Holistic Nutrition

Relationships – Gut & Immune System

There is an unravelling complex relationship between our gut and immunity. The interactions between our gut bacteria colonies within our intestines determine how well our bodies respond to oxidative stress, illnesses, viruses, and diseases.

Today we’re going to dive a little deeper into the relationship and correlation between our immune system and gut health.

Our immune system is essentially the surveillance system of the body. Just like how a bouncer is at a club! It’s our natural defence mechanism that is supposed to protect the body, organs and healthy tissues from foreign invaders. The immune system’s job is to identify and detect something abnormal and then call in to guard all the natural defence mechanisms!

Before we begin it is important to go over the fundamentals and the importance of our HPA-Axis on the immune system. Now you’re probably thinking HPA-What? Let me explain….

The Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA-Axis) organs regulate the fight or flight reaction (sympathetic state) and regulate balance in our body and mind (parasympathetic state). When under chronic stress, any one of these glands can demonstrate dysfunction leading to hindered metabolism and immune system distress.

The fight or flight mode is an active up regulation of stress hormones that puts the body’s metabolism on hold as it focuses on survival and often leads to cravings, increased fat storage and difficulty with weight loss. Rest and Digest mode is focusing on relaxation of the muscles, nerves, blood vessels and promoting surges of digestive enzymes aiding the body’s ability to metabolize, absorb nutrients and effectively burn fuel! 

Defining the HPA-Axis

The hypothalamus gland’s primary role is keeping homeostasis (keeping balance through the body). It also plays a role in satiety, regulates body temperature and impacts caloric burn at rest. It also plays a role in our circadian rhythms, sleep cycles, fatigue and thirst regulation!

The pituitary gland plays a significant role on the thyroid which is a major metabolic organ. The pituitary gland releases many hormones that regulate fluid, sexual function, growth, mood instability/anxiety, pain management and caloric burn.

The adrenals are our primary stress agents. They are two shaped walnut glands located above the kidneys that release cortisol and stress chemicals both epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. The adrenals also produce DHEA which is a hormone-building precursor for estrogen and testosterone that aids in stress resilience.

Immune and Gut Relationship

We can look at the immune system in two ways; over-reactive and under-reactive and in both of these states our immune system is out-of-balance. Why does this happen? It becomes out of balance when glands from our HPA-axis stop working synergistically. It can also occur when there is an excess or too little of cortisol in the body, when our natural production of feel-good neurotransmitters are hindered and due to poor food choices/ overconsumption of inflammatory foods.

When the immune system is in overdrive our bodies are starting to overact. An overactive immune system can lead to many autoimmune disorders and cases of chronic inflammation. The body has a hard time detecting or can’t tell the difference between your healthy normal cells versus invaders. In essence, your immune system turns against you. On the other hand, we can be under-reactive. This means the surveillance system has shut down. This is where we would be more susceptible to things like the cold, flu, viruses, and unwanted things like cancer.

Almost 70% of our immune system is in our gut! The reason why their interactions are so important is that “our immune system has co-evolved along with a diverse gut flora, not only to create defenses against pathogens, but also to develop tolerance for beneficial microbes. Consequently, the immune system and the gut microbiota developed a mutualistic relationship, regulating one another and cooperating to support each other. The dialogue between the immune system and the microbiota starts the moment our body gets in contact with microbes—at birth. As we grow, the microbiota shapes the development of our immune system, and the immune system shapes the composition of the microbiota” states the website Neurohacker.  

Therefore, a healthy interaction between our gut microbes and our immune system is crucial for the maintenance of homeostasis. Imbalances in the gut may cause immune dysfunction and dysregulated immune responses and lead to the development of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

Read More
Holistic Nutrition

Getting to Know Your GUT


What comprises the gut?

Our gut (digestive tract) consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, colon and rectum. 

The small intestine

The small intestine is an organ that is actually twenty feet long. This is the area where the majority of our nutrients are absorbed and digested. It is also a great area for hosting gut bacteria. 

The large intestine

The large intestine plays a role in detoxification and electrolyte stability. It is the final stage of digestion. It is an area where a lot of water is absorbed from the remaining indigestible food and transmits the excess waste material from the body. The large intestine includes the colon, rectum and anus.

Digestion: From chewing to pooping – putting it all together

Mouth: saliva is produced and helps break down what you’re eating and turns it into chemicals called enzymes

Esophagus:  once food is broken down and chewed it moves through this tube-like structure that connects from the mouth to the stomach. 

Stomach: This is where food ends up next! The stomach acid and enzymes in the stomach help further break down the food that was previously chewed. Then the food moves to the small intestine.

Small intestine: Food is broken down by enzymes that are released from the pancreas and bile from the liver. 

Large intestine:  The digested food continues to the large intestine. Although we now have digested food particles in our intestine this does not mean that all of the nutrients from the food was absorbed prior to getting here! So all the excess waste aka food we aren’t absorbing and assimilating continue to pass through the digestive tract into the colon and leave the body via bowel movements. 

Now that we have a better understanding of the basic anatomy of our gut. We must consider a very important factor that lives within our gut walls. Within the small intestine lies over 100 trillion living bacteria and these are our vili and microvilis. They are hairlike projections that line the intestinal walls. There are roughly 3-5 pounds of these living bacteria in our guts known as our microbiome! Their role is to help increase surface area available for the absorption of nutrients. Ali Miller, a registered dietician, and functional medicine practitioner explains it very simply: 

“The best way to understand the microbiome is to envision a garden bed. There is only so much room for things to grow. You will see the beneficial vegetation you intended to grow, wildflowers and weeds. In some cases, the garden bed is filled with so many weeds or even overgrown wildflowers that there is no room for intended vegetation to thrive…(…)…One must plow the fields of the garden bed to allow space for good bacteria to thrive and then fertilize and support healthy growth” for positive effects. From mood stability to immune health to digestive function, the microbiome plays a critical role in expression of overall health or disease state.”

So, with that said, our microbiome has the ability to work with or against “the host” which would be the body that it lives in (aka yours!).  So, when we have more “vegetation” aka good bacteria, we can see a reduction in inflammation, less GI stress, improved digestion, stronger immune system and an increase in nutrition absorption. When there’s too many wildflowers or weeds we have the opposite of what was previously mentioned. We have too much of an imbalance throughout the body. We can see some GI stress like gas, bloating, burping, diarrhea and increases in micronutrient deficiencies because of the lack of absorption. These negative effects take place within the small and large intestine. So, we definitely want to focus on getting our body into a more optimal state to support whole body health! Can you see how this effects, and may play a role in health-related issues such as SIBO, Candida overgrowth, IBS, Crohn’s and autoimmune diseases?

SIBO: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: SIBO is a medical condition in which there is an overgrowth of bacteria found in one’s small intestine. It’s when bacteria start appearing there when normally it’s grown in other parts of our gut. This large population of bacteria is commonly found in the colon! Therefore, it isn’t just one form of bacteria that causes this but various types. SIBO can also be a result of other conditions that have caused it to arise in part with digestive issues like IBS, Celiac and Crohn’s disease. SIBO can also occur due to lack of movement through the intestine and poor eating habits.

Candida Overgrowth is in short, a yeast infection. However, yeast infections can come in many forms in and on the body in multiple areas. For example, ringworm, athletes’ foot, mouth, vaginal, rectum, within your intestines and skin. There are a few factors that can cause Candida such as, high sugar intake, oral contraceptives, high stress levels, antibiotic use and an imbalance in vaginal flora. 

Crohn’s Disease: As defined by Mayo Clinic, “is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people.”

IBS: Irritable Bowel Syndrome: As defined by Mayo Clinic, “Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both.”

In the upcoming posts we will learn how to achieve a stronger gut-lining, how we can recover and hopefully get rid of our chronic health ailments. Stay tuned for next week where I explain what daily food, drinks, and oral medications we ingest that make our intestinal walls more permeable and we will also discuss the two states our guts can be in. Curious to see if you have a bed of weeds or natural vegetation brewing in your gut? If so, stay tuned 🙂

Read More
Holistic Nutrition

How Much Protein is Enough?

How much Protein is Enough?

This week we are going to talk about how to optimize your protein intake for your goals!

This is a general question, so we’ll break it down by answering common questions we get.

Does the quality of protein matter?

First and foremost, you always want to consider the quality and sourcing of your protein. At CoreXcellence we always recommend organic, grass-fed and if possible, grass finished. We want to ensure the animals are hormone and antibiotic free and live an open pasture raised lifestyle. 

The quality of protein makes a difference when considering the nutritional benefits it provides. By consuming grass-fed/finished meats you’re ingesting a better quality of essential amino acids composition, better chances of digestibility and bioavailability of these amino acids.

How much protein should I eat in a day?

The RDA (Recommended daily allowance) suggests 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight.

Personally, I feel it’s too low. I always like to range between 1.5-2g/kg for basic muscle maintenance. For muscle growth I like to range anywhere between 2.2-2.4g/kg

Example for maintenance: 59kg (130lbs) 59 x 1.5 = 88.5g of protein for the day

Example for muscle growth: 59kg (130 lbs) 59 x 2.2 = 129.8 

I weigh 145 lbs. I will make sure to consume 145 grams of protein/day or more. If I break it down to 4 meals a day that’s roughly 36-37g of protein/meal! To simplify it, I usually just eat 40g/meal!

I always want to ensure I’m getting enough protein to help me recover from my daily activities/workouts and that I’m maximizing muscle growth!

Is it true we can only digest a certain amount of protein at a time?

There’s a myth that you can only digest a certain amount of protein in one sitting. Some say 20-30g… and I’m here to tell you that this isn’t true. That’s an oversimplification of what happens.

You can absorb quite a bit of protein in one sitting*! 

Absorption is the passage of nutrients from your intestines into your blood. You can consume a large amount of protein at a time but only a certain percentage of it will go towards stimulating muscle growth. The rest of the protein consumed will go towards supporting other functions within the body (as I mentioned in the previous blog!) or it will be oxidized.

This leads me to our next question

How much protein can be used in a single meal to stimulate muscle growth?

On average, older research has shown that 25g was enough to stimulate muscle growth. New research shows that up to 40g of protein does too! #EatAllTheProtein #MakeAllTheGains

Higher volume resistance training sessions that require more muscle stimulation and/or training larger muscle groups etc. will increase the absorption and utilization of protein.

Fun fact: The more muscle you have and the more stress (from resistance training) you place on the body the more your body requires protein and will absorb the nutrients! #ProteinGains

Does timing of protein intake matter?

Protein distribution and timing can also be an important factor to optimize muscle growth. Ideally you want to put yourself in the best possible state to optimize muscle growth or even maintenance. Here’s how!

For optimal muscle growth, we need to consider something called muscle protein synthesis (MPS). It’s basically the process of your body turning dietary protein into actual muscle tissue!

MPB stands for muscle protein breakdown (ie: protein breakdown through a workout)

Your net MPS must be greater than your MPB to build muscle

Basically, if you want more muscle, you will need more time in a positive protein balance!

At the end of the day, it does mainly come down to making sure you’re hitting your total daily protein target. Everyone’s protein target will be different depending on body size, personal digestion, and overall caloric goal.

Let me know if you need help assessing your personal needs.

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5828430/

Read More
Holistic Nutrition

Benefits of Protein

Low Carb/ High Carb, Low Fat/High Fat

Seems like the other macronutrients get all the hype – but what about protein?

It’s important for many physiological functions within the body.  It’s more than just a muscle building nutrient.

Let’s unpack its benefits:

Helps to optimize body weight and lean body mass

Everyone should prioritize adequate protein intake in order to promote health and muscle growth. Protein helps build and maintain muscle mass all while supporting ligaments, tendons and other important body connective tissues!

When people try different “diets” they tend to lack protein which overtime can cause “muscle loss.” This essentially means your body isn’t getting enough nutrients and your body starts losing muscle aka you get the skinny fat look!

“When we do not feed our body adequate protein like during times of starvation (dieting or extreme calorie restriction), our body is forced to break down our muscles to provide amino acids for other processes in the body. A breakdown of muscle leads to a decrease in metabolic rate, meaning we have to eat even less and/or work even harder to maintain or lose weight.” – Registered Dietician Ali Miller.

That’s why we recommend eating enough protein – it helps preserve lean body mass during while dieting (caloric restriction) and optimises muscular development when nourishing our bodies adequately!!

Its Thermogenic aka Fat Burning

Eating protein creates a process in the body known as thermogenesis which requires the body to expend more energy in order to digest food. The word “thermogenic” means heat-producing. Therefore, protein has a higher thermogenic effect requiring more calories to digest than carbs and fat! Your body becomes a fat burning machine!

It regulates the hunger hormone

Protein influences the release of hormones that control appetite and food intake. Research has shown that eating protein decreases levels of ghrelin aka the “hunger hormone” and stimulates the production of hormones that help you feel full.


Out of all the macronutrients, protein is the most satiating. Having a diet higher in protein will allow you to stay fuller longer and get less hungry throughout the day! Constant hunger is one of the signs that indicates we can be lacking in protein (regardless of snacking or skipping meals). This leads to my next point.

Stabilizes blood sugar levels

It is important to pair carbohydrates with protein because it allows the body to break down carbohydrates at a slower speed instead of rushing it into the bloodstream driving a higher insulin response. This blood sugar regulation (avoiding the highs and lows) will lead to less cravings.  

Read More
Holistic Nutrition

Leaky Gut Part 1: What is leaky gut

I wanted to start my health blog journey off with a topic that will come up very often – the gut. The gut is at the forefront of most health issues and it’s necessary to address the importance of a healthy gut. A healthy gut reduces the chances of contracting many ailments. A poor functioning gut has been associated with increased risk of cancer, viral infections, allergies, skin conditions, inflammatory diseases, anxiety and stress. It seems that everything leads back to the gut in the end.


What is leaky gut?

The medical term for leaky gut is called intestinal permeability. It means that large particles are entering the bloodstream through our delicate gut lining.  This causes an increased risk for food and chemical sensitivity because the damaged barrier allows these large compounds into the bloodstream causing an inflammatory response. In addition “if the gut lining is not sound, the gut bacteria have less space to proliferate and grow, which means you will have less defense mechanisms against bad bacteria and less space to absorb nutrients” (Miller, The Anti-Anxiety Diet, p,60). 

Every time we ingest food, our body must discern what is friend and foe! When pathogens slip through our gut lining, our immune system goes into action to neutralize the foe quickly. However, when the tight junctions of the lining start breaking down consistently, that’s when leaky gut develops over time. In short, leaky gut symptoms are a consequence of intestinal tight-junction malfunction!!

What led to a leaky gut?

The term leaky gut has been tossed around quite a bit and it has been a hot topic the past few years in holistic and functional medicine. To better understand it, let’s back-track a bit. And by a bit, I mean all the way back to our birth.

One very undermined factor leading to digestive issues in early adulthood is the growing popularity of cesarean sections in the Western world. When we are born,  bacterial exposure is crucial for the proper colonization of our gut lining (mucosal tracts). During a natural birth, the baby is exposed to healthy bacteria from the mother’s vaginal fluids. In contrast, cesarean section babies are first exposed to environmental bacteria from the hospital. It is this initial colonization that will establish overall immune health, including proper gut health. As the baby grows, dietary bacterial influences promote the growth of positive and repress negative strains of bacteria. One of the earliest sources of this positive selection is through maternal breast milk. Breast milk is rich in short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which feed the good bacteria and also passively transfer maternal antibodies to the baby, reinforcing and strengthening the immune system. 

A second reason why leaky gut arose is due to the fact that many years ago our sources and types of food consumption started changing. You’re probably thinking, “when did this happen?” Well, it began during the industrial revolution when mass production and packaging came about and people started pulling away from supporting small local food production. According to The British Museum, “new tools, fertilizers, and harvesting techniques were introduced, resulting in increased productivity and agricultural prosperity.” 

This is where the topic of organic and non-organic arises. Let’s briefly go over this and I’ll explain why this plays a factor in leaky gut. The difference between the two is really how the food is produced. When we constantly consume foods that are sprayed with pesticides, that toxicity eventually builds up and wreaks havoc on our gut immunity! This is why it is important to support and buy locally grown food. Here are quick definitions: 


  • Grown without the use of synthetic (man-made) fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides
  • Instead they use local and natural pest repellents 
  • Do not need preservatives to keep it fresh for long travel distances


  • Use pesticides to preserves the life-span of the produce
  • Needs preservatives and other chemicals to keep its freshness until it’s delivered to its location

Locally grown food: Locally grown food is a broad term that describes food that was grown within a geographical region that could be considered local to your particular area. Whether it’s within your county, city, neighborhood or even your own backyard, locally grown food can take many forms as defined by Arrowquip. 

In addition, because the food was being mass produced, in order to keep food fresh, products were mixed with toxic additives and chemicals that prolong their shelf-life. It is known that the “chemical components from packaging can migrate into foods, but the question of how much migration occurs and what the potential health effects may be are gaining more attention from researchers and regulators. Different types of packaging materials pose different potential chemical exposures” states an article by Environmental Health. 

For example, some of these food and beverage packages contain bisphenol A (BPA) which adds insult to injury as a contributor to leaky gut. Just think about your daily routine, breakfast can be cereal or toast (which is packaged in plastic), your morning cup of joe from your favorite coffee shop is in plastic, then your canned tuna lunch with veggies and dip and plastic water bottle or soda can is packaged…see the trend here? We may not even be aware of how much packaged or processed foods we eat! 

How do packaged goods translate in our body? Because most of these packaged goods have a high-carb count, the body has learned to use glucose (carbohydrates) as a source of fuel. This unfortunately leads to extreme insulin spikes and high imbalances of satiety signals. All of these contributing factors can lead to a multitude of health concerns such as neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, diabetes, behavioural conditions, cardiovascular disease and increase our chances of cancer. 

I know it may seem that we went a little off topic but I promise it all ties back to the gut. Let’s paraphrase quickly what you’ve learned. We now have a better understanding that leaky gut is when our tight-wall junctions aren’t in their optimal state and allow larger particles to seep through. We’ve learned that natural births and breastfeeding play a huge impact on setting us up for healthy gut bacteria and provide the building blocks of a strong immune system. We’ve learned a little bit of the evolution of packaged goods and their negative health effects and why supporting local organic produce and eating whole foods is a healthier option! 


Next week we’re going to talk about basic gut anatomy. We’ll get a better understanding of how our system works and why taking care of our gut is vital!

By the way, if you’re interested in supporting local markets, I have written down the names of a few here in and around Montreal. If you know of any other ones please let me know!

  • 440 West Market (Laval)
  • Marche de L’Ouest  (West Island)
  • Jean-Talon
  • Atwater Market
  • Mac Market (St-Annes)
  • Les Jardins Carya (senneville)
  • Marche Des Eclusiers (Old Port)
  • Lufa Farms (organic co-op)

Read More
Holistic Nutrition

Not All Protein Is Created Equally

When we think of macronutrients, we think of fats, protein and carbohydrates. Protein is an important and often under valued macronutrient.

Did you know that the human body actually needs 20 different amino acids? Interestingly enough, we can create 11 of them and we get the 9 others from food. Of course the source and quality of food will determine if we get those 9.

The twenty different amino acids

First things first, not all protein is created equal. The protein quality in animal products is very different from the protein in plants.  I would just like to clarify that I am not against plant proteins – I am here to explain the differences in quality.

Plant based protein

Plant based proteins are considered incomplete proteins because they are missing essential amino acids that our bodies need. Generally, we absorb about 40-50% from plant foods. We can also have a harder time digesting these proteins, due to them being bound to anti-nutrients. Simply put, anti-nutrients are plant compounds that reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients.  They are also much higher in carbs which can make it challenging to balance protein and carbs for optimal blood sugar range.

Animal based protein

Animal proteins are considered complete proteins because they contain the essential amino acid profile. We can absorb around 80-100% and digest it much better. It also contains higher amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals per serving – hence more nutrient dense. Buyer beware- conventional meats are known to have added hormones and antibiotics. If you do choose to buy conventional meats make sure they’re lean cuts, as most of the toxins are stored in the fat. Ideally for a much healthier choice go with a grass fed, grass finished and free range animal protein fed with non GMO crops or certified organic meat.

From a health and hormone balance perspective, eating a solely plant-based diet isn’t ideal. The “faux meats” are processed and do not contain nearly the same quality and quantity of nutrients as meat. They are derived from GMO crops, contain pro-inflammatory oils and are mixed with binders and fillers to look and taste a certain way. 

RD Diana Rogers showed a chart on her Instagram @sustainabledish where she explained that “to get the same amount of protein in a 4oz steak (181 calories) you’d need to eat 12oz of kidney beans plus a cup of rice, which equals to 638 calories and 122g of carbs. See the difference in quality and quantity per serving?

Here’s a list of the CoreX approved proteins:

  • Grass fed & grass finished beef
  • Bison
  • Veal/Lamb
  • Eggs
  • Organ Meats
  • Organic Dairy
  • Bone Broth, Collagen, Gelatin
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Seafood

Stay tuned for next week when we discuss the benefits of protein!

Read More
Holistic Nutrition

There’s No Such Thing As Toning

“I don’t want to be muscular, I just want to be toned” is a common line you tend to hear as a coach.

Did you know that you can’t TONE a muscle?

In order to accomplish a toned body, you need to lose overall body fat to see the muscle which then gives you that toned/leaner look. To achieve this physical appearance of a toned body, it requires training hard, eating enough and sleeping well.

This is how the story usually goes

I see women spending hours doing cardio/training, eating low fat and sometimes low carb diets which in turn simply results in under eating for the amount of energy they are expending. Their norm is to feel a little hungry in order to lose those few pounds and perhaps yield a little bit of success. Many times, they are still not happy with the results in the mirror.

I’ve lost some weight, why can’t I see my muscle tone or lean curves?”


How to lift more and avoid the bulk?

Most women are afraid to lift them big ol’ weights for the fear of “getting too big and bulky.” What they don’t realize is that you can’t get toned by under eating, restricting your diet and doing hours of cardio. Doing so will results in just feeling more tired, frustrated and eventually burnt out due to a sluggish metabolism. 

How does one build these muscles?

  • More protein
  • Better sleep

Keeping it simple!

By fueling your body with the proper amount of nutrients, eating enough protein, stressing the body (in a good way) through structured training, and most importantly getting enough quality sleep – you are supplying your body with all the necessary tools to optimize regeneration and build lean muscle. So let’s focus on the simple things that do work!

What to do moving forward

Let’s not be afraid to pick up weights. Lean muscle is what gives us that universally appealing “fit, toned” look.

In fact, the more muscle you have the better your body will take shape. Strength training along with an adequate diet, will enable the body to fill in nicely in the areas you desire, even with a higher body fat. It’s those smooth, curvy muscles that give your body SHAPE! 

If you’re unsure where to start, reach out to the CoreXcellence Team! We’d be glad to help!

Thank you for reading, we’ll be diving more into this topic in future blogs to come!

Read More