Deanna's Blog

Thursday, 07 November 2019 17:16

Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

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Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. It’s sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because our skin makes it when exposed to the sun. 
 
It’s also the most common nutrient deficiency! Like most vitamins, vitamin D has many functions in the body. It’s mostly known for its ability to help build strong bones. But, vitamin D is also important for a healthy immune system, digestive system, heart and mental health, blood sugar regulation, fertility, and resistance to cancer.
 
FUN FACT: Vitamin D is the vitamin with more scientific articles published since 2000 than any other vitamin.
Let’s talk about the many roles vitamin D has in promoting good health. We’ll also go over the different forms of vitamin D and what exactly is a deficiency. Finally, I’ll give you three sources of this critical nutrient and how much we should get.
 
Make sure you’re getting enough!
 
Vitamin D in the body
 
Vitamin D (calciferol) isn’t “active” in our bodies. To do its wonders, it first needs to be converted into the active form. This is a two-step process. First the liver converts it into 25(OH)D (calcidiol). Then, that is converted into 1,25(OH)D (calcitriol) in the kidneys. It’s this third, calcitriol, form that’s active in the body.
 
Vitamin D acts like a hormone! That means it’s produced in one part of the body (e.g. the skin), and travels through to act on another part (e.g. the bones).
 
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, when you have more than enough, it gets stored in the liver, and isn’t flushed out in the urine like excesses of many other vitamins are.
 
FUN FACT: Fish liver oil contains vitamin D, but not fish oil - it’s the liver that stores vitamin D.
 
Vitamin D for bones
 
Vitamin D is most known for its importance for bone health. Bones are alive and are constantly remodeling themselves. This means they, as all tissues, need a constant supply of nutrients.
 
How does vitamin D help your bones?
 
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently. And the mineral calcium is one of the major players to “mineralize” and strengthen our bones.
 
FUN FACT: New research shows it’s not just the kidneys that activate 25(OH)D into 1,25(OH)D - Bone cells can do this too!
 
Vitamin D works with other hormones to ensure optimal levels of calcium in the blood. When it comes to calcium, the body always prioritizes the blood over the bones. This is because the blood transports calcium around the body for critical functions like contractions of the heart and muscles. This is why it’s more important to maintain the calcium levels in the blood over levels in the bone. 
 
When there is enough calcium in the blood, any excess is stored in the bones. This is when the bones are mineralized and strengthened. When there isn’t enough calcium in the blood two things happen to raise this level. First, vitamin D stored in the liver is activated to help absorb more calcium from food. Second, the body removes calcium stored in the bones to raise levels in the blood. 
 
When we don’t get enough vitamin D (and calcium) regularly, bones can become weak and brittle. In children, severe vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, and in adults it can cause osteomalacia. With less severe vitamin D (and/or calcium) “insufficiency” (as opposed to a more severe “deficiency”), osteoporosis can develop over the long term.
 
Having enough 25(OH)D in the blood is associated with higher bone density. Studies show that supplementing with vitamin D may reduce the risk of falls and bone fractures.
 
FUN FACT: The strongest evidence for what vitamin D deficiency actually causes is with rickets and osteomalacia. The rest of the conditions have some evidence, but it’s not clear to what extent they’re caused by vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency, or what other factors also come into play.
 
Vitamin D, the immune system, and inflammation
 
Several studies have shown a link between low levels of vitamin D and immune-related conditions like atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis. In the lab, vitamin D seems to have “anti-inflammatory” and “antioxidant” properties.
 
FUN FACT: Inflammation is mostly caused by the response of our immune system.
 
Vitamin D can reduce immune response and inflammatory markers. Some studies in people with immune conditions (e.g. cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, & obesity), show that supplementing with vitamin D reduces some inflammatory markers in the blood, although not all studies agree.
 
Some researchers think vitamin D, due to its effects on the immune system, may also help with serious food allergies. A few small studies show that children with low vitamin D levels have an increased risk for food allergies. More research is needed.
 
Vitamin D and digestive diseases
 
Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, it’s absorbed along with fat in the diet. So, people who don’t eat or absorb enough fat are at risk of lower vitamin D levels. This can include people with many digestive issues such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s & colitis, as well as people who have had gastric bypass surgery. 
 
Also, a healthy vitamin D status seems to go hand-in-hand with a healthy gut. For example, there is a link between sub-optimal vitamin D, gut microbiome status, gut inflammation, and diseases of the gut like IBD and colon cancer. 
 
Vitamin D and cancer
 
It’s not just colon cancer that’s associated with low levels of vitamin D. Higher levels of vitamin D are associated with lower risk for prostate, and breast cancers. 
 
In the lab, cancer cells don’t seem to do as well when exposed to higher levels of vitamin D. They don’t divide or invade other tissues as well; and, they seem to die easier.
 
It’s unclear whether supplementing with vitamin D would reduce the risks of cancer in people.
 
Vitamin D and heart health
 
Several studies have linked low levels of vitamin D in the blood with heart disease. 
 
Higher levels of vitamin D in the blood may reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease by a small amount. 
 
Supplementing with vitamin D may help lower blood pressure slightly, but the evidence isn’t clear on how supplementing affects risk of heart disease.
 
Vitamin D and blood sugar
 
Low vitamin D levels are associated with higher levels of insulin resistance in people without diabetes. It may also increase the risk of developing diabetes.
 
Supplementing with vitamin D may help improve blood sugar management in some people with diabetes.
 
Vitamin D for mental and brain health
 
Cells in key areas of the brain have “receptors” for vitamin D. Vitamin D also has a role in circadian rhythms and sleep, affects growth of nerve cells, and impacts the developing brain.
 
There is growing evidence of the links between low blood levels of 25(OH)D and symptoms of depression.
 
Some studies also show a link between low vitamin D levels and increased risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
 
Vitamin D and fertility
 
Vitamin D seems to help improve the motility and survival of sperm cells.
 
Both too high and too low levels of vitamin D in the blood seem to be associated with infertility.
 
Forms of vitamin D
 
Many vitamins come in more than one form. With vitamin D, it comes in two different forms: D2 and D3. There are small differences in their chemical structure.
 
FUN FACT: Both forms are activated the same way: to 25(OH)D and then 1.25(OH)D. 
 
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is the plant-based form, while vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is from animals. Both forms can help rickets.
 
At higher doses, however, vitamin D2 is less potent than vitamin D3.
 
Sources of vitamin D
 
There are three main sources of vitamin D - sun exposure, foods, and supplements.
 
Sources of vitamin D - Sun exposure Our skin contains “pre” vitamin D. When exposed to UV rays from the sun, this “previtamin” is converted into vitamin D (calciferol).
 
In fact, vitamin D levels decline in people throughout the winter.
 
The problem is that too much UV radiation can contribute not only to skin cancer, but also to dryness and other cosmetic changes in the skin over time.
 
Let’s look at how to get enough vitamin D from foods and supplements. Sources of vitamin D - Foods Vitamin D is not naturally found in very many foods. The best sources include fatty fish and fish liver oils. Some is also found in beef liver, some cheeses, and egg yolks. Because these are animal sources, they are in the D3 form. Some is even already converted into 25(OH)D which is thought to be 5 times more potent than the regular D3 form.
 
Naturally occurring plant sources of vitamin D2 are some mushrooms that have been exposed to the sun. That’s about it.
 
Because it’s naturally found in so few foods, vitamin D is also added to certain foods. This is called “fortification.” In fact, fortified foods are the main source of dietary vitamin D in the US. 
 
Fortification of food with vitamin D can improve vitamin D status.
 
Some of these vitamin D fortified foods include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. Check your labels to find out if yours has been fortified with vitamin D (it will be listed as an ingredient). You can also check which form of vitamin D was added: D2 or D3. 
 
Infant formulas in Canada and the US are required to have at least 40 IU of vitamin D for each 100 kcal.
 
FUN FACT: Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, absorption from foods, drinks, and supplements is improved when taken at the same time as a fat-containing meal.
Sources of vitamin D - Supplements Vitamin D supplements come in both forms: D2 and D3. The plant-based D2 form is manufactured by exposing yeast to UV radiation. The animal-based D3 form is made from lanolin. 
 
If you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency, your health care provider can test your blood for levels of 25(OH)D and recommend a course of action specific for you.
 
However, if you don’t have a professional recommendation for how much vitamin D to take, the safest way to supplement is to follow the instructions on the label. And never take more than 4,000IU/day (100 mcg/day), unless told to by your licensed health care provider. 
 
That’s because too much vitamin D can become toxic. One effect of too much vitamin D is that blood levels of calcium can get too high. This can lead to “calcification” which can damage blood vessels, the heart, and kidneys. Getting too much vitamin D is mostly a risk when taking supplements; not so much from sun exposure or food intake.
 
And don’t forget to check with your doctor and/or pharmacist if you’re taking medications because vitamin D supplements can interact with some of them.
 
In infants, since formulas must have vitamin D added to them, breastfed infants are often recommended vitamin D drops. Speak with your licensed healthcare professional for recommendations.
 
FUN FACT: Supplementing with vitamin D has not been consistently shown to correct many of the conditions listed above (except for rickets and osteomalacia). Some studies show improvements, while others don’t. While these conditions are associated with low blood levels of vitamin D, they are not always improved with supplements.
 
Vitamin D deficiency 
 
Studies show that between 30-80% of people simply don’t get enough vitamin D. This deficiency is so common that some researchers have called it a “public health concern” and a “global problem.”
 
Vitamin D deficiency is when someone has less than 30 nmol/L of 25(OH)D in the blood. Ideally you want at least 50 nmol/L (20 ng/L).
 
<30 nmol/L = deficient
30-50 nmol/L = insufficient
50-125 nmol/L = adequate
125+ nmol/L = high
 
Vitamin D deficiencies can happen when, over time, people are not getting enough safe sun exposure, or are not eating enough foods containing vitamin D. It can also happen if the vitamin D is not being absorbed very well, or if the kidneys have trouble converting the “previtamin” D into the active form 1,25(OH)D.
People who are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D include: 
Pregnant and lactating women, and breastfed infants;
Older adults;
People with limited sun exposure (including athletes who train indoors); 
People with darker skin;
People with digestion issues that prevent proper absorption (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, etc.);
People with obesity; and, 
People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery.
 
How much vitamin D do we need?
 
For adequate blood levels of 25(OH)D, how much vitamin D do we need to get every day?
 
To get enough vitamin D from the sun, a general rule is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun between 10:00 a.m. & 3:00 p.m. at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen. 
 
When it comes to vitamin D from foods and supplements, in Canada and the US, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set target daily amounts. This amount, called the “Recommended Dietary Allowance” (RDA), ensures that at least 97% of people get enough vitamin D every day. Those recommendations are:
 
10 mcg (400 IU) per day for infants under the age of one.
15 mcg (600 IU) per day for everyone aged 1-70 years old, including pregnant and lactating women.
20 mcg (800 IU) per day for everyone over the age of 70.
 
Vitamin D in foods and supplements may be measured in both mcg (micrograms) and/or IU (international units). The conversion factor is 40 IU = 1 mcg.
 
Summary
Vitamin D has many health-promoting roles in the body. Most of the evidence is for bone health, but it’s also associated with a healthy immune system, digestive system, heart and mental health, blood sugar regulation, fertility, and resistance to cancer.
 
Vitamin D is also the most common deficiency.
 
We can get vitamin D from sun exposure, some foods, and supplements. 
 
The best way to know how much vitamin D you need is to have your blood tested if you’re at risk. If you don’t have a test or professional recommendation, following the label directions on your vitamin D supplements can be a safe way to get enough.
 
References:
 
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Del Pinto, R., Ferri, C., & Cominelli, F. (2017). Vitamin D Axis in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Role, Current Uses and Future Perspectives. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(11), 2360. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18112360
 
Du Toitc, G., Foongc, R,-X.M. & Lack, G. (2016). Prevention of food allergy – Early dietary interventions. Allergology International. 65(4), 370–377. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alit.2016.08.001
 
Examine.com, Vitamin D. Accessed Feb 2, 2018. LINK:  https://examine.com/supplements/Vitamin+D/
 
Farrokhyar F, Tabasinejad R, Dao D, Peterson D, Ayeni OR, Hadioonzadeh R, Bhandari M. Prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy in athletes: a systematic-review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2015 Mar;45(3):365-78. doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0267-6. LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25277808
 
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Glade, M.J. (2013). Vitamin D: health panacea or false prophet? Nutrition. 29(1):37-41. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2012.05.010.
 
Grace-Farfaglia, P. (2015). Bones of Contention: Bone Mineral Density Recovery in Celiac Disease—A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 7(5), 3347–3369. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu7053347
 
Haq, A., Svobodová, J., Imran, S. Stanford, C. & Razzaque, M.S. (2016). Vitamin D deficiency: A single centre analysis of patients from 136 countries. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 164, 209-213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsbmb.2016.02.007
 
Health Canada. (2012). Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone? Cat. No.: H164-112/3-2012E-PDF ISBN: 978-1-100-20026-2
 
Kjærgaard, M., Waterloo, K., Wang, C.E., Almås, B., Figenschau, Y., Hutchinson, M.S., Svartberg, J. & Jorde, R. (2012). Effect of vitamin D supplement on depression scores in people with low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D: nested case-control study and randomised clinical trial. Br J Psychiatry. 201(5):360-8.
 
Kramer, C.K., Ye, C., Swaminathan, B., Hanley, A.J., Connelly, P.W., Sermer, M., Zinman, B. & Retnakaran, R. (2016). The persistence of maternal vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency during pregnancy and lactation irrespective of season and supplementation. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 84(5):680-6. doi: 10.1111/cen.12989. LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26641010
 
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Pilz, S., Grübler, M., Gaksch, M., Schwetz, V., Trummer, C., Hartaigh, B.Ó., Verheyen, N., Tomaschitz, A. &  März, W. (2016). Vitamin D and Mortality. Anticancer Research. 36(3), 1379-1387.
 
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Friday, 11 October 2019 15:57

6 Healthy Ways to Thrive This Thanksgiving

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Behold, the season of all the good food is upon us. I've spoken to so many of you about what your biggest health struggle is over the holidays, and inevitably, food is a huge one. You feel like you undo all of your hard work throughout the year in these last few months, only to start the new year off with new plans of getting your health in order again.

And the majority of us stay on that cycle for our whole lives. Sound familiar? I want you to feel like this year is different. Instead of throwing all caution to the wind and waiting for the new year to roll around, I want to help you find your perfect balance of feeling on track and still enjoying the heck out of those yummy holiday dishes. That’s why you should make sure to incorporate these healthy hacks into your Thanksgiving to survive the holiday as well as the others just around the bend.

1. Walk it off Instead of just lounging all day waiting for the big meal to arrive on the table, go for a walk. Actually, my favourite way to start Thanksgiving day is with a morning walk. It helps to set the tone for the day and feels great to start the day with some fresh air. In fact, involve your relatives and make it a family affair by taking a long stroll after the big meal, as well. Not only is it relaxing and good quality time, but it will also help you digest your food better.

2. Eat your breakfast You may think you’re heading things off at the pass by not eating breakfast, however by the time you get to that big Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll be so hungry you’ll likely overeat. Make a healthy breakfast choice, and have a hearty salad for lunch. It will keep your blood sugar balanced so you won’t become too hungry, and you'll have made great choices all day and can indulge a little at Thanksgiving dinner.

3. Lookout for the pitfalls of gravy Gravy is one of the things we look forward to at Thanksgiving -- a little extra flavor we don't typically have throughout the year. However, be mindful of what you use to portion your gravy on your plate. A large ladle can rack up an extra 800 calories, just for the ladle of gravy. Instead, grab a tablespoon and drizzle your gravy onto your plate. By using this hack, you’ll still get to enjoy everything else and get your gravy too -- guilt free.

4. Bring a healthy side If you’ve been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner, make your side dish something healthy. There are lots of tasty options that everyone will love -- make a salad with homemade dressing, or bake sweet potatoes and dress them with sprinkles of cinnamon. These are incredibly simple and loved by all, so you can't go wrong with either. You could also look up healthy Thanksgiving side items on Pinterest to find something a little fancier if you love spending time in the kitchen whipping up new things!

5. Savour the desserts This is not a free license to eat everything on the dessert table, however, if your grandma makes the best pumpkin pie, make sure you ration yourself some room to enjoy a small piece. See lots you want to try? Then take bite-sized samples of each, then sit and truly savour them. Don't overdo it, but enjoy those desserts you only get to have a few days per year.

Monday, 09 September 2019 18:45

Common Food Sensitivities — Do You Have These Symptoms?

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Some people can eat what they want without worry -- but for many others, certain foods can trigger reactions. Some of those reactions could be mild to the point where you might not associate them with what you're eating, while others are more severe and could require medical attention.   What foods tend to be the root of common sensitivities? Take a look below and think about what you eat. If you've had any symptoms like diarrhea, rashes, headaches, bloating, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, acid reflux, a runny nose, skin flushing or acne after eating something, you might be sensitive to one of these foods or ingredients. The best way to find out is by doing an elimination diet to see what's causing it and getting with your doctor to help you sort it out. 
Diabetes and heart disease are on the rise worldwide. They’re serious chronic (long-term) conditions. They have a few other things in common as well. 
For one thing, they’re both considered “lifestyle” diseases. This means that they tend to occur in people with certain lifestyles (i.e. not-so-awesome nutrition and exercise habits, etc.).
They’re also both linked with excess body fat, as well as inflammation.
While there are several links and risk factors, today we’re going to talk specifically about inflammation. Then I’ll give you some tips how to improve your nutrition and lifestyle.
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.
Monday, 04 March 2019 13:36

Can Probiotics Affect our Mood 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”). 

WHAT THE HECK ARE “GUT MICROBES?  ”

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!


Tuesday, 01 January 2019 22:10

Creatine - Will it help my fitness goals?

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Is just about everyone taking creatine to help them reach fitness goals?
 
Creatine is, actually, the most popular ergogenic (athletic-enhancing) supplement in history!
 
And there is always new research coming out about it. I mean ALWAYS.
 
If you don’t have the time or desire to sift through the tons of studies, I have a pretty nice summary here for you.
 
The bottom line is that there are a few reasons why it is so popular!
 
DOES CREATINE HELP PERFORMANCE (ACCORDING TO THE SCIENCE)?
Tuesday, 18 December 2018 19:08

CAFFEINE AND SPORTS TRAINING

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Caffeine is sometimes called “the world’s most popular drug”.
 
It’s a very common naturally-occurring stimulant found in coffee and other foods/drinks. 
 
Its main effect is on the brain, helping to increase alertness and reducing fatigue. It’s also used for fat loss and in sports training.
Monday, 10 December 2018 21:01

Is Keto Good for Athletes?

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The keto health craze is here!
 
And if you’re wondering whether you should try it or not (especially if you’re an athlete), you need to read this!
 
The idea behind the diet’s popularity is that it can literally train your body to burn fat as fuel. This means your metabolism actually changes. You stop burning carbohydrates (your body’s preferred fuel), and start burning fat (and ketones) as fuel. 
 
You become “fat adapted.”
Friday, 14 September 2018 15:19

Intermittent fasting - Not just for weight loss

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If you want to lose fat, improve metabolism, and experience other health benefits all without giving up your favourite foods, intermittent fasting might be for you!
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