Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hypertension Basics

by Iva Lloyd, ND

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects about 25% of Canadian adults under fifty and over 50% of those over the age of sixty. It also accounts for about 20% of deaths in Canada. Hypertension is considered a lifestyle disorder as it is strongly affected by diet, exercise, stress, smoking and other factors.

Whether you choose to treat your hypertension with prescription medication or natural therapies it is important to be aware of the impact that caffeine and salt have on your blood pressure.

There is a lot of debate as to the long-term risk and/or benefits of consuming caffeine on cardiovascular health, but what is known for sure is that for many individuals with hypertension there can be a significant short-term (roughly 3 hours) spike in blood pressure after drinking a coffee or having a caffeine drink (cola). The spike in blood pressure generally affects both the systolic and the diastolic aspects of blood pressure.

Consuming too much salt can not only spike blood pressure but it can put additional strain on the heart, arteries, kidneys and the brain. The impact of a high-salt meal on your blood pressure can last for hours or even a day or more.

Measuring The Impact of Caffeine on Blood Pressure

To measure the impact of caffeine on your blood pressure follow these steps:

  1. Either first thing in the morning (ideally) or three hours after a meal (without caffeine) take your blood pressure.
  2. Have your cup of coffee or other caffeine drink (cola).
  3. Thirty (30) minutes later take your blood pressure again.
If your blood pressure increases more than 10 points you may have caffeine-induced hypertension.  If you have been diagnosed with hypertension and if your blood pressure rises with caffeine you may want to reduce your caffeine consumption. The more profound the spike in blood pressure the more cautious you need to be with your total caffeine consumption.

Measuring The Impact of Salt on Blood Pressure

To determine the impact of salt on your blood pressure follow these steps:

  1. Ensure that you have at least two days with minimal salt and no caffeine in your diet.
  2. First thing in the morning take your blood pressure.
  3. Have a meal with added salt.
  4. Thirty (30) minutes later take your blood pressure again.
  5. Continue taking your blood pressure twice a day to determine how long it takes for your blood pressure to return to normal.  
If your blood pressure increases more than 10 points you may have salt-induced hypertension. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension and if your blood pressure rises with salt you may want to reduce your salt consumption.

Because both salt and caffeine are known to spike blood pressure it is helpful if you test them separately.  When determining the impact of caffeine, avoid salt.  When determining the impact of salt, avoid caffeine.  Generally you only have to do the test once. A person's response to salt and caffeine is fairly consistent.  If your blood pressure rises due to consumption of either one, it will generally always rise when you consume them.

The Perfect Storm

Most heart attacks and strokes occur due to a sharp rise in blood pressure over a short period of time due to multiple factors that have a cumulative effect. The more that you are aware of the factors that increase your blood pressure, the more control you will have over your blood pressure.

It is not always advisable or feasible to take your blood pressure multiple times a day, or even frequently during a week, but if you have been diagnosed with hypertension it is important to know your typical blood pressure and what affects you. Unless advised otherwise by your doctor, monitoring your blood pressure means taking your readings once or twice a month under the same conditions - i.e., same time of day.  Whenever you change medication or change a treatment plan for hypertension it is important to monitor more frequently (often daily or at least a couple times a week) to understand the impact of the new treatment on your blood pressure. 

To really understand what affects your hypertension, I recommend that you take a couple of weeks and do the following:
  • Monitor the impact of caffeine and salt on your blood pressure.
  • If you work out, take your blood pressure before and after a normal workout.  A "good" work-out will decrease your blood pressure as you are improving the circulation of blood throughout the body.  If your exercise regimen is too intensive, too focused on weights versus cardio or if you are dehydrated after your workout you may find that your workout is actually increasing your blood pressure. 
  • Stress can have a significant impact on blood pressure. During an acute stressful situation take your blood pressure so that you know the impact that it is having on your readings.
  • Being dehydrated will generally increase your blood pressure. If you have a day that you know was more dehydrating -- lack of drinking water, higher stress, diet that was dehydrating, a busy day, etc - take your blood pressure at the end of the day and monitor the impact.
  • Whenever you feel lightheaded, have a strange headache or feel weak, take your blood pressure and see if there is any correlation.  If you suffer with any of these symptoms frequently, you are best to talk to your naturopathic doctor.
The value of knowing the impact that different lifestyle factors have on your blood pressure is that you can avoid doing multiple things that increase your blood pressure simultaneously.  For example, when under stress you would know whether or not to avoid that extra cup of coffee and the high-salt meal.  You would know whether going to the gym will add to the problem or whether it would be beneficial. 

Knowing the impact that different lifestyle factors have on your blood pressure also allows your naturopathic doctor to tailor a treatment plan specifically for you.  For example, hypertension that is driven more by stress than by dietary factors would benefit from herbs or nutraceuticals focused on stress management.  Treating chronic dehydration (a common cause of hypertension) requires a different treatment approach than if the cause of hypertension if due to a high-salt diet or chronic stress.

Other Resources

To learn more about hypertension check out the following other resources:
Talk to your naturopathic doctor to learn more about how to manage your hypertension and to receive a treatment plan tailored specifically to you.

Naturopathic Doctors
Medically Trained.  Naturally Focused.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Winter's Impact on Muscles & Joints

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

In colder weather, do you notice that your joints feel stiffer? Do you feel that your muscles are tighter? If you are like many Canadians, chances are that your joint and muscle pain increases with the onset of colder temperatures. For example, individuals with arthritis notice a striking connection with damp cold weather and increasing joint pain. It’s not just limited to arthritis – many individuals notice increased muscle stiffness when the temperatures drop, regardless of whether they are indoors or outdoors. Many people brush off joint and muscle pain assuming that it’s just part of “getting older” and that you “just have to live with it”. The truth is, you don't have to live it.  There are a number of things you can do to feel strong and active all year year long.

How Does Winter Affect Joints & Muscles?

The change in the weather doesn't cause arthritis, but it can worsen symptoms and increase pain in areas that are weakened or susceptible. When you feel cold, blood vessels constrict in the extremities (arms and legs) so that warm blood can supply vital organs such as the heart and liver. This means that there is less blood flow to the joints increasing discomfort. On top of that, when it is cold outside, you have a tendency to stay indoors. When you are less active, there is a tendency to put on weight which adds to the stress on the joints.

Also, when you are cold, muscles have a tendency to contract. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter is the season of Yin – with the qualities such as cold, slow, passive, contracting. These qualities manifest in the physical body as well as in the mind, and the opposite qualities are needed to restore balance. From the perspective of Ayurveda, fall and early winter is dominant in Vata – which has the qualities of cold, dry, rough and mobile. These qualities that exist in nature also exist in your body. Vata easily enters the more vulnerable areas of the body causing dry, stiff and cold joints and muscles. If you have a constitution that is dominant in Vata, you may be even more prone to these issues.

Tips To Protect & Strengthen Your Muscles and Joints

To help restore balance and bring relief to muscles and joints, the following tips can keep you moving pain-free this winter.

Stay Warm

  • Apply heat: Most joint and muscle pain feels better with heat. Warm showers, heating pads and clothing can help keep you warm. When your joints are stiff or sore, apply heat.
  • Protect vulnerable areas: If you have neck pain, keep neck warm with scarves or hot packs at home. If you have back pain, make sure you dress warm and cover your low back. Whatever joint is sore or stiff, ensure that it stays warm and protected.
  • Wear layers: Dressing in layers helps you stay warm according to the climate and keeps you insulated while reducing your chances of muscle spasms from the cold. You can peel off layers as you warm up with outdoor activities.


  • Suitable footwear: If you are prone to slips and falls, footwear is an important place to start. To protect yourself and keep your balance on icy pavement, wear footwear that is warm, waterproof and has good grip for winter walking. Taking care of footwear can help you walk more comfortably and confidently outdoors.
  • Stay warm outdoors: Wear suitable winter gear when outdoors to protect from the cold & the wind. Your body tends to curl up and hunch over to conserve heat when outdoors and this increases postural imbalance. 
  • Self-awareness: Pay attention to your posture to reduce strain on your joints and muscles while doing activities such as shoveling snow or walking on slippery pavement. With increased time spent indoors, be aware of how you are sitting (at the computer, watching tv etc.) and take breaks every 30 minutes to move.


Eating a diet suited to your unique constitution can help keep you warm and balanced throughout the winter and prevent you from putting on extra weight. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to learn more about how diet can be tailored for you.
  • Follow a seasonal diet: According to Ayurveda, winter diets promote warming foods and help counteract the qualities of cold. For individuals with a Vata or Kapha constitution, it is easier to experience imbalance during the winter and it is crucial to follow a diet suited to the season. Food such as root vegetables are very grounding and nourishing in winter. A colourful plate with a variety of vegetables brings life and stimulates digestion in long winter months.
  • Eat warming foods: Foods that are warm in temperature help regulate your body's temperature. Certain foods also have energetically warming properties that warm up your body from the inside out. Herbal teas such as ginger or spices such as black pepper and cinnamon keep your body warm and promote circulation to keep your fingers and toes warm during winter.
  • Avoid cooling foods: Cooling foods are not only foods that are cold in temperature but have energetically cooling qualities. When the temperature is cold outside, cooling foods such as dairy, ice cream and raw food add to the cooling effect on your body. It is best to avoid these foods to stay warm, active and healthy during winter.
  • Avoid heavy foods: You may have a tendency to feel more tired, and have a tendency to put on weight. Foods such as deep fried foods, cheese and junk food are heavy to digest and increase your tendency to feel sluggish. It is best to avoid these foods to feel light and energized throughout winter.


Exercise is crucial during the winter – but you need to warm up to your activities. Movement generates heat, promotes circulation, strengthens muscle tone and produces endorphins.
  • Stretch before exercise: Stretching helps you prevent injury and muscle spasms due to the cold. Warming up loosens muscles and ligaments and lubricates the joints.
  • Relax post workouts: To help relax sore muscles after activity, enjoy warm epsom salt baths which helps reduce muscle tension.  Massages are also beneficial for sore muscles.
  • Customize exercise: If you have joint conditions, speak to your naturopathic doctor about what kind of exercise is suitable for you so you have the right balance of movement without over-doing it. There is no "one-size-fits-all" when it comes to exercise. 

Relief With Naturopathic & Ayurvedic Therapies

When you have tried the above and are still struggling with joint pain or muscle stiffness, it is best that you speak to your naturopathic doctor who can help identify other factors that may be impacting your health. If you are unable to enjoy winter activities due to pain or are worried about stepping out due to fear of slipping, it is important to seek professional guidance to address your muscle & joint issues so that you enjoy this season.

If you are young and active, but finding recovery time is slower, naturopathic medicine can help improve your recovery time. Even if you are on conventional medication for joint pain, there are many more natural ways to reduce your discomfort with Ayurvedic and naturopathic medicine. The next time you notice you wake up with a stiff neck or find it difficult to bend your joints – listen to your body and take steps to address it before it gets worse. Chronic diseases develop over time. When you catch imbalances early it is much easier to address than in more advanced stages. With the necessary self-care techniques, in addition to naturopathic care, you can get relief from muscle and joint pain and prevent chronic disease. Joints and muscles are what allow you to move - if you take care of them, they will take you where you want to go.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in musculoskeletal conditions related to aging, metabolic issues and chronic disease. If you are experiencing joint or muscle pain, please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Athparia. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tips For Soft Glowing Skin Throughout The Harsh Winter Months

by Dr. Arjomand, ND

As we move into the colder temperatures, it is common to experience noticeable differences in how your skin looks and feels. The combination of cold air outside, heated air inside and low humidity creates a perfect storm resulting in decreased moisture in the skin.  Chapped lips, peeling dry and itchy skin are some of the most common concerns during this season.  Dehydrated skin sets the stage for less elastin, breakdown of collagen and premature aging, and you guessed it - wrinkles!  Key changes to your skin care regime can help keep your skin subtle, smooth, plump and vibrant throughout the cold winter months.

1.  Use the right cleanser.
Most skin cleansers on the market today are very harsh on the skin.  Cleansers used to remove makeup have ingredients in them that are often irritating to the skin and remove the natural oils on the skins surface.  I often recommend removing makeup with cotton pads and coconut oil and then washing the face with a gentle, natural face wash or a natural clay based soap.  Individual recommendations of products can be helpful as everyone's skin is different.

2.  Wash your face with lukewarm water and apply a moisturizer within minutes of washing.  
Hot water also wipes away your skin's natural oil, so wash your face with lukewarm water and apply your moisturizer within minutes of drying.  Since pores are dilated and your skin is moist after washing with warm water hydration is better locked in the skin and absorbed at this time.

3.  Choose the best moisturizer for your skin.  
As the seasons change so should your skin care products.  Moisturizers in the winter should be heavier than those used in the warmer more humid months.  I often recommend oils versus water based moisturizers in the winter as many natural oils penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin making sure hydration is not just on the surface of the skin.  Every oil has a different molecular structure and therefore can penetrate differently into the skin or in some cases can even block pores. Almond oil, rosehip oil, jojoba oil, and argon oil are some great winter oils that allow hydration to penetrate deep into the layers of the skin ensuring your skin feels softer longer without the need to re-moisturize repeatedly.

4.  Stay hydrated with lots of water!
Dry skin is also a sign of internal dehydration.  Hydration from the inside out is essential!  We often neglect our water intake more in the winter since we don't feel hot and thirsty.  The demand for water to keep our cells hydrated is extremely important to soft skin and wrinkle prevention.  The more hydrated you are the more your skin looks plump!  The recommendation is at least 7-9 glasses of water a day.

5.  Increase healthy oils in your diet.
The quality and quantity of oils you get from your diet is reflected in every cell of your body.  I often stress with patients that the quality of the oil is what is most important.  Healthy oils such as avocado, coconut, oils from nuts and seeds and olive oil are an important part of any diet regime to help keep skin hydrated from the inside out.  Your Naturopathic Doctor may recommend a fish oil supplement which is high in omega 3.  Omega 3 fatty acids not only function an anti-inflammatory helping to decrease redness and any itching that could be occurring on the skin, but it also helps to improve the quality of our skin, hair and nails.  A good quality fish oil ensures that you are getting the benefits of the omega 3 at the appropriate therapeutic dosage and ensures it's free of chemicals, heavy metals and impurities that are often high in fish.

6.  Exfoliate regularly and moisturize immediately afterwards.
Dry skin brushing and using a gentle exfoliating face mask 1-3 times a week helps remove dry skin debris and keeps your skin smooth and more radiant.  Make sure you apply a moisturizer or a hydrating oil right after to lock in the moisture.  Some exfoliating masks also draw out impurities and help reduce pores and acne.  Discuss exfoliating products with a Naturopathic Doctor to see what best suits your skin's needs.

7.  Use a humidifier at home while you sleep. 
Keeping a humidifier  by your bedside helps keep the air your breathe moist and also keeps your skin hydrated throughout the night.  It's important to keep your humidifier clean as to prevent any mold production. Adding an essential oil to the humidifier can help reduce the growth of mold.  I have found that keeping a peace lily plant by the beside helps keep the moisture in the air.

8.  Soak in alka-baths 2-3 times a week for at least 40 minutes at a time. 
Alka-baths are alkaline mineral salts that are a combination of 8 finely ground precious stones that help alkalinize the skin and optimizes the self-oiling process of the skin.

9.  Cold weather calls for eating warmer foods.
Cooked, warm foods not only help with digestion but these foods contain more moisture.  The energetic balance of the season requires avoiding raw and cold foods.  Soups, stews and cooked foods hydrate and nourish the body adding more moisture to the skin.

10.  What to avoid in skin products:
Avoid moisturizers that are petroleum based or contain alcohol in them. Make sure your cleanser doesn't have ingredients such as alcohol, salicylic acid or glycolic acid.  Most importantly avoid any skin care products that have parabens, thalates, triclosan and methylisothiazolinone.

Dry itchy skin can also appear very similarly to other skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or different forms of dermatitis that often aggravate in the winter.  It's important to have your skin checked by a healthcare professional to ensure the treatments you use are suited for your health. Naturopathic Doctors can help with this assessment and advise on more thorough treatment plans based on your presentation and needs. If you try the steps above and you don't get the results you desire, ask for personalized recommendations from your ND.  Dr. Pearl Arjomand, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations who focuses on women's health.  To discuss products or other skin care regimes please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 and book an appointment with Dr. Arjomand, ND.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Healthy Hallowe'en for Healthy Kids

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Hallowe’en is a festive time of the year when sweets and treats are in abundance and children are exposed to skyrocketing intakes of sugar. It can be a challenging time for parents that are caught between worrying about the health impact of junk food and wanting their children to enjoy the excitement of Hallowe’en. Below are some guidelines to help make Hallowe’en healthier for children.

Before Hallowe’en

  • Support the immune system: sugar suppresses the immune system, making you more susceptible to colds, flu, infections and more. Incorporate immune support into your child’s daily routine – herbs, homeopathics, vitamins, probiotics can all support the immune system. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about supplement and herb dosages that would be optimal for your child. 
  • Limit candy access: avoid buying Hallowe’en candy until a few days before to reduce temptation to snack on candy that is lying around.

Hallowe’en Night

  • Eat a wholesome meal prior to trick-or-treating: children will fill up on candy if they are hungry, spiking blood sugar levels and creating a vicious addictive loop to craving more sugar. Ensure your child eats a healthy dinner with protein, plenty of vegetables (including green veggies) and healthy fats such as olive or coconut oil. Avoid large portions of starches or sweet foods within the meals such as: rice, potatoes, noodles, yams, which spike blood sugar levels.
  • Hydration: a glass of warm water or ginger tea can help your child stay hydrated and warm while they are out.
  • Dress appropriately: make sure costumes don’t take precedence over dressing appropriately for the cold weather - ensure your child is wearing layers and that their throat, low back and abdomen are covered.
  • Be a role model for your child: children will imitate the behaviour of those they see around them. Set a great example for your child by minimizing your own candy and sweet intake and encourage healthier options for the whole family.
  • Choose healthy treat options: give out treats such as almonds, sesame snacks, goji berries, chia or applesauce packages, protein bars, organic agave sticks or chocolate covered fruit. Treats don’t always have to be sweet – you can give out stickers, colourful pens or pencils, squishy stress-balls, bottle of bubbles, mini-card decks etc. Party stores or dollar stores often have a great selection of affordable small toy items. You can check out the website Green Halloween for many treat ideas (food & non-food items):
  • Sort treats according to health hierarchy: not all treats are equal. For example, potato chips are better than chocolate bars as they are lower in sugar and have a relatively lower blood sugar spike. However, some chocolate bars, especially dark chocolate may be better than hard candies which are often loaded with artificial colours, flavours and additives. It is always a good idea to sort your child’s candy from healthy to least healthy, and removing any foods that your child has a sensitivity towards (such as dairy or gluten). Involve your child in the sorting process, helping them understand why some treats are better than others. To avoid disappointment or resentment, try negotiating a trade for the candy – such as a toy, spending money or a special privilege. 
  • Set a timeline: The excitement of Hallowe’en for kids should not be hampered. However, it will naturally wane after a few days. After sorting through their candy, let your child eat what they want for three days, and then get rid of the extra candy. This is important since larger servings of junk food over a few days is far less damaging to your child’s health than a continuous stream of candy eating over weeks or months.

After Hallowe’en

Health concerns associated with increased intake of candy include: hyperactive behaviour, difficulty sleeping, reduced concentration, digestive symptoms, skin outbreaks and compromised immune function resulting in colds, coughs, or the flu.

While the effects of sugar cannot be completely neutralized, here are a few strategies to help minimize the effects of Hallowe’en candy intake:
  • Ensure your child takes immune support (herbs, homeopathics, supplements) prior to Hallowe’en and the week after, or even longer if they are more susceptible to colds & flu.
  • If you child is taking fish oil, double the dose temporarily to reduce restlessness, hyperactivity or sleep disturbances.
  • If your child is on a multi-vitamin, double the dose for the following week to assist balancing the impact of food that is rich in calories and deficient in nutrients.
  • Candy is better had after a meal or snack rather than on an empty stomach. This helps balance the sugar spike, and reduces the amount of candy intake in one sitting.
  • Improving the pathways of elimination help support detoxification and the impact of junk food on the digestive system and other organ systems. Talk to your naturopathic doctor to see if any liver or digestive support is advisable for your child.
  • Intensify your child’s oral hygiene regimen: regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing their mouth every time after they have candy. Your naturopathic doctor can advise natural toothpastes, mouthwashes and cleansing techniques for your child.

Hallowe’en can be healthy AND fun ! A moderate amount of holiday indulgence paired with extra health measures helps everyone enjoy treats and long-term health. Remember, healthy habits start in childhood, so you are paving the way to healthy adults with these simple measures integrated into your child’s routine.

Dr. Leena Athparia, is a naturopathic doctor at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic. She has a special interest in healthy eating and works with individuals one-on-one to address their health concerns. If you are interested in booking an appointment at our clinic, please contact 905-940-272.

Oral Health: What is Oil Pulling?

Recently there has been lots of hype about the health benefits of oil pulling – a process of swishing oil in the mouth for about 10 to 20 minutes and then spitting it out to pull out toxins from the mouth. This technique, which claims to originate from Ayurveda, is a modern adaptation of some of the traditional Ayurvedic methods of daily self care known as gandusa and kavala. These therapies are not only prescribed to detoxify the oral cavity, but are also used to strengthen muscle tone in the neck, throat, jaw, and face in addition to treating systemic conditions such as arthritis and migraines. Substances such as ghee, oil, milk or herbal decoctions are gargled, swished or retained in the mouth for a specific duration at a specific time of the day.  The type of treatment, the duration and the oil used is always customized to your constitution for maximum benefit.

The technique has been around for centuries, but the term oil pulling is a modern term adapted by Western practitioners and this technique has spread in the last decade to the point where even dentists are starting to advocate the technique as part of a daily health routine.

How does Oil Pulling work?

There is no doubt that your mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria and toxins.  The oral cavity is constantly exposed to food which feed bacteria that reside on the teeth, gums and tongue.  While bacteria naturally reside in the oral cavity, when an overgrowth of non-beneficial bacteria flourish, they produce unwanted toxins. This leads to cavities, bad breath and other health concerns.While regular dental visits are important, as you know, daily self-care such as brushing and flossing are essential. Sometimes daily brushing and flossing are not enough, and further self-care is needed.

In Ayurveda, oils are used therapeutically topically and internally.  Oil has a lubricating and grounding quality and is beneficial for imbalances related to vata (air and ether element).  Externally, specific oils are used for massages and therapies, and internally, they are beneficial for lubricating the digestive tract and tissues. Oil Pulling  involves retention of specific oils which help cleanse the oral cavity, fight unwanted bacteria and plaque while rejuvenating the gums.

If you have ever tried oil pulling, you will know that your cheeks and mouth muscles get tired.  The technique involves active use of muscles in the oral cavity which helps strengthen muscle tone in addition to increasing blood flow which bring nutrients to the tissues and carries away waste products.  From a TCM perspective, stimulation of the oral and facial muscles can activate acupuncture points and reduce stagnation in the area to increase flow of qi or energy.

Benefits Of Oil Pulling:

  • Strengthen teeth & gums
  • Maintain healthy oral pH
  • Promote flora balance
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Prevent plaque build up
  • Increase circulation to oral tissues
  • Draw toxins out of mouth
  • Reduce frequency of colds and infections

How Is It Done?

Oil pulling can be done on a regular basis, however the specific duration and type of oil that is best for you is determined by your naturopathic doctor based on your age, constitution, and state of health. For some individuals, it may be recommended to do daily for several weeks and for others, 1-2 times a week may be sufficient.

Here is a general example of oil pulling that you can try:

  1. In the morning, after brushing your teeth and cleaning your tongue, take 1 Tbsp. of coconut oil and swish it in your mouth.
  2. Continue swishing actively for about 10 to 15 minutes, involving all of your mouth muscles until you feel them getting tired. The oil will liquefying and the saliva will build up. (You can even do this as you shower.)
  3. Once finished, do not swallow - discard the oil in the garbage (not down the sink so that you don't clog up the drain). Feel free to brush your teeth and clean your tongue again if there is a lot of residue. 

While the common oil used for oil pulling is coconut oil, other oils such as sesame or herbal oils with antimicrobial herbs must be individually tailored to you.  Coconut oil has excellent anti-viral and cooling properties, and can suit a person with a Pitta constitution while sesame oil may suit individuals who have a Vata constitution. Turmeric may be blended with the oil to increase anti-microbial effects.  Oil pulling can be done preventatively for individuals who are prone to colds and respiratory infections at this time of the year.

Since oil pulling is a gentle detoxification therapy, it is always best to do it under guidance of your naturopathic doctor for long-term so that the duration of treatment can be customized, along with any additional natural therapies that will support detoxification and healing of the oral cavity.

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 to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Toxic Threat Your Hormones Can't Ignore

by Dr. Pearl Arjomand, ND

Alarming statistics demonstrate the extent of hormonal imbalance that is prevalent today, unprecedented in previous years.  With 1 in 6 women experiencing fertility issues, 7 out of 10 women experiencing one or multiple fibroids at some point in their life, and 1 out of 9 women being diagnosed with breast cancer, we cannot stand back and pretend like these stats are of no concern.  Research indicates that diet, genetic predisposition and lifestyle play a role in determining our risk for these conditions. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that numerous chemicals in our environment are also altering our hormones and dramatically increasing the rate of these conditions, and others.

What are endocrine disruptors?

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "Endocrine disruptors are naturally occurring compounds or man-made substances that mimic or interfere with the function of hormones in the body.  Endocrine disruptors may turn on, shut off, or modify signals that hormones carry affecting the normal function of tissues and organs."

In 2015, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, an organization that focuses on collecting scientific studies and research about the effects of environmental chemicals on the endocrine system, reported a list of nearly 1,000 chemicals that have a negative impact on hormones.  Many of these chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment, and have been termed "Persistent Organic Pollutants", otherwise known as "POPs". These POPs are known to accumulate in our environment because they do not degrade naturally.  This accumulation occurs in our soil, within the food chain and in our tissues. POPs also have low water solubility and tend to be stored in fatty tissue which adds to the difficulty in eliminating them. The harmful effects of these substances are linked to low grade exposure over time. Some of the more significant health effects occur when exposure is earlier in life, including in utero.  It is well documented that these compounds not only affect the functioning of the hormones at the receptor level, but they also effect the hormone functioning in the brain.

Here is a list of the most studied endocrine disruptors, where they are found and their potential impact on the hormonal system:

Dioxin/Dioxin-like Compounds (eg. PCBs)
Common sources: 
  • Commonly found in meat, including poultry, fish and dairy products - more than 90% of human exposure is thought to be through food.  
  • By-products of many manufacturing processes, herbicides and pesticides.
  • Vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, medical tubing.
  • Daily-use products such as shower curtains, tablecloths, children's toys, rain coats, and plastic wrap.
  • Personal care products such as shampoo, insect repellents, hair spray, nail polish, cosmetics and fragrances.
Potential effects on hormones:
  • Fetal and early life exposure can permanently affect sperm count and sperm quality in men during reproductive years.
  • Lowers the level of testosterone.
  • Shortens menstrual cycles in females.
  • Dioxins can increase or decrease estrogen levels depending on amount and timing of exposure.
  • Premature sexual development in females, especially early breast development and early menses.
Pthalates, BPA
Common sources:  
  • Used in plastics - frequently in the food industry for packaging and liners of canned foods.
  • Used in thermal paper of receipts and carbonless copy paper.
Potential effects on hormones:  
  • Closely mimics the structure and function of estrogen disrupting all normal estrogen functions in the body.
Common sources:
  • Non-stick cookware, stain repellents and coating for fabrics and carpeting.
  • Absorbed  by ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact.
Potential effects on hormones:
  • Lowers sperm count.
  • Causes low birth weight in newborns.
  • Impacts the function of the thyroid gland.
(List adopted by NDNR. Fertility and Toxicity: The Powerful Effects of Endocrine Disruptors. Schulz, Alison, ND. Litchy, Andrew, ND. Jan 30, 2015.)

Although research has looked at these single chemicals and their potential influence on health, no research has assessed the cumulative effect that multiple chemicals have over time. Whether you are struggling with fertility, have been diagnosed with PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis or have PMS symptoms; the influence these substances have on your hormonal system need to be addressed in order for normal function to be restored.  Ignoring the role of endocrine disruptors on your health leads to inadequate assessment and treatment.  

How Naturopathic Doctors Can Help

  • Education: Knowledge is power.  Your naturopathic doctor will work with you to identify your total environmental toxic burden, the sources of exposure in your everyday life and what you can do to reduce your exposure. This may include education about what foods to buy organic, changing your skin care regimen, makeup, cleaning supplies and advising about proper water filtration.
  • Digestive Support: Environmental toxins can disrupt digestive function and your ability to absorb nutrients. Also, if there are not enough good bacteria in the intestines, it may cause toxins to recirculate in the body. Your naturopathic doctor will assess the function of your gut by addressing food sensitivities and possible gut flora imbalances. Providing the body with adequate fiber also helps to bind toxins and help with proper elimination.  Your naturopathic doctor will assess your individual requirements and make appropriate recommendations based on your history and current presentation.
  • Weight loss: Endocrine disruptors are often stored in fat tissue making it more difficult to loose weight. Also, when your toxic burden is high, it is often important to rid the body of toxic chemicals before engaging in a weight loss program.  If you are overweight, one area of focus would be to put you on a program to support the breakdown of toxins as they are being released into the system as you are losing weight. Since many POPs share common pathways with dietary fat absorption, your naturopathic doctor may prescribe supplements such as EGCG to help with the binding of toxins through the liver pathways.
  • Liver Support: There are different pathways in which the liver detoxifies. Different minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants are required for each pathway to take place.  Providing the body with these co-factors are an important aspect of any detoxification program.  Further certain supplements and herbs many also be prescribed to support the liver and also, in some cases, stimulate bile production to help with elimination of toxins.
  • Elimination: The body has many routes of elimination, including skin, lungs, bowels, kidneys and mucous membranes.  Adequate elimination is essential and often the primary area on which your naturopathic doctor may focus. If there is a tendency towards constipation or a health history where constipation is prevalent, many toxins can be recirculating in your system. Ensuring regular bowel movements, in combination with advice about deep breathing, dry skin brushing, hydration and going for regular infra-red saunas, would be part of a comprehensive plan individualized for you.

Endocrine disruptors are part of our modern day reality. Although the knowledge we have about the effect that these chemicals have on our reproductive health is still in its infancy, there is adequate science to confirm their implicated role in many hormonal diseases and unexplained cases of infertility.  The treatment of any hormonal condition has to include the influence of endocrine disruptors on our health, not only to improve symptoms, but to prevent further disease and improve longterm quality of life.

Dr. Arjomand, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations who focuses on Women's Health concerns and hormonal balance.  Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Arjomand.