Wine and Weight Loss

Wine and Weight Loss


Is wine hindering your weight loss goals?   For many, a moderate consumption is just fine, but for some women trying to lose weight, it may be the final step to losing those last 5 pounds.  We are all aware that drinking calories in the form of wine, juice, slurpees or milkshakes is a quick and nutrition-poor way to consume calories.  Many are also aware of the inhibition-loss and depressant effects of alcohol that can lead to poor dietary choices and over-eating.  As a naturopathic doctor, I find alot of women are sensitive to the blood sugar effects of alcohol.

Whenever your blood sugar regulation is weakened, your metabolism will be affected.  This can cause weight retention, an increase in anxiousness, and poor sleep, amongst other things.  A glass of wine with supper could be contributing to your early morning wakefulness and poor depth of sleep.  Weight loss is incredibly dependant on proper sleep and your body's rhythms.  Alcohol can also deplete GABA, a neurotransmitter needed for adequate sleep.

In the morning after such a poor sleep, you may reach for caffeine, which further plays with your blood sugar, and your cortisol hormones, setting the blood sugar dysregulation off-track for another day.  Alcohol also uses B vitamins to be processed, which can leave you tired, stressed, and struggling with poor concentration.

How can you help your blood sugar?

By avoiding high glycemic-index foods and drinks, like alcohol, even just until your body's metabolism strengthens.  Ensure adequate protein, fiber and fats, and talk to your medical or naturopathic doctor to see if magnesium may be right for you.  These all help smooth out your body's reaction to sugars.

How do hormones fit into this picture?

When blood sugars are dysregulated, it can worsen hormonal dysregulation, thyroid function, anxiety, and your reaction to stress.  Healthy blood sugar regulation allows your body to function optimally, which means your metabolism will be at its best.  Alcohol is also linked to lowered testosterone in men, so it likely has an effect in women's hormones as well. 

When do I know I need help?

If you find thatweight loss has you stumped, and certainly if you relate to sleep issues, blood sugar and hypoglycemia, stress and cortisol, or hormonal complaints, despite doing everything else right, come see a naturopathic doctor for individualized and specific support.

My food sensitivity journey

As an ND, I highly suspected I had sensitivities from the asthma-spectrum medical work-up as a child, my frequent sinus congestion, eczema, and occasional digestive upsets.  I also suspected which foods, and kept them to a minimum.  When I realized my husband's benefits covered naturopathic lab tests (yay!), I decided to find out for certain.  It confirmed for me that dairy and eggs were, in fact, not my friends, though I loved them dearly.  It also confirmed that the child in me, that hated mushrooms, had good reason to.  After eliminating them from my diet for a few weeks, I began to see improvements in

  • digestion,
  • sleep depth (that was unexpected!  and very welcome!),
  • my complexion, and
  • even routine aches and pains.  

Now, years after the fact, I know the consequence of choosing to eat these:  eggs cause acne breakouts, while dairy products make my digestion uneasy and instantly affect my sinuses and eczema, and worsen my neck pain.  Neck pain that I believed I would never get rid of and need to see my chiropractor weekly for the rest of my life.  Food sensitivities surprised even the naturopathic doctor.  After all, I always tell patients, food sensitivities are not death sentences, just an educational tool about your body, do what you will.  At least we can now understand where our symptoms are coming from.

Teenagers & naturopathic medicine

Lately, there have been alot of teenagers going through my office, and parents have been surprised by how much naturopathic medicine has to offer this demographic.  The teens have come in with a range of concerns: acne, premenstrual difficulties, anxiety (one of the most common complaints), digestive upsets, cyclical vomiting, allergies, and concussions.  Naturopathic doctors are medically trained, yet naturally focused, to help patients understand the "quirks" of their bodies and use diet and other natural/lifestyle modifications to help.  Most of these teens were helped primarily with diet changes - low allergy, low inflammation, food sensitivities, increasing key nutrients, as examples.  When the diet changes didn't create enough change, acupressure, herbal medicines, homeopathic medicines, and craniosacral therapy can be pivotal.  Dosages must be adjusted based on age and weight, but otherwise, many options still exist.  It's so rewarding to see these families investigating health concerns and learning more about their natural management options in the early days.  Going forward, these teens are learning great things to stay healthy for life!

SMOG language

I love talking to patients about their internal dialogue.  So many have a negative critic inside their head that dictates their actions, and ultimately their mood and motivation.  How do you talk to yourself when it's time to make a change, such as exercising or eating habits?  Is there a lot of "I should do this...", "I must get this done today..." "I outta do this to be a good spouse..." "I gotta stop doing this...".  This is the SMOG language that many people have been using since childhood.

When you want to change your diet, remember to take your supplements, or any positive change, re-framing how you speak to yourself can help your success!  Every time you tell yourself that you "SHOULD" do something, if you don't accomplish the task, you end up feeling like you have failed.  The cycle then becomes more vicious and self-deprecating.  How would you speak to a friend?  This is how we should be motivating ourselves.  "I want to do..."  "I feel better when I ..."  "I like how I feel when I....".  Try it today!

I just need some motivation

I hear this regularly from patients - they are lacking the motivation to change their diet, exercise more, or simply take their vitamins.  "If only I could get started" they will say, certain that the rest of things will fall into place once they overcome inertia.  There are many great blogposts and counseling techniques that can and should be researched for such things as visualization, guided imagery and more, but here are a couple of my favourite things that I can provide.

1. B vitamin injections - the quick energy these often provide can give someone the energy to get to the gym or prepare a healthy meal.

2. Acupuncture - patients come in, lie down, and leave feeling energized, focused and ready to tackle their obstacles to healing.  Patterns in Chinese medical theory, such as Liver Qi Stagnation, are hallmarked by feeling stuck, often feeling irritable, worsening PMS, and frequent sighing.  

3. Simplify the treatment plan - often patients are overwhelmed by their naturopathic doctor's recommendations as we can try multiple options to get quicker results.  Sometimes, a patient needs to accept slower progress and focus on simple changes.  They may need to pick one meal to work on improving.  "This week, let's try making better breakfasts with more protein" or "Let's make a list of things you can do when you're healthier" or "Vow to get an extra hour of sleep every night this week".


Anxiety - more than neurotransmitters?

Anxiety affects approximately half of my patients on some level, mild to severe.  I see it as early as elementary school-age all the way to menopause (a great side-effect of menopause that is under-discussed).  What I would like patients, especially women, to know, is that there is so much that can be looked into for anxiety, often helped with simple diet or lifestyle changes.

First and foremost, let me be clear that I am not anti-pharmaceuticals.  For many of my patients, anxiety and/or depression treatments afford them the means to keep going, to get out of the house into my office, and to take care of themselves and families.  Many feel guilt being on them or are anxious to come off them, but I want to reassure them that using them as a bridge to healthier eating, getting motivated to exercise, and more is maybe a good option.

1. Blood sugar control

How well your blood sugar operates often dictates how well other parts of your body operate.  I describe this to patients as the temperature in the room: When it's too cold, your printer and any machinery may slow down, any people in the room start acting differently as they become cold and so forth.  With good temperature regulation in the room, all things work their best.  The same is true of blood sugar and the effects on digestion, hormones and stress especially.  Many of my anxiety patients will be triggered by their blood sugar dropping.  Many sleep disorders, such as trouble staying asleep or light/anxious sleep, are also due to poor blood sugar control.  There are many dietary tips to improve this and over time see anxiety lessen.

2. Hormone imbalances

Excess estrogen or low progesterone often leads to anxiety, irritability and mood swings, especially pre-menstrually.  Excess progesterone or low testosterone can be associated more with a lower mood, as can an underactive thyroid gland.  Feeling wired but tired, irritable and burnt out can be a sign of high stress hormone, cortisol, while to little cortisol tends to make one feel overwhelmed easily, cold, tired, and slow to get going in the morning.

3. Diet and digestion

Poor food choices, namely excess sugar and caffeine, too little protein, B vitamins and magnesium intake and digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, heartburn and poor bowel movements can all worsen feelings of anxiety and can be often be easily addressed by naturopathic medicine.

Toddler appetite

My youngest is just not interested in food.  We knew it from a young age, when food was first introduced.  She really wasn't as interested in food at 6 months, as her older sister was.  She could have, and did, happily breastfeed to get most of her nutrition.  This, added to the small genetics she gets from her parents, likely landed us at the pediatrician due to her small stature.  She was growing on the very small end of the curve, so I was never worried.  But it calls us as parents to be pro-active and imaginative with her food intake.


She has done best with two changes, which I am happy to share with parents that may have the same challenges for you to research further.  Our youngest doesn't seem to DISlike food as some kids do, just not interested in eating it.

1. Food sensitivity reduction

We have our share of food sensitivities in our family, dairy, wheat and eggs being the biggest ones for our family and many of my patient's families.  Reducing her gluten intake did make a noticeable improvement in the amount of food she was able to eat.  Her appetite and bowel habits were better than they had been since her nursing days.

This is likely due to less irriation in her digestive tract.  We all know how little appetite we have after the stomach flu or after eating foods we know we don't do well on.  Our bodies are letting us know what it likes and dislikes for optimal function.  The challenge with a young toddler is their inability to communicate that discomfort and we are alerted by other cues, such as bowel habits, restless sleep, hyperactivity, and perhaps in our case, food refusal.

2. Zinc supplementation

While studying how to help cancer patients with increasing their appetite during chemo, I was reminded of the use of zinc in these cases.  I find so many patients are zinc deficient, and at the time of writing, it is cold-and-flu season.  Zinc would be a great next step to try with our daughter, hoping to improve her immunity and appetite at the same time.  I found a tasty zinc lozenge that she likes, and cut it into small pieces appropriate for a toddler.  We are two weeks into zinc, and again, noticeable improvements in food intake have started to be observed in the past few days.

Please note that zinc supplementation should be monitored by a health professional and can be overused, pushing copper out of the body.  There are specific dosage ranges that we use, based on your child's weight.  If your toddler is a picky eater, upset by textures and more, an occupational therapist would be a great addition to the team.


Other areas to research and ask your naturopathic doctor about: probiotics, sensory disorders and the need for minerals, hydrotherapy, and drainage.

A few of my favourite things (for children!)

Optimal nutrition

Children are so wonderfully resilient and often so wonderfully uncomplicated.  They are often a product of what goes into them, and what comes out.  What a child is fed often dictates their health - itchy skin, poor sleep or bowel habits, hyperactivity, stomach pains, anxiety - are all often signs of a food sensitivity (as long as the child is well-loved, exercising and getting adequate sleep of course).

Craniosacral therapy

If you haven't tried it for your child - it is amazing for autistic children, anxious children, those with concussions or birth trauma.  The movements are tiny yet profound in their effects and its truly amazing to see these busy children love to lie still for their sessions!  For infants, I recommend trying to coincide a visit with naptime - home visits may be arranged, please ask.

Bach flower remedies and homeopathic medicines

As mentioned in the previous pregnancy post, I love these gentle therapeutic tools for their simplicity yet maximal results.  With the minute, even energetic-level dosages, they can be safely used in most, typically without interacting with other therapies or pharmaceuticals - but always check with Dr Maguire first.

Conceive the possibility

Alternative medicines can provide many options for couples hoping to increase their fertility.  The World Health Organization approves acupuncture as a treatment to increase the success rates of IVF, and to help with labour.  Many women conceive while waiting to get into fertility clinics under the guidance of a registered Naturopathic Doctor.  Dr. Gayle does a thorough intake and testing to rule out challenges to fertility.  She helps many couples to cleanse and strengthen their systems and advises improving their diet for 1 – 3 months before trying to conceive.  In that time, hormonal imbalances, cortisol levels, sleep and exercise are all worked on through herbal medicines, homeopathy and acupuncture.


For some patients having difficulty conceiving, there are additional testing options available to rule out toxins, heavy metals, thyroid issues, and folic acid metabolism gene defects, all of which play a part in a healthy body and uterus.  Dr Gayle’s approach provides a comprehensive and individualized analysis of your body in preparation for pregnancy.


Once pregnant, there are many herbal and nutritional remedies to stay healthy, and reduce symptoms of pregnancy, like morning sickness, heartburn, and blood pressure concerns.  There are also many studies on the use of certain natural medicines to lower mental and behavioral concerns, allergies and asthma in children.  Dr. Gayle sees her pregnant patients in similar timed schedules as the patient’s obstetrician or midwife to maintain great care through pregnancy and treats both mother and child after delivery.