Archive: Immunity

LEAKY GUT, LEAKY WHAT? It May Be The Root Cause of Your Pain, Digestive Issues and Skin Rashes

Did you know that seemingly unrelated symptoms, such as headaches, joint pain, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune diseases may actually be caused by a digestive disturbance called leaky gut? And that by healing that condition, you may become free of these symptoms? abdominal-pain-2821941_640

You are probably wondering just what leaky gut is, what causes it and how you can heal from it.

What is Leaky Gut?

You can picture your digestive system like a large tube with small holes in it, like a net. This net allows the beneficial nutrients from your diet to pass through and enter into your bloodstream, to be delivered to cells, organs and tissues for use. This net should also be able to prevent harmful substances from getting through, thereby protecting your immune system and the rest of your body from negative reactions.

If you are eating foods that you are not digesting properly, these larger food particles cause micro-tears and damage to this net, allowing harmful food particles, toxins and bacteria to pass through and enter into your bloodstream. Your immune system actually sees these substances as threats, like it would to viruses or bacteria, and mounts an immune/inflammation reaction that can impact not only the digestive tract, but other areas of the body. You build antibodies to the food particles, which then can travel around the body and deposit in areas such as the joints, brain, and skin, causing not only digestive symptoms but also joint pain, headaches, brain fog, acne, eczema, and rosacea. It is important to note that digestive symptoms don’t always manifest with leaky gut…your warning sign that you may have it could be your recurrent headaches or arthritic symptoms. Each person reacts in their own unique way and you don’t have to have all of the above symptoms to be diagnosed with leaky gut.

Food Sensitivities vs. Food Allergies

Most people know someone who has an allergy to peanuts. If that person were to ingest anything with even a trace amount, they would go into anaphylaxis; meaning that their airways would constrict, their tongue would swell up and they would struggle to breath. If they didn’t get a shot of epinephrine within minutes, they could even die.

A food sensitivity reaction is much milder but still harmful to health. If you eat a food that your immune system reacts to (in a different way, producing what is called IgG antibodies, as opposed to the immediate-release IgE antibodies in a food allergy), a delayed reaction (up to 3 days after eating that food) occurs. Common food sensitivity reactions include: skin rashes, such as eczema, acne and rosacea; digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea;  and pain that can manifest in the joints or as a headache or migraine. Food sensitivities can also affect the immune system negatively, making it more likely that you get sick or suffer from an autoimmune condition. If you continue to eat the foods you are sensitive to, over time, you can develop leaky gut.

Additional Causes of Leaky Gut

Eating foods that you are sensitive to is not the only cause of leaky gut. Taking antibiotics can wipe out your good gut bacteria which are there to act as a protective lining to your digestive system. Toxins can damage your protective net, as can stress.

What You Can Do About It

  1. Identify and remove with foods you are sensitive to. This can be done by a simple blood test that your Naturopathic Doctor can order for you. This is the easiest way to determine your food sensitivities. Or, you can complete a month-long elimination diet, after which you would re-introduce the commonly offending foods and note any reactions.
  1. Repopulate your good gut bacteria. This involves eating fermented foods (such as kimchi and sauerkraut), eating organic and plain yogurt (I prefer homemade coconut milk yogurt, but you could eat either sheep or goat milk yogurt if you can tolerate them), and taking a high-potency, human-strain probiotic daily. If you suffer from leaky gut, food sources won’t give you enough; you will need to take a probiotic supplement.
  1. Repair the damage that has been done. Bone broth provides collagen and gut-healing amino acids. Herbs and nutrients, such as collagen powder, slippery elm, DGL and glutatmine are soothing and healing to the digestive tract.

After a period of at least 3 months of avoiding your food sensitivities and following this gut-healing program, you may be able to tolerate the foods you were sensitive to, eating them occasionally without eliciting a reaction. Some people may need to avoid their food sensitivities indefinitely to avoid reactions; each person is different.

Dr. Lisa Weeks, Naturopathic Doctor can order the food sensitivity blood test for you or prescribe an elimination diet and then create a unique gut-healing plan to heal your leaky gut to help get rid of headaches, joint pain, skin rashes and digestive complaints.

CONTACT Dr. Lisa to find out more TODAY.


Warriors Within

SickYou know it is cold and flu season when…you are on the subway and the person behind you starts to cough uncontrollably. You wish you could avoid public transit altogether, but driving to work takes way too long.

You are reminded again that everyone around you is getting sick when you get to work. Your cubicle neighbour comes by to update you on the new guy she is dating. She puts her fingers all over your computer to show you his photos on Facebook after you just saw her sneeze into her hands.

Yuck! Germ overload!

No matter how many times you wash your hands, no matter how many times you try to avoid touching door handles in public, you ARE going to be exposed to illness-causing viruses and bacteria.

It may seem impossible not to get sick, but you can take action to prevent yourself from coming down with colds and the flu.

Luckily, we have an army within us, circulating from head to toe, ready to attack any invading virus or bacteria at a moment’s notice. This white-blood-cell brigade called the immune system is always working behind the scenes to keep us healthy. But we have to give these warriors the rest they need, along with the appropriate supplies, route maps and a hospital/place to live.

Just how can we do that?

See below and/or JOIN ME on Tues Oct 25th at 7:00pm (EST) for my Free Webinar: Sick of Getting Sick? Natural Prevention of Colds and Illnesses. Sign up HERE

First of all, get some sleep! A good night’s rest reduces our susceptibility to colds. Mammals that get the most sleep have been shown to have higher numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells. In a study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine (2009), participants who slept an average of less than seven hours a night over a two-week period were three times as likely to get sick as those who got at least 8 hours a night. They figured this out by tracking the sleep patterns of 153 men and women for two weeks, and then exposing them to the cold virus for five days following while in quarantine. It turns out that extra hour can really pay off!

What else can we do?

These warriors have very specific nutritional requirements to be able to work their hardest. If we are overweight, they slow down and get lazy. Consuming sugar and processed food robs them of vital nutrients while fruits, vegetables and good-quality protein sources keep them marching around the body ready for action.

Foods that particularly keep them going include:

  • Ginger, garlic and turmeric.
  • Zinc-rich foods such as cremini mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, spinach, sea vegetables, oysters.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, papaya, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, cauliflower, kale, parsley, lemons, limes, spinach, snow peas and rose hip tea.
  • Beta-carotene-rich foods including carrots, spinach, turnip, kale, sweet potato, cayenne pepper, cantaloupe, winter squash, apricots, broccoli, collard greens and asparagus.
  • Supplements and herbs that give them the mojo they need include zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, probiotics, bioflavonoids, astragalus, garlic, sambucus nigra, ginseng, andrographis, cordyceps, reishi, shiitake and maitake. Be sure to consult with your licensed healthcare practitioner to ensure you are taking safe, effective herbs and nutrients that will not interact with any medical conditions you may be suffering from or with any medications you may be taking.

Now that they are armed and ready to go, they need a route map to find their way and some sturdy vehicles to help them race around. Exercise and hydrotherapy are crucial to keep them moving around the body and prevent them from getting side-tracked. Muscle contractions during exercise pumps the fluid that carries them around the body so that they can provide surveillance from head to toe. Taking alternating hot and cold showers (three minutes hot, one minute cold, repeat two more times OR end your shower in 30 seconds to one minute of cold water) keeps their jeeps moving along the road to health. If we aren’t moving, neither are they!

We also want to provide a hospitable environment for them to live in. If we are stressed out or angry, they won’t perform at their optimal level. Stress-relieving techniques such as yoga, meditation, exercise, journaling and counselling are great ways to support these natural warriors. If we talk about our emotions and get them out, then we are less likely to succumb to that cold or flu virus.

With the right preparation, when you hear that stranger on the subway start to cough, you will know that you have done all you could to get those warriors within ready for action!

If you want further support for boosting immunity naturally, book an appointment with me for an individualized program to keep you healthy throughout the fall and winter.

You can also sign up for my FREE WEBINAR on Tues Oct 25th at 7:00pm: “Sick of Getting Sick? Natural Prevention of Colds and Illnesses”. SIGN UP HERE.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

Take the Plunge: Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Whenever I tell a patient what I do in the shower daily, they shoot a disturbed look my way and cringe: “How could you do that?” they ask, followed by: “I couldn’t imagine willingly putting myself through that torture every single day!” hydrotherapy

You might be wondering what I am talking about. You may be surprised by the answer: Cold Water Immersion, a form of Hydrotherapy that dates back to ancient times.

In its simplest form, ending your shower with 30-60 seconds of a cold water spray stimulates immunity, energizes and revitalizes the body and mind, improves: circulation and detoxification, skin and hair vibrancy and overall wellbeing.

On days that I have a little more time, I alternate hot and cold sprays in the shower using 3 minutes of hot water, followed by 1 minute of cold water and I repeat that for a total of 3 cycles.

Cold water immersion is now all the rage, with top-levels athletes, executives and even Tony Robbins on board.

Is there proof that it works? Yes. I swear by it for myself and my patients to ward off colds and the flu and to jump-start each day.

Immunity and the Common Cold

According to the Natural Standards Database, preliminary clinical evidence shows that taking alternating hot and cold showers, at least five times per week, decreased the frequency of the common cold. It works by increasing not only the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, but also by increasing the number of white blood cells to fight off infection.

By increasing the flow of lymphatic fluid and white blood cells, alternating hot and cold showers support detoxification, reduce joint pain and boost immune function.

Muscle soreness and inflammation

Cold water soothes sore and achy muscles post-workout. It reduces inflammation and can decrease the need to take pain-killers.

Happiness Levels, Energy and Mental Alertness

Those that took cold showers for at least 2-3 minutes daily for several weeks reported an improvement in mood and a reduction in pain. Cold water activates cold receptors in the skin, which in turn activates our sympathetic nervous system, increasing the release of our natural endorphins and brain-boosting neurotransmitters.

Try it – you just may be surprised at how invigorating it is. And, for the morning-afters when you polished off most of the wine, it can be a life-saver.

Note: Those with heart conditions, diabetic neuropathy, nerve or sensation loss or other serious medical conditions should always consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner before starting cold water therapy.

You Give Me Fever

I was watching a show on the National Geographic channel and I saw nature at its best. An anaconda snake was swimming in a river in South America. It had a large mouth abscess (infection) and it knew it had to do something to get rid of it in order to survive (and antibiotics were definitely not nearby!). The anaconda’s natural instinct was to swim in shallower, warmer waters to increase its body temperature to induce a fever. Amazing! It did this in order to make its body inhospitable for the bacteria that were causing the infection and to stimulate a natural immune response to kill them off.

What do we do in the Western world when we have a fever? Suppress, suppress, suppress…

And why?

We have been taught that fever is a dangerous response to an infection (viral or bacterial) that can cause brain damage and seizures. We feel the need to react right away, and give or take that fever-suppressing medication to bring it down. But, are we really doing the right thing?

Fever is a natural response to an infection. Bacteria and viruses thrive at normal body temperature (98.6°F or 37.0°C). A fever changes this set point so that the bacteria and viruses are less likely to survive. It also induces an immune response to get the body to fight off infections.

Many infants and children develop high fevers with minor illnesses. Brain damage from a fever will generally not occur until our temperature is over 42°C (107.6°F). Untreated fevers rarely go over 40.5°C (105°F) unless the child is overdressed, trapped in a hot area or placed in a cold bath. A cold bath induces shivering, which can raise body temperature even further. Be sure not to overdress anyone with a fever and never put them in a cold bath. A lukewarm bath is best.

Seizures associated with fever may occur. They are generally short-lived, do not cause any permanent damage, and they do not mean that your child has epilepsy.

There are several instances when to get concerned if your infant or child has a fever. You should call your healthcare practitioner if:

  • a child under three months of age has a fever.
  • a child under 12 months of age has a temperature of 38.3°C (101°F) or higher.
  • a child under the age of two has a fever that lasts longer than 24–48 hours.
  • a child over the age of two has a fever that lasts longer than three days.
  • an infant, child or adult has a temperature greater than 40°C (104.5°F).

Make sure your child is responsive and drinking fluids. For a complete list of when to get concerned when you or your child have a fever, see: Mayo Clinic.

See your licensed healthcare practitioner to prescribe individualized homeopathic remedies, herbs and vitamins to help support an efficient fever and to give your immune system a natural boost to fight off infections.

Broths, soups, water, fruit, and diluted unsweetened fruit juices are the best things to consume during a fever in order to maintain hydration and to give the digestive system a break. I made this great chicken soup last weekend when I was feeling run-down and it gave me the immune boost I needed from the garlic, ginger, turkey broth and chilies that I desperately needed.

It is a great soup to share with your loved one(s) on a cold and rainy/snowy afternoon, or to keep in the freezer just in case you start to feel sick. It will help to get you back on your feet in no time!

Chicken & Ginger Root Broth with Mango

  • 1–2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 ½ oz. fresh ginger root, peeled and shredded
  • 1–2 fresh chili peppers, left whole
  • 1 (2–3 lb) whole organic chicken, trimmed of fat and broken down into pieces with the bone in (or you can purchase chicken thighs and/or breasts)
  • 2 ½ cups of organic turkey or chicken stock
  • 2–4 cups of water
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 mango or 1 small green papaya, cut into fine slices
  • ½ cup–1 cup of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  1. Heat oil in wok or deep pot.
  2. Add garlic, onion and ginger root. Stir until the onion becomes clear.
  3. Mix in chili peppers and chicken, lightly browning the skin.
  4. Pour in stock, water (just enough to cover the chicken; add more if necessary) and bring liquid to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for about 1.5 hours, until chicken is very tender.
  6. Season stock with sea salt and pepper, and add sliced mango or green papaya.
  7. Continue to simmer for 15 minutes more, then add in parsley leaves.
  8. Serve as is or ladle over steamed rice.


Basan, Ghillie. 500 Asian Dishes. Apple Press, 2010.  

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

Boost Immunity with Change of Season Soup

Many of my patients are suffering from the “Daycare Curse” lately. At school or daycare, their kids are passing around germs, left, right and centre. Little Sarah then comes home, sneezes or coughs in your face and wipes her snotty hands on you. Before you know it, everyone in the household is infected, including you, who is still expected to care for all the other sick and whiny family members.

You and your family don’t have to suffer through repeated colds, flus and sore throats. Naturopathic Medicine provides treatment to boost immunity, prevent illness, speed recovery and reduce your symptoms once you do get sick.

This Change of Season Soup is a great way to help keep the adults and teenagers in the family healthy for the coming winter. Drink 1–2 cups every day for 5–14 days. It can be enjoyed as a tea (you may add honey and/or cinnamon sticks) or as a soup with vegetables, chicken and chicken broth.


  1. Codonopsis pilosula root (Dang Shen)
  2. Astragalus root (Huang Qi)
  3. Dioscorea villosa (Wild Yam)
  4. Chinese Lycii berries (Lyceum/wolf berries/goji berries)

Use equal parts of each herb (2–3 oz each). You can combine in one batch, or purchase individual prepared packs from your local specialty health food store or trusted Chinese herb market.


Fill a large pot with water. Add the herbs and place the lid on. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1–4 hours, adding more water if needed.

Allow to cool, strain and enjoy 1–2 cups per day for 5–14 days.

Alternately, add herbs to chicken broth and simmer for 1 hour. You can enjoy it as is or make a soup out of this broth.

Additional information:

Codonopsis pilosula root (Dang Shen)

  • Enhances energy (Qi), builds blood, nourishes body fluid, and tonifies the spleen and lungs

Astragalus root (Huang Qi)

  • Boosts immunity, strengthens your defenses, enhances energy (Qi), tonifies the blood and lungs, nourishes the spleen and stimulates the immune system

Dioscorea villosa (Wild Yam)

  • Supports the health of the lungs and kidneys

Chinese Lycii berries (Lyceum)

  • Contains vitamin C, supports lungs and kidneys

If you or any of your family members need a little extra immune TLC, feel free to contact me to book in for my Immune Boosting Program.

Have a healthy and happy winter!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

Listen to Nature When it Comes to Food

I was lucky to be up at my family’s cottage in Muskoka over the Thanksgiving weekend.  The temperature during the day felt more like summer, but the nights and mornings were cool. The leaves didn’t lie about what season it was, and their bright orange, red and yellow hues lit up the sky. The views were spectacular and the colours reminded me that with a change of season, comes a change of diet. It was time to limit those cold and raw salads that we devour in the summer, and include more cooked and warming foods that the fall harvest has to offer. If we listen to nature and eat foods that have the colour of the changing leaves, then our bodies will be better equipped to handle the cold and dark days of winter. Pumpkins and squash are the perfect vegetables to incorporate into our diets at this time of year to boost immunity and prepare our bodies for the drop in temperature. As added bonuses, they are also in season and grown locally!

According to Chinese medicine, the lungs and large intestine are the organs most active in the fall. Our lungs are very sensitive to changes in temperature, and the wind and cold. They control our defensive energy (Wei-Qi) that keeps us from getting sick. It is important to use this time to boost immunity to prevent colds, the flu and sore throats. Our intestines also play a very important role in immunity. They act as a barrier against invading pathogens, and approximately 70–80% of our immune system is found in the intestines.

When the temperature is dropping, it is best to limit cold and raw foods as they can increase dampness and phlegm in the body. Cold and raw foods consumed in the fall and winter tax the digestive system. Our body can handle these foods much better in the warmth of the spring and summer. It is best to eat lightly steamed vegetables or cooked food in the fall and winter. Foods such as garlic, onions and ginger support lung function and help to break down phlegm and mucous in the respiratory system.  Dark green and orange vegetables protect the lungs and mucous membranes of the body and boost immunity because they contain beta-carotene. Beta-carotene boosts the defensive energy of the body, protecting us from the invading bacteria and viruses that make us sick.

I made this soup after the Thanksgiving weekend when my body was craving warming and nourishing food. I used turkey broth that I made from the weekend leftovers. You can substitute coconut milk for the broth and add in spices such as turmeric, cumin, curry powder and/or garam masala to spice it up if you like. This time I decided to keep it simple and not add any extra spices as the turkey broth I prepared had enough flavour. This recipe is quick and easy, and very powerful in preventing colds and flus. Our bodies have an easy time digesting this soup, and the garlic and onions further help to break down any phlegm or mucous in the body. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium to large sized butternut squash

1 small head of garlic

2 small to medium sized cooking onions

½–1 cup of organic vegetable stock, turkey broth or chicken broth

Spices such as sea salt, turmeric, cumin, curry powder and/or garam masala (optional, to taste)

  • Wash the squash, cut in half lengthwise and place face down on a cookie sheet coated with a small amount of olive oil.
  • Peel off the excess skin from the garlic, leaving enough to surround the whole head and keep the cloves together. Chop off the top of the head of garlic so that there is an opening for each clove. This will make it easier to squeeze the garlic out once it is roasted. Wrap the head of garlic in aluminum foil with a little bit of olive oil, sea salt and pepper sprinkled on top for added taste. Make sure you seal the foil completely. Place garlic bundle on cookie sheet with the squash.
  • Peel the onions, chop in quarters and place on the cookie sheet with the other ingredients.
  • Roast in a preheated oven, uncovered, at 365°C for approximately 30–35 minutes (until the squash is nice and soft). You may need to cook the squash a bit longer than the onions and garlic.
  • Remove from oven, let all ingredients cool, and then add to a food processor. Blend while adding in broth of choice or coconut milk (spices optional). Add enough fluid to your desired consistency of soup. I like mine a bit thicker, so I don’t add too much broth.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books, 1993.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

We Can All Use a Little Spice in Our Lives: Why Not Ginger?

Ginger, oh how I love thee…

This root, I find, is underutilized and overlooked for some reason. It offers a vast array of health benefits, from boosting immune system function, and reducing pain and inflammation to reducing gas, bloating, nausea and digestive upset. It is cheap, and full of potassium, magnesium, copper, vitamin B6, manganese and gingerols, which are powerful anti-inflammatory substances.

It is a carminative, which means it reduces gastrointestinal upset, as well as an intestinal spasmolytic, meaning it reduces spasms and cramping in the digestive system. It has been shown to prevent or reduce the symptoms of sea-sickness, as well as to reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women.

It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and reduces the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. If you are suffering from knee pain or a sport’s injury, it can help you recover faster and reduce your suffering.

Who wouldn’t benefit from ginger?

Ginger is a warming herb and supports healthy sweating. It boosts immune system function, and can help prevent colds, flus and sore throats. If you do get sick, ginger can reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms. It is great to drink in a tea (see recipe below) on a cold winter’s day, but you can also prepare it as an iced tea to refresh and replenish you after a hot day in the sun.

And it tastes great, too! It’s pungent and spicy flavour kicks up any meal several notches, and you get the added benefits to your health as well.

You can chop it up and add it to stir-fries to bring out some heat, or you can put it in the water that you are using to steam broccoli. Simply peel a 1- to 2-inch cube of ginger (with a spoon is easiest), slice it up, add it to a pot of water, bring to a boil, then place the steam basket with the broccoli in it on top. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat and simmer for about 5–10 minutes until the broccoli is done to your liking. If you are using organic broccoli, you can even use the leftover ginger water for ginger tea (see recipe below).

Here is a recipe for a Ginger, Honey and Lemon Tea. It is one of my favourites to drink when I am starting to feel sick, when I am feeling run down and cold in temperature, or if I am sore after a long, hard workout or run. You can drink it iced in the summer. Prepare as instructed below, let it cool in a glass jug on the counter and then put it in the fridge.

Ginger, Honey and Lemon Tea

1–2 inch cube of fresh ginger root

1/3 fresh lemon, sliced

Boiling water

Honey, to taste (optional)

Add slices of ginger to a pot, measure out 2–3 mugs of water and pour into the pot with the ginger. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add honey, squeeze the juice of the lemon into the mug, and then add the lemon slices as well. Pour in the hot ginger tea, then enjoy! You can drink this tea with the ginger root and lemon slices still in the mug, or can strain if you prefer.

Here is an even quicker and easier recipe, if you are feeling lazy:

Peel and slice the fresh ginger root. Place in a mug. Pour boiling water over the ginger slices and squeeze the juice of the lemon into the mug. Add the lemon slices to the mug. Allow it to steep for 3–5 minutes. Add honey to taste.

Aim to drink 2 cups a day.

Drink up and enjoy!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.