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Ask a Naturopath

Send your product questions to Dr. Laura Belus, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine!

Meet our Naturopath
Dr. Laura Belus

As a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, I believe that health is attainable at any age. As a young adult, I made the connection between the foods we eat and how we feel. This was a powerful tool in reversing my long history of migraines and skin concerns. I focus on detoxification and hormone balance for weight loss, stress management, and greater energy. I believe in making simple, yet powerful, changes to diet & lifestyle habits that create lasting results. I practice at the Natural Health Clinic of Halton in Oakville.

Licenses & Memberships

  • • College of Naturopaths of Ontario
  • • Ontario Association of Naturopathic Dr
  • • Canadian Association of Naturopathic Dr

How Can I Help?

Dr. Laura is available to help address questions or concerns you may have regarding the use of products sold at Well.ca, and will respond within 2 business days!‡ Examples of topics that you can ask Dr. Laura about include:
  • • Reason(s) to use a specific product or product type
  • • Suitable dosage and intake method for best results
  • • Potential interactions between products
  • • Safety of particular ingredients for certain health conditions
  • • Next best choice if your preferred item is unavailable
  • • Product recommendations within a particular category
  • • Potential side effects of a particular product

†This service is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases. We cannot provide medical advice or specific advice on products related to treatments of a disease or illness. You must consult with your professional health care provider before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, and before taking, varying the dosage of or ceasing to take any medication.
‡Response times may be longer depending on submission volume.

Got a product question?

Simply fill in the form below to submit a question to Dr. Laura. To ensure quick turnaround, please limit questions to one per day. Thank you!

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Your top Q & A

July 17, 2017

Q: Hi Dr. Laura! I’ve heard I should be taking fish oil. Is it really necessary?

A: Fish oils are one of the highest sources of omega-3 fatty acids (a molecule which our bodies are unable to produce naturally on its own). Omega-3s are powerful anti-inflammatories, improve brain function & skin concerns, plus are essential for heart health. The balance of omega-3 to omega-6 (an inflammatory, but very common fatty acid found in vegetable oils & packaged goods) is what matters most. The more omega-6s we eat, the more we need omega-3s. Most people would benefit from a standard daily dose of omega-3s (approximately 1000mg), but for stronger anti-inflammatory support, doses up to 3000mg or more have been used. Remember: fish oil can easily go rancid- always store it in the fridge and if you buy a liquid version, use it up within a month or two of opening.

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Q: What is the best supplement for hair loss?

A: Hair loss can mean a few things: thinning hair, hair breakage, or alopecia (bald spots of complete hair loss). Each of these concerns have different causes, and of course, different medical & natural treatment options. Some of the most common reasons for hair loss tend to have a hormonal basis. If you’ve just had a baby or entered menopause, your lower estrogen levels may be to blame. For others, low thyroid function or elevated stress can be the culprit. So where do you start? Firstly, starting with a good nutritional foundation is key. Many of my patients are shocked at the improvement in their hair after making a few changes to their diet. This includes enough protein, healthy fats and key nutrients like zinc, iron, B vitamins & vitamin C. Starting the day off with a protein packed smoothie and a quality multivitamin are always a great idea. How long to wait to see results? Hair regrowth cycles vary, but typically waiting at least 3 months is necessary before determining whether or not the treatment is effective. Be patient!

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Q: Hi Dr. Laura, How do I lower my stress levels?

A: Stress today is inevitable (sorry!), but thankfully how we deal with it, isn’t. Stress is a normal response by your body in reaction to a perceived threat, and a whole host of hormones and chemicals are responsible for that short term stressed feeling (increased blood pressure, sweating, etc.). The problem isn’t short-term stress, however, it’s long-term stress. Our bodies are not wired to deal with constant pressures and it negatively affects our mood, weight, & energy (just to name a few). So how do we get this under control? The best approach is two-fold. First, take time to rest and recharge your body. Don’t skimp on sleep, skip meals or push yourself when your body needs a break. Second, our bodies use higher amounts of certain nutrients when it’s under stress. Adding in some extra B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C are vitally important to support you through stressful periods.

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Q: I’m having trouble sleeping at night-my body is tired but my brain is still wired. Help!

A: You’re not alone. About 1 in 7 Canadians suffer from insomnia, whether it’s difficulty falling or staying asleep. Although the sleep requirements for everyone vary, most research indicates a 7-7.5 hrs per night is best for our health. However, sometimes we feel tired but still can’t fall asleep. Why? Our nervous system is responsible for keeping us in ‘go-go-go’ mode all day long, but when night hits, we can’t seem to shut it down as easily as we would like. This is why a bedtime routine is vital. Gett your body prepared to go to sleep at least one hour beforehand. No screens (including your phone!) and no activities that require a lot of mental stimulation (think studying, reviewing finances, etc.). Also, prepping tomorrow’s to-do list the night before can help to clear out the mind and allow for a more natural ease into sleep. Two of my simple go-to sleep remedies: Epsom salt bath & lavender essential oil on my pillow. Sweet dreams!

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Q: Do I need to cut my carbs to lose weight?

A: Carbohydrates are a necessary source of energy for the body. However, now more than ever, we are considering the type of carbohydrate to be most important. Carbs can be found in donuts, pasta, chickpeas or kale—so needless to say, they aren’t all created equal. When it comes to losing weight, I often recommend switching simple carbohydrates (crackers, breads, potatoes) for more complex, higher-fiber sources (nuts/seeds, green vegetables, berries). This allows the body to feel more satiated and you’re much more likely to stick with the changes in order to reach your goal. Remember, cutting total carbs too low for some (especially women) can negatively affect hormone & thyroid function, so quality over quantity is often best!

Aug 9, 2017

Sept 1, 2017

A: Hemochromatosis is a condition in which iron can accumulate and create damage and inflammation in the body. This excess iron can be very corrosive to the internal organs, and if left untreated, can hasten organ degradation and even lead to death.

The main marker for hemochromatosis is high serum ferritin levels. A normal ferritin level is 50-100 ng/mL of serum. Below 10 is suggestive of anemia, and levels above 200 ng/mL in men and 150 ng/ml in women warrant further evaluation for hemochromatosis. The normal iron content of a human body is about 3-4 grams, which is held mostly in the red blood cells. Iron helps "magnetize" oxygen onto the red blood cells. We also store a small amount on a molecule called ferritin that can hold up to 4,500 molecules of iron.

Signs and Symptoms

Some 10 percent of people are heterozygous for the hereditary form of hemochromatosis (the most common); 0.5 percent inherited the genetic mutation from both parents, and are thus homozygous for the more severe disease form.

Confirmation may be obtained with genetic testing. If positive, relatives should be tested by age 30, if possible. The most important things to know about iron overload, according to Alex Vasquez, DC, ND, DO (inflammationmastery.com), are:

  1. • It can happen to anyone at any age
  2. • Testing with ferritin is essential-every-body should have this test not later than age 30 and then again at age 50
  3. • Genetic testing for hemochromatosis will miss other primary and secondary forms of iron overload, so serum ferritin is the better test

The main reasons to suspect this diagnosis and talk to your doctor, include:

  1. • Unexplained abnormalities in liver function tests or chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis.
  2. • Cardiac enlargement with or without heart failure
  3. • Diabetes mellitus
  4. • Hypogonadism, with decreased libido and impotence in men
  5. • Skin hyperpigmentation
  6. • Unexplained fatigue
  7. • Joint pain, especially involving the second and third finger joints
  8. • Positive family history of iron overload

Treatment

Luckily, hemochromatosis is readily treated by phlebotomy, or "bloodletting." People who have been diagnosed with hemochromatosis need to have regular (weekly or biweekly) phlebotomy until iron levels return to normal. They then need to be monitored to assess a subsequent phlebotomy schedule.

For example, a patient who has confirmed hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) with an estimated 10 grams of iron storage will need phlebotomy weekly for 50 weeks to deplete the excess stores. One "unit" of blood (500 mL) is taken weekly. Each 500mL of whole blood removed reduces iron load by about 250 mg. The goal is to get serum ferritin to 50-100 ng/mL.

Another option is chelation (binding) of iron. The main pharmaceutical product for this is called deferoxamine, but many iron-binders exist in nature, including tannins (black tea), oxalates (spinach), and calcium (sardines, yogurt, and robust greens such as kale). Consuming these foods may be a good option for maintaining optimal iron levels after the initial phlebotomy push. Did You Know? It's important to be well hydrated before and after bloodletting.

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Q: The news seems to be full of stories these days about people becoming addicted to opiates and prescription painkillers. Is there a better way to deal with pain using natural pain killers? -Jeff W., Bend, Ore.

A: Making a positive change starts with awareness of a problem, exploring creative solutions, and making a commitment to the brighter, more vital path. The tragedy (for people, families, communities, and institutions) of drug addiction is that the pain created by addiction is much worse than the original injury. But the good news is that there are many well-documented and useful methods of easing pain without the scourge of addictive pharmaceuticals.

Here's my top 10 list of natural pain killers: Learn More >

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Q: Hi Dr. Laura. I've had horrible allergies most of my life. My doctor has me on antihistamines, prescription and over-the-counter. I've been taking them for years, but I want to try a more natural approach, and I'm scared about the long-term risks of antihistamine use. Thoughts?

A: Histamine is a naturally occurring chemical that is secreted by the body when mucous membranes are confronted with some kind of irritant. Histamine causes a rush of white blood cells and fluid to the affected area, and this natural reaction causes short-term swelling and congestion as it attempts to flush out the irritant.

If exposure persists-as in the case of allergies or dusty/moldy environments-this histamine response becomes prolonged, making the "cure" seem worse than the cause. This is why antihistamines are a $30 million-a-year industry in the U.S. These medications block histamine, thus preventing immune responses from engaging, and delaying the body's ability to heal from an acute exposure to irritants.

Brain Drain

Despite label warnings, many people take antihistamines quite liberally. And that's a problem, because when used long-term (one study cites more than 180 days), antihistamines can dry out not only your mucous membranes, but also your brain. The brain is happiest when fed with high-quality fats such as avocado, coconut oil, and wild salmon, along with a low-glycemic diet; plenty of water, sleep, and exercise; and minimal amounts of "screen time," especially late at night.

In other words, keeping your brain happy is not so different from keeping the rest of your body happy. But there is a special feature of the brain: namely, that it is made mostly of moist fat. One reason our brains start to degrade as we age is that nerve/brain healing factors like the steroid hormones (estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and the pre-hormones vitamins A, D, E, and K) decline. And drying the brain out with antihistamines only makes matters worse. Long-term exposure to antihistamines is thought to lower the primary neurotransmitter in the brain, called acetylcholine, and has been linked to elevated risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia-and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk.

Anti-Allergy Foods & Nutrients

If you're a chronic antihistamine user, know that there are healthier options that can be just as effective. Bioflavonoids are my favorite mast-cell wall stabilizers, and will delay the "histamine-dumping" effect of irritating exposure.

Quercetin (usually derived from pigments in apple skins and the inner skins of red onions) is also extremely helpful. The ideal way to take quercetin is with a coconut drink-the good fat in coconut makes quercetin more bioavailable. Turmeric is another excellent remedy for reducing inflammation associated with allergies, and it is synergistic with quercetin.

Apple a Day! Keep the doctor away and allergies at bay with quercetin, a nutrient derived from apple skins.

Incorporating yellow and orange foods such as squashes and carrots into your diet can also help reduce your allergic response, as can eating apples and red onions regularly.

Other good food choices (those rich in bioflavonoids and/or quercetin) include strawberries and other berries, cherries, red bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, mango, pineapple, and oranges. These foods are also good sources of vitamin C, important for allergy relief.

Reducing or eliminating white flour and sugar from your diet will also improve your "tolerance" to irritants that are inevitably part of the daily environment. Sugar and bleached flour massively depress the immune system. And if your immune system is depressed, you will have even less capacity to manage mucous membrane irritants.

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Q: MagPop and relaxation of muscles, and for building bones, cartilage, teeth and gums?

A: she made the connection between the foods we eat and how we feel. This was a powerful tool in reversing her long history of migraines and skin co

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