Natural Relief for Fall Allergies

picture of a woman suffering from fall allergy symptoms
Natural Treatment for Fall Allergies

How to Treat Fall Allergies

Are you excited for fall? Most of us love the vibrant colours of this beautiful season. It’s a time to get out our cozy sweaters, sip a cup of hot tea, enjoy the crisp fall air, and sadly for some people, sneeze a lot. Yes, unfortunately, many of us experience watery eyes, sinus pain and other allergy symptoms once fall arrives. This annoying phenomenon occurs even though you made it through spring without sneezing.

That’s because, even though the symptoms of fall and spring allergies are the same, the triggers are different. So it’s definitely possible to enjoy one season allergy-free but suffer through the other. Because there are more culprits to blame for fall allergies, many people experience adverse effects.

The two most common fall allergens are leaf mold and ragweed.

What is Ragweed?

As the name suggests, it is a weed. It is easy to spot because of the tiny, bright yellow flowers that grace the top of the green leafy plant which grows about 2-3 feet tall. Ragweed season gets going in August, but can carry all the way through October. Some experts feel that allergy season is becoming longer and more severe due to climate change. After all, warmer temperatures will prolong pollen production.

What is Leaf Mold?

Rainy fall days combined with falling leaves pair up to create leaf mold. Leaf mold is the product of fungus or mold breaking down or decomposing the fallen leaves over time. Eventually, they’ll turn into compost. Mold spores are like seeds for mold. They are how mold spreads and reproduces. Spores are easily inhaled and will fire up your immune system.

The good news is that fall allergies can be treated naturally. In fact, new research in immunotherapy and nutrition makes it easier than ever to get through autumn sneeze-free.

THE SYMPTOMS OF FALL ALLERGIES

We hear more frequently about spring allergies, but fall allergies can be just as unpleasant.

The symptoms of fall allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Headaches
  • Sinus pain or pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Increased asthma symptoms like shortness of breath and wheezing

These symptoms appear when you’re exposed to an airborne allergy trigger or allergen. Common sense would suggest that the best solution may be to avoid the trigger, but, because they are part of our outdoor environment this isn’t always possible. You can’t just stay indoors all the time.

Why Do People Have Allergies?

From a naturopathic point of view, allergies are often due to weaknesses in your adrenal, immune, or digestive system. Our naturopathic doctors provide a more lasting – and practical – approach to treating allergies from the inside out. Our aim is to get to the root cause within your body rather than just mask your symptoms.

FALL ALLERGY TRIGGERS

Our environment goes through seasonal cycles. Observing those changes is one of the pleasures of the great outdoors. Who doesn’t love to see the leaves turn to bright reds and yellows every fall?

However, as a seasonal allergy sufferer, changing seasons often means the start of unpleasant symptoms. As a result, just when you thought you had things under control because your spring allergies have subsided, the natural cycle of our environment creeps up to create a whole new set of sensitivity reactions.

Some of the allergic challenges specific to fall include:

  • Airborne pollen is more plentiful, especially on windy days when it is blown off blooms and into the atmosphere. Ragweed is particularly prolific this time of year.
  • Mold spores love the fallen leaves and damp grass at this time of the year.
  • Cooler temperatures prompt us to close windows and seal up our homes, so allergens are trapped inside.
  • When we bring out our cold-weather clothes and comforters, we can stir up dust – and with it, dust mites. Turning on your furnace sends dust into the air from your ducts.
  • People tend to think that pollution is worse in the summer. However, the cooler days of fall and winter can create an inversion in which pollution from heating systems, vehicle exhaust, and industrial pollution get trapped under a warmer layer of air.
  • Your best friend may also be exacerbating your allergies. As your pets’ coats shed and thicken in preparation for the winter months, dander and fur become a greater presence in your home. When you walk your dog, he or she also collects outdoor allergens like pollen in his/her fur. Time to give Fido a bath!

4 NATURAL WAYS TO CONTROL FALL ALLERGIES

Instead of living in a plastic bubble every fall, you can gain control of fall allergies by working with your body’s immune system and adapting your environment.

HEPA FILTER

No matter how careful you are with keeping outside pollution from getting into your home, allergens do still gain entry. After all, you have to open your door many times a day. Dust, pollution and particulate matter easily come in uninvited every time. Using an air purifier with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter significantly reduces airborne allergens like dust, dust mites, pollen, mold spores, and pet dander. HEPA filters trap these allergens and lock them away. If you’re particularly sensitive to allergens, it is also helpful to use a vacuum cleaner that also has a HEPA filter to allergen-proof your home even more.

NASAL IRRIGATION

Flushing your nose and sinuses with a saline solution twice per day helps. It goes a long way to ensure that congestion-causing allergens like pollen, spores, dust, and dander are expelled before they can settle in. This prevents them from causing the symptoms that make it hard for you to enjoy the change of seasons.

Since your eyes, nose, and throat are connected, nasal irrigation or using a Neti pot is a great way to naturally remove allergens. If you choose to make your own saline solution it’s important to make sure that the water you use is distilled or sterile so that no microorganisms are present. There have been reports of people dying from using tap water in their Neti pots. Tap water is allowed to contain low amounts of microorganisms like bacteria and amoeba. This is because, through the usual root of ingestion by mouth, your stomach acid will kill them. Introducing these into your sinuses, though, can cause some pretty dire consequences.

ELIMINATION DIET

If your allergies are unbearable and the above solutions fail to provide relief, it might be time to try an elimination diet. The idea is to temporarily remove common inflammatory foods from your diet to provide your gut the opportunity to heal. Optimal gut health allows your immune system to settle down so that it no longer views allergens as foreign invaders requiring an aggressive attack.

As well, sensitivity to airborne allergens and sensitivity to certain foods may be related. Proteins in foods and proteins in allergens may look similar to your immune system. In which case, when your immune system has made antibodies to the allergens these antibodies will cross-react with your food. Common foods that will cross-react in people with ragweed allergies include banana, cantaloupe, chamomile, cucumbers, zucchini, and honeydew melon. Herbs like echinacea will also cross-react if you are allergic to ragweed.

At the very least, when your body is already on high alert coping with one form of sensitivity, it can be more reactive overall. That makes it harder to deal with multiple other allergens. The result is often a worsening of any already-present allergy symptoms.

Elimination diets are challenging. They are best implemented under the care of your naturopathic doctor. Speak to your practitioner about whether an elimination diet could help you better manage your allergy symptoms this season. She will also guide you as to which foods you should try eliminating.

NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS

Often allergies are the result of weakness or exhaustion in your adrenal, immune, or digestive system. There are a number of natural supplements that are known to support and strengthen each of these systems. With these, you’ll be better prepared to deal with allergens when you encounter them.

Bioflavonoids and Vitamin C

While onions make our eyes tear up, they also contain substances called bioflavonoids. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid founds in onions. It acts as a natural antihistamine. As such, it relieves allergy-related itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and runny noses. Quercetin also has antiviral properties and helps reduce other symptoms including asthma, hay fever, and even cold sores. Onions aren’t the only source of quercetin; apples, berries, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage & cauliflower, and black tea are other good sources of quercetin.

Bioflavonoids work best when taken with Vitamin C. That’s because they work synergistically to amplify each other’s effects. This keeps your immune system strong and prevents the release of histamine. This is in contrast to what over-the-counter antihistamines do which is to interfere with histamine that has already been produced.

Probiotics (such as Lactobacillus acidophilus)

When you take care of the good bacteria in your gut, not only your digestive system but also your immune system benefits. A strong digestive system combats allergies by keeping inflammation at bay. Probiotics are helpful bacteria that are found naturally in fermented foods like yogurt, Kim chi and sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, pickles, and miso soup. Before pumping yourself full of probiotics though, be aware that there are certain instances where probiotics may make you feel worse:

  1. If you have allergies to yeast or mold. Some fermented foods are created by yeast fermentation, like kombucha. If your immune system is sensitized to yeast, ingesting foods yeast-containing foods create more inflammation in your system, not less.
  2. Cytolytic vaginosis. This is a vaginal infection that is caused by an overgrowth of good bacteria in the vagina. The result is very sore, irritated vaginal tissue. Taking probiotics adds even more Lactobacillus to your system, aggravating the pre-existing bacteria overgrowth.
  3. Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is caused by the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Ingesting more bacteria from fermented foods or taking probiotics makes things worse by adding to an already over-populated digestive tract.

Local Honey

The allergens you’re exposed to in the fall will reflect the different varieties of pollen that are circulating in the air where you live. Honey produced in your area can contain these same pollens, thanks to the local bees. Some studies have found that consuming this honey reduces allergic reactions. It may be that as you expose your body to small doses of local pollen, your immune system develops a tolerance to it.

Fish oil

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil offer an effective means of reducing inflammation. Omega 3’s are metabolized by your body into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. These are substances that help to reduce inflammation. Because inflammation plays a big role in allergy symptoms, fish oil, which is rich in omega-3’s, helps to reduce those annoying fall allergy symptoms.

Vitamin D

Some research suggests that having low levels of Vitamin D in your body makes you more susceptible to allergies. Vitamin D is an immune system modulator. So it may not be a coincidence that as the number of people deficient in Vitamin D has gone up, so has the number of people developing allergies.

Zinc

You know that zinc lozenges are great for the scratchy throat that accompanies a cold, but did you know that getting enough zinc reduces your allergy symptoms, too? Zinc plays an important role in how histamine is kept in check. Copper, zinc, vitamin C and B6 all help your body break down histamine. A deficiency of any of these means that more histamine courses throughout your body, increasing your allergy symptoms.

IMMUNOTHERAPY FOR ALLERGIES

This cutting edge allergy-reduction strategy centers around exposing patients to small amounts of an allergen, gradually building up their immune system tolerance to it. At first glance, immunotherapy may seem counter-intuitive. Why would you willingly expose yourself to the cause of your symptoms? However, when done carefully, your body becomes less sensitive to these allergens. This is the premise behind allergy shots. These are administered by a medical doctor or allergist. Sublingual immunotherapy is the same idea, but the small amounts of allergens are taken as drops that are held under your tongue.

Many people experience lasting relief from their allergy symptoms over the course of treatment. Immunotherapy treatment often lasts a few months. This is a gradual, but effective, approach. Of course, immunotherapy should only be done under close supervision from an experienced healthcare provider.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Natural treatments for seasonal allergies take longer to work than the typical over-the-counter allergy medications that only mask your symptoms. So it’s wise to begin natural treatments one or two months before the season starts to help prepare your body ahead of when allergens are at their most severe.

Not sure you can wait that long for relief? Try pairing nasal irrigation or HEPA filter air purifiers with your nutritional supplement of choice for speedier results.

Just remember: Good health begins in your gut. We recommend starting with ensuring your gut bacteria is balanced. If you’d like to get tested to see what gut flora imbalances and food intolerances you may have. Our naturopaths will give you a clear picture of what’s going on so that you can reduce your allergy symptoms and address the cause of the issue. Call us at 416-481-0222 or book online at https://forcesofnature.janeapp.com, we can help!

Authored and medically reviewed by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Resources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21196761

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18187018

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22192170

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784923/

http://www.ergo-log.com/fishoilhayfever.html

https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/110063/factsheet/en

https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/10.1164/rccm.201809-1657OC

https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/JAMC-D-15-0172.1

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/sinus-rinsing.html

Digital Detox: Taking Back Control of Your Screen Time

teens with social media addiction
Social Media Addiction?

Conquering Your Social Media Addiction

Do you ever felt anxious when you don’t have your phone? Do you know how many hours per day you spend on your digital devices? Do you feel that your online activities have a positive or a negative impact on your overall well-being?

These are all important questions. And another to consider: Does doing a digital detox feel like a good idea for your health? Or does it simply sound impossible?

What is a Digital Detox?

A digital detox is taking a break from all technology for a set period of time. You may decide to take one day per week away from your digital devices or you may choose to avoid all technology for the duration of your vacation. This digital break is however long you choose to make it. If you are trying to break or change a habit, it can take 3 weeks of consistent change in behaviour to make that happen. Taking a break demonstrates a certain level of self-control over technology, rather than having it controlling you.

A More Conscious Approach To Technology

The truth is that we could all benefit from a more mindful approach to our digital lives. For many of us, a short “detox” period helps us to maintain our perspective where technology is concerned.

The Why: The Benefits Of Reducing Screen time

If you’re wondering about why you should reduce your screen time, check out these potential benefits.

Less Comparison

Do you ever feel like your life isn’t quite measuring up after logging into your social media accounts? Many of us end up wondering why everyone else takes such fabulous vacations, looks so amazing, and has such perfect, high-achieving children.

The old adage “don’t compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides” applies perfectly to social media. The cumulative effect of “comparison-itis” takes a significant toll on our mental health. Many studies confirm a link between internet use and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Better Mental Health

Of course, this relationship may work both ways. For example, have you ever looked down at your cell phone to avoid social interactions? Sometimes we see our phones as “security blankets.” Unfortunately, however, these kinds of habits only reinforce anxiety and isolation. In other words, in addition to triggering anxiety and depression, we are more likely to escape to the online world when we’re anxious or depressed.

Excessive time on digital devices also leads to habits that harm our mental and physical health. One study found that people who spend a great deal of time on their phones are less likely to eat regular meals, follow a healthy diet, and get a good night’s sleep. That all adds up to an increased risk of depression, obesity and a host of other health issues.

Taking a break from your devices helps you feel happier, and physically and mentally healthier.

Improved Brain Function

Even more alarming is the physical effect of screen time on our brain. It’s true! Screen time actually has the potential to change the structure of our brain. The negative effects of chronic exposure to digital media on our brains include:

  1. Impaired processing
  2. Reduced ability to focus, and
  3. “Dopamine loops” in which we become addicted to the hit from the feel-good chemical dopamine. When you have a positive social interaction on social media, your brain releases the reward neurotransmitter dopamine. Who doesn’t get a small thrill of satisfaction when someone likes their Instagram post? That kind of instant gratification is often missing from our offline lives. In fact, researchers have found that the dopamine cycle connected to Internet use and video games is similar to that experienced with drug addiction.

Conversely, breaking your addiction to screens helps your brain recover it’s ability to focus, and process information.

If you are needing more dopamine, there are much healthier ways to get it:

  • Eat protein regularly. The building blocks of protein are called amino acids. One particular amino acid, tyrosine, is needed to help your brain make dopamine.
  • Sleep well. Quantity, quality and sleep-timing are all important factors in the production of dopamine. Aim for 7-9 hours per night of deep sleep and aim to sleep by 10-11 p.m. and wake up by 6-7 a.m.
  • Reduce your saturated fat intake. Saturated fat impairs dopamine signalling.
  • Eat probiotic-rich foods. Certain good bacteria in your gut make dopamine.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise also provides a hit of the reward neurotransmitter dopamine.
  • Meditate. Meditation has mental and physical benefits that may be due to the release of dopamine. If it’s not really your thing, aim for even 5 minutes per day when you first wake up or when you are going to bed.
  • Get outside. Sun exposure increases dopamine levels.
  • Improve your diet. In order to make dopamine, your brain needs to have iron, niacin, folate, magnesium and vitamin B6. Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and romaine provide these vitamins and minerals.

More Restful Sleep

The blue light from our digital devices adversely affects our melatonin production. The result? Difficulty falling and staying asleep. Even more troubling are the possible links between blue light exposure at night, reduced melatonin and an increased risk for diabetes, cancer, and depression.

Better Posture

You may have experienced “tech neck” or a sore thumb after spending a long time on your phone. As well, researchers note that the slumping posture that develops while using digital devices also affects your breathing. One study found that 83 percent of people with neck pain have altered breathing patterns.

Recent sensational headlines claimed that our device use is causing “horns” or phone bone. This interpretation of anthropological research was at best overblown and at worst, completely false. Of potentially greater concern, is that your intervertebral discs may get damaged from having your neck perpetually bent looking at your phone. There is also an increased risk for neck osteoarthritis from this prolonged and unusual neck position.

Better Hormonal and Cell Health

One researcher found that people tend to hold their breath when checking their devices. This habit triggers the “fight or flight “response, in which your body goes into survival mode. That process served us well in the past, when this response helped us escape our predators. Nowadays if all you’re doing is checking a social media status and holding your breath, you just wind up with a lot of unnecessary glucose, adrenaline, and cortisol in your system.

As well, our increased reliance on technology has led to high levels of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in our bodies. Although the long-term effects need to be studied further, some evidence links this exposure to an increased risk of neurological disease.

Are you ready for a digital detox?

So, how exactly does a digital detox look? Ultimately, it’s up to you. If you’re inspired by the list of possible benefits above, you may be ready to implement your own detox from technology. However, as with many behavior modifications, a slow and realistic approach is often more successful. Your long-term goal could be a weekend (or even a week) without any devices.

Digital Detox Retreats

Digital-detox retreats are a growing trend in the travel business and provide opportunities to be pampered in spa-like conditions or to pursue recreation adventures, all without a digital device. There are alternative free options too, of course, such as implementing your own retreat! Examples include planning a weekend hike in a local area and connecting with nature or spending time indoors playing with your kids, reading a book or writing your journal. Be creative!

If you’re reading this blog post the day it was first published, I’ll be doing my own digital-detox at Arrowhead Provincial Park near Huntsville. Forest bathing, downtime, reconnecting with family and nature, great food, campfires, and digital-detox all rolled into one wonderful week.

Creating Healthy Digital Habits

Before starting a cold-turkey detox, it’s a good idea to simply be more mindful of your device use. Pay attention to when and why you pick up your phone. As with unhealthy eating habits, it is a good idea to journal your internet/device use. It helps you identify unhealthy patterns of use. Do you pick it up when you’re bored? In an awkward social situation? In the bathroom? First thing when you wake up? In the middle of the night if you wake up? Make it a habit to put your phone away if you don’t need it. Commit to unplugging from any digital devices at least an hour before bedtime.

Fighting FOMO

As you adjust to having reduced online time in your life, try going an entire day without checking a device. This might be uncomfortable at first. Recognize your FOMO (fear of missing out) feelings and acknowledge that if something really urgent happened, you would hear about it. Remind yourself that you don’t actually need to know every detail of your friends’ lives, or every piece of celebrity or political gossip in real time. In other words, the sense of urgency that the internet creates is not real.

Top Tips For Your Digital Detox

Here are some tips that can help you set up your own digital detox retreat, on a level that works for you.

Make your bedroom a cellphone-free zone

Bedrooms are for sleeping, and shouldn’t be associated with cellphone use. If you don’t have a landline you may worry that your loved ones won’t be able to contact you in an emergency. For example, if you have teenage kids who work or stay out late at night and they are trying to call you. The solution is to simply put your cellphone on the other side of the room, with the volume turned up high enough so that you can hear it. Also, put it face down so that other notifications won’t disturb your sleep.

Choose your activities wisely

Even in today’s wired world, you can find places where cell phones can’t be used. If you’re swimming, hiking, practicing yoga, or watching a movie, you can’t check your Facebook updates. As an added bonus, you will end up having more fun.

Go “old school”

We think of our phones as indispensable, but for centuries, people survived without them just fine. Fortunately, many “real-life” tools exist that can do the tasks we rely on our phones for. If you’re worried about losing the functions on your phone, consider a few old-fashioned alternatives:

  • A paper calendar or day planner to book appointments
  • An alarm clock to wake up
  • Books – read them in yellow or natural light
  • Letters or cards sent through the post office. Who doesn’t love receiving an old-fashioned, hand-written letter?
  • A classic watch
  • A camera
  • A landline phone. We tend to think of the landline as unnecessary, but just over 40 percent of households still have one, and they provide a reliable back-up for getting in touch.

Reschedule your email habits

Many busy executives try to put aside specific times of the day for checking email. That means that they’re not looking for new messages every 30 seconds, or reading every notification. If this makes you feel anxious, remind yourself that in most instances, emails don’t need an immediate response. For more prolonged absences, use an out-of-office autoresponder to let people know how to contact you in an emergency.

Use technology

Yes, the idea that technology can help to reduce your tech use is ironic. However, many apps and programs can measure the time you spend on your phone. They will also measure time “wasted” online. You can free up an hour or two per day in the real world for more beneficial pursuits by reducing the time that you are wasting online. If you don’t do this already, try monitoring it for a few days to get a baseline of your usage.

Get your friends and family on board

If you have contacts who expect an immediate response to every text, let them know you’re dialing back on your screen time.

Similarly, if you’re out at a restaurant for dinner, challenge everyone to put their phones away. The first one to check their device pays!

Listen to your body

How do you feel after a few hours without technology? Get in touch with any anxiety you feel that needs to be addressed. It’s also important to note the positives. Do you take in more of the world around you? Do you feel more relaxed? Were you able to get a lot more crossed off of your “to-do” list?

Get help if you need it

If you’re worried about your digital media use or if you’re wondering if you’re addicted to technology, help is available! Give our office a call if you’d like to talk about behavior modification or switching to a more health-conscious natural path with one of our naturopaths.

Call us at 416-481-0222 or book online here

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopath

Sources:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/new-study-links-phone-use-and-mental-health-issues-in-teens/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5970452/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563215303332

https://www.ejradiology.com/article/S0720-048X%2809%2900589-0/abstract

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/brain-wise/201209/why-were-all-addicted-texts-twitter-and-google

https://www.statista.com/chart/2072/landline-phones-in-the-united-states/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/just-breathe-building-the_b_85651

The 11 Best Superfoods

Wondering which foods give you the most nutritional bang for your buck and therefore qualify as Superfoods? Pack your diet full of these powerhouse foods for their multitude of health benefits.

Superfood: Pomegranate

Did you know that it may have been a pomegranate – not an apple – that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden? Pomegranate fruit has been revered since ancient times and has featured prominently in history and mythology. The culinary traditions, art, and literature of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India all hold this jewel in high esteem.

Discover the nutrients and health benefits contained in this exotic fruit below!

Nutrients in 1 Pomegranate:

11.3 g Dietary Fiber (45% DV)
223 mg Omega-6 fatty acids
4.7 g Protein (9% DV)
28.8 mg Vitamin C (48% DV)
1.7 mg Vitamin E (8% DV)
46.2 mcg Vitamin K (58% DV)
0.2 mg Thiamin (13% DV)
0.1 mg Riboflavin (9% DV)
0.2 mg Vitamin B6 (11% DV)
107 mcg Folate (27% DV)
1.1 mg Pantothenic Acid (11% DV)
33.8 mg Magnesium (8% DV)
102 mg Phosphorus (10% DV)
666 mg Potassium (19% DV)
1.0 mg Zinc (7% DV)
0.4 mg Copper (22% DV)
0.3 mg Manganese (17% DV)

The Amazing Health Benefits of Eating Pomegranate:

A Healthy Heart

Pomegranates are rich in polyphenols – plant compounds that help reduce the inflammation associated with heart disease. Polyphenols have been shown to reduce the thickness of arterial walls, allowing your blood to move through more easily.

Lower Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that daily intake of pomegranate juice can significantly reduce systolic blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke.

Get Rid of Unhealthy Bacteria

A recent study discovered that pomegranate extracts may be helpful in killing several harmful bacteria strains, including E. coli and Staphylococcus.

Strengthen Bones

When estrogen levels drop, many women lose bone density. Pomegranates can help keep bones strong as they contain phytoestrogen in their seeds.

Slow Aging

Polyphenols, strong antioxidants, in pomegranate may slow down the aging process.

Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Supplementation with pomegranate juice in mice with Alzheimer’s disease has shown improved behaviour, ability to learn new tasks more quickly and swim faster than mice given placebo.

Lower Cholesterol Levels

Pomegranate juice may slow the build-up of ‘bad’ cholesterol in those who have risk factors associated with heart disease.

Tips for Eating More Pomegranate:

  • Add them to salads. Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds over your salad to enjoy the tasty health benefits.
  • Breakfast. Pomegranate seeds can be added to yogurt, hot millet or oatmeal, smoothies or consumed in juice form!
  • Don’t be afraid to mix savoury with sweet. Initially, it may seem odd to add fruit to savoury dishes but give it a try and see what you think!

Superfood: The Awesome Artichoke

The globe artichoke – the green-purple petalled variety that we usually eat and see in the grocery store – is actually an immature flower of a thistle plant. They are thought to be one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world. Artichokes are found in ancient Egyptian writings as a symbol of sacrifice and fertility.

Artichokes are deliciously healthy vegetables that have been featured in many cuisines, using both the heart and the leaves. However, often the most daunting aspect of the artichoke is figuring out how to clean and prep them properly. Artichoke hearts can be purchased already prepped in a can, but sometimes the sodium content of canned goods outweighs the potential health benefits. Check out these health benefits below as well as some tips on proper prep and cooking of artichokes!

The Health Benefits of Eating Artichokes

Improve Energy Levels

The high magnesium content in artichokes helps the body generate energy. When the body doesn’t have enough magnesium, the muscles have to work harder to react and they become tired more quickly.

Cancer & Heart Disease Prevention

One cup of cooked artichoke has an antioxidant capacity of 7904! These antioxidants may help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Lower Cholesterol

A German study from 2000 shows the possibility that artichokes may help lower cholesterol while balancing blood glucose levels. Certain ingredients in the leaves of artichokes have been found to reduce levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

Improve High Blood Pressure

Artichokes contain high levels of potassium. Potassium helps the body handle excess sodium which in turn helps with hypertension.

Help Fight Disease

Artichokes contain high numbers of polyphenols, disease-fighting compounds. Polyphenols have chemopreventive qualities, which means they can slow down, stop or even reserve the effects of cancer or other diseases.

Relieve Gastrointestinal Problems

Artichokes, especially the leaf extract, has been shown to help relieve gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, constipation, IBS, and diarrhea. They are also a rich source of dietary fiber, which in itself can improve the health and functionality of your digestive system.

Reduce Risk of Birth Defects

Amongst all their other beneficial qualities, artichokes can even help pregnant women reduce the risk of birth defects. The high levels of folate in artichokes can prevent neural tube defects in newborns.

Healthy Bones

The high magnesium, phosphorous and manganese content in artichokes means they help increase bone health and density, thereby reducing the risk of conditions like osteoporosis.

Better Brain Function

Artichokes possess vasodilator qualities, meaning they allow more oxygen to reach the brain for elevated cognitive function. Furthermore, their phosphorus content improves brain health, as phosphorus deficiencies have been linked to serious declines in cognitive ability.

Significant Nutrients in 1 medium cooked Artichoke:

10.3 g Dietary Fiber (41% DV)
45.6 mg Omega-3 fatty acids
126 mg Omega-6 fatty acids
3.5 g Protein (7% DV)
8.9 mg Vitamin C (15% DV)
17.8 mcg Vitamin K (22% DV)
1.3 mg Niacin (7% DV)
107 mcg Folate (27% DV)
50.4 mg Magnesium (13% DV)
87.6 mg Phosphorus (9% DV)
343 mg Potassium (10% DV)
0.2 mg Copper (8% DV)
0.3 mg Manganese (13% DV)

Tips to Eat More Artichokes

  • Buy them at the right time. From March to May is the best time to buy fresh artichokes. Good ones will be heavy and firm, with compact, bright green leaves. Make sure there are no signs of dryness.
  • Keep them fresh! Keep that artichoke you just bought in tip-top shape by slicing a dime width off the artichoke stem and sprinkle the raw vegetable with water. Refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag and use within 5-7 days.
  • Clean and prep correctly. This is the intimidating part! Rinse and gently scrub the artichoke with water. Cut off the bottom stem about 1/2 an inch from the top. If using the whole vegetable: cut the tips of the leaves to get rid of the thorns. Rub cut portions with lemon to keep it from browning. If using only the heart: Cut off the top and the sides (petals). Cut down from the top until the middle is mostly white. Then scoop out the small purple parts in the center and cut the rest of the green off of the sides on the stem.
  • Cook them! Steaming whole prepped artichokes for 30-40 minutes is the easiest way to cook them. But techniques like roasting them in the oven for 1-1.5 hours with seasonings can impart a lot of flavour

Superfood: Tomatoes

Although tomatoes are often closely associated with Italian cuisine, they are originally native to the western side of South America. They were introduced to the rest of the world in the 1500s but did not enjoy full popularity at that time. This was due to the fact that tomatoes are actually part of the nightshade family, and were therefore thought to possess poisonous qualities. It is true that the leaves, stems, and green unripe fruit of the tomato plant contain the toxic alkaloids tomatine and solanine, however, the concentrations are usually too small to cause any damage.

Today, we recognize the healthy and beneficial antioxidants that tomatoes contain, namely lycopene. This “miracle” antioxidant has been proven to reduce the risk of numerous diseases and well as boost health. Learn about the nutrients and health benefits of tomatoes and lycopene below.

Nutrients in 100 g of tomatoes:

Only 18 calories!
3.0 mg Omega-3 fatty acids
80.0 mg Omega-6 fatty acids
833 IU Vitamin A (17% DV)
12.7 mg Vitamin C (21% DV)
7.9 mcg Vitamin K (10% DV)
15.0 mcg folate (4% DV)
237 mg Potassium (7% DV)
0.1 mg Manganese (6% DV)

The Surprising Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Healthy Skin

Lycopene in tomatoes boosts pro-collagen, the building block for collagen that keeps your skin firm and youthful.

Prevent Sunburn

Lycopene also helps to prevent sunburn. A study showed that women who ate 55 g of tomato paste each day had a 33% increase in skin protection against UV exposure.

Reduce Stroke Risk

A Finnish study found that men with higher serum levels of lycopene had a 55-59% reduced risk of stroke.

Lower Heart Attack Risk

A tomato-rich Mediterranean diet combined with extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts lowers the risk of major cardiovascular events (including heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular causes) by 30%.

Boost Bone Health

A review article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found a link between tomato consumption and a lower risk of osteoporosis.

Protect Against Cancer

Studies show a reduced risk of cancers affecting the prostate, lung, stomach, mouth, breast, pancreas, cervix, colon, and rectum in participants with higher levels of lycopene in their blood.

Reduced Risk of Parkinson’s disease

Early research has indicated that foods that contain small amounts of dietary nicotine, including tomatoes and peppers, may help prevent Parkinson’s disease. Interestingly, the protective effect appeared to be stronger in those who had little or no prior use of nicotine in the form of tobacco.

Improved Sleep

New research shows that the healthiest sleepers consume more lycopene, compared to the people who get too little or too much sleep.

Tips to Eat More Tomatoes

  • Incorporate them! Tomatoes are one of the most versatile foods. From soups, stews, sauces, salads, salsas and more, tomatoes can easily be added to your daily meals.
  • Try something new. One of the less common ways of eating tomatoes is stuffing them.
  • Bought tomatoes but they’re just not ripe? Try placing them in a brown paper bag with bananas or apples. The two fruits emit ethylene gas that will facilitate the ripening of tomatoes.

Superfood: Beets

Beetroot, or Beta vulgaris, evolved from the wild seabeet. Seabeets are native to coastlines from India to Britain. They are the ancestor of all cultivated forms of beets.

Today, beets are often a forgotten root and only utilized in certain cuisines. However, they were definitely more appreciated in ancient times. Beetroot is said to have been offered to Apollo in the temple at Delphi, where it was reckoned to be worth its own weight in silver!

Additionally, the medicinal properties of the root were more important than its culinary applications in early times. It was used to treat a variety of ailments including fevers, constipation, wounds and various skin problems.

Discover the Superfood qualities of beetroot and beet greens

Nutrients in 100 grams of cooked beets (2 beets with 2” diameter):

44 Calories
2.0 g Dietary Fiber (8% DV)
3.6 mg Vitamin C (6% DV)
80.0 mcg Folate (20% DV)
23.0 mg Magnesium (6% DV)
305 mg Potassium (9% DV)
0.3 mg Manganese (16% DV)

Nutrients in 100 grams of raw beet greens:

22 Calories
2.9 g Dietary Fiber (12% DV)
6326 IU Vitamin A (127% DV)
30.0 mg Vitamin C (50% DV)
1.5 mg Vitamin E (7% DV)
400 mcg Vitamin K (500% DV)
0.1 mg Thiamin (7% DV)
0.2 mg Riboflavin (13% DV)
117 mg Calcium (12% DV)
2.6 mg Iron (14% DV)
70.0 mg Magnesium (17% DV)
762 mg Potassium (22% DV)
0.2 mg Copper (10% DV)
0.4 mg Manganese (20% DV)

The Extraordinary Health Benefits of Eating Beets

Help Cleanse Your Body

Beets are a good tonic for your liver and they work as a purifier for your blood.

Improved Mental Health

Beets contain betaine, the same substance used in certain treatments of depression. They also contain tryptophan, which relaxes your mind and creates a sense of well-being.

Lower Blood Pressure

Beets have been shown to lower blood pressure.

Aphrodisiac

One of the first known uses of beets was by the ancient Romans, who used them medicinally as an aphrodisiac. Beets contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of hormones and also benefits your bones.

Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Beets contain betaines, which may function to reduce homocysteine levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Help Fight Cancer

The plant pigment that gives beets it rich crimson-purple colour is called betacyanin. It is a powerful agent thought to suppress the development of some types of cancers.

Improved Immune System and Protection from Oxidative Damage

Beetroot fiber increases levels of antioxidant enzymes in the body (particularly glutathione peroxidase) as well as increasing the number of white blood cells.

Reduce Inflammation

The betalains in beets have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation.

Tips for Eating More Beets:

  • Beet Juice! Beet juice will give you all the health benefits of eating the vegetable but can be conveniently added to smoothies or drank alone without the hassle of roasting them.
  • Add to salads. Beets do not have an aggressive flavour so they can be easily incorporated into your normal salads. Just grate one over your favourite salad.
  • Don’t forget the greens! Beet greens are extremely rich in important vitamins and minerals but are often overlooked. They can be used like spinach in a salad or cooked.

Superfood: Broccoli

Broccoli seems to be one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. Common complaints from broccoli-haters are its strong flavour and aroma. These qualities likely come from its ancestry in the cabbage family. But like other Brassica vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale – broccoli is packed with health benefits, granting it a position in the Superfood category.

Its English name, broccoli, is derived from the Italian brocco and the Latin brachium meaning arm, branch or sprout. A fitting name as broccoli usually looks like a mini-tree.

Like the artichoke, broccoli is essentially a large edible flower. The stalks and broccoli florets are both edible in raw form as well as cooked. The stalks can be eaten as is or peeled to remove some of the tough fibrous exterior. Broccoli also has small leaves that are very bitter. These are usually discarded except in the most adventurous kitchens.

Nutrients in 1 stalk of cooked broccoli:

9.2 g dietary fiber (37% DV)
333 mg Omega-3 fatty acids
143 mg Omega-6 fatty acids
6.7 g protein (13% DV)
4334 IU vitamin A (87% DV)
182 mg vitamin C (303% DV)
4.1 mg vitamin E (20% DV)
395 mcg vitamin K (494% DV)
0.2 mg thiamin (12% DV)
0.3 mg riboflavin (20% DV)
1.5 mg niacin (8% DV)
0.6 mg vitamin B6 (28% DV)
302 mcg folate (76% DV)
1.7 mg pantothenic acid (17% DV)
112 mg calcium (11% DV)
1.9 mg iron (10% DV)
58.5 mg magnesium (15% DV)
188 mg phosphorus (19% DV)
820 mg potassium (23% DV)
1.3 mg zinc (8% DV)
0.2 mg copper (9% DV)
0.5 mg manganese (27% DV)
4.5 mcg selenium (6% DV)

The Bountiful Health Benefits of Broccoli

Helps Prevent Cancer

Broccoli contains glucoraphanin, which is processed in your body to create sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound. Sulforaphane rids your body of H. pylori, a strain of bacteria known to increase the risk of gastric cancer. Also, broccoli contains indole-3-carbinol, a powerful antioxidant, and anti-carcinogen that is known to reduce the growth of breast, cervical, and prostate cancer as well as boost healthy liver function.

Reduce Cholesterol Levels

Broccoli is packed with soluble fiber that helps to carry cholesterol out of your body.

Regulate Blood Pressure

Broccoli has high amounts of potassium, magnesium, and calcium which all help to regulate blood pressure.

Reduce Allergic Reactions and Inflammation

Broccoli is a rich source of kaempferol and Isothiocyanates, which are anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Research has shown that kaempferol has the ability to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on your body. Kaempferol also moderates the effects of progesterone and may help fibroids. Additionally, broccoli has significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, a known anti-inflammatory.

Prevent Osteoporosis

Broccoli contains high levels of both calcium and vitamin K, two nutrients that are necessary for healthy bones and the prevention of osteoporosis.

Healthy Heart

The anti-inflammatory properties of sulforaphane may be able to prevent or reverse damage to blood vessel linings caused by inflammation due to chronic blood sugar problems.

Detoxifying Properties

Glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin, and glucobrassicin are all special phytonutrients in broccoli that support the steps of liver detoxification. These include activation, neutralization, and elimination of toxins and contaminants.

Prevent Digestive Issues

Broccoli is high in fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.

Alkalizes Your Body

Broccoli helps keep your whole body less acidic, leading to numerous other health benefits.

Healthy Brain

Broccoli contains a high amount of potassium, which helps to maintain a healthy nervous system and optimal brain function.

Tips for Eating More Broccoli

  • Steam. Lightly steam broccoli until it is bright green and still has some firmness for the best nutrient retention (other than raw!).
  • 4 cups per week. Eating 1/2 cup of broccoli per day or two 2-cup servings per week is sufficient to produce cancer prevention benefits.
  • Purée. You can purée cooked broccoli with its “sister vegetable,” cauliflower and add some seasonings for an easy, healthy soup.

Superfood: Cauliflower

Vegetables that are not dark green in colour are often mistakenly identified as void of all important nutrients. This is precisely the case when it comes to the wrongfully accused humble cauliflower. This vegetable gets a Superfood label because of its zero fat, low-carbs, and notable fiber, as well as vitamin C content that can rival an orange. Not bad for a vegetable that writer Mark Twain once described as “cabbage with a college education.”

Twain’s connection of cauliflower with cabbage is a clever reference to their common ancestry. They are both parts of the Brassica family – which also includes Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and collard greens. Cauliflower’s ancestry has been traced to the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in ancient Asia Minor.

But how did cauliflower become a rich man’s cabbage? With its introduction in France, it was granted upmarket status on the tables of French monarchs Louis XIV and XV. In fact, Louis XV liked cauliflower and his mistress Madame du Barry so much that numerous cauliflower dishes in French cuisine still bear her name.

Nutrients in 1 cup raw cauliflower:

2.5 g dietary fiber (10% DV)
37.0 mg omega-3 fatty acids
11.0 mg omega-6 fatty acids
46.4 mg vitamin C (77% DV)
16.0 mcg vitamin K (20% DV)
0.2 mg vitamin B6 (11% DV)
57.0 mcg folate (14% DV)
303 mg potassium (9% DV)
0.2 mg manganese (8% DV)
Also, 1 cup of raw cauliflower is only 25 calories!

The Remarkable Health Benefits of Eating Cauliflower

Protection from free radical damage

Cauliflower contains carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, and phytonutrients that include kaempferol, ferulic acid, cinnamic acid, and caffeic acid. All of these antioxidants help protect you from free radical damage and reduce the risk for diseases caused by oxidative stress, like cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Improved detoxification

Cauliflower contains glucosinolates and thiocyanates which increase your liver’s ability to neutralize potentially toxic substances that could lead to cancer. Also, cauliflower’s antioxidant nutrients help boost Phase 1 detoxification, and its sulphur-containing nutrients enhance Phase 2 detox.

Cancer Prevention

There are numerous studies linking cauliflower-containing diets to cancer prevention, especially bladder, breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancers. Cauliflower contains several anti-cancer phytochemicals like sulforaphane and plant sterols such as indole-3-carbinol.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Regular cauliflower consumption may decrease the risk of inflammation-mediated diseases such as arthritis, obesity, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis. Additionally, its vitamin K and omega-3 content help prevent chronic inflammation that leads to conditions like arthritis.

Digestive system support

The fiber in cauliflower cleans out your digestive system and gets rid of unhealthy substances. Also, a substance in cauliflower called glucoraphin appears to have a protective effect on the stomach lining. With glucoraphin, the stomach is not prone to Helicobacter pylori bacteria, thereby reducing the risk of stomach ulcers and cancer.

Protection from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cauliflower make it protective against cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Inflammation particularly plays a significant role in many cardiovascular problems such as atherosclerosis.

Weight loss/management

Cauliflower has no fat, is high in vitamin C, low in carbohydrates and has a noteworthy fiber content.

Tips for Getting More Cauliflower in Your Diet

  • Forget mashed potatoes! Try a healthy cauliflower puree instead.
  • Raw raw raw. Cauliflower maintains more of its nutrients in its raw form so try dipping in hummus for a light snack.
  • Try roasting. Roasting cauliflower is so easy – just throw it in the oven – and it doesn’t lose as many nutrients in the cooking process compared to boiling or steaming.

Superfood: Avocado

Also called alligator pear, avocados grow on trees native to Mexico and Central America. Although often confused as a vegetable, this fatty fruit is full of nutrients bringing it up to the Superfood category.

Avocados originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico. The oldest evidence of avocado use dates to about 10,000 BC in a cave in Coxcatlán. It has been suggested that avocados may be an example of an ‘evolutionary anachronism’. That is, a fruit adapted to an ecological relationship with now-extinct large mammals. Most large fleshy fruits rely on seed dispersal by animals for propagation. Therefore there are reasons to believe avocados, with their mildly toxic pit, may have co-evolved with giant animals that lived during the Pleistocene period. These huge mammals would swallow an avocado whole and the large seed would have been dispersed through their stool. Today, there is no native animal that is large enough to effectively disperse avocado seeds in this manner.

Nutrients in 1 cup of avocado:

10.1 g dietary fiber (40% DV)
165 mg omega-3 fatty acids
2534 mg omega-6 fatty acids
15.0 mg vitamin C (25% DV)
3.1 mg vitamin E (16% DV)
31.5 mcg vitamin K (39% DV)
0.2 mg riboflavin (11% DV)
2.6 mg niacin (13% DV)
0.4 mg vitamin B6 (19% DV)
122 mcg folate (30% DV)
2.1 mg pantothenic acid (21% DV)
43.5 mg magnesium (11% DV)
727 mg potassium (21% DV)
0.3 mg copper (14% DV)
0.2 mg manganese (11% DV)

The Astounding Health Benefits of Avocado

Protection against eye diseases

Avocados are a great source of lutein, a carotenoid and antioxidant that helps protect against eye diseases. It also contains related carotenoids zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, as well as tocopherol.

Helps the body absorb more nutrients

Carotenoids are lipophilic (soluble in fat), so eating avocado that is carotenoid and monounsaturated-fat-rich helps the body absorb more of the carotenoids.

Weight loss

The high levels of insoluble and soluble fiber in avocados help the digestive system run smoothly and slow the breakdown of carbohydrates respectively. Slowing the breakdown of carbs keeps you feeling fuller longer. Avocados also contain oleic acid, a fat that activates the part of the brain that makes you feel full.

Stabilize blood sugar

The monounsaturated fat in avocados slows digestion and helps keep blood sugar from spiking after a meal.

Lower risk of heart disease and heart attacks

Avocados contain a significant amount of folate, and high folate intake has been linked with a lower risk of heart attacks and heart disease.

Lower cholesterol

The oleic acid in avocados also helps reduce cholesterol levels.

Improve skin

The monounsaturated fats in avocado are also beneficial for improving your skin tone. These healthy fats are vital for maintaining good moisture levels in the epidermal layer of the skin. They help reduce skin redness, irritation, and signs of aging such as wrinkles.

Reduce arthritic pain

Avocados contain anti-inflammatory properties and have been shown to reduce arthritic pain.

Reduce blood pressure

The combination of avocado’s high potassium content with omega-3 and oleic acid are beneficial toward reducing blood pressure.

Help prevent Alzheimer’s disease

The folate in avocado helps to prevent the formation of brain tangles that are considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Also, the combination of omega-3 fatty acids with natural vitamin E found in avocados has been clinically proven to prevent Alzheimer’s disease from progressing and even reversing it in its earliest stages.

Tips for Eating More Avocados:

  • Spread it! Try putting mashed avocado on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise or on bread instead of butter.
  • Chop it! Chop the avocado and add it to a salad, or use it as a topping or side garnish for soup.
  • Blend it! Adding avocado to a fruit smoothie can add amazing health benefits and doesn’t compromise flavour.

Superfood: Kiwi

Kiwifruit was named after the New Zealand Kiwi bird – an unusual flightless bird – because they are both small, brown and furry. But, not all kiwi is fuzzy! The species we generally see in the grocery store is appropriately called Fuzzy Kiwifruit. But, there is also the Golden Kiwi that has smooth bronze skin and has a sweeter taste.

Most of us would associate Kiwis with New Zealand; however, Kiwis have been native to China for centuries. Interestingly, people in North America didn’t even know what kiwifruit was until about 50 years ago. They were first brought over to Canada in 1963. Now we know that kiwis can grow in any temperate climate so most of the world’s kiwis are grown in New Zealand, Italy and Chile.

Nutrients in 1 cup of Kiwi:

5.3 g Dietary Fiber (21% DV)
74.3 mg Omega-3 fatty acids
435 mg Omega-6 fatty acids
164 mg Vitamin C (273% DV)
2.6 mg Vitamin E (13% DV)
71.3 mcg Vitamin K (89% DV)
44.2 mcg Folate (11% DV)
552 mg Potassium (16% DV)
0.2 mg Copper (12% DV)

The Considerable Benefits of Consuming Kiwi

Weight Loss

With only about 50 calories per kiwi, this fruit packs in a lot of nutrients in a healthy low-calorie bundle. It is also low in sugar and high in fiber!

Boost Immune System

With such high vitamin C content comes increased iron absorption, wound healing and an immune system boost.

Helps Digestion

Kiwi contains actinidain, a protein-dissolving enzyme that can help digest a meal.

Helps Control Blood Pressure

The high potassium level in kiwi helps the body keep electrolytes in balance by counteracting the effects of sodium.

Protects Your from DNA Damage

A 2011 study in Nutrition Journal showed that the unique combination of antioxidants in Kiwi fruit helps protect the cell’s DNA from oxidative damage. This process may also help prevent cancer.

Clean Out Toxins

The fiber in Kiwi helps bind and move toxins from your intestinal tract.

Reduce Heart Disease Risk

Eating 2-3 kiwis per day has been shown to reduce the risk of a blood clot by 18% and reduce triglyceride levels by 15%.

Protect Against Macular Degeneration

A 2004 study on over 110,000 individuals showed that eating 3 or more servings of this fruit decreased macular degeneration by 36%. This is thought to be associated with the Kiwi’s high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin – natural chemicals found in the human eye.

Create Alkaline Balance

Kiwi is in the most alkaline category for fruits, meaning it contains a rich supply of minerals to replace the excessively acidic foods most people consume.

Healthy Skin

Kiwis are a good source of vitamin E, which is known to protect the skin from degeneration.

Tips to Get Enough Kiwi:

  • Blend kiwi in a smoothie.
  • Kiwi vinaigrette for your salad! Kiwi + vinegar + oil + bit of honey (optional) + salt & pepper = one great salad dressing.
  • Pack a Kiwi as a mid-day snack. Also, pack a spoon and eat the fruity flesh right out of its fuzzy exterior.

Superfood: Pumpkin

Most of us think of pumpkins as a decorative accent to our Halloween festivities or a humble Thanksgiving pie. But, pumpkins actually carry an abundance of healthy nutrients. High in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin is full of disease-fighting nutrients including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamin C and E. But the key nutrient that gives pumpkin its Superfood label is the synergistic combination of alpha and beta carotene – it contains one of the richest supplies of bioavailable carotenoids!

Significant nutrients in 1 cup of mashed pumpkin:

2.7 g Dietary Fiber (11% DV)
12231 IU Vitamin A (245% DV)
11.5 mg Vitamin C (19% DV)
1.0 mg Vitamin E (10% DV)
0.2 mcg Riboflavin (11% DV)
564 mg Potassium (16% DV)
0.2 mg Copper (11% DV)
0.2 mg Manganese (11% DV)

Pumpkin seeds are also chock full of nutrients. They are high in protein and are a great source of magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc.

Significant nutrients in 1 cup of roasted pumpkin seeds:

5605 mg Omega-6 fatty acids
49.3 mg Omega-3 fatty acids
11.9 g Protein (24% DV)
2.1 mg Iron (12% DV)
168 mg Magnesium (42% DV)
588 mg Potassium (17% DV)
6.6 mg Zinc (44% DV)
0.4 mg Copper (22% DV)
0.3 mg Manganese (16% DV)

The Pumped Up Benefits of Eating Pumpkin and Pumpkin Seeds

Improve Eye Health

Pumpkin’s high provitamin A content is great for eye health and immune-boosting.

Prevent coronary heart disease

Its high provitamin A content has also been linked to coronary heart disease prevention.

Reduce cholesterol

High levels of phytosterols in pumpkin seeds have been linked with reduced cholesterol levels as well as preventing some types of cancers!

Studies have shown a link between eating pumpkin seeds and lowering your risk of bladder stones, blocking enlargement of the prostate gland, and helping to prevent depression.

Tips for enjoying the health benefits of pumpkin:

  • Don’t be afraid of the canned stuff! One cup of canned pumpkin has 7 g of fiber and 3 g of protein – more than fresh pumpkin! Also, it contains over 50% DV of vitamin K which may reduce the risk for some types of cancer. You can easily add canned pumpkin to smoothies, baking, and even your morning latte!
  • Snack on the seeds. Pumpkin flesh may not be so easy to incorporate in your diet regularly, but the seeds are so versatile and make a great snack, topping for salads, or ground up in a vinaigrette or pesto.
  • Sneak some pumpkin seeds into your smoothie. Adding a tablespoon or two of freshly ground pumpkin seeds to a smoothie adds a healthful boost without changing the flavour much.

Superfood: Adzuki Beans

Revered in Japanese cooking, adzuki beans, also called azuki beans, are russet-coloured beans with a strong, nutty, yet sweet flavour. Adzuki beans are high in protein and dietary fiber but their true Superfood label comes from their high antioxidant rating. They have a higher antioxidant or ORAC value than cranberries or blueberries! These beans are also lower in calories than other beans such as black beans, garbanzos, kidney beans, pinto beans, and white beans.

Adzuki beans contain the following nutrients in 1 cup:

16.8 g Dietary Fiber (67% DV)
17.3 g Protein (35% DV)
48.3 mg Omega-6 fatty acids
0.3 mg Thiamin (18% DV)
0.1 mg Riboflavin (9% DV)
1.6 mg Niacin (8% DV)
0.2 mg Vitamin B6 (11%DV)
278 mcg Folate (70% DV)
1.0 mg Pantothenic Acid (10% DV)
64.6 mg Calcium (6% DV)
4.6 mg Iron (26% DV)
120 mg Magnesium (30% DV)
386 mg Phosphorus (39% DV)
1224 mg Potassium (35% DV)
4.1 mg Zinc (27% DV)
0.7 mg Copper (34% DV)
1.3 mg Manganese (66% DV)
2.8 mcg Selenium (4% DV)

Given the important nutrients that they contain, adzuki beans can help:

  • Lower “bad” cholesterol levels
  • Boost digestion
  • Improve heart health.
  • Support the immune system through their B vitamin content
  • Support the reproductive system with their very high folate content.
  • May reduce the risk of breast cancer, due to a high level of saponins.
  • In Traditional Chinese Medicine, adzuki beans are called Chi Xiao Dou and are used to cure urinary tract infections by supporting kidney health and reducing edema. They have also been used to purify the blood, remove toxins, and drain “dampness” from the body.

Tips to Eat More Adzuki Beans:

  • Add them to salads. Putting cooked adzuki beans on top of your salad makes a great healthy and tasty addition.
  • Veggie burgers anyone? Try incorporating adzuki beans to your recipe for veggie burgers, or experiment with a new one! No reason why you can’t add cooked adzuki beans to regular burgers too!
  • As a dip for veggies. Make an adzuki bean dip to dunk fresh veggies into, or make your own baked veggie chips.

Superfood: Quinoa

Get your grain on! Err…or not. Once regarded as a sacred food by the Incas, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is chock full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Most people think quinoa is some type of cereal grain, but in reality, quinoa isn’t a grain at all. It’s a seed, and it’s also gluten-free!

In just one cup of cooked quinoa, your body will enjoy numerous nutrients including:

5.2 g of dietary fiber (21% DV)
8.1 g of protein (16% DV)
0.2 mg thiamin (13% DV)
0.2 mg riboflavin (12% DV)
0.2 mg vitamin B6 (11% DV)
77.7 mcg folate (19% DV)
2.8 mg iron (15% DV)
118 mg magnesium (30% DV)
281 mg phosphorus (28% DV)
2.0 mg zinc (13% DV)
0.4 mg copper (18% DV)
1.2 mg manganese (58% DV)
…as well as smaller amounts of vitamin E, niacin, calcium, potassium, and selenium.

Recognized as a Superfood and a recent food craze, quinoa has earned these titles because of its high protein, low fat and low sodium content! In addition to the aforementioned nutrients, studies have shown that quinoa can help with several health conditions, weight loss, and anti-aging.

The Compelling Health Benefits of Quinoa

High protein grain alternative

A 2009 study a the University of Chile found that 15% of the total content of quinoa is protein, which is more than double the amount found in most grains. The study also found that quinoa has a complete amino acid profile, meaning that each serving contains all the key building blocks for making proteins.

Lower blood sugar

A study performed at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil in 2009 found that quinoa has the ability to lower blood glucose levels in individuals with diabetes.

Reduce blood pressure

The same study as above also discovered that consuming quinoa on a regular basis helps to lower blood pressure levels in those with hypertension.

Natural appetite suppressant

A 2005 study at the University of Milan found that quinoa was effective at controlling appetite and study participants consumed less food throughout the day.

Lower cholesterol

The high fiber content in quinoa can help to reduce total cholesterol and the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

Anti-aging

A 2012 study from the University degli Studi di Foggia in Italy investigated the antioxidant properties in quinoa. They concluded that quinoa is an excellent source of free phenols, which destroy free radicals in the bloodstream. The result can be a slower aging process including delaying the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Reduce cancer risk

The same study as above discovered that quinoa’s antioxidant properties help to reduce cancer risk.

Tips to Eat More Quinoa!

  • Sprinkle a bit of cooked quinoa over your salad. You don’t always have to eat a whole bowl of quinoa to get its benefits. Try sprinkling a bit over your greens at lunch for a protein boost!
  • Quinoa instead of oatmeal. Trade-in your breakfast oatmeal for quinoa. Quinoa can make a great hot cereal and will keep you feeling full. Top with some fresh fruit for a great start to the day.
  • Add quinoa to your soup. Add some quinoa to your favourite soup recipes for added texture as well as a health boost.
  • Quinoa flour. Use quinoa flour in your recipes instead of regular wheat flour.
  • Blend cooked quinoa into your smoothie. Quinoa can be blended into smoothies and shakes to take advantage of its health benefits (and you won’t even taste it)!

Superfood: Wild Salmon

Revered for its high omega-3 content, wild salmon has been recognized as one of the top Superfoods.

Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have been proven in numerous studies to help with various health conditions including:

  • Lower triglyceride levels
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Depression
  • Prenatal health
  • Asthma
  • ADHD
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Prevent breast and colon cancer
  • Prevent age-related macular degeneration
  • Mitigate autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Raynaud’s disease
  • Relieve various mental health problems
  • Lower risk for coronary heart disease
  • Reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack
  • In addition to omega-3s, wild salmon contains many other health-boosting nutrients. Astaxanthin is an antioxidant phytonutrient naturally produced in specific algae. Wild salmon feed on red algae and accumulate astaxanthin in their muscle tissue, which gives them their pink colour. Interesting fact: Astaxanthin is credited for giving salmon the ability to generate the strength needed to swim up rivers and waterfalls.

Eating just half a fillet of wild salmon (154 g) is comparable to taking a multivitamin in some respects! You can get more than your day’s quota of some nutrients:

Total Omega-3 fatty acids: 3982 mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids: 339 mg
Thiamin: 0.4 mg (28% DV)
Riboflavin: 0.7 mg (44%)
Niacin: 15.5 mg (78% DV)
Vitamin B6: 1.5 mg (73% DV)
Vitamin B12: 4.7 ug (78% DV)
Pantothenic acid: 3.0 mg (30% DV)
Magnesium: 57.0 mg (14% DV)
Phosphorous: 394 mg (39% DV)
Potassium: 967 mg (28% DV)
Copper: 0.5 mg (25% DV)
Selenium: 72.1 ug (103% DV)

So you might be wondering what about the regular farm-raised salmon? Farm-raised salmon are fed genetically modified grains and dead animal parts. This is an unnatural diet for this fish. The result is greyish-white salmon deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin. In order to get the pink colour, farmed salmon are fed synthetic astaxanthin that is produced from toxic petrochemical sources. Research produced by the Environmental Working Group in 2003 showed that farmed salmon were contaminated with high levels of polychlorinated biphenyl’s (PCB’s). The data indicated that farmed salmon has over 16 times the amount of carcinogenic chemicals than wild salmon.

Tips to eating more wild salmon:

  • Salmon burgers. Swap out those beef, chicken or turkey burgers for some wild salmon burgers! You can get canned wild salmon that is much cheaper.
  • Salmon salad nicoise. Leftover salmon from last night’s dinner? Make a healthier rendition of the traditional salad nicoise adding salmon instead of tuna. You could also use smoked salmon.
  • Shake things up. There’s more than one way to cook that piece of salmon. Try it on the BBQ, cedar plank, baked in parchment or crusted in gluten-free bread crumbs.

Superfood: Blueberries

Most people see blueberries as a generic fruit. Because it’s not some exotic fruit from Tahiti they don’t realize the numerous health benefits of consuming these little blue-purple-coloured berries. We’re told the darker the fruit the more antioxidants it contains. In the case of blueberries, that’s true as this little fruit is chock-full of phytonutrients. What are phytonutrients? Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals called phytonutrients. Unlike vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients are not essential to the body but they can help prevent diseases and improve your overall health.

Phytonutrients contained in blueberries:

  • anthocyanins
  • malvidins
  • delphinidins
  • pelargonidins
  • cyanidins
  • peonidins
  • hydroxycinnamic acids
  • caffeic acids
  • ferulic acids
  • coumaric acids
  • hydroxybenzoic acids
  • gallic acids
  • procatchuic acids
  • flavonols
  • kaempferol
  • quercetin
  • myricetin
  • other phenol-related phytonutrients
  • pterostilbene
  • resveratrol

Blueberries also contain significant levels of more familiar nutrients:

% Daily value in 1 cup (148 g) of blueberries:

  • 35.7% vitamin K
  • 25% manganese
  • 23.9% vitamin C
  • 14.2% fiber

Because of their many phytonutrients, blueberries have many health benefits including:

  • Disease prevention
  • Reduce abdominal fat
  • Reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Prevent hypertension
  • Can reduce signs of aging (wrinkles!)
  • Protect the brain from environmental toxins
  • Reverse age-related memory loss and motor skill decline
  • Help prevent cancer
  • Can reduce the frequency and severity of allergies
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Reduce pain
  • Increase production of the neurotransmitter dopamine

Tips to get more Blueberries in your diet!

  • Make a quick smoothie with blueberries for breakfast.
  • Sprinkle fresh blueberries over your salad.
  • Eat blueberries in your yogurt in the morning or for a snack.
  • Eat dried blueberries with nuts as a healthy snack. Did you know that you absorb the nutrients from dried blueberries better than from fresh?

Needing more information about how to improve your diet and incorporate more superfoods? Talk to one of our Naturopaths or our Registered Dietitian. Call 416-481-0222 to book or book online here any time.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc (Hons), ND

Superfood Recipes:

Pomegranate-Braised Short Ribs

2 pounds beef short ribs, about 6-7 ribs (preferably grass-fed beef)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped into wedges
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 carrots, cut into large pieces
5 springs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large dutch oven or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan; season short ribs with salt and pepper. Brown short ribs on all sides until crusted.

Remove short ribs from pan. Pour off oil and remove any loose bits from the pan. Add remaining olive oil and cook onion, carrots, garlic, and thyme for 5 minutes. Add the flour to the pot and stir to coat. Deglaze pan with red wine and pomegranate juice, bring to a boil stirring frequently. Return short ribs to pot, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook for about 3 hours in the oven, turning a few times, or until the meat is fork-tender. Remove short ribs from the pot with a slotted spoon onto a platter. Strain the pot juices and skim the fat off the top or use a fat separator. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, and cook until reduced to a sauce consistency; about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the short ribs. Top with pomegranate seeds.

Recipe: Spinach and Artichoke Dip (Dairy- and Gluten-free)

NOTE: If you’re going to use canned artichoke hearts, be aware of the sodium content. Be sure to choose a low-sodium option.

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can white kidney beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
2 cups fresh artichoke hearts, quartered; OR 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (extra for cooking)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat pan on medium heat. Cook garlic and spinach for only 2 minutes in a bit of olive oil. Remove garlic and spinach and put beans in the pan just to warm them up.

Place the garlic, spinach, beans and everything else into a food processor or blender. Pulse until combined. Do NOT puree – should still be able to see artichoke pieces. Enjoy warm or room temperature.

Serve with fresh vegetables or homemade vegetable chips.

Recipe: Quinoa and Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes

*NOTE: Spinach contains a high amount of iron, but did you know it also contains a high amount of oxalic acid which prevents iron absorption? Eating tomatoes, or other food sources of vitamin C, with your spinach will aid in the absorption of iron.

Ingredients:

4 large ripe but firm tomatoes
Salt
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup quinoa
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups fresh spinach
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
Pepper, to taste

Directions:

Bring vegetable stock and quinoa to boil in a medium saucepan. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender; 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the top off of each tomato. Spoon out the insides to create a hollow cavity. Sprinkle salt into the hollow cavity of each tomato and rest upside down on a sheet pan lined with a wire rack to extract juice, about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and add onion, cook for about 3 minutes. Then add spinach and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until spinach is wilted. Add the quinoa to the spinach and add parsley. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Evenly divide the filling among the tomatoes. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until tomatoes are soft and filling is just browned on top, about 15-20 minutes.

Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower and Crispy Kale

Ingredients:
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 head cauliflower, cut in florets
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 bunches kale

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 shallots, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind fennel seeds.

In a large bowl, toss cauliflower, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, paprika, salt, and fennel seeds. Roast on parchment paper-lined baking sheet in the top third of the oven at 400 degrees F until lightly golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to large bowl; let cool.

Roughly tear leaves from kale stems; reserve stems for another use. Toss leaves with remaining oil. Spread on 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets; roast in the top and bottom thirds of the oven at 400 degrees F, switching and rotating pans halfway through, until wilted and slightly crisp around edges, about 20 minutes. Toss with remaining lemon juice.

Vinaigrette: Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, horseradish, and mustard; stir in shallots, salt, and pepper. Add to the cauliflower mixture along with kale; gently toss to combine.

Recipe: Southwest Salad with Avocado and Corn

Ingredients:

2 small heads romaine lettuce, chopped in bite-size pieces
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 ears of corn
1 large or 2 smaller avocados, chopped
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
Organic gluten-free corn tortilla chips (optional)

Directions:

Steam ears of corn. Let cool and cut off kernels.

Combine lettuce, pinto beans, corn, avocado, red onion and cilantro in a large bowl.

Whisk together oil, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle over salad and toss. Serve with corn tortilla chips if desired.

Recipe: Kiwi Sorbet

8 kiwis, peeled
4 Tbsp honey
Juice of 1 lemon
Peel kiwis and place in a food processor or blender. Pulse until well blended into a thick puree. Add honey and lemon juice. Blend.
Pour into a shallow container and freeze. Or use an ice cream maker.
Serve when sorbet is frozen.
From: http://www.superhealthykids.com/healthy-kids-recipes/kiwi-sorbet.php

Recipe: Pork Chops and Roasted Pumpkin with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette

Serves 4.

Ingredients:
2-3 pounds pumpkin, (1 small pumpkin) halved, seeded, cut into 1-inch wedges
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (from pumpkin)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 1-inch-thick bone-in pork chops
½ small garlic clove, finely grated
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro plus leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lime juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spread out pumpkin seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast, tossing once, until just beginning to darken, about 4 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop; set aside.

Toss pumpkin wedges with 1 tablespoon oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast pumpkin turning occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 30-40 minutes.

When pumpkin wedges have been in for about 25 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and cook until brown, 5-8 minutes. Turn over and cook until pork is cooked through, about 3 minutes longer.

Whisk garlic, 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, reserved toasted pumpkin seeds, and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl to combine. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper, and more lime juice if desired.

Divide squash and pork among plates; spoon vinaigrette over. Top with cilantro leaves.

Adzuki Bean Pancakes

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 large eggs
1 tablespoon coconut water
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup cooked, mashed adzuki beans
Coconut oil

Directions:

Whisk together eggs, coconut water, and honey in a large bowl.

Add almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and mix until combined. Stir in mashed adzuki beans.

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Add a small amount of coconut oil to the pan so pancakes don’t stick.

Use a ladle (or pour all the batter into a container with a spout) to pour enough batter into skillet for 1 pancake.

Once a crisp edge has formed, flip the pancake and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes.

Repeat with the rest of the batter and serve immediately.

Recipe: Chicken & Quinoa Paella

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1/4 teaspoon saffron, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
Dash cayenne
2-3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 lemon, zested
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, half of the paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate.
Rinse quinoa well in a bowl or through a fine strainer.
Sauté garlic in a deep non-stick skillet with a little olive oil for a minute. Add quinoa and saffron and cook, stirring for a few minutes. Add rest of paprika, cayenne, tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon zest, and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook covered for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Stir in marinated chicken and onion; cook 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper; cook another 5 minutes.
If more broth is needed in quinoa, add more. Cook until quinoa is done, then remove the cover, stir in peas, and cook uncovered until peas are warm and all the stock is absorbed.
Spread quinoa onto serving tray. Top with cooked chicken and peppers mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

Almond & Lemon Crusted Salmon with Caramelized Onions and Basil

Serves 4.

Ingredients:
4 (4-6 oz) wild salmon fillets, skin removed
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
Lemon zest from 1 lemon, cut into small fragments
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown and caramelized, 30-45 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and keep warm.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease the bottom of a large baking dish with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Put almond meal and lemon zest together in a wide shallow dish.

Rub remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil on salmon fillets, season with salt and pepper, and press each fillet into the almond meal-lemon zest mixture until coated. Arrange salmon fillets in a baking dish in a single layer and bake until just cooked through and flakey, about 15 mins.

Transfer salmon to plates, top with caramelized onions, garnish with green onions and basil and serve.

Quick and Healthy Blueberry Smoothie

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen blueberries
1 ripe banana
1 cup plain yogurt, coconut yogurt or almond yogurt
Dash of honey (optional)
Ice cubes (optional)
Directions:

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

Superfood Research:

Pomegranate Juice & Endothelial function: Long-term consumption of grape and pomegranate juices were found to improve endothelial function in adolescents with metabolic syndrome.

Source: Cardiol Young, 2010; 20(1): 73-7.

Pomegranate & Diabetes: Consumption of either pomegranate juice or extract was found to benefit subjects with type 2 diabetes by improving paraoxonase 1, thereby slowing the development of atherosclerosis.

Source: J Agric Food Chem, 2008; 56(18): 8704-13.

Pomegranate extract & Cell Damage: Pomegranate fruit extract may exert a protective effect against UVA- and UVB-induced cell damage in human skin fibroblasts.

Source: J Agric Food Chem, 2008; 56(18): 8434-41.

Artichoke leaf extract & Cholesterol: Artichoke leaf extract can decrease total cholesterol and LDL while increasing HDL.

Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.27, Issue 3, Feb 2013.

Artichoke leaf extract & Oxidation: Artichoke leaf extract has been found to prevent oxidation of LDL and VLDL, and decrease triglyceride levels.

Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.27, Issue 3, Feb 2013.

Artichoke leaf extract & Biliary obstruction: Supplementation with artichoke leaf extract and milk thistle extract was found to help with bile duct obstructions.

Source: Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, Massachusetts: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Lycopene & Stroke: High serum levels of lycopene, a phytochemical found in red fruits and vegetables, are associated with a lower risk of stroke.

Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.27, Issue 3, Feb 2013.

Lycopene & Bone health: Supplementation with lycopene-rich tomato juice or tomato Lyc-O-Mato lycopene capsules was found to significantly reduce oxidative stress and improve bone health in post-menopausal women.

Source: Osteoporos Int, 2010 June 15; [Epub ahead of print].

Lycopene & Blood Pressure: Lycopene supplementation greater than 12 mg/day were found to significantly reduce systolic blood pressure.

Source: Nutrients, 2013 Sept 18; 5(9): 3696-712.

Lycopene & OSMF: 8 mg of lycopene, an antioxidant, was found to significantly improve signs and symptoms of oral submucous fibrosis.

Source: Indian J Dent Res. 2012 Jul;23(4):524-8.

Beetroot & Blood Pressure: Low dose (100g) beetroot juice supplementation was found to reduce blood pressure.

Source: Br J Nutr, 2012 Mar 14:1-9.

Beetroot & Plasma Nitrite: Consumption of beetroot juice was found to increase mean power output in cyclists and elevate plasma nitrite levels.

Source: Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2011 June; 43(6): 1125-31.

Broccoli & Bladder Cancer: Intake of raw broccoli was found to reduce risk of mortality by 43% in bladder cancer patients.

Source: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2010 Jun 15; [Epub ahead of print].

Broccoli & Cholesterol: This study found that glucoraphanin, found in broccoli, has a marked effect on cholesterol homeostasis in hamsters with dietary-induced hypercholesterolemia.

Source: J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Feb 23;59(4):1095-103.

Isothiocyanates & Cancer: Isothiocyanates in cauliflower were found to restore normal function of gene p53 in blocking cancer cell growth.

Source: J Med Chem. 2011 Jan;54(3): 809-16.

Sulforaphane & Cancer: Sulforaphane, found in cauliflower, was found to induce Phase II liver enzymes, which detoxify and neutralize cancer causing agents.

Source: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001 Sept;10(9):949-54.

Cauliflower & Lung Cancer: Consuming more than 1 serving of cauliflower a day was found to reduce lung cancer risk by 61%.

Source: J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000; 92(22):1812-23.

Cauliflower & Bladder Cancer: One serving of cauliflower a week was found to be associated with a 27% lower risk of bladder cancer.

Source: J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999;91(7):605-13.

Vitamin E & Diet: Vitamin E can be found in leafy greens, almonds, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and avocado.

Source: Alberni Valley News, May 8, 2013.

Omega-3s & Alzheimer’s: Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and slower cognitive decline.

Source: Neurology, 2012 May 2.

Fiber & Coronary Heart Disease: The highest quintile in a study of fiber intake found a 52% reduced risk of mortality from coronary heart disease.

Source: J Nutr, 2010 Jun 23; [Epub ahead of print].

Vitamin C & Asthma: An Italian study found that ingestion of fruit high in vitamin C may reduce wheezing symptoms in children.

Source: Thorax. 2000 April; 55(4): 283–288.

Fruit & Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Eating 3 or more servings of fruit was found to decrease macular degeneration by 36%.

Source: Arch Ophthalmol. 2004;122(6):883-892.

Golden Kiwi & Oxidative Damage: Golden kiwifruit consumption was found to strengthen resistance towards endogenous oxidative damage.

Source: Nutr J. 2011; 10: 54.

Vitamin A & Vision Problems: Oral supplementation with vitamin A was found to reduce all-cause mortality and vision problems in children ages 6 months to 5 years.

Source: BMJ, 2011 Aug 25; 343: d5094.

Pumpkin Seeds & Bladder Stones: A study found that pumpkin seed snacks in Thai adolescents led to a reduced risk of bladder stone disease.

Source: J Med Assoc Thai. 1993 Sep;76(9):487-93.

Phytosterols & Cholesterol: Phytosterols (Plant sterols) inhibit the absorption of cholesterol and were found to improve circulating lipid profiles to reduce risk of coronary heart disease.

Source: Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1997 Mar;75(3):217-27.

Adzuki beans & Triglycerides: Supplementation with adzuki bean juice was found to be beneficial in preventing hypertriglyceridemia in Japanese women.

Source: J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2008 July; 43(1): 19–25.

Adzuki beans & Cholesterol: Adzuki bean resistant starch was found to lower serum cholesterol via enhancement of the hepatic LDL-receptor mRNA.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition / Volume 94 / Issue 06 / December 2005, pp 902-908

Adzuki beans & Lipid Concentrations: Adzuki beans were found to be effective in lowering serum and liver lipid concentration, which may be a result of decreasing liver G6PD activity.

Source: Kawasaki Journal of Medical Welfare, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2002: 49-55.

Protein & Blood Pressure: Increased protein intake was found to reduce blood pressure in overweight adults with hypertension.

Source: Am J Clin Nutr, 2012 Apr; 95(4):966-71.

Protein & Blood Glucose: A high protein diet was found to lower blood glucose postprandially in persons with type 2 diabetes and improve overall glucose control.

Source: Am J Clin Nutr October 2003 vol. 78 no. 4 734-741

Omega-3s & Atrial Fibrillation: Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heart beat.

Source: Circulation, Volume 125, pages 1084-1093, January 2012.

Omega-3s & Lung Cancer: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation was found to improve quality of life, performance status, and physical activity in stage III non-small cell lung cancer patients.

Source:Eur J Clin Nutr, 2012 Mar; 66(3):399-404.

Omega-3s & Depression: Intake of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA were found to be associated with fewer depressive symptoms.

Source: Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2012 April 1

Omega-3s & Cognitive Function: Omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) does not increase cognitive function, but was found to increase visual acuity after treatment.

Source: Neurobiol Aging, 2012 Apr; 33(4): 824.e1-3.

Blueberries & Cardiovascular risk: Blueberries were found to improve selected features of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular risk factors in men and women with metabolic syndrome.

Source: J. Nutr. September 1, 2010 vol. 140 no. 9 1582-1587.

Anthocyanin & Diabetes: A higher intake of anthocyanin-rich foods (blue-purple coloured vegetables and fruits like blueberries and red cabbage) is associated with a lower risk of type II diabetes.

Source: Am J Clin Nutr, 2012 Apr; 95(4):925-33.

Resveratrol & Cardiovascular Disease: Resveratrol-rich grape supplements were found to improve the inflammatory and fibrinolytic status of patents at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

Source: Am J Cardiol. 2012 Aug 1;110(3):356-63. Epub 2012 Apr 19.

Resveratrol & Hormone Secretion: Resveratrol, a potent antioxidant, was found to moderate hormone secretion from fat cells.

Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.26, Issue 12, Dec. 2012

Hair Loss? Check your hormones!

woman with a full head of healthy hair
Want a full head of healthy hair?

Luscious locks. Flowing tresses. Who doesn’t want to have a full head of shiny, gorgeous hair? Society certainly views beautiful hair as a symbol of youth and beauty.

However, particularly as we age, many of us find that the soft, full hair we may have taken for granted in our younger days starts to fade and becomes thinner and more brittle. These changes happen to both men’s hair and women’s hair.

How Much Hair Loss is Normal?

Did you know that it is considered normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day? While this seems like a lot, the greater concern is to lose this much hair and not have enough regrowth of new hair.

Is Hair Loss Permanent?

Whether hair loss is permanent or temporary depends on the cause of hair loss. Where hair loss is most likely to be permanent is if the scalp is scarred, as in scarring alopecia. If the root cause of hair loss is found and addressed, hair loss can be reversed in most cases. Hair loss treatments like minoxidil are only temporary measures that result in hair loss once they are discontinued because they are not fixing the root cause, only masking it.

As You Age, So Does Your Hair

Of course, it makes sense that our hair is damaged as we age. Your hair only grows less than half an inch every month. Because hair grows so slowly, if your hair is long, the hair at the ends experiences years of damage from hair treatments and the elements. Your hair is also affected by hormonal changes in our bodies. Hormones play a role in hair loss or growth, fine hair, changes in texture, and the presence or absence of those pesky grey hairs!

Searching For The Fountain Of Youth for Your Hair

What’s the solution for thinning hair? The beauty industry tells us the secret to beautiful hair is finding the right “products.” It’s definitely possible to spend hundreds of dollars trying to find something that works.

However, no matter how many shampoo reviews you read, you can only find so much hair magic in a bottle. In fact, many shampoos and other hair products actually damage your hair because they contain harmful chemicals.

The truth is that a full head of beautiful hair starts from within. As a result, a good diet for healthy hair is far more important than topical remedies for hair.

How to Have Stronger, Fuller, Faster-Growing Hair

To fully understand the impact of diet and lifestyle choices on your hair, it helps to know more about your hair’s composition. What is hair made from anyway? The main building blocks that give your hair its strength and structure are a protein known as keratin, and a B-family vitamin called biotin. In terms of molecular composition, your hair is made up of 45% carbon, 28% oxygen, 15% nitrogen, 7% hydrogen and 5% sulfur.

Keratin

Hair strands are composed of a fibrous protein called keratin. In fact, so are your finger and toenails. One of the primary components of keratin is choline. Choline is an essential vitamin-like nutrient with many different roles in your body. It is found in a variety of foods such as eggs, salmon and cauliflower.

What About Doing Keratin Treatments?

There is no evidence that keratin treatments are an effective means of improving hair texture or quality, at least not over the long term. In fact, these products often contain chemicals, like formaldehyde, that are harmful.

Biotin

Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, contributes to the formation of keratin. Because of this relationship, it’s not surprising that scientists have found that being deficient in biotin leads to hair loss. In fact, one study found that supplementing with biotin helps to slow hair fall in women with thinning hair, leading to fuller, shinier hair as well as smoother skin after 6 months. Deficiency of biotin has also been linked with inflammation that adversely affects your scalp, and therefore also your hair.

The Gut Health Connection To Good Hair

Interestingly, scientists have also found that the amount of bad bacteria in our gut affects the formation of biotin. That means that beautiful hair isn’t necessarily as simple as making sure that you have consumed enough biotin. Gut bacteria also play a role in hormone balance. Your microbiome, digestion, and absorption need to be right for great hair too.

Factors that positively influence your gut bacteria, and in turn improve your biotin production, include managing your stress levels, getting good sleep, regular exercise, keeping sugar and refined carbs in check and ensuring your nutrition is balanced.

Common Causes of Hair Loss

The following are common reasons why your hair may be falling out:

  1. Iron deficiency or low iron
  2. Hypothyroidism or low thyroid function
  3. Androgenetic Alopecia, also known as male or female pattern hair loss
  4. Alopecia Areata, this is patchy balding caused by autoimmune disease
  5. Lupus or other autoimmune diseases
  6. Post-partum, losing hair after having a baby is quite common. This is caused by the sudden change in hormones that accompanies childbirth triggering sudden hair loss.
  7. Telogen effluvium that is often triggered by stress, iron deficiency or hypothyroidism.

Top Tips For Healthy Hair

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the factors behind healthy hair, how can you prevent hair loss, and overcome the effects of aging and environmental damage? Check out these natural remedies and diet changes to reverse hair fall, fine or thinning hair and damaged hair.

Hormone Balance and Hair

Cortisol affects hair health, but it isn’t the only hormone that has an impact. If you’re experiencing hair loss or changes to hair texture, you should do thorough hormone testing.

For example, low levels of the thyroid hormone T4 indicate stress or a malnourished thyroid. One of the thyroid’s “lesser” jobs is to regulate hair growth. However, in times of stress your body will focus all of your thyroid’s energies on more vital functions such as regulating your body’s temperature and metabolism. Hence, thinning hair is one of many possible symptoms of low thyroid function.

Low estrogen, which may be a sign of perimenopause or other hormonal imbalances, also leads to hair troubles. While slower growth of pubic and underarm hair might easily go unnoticed, an estrogen imbalance means that androgens or male hormones have a stronger effect on hair follicles. This leads to thinning hair on your head, and even those unsightly, rogue chin hairs. Supporting the healthy function of the endocrine or hormone-producing system helps to maintain optimal levels of estrogen for hair growth.

These are just a few reasons why the best start to improving your hair’s texture and fullness begins with testing to see where your hormonal levels are. Once we have all of the information, we then ensure that the appropriate hormones are balanced naturally.

Make sure that you consume enough biotin

Good food sources of biotin for hair include:

  • Liver
  • Salmon
  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Chicken
  • Nuts

As an added bonus, biotin consumption will also strengthen your nails!

Don’t smoke

Smoking increases the speed at which your body breaks down and excretes biotin, reducing the amount of biotin in your blood and leading to weaker hair and nail growth.

Eat plenty of protein

This may seem like a no-brainer since hair is mainly composed of protein. Keep in mind that your protein sources don’t have to be meat-based. The protein found in plant sources is just as effective.

In addition to biotin, the amino acid cysteine assists in the formation of keratin. Good sources of cysteine include garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oats, sprouted lentils and eggs.

Watch your mineral intake

One of the many roles of minerals in your body is growth. Iron and zinc in particular contribute to keratin formation which helps your hair to grow strong.

Zinc also protects your hair from sun damage just as zinc oxide in sunscreens protects your skin from sunburn. Zinc helps your body reduce excess insulin too. Good sources of zinc include shellfish, beans, egg yolks, beef and pumpkin seeds.

Reduce your sugar consumption

When you eat a lot of sugar or carbs, your blood sugar rises. In response, your body produces more insulin. This increases androgens such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone or DHT, that have a shrinking effect on your hair follicles. That means that your hair starts growing finer, falls out more easily or becomes more brittle.

Avoid high-mercury foods

Consumption of food with high levels of mercury has been linked to hair loss. Certain fish like tuna, swordfish, and shark all contain high levels of mercury. Large fish like these consume smaller fish. In the process, they concentrate toxins like mercury that the smaller fish have been exposed to. Smaller fish like mackerel, herring, and sardines are safer to eat and contain Omega 3 fatty acids that help keep your hair healthy and shiny.

Choose hair products carefully

Many shampoos, conditioners, and styling products contain ingredients like formaldehyde that are hard on your hair and unhealthy for you. The reality is that many of them don’t address hair problems where they originate, that is, in the protein structure of the hair itself. Instead, they “gloss” over any problems with superficial coatings. Plus, many substances used in hair products are absorbed by your skin, and are linked to cancer. In addition, many are also harmful to the environment. So, avoid products with sulfates, parabens, and silicones. Your hair and the planet will thank you!

Boost your intake of fruits and veggies

To protect your hair, you want to reduce the damage that is caused by free radicals. These are compounds that damage your cells through a process known as oxidative stress. Free radicals are created by environmental factors and your body’s internal processes that are triggered by stress. Vitamin deficiencies cause higher levels of these harmful free radicals.

Free radicals lead to lifeless, gray hair. Antioxidants fight free radicals and restore your hair’s shine. Fruits and vegetables provide the key antioxidants for healthy hair, vitamins A and C, while nuts and seeds provide vitamin E.

Consider collagen supplements

Choline, one of the building blocks of keratin, is found in collagen. Collagen also strengthens the layer of your skin that contains hair follicles. This layer of skin is called the dermis. With a stronger anchor point, hair is less likely to fall out. Collagen is taken as a powdered supplement that is added to smoothies or protein shakes. Collagen is also obtained from bone broth. Another cheap way to get collagen is by using powdered gelatin that is available from the grocery store.

If you’re experiencing issues with your hair, it may be time to test your hormones and make sure your gut health is supporting your hair goals not impeding them!

Give our office us a call at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online here, we are happy to help.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

Hair Loss Research:

https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/109/9/djx202/4102324

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428712/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27538002

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201279/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4174066/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=28813664

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428712/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=27554239

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23725308

Hidden Toxins in Your Home are Harming Your Health

pic showing natural cleaning products

Here’s Why and What to Do About Toxic Chemicals

How is your home affecting your health? Cigarette smoke is an obvious toxin in the air. Assuming you don’t smoke, you may feel fairly confident that your home is not toxic. If you clean your home regularly, you might even be slightly offended by the suggestion that your home may be toxic! However, indoor air pollutants are much more common than most people realize. The sources of many pollutants are everyday objects and products that we don’t consider harmful.

What is an Environmental Toxin?

Toxins are chemicals that are harmful to human beings. Environmental toxins are those that are found in the environment around us, our food, water, air, and surfaces that we are in contact with.

We read and hear about outdoor air pollution regularly and it’s also a valid health concern. However, indoor air pollution is worth worrying about too. We need to pay attention to it because we spend about 90 percent of our time inside. According to emerging research, including a landmark United Nations study, many commonly used chemicals within our homes act as endocrine disruptors when we’re exposed to them.

What’s An Endocrine Disruptor?

Simply put, your endocrine system controls various functions in your body. It does so by releasing hormones. These chemicals control most of what your body does. Your hormone-producing system regulates how much of each hormone is released through intricate feedback loops. This means that when a hormone drops low, your brain delivers a stimulatory message to your endocrine system to tell it to make more. When a hormone is too high, your brain lowers the stimulatory messages to your endocrine system and so it creates less of that hormone. Certain environmental pollutants have been found to disrupt this process.

The result? Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances. When taken to the extreme, these imbalances can put us on the road to diseases such as breast, thyroid and prostate cancer, endometriosis, PCOS, infertility and developmental conditions like ADHD.

Common Environmental Pollutants In Your Home

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to recognize an environmental pollutant. In fact, some products we identify as “healthy” can actually be harmful.

Take a look at this list of common environmental toxins in your home:

Cleaning products

Keeping a clean home has long been recognized as an important step in maintaining good health. However, many common cleaning products contain carcinogens such as methylene chloride. This chemical is linked to increased breast cancer rates.

One thing to keep in mind with cleaning products is that these compounds linger in the air long after the smell has disappeared. For example, molecules in aerosol sprays get absorbed by dust. Breathing in this dust then leads to respiratory irritation.

In addition, these chemicals react with other compounds in the air, such as ozone. This chemical reaction creates “secondary emissions” that are even more harmful.

Nonstick cookware

The same chemicals that make nonstick cookware so convenient also harm your health. Man-made compounds like polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) are found in materials such as Teflon. It prevents food from sticking to the pan. Unfortunately, this toxin also contributes to certain cancers and even high cholesterol.

Air fresheners

A quick spray of air freshener makes our homes smell fresh and clean. However, the effects on our bodies undermine the pretty scents. When it comes to scented products, it’s often difficult to obtain a complete list of all of the chemicals they contain. But, many air fresheners do contain phthalates, which have been linked to hormonal problems, particularly in males. In addition, often the compounds that produce the smell contain benzene and phenolic rings. These are known carcinogens.

Toxins in antibacterial products

Using antibacterial products might seem like a good step towards a healthier home.

But, studies show that many commonly used substances in antibacterial products, such as triclosan, impact our reproductive hormones. As well, overuse has been linked to an increase in allergies in children.

In addition, overuse of antibacterial products is leading to an increase in drug-resistant bacteria. For the most part, these chemicals are unnecessary. They are only mildly effective and it does your immune system good to be exposed to germs in small amounts. It helps to train your immune system, which in turn leaves it stronger.

Water

Government regulations are supposed to keep our drinking water safe from contaminants. However, growing evidence shows that our water supplies contain small amounts of hormones, particularly estrogen. These hormones are the result of birth control and HRT use. Even these small amounts of estrogen disrupt our natural hormonal balance over long periods.

Plastics

Plastic containers and water bottles might make life more convenient, but in the long run, they’re not the best choices. Many containers and cans contain a chemical called BPA, or other chemicals that act like estrogen. In fact, even those items marked as “BPA free” contain toxic compounds which may be just as harmful.

Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors which specifically mimic the effects of estrogen. Overexposure leads to weight gain, mood swings, and other symptoms of estrogen excess or estrogen dominance.

Scented bathing and personal care products.

Did you know that the chemicals that give scented products their distinct smells aren’t regulated? And that 95 percent of those scents originate from petroleum byproducts?

Symptoms of Toxins in Your Home

What signs or symptoms might you have that you are exposed to environmental toxins or that your body doesn’t detoxify well? Here are some common signs of chemical toxicity:

  1. Vague symptoms like headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, congestion, itching, sneezing, sore throat, chest pain, breathing problems, muscle pain or stiffness, skin rash, diarrhea, bloating, gas, confusion, trouble concentrating, memory problems, and mood changes.
  2. Cancers. Several toxins are known carcinogens. These are chemicals that are linked to cancer. A few that you may commonly encounter in the home include acetaldehyde in alcohol, asbestos, talc, ethanol in alcohol, cigarette smoke and benzene used to make glues, plastics, resins, syntheticfibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, varnish and pesticides.
  3. Endometriosis. An environmental chemical known as PCBs has been linked to the development of endometriosis. PCB production and use is now banned, but this chemical lingers in the environment for a long time. Xenoestrogens like BPA from plastic also contribute to this condition by over-stimulating estrogen receptors.
  4. PCOS and diabetes. Exposure to environmental toxins and their subsequent contribution to the development of PCOS is supported by extensive data from diverse scientific studies.

You may need to take action if you are experiencing any of these toxic exposure symptoms or toxic build-up symptoms.

Environmental Toxins List

Some common toxins found in household cleaning products include:

  1. Phthalates. These are often found in cosmetics and anything that has a fragrance including soaps, scented detergents and other cleaners. They are known endocrine disruptors and negatively impact fertility.
  2. PERC or Perchloroethylene. This is common in dry cleaning solutions and carpet and upholstery cleaners. PERC is a neurotoxin and possible endocrine disruptor.
  3. Triclosan. Found in antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. Triclosan is a probable carcinogen and possible endocrine disruptor.
  4. QUATS or Quaternary Ammonium Compounds. These are in fabric softeners and antibacterial cleaners. These irritate the skin and respiratory tract. Along with triclosan, they may contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  5. 2-Butoxyethanol. This is found in window and kitchen cleaners and may not be listed on the label. Inhaling it as you are cleaning can irritate your throat. High doses harm your lungs, liver and kidneys.
  6. Ammonia. Found in glass cleaner and metal polishes. It is a powerful irritant of the respiratory tract and chronic exposure is linked to asthma. Mixing this with bleach will create a poisonous gas.
  7. Chlorine. Chlorine is found in bleach, and many household cleaners and mold/mildew removers. It is also a powerful irritant of the respiratory tract. It may cause thyroid problems as it can displace iodine that is essential for normal thyroid function.
  8. Sodium hydroxide. This is in oven cleaners and clogged drain cleaners. Inhaling it is very irritating to the respiratory tract. Contact with skin or eyes causes severe burns.

It’s easy to feel a bit concerned when you read a list like the one above! After all, we want a clean home and to use the most convenient products possible. Fortunately, we have 6 healthy home tips to get rid of chemicals in your home.

How To Make Your Home Healthier

How can we have a clean environment without risking the health of ourselves or our children? Here’s how to reduce your chemical exposure and make your home more environmentally friendly:

1. Don’t try to “mask” unpleasant scents.

Instead of spraying air freshener, try removing the source of the bad odor – wash the dirty clothes (without scented fabric softener, of course), change the kitty litter, take the garbage out etc. If you need extra ammunition against odors, baking soda is a natural air freshener. Open your windows and let some fresh air in. A HEPA air filter also cleans air odors right at the source.

For a lovely, safe, natural scent, try boiling cinnamon sticks or vanilla pods on your stovetop or grow some lavender indoors. Or do some baking.

2. Choose cleaning products carefully.

Be aware of “greenwashing” which is the practice of making products appear more eco-friendly than they actually are. The Environmental Working Group has a searchable database of more than 2,500 products.

As well, vinegar, baking soda, elbow grease and plain hot water can be surprisingly effective cleaners. Doing a bit of research on the best natural cleaners that are both less expensive, and safer really pays off.

3. Avoid aerosols.

Using natural air fresheners like essential oils, or even simmering some lemon slices and a few cloves in a pan, will do the trick just as well and without the nasty side effects.

4. Think about the long-term effects of your purchases.

A plastic container might be the cheapest option to store your leftovers, but pause and take a minute to consider the possible impact on your health and the environment, for that matter. Sometimes investing a bit more money is the best choice in the long run. Plus, a stainless steel water bottle, or a glass or ceramic food container should last you much longer. I have glass casserole dishes that I’ve had for 30 years. No harm to me, no harm to the environment, inert and safe to put in the microwave, oven and dishwasher.

5. Be careful with plastics.

If you have to use a plastic container, don’t heat it in the microwave. The heat causes more xenoestrogens to be released into your food. Storing acidic foods like tomato sauce in plastic may also cause leaching of chemicals into your food.

6. Consider your water source.

If you want to avoid tap water, consider using a filtration system. It’s best to avoid bottled water, which is often no better than tap water and has the added risk of contamination from plastic bottles. Not to mention that plastic water bottles are a nightmare for our planet. However, the water industry is filled with false claims, and prices can be steep. We can review your options in the office to make sure you make the best choices for your needs.

Of course, everyone is different and we all have unique health concerns and personal goals. If you’d like to learn more about environmental toxins, and how to reduce toxins in your body give our office a call. Additionally, if you are suffering from health issues you can’t seem to figure out the cause of, it could be related to toxins.

Our naturopaths will help determine the cause of the issue and the best way to clean your body of toxins if that is what is necessary. Call us at 416-481-0222 or book online here.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, Bsc(Hons), ND

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30953899

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20976153

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110824091537.htm

http://www.immuneweb.org/articles/perfume.html

https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas

https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/09/your-best-air-freshener-isnt-air-freshener

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243727/

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-12/documents/lenehan-hormones_in_water_using_spe_and_lc-ms.pdf

https://news.un.org/en/story/2013/02/432272-un-report-examines-link-between-hormone-disrupting-chemicals-and-health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18942551

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27559705

Infertility Rates are Rising

graphic of hands holding baby saying protect your fertility

Here’s How to Enhance Your Fertility

Fertility is something that we often take for granted. In fact, many of us spend a lot of money and effort in preventing pregnancy until the timing is right for baby-making. However, even when the timing is right, our bodies don’t always cooperate. Timing is important because so many different elements need to be considered. Timing is a key component, both in terms of your chronological age and the timing of conception.

Infertility Statistics

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in infertility. One study found infertility rates increased from 5.4 percent in 1984 to 15.7 percent in 2011. This is a substantial increase in such a short amount of time. Because infertility is increasing so quickly, it’s a good idea to be proactive about improving your fertility. Even if you never intend to have children, fertility is indicative of a healthy hormone balance. Hormone balance affects much more than just whether you can make babies. Hormones influence your mood, energy level, sense of well-being, cognitive function, weight, libido and even your immune function.

An Integrative Approach To Fertility

What makes infertility particularly frustrating is that it’s often hard to determine the exact cause as to why a couple is having difficulty conceiving. Infertility problems are often multi-factorial. Many different elements of a couple’s health need to be considered to understand the potential causes of infertility. Only by taking a detailed history, doing extensive investigation and customizing treatment can we fully optimize your ability to conceive. That’s why our integrative approach, that takes into account your lifestyle, genetics, stress levels, diet, hormone balance, vitamin and mineral status and overall health is best.

What is the Definition of Infertility?

In general, a couple is considered infertile if they’ve been trying for a year to conceive without success.

Factors That Affect Your Fertility:

What’s contributing to the increase in infertility? Medical scientists can’t pinpoint one specific cause, but many lifestyle factors can play a role.

Some factors that affect fertility include:

  1. Your hormones
  2. Genetic factors
  3. Your age
  4. Your weight
  5. Thyroid health
  6. Stress levels
  7. Chemical exposures

Hormone levels

Many hormones work in tandem to create optimal conditions for conception, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol (estrogen), luteinizing hormone (LH), DHEAs, testosterone and progesterone. Perhaps not surprisingly, even a tiny variation in your hormone balance can affect your fertility.

That’s why the first step to any fertility treatment is often thoroughly testing hormone levels. Knowing how your hormones are working together gives your healthcare practitioner an excellent starting point.

Genetic history

If you have a relative who had difficulty conceiving, you may also be at risk for fertility issues. Some fertility problems seem to run in families, such as endometriosis and PCOS. Recent research has found genetic components to some chromosomal problems. Certain genetic defects, like MTHFR mutations, increase the risk of fertility problems or recurrent miscarriage.

Your Vital Stats

Age & Fertility

It’s often frustrating for women to realize that age is one of the biggest factors that can contribute to infertility. After all, for many women, it can feel like a narrow window between being financially and emotionally ready to have a baby and being young enough to conceive.

Of course, we all see many examples of women well into their 40s having babies. And it’s definitely possible. However after the age of 40, the odds of getting pregnant decrease at a faster rate. Simply put, the conditions to conceive and carry a baby are more ideal when you are younger. As we grow older our risk for factors that negatively impact fertility increase.

Still, it’s important not to overstate the decline women experience in their 30s. Consider these stats:

  • Percentage of 27-to-34-year-old women who conceive after a year of having sex at least twice a week = 86 percent
  • Percentage of 35-to-39-year-old women who conceive after a year of having sex at least twice a week = 82 percent.

So through our 30s, the odds of conception don’t decline very dramatically. However, fertility rates do drop faster after 40, so about 30 percent of women between 40 and 44 will experience infertility.

Weight & Fertility

In addition, your weight impacts your fertility. That’s because excess weight influences your hormone levels. Fat cells secrete estrogen. Fat cells are also pro-inflammatory. Inflammation damages eggs and can lead to conditions like PCOS that cause irregular ovulation. The good news is that studies have found that losing even a small percentage of your body weight makes a difference.

Paradoxically, women who are underweight (with a BMI of less than 18.5) experience similar problems. That’s because not having enough body fat also impacts your hormone production. When you are underweight, your body perceives that resources are scarce. As a result, your body will shift into resource conservation mode. That means that your body will prioritize body systems that are vital and shut down those that are not. Your heart, lungs and liver are vital, your reproductive organs (ovaries, testes) are not.

However, it’s not just the number of your BMI. Body composition (the amount of body fat and lean muscle) and activity levels also play a role.

Of course, it takes two people to conceive. Scientific studies have found a clear link between male obesity and low sperm levels. In fact, men whose BMI places them in the obese category (30 or higher) have 60 percent less seminal fluid than men of normal weight. That’s a pretty significant difference. Underweight men also have lower amounts of seminal fluid, so it’s all about having the right balance — as with many aspects of your fertility.

Stress Levels

Can stress affect your infertility? The answer often is yes. For some couples, this is an added source of frustration. After all, dealing with infertility is stressful in itself. However, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense. Your body knows that when you’re stressed, you need to conserve energy. In our busy modern lives, stress is often chronic. It’s day in and day out at work, and then very little time to socialize, have fun, relax and have downtime. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands produce more of the “stress hormones” adrenaline and cortisol. Stress also increases a hormone called prolactin. All of these suppress ovulation, not to mention causing low libido (which is definitely counterproductive for conception!)

Thyroid Health

Another hormonal issue that can affect ovulation is having low levels of thyroid hormone, a condition called hypothyroidism. Also hyperthyroidism, or high levels of thyroid hormone, can affect ovulation. You’re probably starting to understand why achieving the right hormone balance is so important! Your thyroid hormone plays a big role in letting your ovaries know when to ovulate or regulating the speed with which your testes are working. So when your thyroid hormone levels are out of whack, ovulation and sperm production can be too.

Signs of hypothyroidism include difficulty losing weight, easy weight gain, slow metabolism, hair loss, feeling tired or sluggish and feeling chilly all the time. Signs of hyperthyroidism include heart palpitations, weight loss, anxiety, difficulty sleeping or insomnia.

Chemical Exposure

Exposure to certain chemicals – in your foods, packaging, your clothing, cleaning products, beauty care and elsewhere – impacts fertility levels for both men and women. You don’t have to work with toxic substances to experience the effects. Even a fairly healthy standard American diet introduces pesticides that negatively impact our reproductive systems. Removing the toxins from your system requires our naturopathic doctors‘ professional guidance but it’s well worth it for improving your overall health and fertility.

How You Can Take Charge Of Your Fertility

As we can see from the list above, treating infertility is complex. Is there anything you can do on your own to improve your fertility? The most important thing is to act now if you have concerns. Don’t forget: Conception requires careful timing, so you do want to address any issues right away. It also takes some time to create optimal fertility. Here are some steps that help with fertility issues.

1. Visit a Naturopathic Doctor that is infertility-trained.

Proper testing to see what’s really going on with your whole body gives us a better picture. Treating infertility involves addressing your overall health, not just your reproductive system. While your hormones play a key role so do many other factors. We will work together to help prepare your body for conception. We’ll eliminate the stress of wondering if there is more you could do and relieve your feelings of overwhelm about where to start!

2. Manage your stress levels.

We understand that this is easier said than done, especially when you’re worried about fertility. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle if you start to get stressed about being stressed! Meditation is a good way to consciously address your emotional concerns. Fertility-centred psychotherapy is also a good idea to help you take the edge off. Adding in as many stress-busting activities as possible also helps. Exercise, massage therapy, yoga, reading a book, taking a long walk outside, or having a warm bath all help to lower cortisol levels.

3. Improve your diet.

One recent study found that women who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables with high pesticide levels were less likely to conceive. So choose organic produce when possible, or opt for produce that doesn’t typically have as many pesticide residues. Think of produce with a thick skin that protects the fruit like avocados or oranges. An excellent resource for finding the produce with the least pesticide residues is the Clean Fifteen list, published by the Environmental Working Group. They also publish a list of which produce to either avoid or only eat if it is organic called The Dirty Dozen.

In addition, certain foods have been associated with higher fertility levels. Your Naturopathic Doctor will help you to determine the best diet for your needs. In general, you want to ensure you’re getting adequate levels of folate, Omega 3’s, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D.

4. Limit toxic exposure.

Both males and females should think about the chemicals they’re exposed to every day when they’re trying to conceive. In addition to possible herbicides and pesticides on produce, frequent exposure to x-rays, radiation, cigarette smoke, alcohol, toxins in the home and self-care products that you use every day all impact infertility. In addition, workplace hazards like exposure to lead and cadmium damage eggs and sperm and upset the hormonal balance required for peak fertility.

Next Steps

If you’re concerned about your fertility, give us a call at 416-481-0222. Together we can dive deeper and see where your issues are, and create a clear treatment program. Fertility is a common issue, just know that you are not alone and that we successfully treat many men and women with fertility issues at our clinic, even people who have been unsuccessful at fertility clinics.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, Bsc(Hons), ND

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3279129/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885174/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6016043/

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/27/meditation-fertility_n_5256027.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31035310

Are You Happy?

Did You Know You Have a Baseline Level of Happiness?

It might seem like a simple question, but for many people, happiness feels like an impossible goal. In fact, studies show that only about one in three people consistently identify as “happy.”

If that seems a bit depressing, rest easy. The steps to living a happier life are easy. And no, those steps don’t involve winning the lottery. Believe it or not, most lottery winners have the same level of happiness as they had before hitting the jackpot. Researchers call this the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation”. What it means is that no matter what happens to us, we repeatedly return to a baseline level of happiness. This occurs whether there are positive or negative changes to our circumstances. Crazy right?!

What is Happiness?

Happiness is defined as feeling a sense of joy, well-being, or contentment.

Happiness Comes from Within

The simple truth is that living a happier life starts from within. Becoming happier involves a change in our internal circumstances. That may sound a bit far fetched, but the science of happiness has found consistent patterns in people who live their lives with joy.

What are the Health Benefits of Happiness?

There’s a lot of motivation to become a happy person. In addition to making our days more pleasurable, happiness offers many health benefits, including:

  • Better cardiovascular health through lowering your heart rate and blood pressure
  • Strengthening your immune system
  • Lower levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol
  • A better response to pain

What Makes People Happy?

Research shows that predictors of happiness and well-being include having high-quality social interaction, enjoying a better standard of living, and being satisfied with one’s own health.

Interestingly, a study on whether people equate happiness with social connections like friends, family and love, found that people with lower financial resources do so more than people with greater financial resources.

Another study analysed the association between household income and tendencies to experience 7 positive emotions that are central to happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love, and pride. This study confirmed previous ones showing that income contributes to patterns of attending to oneself versus orienting to others. Higher income was associated with greater feelings of contentment and pride, and with greater amusement. Lower income was associated with more other-oriented feelings of compassion and love, and with greater awe.

The Happiness Checklist

Take a look at this happiness checklist to see the areas of your own life that could provide a happiness boost.

  1. Is your gut healthy and happy?
  2. Are you surrounded by happy people?
  3. Are you connected with nature?
  4. How is your exercise?
  5. Do you get enough rest?
  6. Do you volunteer to help others?
  7. Can you forgive?
  8. Do you practice gratitude?

Is your gut healthy and happy?

When we say happiness starts from within, we mean it literally. More research is finding that our gut bacteria have a profound influence on our moods. Researchers call this dynamic the “gut-brain-axis.” In simple terms, when our gut is inflamed, we experience increased levels of anxiety and depression. That’s because your gut contains microbes that produce substances that control your mood like serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical called a neurotransmitter that helps us to feel happy. More serotonin is produced in your gut than anywhere else in your body, including in your brain. In addition, your gut and your brain are connected by a complex network of nerves. Inflammation in your gut means a great deal of stimulus being sent directly to your brain. It can make it difficult to relax, feel calm and sleep.

Diet Changes for Gut Health and Your Mood

What can you eat to feel happier? Try these 3 steps:

  1. Focus on high-fiber whole foods (broccoli, kale unprocessed grains)
  2. Eat foods with plenty of Omega-3 fats (fish)
  3. Enjoy fermented foods (yogourt, kefir, kim chi, sauerkraut). Fermented foods can positively influence your brain activity!

Are you around other happy people?

You really can catch a good mood. One study found that happiness can go viral. In other words, being around people who are upbeat and feel good about their lives can impact your own happiness levels. The study didn’t just consider the impact of your immediate family’s moods. It also took into account your neighbour’s moods. And being around a happy person has a domino effect. Your own increased happiness then influences those around you, and so on. The whole process is not unlike transmitting a cold – but much healthier!

This viral transmission of happiness may stem from the fact that even if you don’t feel happy, if you force yourself to smile, you will feel happier. Smiling back at those happy people can’t help but make you feel happy.

Positivity breeds positivity!

Do you get a regular dose of Vitamin N (for Nature)?

Spending time in natural environments boosts happiness levels in several ways. In one study, those who were more connected to nature had:

  • a more positive mood
  • greater vitality, and
  • increased life satisfaction

Nature enhances healing and enables growth. Interestingly, the effects of nature are stronger in women than men, and stronger in older adults than their younger counterparts.

Are you moving enough?

You probably know that exercise triggers the release of the feel-good endorphins that improve your mood. However, you may not realize that you don’t have to make a big investment in fitness to reap the benefits. In fact, endorphins can kick in quickly. One study found that it only takes 20 minutes of walking outside to experience a boost in your mood. Exercising outside versus inside, also helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol have been linked to major depression.

Do you get enough rest?

It’s important to note that rest is just as important as exercise. Adequate sleep’s effect on our brain is to help us to focus on the positive. Being sleep-deprived makes us more sensitive to negative emotions. In another study, researchers found that people who don’t get enough sleep recall unpleasant memories much more quickly than people getting enough sleep.

Do you help others?

Acts of kindness are another way that happiness spreads. In other words, by making others happy, you feel happier. Doing something nice for someone else, whether it’s donating to charity, volunteering your time, or simply holding the door for another person, makes us feel better about ourselves. And if you think you’re too busy or too stressed to donate your time, consider this: One study found that 78 percent of people who volunteer say it lowers their stress levels. And in another study, people felt happier after buying something for someone else than they did after treating themselves!

Can you forgive?

Forgiving others may ultimately be a kindness to yourself. By forgiveness, we don’t necessarily mean letting bad behavior slide or turning into a pushover. Instead, focus on letting go of resentment and anger. Those negative emotions are not helping you. They often keep you stuck in the past instead of moving forward. And studies show that a more forgiving attitude leads to multiple physical and emotional benefits.

Are you grateful?

Gratitude for what we have also increases happiness levels. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. For example, if you keep a gratitude journal, you will look for things you’re grateful for to record in it throughout the course of your day. Over time, you’ll find yourself focusing on the positive.

How Can an ND Help with Happiness?

Our naturopathic doctors help people feel happier by:

  1. Balancing hormones. Healthy hormone balance is crucial to having a healthy mood.
  2. Helping you maintain a healthy gut. We are gut health experts. We can balance your microbiome and fix issues like IBS, leaky gut, Candida, SIBO, Crohn’s and colitis.
  3. Lifestyle counselling. Getting you on track with exercise, eating right, sleeping properly and spending time in nature helps you maintain a positive mind-set.
  4. Helping you achieve your health goals. Whatever your health goals are, we help set out a plan to take you there.

How Can a Psychotherapist Help with Happiness?

If you are feeling stuck, making a change, going through a life transition, having guidance and support can make all the difference. A psychotherapist gives you the tools you need to navigate difficult times successfully.

How Can a Massage Therapist, Osteopath, Acupuncturist or Chiropractor help with Happiness?

Well, if you are living with chronic pain, your mood will be negatively affected. In fact, that’s one of the causes of depression. Non-pharmaceutical pain relief from massage therapy, osteopathy or chiropractic does wonders for mood.

How did you do on the checklist? Are you interested in improving your happiness levels? As you can see, living life happily requires a holistic approach. If you’d like to work together for a happier, more fulfilling life, give us a call and let’s do this together. Science and nature are a powerful combination! Call 416-481-0222 to get started today.

5 Best Happiness Quotes

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” 
― Dr. Seuss

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” 
― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” 
― Abraham Lincoln

Sources

https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/content/dam/UHG/PDF/2013/UNH-Health-Volunteering-Study.pdf

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161005102254.htm

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Safaria_Triantoro/publication/275025845_Forgivness_Gratitude_and_Happiness_among_College_Students/links/552f3cf00cf2acd38cbbf270.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197458005002769\

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97848789https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2011/04/how-to-quickly-and-easiy-feel-happier-and-mor/#ixzz2b36XGs00

https://my.happify.com/hd/forgiving-others-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-for-yourself/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3839572/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29867302

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25249992

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30123175

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30870075

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29251946

Eating Healthy But Can’t Lose Weight? It May Be Insulin Resistance

woman with belly fat that can't lose weight because of insulin resistance
Wondering Why You Can’t Lose Weight?

Stubborn Weight Loss

You eat “right” and exercise, but somehow those stubborn extra pounds just keep coming and they won’t leave. Even worse, they have settled in at your midsection. What is happening to your figure?

It is possible to eat healthy and still struggle with your weight

It is easy to blame weight gain on the hormonal shifts that come with age. But, these changes are not necessarily due to andropause or menopause alone. Instead, insulin resistance could be the root of the problem.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by specialized cells in your pancreas known as beta cells.

What Does Insulin Do?

Let’s look at what insulin does in your body. It helps your body to use sugar from your food by transferring it into your cells for them to use for energy. A healthy insulin level rises after a meal, and goes down once your blood sugar returns to normal. This rise in insulin is proportionate to the amount of carbs and sugar in the meal. This natural fluctuation of insulin is what keeps your blood sugar in a healthy balance.

What is Insulin Resistance?

When your body’s cells can’t respond to insulin properly, they become “insulin resistant”. This means that your blood sugar levels rise higher than they should, even when your pancreas is making a lot of insulin.

How Does Insulin Affect Your Weight?

Excessively high blood sugar and insulin have many harmful effects. They cause damage throughout your body. So your body has a back-up plan to protect itself from high blood sugars; it stores the extra energy by converting it to fat, often around your midsection.

This perpetual fat production is why high blood sugar and insulin levels make it hard to lose weight.

More Than Just a Spare Tire – Insulin’s Many Negative Roles

It’s important to note that insulin plays a role in many body functions. So, insulin resistance can affect other facets of your health in addition to giving you a spare tire. In fact, up to 50 percent of people who are insulin resistant go on to develop life-changing, chronic conditions like diabetes. And, insulin resistance has been linked to the development of several types of cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

At the hormone level, insulin is an intricate part of many systems in your body. For both men and women, insulin influences the production and performance of your reproductive hormones. For example, high insulin levels can magnify menopausal symptoms. For women who are struggling to manage hot flashes, mood changes, weight or other menopause symptoms, being insulin resistant can make it even harder to regain control of their hormones. For men, insulin lowers testosterone and increases estrogen. Consequently, there can be depression, loss of muscle mass, low libido and many other detrimental effects.

What are the Symptoms of Insulin Resistance?

Despite its widespread effects, insulin resistance can be difficult to diagnose. In fact, many people don’t experience any symptoms until they are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, your best first step should be to talk to your naturopathic doctor or other healthcare provider:

  • Velvety dark patches of skin in your groin, neck, or armpits (a condition called acanthosis nigricans)
  • Abnormal fatigue
  • Cravings for sweet or salty food
  • Increased hunger
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • High waist-to-hip ratio (if you’re female, measure your waist and hips, then divide the number you measured for your waist by your hip measurement. If the result is higher than 0.8, your ratio is on the higher end. For men, a result greater than 1.0 is concerning.)

How Can You Test for Insulin Resistance?

There are several blood tests that look at your blood sugar level:

  • glycated or glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c)
  • fasting blood sugar
  • random blood sugar
  • 2-hour post-consumption glucose and
  • oral glucose tolerance test

Of these, the best way to measure insulin resistance is by doing an oral glucose tolerance test WITH insulin measurements.

This test involves going to a lab after you have been fasting for 12 hours. There, they will collect a fasting blood test for glucose and insulin. Then, they will give you a sugary drink, with a known amount of glucose in it, often 75-100 grams. After that, blood tests for glucose and insulin are collected at 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, 120 minutes and 180 minutes after drinking this drink. After the drink, it is expected that your blood sugar will rise and then return to normal within 2 hours. An abnormal test would show that either your blood sugar did not return to normal within 2 hours, or that you had to make an excessive amount of insulin in order to get it to return to normal. Most times when this test is done, only the glucose measurements are done. However, this only provides half of the information you need to determine insulin resistance. Our naturopathic doctors can order proper insulin resistance testing for you.

7 Risk Factors For Insulin Resistance

Our bodies need carbohydrates in small to moderate amounts depending on our level of physical activity. However, consuming more carbohydrates than your body needs, contributes to insulin resistance.

Risk factors for insulin resistance include:

  • Being overweight, particularly if you are “apple-shaped” rather than “pear-shaped”
  • High carb and/or sugar diet
  • Genetics. Some people who develop insulin resistance don’t have other risk factors. If you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or diabetes, you may have inherited genes that mean you need to be even more careful about preventing insulin resistance.
  • Inactivity or sedentary lifestyle
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Medications, including antidepressants and corticosteroids
  • Certain medical conditions, including:

Can you Improve Insulin Resistance Naturally?

The good news is that lifestyle changes can dramatically improve the balance of insulin in your body. They also also have a positive impact on other hormones – particularly the hormones that affect your quality of life at middle age and beyond.

Examine your diet

If you are struggling with balancing insulin and blood sugar, you should aim to eliminate unnecessary carbohydrates from your diet as much as possible. That means no sugar, flour or flour-based products, or sugar sweetened beverages. Try to eliminate or at least limit alcohol as well.

An added bonus of cutting back on sweets and starchy foods is weight loss. Having too much body fat, especially around your middle, contributes to insulin resistance. Of course, this creates a vicious cycle, since as we discussed insulin resistance makes it harder to lose weight. It is important to make healthy, long-term diet changes. One study found that losing just five to seven per cent of your body weight improves insulin resistance.

However, don’t restrict calories too aggressively. You don’t want to stress your body. Stress raises your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. High cortisol levels wreak havoc on your insulin and blood sugar balance. So, focus on getting your energy from whole foods without starving yourself. Our ND’s and Registered Dietitian are great resources for diet and nutrition advice. They can come up with a weight loss meal plan just for you.

Quit smoking

Let’s add “insulin resistance” to the long list of reasons not to smoke. This is another step that sounds easier than it often turns out to be. If you smoke, you don’t have have to give it up alone. We’re here to help! We have ways and means to make quitting easier. Talk to one of our ND’s or our Psychotherapist for help.

Supplements

Certain supplements can help as well. Making sure that you’re taking the right ones, which are a good fit for you, is best discussed with your naturopathic doctor.

Reduce your stress

This is always easier said than done, but it’s important to keep your cortisol levels balanced. We will work together to find a stress-reduction plan that works for you. Talk to one of our ND’s or our Psychotherapist or book a massage to get your stress level down.

Get enough sleep

Studies show that even one night of bad sleep or less than 4 hours of sleep negatively affects your insulin levels the next day. Aim for 8 hours per night, every night.

Get more exercise

Many studies have linked physical activity with improved insulin levels. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed though, even moderate levels of daily activity can help. The key is avoid long periods of being extremely sedentary.

In fact, especially for middle-aged women, workouts that are too intense raises your cortisol levels. This, in turn, raises insulin your levels, which will be counterproductive. So, getting creative with your exercise becomes more important as you get older. In addition to increasing moderate exercise, aim to increase your other daily movements. For example, park a bit further away, do the dishes by hand at the end of the evening, or even just stretch for a few minutes at home. Even little bits of activity can add up.

Best Exercise for People Over 50

Three of the best exercises for people over the age of 50 are:

  • Long walks outside. Being outside lowers cortisol. Walking is a gentle exercise that almost anyone can safely do. Walking for one to two hours per day helps to burn an additional 200-300 calories per hour.
  • Restorative yoga. This helps to restore your body, maintains your flexibility, balance and strength.
  • Weight training. Weight lifting helps to maintain your muscle mass and bone density, helps you burn more calories even while you sleep and maintains a healthy level of growth hormone in your body.

As you can see from the information above, our bodies and our health are very intricate. When something goes amiss in one area, the effects are felt in many other areas. This dynamic is particularly true when it comes to middle-age, insulin and hormones. Even if you don’t have any obvious symptoms of insulin resistance, addressing your insulin levels is one of the best overall wellness and disease prevention measures you can take.

If you are wondering about your insulin levels, how your blood sugar is behaving, your hormones, insulin resistance and what it may be doing to your weight loss efforts, call us at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online any time here.

By Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Sources:

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance#resistance

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2551669/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20371664

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2895000/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501863/

What Does Your Poo Say About You?

Healthy poop chart

Your Poop and Your Health

Let’s chat about your poop, feces, poo, excrement or bowel movements.

Did you just cringe a bit? Let’s face it, poop isn’t anybody’s favourite topic. Nonetheless, our bowel movements hold valuable clues to our overall health. But these signs are often ignored because most of us are a bit uncomfortable talking about them – even to our healthcare providers. Or, our concerns about stool quality are glossed over or brushed off.

Your Appointment With Us is a Judgement-Free Zone

Keep in mind that your naturopathic doctor cares about such things as the quality of your stool. We will not be shocked or uncomfortable if you talk about your poop. In fact, that’s part of our job! We really want to get to the bottom of your health issues (no pun intended). Sometimes that means talking about things that fall under the category of “too much information”. We need to know all of your symptoms, even things that may seem unrelated or unimportant, in order to put your health puzzle together. So, if you have a concern, no matter what it relates to, please don’t hesitate to bring it up.

Your Poop is a Reflection of Your Health

The appearance and smell of your poop is a direct reflection of your gut health. Your gut health has a massive impact on your overall health. As well as helping you absorb all of your nutrients, your digestive system interacts with your nervous system and your detoxification pathways. Changes in your bowel habits can indicate changes in other parts of your body – from excessive nervous system stress, to liver problems, to cancers.

The good news is that we don’t have to go into great detail here describing the various types of bowel movements and what they signify. There’s already a chart that shows various problems and what to look for. It is called the Bristol Stool Chart and you’ll find it here: http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs-wm/46082.pdf. It was named after the hospital that developed it in 1997.

The Healthy Poop Chart

The Bristol Stool Chart looks at:

  • Your ease of passing stool – it should be fairly easy
  • The smell – sure there will be a smell to it, it is waste after all, but it shouldn’t be particularly foul smelling.
  • The consistency of your stool – the stool should be solid and uniform in texture without bits of undigested stool in it
  • The colour – the colour should be a medium or chocolate brown. Green poop can be from something you have eaten or can be because your stool is passing through your gut too quickly for intestinal bacteria to break down bile. This is what creates the normal stool colour.
  • How often you have a bowel movement – anything from one to three times per day, every day is considered to be normal
  • How completely you empty your bowels – bowel movements should feel complete.
  • And any additional red flags – red flags include blood in your stool, mucous in your stool, chronic constipation or diarrhea and chronic undigested food.

What The Bristol Stool Chart Means for You

To summarize the Bristol Stool Chart, you should have a daily bowel movement that is well-formed, medium brown in colour and not too smelly. If you see blood or mucus, or if you feel that anything about your stool doesn’t seem ideal, you should talk to your naturopathic doctor. We can address or rule out any issues that require medical help. The chart can help identify mild constipation, severe constipation, normal stools and inflammation in your gut.

Talk About Embarrassing!

Two of the more common but embarrassing issues related to bowels are fecal incontinence and itchy anus (or anusitis).

Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is where stool leaks from your rectum between bowel movements. You may notice staining of your underwear. It may happen when you pass gas or unpredictably. Incontinence may be associated with a bout of diarrhea, or may be accompanied by constipation or excessive gas. The causes of fecal incontinence include:

  • Muscle damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Complications of surgery or childbirth
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammation in your bowels

Our naturopathic doctors can help identify the cause and help improve your digestion, the tone of your GI tract and remove sources of inflammation.

Itchy Anus, Anusitis or Proctitis

Anusitis is inflammation of the lining of the anal canal. Proctitis is inflammation of the skin of the rectum. Rectal itching (pruritis) is a sign of inflammation or infection. You may also notice bleeding or a burning sensation. Our naturopathic doctors can help identify the cause of the itching. We can help relieve itching, remove infections and identify food sensitivities that cause itching. Here’s why you shouldn’t ignore rectal itching: chronic inflammation can lead to bigger health issues like rectal cancer.

7 Simple Steps to Improve Your Poop

If you’ve ruled out a medical condition, but still feel that things are not moving quite like they should be, here are a few ways to improve your bowel movements.

Pay attention to your diet

Fiber keeps things moving by adding some bulk to your stool. For extra fiber, think seeds, beans, fresh fruit and vegetables. If you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, increase your fiber intake slowly to avoid upsetting your stomach or creating too much gas. Always make sure to up your water intake alongside extra fiber. In addition, make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats from sources such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil. If food is moving through too quickly, causing loose stool or diarrhea, good fats help to slow digestion down a bit. This gives food more time to digest fully.

Pay close attention to how particular foods affect your digestion. If you experience IBS symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, try keeping a diary of what you eat, and the symptoms you experience. We can help you set up an effective tracking system to monitor your diet. Alternatively, our naturopathic doctors can order food sensitivity testing for you to efficiently pinpoint which foods are causing trouble.

Choose medication carefully

Many medications can cause constipation as a side effect. It is important to be aware of this and adjust your diet accordingly to compensate for this effect. Avoid laxative medications as much as possible. Your body quickly becomes dependent on them. Some evidence also links the chronic use of laxatives to colorectal cancer. Talk with your naturopathic doctor about natural solutions for medication-induced constipation if diet alone isn’t enough.

Drink lots of water

Aim for the proverbial eight cups of water per day. It’s particularly important to get enough water if you have recently increased your fiber intake. Not only are our stools 75 percent water, but your bowel muscles need plenty of hydration to work their best. Water in your stool also keeps it softer and easier to pass. I have seen patients where even one or two more glasses of water per day made a difference in regularity.

Increase your body movement

Exercise stimulates your digestion. Studies suggest that digestion is better if you exercise regularly and, if possible, at the same time each day.

In fact, sitting for too long overall can lead to constipation regardless of your physical activity level. This is another reason to stand up and walk around every 30 minutes or so throughout your work day. How you move your body also matters. Did you know that some yoga poses are designed to help with digestion?

Get into a routine and don’t suppress the urge to go

If you feel like you’ve gotta go, don’t ignore that feeling! Fighting the urge to poop can lead to constipation. Setting aside a specific time of the day can help you stay regular. Good digestion requires good parasympathetic nervous system activity. This is the part of your nervous system that helps you rest, digest, relax and sleep. If you’re always stressed out or on the go, your nervous system will be in sympathetic or fight or flight mode. That works against good digestion.

Squat to poop

As well, consider the way you sit on the toilet. Over the course of history, toilets themselves are a pretty recent invention. In nature, we would have squatted to have a bowel movement. Many people find that bringing their feet up onto a stool can help bring them into a squatting position which makes bowel movements easier. Check out the Squatty potty for more info on aids for better positioning.

Talk openly

Don’t hesitate to come into the office and have an open talk if you have any concerns or questions about your bowel movements. Your stool can be a good indicator that your body has something going on that needs attention. It’s always better to bring up a concern than to ignore it or worry about it! Call us at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online to speak to one of our ND’s.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25223576

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/may/18/truth-about-poo-doing-it-wrong-giulia-enders-squatting

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15043514

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430892/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30880096

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30880096

Do You Have Undiagnosed Thyroid Problems?

woman with thyroid problems having a thyroid ultrasound
Do you have thyroid problems?

Your thyroid is your body’s gas pedal. It regulates the speed and performance of the rest of your system. Your energy levels, metabolism, and heart rate are all controlled by this small but vital, butterfly-shaped gland. Thyroid hormones are essential for growth, brain development, fertility and the production of energy. Thyroid hormones stimulate the production of new mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy-generators in each of your cells. Without enough thyroid hormone, your mitochondria aren’t able to produce as much energy as they should. Having a slow or underactive thyroid is called hypothyroidism. At the other end of the spectrum, your body can go into “overdrive” if it produces too much thyroid hormone. This is called hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid Problems are Often Un-diagnosed

With so much impact on your overall health and well-being, maintaining healthy thyroid hormone levels is important. Did you know that one in eight women produce either too much or not enough thyroid hormone? Women are at higher risk for thyroid issues than men. Hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause make women more vulnerable to thyroid issues. The risk for both genders increases with age. In fact, the stats for those with undiagnosed thyroid disease are shocking. One study found that 6.71% of the population has an undiagnosed thyroid problem. Of course, as naturopathic doctors, we dig deep to find the root of thyroid concerns rather than just attribute your symptoms to age or menopause.

TSH, The Thyroid Regulating Hormone

To understand how your thyroid can wreak havoc on your health, you need to understand how it works. Your thyroid sits in your neck. There it performs the vital task of secreting thyroid hormone. This in turn triggers a cascade of other hormones and processes throughout your body. The key point about thyroid hormone is that your body is very sensitive to the amounts it receives. Any imbalances can have far reaching repercussions.

The amount of hormone your thyroid secretes is controlled by the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. In other words, TSH is the “master” hormone that directs your thyroid. It’s produced by your pituitary gland in your brain.

Lab ranges for TSH are notoriously broad. You can have signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid BEFORE your TSH falls outside this wide lab range. This is called subclinical hypothyroidism.

When Your Immune System Attacks Your Thyroid

Further complicating the health of your thyroid is the fact that it is vulnerable to immune system attacks. This causes autoimmunity or autoimmune thyroid problems. The autoimmune disorder Grave’s disease causes too much thyroid hormone to be produced. In contrast, the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s causes your immune system to attack your thyroid, slowing down thyroid hormone production.

What causes auto-immune thyroid problems?

That’s a great question and one that doesn’t yet have a conclusive answer. Your immune system is programmed to recognize your body and to know NOT to attack it. In autoimmunity, the immune system appears to have gone rogue.

Researchers hypothesize that it may be that a virus gained access to your thyroid at some point when your immune system was low. Maybe you didn’t sleep well, you were super-stressed or you were not eating well, all things that can lower your immune function. This allowed an infectious agent, like a virus to enter your thyroid. Now that there is a virus inside your thyroid, your immune system attacks the thyroid tissue to get at the virus. There is extensive research showing that individuals with auto-immune thyroid often have Epstein-Barr virus in their thyroids. Epstein-Barr virus is the virus that causes mono. To help auto-immune thyroid, then, our naturopathic doctors aim to help your immune system tackle this virus so there is no longer a need to attack your thyroid.

Your thyroid can also become inflamed. This is called thyroiditis. Tackling this type of thyroid problem means addressing the source of the inflammation. Your thyroid may also develop nodules or small abnormal growths. Sometimes this is associated with thyroid auto-immunity. It is also associated with iodine excess and iodine deficiency.

Hypothyroidism: When Your Thyroid Slows Down

If your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, your body slows down. This results in a condition called hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism causes many troublesome symptoms.The symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

Could You be Experiencing Hypothyroid Symptoms?

Despite this long list of issues, about 60 percent of people with hypothyroidism aren’t aware that they have it. One reason for this is that it’s easy to blame thyroid symptoms on other factors like lack of sleep, a poor diet or growing older. As well, thyroid symptoms tend to develop slowly. We often blame ourselves for weight gain when there is actually a medical explanation for it.

If you experience any of the symptoms above, it’s a good idea to dig deeper and figure out the root cause. Our naturopathic doctors can assist you with thorough thyroid testing. We do much more than just testing your TSH. These uncomfortable symptoms do not have to be part of your life.

Hyperthyroidism: The Consequences of an Overactive Thyroid

In contrast, when your body produces too much thyroid hormone, this condition is called hyperthyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, your body’s functions accelerate. Although this might sound appealing, many of the symptoms are debilitating. Some signs of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Feeling hot all the time
  • Anxiety
  • A rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Missed periods
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis

As with hypothyroidism, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are often blamed on other issues, such as stress or anxiety.

Why Are Thyroid Problems Hard to Diagnose?

With so many symptoms, you would think that thyroid dysfunction would be easy to pick up. Not so. One challenging problem with identifying thyroid issues is that most doctors only run one test for your thyroid. They only test the amount of TSH in your blood. However, testing this one hormone doesn’t give the complete picture of your thyroid health. A more holistic approach which tests various hormone levels yields more information and leads to more effective treatment. This is what our ND’s do.

Prevention: How can you Prevent Thyroid Problems?

Unfortunately, the prevention of thyroid disease isn’t always possible. Sometimes genetics play a role in it. But, even if you have inherited the genes for thyroid problems, how much or how little you express those genes can be altered by certain health choices. Other risk factors for thyroid dysfunction include chronic stress and a personal or family history of autoimmune diseases. In addition, more research is pointing to the role of environmental factors in disrupting thyroid function. Our naturopathic doctors will address all the factors that contribute to thyroid issues when they are crafting your treatment plan.

Addressing the lifestyle factors that inflame your body helps to stabilize thyroid hormones whatever the cause of your imbalance.

6 DIY strategies for improving your thyroid health

Eat to protect your gut health

Maintaining enough good bacteria in your gut, keeps it healthy, protects your immune system and reduces your risk of autoimmune problems. Include lots of high-fiber foods in your diet every day. Broccoli, kale, and whole grains like quinoa make excellent high fiber options.

Reduce your stress

Stress interferes with thyroid function by slowing the production of TSH. It also increases the production of an inactive form of thyroid hormone, called reverse T3. Addressing your stress levels is important. If you can’t get rid of stress, exercise is a good way to both reduce its effects and improve your metabolism.

Cut your sugar intake

Your thyroid is a crucial component of your endocrine (hormonal) system. Sugar is managed by another vital organ in this interconnected system, your pancreas. The endocrine organs work together to keep your body working optimally. There is a complex relationship between diabetes and thyroid disease. One study identified thyroid dysfunction in 48% of diabetic patients. Clearly, better managing your glucose levels can help stabilize your thyroid.

Watch your iodine intake

Iodine is essential for good thyroid function, but too much also leads to thyroid problems. Iodized salt, seaweed, and some seafood contain high levels of iodine. Be careful not to overdo the seaweed snacks. I have seen at least one person who did and overdosed on iodine as a result.

Pay attention to how gluten makes you feel

People with Celiac disease are three times more likely to have a thyroid problem. Celiac disease interferes with the absorption of nutrients such as iodine. If you have trouble digesting gluten, consider eliminating it or get tested for Celiac disease. If it is negative, you may still have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity that our food allergy test will identify.

Look for high-fiber foods

High fiber foods are especially helpful if you’re hypothyroid. Having hypothyroidism can slow your digestive system and lead to constipation, so you want to focus on keeping things moving. As mentioned above, high-fiber foods help your good gut bacteria thrive. Fibrous foods fill you up so you eat less, which helps weight management. Fiber also slows down the rise in blood sugar that happens after a meal.

In general, the key is to focus on a whole-foods diet that will reduce inflammation. Avoiding artificial ingredients and regulating your blood sugar will reduce dietary stress and help maintain your thyroid health.

I’m Concerned About My Thyroid. What’s the Next Step?

When it comes to resolving thyroid issues, early detection is the key. It is much easier to deal with a thyroid problem when it is caught early. It’s also important to complete thorough thyroid testing. Evaluating thyroid hormone levels is complex and often not properly diagnosed within the conventional healthcare system. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms of thyroid disease – either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism – give us a call at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online. Thyroid problems, diagnosed or undiagnosed, do not have to affect your daily life. Our naturopathic doctors can help.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Science-based Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030460

https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-manage-stress-if-you-have-autoimmune-thyroid-disease

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/healthy-eating-for-a-healty-thyroid

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30060266

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16580033

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27959843

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25931043

Candida or Yeast Overgrowth

Candida or Yeast Overgrowth Can Make You Really Tired

How to Get Rid of Candida Naturally

Do you have a white coating on your tongue? Circular skin rashes with a white centre? Bloating? Constipation? Vaginal irritation? You’re always craving sweets? You could be suffering from a yeast overgrowth.

What is Candida Albicans?

Candida albicans is the most common kind of yeast that co-exists with humans. It is normally harmless to people when it is present in small amounts. There are many other strains of yeast that can inhabit your gut. There are almost 200 known Candida species, although few of them are a threat to humans. The most important species are C. albicansC. dubliniensisC. tropicalisC. Parapsilosis, C. glabrataC. kruseiC. guilliermondii, and C. Lusitaniae. Other medically important species of fungi include Histoplasma capsulatum, Cryptococcus neoformans and Aspergillus fumigatus.

However, as anyone who’s ever baked bread knows, yeast likes to grow. It is a fungus, after all. Candida is considered to be an “opportunistic pathogen”. This means that if it gets the opportunity to cause disease, it can. Under normal conditions in your gut, your healthy gut bacteria keeps intestinal yeast growth in check. This maintains a balance between bacteria and yeast.

The fragile balance between your gut bacteria and yeast

This delicate balance is, however, easily upset. For example, we can lose beneficial bacteria from taking even one round of antibiotics. We can encourage yeast growth by bingeing on sugar and refined carbs. Estrogen dominance, birth control pills and stress all allow yeast to multiply. The result? Yeast overgrowth.

Is gut Candida overgrowth the same as a yeast infection?

Most people are familiar with a couple of the different kinds of local yeast infections.

Thrush

A Candida yeast infection in your mouth is called oral thrush.

Symptoms of oral thrush include:

  • white, bumpy patches in your mouth
  • a white coating on your tongue
  • if you try to scrape the white coating off your tongue, there are pinpoint bleeding spots
  • cracks at the corners of your mouth
  • difficulty swallowing

Vaginal Yeast Infections

The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:

  • vaginal redness
  • vaginal swelling
  • itchiness of the vagina and surrounding area
  • an unpleasant white, chunky discharge

These reactions are typically immediately noticeable – and very annoying.

In contrast, a gut Candida overgrowth can be much more subtle and difficult to determine. Candida overgrowth’s impact may be more troublesome and even life-threatening. When your good gut bacteria decreases and yeast multiplies, the overall effect on your body can be far-reaching.

How does Candida overgrowth work?

Disease-causing yeasts have properties that allow them to overcome your defenses. These include the ability to stick to the gut wall and invade tissues. Also, certain strains of yeast have developed escape mechanisms, to avoid being eliminated by your immune system.

When Candida grows unchecked, it attaches to and sends roots through the lining of your intestine. This creates “leaky gut” syndrome where the barrier of your intestinal wall is weak. As the name suggests, leaky gut syndrome allows undigested food, bacteria, and toxins to “leak” from your intestine into your system.

When your immune system is faced with undigested food, bacteria and toxins, it sees them as unknown invaders. That causes it to kick into overdrive trying to neutralize these things it doesn’t recognize, things that it perceives as a potential threat. This immune system hyper-activation leads to a number of symptoms ranging from inflammation to autoimmune diseases.

Candida overgrowth is often overlooked or misdiagnosed because the symptoms vary so widely. It is also not something that conventional doctors would ever test you for. If you’re experiencing autoimmune symptoms, having a foggy brain, or dealing with digestive issues, it’s possible that a gut Candida overgrowth could be the underlying problem.

Who is most at risk for Candida overgrowth?

Certain populations are more susceptible to yeast overgrowth. These include premature infants, elderly, pregnant or menopausal women, diabetics, alcoholics, and anyone taking immunsuppressants or antibiotics.

What are the symptoms of Candida overgrowth?

So how would you know if you have a Candida overgrowth? Here are the signs and symptoms:

  1. Despite your best intentions, you have strong cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. Candida wants to keep eating and multiplying, so a taste of sugar will leave you wanting more!
  2. You feel itchy all over, especially, and certainly embarrassingly, in your anal or vaginal areas.
  3. Fungal infections. You suffer from athlete’s foot, toenail fungus or other unexplained itchy foot rashes.
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome. Your digestion feels out of whack. You experience a lot of gassiness, constipation, diarrhea and bloating.
  5. You experience mood swings and frustration for no obvious reason. Or you frequently feel anxious or depressed, even though you are doing your best to look after your emotional well-being. Did you know that depression is considered by some to be an inflammatory condition of the brain? Candida overgrowth may be the stimulous for that inflammation.
  6. Unexplained joint pain that makes it hard to keep up with your exercise routine. Sadly, that lack of exercise is only worsening your other symptoms. You want to work out and you know that you should, but it’s painful.
  7. Fatigue. If other causes of fatigue like hypothyroidism, iron deficiency and allergies have been ruled out, yeast overgrowth may be the issue. Particularly if there are other symptoms pointing to a yeast problem.
  8. Allergies. Studies show that animals whose guts are colonized with yeast develop allergic reactions.

Diagnostic testing for gut bacteria and yeast

Boxed Candida cleanse “kits” may be popular, but in reality overcoming Candida overgrowth and restoring a healthy balance of yeast and gut bacteria can be very challenging. Our naturopathic doctors can work with you to develop a program that’s tailored specifically for you. We start with a complete analysis, stool testing if necessary and then create a customized treatment plan. Stool analysis determines what exactly is growing in your gut, how much and how best to get rid of what shouldn’t be growing in there.

Once we have an accurate picture of what’s really going on in your system, we can work on a plan to restore health and balance.

Our holistic approach to managing Candida

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Our holistic approach means taking an in-depth look at various aspects of your lifestyle.

Specialized Candida diet

In general, the first step of Candida treatment consists of dietary changes. You knew that was coming, right? Together we can work on a diet plan that works for you to starve out the yeast.

Dietary changes should be realistic and manageable for you over the long term. After all, we want to create a sustainable solution, not a quick fix that may be too difficult to stick with.

Say goodbye to sugary sweets

To get Candida under control, patients have the greatest success by limiting all processed sweets from their diet. We also recommend cutting back on starchy carbohydrates. Low-sugar fruits such as berries are the best options for a sweet treat.

Alcohol

Eliminating all fermented, yeasty or moldy foods and drinks, including alcohol, will help control yeast symptoms. This includes well-known fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha. It also includes the less-obvious ones, like soy sauce or peanuts. If your immune system is sensitized to yeast, it will also react to these food sources of yeast, mold and yeast metabolites.

Add extra fibre

Adding more fibre to your diet and drinking lots of water (2-3 litres per day) improves your intestinal “transit time”. This means that things move through your gut more quickly, so that nothing lingers too long in your system.

Carbs in moderation

It’s important to note that carbohydrates aren’t necessarily completely forbidden on a Candida diet. Although processed flour can contribute to to a Candida overgrowth and slower transit time, whole food carbohydrates such as rye or quinoa can add good fiber and minerals to your system. We can work together to look at your carb consumption and make any necessary adjustments.

The steps above can slow the growth of Candida which may improve some of your symptoms, but as always tackling one side of the issue isn’t enough. You also want to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. An effective way to do this is by consuming more probiotics or “healthy bacteria”. A high quality supplement of the right kind of probiotic for you is usually recommended, as they are able to rapidly populate the gut and restore balance.

Foods that kill Candida

Research has found that many substances aid in the killing off of stubborn overgrowth. Studies have found turmeric to be effective as well as coconut oil, some essential oils and much more. In order to determine the right solution for your body, help from your naturopathic doctor is recommended. We can talk about the best treatment plan to eradicate this overgrowth and eliminate the problems Candida overgrowth can cause in your system.

The effect of stress on Candida

In addition to dietary changes, reducing your stress levels can help. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which over time will increase blood sugar.

Since Candida feeds off sugar, stress can make us more vulnerable to Candida overgrowth. It’s not always easy to lower stress levels – life often gets in the way. However, we can change the way we react to stress through science-backed stress reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga.

Candida overgrowth is one of the more common reasons people seek holistic care. The good news is that we are experts in treating digestive issues.

If you suspect that you may be experiencing an overgrowth of Candida, give us a call at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online any time here.

Together we can make an effective plan to get your health back on track.

https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26709650

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17083732

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26723514

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17651080

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28184328

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2803610/

Acne Treatment

woman with acne squeezing her pimples

Many of us are disappointed to learn that we didn’t leave acne behind after high school. Yes, it is a cruel joke, but it is possible to have pimples and wrinkles at the same time. In fact, 54 percent of women over the age of 25 experience some acne. And the numbers are expected to increase. Some skin care experts call the increase in acne outbreaks in adults “an epidemic.”

Why is there an increase in adult acne?

We tend to associate acne with the angst-ridden teenage years. In actuality, many of the factors that contribute to acne in your teens are still present later in your life too. In particular, stress and hormonal fluctuations wreak havoc on your skin. Many of us do continue to experience that nasty combination of hormonal changes and lifestyle stress.

Stress and acne: a vicious cycle

The relationship between stress and pimples becomes a vicious cycle. When we feel stressed, our adrenal glands respond by producing more of the stress hormone cortisol. They also make small amounts of testosterone. These cause the oil glands in your skin to produce more oil or sebum. This raises your risk of skin infections and pimples. Of course then, when we notice outbreaks appearing, we feel more stressed. Add to that the fact that many of us can’t resist the temptation to pick at pimples. This spreads the bacteria on your skin. Voila! You have the perfect formula for ongoing acne outbreaks.

The emotional and financial burden of adult acne

Finding acne solutions can feel like a quest for the impossible. Consider this: Acne costs Americans an astonishing $15 billion a year in acne-related products and services. Ironically, we are surrounded by skin care product marketing that promises to clear up skin problems. These all claim to provide you with a flawless, youthful glow. But, many of these products actually worsen inflammation.

It all adds up to frustration for you, the consumer. It’s no wonder that 95 percent of people with acne say that the skin condition negatively affects their lives. 63 percent of acne sufferers cite lower self-confidence due to acne as a major issue.

How to treat adult acne

Since hormones are the root cause of acne, the simple truth is that treatment has to start from within. There is no “magic bullet” skin product. It is best to start with a bit of self-examination. For example, try tracking outbreaks to see if they coincide with your menstrual cycle. See if outbreaks occur along with other symptoms, with eating specific foods, or with stressful periods in your life.

Reduce stress

Think of ways you can reduce the stressors around you. Yoga and meditation are proven methods to reduce stress. Ayurvedic tradition holds that many yoga poses help with acne.

In addition, don’t forget one of the most essential parts of stress management: getting enough sleep! To prevent rubbing your face in bacteria while you sleep, change your pillow cases regularly.

How Diet Affects Your Skin

Much research remains to be done on the impact of diet on acne. But we know that the quality of the food we eat is reflected in our overall health as well as on our skin. Ultimately, you are the best test subject for which foods affect your complexion. People react differently to various foods. Even healthy foods may trigger a reaction for you. Keep a food diary and review it with your naturopathic doctor or dietitian.

A sensible approach is to eat a healthy, whole-foods diet rich in vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts and seeds, unprocessed grains and healthy protein. Opt for antioxidant-rich foods whenever possible like berries, good dark chocolate and spices like cinnamon. Antioxidants reduce inflammation and destroy harmful free radicals.

Acne Supplements

In addition, research proves that the following nutrients have a positive effect on the health of your skin:

Zinc

The anti-inflammatory properties of zinc relieves the irritation of acne. Studies show that taking a zinc supplement reduces acne scars. Zinc is also used topically, but it isn’t as effective as taking it orally. From your diet, zinc-rich foods include beef and shellfish, especially oysters, and vegetarian sources like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, beans, nuts, and whole grains.

Omega-3 Fats

Not only do these healthy fats soothe your skin thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, but they also help regulate hormones. Omega-3’s are found in nuts, flax, hemp seeds, and many types of fish. The Omega 3s in fish are much easier for your body to use compared to the ones in nuts and seeds. Fatty, cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are excellent sources of Omega 3’s. Supplements containing fish oil or vegan Omega 3’s are also an excellent way to benefit from the acne-fighting powers of Omega-3. Even though they are healthy fats, Omega 3’s will sometimes make acne worse. Fats, even healthy ones, can interfere with insulin function. That increases insulin which throws off hormone balance. If you find that adding fats or fish oil makes your skin worse, by all means listen to your body and reduce them.

High fiber foods

Eating food with lots of fiber controls your blood sugar. It does so by slowing down sugar absorption and keeping you feeling full longer. This curbs acne breakouts because healthy blood sugar levels influence hormone production. Aim for plenty of fibrous green veggies with each meal like kale and broccoli!

Stay Hydrated

You may have noticed that your skin loses some luster when you’re dehydrated. It is important to drink plenty of water to keep your skin cells healthy and nourished.

Green Tea

In addition to water, don’t hesitate to pour yourself a cup of green tea. Studies show green tea can decrease oil or sebum production. Plus, this delicious beverage is high in antioxidants! Green tea also has some estrogen balancing properties.

Topical antibiotics for acne

The bacteria that causes acne, Propionibacterium acnes, is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. As a result, focusing on acne treatment that addresses the reason that this bacteria overgrows is more important than ever.

Topical acne treatments that work

A more natural approach to moisturizing and nourishing your skin may be helpful. Many people react to the chemicals, perfumes and preservatives in skin creams. This creates more redness and inflammation. Natural oils such as Rosehips oil helps acne-prone skin. It contains a high concentration of vitamin A, omegas and lycopene. These heal and regenerate your skin. They encourage healthy cell growth and dramatically reduce scarring. Rosehips oil will be kinder to your skin than the very drying benzoyl peroxide.

Talk to your naturopathic doctor for guidance if you are having difficulty finding the right skincare solution. A number of effective natural acne remedies are available. We can help you find a solution that is right for your particular skin type.

Adult Hormonal Acne

Treating adult acne at the root cause helps you deal with this frustrating problem in a more permanent way. The more persistent cases we’ve seen usually come down to a hormonal imbalance. Whether you are in your 20’s or firmly in perimenopause, working with our Naturopaths helps you examine your full hormonal profile. Then we will find the right plan to bring your hormones, and your skin, back in balance.

If you have done what you can and are ready for professional analysis and guidance on skin-friendly treatments, come into the clinic! Together we can thoroughly measure your hormones, and look at your diet, vitamin and mineral levels, coping mechanisms, and other possible contributors. Adult acne can be treated naturally without harsh drugs or chemicals.

By Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Call the clinic at 416-481-0222 or book online here.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5384166/

http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961614P0692X#close

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308187676_The_Psychosocial_Impact_of_Acne_Vulgaris

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884775/

http://time.com/5014072/stress-pimples-acne/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5029236/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27529209

Dementia

Dementia: Facts, Prevention and Treatment

pic of a man with dementia or cognitive decline, poor brain health
Should you worry about cognitive decline?

Dementia Definition

Dementia is a word that describes a state where brain function is sufficiently compromised that it interferes with normal functioning.

Should you be concerned about your cognitive health?

Consider these facts:

  • Dementia affects between five and eight percent of adults over the age of 60. As the average age of the population rises, that could add up to an astounding 150 million people with dementia worldwide by 2050.
  • Dementia is more complex than most people realize. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia at 60-80 percent of cases, many other diseases can play a role.
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) happens when someone experiences enough impairment to be noticeable, but not enough for a dementia diagnosis. People with MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of dementia?

  • Memory problems, especially short-term memory, relying more and more on memory aids like notes or electronic reminders
  • Confusion related to time, place, and events
  • Forgetfulness, particularly for things that would have been easily remembered
  • Personality or behaviour changes, this may include irritability, anger, irrational, illogical or even lewd behaviour
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Loss of ability to perform activities of daily living, such as writing, speaking, dressing, bathing, eating, and toileting
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty performing tasks that require multiple steps or organization

What causes dementia?

The most frequent cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This is a condition where amyloid protein deposits in areas of the brain that are responsible for memory and other cognitive functions. The remaining causes include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems and medication side effects.

What are the different forms of dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the two main forms of dementia. Lewy body disease is a third and the fourth is frontotemporal dementia.

What are the stages of dementia?

Dementia can be categorized into 3 stages or 7 stages. The 3 stage model recognizes mild, moderate and severe impairment. The 7 stage model is broken down into no impairment, mild decline, continued mild decline, moderate decline, moderately severe, severe and very severe decline.

Medicines that cause dementia

A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2018 found that the following types of drugs are associated with an increased risk for dementia:

  • amitriptyline, paroxetine, and bupropion (most commonly taken for depression)
  • oxybutynin and tolterodine (taken for an overactive bladder)
  • diphenhydramine (taken for allergies)

Association doesn’t mean causation, so we cannot conclude that the drugs above cause dementia. It may be that the conditions in the body that create allergies, overactive bladder and depression also cause dementia. A common symptom in all of these conditions is inflammation. Addressing inflammation in the body can help numerous conditions and also improve brain health. I would recommend addressing the root of each of these problems to reduce the need for the medications.

Is dementia reversible?

Dementia can be reversible in certain cases. Dementia may be brought on by thyroid disease, hormone imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, medications, infectious disease, autoimmune disease like lupus or sleep apnea. We can help address the cause of these to reverse or slow the progression of dementia.

Alzheimer’s vs dementia

Alzheimer’s is a specific form of dementia that is caused by the deposition of amyloid protein in areas of the brain that are needed for memory and cognitive function. Alzheimer’s is the cause of 60-80% of all dementia. The other possible causes of dementia include vascular problems like stroke, brain injury and reversible causes mentioned above.

Should you be concerned about your brain health?

Everyone experiences some moments of “brain fog” from time to time. It’s perfectly normal to forget where you put your keys occasionally or struggle to remember a name. As we age, these little moments of forgetfulness become more worrying. In fact, the damage from Alzheimer’s can start up to 10 years before symptoms become troublesome. Stress, fatigue, and nutritional deficiencies can all contribute to cognitive issues, even without Alzheimer’s.

How can dementia be treated or prevented?

The good news is that foggy thinking and poor memory don’t have to be a normal part of aging. Cognitive decline is not inevitable. And the steps to protecting our brain health can also help the rest of our bodies. This provides further evidence that everything is connected when it comes to our optimum health!

So what can you do to maintain peak mental fitness? Check out these tips:

  1. Sleep
  2. Plant-based diet
  3. Exercise
  4. Keep learning
  5. Relax
  6. Hormone balance
  7. Supplementation

Get enough sleep

A great deal of research supports a link between brain health and adequate sleep. Scientists think the relationship may work both ways: not getting enough sleep can lead to cognitive decline, but cognitive decline can also cause sleep problems. Either way, the best approach is to be proactive. For example, avoid substances like caffeine or alcohol before bed. Practice good sleep hygiene by sleeping in a cool, quiet room and pay attention to when the body wants to sleep. Your circadian rhythm is your natural sleep cycle, which is ideally around 10-10:30 pm. Fighting it and staying up later sends an adrenaline rush to your body to keep it awake. Talk to a healthcare provider if sleep issues interfere with daily living. You may also find that following the other tips on this list help with sleep – did I mention that it’s all connected?

Focus on a plant-based diet with plenty of healthy fats

Good nutrition fuels our brain. Processed, low-nutrient foods can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress. The result can be cognitive and mood issues. Up to 95 percent of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in our gut. So what we eat can have a profound impact on our emotions and the way we think. As a result, having adequate “good” bacteria in our gut can reduce the inflammation throughout our bodies, so it’s important to eat with this in mind.

Some important nutrients for brain health include:

  • Vitamin K: Several studies suggest Vitamin K helps prevent cognitive decline. To boost Vitamin K intake, focus on leafy greens, such as spinach or kale or eat natto.
  • Omega 3’s: This fatty acid has been shown to lower levels of beta-amyloids. These are the building blocks of the amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Look for fatty fish and plant-based sources like flax seeds or avocados.
  • Flavonoids: These phytonutrients are found in many fruits and vegetables. They are particularly found in brightly coloured, flavourful foods like strawberries and blueberries. Flavonoids have been found to play a role in preventing memory decline.

Move to keep your brain active

Exercise is a must when it comes to brain health. Not only can cardio activities like swimming and walking ease stress, but physical activity can also increase the size of the hippocampus. That’s the part of our brain responsible for verbal memory, among other important functions. Exercise also helps your cardiovascular system stay healthy to prevent problems like vascular dementia.

Which exercise is best? The best activity is always the one that you enjoy and that you’re most likely to do. But experts say to strive for 75 minutes of intense activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. As an added bonus, exercise can help you sleep!

Keep learning

You’re never too old to learn something new. In fact, acquiring new knowledge can help keep your brain young. One study found that adults who learned a “complex skill” such as quilting or basic coding had improved memory function after only three months. And knowing a second language (even if you learn it late in life) can help slow memory loss. There’s a great app called Duolingo that makes learning a new language fun. You can even learn Klingon if that’s what you’re into. As we wrote in our biohacking post, learning to play an instrument helps with several brain functions.

Relax

You’ve probably noticed that when you’re stressed, your thought process isn’t as clear as it is when you’re relaxed. Scientists confirm that even short-term stress can affect the hippocampus. It’s important to note that most studies refer to a relationship between perceived stress and memory. We all have negative events in our lives and some of these can’t be avoided. But we can change how we react to them and how we deal with daily stress. It’s possible to reframe the stress of daily life and change how we perceive it. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, and psychotherapy are all effective ways to reduce our feelings of stress. With brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, stressful events can trigger a sharp decline in brain function.

Hormones

Proper brain function is also linked to hormonal balance. Having an imbalance of your cortisol levels, estrogen, melatonin, pregnenolone, testosterone or thyroid can all contribute to memory loss, confusion, and issues concentrating. Our ND’s provide extensive testing and treatment for these imbalances and can help get your brain working at peak function again.

Supplementation

Herbs and other natural supplements can help prevent and treat dementia problems. Research supports the use of Bacopa, Curcumin and Schisandra to help with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Our naturopathic doctors can provide guidance regarding the appropriateness of these herbs and the proper products and dosages.

It’s important to remember that there isn’t necessarily a “magic bullet” solution to protect your brain function. As with all elements of well-being, maximum health is the result of a consistent, holistic approach. By taking conscious steps to protect your brain health, you can minimize memory loss.

Please visit the office if you have questions about your brain health! And if you’ve noticed any symptoms that worry you, it’s important to check them out right away. Call us at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online at https://forcesofnature.janeapp.com.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc, ND

Sources:

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/related_conditions/mild-cognitive-impairment

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080311182434.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4323377/

https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/alzheimers-disease-and-dementia/stress-increases-risk-mild-cognitive-impairment/article/459497/

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-walnuts

http://www.brainfacts.org/brain-anatomy-and-function/cells-and-circuits/2012/hormones-communication-between-the-brain-and-the-body

Biohacking Secrets

Top Biohacking Tips that Everyone Should Know

pic of smartwatch with the word biohacking
Biohacking: What is it and how can it help you?

If you read about health topics, you’ve probably come across the term “biohacking”. The word sounds intimidating, but the concepts behind biohacking are actually quite simple: The goal is to “hack” your body’s natural processes to optimize your health.

Taken to extremes, biohacking’s “using yourself as a guinea pig” approach can lead to unsupervised self-experimentation. Extreme biohackers pursue activities such as trying to alter their DNA or implanting cybernetic devices into their own bodies. That is not a safe or recommended approach!

How Do You Do Biohacking?

Fortunately, thanks to our “biohacking best practices” research, you don’t have to track every nanosecond of your day or spend a small fortune to reap the rewards. Biohacking your health can be as easy as applying the latest scientific discoveries to your own life. If you follow us on Facebook or follow our blog, we’ll keep you updated and you can adjust as you go. It’s always a good approach to well-being to stay current with the ever-evolving research.

One of the central tenets of biohacking is that the things you put into your body (what you eat, the air you breathe, and supplements you take) shape your body’s output (your energy, productivity and moods). Your mitochondria are at the heart of this process.

What Are Mitochondria?

Mitochondria are the “batteries” that give energy to every cell in your body. These tiny powerhouses are easily influenced by their environment. In other words, they are impacted by everything your body is exposed to. When you improve their environment, you can improve the energy produced by them. The results? Far-reaching improvements in your overall health and energy levels.

What does this process look like in everyday life?

Well, because we’re all different, what works for one person might not work for someone else. As you make changes to your lifestyle, you should carefully monitor your progress as you go. Biohackers draw on the data they create to come up with solutions that make them feel their best. They avoid “one size fits all” formulas.

That means paying close attention to how you feel. The results are definitely worth it. By improving cellular function, biohacking your basic daily activities can have noticeable benefits. And it can be fun. After all, who doesn’t want to use science to feel better every day? Check out some easy ways to biohack your own health. The results might surprise you!

12 Aspects for Biohacking

  1. Genetics
  2. Oxygen
  3. Attention
  4. Memory
  5. Sleep
  6. Environment
  7. Audio
  8. Light
  9. Nutrition
  10. Movement
  11. Stress
  12. Electricity/Magnetism

These 12 are key areas that affect how your body works. They are also areas that you can influence. You may currently be influencing them in a negative way, or in other words doing the wrong thing. What “everyone else is doing” may not be right for your particular body. This is why “biohacking” entails a certain amount of trial and error to see what works best with your particular constitution.

5 Best Biohacking Tips

  1. Make the most of your genetics
  2. Breathing 101
  3. Hacking your attention and memory
  4. Improve your sleep
  5. Enhance your environment
  6. Listen well
  7. Light up your life
  8. Monitor your diet
  9. Focus on natural products
  10. Adapt to stress
  11. Hormones control it all

Making the most of your genetics

Having or not having a particular gene, doesn’t necessarily mean you are doomed to a particular fate. Genes can be turned on and off. They can be up or down-regulated depending on what you do.

For example, let’s say your father and grandfather both had diabetes. Maybe you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Obviously, a gene for diabetes is being passed down through your father’s family. However, you decide to eat a clean diet and exercise daily. Lo and behold, you lose weight and reverse your pre-diabetes. In ways like this, we can biohack our genetics. Gene expression can be turned off and on based on signals from your environment and from other cells. Ensuring a healthy environment externally and internally leads to healthier gene expression.

Breathing 101

Under the influence of stress, we tend to breathe more rapidly and less deeply. Deep breaths supply oxygen to your entire body, stimulates your vagus nerve and calms your nervous system. We know that a stressed out nervous system isn’t good for our overall health. Undoing the effects of stress can be as simple as conscious breathing. At least twice per day, take 5 deep breaths into your belly. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 7, release for the count of 8 each time. See how that makes you feel.

Hacking your attention and memory

Chronic deficiencies in zinc, iron, magnesium, iodine and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are linked to attention problems. Clearly, diet plays a role in maintaining healthy cognitive function. Dark, leafy greens contain zinc, iron and magnesium, shellfish, seaweed and iodized sea salt contain iodine, and fish is the optimal food for PUFAs. Low glycemic index foods also benefit attention.

In addition to foods, lifestyle can also influence attention. Meditation, deep breathing, exercise, self-discipline, and self-regulation all benefit focus, attention and cognitive function.

Hormone balance is the third factor that can influence memory, focus and concentration.

Improve your sleep

By adjusting our night routines, we can improve the quality of our sleep. Biohackers look beyond the standard advice on improving sleep to carefully consider what we surround ourselves with at bedtime. For example, you may have great results by reducing the amount of blue light you’re exposed to at night. Blue light comes from electronic devices. What can be a helpful practice is staying off your devices for 3 hours before bed or switching your devices to “night mode.” Reducing the temperature in your room and minimizing exposure to electromagnetic fields can also lead to world-class sleep.

Keep in mind that our mitochondria want to rest when it’s dark and ramp-up when it’s light. Make it easier for them by creating a sleep environment that’s as dark as possible. If needed, invest in some blackout curtains or a sleep mask. You can also create a sleep-friendly internal environment by avoiding caffeine at least eight hours before you go to sleep.

Enhance your environment

Environmental factors like cold, heat, light, electricity, and air quality influence your body’s functioning. How do you feel when it’s too hot? Too cold? Do you prefer natural light or artificial lighting?

One of the most significant influences on overall well-being can be the quality of the air you breathe. If your home is older or has sustained water damage, mold can grow. Mold spores infiltrate the air you breathe and set off an inflammatory cascade in your body that can have an incredibly detrimental effect on your health. This is a serious enough situation that if there is mold in your home, you should move or do significant repairs to remediate the mold. For detailed information about the extremely harmful impact of mold, read Surviving Mold by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker.

Listen well

The sounds you hear alter how your body works. When music enters your brain, it releases neurotransmitters called dopamine and oxytocin. These make you feel happy. Listening to music also improves your immune function. The style of music that provides these benefits isn’t that important. It’s more about what kind of music you like and relate to, whether that is jazz, country or hard rock. You may want to alter your music based on what you are doing for optimal function. While you are working or studying, classical may help with dopamine secretion, learning and memory. Pop and rock can be distracting. But, they enhance endurance and physical performance. So be sure to queue them up on your iPod when you are working out. In the evening, while you are relaxing, jazz can soothe your body and help you wind down.

Learning to play music enhances brain abilities like learning and memory.

Light up your life, or not

The timing of light entering your eyes is important and should mimic natural day and night time light patterns. Your body runs on a clock that is regulated by daylight and dark. Functions like sleeping and waking, hormone secretion, cellular function and gene expression are all influenced by the normal rhythm of day and night. Mood and immune function are impaired when this rhythm gets disrupted. As a general rule, when it gets dark outside, keep interior lighting dim and keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Avoid looking at a screen past 8 p.m. And install an app on devices to downgrade blue light and upgrade red and orange tons at sunset. Over the winter, light therapy can help alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Monitor your diet

Adjusting your nutritional intake is an easy way to start biohacking. It’s a simple concept: Any change to your diet that results in noticeable improvements in how you feel is a biohack. It goes like this: eat this, feel great, eat that, feel lousy, eliminate that, feel great.

You also want to keep in mind that what you eat influences your gut bacteria. In turn, it then affects every aspect of your health. By choosing natural, high-fiber foods, you can reduce inflammation. Too much inflammation affects mitochondria. This leads to mitochondrial malfunction, which can impact your entire body.

Biohackers are more concerned with the nutritional quality of their foods, not the calorie count. Many biohackers follow a gluten-free diet with plenty of healthy fats. Some have good results with intermittent fasting. But ultimately, the key is to pay attention to how your diet makes you look and feel and make adjustments based on that.

Focus on natural products

Even if we’re careful about what we eat, our bodies are still exposed to harmful elements as we go through the day. The water we drink, the substances we clean with, and the beauty and grooming products we use can all contain harmful toxins. These toxins impact our cellular health in ways we may not even realize. Consciously seeking out natural beauty products and non-toxic cleaning solutions helps you reduce the impact of toxic ingredients on your body.

Adapt to stress

Some biohackers use complex biofeedback systems to monitor the effect of stress on their bodies. But, controlling stress can be as simple as paying attention to your breathing. (One biohack technique is “block breathing,” which means exhaling while counting to five, then repeating the count on the inhale. Do this several times and note how you feel after.) Classic stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, and “forest bathing” (walking in the wilderness) can all contribute to lower stress levels.

It may seem like a bit of a paradox, but some biohackers recommend high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for improving a body’s ability to handle stress. That’s because HIIT emphasizes taxing a body to its maximum capacity, then allowing it to recover. As a result, we teach our bodies to be more resilient. Talk to a healthcare provider if you haven’t tried HIIT training before.

Hormones control it all

The hormonal balance in your system plays a huge role in pretty much everything. Having a balanced hormonal state is key to maintaining not just good health, but this balance also allows for all of the above-mentioned tips to actually work for you. When our hormones are out of alignment, it affects so many of our daily activities. Trying to even get through the day can be a challenge, let alone trying to take your health to another level. Achieving optimal hormone balance is doable with guidance from our ND’s.

Electricity/Magnetism

Some people are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, while others aren’t. If you think that EMR affects you, read this post for more information about what you can do about it.

As you can see, biohacking doesn’t have to be complicated. Ultimately, you’re the best scientist when it comes to your own well-being. Why not make a few simple changes to your lifestyle to see how you feel?

If you’d like to look deeper into your current status of health, find out if your hormones are causing issues in your body or learn how you can take your health to the next level, come into the office and let’s talk. We are experts in looking at the individual as a whole and creating a unique plan to get your body functioning its best.

Call us at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online at https://forcesofnature.janeapp.com.

Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc, ND

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22496061

http://www.jbc.org/content/280/22/21061.full

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170307155214.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/nov/18/biohackers-strange-world-diy-biology

Alcohol: Should You Quit Drinking?

woman wondering is alcohol healthy

Is Alcohol Good or Bad for You?

How is your alcohol intake? A glass of wine with dinner? A beer after a hard day of work? It’s not bad to integrate an occasional drink into a healthy lifestyle. Or is it?

In recent years, we’ve read that red wine is rich with antioxidants, like resveratrol. And that an occasional beer can raise “good” cholesterol. But, results from a new study suggest that even moderate alcohol consumption may actually be bad for us. In other words, the much-heralded health benefits of drinking don’t outweigh the risks. Perhaps there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

A recently published research study looks at data collected in almost 700 other studies, spanning 195 countries and territories. Some of the findings are startling:

  • Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death in the 15 through 49 age group.
  • Alcohol use was responsible for 2.8 million deaths worldwide in 2016.
  • For women in particular, the health risks increase with age. Alcohol was responsible for over 27 percent of cancer deaths in women over 50.

The authors of the study are firm in their conclusion: “By evaluating all associated relative risks for alcohol use, we found that consuming zero standard drinks daily minimizes the overall risk to health.”

In other words, the only safe amount of alcoholic drinks is none at all. This finding differs from many earlier studies, which often concluded that moderate drinking was the best approach.

Why the Difference in Opinion?

Why did this study reach a more decisive conclusion than previous examinations of alcohol’s effect on health? Several factors come into play. This study was careful to consider the ways they measured consumption. For example, researchers looked at regional variations in alcohol consumption that could be attributed to things like tourism.

In addition, the study looked at alcohol’s impact on 23 different health-related problems. For some of those problems (such as heart disease), mild alcohol consumption had a positive effect. But that positive effect was balanced by a greater negative impact on other health issues (cancer is a good example).

Should I Quit Drinking?

What does this mean for you? If you drink, should you stop? Alcohol consumption is a very personal decision. This study looked at the picture worldwide. It was not studying individuals, but rather analyzing vast amounts of data previously collected, specifically looking at the risks for 23 health issues. That data was conclusive. But it’s up to you how you apply it to your own life. This latest study can’t, for example, tell you if it’s OK to have some wine for New Year’s given your own unique genetics and other lifestyle factors.

Assessing Your Risk from Alcohol

One thing is clear: If you’ve told yourself that drinking is healthy, you may want to reconsider that rationale. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must immediately quit. However, in deciding whether or not alcohol is something you want in your life, it’s best to be realistic about the health risks.

You also want to look at your own medical history and perhaps check out more specific studies. For example, another recently published study concluded that alcohol is the biggest controllable risk factor for dementia. If you have other dementia risk factors that are out of your control, such as genetic history, you may want to take action on the things that you can control.

Similarly, if you have a history of depression, consider alcohol’s impact on mental health. If you are trying to control your weight, the extra calories from alcohol aren’t going to help. Alcohol can also lower your judgment and keep you from making your best decisions.

The nurses’ health study found that moderate alcohol intake places women at higher risk for breast cancer and bone fractures, and higher intake increases your risk for colon polyps and colon cancer. Several studies have noted this same increased risk of breast cancer for women who consume alcohol, even in moderation.

Tips to Stop Drinking Alcohol

If you’re wondering about alcohol, talk to one of our healthcare practitioners. And be upfront about your drinking during the visit. Many people under-report how much they drink, but it’s best to be honest. You want to have an open discussion about all of your health concerns. Remember that our healthcare providers aren’t looking to judge you: they want to work with you to create your best life.

Quitting drinking can be much like quitting smoking for some people. Here are some tips to help you quit drinking:

Set a date

Set a date for when you want to quit and let your friends know.  Planning a date can help you get organized and telling your friends helps them help you and keeps you accountable.

Affirmation

An affirmation is a positive statement repeated often to create a desired change in your life. Repeating it not only helps to remind you why you are no longer drinking but imprints a new mental image of health so that your body can then produce it. For example: “I am a non-drinker. I choose to be healthy.”

Have a Support Person

The decision to stop drinking is a big one. You may have moments when you really struggle. Ask someone who is fairly available and reliable to provide reinforcement and encouragement when you need it. Much like a sponsor does in AA.

Manage cravings

Cravings can feel like they will last forever but in reality, they fade in two minutes. Plan what you will do during a craving. Examples: Have a nutritious snack, take your vitamins; repeat your affirmation; take some deep breaths; go for a walk; hum a song or call your support person. Our naturopathic doctors have lots of other tips to help with cravings.  

Make Alcohol Inconvenient

Don’t keep alcohol in your home. Avoid passing by the liquor store or your favourite bar. The more inconvenient it is to drink, the easier it will be to avoid giving in to cravings.

Set Boundaries

You may have to modify other behaviours to support your new abstainer status. For example, if your usual ritual is to hit the bar with friends on a Friday night, you may want to arrange to meet at a café instead. When possible stay away from situations where you are surrounded by drinkers, such as parties, until you feel more confident with your new non-drinking status.

Visualize

Use visualization to see yourself in certain situations without drinking – at a friend’s wedding, at a family function, going out for dinner. Seeing yourself in your mind’s eye in those situations successfully abstaining can help them become a reality.

Keep a Journal

Keep a journal or diary where you write down details of when you either had cravings for alcohol or where you lapsed and had a drink. Knowing the circumstances where you run into difficulties can help you avoid those situations in future. Write down your reasons for quitting alcohol and your affirmation.

Refrain from drinking coffee

Research shows that coffee causes cravings and dehydrates you.

Drink water

Research shows that dehydration causes cravings. Sip water frequently throughout the day. If you are in a social situation where everyone is drinking, having a drink of water in your hand can help.

Find New Healthy Habits

Drinking is a habit. To change a habit, it sometimes helps to adopt a new one that is at odds with the one that you are trying to quit. A healthy habit like a green smoothie or going to the gym can help by replacing less healthy ones.

Save money!

Put the money you would have spent on alcohol in a separate account to splurge on something fun like a new pair of shoes or a special vacation.

Use an app.

As with just about everything, there is an app for that. Sober Grid, Sobriety Counter and Nomo are just a few apps that are available on both Android and Iphone for free.

Bonus: These same tips can be applied to any habit that you would like to break – coffee, smoking, overeating etc. We can help.

Could the Study Be Wrong?

Some patients express frustration at the different results they see in health studies: One minute something is good for you, then suddenly we need to avoid it! Studies on alcohol use can be proof that when we read an eye-catching health-related headline, we need to look beyond the numbers.

One thing to keep in mind is that the media will typically seize the most dramatic sound bite. It’s almost impossible to convey the nuances of a well-run scientific study in a short headline. For example, a news story doesn’t always mention who funded the study. For the record, the Lancet study on alcohol safety was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. While some others that emphasized alcohol’s benefits were funded by companies who produce and sell alcohol. That doesn’t necessarily mean the studies were false. But, we should always remember that those who financed the study, and those who work for them, have a vested interest in how the results are interpreted and reported.

Correlation Doesn’t Equal Causation

As well, correlation doesn’t always equal causation. What that means is that if two behaviours are often seen together, it doesn’t mean that one causes the other.  For example, new parents are often sleep-deprived and tired.  As a result, they may drink more coffee.  It doesn’t mean that babies make you drink coffee.  The difference between correlation and causation can sometimes be hard to capture in large studies. In fact, there are studies that show that resveratrol, the aforementioned antioxidant found in red wine, is beneficial to your health. However, if you have other health issues like poor gut function, low energy, sleep issues and more, alcohol will likely have negative impacts and could make your health issues worse.

What Should You do About Alcohol?

Whenever you’re confused about a health issue, the best approach is to consider it from a sample study of one: yourself. Be aware of how alcohol intake makes you feel. Be aware of your own family history and other risk factors that you may have. Then talk to one of our healthcare providers about your own personal history and your current health concerns. We can help you sort through all of the information you face every day and figure out what’s best for your unique self. In fact, we are experts in doing just that! Give our office a call, we are always here to help 416-481-0222.

Sources:
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(18)30022-7/fulltext
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874911/
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31310-2/fulltext
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27459455
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26286216

Holiday Health: Top 10 Tips

one of our 10 healthy holiday tips

Are you enjoying the final stretch of 2018? It’s a fantastic and fun time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also a difficult period for maintaining healthy habits. Check out our wellness professionals’ list of the top 10 ways to stay healthy and happy over the holiday season.

Re-frame your holiday expectations

Do you think of the holidays as an exhausting test of your endurance? Are holiday treats evil temptations to be resisted with all available willpower? Do you strive to find the perfect gift for everyone? This line of thinking transforms the wonder of the season into a giant stressor. Many patients come into the office at this time of the year showing signs of anxiety and tension. In fact, one study found that 90 percent of adults feel stressed over the holidays. Isn’t thissupposed to be a joyous time?

This tension may be at least partly attributed to the fact that many of us simply have more to do at this time of the year. Because we have more tasks to keep track of (even if those tasks are fun -parties, buying gifts, and other enjoyable things), our prefrontal cortex (in our brain) is overtaxed. This can affect our memory and overall ability to cope. Many feel overwhelmed by it all. Add in the extra pressure of maintaining a perfect diet and workout schedule, and you have a recipe for sleep problems, digestive difficulties, and tense muscles. All of which can add to our stress. And when we’re stressed, we tend to overeat. This is why holiday stress can create a vicious cycle of guilt.

Reframing our expectation that we need to have a “perfect” holiday while staying disciplined can end the frustration. So don’t beatyourself up if everything doesn’t go as planned. In the long run,our happiest memories are sometimes the ones when things didn’t goas planned. It certainly makes for the best stories! Letting go ofexpectations of perfection (from ourselves and others) willultimately help our health and relationships.

Play games

If you get together with family or friends in the next weeks, why not introduce a low-tech way to have some old-fashioned fun by playing board games? Board games can also offer cognitive benefits – not that you need an excuse to start rolling the dice.

One of our favourite family traditions i to add some new board games to our stash. While the kids are off school, and work schedules have slowed down, we take advantage of the opportunity to try some new ones. Our most recent favourite is called Forbidden Island.  It’s a cooperative game that requires us to strategize and play together to get us all off of the island with the loot.  If you want to try before you buy, an excellent way to do so is through a board game café. Forces of Nature had our last staff get-together at one and a great time was had by all.

Stay mindful

Mindfulness practice has obvious benefits when we’re extremely busy. Even if you’re not a regular meditator, just five minutes a day of meditation can help you cope with holiday stress.

Try this: once or twice per day, take 5 deep breaths, all the way into your belly and all the way out. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7 and breathe out for a count of 8. And why not share the love? Suggest a short meditation before bed each night with your partner and/or your kids. It can set the tone for a relaxing sleep and a peaceful holiday celebration. Studies show that group meditation can have powerful results. Instilling healthy practices as a family can have lasting health benefits for everyone.

Get moving

Fitting in some exercise can be easier when you include physical activities with loved ones. Snowshoeing, a snowball fight, making snowmen or an igloo, a winter hike, and skating are some fun options. If you’re not a cold-weather person, try bowling or a trip to the pool or indoor waterpark. You may not end up with six-pack abs, but might start a new holiday tradition. Suggesting fun physical activities for social gatherings also helps take the focus off food and drink.

Cook up some love

Looking for a unique gift idea? Want to stay away from the mall and its atmosphere of seemingly relentless consumerism? Try baking some holiday gifts. For example, put some homemade sweet and spicy holiday almonds into a jar with a beautiful bow. You can find a good recipe here: https://mywholefoodlife.com/2012/11/28/sweet-and-spicy-holiday-almonds/). Or wrap up a box of vegan hazelnut cups. (This recipe is amazing! https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16557/like-nutella-try-these-vegan-hazelnut-cups.html). You can even start making some natural soaps or salves as gifts. It’s easy, natural and fun!

Personally, I cooked up some Calendula salve and Calendula oil to deliver to our office’s neighbours this year. It’s really actually pretty simple and Calendula is one of my favourite healing herbs. Calendula oil has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. It’s also used as an antiseptic. You could use this for diaper rash, scrapes, scratches, razor burn, sores, blisters, bruises, mild burns, hot spots, insect bites and dry skin areas.

Here’s my secret Calendula salve recipe: This recipe makes 4 cups of Calendula oil. You can use the oil topically as is or use the oil to make a salve. Take ¼ pound of dried Calendula flowers and put it in your slow cooker. Pour 1.5 litres of grapeseed oil over the Calendula. Turn the slow cooker on low. Let it cook for 1-3 hours. Do not overdo it.  More cooking is not better. Strain the oil through a strainer and cheesecloth.

To make the salve, I took 3 cups of the Calendula oil and put it in the top pot of a double boiler with water underneath. I added 1.5 cups of beeswax pellets and stirred these together just until the beeswax was fully melted. This will solidify quickly, so you want to have tins already prepared to pour the wax/oil combination into. 3 cups of Calendula oil plus 1.5 cups of beeswax made 24 – 50 ml tins of calendula salve. You probably don’t need that much, but hey, maybe you want to make Calendula salve for everyone in the family.

Go green

When you’re thinking about ways to keep your body healthy over the holidays, don’t forget that the planet deserves some love too. It’s easy to have a green holiday season (even if it’s snowing). Use recycled wrapping paper, serve food on real plates (not paper), and consider turning the heat down a degree or two for large gatherings (maybe you’ll encourage guests to bring out their tacky holiday sweaters). To conserve electricity, use LED lights only, and defrost your freezer before you load it up with holiday baking. Think about gifting experiences or donations to worthy causes rather than “stuff” that just ends up in a landfill.

Learn to say no

This is a tough one for many patients who come to our office. However sometimes refusing a social invitation ora request to work extra is the healthiest choice for everyone involved. If you find it hard to turn down an invitation or request, remember that you don’t have to apologize. Decline right away and resist the urge to make up an elaborate excuse. Suggest an alternative activity or a later date – but only if you really want to.

Keep your gut healthy

Sugar-laden holiday treats, cocktails and parties galore can really put a damper on your gut health. Extra sugar lowers your immune system and can lead to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in your gut. As insurance, you can takea high-quality probiotic and some digestive enzymes prior to meals. This gives your gut a healthy boost and some assistance dealing withheavier meals than you may be used to.

Start some healthy food traditions

The internet is bursting with healthy holiday recipes. Some of your seasonal favourites may have been re-worked into a healthier alternative. Think about your loved ones’ food preferences and find some yummy dishes to bring to gatherings. For example, here are some outstanding vegan holiday dishes: https://minimalistbaker.com/christmas-recipe-roundup/. Other guests might thank you for providing an alternative to Aunt Betty’s fruitcake! Try replacing carb-heavy side dishes with healthy ones like rutabaga and carrot mash or creamy butternut squash and thyme! Remember it’s OK to say no or have just a spoon or two of your favourites.

Be grateful

The holidays don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we have to go to work instead of making family dinners. Sometimes we miss people who are no longer in our lives. Family gatherings can make their absence that much more poignant. It’s also quite normal to experience sadness at this time of the year. Acknowledge your feelings and be gentle with yourself. Take some time to think of the good things (even if they’re not always picture-perfect). Grateful people experience better sleep, more optimism, and improved relationships. And we could all use a bit of that at this time of the year.

Happy New Year from all of us! We look forward to working with you to create a fulfilling and healthy start to 2019.  If you need an acupuncturist, psychotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, massage therapist, dietitian or naturopath, we have them all here for you.   

Sources

http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain

https://www.healio.com/psychiatry/journals/jpn/2017-12-55-12/%7Ba2fc3f63-4c18-455c-a761-5efae89bb9fb%7D/three-simple-mindfulness-practices-to-manage-holiday-stress#x02793695-20171117-01-bibr26

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/254796

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21075238

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping/page/0/1

Food Sensitivities

man suffering from food sensitivities

Food Sensitivities: What You Need to Know

You’re careful about your health. You do your best to eat well, and you pay attention to the ways that your diet affects your energy levels. But something seems off. You’re experiencing annoying symptoms that you can’t explain. Maybe you have food sensitivities?  You’re often gassy and bloated, your skin may not be clear and glowing anymore, you may be ready for a nap after a meal and you wish you could remember where you put your keys. Why does your memory feel so foggy?

These issues are frustrating (and often embarrassing). They’re also very common. Many patients come to see us with healthy lifestyles but are baffled by continuing digestive issues, mysterious rashes, and low energy levels. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to take a good look at your diet. Even a “healthy” food can make you sick if your body is sensitive to it. For many, the food mystery becomes both frustrating and overwhelming when trying to understand what foods are nourishing you and which ones may be harming you.

But the good news is that you may not have to look very far to make changes that relieve your symptoms. With a bit of detective work and our help, we can map out a dietary plan that restores your well-being.

What are the Symptoms of Food Sensitivities?

Food sensitivities can be tricky to diagnose. One reason is that there’s no one-size-fits-all list of food sensitivities or description of the way your body may react. Symptoms can vary from person to person and can even be different depending on what else is happening in your body. For example, you might respond differently at different stages of your menstrual cycle.

Food sensitivity symptoms can include:

Gas
Bloating
Constipation
Diarrhea
Heartburn/GERD
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Swollen or painful joints
Muscle weakness
Migraines
Headaches
Dark circles under your eyes
Skin rashes like eczema and psoriasis
Brain fog – that annoying forgetfulness and lack of clarity
Acne
Fatigue
Difficulty getting up in the morning

Another reason why food sensitivities are often a missed diagnosis is that these symptoms can be delayed up to 48 hours after the food that is causing them. So many people don’t make the connection between what they ate and how they feel as much as 2 days later.

Similarly, it’s difficult to measure how many people suffer from food sensitivities because a lot of us don’t seek medical help, figuring that it’s “normal” to feel gassy and tired all of the time. In fact, conventional medical practitioners can be sceptical about food sensitivity symptoms, which can lead to frustration for patients. But it doesn’t have to be this way, not with our doctors.

What is a Food Allergy?

It’s important to recognize the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. What is commonly called a food allergy is an immune reaction. After eating a certain food, your body’s immune system launches an attack by making an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The next time you consume that food, your body is ready to attack again. But the IgE antibody causes your body to release a chemical called histamine, which triggers the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction. The most severe version of this is called anaphylaxis or an anaphylactic reaction. This extreme food allergy reaction can be lethal. Common foods that provoke an anaphylactic reaction include wheat, soy, peanuts, shellfish, milk and eggs. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include throat swelling, lip swelling, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing and hives.

What is a Food Sensitivity?

In contrast, a food sensitivity is often caused by a different antibody, known as IgG antibodies. IgG antibodies provoke a milder immune reaction than IgE and so this is considered a food sensitivity rather than a food allergy. In both cases, your immune system is responding inappropriately to your food. But the reactions differ in intensity. IgG-mediated food sensitivities are not lethal but do affect people’s quality of life with the above-mentioned symptoms.

What If You Eat Your Food Sensitivities?

If we continue to eat the problem foods, we can exacerbate the sensitivities and our symptoms can affect more aspects of our bodies. Because our immune system creates antibodies against the food the lining of the gut can become inflamed and damaged. Eventually, the gut wall can become permeable, so that undigested food material “leaks” into the bloodstream. Not surprisingly, this is called “leaky gut” syndrome.

Why does leaky gut syndrome make us feel so lousy? There is growing evidence that the microorganisms in our guts exist in a complex relationship with our brains – what scientists call the “microbiome-gut-brain axis.” In other words, food sensitivities and the resulting leaky gut can affect our brains. And, as a result, our moods and energy levels. And that’s in addition to the general discomfort we can feel with digestive difficulties. No wonder patients with food sensitivities are often exhausted!

But what is the root cause of food sensitivities?

Research is still developing, but there are a few theories, ranging from changes in farming practices to the increased use of antibiotics, which can affect our gut bacteria and make it more difficult to digest certain foods.

What is a Food Intolerance?

A food intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzymes necessary to digest a substance that the food contains. For example, some people may develop a lactose intolerance if their intestinal mucosa doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase. A lactose tolerance test is used to diagnose lactose intolerance.

Which Foods Can Cause Food Sensitivities?

Somewhat ironically, many foods that can lead to sensitivity symptoms are considered “healthy” foods. In fact, ANY food can trigger an immune response.  As a result, it’s easy to keep eating them, hoping they will improve your health and help you feel better. Yes, it’s a bit of a Catch-22! Common food sensitivity culprits include:

Dairy: The proteins casein and whey found in goat, sheep and cow milk, as well as cheeses, ice cream and yogurt are difficult for our gut to break down. The immune system then reacts against what it perceives as “foreign” protein. Your immune system is programmed to be on the lookout for foreign proteins from viruses and bacteria. So other foreign proteins like casein and whey, if not properly digested, can trigger an immune response.

Gluten: Gluten is a protein (or family of proteins) found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, and other grass-related grains. It’s often a hidden ingredient. For example, many spices, sauces and processed foods can contain gluten. Because it is a protein, similar to casein and whey if it’ is not broken down, it can generate an immune response.

Which Foods Can Cause Food Intolerances?

Fructose intolerance: Fructose is a simple sugar found in many fruits. A fructose intolerance, also known as fructose malabsorption, is caused by an inability to absorb this sugar. Unabsorbed fructose leads to fructose fermentation in the gut, causing bloating and gas. Excessive fructose in the gut can also cause diarrhea. High fructose corn syrup is found in processed foods like cereal bars and some juices.

Histamine and other amines: Histamine is found in greater amounts in aged or stored foods such as cheese, ripe fruit, chocolate, and processed meats. These foods are often migraine triggers for people with a histamine intolerance. Normally dietary histamine is broken down in your gut by an enzyme known as DAO. Some people are genetically predisposed to low levels of DAO. Undigested histamine can create inflammatory conditions like headaches, migraines, foggy thinking, and pain.

Lactose intolerance: Lactose is a sugar present in varying amounts in dairy products like milk and cheese.  The enzyme lactase is normally located on the lining of your gut, also called the brush border.  As we age, it is normal for us to lose the ability to digest lactose.  It’s present in highest amounts when we are born and declines after we are weaned.  Where cattle are domesticated and used to produce dairy products, the presence of the enzyme can persist, but not in everyone.  If you lack the enzyme and can’t digest lactose, you may experience symptoms like bloating, gas and diarrhea from the undigested lactose in your gut.

This is not an extensive list of food allergy or food sensitivity triggers. We’re all different, and there is no universal recipe for food sensitivities. That’s one reason why seeing a naturopathic doctor is a good idea if you suspect your food may be making you sick. In addition, our medical supervision can ensure your approach to food remains healthy and balanced. Research suggests that food sensitivities can be a trigger for disordered eating in some people. After all, if food is causing you pain, but you’re not sure which foods are to blame, it’s easy to associate all food with negative experiences.

How Can You Treat Food Sensitivities?

On the surface, treating a food sensitivity sounds simple: just eliminate the problem foods. But first, you’ll have to do a bit of detective work. Because of possible delayed reaction times, the troublesome food is not always obvious. There are tests that can be done that will give you a comprehensive list of what is creating a reaction and you can eliminate the culprits, allowing your body to heal faster. A blood test for food sensitivities can help pinpoint which foods to eliminate. The test identifies IgG antibodies in your bloodstream to either 96 or 184 foods. Our naturopathic doctors can provide information about this test.  Although it may be common to produce these antibodies to foods, it is not normal for your immune system to attack food. After testing, our naturopathic doctors can then provide specifics about what to take out, for how long and which foods you could eat as alternatives. Alternatively, you can choose to keep detailed records of everything you eat. Then, under naturopathic supervision, you can start eliminating foods, then reintroducing selected foods, carefully tracking your symptoms. This is also known as an elimination-challenge diet.

While you’re following an elimination diet like this, our naturopathic doctors can provide ways to support your gut health. And as you work to track down the problem foods, you’ll want to avoid substances that are known to cause gut inflammation, such as alcohol.

 Immune System Involvement?Antibody Involved?SymptomsTestingLife-threatening?
Food AllergyYesIgEItchy mouth, itchy throat, throat constriction, swelling, airway constriction, hives, anaphylaxis,abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrheaSkin prick testing performed by an allergistCan be
Food SensitivityYesIgG and/or IgABloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, sinus problems, muscle weakness, joint pain, acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives, fatigue, recurrent infectionsBlood test for IgG or IgA antibodies to foods OR Food Elimination-Challenge diet through a naturopathic doctor
No, but do affect quality of life
Food IntoleranceNoNoneBloating, gas, diarrheaFructose or Lactose Intolerance Test, ordered by an MDNo, but do affect quality of life

Do you think your foods might be causing your health issues? We have testing and treatment to help you understand which foods are helping you and which ones may be harming you. It may not be the foods you suspect. It can even be perfectly healthy foods like avocado, blueberries, salmon and almonds for example.  We’ve seen these foods test positive on food sensitivity testing in our patients. Contact us and we will work together to find the potentially hidden food triggers for your health issues.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Maria@ForcesofNature.ca

To your best health!

Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Food Sensitivities References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28936357

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5603184/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953608002773

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7460264

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-018-0064-z

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453018303950

https://journals.lww.com/co-gastroenterology/Abstract/2016/03000/A_gut__microbiome__feeling_about_the_brain.7.aspx

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10009-food-problems-is-it-an-allergy-or-sensitivities

Hormone Imbalance

woman with a hormone imbalance

Hormone Imbalance: Estrogen Dominance

What Does Estrogen Do?

Estrogen plays an important role throughout the course of our reproductive lives and beyond. It regulates our menstrual cycle, prepares the uterine lining for pregnancy, strengthens our bones, and much more. This hormone is indispensable for blood glucose regulation, a robust immune system, bone health, cardiovascular health, fertility, and brain function. Hormone imbalance related to estrogen can cause multiple problems.

How Do You Know if Your Estrogen Is Too High?

When our estrogen levels drop, we experience peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms. But even well before this, inappropriate levels of this vital hormone can wreak havoc. That’s because estrogen requires a delicate balance with other hormones. When that balance is disturbed, resulting in hormone imbalance, we can experience a wide range of frustrating symptoms.

Hormonal imbalance most often occurs during a particularly busy time of our lives, the period from about age 20 through to menopause. As a result, in our practice, we see many women who are dealing with unexplained weight gain, mood swings, heavy periods, painful periods and libido problems. Because estrogen is involved in so many of your body’s systems, estrogen can be at the centre of many human pathologies.  This includes infectious, autoimmune, metabolic and degenerative diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.

How Do You Know if You Have Estrogen Dominance?

Estrogen dominance can impact many areas of our lives, with symptoms that range from subtle shifts to major disruptions in well-being. Many women assume these issues are a normal part of life or a consequence of their stress levels. But even a slight imbalance in hormone levels can lead to a number of problems.
Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, but symptoms of this hormone imbalance often include:

Does that list look familiar? We see many women every single month with complaints like these. We understand how frustrating these symptoms can be, especially when you are unable to find answers or treatment for hormonal imbalance. And, of course, the complex relationship between estrogen and our emotions can only amplify the frustration.

What About Men and Estrogen?

It’s not only women who can experience this particular hormone imbalance. You may be surprised to know that men can suffer an excess of estrogen as well. In men, estrogen dominance can manifest a bit differently, with some of these symptoms being common:

  • Enlarged breasts
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Midsection fat

What Causes Estrogen Dominance?

To better understand estrogen dominance, we have to consider the role of another important hormone, progesterone. Progesterone and estrogen maintain an often tricky seesaw in our bodies. Prior to menopause, the balance shifts at different stages of the menstrual cycle. Estrogen dominance isn’t necessarily a surge of estrogen, but an imbalance in that seesaw. Simply put, estrogen dominance means that the seesaw tips to one side because there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. There’s actually no “set” number we can measure for this hormone imbalance that proves an estrogen dominance diagnosis. It’s the overall hormonal symptom picture that helps to make the diagnosis.

How does estrogen become dominant?

A key factor for some women is the timing. Or, to be more specific, the time of our lives. Consider a normal menstrual cycle during our earlier reproductive years: After we ovulate at mid-cycle, our bodies produce progesterone to balance out estrogen.
But as we near menopause, we increasingly have menstrual cycles when we do not ovulate. As a result, there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. Enter estrogen dominance — and its long list of possible symptoms. To a certain extent in women in their 40’s and up, hormone imbalance is a natural and expected part of our ageing process.

In younger women, estrogen-dominance can occur due to several factors. Lifestyle choices that increase insulin, increase the activity of the estrogen-producing enzyme, aromatase. Choices like carb and sugar intake, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyles, high-stress jobs or long work hours can increase your insulin load, aggravating estrogen-dominance.

How is Your Liver Involved?

Your liver is responsible for maintaining a healthy balance of estrogen. It supplies the building block for all hormones, cholesterol. It is also responsible for fully breaking down estrogen into a form that your body recognizes as waste so that it can be eliminated through your digestive tract. If your liver is lacking in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it can’t fully metabolize estrogen for elimination. Diets rich in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower can help. As can eating lots of leafy green vegetables.

Contributing Factors to Estrogen Dominance

Recent years have seen a rise in estrogen-dominance complaints.  Our lifestyle may be a big factor. Environmental and behavioural issues can increase estrogen levels, tipping the seesaw even further. What’s to blame? Take a look at this list.

  1. Excess body fat can increase estrogen levels since fat cells produce estrogen. Of course, this creates a frustrating cycle for some women, as the fatigue associated with estrogen dominance makes it difficult to exercise and lose weight.
  2. Chronic stress will throw off your hormonal balance, often resulting in excess estrogen. In times of stress, your body produces too much cortisol. Cortisol negatively affects progesterone production, so the result is a shortage of progesterone to balance the body’s estrogen. Cortisol also has the effect of increasing your blood sugar and insulin, leading to increased aromatase activity and estrogen production.
  3. Hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills. Consistently adding hormones to your body may overwhelm your liver’s ability to effectively remove any extra estrogen.
  4. Environmental sources of estrogen in our environment, particularly with regard to chemicals found in plastics and pesticides can negatively affect hormone levels. Here is where healthy liver detoxification and elimination is also important. We’re all exposed to pollutants like dioxin. Maintaining efficient liver processing through supporting phase I and phase II detoxification keeps these toxins moving out of your body rather than accumulating.
  5. Lack of melatonin. When we’re not getting enough sleep, our melatonin levels decrease. And melatonin helps regulate estrogen levels. In other words, if we don’t have enough melatonin to keep estrogen in check, we can end up in a cycle of sleep trouble.

How Can You Reverse Hormone Imbalance?

We can work with you to re-balance your hormone havoc. Starting with an accurate diagnosis, we can create a lifestyle plan that works for you. As a starting point, these changes are recommended:

  1. Increase your intake of fibre. Insoluble fibre can bind with estrogen in our digestive tract. As a result, excess estrogen is eliminated with a high-fibre diet.
  2. Go organic. Many pesticides have been identified as estrogen disruptors. That means they disturb the natural balance of estrogen. Research is still being done in this area, but the connection is becoming clear. Plus, organic food is delicious!
  3. Get enough sleep. We know – you’re busy. But sleep will help restore your melatonin levels and, subsequently, your estrogen balance.
  4. Choose your health and beauty products wisely. Xenoestrogens have a similar molecular structure to estrogen. Bisphenol A (BPA), which is often used in plastics, is an example of a xenoestrogen. When these substances enter our bodies, our system reacts as if they are actual estrogen. Some simple steps, such as avoiding plastic food storage containers and products with artificial scents, can help reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens. Phthalates are another endocrine-disrupting chemical that is found in cosmetics like nail polish. One study found that increased levels of phthalate metabolites in urine were associated with symptoms such as headaches, repeated coughing, diarrhoea, and hormonal problems They have been linked with reproductive disorders and infertility in both men and women.
  5. Get moving. Exercise will relieve stress levels and could help reduce body fat. Strength training and yoga are great activities.
  6. Decrease stress. Again, we realize that this is easier said than done! But an estrogen-dominant diagnosis might be the wake-up call you need to take a step back and assess your stress levels. Are you doing too much?

In Conclusion

Do you think you might have a hormone imbalance? Do the estrogen dominance symptoms sound a bit too familiar? There is help! A few simple steps including a disciplined lifestyle with wise dietary choices and support for healthy estrogen elimination can help you restore balanced estrogen levels and feel like yourself again. Please contact us and we’ll help you get to the bottom of what’s going on and create a plan of action to bring your body back to balance.
Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Maria@ForcesofNature.ca

Authored by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Hormone Imbalance References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC313802
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10188197
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15276966
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11602005
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12644393
Patel S, Homaei A, Raju AB, Meher BR. Estrogen: The necessary evil for human health, and ways to tame it. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Jun;102:403-411. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.03.078. Epub 2018 Mar 22.
Wallner P, Kundi M, Hohenblum P, Scharf S, Hutter HP. Phthalate Metabolites, Consumer Habits and Health Effects. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jul 15;13(7). pii: E717. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13070717.

Gibson DA, Simitsidellis I, Collins F, Saunders PTK. Endometrial Intracrinology: Oestrogens, Androgens and Endometrial Disorders. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Oct 22;19(10). pii: E3276. doi: 10.3390/ijms19103276.

Low Libido

Picture of woman with low libido

Low Libido? Here’s Why You Aren’t in the Mood

You love your partner, but your low libido is causing problems. Between late nights, early mornings, work stress, family obligations, and a million other balls in the air, there is little time and energy left for sex. Relationships change, and sex drive softens as we age… so, it’s perfectly normal, right?

Not necessarily. In fact, some reports suggest that our best love-making years are the ones that may lie ahead of us. A recent survey of 5,000 singles of all ages, ethnicities and income levels across the U.S. revealed that the best sex happens at age 66 for women and at 64 for men. It is at this time that our youthful self-consciousness wears off, communication becomes more comfortable, and greater creativity is embraced. So, if others are having the best sex of their lives as they grow older, perhaps it’s worth considering why you’re not interested in sex at all?

What Causes Low Libido?

There are multiple causes of low libido. These may be physical, cultural, emotional, medical, psychological or due to your relationship with your partner. Some common causes of low libido include:

  1. Hormones
  2. Fatigue
  3. Sleep apnea or lack of sleep
  4. Stress
  5. Sedentary lifestyle
  6. Physical issues, like low blood flow

Hormones

One of the biggest influences on libido is our hormones. Hormones affect so many different parts of your body that when one such chemical is out of sync, it causes a nasty mix of symptoms in many areas. Hormones that specifically have an impact on sexual health include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Estrogen & Progesterone

When our bodies slow down on progesterone production, it leads to estrogen dominance. So, this causes low libido in women. This happens naturally during perimenopause.  Or, it is also brought on by stress, poor diet, and sluggish liver detoxification of estrogen.

Symptoms of a progesterone deficiency include decreased clitoral sensitivity, vaginal dryness, loss of vaginal muscle tension.  As well, low progesterone causes more general mood-killers like fatigue, weight gain, headaches, and depression. Interestingly, a lack of estrogen also causes similar symptoms. If any combination of these issues sounds familiar to you, it might be your hormones blocking your path to pleasure. We can help sort them out to boost libido.

Testosterone

If you’ve always thought testosterone was only important for men, think again. Reduced testosterone levels have an impact on libido for both sexes.

In women, testosterone is what gives orgasms their oomph, heightening the sexual experience. As you can imagine, low testosterone is going to have the opposite effect, reducing sexual desire, sexual activity, and satisfaction. Low testosterone levels in women also result in lethargy, depression, and muscle weakness. In post-menopausal years, low ovarian function and adrenal fatigue reduce the amount of testosterone a woman produces.

Meanwhile, testosterone levels in men gradually decline with age. Testosterone deficiency in men not only diminishes libido and cause erectile dysfunction, but it can also result in a wide range of other symptoms including anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, poor memory, and reduced muscle and bone mass. Men of all ages can have low testosterone levels. Environmental pollutants, like BPA from plastics, that behave like estrogen disrupt the normal production of testosterone. Helping your liver with efficient removal of these toxins helps restore normal testosterone levels and libido.

Low Energy

Another one of the reasons people often associate a low libido with ageing is due to the decrease in energy that comes with getting older. The same could be said about life after kids. As we age or when we become parents, our sleep patterns are interrupted with more frequent awakenings. If you’re going to bed exhausted at the end of the day or waking up tired, the last thing on your mind is intimacy with your partner.

And as mentioned before, fatigue and lethargy can also be a result of hormonal imbalances in women. You see, when it comes to our bodies, everything is connected, which is why it is so important to think of our health as a whole and not in separate parts. In order for us to get better, we need to identify and treat the cause, not the symptoms.

Having an underactive thyroid contributes to low energy and low libido. Think of your thyroid like the gas pedal for your body. It regulates the speed that all of your systems run. If it is sluggish, everything slows down, which leads to lower energy, weight gain, and low libido because the reproductive organs may produce lower hormone levels.

Lack of sleep

The libido-crushing effects of a poor-quality sleep do not only impact seniors and parents but feeling sleepy and irritable can happen to the best of us. Those who suffer from insomnia, irregular sleep patterns, who short-change ourselves on sleep or have sleep apnea may also relate.

In one study, sleep apnea was shown to have an impact on testosterone levels in men, which would then lead to lower sex drive.

Stress

Stress negatively impacts sex drive by throwing your hormone balance out of whack. When we’re running at top speed on life’s hamster wheel, we produce an excess of cortisol – our stress hormone. The spike in our cortisol levels then ends up blocking our progesterone receptors. Your body also depletes your progesterone to turn it into cortisol. The irony is that sex is a huge stress buster. If stress or other emotional factors are killing your sex drive, it may be worth a consult with our resident psychotherapist, Ichih Wang.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Lack of physical activity negatively impacts mood, decreases your energy and endurance, lowers your self-esteem and negatively impacts hormone balance.

Physical issues

There are a number of health concerns that make intercourse uncomfortable or painful. As a result, there is a negative association with intimacy and a natural aversion to it. Vulvodynia, endometriosis, menopause, vaginismus, chronic yeast/BV or recurring bladder infections can all lead to low libido. Our naturopathic doctors relieve all of these issues.

Natural Treatments for a Low Libido

1. Get Your Hormone Levels Checked

Our bodies are constantly changing, and the longer we ignore symptoms, the more out of balance we can get. When it comes to conditions brought on by our hormones, there is no reason why we have to “learn to live with it”. Start by getting your hormone levels tested properly in order to identify if an imbalance might be at play. Natural hormone balancing options exist and can help get you back on track to feeling like yourself again. Blood work to assess hormones related to libido should include tests for LH, FSH, estradiol (done on day 3 of your period for women), total testosterone, DHEAs, prolactin, TSH, free T3, free T4, and day 21 progesterone for women.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Sure, “mindfulness” might sound like a cure-all buzzword, but there is a lot of truth to its power. Mindfulness, whether practised through meditation, yoga or other means, helps us to reduce stress. When we reduce stress, we lower our cortisol levels. And as we already know, when our cortisol levels spike, it has a way of messing a lot of things up inside our bodies.

A moment of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By starting each morning with a few minutes alone in quiet reflection, we can set the stage for a better day.  And, we can more easily ground ourselves when life begins to get busy. Let’s not forget that a more mindful day can also help lead to a more restful night. According to the Journal of Sex and Medicine, getting just one more hour of sleep per night could increase your libido by 14 percent. So it’s important not to skip sleep for a healthy libido.

3. Herbs for Low Libido

Damiana, Turnera and Tribulus are just a few of the herbs that can boost libido. Maca, Saffron, Fenugreek and Watermelon are some other options to help address low libido in men and women. There are several others. Our Naturopathic Doctors can guide you as to the right herb and the right dose for you.

Maca Powder

Have you heard of Maca before? This interesting Peruvian plant has become a popular natural aphrodisiac and fertility booster, reputed to boost sex drive in both women and men. In one study, men reported heightened sexual desire after taking Maca for 8 weeks. In another study, men and women who took 3g of Maca daily reported an increase in libido, normally diminished by their prescribed antidepressants.

Saffron

This pretty little herb has been proven to safely and effectively improve some sexual problems in women, including arousal, lubrication, and pain. Saffron has shown a positive effect on men with erectile dysfunction as well. In one study, men who took a 200 mg tablet of saffron for only ten days showed an increased number and duration of erectile events.

Fenugreek

An extract from fenugreek has been shown to be effective at increasing libido in women after 8 weeks of taking a standardized 600 mg dose. Treatment caused an increase in free testosterone and estradiol, accounting for the increase in libido.

Watermelon

Tasty, refreshing, and full of libido-boosting phytonutrients, a juicy slice of watermelon isn’t just nice to share on a romantic picnic. It also contains various beneficial compounds that relax blood vessels and enhance your sex drive.

Yoga

Yoga has been studied and found to be as effective as medication in helping with male sexual dysfunction.

Exercise

Being physically active benefits sex drive through several different mechanisms:

  1. Exercise is one of the best stress reducers there is.
  2. Physical activity can enhance hormone levels.
  3. Even one bout of physical activity can enhance your self-esteem and body image. Feeling good about your body is a good way to bolster libido.

Make time for even 15 minutes per day of physical activity to reap the libido-boosting benefits of exercise.

Are you worried that you’ve lost your mojo? Fear not. We can help you get it back. If you experience a low sex drive or suspect hormone imbalance might be at play in other areas of your life, please do not hesitate to contact us at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca. We can help rebalance your system naturally. Low libido can affect your enjoyment of life and your relationships. There is no reason you should have to settle for less.

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Resources:

http://www.bumc.bu.edu/sexualmedicine/publications/testosterone-insufficiency-in-women-fact-or-fiction/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9766760

https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/87/7/3394/2847341

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12472620

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18801111

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25954318

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27130118

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23280545

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19427775

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30283244

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25914334

Stop Headaches

woman suffering from a headache

How to Rid Yourself of Headaches

What gives you a headache? I’m sure any number of factors may come to mind. The most common type of headache is tension headaches which are often brought on by stress. And who hasn’t felt the congestion or pressure or a sinus headache, especially when you are battling a cold or flu or suffer from allergies? Then there are those awful migraines, these are the most intense of the headaches. They can be accompanied by symptoms including nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, and/or sensitivity to bright lights, loud noise and strong odors. Sometimes certain scents can even trigger a migraine!

Did you know there are 150 different types of headaches?

A headache may be an indicator that something is off with your body. They can be triggered by a wide variety of factors, some of which may be difficult for you to pinpoint, such as food sensitivities and hormone imbalances.

The different types of headaches may include:

  1. Migraines – migraines are differentiated from other types of headaches mainly by the severity and the associated symptoms.  If the headache pain is very intense and debilitating and comes with additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, visual changes or an inability to function and a need to just sleep it off, your headache may be a migraine headache.
  2. Tension headaches – tension headaches are common and are often the result of stress that results in muscle tension.
  3. Cluster headaches – cluster headaches are usually one-sided.  Which side can vary from one headache to the next.  They can be described as stabbing pain and the pain is usually severe.  Cluster headaches can last up to a few hours and maybe worse lying down. They can be accompanied by symptoms like eye-watering on the side of the headache, nasal discharge on the side of the headache and may be worsened by alcohol.
  4. Sinus headaches – these headaches are the result of congestion or inflammation in your sinuses.  They feel like pressure across your forehead, around your eyes, around your cheekbones, at the bridge of, beside or below your nose.  They can be accompanied by cold symptoms. Gravity (bending over, lying down etc) may make them worse.
  5. Cervicogenic headaches – cervicogenic headaches originate from your cervical spine, which is the part of the spine in your neck.  Chiropractic care can help to re-align the bones of your neck.

Headaches can also occur as the result of a concussion or post-traumatic brain injury. Craniosacral therapy and Osteopathy can be extremely helpful for these types of headaches. TBI or concussion can also result in hormone imbalances due to damage to your pituitary gland. Our naturopathic doctors can help identify hormone imbalances.

What are the symptoms of a headache?

Headache symptoms can vary depending on the person and the type of headache. You may experience any or all of the following headache symptoms:

  1. Pain. The pain may be described as aching, pounding, throbbing, squeezing, pressure, stabbing, or shooting.
  2. Visual changes. You may experience auras, difficulty seeing, or light sensitivity.
  3. Nausea or vomiting. With severe headaches and migraines, you may feel nauseous or vomit.
  4. Noise sensitivity. Migraines often trigger a sensitivity to light and sound.
  5. Pressure or congestion. Sinus headaches may involve a feeling of a stuffy nose or fullness around the eyes or in your forehead.
  6. Irritability.

What Causes Headaches?

Dehydration

Research shows that water-deprivation headaches are among the most common types of headaches people experience. Just think, how often do you fall short of the daily recommended eight glasses of water? Staying hydrated not only helps to keep headaches at bay, but it also improves concentration and extinguishes irritability.

Stress

Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced a stress or a tension headache. You’re barely treading water, with too much to do and not enough hours in the day. The baby just won’t stop screaming, but you need to get the grocery shopping done. Your boss is in a foul mood — again. Your head begins to pound. Stress happens. It’s not always easy to avoid a tension headache, but taking a mindful approach to life, whether through yoga, meditation or gratitude journaling, can help us to manage stress better when those tricky moments arise. Self-care through psychotherapy, supporting your body’s stress glands (your adrenals), and relieving tension through massage therapy or chiropractic may all help.

Food Intolerances

We all know how alcohol can trigger a headache – especially when combined with dehydration, resulting in the ever-dreaded hangover headache. But have you ever been drinking diet pop and suddenly felt headache-y afterwards? You wouldn’t be alone. Aspartame and caffeine can also act as dietary triggers that lead to headaches. Other food intolerances known for influencing headaches include Monosodium glutamate a.k.a. MSG, nitrates found in processed meats, tyramine — a natural chemical that’s also found in processed meats, as well as aged cheese; pickles and olives; snow peas, fava and broad beans; and nuts.

Other foods that can trigger migraines include bread and pastries, cultured dairy products and yes, even chocolate. Moderation is key, as well as taking note of what you were eating before a headache occurred. Our naturopathic doctors can provide food sensitivity testing that may help you identify your headache or migraine trigger foods.

Hormones

Oh, those hormones sure have a way of impacting all areas of our bodies, don’t they? So, is it any wonder that they could also be to blame for headaches too? Truth is, elevated estrogen levels can have an impact on the frequency and severity of headaches in both women and men. It is why women are 3X more likely to experience a migraine than men. If you experience headaches or migraines on a regular basis, it is worth speaking to your naturopathic doctor about getting your hormone levels tested. Getting back into balance won’t only help your headaches, it can also change your life on many other levels.

Hypothyroidism

If your thyroid is underactive, you may experience migraines. Thorough thyroid testing including checking TSH, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin can help identify whether your thyroid is the source of the problem.

Natural Treatment for Headaches

Essential oils

A wide variety of essential oils can have a calming effect on headaches and also help to soothe migraines. Some good options include lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils. These can be applied locally to your temples or forehead to help take the edge off your headache. They should not be ingested, particularly not in pregnancy, except under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor.

Herbs

Butterbur and feverfew are two herbal remedies that have long been used to help treat headache pain; however, like with most herbal supplements, it is important to consult the guidance of a naturopathic doctor to ensure you are taking them safely and effectively.

Yoga

Yoga is proven to be among the most effective forms of self-care to help reduce headaches. In fact, one study actually demonstrated a significant reduction in migraine headache frequency when yoga was practised regularly over a period of just three months.

Visit your Chiropractor

Sometimes the root of your issue starts well below the neck and you just need to get your body back in line, literally. Encouraging results have been seen in a variety of studies, suggesting that a visit to our Chiropractor can help to reduce migraines. Participants in these studies have rated the results between good to excellent versus no treatment, mobilization, and ice.

Acupuncture

If you suffer from frequent headaches and want to avoid popping pills on a regular basis, you might wish to consider acupuncture. One study showed that after 3 to 4 months of treatment, patients receiving acupuncture had higher response rates and fewer headaches, with results that were possibly more effective than prophylactic drug treatment – and with fewer adverse side effects. Our naturopathic doctors and acupuncturist can provide acupuncture for headaches.

Massage therapy

Particularly for tension headaches, but even for migraines, massage therapy can help relieve muscle tension that may be at the root of the problem.

Frequently Asked Questions about Headaches

Do you just have to live with headaches?  Absolutely not.  Our health experts can help you pinpoint and address the root cause of your headaches for longer lasting relief.

Are headaches normal? No.  They are a sign that there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed. A one-off headache after some intense stress is probably nothing to worry about, but if headaches are severe, or frequent, then you need to address the cause of the headaches.

Should I just take over-the-counter meds and just live with headaches? No.  These medications if taken long term can have significant, negative health effects.  Acetaminophen is toxic to your liver.  Ibuprofen can erode your digestive tract and cause ulcers.  Long-term ibuprofen use is hard on your liver and kidneys.

Headaches are common, but they don’t have to be. If you feel like you’re getting more than your fair share and are having trouble pinpointing the issue, please do not hesitate to contact our clinic at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca and we will work to identify your triggers and find the best solutions for headaches together.

The team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23832131
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14979888
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2708042
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517298
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23196150
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23030536
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15623680
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11276299
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17501846
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8775024
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099267/