Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Seasonal Allergies - healing them naturally

It is time to get prepared for allergy season. Those irritating symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes due to pollen from trees, grass, flowers, and plants can be dramatically reduced or even eliminated using natural therapies.

Allergies are one of the most common conditions where people seek natural treatments. That is because natural therapies do not suppress the symptoms. They provide effective symptom relief while strengthening a person's immune system and decreasing their susceptibility, both short-term and long-term.

If you tend to suffer with allergies the following steps can greatly decrease the severity and frequency of allergy symptom and smay help increase your resistance:

Home Preparation: 
Allergies are not only triggered by pollen. They can be caused by or worsened by dust mites, household factors and by pollen that you carry on your clothes and hair. Steps you can take at home include:
  • Limit the use of carpets as they tend to be a breeding ground for dust mites. Bare floors that are vacuumed and damp-mopped frequently is best.
  • Replace your curtains with shades.
  • Dust-mite proof pillow and mattress covers are your first line of defense against dust allergies. It is also helpful to wash bedding, especially pillow cases, more frequently during allergy season.
  • Look into a cool-mist humidifier to lessen nasal congestion and wheezing.  On the other hand, if you have a lot of carpets in your home you may actually need a dehumidifier as dust mites love humid environments. A dehumidifier can also prevent mold, another allergen.
  • Clean your furnace/air-conditioner filter frequently to remove pollen.
  • An air purifier with a HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air filters) will help to keep the air inside your house healthier.
  • Unfortunately you are better to keep your windows closed, especially on windy days, to minimize the pollen that comes into the house.
  • Limit access of pets to specific areas of the home. It is best to keep them out of your bedroom to ensure that you get a good nights sleep. It can also help to bathe pets frequency as the dander on pets is water-soluble.
Minimizing Personal Exposure
Minimizing personal exposure is the most important step, although it is not always easy. Some of the following can help:
  • Air pollution can both cause and worsen allergy symptoms. On hot smoggy days it is best to minimize the time you spent outside. It is also best to limit any gardening or outdoor exercise to early morning or cool non-breezy days.
  • Avoid people that smoke. Tobacco is a notorious irritant that increases a person's susceptibility to allergies and worsens existing allergies.
  • When outside choose eyeglasses with side shields to protect your eyes from pollen irritants that are blowing around.
  • If you need to clean out that dusty garage or rake your grass it is best to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth and to wear goggles to protect the eyes. 
  • Nasal lavage is a must for anyone that suffers with congestion and runny nose. Irrigating the nose with a salt water solution often helps to soothe upper respiratory allergies by removing irritants that become lodged in the nose.
  • Personal hygiene steps. 
    • After you have been outside for awhile it may be beneficial to wash your hair to remove pollen. 
    • A hot shower may help as well as it can lessen symptoms like sneezing and congestion. 
    • Breathing in steam refreshes and soothes irritated sinuses and decreases the mucous in nasal passages.
    • If your eyes bother you try rinsing them with cool, clean water.
  • Other factors that contribute to allergies include:
    • Stress is a trigger for many people. If you recognize that stress is your primary trigger you may find that treating the stress directly is as beneficial, or more, than treating the allergies.
    • Insomnia. Sleep is necessary for healing and repair. For some allergies cause insomnia, for others allergies are worse because of insomnia. Ensuring that you get a good night sleep is critical to allergy management.
Recommended Dietary Changes
Dietary changes are necessary in preparation of and throughout allergy season. During allergy season the immune system is working overtime. As a result, there are less resources available for digestion. The result is that food intolerances are much worse during allergy season. The following recommendations often help:
  • Ensure that you drink adequate water. Water helps thin out the mucous and decreases the feeling of congestion.
  • Eliminate sugar as it suppresses immune function even more.
  • Eliminate dairy as it increase mucous production. Avoiding dairy is critical for anyone who suffers primarily with congestion.
  • Cut out bananas as they are known to increase the production of mucous.
  • Reduce wheat as wheat intolerance is commonly worse in allergy season.
  • Food additives are known to worsen allergies. Most important you want to figure out what foods you reaction to and reduce your consumption of these foods during allergy season. If you are not aware of your food sensitivities than it may be worthwhile to look at doing food sensitivity testing.
  • Foods which may be beneficial include:
    • Peppermint tea has anti-inflammatory and mild anti-bacterial properties. Many people find that it lessens allergy symptoms.
    • A dose or two of horseradish or wasabi can clear the sinuses and increase mucous flow.
    • Honey has been shown to help reduce symptoms. Add it to hot water or other teas.

Natural Allergy Pharmacy
The following supplements and herbs are known to effectively reduce the frequency and severity of allergy symptoms.

  • Vitamin C acts as an antihistamine, which means that it can reduce the severity of allergy reactions. It is most effective when taken prior to the onset of allergies and continued throughout allergy season. 
  • Nettle is a wonderful and safe herb for all ages. It is  considered a general health tonic as it is high in carotene, vitamin K and quercetin. It is well known as an effective herb for lessening the severity of allergies and for strengthening the immune system.
  • Magnesium is a good choice when allergies affect breathing function. It is also a good muscle relaxant and is known to support many aspects of health.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased allergy symptoms. If you are concerned about being deficient it may help to take Vitamin D.
  • Quercetin is a bioflavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties. It is generally used at the onset of allergy symptoms as it acts similar to an anti-histamine in that it blocks histamine and hence reduces allergy symptoms.
  • Bromelain is known to decrease nasal swelling and it thins mucous. It is effective in cases of sinus infection and congestion.
  • Homeopathic remedies, such as BIO84, Luffeel and Aller-gen can all support the body's ability to prepare for allergy season. They are like the "natural alternative" to over-the-counter allergy medications. They are great to have on hand for when allergies start as many people find them an effective way to lessen allergy symptoms. There are also some great single homeopathic remedies such as allium cepa or euphrasia that are specific for addressing allergies.
Other Natural Therapies:
For those stubborn allergies or if you want to decrease your allergy symptoms in a hurry the following treatments may also be beneficial.
  • Acupuncture is effective in reducing the severity and frequency of allergy symptoms.
  • Intravenous therapies can be helpful for severe allergies or when allergies have exhausted a person.
  • Check out the link on the breathing blog that illustrates a specific breathing technique to clear congestion.  Ensuring that you are breathing properly can be one of the easiest and most important factors in allergy management.
No one needs to suffer with chronic allergy symptoms. By scheduling an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors we can help you figure out the best treatment plan for you. It is time to stop suppressing symptoms and actually get a handle on your allergies.

To schedule an appointment call our clinic at 905-940-2727 or visiting our website at 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Breathing - Top 5 Things to Remember

By Iva Lloyd, ND

Breathing is the second part of our Guide to Health. Breathing defines life.  It is the first sign of life when you are born and the absence of breath is generally what defines the end of a person's life. Breathing is linked to every function of the body and its importance is often overlooked.

There are a number of conditions that are associated with improper breathing, including: insomnia or poor sleep, decrease in energy, poor concentration, wheezing, coughing, snoring, anxiety, ADHD, hypertension, stress incontinence and others.

Proper breathing involves the following: breathing into the belly, slowing down the rate of your breath, decreasing the volume of your breath and breathing through your nose instead of your mouth. The top five things that you want to remember about breathing are the following:

#1: Slow down your breathing.

Over-breathing has become as habitual as over-eating.  Increased respiration rate or rapid breathing causes an imbalance in the oxygenation of tissues. There is a false belief that when you breathe more rapidly you are taking in more oxygen, when in fact you are limiting the body's ability to properly use the oxygen that you are inhaling.

Learning to slow down the rate of your breathing is beneficial in a number of ways. It helps the nervous system relax which decreases anxiety and stress and provides increased emotional control.

The rate of your breathing should match the rate of your activity. When you are sedentary your breathing rate needs to be slow and your volume needs to be low. When you are more active it is natural for your breathing rate and volume to increase. The goal is to return to a slow regular breathing pattern as quickly as possible after exercise.  By learning how to control the rate and volume of your breathing you can alleviate a number of chronic health conditions.

#2: Breathe through your nose.

Breathing through your nose is the optimal way to breathe. The hairs in the nose are designed to filter the air and ensure that toxins do not get into the lungs. Nasal breathing also warms the air before it hits the lungs, resulting in relaxation of the lungs and improvement in respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Breathing through your nose, with your mouth closed, ensures that your blood is saturated with oxygen. Mouth breathing increases the exhalation of carbon dioxide, but it can often be too much. Carbon dioxide is important in that it helps to regulate the rate of breathing and also plays a role in relaxing smooth muscles.

Mouth breathing is often a vicious cycle. Nasal or sinus congestion contributes to the tendency to mouth breathe.  The concern is that mouth breathing also increases the amount of nasal congestion. Another cause of nasal or sinus congestion is food intolerances, especially to dairy and/or wheat or yeast. If nasal congestion is a concern, identify the foods that may be contributing, ensure that you are drinking adequate water, use a nasal salt rinse and ask your naturopathic doctor about herbs or homeopathics that may be beneficial. Click on this link for a breathing exercise that is also very beneficial in relieving nasal congestion.

People that breathe rapidly or through the mouth often end up over-breathing. This condition is referred to as hyperventilation syndrome (HVS) or breathing pattern disorder. Over-breathing results in a lack of carbon dioxide in the blood, which in turn results in constriction of smooth muscles and the airways. Over-breathing can lead to a number of health issues, including: sleep apnea, snoring, insomnia, wheezing, irritable bowel syndrome, stress incontinence, anxiety, panic attacks, pain, asthma, allergies, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, angina and other cardiovascular conditions. People that engage in a lot of sports and/or yoga activities are more likely to over-breathe. Below are some research articles showing the link between breathing and symptoms:

#3: Breathe into your low abdomen.
It is important to remember that "taking a deep breath" is about breathing deep into the body; not about taking a big or large breath.

When you breathe into the belly the diaphragm drops, which in turn pumps the liver and gallbladder ensuring that bile doesn't build up and also helps keep the stomach in the correct position. Chest breathing causes a number of problems. First, it uses the neck and shoulder muscles to breathe versus the diaphragm contributing to chronic neck tension. Second, it pulls the stomach and the liver / gallbladder too close to the diaphragm. The result is an increase risk of heartburn, GERD, gallstones and liver congestion.

Check out this link for a guide on how to breathe properly, or better still, plan to join us for our monthly seminar on proper breathing.

#4: Breathing can reduce anxiety and stress.

Incorporating breathing exercises into your regimen is extremely important, especially if you suffer from anger, anxiety, panic attacks, or a feeling of breathlessness. Breathing through the nose with a focus on slowing down the breath is often the most effective way of calming the nervous system. Breathing exercises that intentionally focus on increasing the length of the exhalation can be beneficial in helping a person let go of whatever they are hanging onto. Meditation and other mindfulness exercises focus on increasing the length of the rest period which helps a person become more relaxed and more settled.

To learn more about the mechanism of breathing, check out this link. I personally find that the cleansing breath is a wonderful way to let go of the tension in a day.  It is also helpful in increasing the depth of breath that you can take. There are a number of breathing techniques that are helpful to learn. The Buteyko breathing technique is useful as is mindfulness breathing.

#5: Recognize the lifestyle factors that affect your breathing.

Breathing is influenced by a number of factors, including what you eat and drink and your posture. Being well hydrated and eating fruits and vegetables are required for proper breathing and only impact breathing if you are intolerant to them. Foods that are acidic, such as processed foods, fried food, junk food and diets high in protein and grains, often contribute to over-breathing and an increase in respiration rate. The lungs are responsible for helping to maintain the proper pH in the body. If your diet or lifestyle is acidic, it requires the lungs to work harder to help blow off the excess acid. Caffeinated beverages or drinks high in sugar affect breathing in two ways. First, they are acidic and impact the pH of the blood and second they stimulate the nervous system, resulting in an increase in the rate of breathing and other potential changes, such as an increase in blood pressure, dehydration or feelings of anxiousness or being unsettled. I recommend that you pay attention to how your breathing changes based on what you eat and drink. Check out this link to learn more about the importance of breathing and the factors that affect breath.

Rounded shoulders and a slouched posture affect breathing as they limit the ability of the lungs to expand when you are inhaling. If there is limited space to expand, due to a contracted or rigid posture, it can affect your ability to take a full breath. The body works as a unit.  When the chest is concave and is limited by a person's posture, it reduces a person's ability to breathe easily. Improving breathing often includes addressing postural imbalances at the same time.

    2015 Guide to Health Series

    Check out the other topics on our Guide to Health Series. Each month we will he highlighting the top five things you need to know about each topic. The topics that will be covered include:

    February - Breathing
    March - Movement
    April - Hygiene and the Ability to Eliminate Toxins
    May - Healthy Eating
    June - Sleep
    July - Alignment and Posture
    August - Alkaline lifestyle and personal care products
    September - The Power of the Mind
    October - Time Spent Outdoors
    November - Addressing Environmental Factors
    December - Healthy Relationships

    As part of our Guide to Health Series, we will be offering weekly tweets and in-house seminars on each topic. If you are unable to attend our seminars, we will be providing video highlights of some of the seminars on our website.  Follow us on twitter  for weekly updates.

    If you have any questions about breathing that you would like us to address, please contact us at We will be posting all answers on the "Breathing" page on our website.

    Let us know if you are joining us on the Guide to Health Series by sending us an email or by hitting the "like" logo on our blog. 

    Monday, January 19, 2015

    Breathe and Improve Your Metabolism

    By: Dr. Anthony Moscar, BSc, ND

    Increasing breath increases metabolism
    I love testing patients for their peak expiratory volume.  Think of it like the strong man game that you see at a fair except for your lungs.  It is done by taking a deep breath and breathing out as fast and hard as you can.  The result of this test tells you the maximum speed that you can breathe out. The better your overall health and lung function the higher your score.  So how does that relate to metabolism and weight loss?

    A study published this past year puts exact numbers behind how we get rid of fat when we break it down for energy. The main place where fat break down occurs is through CO2 as we breathe out.   If you follow the molecules in 10 kilogram of fat as they are broken down for energy, 8.4 Kg are exhaled as CO2 through the lungs and the remaining 1.6 Kg becomes water excreted through bodily fluids.

    Proper breathing is only one aspect to weight loss but you can read about a complete approach in last month's blog on the subject.

    What is getting in the way?

    1. Everybody is unique and may have their own reasons for poor breathing.  Some common examples include working at a desk all day.  Does that sound familiar?  When you are seated with arms stretched in front of you, your shoulders and back roll inward decreasing the capacity of your lungs. You may not be working at a desk, but poor posture in any setting will have similar effects.
    2. Another reason is that in order to breathe properly, people must relax their stomach muscles allowing the diaphragm to expand and with our desire for slim midsections people are reluctant to let that part of the body relax and expand.  If we can get over the feeling of a relaxed stomach our breathing will improve as we accommodate for proper movement. 
    3. Another common issue impacting people's breath is from mechanical issues with sore or tense muscles, painful joints and decreased mobility. An out of place lower rib is the easiest to understand as movement will cause direct pain.  When someone compensates for an injured part of their body they use muscles that shouldn't be used.  This causes strain on supporting muscles and improper lung function.

    By identifying what issue is getting in the way of improving your breathing you will be on your way to improving oxygen exchange and increasing your metabolism.  I have incorporated breath work with many patients who had previously never considered the impact breath can have and it is one of the practices that makes a huge difference over time.

    Improving your breathing will improve overall health
    Using your diaphragm - the muscle that helps you breathe -  has a side effect of massaging the organs that sit below it.  As you move your diaphragm, your liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and digestive tract all get massaged with the movement and benefit from increased blood flow.  Any toxic breakdown products in the body are moved out by increased circulation.  When your breathing improves the available oxygen supply is increased to every cell in your body improving their function.  Muscle cells won't cramp as much, and vision improves.  No mater what cell it is, every cell in the body will be able to repair and work better when increased oxygen is made available.

    Start breathing right now!
    If you're looking to make use of a breathing technique right away, my favorite is the stop light breath.  Whenever you're at a stop light or stop sign, use that as a reminder to relax your stomach, drop your shoulders, and take 1 deep breath into your lower lungs. Allow your stomach to expand as your diaphragm pushes down on your abdominal organs and your lower lungs are filled.  As you continue to practice this, you will find over time that your deep breaths become more frequent and you can choose other triggers that remind you to take a deep breath.  This exercise should feel comfortable and if you are experiencing any dizziness, you should decrease the number of deep breaths you are taking.

    If you have any questions or would like to improve your breathing and start loosing weight, read about the Healthy Weight Program, and speak with Dr. Anthony Moscar  to find out what treatments are best indicated for your personal health goals.

    Thursday, January 1, 2015

    Water - Top 5 Things to Remember

    By Iva Lloyd, BScH, BCPP, ND

    Water is the first part of our Guide to Health. 3/4 of the earth's surface and about 65% of the human adult body is composed of water. When we are born we are about 90% water. Water is one of the most fundamental aspects to health and healing.

    The top five things that you want to remember about water are the following:

    #1: Start and end your day with water 

    During the evening the body detoxes and cleans up the waste and toxins that have accumulated throughout the day and over time. To assist the body in eliminating the toxins and waste products, it is beneficial to start your day with water.

    For one month have a large glass of water before breakfast and before any coffee, tea or juice and notice the difference that it makes to how you feel. Ending your day with water assists the body in detoxing and cleaning up during the night. Ending your day with water can also add to a more restful sleep. Ensuring that you have adequate water consumption is one of the most important steps to ensuring that the body can eliminate toxins. Starting and ending your day with water is one of the simplest and most effective steps you can take towards health.

    #2: Consume 1/2 your body weight in ounces

    Water serves a number of functions in the body including moistening tissues, protecting organs and tissues, increasing overall energy of the body, cellular transmission of nutrients, cellular communication of thoughts and emotions, regulation of body temperature and the elimination of toxins. Every cellular and metabolic function relies on water. One of the most common questions that I am asked as a naturopathic doctor is "how much water do I need to drink?". The accepted rule-of-thumb is that you require 1/2 your body weight in ounces. So, if you weigh 160 pounds you would need to consume 80 ounces or equivalent to 10 glasses of water a day.

    1/2 to 1/3 of your water consumption can come from food, if you are consuming foods high in water such as fresh fruit (dried fruit and fruit that has a high sugar content - bananas, pineapple, mango, etc - can actually be dehydrating), fresh vegetables that grow on a vine or that grow above the ground (i.e., tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, swiss chard, lettuces, celery, etc) and broth-based soups and stews (soups with dairy are less hydrating). The main beverages that are dehydrating include caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, cola and other soft drinks), juices and other beverages that have added sugar. The main food that is considered dehydrating is sugar and foods high in sugar such as pastries, cookies, candies, chocolate, etc. Diets that are high in grains and protein without adequate fruits and vegetables can also result in dehydration.  The more dehydrating drinks or food that you consume, the more likely you will be dehydrated unless you are compensating by increasing the amount of water that you drink. Check out this link to learn more about the importance of water on overall health.

    #3: Avoid drinking water with your meals

    One of the worst habits that people have is drinking water with their meals. The stomach secretes hydrochloric acid which is responsible for breaking down food. The hydrochloric acid has a pH of 3.5, which is necessary to ensure that the food is properly broken down. When you drink water with your meals two things happen - first, the pH of the stomach acid rises as the pH of water is higher than the stomach acid and second, the water dilutes that stomach acid. Both of these can give rise to hypochlorhydria which is a condition that causes poor digestion, malnutrition and is associated with a number of other conditions.

    One of the signs of of hypochlorhydria is heartburn or reflux.  Many people associate heartburn with high stomach acid when, in effect, both high stomach acid and low stomach acid have similar symptoms especially as one ages. Taking a prescription for heartburn increases the likelihood and degree of hypochlorhydria, Check out this link for more information on hypochlorhydria. If you feel that you need to drink something with your meals, consider tomato juice, or even better still, increase the amount of water-based foods in your meal and you will often find that you don't need to drink water.

    #4: Drink water before and after exercise 

    Dehydration due to extensive exercise is quite common. Any activity that results in sweating not only can contribute to dehydration but to a loss of electrolytes. It is important to ensure that you increase your water consumption and you replace electrolytes before and after exercise. To learn more about staying hydrated when active, read Dr. Cooper's blog on Health Concerns for Active Individuals.

    #5: Avoid drinking water that has been stored in plastic 

    Plastic containers, especially those that have Bisphenol-A (BPAs), will breakdown whenever there is a change in temperature.  Historically, most soft plastics contained BPA - even baby bottles and baby toys were high in BPA. BPAs are one of many environmental chemicals that are known to disrupt health and to contribute to disease. The link between BPA and hormone disruption and breast cancer has been proven and has resulted in many BPA-free choices, especially as it relates to baby bottles and baby products.

    An area that is lagging behind is bottled water. Between when the water is bottled and when you buy it, it probably has withstood many changes in temperature and hence, the BPA in the water bottles is continually being leached into the water that you drink. Besides the terrible environmental impact of millions and millions of plastic bottles, I encourage you to avoid drinking water that has been bottled in plastic that is not BPA free and ensure that whatever you choose to carry your water in does not contain BPA.  Good choices for carrying water include glass or stainless steel containers.

    2015 Monthly Health Series

    Check out the other topics on our Guide to Health Series. Each month we will he highlighting the top five things you need to know about each topic. The topics that will be covered include:

    January - Water
    February - Breathing
    March - Movement
    April - Hygiene and the Ability to Eliminate Toxins
    May - Healthy Eating
    June - Sleep
    July - Alignment and Posture
    August - Alkaline lifestyle and personal care products
    September - The Power of the Mind
    October - Time Spent Outdoors
    November - Addressing Environmental Factors
    December - Healthy Relationships

    As part of our Guide to Health Series we will be offering weekly tweets and in-house seminars on each topic. If you are unable to attend our seminars, we will be providing video highlights of some of the seminars on our website.  Follow us on twitter  for weekly updates.

    If you have any questions about water that you would like us to address please contact us at We will be posting all answers on the "Water" page on our website.

    Let us know if you are joining us on the Guide to Health Series by sending us an email or by hitting the "like" logo on our blog. 

    Monday, December 29, 2014

    Weight Loss - its not just about the scale

    When people are motivated to lose weight they set a weight loss goal and track it on their home scale.  The scale is an easy benchmark for success, with a clear indication of being on track. Unfortunately, the scale is not the best weight loss tool as it does not address the more important issue about where you carry weight and that belly fat increases many risk factors.

    First, Why isn't the scale a good measure?

    Where you hold your weight is a more important indicator of health and disease than weight. Having abdominal fat or more specifically, intra-abdominal fat increases risk for cardiovascular diseases and a number of metabolic conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes. The scale does not give this type of information so there are people who are within normal weight but have a large midsection or high intra-abdominal fat that put them at increased risk.  Addressing high intra-abdominal fat is the key to sustained weight loss and improving overall health.

    The 3 Steps to Long Term Weight Loss

    Step 1 - Identify the Causal Factors
    Everyone is unique with different metabolic needs and your strategy to lose weight and decrease abdominal fat must address these differences.  It is important to identify underlying conditions affecting weight gain such as: thyroid dysfunction, adrenal issues, sugar dysregulation or bacterial imbalance of the digestive tract.  These 4 conditions can be caused by many factors, ranging from food sensitivities, environmental toxins, inadequate sleep or chronic unrelenting stress which can all make abdominal weight loss difficult.
    • Food sensitivities cause weight gain because the inflammation that comes with it produces insulin resistance, leading to higher insulin levels. Insulin is the same hormone involved in diabetes and chronically high levels lead to abdominal fat production.  If you suspect food as being part of the problem, then an IgG food sensitivity test can help rule out what foods should be avoided. 
    • Environmental toxicity is a common factor due to sprays on our food, lotions and cleaners we use on our skin and in our home.  These toxic substances are fat soluble and affect many hormonal pathways.  Limiting exposure to these substances is a good first place to start.  If further evaluation is required to determine if environmental toxins are contributing to weight gain, a hair, blood or urine test can be used to test environmental toxic material exposure.
    • Both inadequate sleep and chronic stress impact the body's ability to loose weight because these 2 stressors increase levels of the hunger hormone called ghrelin and decrease levels of the fullness hormone called leptin, resulting in eating more refined sugars and quick energy foods. Both sleep and chronic stress can be impacting unhealthy abdominal weight gain.     

    Step 2 - Address Causal Factors
    Once underlying factors have been identified and anything that is causing ongoing weight gain has been stopped, half the battle is over. Step 2 involves supporting the body in any of the areas that were identified.

    • If thyroid function is under-functioning, then supporting the thyroid will increase your metabolic rate which is associated with an increased ability to lose weight. 
    • Also part of the hormonal system, the adrenal glands play an important role in loosing and maintaining weight. When stressed, the adrenal gland kicks into gear to store calories and increase craving of high salt and sugar foods. 
    • With modern living, we ingest high amounts of refined sugar. Refined sugars have a direct impact on our liver causing it to turn the sugar into fat and store it. We are exposed to the anti-microbials in meat production and in personal care products that affect the bacteria in our digestive system.    The good bacteria in our gut is responsible for helping to further digest foods and to protect us from bad bacteria.  
    Whatever the underlying cause, addressing the thyroid, adrenal, sugar dysregulation or bacterial imbalance will jump-start the body's weight loss and maintenance ability in order to decrease abdominal fat.

    Step 3 -  Ensure Good Habits
    The last and most important step is to reinforce good habits and strategies that have allowed you to lose or maintain a slimmer waist and more even body distribution.  Most diets or programs are unsustainable because they are used for weight loss and do not teach a sustainable approach.  When the scale is the only tool being used to track your weight and health, then people are left cycling between different diets that result in long term metabolic effects on the body and poor results.  The key habits that are required for each person varies, but they generally include habits around:

    • Adequate water
    • Daily exercise
    • Good nutrition
    • Stress management 
    • Ensuring adequate sleep

    What measure is used instead of the scale?

    The index of central obesity (aka waist to height ratio) takes into consideration someones height as well and proves to be a much better indicator of abdominal weight gain (a ratio greater than .5 means increased risk). If you would like to test yourself, take a deep breath in and relax your stomach, have someone measure your waist, then divide that by your height.  So if you have a 35 inch waist and are 5'5 tall or 65 inches, then the calculation is 35/65= .53 which is over the .50 target.

    Weight Loss can be challenging but central obesity is the real risk factor that weight loss should be addressing.  Planning to loose 1-2 lbs a week with a slow-and-steady goal, while using the 3 step strategy, gives people the best chance to loose weight and maintain weight loss with the focus on abdominal size.

    If you have any questions or would like to start loosing weight, read about the Healthy Weight Program, and speak with Dr. Anthony Moscar  to find out what treatments are best indicated for your personal weight loss goals.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    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.
    • 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