Processed foods are bad for our health. But, what exactly is a processed food?

Many studies confirm that eating processed foods can lead to cancer, heart disease, obesity and well, early death. 

But, what exactly is a processed food?

Using a four-tiered system called NOVA, nutrition experts and scientists classify everything we eat into one of four categories: unprocessed or minimally processed, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods and ultra-processed food/ drink products. When researchers do studies involving “processed foods”, they are usually referring to ultra-processed food/ drink products. Here are more detailed explanations on each category:

Unprocessed foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, roots, etc. from plant foods, animal meat, fungi and algae. These can be fresh, frozen, or even fermented. Dry beans, grains like rice or steel-cut oats, seafood, nuts and spices are also unprocessed foods. The key point is that they have not been treated with additives, injected with salt or rubbed with oil until they’re about to be eaten.

Processed culinary ingredients are ingredients made from unprocessed foods, like vegetable oils, butter and lard. This category also includes honey from honeycombs, sugar from cane and syrup from maple trees.

Processed foods are items that have added ingredients like sugar, salt and fat to help keep them edible longer. Canned fruits, leavened bread, cheese, pickles, alcohol and salted nuts all make this list.

Ultra-processed foods are food items that are ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat. These foods are often manufactured in factories. They are broken down from their whole or fresh form and treated with thickeners, colours and additives. They might contain high fructose corn syrup or protein isolates, or they might be fried before being packaged. These foods “often have a higher content of total fat, saturated fat, added sugar, energy density, and salt, along with a lower fibre and vitamin density,” explains one study from the Epidemiology and Statistics Research Center at Sorbonne Paris Cité in France. Examples of ultra-processed foods include candy, mass-produced breads and baked goods, hot dogs, processed meats, chicken nuggets, French fries, dehydrated soups, ready-to-eat meals with food additives, margarine, packaged granola bars, carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks.hotdog

These ultra-processed foods are what researchers have found to be linked to more cancer and heart disease cases, weight gain and early deaths. On the other hand, many studies show that consuming a diet high in whole, unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains protects against disease and supports optimal health.


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Thyroid illness: can we decrease thyroid antibodies naturally?

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease are autoimmune conditions where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, which produces hormones that regulate metabolism, energy and mood. In these autoimmune conditions, the immune system creates anti-thyroid autoantibodies (aka thyroid antibodies) that damage the thyroid gland.

Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (click here if you are hypothyroid and trying to get pregnant). You might have experienced symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, anxiety, digestive issues, hormone imbalances, fertility challenges and/ or miscarriages- and were subsequently diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Did your doctor test for thyroid antibodies? The presence of thyroid antibodies in the blood, along with high TSH or low FT4 is indicative of Hashimoto’s. You may already be on thyroid medication (i.e. levo-thyroxine) but if your thyroid antibodies are still high, their presence may cause continuous damage to the thyroid tissue.

Many people with this condition wonder if those antibodies will ever decrease or normalise. To answer this question, we need to understand what might cause the immune system to start attacking the thyroid in the first place. Although genetics play a role in the susceptibility of getting Hashimoto’s, whether those genes activate disease depends on certain environmental and lifestyle factors. Some points to consider:

  1. The gut microbiome, the community of bacteria that live in your intestines, play a key role in regulating the immune system. When your gut flora is out of balance, the immune system can lose its balance too and become more inclined to mistaken the thyroid for something that needs to be attacked.
  2. dnaSome studies have found that individuals with thyroid disorders have significantly lower numbers of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli (beneficial bacteria) and significant higher levels of Enterococcus species (considered an opportunistic pathogen) compared to healthy controls. Other studies have found that H. pylori infections are more commonly found in people with Hashimoto’s disease than those without. A 2015 study found that getting rid of Blastocystic hominis infections normalised thyroid hormones and decreased thyroid antibodies. The gut definitely plays a role in autoimmune conditions.To investigate each patient’s unique microbiome, Dr. Yik offers various lab testing, including the GI MAP (GI-Microbial Assay Plus) test, a comprehensive stool analysis that includes an FDA-approved DNA/PCR assay for GI pathogens (bacteria, parasites, viruses, yeast, etc.).
  3. Food sensitivities or intolerances can cause chronic inflammation and trigger unwanted immune reactions. Research shows that there’s a link between thyroid autoimmunity and gluten. Many, though not all, people with Hashimoto’s disease have a gluten sensitivity. In some cases, thyroid antibodies return to normal when gluten is removed from the diet. In Dr. Yik’s practice, dairy and eggs are also common food sensitivities found in patients with Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease. If you decide to do the test, remember to get tested for food intolerances, not allergies (click here to read about the difference).
  4. In practice, Dr. Yik has found a link between Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Epstein Barr virus (mononucleosis). How do underlying infections lead to autoimmunity? One theory is the molecular mimicry theory, in which the immune system remembers specific proteins on the viruses that it correctly attacked, but then it starts attacking other proteins in the body that look similar to the virus protein. Another theory, the bystander effect, is where the immune system attacks healthy cells along with the virus.
  5. Could you be deficient in nutrients? You may be eating healthy, but if you have gut dysbiosis or gut inflammation (see above), you may not be absorbing the nutrients from foods you eat. The cells that line the gut have fingerlike projections called villi, which increase the surface area for transporting nutrients into the body. When the gut is inflamed, these villi can become shortened, which results in impaired nutrient absorption. Low vitamin D, selenium, vitamin A and zinc are all associated with the development of Hashimoto’s.
  6. Chronic stress and heavy metal toxicity have also been linked to thyroid autoimmune disease.

If you have Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease, it’s important to find a doctor who addresses the underlying causes of your condition, not just prescribe thyroid medication to “balance” hormones.





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Can cleanliness increase your risk of developing allergies and asthma?

pexels-photo-459976.jpegHow can being too clean make us sick? Well, it turns out that excessive cleanliness or a lack of exposure to bacteria, viruses and allergens prevents the normal development of the immune system, which eventually increases the chance of disorders within this system down the road. This is called the hygiene hypothesis, and it explains why allergy and asthma rates are much higher in wealthy countries. Studies have found that babies who are exposed to both bacteria and allergens in the first year of life are less likely to develop asthma and allergies. In fact, a 2014 study found that inner-city babies who grow up in houses with higher levels of certain bacteria (carried on cockroach, mouse and cat dander) are less likely to experience wheezing or asthma by the age of 3.

allergiesFurthermore, researchers have found that specific conditions as asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases and various allergies, including hay fever, have become much more common as we’ve become more sanitary. These health ailments are more prevalent in developed countries compared to developing ones.

Take note, this hygiene hypothesis does not account for all cases of allergies and asthma, which have a clear genetic component. It’s the interactions between a person’s environment and genes that contribute to the rates of these health conditions.

So, what should we do?

  1. First of all, you don’t need to stop cleaning your home or stop washing yourself. Remember, most of these findings involve germ exposure during infancy and childhood. Additionally, broader trends such as antibiotic use and sewage treatment plants have led to more drastic reductions in bacteria exposure that we see in modern society. 
  2. Avoid the use of antibiotics in infants and children unless it’s absolutely necessary. Dr. Ardyce Yik ND treats many infections in children naturally using antimicrobial medicinal herbs and nutraceuticals. She is also trained to know when to refer to a medical doctor if pharmaceutical antibiotics or drugs are needed. Click here to read more about how antibiotic use in infants is linked to disease later in life.
  3. Avoid using antibacterial soaps and products, especially in children. A consensus of more than 200 scientists and medical professionals has concluded that triclosan and triclocarban, two popular antibacterial agents commonly found in personal care products and household items, are environmentally persistent endocrine disruptors that accumulate in and are toxic to aquatic organisms, animals and humans. Triclosan has been found in human breast milk and blood. In Hong Kong, many personal care products and household items containing triclosan or triclocarban are commonly advertised on TV and in public. Beware of the detrimental effects these products may have on your children’s health and yours.
  4. Vaginal births and breastfeeding are important for the development of a healthy microbiome in infants. Click here to learn on how you can prepare for the best birth. Click here to learn the benefits of breastfeeding.
  5. Interested in getting a family pet? There’s one more reason to give in to your child’s request. It turns out that pets can boost children’s immunity!



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Reduce anxiety, naturally

Government statistics show that over 13% of people in Hong Kong aged 16 to 75 have common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. According to a 2015 study, 27.8% of Hong Kong’s primary school children have anxiety symptoms so severe that professional help is warranted (Click here to read more on stress and anxiety in Hong Kong children).

Perhaps you were anxious as a child and grew into an anxious adult, or maybe you developed anxiety later in life. Regardless, with the current situation in Hong Kong, your anxiety levels may be rising. In addition to seeking professional help, what are some natural ways to combat anxiety?

  1. Talk to a trusted friend. Let out your frustrations and anxiety to someone who is willing to listen without judgment. Don’t bottle up your emotions inside.
  2. Your anxiety can worsen with caffeine, so avoid coffee, chocolate and other caffeinated foods or beverages. Try swapping caffeinated beverages with herbal teas that promote relaxation, like chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm and passion flower teas.
  3. Get moving! Physical activity raises endorphins and serotonin levels to help you feel better emotionally. Exercise can also take your mind off your problems. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity 3 to 6 days a week.
  4. Take a nature walk or trail hike. Studies show that people who spend time in the great outdoors (or even look at pictures of nature) experience less mental stress and reduced levels of anxiety. 
  5. Practice deep breathing and meditation. The deliberate process of taking slow, even breaths (as opposed to fast, shallow breathing common with anxiety and panic attacks) can help restore normal breathing patterns and reduce anxiety. Research from John Hopkins found that meditation for 30 minutes a day can “provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants.”
  6. Chemicals in processed foods such as artificial flavors, artificial colors and preservatives may cause mood changes in some people. A diet high in sugar can also affect your temperament. Eliminate processed foods and eat a healthful diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and good fats. Foods which may ease anxiety include fatty fish, nuts, eggs, turkey and yogurt. 


Find a health care practitioner who looks at the whole picture. Pharmaceutical drugs can help reduce anxiety but it may not work for every person. Aside from drugs, there are numerous treatment protocols and techniques that can benefit you and help address the symptoms and root causes of anxiety (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals, etc.). Find a doctor who listens and cares for your wellbeing.

Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps countless people reach optimal health using natural medicine and nutrition.



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What you should know about alcohol bloating and weight gain

You drink a few glasses of wine and there it is- your stomach or abdomen expands to a point where it’s uncomfortable, noticeable and embarrassing. Why does this happen? It turns out that drinking alcohol may lead to irritation and inflammation in the stomach (i.e. gastritis) which leads to bloating. Alcohol can also cause weight gain, which gives the appearance of bloating. Bloating and weight gain, two different effects of drinking alcohol, are discussed below. 
Research suggests that alcohol consumption is linked with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), an infection of which can cause gastritis, which in turn leads to bloating. The bloating can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the cause and severity.
Besides stomach bloating, here are other symptoms of gastritis:
  • heartburn
  • changes in appetite
  • abdominal pain
  • indigestion
  • nausea
  • vomiting


Gastritis is erosive, allowing stomach acid to damage the stomach lining. If left untreated, this can lead to the development of stomach ulcers (i.e. peptic ulcers) which can become severe without the appropriate treatment. If you suspect that you may have gastritis, go to your medical or naturopathic doctor to get checked. In cases of (alcohol-induced) gastritis caused by a H. pylori infection, Dr. Ardyce Yik ND treats the gastritis by targeting the infection and prescribing other natural medicines to to heal the stomach lining.


fat tummy

Alcoholic drinks are typically high in calories. For example, one beer weighing 12 oz contains 150 calories. A glass of red wine (5 oz) contains 120 calories. As you can imagine, consuming several alcoholic drinks over the course of an evening can quickly lead to an excessive calorie intake, which in turn results in weight gain and accumulation of body fat.

Alcoholic intoxication may increase the likelihood of overeating. Besides lowered inhibitions and impaired judgment causing one to overeat, research indicates that alcohol consumption leads to hyperactivity of certain neurons in the brain that evoke intense hunger. Usually, these neurons are activated by starvation, but it turns out that consuming alcohol activates them as well.

If you are struggling with alcoholism, bloating or weight gain, find an experienced practitioner who can help you tackle the root problems of your health issues.



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10 signs your thyroid isn’t functioning properly

doctor1Researchers say that 10% of the general population have thyroid disorders. If you’re a woman over the age of 35, take heed- Experts estimate that 1 in 3 women over 35 develop thyroid illness at one point in their lifetime. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, produces thyroid hormones which regulate your body’s temperature, metabolism, and heartbeat. Things can start to go wrong when your thyroid is under- or over-active.

What causes your thyroid to go out of balance? A combination of genetics, an autoimmune attack, stress, nutritional deficiencies, pregnancy or environmental toxins could be the culprit. Here are 10 signs that point to a thyroid problem:

  1. Fatigue. Feeling tired all the time and having no energy are strongly associated with hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid is underactive. A common complaint in patients with hypothyroidism is that they feel exhausted even after a full night’s sleep. They just want to sleep all the time, and they feel lethargic during the day.
  2. Hair loss, dry hair. Dry, brittle hair that breaks easily or falls out can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Too little thyroid hormone disrupts your hair growth cycle, putting too many follicles into “resting” mode which results in hair loss or thinning (in some cases, it can also affect your eyebrows). An overactive thyroid can cause hair thinning, usually just on the head.
  3. Menstruation issues and fertility problems. There is a link between irregular menstrual cycles and thyroid problems. Not only that, but if you experience difficulty getting pregnant, you may want to get your thyroid checked. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can interfere with ovulation and cause infertility. Click here to learn more about how hypothyroidism affects your fertility.
  4. Heart flutters or palpitations. You may feel your heart fluttering or beating too hard. You may notice these strong “pulsation” feelings in your chest or in the neck area. Heart flutters or palpitations can be a sign of hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland is making too much thyroid hormone.
  5. Anxiety and “feeling wired” are also associated with hyperthyroidism. Your metabolism and whole body may spin into overdrive, and you feel like you just can’t relax.
  6. Weight gain or loss. People with hypothyroidism may eat very little and exercise a lot, but still gain weight. On the other hand, unexplained weight loss could indicate a thyroid problem, or something else. If you haven’t changed your caloric intake, but you are either gaining weight or losing weight, seek a doctor to get your thyroid checked.
  7. Your brain is fuzzy/ isn’t sharp. People with hypothyroidism may forget things and experience general brain fog, while people with hyperthyroidism find it difficult to  concentrate.
  8. Bowel movement changes. An underactive thyroid often leads to constipation while an overactive one can cause diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements. If your bowel movements have changed, check your thyroid function.
  9. High cholesterol. Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can be caused by hypothyroidism. If you have high LDL cholesterol levels that haven’t responded to diet, exercise, or medication you should get your thyroid tested. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to heart problems such as an enlarged heart or  heart failure.
  10. Inability to tolerate cold temperatures or sweating profusely. Feeling cold (when others are not) is associated with an underactive thyroid while feeling too warm or sweating profusely could be a sign of an overactive thyroid.

Other symptoms of thyroid imbalance include low libido, depression, high blood pressure, a lump in the throat/ neck or difficulty swallowing, dry skin, carpal tunnel syndrome or painful extremities.

If you suspect that your thyroid isn’t working properly, get your thyroid hormones tested. Autoimmune antibodies testing and a neck ultrasound may also be necessary. In 2003, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists narrowed the TSH range for acceptable thyroid function from 0.5-5.0mIU/L to 0.3-3.04mIU/L. However, in Hong Kong, Dr. Yik has found that many patients with borderline levels aren’t getting the necessary treatment. It’s important to find a doctor who listens to your symptoms and treats the whole person, not one who just looks at lab tests.

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Travelling? Here are 9 of the germiest places you’ll encounter!

Travelling anytime soon? With summer around the corner, you may be excitedly planning a summer trip or two. Here is a list of the dirtiest places or things you’ll encounter while travelling- be prepared and avoid getting sick!

  • Hotel Remotes. Studies conducted by microbiologists have found that remote controls have some of the highest levels of bacterial contamination in hotel rooms. Hotel housekeepers rarely clean the TV remote. Cover the remote or wipe it down with alcohol wipes before using it.
  • hotelroom-2205447_1920Hotel Bedspreads. The heavy bedspread on top of the hotel bed may not have been washed in a while! Most hotels change the sheets between guests but not the top comforter. To avoid the germs left behind by past guests, remove the top layer of bedding and sleep only with the washed sheets and blankets.
  • Hotel Light Switches. Light switches are used by everyone who enters a hotel room, but never cleaned. A recent study found that the main light switch was the dirtiest surface in the hotel rooms tested, and often contained high levels of fecal bacteria.
  • Water Fountains. Various studies have found that public fountains may have more bacteria than public toilets. One study by the National Sanitation Foundation in the USA found that the dirtiest spots in public schools are water fountains.
  • Airplane Bathrooms. A breeding ground for germs, airplane bathrooms are so small that flushing the toilet sprays bacteria onto almost every surface in the bathroom. You may want to wash your hands and use a paper towel to open the bathroom door.
  • Airplane Seat Pockets. A place where passengers put used tissues, soiled diapers and food waste, airplane seat pockets are another breeding ground for germs.
  • Airplane Tray Tables. These tray tables don’t get sanitised properly between every trip. Bring sanitising wipes and wipe the table down before using it.
  • Pillows and Blankets. If not sealed in plastic, the blankets and pillows are probably being reused from previous flights. What if the flyer before you was sick or drooling over the pillow? Better to bring your own travel blankets and pillows.
  • Cruise Ship Handrails (and public handrails in general). Cruise ships are well known germ incubators. The handrails you use to get on and off the ship are touched by thousands of other passengers every day, and germs can live on them for hours. Be sure to wash or sanitise your hands after using them.

Remember to wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitiser or alcohol wipes. Click here to find out how to strengthen your immune system to avoid getting sick. Always getting sick? Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps people support their immune system and stay healthy.

Bon voyage and safe travels!


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Are you eating these top healthful foods?

Healthful foods make you feel great and give you energy, improving your health and boosting your mood. A healthful diet generally includes a variety of fruits and vegetables of many colors, whole grains, good fats, and lean protein. Below are the top foods considered to be the most healthy (in no particular order), according to sources across the United States and Western Europe. How many of these foods do you eat?

  1. Almonds. Almonds are rich in nutrients, including vitamin E, manganese, iron, calcium, magnesium and riboflavin. It contains more fibre than any other tree nut, an
    d helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
  2. Walnuts. A great source of omega-3 fats, walnuts also provide almost twice as many antioxidant polyphenols as almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias and pecans. Walnuts also contain iron, selenium, calcium, zinc, vitamin E and some B vitamins.
  3. Brazil nuts. These nuts are rich in protein and are excellent sources of thiamine, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc. They contain one of the highest amounts of selenium in any food. Selenium is a key nutrient for maintaining thyroid health. 
  4. Lentils. A staple in many parts of the world including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka, lentils are a good source of B vitamins, iron and potassium. Not only do they provide protein, but they’re also rich in fibre and phytochemicals which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.
  5. Oatmeal. Oats are rich in complex carbohydrates and water-soluble fibre, which slows down digestion and stabilizes blood glucose levels. Oatmeal is rich in B vitamins, folate and potassium. Choose the coarse or steel-cut oats which contain more fibre than instant varieties.
  6. Broccoli. This dark green vegetable is rich in fibre, calcium, potassium, folateand phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds that reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Broccoli also contains vitamin C, beta-carotene and sulforaphane, a sulphur-rich compound that has anti-aging and anti-cancer benefits.
  7. Kale. This dark leafy green vegetable is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. Just like broccoli, it contains loads of vitamins and minerals- including beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K- as well as phytonutrients and sulforaphane.
  8. Blueberries. These berries are rich in fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients.A study carried out at Harvard Medical School found that older adults who eat plenty of blueberries (and strawberries) are less likely to suffer from cognitive decline compared with other people of their age who do not. The anthocyanins found in blueberries can also help reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
  9. Avocados. Rich in healthy fats, B vitamins, vitamin K, and vitamin E and fibre, avocados can help lower blood cholesterol levels. Researchers from Ohio State University found that nutrients taken from avocados were able to stop oral cancer cells, and even destroy some of the pre-cancerous cells.
  10. Sweet potatoes. This fibre-rich vegetable is rich in beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and antioxidants. Studies have found that antioxidants in purple sweet potatoes promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, including certain Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species.
  11. Top healthy protein sources include deep water oily fish, organic chicken and organic, omega-3 eggs

There are many other healthful foods not mentioned in this article. Remember, the key is to eat a variety of natural, unprocessed, whole foods. Prepare more of your own meals, avoid unhealthy/ processed foods and keep hydrated with water.

Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps adults and children eat better and stay healthy. She is in charge of the “Boost Your Child’s Health” program at OT&P clinic and the “Be Your Best” weight loss program at IMI clinic.


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Pregnant? Boost your child’s I.Q. and health by eating nuts 3 times a week

pregnantcroppedA new study from the European Journal of Epidemiology has found that eating nuts during early pregnancy can boost a child’s cognitive ability. According to the study done by researchers in Spain, children born to mothers who consumed 2 to 3 ounces of nuts per week during the 1st trimester of pregnancy typically scored higher on I.Q., memory and attention tests, compared with women who did not eat nuts.

Jordi Julvez (Barcelona Institute for Global Health) and his colleagues assessed 2,208 women and their children over an eight-year period. They found that children born to mothers who had eaten 3 or more servings of nuts (including walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts and almonds) per week during the 1st trimester scored higher on intelligence tests than those born to mothers who had not eaten nuts. Interestingly, the association is strongest during the 1st trimester of pregnancy.

Nuts are high in fatty acids, including omega-3, as well as folate. Julvez and his team believe that these nutrients accumulate in the neural tissue of the developing fetus during crucial early developmental stages.

kidsResearch has shown that taking omega-3 fats during pregnancy can improve the child’s learning and co-ordination as well as prevent postnatal depression. Furthermore, omega-3 consumption during pregnancy not only reduces the likelihood of obesity in childhood and later in life, but it can also enhance the child’s eye health (click here to read more about omega-3 consumption during pregnancy and enhanced visual acuity).

Folate (the synthetic form of which is folic acid) can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the 1st trimester, as well as protect against other birth defects such as cleft palate, limb and heart defects and even the development of brain tumours during childhood.

Click here to learn tips for a healthy pregnancy and  healthy baby.


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Is the Keto Diet safe for everyone?

Have you heard of the Ketogenic (or Keto) Diet? Established in the 1920s when doctors used it as a therapy to treat epilepsy patients, the Keto Diet has become one of the most popular weight loss diets in recent years. So, what exactly is the Keto Diet and is it safe for everyone?

What is the Keto Diet?

The Keto Diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet which severely restricts carbohydrates, moderately restricts protein and greatly increases fat intake. This type of diet switches the body’s main energy source through a process known as ketosis. During ketosis, the liver produces ketones from fat and these ketones serve as fuel for the body. Instead of using glucose (from carbs) for energy, the body switches to burning fat. People on the Keto Diet often experience rapid weight loss at first, and as the body adjusts, weight loss will continue at a steady pace.

Is the Keto Diet safe for everyone?

Everyone’s dietary needs are different. There is no “one diet fits all”, and any diet, if not done properly, can potentially be harmful to one’s health. Here are some important points to note if you’re considering the Keto Diet:

  1. A strict Keto Diet is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding. Though rare, there have been cases where new mothers have nearly died on a low-carb diet while breastfeeding due to a condition called ketoacidosis. While breastfeeding, you lose sugar through the milk, and not eating enough carbohydrates in this situation can possibly lead to ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening. If you’re breastfeeding, a moderate carb intake of at least 50 to 75g of carbohydrates should be consumed daily. A low-carb diet may also decrease milk supply. Are you pregnant? Talk to your ob/gyn before starting the Keto Diet. 
  2. Although eliminating sugars and processed carbohydrates can improve your gut health, a low-carb diet can affect your gut microbiome negatively (not to mention cause constipation) if you don’t eat enough fiber. The more we learn about gut health and the microbiome, the more we realise that gut health is key to overall health. It has a significant impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. On the Keto Diet, remember to load up on leafy greens, nuts, asparagus, avocados and other fiber-rich foods.
  3. When you’re on the Keto Diet, be aware of the nutrient content of the foods you consume. Foods such as butter, coconut or bacon, which are heavily consumed on a ketogenic diet, are very high in fat. However, compared to the number of calories they provide, these foods are very low in nutrients. Instead, choose nutrient-dense foods such as avocados, cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), fatty fish, grass-fed beef, omega-3 eggs, cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds.
  4. Can children go on the Keto Diet? If your child is overweight, suffers from seizures and severe epilepsy syndrome, s/he may benefit from the Keto Diet (which was originally used to treat children with epilepsy). But, how about for a healthy child? Dr. Yik always reminds parents that nutrient needs for children are higher than for adults. Restrictive diets of any kind aren’t wise unless medically indicated. Children need a wide variety of different nutrients from nutrient-dense foods to grow, develop and stay healthy. Carbohydrates provide not only the energy kids need but also key nutrients for growth and development. These include foods like vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Fiber, a type of carbohydrate, not only helps children feel satiated and keep blood sugar levels steady but also prevent constipation as well as changes in the gut microbiome.Lastly, as parents, be aware of the message you send to your children when you go on fad diets. Are you weight-obsessed? What message are you sending your child about body image? Are you modelling unhealthy food behaviours? Remember, as a parent, your eating habits will affect your child’s relationship to food later in life. If you are not sure whether or not your child will benefit from a Keto Diet or if you want nutritional guidance for your child, talk to your child’s paediatrician, nutrition or healthcare practitioner. For nutritional therapy and dietary advice for children, Dr. Yik offers the “Boost Your Child’s Health” program.  



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