Deanna's Blog

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 14:22

Beautiful skin with hyaluronic acid

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Did you know that back in medieval France, King Henry II’s wife, Princess Catherine, believed that if she ate chicken combs she would become beautiful? Even before that (in the 700s) Yang Guifei, one of the four beauties of ancient China, also ate chicken combs.
Chicken combs, as it turns out, contain a lot of a substance known as hyaluronic acid. Recent clinical studies show that ingesting hyaluronic acid actually can increase the moisture content of the skin. This shows up as more hydrated, and “beautiful” younger-looking skin.
Nowadays, hyaluronic acid is not just made from chicken combs, but also from microbial fermentation. It’s found in many skin supplements. It’s also used as an injectable filler to reduce wrinkles.
Let’s dive into how this ancient beauty enhancer actually works.
Hyaluronic acid in the “matrix”
Before we dive into the skin, let’s talk a bit about the “matrix.” All tissues, including the skin, have what’s known as an “extracellular matrix” (ECM). 
This matrix is made from two types of substances: proteins and “proteoglycans.” 
The proteins are fibrous and give the tissue structure and elasticity. This means they help to retain the shape (i.e. structure) of the tissue. The main proteins in the matrix are collagen and elastin. 
Proteoglycans, on the other hand, are a gel-like substance made from carbohydrates. This substance fills in the spaces and keeps things moist and hydrated. One of the main proteoglycans is hyaluronic acid. 
You can think of the matrix as a thick gel-like substance (think: egg white). 
Collagen is a protein that helps to maintain structure. One of its main roles is to help the cells join together by forming a kind of a scaffold within the matrix. This allows tissues to maintain their shape and stiffness, while allowing flexibility. It helps reduce sagging.
Hyaluronic acid (a.k.a. hyaluronan, HA, or HLA) allows tissues to be squished without breaking. It’s a type of carbohydrate made from sugars bound together in very long chains. 
Hyaluronic acid also has a special ability to attract and hold onto water. Because of its special chemical structure, it can hold 1000x more water than its own solid volume. 
It is found in several lengths (i.e. thousands and even millions of sugars long). The longer the length, the better it is.
Both the proteins (e.g. collagen) and the proteoglycans (e.g. hyaluronic acid) work together, along with other substances. Together they form complexes and cross-link to create the gel-like matrix.
This matrix is constantly being remodeled and rebalanced by the cells to ensure optimal structure. elasticity, and water retention (hydration). It changes when tissue ages, gets wounded, or develops a tumour. 
It’s this matrix around skin cells that keeps skin healthy and beautiful.
Hyaluronic acid in the skin
For skin health and a “youthful” appearance, the skin needs structural support, moisture, and good blood flow. Structure and moisture for the skin is made from not just the cells, but also from the important “matrix” that they secrete and surround themselves with. Blood supply is needed to bring nutrients and oxygen to the skin, while removing waste.
In the skin, the proteins (e.g. collagen) and the proteoglycans (e.g. hyaluronic acid) are secreted by cells called “fibroblasts.”
Hyaluronic acid is found throughout the body, but is most important in the eyes, the joints, and the skin. In fact, half of the body’s hyaluronic acid is found in the skin. 
Hyaluronic acid helps to retain water to keep skin hydrated and plump. It also does this in the eye and the fluid cushioning the joints (synovial fluid). This is why when the amount of hyaluronic acid in the body decreases with age, this increases dry and sagging skin, as well as joint pain.
This is what makes hyaluronic acid a great moisturizer for your skin.
“HA is extremely abundant in the dermis under normal circumstances. It is also a major ingredient in moisturizing creams, due to its tremendous hygroscopic (hydrating) properties, which also helps to explain why injected HA-based fillers excel at “plumping up” the dermis.” Maytin, E.V., 2016.
Your skin replaces about ⅓ of its hyaluronic acid every single day. This means that each molecule only sticks around for a couple of days before it’s naturally recycled and replaced with a new molecule.
The hyaluronic acid in the matrix of the skin cells help to keep it hydrated and prevent sagging.
Aging and wounded skin
When it comes to skin health and visible aging, the matrix’s collagen and hyaluronic acid are big players.
As we age, our skin gets “looser” and start to show fine wrinkles. It thins slightly thinner and the cells produce less collagen and hyaluronic acid. This is common and occurs naturally over time in everyone. It’s thought to be, at least partly, related to hormone changes. It’s referred to as “intrinsic aging.”
Intrinsic aging is partly because of the natural reduction in amounts of collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin. Over time our skin simply makes less. This is mostly true for the outermost layer of the skin, the “epidermis.”
At the same time as intrinsic aging, other external factors can affect our skin’s appearance as well. The result is considered premature aging, or “extrinsic” aging. For example, ultraviolet (UV) light from chronic sun exposure causes deeper wrinkles, dryness, lines, colour changes, reduced elastic ability (elastosis), and taking on a “leathery” appearance. This UV aging is referred to as “photoaging.” 
Because our faces are exposed to the sun, about 80% of facial skin aging is from UV exposure. The other 20% is from smoking cigarettes, air pollution, and certain medications (corticosteroids). These all have a similar damaging effect and contribute to extrinsic aging.
With chronic exposure to UV light, there is a change in both the type of collagen and size of the hyaluronic acid molecules. The long chains of hyaluronic acid become more degraded into  smaller chains. These smaller chains are inflammatory. The overall result is less flexible skin that wrinkles more easily and becomes drier.
Extrinsic aging does this due to oxidative stress and an increase in an enzyme (“metalloproteinase”) that breaks down collagen and hyaluronic acid. 
Vitamin A creams are sometimes used to help the skin’s appearance. They work by helping to prevent breakdown of the collagen in the skin.
Hyaluronic acid has another interesting role in the skin. It helps wounded skin heal. When skin is wounded, a large part of the fluid secreted is hyaluronic acid. In fact, you make more hyaluronic acid when skin is injured or wounded specifically to help the wound heal. It’s even thought that scarring from wounds increases with age due to the reduced amount of hyaluronic acid in the skin.
The bottom line is that aging skin is partly the result of a change in the collagen, and lower levels of the large hyaluronic acid molecules in the matrix.
Collagen and hyaluronic acid supplements
There are three types of collagen found in our bodies: type I, type II, and type III. The skin contains mostly type I, with some type III. The cartilage cushioning the joints is mostly type II.
Collagen supplements are made from animal collagen, mostly from bones and/or skin.
There are two main types of collagen supplements:
Hydrolyzed and
Undenatured type II collagen
Monday, 16 October 2017 20:06

Blood Sugar Creeping Up? Get Control by Doing These!

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Blood Sugar Creeping Up? Get Control by Doing These!

Blood sugar is literally that: the sugar in your blood. Your blood contains all kinds of important nutrients and other substances that we need to be healthy. Including sugar. Blood is the liquid transporter that distributes these compounds to all parts of our bodies.

Sugar (a type of carbohydrate) is one of our body’s main fuels. The other two fuels are fat and protein. I call it “fuel” because our cells literally burn it to do work. It’s this “biochemical” burning of fuel in all of our cells that is our metabolism.

So, how does blood sugar get too high? What diet and lifestyle upgrades can we do to manage it?

In this post, I’ll talk a bit about blood sugar balance, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Then I’ll give you 11 proven strategies that can help manage blood sugar level naturally. The good news is that blood sugar levels are responsive to diet and lifestyle upgrades.

You have power to help manage your blood sugar with these key strategies!

NOTE: There are several medical, diet, and lifestyle approaches to managing medical conditions.  None of these are a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any of these conditions, or are taking medications for it, please make sure you’re being monitored regularly.

Blood sugar balance

Our body strives to be in balance. It exerts a lot of energy to make sure that our systems are all running smoothly. Our digestive system, nervous system, cardiovascular (heart & blood vessels) system, etc. And this includes our blood too. Our bodies try to balance our blood pressure, blood volume, blood sugar, etc.

There is a normal and healthy range of sugar levels in our blood. The problem doesn’t start until these levels are out of range, i.e. too high for too long.

Here’s how our bodies strive to maintain optimal levels of blood sugar:

We eat a food containing carbohydrates (i.e. sugar and/or starch).
Our digestive system breaks down the sugar and/or starch into smaller sugars like glucose. These smaller sugars are then absorbed into our bloodstream. This naturally raises our blood sugar level.
When our blood sugar gets too high, the pancreas (a gland in our digestive system) sends out insulin. Insulin is a hormone that tells our muscles, liver and, ultimately, fat cells to grab that sugar from the blood. These cells use the sugar they need for energy now, and store the rest for later.
The muscles and liver store sugar (e.g. glucose) temporarily. When we need it, our muscles and liver give up their sugar into the blood. This happens, for example, when we haven’t eaten for a few hours, we’re exercising, or we’re under stress.

As you can see, the amount of sugar in your blood is constantly flowing up and down. Up when we eat; down when the insulin tells the cells to pull it out of the blood. Then up again when we eat again and/or start using some of the stored glucose. And down again as it’s used (burned) or stored.

This is all good and healthy!  This is what we aim for.

Blood sugar imbalance (insulin resistance & type-2 diabetes)

The problem is when the balance is thrown off. When the blood sugar ups and downs become unhealthy. When the “ups” get too high, and they stay there for too long.

Too much blood sugar can cause heart rate issues (arrhythmias), and in extreme cases, even seizures. Too high blood sugar for too long can eventually cause long-term damage to organs and limbs.

A healthy blood sugar balance is key.

A common way our blood sugar gets too high is when we eat a lot of sugar in a short time. Especially processed sugar, like in soda pop, energy drinks, desserts, etc. Our digestive system absorbs as much sugar from our food as possible. This is an evolutionary thing. We inherited this from thousands of years ago when food was scarce and the next meal was unknown. Our bodies adapted to crave, absorb, and store as much sugar as possible in one sitting, because it didn’t know how long it would be until the next meal. It’s a survival mechanism.

Over the years, if we frequently eat a lot of sugar and have increased body fat, our bodies can change. The muscle and liver cells start ignoring insulin’s call to absorb sugar from the blood. They become “insulin resistant.” When this happens, the sugar stays in the blood for a lot longer than normal. Blood sugar levels become too high for too long.

But this doesn’t stop the pancreas from releasing even more insulin. When this happens you have the paradox of high blood sugar and high insulin.

Some symptoms of insulin resistance are:
Fatigue after meals;
Sugar cravings that don’t go away, even if sweets are eaten;
Increased thirst;
Frequent urination.

Monday, 16 October 2017 20:01

The Hormonal Effects of Crash Dieting

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Let me ask you a couple of questions:

Have you ever been on a diet?
Have you ever restricted calories in hopes of losing weight?
If you have been on a diet before how long does it take you to gain the weight back?
Do you find yourself more hungry after a crash diet?
Are you happy with your current weight?
Yo-yo and crash dieting is serious business. People want results quickly. They can starve themselves for a short period of time to get results. There are very real consequences to crash dieting; rebound weight gain, a slower metabolism, horrible digestion, an unhealthy relationship with food, intense cravings, binges and the worst offender…the inability to lose real fat later on.
If you have crash dieted in your life do you find it much harder to lose weight now?
I bet you knew somewhere deep down that crash dieting isn’t the best or healthiest way to lose weight. I’m sure that when you were depriving yourself of nutrients you had a very good reason.
Even if you’ve never dieted in your life but have days where you instinctively eat less you NEED to read this study. You don’t need to have dieted to feel the hormonal effects of hunger.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the long-term persistence of hormonal adaptations to weight loss. The results were simply unbelievable.
The study looked at what happens to appetite hormones after 10 weeks of a calorie deprivation diet up to 1 year later.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017 18:34

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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Homemade Pumpkin Puree 

Homemade Pumpkin Puree is a snap to make and saves you a lot of money versus the canned versions.  Every Fall I got to the local farmers and purchase lots of pumpkins for baking soups, muffins, loaves and making smoothies over the winter. Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A and provides 245% of your daily requirement per cup. 

Pumpkin purree is simply cooked pumpkin, mashed or blended. Pumpkin pie filling usually has added spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and sugar.

When I make my puree, I like to add the spices but not the sugar.  Then I simply freeze in small silicone muffin trays.  When they are frozen, I pop them out and seal them in an air tight container to be used over the winter and into the spring.


Pumpkin Puree

2 small pumpkins, cut in half and seeds scooped out.

Place on baking sheet, cut side down and place a little water in the sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees till soft.   Let cool and scoop pumpkin out into a bowl.

Add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger spices.Scoop into small silicone muffin containers and pop in freezer till solid.  Then store in an airtight container.  Stays good in freezer for several months.


Green tea extracts are promoted for both weight loss and sports performance.
But, do they actually work?
Not only this, you may have heard about serious side effects. Some cases of death have been associated with use of these supplements.
But you still see green tea supplements on the shelves.
So, let’s dig into the use of green tea extracts for both weight loss and sports performance. Then we’ll talk about how you can use these supplements safely.
Tea is from the plant Camellia sinensis. Green tea differs from black tea because it is not fermented before it’s dried. This is why green tea contains more antioxidants than black tea does. The type of fermentation uses enzymes that “oxidize” the antioxidants, so they’re in much smaller amounts in black tea.
These antioxidants are of the “catechins” family. And green tea also contains some caffeine.
So, green tea’s two main active substances are antioxidant catechins (e.g. EGCG epigallocatechin-3-gallate, etc.), as well as caffeine.
In fact, Green tea contains more catechins than it does caffeine (100-300 mg/cup catechins and 50-90 mg/cup caffeine). And it is the effect of both of these compounds together that are thought to help with weight loss and sports performance.
The difference between drinking green tea and taking it as a supplement is that the extracts are more concentrated. For example, the highest dose of the extract that seems to be safe is 9.9 g/day, which is equivalent to 24 cups of green tea. While this dose may be “safe”, it’s likely to come alongside some side effects. So, you need to drink a whole lot of tea to have the same effect as a few grams of the concentrated extract.
It is these green tea extracts that are added to many supplements. You can check your labels to see if it’s in yours.
Athletes & Antioxidants, is there a time I shouldn’t take antioxidants?
You may not be an 'athlete', but if you are like me, you do like to throw the weights around in the gym and maybe train for the odd multiport race.  Or maybe your children are heavily in to sports like gymnastics, dance, hockey, lacrosse or soccer.  It's good to know how to support optimal muscle recovery and fueling your young athlete and yourself so to prevent major injuries down the road.  As a mother to a teenage dancer/gymnast who has been dancing since the age of 4, we have encountered our share of sports injuries.  I always like to ensure that we are obtaining optimal nutrition and balance for healing.
You may have heard that antioxidants can help reduce your recovery time after strenuous exercise. You know the stiffness, swelling, pain, fatigue and reduced strength that your muscles experience after a good workout.
And antioxidants can help!
Well, some of them can.
Today I’m going to dive into some of the science, but I also want to note that more research is needed. 
In this article, we’ll go over how the muscles get “oxidative stress” in the first place, and what “antioxidants” actually are. 
Then we’ll look at some of the research on the effects of both antioxidant supplements and antioxidant foods on muscle recovery. 
And lastly, when is the best time to get those antioxidants for maximal impact.
Even if you haven’t heard of it, you know EIMD (exercise-induced muscle damage). This is an “official” term to describe the stiffness, swelling, pain, fatigue and reduced strength that can follow one, two, or even up to five days after a tough workout.
With EIMD symptoms, strength can decline by up to 40-50%, and this can significantly reduce performance for days, or even weeks afterwards!
This is because, at a microscopic level, after a good workout, there is damage to the muscle cells; and so the body’s natural repair mechanisms kick into gear. They bring fluid and immune cells to help fix those muscle cells so they can start rebuilding. This causes the inflammation and oxidative stress that show up as the symptoms of EIMD.
After a workout, the inflammation actually  helps to repair the muscle, so this inflammation is exactly what is needed so that the muscle can rebuild a bit stronger than it was before. 
Tuesday, 01 August 2017 18:13

Nutrients for Brain Health

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The best nutrients for brain health (and how to get them)
There are so many nutrients that you need for overall health. Vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and essential fats, just to name a few.
But which ones are the most important for your brain? 
Which nutrients can help with brain development of infants, improve moods, and reduce the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s?
Yes, of course, you need an array of nutrients! But, there are five real brain health “winners” here.
Let’s go over the brain boosting benefits of omega-3s, vitamin D, B vitamins, magnesium, and probiotics.
Omega-3s are a type of essential fat. They are arguably the most important nutrients for brain health. 
If you take away the water weight, your brain is 60% fat. And 25% of this fat is omega-3s; in particular, the omega-3 called “DHA” (docosahexaenoic acid).
Omega-3s have many functions in the brain, for example, they help nerve cells insulate their electrical signals, stabilize their membranes, and reduce inflammation.
Omega-3s are critical for baby’s brain development. Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy can help improve baby’s intelligence and reduce the risk of behavioural problems. 
People who regularly eat and/or have higher blood levels of omega-3s are less likely to be depressed. And several studies have shown that when people with mood swings, depression, or anxiety start taking omega-3 supplements, some of their symptoms improve.
In terms of age-related mental decline, studies also show that people with higher Omega-3 intakes have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
OK - They’re great for brain health, but how do I get enough omega-3s?
You can get the recommended amount of omega-3s, including DHA, from eating two servings of fatty fish each week.
Simple! Have a wild salmon steak and a shrimp stir fry one week. Then have some smoked mackerel and baked cod another week.
In terms of supplements, as little as 0.5 grams (500 mg) of fish oil each day is enough for most people to get the minimum recommended levels. Many fish oil supplements come in 1 g (1,000 mg) doses, and that may be just fine on a daily basis (check your labels to make sure).
You probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that more stress and stress hormones promote weight gain, would you?
But what exactly is stress, and how does it keep you from your weight loss goals?
In fact, there are actually many links between stress hormones and weight.  We’ll talk about six major reasons how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals. These include the effect stress has on digestion and gut health, inflammation and the immune system. Stress can cause cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating.” It can promote fat storage around the waist with its effect on insulin sensitivity. Stress can also be mood-busting and demotivating, not to mention how it worsens sleep. 
All of these can work to keep you from your weight loss goals.
Let’s go over the effects of stress and stress hormones, and exactly how they all tie into weight loss. Then we’ll end off with two strategies (and several of my best tips) how to manage stress. 


There may not be an obvious link between sleep deprivation and your weight, but more and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your mood, mental performance, overall health and wellness, and especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.
Many studies show that people who have a short sleep duration simply weigh more. And, in fact, as the levels of chronic (long-term) sleep deprivation have increased over the past 50 years, so have the growing epidemics of being overweight or obese.
And many studies now agree that lack of sleep is an “independent” risk factor (i.e. a direct risk) for weight gain and obesity. 
Especially for women.
One large analysis of 45 studies which included over 600,000 people says, “studies from around the world show a consistent increased risk of obesity amongst short sleepers in children and adults.” The increased risks were 89% for children and 55% for adults.
The overall data in that study suggests that a reduction in one hour of sleep per day would be associated with about 1.4 kg in additional weight.
Right now, 40% of American adults say that they get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, and 7 hours is the minimum recommended nightly sleep, with 9 being the maximum.
Overall, there are two main ways (with two factors each) that we think that lack of sleep contributes to weight gain and obesity.
First, it increases calorie intake in two ways.
It allows more time available to eat; and 
It messes with your hunger hormones.
Second, it decreases your ability to burn off calories in two ways. 
It can slow your metabolism; and 
It can cause fatigue and, therefore, reduced physical activity.
Let’s talk about all four of these factors.
Friday, 26 May 2017 14:12

Probiotics for Moods and Stress? Yes!

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What do you do when your mood is off or you’re stressed to the max?

 Eat ice cream? Binge watch Netflix? Call your bestie?

 After reading this article, you may consider yogurt, a handful of walnuts, or maybe even some dark chocolate as your go-to mood-boosters and stress-busters.

Today, we’ll unpack some of the exciting (and preliminary) new research about the link between your gut health and moods/stress. 
We’ll talk about your friendly resident gut microbes (mostly bacteria), probiotic foods and supplements, as well as foods to feed those gut microbes and probiotics (aka “prebiotics”). 


Oh, our friendly “gut microbes.” 

They are the trillions of microbes that happily live in our gut. They help us by digesting foods, making vitamins, and even protecting us from the not-so-friendly microbes that may get in there.

Believe it or not, these friendly microbes have mood-boosting and stress-busting functions too!

FUN FACT: There are more microbes
FUN FACT: There are more microbes inside our gut than all of the human cells that make us. Yup, we’re more than half microbe! So, how can they NOT impact our health?

It’s a hotbed of research right now and we’re finding out more about their awesome health, and mood/stress benefits every day.

And, while the research is just starting to figure out the many gut microbe-brain connections, it’s such a cool new topic that I couldn’t wait to share it with you!


The microbes that live in our guts are known as our “gut microbiota”. 
The microbes that we can ingest are known as “probiotics”.

“Probiotics” are live organisms that you can eat, drink, or take as a supplement. They’re what turn milk into yogurt, and cabbage into sauerkraut; and they are great for both your gut health and mental health.

Special probiotics that have mental health benefits are called “psychobiotics,” (psycho = mental health, and biotics = live). They’re live organisms that can benefit our psyche.

So, what’s the link between gut microbes, probiotics, and moods/stress?


.  Stress can affect our friendly gut microbes.

 Several studies show that stressed rodents not only have increased stress hormones and stressed behaviours; but, they also have different gut microbes!

And this has been studied, to a small extent, in people too.

 One study showed that moms with high levels of stress hormones during pregnancy had infants with more of the “bad” gut microbes. 

But, can it work the other way around? Can changing our gut microbes affect our moods and stress responses?

Studies of rodents that grow up without any gut microbes at all (in a “bacteria-free” environment) respond to stress more than mice with normal gut microbes. Then, when they’re given either a probiotic or gut microbes from non-stressed mice, their stress responses often go back to normal.

The gut microbe, probiotic, and mood/stress connections are starting to get interesting, aren’t they?

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