The Natural Doc

Naturopathic Doctor; Home-cook; Fashion & Culture Romantic -

8 Easy Ways To Lose Weight

Now that the warmer weather has finally arrived in Toronto, I’m getting quite a few patients who are ready to shed some pounds and get their bodies’ swimwear ready!  Healthy and sustainable weight loss requires proper nutritional counseling and effective exercise routines, but sometimes just getting started is an issue.  The good news is that there are some easy lifestyle modifications you can do that can produce great results.  Here are 8 ways to start your weight loss regime:


As you can see, even the slightest changes can have noticeable results.  What’s even better is that the results can be additive if you engage in many of these lifestyle modifications at once!

 The next step in losing weight beyond this starter method, is getting your basal metabolic rate (BMR) assessed.  Your BMR is the minimum amount of calories your body burns simply from being alive.  It’s crucial to know this before figuring out how many calories you can eat, and how much exercise you need to be doing because everyone’s BMR is different.  This is what nutritionists and Naturopathic Doctors use to create personalized weight loss programs.  It takes away a lot of the guessing game and makes diet changes much more effective.

An average of 1-2 pounds lost per week is a realistic and healthy goal for weight loss.  If you have specific areas of concern (double chin, love handles, or extra fat in surrounding the pecs in men), mesotherapy is a great treatment to do concurrently.  Mesotherapy involves shallow injections of specific herbs and vitamins that help metabolize fat in the area you want sculpted.  It works great on people who have already lost weight and just have a few problem areas that are resistant to diet/exercise. 

Above all, remember weight loss is a lifestyle change, not a dreary 2 week goal, so be realistic and have fun!

Happy spring!

Photo Credit (picture on Facebook link): via CompFight

Why 8 Glasses of Water a Day is a Myth


Photo Cred:

So, I realize this is a pretty loaded statement, especially coming a Naturopathic Doctor, but it’s got to be done!  After you finish reading this blog, I hope you will have a more educated view on water- on what’s true about water, and what beliefs you should throw down the drain.

First of all, the idea that you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day to adequately hydrate your body is not only FALSE, it’s insulting to our body’s complex physiology and regulatory pathways.  We have this regulatory mechanism…it’s called THIRST, and it’s our body’s way of making sure hydration is tightly controlled. 

Here’s what happens:

When you’re dehydrated, the volume of water in your body decreases.  Specific cells in your kidneys sense this (just like an automatic thermostat senses and regulates temperature changes in your house).  These cells then sends signals to your brain to release hormones which initiate thirst and make sure that your body is conserving the water it has.  This regulation of water is tightly controlled, and works highly effectively in the majority of people.

So where did the “8 glasses of water a day” rule come from?  Back in the day, the Institute of Medicine determined through its own research that an average healthy person needs 2.2-3L of water per day.  8 glasses of water is around 2 L, so that’s where the 8 by 8 water rule started.  The problem is it’s a very simplistic view of water intake.  A healthy person needs 2.2-3 L of water TOTAL – this can come from food (remember vegetables and fruit have high water contents, but even meat contains water), AND any fluid intake (water, herbal teas, caffeinated beverages, etc.).  So don’t force yourself to chug away that 3L bottle of water because you’re “dehydrated”.  Your body is capable of letting you know if you truly are dehydrated.

Now, I will say this - switching your fluid intake to mainly water is CERTAINLY healthy and something that I would encourage for most people.  It’s this counting method that’s the problem - counting the volume of water you drink in a day is as healthy as only counting the number of calories you eat.  A more encompassing and healthier method is to change the quality of fluid you drink in your day.  What I usually recommend is to make water your primary fluid intake, and to drink it when you feel like it!  That means around 80%+ of your daily fluid intake comes from water.  Why?  Here are 5 reasons:

  • Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger.  This can lead people to overeat.  One of the most basic recommendations I do when counseling patients who are trying to lose weight is to drink water when they’re hungry, and see if their hunger subsides.  In today’s society we have gotten so disconnected with our bodies that a low level of thirst can often be misinterpreted as hunger.  There are studies to support this notion that drinking water helps to reduce calorie consumption.
  • Making water your primary fluid intake decreases your risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infections.  This one’s pretty plain and simple, and I’m sure most healthcare professionals would agree. 

  • Elderly people have less sensitive thirst regulation mechanisms.  For them, drinking water even when not thirsty could be beneficial, as their bodies’ water regulation isn’t as controlled as it used to be.
  • Epidemiological data suggests that caffeinated, flavored, or sweetened beverages have different metabolic effects on the body than plain old water.  (i.e.: diet sodas have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and actually cause people to gain weight because the artificial sweeteners trick the body into eating more).

  • There is some research to show that optimal hydration with water reduces constipation and exercise-induced asthma!

So there you go, a relatively unbiased view on the truths and myths about water!


Popkin B., D’Anci K., Rosenberg I. Water, Hydration, and Health. Nutr Rev. Aug 2010; 68(8): 439-458.

Stookey JD, Constant F, Gardner C, Popkin BM. Drinking water is associated with weight loss. Obesity. 2008;16:2481–2488.

Stookey JD, Constant F, Gardner C, Popkin B. Replacing sweetened caloric beverages with drinking water is associated with lower energy intake. Obesity. 2007;15:3013–3022.

Note:  None of the information on this blog is intended to diagnose, or treat.  Consult your primary healthcare provider before making any changes, especially if you have an underlying chronic condition.

The Truth About Oil Pulling


Photo Credit: Phú Thịnh Co

Every now and then there’s a natural medical craze that sweeps over social media feeds.  Like a tsunami, the flood gates open, and social media becomes full of tweets, blog posts, Facebook shares, Instagram posts, and Tumblr shares ALL related to one natural cure-all.  You start to hear things like “it cured my eczema!”, “my dad did this and his migraines went away”, or “it detoxifies!”.  But like any trend, eventually the limelight fades, and we see the ingredient as its true naked self, often very powerful and effective for 2-3 actions, while the rest of the claims are often just hoopla.

The latest trend that I’m sure many of you have heard about is “oil pulling”.

So what is it?  Oil-pulling is a treatment based on Aruyvedic literature (traditional Indian medicine) where it’s called “Kavala Graha”.  The idea is fairly simple - swish oil (typically 1 tsp - 1 tbsp of coconut oil or sesame oil) your mouth for 20 minutes and spit it out.  

Why?  Well, let me tell you what the word on the street is.  According to the most re-posted blogs, oil-pulling helps:

- improve oral hygiene
- whiten teeth
- reduce TMJ symptoms
- prevents migraines
- reduce inflammation/pain
- remove toxins from the mouth/body
- reduce allergies
- reduce sinus congestion
- correct hormonal imbalances
- reduce eczema and psoriasis significantly
- and more…but I’m getting tired of typing it all out. =P

I decided to investigate a little, and see what research there was on oil-pulling that could support these claims.  I also tried it myself to see how it feels.  Based on what I found, here’s my professional opinion on oil-pulling:

1.  There is some research out of India that shows an improvement in oral hygiene.  One small study found that it reduced bacteria count in the mouth, plaque formation, and plaque-induced gingivitis when used as a mouthwash in addition to normal oral care.  Oil-pulling has also been shown to help mechanically clean the mouth because of its emulsifying action.

Take home:  Oil-pulling could be beneficial for oral hygiene.

2.  I could not find not find any research about oil-pulling in regards to any other health condition other than oral hygiene.  Claims that it regulates hormonal imbalances or significantly improves migraines, eczema/psoriasis (beyond placebo), or that it is an effective method of detoxification are in my opinion, far off. 

I think any improvement in skin/eye/nail/hair health or in inflammation can probably be attributed to the fact that some of the oil is inadvertently being swallowed, and coconut oil as many of you know, is a healthy oil that is anti-inflammatory.  Daily consumption of healthy oils like fish oils, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, or olive oil DO cause improvements in the texture and quality of your skin, hair and nails because there is more moisture and healthy fatty acids in your body!

In terms of TMJ (jaw) problems - I think oil-pulling helps simply as a muscle exercise routine.  When I tried the oil-pulling on myself (I used 1 tbsp of organic coconut oil for 20 minutes), I found that it was QUITE tiring on my facial muscles.  As time progresses, more and more saliva from your mouth is added to the 1 tbsp of coconut oil, and by the end of the treatment, my mouth felt uncomfortably full.  Perhaps this wouldn’t have happened with just 1 tsp of oil, but I think it’s this action could help TMJ sufferers.  The constant exercise of your facial muscles could help them relax which would help tight muscles around the jaw.

Take home:  Oil-pulling is a fairly safe treatment to do, but I think is given more credit for results then it can actually produce.  Does it help conditions other than oral hygiene and TMJ (jaw) issues? Probably not.  Is it going to harm you if you want to do it anyway?  Probably not!

So go ahead, onward with the oil-pulling, but I hope now, with a more realistic idea of what it will achieve. =)

*Note: no information in this blog is intended as medical treatment, consult your healthcare professional before doing oil pulling for oral hygiene or TMJ care*


All About Magnesium



Magnesium is an important micro-nutrient - it’s needed in over 300 reactions in the body!  These reactions produce molecules that regulate your mood, molecules like ATP which are needed to make your muscles contract, and even activate enzymes that turn “on” and “off” parts of your DNA.  It really is the kingpin of all minerals in my opinion.  

Now, although a magnesium deficiency is pretty rare in healthy individuals (not true for individuals with pre-existing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism - in which case you really should be getting regular magnesium injections to ensure sufficient levels), it is OFTEN present in SUB-OPTIMAL levels.  This is because stress, caffeine, alcohol, and high salt/sugar intake depletes the body’s stores.  The symptoms of sub-optimal magnesium levels can be one or more of the following: tight muscles, anxiety, irritability, mental fogginess, muscle spasms, insomnia, and poor nail growth.  Sound familiar?


Magnesium is found in high amounts in the fibrous capsule of whole grain foods, nuts, legumes, and seeds.  This is because plants jam pack nutrients for their future offspring into the capsules so it will have enough nutrients to eventually produce a bud.  Spinach and Swiss chard are also high in magnesium.  Given that the standard North American diet is high in refined white flours (which remove the fibrous capsule), low in greens, nuts, seeds, and lentils, and is high in caffeine, sugar, and alcohol (foods that deplete magnesium), it then becomes fairly obvious that most of us are at sub-optimal levels.

So, one way to correct these sub-optimal levels is to obviously eat healthier!  And that’s definitely going to make you feel better.  For many of us however, the chronic consumption of unhealthy foods has changed the atmosphere of the gut.  There tends to be low-grade inflammation in our digestive tract, our intestines are populated with more unhealthy bacteria than healthy bacteria, and our nutrient transporters aren’t working as efficiently as they should.  When this happens it becomes difficult for magnesium to be adequately absorbed EVEN when eating healthy.  That’s why I often recommend cleaning up your diet, and supplementing for a period of time - until your body heals.


From my clinical practice, here are some health conditions that I find can respond great with magnesium supplementation/injection:

High Blood Pressure:  In many individuals, magnesium given intravenously (IV) causes an immediate drop in blood pressure.  This is because magnesium helps relax your blood vessels.  We use this mechanism as one way to treat hypertension.

Anxiety:  Magnesium is called the relaxation mineral for a reason!  It really can have a powerful effect on someone who is suffering from anxiety to feel a bit of relief.

Migraines:  Migraines are thought to be caused by blood vessels in the brain inappropriately contracting and dilating.  Magnesium helps regulate dilation, and when given at the correct time, and dose, and help prevent a migraine from being full-blown.

Asthma:  There is tons of research on this.  Magnesium given intravenously, or through inhalation (through a nebulizer) can have a SIGNIFICANT improvement in asthma symptoms.    

Chicken Biriyani Recipe


Biriyani is a delicious rice dish that’s typically made on special occasions in the Indian community.  The smells, and flavors bring back great memories for me of being a kid.  Here’s a healthy version I’ve created:

Chicken Biriyani:

Part A:

4 chicken breasts, de-boned, de-skinned and cut into cubes4 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
6 cardamom pods
1 cup plain organic yogurt
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion
2 green chili peppers
2 tsp Lalah’s Madras Curry Powder
1 large bag of washed spinach, chopped
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 inch ginger, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 pinches of saffron
3 tbsp of fried onions (you can get this from the Indian grocery store)


2 medium sized yellow potatoes, cubed
3 tbsp of fried onions
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp tomato paste
Handful of chopped cilantro


1.5 cups brown basmati rice
3 cups of water to cook rice (or however much water your package of basmati rice says it requires for 1.5 cups of rice)
Pinch of salt
2 pinches saffron
Yellow Saffron Colour (Powder) - this is found at the Indian grocery store as well.  Don’t use liquid food colour
1 tbsp fried onions


Handful of Cilantro, chopped
1/3 onion raw, chopped finely
1 english cucumber, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
Salt to taste


Place all ingredients in Part A (except fried onions and spinach) into a large bowl and mix well.  Keep in the fridge overnight.

Fry this mixture in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of coconut oil, spinach and the fried onions and cook over medium height until the chicken is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Biriyani should be a dryer curry so the sauce is actually quite thick. 

Note:  I advise you to buy the fried onions at an Indian grocery store.  They are deep fried (no it’s not healthy, but you’re using a small amount) Without them, you WILL NOT achieve an authentic biriyani flavor.  You can fry at home, but it takes a long time to get the right results, and if you fry it for even a few seconds too long, you will end up with burnt bitter onions, so just buy the stuff!

In a separate saucepan, fry the potatoes over medium height with 2 tbsp of coconut oil and the rest of the ingredients in Part B.  I do this at the same time as I fry the chicken to save time.  The reason you fry them in different pots is because they take different times to cook.  You don’t want mushy potatoes in your biriyani.

Also while you are frying these two dishes, you will want to cook your rice in a rice cooker (rice, water, salt).  When it is ready, add the yellow color in two straight lines over the rice, and add the saffron in the same places you added the yellow color.  Mix and fluff - you should have beautiful rice that is multicolored.  Add fried onions and mix again.  Set rice aside in a serving plate.

Add potato mixture to chicken mixture and combine well.  If it needs to boil off a bit to thicken the sauce, then to do.  In a separate bowl, combine all ingredients in Part D.  This is the Kachumbar salad that you eat as a side dish (mix it into your biriyani when you serve it). 

Now everything is ready to serve.  Pour the biriyani over the rice, top with chopped cilantro and set aside the Kachumbar salad and mango pickle (a side condiment you can buy at Indian grocery stores) for people to add as they desire.  Personally I find the mangoes themselves way too salty, so I like to just add the pickling sauce (which is spicy, sour and sweet) from the mango pickle jar to my biriyani.  Enjoy!!  (By the way, when you eat the biriyani, set aside the whole spices that are in the mixture - do not eat them!)

Star Product of the Month

If you’ve read my blog, you know I like to write about certain products I’ve bought at a grocery or health food store. The overall health of the product, ingredients used, taste (or results for cosmetic products), and price are all factors I assess before awarding any product as my top pick. So - here’s my pick for February!

Whole Foods Natural Lip Balm:

Coming in at $1.99 each, this lip balm is my favorite. It’s certified organic and only 10 ingredients are used (all of which you can pronounce). Even other natural brands like Burt’s Bees and Kiss My Face don’t come close to this price! The pomegranate orange flavor is one of my favs!

Free Health Assessment!

Ever wonder how your current diet ranks in regards to consumption of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B12? I’m offering an in-depth dietary analysis - you’ll see how you rank in regards to all vitamins and minerals and macronutrients. As well, a short stress assessment will show you your risk of disease within the next two years.

It’s a great way to take a closer look at your health, and see where you are right now…no matter what your age is. Available to the first 15 people who sign up.

To sign up: E-mail me at

Healthier Valentine’s Day Snack Recipes!

It’s coming!  The day you either love to love, or love to hate!  Regardless of what you’ll be doing this Valentine’s day, it can be nice to indulge in some heart-shaped snacks.  Here’s some of my recipe ideas that put a healthy spin on decadent desserts for your pink-themed holiday:

1.  Vegan Peanut Butter Cups

Now this is still high in sugar - but because you make it yourself, it contains no preservatives, you control how much sugar you want, AND its loaded with healthy fat and antioxidants from the natural peanut butter, coconut oil, and dark chocolate.



2.  Whipped Coconut Cream

This recipe again uses the healthy fats of coconut to give a lush decadent (and healthy) dessert.  Coconut cream has fats that not only decrease your risk of heart disease but are antiviral and have been shown in some studies to curb your appetite and help you lose weight!



3.  Vegan Chocolate Mousse

This recipe has an avocado in it to provide the creaminess of the mousse but I promise no one will know unless you tell them.  Avocados have healthy saturated fats in them that promote good skin health and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.



4.  Strawberry Chocolate Cups:

Okay, strawberries and chocolate pretty much define Valentine’s day.  And, since you’re making your own chocolate cups with dark chocolate in this recipe, it’s healthy too!


Recipe (and picture from):

5.  Pomegranate Heart Ice Cubes:

Add some love to your alcoholic beverage with these hearts filled with pomegranate seeds!  What a great idea!


Recipe (and picture from):

Overcoming the Winter Blues


With the recent polar vortices, and the ongoing cloudy weather, I’m sure many of you have experienced your share of the dreaded winter blues.  I know I have!  What some of you may not know is that the winter blues can actually be a serious condition for some individuals.  For some people it isn’t just a feeling of being “blue”, but it progresses to a point of depression.  When this feeling of depression significantly affects your quality of life consistently each winter season, and spontaneously resolves when the weather changes, it can be a condition called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or “S.A.D.”.  Below are some things that can help you, whether you have S.A.D. or the winter blues:

1.  SAD Lamps:  Sunlight plays a major role in our mood and the release of hormones in our body (like melatonin).  When winter comes around, there’s significantly less sunlight, and as a result our mood is affected.  SAD Lamps attempt to recreate the effect of sunlight on our bodies by normalizing the abnormal circadian rhythms brought on by the winter season.  Research has shown that SAD lamps can be as effective as antidepressants in some individuals if used properly.  Always consult a healthcare professional before buying one though - some of those cheaper lamps can damage your eyes, and some are absolutely ineffective unless you place it no more than 2 inches beside you at all times!

Below is a graph taken from a research study showing the decrease in depressive symptoms by SAD lamps (in blue) and fluoxetine (an antidepressant drug) in red.  As you can see, the results are similar for both interventions.


2.  Adequate Diet:  Optimal intake of certain fish oils (particularly EPA, a kind of omega-3 oil), and a specific type of vitamin D have been shown to help depressed patients in some studies.  As well, when you eat a healthy diet you ensure adequate absorption of magnesium, zinc, selenium, vitamin B6, B12, B3 and B9.  ALL these vitamins and minerals play crucial roles in the production of “happy molecules” in your brain.  Serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine are examples of these “happy” molecules - they are neurotransmitters that play a direct role in your overall mood.

3.  Exercise:  We’ve all heard that exercise is good for your mood, but did you know that one study found that exercise is as effective as any established treatment regimen in older adults??  Amazing!!  In fact, that same study found that after 16 weeks of treatment, 60-68% of participants who were diagnosed with depression NO LONGER MET THE CRITERIA FOR DEPRESSION!

I hope this helps you all have a smoother and easier ride for the rest of the winter season.  I can’t wait til spring comes our way!

How Forgiveness Can Heal


Photo Cred: Adam Foster via Comp Fight

I’m sure you’ve all heard about how healing forgiveness can be. But did you know that there is actual research to show that it extends beyond the mind, and can heal your body too? For example, a group of New York researchers found that cardiac patients who were able to forgive had lower levels of “good” cholesterol amongst the already predicted outcomes of lower anxiety and lower depression. Another study showed that HIV+ patients who forgave at higher rates had a high functioning immune system! Forgiveness has even been shown to help with sleep issues like insomnia - even if you’re insomnia ISN’T due to being up all night thinking about who did you wrong.

Forgiveness is an important human interaction for our own health that I believe has helped our species evolve. Without healthy social interactions in our “herd/pack” mentality, we wouldn’t have come so far. We use it not only to heal painful memories, and relationships, but also to heal the physiological attack that the pain has inflicted on our bodies. The thing is - when you look at the TRUE definition of forgiveness, it becomes easy to understand why this is the case:

As many of you know (through Oprah and her “ah-ha’s!”), forgiveness is NOT:

- minimizing the hurt you felt or are feeling
- telling the other person what they did is okay
- forgetting what happened
- dependent on an apology
- a conversation that has to happen with the other person

Forgiveness is simple. In my mind, it’s two things:

1) Letting go of the desire that the past could have been different. (Very poignant, but most of you have heard that through Oprah.)

2) Acknowledging AND letting go of the pain associated with the incident in question. It is a way for you to accept that something painful happened, but that you are now ready to live your life in the context of now, not in the context of the pain that incident caused you.

The second point is actually really interesting. For me, a lot of the time I don’t want to forgive because I don’t want to let go of the pain. It serves me. It allows me to feel rage for justice because I was “right”. In fact, the more rage and passion, the more “right” I feel. The more I hold on, the more I have to remember should I want to confide in a friend. They can then affirm that I was done an injustice! It doesn’t even matter if I’m in the right, or not - this holding onto pain is literally junk food for the ego.

Now I don’t mean to say we can NEVER confide in others or feel right in situations. I will be the first to admit that I don’t think I can do that! But when this pain and this feeling of “rightness” drives us through our day; when it dictates our emotions and sucks us back into the memory of something that has long past — then it starts to become a problem.

I realized this when I had a falling out with a friend. It was one of the worst falling outs I’ve ever had, and I had no idea where it came from. A lot about our friendship, and about myself I started to question for a long while after that. One thing I was sure of though - I never thought I would ever see her again. Almost a year later, however, I got a text from her that she wanted to meet. We met, and she apologized profusely, and in her apology and reasoning for her actions, I realized that our falling out had not just caused pain for me, but IMMENSE pain for her too, even though she was the one who wanted to end the friendship. She must have been dwelling on this a LOT to want to reconcile a year later when things ended so bitterly. In that moment of her apology, I realized that I had the choice to forgive her and the privilege was in my hands as to if I wanted to help heal BOTH of our hearts. She could have healed and forgiven herself without me. I could have healed without meeting her. But we met. And I had a choice as to if I was going to help both of us move on. So I did. That was one of the first times in my life, I truly let go. It was powerful, magical, and instantaneous. I felt an immediate sense of relief, relaxation, and inner-peace the INSTANT I said “I forgive you”. My attachment to the pain was gone. The memory was still there, but I didn’t view it with the same lens. It was truly different than any other time I’ve forgiven someone.

As experts in psychology say, forgiveness is actually a learned skill. As you practice, you get better and better at it - just like meditation. In the end, it allows you to walk with yourself and savor each moment, instead of being chained to the emotional heartbreak of the past. I encourage and challenge you to learn this skill with me. We all need to forgive a little more, and to be forgiven as well.