How Our Microbiota Keep Us Healthy

Posted on January 25th, 2018

Annex Naturopathic

I’m going to be writing more on the new research that I read on the microbiome.

The existing and emerging research continuously reinforces the fascinatingly strong influence these bugs have on our current health and heath outcomes.

I will get in to specifics in future blogs, but today I wanted to give a brief synopsis on how the microbiome influences our health.

This dynamic, complex system (technically, organ) of bacteria, known as the Microbiome, that resides all over and inside our bodies has been found to have such an important role in our health and the way we adapt to our external environment.

The largest portion of the human microbiome is housed in the large intestine (the gut), containing over 10 trillion bacteria (to put that in to context, that is about 10 times more than the amount of human cells in your body).

One of the most important roles of the gut microbiota is the influence on our immune system.

The our immune cells read “codes” called Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs) on the bacteria that tell our immune systems what to do - these codes are specific to each bacteria - good “commensal” teaches our immune system to be balanced, and pathogenic bacteria contain codes that signal dysregulation.

Imbalances in the immune system play a role in virtually every disease.

Many seemingly separate conditions have been tied to the same imbalances of the immune system; inflammation and it’s role in hypertension, mental health and the development of cancer, and autoimmune processes and their affinity on multiple organ systems in the body.

What’s interesting about the microbiome is that these bugs are what teach our immune systems how to react and adapt to the given environment.

We have a mutualistic interaction with our microbiome, especially the gut microbiome. When the microbiome is well-balanced, nourished and overall healthy, we are the same.

The interactions of a healthy microbiome with the “host” (us) results in immune regulation/balance, efficient energy production and metabolism, great digestive health and a well-functioning liver.

Healthy microbes teach the immune system how to properly adapt to the environment, preventing unnecessary inflammation, and they also produce biochemicals and vitamins that help our bodies function efficiently.

A healthy microbiome will also protect you from invasive pathogens that want in on the real estate.

When the microbiome becomes “dysbiotic” (which means overgrowth with bad kinds of microbes, or even too much of a good type), it sends the immune system the wrong signals, promoting inflammation, and producing noxious metabolites that burden our bodies rather than helping it.

Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome in particular has been linked to many diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, allergies, autoimmune disease and asthma.

Dysbiosis can be caused by many different factors.

For many people it actually starts from birth.

It’s been established and well-accepted by the scientific community that babies born via C-section, or who are not breast-fed, have a different, dysbiotic, gut microbiome than babies who were born vaginally or are exclusively breast fed, leading to higher rates of asthma, allergies, Celiac disease and obesity.

This is why it’s important to intervene early with probiotics a child is not born vaginally or is not breast-fed for many reasons.

Dysbiosis can also be caused by taking multiple rounds of antibiotics, especially if not counteracted by using probiotic during and after using the antibiotics.

As antibiotics wipe out the infective bacteria, it wipes out some of our good bacteria with it, leaving space.

This type of dysbiosis makes us more susceptible to catching bad, invasive bacteria and parasites that now have opportunity to occupy this space.

Dysbiosis can also occur if you’ve caught a parasite, or some invasive bug while drinking water in a different part of the world, or if you eat something not quite cooked.

Most importantly, dysbiosis is highly promoted by an unhealthy diet.

Just like us, your microbiome needs to be fed the right substances to be healthy, strong and efficient.

If you feed it bad food, such as refined sugars and starches, transfats, a diet full of meat, and nutrient-void foods, your microbiome will not be strong, leading to poor health.

You’d be surprised how many of our everyday foods actually are considered “prebiotics” and aid in the health of our gut microbiome.

You won’t be surprised to hear that colour fruits and vegetables, healthy fibres from non-GMO grains, and colour spices are great sources of prebiotics.

Fermented foods such as saurkraut, kimchi, kefir, and properly made yogurts are major sources of prebiotics if you want to get serious about feeding the microbiome.

Naturopathic doctors have been aware of and treating the microbiome for decades - we are excellent sources for dietary recommendations on how to maintain the health of your microbiome as well as strategic treatments on how to rebalance your gut microbial flora.

Obvious signs that you might have problems with the balance of your microbiome include digestive problems, or recurrent infections of any sort - if you suffer from these afflictions, it would be helpful to consult with a doctor that can help you rebalance your flora and prevent chronic disease.

Stay tuned for more up-to-date information and interesting research on the microbiome and its affect on your daily health.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1



Azad MB et. al. Gut microbiota of healthy Canadian infants: profiles by mode of delivery and infant diet at 4 months. 2013 Mar 19;185(5):385-94

Min YW, Rhee PL.The Role of Microbiota on the Gut Immunology.Clin Ther. 2015 May 1;37(5):968-75.

Palm NW et. al. Immune-microbiota interactions in health and disease.Clin Immunol. 2015 Aug;159(2):122-127

Rutayisire E. et. al. The mode of delivery affects the diversity and colonization pattern of the gut microbiota during the first year of infants' life: a systematic review.BMC Gastroenterol. 2016 Jul 30;16(1):86

Schnabl B, Brenner DA. Interactions between the intestinal microbiome and liver diseases. 2014 May;146(6):1513-24

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Botanical of the Month – Maiden Hair tree (Gingko biloba)

Posted on January 17th, 2018

Annex Naturopathic

As a naturopath, when I think of Gingko biloba, I think of words such as hope, vitality, resiliency, and patience.

This majestic tree has shown us that it embodies these exact words in the most horrific circumstances - 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb destroyed everything within its epicentre, except six Gingko biloba trees, which even sprouted new greenery days after the terrible event.

This example of the resilience and vitality of this beautiful herb is translated in to its medicinal use and how it can help us become representations of these words.

Gingko biloba produces fruit that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

When they fall and start to decay, they produce a very unpleasant odour, one could compare to a pair of stinky feet.

So many who front this tree on their lawns must bare with this one downfall of having this tree in their presence.

This downfall, however, is completely superseded by the amazing beauty, elegance and medicine benefit of being around such a remarkable creation of nature.

Parts Used

Leaf, (seeds in Chinese medicine, not typically used in Western Medicine)


Astringent, Bitter, Warming, Moving



Ginkgo is not considered an edible plant


The actions of Gingko biloba on the human body can be represented as low and slow, and requires patience.

The medicinal properties of this tree are the strongest when used over a course of time.

Memory and circulation

The most commonly known medicinal property for Gingko leaves is its effect on memory, making this herb a “nootropic”.

Gingko has been heavily marketed to the public to be used to “improve and strengthen memory”, as people bought in to this claim, it’s not surprising the feedback that many found that they didn’t feel this at all worked.

Gingko indeed does improve memory but the application of this herb in this context is flawed.

This herbs works slow - expectations that this herb will work within a few weeks is not accurate - so if you’re a student looking to strengthen your memory in a week for an exam, gingko is NOT the herb for you.

Ginkgo has it’s best effect when used over a long period of time to establish its effects in the body and it works on memory in two ways: 1) Vasodilation and 2) Reducing blood viscosity.

This means that the biochemicals in Gingko will help open up the blood vessels as well has thinning the blood, allowing blood to flow more freely within the vessel, increasing microperfusion to the brain - more blood flow to and within the brain means more oxygen and protection to the brain.

Gingko also protects the brain through antioxidant biochemicals, protecting the brain from tissues damage caused by lack of oxygen, and increasing mitochondrial function therefore increasing energy production in the brain.

There is a plethora of research supporting the effect of Gingko in the improvement of memory and cognitive function in those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, especially if these conditions are a result of vascular insufficiency.

However there are many trials that do not support this, resulting in review studies performed between 2003-2014 concluding the research is too inconsistent to support Gingko in this context.

The varying results come from inconsistencies in dosage, administration and inclusion criteria set out by each trial.

One of the most recent meta-analysis on Gingko biloba research performed by Tan et. al (2015) took in to account these flaws and came to the conclusion that 240mg of standardized Ginkgo daily improved cognitive function and prevented decline in patients with dementia after 24 weeks, especially for those who also exhibited neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Another recent review study by Yuan et. al (2017) also concluded similar results that Gingko biloba improved cognitive function in those with Alzheimer’s at a dose over 200mg/day if taken for at least 5 weeks.

These review show promise and exemplify the need for higher quality, larger-scale studies in order to demonstrate the efficacy of Gingko biloba in the treatment of dementia.

Prevention of cognitive decline in healthy individuals is still not well represented in the research, but traditional use and anecdotal evidence supports the use of this herb for this purpose.

The effect of Gingko on blood flow doesn’t just stop at memory.

These properties translate in to effects on the peripheral body as well.

There are promising outcomes represented in the research of using Gingko in the treatment of cerebral insufficiency in stroke victims, peripheral artery disease, prevention of coronary artery disease by reducing plaque formation, diabetic neuropathy, Raynauds and thrombosis (blood clots).


There are claims that Gingko can be useful in the treatment of tinnitus, though studies are limited and results are inconsisent.

The most recent Cochrane Review on Gingko and Tinnitus found Ginkgo only to be beneficial when tinnitus is associated with dementia, not when tinnitus is the sole symptom.

This reflects back to the circulatory actions of gingko - when tinnitus is a result of poor cerebrovascular circulation, appears to be effective.

If it’s due to other reasons, the effects of Gingko appear to be less impactful on tinnitus symptoms.


Traditionally Gingko biloba taken through infusion (tea) - this application is best for people who want to use Gingko for daily prevention of cognitive decline.

Tinctures of Gingko leaf also provides a gentle and supportive effect.

I typically use these forms for healthy, older individuals who want to keep their memory sharp and encourage blood flow to the brain.

Much of the research on Gingko biloba use and support standardized extracts of Gingko at dosages of 120-240mg/day.

Extremely potent extracts of Gingko (50:1) are considered pharmaceutical grade substances and should not be dosed unless monitored by a health care professional.


Gingko biloba is considered a safe herb to use if used at the standard recommended dose (see above)


The blood-thinning effects of Ginkgo has made many clinicians weary about using this herb with blood thinning pharmaceuticals.

However, it has been found that the blood-thinning effects of Gingko are not related to reducing platelet count, but inhibiting platelet aggregating factor (PAF), so the that use with blood thinners may not be as detrimental as previously thought, with many studies demonstrating using Ginkgo (up to 240mg) in conjunction with blood thinning medication does not increase bleeding risk or influence coagulation time.

Nonetheless, do no use Gingko if you are on blood thinners and consult with a physician that is familiar with herb-drug interactions before use of this herb - one of the only cases of increased bleeding is when using the extremely potent extract (50:1) in combination with blood thinners

Do not use with drug exhibiting monoamine-oxidase activity (such as certain antidepressants), or anti-epileptic drugs.

Always consult a physician familiar with herb-drug interaction if you’re on medication and are considering using this herb.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1



    Hoffman D. Medical Herbalism. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

    Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2000.

    Carlson JJ et. al. Safety and efficacy of a ginkgo biloba-containing dietary supplement on cognitive function, quality of life, and platelet function in healthy, cognitively intact older adults.J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Mar;107(3):422-32.

    Hilton MP, Zimmermann EF, Hunt WT.Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Mar 28;(3)

    Tan MS et. al. Efficacy and adverse effects of ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.J Alzheimers Dis. 2015;43(2):589-603

    Yuan Q al Effects of Ginkgo biloba on dementia: An overview of systematic reviews.J Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Jan 4;195:1-9

To see more information about health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: toronto naturopathic

Baked Acorn Squash Recipe

Posted on January 9th, 2018

Annex Naturopathic

Winter squashes and pumpkins are robust “fruits” that are harvested in the fall so we can use them throughout the winter.

Keeping them in a dark cool place will preserve these foods to give us nutrient-packed meals that are warming, healthy and delicious.

One of my favourite things to eat during the winter are winter squashes - particularly acorn squash, due to it’s abundance in vegetable markets in Ontario and for it’s sweet, buttery taste.

I use these in casseroles, bakes, mash them in place of white potato or simply bake them in the oven.

Acorn squash is a great source of low glycemic-load carbohydrates - this means that despite it being a source of carbohydrates, it won’t spike your blood sugar (therefore insulin) to the extent other carbohydrates such as wheat-based carbohydrates (and other grains) will increase your blood sugars after eating.

They are also easier to digest than grains, which makes it suitable carbohydrate source for people who experience a lot of bloating and bowel movement problems.

Acorn squash is rich in antioxidant vitamins C and A (beta-carotene, hence the orange colour!), potassium (great for lowering high blood pressure) and a great source of fibre (valuble for those with diabetes and cardiovascular disease).


I medium acorn squash

1 tbsp of grass-fed/organic butter (or olive oil)

1-2 cloves of garlic - minced

pinch of sea salt

pinch of dried rosemary

pinch of dried thyme

fresh cracked black pepper


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

    Use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or lightly oil the cookie sheet to prevent sticking) and place the acorn squash upside down (flesh side down). Once the oven is preheated, place the acorn squash in the oven and let it bake for about 30 minutes (it will be slightly soft)

    In the meantime if using butter - lightly liquify the butter in a small pan over low heat with the minced garlic (don’t overheat!), soon before (about 10 minutes before) you pull the squash out of the oven (no need to heat if you’re using olive oil).

    If you’re using olive oil, combine the garlic with the olive oil when first placing the squash in to the oven to allow the garlic to infuse in to the oil for 30 mins

    Pull the acorn squash out of the oven. Carefully turn the squash flesh side up, and generously brush the butter/olive oil and garlic mixture over the entire flesh surface of the squash. Make sure the garlic also makes it on to the flesh

    Sprinkle salt, thyme and rosemary all over the flesh side of the acorn squash and place the squash back in to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes

    After 30 minutes, pull the squash from the oven, season with freshly cracked black pepper, wait 5-10 minutes to allow the squash to cool and serve!

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


To find additional info about health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: natural health doctors

Why You Have Insufficient Vitamin D If You Live In Canada

Posted on January 3rd, 2018

Annex Naturopathic

Most people are aware that they should supplement with vitamin D.

Few people are actually taking the appropriate dose to correct for vitamin deficiency or attain optimal levels.

Here are the facts about vitamin D.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is very different from other nutrients because unlike other vitamins, it is NOT naturally occurring in most of the foods we eat.

Very small amounts can be found in fish, beef liver, egg yolks and fortified foods.

Alternatively, humans (and other mammals) require the sun’s UVB radiation to synthesize Vitamin D in the the skin.

Here’s how UVB radiation from the sun to makes contact with our skin and produce vitamin D:

We have ample amounts of the vitamin D precursor “7-dehydro-cholesterol” circulating in our blood stream - and it is specifically concentrated within our skin.

When UVB radiation hits our skin, it converts the “7-dehydro-cholesterol” to “Cholecalciferol” aka Vitamin D3.

Factors that influence Vitamin D conversion via the sun.

Skin colour: it takes about 20 minutes to convert 10 000 of vitamin D in someone with light skin, and up to 120 minutes in someone with dark skin.

How high the sun is in the sky: the shadow your body casts must be shorter in length than your height in order for synthesis to occur.

Latitude and season: building off the point above, at certain latitudes during certain seasons, the sun is never high enough in the sky to be able to convert vitamin D in your skin. For example, in Toronto, Canada, at a latitude of 43 degree North, there is no vitamin D conversion from November through February.

When we take vitamin D supplements, we are orally ingesting “cholecalciferol” or “Vitamin D3” and thus we no longer require the sun’s help for conversion.

However, the “cholecalciferol” is not the end point for vitamin D as there are a few more steps to get to the active form vitamin D.

Conversion of Cholecalciferol to 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D

The Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) travels to the liver and is converted to “Calcidiol” (aka 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D.

25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D is the component in our blood that is used as a marker for Vitamin D status.

Conversion of 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D to Calcitriol

The calcidiol, or 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D, is like a blank piece of paper and must be converted by the kidneys and other tissues to the active form “calcitriol”.

It is is this form of vitamin D that exerts different effects on the body - acting more like a hormone than a vitamin in the way that it interacts with different receptors.

Actions of Calcitriol- the biologically active form of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an essential role in calcium utilization and metabolism of calcium and therefore is important in the maintenance of healthy bones.

As more research emerges, there are many “non-classical” actions vitamin D exerts on the body including:

Modulation of immune function.

Regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation.

Control of other hormonal systems

Therefore, it is not surprising that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with:

Immunological diseases (infections, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes).

Cancer and increased mortality.

Cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Importance of Testing for Vitamin D Status

Health Canada recommends a daily intake of 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for children and adults, and 800 IU for adults over 70.

Supplementation at these amounts will not correct for deficiency, let alone maintain adequate status during the winter months.

Implementation of high dose vitamin D may be required to achieve optimal levels to improve overall health.

It is important to assess Vitamin D status by running blood work that includes 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D prior to implementing high dose supplementation.

This test is not covered by OHIP, nor is it routinely run by MDs.

Naturopathic doctors routinely run serum Vitamin D in order to safely prescribe high doses (often up to 10 000 IU daily) in those individuals who are deficient.

What should you do?

Most people can safely supplement with up to 4000 IU daily.

However, to achieve optimal levels and ensure safety it is important have a thorough assessment done, including testing for vitamin D.

Seeking guidance from a local naturopath is an effective option.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


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5 Simple Resolutions That Benefit Everyone

Posted on December 27th, 2017

Annex Naturopathic

The new year is a great time to reset and create intentions for the following months.

Health is the foundation of life.

Our health is not limited to our physical parameters.

It also includes our emotional and spiritual health.

Here are some resolutions alongside specific actions that you can implement this year.

And, if you need some help getting back on track in 2018, the NDs at Annex Naturopathic Clinic are here to support you.

1. Create healthy boundaries with technology and social media.

Here’s how:

Get an alarm clock so that your phone isn’t the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing you interact with at night. Try to get 30 minutes of screen-free time before bed.

Leave your phone in you pocket/ purse (preferably on airplane mode) when you’re with friend and family.

Delete apps that you may have an addiction to. Take breaks from social media. Ask yourself, “is this adding value to my life?” If not, perhaps you can distance yourself from it.

2. Increase your vegetable (especially GREEN vegetable) intake.

Here’s how:

Ensure you have vegetables in your fridge. Great options include:

Pre-washed organic salads mixes. It’s easy to just add a healthy dressing like olive oil and balsamic vinegar, throw in a container and eat!

Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts are nutrient dense and keep well in the fridge. Simply chop up, steam or roast and eat with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Choose the side salad option when eating out.

Throw a handful of spinach or mixed greens into your smoothie.

3. Begin the day with a big glass of water.

Here’s how:

Upon rising, head straight to the kitchen and fill yourself a pint-sized glass of water.

Finishing drinking your water before having any caffeinated beverages (coffee and tea can be dehydrating- especially first thing in the morning).

4. Focus on what’s going “right” in your life.

Here how:

Write done 3 good things that happened to you each day.

Savour the moment- for at least 7 seconds. Moments to savour can be anything- like time spent in nature, a tasty meal or the comfort of a hot bath. Let yourself enjoy.

Celebrate the small wins. Taking note of the small steps forward and focusing on the little changesgives you a sense of accomplishment.

5. Spend more time in nature.

Here’s how:

Make use of city parks. Whether it be on your lunch break or on your walk home - spending some time outside, amongst the trees can help alleviate stress.

Take road trips outside the city and explore.

Camping (or glamping if you aren’t into roughing it) allows you to have some sustained time in the great outdoors and will often calm a part of your soul that needs it most.

Hopefully some of these resolutions - or intentions- resonate with you.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


To see more ways on health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: top naturopath toronto

Are You Always Tired? Root Causes of Fatigue

Posted on December 21st, 2017

Annex Naturopathic

Many people wish they had more energy.

Chronic fatigue and generalized low energy are common concerns that naturopathic doctors excel in treating.

People feel “tired” in different ways. Some people feel sluggish and lethargic in their body, while others may feel mentally fatigued.

Identifying and addressing the root causes of fatigue and implementing targeted treatment enables people to have a significantly better quality of life.

Here are some reasons you may be tired:

1. Nutritional Deficiencies

Low Iron

Iron is the component of red blood cells that brings oxygen to all parts of your body.

Low iron can leave you tired, pale and irritable.

Many women have low iron because they menstruate (bleed) monthly.

Low B12

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient primarily found in animal products.

B12 plays a role in energy production, nerve health and red blood cell synthesis.

Vegan diets (purely plant based) are very low in B12 and require supplementation.

Additionally, people who have digestive concerns or take certain medications may not be able to properly absorb B12 and can become deficient.

Low Vitamin D

Most Canadians have insufficient amounts of circulating vitamin D.

Vitamin D is necessary for many different processes in the body, one of which is its role in bone and muscle health.

People who are vitamin D deficient may have weakening of the muscles which can make someone feel tired and heavy in their body.

Inadequate Macro-Nutrients

Some people may not be getting enough protein, fat or carbohydrates (also known as macro-nutrients) to meet their energy requirements throughout the day.

When there is insufficient calorie intake, the body will not be able to burn fuel and produce energy effectively.

2. Thyroid Problems

The thyroid regulates metabolism and energy production. When our thyroid is “under-active” or “hypo-functioning” fatigue is the hallmark symptom.

Certain factors can adversely affect the thyroid:


When someone is under chronic stress, cortisol increases and it signals to the thyroid to decrease thyroid hormone production.

Further more, when our body is persistently under stress, our body begins to convert “T4” (the abundant, yet inactive thyroid hormone) into “Reverse T3” instead of the active “T3” hormone.


When the immune system becomes dysregulated due to inflammation present in the body- often because of irritation in the gut, obesity, poor diet, stress and infections- autoimmunity against the thyroid can occur.

This is referred to as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis which can cause the thyroid to stop producing adequate amounts of hormone.

Nutritional deficiencies

The thyroid depends on certain nutrients to produce hormone.

Tyrosine, an amino acid found in protein sources, serves as the backbone of T3 and T4.

Iodine is the other essential component. Adequate amounts of zinc and selenium are also needed for the transport and production thyroid hormones.

3. Adrenal Fatigue

Amongst other functions, our adrenal glands release cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream in response to stress and energy requirements.

Cortisol has many functions.

When the adrenal glands are overworked, inadequate and inconsistent production of cortisol can lead to adrenal fatigue, and thus, low energy.

These are the major contributing factors:


Chronic or repetitive stress will result in prolonged elevation of cortisol that ultimately exhausts the adrenal glands.

This leads to overall low cortisol production which can result in chronic fatigue and extreme difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.

Inconsistent Sleep

Our bodies rely on a diurnal (daily) rhythm including sleep pattern that remains relatively consistent.

This ensures that our cortisol rises in the morning, reaching its peak midday, and drops slowly, reaching its lowest point at night.

People who work night shifts, or go to bed and wake up at inconsistent times, dysregulate their diurnal pattern and cortisol pattern.

If you’re feeling tired- there is likely a reason.

The Naturopathic Doctors at Annex Naturopathic are experienced at treating the root causes of low energy.

Our NDs complete a compressive assessment and routine and specialized testing to identify thyroid and dysfunction, as well as nutrient deficiencies.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


To find additional tips on health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: toronto naturopath

5 Tips to Keep Your Health Stable During the Holiday Season

Posted on December 14th, 2017

Annex Naturopathic

Happy Holidays from us at Annex Naturopathic Clinic!

It’s a shared feeling amongst most people that this is a crazy, hectic time of year.

This typically leads to most of us neglecting our good healthy habits and trading it up for stress-coping indulgences from the vast number of treats the holiday season has to offer.

While as naturopathic doctors, we understand and encourage giving in to the season, letting loose and participating in some of these indulgences.

It’s also important to be mindful of HOW MUCH you’re indulging and whether the extent of the indulgences is negatively affecting the both your physical and mental health.

Here are 5 tips that allows you to let loose and indulge, while maintaining healthy weight and stable mental health during this busy time of year.

Keep Hydrated:

Not only is keeping hydrated important for maintaining healthy skin during these DRY winter months, it will also keep your stomach full, preventing your from NEEDING those 3-5 extra cookies available in the lunch room, or from getting “too tipsy” and then “too hungover” from the holiday parties.

Staying hydrated doesn’t mean drinking only water - you can keep hydrated by sipping on herbal teas as well, as long as they aren’t caffeinated.

Drink at least 2L (8 cups) of water or tea daily (6 cups of water, 2 cups of tea) to keep yourself hydrated.

You can drink your water warm, squeeze some lemon in to it, or use teas like chamomile, ginger, lemon balm and peppermint to keep yourself warm and strengthen your digestion and help you cope with stress (two things that are typically imbalanced during this time of year).

Avoid Carbohydrates:

When attending a holiday lunch or dinner, try sticking to meals that are low in carbohydrates (especially wheat-based carbs) and higher in protein, fats.

Also make sure to get a healthy dose of vegetables (greens in particular) with your meals, despite if the other foods are not as healthy.

The vegetables will ensure you’re getting SOME nutrients with these meals, bind excess fat, and provide fibre.

Avoiding the carbs will make your full quicker which will help keep the weight down, prevent blood sugar spikes and dips, and maintain your energy.

Cutting out the carbs during your meals also gives you some more wiggle room for sugary treats that are offered during this season.

Limit your Sugary Snacks:

It’s not realistic to avoid the vast amount of sugar that is served up this season - especially if you happen to have a sweet tooth.

By reducing your carb intake at your meals, it allows you to have a bit more room in your body for the pretty cookies and chocolate.

But don’t go overboard. Have ONE cookie, ONE piece of chocolate and wait - this allows you to taste the sweet, enjoy, and it won’t send you in to a frenzy of sugar highs and lows.

Blood sugar stabilization is extremely important in maintaining good energy during the day, maintaining weight and coping with the stress around us.

Sudden blood sugar spikes from indulging in too much sugar leads to sudden blood sugar drops, which make us tired, irritable, messes with our hormones that maintain our circadian rhythms, and makes us CRAVE more sugar in the long run!

Stick to low sugar drinks:

Starting off your night with a cold beer, nice glass of wine (or 2) with dinner, or a fancy cocktail its totally fine but if you decide to have a few drinks that night, it’s always wise to switch to drinks with a lower sugar content.

Not only will this prevent a nasty hangover, but it will also keep the waistline from expanding.

Mixing clear alcohols (like vodka, gin, tequila ) with club soda (not tonic!) with some lemon/lime, and ordering it in a “tall glass” with a “single shot” (therefore a higher club soda to alcohol ratio) will help you pace your alcohol so you don’t get too tipsy too quick, and keep you hydrated at the same time.

And most importantly NO POP - it’s not worth it.

Keep your indulgences to happy times, not stressful times:

This is an important aspect of mindful eating - you associate eating and drinking/indulging during times of socialization, relaxation and fun, instead of using sugar and alcohol for times when you’re stressed, need break or bored (eating sugar during in between work, or binging afterwork for no occasion).

This helps you disassociate from using these indulgences as a way to cope with stress and to “relax”, breaking the hard cycle that leads to ill-health in the long run.

Also, when you limit your indulgences to happy times, you’re less-likely to over-indulge, as you’re feeling happy, content and satisfied for many reasons, not just from food and drink.

These tips will allow you to enjoy your holiday indulgences guilt-free and let you start 2018 on a healthy path!

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


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Top 5 Ways to Improve Digestion

Posted on December 6th, 2017

Annex Naturopathic

Digestive concerns are very common issue that we see here at Annex Naturopathic Clinic.

The following are some important tips to consider if you currently are experiencing or do experience digestive problems.

1. Chew your food.

A wise man once said, “your stomach doesn’t have teeth” and that’s one of the reasons we must thoroughly chew our food.

An integral part of the digestive process starts in our mouths.

Chewing, alongside the digestive enzymes in our saliva, starts the process of breaking down food so that the stomach acid and other enzymes released further down the gastrointestinal tract are better able to function.

Not chewing your food leads to symptoms of indigestion and decreases nutrient absorption.

2. Stop multi-tasking.

Our brain and our gut are connected.

When our brain is focused on tasks other than eating (replying to emails, driving, Instagram, ect.) our body is not is an ideal position to digest food.

Not to mention we often we faster and larger quantities when we are multi-tasking.

3. Slow down and relax.

To build of the last point, when you stop multi-tasking and slow down before you eat you allow the body to settle into its “parasympathetic” nervous system, also know as our “rest and digest” nervous system.

When we are on-the-go, working or multi-tasking our “sympathetic” nervous system is predominant.

When we are in this state, we are primed to be on alert, with blood flow moving towards our brain and periphery- away from on digestive tract.

Taking a few deep breaths and relaxing while you eat (eating with others helps) you will digest your meal better.

4. Avoid excess liquids around meals.

A common misconception regarding diet is that we should drink a lot of water with our meals.

This is problematic as excess liquid intake around meals will actually dilute our gastric juices- like stomach acid and other digestive enzymes- making it harder to break down food.

It is best to avoid drinking large quantities of water or other liquids 30 minutes before and after meals.

Sipping beverages with your meal will not cause an issues.

5. Eat when you are hungry.

Often people are eating for other reasons than hunger.

People eat because it is lunchtime- even though they may have ate a late breakfast.

People eat because they are tired, stressed, bored or sad.

Making sure you are actually hungry when you eat will improve digestion as your body is primed to receive food.

You’ll notice when you are hungry and you see your food and can sense you saliva production begin to increase.

At this point, you should implement the above 4 points and have significantly improved digestion.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


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Botanical of the Month – Echinacea spp

Posted on November 29th, 2017

Annex Naturopathic

On the theme of cold and flu season, as a Toronto ND I thought it would be appropriate to talk about one of the most commonly used botanical remedies for viral and bacterial infections - Echinacea spp.

Echinacea is also one of the most researched herbs in the world, with much of the research centred around its effects on boosting immune health and killing off pathogens, which is why it’s such a valuable herb during this season.

There are different types of Echinacea, with three species being the most commonly sold as medicine: Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea palladium.

Most of the research that supports the medicinal value of Echinacea is mainly centred around Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea, and should be the type of Echinacea you should choose which looking for a good brand.

For the rest of the article, I will refer to Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea when outlining the medicinal value of Echinacea spp.

Echinacea, also known by its descriptive name, Purple Cone Flower, is part of the Asteraceae (Composite) family, and Native to North America, mainly growing in the Western prairie states, such as Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas.1

The plant grows to about 2-3 feet high, blooms from June to August and reveals purple and rose petals.

Echinacea is a relatively new plant to botanical medicine, as it is rarely mentioned in texts older than 1850.

From there, the antibiotic/antiviral properties of Echinacea were described in medicinal writings as a “blood-purifying”, being used for conditions such as ulcerated sore throats, internal abscesses, malarial fevers, cholera, and insect/reptile bites.1

These findings have paved the way for abundance of research supporting the effects of Echinacea in the treatment of infections.

Native American medicine mainly used this plant for topical infections, such as wounds, burns and insect bites.2

Parts Used

Root (some preparations use aerial parts as well)

How does Echinacea protect your body from viral and bacterial infections

The medicinal properties of Echinacea reveal that it has the best effect when used to PREVENT infection, and at the FIRST SIGNS of infection.

Echinacea directly repairs damaged tissue caused by the infection.

When a pathogen first infects a mucous membrane, such as the back of the throat, it will activate an enzyme called hyaluronidase, which breaks down our protective tissue and mucus, allowing the virus to enter the tissue and cause inflammation (and therefore pain).

Echinacea can prevent this process through inhibiting the hyaluronidase activity and by reinforcing the connective tissue, and preventing the pathogen to infiltrate the tissue infect.2,3

Echinacea boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation.3,4,5

One of the immune-stimulating mechanisms involve activating our macrophages, which are important for killing off pathogens and removing them and other cellular debris from the area.3,4,6

This process aids in reducing inflammation, preventing the spread of infection, and improving healing time.

Echinacea appears to enhance the innate immune system (our first line of defence) as well as reducing biochemicals produced by our bodies that stimulate inflammation, such as TNF-α, COX-1 and COX-2.6

Biochemicals in Echinacea responsible for these effects include alkamides and caffeic acid, and long sugars called polysacchrides.5,6

Does Echinacea Work?

In 2014, a Cochrane Review was published claiming that Echinacea did not appear to be effective in treating the common cold, and may have potential benefit in preventing the cold.7

While this may not be an encouraging statement on the value of Echinacea, the results from this study are more-so based on the lack available studies, rather than the inefficiency of the herb itself.

There is a plethora of pharmacological evidence that shows Echinacea boosting immune activity and exhibit anti-pathogenic qualities, but we don’t seem to have enough well-designed clinical studies to prove its benefit - YET.

Bottom line is that we need more studies that prove Echinacea works.

Many physicians see Echinacea work in clinical practice.

Anecdotal evidence finds the dosing and timing of Echinacea is an important factor on whether it will work.

Based in its pharmacological profile, it makes sense to dose Echinacea at first signs of a cold, preventing the virus to spread.

Once a virus infects your body systemically, it’s unlikely that anything at this point will prevent you from feeling sick.

At this point, the anti-inflammatory and immuno-stimulating effects of Echinacea can help by reducing the severity of the infection and preventing the worsening of the condition, such as being infected by a secondary pathogen (like other viruses and bacteria) causing conditions such as pneumonia.

Don’t expect anything to “get rid” of the cold once you’re sick - your body has to go through the process of ridding the body of the infection, which is the only way to recover, and Echinacea can help your body do exactly this.


Echinacea has been confirmed to be a safe herbal medicine in with minimal side effects and adverse event profile, which no toxicological concerns when ingested for up to 6 months.8,9,10

Echinacea used in children for cough and cold is generally well-tolerated, but can increase the risk of rash in children with atopic disease such as allergies and eczema and therefore should be used with caution.10 Children should only be given Echinacea on the advice from a qualified doctor who has strong training in herbal medicine.

Echinacea has also been found to be safe to use in pregnancy, with no increase in malformations and adverse effects in pregnancy, such as preterm birth, low birth weight,.10,11,12 However it’s best recommended to limit use to only when one is actively sick, or about to get sick while pregnant, and to be recommended by a qualified doctor trained in herbal medicine.10,12

Those who have a Asteraceae family allergy should stay away from Echinacea, and long-term use of Echinacea is not recommended for those with autoimmune disease.

Echinacea is a useful plant for the prevention and treatment for the common cold.

When Echinacea works, not only does it prevent duration and severity of cold, it reduces the need to use other medications riddled with adverse effects and a worse toxicity profile such as acetominophen, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Not to mention that these pharmaceuticals do not enhance immune anti-viral activity like Echincea has been proven to do.

With the help of a qualified doctor experienced in herbal medicine, Echinacea can be a valuable tool in your cold-prevention and treatment kit.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1



    King, J. King's American Dispensatory. Ohio Valley Company, 1898

    Tragni al. Evidence from two classic irritation tests for an anti-inflammatory action of a natural extract, Echinacina B.Food Chem Toxicol. 1985 Feb;23(2):317-9.

    Medical Herbalism: hoffman

    Tubaro et. al. Anti-inflammatory activity of a polysaccharidic fraction of Echinacea angustifolia.J Pharm Pharmacol. 1987 Jul;39(7):567-9.

    Aarland RC al Studies on phytochemical, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycaemic and antiproliferative activities of Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia extracts.Pharm Biol. 2017 Dec;55(1):649-656.

    Manayi A et. al. Echinacea purpurea: Pharmacology, phytochemistry and analysis methods.Pharmacogn Rev. 2015 Jan-Jun;9(17):63-72.

    Karsch-Völk M et. al. Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Feb 20;(2)

    World Health Organization. WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants, Volume 1, World Health Organization, 1999

    Jawad, M et. al. Safety and Efficacy Profile of Echinacea purpurea to Prevent Common Cold Episodes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012: 841315

    Ardjomand-Woelkart K, Bauer R. Review and Assessment of Medicinal Safety Data of Orally Used Echinacea Preparations.Planta Med. 2016 Jan;82(1-2):17-31.

    Heitmann K al. Pregnancy outcomes after prenatal exposure to echinacea: the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2016 May;72(5):623-30.

    Perri D. et. al. Safety and efficacy of echinacea (Echinacea angustafolia, e. purpurea and e. pallida) during pregnancy and lactation.Can J Clin Pharmacol. 2006 Fall;13(3):e262-7.

    Gallo M, Sarkar M, Au W, Pietrzak K, Comas B, Smith M, Jaeger TV, Einarson A, Koren G (2000) Pregnancy outcome following gestational exposure to echinacea: a prospective controlled study. Arch Intern Med 160(20):3141–3143

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5 Immune Boosting Tips For Preventing Colds

Posted on November 21st, 2017

Annex Naturopathic

The common cold is a viral infection that is highly contagious.

That is precisely why it can seems like everyone is sick at the same time.

A combination of factors can increase the chance of getting sick: lack of sleep, exposure to other people who are sick, poor diet, stress, and nutritional deficiencies.

Being a naturoapthic doctor in Toronto, I see my share of patients with colds throughout the winter months.

Helping them take better control of their health is part of what I do.

Preventing colds in the first place is a great start for keeping yourself and those around you at your healthiest.

Here are 5 tips I share with my patients that should help prevent you from catching that cold that's going around this season:

1. Sleep.

Hopefully I can shed some new light (or perhaps darkness) on the subject.

Restful sleep is essential for optimizing our immune response.

Aspects of our modern lifestyle can drastically disrupt our sleep.

Do you lie in bed scrolling through Instagram and Facebook?

Maybe Netflix is streaming?

The light from our devices and the electromagnetic fields they emit (not to mention the cognitive stimulus) can adversely affect our bodies and sleep patterns.

Implementing a “no phones or laptops in the bedroom rule" will improve your sleep quality.

You may be thinking- “I can’t do that, my phone is my alarm clock, so it has to stay in my bedroom".

No problem- set it to airplane mode and wifi off.

Your alarm will sound, but your phone won’t be lighting up, vibrating, buzzing or searching for wifi or network signals beside your head all night.

2. Vitamin C, and other Supplements and Herbs.

The options can see overwhelming , and the average person may not know which vitamins and herbs to take, in which form or how much.

Not to mention, all supplements aren't created equally.

Seeing a naturopathic doctor for a safe and effective protocol is advisable.

However, Vitamin C is a great start- you can safely supplement with about 2000 mg daily (be sure to take it in divided doses as it can cause diarrhea if taken all at once).

You may be wondering if drinking orange juice would be a good idea when you have a cold.

Unfortunately it’s not going to help, as the juice is high in sugar content and it would take 25 oranges to obtain 2000 mg of vitamin C.

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function.

Canadian guidelines recommend that we supplement with 1000 IU daily year round- however, many people are deficient and their MD/ND may recommend a much higher daily dosage.

I often order a vitamin D blood test when there is concern of deficiency and then dose appropriately for my patients to achieve optimal serum levels.

Zinc is another vitamin that supports our immune system- dosages will vary per individual, and also note that taking zinc supplements on an empty stomach may cause nausea.

Further supplementation and the inclusion of herbal protocols is best done under the supervision of an ND.

3. Sugar-free.

Avoid eating excess sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Sugar suppresses the immune system.

A study showed that healthy volunteers who ingested 100 g of sugar (equivalent to about 2 cans of Coca Cola) caused a significant decrease in the capacity of immune cells to engulf bacteria.

4. Broth.

Good old fashioned chicken soup.

Broths keeps us warm and hydrated.

Chicken soup has been shown to have in-vitro anti-inflammatory effects aiding with the thinning of chest congestion, mucous and improving coughs.

Here is link to the study if you’d like to read more.

I recommend making your own broth from scratch, and then increasing its immune boosting properties with a tried and true combination of Chinese herbs to brew up a Change of Season Soup.

5. Reduce your exposure to germs.

Wash your hands, and wash them often.

Give sick people their space- be supportive of the utilization of sick days and working from home.

If you do get sick, reduce exposing your sickness to others- especially those who may not be able to mount adequate immune responses (the elderly, individuals with chronic illness, infants).

If you feel like you are chronically getting sick and it takes you a long time to get better, it may be a good idea to have a thorough assessment done with a naturopathic doctor.

If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our NDs feel free to book a visit or contact us.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D

Annex Naturopathic Clinic

572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1


To read more tips about health, wellness, and alternative medicine, please visit us here: nd toronto

Marnie Luck

Annex Naturopathic Clinic ( is a clinic in downtown Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions. Drs. Marnie Luck and Tanya Lee, ND, offer treatments such as diet, exercise, and lifestyle counselling, nutritional supplementation, vitamin injection therapy, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and musculoskeletal manipulation, among others. You can also find us at: 572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1 647-624-5800