Less Stress, Less Seasonal Allergies?

I’ve struggled with seasonal allergies for years. The sneezing, sniffling, itchy throat and watery eyes can go from annoying to debilitating. Here’s another article I recently wrote for our clinic patients. This spring, let’s enjoy the outdoors!

Spring! The mild temperatures, the daffodils in bloom, downtown full of SunRun-ners, our neighborhood streets densely lined with cherry blossoms, the opening of farmers markets and (the theoretical possibility of) less rain in the near future. We are drawn outdoors by the inviting weather and community events only to be faced with that dreaded sneezing and sniffling.

jocelyn6More than one in six Canadians suffer from seasonal allergies or hayfever. The sneezing, congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes and stuffy ears can occur anytime (or for the whole duration) between March and November.  And for many of us, our immune systems’ overactive response to allergens such as pollen and spores can really disrupt our daily lives. Antihistamines can help relieve some symptoms but can cause mouth dryness, dizziness, drowsiness, restlessness and other undesirable effects.

For thousands of years Traditional Chinese Medicine has identified the close connection between our respiratory (breathing) system and our digestion. We now know that our digestive tract is home to 80% of our immune cells – it’s no wonder our digestive health affects our allergies!

Strengthening our digestive system to better extract nourishment from food is at the basis of Chinese medicine recommendations for strengthening the lungs and preventing allergies. First, avoid excess cold and raw foods as this dampens the digestive ‘fire’ needed for proper breakdown of food. Next, avoid excess dairy, fats and sweet/sugary foods as much as possible and avoid all known food allergies. Instead, choose mild flavours, clear broths and lots of gently cooked vegetables. We have also found Chinese herbal formulae aimed at supporting digestion and modulating immune responses to be particularly helpful in many patients.

In addition to processing food, in Chinese medicine ‘digestion’ also refers to the processing of information and emotions. Too much mental work such as prolonged periods of studying or brooding on problems can also weaken our digestive system, in turn, making us more prone to seasonal allergies. This connection may explain why we search for food when we are actually in need of emotional comfort. Identifying and acknowledging our needs, whether it means joining a support group or being kinder to ourselves, contributes to reduced stress, improved digestion and less allergy symptoms.

This year, incorporate small changes now to prevent sneezing and sniffling in the coming months!

Photo courtesy of A. Graber


Diabetes – What’s your risk?

As many of you know, diabetes prevention and treatment is my passion. I believe life isn’t about strict, regimented diets. True health comes from what we incorporate into our daily lives like nutritious foods and regular exercise  as well as from soul-nourishing activities like occasionally appreciating a scrumptious dessert or meditating on that first sip of coffee in the morning!

I have family members with prediabetes. It’s my mission to prevent diabetes and educate everyone on foods, exercise and daily practices so that we can also appreciate experiences that make us feel grateful to be alive.

Here’s an article I just recently wrote for our clinic patients. Feel free to pass on to anyone you think can benefit from the info.

Diabetes in your family? High blood pressure?  Waist circumference greater than 31.5 inches? East or South Asian ethnicity?

An estimated 9 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes. Of these, 1 million Canadians live with diabetes without knowing it. The difficulty is we can have prediabetes and undiagnosed diabetes without obvious signs and symptoms so often diagnosis (and care) is delayed.

The key, however, is to be able to identify our risk of diabetes so we can make effective changes right away. Why right away? Insulin production is 35% of normal by the time of diagnosis! That’s less than half the production of this critical hormone by the time many of us are made aware of a problem.

Using information such as age, body mass index, waist circumference and family history, the simple Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire (CANRISK) calculates a risk score to let you know if you’re at low, moderate or high risk of developing diabetes. It takes only 3 minutes to do and you may be surprised by some of the risk factors!

CANRISK questionnaire

High risk (scores greater than 33): have a 2 in 5 chance of already having or developing type 2 diabetes

Moderate risk (scores between 21 and 33): have a 1 in 7 chance of having or developing type 2 diabetes.

For the above groups, Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) testing may be indicated. This blood test can diagnose or rule out diabetes while also giving us an idea of your blood glucose control over the past 3 months.

Concerned about you or your friends and family’s risk of diabetes? Book an initial consultation today for diagnostic testing and risk assessment. Whether you want to reduce the risk of developing diabetes or you are already taking medication for diabetes, we can provide effective therapies to improve blood sugar control at every stage.

We provide thorough but targeted multisystem physical exams, in-office HbA1c testing (results in 5 minutes!), clinically researched nutrients and specific, individualized nutritional and physical activity recommendations based on your risk factors and overall health.

For the month of December, Dr. Carin is providing complimentary HbA1c testing with an initial naturopathic consultation – only while tests are available!

Photo courtesy of A. Graber

What happened to Carin?

Since my last post, I graduated and have become a licensed naturopathic physician!

I now have a practice in Richmond, BC at Brio Integrative Health Centre providing naturopathic consultations for blood sugar regulation, sleep issues, digestive conditions, infertility and pain management. More info to come!

Thanks for your patience during this transition! Come visit me in Richmond!

Are Food Sensitivities Behind Your Symptoms?


The other day I had another reminder about the significant effect food has on our health. A patient who had been medicated for years for daily acid reflux and nasal congestion, tried an elimination diet for only 3 weeks. Essentially all her symptoms of reflux and sinus inflammation resolved! Inadvertently, even her rosacea improved! Her hsCRP blood test had for years been showing whole-body inflammation  (associated with high risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease). But after 3 weeks of the protocol, she went from a high risk level to a very low risk level!

So what’s an elimination diet?

The elimination diet is a protocol used to identify foods in our diet that may be causing or aggravating headaches, sinus inflammation, abdominal pain, gas and bloating, fatigue, mood changes, skin rashes and hives, eczema, acid reflux, constipation or diarrhea, joint pain, brain fog, wheezing, palpitations and many other symptoms.

Sometimes the adverse reactions to foods are obvious to us (such as when it changes our breathing or causes a skin rash). However, food reactions can occur up to 3 days after eating the food triggers so often symptoms are hard to track and difficult to correlate to foods. Generally the protocol involves eliminating common food allergens for a short period of time and watching to see if any symptoms improve. This is followed by systematically reintroducing the foods and observing responses to each food group to identify which foods are associated with which symptom(s). As you can imagine, this program involves careful planning, guidance and monitoring so make sure to do this under the supervision of a physician. Also, this protocol is NOT for suspected anaphylactic reactions (closing up of the throat and difficulty breathing) caused by foods.

I have heard some people say “I would rather not know if certain foods are bothering me because that means I can’t eat it!” That’s not necessarily the case. Often times, once we identify foods that exacerbate symptoms, we avoid them for a period of time to allow the gut lining to heal. After this break period, sometimes those foods we were previously sensitive to are well tolerated. Either way, knowing our body’s responses, we can choose to manage our food sensitivities to our comfort level.

What a great reminder: before jumping to therapies to suppress symptoms, in non-urgent cases, let’s always investigate our basic daily practices, such as diet, to improve symptoms from the inside out.

How to get better blood glucose control and improve your mood

A study published last week on 40 patients with Type II Diabetes showed naturopathic care decreased blood glucose to a greater degree than the control group with conventional care only. Not only did HbA1c improve more with naturopathic care, “self monitoring of glucose, diet, self efficacy, motivation and mood” also improved. These results were seen after one year with an average of only 4 naturopathic care visits during that year. Although randomized clinical trials are needed to show if naturopathic care is responsible for these improvements, these initial findings are very promising for naturopathic medicine’s effective role in diabetes management!

Check out the article on PubMed: Adjunctive naturopathic care for type 2 diabetes: patient-reported and clinical outcomes after one year. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Apr 18;12(1):44.

Preventing Diabetes and Improving Its Management


What a huge event! The Diabetes Expo held at the Trade and Convention Center in downtown Seattle brought thousands who were motivated to improve their health and curious to learn more! Thanks to everyone who visited us!

Naturopathic medicine’s emphasis on healthful diet and physical activity was definitely well-received! I loved hearing story after story of people who had significantly changed their eating habits and had really seen their own or their loved ones’ blood glucose improve. How inspiring!

We performed hundreds of HbA1c screening tests. For many with diabetes, this was a routine check of their long term blood glucose levels, but for many others, the test was their first indication that they were heading towards diabetes. What a perfect time to incorporate healthful proteins at breakfast, more (non-starchy) vegetables at each meal and incorporate fun, physical activity! Thanks for letting me be a part of your health journey!

The Trick with Protein

Unlike vitamins and minerals, most people in North America actually eat more protein than recommended (American Dietetic Association recommends 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight – so that’s about 55-75g of protein a day for most adults). So if people are getting enough, why am I talking about it? There’s a trick with protein: source and distribution.

Most of us eat most of our protein later in the day (at dinner time). If we redistribute protein intake throughout the day (say 20g of protein at each meal) we can better control our weight, maintain muscle mass, maintain energy and blood sugar levels and prevent sugar cravings. So for many of us, this means, redistributing protein to breakfast and lunch. How do we do this?

All animal proteins are “complete” (meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids). However, higher animal protein intake has been associated with higher diabetes risk. So the key to increasing protein is to add a variety of plant-based protein sources (which are NOT associated with diabetes risk). (Combining grains with beans or legumes allows us to get complete protein sources.) Whole grains, nuts and seeds come with lots of protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. A 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds will instantly add 14g of protein to your morning oatmeal. How about just substituting the butter on your toast with a nut butter (like almond, peanut or cashew)? This substitution alone will cut the increase in blood sugar by half!

Other sources of protein that come with additional benefits: salmon and sardines contain anti-inflammatory omega 3 oils; low-fat yogurt is a significant source of protein plus it comes with probiotics; try some good quality organ meats as well! They’re packed with vitamins and minerals that are hard to get elsewhere.

Try to avoid processed sources of protein such as cured ham and deli meats. Also any foods high in salt and chemicals (like nitrates) as these can increase risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Remember: protein recommendations vary with the individual’s physical activity level and kidney health; consult your naturopathic physician or dietitian to determine optimum protein amounts and protein sources.