Optimal winter health

Winter’s short days can make us feel lethargic and a little depressed; the long hours spent indoors hibernating on the couch can have a major impact on our overall wellbeing. To avoid the effects of old man winter, fight your hibernating instincts by embracing the season, while taking the necessary precautions to be healthy. To help you get there, the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) has these five tips for natural winter wellness.

Opt for healthy comfort food

In winter, we crave simple carbs because they are rich in tryptophan, causing our feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine to temporarily increase. These foods, which are typically refined and have little nutritional value, cause a quick increase in our blood sugar followed by a quick decrease causing us to crave more. To avoid this vicious cycle while satisfying your cravings, opt for more complex carbs including oatmeal, legumes, soups and stews.

Shake it up and sleep it off

When it comes to exercise, don’t let winter be an excuse. Develop a well-rounded fitness routine that includes cardio and strength training. Also, give yourself plenty of rest time. Restful slumber helps fight depression and eliminates extra amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. Adequate amounts of exercise and sleep should be non-negotiable in maintaining a healthy lifestyle this winter.

Dose up on vitamins and minerals

Iron, zinc and vitamin C are key to a healthy immune system that will ward off cold and flu viruses. Foods rich in these nutrients include dark, leafy greens, red and yellow fruits and vegetables, lean red meats and pumpkin seeds. Taking a daily multivitamin is a great insurance policy to ensure you are getting your required daily intake of essential minerals and vitamins.

Go for garlic

The sulfur-containing compounds in garlic help increase the potency of two important cells of the immune system: T-lymphocytes and macrophages. These are essential to help battle the flu and colds. Opt for odourless capsules if you want to avoid the strong taste of garlic.

Use coconut oil

As the temperature continues to drop, you have probably noticed the negative effects on your skin as it becomes dry, flaky and itchy. Walking down the aisles of the store, it’s quickly apparent that the choices of lotions and potions to stop dry skin are endless, but which product should you choose? There’s one superfood solution that is inexpensive, works wonders, and will perhaps make you think you’re on a tropical island: coconut oil is the perfect product to help ward off the attacks of Canada’s harsh winters. “Coconut oil has increasingly gained popularity in Canada, and for good reasons. Its multiple uses are impressive, but most importantly, it is a truly remarkable skincare product,” says Helen Long, president of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA). “It is a known fact that winter can wreak havoc on the skin. Adding coconut oil to your skincare routine is a particularly good way of protecting yourself against the damages of bitterly cold winds and dry indoor conditions.”

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which allows it to retain the moisture content of the skin while helping it to look and feel silky smooth. It also has high quantities of vitamin E, an essential nutrient for healthy skin growth, repair and the prevention of premature aging. Coconut oil is also rich in many proteins that contribute to cellular health and tissue repair. CHFA recommends that you winter-proof your skin with coconut oil by using it in the following ways:

Moisturizer: simply rub a small amount of coconut oil wherever you have dry or cracked skin. Your skin will absorb the oil quickly, plus it smells wonderful.

Exfoliant: making your own natural exfoliant by mixing coconut oil with natural exfoliating substances like sea salt or sugar is a great way to remove dead cells that accumulate on your skin throughout the winter.

Lip balm: applying chemical products on your lips is a sure way to ingest potentially harmful substances. Substitute your chemical lip balm for coconut oil and keep your lips moist and protected throughout the winter.

Source: Canadian Health Food Association The Canadian Health Food Association is Canada’s largest trade association dedicated to natural health and organic products. Its members include manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and importers of natural and organic products. www.chfa.ca

photo © Teresa Kasprzycka

Housing crisis a public health emergency

houses behind bars

Some physicians have gone so far as to label homelessness a palliative diagnosis. Not having a home can be lethal. Homelessness causes premature death, poor health and is a significant burden on our health care system.

by Tim Richter and Ryan Meili

One of the biggest factors that determine whether people will stay healthy or wind up needing emergency or chronic medical care is where they live. People without access to stable housing are at higher risk of illness, and their likelihood of recovering well from that illness is greatly diminished.

How bad is Canada’s housing crisis? According to the newly released National Shelter Study, Canada’s emergency shelters are packed to the rafters. People are languishing in homelessness longer, and their ranks increasingly include seniors, veterans and families with children. Shamefully, Indigenous Canadians are over 10 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to end up in emergency shelter.

This report paints only a partial picture of homelessness in Canada, including only emergency shelters. The sad reality is that over 35,000 Canadians are homeless on a given night with more than 235,000 Canadians experiencing homelessness at some point every year, whether they sleep in shelters, on the street, couch surf, wait unnecessarily in hospital or other temporary accommodation.

Beyond a crisis of housing and poverty, homelessness is a public health emergency. The longer people are homeless, the worse their health becomes. A recent report from British Columbia suggests life expectancy for people experiencing homelessness in that province is half that of other British Columbians.

Some physicians have gone so far as to label homelessness a palliative diagnosis. Not having a home can be lethal. Homelessness causes premature death, poor health and is a significant burden on our health care system.

Today, more than 1.5 million Canadian households live in core housing need, with over half of those households living in extreme core housing need (living in poverty and spending over 50 percent of their income on housing).

The crisis stands to get worse before it gets better as federal operating agreements for older social housing expire and over 300,000 more households risk losing the subsidies that keep their housing affordable.

In the last 20 years, as Canada’s population has grown, federal funding for affordable housing has dropped more than 46 percent. This has meant at least 100,000 units of affordable housing were not built. Canada’s homelessness crisis is the direct result of this federal withdrawal from housing investment. The new federal government has promised a National Housing Strategy, and has begun consultations.

The most pressing problem – finding stable housing for those who are currently homeless or at risk for homelessness – is one that, fortunately, can be solved. We need to start by collecting real-time, person-specific data on homelessness and expanding the application of the Housing First model of supportive housing for individuals with greater challenges. Housing First (www.homelesshub.ca) is an evidence-based approach to ending homelessness that provides direct access to permanent housing and support.

Tim Richter is the president and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (www.caeh.ca), a national movement of individuals, organizations and communities working together to end homelessness in Canada. Ryan Meili is a Family Physician in Saskatoon, an expert advisor with Evidence Network and founder of Upstream.

Inflammation and serrapeptase

by Dr. Zoltan P. Rona


Inflammation is the number one reason an individual consults any healthcare practitioner. Arthritis, gastritis, colitis, dermatitis, nephritis, neuritis and cystitis are just some of the common inflammatory conditions that bring people to their doctors every day. If the doctor’s diagnosis ends in the four letters, “itis,” by definition, inflammation is involved.

There are also numerous diseases or health challenges you might not think involve inflammation, but that are closely linked to it. For example, heart disease, especially coronary artery disease, is thought to be directly associated with inflammation. Inflammation is now considered to be a more important risk factor for heart disease than high cholesterol levels. There are laboratory tests for inflammation that will indicate one’s risk for heart disease. These include the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), high sensitivity (HS), C-Reactive Protein (CRP) and fibrinogen. All three tests indicate the presence of inflammation in the body and if elevated, a higher risk for heart disease. It is also an interesting fact that statin drugs like Lipitor and Crestor routinely used by the medical profession to lower blood levels of cholesterol are actually anti-inflammatory in their mechanism of action.

Cancer spread is accelerated by inflammation and many cancer therapies utilize anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids to keep the features of inflammation (swelling and pain) under control. Obesity, dementia, migraine headaches and Alzheimer’s disease involve inflammation. So do all infections, allergic conditions such as hives and virtually all auto-immune diseases. Asthma, diabetes, psoriasis, other skin disorders and irritable bowel syndrome also all involve inflammation. The medical treatments for all these conditions are anti-inflammatory drugs as the main therapy. Sports injuries (e.g. tendonitis, bursitis) and any musculo-skeletal injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident involve inflammation. If you are alive, chances are high you are or have been inflamed in some way.

Conventional doctors have always treated inflammation with drugs and surgery. In some cases, interventions such as surgery for an inflamed appendix are life saving. So are short-term antibiotics for some infections such as pneumonitis (pneumonia). Modern medicine is wonderful in treating acute illnesses but fails miserably when it comes to chronic disease or prevention. In the majority of cases of chronic illness or inflammation, current medical treatments only serve to suppress symptoms without making any dent in the disease process itself.

For example, if you have osteoarthritis, doctors will prescribe NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Osteoarthritis is a life-long illness and most people who suffer from it are on NSAIDS for life. These include drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and numerous others. The trouble with all of these drugs is they induce blood loss from the stomach or other areas of the gastrointestinal tract if taken for any extended period of time. One NSAID called Vioxx had to be banned from the market a number of years ago after it was proven to cause heart attacks and death in hundreds of users. This is hardly a good solution for chronic inflammation.

Other drugs prescribed for chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus are even worse. These drugs suppress the immune system dramatically (Imuran, Remicade). Some are chemotherapeutic agents (methotrexate) and anti-malarial drugs (Plaquinyl). These can damage the liver, the bone marrow and other organs. The horrendous side effects of these drugs are sometimes worse than the disease itself. No wonder large segments of the public are flocking to naturopathic medicine.

The one common denominator of all the current medical and surgical treatments for chronic inflammatory conditions is they do not address the underlying cause of the illness. Doctors say the use of anti-inflammatory drugs addresses the cause, but if that were really true, why does the disease persist despite the medications?

You do not make hives better by suppressing the hell out of the immune system with steroids like prednisone. You do not cure any form of arthritis by prescribing drugs that cause heart attacks, hemorrhage and peptic ulcers. You do not reverse prostatitis with a year’s prescription of broad-spectrum antibiotics that lead to chronic yeast infections. You can mask and suppress symptoms for years with powerful drugs, but you will never reverse the disease process. With symptom suppression, one pays a huge price in terms of side effects and often, finances.

You certainly cannot prevent inflammation in the body with any drug or surgical procedure. The fact that doctors and surgeons continue to do so without even attempting a natural approach first is deplorable. Worse is the fact that many of them still tell their patients that diet has nothing to do with inflammation when there is overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.

Serrapeptase Against Inflammation

No doubt many of you have heard of fighting inflammation with a hypoallergenic diet and nutritional supplements like fish oil, vitamin D and herbs like boswellia and tumeric. While all these may be effective in given individuals, nothing approaches the natural anti-inflammatory potency of an enzyme supplement called Serrapeptase. Doctors in Europe and Asia have been prescribing it in ever increasing frequency for just about every form of inflammation for at least the past 30 years.

Serrapeptase (a.k.a. serratio peptidase) is a proteolytic enzyme. In other words, it breaks up and digests protein. Unlike other proteolytic enzymes that are derived from pigs, fungi or yeast, serrapeptase is produced by bacteria in the gut of silkworms. In the concentrated form of a tablet or capsule, serrapeptase acts as an anti-inflammatory and a pain blocker similar to aspirin, ibuprofen and other NSAIDS. Aside from this very desirable property, there is growing evidence that serrapeptase inhibits the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Thus, it prevents atherosclerosis, arterial blockages, strokes and heart attacks. Unlike aspirin, ibuprofen and other NSAIDS, serrapeptase does not cause stomach ulcers or gastrointestinal tract bleeding

How serrapeptase works

Because of its protein chopping action, serrapeptase helps thin out the fluids formed from injury, thus facilitating the drainage of these fluids. This speeds tissue repair and relieves pressure that causes pain. Serrapeptase also inhibits the release of bradykinin, a substance that induces pain.

Serrapeptase is fibrinolytic, which means it digests excessive amounts of the protein known as fibrin. Fibrin causes the blood to clot or become sticky. The more fibrin, the greater the risk of heart attack or poor circulation. If one is able to keep fibrin levels under control, one prevents excessive stickiness of the blood flow, hence heart attacks and strokes. This is one of the mechanisms by which one can dissolve atherosclerotic plaque with serrapeptase.

Serrapeptase only dissolves non-living tissue, leaving living tissue alone. Blood clots, cysts and arterial plaque are all gradually dissolved. Over 50 clinical trials from Europe and Asia attest to the ability of serrapeptase to successfully treat conditions ranging from sprains, torn ligaments, post-operative swelling (edema), fibrocystic breast disease, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), carpal tunnel syndrome, ear, nose and throat infections and atherosclerosis. serrapeptase literally digests inflammatory tissue.

Serrapeptase was popularized by research done by the late and legendary Dr. Hans Nieper, an internist from Hanover, Germany, who used this powerful enzyme to treat virtually all degenerative diseases, including cancer, autoimmune diseases, crippling arthritis, atherosclerotic heart disease and dozens of other disorders.

Is Serrapeptase safe? On a scale of one to 1,000 with one being harmless and 1,000 being highly toxic causing death, we have aspirin, ibuprofen and corticosteroids at close to 1,000 while serrapeptase is closer to one. Yes, serrapeptase can cause mild gastric irritation in some elderly people but that’s really quite rare. The one caution about serrapeptase is that long-term safety studies have not been done. On the other hand, the supplement has been in wide scale use for over 30 years and nothing deleterious has been reported on a consistent basis. As with most nutritional supplements that are GRAS (generally regarded as safe), any adverse reactions that occur are usually in the mind of the individual using the supplement.

Dr. Zoltan P. Rona practises complementary medicine in Toronto and is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. He has also published several Canadian best-selling books, including Return to The Joy of Health.

GE salmon not worth the risk to health and environment


Adam S. Sealey

Call of the River
“The Call of the River.” An original painting by Autumn Skye Morrison. www.autumnskyemorrison.com

• The wild salmon that return to us every year, offering their nourishment, inspiration and beauty, are a miracle of creation. Autumn Skye Morrison’s “The Call of the River” inspired Salmon Wisdomon the back of 7”x9” versions and was shared with friends, family and colleagues. People were inspired by it!

It reads, in part, “Salmon are an important part of the wheel of life, a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and a teacher of self-sacrifice. To indigenous cultures of the Northwest, salmon are highly respected and appreciated, symbolizing instinct, determination, prosperity and renewal. The Celts believe salmon to be one of the wisest and most ancient of all animals, representing wisdom, transformation and inspiration.”

In September, the US company AquaBounty, started by two Canadian men with the goal of developing and marketing genetically engineered salmon, stated in an FDA document that they would very soon apply to  Health Canada for market approval in Canada where they feel that “the key” to worldwide acceptance of genetically engineered salmon lies. According to the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, CBAN, “AquaBounty does not yet have permission from Environment Canada to commercially produce its GE salmon eggs at its PEI facility. Environment Canada refuses to disclose if the department is already assessing a request from AquaBounty.” Their plan is to ship these ‘Franken-salmon’ eggs to a facility high in the mountains of Panama to be grown to market size in tanks, harvested, packaged and shipped back to us to eat. Does this sound crazy? It gets worse.

In 2009, the DFO reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus had been found in the GE salmon in the supposedly secure AquaBounty research facility on PEI. What if these infected salmon were to escape their tanks in PEI or Panama through flooding or some other disaster? AquaBounty says that 95% of the salmon would be sterile females and the rest males. But they can’t guarantee ISA infected male salmon wouldn’t escape into the biosphere. It’s yet another pending environmental disaster and the entire process of assessing the environmental risk is being done in secret without public consultation. Canada has not even ratified the UN protocols on bio-safety for international transport of living modified organisms.

There are also the health implications of eating GE salmon to consider. Dr. Mercola already lists conventional farmed salmon as the worst in his top 10 foods to avoid. Add in transgenic engineering of Atlantic salmon with genes from an “eel-like creature” the “Ocean Pout” and a Chinook, and then feed it a diet of God only knows what GMO-derived feed, antibiotics and drugs and this plan is a health train-wreck right out of the gates.

Please write to the Minister of the Environment and Health Canada and express your concerns. For an easy to use form letter that will be sent to the right people, visit cban.ca and click on “No GM Fish” and follow the links. Raise awareness in your community about GE salmon. It could be approved or rejected any day now in the US where there have been delays and considerable push-backfrom the public and lawmakers.

Rather than engineering Franken-Salmon to feed people we should be exploring ways to help wild salmon populations remain strong, sustainable and understood by the people. We should be having a conversation about how to take care of the environment in which they are born, the ocean in which they mature and the path they swim to reach their ocean feeding grounds. Instead of blaming climate change, ignoring the salmon farming which are spreading diseases and parasites into our oceans, and basically giving up on wild salmon, we should be looking to nature and ourselves for clues as to how to create the conditions for long term wild salmon health. This autumn, the Pink salmon returns from the Fraser River all the way up to the Skeena were massive. How did that happen and what clues does it give us to answer these questions?

On September 12, Mark Hume wrote in the Globe and Mail: “The massive return of one species – pinks – coming on the heels of a disastrous run of another –sockeye – may be linked to a dramatic shift in ocean conditions last year. And it has raised questions about the possible role of a controversial experiment that took place when the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. dumped iron materialin the ocean last summer, stimulating plankton growth just as the pink salmon were moving through the area.”

People in the know about this have told me that “dumping” is not what they did, but rather they strategically dispersed 100 tons of the iron-rich rock dust over a large area to find out if they could fertilize that part of the ocean for increased plankton growth, and thus nourish all marine life, many species being food for wild salmon among a myriad of other creatures.

What about the totally unexpected 2010 Sockeye return to the Fraser River – nearly 40 million? How did that occur? That’s a conversation that needs to happen and the reason why the Artists Response Team, with musicians Kevin Wright and Holly Arntzen, along with artist and ocean ecologist Russ George, are presenting a new musical show and tour called 40 Million Salmon Can’t Be Wrong, which hopes to inspire a national conversation about the phenomenon of those 40 million sockeye. Scientists were predicting only one million would return, but there was a 4,000% increase, after the Kasatochi volcano in the Aleutian slands erupted in 2008, dispersing mineral-rich volcanic ash over the North Pacific ocean. The plankton bloomed and ocean life exploded. That summer, the baby Sockeye that swam out to sea from the Fraser River, along with all other marine life, were treated to a feast of plankton nourished by the volcanic dust. They grew and grew and returned to our rivers, 40 million strong. Read theCBC article about the researchers at the University of Victoria who pieced the story together here

Find out when this show is coming to your community at artistresponseteam.com

Let’s talk about how we can ensure wild salmon for generations to come not how we can genetically engineer them in such a way that we get to run away from our shared responsibility to take care of the life systems that naturally gift us with this precious food and source of cultural and personal inspiration for all, especially our indigenous cultures.

Whether it’s GMO corn, soy, canola, cotton, non-browning apples, alfalfa or salmon, people all over the world are finally coming to the understanding that taking care of our food system is each person’s responsibility. Government agencies have proven that they cannot be trusted with this sacred duty. People the world over have the ability and the survival imperative to create a better food system than big agribusiness interests can or ever will. More food is currently being grown by small to medium sized farm operations than big agri-corporations. We can build on this and we are!

We can clearly see genetically modified and engineered foods are only about the corporate monopoly of the food system through patents and selling lots of pesticides, etc. They are only about shareholder profits. GMO crops are damaging human, animal and environmental health to an extent we just don’t know, bankrupting farmers with patent infringement lawsuits and stealingfood sovereignty from all of humanity and nature. The promise of GMO crops producing an increased yield have been de-bunked. They don’t. They are a crime against all life on earth. People are finally dumping Monsanto stock as the world wakes up to the crimes against nature, people and common sense these big agribusiness corporations are committing.

People are standing up, finding their power and their voices and taking unprecedented actions to re-imagine and remake our food systems healthy again, with justice for farmers and truth for all.

On October 12, UN World Food Day, millions around the world will take to the streets again in the March Against Monsanto. In Vancouver’s March starting at 10AM at the Vancouver Art Gallery one of the highlights will be a live performance of Michael Jackson VS GMOs –– Don’t Eat It, an anti-GMOmockumusic video set to the music of Jackson’s Thriller and Beat It. Created and performed by our very own Raamayan Ananda (Swami G) and Tha Truth IS Media Alliance, this flash-mob performance and music video will engage andinspire generations of Michael Jackson fans to get involved in this cause, spread the message about stopping GMOs and perform the templated flash-mob dance in their community. Like Michael Jackson says in his song Man in the Mirror, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” Check out the preview video at Indiegogo.com Search Don’t Eat It and please support the production with a donation. The video is set to be released on Friday, October 11th as part of Vancouver’s march!

Common Ground salutes everyone doing such amazing work for a better world though art, science, activism and principled business.

We are the change we want to see in the world! Come and stand with us!


Canada’s natural health industry under siege

Canadian access to vital nutrients theatened by trade deals


by Dee Nicholson, co-executive director, Natural Health Federation Canada (NHF)

Canadians who prefer healthcare the natural way need to take a stand, and fast, before their freedom to choose their own medicine (and a whole lot more) evaporates under their very noses.

The natural health product (NHP) industry across Canada is caught in a squeeze play that threatens its very existence: it has already cost Canadians their access to about two-thirds of the products that used to be on the shelves and shows no sign of letting up. Meanwhile, many of us are completely unaware of the multifarious tentacles poised to crush what remains and have not connected the dots to see them choking off our rights.

Producers and retailers of NHPs have been fighting for years against Health Canada’s infamous “Health Protection Branch,” which has “protected” us all with SWAT-style, guns-drawn raids on vitamin sellers and their families, using the RCMP as enforcers. There have been over 20 such raids in recent times. And with a slew of newly-hired “inspectors” eager to bring home a few scalps, we can soon all look forward to being really, really “safe.”

Interestingly, under the Constitution Act, healthcare is the responsibility of the provinces, not the federal government, which means that Health Canada has absolutely no legitimate mandate to regulate anything at all. Health Canada is therefore practising medicine without a license, but somehow continues to operate with seeming impunity. What’s up with that?

It doesn’t take much of a nose to sniff out the rotting fish in this scenario, but here’s the bad news: it gets worse.

Lurking in the language of Bill C-36, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, was a clause stating the Minister of Health may take direction from unnamed foreign authorities. That threw open the door to control of our health legislation and regulation by a committee of foreigners, with Canada having only one vote at whichever table it happened to be. Take our membership in the WTO, for example: there, we have one vote against nearly 200 others. And Prime Minister Harper gave up our prized bank regulations (the same ones he said saved us from the “recession”) to the G20 last year, and quipped that, while it was a loss of sovereignty, it was “a simple fact of life,” too bad, so sad.

And now comes CETA, the “Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement” with the European Union. The perceptive among us have spotted the snake that can easily slither through that gaping doorway in Bill C-36, accepting direction from these particular “foreign authorities” whose publicly announced task is to “level the playing field with our trading partners.” And why might our government need to place that portal in C-36, when trade agreements are enforceable contracts anyway? One answer might be that we could hardly refuse what we have already legislated, could we?

Now, another interesting link in this chain: our North American preoccupation with Codex Alimentarius, the “food code” being promoted by the World Health Organization, eventually to be enforced worldwide by the WTO through cross-sector trade sanctions. Health freedom advocates have been screaming loudly for years about how it endangers our free choices, and rightly so. But while most focused on Codex Alimentarius, a nearly identical threat was looming in Europe, unnoticed, because there seemed to be no mechanism by which these standards could ever be forced on Canada.

CETA is the glue to this plot: the European Union Food Safety Directives, effective as of 2005, dubbed “Codex Alimentarius’ Evil Twin,” will most certainly become the trade standard, the “level playing field,” for the industry in Canada under the terms of CETA. And Health Canada’s recent tyrannies over perfectly safe products have just been the slow boiling of the frog, to ease the transition into global standards that funnel all profits into the pockets of the particular corporations who stand to benefit: Big Pharma.

CETA allows multinational corporations to bid freely on things we need to control for ourselves, from our municipal water utilities, to provincial energy policies, Canada Post, and, as amply noted, our healthcare choices. And once they’ve got them, just try to get them back. At every level, CETA intrudes, and in its aftermath is a ravaging of our natural health industry, as well as all other major economic sectors. Via CETA and similar agreements, Canada is being subsumed into a sea of other people’s rules.

Shockingly, across the country, neither city councillors nor provincial or federal representatives have the first clue what is going on.

Meanwhile, from October 17 to 21, CETA negotiators in Ottawa will be accepting final submissions “from the provinces,” which translates to “from the Premier’s secret committee that has prepared these submissions, without the oversight even of his own caucus.” This despite the fact more than half of the provinces are going to the polls.

This cluster bomb of an agreement is hurtling towards completion so one is naturally led to wonder why the CHFA (Canadian Health Food Association), supposedly the voice of the natural health industry, is conspicuously silent on the matter and why its membership remains largely in the dark. Since they claim a good relationship with Health Canada, why are they not active in slamming the door on CETA and stopping the SWAT raids ordered up by the ministry as “drug busts?”

In the absence of real representation, the natural health industry needs to fend for itself, organize and take action on its own behalf. Suppliers, retailers and consumers alike stand to lose far too much to knuckle under now.

If ever there was a time to stand up and be counted, this is it. This is the moment. No matter who you are, write, phone, fax or email your representatives at all levels of government – local, provincial and federal – and tell them you want full disclosure on CETA, you want your democratic rights and sovereign laws upheld and you want free access to the NHPs you choose, period. Support those groups that are speaking out and speak out with them.

Do it now. There is no time for polite discourse. They serve you, don’t they?


Natural health product regulations have gone too far


by Lorenda Stefan, product educator and national sales manager, Enerex Botanicals Ltd.

Most people are not even aware that some of the most effective, safe and natural ingredients found in their nutritional supplements are under attack. In fact, the entire industry is under attack along with our Rights as Canadian Citizens. Even ingredients like enzymes, yes enzymes, are being scrutinized for their “long-term” safety. How can this be when more than 3,000 enzymes operate in our bodies? Enzymes are found in every raw food we eat and are essential for all metabolic processes; without the enzymes in our food, life does not exist.

But that’s in food. So how safe are supplemental enzymes? The use of enzymes in dietary supplements dates back to the early 1900s. Dr. Edward Howell, a pioneer in enzyme research, did an extensive study in the 1920s on the health benefits of enzyme supplements and reported no adverse side effects. Since then, thousands of healthcare professionals around the world have prescribed plant enzymes as a treatment for digestive disorders and inflammation. That’s right; we have been supplementing with enzymes for 100 years, but now they are in danger of being lost. Our SAD (Standard American Diet) is typically devoid of naturally occurring enzymes because most are destroyed when food is cooked or processed. Therefore, many Canadians require supplemental enzymes and other essential nutrients to ensure the body is provided with the building blocks to good health. At Enerex, we know, as do our customers, the importance of enzymes in daily life and in times of crisis. We have been supplying products with enzymes for over 15 years with nothing but positive outcomes.

Supplementation with nutritional products is safe. So safe in fact that not a single person in Canada has ever died from using a natural health product. So why is our government trying to deny us access to products and ingredients that have a proven safety record? That is a serious question that each and every one of us must ask of our local Member of Parliament (MP) before it is too late. Health industry manufacturers and suppliers offer products that improve people’s quality of health and yet these products are being targeted for the “risks” they pose. The statistical risk of dying from taking an NHP is only slightly higher than that of being hit by a meteorite. In other words, there is no risk.

On the supply side, these unfair, unsubstantiated regulations hurt companies, but more importantly, they hurt people. People who choose to take herbal supplements and NHPs to help reduce their risk of degenerative disease and to maintain or improve their health are being penalized. Why is it okay to sell cigarettes, alcohol and prescription medications, all of which are known to kill people, when products like parsley capsules may be targeted by Health Canada because there isn’t “sufficient evidence” available that they are safe? Think about this when considering the fact that Health Canada originally believed that highly addictive chemical-laden beverages like “energy drinks” were safe and actually made them some of the first products to receive Natural Product Numbers for licence to sell as health products. This is from the very government agency that is supposed to protect the health of Canadians. 

What is this country coming to and when are we going to stand up for our right to choose our own path to optimal health? Enough is enough. It is time to contact your local MP to demand action on your behalf.

References: Save our Supplements Canada: www.soscanada.net Analysis of Relative Risks and Levels of Risk in Canada by Ron Law.

Are the best interests of Canadians being served or severed?

by Bruce Dales, president, Dales Product Development and Regulatory Specialists

Have you ever wondered why you don’t see more innovative health food and natural health products (NHPs) emerging on the Canadian market? I have 18 years’ experience in product development and the Canadian food and drug regulatory compliance area involving new and innovative health foods and natural health products (NHPs). I have also qualified and testified within the Canadian judicial system as an expert in the area of Canadian food and drug regulations. The following perspectives are based on what I have witnessed and experienced:

1. One of the main problems I’ve experienced within the present Canadian Health Food and NHP regulatory model is the frequent lack of adequate feedback from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) regarding the status of new and innovative health food and NHP applications. Often, it’s not given in a timely way, not given at all or doesn’t adequately answer the questions asked. Consequently, companies wanting to produce innovative products in this regulatory area are being asked to comply with regulations that are often confusing and they have difficulty determining what the compliance standards actually are. In my experience, this has been very damaging.


2. Based on my and the understanding of other members of industry I have spoken to in December of 2010, the NHPD was supposed to provide updated standards of evidence, but it never did. For the most part, with regard to the most innovative new natural product number (NPN) products, there’s no proper guidance from the NHPD and no consistent standards of evidence. Nor does a standard exist as to when submissions will actually be reviewed. Companies are expected to submit their applications without any idea as to if, or when, their applications will be reviewed or any knowledge of what the standards are under which they’ll be reviewed. Many experienced people within the industry, with whom I’ve spoken, claim it’s simply “the luck of the draw.” It appears the level of evidence required by a company, with regard to any NHPD application, is dependent upon which NHPD reviewer is assigned to it. Furthermore, it appears that, if a unique and innovative product does get regulatory approval, the NHPD doesn’t allow competing companies’ access to information regarding the level of evidence that was required for that approval.

3. On the basis of my experience, over the last few years, I’ve consistently found it very difficult to get clear and reliable feedback from the CFIA regarding whether or not a new innovative product can be put on the market as a food. I have also found the present Minister’s office for the CFIA ineffective in making the CFIA provide the appropriate information in a reasonable time frame, if at all.

4. Over the years, I have seen that when companies are challenged by Health Canada for not complying with these confusing standards, no scientific standard is required by the Minister of Health from the Health Canada officials who challenge the particular company’s product. With regard to such challenges, I have frequently seen Health Canada officials reference science documents that aren’t consistent with the subject of the challenge. They also seem to consistently refuse to provide a level playing field for all companies in this industry.

5. Furthermore, even when such actions have brought about disturbing consequences for a company and incompetence on the government’s part has been pointed out, neither the Minister of Health’s office nor the CFIA Minister holds anyone accountable for the damage done to the company. They seem unwilling, or unable, to clearly articulate and uniformly enforce the regulations.

6. Companies that want to put new and innovative health products on the market need transparent and clear guidelines to feel the confidence to invest. Lack of such guidelines diminishes innovation and competition and, for the consumer, diminishes product choice while increasing the costs of products already on the market.

7. I’m frustrated with the present regulatory system for the above-mentioned reasons and I believe the availability of food and NHP’s for Canadians is being significantly negatively impacted. Given everything I have outlined, Health Canada’s motto seems ironic to me: “All decisions will be based on good science.” Just as ironic is the fact our government spends money on departments whose job is to encourage companies to be innovative (like the NRC IRAP program), while at the same time maintaining a regulatory system that obstructs innovation.

8. If, like me, you want this situation to change, I believe the power to do so is in your hands. Contact the Ministers responsible for the CFIA and Health Canada as well as your local MPs and tell them you’re not satisfied with the way things are and you want to have the issues dealt with fairly. Feel free to send them a copy of this article as well.

9. Also bear in mind the senior-level people are the people we need to be dealing with and contacting; phoning your local Health Canada or CFIA offices and complaining to the receptionist or field inspector isn’t likely to be effective.

10. Finally, I want to confirm that I empathize with many of the Health Canada and CFIA employees working under the current regulatory system. I think many of them are intelligent and well meaning, but they’re unfortunately caught up in a discordant regulatory system. In my view, we need such people working with us for any constructive and effective changes to occur.

New for your health


Sappho Eco-luxurious Cosmetics

After learning the chemicals in the products she had used for 20 years were dangerous, film makeup artist JoAnn Fowler decided to produce a line of cosmetics that are both safe and beautiful. Sappho Organic Cosmetics are free of all synthetic preservatives, smell great and are based in organic aloe. They’re also celebrity and makeup artist-endorsed. Tested on movie stars, not animals, and used on film sets globally, Sappho is both green and gorgeous! 





Naka’s Nutri TRIM softgels

Help to trim down and manage your weight the natural way with Nutri TRIM softgels from Naka. Nutri TRIM softgels feature premium quality CLA and Omega-3 plus Green Tea Extract, Pine Nut Oil, Grapefruit and more to help you win the battle of the bulge. Nutri TRIM is specially formulated to help you lose inches, burn away fat and reduce cellulite. www.nakaherbs.com


Pheylonian Ivory Cream Honey

Pure honey is being re-identified for a myriad of health benefits. Our white creamed honey is as natural as honey can bee! Non-pasteurized, meaning it has never been heated above 87°F, it retains natural enzymes and nutrients. It is delicate on the palate with an exquisite flavour. Truly the best honey you will ever taste! Ivory Cream is harvested from the heart of Canada’s Northern Prairies. Canadian Certified Organic. For extensive info and nutritional properties, visit www.pheylonian.com or call 1-877-445-6942.



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ImmuneStart is one of the most potent immune supplements available. It contains the Chinese herb Astragulus and six of the world’s most researched, organic, medicinal mushrooms, a combination that provides broad-spectrum immune support, cold and flu prevention and support for chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The mushrooms in ImmuneStart are pharmaceutical quality, concentrated extracts of their mycelium, fruiting bodies and spores. Astragalus has been treasured for centuries for its health and longevity-enhancing properties and it has potent immuno-modulating, anti-allergenic, anti-microbial, anti-viral and adaptogenic properties. Nutristart Naturally, www.nutristart.com, 250-704-1308 / 800-813-4233.



The new S2s from Natur-a continue with the theme “taking the time to do it right.” The new generation beverage will recharge and refresh you. This fusion of fruit and soy has less sugar than juice and as much as four times as many electrolytes as popular sports drinks. It is rich in calcium, protein and vitamins but without the acidity (neutral acidity PH 7) found in juice drinks. This organic and all-natural beverage is not just delicious; it’s also a very healthy, unique blend right from nature’s garden. 


Awaken My Senses

Our Dry Skin Program enhances the skin’s natural oil production and neutralizes adverse environmental effects. Certified organic Shea Butter and fresh whole food oils of Avocado, Apricot Kernel, Evening Primrose and Rosehip restore lustre and leave the skin looking moist and vibrant. Certified organic Geranium and Sandalwood essential oils balance combination skin to create an overall dewy complexion. This program is rated at Zero (best rating) by EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, the leading authority on safe skin care. www.awakenmysenses.com



Citrus Soother Cold & Flu Hot Lemon, Honey & Ginger Drink Mix with Vitamin D

Your Natural Cold & Flu Prescription! When it comes to fighting colds and flu, nothing has a more soothing and protective effect than a hot lemon, honey and ginger drink. Add the therapeutic, healing power of vitamins C and D, along with immune-boosting zinc, elderberry, lemon balm and Echinacea root. Now you have Citrus Soother – a delicious, instant, natural cold and flu remedy formulated by Holistic Pharmacist RoseMarie Pierce, BSc.Pharm. More info: www.PrairieNaturals.ca



DietSTART is a 2-part, 14-day kit that helps to accelerate weight loss. It contains scientifically proven weight loss ingredients that will burn fat and reshape the body. DietSTART also contains a formula that enhances elimination. When we eat, our body converts digestible carbohydrates into blood sugar (glucose), our main source of energy. The ingredients in DietSTART lower blood sugar concentration and insulin output. By maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, the body will burn stored fat for energy. Visit us at www.renewlife.ca for information on DietSTART and other Renew Life products.



Balanced Female and Fiery Male

Balanced Female and Fiery Male helps to balance the hormones and energy production, resulting in improved health and well-being. Treating the cause of imbalance allows the body to heal itself and remain stable without dependency or unpleasant side effects. The Life Choice™ logo portrays a man and woman embracing, holding a balanced scale over their shoulders. Life Choice ™ products are synergistically blended and designed for optimum absorption. www.life-choice.net


The Cohen inquiry

prepare for the worst and hope for the best

article and photo by Peter Sircom Bromley

It’s been a long haul for Justice Bruce Cohen – and an exhaustive one. Begun more than a year and a half ago, his “Commission of Inquiry Into Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River” has explored every conceivable cause for the decline of the Fraser River sockeye – at least those sockeye turning right at Steveston and swimming north through the gauntlet of fish farms between Campbell River and the Broughton Archipelago. The transfer of aquaculture regulations to Federal control is only a year old and ongoing, so with the extensive expert testimony, Commission witnesses have also provided glimpses into the arcane workings of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the effectiveness of regulatory enforcement. The Cohen Commission will hear final oral submissions early this November and will release its recommendations in 2012.

Prepare for the worst

How the Commission’s findings will influence DFO policy is uncertain. Commissions of inquiry, committee reports and other fact-finding investigations by government can be left to the winds of fate, as everyone knows. It happened in 2007 when the BC government’s own Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture concluded that, while there was “no consensus amongst the scientific community about the potential harm incurred by open-net pen technology,” scientific opinion and evidence was so compelling that it was imperative to “act immediately” to reduce the impacts of aquaculture in BC.

The Committee, comprised of 11 MLAs including Gregor Robertson, Claire Trevena and John Yap, recommended the provincial government launch an incentive-driven, five-year transition to ocean-based closed containment. That didn’t happen. Aquaculture management fell into federal hands and, as it turns out, Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), the Federal not-for-profit agency, stepped up to the plate to help nudge things along. In August of this year, SDTC increased funding, to the tune of $5.77 million, for a solid wall floating pen demonstration project in Campbell River.

Behind the lack of immediate action, as called for by the Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, is the lack of scientific proof of the various impacts thought to result from fish farming. But it’s not because scientific studies have found no proof. It’s because scientific studies of the quality and scope needed to do the job have not been done. As independent researcher Dr. Laurence Gill has pointed out, there are things “we just don’t know.” Dr. Dill is a Professor Emeritus at Simon Fraser University with over 40 years experience in biological sciences. He is a member of a team asked by the Cohen Commission to evaluate the links between salmon farms and Fraser sockeye returns.

Dill found strong evidence of lice from fish farms having affected Pink and other salmon in the Broughton Archipelago. He also found evidence of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands infecting nearby sockeye with the parasites. His findings, however, did not determine any evidence of “a direct harmful effect on Fraser sockeye.” But this doesn’t mean the evidence does not exist.

Things are equally vague with respect to salmon viruses and cancers.

For supporters of wild salmon, the worst-case scenario would be for Justice Bruce Cohen to simply recommend scientific studies to fill the gaps in understanding. This means the aquaculture industry would remain in the sockeye migration route until further notice. Why? Because governments, being rather unimaginative, are restrained by the quasi-religious authority of science. And when science doesn’t have an answer, it effectively sanctions inaction on the part of true believers. Sometimes, doing nothing may be a valid strategy, but in the case of the DFO, it means playing it safe to keep industrial interests happy and refusing to take risks on behalf of wild salmon. In the eyes of many, this defines DFO policy.

Our experience with water, disease, parasites, viruses, disinfectants, antibiotics, vaccines, predators, dead fish, feces, and rotting food – all part of the daily routine at an aquaculture site – informs our common sense. In turn, common sense tells us that fish farms must have some degree of negative impact on the dense and fluid marine environment. To deal with a decline in wild salmon, possibly due to fish farms, and/or to climate change, over-fishing, spawning stream contamination and so on, a common sense approach would suggest a process of elimination when empirical evidence is lacking. Get rid of the fish farms, and see what happens. If that doesn’t work, try something else. But will common sense prevail? Not likely. While it may be the sum total of a person’s intuition, life experience and foresight, common sense escapes the rigors of science and does not qualify as empirical fact. Until society evolves enough to allow our own creaturehood back into the decision-making process, “unscientific” guiding principles will not be allowed to inform policy regarding the environment. It’s like tying one arm behind your back.

Hope for the best

But there may be a glimmer of hope for the sockeye caught in our mind games. One way to move a contentious issue forward is by finding common ground – in this case, working with an existing rule that everyone accepts. Current regulations require fish farms to be sited no closer than one kilometre from the mouth of a significant salmon river. The logic behind that regulation could be extended to the waters around, and northwest of, the Discovery Islands. Less than a kilometre wide in many places, the narrow channels winding through the region are much like a river delta to the salmon finding their way to the open ocean. Extending the one kilometre rule to take into account the geography of BC would simply make things neat and consistent. Bureaucrats like that. For governments, expanding the reach of an existing rule is easier than creating a brand new one. Justice Cohen will likely know as much. If the DFO can’t take a common sense approach to science, it can surely take a common sense approach to management.

Let’s do it.

For information on the Cohen Inquiry, including detailed reports, transcripts and an opportunity to comment, visit www.cohencommission.ca

Peter Sircom Bromley is an independent researcher and multimedia producer. He has worked as a communications consultant for various NGOs, including the Sierra Club of Canada and the Rivershed Society of BC.

Cervical cancer-screening a minefield

Does one dare ‘smear’ the annual Pap smear?


DRUG BUST by Alan Cassels

Of all the medical screening programs offered to the population nowadays, which are the most valuable in terms of potentially saving a person’s life? Asked that question recently, I immediately answered “the Pap smear.” It’s a test that examines cells removed from a woman’s cervix for any signs of abnormality, a potential precursor to cervical cancer. While relatively easy to administer, many women find it rather invasive and unpleasant, even as it accomplishes what a good screening test should: it finds abnormalities in a relatively safe and efficient way before they develop into real health problems.

In the past, experts recommended women have a yearly Pap smear from the time of their “sexual debut” until old age, but how often do women really need it? This is a subject of some debate and Pap screening recommendations in Canada are all over the map. Health systems in Newfoundland and Alberta recommend screening every year; other provinces recommend longer periods – every two or three years. The Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend screening every three years after a woman has had two normal tests.

Changing recommendations around screening is always controversial, but I think it’s a good thing. After all, it may be due to the fact people increasingly recognize technology bites back and “good for one, good for all” thinking is problematic. The idea of selective screening for people at ‘high risk’ and not screening low risk people who stand little chance of benefiting is now gaining a foothold in the medical marketplace. In our modern, over-diagnosed world, administering medical procedures, drugs and tests wisely is all about constantly thinking about how not to overuse, underuse or misuse them.

One fact is unavoidable: not all women are at equal risk for cervical cancer. In Canada, older women (aged 40-59), immigrants, aboriginals and those from lower socio-economic strata are all at higher risk for cervical cancer and most cervical cancer deaths happen among those screened infrequently or not at all.

Where in the world is more cervical cancer-screening actually needed? In the poorest parts of the globe. This fact was recently reiterated when none other than former president George W. Bush announced the next phase of the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In August, George W. announced a major push to expand the screening and treatment of women with cervical cancer, a laudable goal considering the majority of women dying of cervical cancer – more than 85 percent of cases – are in developing countries.

HIV positive women are especially at risk – up to five times more than women who are HIV negative. A woman’s risk of cervical cancer also rises with her level of sexual activity (number of partners) and so on.

In our corner of the industrialized world, we find groups like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists proclaiming, “cervical cancer rates have fallen more than 50 percent in the past 30 years in the US due to the widespread use of the Pap test.” Really? Are we placing all the advances made in women’s sexual health in recent years at the foot of the humble Pap smear?

Undeniably, the Pap test can help pay the bills. One physician friend doing a stint at the U of T student health clinic told me about a student who wanted to renew her birth control pills without a Pap smear. The student, who had had only normal tests, said her previous doctor expected her to submit to a smear every time she wanted a new script for oral contraceptives. Which meant every three months.

Dr. Warren Bell, a family doctor in Salmon Arm, BC, recalls how recommendations around the Pap test have undergone sometimes boomerang-like changes. According to Bell, “about two decades ago, the BC Cancer Agency, which reviews all slides from Pap tests throughout the province, made the bold recommendation that, after a couple of initial normal Pap tests, and as long as your sexual partner did not change, Pap tests could be reduced to every two years. At age 35 or so, if the same conditions prevailed, they could be reduced to every three to four years. And after age 50 to 55, they could be reduced to every five years, and then ended completely after age 70.”

While most women would have welcomed these changes, Bell said the announcement “was greeted with howls of protest from the gynecological community.” The cancer agency backtracked, withdrew its recommendation and went back to pumping the annual Pap test – another example of ‘expert opinion’ slapping down common sense.

To answer the “do I need an annual pap test?” question, the answer is “it depends.” In Dr. Bell’s opinion, the recommendation for the Pap test shouldn’t just be based on a random time interval, but should also consider a woman’s socio-economic circumstances, lifestyle and sexual partners.

Dr. Bell recalls the most over-zealous Pap testing he’d encountered: an 82-year-old woman came to his office for her annual pap smear. He said his “jaw hit the floor with a thud” after the woman told him she had had the test every year, never shown any abnormalities and lived with the same partner for decades.

Physicians are convinced they need to be ‘doing something’ to prevent a disease that kills about 400 women a year in Canada. While cervical cancer still represents less than two percent of all fatal cancer deaths every year, it is still important to do what we can to reduce those deaths. One thing the medical community is ‘doing’ is embracing, researching and promoting the links between the human papillomavirus (HPV), an extremely common sexually transmitted virus, and cervical cancer.

Which brings us to Gardasil, the first vaccine marketed to prevent infections of HPV. If you haven’t noticed, it’s been back in the news recently, finding its way into the race for the nomination for the Republican presidential campaign.

US Representative Michele Bachmann recently attacked her opponent Texas Governor Rick Perry over the safety of the HPV vaccine. Mr. Perry, no doubt fuelled by campaign donations from Gardasil’s manufacturer, thought it was a good idea to issue an executive order requiring grade-six girls in Texas to be vaccinated for HPV. The twitterverse has been alight with the Perry-Bachmann banter on this exchange, yet here in Canada, we seem to have a decidedly more funny (not) take on HPV.

Late last summer, the province of Quebec funded and launched a campaign that probably rates as the most ludicrous example of cervical cancer mongering in history. This campaign glosses over the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine and essentially says girls in Canada have a simple choice: They can either get the HPV vaccine or wear a chastity belt.


I couldn’t make this stuff up. And if I could, I’d be doing standup instead of writing columns.

Let’s face it folks; whether you are pushing the vaccine or the pap smear and whether you use political bullying or humour, denying the potential for their adverse effects and promoting them to everyone, everywhere, can only be called one thing: bad medicine.

Alan Cassels is a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria. Read more of what he’s writing about at www.alancassels.com