Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Keep Cool this Summer - Ayurveda Tips

Do you look forward to summer, and then find yourself feeling irritable and exhausted once the temperatures rise? Does your skin breakout with the heat? Do you crave air conditioning and cool drinks? If so, your Pitta may be out of balance.

According to Ayurveda, of the three bio-energies (ie. doshas) that exist in nature (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), Pitta is highest in the summer as it holds the energy of fire and water.  Dosha bio-energies are composed of the 5 elements and not only exist in the environment, but also within you. If your constitution is dominant in Pitta, summer heat can further cause Pitta to accumulate – on the physical, mental and emotional levels.

Summer is the season of sun, heat, intensity and fire – a celebration after the cold winter months. Depending on your constitution, summer may either aggravate your innate tendencies or compensate for your imbalances.  For example, if you struggle with cold hands and feet in the winters, you will likely enjoy warm summer temperatures.  If your body generally heats up quickly, you may find it challenging to tolerate summer heat.

How Do I Identify if my Pitta is imbalanced?

You need to first understand your original constitution before understanding what is out of balance.  Everyone is born with a unique constitution and needs individualized care to regain their original state of balance.  Online dosha quizzes can be a fun tool. However, they do not reveal the complete picture of your constitution.  A Naturopathic intake incorporating Ayurvedic assessment includes physical exam (including tongue & pulse diagnosis) and complete health history to identify your balance of Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Furthermore, skilled practitioners can identify which organ system or tissue is being impacted by Pitta.  For example, if Pitta accumulates in the mind, you may feel more angry or short-tempered, but if Pitta has increases in the blood, you may experience high blood pressure. Once a proper diagnosis has been made, tailored treatments can target the root cause of your health concern and assist in restoring balance.

Pitta can accumulate in the mind, specific organ systems, channels or tissues and can manifest as health concerns such as:

What Can You Do?

While increased Pitta is not life-threatening, if left unattended, chronic disease can develop over time.  For example, if you consistently eat spicy and acidic food (which increases Pitta), occasional heart burn may develop into daily heartburn and progress into a painful ulcer. The good news is that Pitta imbalance is easy to detect in the early stages with tongue & pulse diagnosis, and can be addressed with diet & lifestyle, herbs and therapies.  Summer is the ideal time to address Pitta-related imbalances before they develop into more severe conditions.

During the summer months, your focus should be to balance Pitta. Below are some general tips that can help keep your Pitta in check.

Tips to Stay Cool this Summer and Pacify Pitta:
  • Choose foods that are cooling energetically such as: cucumbers, dark leafy greens, mint and melons.
  • Choose flavours that are bitter, astringent & naturally sweet – fresh local greens make great salads and ripe, juicy fruits make a delicious summer snack.  Minimize flavours that are excessively spicy, sour and salty.
  • Try incorporating coconut into your diet (coconut water, oil, cream etc.)
  • Stay hydrated & avoid ice cold drinks. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, cold drinks are not advised to help you cool down.
  • Avoid overexerting yourself and plan your exercise away from the hottest time of the day
  • Be sun smart and stay out of direct sun during peak hours (~11 a.m. - 3 p.m.)
  • Observe situations where you are controlling or pushing yourself or others.  Bring awareness into surrendering and allowing.
  • Enjoy essential oils with floral tones such as jasmine, rose or lavender.

If you think you may have a Pitta imbalance, summer is the best time to address it. Once you understand your unique constitution, steps can be taken to harmonize yourself with the changing seasons under the guidance of your naturopathic doctor and Ayurvedic practitioner.  Making simple but consistent changes to your lifestyle and diet, in correlation with the change of seasons will allow you to experience your full energy and vitality this summer.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with specialized training in Ayurveda and can help you identify your constitution to guide you on a customized health plan – whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness. Please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email lathparia@naturopathicfoundations.ca to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Is Your Acne Hormone Related? We can help.

By Dr. Pearl Arjomand, ND

Are you a woman between the ages of 12 and 35 experiencing acne?  Is your acne inflamed, cystic, deep and painful?  If so, hormones can be playing a significant role.  Your skin is a mirror to your hormone health and persistent acne can be an indicator of an imbalance occurring at a deeper level. Hormonal acne is one of the most common and poorly treated skin concerns facing young women today.  Birth control and long-term antibiotic treatments are the most common conventional treatments. These medications work for some, but for others they often cause unpleasant side effects and provide no lasting benefit once treatment ends.
To get rid of hormone-based acne you need to treat the underlying cause.

Depending on the type, location, and time of month breakouts occur hormones can be an identifiable cause.  A naturopathic doctor can assess possible factors implicated in your acne by physical exam, blood work, health history and presenting symptoms.

Symptoms that indicate there is a hormonal imbalance contributing to your acne may include any of the following:
  • Breakouts that occur between the ages of 12-18
  • Lesions that are usually around the chin, lower jaw and sides of the cheeks or back
  • Lesions that are typically painful, deep and cystic in nature
  • Breakouts that occur second half of the female menstrual cycle and improve as soon as menses begin
  • The presentation of other premenstrual symptoms including breast tenderness, cravings, headaches or irritability.
There are many hormones that can be implicated in acne including insulin, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone and progesterone.  Naturopathic doctors are trained to identify where the imbalance may be occurring and through the use of natural therapies, dietary and lifestyle changes begin to help restore healthy balance in the body.

Naturopathic Approach to Managing Hormonal Acne

Hormone regulation through medicinal herbs
There are specific herbs that have an affinity to balance hormones.  Some of these herbs have influence on progesterone and others estrogen.  Herbal remedies are a great tool used to balance the female cycle and cyclical related acne.  Some common herbs used are Vitex Agnus, Angelica Sinensis and Dioscorea Villosa.  

Liver support
The liver is the main organ responsible for the breakdown and consequently elimination of hormones from the body.  If this organ is not functioning optimally hormones begin to recirculate and cause problems like acne.  Liver issues can arise because of the use of medications over a long period of time, a poor diet, stress (emotional or physical), and exposure to environmental toxins.  There are specific vitamins, herbs and anti-oxidants that are commonly used to assist the liver to detoxify hormones.  Some common supplements include indol-3-carbinol, calcium-d-glucarate, B-vitamins and herbs such as Silybum Marianum.

Skin support
Minerals and healthy fats are essential in the healing of scars and over all skin health.   Many patients with hormonal acne are low in essential fatty acids and essential minerals such as zinc, selenium and magnesium.  Medications, diet and stress are some factors that may deplete your mineral stores and contributing to poor skin healing.

The therapies described above are only part of a comprehensive treatment plan that a naturopathic doctor would prescribe.  Dietary changes are a significant contributor as well, which requires individual counselling and recommendations.  A food sensitivity test may also be used as a means to identify possible food allergens and contributors to inflammation in the body.

Topical recommendations are also given as a means to help heal and clear the skin.

Dr. Pearl Arjomand is a Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations who focuses on hormone related health concerns such as hormonal acne. She has extensive training the assessment of hormone health through the use of salivary testing, and has passed the pharmaceutical prescribing course in Ontario and is able to prescribe bio-identical hormones when appropriate.  She also has an interest in skin rejuvenation and anti-aging.  Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Arjomand, ND.

The Many Faces of PMS

By Dr. Pearl Arjomand, ND

Most women have experienced unpleasant symptoms before their period.  The term "PMSing" has even become a politically correct term to refer to someone's irritable behaviour around their period. These unpleasant symptoms may present as mood changes or physical pain such as breast tenderness and migraines. Irrespective of the form it takes, all premenstrual symptoms point to a common underlying cause: hormonal imbalance.  Believe it or not, premenstrual symptoms (PMS) are NOT normal.  The hormonal fluctuation that occurs in a woman's body throughout the month is a meant to be a seamless process that occurs in the background, unnoticed.

PMS symptoms occur seven to fourteen days before your period.  These symptoms can include any of the following:

      • Headaches
      • Cravings (sugar, chocolates, carbohydrates)
      • Breast swelling and tenderness
      • Bloating
      • Fatigue
      • Increased appetite
      • Changes in libido
      • Insomnia
      • Depression
      • Anxiety
      • Irritability
      • Water Retention
      • Acne
      • Constipation or Diarrhea

What do PMS symptoms mean?

Throughout the month cyclical hormonal fluctuations occur naturally as part of our reproductive process.  PMS symptoms often mean there is an imbalance in the ratio of estrogen and progesterone in the body.  If there is too much or relatively too little of either one of these hormones circulating in the body at the appropriate time, it can cause many issues around menstruation. These hormones can influence neurotransmitters, circadian rhythm and serotonin levels.

What can cause PMS?

Anything that eventually influences the ratio of estrogen and progesterone to shift outside it's healthy normal range can cause PMS.  The following are some common causes:

  • The birth control pill- Although this is often prescribed to treat PMS, it can also be the cause. Even history of birth control usage can contribute to PMS by shifting the hormonal rhythm of your body's hormones.  It also puts stress on the gall bladder and liver which are the organs responsible for the breakdown and elimination of estrogen.

  • Endocrine disruptors- Toxins in our environment such as PCB's, bisphenol-A, parabens and phthalates bind to hormone receptors and mimic hormones.  Exposure to these toxins often come from food stored in plastic, cans and beauty products. 

  • Diet- Hormones can also be found in food such as dairy and diets high in animal protein. Foods such as coffee, chocolate, alcohol and sugar can also influence our hormones and cause PMS. Nutrient deficiencies like protein and iron deficiency can also lead to fatigue, insomnia and headaches prior to menstruation. 

  • Lifestyle- A sedentary lifestyle can have a profound effect on mood and energy.  Lack of sleep can further disrupt our hormonal rhythm and promote premenstrual symptoms.  

  • Stress-  Chronic stress without adequate down-time and recovery leads to increased cortisol and can shift our sex hormones leading to relative deficiencies.  

Naturopathic Approach for the treatment of PMS

Your naturopathic doctor will assess for the underlying factors contributing to your PMS. Appropriate collection of health history, testing and a physical exam will identify which hormones are out of balance and why.  

At Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic we offer comprehensive testing that includes the use of specialized tests such as saliva hormone panels, adrenal panels and food sensitivity testing which measure important and often overlooked markers of hormone balance.  We also have the ability to requisition blood work when needed to identify other health markers.  Unique testing is also available and commonly used to identify how the body is metabolizing and breaking down hormones allowing us to better understand and identify areas that need special support.

Naturopathic treatment focuses on balancing the physiological hormonal imbalances, however we also recognize that psychological and emotional factors also influence our hormones.  Stress management techniques, diet and lifestyle counselling as well as liver support are often foundation work that is required for long lasting benefits.  Herbs, vitamins and supplements are often prescribed to help uncomfortable symptoms and help balance the hormones. 

Dr. Arjomand is a Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations that focuses on women's health. Her practice consists on treating a variety of hormonal imbalances that affect women.  Dr. Arjomand has passed Naturopathic Ontario pharmaceutical exams to be qualified to prescribe bio-identical hormones to patients when appropriate.  Bio-identical progesterone is a natural hormone that a can be extremely effective and helpful in many cases of PMS.  Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Arjomand. 

Skin Rejuvenation - A Natural Treatment For Younger Looking Skin

By Dr. Pearl Arjomand, ND

What to look younger?  One of the most effective, gentle, non surgical ways to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and puffiness under the eyes is through the use of facial rejuvenation acupuncture.  This ancient method of treatment is gaining more momentum and recognition as more people are seeking low risk and effective means to look younger.

Facial rejuvenation acupuncture uses of extremely small non-painful needles in specific areas around the face and surrounding problem areas as well as constitutional points around the body.  Facial acupuncture increases blood flow to the face and stimulates collagen production.

Benefits of facial rejuvenation acupuncture include:

  • Improvement in muscle tone
  • Decrease in fine lines and wrinkles
  • Eliminates puffiness by improving metabolism
  • Decreases tendency towards sagging and jowls
  • Improves facial colour by improving circulation
  • Slows the aging process
  • Tightens the pores
  • Promotes a glowing and vibrant appearance

A course of treatment consists of 10-15 treatments administered once or twice a week.  Each treatment lasts approximately 1 hour.  Results may be seen as early as the first treatment, but it is around the 7th treatment that results are more dramatic and lasting.  Maintenance sessions (on an as-needed basis) are also recommended after the series is finished.

As our internal health is often reflected in our appearance, special attention is also given to diet, lifestyle and skin regimens.  Topical treatments are also advised as well as other supplements to promote healthier looking skin.  This treatment is ideal for those who don't want facial surgery, botox or fillers but want to look younger.

Dr. Arjomand, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations who focuses on facial rejuvenation.  Please call the office at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment if you are interested in learning more.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction - Do I have it?

by Dr. Urszula May, MHSc, ND

Have you suffered with stress incontinence, urinary urgency/frequency, painful bladder syndrome or painful intercourse?  What about pelvic organ prolapse, prostatitis, heaviness in the vaginal or rectal area, constipation, fecal or gas incontinence?  These are a few of the conditions that are related to pelvic floor dysfunction and that can be addressed through pelvic floor treatment.  

What is the Pelvic Floor?

The pelvic floor is a sling-like structure that sits between the hips and has several important functions.  It's made up of muscle and connective tissue that:
  • support internal organs 
  • allow sexual functions
  • relax during urination, defication and birth
  • act like a pump moving blood and lymph from our lower body back to our heart
  • and provide stability for the body as a whole. 

What Causes Pelvic Floor Concerns?

The pelvic floor is a crucial component of your anatomy and can be damaged in a number of ways.  Falls, traumas, infections, childbirth and surgeries are some of the most common reasons patients end up with pelvic floor dysfunctions.

When damaged, the muscles, tissues and joints of the pelvis can become too tight or too loose, or both.  Tissues that are too tight can pull on the structures in their neighbourhood, like the bladder for example, leading to urge incontinence or painful intercourse.  When these tissues are too loose, pelvic organ prolapse or stress incontinence can result.

Many pelvic floor issues arise slowly over time. Also, they can wrongly be associated with aging in general and misdiagnosed as hip and / or low back pain.  Pelvic floor dysfunctions can tremendously impact a person's quality of life. They often result in people spending more time at home and avoiding social outings due to concern with bladder control or pain management. Painful intercourse can also dramatically affect a person's relationship with their sexual partner. 

How is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Diagnosed?

Pelvic floor dysfunction is diagnosed using hand-on assessment of both internal and external structures.  An initial visit includes an examination of:
  • posture 
  • gait
  • flexibility
  • skin
  • muscle tone and trigger points

Often stress, anxiety and perceptions of pain are related to incontinence and pelvic pain, and those, too, are discussed and evaluated.  An internal examination (rectal for men, vaginal and rectal for women) can be differed depending on patient comfort level and body need.  When the external structures are significantly tight, it's important to relax them prior to moving deeper into the body. 

What's the Treatment?

Pelvic floor treatment is a combination of in-office visits and self-care exercises. Self-care is the most important aspect of any pelvic floor treatment plan. Stretching, massage, deep breathing and bathing become part of a daily routine that maintains the progress made during office visits.  

What's exciting about this type of therapy is how well it works for people who thought they were stuck living with their symptoms for the rest of their lives. With the proper instruction and guidance, the results of pelvic floor therapy are life-long. 
Dr. May is one of the few naturopathic doctors in Canada with special training in Pelvic Floor diagnosis and treatment. If you feel you may benefit from a pelvic floor assessment, or would like more information to see if pelvic floor therapy is right for you, please feel free to contact Dr. May.

Oral Health - 5 Common Concerns

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Does an apple a day keep the dentist away? If only it were that easy to maintain oral health.  Brushing, flossing, tongue cleaning & eating healthy are important steps to preventing cavities, gum disease and other conditions that affect the mouth, teeth and gums. Yet, in today’s world, maintaining optimum oral health is becoming more challenging despite daily oral hygiene.

The mouth is, quite literally, the opening to the entire digestive tract.  What you put into your mouth, chew and swallow is what will be passed through the metres of digestive tract – through the esophagus, stomach, small & large intestines and to the rectum.  A healthy oral cavity sets the environment for a healthy digestive tract, which in turn is linked to all the systems in the body. 

Just like your gut, your mouth is filled with bacterial microorganisms which feed off undigested food and secrete by-products. These bacteria proliferate with foods such as refined sugars, carbohydrates, acidic foods and tobacco. Over time, accumulation of these bacteria in the mouth can lead to bad breath, gingivitis, periodontitis and cavities. When gut flora is imbalanced further down in the digestive tract, you may experience gas & bloating, cramps and discomfort.

Conventional dentistry unfortunately is not always enough to protect you from developing cavities, gum disease and other conditions that affect the oral cavity.  Modern dentistry addresses the overt symptoms by drilling and filling.   However, it does not address flora imbalance, acidity and long-term inflammation which are factors leading to these oral conditions. Below are some of the most common conditions affecting oral health.

Common Oral Health Concerns

  • Cavities: It is a well-known fact that sugar is the primary cause of cavities.  Sugar consumption has skyrocketed over the last few decades, and cavities are the most common dental concern in children.  Sugar (or any carbohydrate) fuels bacteria in your mouth, such as Streptococcus mutans which form acid and promote tooth decay. Salivary pH also plays an important buffering role in preventing or promoting cavities. The reason why some people are more susceptible to cavities than others, despite similar diets, is connected to oral flora and the overall pH of a person's system. 
  • Mercury Fillings: Heavy metal toxicity due to years of mercury fillings is a growing concern. Mercury is a heavy metal which, as a cavity breaks down, results in mercury deposits in the tissues, especially in the nervous system. If you have had amalgam fillings - which contain mercury - it is important to have them removed properly if they are old or breaking down. Holistic dentists are trained in removing mercury fillings, but concurrent naturopathic heavy metal detoxification is critical to prevent mercury re-circulating and depositing in other organs.
  • Receding or bleeding gums: If your gums bleed when you floss or you notice your gums are receding, this is a sign of chronic inflammation (gingivitis).  If not addressed properly over time, this inflammation can progress into periodontitis (gum disease) where food debris & bacteria build up and begin to damage gums & bones, eventually leading to tooth loss.  When gums begin to recede, they can expose the enamel leading to sensitivity. In addition to daily oral hygiene and regular dental checkups, there are many naturopathic options that can support gum health, decrease inflammation and prevent or treat receding or bleeding gums.
  • Sensitive Teeth: Teeth become sensitive when enamel becomes thin. Acidic food that is directly in contact with teeth erodes tooth enamel over time.  Beverages such as soda pop - which is rich in phosphoric acid and sugar - not only erode tooth enamel and cause cavities, but also promote demineralization in the body.  When there is a deficiency of minerals, just like in bones, the body is unable to replenish enamel without the building blocks. If you have sensitive teeth, sensitivity toothpaste may bring temporary relief but it is likely that your mineral levels also need to be addressed. A lesser known fact is that mechanical issues (such as teeth grinding or TMJ issues) can add significant pressure on teeth, causing weakness in tooth enamel. Teeth grinding can be due to an active mind when you are sleeping or can be linked to the presence of parasites (such as worms in children) or to tension in the jaw from long-term stress.  A naturopathic doctor can help you identify contributing factors to sensitive teeth and address them from the root cause.
  • Bad breath: Mouthwashes and conventional products may kill the bacteria causing odour, but they do not address the real causes of bad breath.  If you are struggling with bad breath, keeping oral hygiene is a must, but it is also important to identify other contributing causes of bad breath – conditions such as diabetes, digestive issues, imbalanced gut bacteria and h. pylori.  If you have bad breath, this likely indicates toxic build-up in your mouth, and could indicate toxicity in the entire body which can be improved with customized diet, lifestyle changes and naturopathic therapies.

Teeth & gums are living tissue like your bones and other tissues and need to be treated with care. You only have one set of adult teeth so ensure you take the time to take care of your oral health with daily oral hygiene.  Since oral health is intimately linked with our bodies, it is also important to seek professional care to identify the root cause and to support contributing factors such as diet, digestion, medications & stress. 

Stay posted for Oral Health Part II where we will discuss more about oral health.

Dr. Leena Athparia, ND is a naturopathic doctor with an interest in chronic health concerns. If you are interested in a naturopathic assessment with a focus on oral health and treatment customized to your constitution, please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email lathparia@naturopathicfoundations.ca to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND.