All posts by Dr. McLaird ND

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Activated Charcoal: Setting the Facts Straight About the Charcoal Trend

With each year, certain health products surge in popularity, and activated charcoal is one of the top hits in 2017. It has even started to be incorporated into food items around the world including Ikea hot dogs in Japan, Ice cream in Toronto, and cold-pressed charcoal juices in the UK, to name a few.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that activated charcoal is not charcoal used in your barbecue! Barbecue charcoal is packed with toxins and chemicals, and should never be consumed. Activated charcoal is available as a supplement within a health food store that has be manufactured from coconut shells and ideally does not have added sorbitol which can cause diarrhea.
How does Activated Charcoal work?

The charcoal is considered “activated” due to its electromagnetic charge, which will stimulate a binding-reaction to drugs, chemicals, supplements, and even bacteria of the opposite charge. Due to the substance being bound to the charcoal, absorption into the body is diminished.

This “new detox ingredient” has actually been used since the 1800’s, within emergency rooms to stop certain cases of acute poisonings or overdoses! This speaks to the fact that activated charcoal can be dangerous if used inappropriately and should be used in certain contexts under the supervision of a naturopathic and/or medical professional.

Natural is not necessarily safe.

One of the main concerns is the high likelihood of drug interaction when taken together – since the charcoal may bind to the drug decreasing the dose received by the body. There have been several drugs proven in research to interact with activated charcoal; however, if you do not see a certain medication on this list, I would still remain cautious.

Interactions may also depend on the amount of activated charcoal consumed, but I would always ensure a time buffer of 2 hours before and after medication avoid interaction possibility. This would include common prescriptions such as the birth control pill, iron supplements and anti-histamines – until further research can solidify safety.

Activated charcoal can also bind compounds from your food!

When charcoal is being incorporated into “black ninja hot dogs” as seen in Japan, this may be a positive benefit since it will help to bind the nitrates; however, unfortunately this does not counteract the carcinogenic effects of hot dogs (for those looking for an excuse to justify hotdogs!). On the other hand, adding activated charcoal to a healthy juice, for instance, may prevent the absorption of the beneficial vitamins and mineral content.

On a more positive note, despite the important considerations you need to make when using activated charcoal, it does in fact have several health benefits. I would recommend you seek professional guidance in order to ensure accurate timing, duration and dosing to achieve your health goals without any side effects.

Some of these health benefits include: oral health, gas & bloating discomfort, “hangover help”, ameliorates detoxification withdrawal symptoms, and topically to aid in acne treatment. I commonly use activated charcoal in conjunction with a comprehensive treatment plan to address the root causes of my patient’s ailments.
If you have any questions further about activated charcoal or how naturopathic medicine can help improve your health, please do not hesitate to contact me! I would love to meet you.

Kindly,

Dr. Kate.

 

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5 Apps that can Improve your health in Summer 2016

Apps are always changing and improving – so here are my favourite 5 for the summer of 2016 to help you optimize your wellness. Swing by in the Fall for another 5 to make taking care of yourself easy!

For the anxious and stressed:download

Head Space – meditation made simple, quick and focused on areas of health that matter specifically to you. The app also includes a “guided recovery process” to help regroup from any “mini meltdown” experienced. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from this app – download it!

 

For overall health promotion:

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Waterlogged- You’re not drinking enough water? Keep hydrated this summer. To calculate your minimum water intake use the following equation.

Your weight in LBS x 2/3 = oz of water to drink per day (divide by 8 to get the number of cups)

For decreasing chemical load:

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Think Dirty- allows you to check the chemical toxicity level of any cosmetics, shampoos and other products by scanning their barcode – great to double check your sunscreen choice! Chemicals load has been shown to contribute to infertility, increased wrinkles, brain fog and fatigue along with other common ailments.

For better sleep:

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Long Deep Breathing – is a simple, no frills app that promotes the practice of deep breathing for better health and battling insomnia.

Using what’s essentially a breath gauge, you simply follow the visual cues for inhaling and exhaling. You can adjust the length of each breath and eventually increase the duration. According to the app, the average person breathes about 12-16 times each minute. By practicing and working that number down, you will reap the benefits and calm the mind. Good information about the benefits of breathing is also included in the app – this includes weight loss!

For the mommies-to-be:

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What to Expect – an app that is a personalized daily tracker which allows parents to be to track development of their baby day-by-day and week-by-week based on their due date. This includes fruit size equivalents to add excitement even before being able to feel any kicks!

Originally posted on DrKateMcLaird.com.

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travelling

Healthy Travelling!

There is absolutely no time to be sick on a holiday! By taking the time to integrate these natural medical supports, you can decrease the potential of falling ill during your holidays and maximize the amount of relaxation, rejuvenation, and enjoyment in each and every day.

Reasons our health becomes unbalanced over the holidays are numerous, however a few of the most common would include:

  • The adrenaline crash after overextending yourself for a long period of time, leaving you vulnerable to developing colds
  • Exposure to foreign viruses or bacteria that trigger your immune system causing illness
  • Lack of sleep due to jet-lag
  • Possible injuries from adventurous activities
  • Digestive and hormonal changes commonly affected by travel
  • Over consumption and indulgence in alcohol and rich foods

…the list could continue

Continue reading to see Dr. Kate’s staples for travelling.

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Trick-or-Treat

Indulge in a Healthy Halloween!

Whether you are at a staff meeting on October 31st, salivating over the table of cupcakes and orange popcorn your colleagues have brought to enjoy the festivities; or perhaps you are preparing your very own goblin for a night of trick or treating – both scenarios will result in an excessive amount of candy that you can enjoy at your leisure.

What can we do to experience a healthy Halloween that does not involve eating orange coloured carrots and mandarins as our celebration?

Read below for 8 ways to enjoy the holiday in a healthier way…it is possible believe it or not!

1) Encourage your children to donate 1/2 of their treats to those who didn’t have the opportunity to trick or treat!

Explaining that there are children who are too unwell to be able to participate in all the fun and activities often inspires a sense of giving and charity to share their happiness. Allow your family to get acquainted with the local charities and services and your children will become passionate and excited to donate their treats to an organization of their choice. If kids are excited about what they are doing, their passion will be shared with all of their friends and more children will be inspired to do the same!

Examples: Ronald McDonald House, Sick Kids…

2) Participate in the Trick or Eat Program!

This program is incredible for all ages and even more so for older kids who love the creativity of dressing up, but are not interested in collecting candy anymore. Trick or Eat is a youth-led national event where thousands of Trick or Eaters across Canada go door to door to collect food for local community organizations to actively show they want to make a difference on the issue of hunger.

Did you know that 1 in 8 Canadian households experience food insecurity, meaning that they don’t have sufficient access to the food they need to meet their dietary needs!? Inspiring children to contribute to a charity on a day that they are excessively receiving treats/food is humbling and a great experience to add to their Halloween memories. It is predominately organized through university and college campuses, but there is no reason why you cannot participate as a family or in high school!

For more information, check our their website at Trick or Eat

3) Enjoy treats only following a meal (excluding breakfast!) or in combination with a healthy food choice to balance blood sugar levels

When adults or children alike consume a sugary treat, a hormone called insulin is released in proportion to the amount of sugar consumed to ensure the calories are absorbed. After eating the treat, the body experiences a spike in blood sugar levels which is associated with a multitude of physiological changes, including hyperactivity and an inability to focus which may be a top concern at school or at work. This blood sugar high is followed by a blood sugar low caused by the hormone insulin triggering high levels of sugar to be absorbed into your cells and this is associated with inattentiveness, extreme fatigue, irritability, anger management issues, amongst others.

By ensuring treats are consumed after a meal containing protein, the high’s and low’s of blood sugar with be dulled, as will the associated unfavourable symptoms. Furthermore, establishing an accepted understanding that with a treat, you also must have a healthy snack (containing protein) and a small glass of water, should it not be eaten after a full meal. Empowering children to understand types of food is integral for life long understanding of a balanced diet. If you’re an adult reading this article, it is never too late to learn!

4) Be a role model

Simply put, be as concerned with your personal health as you are with your children’s health. Serve as a role model following your own guidelines that you have instilled for your family, and consume in moderation.

Dangers of eating too many sweets for both children as well as adults include:

  • Raised insulin levels which can contribute to diabetes and heart disease
  • Elevated LDL (unhealthy cholesterol) levels and lower HDL (healthy cholesterol) levels
  • Severely fluctuates energy levels which is directly related to productivity
  • Induces hyperactivity and impulsive behaviours
  • Suppresses the immune system (which is the last thing the body needs during cold and flu season!)

5) Have fun with the Halloween Spirit in the kitchen

Enjoy the holiday by being creative in the kitchen and creating snacks with a Halloween theme. Children would love to help you in the kitchen as well – teaching them how healthy food can be fun!

64 Non-Candy Halloween Snack Ideas can be found on my Pinterest!

6) Avoid using sugary treats as rewards

It is easy to use treats as incentive to accomplish a set of tasks or complete a grueling list at work; however, it is also very easy for this “treat” to become habit as the lists are steadily completed on a daily basis. Try developing a different reward system involving healthy self care activities, spending time with loved ones, relaxing with a movie or spending time outdoors.

As parents, although it is tempting to use treats as incentive to have chores completed, beds made, and homework completed, this can create an association with accomplishment and reward with sugary sweets and furthermore create an expectation that basic everyday tasks deserve a reward after completion. Of course positively reinforce your children with praise and love, perhaps a healthy activity (example going to the park), but try to refrain from using a treat.

7) Stash out of sight, out of mind

Can you relate when you pass a billboard with a Pizza Pizza advertisement showing steaming, cheesy delicious pizza and you automatically crave pizza for dinner? The same thing can happen with sugary sweets. If the bag of Halloween candy is visible, even if there isn’t a craving for a treat, the brain will start to associate the delicious flavour, happy moments when eating treats and induce a desire for a treat.

8) Gluten free and/or peanut/nut free and don’t know what treats are safe to enjoy?

These websites have very extensive lists to provide many options to choose from.

Click here for a Peanut and Tree Nut Free list

Click here for a Gluten free list from CSA Celiacs and GlutenAway updated October 2015

Above all have an incredibly memorable,
happy, safe and health Halloween!

Yours in good health,

Dr. Kate McLaird, ND

Originally published on drkatemclaird.com!
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Optimizing Pregnancy with the Mediterranean Diet and Fish Oil

So how important is nutrition during pregnancy? Some women take this time to eat whatever they desire….after all, they are eating for two people right?! Some find the endless nutrition recommendations anxiety provoking and feel like they need to track exactly what they consume for the next 9 months to optimize their baby’s health in 2015’s nutrient deficient culture. This article will highlight research supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (minus the red wine recommendation) and the importance of fish oil during pregnancy.

The Mediterranean diet has received a great deal of media attention over the past decade – and for good reason! Research has shown on several occasions that following the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy was protective for (or decreased the risk of developing) asthma and eczema (both increasingly prevalent conditions particularly in North America), not only during the first year of life, but also confirmed for lasting effects into the 6th year of life.

The Mediterranean diet includes (but is not limited to):

  1. Fish twice per week (minimum) – ensure it is a low risk fish for heavy metals
  2. Use of olive oil (at least 2 tbsp daily- make your own salad dressing and you have it covered!)
  3. 5 or more fruits/veg per day
  4. Red meat maximum twice per week
  5. No more than 2 small cups of coffee per day (varies based on individual)
  6. *No red wine recommended*

Recommendations vary depending on individual circumstances. A naturopathic doctor is trained to accommodate recommendations based on your health history and pregnancy progression.

Fish oil is a critical component of the resulting health benefits of the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy; moreover, the research has identified EPA and DHA ratio (ingredients of fish oil) to be the most revealing via supplementation.

Benefits proven in repeated studies show:

  • Superior performance on cognitive an neurological tests
  • Better hand-eye coordination
  • More advances problem solving performance
  • Better visual maturation associated with DHA status
  • Decreased risk of anaphylactic food allergy
  • Decreased incidence and severity of eczema
  • Decreased risk of developing asthma
  • More likely to have a balanced immune system

Additionally, fish oil has shown to have mood enhancing effects when provided with a higher EPA ratio. Considering it is a natural food derived supplement, this form of support would be highly recommended as a safe pro-active approach to women with a history of a mood disorder in decreasing their risk of developing post-partum depression.

There are many dietary specifics recommended for optimal nutrition during pregnancy which are not disqualified in the least in certain circumstances; however, to simplify into a single set of guidelines – the Mediterranean diet, with added fish oil supplementation (to ensure adequate intake) combined with emphasis on eating from whole foods, avoiding processed/pre-packaged foods and increasing protein and fruits/vegetable intake is a fantastic place to start.

By adopting these dietary habits, along with a naturopathic doctor’s medical advice regarding added nutritional supplementation catered to your specific pregnancy, you can decrease the risk of your baby developing certain health conditions and lay the foundation for a healthy future.

 

 

This article is not a prescription; it is solely provided for informative purposes and is not all-inclusive. Your Naturopathic Doctor will conduct tests as well as physical exams in order to provide you with an individualized prescription based on your specific needs which may include other recommendations not listed within the article above.

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Brain-Food for Back to School!

Help your scholar (little or big!) have the best year possible no matter their grade, avoid or decrease the number of sick days, support their emotional health when learning life lessons and optimize their healthy overall development with nutrient conscious foods choices!

The Research (in a nutshell)

Nutritional deficiencies, hypoglycemia, food allergies, high sugar consumption, caffeine, food additives, artificial ingredients, and low protein intake have all been implicated in childhood behavioural problems, most commonly characteristics associated with ADHD.

Let’s start with Breakfast

It’s been proven that children who eat breakfast perform better in school.

Most children eat breakfasts that are high in sugar and loaded with simple carbohydrates. These types of food provide energy quickly, experienced as a burst of energy, but also results in a “blood-sugar crash” or an extreme low in energy. Children and adults alike will often feel fatigued, irritable, unable to focus, dizzy, jittery or occasionally nauseated in this energy crash. Having said this, it would not come as a surprise if the child who eats a bagel for breakfast in the morning displays anger outburst, an inability to focus or forgetfulness by mid morning.

TIP: Make breakfast protein-rich and carbohydrate-poor
GOAL: Balance blood sugar levels through their school day

Try these quick protein rich breakfast ideas:

  • Homemade nut granola with milk and a piece of fruit
  • Yogurt / nut butter (if peanut, 100% peanuts with no added sugar) and an apple
  • Breakfast burrito: scrambled egg, black beans and salsa wrapped in a whole grain tortilla
  • Breakfast pizza: toasted English muffin spread with thin layer of marinara sauce, topped with a scrambled egg, light sprinkle of cheese and toasted
  • 1/2 toasted English muffin with a hard boiled egg (salt and pepper to season) and a bowl of berries
  • Scrambled eggs, a slice of cheese on a toasted whole grain toast
  • Fruit smoothie with small amount of protein powder (recipes upon request) and a toasted whole grain toast and avocado pesto mash spread

Extra Tip: Just as carbohydrates can spike your child’s blood sugar, you can just imagine what a dessert would do! Try to avoid all dessert during the school day and try to replace sweets with healthy nutrient dense alternatives.

Try these nutrient dense dessert ideas:

  • Whole grain toast with almond or peanut butter and fruit jam / ¼-1/2 banana sliced
  • Almond or peanut butter spread on apple slices
  • Nut granola with yogurt and drizzled honey
  • Homemade granola bars
  • Nut Energy no-bake balls

EXTRA TIP: If wanting a typical dessert, such as a cake or a pie – Aim to teach the importance of portion size to your children as well as baking desserts gluten free using nutrient dense flours such as almond flour, coconut flour, garbanzo bean flour, amongst others.

Lunchtime Nutrients
Getting your child involved in their lunch preparation is key! They will more likely eat what they take to school if they have a part in the decision making process. Studies have shown that children who help pick and prepare their meals are more likely to eat them.

Try these quick, easy and healthy lunch alternatives:

  • Brown rice bowls topped with meat and veggies
  • Whole grain / rice pasta salad with diced chicken
  • Hummus with veggies & whole grain crackers with almond butter
  • Burritos made with brown rice and black beans in a whole grain tortilla with tomato salsa and grilled veggies. Can be leftovers from a dinner a couple days before and can be heated or eaten cold.
  • Almond crusted chicken fingers (seems fancy, but super simple!)

KEY TO SUCCESS= Take a few hours on the weekend to shop, plan and prepare for next week’s meals.

Dr. McLaird is on Pinterest and Facebook!

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Natural Ways To Support Your Infant’s Immune System

Probiotics and the Developing Immune System

Recently, there has been immense interest in the medical research regarding probiotics and how they influence the health of the body. Apart from helping heal gastrointestinal complaints (including Crohn’s, Ulcerative colitis, IBS and Celiac disease), probiotics have been shown to relieve anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure and also prevent antibiotic resistance to name a few. We are only beginning to understand the potential of our gut flora, and some of the most beneficial and promising research relates to newborns and how we can help optimize their health for their futures to come!

Probiotics and newborns: where is all begins…

The newborn gut is a perfect environment for microbes to live with food, moisture, and warmth. Its first inoculation of bacteria comes from the environment the baby is born into. It has been shown that vaginally delivered infants harbour bacteria resembling their own mother’s vaginal, rectal and skin microbiota which are Lactobacillus, Prevotella or Sneathia spp. dominant. To the same effect, infants born by C-section acquire bacteria similar to those found on the surface of the skin, such as Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium spp. as well as the hospital environmental microbiotia. The bacterial balance may also be influenced by antibiotic treatment as well as feeding choices (breastmilk, formula, food introduction, types of foods eaten)

The varying bacterial balances, have been shown in the literature, to influence the development of certain health conditions later in life. Children born by C-section, for example, have been shown to have a 2-fold higher prevalence of atopy (a tendency to develop allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis, asthma and eczema) than those born by vaginal delivery. Furthermore, there is evidence that more than 50% of young children with severe atopic dermatitis will develop asthma and approximately 75% will develop allergic rhinitis. This suggests a possible correlation between the type of bacteria in the gut and the presence of atopy. Several studies have been conducted to prove this theory correct using probiotics.

Probiotics are “live organisms” which when taken orally, provide significant benefit by rebalancing the good and bad gut microflora. The gut has 400 trillion good bacteria and is up to 3000 square feet in surface area (as an adult). The good bacteria in the gut are responsible for healthy post-natal development. There are estimated to be 10,000-40,000 strains of good bacteria required to support healthy development of the brain, immune system and detoxification pathways with the research continuing to discover more interconnections. The numbers and types of bacteria in the gut is ever-changing due to their fast division rate and is strongly affected by the food we consume. In one particularly large study (215 infants aged 6-12 months), a comparison between formula milk with probiotic supplementation and formula milk alone was made and a series of health markers were monitored closely. Infants who received formula with probiotics showed a 46% reduction in the incidence rate of GI infections, 27% reduction in the incidence rate of the common cold and a 30% reduction in the total number of infections at the end of study period when compared to infants who were only fed formula (Maldonado et al J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2012).

Another large trial (454 mother-baby pairs), the Swansea Baby – Allergy Prevention Trial, was conducted to investigate the effect of probiotic administration in the prevention of allergy development in infants over 6 months and following up after 2 years. The results showed a 57% reduction at 2 years. This study was the first of this kind to show supplementation of good microbiota, for only the first 6 months of life, can positively shift the developing immune system to acquire the microflora as its own ultimately creating long lasting health benefits into adulthood. This finding is groundbreaking, as when starting to supplement with probiotics as an adult, the health benefits only last with continual probiotic supplementation (as seen in the research thus far.)

Cough and colds are the most common infections we experience – often being a matter of “when” rather than “if”. Commonly adults catch a virus 2-3 times per year and children 3-8 times per year and probiotics have been shown to profoundly alleviate several aspects of inevitable annual sickness. The PROCHILD study evaluated 57 children aged between 4 and 6 years in a pre-school setting for 6 months and monitored illness. Total number of days with cold symptoms (sneezing, sore throat, cough, runny/blocked nose) had a 51% reduction in the probiotic group! The frequency of occurrence of cold symptoms reduced by 33% in the group taking probiotics. Most importantly, there was a 30% reduction in absence from preschool in the children taking probiotics! (Garaiova I et al 2014 Eur J Clin Nutr, doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.174)

The increasingly recognized profound impact that the microbiome has on human health cannot be underestimated – with impacts on virtually all aspects of human physiology.
Optimizing your child’s gut bacterial balance can be one of the most important things you can do to provide a foundation for health into their future. It is encouraged to talk to a naturopathic doctor or another health care professional who is educated in the latest research to help guide probiotic supplementation based on individual health needs. We are only beginning to understand the potential of this manipulation of gut flora and it provides a huge level of promise for the future.
Botanical Medicine and the Developing Immune System

Herbal medicine has been used for centuries all over the world and contrary to some belief it can be very effective in supporting a newborn’s immune system in a very gentle and safe manner. The best way to prevent infection in an infant is to grow a healthy baby during pregnancy. A healthy baby is likely to have a well-functioning immune system with optimal resistance to illness. Good nutrition during pregnancy is one the most important factors in decreasing a baby’s susceptibility to infection.

An effective way to stimulate a newborn’s immune system as they fight off a general infection is the use of botanical herbs, which have the ability to do so in a safe and gentle way without taxing the body. Botanical herbs will decrease the duration and severity of symptoms during an infection while still allowing the normal immune response to take place without suppressing it.

The following is a brief description of two herbs that the literature has found to be effective when treating general infections in newborns:

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): mainly known for its use as an antidepressant, antimicrobial, sedative and anti-inflammatory. In addition, to it’s commonly recognized use as an antidepressant, St. John’s Wort is also known to be a sedative and restorative nervine with a potent calming effect. Its antimicrobial properties make it very effective in the treatment of upper respiratory and intestinal infections. This herb is also particularly useful in the presence of inflammation. It may also be used as an earache oil to treat the pain as well as the infection associated with ear conditions in infants.

Echinacea spp.: Well known for its immune stimulating effects, it is also a very potent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant. It can be very useful in treating upper respiratory tract infections as well as eye infections. As an alternative to providing this herb to the baby directly, a nursing mother can also take an Echinacea tincture some of which will pass through her breast milk to the baby. Echinacea decreases the duration of colds and reduces inflammation both internally and externally, and enhances overall resistance to illness. This herb is safe for young children as long as the dose is appropriate for their weight.
The previous descriptions of probiotics and botanicals are not meant to serve as a prescription, please see your Naturopathic Doctor to learn more about safety and dosages.

 

Dr. Kate Mclaird, ND & Dr. Nadine Khoury, ND.

 

References:

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turmeric

Food as Medicine: Turmeric the Great

I’m excited to share a special recipe with you today. Chiang Mai Noodle Soup is a packed with complex flavours, and rich with turmeric. One of the most important lessons I teach is that the food we ingest should be our primary medicine. A wellness powerhouse, here are just some of the health benefits of Turmeric:
Anti-inflammatory
Powerful antioxidant
Boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (AKA lowers risk of     brain diseases)
Contributes to lowering risk of heart disease
Anti-cancer properties
Linked to prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
Anti-depressive effects

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chemicals

Shedding the Chemical Burden

As the naturopathic doctor at the Toronto Wellness Centre, I attended the Green Living Show at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, to explore what was new on the market to offer to our patients! I was astounded at the number of new green products that are available on the market, and moreover, companies making it ridiculously easy to convert to green – there really aren’t any excuses anymore!

Did you know!?

The EWG (Environmental Working Group) conducted a survey of 2300 people and the results showed that “on average, respondents use nine products daily. These contain 126 unique ingredients. One man in 100 and fully 25 percent of women surveyed apply 15 or more products each day.” With these types of numbers of exposure to products with potential long term health effects, we need to start taking action.

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