Blog Article Archive

The Role of Your Digestive Tract in Chemotherapy Treatment

Aside from its function as a digestive organ, the human intestinal tract is also an immune organ consisting of groupings of immune cells known as gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) . These cells act as the intestinal frontier of the immune system, warding off potentially harmful infections. The human microbiome, all microscopic organisms in and on our body, works synergistically with GALT. One role of the microbiome is to teach the immune system to recognize and attack harmful invaders.

A study released in the November 2015 issue of Science found that intestinal bacteria like Bacteriodes fragilis and Bacteriodes thetaiotaomicron play a key role in the effect of certain chemotherapeutics. CTLA-4 blockade chemo drugs depend on white blood cell responses specific to healthy bacteria found in the digestive tract. Melanoma tumours in antibiotic-treated mice (mice lacking healthy bacteria) did not respond to pharmaceutical CTLA-4 blockade, whereas mice with B. fragilis and B. thetaiotaomicron did respond to treatment. This defect was overcome when the antibiotic treated mice were inoculated with the two bacterial types. This study reveals the antitumour effects of this particular type of chemotherapeutic depend on distinct bacterial species found in the digestive tract. Cancer patients frequently treated with antibiotics or currently on antibiotics may not respond as favorably to CTLA-4 blockade chemo drugs.

The longest longitudinal study of the microbiome in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) patients during chemotherapy found that during the course of chemotherapy, there was a decrease in the oral and intestinal microbial diversity of patients. Those patients with lower diversity were more likely to develop a clinically defined infection with fever during chemotherapy. Of those patients who maintained or increased their microbial diversity, none became infected within 90 days of starting chemotherapy. Infections during chemotherapy may prevent a patient from receiving subsequent rounds of treatment.

These studies clearly indicate that the human biome may used as a treatment tool, either prophylactically or adjuvantly in cancer patients.

How can we optimize our intestinal biome? A diet low in processed sugars and fats, high in fibre and oral probiotic supplementation are simple ways to reduce risk of infection during chemotherapy and improve effectiveness of certain chemo drugs. A study published in the January 2014 edition of Nature found that a beneficial adaptation in microbiome can occur within 24hours of making these dietary changes. 


Magnesium Deficiency in Cancer Patients Receiving Platinum-based Chemotherapy

A colleague of mine, Dr. Valero ND, recently published an article on magnesium deficiency in cancer patients who have undergone platinum based chemotherapy: cisplatin, carboplatin, oxaliplatin, etc and I would like to review it here for you as I believe the information contained in the article to be incredibly useful for cancer.  



Magnesium deficiency is a relatively common nutritional deficiency, with up to 75% of the population consuming insufficient amounts daily. Cancer patients are at increased risk of deficiency either from gastrointestinal loss of magnesium from diarrhea, reduced absorption from low stomach acid, kidney damage, or  chemo-induced depletions. A review of the literature found that hypomagnesemia was found in 29%-100% of patients who have undergone platinum based chemotherapy. One study by Buckley et al reported the incidence of hypomagnesemia to be 41% after 1 course of treatment and 100% after 6 courses of treatment with cisplatin. These depleted levels of magnesium typically last for 4 to 5 months after the last round of chemotherapy, but in children can even persist for years after cancer treatment.

Serum magnesium does not appear to be a reliable indicator of magnesium deficiency, as bioavailable magnesium is found intracellularly (within the tissues), and not in serum (blood stream). There are a wide variety of clinical signs and symptoms that can be used for screening for hypomagnesmia:


muscle cramps




restless leg



loss of appetite








high blood pressure


cardiac abnormalities







metabolic alkylosis

psychiatric distrubance

cortical blindness


High energy requirements due to rapid proliferation, dedifferentiation, and cell immortality is one characteristic of cancer cells. Magnesium is necessary in these cellular processes therefore, tumor tissue often stores magnesium and can lead to low levels of magnesium in healthy tissue.

Magnesium deficiency can contribute to the development of the ideal cancer terain by inducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and by inhibiting DNA repair enzymes. Adequate levels of magnesium are important in DNA replication and repair. There are cellular checkpoints in DNA replication that help to prevent mutations from occurring. It has been hypothesized that a decrease in magnesium activates the gene TRPM7, which increases intracellular calcium and activating calcium-dependent cell proliferation, leading to tumour growth.  Animal studies by Wolf et al noted that lung metastasis nearly doubled in magnesium-deficient mice. Solanki et al found that magnesium supplementation protects against cisplatin-induced kidney injury in human ovarian tumor mouse models without compromising the cytotoxic effects by cisplatin. A small study consisting of only 36 patients with NSCLC (lung cancer) who were receiving cisplatin found that tumor response rates were 59.3% in the magnesium + chemo group compared to 38.5% in the control group. Evidence regarding magnesium supplementation with platinum based chemotherapeutics is sparse but these studies are encouraging.

Magnesium repletion, either through oral or IV means, seems to be important for preventing more severe symptoms of deficiency. Read more about the various types of magnesium supplements here (link to come). Not all magnesium supplements are created equally.

Why Should I Pay for Naturopathic Medicine?

A good friend of mine Dr. Justin Gallant ND wrote this amazing article recently. I frequently get asked: “Why should I pay for my healthcare when I can see my family doctor for free?” Justin has a great answer to this question, read on or click here:

Why Should I Pay for Naturopathic Medicine?

Dr. Justin Gallant, ND

A couple of people have told me that they have a hard time justifying paying to see a Naturopathic Doctor.

Hopefully this analogy will help shift the mindset:

Scenario 1: You pick up a car for $500 to last you through the winter. You go to start it up and all of the sudden you hear a terrible noise coming out of the muffler. It’s just a beater so it’s reasonable to just patch up the hole. You’re going to get rid of it after the winter anyway right?

Scenario 2: You’ve saved up to buy that new car you’ve always wanted and a couple months later you hear that dreaded noise. You want this car to last at least the next 10 years. That hole is a just a small sign of things to come so it’s better to get a professional service to fix your car (i.e. mechanic or dealership) and get the whole part replaced. After spending hundreds of dollars on your car, your bank account isn’t happy but you won’t have to worry about the problem coming back for a long time.

Scenario 3: You’re born with a priceless body that scientists would not be able recreate with billions of dollars. Your body is not disposable; you want it to last a century. If you don’t want to patch up a decent car that you hope will last a decade I would hope that you would not want to just throw a patch on your body that has the potential to last 100 years. By the time you’re retired would you rather be driving around that car that you decided to patch up every time something went wrong or would you prefer to have that ol’ classic car that looks brand spankin’ new and everything runs perfectly. You’ll be the envy of all your peers. We don’t have the option to sell or trade our bodies so it’s important to seek professional services in order to keep them in optimal shape.

Regarding your health,

While those temporary patches are important while you work on finding a solution, they shouldn’t be depended on for life. It might be necessary to apply a patch until you can find the right person to fix your problem or until you can get the money to pay them but the mindset of, “That’s good enough” shouldn’t suffice. Most of us get one chance with our body and our health is what will maintain it so we can enjoy it for as long as possible.

If you’re willing to spend over $20 000 on a vehicle and dish out hundreds of dollars at a time to keep it tuned up or to repair it, you should not be afraid to treat your health the same way. You’re more important than your car.

Our bodies are miraculous machines, they can enable us to do so many things or they can literally be the death of us. We have to cherish and invest in our irreplaceable bodies rather than the replaceable material things in life. We have to look at our bodies as if they are the vehicle that will get us through the next 100 years and treat it as such.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

•The less a Doctor is paid per patient, the more patients that Doctor will try to see

•Aside from the advanced education, research and experience your ND utilizes to help improve your health, most ND’s spend a lot of out-of-office time working on each patient’s individual case. It’s better to treat the price you pay as if it’s “per health” rather than “per hour” because you might sit down with your ND for an hour but they could spend a whole day working up your case.

•If money is an issue, just like most other professions, most ND’s will be able to work something reasonable out for you.

•If you have benefits, depending on the company you could get the first 4 visits for free or 80% off of all of your visits.

•Most people you talk to who have been to an ND have no problem paying for the service, these people realize how valuable their health is because the majority of them have realized how severely poor health can affect their life.

Homemade Cough Syrup

There seems to be quite a few different colds floating around this season, the majority of which are caused by a virus. There are no medications you can take, your body simple needs to fight off the virus. Your medical doctor may give you an antibiotic, but lets be honest, antibiotics only kill bacteria, not a virus.  The best thing you can do is rest, hydrate, and support your immune system!

Over the counter cough syrups you can purchase at the drug store aren’t as good as you may think. They are laden with chemicals, dyes and sugar which suppress the immune system and simply cover up the cough.

So what are you to do? Well .. make your own cough syrup! Naturopathic medicine is great at treating viral colds. There are herbs you can take to help fight viruses. These herbs have antimicrobial (specifically anti-viral activity). I am talking about garlic, ginger, and onions. Cooking with these herbs destroys their medicinal properties, so it is best to eat them raw. Here is a recipe to make your own:


2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 cup honey

1 tsp ginger, chopped


Combine all ingredients in a jar. Allow the mixture to steep overnight at room temperature. Strain and use the liquid as a cough syrup. Store, covered, in your refrigerator. Take 1 teaspoon (children) or 1 tablespoon (adults) as needed.

NOTE: Do not use with children under the age of 1.

The Who, What, Why, and When of Multivitamins

This is an article I wrote for my RMT Brie-Anne. It appears on her blog:, however I thought I would share it here as well.

Our body requires vitamins and minerals to function. You can either get them from whole foods in your diet or from nutritional supplements, but to maintain optimal health you need to get them in some form. A multivitamin is a supplement designed to provide the body with the essential vitamins and minerals it needs.

Before I continue, I need to take a slight tangent. The information discussed within this article is not to be taken as medical advice. While vitamins and minerals are natural, it is important to discuss taking a multivitamin with your medical or naturopathic doctor. Some vitamins and minerals can interact with medications you are on. Some companies even add herbs to their formulations, which may also interact with your medications. Certain vitamins can be dangerous if taken in too high of a dose. If you are unsure about your multivitamin speak with your doctor.

For some people, a multivitamin is not necessary. Obtaining all the vitamins you need is easily achieved by eating a diet that focuses on whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy sources of protein. This means following Canada’s food guide of eating 7-10 servings of fruits/vegetables, 6-8 servings of grains, 2-4 servings of protein. Ideally, this is how we should be getting our vitamins and minerals. However, in today’s world our lives are incredibly busy and we don’t always have time to cook a nutritious meal. If your diet is restricted or unbalanced, your digestion is poor or your body cannot absorb the food you eat, or you are elderly you may benefit from taking a multivitamin. Many medications also deplete levels of certain vitamins in our body. For example, the birth control pill depletes zinc, folic acid, B12, B6 and vitamin C. Drugs used to treat gastric ulcers deplete vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, zinc and calcium.

When looking for a good multi it is always important to read the label, just like you read the label of the food you buy from the grocery store. A multi should contain at least 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) suggested by Health Canada. Look for a multi that contains at minimum:

Vitamin A (Avoid in a multi if pregnant)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothene)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin)
Folic acid
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
Iron (Optional. Definitely suggested for vegetarians and females)

Some of the more expensive multivitamins contain herbs and other nutritional vitamins that aren’t needed for general health. Also if you are buying a multi for your child or you are pregnant or elderly you should choose a multi-vitamin formulated for you, as your nutrient requirements are different than what can be found in a general multi.

The most popular multi-vitamins on the market are the “one-a-days”: Kirkland, Jameson, Centrum, Life just to name a few. There is absolutely no way all of the vitamins and minerals you need could be packaged into one pill. When comparing the doses of individual vitamins and minerals to the RDA set by Health Canada, many of the multivitamins on the market do not contain sufficient levels of individual vitamins. When looking for a multi, look for one that should be taken 2-3 times per day. That being said, more does not always mean better. There is a dose range and this range varies based on your age, your gender and whether or not you are pregnant. It is important to stay within this range to avoid drug interactions and toxicity.

Another thing to keep in mind is the form of the multi-vitamin: liquid vs. tablet, vs. capsule, vs chewable vs. gummy. The one-a-day multi’s are usually in tablet form. For a tablet to hold its form binders are added, making it difficult for your body to break down a tablet into a form that is absorbable. When it comes to choosing a multivitamin what is NOT listed as a medicinal ingredient is just as important as what is. Make sure you read the list of NON-MEDICINAL ingredients. Many multivitamins contain fillers, preservatives, dyes, sweeteners, binders, flavours, deodorizers, chemicals and potential allergens (lactose, gluten, gelatin, dyes). Chewable, gummy or liquid multivitamins contain dyes, sugar and added flavours to make them taste better.

Here is a list of some of the non-medicinal ingredients in popular multivitamins: pregelatinized corn starch, modified food starch, crospovidone, aluminum, hypromellose, polyvinyl alcohol, silicon dioxide, sodium metavanadate, sodium molybdate, sodium selenate, sucrose, talc, titanium dioxide, maltodextrin, and sodium aluminosilicate. Scary!

The best form of multivitamin is a capsule that contains either a powder or a liquid. This form of pill usually does not contain binders, sugar, flavours or dyes. Read the label just to make sure! If you can’t swallow pills capsules can be opened and the contents mixed in a glass of water.

You do not have to take your multi at the same time every day, unless doing so will increase your adherence. Try to avoid taking a multi prior to bed, as the B-vitamins tend to provide an energy boost. If the dose is more than one capsule a day, spread them out during the day to increase absorption. A multi should be taken with food to avoid any nausea, however take them away from any fiber supplements like psyllium or Metamucil, which can bind up the ingredients and prevent you from absorbing them! If you take an additional iron supplement, do not take it with the multi as the calcium will prevent absorption of the iron.

The bottom line is, do your research, speak with your health care provider and choose a multivitamin that is formulated to suit your health.

If you have any other questions, feel free to email me, or call 705-755-0321 to book an appointment at the clinic.