Saturday, May 4, 2019

But What Can I Eat?

by Dr. Iva Lloyd
Naturopathic Doctor

Many well-intentioned people, after reading books and websites or having food intolerance testing done, are left asking "What can I eat?"  With all the conflicting information and all the research claiming that this food is bad for you, don't eat this, don't eat that, it is no wonder that eating well has become such a struggle. It doesn't have to be.  The following guidelines will hopefully provide some clarity.

The Role of Food

Although food is at times associated with socializing and comfort, and those are important factors, it is not the primary purpose of food. Food is the fuel for the body. It provides the building blocks for
every function and physical structure and for metabolic processes and detoxification. The saying "we are what we eat" is true on many levels.

Every food group has its purpose and role within the body.  At the most basic level, you need to eat foods from every food group on a regular basis.  The more you choose whole foods and those that are less processed, the better. The different food groups include:
A healthy diet cannot exclude any one food group. In order for all bodily functions to occur, it is important that all nutrients be present in the right ratios for your health as each one is part of the puzzle and has a specific role to play.

Avoid Diets

Eating healthy is not about choosing the best diet.  It is about ensuring that you recognize the importance of every type of food and that you eat adequate portions of all food groups on a daily basis.

The two most popular types of diets right now include the high protein and low grain diets. The focus of both of these diets is primarily on losing weight, not about achieving health. Although maintaining an ideal body weight is a good idea, the long-term impact of high protein and low grain diets can result in increased acid levels and are associated with a number of chronic health concerns.  Click on the links below to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of other diets:
There are a very few diseases or conditions that require a specific focus on one food group. Generally speaking, if you are looking for long-term, there is only one healthy diet - a balanced diet that is high in whole foods and that includes balanced portions of all food groups.  If you were going to choose any diet, I recommend a label-free, whole-foods diet.

Impact of Dietary Imbalances

When a diet is not balanced, physiology changes. There are three main dietary imbalance patterns:
  1. Calorie excess, nutrient deficient. The primary cause of obesity and most illnesses in North America is a diet that is calorie excessive, yet nutrient deficient. This generally occurs due to a diet that is high in fast foods, processed foods (especially "white" products) and packaged foods and diets that have a lot of pop, juice and other sweet beverages. When nutrients are imbalanced in the presence of excessive calories, the body is programmed to store the excess -- almost as if it is waiting for the missing nutrients to balance things out.
  2. Calorie excess, nutrient excess. It is quite rare for someone to be both calorie excess and nutrient excess. When the body has the needed nutrients that it needs, it is not as likely to store the excess, or if it does store the excess it is less likely to result in chronic diseases. When a diet is balanced, the internal programming is to excrete what is not needed. 
  3. Calorie deficient, nutrient deficient. A calorie deficient, nutrient deficient diet will result in the body down-regulating. Bodily functions will literally slow down as a way of reserving the use of energy. A person's constitution and the specific makeup of nutrients will determine in what way the "slow down" manifests. For some it will show up as hair loss, weak nails or skin, for others as developmental delays or cognitive decline and for others it will result in disease of some sort such as cancer or autoimmune disease.

Food Alterations

Food has gone through a number of changes over the years. For the majority of people, food is not based on what you hunt, gather and grow.  It is instead, what you pick up at the market or store.

Many of the alterations of food have been done to extend shelf-life and to allow for food to be preserved.  Historically, food alterations were done to alter the colour, flavour, texture or smell of food.  In the last couple of decades, genetically modified foods have added a whole new level of complexity to food. Another way that food is altered is by fortifying food and water with added nutrients. This sounds like a good idea, but it is not as great as it sounds. (stay tuned for a blog next month on this topic!)

It is important to keep in mind that most alterations of food are done to make it more appealing. Other than some natural food preservatives, it is not done to make food more healthy.

Most packaged food has been altered in some way. Click on the links below to learn more about the impact of food alterations including:
By choosing whole foods you will be limiting your exposure to food additives and food colourings. By choosing organic food you will limit your exposure to harmful herbicides and pesticides and genetically modified foods.

Factors that Affect Food and Eating

The following factors impact what food you should eat. 
  • Your Constitution determines what makes you unique. There is a tendency to evaluate food as "good" or "bad", when in reality what you want to do is to look at whether a food is good for you or not.  Your constitution, your individual food sensitivities and allergies, and everything else that makes you unique is what determines whether or not a particular food is healthy for you. It is not about the food itself. Check out my blog on How Do You Achieve Health, for more about this.
  • Temperature Outside - a general rule of thumb is that the temperature of your food should be opposite to the temperature outside.  This is especially true in the winter for those people that tend to be cold or for those that have conditions that are worse in cold, damp weather. Check out my blog on Healthy Fall and Winter Eating.
  • Movement. The more active you are the more nutrients that you will burn through. Many people associate being active with needing more protein, when in fact what you require is more water and more minerals.
  • Health Status - What is ideal for you to eat depends on your level of health. Eating is one of the best ways to help the body function. It is meant to change based on what is going on at any particular time. During acute illness, such as a cold or flu, it is best to drink a lot of fluids, consume non-dairy, non-wheat soups (like chicken soup) and to rest and stay warm. Check out my blog on Prevention and Management of Colds and Flu. Digestion works best when a person is relaxed. When under stress or when rushed it is better to have smaller meals and to eat foods that are easy to digest. The ideal diet for most chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, etc is a whole foods diet customized to your unique constitution.  There really is not a specific diet for each condition.  Only a few conditions, such as cancer, require a specific diet for a period time to help a person undergo treatment or to support the body in making a physiological shift.
I encourage you to see food as a wonderful way to help you manoeuvre through the twists and turns of life. What you eat is meant to change based on age, season, health status, activity level, etc. By seeing food as fuel for the body and understanding the properties of food (i.e., heating versus cooling) and the specific nutrients you get from food it is easier to work with your food to achieve health.

What Next?


When people want to become healthier the focus is often about removing "the bad" out of their diet.  There is a lot of merit to this, but I encourage you to put an even greater focus on adding in "the good".  Adding in more water, vegetables or even different types of vegetables, or adding in some nuts and seeds or lean protein is often mentally and physically more appealing than removing or feeling restricted in what you can eat.  There is a nice video on Netflix called "Hungry for Change" that I encourage you to watch. 

If you question whether or not your diet has been balanced, you may want to do some testing for mineral or protein levels, or to assess overall metabolic functioning.  Most of this testing is either done through hair or urine. There are a number of ways that your naturopathic doctor can assist you in determining your overall status for each nutrient category and ways to address any imbalance. 

Bottom Line! 

  1. Assess how you are currently eating and decide on what needs to change.
  2. Start adding in whole foods. Follow the 80/20 rule. Choose meals based on whole foods at least 80% of the time. 
  3. Eat foods from every food group on a daily, weekly basis.
  4. See food as a way of achieving health and modify what you eat based on what is going on with you at any particular time.
  5. Take the time to enjoy food and to see it as your partner in health.
If you have any questions about food talk to one of our naturopathic doctors.

For more information on specific foods, check out www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/food



How Long Will it Take to Get Better?

Darryl Gomes, Certified Athletic Therapist, Osteopathic Thesis Writer, Certified Kinesiologist

When someone experiences pain, discomfort or some form of sickness, the question that they often ask their practitioner is "How long will it take me to get better?"

It is a valid question, but it is really difficult to determine as the healing process can be different for each person as there are many factors to be taken into account when trying to make that determination for each patient.

How Long Has The Problem Been Around?

Generally, the more chronic the problem, the longer it will take to resolve. For example, if you had a history of whiplash (e.g. car accidents), your head/neck/shoulders/upper back/front of chest absorbed a lot of force. The tissues around this area tighten up to "protect" the body from experiencing future traumas. The longer the tissues stays tight, the less flexible they will be. Other areas have to adapt to the lack of flexibility, so the body is forced to adapt to it. The sooner the issue is dealt with, the better the chance the body will not adapt to the change and accept the changes. Understand, the body will adapt anywhere in the body. It doesn't have to make sense to you: it has to make sense to your body in order to function.
Other factors that impact the healing process include:

  • Age of the Patient: Ever notice how bruises take longer to heal, or colds take a little longer to fight off compared to when you were younger? As we get older, our body loses the flexibility we once had due to the natural aging process. These effects can be slowed down through maintaining a healthy diet, proper hydration, exercise and stress management. 
  • Patient Compliance: Patients need to understand that most of their ability to change comes from them. Yes, having a properly trained practitioner to give the necessary health treatments and advice is crucial to getting better. However, what each person does with the advice is just as important. Making sure to do the exercises, or following the specific eating plan that you were prescribed in order to help with your overall health is critical.
  • Stress Management: More and more, patients mention that to me that they are stressed. Maybe they just try to "deal with it" or "ignore it" and keep pushing through life. However, findings ways to manage stress is more than just being mentally and emotionally. The physical consequence to being stressed is that the brain cannot release chemicals like dopamine which will help to keep a person relaxed. This is one of the reasons we turn to food or alcohol when stressed. They will help to encourage the body to release these chemicals that aren't being released naturally. Also, a person under tension means their tissue is also under tension. There needs to be more emphasis placed on stress management.

This list could go on for a while, but these are some of the main points that I have noticed a lot in my years as a practitioner. So, when it comes to giving a patient an answer to that question, it really is an individualized answer. 

If you have any questions about how osteopathy can help you, feel free to email me or call the clinic for a free 15 minute consultation.

darryl@naturopathicfoundations.ca

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Fasting: Is it Right for You?

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Does the thought of going off food for a few hours scare you? How about going off food for a day? 
While skipping meals may not be good for you, therapeutic fasting under guidance can have many health benefits. In a world where we are inundated with information on what foods to eat, sometimes taking a short break from food can reset the digestive system and metabolism to process your nutrition more efficiently.

While intermittent fasting is a newer trend that you may have heard of, fasting is not a new concept. If you look at most of the major traditions in the world, fasting was observed in many of the religious and spiritual times of the year: Lent for Christians, Ramadan for Muslims, Passover for Jews, Ekadasi and Shivratri for Hindus. Fasting was often aligned to the natural cleansing periods of the solar and lunar calendars. Spring is one of those significant periods where food is naturally scarce and we can burn up the excess fat stores after winter.

Fasting essentially means abstaining from food for a period of time, but the actual practice of fasting may vary from completely avoiding food and water to taking lighter foods or juices such vegetable broths, coconut water or fruit juices.

What are the different types of fasting?

We will explore common types of fasting and their therapeutic benefits. Speak to your ND before you start any of these fasts for more than one day so they can guide you on the safest and most effective method for you.
  • Water fasting: this is the most stringent type of fasting where you avoid food and beverages completely other than water. This should only be done under guidance by a health professional and avoided in individuals with blood sugar imbalance. Individuals with a Kapha constitution often respond well to this type of fasting, but you should only do it for a short period of time.
  • Juice or broth fasting: this fasting involves avoidance of solid food and includes drinking only light beverages that are either fresh pressed fruit or vegetables, herbal teas or cooked broths. These liquids provide nutrition that can be absorbed by the body without taxing the digestive system.  Kapha body types do better with vegetable juices with bitter, astringent and pungent tastes like leafy greens and ginger and Pitta types respond well to fresh, cooling juices such as cucumber, celery or watermelon. This type of fasting may be difficult for vatas, but may be done for a short period of time.
  • Mono diet: this fasting doesn't mean you avoid food altogether; you choose specific healthy foods that are simple and easy to digest. Choosing the same combination of food over a period of days allows the body basic nutrition without taxing the digestive system. A typical example is an Ayurvedic kitchari fast where you eat a porridge for each meal of the day and typically is vegetable based and free of common allergens such as wheat, dairy and eggs. Or you may eat only steamed vegetables in a mono diet. This type of 'fasting' is suitable for vata body types.
  • Intermittent fasting: this method has recently gained popularity and involves eating food during specific times of the day and avoiding food for 16 hours or more. For example, you would skip breakfast and eat lunch & dinner between 1pm - 8pm and avoid food after that. Another method may involve eating a brunch at 10pm, giving a break and eating dinner at 6pm.


What are the benefits of fasting?

Rest is an essential part of healing, and there's no exception for the digestive system. During evolution, humans would alternate between periods of abundant food to scarcity and it would be common to go through days with little food. Fasting activates a process called 'autophagy' where cells break down cell components and damaged structures and use them for energy. This is an essential process of renewal which increases longevity. This process is triggered by around 12-24 hours of fasting. There is a lot of growing research in this field of the benefits of autophagy. When you take a break from eating, initially you may feel weak, but once you pass a certain point, the body kicks start another process to generate fuel.

Some of the benefits you may experience with therapeutic fasting:


Who can benefit from fasting?


If you have never fasted before, it is important that you start slowly and work with your ND to make a plan based on your body type and health concerns. If you have blood sugar imbalances (diabetes, pre-diabetes or adrenal insufficiency due to stress) fasting may be less advisable for you, though fasting is recommended for some individuals to reduce insulin resistance. Those with a Vata constitution do not do as well avoiding food. Cleansing for this type may include doing a mono-diet (eating the same foods over a period of days or weeks) such as a kitchari cleanse in Ayurveda. Pitta types and Kapha types generally experience many benefits from fasting. For these types, doing a warm herbal tea in the morning and fasting until lunch can support the body in detoxification.

Some ways fasting can be incoporated into your routine:
1. Start with a 1 day fast either with water only, coconut water or vegetable juice.
2. Eat a moderate breakfast, substantial lunch and skip dinner.
3. Try a regular 16+ hour fast. Have dinner by 6pm and breakfast or brunch after 10am.

It is always recommended to work with your ND on ways that fasting can be incorporated safely for your body type and lifestyle. Always drink water while fasting. Incorporating therapeutic fasting into your daily routine will allow your digestive system to rest and your body to go into cleaning mode. When your body has a chance to clean up, you will burn your fuel better, feel lighter and absorb your nutrients more efficiently.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a Naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus on joint health, pain and chronic disease. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.



Tuesday, March 19, 2019

An Ayurvedic Approach to Detox - Part 1

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

If we were to oversimplify what health is, there are essentially two aspects you need to address: your building blocks and nutrients and your ability to eliminate.

According to Ayurveda, just like in naturopathic medicine, eliminating toxins is a foundation to building good health. There are many routes of elimination known as emunctories through which toxins flow out of the body. This process is also known as 'drainage'. In Ayurveda there is an extensive understanding of how things move through the body.  Waste material or malas are eliminated through the srotas or channels.

The major routes of elimination are:

  • bowels
  • urination
  • sweating
  • breathing
  • menses
  • voice
  • movement

When toxins build up and the routes of elimination are clogged, disease starts to manifest. Exposure to toxins can come from food, environment, body products, hormones, internal metabolites and stress. When your system is healthy, your body is able to detoxify efficiently. Read more about factors that affect an individual's ability to eliminate toxins here. Many supplements support detoxification but unfortunately often only recirculate toxins within the body. You need to work with your naturopathic doctor to ensure that toxins are released through the routes of elimination. For example a heavy metal detox supplement that you pick up in the health food store may help remove heavy metals in certain organs but unless there is something that binds it and pulls it out of the body,  it may only deposit in a different area of the body.

Ayurvedic Detox or Shodhana 


There are essentially 3 categories of Ayurvedic treatments:
  • Rasayana: Rejuvenation and wellness maintenance. This is done to prevent disease and slow down the aging process.
  • Samana: Dosha balancing treatments. This is done when disease is mild to moderate and focuses on pacifying vata, pitta and kapha.
  • Shodhana: Cleansing therapies. This approach is done to drive disease out of the body by 'provoking the doshas'. (An example would be naysa therapy to provoke Kapha out of the sinuses. If you have done this treatment, initially you may feel more congested because Kapha dosha is being provoked, but once congestion clears up, you feel light.)

Many detox treatments in naturopathic medicine and Ayurveda are designed to 'shake up' and expel waste from the body and mind. Shodhana is the basis of panchakarma or 5 -fold detox in Ayurvedic medicine where imbalances are methodically stirred up and driven out of the body. When the body responds it is not always in ways that are always comfortable or pleasant. This is always done under supervision with customized treatments since everyone has a different pattern of imbalance. A typical example in the naturopathic setting might be loose stools or vomiting during a cleanse, or experiencing skin reactions. So before you panic next time you start a new treatment plan, check with your naturopathic doctor with what to watch for. If you block a natural route of elimination - let's say you pop an anti-vomiting pill or an anti-diarrhea pill - you may be hampering what the body is trying to eliminate. So understanding the routes of elimination can help you appreciate how the body is working for you instead of against you.

Depending how imbalanced you are, detox reactions may be absent, mild or stronger. Your ability to process and expel toxins is related to another concept that is prevalent in Ayurvedic medicine: agni & ama.


The Interplay of Agni & Ama


Another key concept in Ayurveda is agni which literally means 'fire' in Sanskrit. Agni is essentially your digestive fire or your ability to break down and transform nutrients while burning off waste products. While digestion is important to provide nutrients that the body can use, elimination of waste is equally as important to stay healthy. For example, if you are eating very healthy meals 3 times a day, but only have one bowel movement, no matter how good your food is, it can become toxic while it ferments in your gut. According to Ayurveda, waste material that your body can neither break down and use nor excrete is called ama or toxins. When your body accumulates ama, it becomes a breeding ground for disease such as cancer, obesity, heart attacks etc. When ama builds up, it can clog the channels in the body where nutrients aren't able to get absorbed properly and waste is unable to move out efficiently. A common example of ama translated into western medicine would be Candida or yeast infections, where the body becomes a breeding ground for yeast due to stress, sugar intake and other factors.

Agni not only applies to the principle of processing food, but also applies to how you process experiences, memories, emotions and sensory impressions. As we need to digest our food, we also need to 'digest' our daily experiences.

Signs of elevated ama or toxic waste:

  • Thick coating on your tongue
  • Excessive body odour
  • Poor digestion or constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Frequent colds
  • Brain "fog"
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Heaviness or congestion
  • Lack of clarity and confidence
Accumulation of ama leads to imbalance and diseases, so it is crucial to cleanse ama on all levels. This can be done by unblocking the pathways of elimination while increasing agni. Many people who are new to Ayurveda and take dosha quizzes will find many tips to help balance their dosha (vata, pitta, kapha). While many of these suggestions are effective, dosha balancing can only work well if agni is balanced, so it is crucial that agni is addressed.

Ama in the first stage, tends to accumulate in the digestive tract. When it's identified at this point, it is easier to treat with diet, spices, herbs and lifestyle practices. Once it moves in the body and settles deeper into the tissues, more thorough cleansing is required. The main goal in any detox program is opening the routes of elimination and stirring up toxins so that they can be driven out of the body. We will explore Panchakarma in Part 2 next month.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a Naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus on joint health, pain and chronic disease. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Choosing an Osteopathic Therapist

Choosing an Osteopathic Therapist

When it comes to choosing an osteopathic therapist, there are a few things you should consider:

Education

Currently, osteopathy is an unregulated profession in Ontario. Meaning, there is no regulating college of osteopathy that standardizes the level of education osteopathic students must receive. Programs currently range from introductory studies of 6 months, to advanced programs of 5 years plus a thesis (1-2 years to complete). The challenge for the public is that those that have completed the 6-month study call themselves an Osteopathic practitioner.

Working osteopathically is quite a complex field. I encourage you to ensure that you choose practitioners that have the full advanced training.  The following are also considerations when choosing a practitioner who is going to be working on your health with you:

Experience

What makes osteopathy unique, is that the osteopath uses their hands to feel where tensions exist in the body. Unlike most therapies, osteopathy requires that the osteopaths have soft hands, so they are able to feel the different tissues & layers within the body. Once those areas are identified, then the osteopath can treat those tissues so that the tensions release. You want to choose someone who has spent a lot of time working with their hands and developing their sense of palpation/touch. 

It conjunction with their osteopathic hands-on experience, it helps to look at a person's pre-osteopathic education. Graduating from other manual therapies such as athletic therapy, physiotherapy & massage therapy help with the experience level. 

Communication

You should feel comfortable asking your therapist questions about anything related directly to your treatment or any other goals you are looking to achieve. Conversely, you want a therapist who is able to answer your questions and is able to discuss any other concerns you may have.

Osteopathy is a very detailed approach to assessing and treating the body, as the osteopath is trying to determine how the 12 different systems in the body are interacting with each other. Being able to determine what a person's problems are, in addition to the approach of treating them, is something that needs to be properly communicated to a patient.

Personality

You have to feel comfortable with your therapist, and not just from a hands-on stand point. The therapist should provide a sense of comfort and caring. You should feel a sense of trust with them: if you have something of a sensitive nature, you should not feel like you cannot open up to them.

To read up on Darryl's profile, please click here.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Importance of Movement

By Darryl Gomes  Certified Athletic Therapist, Osteopathic Thesis Writer, Registered Kinesiologist


What is Movement?

Movement is the ability to take something from one area to another. Our ability to move and perform daily tasks efficiently requires our musculoskeletal system to coordinate a series of complex movements seamlessly and effortlessly. Whether we are walking in the mall, riding a bike, or shoveling snow, our body has to have the capacity to move in order to get things done.

What Happens if We Lack Movement?

Your body is a unique machine: if something isn't moving properly, it will find a way to make it work through compensations.

What is Meant by Compensation?

Every joint in your body should have the ability to move through a full range without limitations. If there is a restriction in a joint, then the body will recruit other areas of the body to produce the movement required. 

A typical example of compensation is experienced in the spine. You should have the ability to flex, extend, side bend and rotate at each spinal segment. If one segment cannot flex forward (the hypomobile segment which has no movement), you create a hypermobile segment (too much movement) above and below the problematic segment to flex forward more. As a unit, the spine would still be able to flex. However, biomechanically, the spine would not be moving efficiently as you have areas in the spine that are in compensation.

Is This Something I Should be Concerned About?

The simple answer is yes, as you don't want to be creating areas of hypomobility and hypermobility since it will lead to inefficient movement patterns in the body over time. 

Here's the Truth About Compensations

We all live with compensations. Your body would not be able to function without the ability to compensate! Think about it: if you have ever sprained your ankle, then you know it hurts for a while before you start using it again. 

However, if the pain lingers or you notice you develop new pains as a result, then that is a sign of your body not being able to compensate to fix the original problem. This is where chronic problems and long term pain develop.

Does Movement Only Apply to the Musculoskeletal System?

No. The internal organs and vessels also have to move. Surgeries and inflammation are examples of problems that can restrict movement internally and which can affect the function of the various organ systems.

So How Can I Encourage Better Movement?

  • Exercise is one the best ways to encourage movement. Yoga is a great way to stretch muscles and emphasize better range through your joints.
  • Proper nutrition is required for your body to help build and maintain healthy tissues.
  • Osteopathic treatment to help identify, correct and integrate positive changes is necessary to re-establish movement.
If you have any questions about this blog, or osteopathy in general, feel free to email me or call the clinic for a free 15 minute consultation.

darryl@naturopathicfoundations.ca

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