Eat for Life: Time Restricted Eating

What if there was one simple lifestyle change that could increase your lifespan? Researchers who study the science of longevity and disease prevention have found that there is indeed one simple lifestyle pattern that can decrease the risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and more: don’t eat at night. It turns out that our bodies are designed to process food better during the day, and when we eat at night, we rob our cells and organs of much-needed rest and repair. Studies show that while of course it matters what we eat, it also matters when we eat.

The human body evolved to eat during the daylight hours, when it’s safe to collect and prepare our food, and not to eat in the evening, when it’s dark and dangerous to be outside. Fifteen percent of the human genome works on a body clock, and about 50% of those genes are involved in the metabolism of food. We know the brain has a circadian rhythm, but so do the pancreas, intestines, liver and more.

Now with the advent of electricity and demanding work hours, we typically have our largest meal of the day in the evening and often snack after that. Our meal patterns are not in alignment with how we evolved to eat and can be detrimental to our metabolism and our cellular repair mechanisms. Does it really make sense to consume most of our calories within hours of going to sleep? It’s like showing up to a restaurant at closing time: the cooking staff will not be happy. Eating at night has been shown to raise blood sugar and insulin, increase inflammation, throw off hormones and decrease the important daily cellular clean-out called autophagy. Under these conditions the body can become fertile soil for disease.

As a naturopathic physician I regularly monitor these blood parameters and show people ways to lower their risk factors with lifestyle changes and natural medicines. One of those ways is to just change when you eat. Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner within the daytime hours, before 7 p.m., and allowing at least a 13-hour fast overnight is enough to show benefits. Some experts recommend extending that fasting window further by having a later breakfast and an earlier dinner if you can.

Time restricted eating has even been shown to reduce cancer rates. In one study, of 2,500 breast cancer survivors who tracked their food intake for seven years, a strong association was found to when they were eating. Women who had at least a 13-hour overnight fast had a 40% decrease in breast cancer recurrence and an over 15% decrease in all causes of mortality, regardless of whether they were overweight or not.

Other conditions that have been shown to improve from extended overnight fasting are gastric reflux, fatty liver, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Weight loss with this mechanism alone is modest, but it can add up over time. In a famous study, two groups of mice were fed the same number of calories, but one group was fed only during the mice’s daytime and the other could graze all day and night. The mice in the Time Restricted Feeding group lost more weight than the other mice. In similar human trials, weight loss is more significant because without even trying, people will consume about 200 fewer calories per day when they stop nighttime snacking.

Time Restricted Eating is a simple lifestyle change that anyone can implement. Your body is designed to thrive in those conditions. Pregnant women and people with blood sugar issues, eating disorders or other health conditions would be wise to consult with their naturopathic physician or family doctor before making any dietary changes.

To book a naturopathic medical consultation with Dr. Deidre Macdonald call 250 897-0235.

Wound Healing with Laser Light Therapy

Chronic wounds are a major source of disability for many people. They are notoriously difficult to treat with standard protocols. Often chronic wounds occur on the feet and lower limbs as a result of poor circulation. Diabetes and atherosclerosis are common contributing factors. Laser therapy has been proven to speed healing and resolution of skin ulcers and chronic wounds. An analysis of the research on laser therapy allowed researchers at the University of Johannesburg to conclude:

“Low level laser therapy (LLLT) is a form of phototherapy that involves the application of low power … light to injuries and lesions. It has been used successfully to induce wound healing in nonhealing defects. Other wounds treated with lasers include burns, amputation injuries, skin grafts, infected wounds, and post-surgical wounds. The unique properties of lasers create an enormous potential for specific therapy of skin diseases.”

A triple blind study at Brigham Young University concluded that:

“The laser therapy resulted in enhanced healing as measured by wound contraction. These data indicate that laser therapy is an effective modality to facilitate wound contraction of partial-thickness wounds.”

Harvard Medical School, Department of Dermatology has been researching laser therapy extensively. In a published paper researchers state:

Our laboratory has shown that a single exposure to red or near-IR wavelengths 30 minutes after wounding can stimulate wound healing in mice. Specifically, the light appears to hasten the contraction process at the edges of the excisional wound.

In my naturopathic medical clinic I have been treating patients with a high end laser therapy machine for two years and have had the opportunity to help patients heal wounds that previously wouldn’t heal. One such patient, a 60-year-old man with diabetes, had a longstanding wound on the bottom of his foot the size and depth of two stacked toonies. After a series of treatments, the wound healed completely. Six months later, the wound remained healed, and laser therapy quickly healed up another wound that was starting. The patient was able to increase his activity level, go traveling and enjoy life again.

Laser therapy is a painless treatment used to heal tissues throughout the body too. It is an excellent way to speed the healing of back pain, sports injuries, arthritis, plantar fasciitis (foot pain), tendonitis, shoulder pain and more. It works by increasing the output of fuel within the cells. Specific wavelengths of light, emitted by the machine, can be absorbed by photoreceptors in the body’s cells. Photons are then transmuted into ATP, which is the fuel for the cells. Also, cell membranes become more permeable to nutrients. Thus, with added energy and fuel, cellular function is enhanced. Nitric oxide is also increased, which increases circulation. The net effect is less inflammation and rapid healing of tissue creating a real resolution of the problem. The results are quite visible in the case of wound healing and there has been photo documentation of many dramatic resolutions of gangrenous toes that were able to be saved from amputation.

To book a no-charge 15-minute no obligation consultation with naturopathic physician Dr. Deidre Macdonald, contact her medical practice in downtown Courtenay at (250) 897-0235. For more information about laser therapy, read the Frequently asked Question about Laser Therapy on this website or contact Dr. Macdonald via the website. 

FAQ about Laser Therapy

Diabetes and Natural Medicine

Diabetes is a common, chronic illness that requires great care and attention in order to manage it effectively. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels. These high blood sugar levels create damage to the circulatory system, thus increasing the risk of disease in many organs including the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and cardiovascular system.

Natural medicine and dietary measures can greatly enhance the long term health of a person with diabetes. Blood sugar management can be enhanced significantly with proper natural care.

Many people don’t realize that the drugs often prescribed for diabetes have a limited ability to help and can create more problems in the long run. Oral hypoglycemic drugs may help reduce blood sugars for a while, but the effectiveness usually wanes over time. Within three months, 40% of people aren’t able to control blood sugars adequately and long term, the overall success rate of oral hypoglycemic drugs is no more than 20-30% at best. The next step is insulin injections. High levels of insulin are linked with further health problems including obesity. Relying on drugs is not the only way to go. Diabetics have much more control over their health than many realize.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not secrete enough insulin. This type of diabetes usually comes on in childhood or early adulthood. These people require insulin injections and careful dietary management. This type accounts for about 10% of diabetics.

Type II diabetes is much more common and normally comes on after age 40. The blood has high levels of blood sugar not because of lack of insulin, but because the receptors on the cells of the body are insensitive to insulin. When the insulin receptors are “burned-out”, sugar is concentrated in the blood rather than being transported into the cells by the insulin. There are many factors that effect insulin receptor sensitivity. Obesity decreases the sensitivity of receptors to insulin, and approximately 90% of people with Type II diabetes are obese. Conversely, exercise is an excellent way to increase the insulin receptor sensitivity.

Diabetics often have high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which further increases their risk of cardiovascular disease. The reason for this connection is that in Type II diabetes, the body often produces excess insulin to try to compensate for the high blood sugar or if one takes oral hypoglycemic drugs, insulin production is increased. Insulin encourages blood sugar to then be stored as fat as well as other substances. Cholesterol and triglycerides are both fats that are increased when insulin stores sugars as fats. However, excess insulin is not necessary if blood sugar can be controlled via diet, or by increasing receptor sensitivity.

The key to dietary blood sugar control is to avoid foods that your digestive system can quickly break down into sugar and thus deliver a sudden load of sugar to the blood. The foods that break down quickly are basically any food that if you sucked on it, it would quickly break down in your mouth and taste sweet. These are the foods that are said to have a high glycemic index. Common examples are candy, sweets, fruit juice, dried fruit, bread, pasta, cereals, bagels, chips, french fries. As a group these are called refined carbohydrates. Non refined carbohydrates are fresh fruit and whole grains like brown rice, barley, millet and quinoa. Their glycemic index is lower, meaning they are like “time-release” carbohydrates and usually diabetics can handle them in small quantities, especially if eaten with protein foods such as meat, eggs, nuts, seed, beans and soy products.

The standard Western diet is very high in refined carbohydrates, accounting for the fact that Westerners have a significantly higher rate of diabetes than any other culture in the world. We must question our diet in light of the poor results it creates in our long term health.

What can you eat? The optimal diet should consist of whole, unprocessed foods such as fresh vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, nut butters (almond butter), organic meats, fish, beans. Fruit should be limited to 1-2 per day and blood sugars monitored closely. Protein is particularly helpful in balancing blood sugar as it nourishes the body without raising blood sugar. Eating small amounts of quality protein at each meal is one of the best ways to balance blood sugar. It is important to enjoy low fat animal protein sources, as excess animal fats are linked with many diseases.

An excellent book that makes a compelling argument for the importance of a low carbohydrate, high vegetable and moderate protein diet is “Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution”. Dr. Bernstein is a medical doctor, endocrinologist and diabetes specialist who suffered for years with brittle diabetes until he discovered the diet that worked for him. His book shares his experience of working with thousands of diabetics to achieve blood sugar control without excessive reliance on drugs and insulin.

Diabetics should also take advantage of the wide range of natural therapies designed to prevent or treat the common ailments that go along with diabetes. For instance, the herbal medicine bilberry has been shown in scientific studies to significantly reduce the eye problems (diabetic retinopathy) that lead to blindness in some diabetics. Antioxidant nutritients such as vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E, and selenium help to prevent the damage to the blood vessels that is responsible for so many of the diabetic problems. Chromium is a critical mineral in diabetes. Supplementation with chromium has been shown to decrease blood sugar levels and help with cholesterol. Other herbal medicine such as bitter melon and Gymnema sylvestre have long been used for treatment of diabetes and scientific studies are now proving their effectiveness in helping to control blood sugars and decrease the dependency on drugs and insulin.

With proper coaching from a naturopathic physician, diabetics can learn to optimize their health through natural, common sense, time tested methods. The dietary and herbal measures outlined above all have many long-term side benefits instead of side effects. You can take charge of your health and enjoy the freedom that good health provides if you learn to make the lifestyle and medicine choices that add up to good health

Know your Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Likely, someone you know has become ill or died from heart disease. It is the number one cause of death for both men and women. After menopause, women’s risk of heart disease equals that of men, but more women die from their first heart attack or stroke than do men. The great tragedy of cardiovascular disease is that it is a silent disease that can hit people in the prime of their life, robbing them of quality of life, or causing early death. While heredity does play a part the predisposition to heart disease, biology is far from destiny. There is overwhelming evidence that you can control whether or not you develop heart disease and whether it progresses. It is never too late to make a difference. Knowledge is power. The more you understand about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the more you can take action to stop it in its tracks. There is ample scientific evidence showing that diet, exercise, supplements, relaxation and chelation therapy can all help prevent and treat heart disease. Conventional medicine has made strides to help those in acute crisis with heart attacks, but drugs and surgery are not the only answer for optimizing your health.

Taking stock of your risk factors may let you know how aggressive you need to be in your prevention program. Ask about your family history and the lifestyles of those family members who had heart attacks or strokes. Take a good hard look at your lifestyle; do you smoke, eat high fat food, carry extra weight or live with high stress? If so, then it is time to get real about the choices you are making and decide that living is your priority. It is very helpful to enlist the support of a naturopathic physician or another professional who can coach you through these hard life changes. I find that making real, lasting change requires a lot more than will power. It takes looking at what drives the old patterns and addictive behaviors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; your life may depend on it.

Your naturopathic doctor can be an important ally in your heart disease prevention program. I recommend having a thorough physical examination at least yearly to assess blood pressure and other signs of heart disease. I also recommend that my patients have a thorough set of blood work done yearly to monitor their health. Diabetes is a serious risk factor for cardiovascular problems so blood sugar levels should be watched carefully in anyone with a family history or risk factors for diabetes. High cholesterol is a well known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The “bad” cholesterol (LDL) can serve as the raw material to clog the arteries. It damages the arteries, setting up a cascade of events that contribute to plaque build up known as atherosclerosis. Good cholesterol (HDL) actually binds to the bad cholesterol and transports it to the liver where it can be destroyed . Therefore, the proportion of good and bad cholesterol tells us more that just how much total cholesterol you have. The goal in lifestyle coaching is to increase the HDL and decrease the LDL, thus lowering the ratio. Foods that have been shown to influence these two types of cholesterol are as follows:

Foods that improve cholesterol ratioBeans
Soy products
Garlic, onions
Salmon (omega 3 fatty acids)
Olive oil (monounsaturated oil)
Almonds (monounsaturated oil)
Avocados (monounsaturated oil)
Citrus, peppers, broccoli (vitamin C)
Green or black tea
Apples, carrots (fiber called pectin)
Foods that worsen cholesterol ratioSaturated fats – meat, dairy and peanuts
Trans fatty acids*
Hydrogenated vegetable oil*
Vegetable oil shortening*
Partially hydrogenated oils*
High sugar diets
Ultra low fat diets* found in most packaged foods, especially crackers, cookies, baked foods, and margarine.

If you have high levels of bad cholesterol, it is important to understand that cholesterol is a fat that can go rancid, just like unrefrigerated butter does. Rancid, or oxidized LDL cholesterol is highly destructive to the artery walls. You can prevent your LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized by having a diet high in antioxidant nutrients. That is one of the reasons why eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and taking a daily antioxidant supplement makes so much sense. Lowering your intake of omega-6 type oils is also important as they become incorporated into LDL cholesterol particles were they are readily oxidized and become destructive. Omega-6 oils are corn oil, safflower oil, and soy oil. Finally, I help my patients to lower their cholesterol without drugs by using safe, natural medicines. I constantly see the total cholesterol and the cholesterol ratio reduce by 25% after three months on natural medicine – without side effects!

Another well studied risk factor for cardiovascular disease is homocysteine. Scientists have shown a link between high levels of this amino acid and early development of cardiovascular disease, deep vein thrombosis and stroke. Interestingly, it has also been shown to be a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. People with family history of these diseases should ask their medical or naturopathic physician about testing for this important risk factor. The goal is to have homocysteine levels under 6. Elevated levels can be easily treated by supplementing several B vitamins and cardiologists are now routinely recommending patients take folic acid, and vitamins B5, B6 and B12.

The final piece of lab work that will help you understand if you are on the way to a cardiovascular event like heart attack or stroke, is called C-Reactive Protein. This factor in the blood has been well studied and is an indicator of the level of inflammation in the blood vessels. It is inflammation in the blood vessels that causes plaques to rupture, creating a log jam where platelets congregate and make clots that cause heart attacks and strokes. The predictive value of C Reactive Protein (CRP) as a risk factor for cardiovascular events has led some researchers to support the use of CRP as a main cardiovascular risk assessment tool. If the CRP result is over 1.3, steps should be taken to lower it.

If upon taking stock of your risk factors you determine that you need to get to work to change your fate, I encourage you to enlist the support of a health care coach like a naturopathic physician to get on the road to health. If you have heart disease, I often recommend a consultation with my colleague, Dr. Christoph Kind who performs chelation therapy. This intravenous therapy has an excellent track record of safety and efficacy in helping those with established heart disease. You can stop heart disease, and like my husband and I, take charge of your destiny with a holistic approach to health.

Hypertension: Blood pressure over 135/85 increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Natural medicines along with a low sodium diet and exercise, can lower blood pressure.