The Microbiome and Your Health

Some of you reading will see the title and think “This is going to be interesting”.  Others will see the title and think “What on earth is a microbiome?”

Let’s start with the basics. The microbiome refers to the collection of micro-organisms that travel around with you 24/7/365.  What kind of micro-organisms you might ask?  Well  . . . bacteria, virus, molds, yeasts, parasites.  And, there are a lot of them!  Different interpretations have been made about the number or volume of micro-organisms that reside in or on the body and this is a bit of an academic argument – however it has been postulated by some that an average human body has about 10 trillion cells.  The amazing thing is that the number of micro-organisms are greater by 10 times! Yes, 100 trillion micro-organisms living in us or on us.  Furthermore, these micro-organisms have their own genes, and the total “genetic pool” of these organisms represents 99% of the genes that we carry around.  That is, your own genes represent only 1% of the total genes that are looking at this article.  This astounding information has led some science editorial writers to ask the question, “Who is in charge here?”  Well, the answer may very well be “the bugs”.  The influence that the microbiome has on health and physiology is constantly being re-evaluated – thousands of peer-reviewed articles are published every year on the relationships that exist between “good” microbiota and “good” health, as well as “bad” microbiota and “bad” health. And when I say health, I mean the health of the heart, lungs, gastro-intestinal tract, immune system, skin, and the brain – really, there are not any tissues in the body that are not affected by the collective influence of the microbiome.

These “bugs” inhabit every square centimetre of our skin, but the bulk of the awareness of the microbiota are toward those bugs that exist in our gastro-intestinal tract. (Note:  Some academics in this field refer to the bugs as being the “microbiota” and the gene pool of the bugs being the “microbiome”.  This is correct from a terminology perspective, and yet most people use these terms interchangeably – you may find me going back and forth – for the purpose of this blog, both terms are being used to describe the bugs and not the genes, unless stated).  The bugs in our GI tract perform all kinds of functions – from producing enzymes and vitamins, to aiding in the digestion of food, to being the “gatekeepers” of the intestinal tract, to stimulating the immune system and a host of other functions.  Now, this is when the bugs that exist are “good guys”.  When the bugs that we have are “bad guys” there are a host of bad things that they contribute to including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, poor digestion, food intolerances, food allergies, autoimmune disease, skin disease, hypersensitivity reactions, and brain disease – particularly mood disorders as well as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  The “take-home” message is that the microbiome has a very significant influence on whether we live healthy or sick lives.

Another interesting point is that every single person on earth has a unique microbiome.  The microbiome is as individual as we are. It has been determined that there are in the range of 1000 different species of bacteria that can inhabit the human GI tract, and each one of us houses 200 to 600 of these species.  Even members of your own family have different microbial flora than you.  The science in this field has been moving at an accelerated pace for 10-20 years and yet there is still a great deal to learn.  One of the more recent findings has been in the area of what makes the microbiota function poorly and what makes it thrive.  What has been known for quite a while is that the use of antibiotic medications wreaks havoc on the flora.  Using antibiotics when they are truly necessary is still an important thing – in some cases, lifesaving.  However, the over-utilization of these drugs is a major issue.  Frustratingly, many people are unaware of the volume of antibiotic medication that is used in food production (animals) and ultimately gets into our food supply, ultimately causing issues with our microbiota.  The simple message is that antibiotics are non-discriminatory – they kill the bad bugs that make us sick and they kill the good bugs that keep us healthy.  With the increasing knowledge about the importance of our intestinal bugs, we are starting to seriously question the use of antibiotics in circumstances other than infectious emergencies.  Other chemicals also have negative effects on the GI flora – these include the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, herbicides, pesticides, food preservatives, and the list goes on.

What can we do to preserve or improve the microbiota in our gut?  Certainly the utilization of “probiotics” or good bacteria has been a strategy in place for a few decades.  Recently, there has been some debate in the scientific circles about just how much benefit is derived from the consumption of probiotics.  The uniqueness of our flora suggests that there should not be a “one size fits all” probiotic strategy.  This being said, what, then, is the right probiotic for you? Quite honestly we don’t know. What we do know (or at least what the current consensus is) is that we need to promote diversity of the flora. This can be achieved through probiotics by ensuring that you consume as many different species of bugs as you can. Most notably, this includes the consumption of fermented foods.  The other way to create diversity in your microbiome is to consume large volumes of plant material and as many different types as you can.  You see, the best bugs love to eat plants – so, when we eat plants, they (the bugs) eat plants.  When we eat ice cream, the bugs eat ice cream.  Bottom line is this – we have the capacity to influence our own microbiome and therefore to influence our own health.  The microbiome has remarkable effects on how well (or poorly) our body functions and what we put in our mouths has an enormous influence on what type of microbiome we carry around with us.

Dr. Michael Breen is the co-owner of the Chiropractic Family Care Centre and has been in Private Practice in Calgary, Alberta for over three decades.  Dr. Breen graduated from the University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology in 1981 (Honours) and from Palmer College of Chiropractic – West in San Jose, California in 1986.  His foundational clinical work is in the field of Health Optimization.  He uses his background in athletics and chiropractic to aid his patients in recovering physical capacity and uses his background in nutrition and functional medicine to aid his patients in the recovery from chronic illness.  He is the co-founder of the Healthy Transformations program.  Dr. Breen can be reached at

A Summary of The Healthy Transformations Program

The Healthy Transformations Program is so much more than sustainable weight loss. We have normal weight people sign up for our program too. Why? Because this is about Food University with a strong focus on the science of reducing inflammation, eliminating chronic illness, and a massive focus on understanding your own habits and behavioural science as it relates to food. There is no other program that has this kind of focus and this is why it’s so successful.


Our next information session is on December 12, 2019 at 6 pm. Please register at


Christopher Lawrence is a Co-Founder of the Healthy Transformations program with Dr. Mike Breen.  He is also the Chief Value Officer and Founder of Change My Life Coaching and Co-Founder of Change My Business Coaching — a fast growing whole-life, leadership and business coaching company, and the only one of it’s kind.  He is also the author of “Go Beyond Passion: Discover Your Dream Job”.  Christopher is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner (CMCP), trainer and facilitator, and a passionate public speaker that truly cares about the success of each and every single person he comes into contact with. You can reach him at

An Open Letter to those Struggling with their Weight and Health

This is a letter from Catherine Munro a participant in the Healthy Transformations Program. She wanted to share her story with you and the rest of the world.


To those struggling with weight, inflammation and health issues:

I have been a participant in the Healthy Transformations Program this year – starting on January 9, 2018.

I recall being back and forth in my decision about committing to the program. Good intentions and hope were definitely there – but strong doubt and reservations crept in and drowned those thoughts out.  Old, ingrained thoughts played over in my mind – “Could I do it?” “I’ve tried lots of other programs and failed” “I’ll be so ashamed if I’m not successful”.  Essentially, I felt disappointed in myself before I even started!

The notion of succeeding felt like a huge and daunting task, and given past attempts I truly had doubts that I would have the “willpower” to stick with it.

But the Universe stepped in and gave me a big nudge.  I had a serious health scare with my heart.  My two beautiful daughters sat me down and gave me a talking-to – about how they wanted and needed me around for a long time to come…and that I needed to make some changes to ensure that happened.  Their loving but stern, concerned words impacted me deeply – so… I decided to take the leap.

I had seen a quote long ago that stuck with me “A Year from Now You’ll Wish You Had Started Today”. It’s been almost a year now since I DID start – and words cannot express what an impact this year with Healthy Transformations has had on my life.

What Was Hard

  • Stepping on the scale the first night. Feeling shame that I allowed myself to get to this point and knowing that someone else “knew” this information.  Christopher was so awesome and kind – and reassured me that they never remember or look at that number again during the year.  You only have to weigh in that one time – and after my wave of shame subsided, I could let it go…and look forward, rather than constantly beating myself up. Win #1!
  • Being so raw and concerned about my heart issue – I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t be aggravating the situation. In hindsight NOTHING could be further from the truth!! Dr. Breen was awesome and kind…and so patient…as I ran my concerns past him, and he gave me solid medical advice, reasons and reassurance not to be concerned.  I am tearing up as I write this as I am THRILLED to announce that my recurring heart issue has not only subsided, it has stopped!  And I am off the 4 medications that were prescribed to me a year ago.   My body is VERY happy about that! I am truly in awe.
  • Eating out the first few times – going for meals with friends when everyone was having drinks, and delicious creamy or fried items – and I had a salad. That was early on in the program but as the course went on I learned more and more ways of successfully managing social situations and not reverting back to old habits.  You begin to feel REALLY proud of yourself for sticking with it, rather than feeling like you are missing out on anything.

What Worked:

  • Right from the first class, you feel so supported, engaged and encouraged.
  • The second class you already start to see changes in those around you –and the momentum builds each class as we all looked around the room and celebrated in each other’s successes! That in itself was a huge boost, as you left each session armed with more wonderful information and fresh resolve to stick with it!
  • Feeling your clothes get loose – that never gets old J
  • Feeling your clothes get too big – I was in disbelief actually – could this be happening??But when your pants just about fall off in Co-op, you need to pay attention. Haha
  • Immense pride as you realize you actually DID stick with it, it was not as hard as you conjured up in your mind, the whole experience is eye-opening, incredibly educational and you truly want everyone you know and love to have this information so that they can have this experience and live their very best life!

In closing, I talked a lot about the weight loss aspect of this program, but it definitely was not just about the weight!  The way I move and my energy has improved immensely – no more sore knees.  My thoughts are so much more clear – no more brain fog!  But I think the best part of all is that I had felt anxious and worried a lot in my adult life – but with the changes in my diet and body, that has subsided 95%.  Life still throws things at you – but emotionally I feel more steady.

If you or someone you know are struggling with weight, inflammation or health issues– please get them to register for the next complimentary Healthy Transformations Information Session on November 17, 2018.  You’ll get great info to take away and use right away, and it’s a great opportunity to get all of your questions answered.

Just click here to register:

I hope to see you there!

Catherine Munro
A Healthy Transformations Participant

Making Weight Loss Stick

Lots of people have successfully lost weight with a number of different weight loss techniques. Losing weight in the short term is actually straightforward. If you are disciplined and committed and can adhere to the right eating plan, you can expect to lose a few pounds from your waist.  The truth is that it takes the body time to adapt to the new low-calorie intake.  It’s later on after losing a few pounds that you start experiencing lower energy, cravings, slower metabolism and general lethargy. We all know of people in the past that wanted to lose weight and actually did, but gained it all back in few weeks or months. Scientific research shows that the recidivism of weight loss is close to 98% in clinical studies. So the real challenge is not about losing weight, it is about sustaining the new healthy and lean body you’ve acquired. What then can you do to make weight loss stick?

Developing Healthy Habits

Some years back, conventional wisdom held that the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off was for individuals to completely alter their lives. People were advised to start strict diets, join a gym, attend regular counseling sessions etc. The justification was that the only way to cultivate good habits is by radically shaking up someone’s life. However, the failure of such radical methods has been proven countless times. In his book ‘The Power of Habit’ Charles Duhigg pointed out that piling on so much change all at once made it completely difficult for any of it to stick. However, starting with ONE habit has been proven to be effective and powerful. As a life coach, I work with dozens of entrepreneurs and other professionals. I have helped them create healthy lifestyles that does not bother on willpower, instead by strategic planning they have been helped to develop habits that they can rely on forever. Your goal should be developing many good habits that will help you eliminate bad habits that are interfering with your weight loss goals.

How to Create Healthy Habits

Habits are usually small, mindless decisions and actions you adhere to daily. Interestingly, your entire life is basically the sum of your habits.  In his book Charles Duhigg pointed out that habits are generally dictated by our cravings and desires. He referred to what is called the ‘Habit Loop’ – the fact that both good and bad habits follow the same pattern. I firmly believe that learning the way habits work and how to create and change them is one of the essential components of sticking to a weight loss plan. This is particularly true if you want to make weight loss stick. This mindset will ultimately determine the success of your weight loss plan. Consider the following tips for creating sustainable habits:

1.    Make a list of your habits.

A good first step is to identify the reason WHY you’re making the habit change. Habits are usually created by a repetitive cue, routine and reward system. If your decision is to lose weight, then you need to examine your eating patterns and habits. This will include your shopping habits, how often you eat out etc. List them all out until you understand your habits.

2.    Make Plans for New Habits.

Now that you have a clearer understanding of your habits, the next thing is to replace it with new habits. This may not be easy but do not be discouraged. Keep in mind that once a habit has been established (either consciously or subconsciously) it becomes deep-rooted and the most efficient way to change it is to identify the cue and replace it with a new one while maintaining the reward system.

3.    Start small.

Remember that the more effort required to create a habit, the more resistance it causes, and the less likely it is for the habit to stick. So ensure your new habit does not require an enormous willpower. Instead of walking for 60 minutes daily, you can start with 15 minutes and work your way up. Then only take ONE habit at a time. In fact it’s recommended that you shouldn’t start on a second habit until the initial one feels ‘natural’ or ‘automatic’

4.    Don’t forget to reward yourself!

The habit loop will not be complete if you don’t reward yourself. Set a reward for yourself after following a new habit for an extended period. Preferably, this reward should be in sync with your new healthy habit. In other words, don’t choose food as the habit but something else altogether. One of the things that works well for me is combining the habit with something that I already enjoy. So if I’m going to cook healthy food, I’ll turn on my favourite TV show at the same time, and I do not allow myself to watch that show unless I am doing healthy cooking. Also remember, the best habits are the ones where the reward is built right into them. It can take a while to get there, but healthy food is a good example of this. The more you eat it, the better you feel, the more in control of your life and habits you feel. That in itself is a rewarding experience.


Initially this new habits may not seem like much, but in the long run creating these small, healthy habits can really add up and lead to significant changes to your health and overall well-being! And as you create these small habits, it becomes easier to add the next ones.

Christopher Lawrence is a Co-Founder of the Healthy Transformations program with Dr. Mike Breen.  He is also the Chief Value Officer and Founder of Change My Life Coaching and Co-Founder of Change My Business Coaching — a fast growing whole-life, leadership and business coaching company, and the only one of it’s kind.  He is also the author of “Go Beyond Passion: Discover Your Dream Job”.  Christopher is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner (CMCP), trainer and facilitator, and a passionate public speaker that truly cares about the success of each and every single person he comes into contact with. You can reach him at

4 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Eating ANYTHING

Our hectic daily schedules often make it challenging to focus on mindful eating. Most times we often fill our belly with the quickest, easiest options at our disposal. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, maintain your current weight or simply practice mindful eating, it’s important to bring more consciousness to your eating habits. It’s in your best interest to pause before mindlessly reaching for that bowl of yogurt or the beef jerky. This article will consider 4 revealing questions that will help you to take control of your eating habits.  These are the questions you can ask yourself before you put anything in your mouth that will most definitely slow you down and consider what you are doing!

1.    Am I hungry?

This may seem like a pointless question at first because you’re eating — so you must be hungry, right? Wrong. The aim of this question is to help you separate cravings from real hunger. People eat for several other reasons including boredom (nothing to do), depression (chocolate to ease up sadness), happiness (to celebrate a promotion), or cravings. It’s important to pinpoint the exact reason why you’re eating to identify issues related to emotional eating. If you ate recently, then you’re not truly hungry, you could be eating because you are craving something specific or you ate something that did not meet your nutritional needs. The body is designed to tell you when you need food and that’s why you should eat when you’re hungry. It’s critical not to deprive your body of the nourishment it needs. Waiting for too long to eat to the point where your hands start shaking or stomach starts growling put you in a position of binge eating at the next opportunity of food. And if you find yourself craving some unhealthy options, it is recommended that you consider having a big glass of water. This might just be exactly what you need to flush away that unhealthy desire.

This plays into the importance of planning. Planning is key. I strongly recommend you plan to eat two to three key meals a day but also plan your snacks, two to three a day as well. Ensure they are healthy, nutritious, and have enough fat in them to keep you from getting hungry (remember, fat is not the villain here).


2.    What message and instructions am I sending to my body by eating this food?

Eating’s fun! There’s no doubt about it. We take photos of our food, plan dates to special restaurants and invite friends and families to our homes to enjoy dinner with us. Yes, food is a huge fun factor in our lives. However, before you take that next bite, think about the food you’re going to eat and its effect on your body. When you treat your body right, it loves you right back. Yes, food is meant to fuel and nourish our bodies; however, that is  an understatement about the importance of food. Food gives our body instructions. It’s so much more than just fuel. Every time you eat something you are sending a message to your genetic coding telling it what to do. Food is more about genetic expression and, it’s about and improving our overall health and well-being. When you feed on junk, you’re essentially feeding your body with crap. Your body will lack the energy it needs to carry out basic functions and can affect your health and well-being. To look and feel your best, it’s important to eat healthy.

Another way of asking this question is to say “is this food going to meet my nutritional requirements?”  Whatever it is you decide to eat should provide the vitamins and minerals needed by the body to function optimally.  For instance, every meal should have the right balance of fat, protein and high-nutrient carbohydrates (leafy greens are the best choice for the high nutrient carb).


3.    Is eating this food an expression of who I want to be?

We must eat to live; your diet should be balanced and in tune with your desired goals. Think of it this way; each meal is a piece of your daily food puzzle and each meal provides an opportunity to fill up on what your body is lacking. If you miss these opportunities you will find yourself craving and may indulge on incorrect foods. To take this a step further, you might even look at this as your soft-philosophy in life. We all have a “way of being” in our world. When you reach for that piece of pumpkin pie, ask yourself if it is truly who you want to be in this world. Will eating this help you become the fully realized healthy person you want to be.


4.    How will I feel after I eat this?

It is also critical to consider how you will feel after eating a meal both physically and emotionally.  Will you feel angry, guilty, or annoyed with yourself? Will you feel bloated? A stomachache? Will the food keep you awake all night? Cranky? Giving attention to how the food makes you feel will help you to identify food allergies and also figure out what triggers overeating. Since you can choose your foods based on how you want to feel, you can decide whether or not the end result of that food is WORTH IT. Ask yourself ‘What will I gain from eating this when after a few minutes the flavor will be gone and I’ll just be left with the chemicals, calories, cramps and guilty feelings?

Bottom line… These four questions should help you to make smarter food choices that will help your body perform at its optimal best. Asking yourself these vital questions before you eat will hopefully give you a chance to think about what you’re about to eat, thereby helping you to practice mindful eating.

Christopher Lawrence is a Co-Founder of the Healthy Transformations program with Dr. Mike Breen.  He is also the Chief Value Officer and Founder of Change My Life Coaching and Co-Founder of Change My Business Coaching — a fast growing whole-life, leadership and business coaching company, and the only one of it’s kind.  He is also the author of “Go Beyond Passion: Discover Your Dream Job”.  Christopher is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner (CMCP), trainer and facilitator, and a passionate public speaker that truly cares about the success of each and every single person he comes into contact with. You can reach him at

The Anti-Inflammatory Food Model

The nutrition model used in the Healthy Transformations Program is called the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.  In a previous blog I outlined the confusion that exists in what appears to be competing nutritional approaches.  It is discouraging for many consumers to be caught in what seems to be a “war of words” between these approaches.  All too often, consumers fall into a phenomenon of “believing” that what they are doing is correct instead of “knowing” that what they are doing is correct.  Please read the blog titled Confused About What To Eat – You’re Not Alone! to come to an understanding of how we ended up where we are.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is driven by recent advances in the field of biochemistry, particularly as it relates to how food influences the chemical and genetic function of our body.  It has been known for a number of decades that inflammation is the underlying basis of disease.  What has recently been discovered is the extent to which these inflammatory influences are environmental – meaning, they are the consequence of how we live and how we eat.  There are four primary environmental influences – they are 1) what we eat 2) cellular toxicity 3) overweightness and obesity and 4) free radical influence.  I will make a few comments about items 2, 3, and 4 before we tackle the food influence.

We live in a toxic environment.  The best level of environmental science and toxicology has identified the ubiquitous presence of toxins outside and inside our bodies.  Many of these toxins exist in our homes, where we work and where we go to school.  It is a truly sad state of affairs and yet there is no value in denying the presence nor the influence of toxicity that resides in all of us.  What must be understood is that these toxins have deleterious influences on our health.  The mechanism by which this happens is complex, but fundamentally, cellular toxicity drives the activation of inflammatory cytokines.  The “up-regulation” of these chemicals causes adverse cellular function including adverse signalling to the nucleus of cells ultimately affecting genetic expression.  Reducing toxic burden by effective detoxification processes is a critical step in reducing inflammatory influences.

We also live in a world where the levels of overweightness and obesity have reached epidemic proportions.  So much so, in many countries of the developed world, the number of overweight and obese individuals outnumbers those that are of normal weight.  Think about that.  If you are normal weight in these countries, you would be in the minority as it relates to body fat.  As it relates to inflammation, there are two problems connected to our overweight cultures.  First, because the majority of toxic substances are fat soluble (meaning the toxins will set up shop in the fat cells of our bodies), those with more fat tend to store more toxins.  This is referred to as toxic burden.  Bottom line – more toxins mean more inflammation and overweight people store more toxins.  Second, fat cells produce their own chemistry.  And, much like the influence of toxins, the general effect of fat-based chemistry is to drive inflammation through the action of various inflammatory cytokines.  Therefore, on two fronts, fat accumulation drives inflammatory influences.

Free radicals are the by-product of metabolism.  That is, the basic functions of things like breathing and heart-rate cause the production of free radicals as does exercise and exposure to the sun.  So, what’s the problem?  Well, nothing actually, as long as we have adequate amounts of anti-oxidants to “absorb” the free radicals that are being produced.  So, the problem comes from both sides – if we are producing too many free radicals, or if we don’t have enough anti-oxidants, then the presence of “non-absorbed” free radicals is (you guessed it) a driver of inflammatory biochemistry.  Interestingly, ill-health and disease create metabolic changes that produce increased volumes of free-radicals.  That is, sickness begets sickness.  And, adding fuel to the fire, is the reality that toxic burden drives free radical production.  In a Functional Medicine model, things often go wrong from a number of different (but connected) factors.  In the end, managing free radical production is critical to reducing cellular inflammatory responses.

So, now we get to food and the Anti-Inflammatory dietary model.  I am regularly asked the question “What is an anti-inflammatory diet?” “Is it the same as a Keto diet?”  No, but an anti-inflam diet is somewhat ketogenic.  “Is it Paleo?”  Not exactly, but there are elements of the Paleolithic diet that are consistent with the anti-inflam diet.  “Is it a Low Carb diet?”  Definitely not – in fact it is a high carb diet, but the type of carbohydrates consumed are very well defined.  Is it a Gluten free diet?  Kind of – by default, but not by primary intent. “Well, how would you define it?”  It’s not easy but let me put it this way – The Anti-Inflammatory diet is a high carbohydrate, low sugar, mildly ketogenic, moderate protein, high nutrient density diet.  It doesn’t fit neatly into the diet compartments that we seek or what I call the “Moniker” diets.  I like to say that it is a thinking persons’ diet because there is a requirement to learn about what food truly represents to our physiology.

So let’s look at this one piece at a time.  Why would we want to eat a high carbohydrate diet when the rest of the dietary world is on the low-carb craze?  Well, because over the last 40 years, the scientific world has repeatedly demonstrated that those people who consume plant-based diets are healthier and live longer than those people who do not.  Plain and simple – plants (to the very greatest extent) are carbohydrates and we should eat a lot of them.  Advocates of the low-carb diet will commonly consume as little as 25 grams of carbohydrates per day, and even if this volume were plant based, it is not nearly enough to provide the benefit that plants contribute to our health.  In the anti-inflammatory diet, our patients will consume 140 grams per day of green leafy vegetables and an additional 3+ cups – more than 450 grams – of other vegetables.  This total of 600 grams of plant based carbohydrate is more than most people ever consume per day, but it is foundational to health.  The anti-inflammatory diet is also a low-sugar diet.  Wait a second – I though high carb diets were high in sugar?  Not true if the carbs you eat are low on the Glycemic Index.  This is a VERY important point.  There is a remarkable difference in sugar concentrations between different types of carbohydrates – plants included.  We generally think of sugar in the form of “refined” sugar such as candy and soft-drinks.  However, some carbohydrates such as grains and starches have a Glycemic Index that is nearly as high, and occasionally higher, than glucose.  We guide patients to not fall into the trap of assuming that all plants are OK to eat – this is most certainly not true.  Learning what plants are low on the Glycemic Index is a critical element of the proper application of the anti-inflammatory diet.  Therefore, eating a high carbohydrate, low-sugar diet provides the essential benefits of plants (particularly, high nutrient density and high fibre) without the devastating effects of high sugar.  And here’s the big point – persistently high blood sugar levels have been directly implicated in the production of inflammatory biochemistry that drives disease processes in the body.  Therefore, keeping blood sugar levels low reduces cellular inflammation.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is also a Ketogenic Diet, although the effect is what we call “Mildly Ketogenic”.  A full ketogenic diet may have up to 70% of dietary calories provided in the form of fats.  Now, there are a lot of very good reasons to have more calories provided by fats – the big oops in the Keto Diet is that most proponents do not get enough low G.I. carbohydrates with all the benefits that they provide (which was described in the previous paragraph).  So, the most aggressive keto diet will have 70% fats, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrate.  The Anti-Inflammatory diet will drop the fat volume to around 50% fat, with 20% protein, and 30% carbohydrate – but remember, all of those carbs are green leafy, and other low G.I. vegetables.  The data on the Keto influence is growing rapidly.  Certainly, fats are more energy efficient – we need less of them to provide the same caloric value.  Fats (when converted to Ketones in the liver) burn more efficiently and therefore produce fewer free-radicals in the energy production aspect of our physiology.  It has been demonstrated that our central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) are better adapted to burn ketones for energy than previously thought.  This is big news – because higher blood sugar levels in the brain (from high sugar diets) is now being seen as the initiator of cellular inflammation in the brain which drives dementia and Alzheimer’s.  In fact, it has been demonstrated that aggressive Ketogenic Diets may be a contributory factor in the recovery from concussion.  The overall message is that we must eat more fats than we have been told in the last 50 years.  Eating fats do not make you fat.  And, eating fats do not cause cardiovascular disease.  Sugars make you fat, and sugars cause cardiovascular disease (and a whole bunch of other bad things).

The body needs proteins for growth and cellular repair.  How much protein is required for this function has been under debate for a long while and there are many “camps” in the debate.  The very best science has come to the conclusion that in almost all circumstances (including athletes), the volume of protein in the diet does not need to be more than 20%.  There have been a lot of interpretations on how much this means, but the consensus is that we do not need more than 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  This is where the “Paleo Diet Gone Amuck” comes into play.  The biggest mistake of the Paleo diet is that some of the proponents have come to incorrectly assume that the diet encourages sky-high volumes of protein.  This is not true.  One of the reasons that we should be mindful to not eat too much protein is that high levels can contribute to pulling us out of a ketogenic state (which I just described as being very beneficial).  Fats and proteins commonly co-exist in foods – particularly in animal products.  If the attempt to become ketogenic is through the consumption of large volumes of flesh, you may not be getting the effect you are looking for.  The best way to become ketogenic is to stick with the model of 20% protein in the diet and to increase the plant sources of fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and other medium-chain triglycerides.

Nutrient density is not a common term these days when it comes to the lexicon of diets.  However, high nutrient density is fundamental to health.  In the overall diet debate, too much time has been spent talking about calories from food.  To the body, having lots of calories in food without high nutrient content is like a car having lots of gasoline but no wheels or tires.  It looks like a car and sounds like a car but when you hit the gas, it doesn’t perform too well.  We need to be much more attentive to the nutrient value that we get from food.  The nutrients are the “language” of food – they speak to our cells.  So much so, that if the language of food is clear, we have the capacity to influence positive genetic expression.  Did you hear that?  Getting higher volumes of high nutrient dense foods allows our genes to keep us healthy!  This is very big stuff and is a fundamental emphasis of the field of epigenetics.  Now, where do we find the foods with the highest nutrient density?  You guessed it – vegetables and fruits that are low on the glycemic index.

At this point, I hope you can now see how it all comes together with the Anti-Inflammatory diet.  It stands alone as a dietary model, and yet it has components of other “popular” contemporary models.  In my opinion and when applied correctly, these other models are helpful and will improve the health of their devotees.  However, the Anti-Inflammatory diet considers the best of each of them and is consistent with the current best knowledge in dietary science.

Dr. Michael Breen is the co-owner of the Chiropractic Family Care Centre and has been in Private Practice in Calgary, Alberta for over three decades.  Dr. Breen graduated from the University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology in 1981 (Honours) and from Palmer College of Chiropractic – West in San Jose, California in 1986.  His foundational clinical work is in the field of Health Optimization.  He uses his background in athletics and chiropractic to aid his patients in recovering physical capacity and uses his background in nutrition and functional medicine to aid his patients in the recovery from chronic illness.  He is the co-founder of the Healthy Transformations program.  Dr. Breen can be reached at

Confused About What To Eat – You’re Not Alone!

A Recent History of Nutritional Modelling

Bearing in mind how critical food and nutrition is to our health, there is a remarkable amount of confusion and misinformation about this topic.  And, this level of confusion is not new.  To be accurate, some of the confusion is driven by changes in scientific knowledge.  However, most is driven by individuals or groups who parade a certain position (under the guise of science) and who usually have a product to sell you.  Full disclosure, I have been on the band-wagon of some of these nutritional models but came to my conclusions based upon the best science at the time.  If I were to include my time spent becoming educated at the University of Calgary and at Palmer College of Chiropractic – West, I have been in the health and science game for 41 years.  Now, this is a long time considering how rapidly science can change, and there has been a significant amount of change in the field of nutritional science in the last 10 – 15 years (more on this later).  In my opinion, there have been two stalwart interpretations that have influenced the field of nutritional health in my career.  One of them has turned out to be a horrible example of how “science” is used to manipulate culture, and the other a great example of the reproducibility of science.  The first is the “Fat-Myth”, and the second is the support of the plant-based diet.

The first story is right out of the “truth is stranger than fiction” mould.  I will skim the surface of this story, but will give you enough information so that those interested can look deeper into the topic.  The information is readily available with a little digging.

During the 1950’s, a researcher from the University of Minnesota, Ancel Keys, put forth his scientific model that saturated fat was the basis behind rising rates of cardiovascular disease.  His thesis was borne out in a now well documented paper titled “The Seven Nations Study”.  In this peer-reviewed publication, Keys findings were that inhabitants of the seven countries he studied demonstrated higher levels of cardiovascular disease and that this phenomenon was associated with the tendency for people in these countries to consume higher levels of foods containing saturated fats.  This paper has gone through remarkable levels of scrutiny, both scientific and cultural.  Of note is the now well-known fact that Keys studied more than seven countries.  It was identified that the countries that consumed higher levels of saturated fats but did not have higher levels of cardiovascular disease were excluded from the publication.  This is a scientific “no-no” called “selection bias” where the data is essentially hand-picked to support the assertion or hypothesis being put forward.  One of the other criticisms of the study was that the background data revealed that a number of the subjects had very high levels of carbohydrate / sugar consumption, and yet this was not included as a potential mechanism of the outcome.  That is, there were no “controls” on other dietary influences which, in science, always puts the conclusion of the study in doubt.  Nonetheless, the study was published and accepted within the “scientific community”.  How this happened is the second part of the story.  It has been reported that Keys, in spite of the shortcomings of the study, was a promoter of his views in a manner that is uncharacteristic of the scientific model.  He essentially bullied (my word) those around him to capitulate to his findings, not the least of which was the American Heart Association.  The rest of the story is in the details, but suffice to say that the outcome of Keys’ influence was that the mainstream medical model of cardiovascular disease became that higher levels of fat consumption contributed mightily to the problem, and secondarily, that food production and manufacturing has gone through a 50 year period of reducing or eliminating fats from food and, while doing so, attempted to convince us that this was the best thing to do.

The second nutritional influence has a significantly higher level of scientific validity, and yet is still not applied with consistency from a cultural perspective.  The story has none of the mystery, nor the influence of personality that the “fat is bad for you” contributes.  Simply, over the course of my career, study after study after study have repeated this:  People who get the majority of their food volume from plant sources are healthier and live longer than those who do not.  Interestingly, the science does not say that one must be vegetarian / vegan or any of the related “all-plant” models.  The science does say that any of the “primarily plant” models produces the improved health outcomes.  There have been many models, and the one that is the most well-known, and likely the most studied, is the Mediterranean Diet.  Interestingly, and beyond plant volume, this diet has always included higher amounts of fats (primarily unsaturated) than the model put forth by Keys.

So, where does this leave us?  If you answered, “confused”, then you would be one of the many millions who are unsure about what they should or shouldn’t do when it comes to decisions about what to eat.  I mentioned a little earlier that there have been remarkable changes in the science of nutrition in the past 10-15 years.  Let’s delve into this briefly to bring some light to the issue.

It has been known for a very long time that cellular inflammation (not acute inflammation like when you sprain your ankle) is the underlying basis of disease.  What has become evident with more recent advances in the field of biochemistry is that there are known “drivers” of cellular inflammation.  That is, circumstances that initiate the process of inflammation.  In another blog I will get into more detail about this, but for the time being let me say that what we put in our mouth can be one of the primary drivers of cellular inflammation.  The next big news is that the scientific community has, for the most part, rallied around the understanding that eating fat is not bad for us.  Now, both of these “discoveries” didn’t happen yesterday – they came about over many decades of study.  It might be frustrating for people who don’t follow scientific discovery to appreciate that changing scientific interpretations is like getting a locomotive moving along the tracks.  There is a lot of energy (study) that has to be contributed to get the locomotive moving, but once it has momentum, it starts to move forward pretty easily.  We are at the point where there is significant “momentum” supporting these two points – first, eating fat does not cause cardiovascular disease (nor does eating fat make you fat) and second, eating the wrong foods contributes significantly to cellular inflammation.

And this brings us to the current state of nutritional affairs.  What is the best food model to follow?  There are a lot to choose from, and each one borrows aspects of information that has been gleaned in the last 10-15 years (or longer).  Most of you have probably heard of the Ketogenic Diet – this is a model that turns the Ancel Keys assertion on its’ head.  In the Keto Diet, up to 70-80% of daily calories come in the form of fats.  Only 10% come from carbohydrates and 10-20% from protein.  Another is the Paleolithic Diet which is commonly misunderstood.  Paleolithic refers to the nature of the diet that was likely consumed by our ancestors prior to the agricultural revolution that took place about 10-12,000 years ago.  At that time, it is believed, our ancestors were Hunter-Gatherers and the modern day Paleo diet us is supposed to mimic that model.  The Hunter/Gatherer model has a preponderance of the food from plant sources and animal sourced food when available – logic tells us that plants are easier to catch than animals.  Many in our time have come to the conclusion that Paleo diets mean that you get to eat meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – not true.  The next contemporary model is the “Low Carb” diet.  This model comes out of the data that concludes that high carbohydrate levels in our diet lead to higher blood sugar levels and therefore all the associated problems, including weight gain.  The problem with the Low Carb model is that in most cases, proponents “throw out the baby with the bath water”.  That is, by reducing carbohydrate levels to as little as 25 grams per day, they are reducing (almost eliminating) one of the most consistent scientific principles of nutrition – high plant volumes.  Remember, plants are (to the greatest extent) carbohydrates.  In fact, the Ketogenic model does the same thing.  And, the Paleolithic Diet gone wrong (incorrect emphasis on animal sources of food) also removes large amounts of plant-based nutrition.

So, it seems there are cracks in the nutritional foundations of even the most modern of food models.  It would be reasonable to ask, “What on earth I am supposed to eat?”  Well, I am a proponent of another model – known as the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.  This model takes the best of the available nutritional science and wraps it up in a form that is remarkably healthful and easy to apply.

In a subsequent blog I will provide a detailed description of the Anti-Inflammatory model.  Stay tuned!

Dr. Michael Breen is the co-owner of the Chiropractic Family Care Centre and has been in Private Practice in Calgary, Alberta for over three decades.  Dr. Breen graduated from the University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology in 1981 (Honours) and from Palmer College of Chiropractic – West in San Jose, California in 1986.  His foundational clinical work is in the field of Health Optimization.  He uses his background in athletics and chiropractic to aid his patients in recovering physical capacity and uses his background in nutrition and functional medicine to aid his patients in the recovery from chronic illness.  He is the co-founder of the Healthy Transformations program.  Dr. Breen can be reached at