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/

Intermittent Fasting

woman holding apple for intermittent fasting

 

Intermittent Fasting: Fad Diet or Science-Based?

While not eating may not sound like a treatment, fasting is one of the oldest therapies in medicine. It has been well-researched for its ability to help heal and prevent disease. When done under the proper guidance of a naturopathic doctor, intermittent fasting can lead to effective weight loss and many long-term health benefits.

Fasting Versus Starving

So, you might be wondering, what’s the difference between intermittent fasting and starvation diets? Well, for starters, starving yourself is dangerous. Our bodies still need fuel to function. Being overly calorie-restricted can cause your metabolism to slow down to conserve fuel. This defeats your weight-loss efforts.

Starvation deprives our body of essential nutrients, so it begins eating itself by burning muscle for fuel. Fasting differs from starvation because it can be practiced for 12, 16, 24, 36 or even 48 hours without the body kicking into starvation mode. Fasting flips the metabolic switch safely and effectively by forcing your body into using one fuel source (ketones) instead of another (glucose).

When we are frequently eating, our bodies are fuelled by glucose, which is a simple sugar. However, through intermittent fasting, that energy source becomes unavailable for long periods of time. As a result, the body begins to break down stored fat into fatty acids that are easily absorbed into the bloodstream.  Fatty acids can be broken down into molecules called ketones. (This may ring a bell if you are familiar with the ketogenic diet.) Ketones can be used to produce energy. After 8 – 12 hours of fasting, our metabolism shifts to replace glucose with ketones as our new source of fuel.

In a world of fad diets and weight loss gimmicks, studies show that intermittent fasting may be better for you than other dieting strategies. This is because ketones put less stress on our cells compared to the by-products of other dieting methods.

Studies also show that intermittent fasting can produce benefits no matter how it’s accomplished!

In one study, participants were allowed to fast for any number of hours a day, and then eat whatever they desired during the remaining hours. In another study, dieters alternated fasting and feasting days. On their non-fasting days, dieters either restricted their diet or ate to their hearts’ content. In both cases, results showed significant weight loss, no matter the approach!

Furthermore, participants in both studies did not lose any significant amount of lean tissue (which includes bone, muscle and organ tissue). This is in contrast to starvation diets which can sometimes cause the loss of both fat and lean muscle tissue, impacting health negatively in the long run. Loss of muscle mass means a slower metabolism. Muscle burns calories even while you are sleeping.

When Should I Fast?

It’s easiest to spend most of your fasting hours asleep, so you’re not thinking about food.

How Should I Fast?

As shown above, studies have shown that the exact structure of a fast isn’t critical. However, here are a few proposed fasting plans:

  1. If you are a beginner faster, you may want to start out with an easier fasting plan, sometimes referred to as a 12:12. What that means is that you may eat within a 12-hour window each day, and then not eat throughout the remaining 12 hours. This is relatively easily done if you eat your last meal around 6 p.m. and then you don’t eat again until breakfast the next morning. It just entails curbing any evening snacking. This plan would produce more modest weight-loss than option #2 below.
  2. If the above option seems too easy, or you are already doing it and want to take it to the next level or you are wanting a greater weight-loss benefit, then you can do a 16:8 fast. That means that you only eat during an 8-hour window each day, the remaining 16 hours of the day are fasting hours. Again, you can set your feeding and fasting hours to whatever you like, but it may be that you’re not that big of a breakfast eater and mornings are hectic, so you may just skip eating until noon. Then noon to 8 p.m. is your feeding window.

What Should I Eat for Intermittent Fasting?

As mentioned, the research seems to suggest that it doesn’t really matter what you eat during your non-fasting hours. However, to prevent falling into bad habits and further enhance weight-loss efforts, we would always recommend eating a healthy, clean, whole foods diet.

Won’t I be Ravenous, Hangry, Tired, Weak, Shaky or Have a Headache?

Surprisingly, people who follow an intermittent fasting regimen, find that they are not starving between meals. In fact, they often report that they feel quite full and satisfied and do not crave food. If you find that you feel weak, shaky, irritable, tired or headachey if you don’t eat, your adrenal glands may need some supporting to allow you to fast without feeling this way. Our ND’s can provide advice about how to keep your adrenal glands healthy.

Did you know that intermittent fasting helps you to live longer too?

It’s true! New research from Harvard shows that intermittent fasting manipulates the mitochondrial networks inside our cells, which may increase lifespan!

Sure, that sounds great! But how does it work?

Simply put, inside our cells we have energy-producing organelles called mitochondria that dynamically change shape in relation to our body’s energy demand. Over time, their ability to produce energy gradually declines, eventually leading to age-related diseases. While fasting is often recommended as a way to promote healthy aging, the connection between metabolism and mitochondria has always been unclear… until now!

The Harvard study shows that low-energy conditions, such as periods of intermittent fasting, can help maintain the flexibility and youthfulness of mitochondrial networks. These youthful networks then communicate with other parts of the body (organelles called peroxisomes) that modulate fat metabolism, which as a result, helps to increase lifespan.

Fasting does not only help you live a longer life.

Fasting improves your overall health too! Further studies suggest that fasting can help:

  • Boost your immune system
  • Enhance your physical performance
  • Expedite weight loss
  • Protect your cognitive function
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Slow the progression of cancerous tumors
  • Protect against cardiovascular disease

Steps for Effective Fasting

As mentioned, there are numerous different ways to fast that are equally effective. Below are a few fasting tips to help you on your way.

  1. Set a fasting schedule and stick to it. If you’re a beginner, meal skipping is an excellent way to introduce yourself to fasting. If you choose to do a 12 or 16 hour fast, arrange your fasting window during sleeping hours to help the time pass by more easily. Fasting for 24 hours once a week or alternating day fasting are other options to try. Be sure to consult your naturopathic doctor to determine what might work best for you.
  2. Stay hydrated. You might be limiting your intake of food, but you certainly shouldn’t limit your consumption of calorie-free beverages. Be sure to drink plenty of water or switch it up with unsweetened herbal teas.
  3. Relax your body and your mind. During 24-48 hour fasting days, don’t participate in strenuous activities or spend your time obsessing over the food you can’t eat. Go easy on yourself by finding things to keep your body and mind occupied in a productive, gentle way. Take a walk or do light exercise that won’t exhaust you, like yoga. Spend a few hours curled up with a great book. Your next meal will come before you know it!
  4. Make your calories count. Between fasting windows, enjoy nutrient-dense foods that provide protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Learn how to increase flavors without sacrificing calories by adding garlic, herbs, spices, and different types of vinegar to your dishes.

If you think you are thinking about fasting but have never tried it before, I invite you to please reach out to us so we can discuss which options might be best for you. Please feel free to book an appointment with us by calling 416-481-0222 or emailing Maria@ForcesofNature.ca and we can help you get back on track with better weight management and a healthier, longer, and happier life!

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

ChiropractorNaturopathic DoctorsAcupuncturistPsychotherapistRegistered DietitianRegistered Massage TherapistOsteopath

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References:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321690.php

Intermittent fasting may be center of increasing lifespan


https://www.osher.ucsf.edu/patient-care/self-care-resources/cancer-and-nutrition/frequently-asked-questions/cancer-and-fasting-calorie-restriction/
https://news.yale.edu/2015/02/16/anti-inflammatory-mechanism-dieting-and-fasting-revealed

Organic Food: Is it Worth It?

organic food

Should You Buy Organic Food?

How would you describe “organic food” in three words or less? Good for you? Expensive? Neither of these is a wrong answer.

You may often hear in vague terms about how organic food is good for you and good for the environment. But, if you walk into any grocery store you’ll see how organic food is priced significantly higher than conventional produce. Sometimes nearly double! Why is that? Although we want to do the right thing for our bodies and our planet, are the premium prices really worth it?

Unlike conventional farming, which uses synthetic fertilizers to boost crops with chemicals, organic foods are fertilized by organic matter. The difference is that compost and animal manure slowly nourish the soil. These organic fertilizers release their nutrients gradually over time, provide a wider range of minerals and in their naturally-occurring proportions. This slow and steady approach is much better for the soil, building it up rather than depleting its nutrients. Organic crops are also not sprayed with toxic pesticides and herbicides. Because of the lack of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, an organic crop will yield approximately 20% less produce than its non-organic counterpart.

Is Organic Food Worth It?

So what’s a healthy and eco-conscious consumer to do? Do you buy into the hype without really knowing if organic is better? Is the difference truly worth the extra cost?

According to a new study in Nature Plants, yes, it’s worth it!

Organic agriculture has been proven to be beneficial and sustainable in numerous key areas, including its ability to:

    1. Benefit soil quality and the environment,
    1. Provide economically viable jobs for farmers,
    1. Support social well-being with meaningful interactions between farmers and consumers.

These are all great reasons to make a difference with your dollars by supporting the organic food movement. But chances are that you’re still wondering….

How does organic food actually benefit me?

Organic food has more vitamins and minerals

Without the use of pesticides, organic fruits and vegetables must fend for themselves. They naturally fight off insects by producing more of their own antioxidants. Did you know that organic broccoli produces more vitamin C than conventional broccoli as a natural pesticide? Studies show that organic foods contain 18 – 69% more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. This means that organic eaters consume nearly twice as many cancer-fighting, age-reversing, immune-boosting antioxidants every day!

In addition to those awesome antioxidants, one study also shows that organic foods have higher levels of iron, phosphorus, and magnesium than conventionally raised crops.

Meanwhile, remember those synthetic fertilizers we mentioned earlier? Well, they spur plant growth via high levels of nitrogen. The downside to this is that it causes conventionally grown crops to have higher levels of sugars and starches as opposed to the protective antioxidants found in organic foods.

So, which would you rather be eating – high antioxidants or high starch and sugar?

Organic food is less toxic than conventionally grown crops

It’s something we all assume when we think of “organic,” but it’s good to know that there is scientific proof backing that assumption. A meta-analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies conducted by the British Journal of Nutrition found that conventional crops have higher levels of the toxic, heavy metal cadmium as well as more pesticide residues.

Researchers have also found an increased cancer risk in children near California strawberry farms that use pesticides. And in recent news, the large agricultural corporation Monsanto, which manufactures glyphosate herbicides, just lost a lawsuit with a cancer patient – Dewayne Johnson. Mr. Johnson had regularly applied glyphosate weed killer on the school lawns that he maintained. The company now owes him 289 million dollars after internal company documents proved that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate could cause cancer. If the name glyphosate sounds familiar, it’s because there is speculation that people suffering from a gluten intolerance, are in fact reacting to the glyphosate sprayed on gluten-containing crops. Stephanie Seneff is a senior research scientist at MIT. The following is an abstract from a paper co-authored by Dr. Seneff:

Celiac disease, and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5% of the population now suffers from it. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, macrocytic anemia and depression. It is a multi-factorial disease associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies as well as reproductive issues and increased risk for thyroid disease, kidney failure and cancer. Here, we propose that glyphosate is the most important causal factor in this epidemic. Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria. Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment in many cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved with detoxifying environmental toxins, activating vitamin D3, catabolizing vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplies to the gut. Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes. Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements. Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine and selenomethionine associated with Celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids. Celiac disease patients have an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has also been implicated in glyphosate exposure. Reproductive issues associated with Celiac disease, such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects, can also be explained by glyphosate. Glyphosate residues in wheat and other crops are likely increasing recently due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to the harvest. We argue that the practice of “ripening” sugar cane with glyphosate may explain the recent surge in kidney failure among agricultural workers in Central America.

To learn more about which crops you should always buy organic based on pesticide levels, there is a great resource created annually by the Environmental Working Group or EWG. They are a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies that protect global and individual health. The EWG’s “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” ranks the pesticides levels in 47 different fruits and vegetables. Their annual list of the Dirty Dozen contains the 12 most heavily contaminated types of produce. These are fruits and vegetables that you should either abstain from eating or only consume if they are organic. Talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth! Speaking of which…

Organic food tastes better!

At some point in your life, you’ve likely compared strawberries from the grocer to those fresh from the garden or picked in the wild. Even without considering that toxic tidbit above, which would you honestly say tasted better? Odds are it was the berry from the garden.

When plants are grown without pesticides, their flavour is naturally improved. The higher antioxidant levels found in organic foods also impacts how we detect flavour through organoleptic qualities such as taste, aroma, and mouth-feel. Plus, organic foods carry the distinct flavours of a region’s soil, which further enhances their natural taste. Organic berries just plain taste sweeter!

When we look at the long-term effect of toxins in our system, we see an increase in autoimmune disease, hormonal imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies that lead to more significant health issues. In Naturopathic Medicine we seek to remove the factors preventing the body from healing itself, in other words, remove the obstacles to cure. In most cases that includes avoiding toxic intake, while also enhancing the body’s own ability to eliminate toxins. The more we know about how pesticides and other chemicals harm us, the more we can stay away from things that are not serving our longevity, our health and the health of our families.

They say you get what you pay for, and that statement holds true with organic foods. Buying organic might cost a bit more, but consider it an investment in improved health, greater flavour, and a more sustainable environment.

Maybe you can’t afford to buy all organic all the time – most people can’t. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be all or nothing. Throw a few organic items into your cart now and then, or better still, make friends with the farmers at your local market. As with anything in life, small actions add up to make a real difference.

So our conclusion is an enthusiastic “yes, organic food is worth it!”

If you have any other questions about nutrition, natural ways to improve your health, how to detoxify from environmental pollutants or anything else, please feel free to contact our Naturopathic Doctors or our Registered Dietitian. We would be happy to help. Just give us a call at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca. We would love to hear from you.

The Team at Forces of Nature

References:
https://www.nature.com/articles/nplants2015221
https://news.wsu.edu/2014/07/11/major-study-documents-benefits-of-organic-farming/#.U8AkH41dXA3
https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/107555301750164244
https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/

Should You Take Probiotics?

good bacteria, bad bacteria and probiotics

What are Probiotics?

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as:
“Live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host”
By this definition, there are 3 key components to probiotics:
1. They must be alive
2. They have to be dosed in adequate amounts
3. And they must be bacteria of the type that confer a health benefit

Live Probiotics

Good probiotics are often pricey. They may cost extra but you can be assured that you are getting living and viable probiotics whereas some less expensive products may only contain dead bacteria. A trick to watch out for: probiotic labels that say “x billion viable/live bacteria at time of manufacture.” What the product contained at time of manufacture is completely irrelevant. It’s what they contain when you consume them that matters. What this “guarantee” is really saying is “we’re not sure how much will survive until you take them.” The better manufacturers will usually test their products for at least 6 months beyond the expiry date to ensure that you are still getting living bacteria in the amount claimed on the label when you take it. What the label should say is “guaranteed to contain x billion live or viable bacteria at time of expiry”. See the difference? Knowing that some will die off between manufacture and the time that you take them, the good manufacturers will put extra in when they make it and test it beyond the time of expiry to ensure that even if some did die off, there is still the amount stated on the label when the bottle expires.

Number of Bacteria in Probiotics

The bacteria in probiotics are listed as CFU, which stands for “colony forming units”. It means how many bacteria are in the product that can then reproduce to form a little colony. One or two billion bacteria or CFU’s per serving just doesn’t cut it. When it comes to good bacteria the higher the amount per serving the better. I would typically recommend a product that contains 35-50 billion bacteria per capsule and a wide range of species from the ones listed below. Over 100 trillion bacteria of 500 different species live in a healthy human gut, if you want to have an impact, you need to add more than a drop in the bucket.

Probiotics that Give a Health Benefit

There are a few manufacturers promoting something called “soil based organisms” that are supposed to be what we naturally would have inhabiting our guts if we were eating fresh food plucked from the ground. There has been very little research supporting their use and a few case studies of people who were severely immune compromised and suffered life threatening infections after consuming these products. There is a plethora of research and human experience showing the health benefits of probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium lactis.

What are the Health Benefits of Probiotics?

Here are the benefits of healthy good bacteria in our digestive tract:
1. Diarrhea prevention, especially when taking antibiotics
2. Colorectal cancer prevention
3. Immune system regulation and enhancement
4. Asthma and allergy prevention
5. Prevention of infection in the gut by harmful organisms like Salmonella, Shigella, H pylori, yeast etc
6. Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
7. They provide the host with vitamins B12 and K
8. They appear to help with insulin resistance in diabetics and in women with gestational diabetes

Probiotic Foods

Certain foods are known to be rich in probiotics. These are fermented foods and many cultures have their own version. Dairy-based foods that contain probiotic bacteria include kefir and yogourt. Non-dairy probiotic foods include fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, kim chi, miso and tempeh. Do these food probiotics work? Research has been done on ingestion of bean and soy tempeh to determine their effect on gut bacteria. Soy tempeh stimulates most the growth of Bifidobacterium bacteria, while bean tempeh stimulates that of Escherichia coli. While it is good to eat probiotic-rich foods for daily gut maintenance, when taking an antibiotic, I would always encourage people to take a good quality probiotic supplement. That way we know exactly how many beneficial bacteria they are getting and of what kind. A serving of commercial yogourt may only contain 1 billion bacteria per serving where just one probiotic capsule would contain 50-100 times that much.

How Often to Take Probiotics

Whether to take probiotics and if so, how much and how often is subject to debate. Definitely any time you need to take antibiotics, you should take a good quality probiotic while taking the antibiotics and for at least two weeks afterward to prevent potentially serious side effects of taking antibiotics.

Because of the potential for numerous health benefits of taking probiotics, for most people they should be a regular part of their health maintenance program. Whether that means taking them every day, or taking them for 2-3 months out of every year, may be more to do with individual preference than scientifically proven value. I do encourage people who take probiotics daily, to try to vary the product and strains that they are taking in order to maintain the diversity of gut bacteria that seems to help promote good health.

Cautions

The above strains of probiotic bacteria are generally considered safe, even for infants. The primary contraindications for probiotic use would be:
1. Someone who is severely immune compromised such as a transplant recipient, someone very elderly or very sick, or a patient undergoing cancer treatment.
2. Using soil-based probiotics in any of the above patients and possibly in the general population as there isn’t sufficient safety and efficacy data.

With about a hundred published studies per year, there is new information being revealed every day about the health benefits of taking probiotic supplements. With almost no downside, and plenty of potential benefits, probiotics are a worthwhile addition to your health regimen.

Oh and by the way, a class action lawsuit was filed and won against Dannon/Danone in January 2008 in which the company stood accused of spending $100 million promoting clinical benefits of Activia and DanActive that its own tests had disproved. To add to that, Bifidus Regularis is a made-up name by Danone for Bifidobacterium animalis. Commercial yogurt is not an adequate means to obtain good bacteria.

Our naturopathic doctors are experts on which probiotics may work best for your particular problem as well as how to heal a whole host of gut issues.  Book an appointment now. 

Hypoglycemia

woman suffering from low blood sugar

Low Blood Sugar or Hypoglycemia

What is hypoglycemia?

The word hypoglycemia literally means low (hypo) sugar (glyc) in the blood (emia). Blood sugar is exactly what it sounds like, how much sugar or glucose is in your blood at a given time. This number is highly variable based on what you have eaten, your stress level, exercise, your caffeine intake and a variety of other factors.

Is hypoglycemia or low blood sugar the same as being diabetic?

No, in fact it is the polar opposite.  However, diabetics who are on blood sugar lowering medication can experience hypoglycemia if what they have eaten and the dosage of their medication are a mismatch.  Diabetic medication is outside the scope of this article and best discussed with your prescribing physician.

What causes low blood sugar?

Since your blood sugar level is influenced by a number of factors, you may experience low blood sugar for many reasons:

Stress

Under stress, your body depends on glucose for fuel to assist in the “fight or flight” response. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline tend to increase blood sugar to get more fuel to your muscles to prepare you for the fight. When your blood sugar shoots up quickly, your body responds by producing insulin to help move the sugar from the blood into the cells to either be burned as fuel or stored as fat. As insulin moves the glucose out of your blood and into your cells, your blood glucose level will drop. If it drops too much, hypoglycemia may result. Stress also often primes us to reach for the wrong foods, those rich in refined flour and sugar. The consumption of those foods is likely to lead to a blood sugar crash some time later.

Diet

Foods that induce a spike in blood sugar like sweets and starchy foods, will necessitate the production of insulin. Insulin, as mentioned above, then lowers blood sugar. In some instances, excess insulin is produced and blood sugar drops lower than normal. Avoiding consuming foods that spike insulin, helps maintain a more stable blood sugar.

Exercise

For most forms of exercise, your body can maintain a stable blood sugar. However, if you participate in extended endurance workouts, like running marathons, there is the potential for your fuel to drop a bit low. The runner’s term for this is to “bonk” or “hit a wall”. Distance runners will often carry gels with them (containing mainly sugar) to prevent or treat a blood sugar crash. In my opinion, as a triathlete, I think a better strategy is to eat a meal containing easily digested protein (like fish), some healthy fat (like avocado) and some low glycemic index carbs (like a bit of sweet potato) 3 hours before a race, and to keep a few nuts and high fibre dried fruit with me rather than consuming sugary gels that are likely to result in a crash some time later.

Caffeine

Consumption of caffeine creates a spike in cortisol, which then increases blood sugar. As with stress and diet, anything that increases blood sugar stimulates production of blood sugar-lowering insulin. This creates the potential for a crash in blood sugar later.

Under-working adrenal glands

Your adrenal glands are your stress glands. They sit just on top of your kidneys. They perform many jobs, one of which is to keep your blood sugar stable. When it begins to drop, the adrenals signal to your liver to release some stored glucose, to bring your blood sugar back up. If adrenals fail to signal your liver, then your blood sugar will drop. For most of the people that I see, under-functioning adrenal glands and diet are the two biggest factors contributing to hypoglycemia.

Artificial sweeteners

While these do not increase your blood sugar, research suggests that your body will still produce insulin in response to the sweet taste. If blood sugar does not rise, yet insulin is still produced, blood sugar will drop due to the insulin. For many, the reason for using these is to reduce the amount of insulin being produced to help with weight loss. If insulin is produced anyway, consuming them kind of defeats the purpose.

Hormones

Estrogen influences how well your body is able to use sugar and insulin. Postmenopause when estrogen is lower, there may be a greater tendency to have blood sugar fluctuations.

Alcohol

Non-sugary alcoholic beverages like wine or straight spirits may cause your blood sugar to crash, where sugary cocktails may do the opposite.

What are the symptoms of low blood sugar?

The symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • Feeling weak, shaky, dizzy, light-headed, headachy or irritable when going too long without eating.
  • Sleep maintenance insomnia. This is where people wake up in the middle of the night, often highly alert or even feeling anxious or stressed and have a hard time going back to sleep.

6 Tips to Prevent Hypoglycemia

  1. Include protein with each meal. Protein is slow release energy that helps to maintain a stable blood sugar.
  2. Avoid high glycemic index carbs, sugar and artificial sweeteners. These spike your blood sugar which can lead to a subsequent crash.
  3. Drink alcohol in moderation. If you are experiencing sleep troubles, you may want to avoid alcohol in the evening.
  4. Support your adrenal glands. Eat lots of leafy greens, get good sleep, reduce your stress levels and take time to relax and have fun every day.
  5. Stress. Other than divesting yourself of the stress, moderate exercise is the best way to reduce your body’s response stress. Find an exercise that you enjoy and use it to burn off stress on a regular basis.
  6. Stay hydrated. While blood sugar doesn’t drop because you are dehydrated, dehydration can feel like hypoglycemia.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of low blood sugar, our Naturopathic Doctors and Registered Dietitian can help with nutrition advice.  See Dr. Rachel Vong, ND, Dr. Pamela Frank, ND or Sanaz Baradaran, RD.   Call us at 416-481-0222 or book online here.

 

 

SIBO

woman suffering from SIBO

SIBO: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Despite its name, the small intestine is actually a whopping 20 feet of very important tissue between your stomach and large intestine. The small intestine is divided up into 3 parts. The part closest to your stomach is called the duodenum, next is the jejunum and the last stretch before your large intestine is your ileum. The small intestine has the important job of digesting food and absorbing nutrients to keep us in good health. As if that wasn’t significant enough, it is also a key contributor to a healthy immune system.

The small intestine plays host to specific beneficial microorganisms that help protect our bodies against bad (pathogenic) bacteria and yeast. These good bacteria also do their part to produce vitamins and nutrients like vitamin K and folate. They are the keepers of the small intestine, ensuring that it continues to do its thing, muscling waves of food through the gut.

What is SIBO?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO occurs when there is an increased number of bacteria and/or a change in the type of bacteria present in your small intestine. Overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine is considered to be greater than 100 000 bacteria per millilitre of fluid. Most often SIBO is caused by an overgrowth of the wrong types of bacteria that actually belong in the colon (the large intestine). In truth, the small intestine is meant to be fairly clean. Food coming from the top down through the stomach is sterilized by stomach acid. So anything passing into the small intestine from the top shouldn’t contain much in the way of bacteria. Absence of adequate stomach acid may contribute to SIBO as this would allow passage of bacteria into the intestines. Another theory as to how this occurs is that there is a motor complex that propels everything in your intestines one direction – out the far end. This migrating motor complex or MMC can malfunction, allowing a backwash of bacteria from the large intestine to move up into the small intestine.

The bacteria that causes SIBO is like a bad tenant. It invites all its rowdy friends in for a party and damages the cell lining of the small bowel. This can lead to leaky gut, allowing large protein molecules to move through the intestinal barrier and escape into the bloodstream. As you can imagine, this causes a number of problems, including general inflammation, immune reactions that cause food allergies, and autoimmune diseases.

These havoc-causing bad bacteria are also responsible for poor digestion, constipation or diarrhea and malabsorption. Patients with SIBO may suffer from nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron, vitamin B12, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as having unintended weight loss, and even osteoporosis.

Do I Have SIBO?

SIBO is considered an under-diagnosed condition as many people do not seek medical care for their symptoms or they get wrongly diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.

The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of SIBO

Signs and symptoms of SIBO include:

· Bloating and abdominal swelling

· Abdominal pain or discomfort

· Diarrhea

· Constipation

· Gas and belching

· Weakness and fatigue

In the most severe cases, patients experience weight loss and vitamin deficiency-related symptoms.

Who is at risk for SIBO? How Do You Get SIBO?

While the elderly may be the most vulnerable population for developing SIBO as its prevalence rises with age, there are multiple other risk factors that can increase your chances, no matter your age. These include:

· Medication use, especially antibiotics

· Gastric acid suppression or Low Stomach Acid (due to stress, medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) or antacids, and lifestyle factors)

· Fibromyalgia

· Celiac disease

· Crohn’s disease

· Prior bowel surgery

· Diabetes Types I & II

· Irritable bowel syndrome

Studies also indicate that moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women and two for men) promotes the overgrowth of certain types of bacteria and also impairs vital functions. This results in small bowel injury and decreased muscle contractions impairing the migrating motor complex.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or think you might be at risk, then we encourage you to make an appointment to assess your symptoms and get tested. Specialized testing can be accomplished through a breath test. This breath test measures your hydrogen and methane gas levels produced by bacterial metabolism and can be a very helpful indicator to determine if you are suffering from SIBO.

What Causes SIBO and How Can You Treat It?

Despite multiple courses of antibiotics being a risk factor, specific antibiotics (like Rifaximin) are still most often used to treat SIBO. However, studies show that SIBO returns in nearly half of all patients within a year after treatment.

Successful treatment of SIBO must be handled just like any other health condition – not with a temporary Band-aid solution, but by addressing the underlying cause! Intestinal bacteria can be influenced by numerous factors beyond what we eat and how much. Environmental effects, drugs, alcohol, sedentary lifestyle, mood disorders, hormone imbalances and lifestyle factors such as stress can all be contributing factors to poor gut health. Therefore, the treatment must be unique to the individual and all-encompassing.

Once you have identified the cause, treat SIBO symptoms through a healthy diet, nutritional supplements and positive lifestyle changes that help return the body to balance.

Tips for dealing with SIBO

  1. Eat three meals per day spaced 4-5 hour apart and avoid snacking. We need to give our body time in between meals to fully digest the previous meal.
  2. With guidance from your naturopathic doctor try an elimination diet for two weeks to get your body back on track by reducing inflammation and bacteria overgrowth. If this doesn’t seem to help, you may want to pursue food sensitivity testing through one of our ND’s. The test checks for antibodies in your bloodstream to either 96 or 184 foods. Employee benefits will sometimes cover the cost of this test along with other lab or diagnostic testing.
  3. Enjoy foods that assist digestive health like fresh pineapple which is rich in bromelain and can also help lower inflammation, and bananas which are an excellent source of potassium and manganese that your stomach lining needs for healing. Boiled cabbage water is an excellent source of the amino acid glutamine that helps heal the gut lining. Vitamin A is also essential for a healthy gut. Eating liver and beta carotene-rich foods like leafy greens and orange vegetables like carrots as well as taking cod liver oil help insure adequate vitamin A intake.
  4. Keep your fat intake in check. Research has shown that a high-fat diet, increases the growth of fat digesting bacteria at the expense of other more healthful ones. That is, microbes from the Clostridiaceae and Peptostreptococcaceae families increased while beneficial bacteria from the Bifidobacteriacaea and Bacteroidacaea families (which are commonly associated with leanness) went down.

How to Get Rid of SIBO: The Steps for Successful Treatment

    1. Elimination/modification of the underlying causes. This may involve changing your diet to a whole food, low FODMAPs diet, reducing your stress, eating 3 meals per day, reducing or eliminating the need for antibiotics, optimizing digestive juices like stomach acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes.

    2. Induction of remission (antibiotics or natural anti-microbials and elemental diet)

    3. Maintenance of remission (promotility herbs, dietary modifications, healthy lifestyle, optimized digestive juices, repeat or cyclical antimicrobials, hormone balancing, reduced alcohol intake).

SIBO Diet Food List (derived from the work of Dr. Alison Siebecker)

Foods to Eat with SIBOFoods to Avoid with SIBO
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds
Almond flour
Coconut: flour/shredded/milk
Hazelnuts
Macadamia
Peanuts
Peanut butter
Pecans
Pine nuts
Pumpkin seeds
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
Walnuts
Nuts and Seeds
Cashews
Pistachios
Pumpkin seeds
Legumes
Lentil: brown, green or red
Lima beans
Legumes
Borlotti beans
Cranberry beans
Kidney beans
Red beans
Navy beans
White beans
Haricot beans
Baked beans
Spilt pea
Butter beans
Cannellini
Chickpea
Garbanzo beans
Fava beans
Broad beans
Pinto beans
Soy beans
Protein Sources
Bacon
Broth: homemade meat or marrow bones
Beef
Eggs
Fish
Game
Lamb
Organ Meats
Pork
Poultry
Seafood
Protein sources
None
Sweeteners
Honey: alfalfa, cotton, clover, raspberry
Stevia-pure (no inulin) in small amounts, occasionally
Sweeteners
Agave syrup
Barley Malt syrup
Brown Rice syrup
Cane sugar (Rapadura, Sucanat)
Coconut sugar
Fructose, powdered
High-fructose corn syrup
Maple syrup
Molasses
Sugar/Sucrose
Sucralose
Polyols/Sugar alcohol: isomalt, erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol
Beverages
Coffee 1c/day (weak)
Tea: black (weak), chamomile, ginger, green, hibiscus, lemongrass, mate, mint, oolong, rooibos/rooibos chai, rose hip
Water
Beverages
Fruit Juices
Coffee substitutes with chicory
Coconut milk-with
thickeners (guar gum, carageenan)
Soda (fructose, sucrose)
Tea: chicory root, licorice, pau d’arco
Fats and Oils
Bacon fat
Butter
Coconut oil
Cod liver oil & Fish oil
Duck fat
Garlic-infused oil
Ghee
Lard & Tallow
Medium Chain Triglyceride/MCT oil
Macadamia oil
Olive oil
Palm oil
Polyunsaturated Vegetable Oils: Borage, Canola Flax, Grape seed, Hemp, Pumpkin seed, Sesame, Sunflower, Walnut
Fats and Oils
Soybean oil
Herbs, Spices, Condiments and Seasonings
All spices (except onion & garlic)
Garlic-infused oil
Ginger (fresh & dried)
Mayonnaise, homemade or commercial with honey
Mustard - without garlic
Pickles/Relish - no sweetener or garlic
Tabasco sauce (McIlhenny Co)
Wasabi - pure
Vinegar: apple cider, distilled/white, red & white wine (NOT balsamic)
Herbs, Spices and Seasonings
Asafoetida powder
Chicory root (leaves ok)
Cocoa/chocolate-unsweetened
Gums/Carrageenan/Thickeners
Sauces or Marinades with High Fodmap ingredients
Soy Sauce/Tamari
Spices: Onion & Garlic powder
Vinegar: balsamic
Fruit
Berries: blueberry, boysenberry, strawberry, raspberry
Carambola
Citrus: lemon, lime, oranges, tangelos, tangerine
Currants
Dragon Fruit
Durian
Grapes
Guava
Kiwifruit
Longon
Melon: cantaloupe/rock, honeydew
Papaya/Paw Paw
Passion fruit
Pineapple
Pomegranate
Prickly Pear
Rambutan
Rhubarb
Fruit
Apple
Apricot
Avocado
Berries: cranberry
Cherries
Citrus, grapefruit
Custard Apple
Date, dried
Fig, dried
Mango
Nectarine
Papaya, dried
Peach
Pear
Pear: nashi
Persimmon
Plum
Pomegranate
Prunes
Raisins
Tamarillo
Watermelon
Canned fruit
Vegetables
Artichoke Hearts (small amounts)
Arugula
Bamboo Shoots
Beets
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrot
Celery Root/Celeriac
Chives
Cucumber
Eggplant
Endive
Fennel bulb < 1 cup
Green Beans
Greens: lettuce, collard, chard, kale, spinach
Olives
Peas, green
Peppers: Bell/Sweet Peppers: Chili
Radicchio
Radish
Rutabaga
Scallion: green part
Snow Peas
Squash: Butternut Kobocha, Sunburst, Yellow, Zucchini
Tomato
Vegetables
Asparagus
Bean Sprouts
Canned vegetables
Cauliflower
Corn
Garlic
Jerusalem artichoke
Leek
Mushrooms
Okra
Onions
Potato: white/all colors
Potato: sweet
Scallions: white part
Seaweeds
Shallot
Starch powder: all
arrowroot, corn, potato, rice, tapioca
Sugar Snap Peas
Taro
Turnip
Water Chestnuts
Yam
Yucca

Download our free one-week SIBO diet guide, low FODMAPs meal plan here.

Do any of the above symptoms or risk factors sound familiar? Do you think you might be suffering from SIBO? We can help! Please contact us and we’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on and create a plan of action to bring your body back to good health.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Info@ForcesofNature.ca for more information or to book an appointment.

To your best health!

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic – Naturopathic Doctors, Chiropractor, Massage Therapist, Acupuncturist/TCMP, Osteopath, Registered Dietitian, Psychotherapist

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099351/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22109896

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890937/

 “Small intestine microbiota regulate host digestive and absorptive adaptive responses to dietary lipids,” Cell Host and Microbe (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.03.011

How to Test and Treat Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: an Evidence-Based Approach. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2016 Feb;18(2):8. doi: 10.1007/s11894-015-0482-9.

Mindfulness: Making the Mind-Body Connection

pic of meditation tips to connect mind-body

The Mind-Body Connection

Our mind-body connection is far more powerful than we realize. Our thoughts influence our emotions, our psychological well-being and the way we experience the world around us. Even when we imagine future situations or visualize potential outcomes, our bodies physically respond to those thoughts.

Think of how you react when someone cuts you off in traffic and nearly causes an accident. The incident may only last a moment, but, in that instant, your body prepares for the potential negative outcome. The stress triggers a surge of adrenaline, your body’s hormonal response to a fight or flight situation. Your physical reaction isn’t limited to a release of adrenaline though. In that instant of fear that you may be hurt or your car damaged, those alarming thoughts can trigger your body to experience all types of physiological responses. You may have changes in your blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate and chemical alterations in your brain. These changes can be harmless, or, over time, they can be detrimental to your health.

Mind-Body: The Placebo Phenomenon

What is a placebo?

The definition of a placebo is “a harmless or inactive pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological effect on the patient than for any physiological effect”. Placebos are usually used in evaluating new medications to see whether the effect of the medication is psychological or physical.

In 2013, a study was conducted on 270 patients looking to alleviate severe arm pain. Half of the subjects received “acupuncture” treatments, and the other half received “pain-reducing pills”. Some side-effects experienced in both groups included an increase in pain, sluggishness, swelling, and redness. Both groups found relief with treatment, but those who received acupuncture reported feeling even better than the group that did not receive this treatment. However, the study was not designed to measure the effectiveness of acupuncture versus pain pills. The “acupuncture” needles had retractable shafts that never actually pierced the skin, and the “painkillers were made of cornstarch”. The study was meant to measure the power of placebos. It illustrated that just because the patients thought that a harmless procedure or pill would cause side effects, it did. Also, because they thought the same inactive procedures or pills would help, their condition improved.

Imagine! Even without any actual treatment, the body still reacted according to what each patient thought or expected. Of course, you cannot think yourself better to remove a tumour or cure a virus. But researchers have found that the power of the mind can have a physical impact when it comes to pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and even some symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Our brain chemistry is also influenced by those around us.  In another study conducted at the University of Turin Medical School, 100 students went on a trip to the Italian Alps with the researcher Fabrizio Benedetti. Shortly before the trip, Benedetti told one individual in the group that the thin air may cause migraines. A few days passed, giving the rumour time to make the rounds to one-quarter of the travellers – all of whom experienced horrible headaches. Saliva tests on the “socially-infected” individuals also revealed low oxygen conditions beyond what was expected.

Now, apply that study to our everyday lives and how gossip and social media influence can negatively impact our thoughts. What happens when family and friends fuel your negative expectations, worries, and doubts? It makes things worse, doesn’t it? And what about the opposite – what happens when your loved ones surround you with warmth and encouragement? It feels amazing and makes life’s challenges feel less difficult.  These are examples of the mind-body connection in action.

Embracing positive social support makes a positive difference in your health!

Change your thoughts. Change your life.

Play along for a moment and allow yourself to take in a long conscious breath.

Feel how the air moves through your body as you inhale and exhale and try to clear your thoughts.  Imagine the air flushing out all of the negativity in your body and mind.

Now take another full deep breath. And another. One more.

How do you feel? Did time slow down a little? Did you enjoy a brief moment of calm or peace?

If only we lived breath by breath instead of task-by-task. Our to-do lists will never be empty, so we must schedule time in our day to reconnect with ourselves. We may feel like finding time to meditate is beyond our control. It isn’t. And the results are worth it!

Spending a moment in meditation each morning is one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being. Even if only for ten minutes, it is a time investment that you’ll never regret. By starting your day on the right track, it makes it that much easier to get yourself back on track whenever life goes off the rails.

The Benefits of Meditation

  • Meditation deepens your self-connection on a physical, mental and spiritual level.
  • Meditation helps to release suppressed emotions by giving you space to reset.
  • Meditation enhances our overall health and well-being by increasing positive emotions and improving immune function.

Studies have also shown that when we work on our emotional awareness and self-compassion, we can experience a healthier response to rejection, improve eating behaviours, and effectively manage weight loss.

Feel like meditation is a little too woo-woo for you? Science supports this practice. Check out the following studies on the benefits of meditation:

  1. The use of a community-accessible mindful awareness practice intervention resulted in improvements in sleep quality at immediate post-intervention, which was superior to a highly structured sleep hygiene education intervention. Formalized mindfulness-based interventions have clinical importance by possibly serving to remediate sleep problems among older adults in the short term, and this effect appears to carry over into reducing sleep-related daytime impairment that has implications for quality of life. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Apr;175(4):494-501. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081.
  2. Stress reduction was observed in several types of meditation. After meditation, hormonal orchestration modulates effects in the central nervous system and in the body. All types of meditation are associated with blood pressure control, enhancement in insulin resistance, reduction of lipid peroxidation and cellular senescence, independent of the type of meditation. Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig. 2014 Jun;18(3):137-43. doi: 10.1515/hmbci-2013-0056.
  3. Meditation helps regulate the stress response, thereby suppressing chronic inflammation states and maintaining a healthy gut-barrier function. Adv Mind Body Med. 2017 Fall;31(4):10-25.

These are just a drop in the bucket from the multitude of studies showing widespread health benefits from meditation. Busy lives create an “always on”, “go-go-go” mentality that is in direct opposition to the effects of meditation. Taking the time to meditate or at the very least take 5 deep, cleansing breaths, all the way into your belly and all the way out at least once per day can have significant health benefits.

No matter your struggle, success always begins with a positive frame of mind.  Perspective is everything.

A few key points to remember…
1. Stress is not inherently negative – it all depends on how you look at things. If you perceive something as a threat, then your body responds accordingly and your health will deteriorate. However, if you simply use the mind-body connection to change your mindset from seeing things as a threat to a challenge, then you enhance your health!

2. Emotions are only energy in motion. Instead of thinking of your emotions as a hindrance, consider them the currency required for the motivation to change. Unresolved feelings don’t atrophy or disappear – their dammed-up energies accumulate. Like an untreated health condition, if your emotions are allowed to fester inwardly, they will eventually cause physical conditions and behavioural issues.

3. Both negative and positive emotions left unresolved will deplete your body’s immune system. Acknowledge your feelings and learn how to manage them effectively. Managing emotions leads to balance in the body, a centred mind, and a spiritual connection. Remember, if there are no peaks or valleys, you’re not really living.

Do you find yourself entrenched in negative thought patterns? Do you think some of your health concerns might be related to your outlook on life? Let’s discuss and see if we can uncover the triggers behind your health issues and develop strategies to overcome them together. Contact us at Forces of Nature and we’ll start working on bringing you back to your best.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Info@ForcesofNature.ca.

To your best health!
The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic – Naturopathic Doctors, Chiropractor, Osteopath, RMT’s, Registered Dietitian, Acupuncturist/TCMP, Craniosacral Therapist, Psychotherapist

Mind-Body Research:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMp1504023

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26164587

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12883106

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316737540_Stomaching_rejection_Self-compassion_and_self esteem_moderate_the_impact_of_daily_social_rejection_on_restrictive_eating_behaviours_among_college_women

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324225709_A_qualitative_analysis_of_the_role_of_emotions_in_different_patterns_of_long-term_weight_loss

Sedentary is the New Smoking

picture of legs moving to prevent sedentary lifestyle

The Hazards of a Sedentary Lifestyle

On average, how many hours per day do you spend being sedentary, just sitting, uninterrupted? One hour? Two hours? Three…or more?

Our ancient ancestors spent much of their time on the move, hunting and gathering to serve their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter and to avoid predators. The balance between movement and being sedentary has shifted dramatically over time, most notably since the technological revolution.

Unlike our ancestors, we no longer need to hunt for food and search for water. Instead, we are now on a quest for time, as hours fly by while we’re hunched over a keyboard. In an average day, most of us are likely sitting more than we are moving and consuming more calories than we are burning. Many of us regularly put in eight-hour workdays seated at a desk – sometimes even ten and twelve hour days. We then go home and unwind on the couch, binge-watching our favourite shows. The hours of not moving begin to add up.

Maybe we make a little time to fit in some exercise two or three times per week; however, with more conveniences at our fingertips, less movement is required in a day and we can do a lot more while moving a lot less. The longer we sit, the more our bodies begin to feel tight, tired and sore and the more cardiovascular fitness we lose. It’s clear that too much sitting isn’t good for us. But did you know that it can also lead to significantly reduced mortality, similar to the effects of smoking?

Sitting and Premature Death

That’s right; too much sitting can kill you! In fact, some are saying that “sitting is the new smoking” because its impact is so significant. According to recent research from the Journal of the American Heart Association, prolonged sitting increases your risk of similar diseases as smoking, such as heart disease, lung cancer, and diabetes. It also increases premature death by about 50 per cent! Even more surprising, too much sitting increases your risk for an early death regardless of your fitness level or other lifestyle habits. So even if you do make it to the gym a few times per week and make healthy dietary choices, a sedentary lifestyle or excessive sitting at work still predisposes you do die younger.

But sitting isn’t just bad for your heart or metabolism; it is also bad for your brain! Researchers at the University of California have discovered a connection between sedentary behaviour and thinning regions in the brain that are critical to new memory formation.

So, what if your job requires you to be at a desk, all day, every day? Are you supposed to quit? Well, of course, that’s not practical. However, there are a few simple things you can do to ensure that you keep your body regularly moving for a longer, healthier life.

Tips to be Less Sedentary & Live Longer

1. Squeeze in Exercise Whenever Possible

Bottom line, the more frequently you work out, the more you reduce your risk of premature death. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. While exercising 10 minutes or more at a time is ideal, shorter but frequent micro-bursts of exercise, like taking the stairs, can also be an excellent way to keep active.

2. Opt for Less Convenience

We live in a world of many technological conveniences, we deem them necessary and in some cases to our detriment. Turn back time and reverse your biological clock by opting for “less convenient” choices in your day. Walk over and have a conversation with your colleague instead of sending an email or making a phone call. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Bike to work instead of driving. Changing your daily activities can make a significant impact!

3. Make a Point of Moving Every 30 Minutes

Research shows that people who sit for less than 30 minutes at a time have the lowest risk of early death. Meetings and deadlines don’t always offer the freedom to move, but ideally, you don’t want to be sitting for any longer than three hours at a stretch. Setting a timer on your phone can be a helpful reminder to take regular movement breaks. Do a few stretches next to your desk, do some jumping jacks, knees-up or push-ups. You’ll be more productive for taking that short break and get more circulation and nutrients to your brain.

4. Use a Fitness Tracker

Fitness trackers are an effective way to ensure you’re getting enough activity in your day. As health and fitness wearables grow in popularity, there is an increasing number of options available for every budget and lifestyle. Personally, I love my Fitbit. There are also a wide variety of exercise apps out there to track your progress and monitor your success with motivational milestones to keep you moving. MyFitnessPal is my favourite app to track exercise and calorie intake. I don’t obsess over it, but I do find it helpful to keep me honest with what I’m eating and how much I’m moving.

5. Try a Stand-up Desk

As awareness grows about the health concerns associated with chronic and prolonged sitting, more companies have already begun re-examining ways they can improve employee wellness. In some environments, adjustable desks are offered to provide workers with opportunities to stand instead of sitting if they so choose. There are even treadmill desks so you can walk while you work. If a standing desk is not an option for you, try moving your laptop to a tall counter or table as a means to squeeze in more standing.

6. Move Before, During and After Work

Get up a little earlier to squeeze in some exercise, even if it’s only 15 minutes, before work. Take a walk on your break or at lunch. Go for a swim, bike ride, run or walk in the evening. Spreading exercise throughout your day helps break up the long bouts of sedentary behaviour.

7. Turn off the TV, Get Off your Tablet or PC and Put Down Your Phone

All of these devices are intended to be addictive. Imposing a time limit and sticking to it can help you avoid being sucked into wasting hours on these devices that could be spent moving.

8. Do Some Housework, Yard Work or Gardening

All of these activities involve movement and are far more productive than binge-watching the latest show.

Do you spend excessive amounts of time sitting? Do you experience any health problems that you think could be related to a sedentary lifestyle such as weight gain, back pain, insomnia or high blood pressure? Let’s chat and get to the root of your health issues. Book an appointment with us and together we will find ways to improve your overall health and well-being so that you can live your life to its fullest and longest.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Maria@ForcesofNature.ca or book online here.

To your best health!

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

References

http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/7/6/e007678
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180412141014.htm
http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2653704/patterns-sedentary-behavior-mortality-u-s-middle-aged-older-adults

Defusing Depression

depression pic of bench with the words feeling depressed

Defusing Depression

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

Do you or have you ever suffered from depression? If so, you’re not alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide and that it is a leading cause of disability. Fifteen percent of adults will experience depression at least once in their lifetime.

Depression knows no bounds. It can impact anyone at any point in their life, regardless of age, gender, medical history, or socioeconomic status. This is evidenced by the recent very high profile suicides of designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain. While depression may seem like an invisible condition, there are warning signs to look for.

What is Depression?

How can you tell if you or someone you know might be experiencing a major depressive episode? A major depressive episode is defined as a depressed mood lasting at least two weeks or more. Life seems filled with darkness, heaviness or hopelessness, and there is a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Depression also comes with other symptoms that can interfere with your work, school or social life.

What are the signs or symptoms of depression?

The signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Sleep issues. You may be either sleeping too much or having difficulty falling asleep
  • Fatigue. Low energy or feeling fatigued almost every day for no reason
  • Indecision, lack of focus or concentration. Inability to focus, make decisions or think clearly.
  • Moving slower than usual or making unintentional motions to a degree that is noticeable by others
  • Changes in weight and appetite, with an increase or decrease of more than five percent of your body weight a month
  • Recurring thoughts about death or suicide, a suicide attempt, or a specific plan in place for suicide

If you are or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to start a conversation right away, get professional help to identify the cause, and find some appropriate solutions.

What Causes Depression?

What makes depression so puzzling is that there is no one single cause. Hormones, brain chemistry, hypothyroidism, family genetics, life experiences and physical health are all possible contributing factors that can trigger a depressive episode. While some types of depression can be attributed to conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter or early spring due to lack of sunshine over the winter) or postpartum depression (after giving birth), for many the source might not be so obvious.

Unfortunately, in this situation, doctors prefer to medicate rather than investigate, prescribing antidepressants instead of exploring the cause of the condition or offering counselling. Antidepressants have their time and place, but with a myriad of possible side-effects, they are not always an appealing or effective option for everyone. Also, a lifetime prescription to antidepressants is only a Band-Aid solution that doesn’t really address the underlying problem.

Research shows that high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammatory disease, have been documented in subjects with depression. In fact, results from a national health and nutrition examination survey showed that subjects with depressive symptoms had CRP levels that were 46 percent higher than those of non-depressed subjects. Research has illustrated a connection between inflammation in the brain from IgG food sensitivities and depression. Additional studies also suggest that subjects with a depressed mood have low levels of fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), which is an indication of airway inflammation.

Over time, depression can also lead to significantly more inflammation in the brain. Inflammation is our body’s response to injury or illness, and when left untreated, it can cause chronic illnesses like heart disease and potentially even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. So not only is identifying the cause of depression early on important for your mental health; it’s also important for your long-term physical health!

This is why visiting a naturopathic doctor can be so crucial. Not only is depression a serious condition, not to be taken lightly, but there are so many possible influences, that it requires a proper 360-degree assessment to determine what might be the cause. The first thing you need to ask yourself is “Why am I feeling depressed?”, we can help pinpoint the underlying cause.

5 Ways to Treat Depression

For those with mild to moderate depression, there are a variety of natural options that can help fight the blues effectively, without pharmaceuticals.

Sunshine & Exercise

It may sound trite to suggest a little fresh air and exercise; however, you can never underestimate the value of a brisk walk in the sunshine. Activity pumps up serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, which are our feel-good, happy brain chemicals. Go for a run to experience a true natural high. Running has been shown to increase a brain chemical called Anandamide. The word is derived from a Sanskrit word, Ananda, which means joy or bliss. It works to lift your mood by binding to the same receptors as THC from marijuana.

Don’t forget, the sun doesn’t just light up the sky. It can also lighten up your mood with its feel-good rays that help your body produce vitamin D. Invest in a therapeutic light box for those cloudy days and winter months.

Create a Regular Bedtime Routine

Depression and sleep issues are intimately connected. For those who have trouble falling asleep, a nighttime routine can help ease you into a more restful slumber.

Set a regular bedtime and unplug from all devices at least two hours beforehand. Use that digital downtime time to take a bath, read a book, listen to music, meditate or unwind in any other low key way. By eliminating sources of constant stimulation and slowing down your evening habits, you will be working with your natural body rhythm and foster a better mental environment for sleep. If you’ve been dealing with insomnia for a while, melatonin is a helpful natural supplement to reset your internal clock. This supplement may not be appropriate for everyone, it should never be taken with sleep medications and in some patients, it has shown a slight increase in depressive symptoms.

Keep yourself on a consistent schedule by setting your alarm to go off after 8 hours. Try to resist the urge to nap during the day as it can disrupt your nighttime sleep.

Natural Supplements

Serotonin is a vital brain chemical called a neurotransmitter. It regulates our mood, behaviour, libido, sleep, and memory. Keep your serotonin levels elevated by getting your fill of healthy omega-3 fatty acids ─ the kind you find in fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and more.

Cut down on coffee, which can reduce serotonin levels. Instead, try green tea which has L-theanine, an amino acid that has a calming and relaxing effect. L-Theanine boosts neurotransmitters and helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. It can create a calm alertness though, so green tea and L-theanine are best consumed early in the day.

Rhodiola rosea and St. John’s wort are other natural supplements that many individuals have had success with for treating depression. That said, St. John’s wort may interfere with birth control or other medications and should NEVER be taken with antidepressants. This is why it is always important to get professional guidance on which supplements and what dose might work best for you.

Get Your Hormones Balanced

Our hormones have an impact on our physical body, our brain and our mood. They can be the reason behind depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, weight gain, and more. Think of your adrenal, sex and thyroid hormones as Jenga blocks. When certain blocks that work together and support each other become imbalanced, it can send our whole life tumbling out of control. The longer you take to correct the imbalance, the more difficult it can be to heal. Getting your hormones tested is an easy and effective way to assess any issues so that you can effectively identify what your options are to get back into balance.

Talk to someone

While you may feel vulnerable or uncomfortable at first, opening up to friends and family may be the relief you need to get through dark times without feeling so alone. Social support is critical when you are feeling depressed. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your burdens with the people you know, then seek professional counselling, whether a therapist, life coach or trusted doctor. We are all here to help, not to judge and we can offer you a fresh, new perspective on things.

If you think you are dealing with depression or can’t shake the blues, we invite you to reach out to us at Forces of Nature. Please feel free to book an appointment or a free 15-minute consultation with us by calling 416-481-0222 or emailing Maria@ForcesofNature.ca. You don’t have to battle depression alone. We can help you get your life back!

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

References:

https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanpsy/PIIS2215-0366(18)30087-7.pdf

http://www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/2016/v77n12/v77n1221.aspx

http://ndnr.com/mindbody/case-study-herbal-treatment-of-depression/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005791617300629#sec4

Tips for Staying Young

older woman staying young after 50

Staying Young: Healthy Aging Over 50

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

One of the common myths about aging is that you just have to accept the symptoms of ageing: weight gain, poor sleep, cognitive decline, hot flashes, wrinkles and thinning hair.  Here are my best tips for healthy aging, slowing or reversing these symptoms and staying young at any age:

Weight Gain

What you could eat and get away with before you hit 50 and what you can eat and get away with after 50 is going to be different. Why? Your body’s ability to tolerate foods that increase blood sugar and require insulin decreases when estrogen goes down at menopause. What does that mean? You need to decrease your intake of carbs and sugar after 50 to prevent or stop weight gain. I recommend no more than 60-80 grams of carbs per day, preferably from fruit and vegetables and low glycemic index whole grains. Stay active. Your metabolism slows down as you get older, making it that much more important to stay physically active and keep burning those extra calories. If you find that aching joints are slowing you down, seeing a chiropractor, naturopathic doctor or osteopath may help.

Bone Density

Maintaining regular exercise after 50 is important for maintaining bone density. The single best way to get all the nutrients you need to maintain healthy bones and teeth is to consume bone broth with a handful of spinach every day. Bone broth is literally bones of any type that are cooked for 6-8 hours with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. The liquid is full of all of the minerals for healthy bones as well as the necessary ingredients to make collagen, another major constituent of bones. Our registered dietitian can help you create a meal plan to optimize bone health.

Hot Flashes/Night Sweats

Hot flashes are a signal of inflammation from your body. The best way to reduce those signals is to identify your triggers and make an effort to limit or avoid them. For many women sugar, stress, caffeine, lack of sleep and dairy products are hot flash triggers. Start by avoiding these and see if it helps and try journaling the frequency of hot flashes, time of day, feelings at the time and foods that are associated with your hot flashes to see what your specific triggers are. If stress is a trigger, seeing a psychotherapist to brainstorm stress-busting strategies may help. Acupuncture has been shown in research to help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes in menopausal women.

Cognitive Decline

Staying young by maintaining your brain health is as important if not more important than maintaining physical health. Hormone balance and low levels of inflammation are important to maintaining cognitive function. Your adrenal glands become increasingly important as you age. They help you maintain a certain level of hormonal health by producing hormones like cortisol, DHEAs and testosterone. The latter two are building blocks to build estrogen so that even post-menopause you can still maintain a healthy post-menopause estrogen level. Reducing intake of inflammatory foods like sugar, dairy and gluten can also help keep your brain healthy as well as your gut.  Increasing your Omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins and magnesium can keep your brain running smoothly too.

Thinning Hair or Hair Loss

Adrenal gland health helps to maintain a healthy, full head of hair. If you see more hair falling when you are under stress, that may be a sign that your adrenal glands need supporting. These vital organs sit on top of your kidneys and help you deal with stress, help manage your blood sugar and blood pressure, help to balance hormones and reduce inflammation. They need substantial amounts of vitamin C, B5, B6, Magnesium and Zinc to function at their best. Targeting these specific vitamins and minerals often help with hair, but also stress, energy, and hormone balance. Extensive blood work can help identify the specific cause of your hair loss. Our ND’s can assist you with getting the right blood work done and ensuring that your levels are optimal for hair growth.

Skin Health

My two best “staying young” tips for your skin are: avoid sugar and eat bone broth. Sugar increases the need for insulin which promotes inflammation. Inflammation contributes to ageing and redness of your skin. Bone broth contains multiple vitamins, minerals and gelatin, all of which help your body make collagen, the support structure or scaffolding for your skin.  Vitamin C, and the amino acids lysine and proline are the other necessary constituents to make healthy collagen. Collagen also helps to keep your joints healthy.  You can take collagen supplements, but personally, I prefer the all-around nourishment of bone broth.

Poor Sleep

Maintaining strict sleep hygiene becomes ultra-important after 50. Good sleep helps us with staying young physically and mentally.  Any little thing that wasn’t a problem before 50 can disrupt sleep after 50. For optimal sleep, shut down any screen time by 8 p.m., make sure you are getting enough physical activity but do it early in the day, use blackout curtains in your bedroom, avoid sweets and alcohol in the evening, engage in relaxing activities in the evening, aim to be in bed by 10 p.m. and cut yourself off caffeine after noon. If stress is keeping you awake, talking it over with a psychotherapist may help.