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What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Christine-1Navigating the world of complementary and alternative health can be confusing and daunting. It’s difficult to understand what different practitioners can offer and how they are trained.  Unfortunately, this gap in education and awareness can lead many people to miss out on the care they want and need.  I will start by breaking down the mystery that is Naturopathic Medicine.

The Premise:

Naturopathic Medicine is a primary health care system that integrates modern science with traditional, natural medical practices. The principal objective is to treat the underlying root cause of disease and to promote health and vitality as a preventative, lifelong goal.  It is also a way to treat common health concerns in a gentle, natural manner.

The Training:

In Ontario, licensed Naturopathic Doctors have at least seven years of post-secondary education, graduate from an accredited educational institution, receive their professional licensing from the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy-Naturopathy (BDDT-N), and complete and pass rigorous international licensing exams (NPLEX).

Naturopathic Guiding Principles:

The primary goal for a naturopathic doctor is to determine and treat the underlying cause of disease rather than simply managing the symptoms. The symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s natural attempt to heal and are important indicators of where the body needs to be supported rather than suppressed.

Naturopathic Doctors seek to treat the individual. Rather than treating only one organ or system, the naturopathic doctor treats the whole person. Your physical health, family history, nutritional status, lifestyle, environmental and emotional stresses are all carefully evaluated to devise a treatment plan that is unique to you.

The body has a remarkable ability to sustain and heal itself.  Naturopathic doctors respect the power of the body to heal and seek to facilitate the body’s innate healing capacity. This may include removing obstacles to healing or using tools to strengthen and build up the body.

Naturopathic Treatment:

Naturopaths are trained in lifestyle medicine. By working with you, they can find a nutrition, exercise and lifestyle plan that elevates your health while fitting into your routine. By analyzing your diet, NDs are trained to address areas of deficiency and to find simple, sustainable ways to improve your energy and overall health.

As for treating the individual, naturopathic doctors look at your unique symptom pattern, identify health risks and devise a nutritional plan that matches your constitution. They can augment this by using targeted nutritional supplements to achieve better health.

Naturopathic Doctors have many other “Tools in their Toolbox.” These include: traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, massage therapy and chiropractic manipulation.  As well, most naturopaths participate in continuing education which may broaden their scope to include other therapies such as intravenous vitamin infusions, Bowen therapy, reiki, dark field microscopy and more.

A common question asked of naturopathic doctors is… what do naturopathic doctors treat? NDs are primary healthcare practitioners, and can treat the same conditions as a family doctor, including acute and chronic health conditions. In the event that an ND is unable to treat your condition, they will refer you to someone who can. Naturopathic Doctors often work on either end of the health spectrum. They are experts at helping those who are proactive and want to achieve optimal well-being by improving their diet and augmenting their health with targeted nutritional supplements and therapies such as acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Naturopathic Doctors also treat many individuals whom the conventional medical community is unable to assist (e.g. chronic disease cases). Naturopaths can be helpful in many different conditions; it is difficult to put them in a box. Instead, I will provide you with an example of how naturopathic medicine can help.

Meet Joe:

“Joe was having stomach difficulties.  For years, Joe had experienced bloating, gas, diarrhea and abdominal cramping.  After extensive medical investigation, his doctor diagnosed him with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that he doesn’t have any identifiable organic cause for the symptoms he is experiencing.  As a last resort, Joe decided to visit a Naturopathic Doctor who looked at all of the testing he had already been through and performed an intake and physical exam. During the intake, Joe admitted that many of the symptoms originated when he was at university. Joe’s stress levels rose dramatically and his nutritional intake diminished. Upon further examination, it was determined that two factors were at play here. Joe was identified as having a milk allergy.  All the pizza and ice cream he was consuming in residence was not helping. Secondly, Joe was experiencing a lot of stress, especially around his exam periods. By eliminating dairy, healing his gut, teaching Joe stress management techniques and using targeted nutritional supplements to improve his stress… Joe’s symptoms entirely disappeared. Joe was relieved and shocked that simple changes to his diet and lifestyle could make such impressive changes in the way he felt. Not only were his stomach symptoms resolved, he also slept better and had significantly more energy than he had previously.”

By looking at Joe as an individual, his Naturopathic Doctor was able to address the root cause of Joe’s problems. His symptoms were representative of a multifactorial problem, involving stress and diet.  Given that everybody is unique, the diet and lifestyle strategies had to be catered to his unique constitution. Joe now understands why he is experiencing these symptoms and how to better manage them himself.

How does Naturopathic Medicine fit into my current healthcare?

Naturopathic doctors are considered primary care practitioners, meaning they can be a first contact in any health concern.  However, I believe in integrative care, meaning Naturopathic Doctors can work with your team of healthcare practitioners to augment any treatment you may be receiving.  For example, if you are working with a Medical Doctor, NDs can work with your MD to help achieve optimal health.

John has been diagnosed with high blood pressure. His medical doctor is recommending medication, but John wants to examine if there are other ways to improve his condition. By working with a Naturopathic Doctor, John has addressed his diet, exercise regime and stress concerns which were contributing to his high blood pressure.  John’s Naturopathic Doctor was able to coordinate care with his Medical Doctor and slowly reduce his need for medication.

For more information on naturopathic medicine and how it can help you attain optimal health for life, visit the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND): www.cand.ca; Naturopathic Doctors Ontario (NDO): www.ndontario.com; The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM): www.ccnm.edu; The Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy – Naturopathy (BDDT-N): www.bddtn.on.ca

– See more at: http://www.ottawalife.com/2013/03/what-is-naturopathic-medicine/#sthash.kKN42NN9.dpuf

The Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre

By Dr. Christine Davis, B.Sc., Naturopathic Doctor, Magna Health Centre, Aurora, Ontario

Today, it is challenging to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by the effects of cancer.  Cancer is immensely prevalent and it permeates all cultural and social divides.  The Canadian Cancer Society estimated there were 177,800 new cases of cancer (excluding 74,100 non-melanoma skin cancers) and 75,000 deaths from cancer in Canada in 2011.[1]  Despite this immense impact, cancer still poses a massive health risk. Not only is cancer a debilitating disease, but cancer treatments are often uncomfortable and incapacitating.

Are we doing all we can to help to prevent cancer and keep those people with cancer as healthy and comfortable as possible? Are we taking the necessary steps to prevent cancer before it takes hold?

There are ways that we can help to make cancer treatment less debilitating and cut down the probability of recurrence. I think we need to look outside the box of traditional cancer prevention and cancer care and ask how we can better serve this population.

“Integrative cancer care enhances conventional therapies and bolsters the prevention of recurrence. In addition, integrativeoncology provides systematic strategies to prevent cancer through lifestyle modification, such as nutrition and exercise. Recognizing synergy from a whole systems approach, integrative oncology provides new models for dealing with the epidemic of cancer.”

-Stephen Sagar, BSc (Hons), MB, BS, MRCP, FRCR, FRCPC, Radiation Oncologist, Past President, Society of Integrative Oncology, Professor of Oncology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

In November 2011, the first oncology center in Eastern Canada was opened: the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre (OICC), a not- for-profit organization that is governed by the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. The OICC seeks to treat the whole person, using complementary therapies alongside conventional treatments. It works to provide education about prevention, support during treatment and prevention of cancer recurrence. The OICC works to optimize patients’ wellness, using innovative integrative treatment approaches.

The OICC provides evidence-informed integrative and preventative cancer care, research and education across the spectrum of prevention and survivorship. OICC emphasizes quality of life, care of the spirit, and active prevention of the disease.

The OICC is not only a center for clinical practice and education, but also a research facility striving to find the most effective and innovative evidence-based strategies to manage cancer.  Unlike pharmaceutical companies, natural health product manufacturers and practitioners of alternate therapies do not have the money to fund large clinical trials. This has often been a major deterrent, as the language of the conventional medical community is based on Randomized Clinical Trials.

The OICC is taking the lead on this, providing clarity and confidence to those searching for alternatives and sifting through the maze of alternative options to better improve patients’ well-being and to optimize their health. The OICC is also a trusted resource for health care practitioners looking to provide answers to their cancer patients on the safety and efficacy of the complementary treatments they are undergoing. Lack of understanding and often fear in the conventional medical community can deter patients from getting the alternative treatments they desire. The OICC is providing a model of integration that can be extrapolated to the entire medical community.

“I applaud the OICC’s commitment to being a leader in integrative oncology research. From interactions with mutual patients, I realize that the clinical care provided by the OICC has real value to the people under our care, and that this care can and should be expanded to others. With the research that we’ve done together already and the approach you take in science and clinical care, I believe the OICC will achieve great prominence as a valuable resource for patients.”

-Andrew J.E. Seely, MD, PhD, FRCSC, Associate Scientist, Ottawa Health Research Institute, Associate Professor of Surgery, University of Ottawa, Research Director, Division of Thoracic Surgery and Critical Care Medicine, The Ottawa Hospital

Seminars focus on information about nutrition, lifestyle factors, and stress management. OICC also works with the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, providing workshops, seminars and online learning.  As well, the OICC has a special focus on environmental contributors to cancer and educates people on how to avoid this exposure.

The team of regulated health care practitioners at the OICC is truly integrative.  Specialties include naturopathic oncology, family therapy, physiotherapy, psychiatry, nutrition, acupuncture, massage therapy, exercise therapy and yoga. The OICC helps to decrease the side-effects of cancer treatment; improve energy, well-being and overall quality of health; balance the body’s immune system; and support the mind, body and spirit in the healing process. The OICC uses natural non-toxic therapies in collaboration with allied health care providers, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons.

As well, the OICC seeks to bridge the gap between conventional and complementary oncology services. It is estimated that over 50% of cancer patients embrace complementary therapies, but most don’t communicate choices with conventional oncologists. The OICC has partnered with the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute to make integrative medicine a reality.

An Overview video of the OICC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWg6QM3xRLs

For more information on how to become a patient at the OICC, cancer resources or cancer research, visit www.oicc.ca

Published by Ottawa Life Magazine: http://www.ottawalife.com/2013/02/the-ottawa-integrative-cancer-centre/

Keep Cortisol at Bay for Better Health

Christine Davis, Naturopathic Doctor

We all know that stress isn’t good for our bodies… so what can we do about it? Stress can come in many forms. Many of us think only of the psychological stress, caused by family, work, life events or persistent worrying. However, physical stress is just as real and just as dangerous for our bodies. Lack of exercise, poor diet, food allergies or even weather changes can be a physiological stressor for our bodies. In contrast, excessive exercise can also be a major stressor for our bodies.

So why is stress bad for us? Stress can impact a multitude of physiological reactions in our bodies. Symptoms of excessive stress can be; insomnia, fatigue, weight changes (especially an accumulation of fat around the abdomen), headache, respiration problems, heart irregularities, digestive disturbances (e.g., bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation), and psychological upsets (e.g. anger, irritability, rage, depression, anxiety). These stress responses can result in further complications. For example, stress can disrupt sleep, which can result in hormonal imbalances and will also trigger more stress. Many hormones are up-regulated during sleep, including growth hormone and melatonin. Growth hormone is an anabolic hormone that helps to build muscle and decrease fat mass.

Acute stress produces the hormone cortisol in the adrenal glands. Cortisol serves the body in non-stressful times and when called to respond to an acute crisis, however, it can cause damage when levels are high during chronic stress. Cortisol suppresses the immune system, in particular white blood cells, which is why it is used as an anti-inflammatory medication. Cortisol is also a catabolic steroid hormone, meaning it breaks things down (versus anabolic hormones, which are building hormones). It is known to break down collagen, bone and muscle. This can result in osteoporosis, joint pain and in severe cases, abdominal obesity and loss of muscle mass in the extremities.

How do we combat stress? There are many strategies to help cope with stress. Firstly, it is important to recognize what causes you stress and try to reduce or manage this stressor. If the stress is modifiable (e.g. time management), then take steps to manage this. For example, if your stress is caused by a busy lifestyle, make sure to create lists, assume tasks to reasonable expectation and to delegate whenever possible. Participating in relaxing activities, such as yoga, pilates, baths, singing, baking, laughing, and journaling can also help. Seek out care when necessary including massage, acupuncture or body-work. Take regular vacations, even media vacations from blackberries and e-mail can be helpful.

Another useful relaxation practice is deep breathing. Breathe in for a count of 7, and out for a count of 11. Breathe into your belly and expand you diaphragm, rather than your chest and shoulders. Repeat as often as needed- ideally 10-15 min 3 times per day.

There are also nutrients and supplements that can help. Magnesium supplementation can help to reduce cortisol after aerobic exercise. Omega-3 Fatty acids can help manage psychological stress. Vitamin C and B-vitamins dampen cortisol release in response to mental and physical stressors. Licorice (glycyrriza glabra) can help to build up the adrenals after chronic stress (don’t take this if you have high blood pressure). Herbs such as Ashwaganda and Rhodiola are known as adaptogens, meaning they can help you adapt to stress. L-Theanine supports normal brain alpha-wave activity, resulting in a calming effect to the sympathetic nervous system. It is always best to consult a medical professional when beginning a new supplement regime.

Water, Your First Step Towards Optimal Health

Proper hydration is imperative for optimal health. Without proper hydration, your body will become dehydrated, which means your body does not have enough water to function at peak capacity. You lose water every day when you breathe, sweat and go to the bathroom. The water content in the foods you eat and the beverages you drink combine to hydrate your body. Drinking 8 cups of water each day is usually sufficient, but more may be needed if you are participating in vigorous activities.

Drinking water keeps your body tissues moist, flushes out harmful toxins and makes nutrients more readily available. It is also involved in getting oxygen to cells throughout the body and regulating temperature. This is why staying hydrated is so vital when playing sports or exercising. Your body’s demand for oxygen increases during physical activity and your internal temperature rises. In fact, even a minimal fluid loss can affect aerobic performance and reduce your level of physical endurance. Inadequate hydration can fatigue your muscles, reduce your coordination, make you dizzy and cause muscle cramps. The goal during exercise is to drink before signs of dehydration occur. Ideally, try to drink 2 cups of water two hours before exercising and continue to drink 1 cup of water every 20 minutes while you’re exercising.

Fatigue is the most common symptom of dehydration. Other common dehydration symptoms include; muscle cramps, fogginess, dizziness, light-headedness, headache, thirst and dry mouth/skin/lips. If you are unsure about whether you are currently drinking enough fluids each day, the color of your urine can be a good guideline. If you’re well-hydrated, it should be light yellow in color. The darker in color it gets, the more dehydrated you may be. Keep in mind, other medical conditions can alter this (such as kidney disease). Another test is to pinch the skin on the outer part of your hand or forearm. If the skin tents, meaning it stays in place and doesn’t quickly bounce back then this is a warning sign that you are dehydrated.

When choosing fluids to help you meet your daily hydration requirements, water is the ideal choice. Water will help keep you properly hydrated without the empty calories found in sports drinks, sodas or juices. However, very vigorous activities can warrant the use of carbohydrates and electrolyte replacements. To keep it interesting and add some zest, use slices of lemon or lime. Herbal teas, such as peppermint, berry or chamomile can “count” towards your daily fluid intake. Sipping water throughout the day is the best strategy. Drinking too quickly will reduce absorbability. As well, drinking water at meals might not be ideal. It can be beneficial for weight loss as it can make you fuller, however, it will also dilute your digestive juices. Drinking in-between meals is a better strategy.

Use strategies to help increase your fluid intake. Carry a stainless steel water bottle with you wherever you go and make sure you finish it by the end of the day. Set reminders on your phone to drink water, or use post-it-note reminders. If you’re feeling groggy during the day, try drinking a glass of water instead of reaching for coffee or tea. Coffee and tea are diuretics, meaning they increase water loss from the body, and can actually be more dehydrating. For every caffeinated cup of tea or coffee, make sure you add an extra cup of water. Try drinking at least 2 cups of water first thing when you wake up.

Cheers to better health!

New Year, New You

While many people use the  New Year as an opportunity to improve their health, the majority of people fall off the wagon within the first couple weeks of January. This is often because people make unrealistic goals, and expect to make huge behavioural changes right away. When we can’t maintain these changes, we fall right back into our regular unhealthy patterns. So how do we make resolutions that stick? Check out these tips to help make 2012 your best year yet!

1. Set Realistic Goals. First set a resolution that is attainable over a longer period of time. Losing 10 lbs over 3 months  is what we would call a long-term goal. Then break down that plan to have smaller weekly goals. For example losing 1-2 pounds a week would be a good short-term goal.

2. Create an action plan. Put into writing how you are going to achieve these goals. Consider what day-to-day changes you will focus on, how you will avoid pitfalls, and who to go to if you need assistance with your resolution.

3. Make your health a priority. The most difficult part of keeping a resolution is figuring out how to work it into an already hectic life. Plan ahead so that your first concern is your resolution, and then work life around it. For example, decide how you are going to fit in exercise this week. Write it down on a calendar and think of it as an appointment you cannot miss. Then schedule the rest of your life around it.

4. Share your goals. Studies show that those who discuss resolutions with their friends or family are more successful in achieving their goals. Sharing goals gives one accountability and a supportive structure to help keep them on track. Consulting with a knowledgeable health care practitioner will help you keep your resolution and convert it from a 2 week health kick to a lifelong change.

Keeping Holiday Stress Levels in Check

The holiday season is nearly here. It’s the wonderful time of year when we indulge in food, drink and celebration. For the most part the holidays bring feelings of love and joy. However, work deadlines, holiday shopping and family events can also be a source for stress, fatigue and even sadness. One study by Greenberg Quinlan and Rosner  in 2006 surveyed thousands of people in the US and found that there was a substantial increase in the following emotions during the holiday season. 

 

Fatigue  68% 
Stress  61%
Irritability  52%
Bloating  28%
Sadness  36%
Anger  25% 
Loneliness  26%

 The study also noted that holiday stress has a particular impact on women.  Women are more likely to report an increase of stress during the holiday season because in many cases they are still doing most of the meal preparation, decorating the home and shopping for gifts. In addition, they have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.

 Holiday stress also has a strong  impact on lower middle-income individuals. This group feels the weight of stress from work plus the seasonal rush to find time to get everything done. In addition, their worries about money are heightened by the commercialism of the season and the pressure to spend a lot of money.

 The holiday season also means that people are much more likely to behave in sedentary ways like watching TV, sleeping, eating and drinking to manage their stress.

 So what should we be doing to help manage our holiday stress levels? Here are 5 techniques which will help to keep you calm and stress free this holiday season.

 1) Deep Breathing: Studies show that engaging in deep breathing activities 3-5 times a day can decrease blood pressure, anxiety and stress. Try this technique.

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. With your mouth closed, exhale deeply through your nose. Imagine that you are pouring the breath out of a jug, starting at the top of your chest and moving down through your mid-torso and into your diaphragm. Pause for two counts at the bottom of the breath, then inhale through your nose. Refill the “jug” slowly, counting to five (or seven if you can make it). Start at the bottom, expanding your diaphragm and belly, then your mid-torso, and lastly the top of your chest and lungs. Pause for two counts and exhale as before. Repeat 5–10 times.

 2) Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique is useful when trying to relax after a long day.  It helps the mind focus on just the activity at hand, and not on the millions of other things that are on your “to do” list. Try this technique. With the eyes closed and in a sequential pattern, a tension in a given muscle group is purposefully done for approximately 10 seconds and then released for 20 seconds before continuing with the next muscle group. The mental component focuses on the difference between the feelings of the tension and relaxation.

  3) Get organized: Creating lists of what needs to be accomplished in the short-term (today) and long-term (this week) will help you prioritize holiday tasks. Creating a budget for gift giving helps you lay out how much you can afford per person and will help you manage the financial stress that can go along with overspending on holiday gifts. Lastly, planning social events in advance on a monthly calendar will help you ensure that you are not overextending yourself with social obligations and parties.

 4) Create Strategies to Minimize Stress: Shopping earlier or shopping online can help decrease the stress from store line-ups and mall parking. You may also consider forgoing gifts entirely and donating to your favourite charity. Lastly, delegating responsibilities such as chores, cooking, and purchasing presents means that you are  more able to enjoy the season instead of dreading the responsibilities that go along with it.

 5) Make Time for Exercise: It is important to aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Using an online tool like www.fitday.com will help to monitor your exercise levels and food intake over the holiday season.

 This season concentrate on positive emotions and staying healthy. Only then can you really enjoy the best of what the holidays bring.

How to get a Good Night’s Sleep!

Written by: Dr. Christine Davis, Naturopathic Doctor

Establishing a great sleep routine:

Develop a calming bedtime routine– try reading or meditation. Don’t read stressful or emotionally charged material as this can be more stimulating. Try a hot bath, shower or sauna about 2 hours before bedtime, keeping the water hot for at least 25 minutes to stimulate the drop in body temperature before bed. Keep household lighting dim from dinnertime until you go to sleep to prepare your body and hormones for sleep.
Establish regular sleeping hours– keeping a routine will help you maintain a regular circadian rhythm. Try to get in bed before 11 pm. The adrenals (your stress glands) renew themselves from 11pm-1am. Try slowly moving back your bedtime by 15-30 minutes until you reach this goal.
Sleep 7-9 hours a night– if you still feel tired after 9 hours, it’s time to visit your doctor to look into other sources of your fatigue.
If you can’t sleep, get up and do something else. Sometimes making a “to do list” or writing in a journal can be helpful to get things off your mind.
Create bedroom “Zen”- remove clutter, homework, calendars and anything else that could cause you stress. Use calming essential oils like lavender. Choose comfortable bedding that isn’t too warm or itchy. Remember, the bed should be used for sleeping and sex only.
Sleep nude– wearing tight clothing will increase your body temperature and interfere with melatonin release while you sleep.
See the light first thing in the morning– daylight and morning sounds are key signals that help waken your brain. Turning on lights or opening the blinds will reset your body clock and ensure that your melatonin levels drop back down, ensuring better energy throughout the day.

Things to Watch/Avoid:
Alcohol– Alcohol can impact brain chemicals as you sleep. An ounce or more two hours before bedtime can be disruptive as your body will metabolize the alcohol while you sleep. It shortens total sleep time and prevents you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep (where most healing and renewal takes place).
Fluid intake– Try to avoid fluid intake 2 hours prior to sleep to decrease those mid-sleep washroom visits.
Caffeine– Caffeine is metabolized at different rates in different people. Most people will metabolize caffeine in 4-5 hours, however some people will take much longer. If necessary try to only have caffeine in the morning. Caffeine impacts cortisol which can result in mid-sleep waking around 2-4 am.
Bedtime snacks– Try to avoid snacking 2 hours before bed. Watch out for bedtime snacks that are high in sugar or simple carbohydrates. (for example breads, cereals, muffins, cookies, or other baked goods) These foods will create a quick spike in your blood sugar levels, and a resultant drop in blood sugar. This drop in blood sugar stimulates adrenalin, glucagons, cortisol and growth hormone, all of which will stimulate the brain and keep you more awake. If you do need to eat, go for protein-rich, high-fiber snacks like a few almonds and half an apple. The protein will contain tryptophan which will be converted to serotonin and melatonin and the sugar from the apple may help the tryptophan reach your brain.
Napping- If you’re getting a good sleep at night you shouldn’t need to sleep during the day. If you must, limit nap time to 30 min.
Exercise timing– exercising fewer than 3 hours before bedtime may be too stimulating and can impede your ability to fall asleep. Yoga and strength training may not be as stimulating, but pay attention to your body on this one. Exercising 3-6 hours before sleep may actually enhance your deep sleep as your body will attempt to repair itself after the physical stress. Exercise will increase your body temperature (not good for sleep) and then slowly decrease it (good for sleep).
Alarm Clocks- waking up suddenly to the blaring wail of an alarm clock can shock your body and interrupt you in the middle of a sleep cycle. Look for a sunrise alarm clock with natural light built in that simulates a sunrise, OR an alarm that gradually gets louder, or plays soothing classical music.
Light at Night– Make your room as dark as possible. Light disrupts the circadian rhythm of the pineal gland and as a result, hinders the production of melatonin. If you go to the bathroom at night, try to keep the lights off.
Electromagnetic fields– also disrupt the pineal gland and production of melatonin and serotonin. EMFs are emitted through digital alarm clocks and other electrical devices, if you use them, leave them three feet away. Turn off the TV.
Activities– avoid stimulating activities such as watching TV, using the computer and doing work-related activities. Computers raise dopamine and noradrenalin keeping you more awake.

Sleep tight!

Glowing From The Inside

Everyone knows the importance of eating a healthy diet for weight control, but how much do we know about eating for healthy skin? People spend a great deal of money on age-defying lotions, but few know that the most important skin care products come from your grocery store.  Read on to find out what tips we recommend to regain that inner glow and to keep it from fading.

  • Eating the right kinds of protein. Protein is necessary for cell repair. Our favourite picks are fish, followed by these other protein-packed animal products: egg whites, skinless chicken and turkey breast.
  • Healthy fats are essential. Fats and oils  provide anti-inflammatory protection and antioxidants. Look to fatty fish for anti-aging omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna are among your best bets. Also include extra virgin olive oil. It has the double benefit of helping your skin and possibly lowering your bad cholesterol.
  • Avoid  sugar and high-glycemic carbohydrates. This category of food includes potatoes, rice and white pasta which can cause a spike in blood sugar resulting in harmful chemical changes in your body. These foods fuel the creation of  free radicals and the break down collagen, therefore ranking them among skin’s greatest enemies. Our bodies need carbohydrates though, so get your fill from low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.
  •  H2O please.  While the number of glasses per day is still open for debate, we do know that drinking plenty of water between meals means that our cells are staying hydrated and also enzymatic properties are functioning optimally during meal times.
  • Green Tea. This beverage deserves a category all its own in any article about foods for healthy skin. Green tea’s anti-inflammatory properties, and its ability to protect cell membranes may help prevent or reduce the risk of skin cancer. A study published  in the Archives of Dermatology shows that whether taken orally or applied to the skin, green tea can reduce the risk of damage from ultraviolet light (such as the burning rays of the sun), and thus reduce the risk of skin cancer.

For more information on how to best balance a healthy diet, contact your local healthcare practitioner trained in nutrition. Or if you are in the area contact our clinic in Aurora, ON.

Understanding Heartburn

Written by: Dr. Christine Davis, Naturopathic Doctor

Did you know that heartburn affects 25-35% of the US population? Heartburn (or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is not only painful, but it can also lead to other complications including: asthma, chronic cough, dental problems, Barrett’s esophagus (a change in the lining of the esophagus that can increase the risk of cancer), esophageal ulcers and narrowing and scarring of the esophagus.  It is a result of stomach acid spilling into the esophagus from the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (the valve that separates your esophagus from your stomach).

The traditional medical solution has been to block the acid production, which will alleviate the pain and also the damage from occurring.   However, in blocking the acid production, you block a key step in the digestion process. Stomach acid is necessary to digest food, especially protein and micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B12. Stomach acid activates digestive enzymes in your small intestine, the molecules that break down the food into smaller parts for absorption.  As well, it acts as a barrier from harmful bacteria.  Therefore, blocking acid production from occurring can result in more serious complications such as irritable bowel syndrome, depression, fatigue, dementia, hip fractures and osteoporosis.

So, what can be done?

Firstly, get tested at your doctor for H. Pylori, hiatal hernia and ulcers.  H. Pylori is a bacteria that can exist in the stomach and is a major contributor to ulcers and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). Hiatal hernias and ulcers can sometimes mimic the pain of GERD.  It may be necessary to have an endoscopy to assess for the presence of stomach ulcers before initiating treatment.

Secondly, identify food triggers and sensitivities.  There are several basic food triggers including: fried foods, alcohol, caffeine, soda, spicy food, tomato and citrus.  It is important to be mindful of these common triggers when eating.  In more recent years, it has been found that food sensitivities including dairy and gluten have a strong link to heartburn.  An IgG Food Panel can tell you what foods you are most sensitive to.  Junk food, processed foods and overeating can all contribute to GERD.

Thirdly, talk to your naturopathic doctor about natural remedies to soothe and heal the gut including DGL, glutamine, marshmallow, slippery elm, zinc and magnesium.

Study shows caffeine “perks” us up

Roasted coffee beans, the world's primary sour...

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Let the coffee drinkers of the world rejoice. A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has discussed a positive relationship between caffeine and depression. This study looked at more than 50,000 women who were free from depression at the beginning of the study. This group was followed for 10 years to observe the relationship between caffeine and depression. Interestingly, those who drank 2 to 3 cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a 15 % decrease in depression, and those that drank 4 cups a day had a 20% decrease.  Those who drank decaf coffee or other beverages with lower caffeine levels such as tea did not show the same association. The study also found that regular coffee drinkers were more likely to drink more alcohol, be current smokers and were less likely to be involved as volunteers or in community groups. They also had less obesity, fewer blood pressure issues and lower rates of diabetes.

The proposed relationship between caffeine and depression is as follows. Depression is caused by an inadequacy in  3 neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. A deficit in these neurotransmitters results in changes to brain chemistry thereby producing symptoms of depression such as decreased mood, motivation, activity level, sleep etc. The current thinking is that caffeine works on neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain thereby mitigating the chemical changes caused by depression.

While we do know that some caffeine increases our alertness, enhances psychomotor performance, and let’s be honest makes people happy, we also know that too much caffeine can cause jitters, palpitations and insomnia. So while this study does bring some interesting possibilities to future mental illness research, it does not mean that we should all run out and overdose on Starbucks.