The Foodie's Guide to Gluten-Free

I WISH these were gluten free…

I WISH these were gluten free…

As a practitioner that sees a lot of gut health issues, and conditions associated with it, it is likely that I will ask you go try going gluten free. I do this, not because I am trying to be the stereotypical Naturopath portrayed in movies, but because it can truly have a negative effect on some people’s health. No, it doesn’t effect everyone, or at least everyone the same, but for those with a more chronic condition that they are seeking help with, it is a great place to start. There is research that shows gluten can increase zonulin in the gut, which I’ve spoken about before, which causes a more “leaky gut.” Gluten can cause different reactions, including the obvious bloating and cramping, to swelling, headaches and fatigue.


What the heck is gluten though? Gluten is the protein in certain grains, including wheat, spelt, kamut and barley. It is what makes it stick together well. It is not in oats, millet, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, sorghum. In years past, trying to find gluten free bread that didn’t crumble immediately was almost impossible! Luckily now there are so many great options to choose from. I am creating a guide for those patients of mine that need some guidance, but also all those out there wondering whether this is something they should try for their health. (Hint…if you are asking yourself that, you should probably try it!) Halifax has a few less options than bigger cities, so let me know if there are other favourites I may not know about.

My Gluten-free Tips

  1. My number 1 tip for going gluten free is to not worry so much about replacing every type of gluten product you have. You can do a lot with a lettuce wrap, sweet potato, cauliflower or bed of rice. Try a burger on a lettuce wrap, or seasoned ground meat in romaine. Or even sloppy joes in a roasted sweet potato. You will end up buying less gluten free products and eating more whole foods :)

  2. Bob’s Red Mill is my go-to for gluten free flours for baking. No more complicated recipes needed with a binding agent such as xanthum gum, since their blends are all ready to go and come out tasting great!

  3. Eating out when you are gluten free has become easier as well (except for brunch…that’s still hard for me sometimes!). A lot of restaurants have gluten free options or substitutes so all you need to do is ask. A go to for me is just their meat/fish, potato and veggie dish. There is usually always something like that.

Favourite Gluten Free Products

  • Baking Flour: Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour - hands down the best baking flour. It works so well for mostly anything you are baking.

  • Oats: Regular oats - Unless you are celiac, you can use regular large oat flakes. These are a go to for me for quick pre-made breakfasts and snacks. I love my oats!

  • Pasta: GoGo Quinoa Pastas - I get a big bag of their mixed grain pasta at costco and it tastes great. Their cauliflower blend option isn’t as good. Kids also tend to like the 100% legume pastas you can find now, which provide a good source of fibre.

  • Crackers: Blue Diamond Artisan Nut-Thins - These are crunchy and delicious with hummus. Mary’s crackers are a great option as well. Breton even has gluten free crackers in the regular cracker section.

  • Bagel: O’Doughs Thins - This is a new company I think, found at Superstore in the freezer section. They are delicious with a little peanut butter for a quick breakfast if you are craving more carbs (but not with the calories - bonus!). Their sandwich buns are pretty good as well. Little Northern Bakehouse has bagels as well.

  • English Muffins: Glutino brand - I’m not a big english muffin gal but I’ve been told these are the best option.

  • Bread: This one is a toss up depending on what you are looking for. Some options are - Little Northern Bakehouse Gluten Free bread is apparently really good, especially their Honey Oat Bread; Costco Gluten free bread (comes in a pack of 2 loafs); fresh bread at the market (look around, you may find a gem). Glutino and Udi’s are best for making stuffings etc, since they are still a bit crumbly.

  • Burger buns: Udi’s Hamburger Buns - I discovered these in the summer and I was very impressed! I’ve you aren’t going for the lettuce bun, try these.

  • Pizza: Sabatassos Gluten-free Pizzas - Since I can’t eat dairy, these came highly recommended by a great source. Found at Costco and they are apparently amazing!

  • Mac & Cheese: Annie’s Mac & Cheese - Another that I haven’t tried myself but is a great option for quick meal for yourself or kids.

There you have it, some great options for those of us that are gluten free! I promise it isn’t so bad. I love to cook and I’ve made out alright 😉

Any favourite products of yours I’m missing here? Let me know!

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

Hands-on Food Coaching Program

As you know good food is a passion of mine so I wanted to create a program that allows me to share that knowledge with you to optimize your health! Talking about food in my office isn't quite the same as talking about it while brewing up something delicious in the kitchen or seeing hands-on what foods are helpful for you. Whether you are trying to loose weight, suffering from chronic pain or depression this program can help you. 

All the details of my food coaching program are found under "Services" on my website but for your convenience I have added them below. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions or if you feel like this is the right program for you! So let's have fun in the kitchen :)

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

Food Coaching with Dr. Karen

In a food rut? Do you want to make a change but are not sure where to start? Are you struggling to lose weight and have tried too many diets? Are you suffering from anxiety, depression or chronic fatigue, where food could be the culprit?  I am here to help! 

Going through my own health concerns I have tried and tested many different "diets" and have come to the conclusion that not one diet fits all. We are all individuals, so food should have an individual approach. There is an abundant amount of information about food these days and a plethora of cookie cutter diets or cleanses. It can get confusing and overwhelming.

This is where I come in. I've created programs that cater to your individual food needs and are fully customizable. I can visit you in your kitchen or via Skype (so you can see mine!) and help break down those food barriers. Take a look at the packages below and we'll find one that fits you best to get you started. 

Package A - The Appetizer: 1 session - $170

  • Intake and nutrition session - to discuss chief concerns, food barriers, goals and personalized nutrition session.

Package B - The First Course: 2 sessions - $245

  • Intake and nutrition session - to discuss chief concerns, food barriers, goals and personalized nutrition session.
  • Nutrition package - including several helpful handouts on diet and nutrition for your specific goals.
  • Meal planning how-to and healthy recipes package.

* The first meeting will be done in office over 75 minutes. The second meeting can be done in office or via Skype over 30 minutes. 

Package C - The Full Meal Deal: Over 2 sessions - $330 (Most popular option)

  • Intake and nutrition session - to discuss chief concerns, food barriers, goals and personalized nutrition session. 
  • In home or Skype kitchen audit - A healthy diet starts with a healthy kitchen therefore having the right food and tools is important. 
  • Nutrition package - including several helpful handouts on diet and nutrition for your specific goals.
  • Meal planning how-to and healthy recipes package.
  • Simple cooking session to get you started.

*The first meeting and intake will be done in office over 75 minutes. The second meeting will be via Skype of home visit over 75-90 minutes. 

Package D - The Dessert: 1 session - $200

  • Short nutrition session - to discuss chief concerns, food barriers, goals and personalized nutrition session.
  • In home or Skype kitchen audit - A healthy diet starts with a healthy kitchen therefore having the right food and tools is important.
  • Meal planning how-to and healthy recipes package.
  • Simple cooking session to get you started.

*Only available for existing patients. Can be done in your kitchen or both (via Skype) over 75-90 minutes. 

Personalized approach: (Do one of these options resonate with you? Let me know and I will cater your sessions to suit you.)

  • HEALTHY LIVING- This is perfect for those who already have a grasp on a healthy diet but are looking to fine tune things or learn new tricks such as sprouting, using bone broth or the plethora of ways to use chia seeds or avocado. 
  • LIGHTENING THE SCALE - This is geared towards those that are trying to lose weight for overall health and need that personalized guide or a different approach. Includes such things as a discussion on cleansing, portion sizes and intermittent fasting.  
  • DOWN IN THE DUMPS - Did you know that gut health influences your mood? This approach is geared for those suffering from anxiety or depression. We discuss proper nutrition to improve gut health as well as lifestyle habits to help. 

*Direct billing can be applied for each package if applicable. 

*$20 travel fee for kitchen visits within the HRM. Outside HRM fee on an individual basis. 

Healing the Gut: All about the good bugs

Did you know that our body lives symbiotically with many bugs, called the microbiome? Did you know that many chronic diseases, such as allergies, skin issues, depression, obesity, hypertension and more are linked to a disruption of our microbiome? 

We are seeing a plethora of research today showing the benefits of a healthy microbiome, this being the collection of healthy bacteria in our body. The majority of this microbiome is located in our gut, which is why I discuss gut health with so many of my patients! Many of you may be familiar with the word “acidophilus” but that is only one strain of probiotics, or live bacteria, which lives symbiotically with us. Some other strains that are important are lactobacillus, bifidobacterium and saccromyces boulardii. Sound like gibberish? Luckily, it is helpful gibberish. 

A few important roles of probiotics:

  1. They protect against pathogens: A spectrum of immune conditions, from simple colds and flus to chronic immune deficiencies, such as Hashimotos and Crohns, can occur if we have a deficiency in probiotics. This is due to the fact that more that 70% of our immune system resides in our digestive tract and probiotics help to strengthen it. Some germs are actually good for us in this case. If we wiped out all those bugs, from over sanitization or antibiotics we decrease our bodies ability to protect us from when we need them the most.
  2.  They protect the gut lining itself: Heard of the term “leaky gut?” Our digestive tract is simply one layer of cells, with the blood stream directly beneath it. Therefore, it is quite fragile. An imbalanced flora can lead to permeability of these cells, by up-regulating a protein called zonulin, which has been shown to be correlated with auto-immune conditions, such as celiac disease, and other chronic diseases. This permeability leads to an increase in inflammation in the blood stream. Diagnosed with “IBS”? Probiotics may be the gut protection you need. 
  3. They calm the nervous system and affects the mind: I have spoken before about the correlation of depression and anxiety and an imbalanced microbiome. By protecting the gut lining, probiotics decrease overall inflammation in the body. Probiotics have also been shown to stimulate neurochemical production such as GABA and serotonin, our calming signals, and also communicate directly with the brain through the vagus nerve (one of the largest nerve in the body, connecting the brain and the gut.) 

My tips to help your gut: 

  1. Focus on Diet. The western-style diet of more carbohydrates and more sugar leads to higher levels of inflammation and gut permeability. They also feed the “bad” bugs, such as yeast and an imbalance ensues. By focusing on eating more vegetables and fibre and eliminating sugar and processed carbohydrates, the gut will thank you. 
  2. Get some Vitamin D. This multifunctional vitamin decreases zonulin in the gut, ultimately helping our probiotics to function more affectively. Summer in Nova Scotia is a great time to increase your vitamin D, so get out in the sun...for a reasonable amount of time!
  3. Eat your fermented foods. Kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut are all great ways to improve your gut flora with food.  **A note on kefir: Please read the bottle! All kefir is not the same. Avoid the flavoured versions with added sugar (just negates the effects). If you are sensitive to dairy, try coconut kefir, which actually has more probiotics per tablespoon (15 billion vs 2 billion). Finally, increase the dose slowly, starting with 1/2 tbsp, increasing to only 2 tbsp, added to other yogurt or smoothies. Too much all at once may cause more bloating. 
  4. Take a probiotic supplement. In my practice I usually start my patients on a supplement form as a larger correction is needed or a certain strain is important. The dose and strain depends on their concern. It may be hard to get enough probiotics in food form before the imbalance is corrected. Ask your ND what is right for you. 

So there you have it, probiotics have several important roles in our body, especially in the gut. If you have any questions on these little bugs please don’t hesitate to ask or reach out to me in a 15 minute free consults. Happy to help!

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen


(Photo credit: 

The healing power of food - Using food as medicine

If you did not catch me on CTV last week, check it out by clicking the photo above or read all about it and more below.

If you are like me and do not like to take too many pills in a day, putting the emphasis on food to give you the nutrients you need and using its medicinal properties to heal your body is ideal. The quote "eat your medicine" rings true here. Food is more than just calories to fill us up. It is full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. 

Some simple ways to use food as medicine:

  •  Lemon – Add lemon to water to stimulate the digestive track. Great for liver health and to regulate your bowel movements (especially if you suffer from constipation). Try infusing water with lemon in the fridge overnight or drink a cup of warm water with a lemon slice before breakfast. Be sure to use fresh lemon instead of lemon juice. 
  • Apple cider vinegar – This stimulates your stomach acid before meals to aid in digestion. As we age, or if we have been struggling with stress (and who hasn't!), our level of stomach acid starts to decline, which can impede digestion. This creates symptoms such as heartburn, gas, bloating and constipation. Taken before meals, a little goes a long way! You only need about 1 tsp-1tbsp in a little water.
  • Fermented foods – There are several studies recently showing the connection of fermented foods to improved health, including improved immune system, digestive health and mood - including anxiety and depression. The fermentation process produces beneficial probiotics. There are several types of fermented food available such as sauerkraut, kombucha tea, kefir, kimchi, and of course yogurt. Have you tried a variety of these? You can even make your own! 
  •  Ginger root – The phytonutrient in ginger acts to soothe the stomach, if there is any digestive concerns. It is also very warming for people who tend to always be cold like me. Finally it helps to improve your immune system. Make ginger tea by boiling a few slices of fresh ginger in water.
  • Tumeric root – You can find this as the root, the spice or in capsule form. The curcuminoids in turmeric act as a natural anti-inflammatory. They target any type of inflammation, including joint pain, muscle pain and even digestive issues. I use the capsule form a lot in my practice for joint pain and injuries. Research shows a higher dose is most beneficial so a capsule with a least 250mg 3x/day is suggested. However, you can add the spice to food or make turmeric tea with the root - just be careful as it can stain everything yellow!
  • Flax seeds – We have heard a lot about flax seed in terms of its fiber content, however I use it a lot in my practice for many gynecological issues, such as cramps, irregular period and menopause. Flax contains lignans, which act as a phytoestrogen to help balance estrogen. 1-2 tbsp ground flax seed is great for females of all ages.
  • Mushrooms – Their polysaccharides in mushrooms improve and balance your immune system. They are great for a poor immune system, fatigue or any immune condition. Try adding more shiitake mushrooms to stir-fries or  try chaga tea. 
  • Cruciferous veggies – This is a large group of veggies, including broccoli, cauliflower and greens. They contain I-3-C, which is needed in both phases 1 and 2 of liver detoxification. By adding these vegetables to your diet, you improve your livers function, ultimately improving your overall health. 
  • Finally think colour! - The more colour you have in your diet, the broader spectrum of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals you are getting. A good question to ask yourself is, how many colours are in my diet today?

Have you tried one or more of these foods for their medicinal benefits? Which is your favourite?

Also, if there is a topic you are curious about please let me know in the comments below and I'd be happy to shed a little more light on it.

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen