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Natural Health News

Why take a multivitamin?

Supplementation is one of the most opinionated subjects in the natural health world. On one side you have many health experts promoting the consumption of multiple types of supplements with aggressive dosing. On the other side you have many health experts suggesting you get everything from food. This contrast of opinion between health experts leaves a lot of people unsure of what to do. I see many patients who from time to time flip back and forth from aggressive supplementation to no supplementation at all. This is where the value of working one on one with a health care practitioner is so helpful. There is no one size fits all supplement regiment. Working with a knowledgeable health care provider should result in you taking the supplements you really need and avoiding the ones you don’t.

In this week’s article, we will discuss the top five reasons most of us should take some form of a multivitamin. While the individual characteristics of the multi should be different for different people, it makes sense for most of us to take a multi.


1.  Minerals Come From The Soil

Minerals are elements that exist in the environment. Minerals cannot be created or destroyed. Minerals cannot convert from one thing to another. Simply stated, they exist. Therefore, when it comes to our food, if minerals are in the soil they should end up in the food grown in that soil. If the soil is deficient in one or more essential minerals the food grown in that soil will be deficient. In agriculture, most fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These are the only minerals required in high amounts to grow big and beautiful looking fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, these fruit and veggies start their lives low in many minerals.


2.  Vitamins Come From Quality Growing Conditions

Unlike minerals, vitamins are not elements that exist in the soil. Vitamins are nutrients that are created by plants. We call them vitamins because humans cannot make them and thus are required to consume them from plants or other animals. The better the growing conditions that the fruits and veggies grow in the better these plants are able to produce their full potential of vitamins.


3.  Vitamins Are Lost in Transit and On The Shelf

Vitamins can be created and destroyed. We just learned how important growing conditions are for vitamins to be created by plants. What I didn’t mention is that many fruits are picked before they fully ripen. In fact, many fruits ripen on trucks or container ships. This process actually causes either a loss of vitamins for some species or a halting of vitamin creation for other species. This is one reason farm fresh local produce tastes so good. It’s in part because the plant is alive with vitamins and other nutrients that are either not created or lost during transit and shelf life.


4.  Vitamins and Minerals Are Lost in Cooking

A final place vitamins can be destroyed is during the cooking process. Heat and oxygen can denature many vitamins as we prepare them in our food. Minerals cannot be destroyed but the can be leached out of the food and into the cooking fluid/broth. However, I’m not suggesting we only eat raw food. A certain amount of vitamin and mineral loss is inevitable during cooking. I am suggesting that we start with more nutritious produce so more essential nutrients are left for us to consume at the end.


5.  Why Not?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, some health experts are against multivitamins. I disagree with a general position against multivitamins for the above four reasons. However, I think it’s important to choose the right multivitamin for the individual. I also think there are some bad products out there that tarnish the category. In the next article I’ll go over the things that are important for you to select the right multivitamin.


What's causing my illness?

The title of this week’s article is, “What’s causing my illness”? This seems like such a basic question. One that must inherently be addressed every time a patient and a doctor get together. Unfortunately, this very basic, yet profound question is often not asked and not answered. As a Naturopathic Physician, I see a different population of patients from your typical MD in general practice. My patients are comprised of people who inherently seek natural treatments and/or people who are not satisfied with the healthcare they’ve received within the conventional system. These are two very different types of people. However, one thing they have in common is that they want to know ‘what’s causing my illness’. They are not satisfied with unanswered questions they feel someone should have answers for.


Why? Why? Why?

When I was a student in Vancouver I was fortunate to have an internet-based radio show that was broadcast as part of Total Health Magazine online. I’ve always been interested in public speaking, broadcasting, and writing and having a radio show was a great way to channel that creativity. My mentor during this time gave me a lot of very good advice about interviewing people and getting interesting and important information from them. Most of the people I interviewed had recently published books or articles in scientific journals. One of the most important tips my mentor gave me was to keep asking why until there is no more why to ask. People have a tendency to answer in layers and the ultimate answer often requires repeating why three or more times.

You may be asking yourself how this is relevant to the topic of my article. The answer is because many medical answers are only one or two layers of the question why. They only get you to the layer of treating the symptom. They don’t get you to the ultimate cause. However, as I mentioned before, most of my patients want to address the ultimate causes of their health concerns. I encourage my patients to keep asking why as many times as they need to in order for us to collectively as a doctor and patient to get to the ultimate causes of their concerns.


Why? Why? Why? Blood Pressure Example

I’ll use a common scenario in my practice to illustrate why I like asking why so much. When patients come in with high blood pressure as a chief concern it stimulates so much curiosity within me. The first why I like to ask is, “why, do you actually have high blood pressure?” I rarely treat high blood pressure before asking a patient to take a few weeks to record multiple blood pressure test results at home during various times of the day. It’s not uncommon to find that a person who thought they had high blood pressure actually has healthy readings most of the time.

If blood pressure seems to be on the high side, the second why I like to ask is, “why is blood pressure high?” Instead of treating blood pressure as a problem that is isolated from all other information I prefer to think of high blood pressure as an end result of other problems. Are the kidneys or liver overwhelmed resulting in greater backpressure in the arteries and thus increasing overall blood pressure due? Are the arteries forming plaques, resulting in increased blood pressure from narrower and less flexible arteries? Is the heart receiving increased thyroid hormone input from a thyroid condition? As you can see, the list goes on and on.

The third why I like to ask is, “why did the second why happen?” Why is the liver overwhelmed? Why did plaque form? Why is the thyroid increasing its output? In my opinion, the why questions should continue until you have a concrete answer or you’ve gone as far as we can with our current knowledge.

Why is this important for health conditions like high blood pressure? The answer is so simple that you probably overlooked it. The answer is so that we get it right. What does get it right mean? To me, get it right means, I helped you in the most profound way I could have helped you. It means I didn’t get it partially right and sort of helped. And it certainly means, I didn’t’ get it wrong and I treated something unnecessarily and maybe even caused unnecessary side effects. Why put someone on blood pressure medication or supplements if the high blood pressure has another cause that can be treated?


If you have any questions about “What’s Causing Your Illness” and would like to ask why, you can contact Dr. Barlow at his office at 250-448-5610 or send him an email at [email protected]

Reduce excess sugar: Part 2

Click here to read Part 1 of this article.

Here are three more reasons to reduce excess sugar:


1.  Excess Sugar Throws Off Your Bacterial Balance

It has become common knowledge that bacteria plays many important roles in the human body. In the last 10-15 years there has been a lot of advertising about probiotic-rich yogurt and other similar products. One very important part of the bacterial balance in the body is the food you eat. The beneficial species, who we want in our bodies, prefer nutrients from fruits, vegetables, and some grains called fructo-oligo-scaccharides. The species of bacteria that cause harm to us prefer simple sugars. These species are opportunistic and can take advantage of sugars provided from your diet. If over the course of weeks, months, and certainly years these species can out-compete the beneficial species and start to cause chronic symptoms. Consuming yogurt, kefir, fermented foods, or a probiotic supplement are in general a good idea. However, if you are consuming too much sugar the bad bacterial species will continue to thrive. Limiting sugar is essential in treating the actual cause of chronic bacterial imbalance.


2.  Excess Sugar Causes Yeast Infections

It’s not just bacteria that loves excess sugar. Yeast excels when sugar is consumed in large quantities. Most of us, men and women, will have a yeast infection somewhere in our bodies throughout our lifetime. However, some people suffer from chronic and recurrent yeast infections for what looks like no reason. This could be vaginal yeast infections, toe nail fungus, thrush, athletes foot, or jock itch to name a few. A common underlying cause for many of these yeast overgrowths is high sugar consumption. Sugar is the primary fuel for yeast. If your immune system is strong and your diet is generally good yeast should not be able to take advantage of sugar in moderation. However, if you consume too much sugar too often you are continually feeding the wrong species of microorganisms. If there are other underlying issues like recurrent antibiotic use or compromised immunity the likelihood of yeast overgrowth increases.


3.  Dental Problems

For decades the dental associations have talked about the harm of excess sugar to the health of our teeth. Sugar both directly and indirectly harms your oral health. This fact shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. However, one mechanism that might surprise you involves bacteria. The main way excess sugar harms your teeth and gums is by throwing off the bacterial balance in your mouth. The good bacteria species that protect our teeth lose territory to the opportunistic species. This is why so many companies that manufacture gum have switched to artificial or alternative sugars. It is believed that xylitol is likely the best for this purpose. It has been backed by a great deal of research from the gum industry to show how it reduces the likelihood of cavities. The reason it does so is mainly because it is simply not fuelling the wrong species of bacteria like sugar does. Xilitol mainly works because it lacks something, not because it does something.



Enjoy sugar in moderation as a treat. Avoid daily excess sugar consumption. You may not realize the negative effects of excess sugar until you address it and reduce your sugar consumption for a few weeks. However, you may be surprised to see some of your symptoms improve simply by avoiding excess sugar.


If you have any questions about a naturopathic approach to health and wellness please contact Dr. Barlow at 250-448-5610.


Reduce excess sugar

Sugar is sweet in many senses of the word sweet. It sweetens the flavour of everything you put it in and plays an important role in many of the treats we love the most. Sugar has been there at our birthdays, holidays and other special events. Sugar has even been there when we’re grieving. The purpose of this article is not to convince you to stop enjoying sugar when it’s appropriate. The purpose is to highlight the top reasons excess sugar is a problem because if you address excess sugar consumption there’s a good chance you may feel some great benefits.


1.  Excess Sugar Steals Your Energy

Excess sugar steals your energy by giving you a temporary burst of false energy and then leaving you alone later only to crash. The mechanism is as follows. When you eat excess sugar it gets absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream. When blood sugar is elevated you experience a temporary high of both physical and emotional energy. High blood sugar (within limits) feels good. In fact, high blood sugar can often feel great. However, in order to utilize the sugar just consumed the pancreas must make insulin. The more excessive your sugar consumption, the more insulin required. Also, the more often you eat excessive sugar, the more insulin surges will be required. As insulin does its job with sugar metabolism you start to lose your sugar buzz. Insulin pulls sugar into the cells of the body and reduce blood sugar below where it was before the excess sugar. This is why you get an energy buzz followed by a crash. The more often you do this the deeper the energy crashes and fatigue become.


2.  Excess Sugar Causes Weight Gain and Fat Deposition

Excess sugar causes weight gain and fat deposition by at least two main mechanisms. First of all, excess sugar spikes insulin levels. Insulin is a type of growth hormone. When insulin is high your body is automatically in fat deposition mode. This means it’s impossible to burn fat and lose weight with excess insulin. Secondly, excess sugar that is not burned for energy is stored as fat. The old myth was that fat consumption lead to fat deposition in the body. While this is partially true, the real equation is that excess sugar leads to fat deposition. This is because fat is our natural storage container for excess energy we consumed from sugar and carbohydrates.


3.  Excess Sugar is Bad For Your Brain and Nervous System

Excess sugar is bad for your brain and nervous system and is a key contributing factor in causing or worsening many people’s health concerns. Symptoms like headaches, ADHD, ADD, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, brain fog, non-Parkinson’s tremors, and many more neurological disorders may be affected by excess sugar consumption. These symptoms are affected by sugar in many potential ways including the mechanisms already mentioned above. Another mechanism not mentioned is damage caused by products called glycosylated end products. These are harmful by-products produced as a result of excess blood sugar. They are a significant problem for people with pre-diabetes and diabetes but they also can exacerbate other symptoms. One of the main problems with glycosylated end products is that they damage arteries, veins, and nerves. This is why diabetics are at a high risk of vascular disease and nerve damage.



Enjoy sugar in moderation as a treat. Avoid daily excess sugar consumption. You may not realize the negative effects of excess sugar until you address it and reduce your sugar consumption for a few weeks. However, you may be surprised to see some of your symptoms improve simply by avoiding excess sugar.


If you have any questions about a naturopathic approach to health and wellness please contact Dr. Barlow at 250-448-5610.

Read more Natural Health News articles


About the Author

Dr. Brent Barlow is a Naturopathic Physician practicing at The Kelowna Wellness Clinic in downtown Kelowna. Dr. Barlow has been in practice in Kelowna since graduating from the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in Vancouver in 2009.

Naturopathic Doctors are trained as primary care physicians, and primarily use natural medicine to treat disease and promote wellness. Dr. Barlow believes strongly in identifying and treating the causes of disease rather than focusing on the treatment of symptoms.

Naturopathic medicine utilizes diet therapy, botanical medicine, nutritional supplementation, acupuncture, spinal manipulation and other physical medicine treatments to treat the causes of disease. Dr. Barlow also trained in the specialized treatments of prolotherapy, neural therapy, intravenous nutrient infusions, and chelation therapy.

Dr. Barlow is in general practice and welcomes all individuals and families. As a naturopathic physician he is trained to treat all health conditions in the manner that best suits the goals of each individual patient. He also has special interests in natural treatments for pain management and digestive health.

To learn more about Dr. Barlow's treatments or to schedule a consultation, visit his website at or call 250-448-5610.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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