Tag Archives: holistic nutrition


Nutrient Deficiencies: Why Nearly Everyone Has Them

Health Canada advises, along with many nutrition professionals, “that a healthy and balanced diet can provide most people with the nutrients essential for good health.” [1]

Does that mean that if we eat a “healthy and balanced diet”, that we’ll be meeting all the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) and we’ll be safe from nutritional deficiency?

Or do some of us follow this recommendation and still have a nutrient deficiency – and not even know it?

According to the latest Health Canada Community Survey (June 2017), Canadians as a population are not as well nourished as we may think.

Fruit and vegetables contain a range of beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and other phytochemicals. Consumption of at least 5 servings per day is linked with a reduced risk of various diseases, including cancers and heart disease. [2]

Therefore, fruit and vegetable consumption is considered a healthy behaviour, and a good indication of the overall diet and nutritional quality of a population.

However, in data from the 2017 survey, less than a third (30.0%) of Canadians aged 12 and older reported that they ate the recommended number of servings.

Given the rather significant shortfall in Canadians reaching their “5-a-day”, it’s not surprising that there are a number of nutrients reported to be lacking in our diets.

With the overall lack of adequate fruit and vegetable servings, along with soil depletion, over-processing of food, and treated water…well, it’s no wonder that many of us are lacking in a number of key nutrients that we once attained easily and ought to supplement.

For example, today you would have to eat 4 carrots to get the full amount of Magnesium available that was in just one carrot 80 years ago. Unfortunately, you’re not eating your grandmother’s carrots anymore!

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps maintain normal vision and keeps your immune system, skin, and eyes functioning at their best.

More than 35% of Canadians age 19 and over consumed vitamin A in quantities below the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR). [3]

Carotenoids, such a beta carotene, are converted into vitamin A in the body, and it gives fruits and vegetables their orange, red and yellow colour (such as pumpkin, carrots and bell peppers).

It is also found in dark green leafy vegetables; with liver, dairy, eggs, and fatty fish also being good sources of Vitamin A.

Magnesium

A nutrient that is commonly found in plant foods, but also commonly lacking in our diets, is Magnesium.

This multi-tasking mineral is involved as a cofactor for a range of biochemical reactions in the body including nerve and muscle function, protein synthesis and blood glucose control.

It is also involved in the structural development of bone and plays a role in nerve impulse conduction, maintaining a normal heart rhythm and muscle contraction.

Evidence suggests that 34% of Canadians over the age of 19 consumed magnesium in quantities below the EAR. [3]

Magnesium is found mostly in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables. Milk and yogurt contain some magnesium as well.

Calcium

Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, provides the structure and rigidity of bones and teeth. It is also important for proper muscle function, hormone secretion, and nerve transmission. [4]

It was reported that there’s an increasing prevalence of calcium inadequacy with older age.

Calcium is found in dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, fish with soft bones and fortified products.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of Calcium from the gut, and for supporting optimal bone health. It is also thought to play a role in immune function, healthy skin, and muscle strength.

While our bodies can make vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, during the fall and winter months, and in northern climates, where sunlight hours are limited, it can be hard to get enough of this critical nutrient, and vitamin D deficiency can become (and is becoming) more prominent.

While about 80% of the adult Canadian population are not getting the vitamin D they need from dietary sources [3], available clinical measures do not suggest widespread Vitamin D deficiency in the Canadian population. [5] [6]

The major food sources of Vitamin D are foods that have been fortified or through supplementation.

So, how do we get all the nutrients we need?

We’ve always recommended, first and foremost, that people strive to meet their nutritional requirements through eating a varied diet with a foundation of whole and unprocessed foods.

But, as we’ve established, for various reasons it’s apparent that many of us may not be getting all the nutrients we need for optimal health.

Lack of nutrient bioavailability, poor dietary choices, restricted diets, food sensitivities, various health conditions (such as gastrointestinal disorders and poor absorption), some medications and age can all play a part in an individual’s ability to meet their recommended dietary intakes.

To determine whether or not you are at risk of a nutritional deficiency, it is important to discuss your concerns with a naturopathic doctor, a qualified nutrition professional or another healthcare provider.

In many situations, as we’ve discussed here, where diet alone is unable to meet your recommended nutrient requirements, therapeutic supplementation may be a good option.

 

Referenced Studies & Content

[1] Statistics Canada: Canadian Community Health Survey, June 2017 – Nutrition: Nutrient intakes from food and nutritional supplements
[2] Statistics Canada: Health Fact Sheets. Fruit and Vegetable consumption
[3] Health Canada: Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone?
[4] Health Canada: Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes
[5] Health Reports, March 2010: Vitamin D status of Canadians as measured in the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey
[6] American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011: The vitamin D status of Canadians relative to the 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes: An examination in children and adults with and without supplement use

Do you suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?

What are the symptoms of SIBO?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO, is just that – when bacteria (or other microorganisms, good or bad) grow out of control in the small bowel. Compared to the large colon, it should be quite low in bacterial count.

Colonization also ends up damaging the specialized cells lining the small intestine – a condition that has been coined leaky gut – or an increase in intestinal permeability, which further impairs the digestive process and can exacerbate nutrient malabsorption.

This can allow pathogens, toxins and undigested protein molecules to enter the bloodstream that, in turn, cause widespread inflammation, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and other undesirable immune reactions.

The most common symptoms of SIBO are:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating or distention
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Excessive gas or burping
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Joint pain and other inflammatory reactions
  • Skin issues like rashes, acne, eczema and rosacea
  • Depression, and other mental health disorders
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Histamine intolerance
  • Asthma
  • Fatigue or lethargy

One of the biggest concerns with SIBO is that it can actually lead to malnourishment, whereby essential nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and fats aren’t properly absorbed. This can then cause a number of vitamin & mineral deficiencies like iron, vitamin B12, calcium as well as in the fat-soluble vitamins — vitamin A, D, E and K. [1]

Wondering why the symptoms sound curiously similar to IBS?

One of the most common conditions associated with SIBO is Irritable Bowel Syndrome. [2]

While they have similar symptoms and are often overlapping conditions, the association between the two still has some unknowns, according to scientists. They remain distinctly different in how they can manifest, how they are diagnosed, as well as how they are treated.

On the other hand, some studies have found that SIBO is concurrent in more than 50% of all cases of IBS, and successful elimination of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine reportedly resolves symptoms of IBS as well.

But, what causes SIBO in the first place?

According to experts, the causes are not clearly defined but predisposing factors to acquiring SIBO can include:

  • Aging
  • Diabetes type 2
  • chronic pancreatitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • diverticulosis
  • injury to the bowel
  • a structural defect in the small intestine called blind loop syndrome
  • intestinal lymphoma
  • immune system disorders like scleroderma
  • recent abdominal surgery
  • use of certain medications, including proton pump inhibitors (acid reflux medications) and immuno-suppressant medications

Celiac disease has also been found to increase the risk for developing SIBO, as it disturbs gut motility leading to poor functioning of the small intestine. [3]

Additionally, heavy metal toxicity, low stomach acid, inflammatory diets, and stress – are all thought to be contributors as well.

How can you treat it?

Generally, there are 3 mains goals when treating SIBO:

  • Reduce and eradicate the bacteria using a combination of diet, botanical antimicrobials, and antibiotics if necessary.
  • Heal the lining of the digestive tract – glutamine is especially helpful for this
  • Prevent reoccurrence.
  • Most holistic health practitioners advise using some variation on the “SIBO diet” for at least 2 weeks – which may include any or all of the following:

    • Herbal antibiotics like oregano oil
    • Low FODMAP, GAPS and/or AIP diet – see explanations below
    • Re-populating the gut with good bacteria using probiotics, and then “feed” them with prebiotics such as under-ripe bananas, asparagus and Jerusalum artichoke
    • stress management – this is key in preventing and managing most, if not ALL health conditions

    However, a prescription antibiotic may be needed, at least initially, in more severe cases to get the bacterial overgrowth under control.

    By eliminating FODMAPS from your diet for at least 2 weeks, and then transitioning to the GAPS diet or AIP protocol, you can start healing the gut, and can begin to eradicate the microorganisms that are causing havoc in your small intestine.

    What are FODMAPs?

    These are Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.

    These are the foods that aren’t fully absorbed by the body and end up fermenting in the gut. This would include ones we would normally consider ‘healthy’ for us – like apples, pears, apricots, cauliflower, barley, garlic & onions.

    What is GAPS?

    The GAPS, or Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet, was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell- McBride, Neurologist & Neurosurgeon, in response to the dietary needs of her autistic son.

    Foods eliminated by the GAPS diet:

    Things like sugar, grains, starchy carbs & potatoes, conventional meat & dairy, and any  processed foods including artificial chemicals and preservatives.

    What is AIP?

    The AIP or Autoimmune Protocol is considered a stricter version of the Paleo diet, which involves the elimination of foods that are considered gut irritants like grains, legumes, eggs, dairy, nightshades, nuts & seeds, and processed foods including industrial seed oils.

    Additional eliminations are alcohol and NSAIDs like Ibuprofen. For natural, drug-free inflammation-fighting pain relief, try Curcumin-Pro with Bromelain.

    The AIP can be very difficult for many people to follow, but sometimes it’s temporarily necessary to fully heal a very leaky gut, which goes hand-in-hand with the incidence of SIBO.

    It may also be wise to supplement with the following when treating SIBO:

    Testing specifically for SIBO can be a bit tricky and it can be difficult to get a definitive diagnosis. So be sure to work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner or Naturopath to effectively test (often with a minimally invasive lactulose hydrogen breath test) and treat this condition, as well as address other underlying gut dysfunctions.

    I think we can all agree that there are literally dozens of reasons why our gut health can become compromised. For even more tips on how to have a happier digestive system – READ THIS

    Study references:

    [1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225847170_Bacterial_Overgrowth

    [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3949258/

    [3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15319644