Elevate Your Snacks

1. Some of us crave salty and crunchy while others crave sweets, or both!  Snacking is enjoyable and great a way to satisfy cravings, even if it’s mindless – so why not change it up for something a little healthier?  Allow yourself to savour what you’re really craving, even if it’s not great for you, but add some items (think fruits and veggies!) to provide balance.  I’m a fan of colorful charcuterie-style snacking that includes salty, crunchy, and sweet foods.  Not only does it look amazing, it’s effortless and awesome to share – even the kids like it! Consider using less of the standard meat and cheese, and substitute some of the following:

  • Sliced avocado with sea salt & pepper
  • Olives or olive tapenade
  • Orange segments, apple slices, or berries
  • Dark chocolate or a small handful of sweets (cut up in small pieces)
  • Nuts – raw or dry roasted
  • Energy balls
  • Sliced vegetables and hummus
  • GF crackers (Mary’s organic crackers or brown rice crackers)
  • Small bowl of popcorn or potato chips (try Terra brand)

2.  If you have a little more time on your hands, or don’t feel like going through the trouble of making a full family-style meal, try tapas! For those of you who don’t know, tapas-style is multiple small plates of enticing foods meant to share.  Remember to include a variety of flavor profiles and textures and additional fat for extra satiety.  Here are a few dishes to try:

3. Everyone seems to be on a quarantine baking kick. To help reduce the amount of refined carbs, try paleo recipes! They provide more protein and fat which is more satiating to the body and are usually lower in sugar than regular recipes.  I also love paleo baking because it takes the guilt out of wanting more.  Try any of the recipes below – they are all quick and easy!

The Importance of Progesterone: All About Balance

Progesterone is well-known for its role in regular menstrual periods and healthy pregnancies.

Progesterone itself is a remarkable hormone which acts on your brain, breast, bone, ovaries, and uterine tissue. It’s not a coincidence that estrogen acts on these same tissues. Progesterone is the brake to estrogen’s gas pedal, and the balance of these hormones is critical for optimum function and wellness.

But did you know that progesterone helps with sleep, mood, irregular or heavy periods, and can help prevent endometrial cancer? In addition, it helps to build bone and has positive cardiovascular effects. Here are a few ways studies have shown that progesterone can promote health and wellness:

  • Prevents Endometrial Cancer and Lightens Menstrual Flow: Progesterone has been key in opposing estrogen to prevent endometrial hyperplasia (overgrowth) and prevent endometrial cancer. Progesterone can lighten menstrual periods by balancing estrogen’s stimulating actions on the uterine lining. It is given to women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) who have irregular and skipped periods to shed the thickened lining of the uterus. Progesterone-containing IUDs have become a popular solution to managing heavy periods in perimenopausal women along with cyclical or continuous oral progesterone supplementation.

 

  • Promotes Restful Sleep: Progesterone has a calming effect on our brain. Progesterone is rapidly converted in the brain into allopregnanolone which acts through the GABAA receptors to calm anxiety and promote sleep (Friess et al., 1997). A good example of this is progesterone’s overall mellowing of mood as we see in the third trimester of pregnancy. Sleep disruption is found in 31% of early perimenopausal women and increases to 38% by late perimenopause (Dennerstein et al., 2000). Randomized double blind crossover trials in men (Friess et al., 1997) and menopausal women (Schussler et al., 2008) clearly document significant increases in early rapid eye movement sleep, decreased sleep interruption, and no changes in morning neurocognitive function (Schussler et al., 2008).

 

  • Has Protective Effects on Bone: Progesterone promotes bone forming activity by binding to osteoblasts (cells that secrete the matrix for bone formation). Estrogen and progesterone balance bone remodeling so that estrogen reduces bone resorption while progesterone stimulates bone formation (Prior, 1990; Seifert-Klauss and Prior, 2010).

 

  • Reduces Breast Tenderness: Breast tenderness (or mastalgia) is a concern for 33% of early perimenopausal women (Dennerstein et al., 2000). Clinical evidence shows breast tenderness occurs when estrogen (E2) levels exceed the normal midcycle peak. Progesterone is a well-known and effective therapy for breast tenderness occurring, as it commonly does, premenstrually (Hale et al., 2003). Progesterone can also help significant symptomatic improvement of breast tenderness in perimenopausal women (Dennerstein et al., 1985).

 

  • Can Treat Hot Flushes and Night Sweats: In those women who cannot take estrogen, oral micronized progesterone has recently been shown to be an effective therapy for postmenopausal hot flushes and night sweats (Hitchcock, 2012).

 

  • Energy Booster: Progesterone is known to increase the thyroid hormone, T4, which increases your body temperature at a calorie requirement of 300 kcal/d (Barr et al., 1995). This is why your temperature increases after ovulation, from increased production of progesterone. Rationale follows that progesterone supplementation may help with weight stabilization in the perimenopausal period along with a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous activity and a proper nutritious diet (which is always recommended).

 

  • Has Anti-Androgen Effects: Progesterone is a natural blocker of 5 alpha reductase and reduces androgens (male hormones). It protects the hair follicle from the effects of testosterone. It is the reason for more hair growth in women during pregnancy. In addition to hair benefits, it can also combat acne. We see this when certain progesterone/progestin-containing birth control pills are recommended for acne patients.

 

  • Has a Positive Effect on the Cardiovascular System: Estrogen is known for stimulating the production of HDL cholesterol which is the good cholesterol in our body. Natural progesterone, not progestins, have been found to support and not negate the positive effects of estrogen on HDL.

 

Studies have shown progesterone has cardiovascular safety in terms of endothelial function, weight, blood pressure, waist circumference, inflammation, coagulation, and cholesterol or lipid profile (Prior, 2014).

In conclusion, I hope you will agree that progesterone itself is a remarkable hormone. It is important to remember that a healthy balance of all hormones and nutrients, as well as a healthy lifestyle, contribute to achieving the best outcome.

 

Julie Thomson, MD, MSc, CCFP

Papillon Medical Dermatology Laser Centre

 

 

References:

Hitchcock CL, Prior JC (2012) Oral Micronized Progesterone for Vasomotor Symptoms in Healthy Postmenopausal Women – a placebo-controlled randomized trial. Menopause 19: 886-893.

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013 Aug;79(2):282-7. doi: 10.1111/cen.12128. Epub 2013 May 6. Progesterone therapy increases free thyroxine levels–data from a randomized placebo-controlled 12-week hot flush trial.

Prog Neurobiol. 2014 Feb;113:6-39. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2013.09.004. Epub 2013 Oct 27.Revisiting the roles of progesterone and allopregnanolone in the nervous system: resurgence of the progesterone receptors.

Jerilynn C. Prior​, 1 , 2 , 3 , * ​Thomas G. Elliott​, 1 , 2 ​Eric Norman​, 1 ​Vesna Stajic​, 1 and ​Christine L. Hitchcock​ Progesterone Therapy, Endothelial Function and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A 3-Month Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Healthy Early Postmenopausal Women 1​PLoS One​. 2014; 9(1): e84698.

J.C. Prior​, Progesterone for Symptomatic Perimenopause Treatment – Progesterone politics, physiology, and potential for perimenopause​Facts Views Vis Obgyn​. 2011; 3(2): 109–120.

Glowing Skin from Within

How do I achieve glowing skin? Do I need to eat differently to achieve my skin health goals? What can I add into my routine to help my skin from feeling so ‘blah’? These are just a few of the skin related questions we’re often asked, so I thought today I would address them!

Right now, the world is in a much different state than we’re used to, and if your skin is going through some changes – just  know that you are not alone!  Many of us are dealing with stress and changes to our norm; even I’ve noticed more breakouts and dullness in my skin.  Everyone’s skin journey is different and influenced by many factors like genetics, nutrition, skincare products, and stress.  Some of these things we are unable to control, but some of these things we can!  What you put into your body is a big one, so I want to share with you some nutrients you can include in your diet for glowing, youthful skin.  Let’s jump right in!

Antioxidants & Greens 
Antioxidants and greens are the first two nutrients I want to chat about, as they play a crucial role in our skin health.  Our skin is a large and important organ; it’s our job to protect it from free radicals, pollution, and chemicals, and provide it with nutrients that help it thrive.  Antioxidants help us maintain immunity, improve barrier function, and soothe inflammation while fighting off these free radicals.

The most common antioxidants are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, lutein, manganese, zinc, and zeaxanthin.  All of these contribute to our skin’s overall health (which is where that glow comes from), so it’s important to include them in your diet. 

Greens are one of the best sources of antioxidants.  The more pigmented (darker) the greens, the better, because they contain the most chlorophyll and antioxidants.  Greens are some of nature’s superfoods and benefit the body as a whole when eaten regularly, so don’t skip out on them!  Some examples of greens to include in your diet are kale, spinach, parsley, broccoli, dandelion greens, avocado, and arugula

You can incorporate greens into any meal, and one of my favorite ways to sneak an extra helping of veggies into my day is a smoothie!  I have shared one of my favorite green smoothie recipes for you at the end of this blog, so be sure to check it out.

In addition to greens, I’ve included other great sources of antioxidants:

  • Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, goji berries
  • Richly pigmented fruits and vegetables like beets, carrots, sweet potato, peppers, tomatoes, mangos, kiwi, watermelon, and grapes
  • Sulfurous vegetables like onion, garlic, and leeks

Hydration
Drinking more water on a daily basis is the best place to start when trying to improve your skin’s appearance.  Water helps our skin stay plump and hydrated, so when we’re dehydrated our skin can feel congested, dry, and flakey.  Our body needs sufficient water to digest, absorb, and excrete toxins/waste properly, meaning that adequate hydration addresses dullness by preventing the build-up of dead skin cells.  If you have trouble remembering to drink enough water, set alarms for yourself throughout the day and make sure to keep a water bottle nearby. 

Omega-3
If you want your skin to glow and feel healthy, pay attention to your omega-3 intake!  Omega-3s help to reduce inflammation in our skin and nourish our membranes.  When our skin is chronically inflamed, it is more susceptible to damage at a cellular level; this is when we really start to see dryness, dullness, pigmentation issues, and textural concerns.  Omega-3s are especially important if you struggle with acne or rosacea, but they can be helpful for anyone looking to keep inflammation at bay.

Some great sources of omega-3s are:

  • Fish, including cod, salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, and halibut
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds, including walnuts, pecans, chia seeds, and flaxseed

Food for Thought
Lastly, I want to touch on a few things to avoid on the journey to improving your overall skin health.

As tasty as they can be, eating lots of processed foods, refined sugars, and highly inflammatory foods won’t help you.  Balance is key, so it’s okay here and there, but when you’re trying to achieve radiant, glowing skin, nixing inflammatory foods is the best plan.  Be consistent with your intake of skin-nourishing foods and nutrients.  Sooner or later our cells turn over and our tissues repair themselves – so the more goodness you put in, the more goodness you’ll get out!

I hope you are all staying safe and taking care of yourselves. I know things are tough right now but remember that we are all in this together!  I hope to see you all very soon! 

Glowing Green Smoothie 

This green smoothie is a great way to get in your daily skin-supporting nutrients. And it’s tasty to boot!  Enjoy!  🙂

Ingredients:
– ½ banana 
– ¼ cup or big handful of spinach
– ½ avocado
– ½ cup mango 
– ¼ cup pineapple 
– small handful of blueberries
– 1 tsp or small slice of ginger
– ½ tbsp of chia seeds 
– ½ cup coconut water
– ½ cup cashew milk (may need more depending on desired consistency)

Tips and Options: You can use frozen or fresh fruit.  I personally prefer the fruit to be frozen for better texture and a nice cool temperature.  I like to peel the banana and keep it in the fridge or freeze it as well.  Avocado can be fresh, or you can purchase them in frozen chunks in the frozen fruit section, but I used a fresh avocado for this recipe.  You can also freeze any fresh fruit you have if desired!

By Natalie Ovics, CHN
Papillon Medical & Dermatology

Improving Your Gut Health & Common Imbalances

So, what’s the deal with gut health? Our digestive system or “gut” is one of the most important systems in our body! It does so much for us, allowing us to digest our food and absorb its nutrients. Our gut is the home of many bacteria, and what we put in our body can heavily influence the balance of good and bad bacteria in our microbiome. 

What are some common causes of gut imbalances? 

  1. Lack of proper nutrients and prebiotics
    Healthy gut flora is diverse, and for optimal diversity it’s important to eat a range of foods, including fruits and vegetables which are a great source of fiber. Prebiotics, or the compounds in our food that support the growth and activity of bacteria, are also important to have. Some sources of prebiotics include chickpeas, oats, garlic, leeks, onion, bananas, and asparagus. Processed and inflammatory foods can create inflammation in our gut, which inhibits digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Alcohol can also wipe out the good bacteria, so limiting your intake is beneficial for improving gut health.
    If you want to add more prebiotic fiber into your routine or you find it difficult to consume enough through your diet alone, there are some great supplement options. Our favorite is the Metagenics UltraGI Replenish
  1. Antibiotics
    Antibiotics are incredibly helpful when used to treat bacterial infections and diseases, but in terms of gut health, antibiotics get rid of the bad bacteria and the good bacteria. Because of this, it’s important to re-establish the good bacteria in the gut if you take antibiotics, and for this reason we recommend taking a good probiotic once your medication is finished (at least 6 hours later). If you have any questions about which probiotic is right for you, we’d be happy to help you with recommendations!
  1. Stress
    We’re constantly told that stress is bad for us, but how does it affect our gut? Our gut is connected to our nervous system which means that when we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. This triggers a fight or flight response in the body and releases the stress hormone, cortisol. At this point, proper digestion is inhibited, and the stomach produces more acid causing indigestion. In more serious cases, stress can cause a decrease of blood flow to the stomach which can lead to inflammation and imbalance of gut bacteria. 
    If you want to improve your gut health, managing stress (especially while eating) is important. Set some time aside for yourself and have gratitude for what your digestive system does for you. Relax while you eat. Focus on chewing properly to break down your food into pieces that are easier to digest. Even if you’re on the go, try to set aside a few minutes to eat mindfully. 

What Can You Do to Support Gut Flora?

Nourish Your Gut with Nutrients: 
Nourish your gut by eating the rainbow in fruits and vegetables and be sure to include lots of omega 3 foods to help strengthen membranes and reduce inflammation. As we discussed above, probiotics are great for establishing healthy gut flora; they replenish good bacteria, boost immunity, and keep our bowels “regular”. Fermented foods are another great source of the good bacteria and enzymes that benefit our digestive system.
Because of its amazing health benefits, the last food we want to highlight is bone broth! Not only is it chock full of easily digestible vitamins and minerals, the high glutamine content in bone broth helps to protect and maintain our intestinal lining. It’s a great base for many recipes and can be used in more than just soups! If you’re unable to make your own at home, we love  Borderland Food Bone Broth as they are local to Calgary and produce great quality broths. They have many options like grass-fed bison, grass-fed chicken, grass-fed beef, and a bone broth smoothie base! 

Gut Rejuvenating Squash Soup

This recipe is inspired by gut-nourishing food with a yummy bone broth base. It’s an easy-to-digest meal that is tasty and beneficial to our microbiome. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
– 1 Butternut Squash (medium to large)
– 2 Onions (small to medium)
– 2 Cups of Bone broth (Homemade or Borderland)
– 1 Small Can of Pumpkin Puree
– 2 Red Apples (your choice)
– 2 Cups Unsweetened Cashew Milk (or coconut milk)
– 1 tbsp Kosher Salt
– ½ tsp Black Pepper
– ½ tsp Ground Garlic
– ⅛ tsp Turmeric
– ⅛ tsp Chili Powder 
– ⅛ tsp Cumin

Topping Options:
– Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
– Hemp hearts
– Light Sprinkle of Cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Get a large baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Cut the butternut squash in half and make sure to remove the seeds. Lightly salt the squash and place on the baking sheet with the inside facing down. 
  2. Cut the onion into quarters and place on the baking sheet. 
  3. Cut the apples into small- to medium-sized pieces and make sure the core is removed. Place on the baking sheet and lightly salt along with onions. 
  4. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the squash is tender (easily poked with utensil). Remove from the oven and let cool for 8-10 minutes. 
  5. Scoop out the squash into a big pot and add the onions, apples, pumpkin puree, bone broth, cashew milk, and all spices. 
  6. If you have an immersion blender, blend in the pot until the soup mixture is smooth. A food processor will work as well. We’re looking for a nice smooth texture where all ingredients are combined well. 
  7. Place the pot over medium heat and heat the soup through. 
  8. Serve and add toppings if desired! 

By Natalie Ovics, CHN
Papillon Medical & Dermatology

Soak Up The Sunshine Vitamin!

This week we want to talk about one of our favorite things: vitamin D!  This is known as the “sunshine vitamin” and it’s tough for us to get sufficient amounts of it currently, since we’re all cooped up inside.  Even though you may be going on occasional outings, chances are you’re still not getting enough vitamin D.  Luckily, there are ways to get the sunshine vitamin without actually stepping outside! 

Why do we love Vitamin D? 

If you visualize yourself stepping out into the sunshine, you can probably imagine the warm bliss you experience when the sun shines down on you.  That’s because Vitamin D is produced in our bodies when we come into contact with sunlight. As the world changes, now more than ever, it can be increasingly difficult for our body to produce enough vitamin D on its own.  This vitamin has the important task of keeping our bones and teeth healthy by promoting calcium absorption.  Vitamin D also supports immunity and can help in the process of regulating mood: just a few of the reasons why we love it so much! 

What are other sources of Vitamin D? 

Since we’re not the only ones who soak up vitamin D, we can get vitamin D from different plants and animals!  Scroll to the end of the blog for a tasty recipe packed with this powerhouse vitamin! 

Fish
Salmon, Tuna, Herring, and Mackerel.  Opt for wild-caught, as farmed fish have slightly lower levels of vitamin D due to less sun exposure than their wild equivalents. 

Egg Yolks
Most of the vitamin and fat content of an egg is located in the yolk, which is where you’ll find the most vitamin D.  If you decide to consume eggs as your primary source of vitamin D, you’ll want to make sure the eggs come from chickens that are raised outside.  Opt for eggs labelled organic, free-range, or pasture-raised, as this ensures that the chickens have had healthy sun exposure. 

Mushrooms
Mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, making them one of the few plant sources of vitamin D.  Mushrooms are adaptogens and have so many health benefits, so you can enjoy them knowing you are getting good nutritional value! (Adapto-what?  Check out our crash course on these amazing little helpers in our previous post: Adaptogens 101!) 

Supplements
In terms of supplementing vitamin D, there are lots of options.  You can find vitamin D in the form of tablets, capsules, drops, or liquids.  There are vegetarian options for vitamin D supplements as well, usually derived from algae. 

We carry vitamin D drops at our Calgary location and are taking product orders by phone (with free shipping on orders of 3+ products).  Like anything else, the amount of vitamin D you should be taking will vary by person, and you should contact your health care provider before starting supplementation of any kind.  When purchasing supplements, always opt for a high quality product from a trusted source; if you’re unsure about the origin or quality of your supplements, we are happy to point you in the right direction.

Steal the Sunshine Salmon Recipe

Lemon Dill Salmon with Roasted Mushrooms & Carrots
Serves: 4

Ingredients:  Lemon-Dill Salmon
-4 salmon filets (based on 6-8 ounce pieces) 
-½ lemon juiced
-1 tbsp lemon zest 
-¼ cup dill, chopped
-1 tbsp parsley
-½ tsp kosher salt
-¼ tsp ground pepper
-1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients:  Roasted Mushroom & Carrots
-1 container cremini mushrooms
-1 bunch of carrots (amount needed as per your preference, 2 cups approx)
-1 tbsp fresh thyme
-½ tsp kosher salt
-¼ tsp ground pepper
-1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Chop up mushrooms and carrots (thin-medium thickness). Place in a medium bowl and season with thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Season the salmon filets with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsely, and dill. If you want extra lemon, cut circular pieces and place on top of filets. Place salmon filets and veggies on a baking sheet (covered with foil or parchment). Cook for 15-20 minutes or until salmon is cooked through and veggies are tender! This may vary depending on your oven. 

Tips: If you want the veggies really tender, you can place them in the oven for 5-10  minutes prior to the filets going in. The salmon filets should be opaque on the outside with a slightly translucent pink color on the inside. 

Stay safe everyone! 

By Natalie Ovics, CHN

Papillon Medical & Dermatology

The Importance of Estrogen

Today I would like to highlight some of the health benefits of estrogen – a key hormone for vitality and longevity in both men and women!  The majority of studies focus on estradiol (E2), though we know that estrogen exists in many different forms.  For that reason, we want to make sure that estrogen metabolism is healthy and that our metabolites promote wellness, not disease.  It is important to remember that a healthy balance of all hormones and nutrients, as well as a healthy lifestyle, contribute to achieving the best outcome with any treatment.

Here are a few ways studies have shown that estrogen can promote health and wellness:

  1. Cardiovascular Protection

Estrogen has been shown to promote the growth of new blood vessels and support the natural dilation of existing vessels.  It encourages energy production by supporting mitochondrial function (the small energy producers – or “powerhouses” – that are present inside each cell) and, in doing so, contributes to the health and survival of each individual cell!  Estrogen also limits cell damage by inhibiting fibrosis following cell injury.  If that weren’t amazing enough, it has significant antioxidant properties and contributes to healthier cholesterol levels.

  1. Cognitive Function

Estrogen has neuro-protective properties, which means that it helps to protect your brain cells.  This promotes better memory, cognition, and learning as we age!  It also plays an important role in energy regulation on a cellular level, which helps keep our brain cells – among others – in healthy working order.  Evidence suggests that it may also contribute to cellular repair.

  1. Feminine Health

Estrogen keeps the female intimate tissues healthy. When Estrogen levels are optimal, women are less likely to develop bleeding or pain with intercourse – a common issue in aging women, resulting from estrogen deficiency and thinning tissue.  It also promotes the natural lubrication of vaginal tissue and contributes to a healthy libido at any age!

  1. Bone Health

Estrogen is a key regulator of bone metabolism in both men and women.  It supports the activity of our osteoblasts – cells responsible for producing and maintaining strong and healthy bones.  When estrogen levels drop during menopause, our osteoblasts lose their bone-producing efficacy, which may contribute to the development of osteopenia or osteoporosis (bone loss/weakening).

  1. Gastrointestinal Health

Hormone therapy (specifically estrogen) has been associated with a reduced risk for developing colon cancer. Additionally, estrogen interacts with the microbiome (the living organisms in your gut) which plays a major role in an individual’s overall health and well-being.

By Stella Jansen van Rensburg, MD, MBChB, ABAARM, PgDPD

Papillon Medical Dermatology and Laser Centre

References:

Iorga, A., Cunningham, C.M., Moazeni, S. et al. The protective role of estrogen and estrogen receptors in cardiovascular disease and the controversial use of estrogen therapy. Biol Sex Differ 8, 33 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13293-017-0152-8

Zárate, S., Stevnsner, T., & Gredilla, R. (2017). Role of Estrogen and Other Sex Hormones in Brain Aging. Neuroprotection and DNA Repair. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 9, 430. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00430

Krause, M., Wheeler, T. L., 2nd, Snyder, T. E., & Richter, H. E. (2009). Local Effects of Vaginally Administered Estrogen Therapy: A Review. Journal of pelvic medicine & surgery, 15(3), 105–114. https://doi.org/10.1097/SPV.0b013e3181ab4804

Cauley, J. (2015). Estrogen and bone health in men and women. Steroids, 99, 11-15. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2014.12.010

Barzi, A., Lenz, A. M., Labonte, M. J., & Lenz, H. J. (2013). Molecular pathways: Estrogen pathway in colorectal cancer. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, 19(21), 5842–5848. https://doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-0325