Have you had blood work lately?

Have you had blood work lately?

When your doctor has you do blood work and tells you that you have high cholesterol, what does that actually mean? There are several different lipid biomarkers that are commonly used including total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Taken together, your family doctor uses these biomarkers to determine if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease. HDL and LDL aren’t actually cholesterol, but rather are lipoproteins that act as transporter molecules that carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. While these biomarkers are important numbers to look at for cardiovascular health, they can also be useful screening tools for other health conditions. High total cholesterol on its own is not necessarily a good marker for heart health, but can be a clue that there are other problems with your health.



  1. You might have hypothyroidism. Some of the common signs of low thyroid function include cold hands and feet, thinning hair, weight gain, dry skin and constipation. Thyroid hormones have a complex role in the activation of enzymes needed for cholesterol metabolism (1). If your cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides are high, then thyroid testing should be done. Ask for the full panel including TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3 and Thyroid antibodies.

  2. You might have blood sugar imbalances. It might not come as a surprise that higher amounts of sugar in your diet negatively impact your lipid biomarkers (2). Research has shown that insulin resistance has more of an impact on cholesterol levels than obesity (3). Regardless of whether or not you are overweight, if your lipid biomarkers are high, then request glucose testing along with an HA1C test. HA1C is a good marker of your blood sugar levels over the last several months.

  3. You might have elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is released as part of your body’s response to stress. Studies confirm a correlation between stress and altered lipid biomarkers (4), (5). Wondering if your stress levels are impacting your cholesterol numbers? Get your cortisol tested. A saliva test that measures saliva throughout the day is a good choice, and you can get this type of testing done with a naturopathic or functional doctor. Some stress management strategies may be in order!

  4. You might have dysbiosis. Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in your gut microbiome. Research has shown that your gut microbiome plays a role in blood lipids. Organisms in your gut play a variety of roles in cholesterol metabolism (6). One area of research looks at TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), which is a gut microbe-generated metabolite associated with higher risk for heart failure (7). Gut microbial impacts on lipid levels and heart health is a growing area of current research. If you have bloating, flatulence, heartburn, constipation, nausea or other obvious digestive symptoms then it’s likely you have dysbiosis, but even with no digestive symptoms you can have dysbiosis, so further exploring may be necessary. A good starting point might be a Comprehensive Stool Analysis and an OAT test with a naturopathic or functional doctor.


Hypothyroidism, blood sugar imbalances, high cortisol and dysbiosis can each play a role in affecting your total cholesterol and other lipid biomarkers. Interestingly these issues are all interconnected, so you may see more than just one of these factors being impacted. For example high cortisol lowers TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), and inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3, which is the active form of thyroid hormone.

Research has shown a connection between thyroid health and blood sugar levels with a higher risk of thyroid disease in people with diabetes (8). Conversely, people with metabolic syndrome ( blood sugar imbalance or insulin resistance is one of the diagnostic criteria) have a higher risk of thyroid disease (9). Good thyroid function and normal blood sugar regulation go hand in hand.

These are just some of the interconnections, but hopefully if you have some of these issues you are starting to realize that they don’t exist in isolation, and that it is important to address multiple factors for overall wellness.


If you already know you have high total cholesterol, LDL or triglycerides then it might be time to start taking a closer look at WHY these numbers are high. Talk to your practitioner about additional testing, so that you can start to understand more about the contributing factors, and start to address them. Once you address these factors, you should see your lipid markers normalize.

Happy, Healthy Testing!

THE GUT WELLNESS GUIDE The Power of Breath, Touch and Awareness to Reduce Stress, Aid Digestion, and Reclaim Whole-Body Health

Do you love reading a good book on gut-health?  Already bored?  Don’t be! I read a lot about gut-health, and quite frankly I was getting bored until I read The Gut Wellness Guide.  The Gut Wellness Guide offers a fresh perspective on pain, gas, bloating, and other digestive symptoms, but it is also much more than that.  Allison Post and Stephen Cavaliere recognize the importance of your stress response to gut health, and utilize incredibly simple techniques that include breathing and touch to help you connect to the nervous system in your gut (your second brain).  The title suggests a gut focus, but the contents take you well beyond your gut to help you understand your whole body.   This book is a whole-body wellness guide.

gut wellness guide.JPG

The Gut Wellness Guide takes you step-by-step through simple techniques that anyone can do.  There is a freedom to these techniques that goes beyond practices such as yoga, or massage.  You learn to use your own intuition and awareness to help you calm and soothe your nervous system’s stress response. In short, you learn how to break the gut-stress cycle that is part of so many chronic health problems.  The most amazing aspect of these techniques is how uncomplicated they are.  

One of the things I love most about this book is how it ties together many aspects of wellness in a way that is understandable and personal.  It helps tie together gut and microbial health to a wide variety of health problems.  The techniques it teaches bring together visceral manipulation, breathing, and a mindfulness of your own body that you can only gain through self-exploration. I’ve been using these techniques for a couple of weeks, and thoroughly enjoy how simple and soothing they are. I know stress is currently having a huge impact on my health, so am thankful to have something this simple that I can easily build into my day.

This book as an absolute must if you are already using diet and supplements to repair your gut health.  It is also a must if you want to gain more insight into your own body and manage stress. Maybe stress management is the missing piece to your recovery! Allison Post and Stephen Cavaliere have accomplished much with this book.  There is something to learn for everyone from gut-health novice to experienced practitioner, and they have managed to do this in an easy, enjoyable read.

Where to Get the Book has Kindle and paperback versions.

Indigo has paperback and Kobo e-read versions.

Happy, Healthy Reading!


My son made these amazing waffles while I baked some plums.

My son made these amazing waffles while I baked some plums.

Everybody assumes I love to cook.  Let’s set the record straight.  I don’t enjoy cooking.  In fact, most of the time I dislike it.  Whenever I tell people I don’t like to cook, I get one of two responses:  “But you are an amazing cook!” or “But you are a Nutritional Consultant”.

Just Because

Just because I work in the field of nutrition, doesn’t mean I like to cook.  There are a lot of people in my field who love to cook, and they are the ones writing recipe blogs, and creating cookbooks, or offering cooking classes.  That’s not me.  I love the clinical aspect and working with complex cases.

Are you like me and don’t like cooking?  Read on!

I Cook To Nourish

Just because I don’t like to cook, it doesn’t mean I don’t do it.  One of the most important ways for me to nurture my family is to nourish them.  The great thing is that there are simple ways to nourish them that don’t require complicated meals.  Keep It Simple is my motto.

I make sure the produce I buy is as fresh as possible and that it’s organic, and that the meats and eggs I get are free-range or pasture raised animals.  Fish is always wild.  Good quality ingredients mean good quality meals (usually – it’s not fool proof).  That is the reason people tell me I’m a good cook.  It’s hard to go wrong with good quality ingredients.  I also save time by getting a grocery delivery once a week.  I still like to visit farmers’ markets and health food stores every week, but by getting a delivery once a week it reduces the number of trips I have to make each week and saves time. 

Once I have the ingredients, then I do my best to create one-pot meals.  Sometimes the pot is my crock-pot, sometimes it’s a big roasting pan, sometimes it’s a saucepan or frying pan.  Whatever my cooking method, the meal has animal protein, lots of vegetables and some healthy fat in it.  Then I might add a salad, or raw or steamed veggies on the side.

I Get Help

It took me a while to feel comfortable asking for help in the kitchen, but as my work-life got busier it became a necessity.  My husband doesn’t like to cook either, so even though he offered to help, it wouldn’t have been a good long-term solution.

I ended up doing 3 things:

-       I hired a personal chef to help out.  I wanted someone who could put together Gut-Healthy meals, and who would also have culinary skills that were better than mine, so that we would have some amazing meals in addition to my good ones.  I found Callie of Callieflower Nutrition.  She comes in and does some dinner preparation, as well as prepares something to go into my kids’ lunches:  fish cakes, frittata, muffins or veggie fritters.  Her dinners include mouthwatering marinated meats, ferments, soups and ground meat dishes where she hides liver and other offal.  She also preps vegetables, so that they are ready for me to throw in the oven or steamer at dinner.  Callie works in 3 hour sessions, and it’s amazing how much she gets done in that time.  I’m pretty sure she still has some openings in her schedule, so if the idea of having some professional help appeals to you, contact her.

-       I involved my oldest son.  My son loves to bake, and plans to make it his career.  He’ll make any Paleo baking recipe I ask him to.  In fact, he just tried cassava flour waffles.  On Fridays he sometimes makes nut or coconut flour pizza crusts!   If you have kids, find ways they can help, even it it’s just washing the vegetables, or putting something in the oven that you prepared in advance. 

-       Even though my husband doesn’t like to cook, he does a great job of scrounging for leftovers and putting lunches out.  He also washes the dishes – always.

If you need help in the kitchen ask your spouse, partner or kids what they would enjoy taking on, and when during the week they can help.  Everyone in your household should have a role in preparing the food they eat.

Other Options

Cook in bulk.  I always make huge batches of soup, cook a big roast or make a large batch of whatever it is I’m making.  I try to make enough dinner to feed my family of 5, provide leftovers for lunch, and still have some leftovers to put in the freezer or eat later in the week.  It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a great strategy, because it lightens my cooking load on other days.

Maybe hiring someone to help out isn’t an option for you.  Instead try connecting with family members, people at your church or friends, and see if they can help out.  Maybe a meal exchange can be organized, maybe someone is retired and looking for something to keep them busy.  You won’t know until you ask.

I Don’t Cook Because I’m a Nutritional Consultant

I don’t cook because I work in the field of nutrition.  I cook to nourish myself and my family.  I don’t  really enjoy it, but a bit of help and advanced planning goes a long way towards making it manageable. 

What tip can you share that make cooking easier for you?
Who will you ask for help?  Send that person an email right now!

Happy, Healthy Eating!


You have an appointment to get the help you need.  But it's going to take 30 minutes each way to get there and back.  The roads are icy, so that might slow you down.  Then you have to find parking.  You are missing valuable work time.  Or maybe you had to get a babysitter, or are dragging your kids along.  When you get there, you get to sit in a waiting room with sick people, and wait... and wait...  Sound familiar?

It can be challenging and time consuming to set up appointments, get to them and often be faced with delays in the practitioner's schedule once you arrive.  Once you have made the decision to prioritize your health, the stress of navigating appointments can be a significant obstacle in you being able to access the help and resources you need.  

New Solutions

Increasingly health practitioners are setting up appointments via phone, Skype, Zoom or other platforms that allow you to get the help you need from the comfort and convenience of your home or office.

For hands-on therapies, this approach obviously doesn't work, but increasingly practitioners such as functional doctors, nutritional consultants, and psychologists are moving in this direction.

Benefits To You

  • You don't waste time commuting and can avoid stressors such as traffic and road conditions.
  • You don't have to stress about finding or paying for parking.
  • You can schedule an appointment during your lunch break, or during your kid's nap.
  • You can be in a setting that is familiar and comfortable.
  • If you are at home, you can be in your pjs, or only dressed from the waist up, and only you will know.
  • Your practitioner gets a view into your world.  
  • You gain access to a broader range of practitioners.  You can consult with a practitioner in another city if you feel that person can meet your needs better than someone locally.

Benefits To Your Practitioner

I love being face to face in a room with clients, and when I started my practice I didn't want to consult with people over Skype or phone, but I quickly changed my mind when people outside of Calgary started contacting me.  It was important to me to be able to shake someone's hand when I first met them, or hug them when they needed it, or pass them a tissue when they started to cry.  I place a high value on just being with someone, but I soon realized that if people were seeking my help from outside of Calgary, I could hardly ask them to come to Calgary for a single appointment, nor could I deny them the help they were asking for.  Luckily for me, there were benefits on my end as well.

Many of the benefits I experience are the same as for you.  

  • I don't have to stress about traffic, parking or road conditions.  
  • I can wear a nice blouse, but be barefoot and in pj pants if I want.  
  • My stress is reduced on the days that I schedule clients from home verses going to the clinic, and since I'm often making recommendations to my clients to reduce or manage stress, being able to find a way to actually practice what I preach is important to me.
  • When I Skype with people, I often get a glimpse into their homes, which can provide me with important information (especially those busy parents who don't acknowledge their stress).
  • I get to work with people from all over Canada.
  • If a client gets sick and is unable to attend, I can throw a load of laundry in the machine, or do any number of 'mom' duties.

I love being able to offer both face-to-face and distance consultations.  In today's changing world you have choices in the kinds of practitioners you see, and how you see them.

What practitioners have you consulted outside of a clinical setting?  What was  your experience?
If you have a practitioner you want to work with, and can't find the time, try asking if they'll consult with you in a format that accommodates you.

Happy, Healthy appointment making!