works slow - expectations that this herb will work within a few weeks is not accurate - so if you're a student looking to strengthen your memory in a week for an exam, gingko is NOT the herb for you.

Ginkgo has it's best effect when used over a long period of time to establish its effects in the body and it works on memory in two ways: 1) Vasodilation and 2) Reducing blood viscosity.

This means that the biochemicals in Gingko will help open up the blood vessels as well has thinning the blood, allowing blood to flow more freely within the vessel, increasing microperfusion to the brain - more blood flow to and within the brain means more oxygen and protection to the brain.

Gingko also protects the brain through antioxidant biochemicals, protecting the brain from tissues damage caused by lack of oxygen, and increasing mitochondrial function therefore increasing energy production in the brain.

There is a plethora of research supporting the effect of Gingko in the improvement of memory and cognitive function in those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, especially if these conditions are a result of vascular insufficiency.

However there are many trials that do not support this, resulting in review studies performed between 2003-2014 concluding the research is too inconsistent to support Gingko in this context.

The varying results come from inconsistencies in dosage, administration and inclusion criteria set out by each trial.

One of the most recent meta-analysis on Gingko biloba research performed by Tan et. al (2015) took in to account these flaws and came to the conclusion that 240mg of standardized Ginkgo daily improved cognitive function and prevented decline in patients with dementia after 24 weeks, especially for those who also exhibited neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Another recent review study by Yuan et. al (2017) also concluded similar results that Gingko biloba improved cognitive function in those with Alzheimer's at a dose over 200mg/day if taken for at least 5 weeks.

These review show promise and exemplify the need for higher quality, larger-scale studies in order to demonstrate the efficacy of Gingko biloba in the treatment of dementia.

Prevention of cognitive decline in healthy individuals is still not well represented in the research, but traditional use and anecdotal evidence supports the use of this herb for this purpose.

The effect of Gingko on blood flow doesn't just stop at memory.

These properties translate in to effects on the peripheral body as well.

There are promising outcomes represented in the research of using Gingko in the treatment of cerebral insufficiency in stroke victims, peripheral artery disease, prevention of coronary artery disease by reducing plaque formation, diabetic neuropathy, Raynauds and thrombosis (blood clots).


There are claims that Gingko can be useful in the treatment of tinnitus, though studies are limited and results are inconsisent.

The most recent Cochrane Review on Gingko and Tinnitus found Ginkgo only to be beneficial when tinnitus is associated with dementia, not when tinnitus is the sole symptom.

This reflects back to the circulatory actions of gingko - when tinnitus is a result of poor cerebrovascular circulation, appears to be effective.

If it's due to other reasons, the effects of Gingko appear to be less impactful on tinnitus symptoms.

benefits of Gingko biloba | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors


Traditionally Gingko biloba taken through infusion (tea) - this application is best for people who want to use Gingko for daily prevention of cognitive decline.

Tinctures of Gingko leaf also provides a gentle and supportive effect.

I typically use these forms for healthy, older individuals who want to keep their memory sharp and encourage blood flow to the brain.

Much of the research on Gingko biloba use and support standardized extracts of Gingko at dosages of 120-240mg/day.

Extremely potent extracts of Gingko (50:1) are considered pharmaceutical grade substances and should not be dosed unless monitored by a health care professional.


Gingko biloba is considered a safe herb to use if used at the standard recommended dose (see above)


The blood-thinning effects of Ginkgo has made many clinicians weary about using this herb with blood thinning pharmaceuticals.

However, it has been found that the blood-thinning effects of Gingko are not related to reducing platelet count, but inhibiting platelet aggregating factor (PAF), so the that use with blood thinners may not be as detrimental as previously thought, with many studies demonstrating using Ginkgo (up to 240mg) in conjunction with blood thinning medication does not increase bleeding risk or influence coagulation time.

Nonetheless, do no use Gingko if you are on blood thinners and consult with a physician that is familiar with herb-drug interactions before use of this herb - one of the only cases of increased bleeding is when using the extremely potent extract (50:1) in combination with blood thinners

Do not use with drug exhibiting monoamine-oxidase activity (such as certain antidepressants), or anti-epileptic drugs.

Always consult a physician familiar with herb-drug interaction if you're on medication and are considering using this herb.


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

Yours in Health,

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1



  1. Hoffman D. Medical Herbalism. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

  2. Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2000.

  3. Carlson JJ et. al. Safety and efficacy of a ginkgo biloba-containing dietary supplement on cognitive function, quality of life, and platelet function in healthy, cognitively intact older adults.J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Mar;107(3):422-32.

  4. Hilton MP, Zimmermann EF, Hunt WT.Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Mar 28;(3)

  5. Tan MS et. al. Efficacy and adverse effects of ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.J Alzheimers Dis. 2015;43(2):589-603

  6. Yuan Q al Effects of Ginkgo biloba on dementia: An overview of systematic reviews.J Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Jan 4;195:1-9


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Neurolymphatic System Discovered Linking Brain and Immune System

Node Smith, ND

Big News on How Every Neurological Disease is Approached

Last week, a research team from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has shown that the brain is directly connected to the immune system through lymphatic vessels.1 These vessels were not previously thought to exist, and it is incredible that they have escaped detection until now. The significance of the discovery is massive and will influence new considerations in how every neurological disease is approached – from Alzheimer's to multiple sclerosis.

New Discovery Changes Perception of Neuro-immune Interaction

Because now the brain is known to be connected to the lymphatic system, “it changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction,” says Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor at UVA department of Neuroscience and director of UVA's Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). It was previously thought that the interactions between the brain and the immune system were much more esoteric, now it can be approached in a much more mechanistic manner.

Textbooks will need to be Altered to Reflect this Discovery

This discovery does in fact mean that textbooks will need to be altered to reflect a meningeal lymphatic system which connects to the larger suboccipital chain.

Discovery Made by Antoine Louveau, PhD, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Kipnis' Lab

The discovery was made by Antoine Louveau, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Kipnis' lab. The meningeal vessels were found after the development of a new method to mount a mouse's meninges on a single slide. The meninges were fixed within the skullcap, and then dissected, thereby securing it in its physiological condition. On these slides they noticed vessel-like patterns in the distribution of immune cells. They turned out to be lymphatic vessels when tested.

Maps of the lymphatic system: old (left) and updated to reflect UVA's discovery. Image credit: University of Virginia Health System.

Reason Behind Why This Discovery Was Hidden for so Long

The reason that these lymphatic vessels stayed hidden for so long was that they follow blood vessels down into the sinuses, and are located in hard to image areas. They are so close to the blood vessels, that they were just missed.


  1. Louveau A, Smirnov I, Keyes TJ, et al. Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels. Nature. 2015;523(7560):337-41.

Image Copyright: greenvector / 123RF Stock Photo

Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

The post Neurolymphatic System Discovered Linking Brain and Immune System appeared first on NaturalPath.

Baked Acorn Squash Recipe

Annex Naturopathic

Healthy acorn squash recipe | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors

Winter squashes and pumpkins are robust “fruits” that are harvested in the fall so we can use them throughout the winter.

Keeping them in a dark cool place will preserve these foods to give us nutrient-packed meals that are warming, healthy and delicious.

One of my favourite things to eat during the winter are winter squashes - particularly acorn squash, due to it's abundance in vegetable markets in Ontario and for it's sweet, buttery taste.

I use these in casseroles, bakes, mash them in place of white potato or simply bake them in the oven.

Acorn squash is a great source of low glycemic-load carbohydrates - this means that despite it being a source of carbohydrates, it won't spike your blood sugar (therefore insulin) to the extent other carbohydrates such as wheat-based carbohydrates (and other grains) will increase your blood sugars after eating.

They are also easier to digest than grains, which makes it suitable carbohydrate source for people who experience a lot of bloating and bowel movement problems.

Acorn squash is rich in antioxidant vitamins C and A (beta-carotene, hence the orange colour!), potassium (great for lowering high blood pressure) and a great source of fibre (valuble for those with diabetes and cardiovascular disease).

Healthy acorn squash dish | Annex Naturopathic Clinic | Toronto Naturopathic Doctors


  • I medium acorn squash

  • 1 tbsp of grass-fed/organic butter (or olive oil)

  • 1-2 cloves of garlic - minced

  • pinch of sea salt

  • pinch of dried rosemary

  • pinch of dried thyme

  • fresh cracked black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

  2. Use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or lightly oil the cookie sheet to prevent sticking) and place the acorn squash upside down (flesh side down). Once the oven is preheated, place the acorn squash in the oven and let it bake for about 30 minutes (it will be slightly soft)

  3. In the meantime if using butter - lightly liquify the butter in a small pan over low heat with the minced garlic (don't overheat!), soon before (about 10 minutes before) you pull the squash out of the oven (no need to heat if you're using olive oil).

    If you're using olive oil, combine the garlic with the olive oil when first placing the squash in to the oven to allow the garlic to infuse in to the oil for 30 mins

  4. Pull the acorn squash out of the oven. Carefully turn the squash flesh side up, and generously brush the butter/olive oil and garlic mixture over the entire flesh surface of the squash. Make sure the garlic also makes it on to the flesh

  5. Sprinkle salt, thyme and rosemary all over the flesh side of the acorn squash and place the squash back in to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes

  6. After 30 minutes, pull the squash from the oven, season with freshly cracked black pepper, wait 5-10 minutes to allow the squash to cool and serve!

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

Yours in Health,

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


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