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.