Saturday, November 27, 2010

Naturopathic Skin Health

Health is beauty and beauty is health.

The skin is our body’s largest organ and is a reflection of our internal state of health. Taking a wholistic approach to your skin health is the most effective way of improving the look and feel of your skin. Supporting the body with proper nutrients, adequate hydration and the avoidance of toxic substances will enhance our general level of health and the effects of this will be visible through the skin.

Proper Nutrition

You are what you eat – and what we eat is typically displayed on the skin. The Standard North American Diet (called the SAD diet for good reason) is not doing any favours for our skin – or our health. The processed foods we eat are deficient in the vitamins and minerals we need for good skin health and are lacking in essential fatty acids and antioxidants. Avoid processed, packaged, convenience and fast foods whenever possible.

Essential fatty acids (Omega 3s) give the skin a healthy glow and will have a dramatic effect on the appearance of your skin. Essential fatty acids are found in fish such as Wild Alaskan Salmon, nuts, and seeds such as flax. Try incorporating some clean sources of omega 3 oils into your daily diet.

Anti-oxidants are important for skin health since they help to fight the damaging effects of free radicals - which will help to improve the signs of aging skin. Anti-oxidants include: Vitamins A, C, E, Selenium, NAC, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and resveratrol and are often found in foods such as green tea, and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.
Some foods to consider adding to your diet are:
-       Green tea, which is full of anti-oxidants and also supports liver detoxification.
-       Avocados which are rich in healthy oils, B Vitamins and Vitamin E - which protects against the signs of aging and also acts as a moisturizer for keeping the skin hydrated.
-       Leafy greens are rich in vitamins A, C and E – as well as lutein which helps to protect against UV radiation and increases skin hydration, elasticity and natural oil content.

Proper Hydration

Increasing your water intake is the most effective way of improving the look and feel of your skin. Inadequate water intake is the number one cause of dry skin. Water also allows our kidneys to flush out waste materials and supports proper elimination from the digestive system by preventing constipation.

Avoiding Toxic Substances

Toxic substances from our Environment can cause damage to our bodies by increasing free radical production – which causes damage to our skin tissue. By avoiding harmful substances both in the products we use on our skin as well as in the home, the health of our skin can be improved.

To minimize exposure to toxic products, look for natural and organic soaps, lotions, hair products, body washes and anything else you use as a personal care product. Avoid products with fragrance, synthetic colour, parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate. Check labels for natural ingredients such as calendula, vitamin C, shea butter, cocoa butter, almond oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, aloe and vitamin E. 

Treat the Whole

The skin is a reflection of our internal health. We must consider the health of the whole body in our attempt to beautify the skin.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Getting Through the Cold and Flu Season

Proper immune system function is essential for good health. During the cold and flu season, it is especially important to support the immune system for the prevention and treatment of infection and illness.

Here are some natural remedies that are effective in supporting the immune system:

To prevent a cold or flu:
  • Eat a variety of whole foods and plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables. Avoid refined, processed and packaged foods - these foods are nutrient deficient and will not provide your immune system with the support it needs.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water  will help to flush unwanted bacteria and viruses from the body. It will also help to thin mucous secretions, which will help to improve congestion in the lungs, sinuses and nasal passageways.
  • Eat foods rich in zinc such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Zinc is an important nutrient for immune system function. Pumpkin seeds (choose raw and unsalted) are especially high in zinc content.
  • Eat foods rich in Vitamin C: apples, citrus fruits and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts. Vitamin C is fantastic for immune system support.
  • Avoid sugar. Sugar has the potential to suppress the immune system for up to 12 hrs. 
  • Consume beneficial bacteria: Keifer is an excellent source of probiotics and is much higher in acidophilus and lower in sugar than yogurt. Other fermented foods, such as unpasturized sauerkraut are also sources of probiotic bacteria. 
  • Consume garlic. Garlic has fabulous antimicrobial properties when eaten raw. To obtain the most benefit from garlic, chew a raw clove or consume immediately after crushing.
  • Support lymphatic system movement with contrast showers and daily dry skin brushing. This will aid in the circulation of the immune system through the body.
  • Get plenty of sleep. The body is only able to heal and repair itself if we allow it the time to rest.
  • Find effective ways of managing stress. The cortisol that our body releases during times of stress will inhibit immune system function.
  • If you suffer from frequent infections, your immune system likely needs some additional support. Your Naturopathic Doctor can prescribe natural remedies for improving your immune system function and preventing infection.
For the treatment of a cold or flu:
  • Consume plenty of fluids: water will help to flush unwanted bacteria and viruses from the body and chicken noodle soup and soup broth will provide the body with important vitamins and minerals.
  • Try a steam inhalation to loosen sinus and nasal congestion. Pour boiling water into a glass bowl and, with your face over the bowl, cover your head with a towel. Be cautious not to burn yourself with the hot steam. Allow your sinuses to drain and gently blow your nose afterward. Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to the water to enhance the clearing action.
  • Flush your sinuses by doing a nasal rinse. Use a netti pot with a salt water solution and flush daily until congestion clears.
  • Gargle with salt water to stop the spread of bacteria and viruses in the throat. This is especially helpful after being exposed to others who are sick.
  • Try a warming socks treatment. Do this as soon as you feel the symptoms of a cold or flu coming on and you will notice a dramatic improvement in the length and severity of your illness. This treatment supports lymphatic system function and helps to improve symptoms of congestion including headache, fullness in the ears, cough, stuffy nose and sinus blockage.
  • Drink ginger tea with lemon and honey. Ginger is an excellent antimicrobial. Ginger tea can be purchased or made at home by grating fresh ginger into boiling water. You may also consume raw ginger by adding it to salad dressings, smoothies and other foods.
  • Treat a sore throat by crushing 1/4-1/2 tsp of garlic into 1 tsp of honey and consuming immediately. Garlic will kill any bacteria and viruses in the throat and the honey will soothe the soreness.

For additional support in the treatment of cold or flu, check in with your Naturopathic Doctor for individualized prescriptions for natural alternatives to antibiotics and over the counter cold and flu medications.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a beneficial dietary fat with some great health benefits! It is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and asthma. 

Daily consumption of olive oil may even have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels. It has been associated with a significant decrease in LDL-cholesterol and an increase in HDL cholesterol (more commonly known as “the good cholesterol”)

Furthermore, a Mediterranean Diet - characterized by high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, vegetables, moderate consumption of fish and dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), and low consumption of meat, meat products and wine - is associated with a significantly lower risk of death from all causes. 

Practical Tips:

  • Add 2 tbsp of raw (uncooked) olive oil to your diet each day in place of other unhealthy fats/oils
  • Choose extra virgin olive oil (instead of regular olive oil or virgin olive oil) which is a richer source of polyphenols - known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticoagulant actions. Buy organic where possible. 
  • Be sure to let your olive oil come slowly up to heat with your pan. Do not add olive oil to a hot pan and be careful not to burn, or smoke your olive oil. This turns it into an unhealthy trans fat!
  • To get the most health benefit and flavour from your olive oil, buy and store oil in glass opaque containers, and add olive oil to foods after cooking.
  • Instead of serving butter, fill a small condiment dish with extra virgin olive oil for use on bread, rolls, potatoes or other vegetables. For even more flavour, try adding a few drops of balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of your favourite spices to the olive oil.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Are you eating enough fiber?

High fiber diets are associated with some tremendous health benefits. Fiber reduces the risk of the two most common causes of death: heart disease and cancer. Dietary fiber helps to lower cholesterol levels, aids in the elimination of toxins from the body, reduces risk of colon cancer and several hormonal cancers and can improve conditions associated with hormonal excess such as fibroids or endometriosis.

Check the fiber content of the foods in your diet to determine if you're obtaining an adequate amount. We should aim for at least 40g of fiber each day.

Here is the fiber content of some common foods:

10 g of fiber:
     1/2 cup oat or wheat bran
     2 1/2 tbsp psyllium
     1 cup split peas
     1 1/4 cup lentils
     1/4 cup navy beans

5g of fiber
     2 tbsp ground flaxseed
     1 tbsp chia seeds
     1/4 cup nuts
     1/2 cup prunes

2g of fiber:
     1 serving of a fruit or vegetable
     1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
     1/2 cup cooked brown rice
To increase the fiber content of your diet, start slow and beware of fibers that you may not tolerate well such as wheat or psyllium. Consider having oat bran for breakfast, baking some high fiber muffins, adding flax to your smoothies, salads or sauces, eating more beans and lentils and of course, increasing your veggie intake.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Does Your Sunscreen Measure Up?

Recently, the Environmental Working Group released the 2010 Sunscreen Guide. This is an excellent resource in helping you to choose a safe and effective sunscreen for you and your family.
EWG has evaluated hundreds of sunscreens based on the protection they provide from the sun and the toxic chemicals they contain. The top-rated sunscreens provide broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunburn protection with fewer hazardous chemicals that penetrate the skin. These sunscreens are mineral based with zinc or titanium as the active component.

Broad spectrum protection is important because while all sunscreens provide protection from UVB rays not all sunscreens protect from UVA rays. In the past, it was thought that only UVB rays caused sunburn and skin damage however scientists have now realized that UVA rays are also harmful and the need for a full spectrum sunscreen has emerged.
A non-toxic sunscreen is also important to look for since sunscreen will penetrate the skin and be absorbed into the body. Many sunscreens contain the notorious hormone disruptors oxybenzone or 4-MBC. Oxybenzone has also been know to trigger allergic reactions.

For more information, check out the EWGs 2010 Sunscreen Guide here
To purchase a top-rated sunscreen, try Shop Eco, your local health food store or the organic section at the grocery store.

Janice Davie
Naturopathic Doctor

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Castor Oil - Topical Uses

Castor Oil is one of my favourite things. Its like my Naturopathic duct tape - fixes everything...well, almost.

Castor oil has many beneficial properties when used topically. Castor Oil is anti-inflammatory, it improves movement of the lymphatic system, supports detoxification by the liver and stimulates white blood cell production.

Castor oil can be used on the skin to reduce swelling from any cause and can decrease the redness of eczema, rashes and acne. It can also be used over stiff and sore joints to reduce inflammation, decrease pain and improve mobility.

Traditionally, Naturopathic Doctors recommend castor oil packs to be done over the abdomen.  In addition to the above benefits, this can also soothe an irritated digestive system, reduce menstrual cramping and support liver function.

To do a castor oil pack.:
1. Take a piece of flannel (or cotton) cloth that measures approximately the size of the abdomen.
2. Soak it in castor oil. The cloth should be saturated but not dripping with oil.
3. Place the cloth over the skin, covering the entire abdomen.
4. Placing a hot water bottle or heating pad over the cloth will aid the absorption of oil into the skin.
5. Relax with the cloth in place for 30-45 min.
6. Remove the cloth and place in a storage container for re-use. The skin should feel moisturized and not oily or greasy.
7. Do castor oil packs daily for maximum benefit. Add castor oil to cloth every couple of days, or as needed.

Castor oil is a potent laxative and should only be taken orally as directed by a physcian.
Check with your Naturopathic Doctor if you are pregnant or have been diagnosed with abdominal cancer. In these instances, heat should not be used.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fabulous Flax

Flax seeds are a true health food!

Flax is an excellent source of dietary fiber, alpha-linolenic acid and phytoestrogens. They are also rich in magnesium, potassium, and manganese.

Many of the beneficial health effects of flax are obtained via their phytoestrogen content. Ground flax seed is rich in lignans, one of the major classes of phytoestrogens and daily consumption can result in a significant impact on hormonal balance. Dietary flax can improve menstrual irregularities and menopausal symptoms and has also been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer.

For men, flax seed has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and may in fact, decrease prostate tumour growth.

Flax seed is also a fantastic source of fiber and thus can improve bowel regularity, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent colon cancer.

Choose freshly ground flax seed to obtain maximum health benefits. I recommend buying whole flax seeds, storing them in the freezer and grinding fresh seeds once weekly using a coffee grinder. Store the ground flax in the fridge or freezer and add to cereals, salads, smoothies, yogurt, sauces or juice. Try including a minimum of 2 tbsp of ground flax into your daily diet. This amount of ground flax will provide 5g of fiber.

While flax oil is also a great addition to the diet, it does not possess the lignan content of ground seeds and thus, it does not provide the same phytoestrogen and fiber benefits as ground flax seed. Flax oil contains more alpha-linolenic acid than the ground seed however only a small amount of this oil can be converted to the health promoting Omega 3 oils. Supplement with a high quality fish oil to obtain the maximum health benefits of Omega 3s.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Do you need to detox?

The simple answer is yes.

With all of the chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis, it is a safe assumption that we are all carrying a toxic burden in our bodies. It is estimated that the average person has over 700 chemicals accumulated in the body.

Our toxic burden is made up of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, solvents, plasticizers and heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic - among many others. These chemicals can remain in the body for decades and can be passed on during pregnancy and breastfeeding. While their impact on the body may not be recognizable today, they may predispose us to disease later in life and will affect our generations to come.

The body systems most affected by environmental toxins are: the immune system, the hormonal system and the nervous system. Common symptoms of toxic overload are: allergies, auto-immune disorders, frequent infections, cancers, chemical sensitivities, fatigue, headaches, depression, brain fog, tremors, Parkinson's, thyroid conditions, menstrual changes, temperature dysregulation and infertility.

Our liver is the primary organ responsible for the processing of these harmful chemicals. The liver prepares each of these toxics for elimination via the kidneys and digestive system.

The unfortunate truth is that with the amount of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis, the liver becomes easily overwhelmed. In addition to this overwhelm, chemicals have the ability to decrease the function of the liver and hinder the detoxification process. This becomes a vicious cycle - the more chemicals we are exposed to, the less ability we have to process them which means a greater body burden that will further decreases our detoxification abilities.

The food we eat also plays a major role in the functioning of the liver. Foods such as green tea and vegetables in the broccoli family will enhance liver function while unhealthy fats and sugar will decrease liver function.

Another obstacle to the detoxification process are genetic polymorphisms. These are alterations in our liver enzyme systems that reduce our ability to detoxify. They may be inherited or a result of DNA damage (most likely caused by toxics). Some easily recognized genetic polymorphisms are found in those who are unable to drink caffeine in the afternoons, those who have ever had to reduce the dose of a medication or those unable to drink alcohol. Many other polymorphisms exist in the enzymes responsible for processing toxic chemicals.

The next problem lies in elimination via the kidneys and digestive system. There is a tremendous amount of re-absorption that occurs in these organs and without adequate intake of water or specific nutrients, or without regular bowel movements (at LEAST once/day) a large number of these toxic chemicals are taken back up into the body and unfortunately, stored.

A detoxification program will enhance your body's ability to process and eliminate these harmful toxins. With an enhanced ability to detox you may notice an improvement in your symptoms of ill health, increased energy, fewer headaches, hormonal balance, weight loss and a general sense of improved well-being.

Please beware of the mass marketed detox products or programs that exist and consult with a health professional before embarking on a cleanse.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The 10 Americans

Most of us are aware of Environmental Pollution and efforts are slowly being made to address this issue. Industrial air pollution has improved, our lakes and rivers are cleaner, we recycle, we carpool, and we generally make an effort to be more "green".

Despite all of this, we are still exposed to thousands of harmful chemicals each day. Pollution has changed over the years and has now become invisible. It time to look at Human Pollution - the toxic burden that exists in each of us. We need to continue efforts to clean our environment and start to focus on the steps we can take to rid ourselves of these pollutants.
A small study was completed some years ago by the Environmental Working Group, an American non-profit organization that advocates for the protection of public health and the environment. The study involved 10 Americans and their toxic exposure. The embedded video describes this study and its implications.This is both a fascinating and scary video providing perspective on the seriousness of environmental toxins. I highly recommend watching The Ten Americans.

The take away message from this video is that we all have measurable levels of harmful chemicals in our body. While we need to support the initiatives of the Environmental Working Group and our Canadian Environmental Defense Group in their lobbying efforts for policy change, there are important lifestyle changes that we must make to decrease our own toxic exposure.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Organs of Elimination

One way we can all improve our general level of health is by supporting our organs of elimination.

Our primary organs of elimination include the lungs, the skin, the kidneys and the digestive system. Through these four organs we eliminate waste products from our body. From the lungs we eliminate carbon dioxide, from the skin we excrete sweat, urine is voided by the kidneys and stool is eliminated from the digestive system. These are all of the natural and normal ways our body eliminates that which we have no use for: by-products of our metabolism and toxins that we accumulate from our environment through our air, food and water.

Proper elimination is essential for health. When these waste products are not eliminated efficiently from the body, they will accumulate and contribute to ill health. Many common symptoms can be cured by simply supporting our organs of elimination.

To support our kidneys we need to drink an adequate amount of water each day. I recommend drinking half of your body weight(lbs) in ounces. See blog post "Water" for more information.

To support our lungs we need to practice deep breathing. Aim for 100 deep belly breaths over the course of the day.

For the skin we need to promote sweating (think exercise) and allow the skin to breathe by practicing dry skin brushing each day.

For the digestive system we must ensure we are having a minimum of 1 bowel movement each day. Anything less is considered constipation. (see blog post "Improving Bowel Regularity")

One other system that plays a key role in elimination is our lymphatic system. See previous post entitled "The Importance of the Lymphatic System" for more information.

By enhancing the function of our organs of elimination we can more efficiently eliminate the toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis and we can begin to eliminate waste products we have stored in our body. Supporting the function of our lungs, kidneys, skin and digestive tract is paramount to good health.

By improving your body's ability to eliminate you can expect a reduction of symptoms, improved energy levels, enhanced weight loss, a general sense of well-being and prevention of future disease.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rebounding for the Lymphatic System

Rebounding basically means bouncing on a mini trampoline and is an excellent way to improve the movement of the lymphatic system!

Movement of the lymphatic system is important for detoxification and immune system function. By improving lymphatic movement we can improve circulation of the immune system - important for warding off the everyday cold and flu as well as prevention of cancer.

The lymphatic system consists of vessels throughout the body however unlike the vascular system, the lymphatic system lacks a pump and one way valves to control movement. To move the lymphatic system we largely rely on the action of our muscles.

When the muscles of our body contract, they pump the lymphatic vessels and move the lymph fluid throughout the body.

While any type of exercise will improve lymphatic movement, rebounding is known as one of the most effective exercises in accomplishing this.

Try rebounding for 10 minutes each day and incorporate as much arm movement as you can. Aim for small, controlled bounces while swinging the arms as if swimming, doing jumping jacks, boxing, touching your elbows to your knees, etc.

Rebounding for 10 minutes has a cardio effect comparable to jogging for 30 minutes. Additional benefits to rebounding include: weight loss, improved energy levels, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved oxygenation of the body and stress reduction.

Dry Skin Brushing

The skin is one of our organs of elimination just like the lungs, kidneys and colon. It functions to remove wastes and toxins via sweat.

Dry Skin brushing is one of the ways we can support elimination from the skin. It removes dead skin cells, allowing the skin to breathe and also stimulates lymph and blood circulation.

If the pores of the skin become blocked with millions of dead cells, impurities will remain in the body. The other elimination organs, mainly the kidneys and liver, will have to increase their function to compensate for this and will eventually become overworked.

If toxins and wastes begin to build up in the tissues because the kidneys and the liver cannot cope with the added workload, then sooner or later disease will follow. This is the importance of keeping healthy and well functioning skin.

Dry skin brushing is also useful for stimulating movement of the lymphatic system. All detoxification occurs primarily through the lymph and thus, dry skin brushing can help the body to eliminate wastes and toxins from below the skin’s surface.

Dry skin brushing can change the health of your whole body. Circulation, skin softness and quality, skin infections and irritations, whole body freshness, your level of stimulation, the prevention of colds, and you personal rejuvenation are all areas of improvement you can look for, once you make this a regular habit.

To brush the skin, use a natural bristle brush (like a back brush) and start at the soles of the feet and work your way up your legs, your front and your back, brushing as vigorously as you feel able. Then do your hands and up your arms. Always brush towards your heart. Don't do your face, but do include the back of your neck and your scalp. For hygiene reasons you need a separate brush for each member of the family, and of course, you need to wash the brush itself every couple of weeks.

Contrast Showers

Contrast showers are a fantastic way to improve your health and vitality!

Contrast showers are a form of hydrotherapy (healing with water) that promote circulation of the blood as well as the lymphatic system. Overall, contrast showers are a part of building a solid foundation from which health arises. They are a health habit I think everyone should adopt.

They are fantastic for improving circulatory and vascular conditions, immune system function and generalized detoxification. Contrast showers can specifically help with fatigue, varicose veins, and prevention of infections.

Improve your circulation and the function of your immune system by taking a contrast shower every day:

Take your regular warm/hot shower but at the very end, turn the faucet to cool for 30 seconds. The more contrast you can do, the better - but do whatever you can tolerate. You don't have to have it so cold that you're clenching your teeth or cursing me.


Alternate a hot shower with cold water sprays throughout. Give yourself a 15-30 second cool blast three times during your shower. Always end your shower on cold.

Trust me, this feels great! And since your circulation has been given a kick start - you warm up much quicker once you get out of the shower. of the best things about hydrotherapy is that its free!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Water is absolutely essential for good health.

The body is made up of approximately 60% water which is in need of constant replenishment. Every system of the body is dependent upon water and without an adequate intake, the body is placed under additional stress in order to conserve. This additional stress and conservation means that a compromise has to be made in the functioning of all cells and tissues.

If you are aware that all cells of the body are sitting in a bath of water, you may start to think of how you might like this water to look. Cells can communicate and function more clearly in fresh, clean water rather than stale, stagnant water.

Water is a first line intervention for the improvement of many symptoms including: skin health, fatigue, headaches, prevention and treatment of colds and flus, constipation, gout and kidney stones.

To improve your overall health, ensure you are drinking an adequate amount of water each day.

How much water should you be drinking?

A simple test to determine if you are drinking enough water is to look at the colour of your urine. Your urine should be clear, rather than yellow. The darker the urine, the more dehydrated you are.

Here is an easy calculation to determine your daily water intake:

Take your body weight in pounds and divide by 2. Drink this many ounces each day. For example, if your weight is 150lbs you should be drinking 75oz of water each day.

For conversion:

32oz = 1L

8oz = 250ml = one tall glass of water

Your need for water will increase if you are exercising, sweating, drinking coffee or tea, breastfeeding, living in hot or humid weather, or dehydrated from illness.

To give yourself an idea of how your symptoms might improve by increasing your water intake, try a 3 day challenge and drink the amount of water you've determined from the above calculation based on your body weight.

It is best to measure out the amount of water you need to drink each day and find a re-usable stainless steel bottle to help you keep tract of your water intake.

Look for reverse osmosis water and avoid the use of plastic water bottles.

Improving Bowel Regularity

How is your digestive system functioning?

Regular bowel movements are an important aspect of achieving optimal health. Proper elimination can prevent constipation, high cholesterol, hormonal imbalances, all forms of cancer, ill health effects of environmental toxins, digestive disturbance, skin conditions, fatigue and many other general symptoms of ill health. With improved regularity, you may notice an improvement in your overall sense of well being.

Here are a few things you should notice about your digestion:

1. You should be having at the very least, one bowel movement each day. Two to three bowel movements per day is more ideal.

2. They should always be easy to pass. Straining or pushing can cause painful conditions such as hemorrhoids or fissures.

3. Bowel movements should be soft but formed. Like toothpaste comes out of the tube - soft but with shape.

4. The colour should be some variation of brown. The colour will change depending on what your diet consists of (eg. red if you've eaten beets, dark if you've had blueberries, greenish if you've had lots of green leafy vegetables)

5. There should not be any undigested food in the stool. Ocassionally you may see corn, skins of peppers, or small seeds. Often these are the foods we have not chewed properly in the first place. You should never see food in the toilet bowl as it was on your plate.

6. Your bowel movements should neither float on the surface, nor sink to the bottom of the bowl and disappear. Floating stool, or stool with a greasy appearance could indicate impaired fat metabolism. Stool that sinks and disappears indicates that you are not consuming enough fibre.

7. You should not see any blood or mucous. A small amount of bright red blood indicates an issue such as hemorrhoids or fissures. Mucous indicates an inflammatory process in the digestive tract that needs to be addressed.

If from the above comments, you learn that your digestion is not optimal, try the following six suggestions to improve regularity:

1. Drink more water.

2. Eat more fibre. No need to supplement, you can add more fruits and vegetables, ground flax, ground psyllium, oat bran, and beans to your diet.

3. Exercise. Some form of movement each day will stimulate the bowels to move as well.

4. Drink lemon water each morning: squeeze about a 1/4 to 1/2 lemon into a glass of water and drink this each morning on an empty stomach. This wakes up the digestive tract.

5. Toilet training. Yes, for adults. With our busy lifestyles, it may be the case that you just aren't taking the time each day to go to the bathroom. If you are not having regular bowel movements, choose a time of the day to spend 10 minutes sitting on the toilet. Don't force yourself to go, just sit there and let the mind get used to the idea that you have the time to go.

6. Try squatting. This is the more natural position for elimination (think about how you would go if you didn't have access to a modern toilet). With the thighs putting a little pressure on the abdomen, the bowels become stimulated.

If you have incorporated the above suggestions and seem to still have trouble, see your Naturopathic Doctor for support. There may be other factors affecting your digestive system that need to be explored or, you may wish to try acupuncture for improved digestive function.

Friday, February 26, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup is NOT your friend

High Fructose Corn Syrup is a sweetener found in many processed foods and has been linked to such diseases as obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes and diabetic complications, fatty liver disease, and over-production of triglycerides by the liver.

It is commonly labeled as glucose-fructose and is found in soft drinks, cereals, ketchup, miracle whip, pop tarts, nutri-grain bars, cookies, crackers, cough syrups, BBQ sauce, juices and many, many other packaged foods. You should also beware of labels that read dextrose, maltodextrose, caramel flavouring, vegetable gum, sorbitol, corn sugar, corn sweetener, modified starch, dextrate and of course, corn syrup.

The criticism of high-fructose corn syrup is that it is converted to an unnatural form by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose however, the disproportionate amounts of each sugar has been suggested to create an unstable molecule in the body which may lead to tissue damage and result in disease.

Corn syrup is preferred by the food industry because of its availability, low cost, convenience and ability to extend shelf life.

Supporters of the corn industry suggest that high fructose corn syrup is not specifically to blame and the link to disease is a result of the over-consumption of processed foods and soft drinks. It is likely that if sucrose replaced high fructose corn syrup in the above foods, the same associations with disease could be made.

For this reason, all forms of sugar should be eaten in moderation.

However, there exists another very concerning reason to specifically avoid high fructose corn syrup: The Case of the Missing Mercury.

The production of high fructose corn syrup uses chlorine and caustic soda, which are produced in chlor-alkali plants using mercury cells. There exists 5 of these plants in Canada and 8 in the US. In 2003 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that on average, approximately seven tons of mercury were missing from each US plant in the year 2000. These chlor-alkali plants have an average of fifty-six cells, each containing as much as 8,000 pounds of mercury and, every year the chlor-alkali industry reports unaccounted mercury losses to the EPA.

An investigation was undertaken to find the missing tons of mercury and of twenty samples of high fructose corn syrup, mercury was detected in nine. Of the eleven samples in which mercury was not detected, nine were from the same plant.

In a second study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), 55 brand name foods were analyzed and mercury was detected in 1 out of 3 of the sampled foods, most commonly in high fructose corn syrup-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.

Its difficult to trace foods back to the manufacturing plant and until all plants have phased out mercury cell technology (expected by 2012) it is important to limit the consumption of high fructose corn syrup containing foods to avoid unnecessary intake of mercury.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Importance of the Lymphatic System

The Lymphatic System is an additional circulatory system found throughout the entire body. It is composed of vessels, lymph nodes, lymphatic tissue, and several organs: the spleen, thymus and bone marrow.

The lymphatic system plays a very important part in our immune system function as well generalized detoxification of the body.

The cells of our immune system are produced by the lymphatic organs, are stored in the lymphatic tissue and are circulated throughout the body in lymph fluid. By improving the circulation of the lymphatic system, we can improve the function and circulation of our immune system. This is beneficial in warding off your everyday infections, colds and flus but also extremely important for the prevention of ALL cancers.

Improving circulation of the lymphatic system also supports the body's capacity to detoxify. By-products of our metabolism, toxins, and other wastes accumulate in the fluid surrounding our cells and tissues and the lymphatic system is responsible for mobilizing such waste products for elimination. Impaired movement of the lymphatic system can result in accumulation of these toxins and waste products and over time, can result in disease.

Stimulating lymphatic movement will improve immune system function and the body's ability to detoxify. This is a very important component of health promotion and disease prevention.

Five Fantastic Ways to Increase Lymphatic Circulation

1. Exercise
2. Contrast Showers
3. Dry Skin Brushing
4. Rebounding
5. Deep Breathing

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Make the switch to Sea Salt

Should I switch to Sea Salt?

YES. The main difference between sea salt and regular table salt is in their mineral compositions. Sea salt, in its pure form, contains traces of other minerals including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine compared to table salt which is refined to contain only two minerals – sodium and chloride. Iodine is often put back into table salt.

This is the reason that sea salt, an unrefined salt, has a characteristic color – grey, beige, pink, red, even black – but never stark white. Different mineral make-ups give different color spectrums, but the pristine white of table salt (showing its purity), should set off alarm bells that this is not fit for consumption.

The purity of table salt is exactly its problem. With unrefined salts you are consuming a number of different minerals in a particular ratio, a ratio that more closely resembles the mineral makeup of human blood. With table salt you are getting an unbalanced ratio of just sodium and chloride.

DO NOT be fooled by grocery store “sea salt", because while it does come from the sea, this coarser salt has still been refined of all its mineral content as you can tell by its bright white color. Unrefined sea salt can usually only be found in the organic section of grocery stores, gourmet specialty food emporiums or health food stores.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Coffee and Cholesterol

Does coffee increase your cholesterol?

Yes and No. Here's why...

Cafestol, a compound found in coffee, has been found to be the culprit that elevates cholesterol. Researchers have found that cafestol is the most potent dietary cholesterol-elevating agent presently known.

Researchers have found that Cafetiere, or French press coffee, boiled Scandinavian brew and espresso contain the highest levels of the cafestol. However, when brewed with a paper filter, all the coffee oils, including cafestol, are filtered out. (NOTE: Removing caffeine does not remove cafestol).

If you are a coffee lover, be sure to use paper filters when brewing your favorite coffee.

NOTE: Starbucks does NOT use coffee filters, but Tim Horton’s and Second Cup does.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Omega 3 Supplements

What Should I Look For In A Fish Oil Supplement?

Not all supplements are created equal, and Omega 3s are one very good example of getting what you pay for.

Most of us have heard of the benefits of Omega 3s and Fish Oils but with so many choices out on the market, it is difficult to determine which supplement is best. It is especially important to ensure quality when it comes to omega 3 supplements. You will need to read labels and compare products.

Two common sources of Omega 3s are fish and flax. They are not equally beneficial however. While fish oil is a readily available source of omega 3s, flax oil must be converted to omega 3 in the body. Depending on the availability of other nutritional factors required for conversion, the body is only able to convert an estimated 10% of the oil in flax to the beneficial omega 3 fatty acids. For this reason, I recommend fish oil supplements over flax oil for therapeutic benefit.

You also want to be looking for a supplement that contains only omega 3. Don’t worry about Omega 6 and 9. We obtain enough omega 6s from our diet, and omega 9 can be found in olive oil. The issue is the imbalance of omega 3 to 6 in the body thus, we need to supplement with omega 3 for a more balanced ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6.

Here are a few considerations when choosing a fish oil supplement:

• The source of fish oil should be listed: sardines, anchovies and mackerel are the most sustainable sources.
• The total amount of EPA and DHA should be listed. If it just says “fish oil” it is not a quality product.
• Look for a highly concentrated fish oil: check the total amount of oil per capsule and then add up the amount of EPA and DHA per capsule. The EPA and DHA combined should make up at least 70% of the total. The higher the percentage, the more concentrated it is. The lower the percentage, the more “other” oils are present. A more concentrated product usually means taking fewer capsules, or less liquid.
• Your fish oil should be guaranteed to be 100% pure. Third party testing should ensure that the fish oil is free of heavy metals, PCB’s, pesticides, volatile organics and other impurities. Just because a company "tests" for contaminants does not mean that they effectively remove them.

Consult with your Naturopathic Doctor to determine an appropriate dosage of omega 3s and whether or not you require a supplement predominant in EPA or DHA.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Do I have to eat breakfast?

Yes. A healthy diet includes breakfast every morning.

If you do not currently eat breakfast, make an effort to start. If you think you're too busy in the morning, prepare as much as you can the night before. If you can't stomach anything first thing, take your breakfast to go and eat once you get into work or school.
People who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to:
• Consume more vitamins and minerals and less fat and cholesterol
• Have better concentration and productivity throughout the morning
• Control their weight
• Have lower cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease
Skipping breakfast often means eating more calories later in the day. One study reported that missing breakfast was associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of obesity. (Harvard Men's Health Watch)
After a long period of not eating (overnight) our blood sugar begins to drop. Low blood sugar will stimulate the body to crave sweets and other unhealthy foods. Often we will end up snacking our way through the morning or find ourselves tempted to overeat or make unhealthy choices at lunch in order to satisfy our hunger.
In general – think protein and fiber for breakfast.
Both protein and fiber in the morning will help to slow digestion as well as the absorption of sugars (carbohydrates). This means that you will be full for longer and energy will remain consistent throughout the morning – eliminating the need for an extra coffee and preventing that ravishing hunger at lunch time.

Diets high in fiber are also known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even intestinal polyps and colon cancer.

About Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct system of primary health care that addresses the root cause of disease and promotes health and healing using natural therapies.

Naturopathic Medicine supports the body's own healing ability using an integrated approach to disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Natural therapies include: Traditional Asian Medicine and Acupuncture, Botanical Medicine, Physical Medicine, Clinical Nutrition, Homeopathic Medicine and Lifestyle Counseling.

Naturopathic doctors are licensed and regulated health care practitioners with a minimum of seven years post secondary education. They work in partnership with other regulated health care providers to ensure that patients receive the most comprehensive and effective care possible.

Naturopathic Medicine is often covered by extended health insurance.


Thank-you for visiting!

With this blog, I hope to share some general thoughts, information, ideas, research and recipes that support the principles of Naturopathic Medicine in order to provide some inspiration on how you might better your own health!

I think there are many simple ways in which we can support our body in achieving and maintaining good health. If we are able to adopt some of these healthy habits we can not only improve our present state of health but we can promote good health for our future. The ultimate goal here is prevention!