All posts by Jonah Lusis

Balancing Your Plate

Often, as the result of media reportage, we develop the impression that increasing our intake of a single food or nutrient is the key to a healthy diet.

In fact, the three dietary practices for which there is the most scientific support with respect to benefit to human health are increased intake of vegetables and fruit, management of glycemic load (the impact of the foods we eat on blood-sugar levels) and maintenance of a healthy body-weight.

Considered in this light, the relationship between the standard North American diet (i.e., over-size portions and high in red meats, refined grains and “junk” foods) and chronic disease becomes clear.

It is possible to eat a healthy, balanced diet, consistent with what the Harvard School of Public Health describes a “Prudent Diet”, by eating according to the following simple guidelines at each of your three daily major meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner).

Two handfuls of “non-starchy” vegetables and/or fruits:

  • “Starchy” vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squash, turnips, parsnips and beets
  • Two colours of fruits and/or vegetables at each meal
  • Fruit servings should be limited to three daily

Palm-sized serving of “starches”:

  • Including “starchy” vegetables, grains and grain products (breads, pastas)
  • Emphasis should be on whole grains and grain products

Palm-sized serving of protein source:

  • Including fish, meats, eggs, dairy products, tofu products, beans, legumes, and nuts and seeds
  • For non-vegetarians, fish should be eaten two to five meals weekly
  • “Red” meats (including pork) should be limited to two meals weekly

Benefits of a Balanced Diet Compared to a Standard North American Diet

  • Less calories
  • Less saturated fats
  • Less refined carbohydrates
  • More fiber
  • More vitamins and minerals
  • Better blood-sugar control


Posted: 2015 March 12


Burford-Mason A. Nutrition for Docs 2008; 2008 Oct 4-5; Toronto, ON: Ontario Society of Physicians for Complementary Medicine and The Complementary Medicine Section, Ontario Medical Association; 2008.


Is wheat good or bad for me, and how does gluten fit into the picture?

Wondering if you can and should eat gluten? In this “Ask the Doctor” post, Jonah Lusis, ND discusses what gluten is, and who should avoid it.

Is wheat good or bad for me? How does gluten fit into the picture?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains including rye, barley and spelt.

In individuals with celiac disease, gluten causes an autoimmune response and should be avoided completely.

For the rest of us, unless there is an intolerance, wheat can and should be consumed, but in moderation.

The advice that wheat and other grains should be a major part of our diet is, however, outdated.

Many people have diffculty consuming grains either due to a gluten intolerance (which can be detected using an elimination diet) or the “yo-yo” effect eating starchy foods causes on blood sugar levels.

People who notice fatigue after meals, or have a family history of diabetes mellitus, should minimize their wheat and grain consumption.

Next week, Jonah  Lusis, ND will discuss the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. Stay tuned!

For more help managing how you feel eating foods, contact us!



Posted: 2014 November 13

Musings on the Flu Vaccine

So, a propos of flu season, I thought I’d opine on the flu vaccine.

As a naturopathic doctor, the expectation is likely that I’m against it, but I’m neutral to it.

What had come to my attention, and what I was thinking of commenting on, was Shoppers Drug Marts’ aggressive promotion of the flu vaccine in the new year, in spite of the fact that the CDC had already determined this years’ vaccine is poorly matched (it’s estimated to be only 14% effective in persons over 50 years of age, the group most targeted in flu vaccine advertising), and that with a two week period required to develop antibodies, a person receiving the vaccine in mid-January will not have developed flu protection until little of the flu season remains.

In the course of looking up facts and numbers to round out my griping, I stumbled across this more interesting article on flu statistics.

The article questions whether or not the flu is actually the public health threat that results in much fear-based advertising and government pronouncing, moral judgment of those choosing not to use the vaccine and billions of dollars in annual government spending.

Essentially, the article brings to our attention that the claim that 2’000 to 8’000 deaths attributed to flu annually in Canada likely over-estimates, possibly greatly, the health impact of the flu.

Flu death figures are not arrived at by counting confirmed flu cases that ended in patient death (the testing required for this is not practical, and would cost a fortune).

Estimates are arrived at by using computer models. Assumptions are created (e.g., pneumonia deaths occurring in the winter months are caused by flu), and a computer will generate a number based on the assumptions. Different assumptions generate different numbers. Prior to 2003, Health Canada used different assumptions in their models, and the models predicted 500 to 1’500 flu-related deaths annually.

So, how dangerous is the flu really? The H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009 prompted close scrutiny of flu cases, widespread laboratory testing and the implementation of a national reporting program. In other words, implementation of the ideal flu-death counting system described above. That year, the final number of deaths attributed to the flu was 428.

If 428 is a more accurate prediction of how many Canadians will die of the flu, greater than 99.999% of Canadians will survive the flu each season. Is this worth the anxiety, hostility and dollar cost it results in each year?

Addendum: I happened upon this article written by a past chief medical officer for Ontario, an infectious disease specialist, questioning the value of the flu vaccine for different reasons (hint: the best case scenario for use of this years’ flu vaccine was vaccination of 50-100 persons to prevent a single case of flu).

Jonah Lusis, ND


Posted: 2015 February 26

Should I do an elimination diet or do an allergy blood test?

In dealing with inflammatory and irritable bowel diseases, elimination diets and IgG food testing are an important tool in crafting a treatment plan. In this post, Jonah Lusis, ND discusses what they are, and which is preferred.

I suspect my diet may be contributing to my digestive symptoms. Should I do an elimination diet or do an allergy blood test?

You can do either.

The strength of an elimnation diet is that it is a “bottom line” evaluation, asessing whether or not a food causes you to feel unwell regardless of whether the cause is immune-related, intolerance-related or sensitivity-related. It is ideal for conditions in which symptoms are the primary concern, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Allergy blood testing is for an “IgG immune response” and will only identify foods causing an autoimmune response (i.e., “allergic”).

This approach is recommended for persons having autoimmune (i.e., inflammatory) conditions (e.g., inflammatory bowel diseases, multiple sclerosis, widespread rheumatoid arthritis) because it identifies foods that cause an immune system response, regardless of whether you are aware of symptoms in the digestive tract.

The bottom line:

  • Irritable bowel disease: elimination diet > IgG assessment (but IgG assessment can be helpful if an elimination diet is not possible)
  • Inflammatory condition: Do an IgG assessment

In our final post for Crohn’s and Colitis month, Jonah Lusis, ND will explain the difference between a food allergy test administered by an MD and an IgG test.

Let us know if we can help (with your digestive health or otherwise)!


Posted: 2014 November 20

The Best Things You Can Do for Heart Health

February is Heart Health Month, and in support of that, a short reminder of three things you likely already know you should be doing to keep your heart healthy.

In this week’s blog post, we ask Jonah Lusis, ND what are the best things we can do for heart health. Check out our Wellness Wednesday video for his number one recommendation, and read on for the other two!

Eat a vegetable-based diet

A vegetable based diet is great for your heart because helps to reduce inflammation which is the main danger when it comes to heart attack and stroke.

Also, it can help you lose weight (if you need to), which is absolutely key for taking strain off your heart. Although exercise helps with weight loss, there is an expression in medicine that goes “Weight is lost in the kitchen” – it is very hard to exercise away extra calories.

What I mean by a vegetable based diet, is to ensure that at least half the food you eat at each meal is fruit or vegetable (excluding potatoes). Sticking to this simple model consistently is enough to help most people reduce their weight to within a few pounds of an ideal wight for them, and will promote heart health.

Exercise your heart

While both resistance (e.g., weight training) and aerobic (e.g., walking, swimming, cross-country skiing) exercise are important aspects of health, because it’s Heart Health Month, we’ll devote our attention to aerobic exercise, which is the type of exercise that strengthens your heart.

You are “exercising” your heart when you are causing it to work at between 60-90% of its maximum capacity.

The easiest way to assess this is to pay attention to the way you’re breathing. You should be exercising hard enough that you need to breathe using your mouth to feel comfortable. If you can breathe comfortably using only your nose, exercise harder. Mouth-breathing correlates to approximately 60% of maximal heart rate.

Fish oil

Be sure to check the label when choosing a fish oil supplement. You want to choose a fish oil with a higher EPA than DHA content, that has been checked for purity by a third party and that is in “triglyceride” form.

Happy Heart Health Month from all of us at TCNM!


Posted: 2015 February 19

The Dairy Queen Blizzard®: Supporter of The Hospital for Sick Children, but also Diabetes.

Today, August 14, is Miracle Treat Day, meaning if you purchase any size Blizzard® at a Dairy Queen restaurant, they will donate the proceeds to local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

I’m certainly not criticizing supporting children’s hospitals, but a large-size “M & M Blizzard®” contains 150 g (about 6 times the recommended daily limit) of sugar, and if you’ve paid attention at all to the news in recent years, you no doubt are aware that “sugar is the new tobacco”.

The role of sugar in health is closely tied to obesity and blood sugar control. Obesity, and it’s health consequences, primarily diabetes and heart disease, is widely considered to be the next major public health crisis. Research published at the PLoS Computational Biology in 2010 suggests that 42% of Americans will be obese by the year 2050 (in 2010, 34% were obese). Obesity correlates to a Body-mass Index (BMI) score of greater than 30. A BMI score of greater than 25 (a weight of 165 pounds for a person of 5’8”) correlates to an increased risk of early death. A BMI score of greater than 22 (a weight of 145 pounds for a person of 5’8”) correlates to an increased risk of developing a chronic disease.

  1. The role of sugar in obesity is three-fold: Firstly, it is calorie-rich and nutrient-poor (containing no vitamins, minerals or fiber), meaning it adds to your weight, offering nothing in return.
  2. Secondly, evidence suggests that sugar calories are more damaging to the body than, for example, protein calories. The work of Robert Lustig, MD (a pediatrician and obesity expert) at the University of California has demonstrated that a can of soda has the same impact on the liver as a shot of alcohol.
  3. Finally, it dramatically affects blood sugar levels. There now exists some debate as to whether obesity causes insulin-resistance (difficulty in the body regulating blood sugar levels, and eventually diabetes mellitus), or if excessive sugar consumption results in insulin-resistance, which in turn causes obesity.

Anyway, we can agree that excess sugar is not good for you.

When we discuss “bad” sugar in the diet, we are referring to sugar added to processed foods (not only candy bars, but also ketchup, salad dressings and Dairy Queen Blizzards®), not sugars intrinsic to foods such as fruits. Currently, recommendations (per the American Heart Association) are to limit added sugar content in the diet to 5% of their daily calories, or 24 g (or 6 teaspoons) daily for women, and 38 g (or 9.5 teaspoons) daily for men.

The best way to stay within your limit for sugar consumption is to eat mostly unprocessed foods.

If you are eating a food containing a label, check the label. You will likely be surprised at the amount of sugar present: a can of Pepsi® contains 41 g, a tablespoon of ketchup contains 4 g (is approximately 1/3 sugar).

Oh, and to bring it around to the Blizzard®, maybe it’s a little inconsistent, and kind of cynical, to promote a product that is clearly at odds with human health to support a health initiative.

Jonah Lusis, ND



Posted: 2014 August 13

What is an Elimination Diet?

Continuing our conversation on improving digestive health, Jonah Lusis, ND discusses in this two-part question, an elimination diet and its benefits in treatment.

What is an elimination diet?

An elimination diet is a therapeutic diet used to identify foods a person doesn’t tolerate well.

There are various versions of an elimination diet, depending on the specific health concern being addressed, but at their core they will feature removal of foods most people are either allergic to or do not tolerate well, but are commonly eaten. Examples of commonly “eliminated” foods are dairy products, wheat and eggs.

The goal of the diet is to confirm whether or not the persons symptoms abate in the absence of these foods.

An elimination diet will typically last three weeks.

I have already removed foods I suspect are causing my symptoms, do I need to complete an elimination diet?


It is important to remove all suspect foods simultaneously. For example, if you do not tolerate wither wheat or dairy, and have removed them from your diet, but not at the same time, you many have concluded: while not having wheat, but feeling unwell from the dairy you are still consuming, that wheat is not causing your symptoms. The same applies in reverse. This can lead to the ultimate conclusion that neither wheat or dairy or your problems foods when in fact both are.

Tune in next week when we will discuss gluten: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

For more help with elimination diets and digestive symptoms, get in touch!



Posted: 2014 November 6


What is the difference between the food allergy test I have had with my MD, and an IgG allergy test?

In our last “Ask the Doctor” post for Crohn’s and Collitis Month, Jonah Lusis, ND answers a commonly asked question about IgE and IgG food testing.

What is the difference between the allergy test I have had with my MD, and an IgG allergy test?

The allergy test you have with your MD is usually a “skin-scratch” test. This test evaluated whether your body has an IgE (a type of immune system chemical) response to foods. The IgE response is the “immediate” response (e.g., hives, throat constriction) your immune system mounts to foods you are allergic to.

An IgG allergy assessment (such as this one) is a blood test that evaluates foods that trigger an IgG (a second, different immune system chemical) response by your body that also produces inflammation, but is typically delayed, and therefore more difficult to detect (e.g., migraine headaches, eczema).

Jonah Lusis, ND

We hope you enjoyed our digestive health series!

If you are struggling with digestive issues and are ready to get you tummy on track, we can help.


Posted: 2014 November 27