Thursday, October 10, 2019

Blood Pressure - Risks and Concerns

by Ann-Marie Regina, ND (pending)

File:Bloodpressurecuff.jpgWhen your heart pumps to circulate blood throughout your body, it creates a pressure on your arteries, this is called blood pressure. This pressure is necessary to force blood to areas of your body that are farthest away from your heart like your fingers and toes.

So what is a healthy blood pressure reading for you? Everyone is different and there is a healthy range that is acceptable for each individual person. To determine if your blood pressure is at the right level for you, weight, height, level of exercise, family history, diet and any medical conditions that you may have, are necessary for a customized and accurate measurement.

High blood pressure (Hypertension)

When the pressure of blood on your arteries is too high, damage occurs resulting in an immune response. Immune cells try to fix the damage by covering the area with a plaque and cholesterol deposits, almost like a bandaid. The plaque may fix the damage, but it causes the artery walls to stiffen and become narrow. This process will continue as long as the blood pressure remains high. The more narrow the artery becomes, the more likely it can become clogged leading to heart disease.

So how do we recognize the symptoms of high blood pressure? The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure taken. High blood pressure is typically silent, meaning there are no symptoms.

Common risk factors for high blood pressure include:
  • Smoking
  • Stress especially is unrelenting or if poor coping skills
  • Family history or personal history of cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity, especially if carrying the weight in the abdomen or waist
  • Lack of exercise or too much strenuous exercise
  • Poor diet or imbalanced diet

Low blood pressure (Hypotension)

Making sure that your blood pressure is in a healthy range is important to your cardiovascular health. This also includes checking if your blood pressure is too low. Symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, headache or feeling faint can be signs of low blood pressure and will have significant consequences on your health. If your blood pressure is too low, areas of the body such as the hands, feet and brain are not getting the blood and nutrients they need to function optimally. This will increase your risk of a stroke, dementia, peripheral neuropathy, erectile dysfunction, severe fatigue, hemorrhoids and varicose veins.

Common risk factors and diseases that can cause problematic low blood pressure include:

How often should you monitor your blood pressure?

If you have been on medication for blood pressure for awhile, you would check your blood pressure about once a week. If you are changing any medications, blood pressure or otherwise, ideally monitor your blood pressure once or twice a day for 10 days, or as advised by your healthcare practitioner.

If your blood pressure is generally stable and you aren't on any medications, we recommend checking your blood pressure at least every month or if there is a reason to be concerned. Changing your  routine significantly such as beginning a new exercise regime, major changes to your diet, stopping smoking or other changes may impact on your blood pressure and therefore it is best to check your blood pressure more frequently so that you know the impact.

Another good reason to check your blood pressure is if you experience any new symptoms that are out of the ordinary for you or are concerning.

Complimentary Blood Pressure Check!

We are pleased to announce that every Friday between 12-4, you are able to come into our clinic for a complimentary blood pressure check. This will be a drop in service, so you do not need to book an appointment.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Do you have ear pain, itchiness, hearing loss? You need your ears checked!!

by Dr. Jessica Nesbitt, ND

Ear wax (cerumen) is a normal substance made by the cells lining the ear canal that helps to protect, clean, and keep the ears healthy.  When dust or dirt enters the ear, the ear wax provides a sticky substance that traps the debris and prevents it from travelling deeper into the ear canal.

Ear wax will normally make its way to the outside of the ear canal through the motion of our jaw, and by chewing food. At this point, it can flake off or be washed off.

Sometimes this natural process can be uninterrupted, and a build up of ear wax can occur. This is called impaction.  When this occurs, the ear canal will be either partially or full blocked and lead to symptoms such as:

  • ear pain
  • itching
  • sense of fullness in the ear
  • hearing loss
  • change in hearing aid function
  • odour coming from the ear

Keep in mind that it is possible to not have any symptoms at all. I have found throughout my years of practice that on routine physical exams many patients did have impacted ear wax and were not aware of it all.  It is important to have your ears checked yearly, or if you start to experience any of the above symptoms. 

In my clinical practice I have found that anyone of any age can have impacted ear wax. But, more commonly I have found it in children 2-6 years old, senior citizens and those who use hearing aids, or ear plugs. Other risk factors associated with impacted ear wax are; yeast/candida overgrowth,  having hairy ear canals, a narrow ear canal, people with re occurring ear infections, and swimmers.

Although you may be tempted to clean out your ears, it is important to remember not to stick items such Q-tips, keys, or bobby pins in your ears as they may push the was build up deeper into the ear canal.  

I am pleased to announce that I will be offering complimentary ear checks at the clinic. This will be a drop in service available on Wednesdays from 10am - 2pm. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Importance of Hormones after Age 50

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

Hormones affect every aspect of life. Unfortunately, the importance of adequate and balanced hormones is often ignored as someone ages.  But hormones play a significant role in healthy aging and treating a hormone imbalance can often make a significant difference on how a person feels.

If you are creeping close to 50 years of age or if you are older, I encourage you to examine whether or not your symptoms are actually due to hormone imbalances.

Impact of Hormones after the Age of 50

The following is a summary of the key roles of the main sex hormones.

Role of Progesterone

Role of Estrogen
Role of Testosterone
·         Precursor of other hormones
·         Higher progesterone levels decrease risk of cancer
·        Slows down the aging process
·         Facilitates thyroid function
·         Normalizes blood clotting
·         Regulates blood sugar levels
·         Helps use fat for energy
·         Natural antidepressant
·         Restores cell oxygen levels
·         Stimulates bone building
·         Decreases cholesterol, LDL and homocysteine levels
·         Protects against heart disease and decreases blood pressure

·         Regulates fat storage and speeds up metabolism
·         Stimulates vaginal thickness
·         Increases sex drive
·         Assists with joint formation/ decreases calcium deposits in rheumatoid arthritis
·         Facilitates the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin
·         Protects against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

·     Preserves muscle mass, bone growth, bone density and strength
·     Ensures strong sexual desire and sense of well being
·     Ensures adequate red blood cells
·     Protects against breast cancer and heart disease in menopausal women

Symptoms Associated with Hormone Imbalances

The following are common symptoms associated with hormone imbalances as you age:
  • Depression and anxiety are symptoms of low progesterone, low testosterone and both estrogen deficiency and excess.  If you feel sad and you don't know why, check out your hormones before you start addressing your symptoms with medication for depression or anxiety.
  • Difficulty remembering can be attributed to either low estrogen or low testosterone.  
  • Painful intercourse and vaginal dryness is often associated with low estrogen levels.
  • Lack of sex drive or sexual performance is too often just associated with aging when it can be due to low progesterone or testosterone or high estrogen levels.
  • Frequent urinary tract infections or incontinence can be due to low estrogen and, if so, can be greatly reduced by addressing estrogen levels.
  • Arthritis, especially when it affects the hands and causes deformity in the joints, is a symptom of low estrogen levels.
  • Weight gain since your 40s is often due to hormone deficiencies or imbalances.  If your estrogen levels are high it can often result in weight on the hips and thighs. If testosterone is low it will result in increased abdominal fat, Low progesterone will cause an overall increase in weight in the midsection.
  • Fatigue can be caused by low estrogen or low testosterone.

Causes of Hormone Imbalances

Hormone levels are naturally lower as you age, but the following factors can increase the rate of decline:
  • Genetics plays a role, but it is not overly significant for most people
  • Stress, especially when it is chronic and unrelenting
  • Sleep deprivation over a long period of time
  • Nutrient deficiencies or dietary imbalances - especially if your diet has been lacking protein, fat and/or minerals
  • Environmental toxins are known to disrupt hormone levels and how the body metabolizes and uses hormones
  • Trauma, especially head trauma can result in hormone changes
  • Chronic pain impacts hormone levels
  • Medications play with hormones.  Some of the most significant disruptors are SSRIs and birth control pills.

Assessing Your Hormone Status

There are a number of ways of assessing your hormone status.  For many, you can determine hormone deficiencies and excesses simply based on a detailed symptoms and health history.  Blood tests are seldom very accurate to assess hormone levels, but they become even less reliable as you age.  

The most accurate way to assess hormone levels, especially as you age, is via urine testing as urine is able to more accurately assess whether the body is able to metabolize hormones appropriately.

Treating Hormone Imbalances

There are a number of different ways to treat hormone imbalances.  For some individuals, hormone levels can be normalized by simply improving one's lifestyle -- getting more sleep, decreasing stress, improving diet, and exercising more.  For others, nutraceuticals, herbs and homeopathics can be beneficial in addressing hormone imbalances.  For those that have severe or unrelenting symptoms, bio-identical hormone therapy can be a wonderful option.

The benefits of bio-identical replacement therapy include:

  • relief of menopausal symptoms
  • reduced risk of heart disease and cardiovascular events
  • improved cholesterol profile
  • prevention of osteoporosis
  • prevention of memory disorders
  • maintenance of nervous system
  • maintenance of skin health
  • maintenance of oral health
  • maintenance of eye health
  • prevention of urogenital and vaginal atrophy
  • relief of arthritic symptoms

Bio-identical hormone therapy (BHT) is a safe option for treating hormone deficiencies. Bio-identical hormones are derived from plant sources and are modified to replicate the hormones found in the body. Naturopathic Doctors in Ontario and British Columbia are able to prescribe bio-identical hormones.

If you suspect that your symptoms are related to your hormones, talk to your naturopathic doctor. The NDs at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic offer a range of options for assessing and treating hormone imbalances, including bio-identical hormone therapy.  Dr. Iva Lloyd, focuses on hormone issues, especially those related to peri-menopause and post-menopause.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Feeling Anxious? The Answer May be Nature

By Ann-Marie Regina, ND (pending)

Do you ever question if your health is being helped or hindered by technology? With modern technology advancing, there is a diminished need to leave your home, let alone get off your couch. You can order food from your phone and have it delivered right to your door, a convenience that saves time in our busy and stressful lives. Convenience, however, comes at a price. If you are constantly being bombarded by emails, phone calls, text messages and updates, it can result in mental fatigue and contribute to symptoms such as anxiety. Our "fight or flight" response, is triggered when a phone buzzes. Though our ancestors lived in quite a different world than us, our brains remain the same. Prioritizing your body's intrinsic desire to connect with nature is fundamental to your health. Technology is creating barriers to engaging in the connectedness we seek. So how do we combat our anxiety? The answer is simple: disconnect from all your devices for a while and get back to spending time in nature.

How can nature reduce your stress?

Reduction in mental arousal: Research shows that spending time in nature has restorative properties due to its lower level of mental arousal. Exposure to the natural environment can also mediate stress by decreasing emotions such as anger, aggression and fear and can actually increase positive emotions such as happiness and friendliness immediately.

Recharging the brain: The prefrontal cortex of our brain that is in charge of decision making and cognition, is constantly being bombarded by stimuli. Eventually this can lead to burn out, fatigue and anxiety. Time in nature can give your brain that much needed break and can boost mental abilities such as short-term memory.

Buffering stressful events: Stressful life events can leave us feeling vulnerable and trapped. Access to nature has been shown to provide a distraction and the temporary feeling of "being away". When we create a buffer by removing ourselves from the perceived threat and look at a stressful event from a calm rather than fearful perspective, we can reclaim agency and control over our lives. Nature should be an important tool in your kit to combat anxiety.

How long do I need to be outside to see the effects?

In terms of how long you should be outside, there is evidence suggesting that walking for 90 minutes a day in nature can reduce activity in the part of the brain that is linked to negative rumination. More reasonably, 20-30 minutes 3-4 days a week will have the same stress relieving properties and is a great way to incorporate daily physical activity into your life which we also know decreases stress.

How to make the most out of a nature walk

To make sure that you gain all the benefits of a nature walk, follow these simple rules:

1. Disconnect completely! Leave your cell phone in the car or at home. The point of the nature walk is to disconnect from the technology that drives your anxiety. It may feel challenging to go out without your phone, but if you really want to combat your anxiety take that first step. Carve out time to be without technology and see how good you feel!

2. Be present! Thinking about the past or the future largely contributes to symptoms of anxiety. If you can live in the moment, you are not worrying about what responsibilities that you have waiting for you, or what mistakes you've made in the past. And what better time to live in the present when you are strolling through a beautiful forest? Focus on the breeze through your fingers as you walk, or the crickets and birds chirping. Stay grounded and calm and you will reap the rewards of your time in nature.

3. Breathe! To help you stay present, focus on your breathing. We know that deep breathing practices help to calm the mind, especially when anxiety is present. So let's compound the calming effects of breathing with the restorative effects of nature. What sort of things do you smell? Are there some fragrant flowers still in bloom? Take deep breaths, really expanding your belly and drink in all that nature has to offer.

Here are 5 tips to bring nature to your everyday environment:

1. Make sure your work space has plants! Have you ever noticed that an office or home with plants is more soothing? Integrating healing gardens in your place of work can increase mental, emotional and spiritual well-being by creating an opportunity for quiet reflection and restoration of the mind. Your healing garden doesn't have to be fancy. Just having a few plants that bring you a sense of calmness can make all the difference.

2. Listen to the sound of nature! Listening to soundscapes can also aid in reducing anxiety. MRI reports measuring brain activity while listening to sounds recorded from nature reflected similar activity that occurs during periods of wakeful rest. Similar effects hold true from looking at photographs that signify meaning to the individual.

3. Take a break! Stuck in the office all day staring at your computer? Make sure you take time out of your day to get outside. It can be a five minute walk around your building, or even just cracking the window and breathing in fresh air.

4. Find a restorative urban environment! Not all urban environments are depleting. Find a place that makes you feel like you are "getting away". This can be your favourite museum or an architectural building. As long as the building does not overload the attentive system and provides a level of fascination, the "artificial" environment can fill in the gaps.

5. Find a friend! Try catching up with friends in the great outdoors instead of sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop. Enlist a friend or a partner to go for a daily walk. Together you can be accountable for each other and provide motivation and encouragement. Social interaction is another important aspect of mental health and wellbeing.

Find your space to create inner peace! There are many trails in Markham to choose from. A sample of what can be found is listed below:
  • Milne Dam Conservation park Trail
  • Rouge valley Trail
  • Bob Hunter Memorial Park
  • Toogood Pond
Need help finding a trail close by, here's an application you can download on your phone or computer to locate a trail near you and bring you back to nature.
All trails:

Finding your anxiety to be unbearable? Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor

Feelings of anxiety can be very overwhelming. Remember to alway seek help if you are having trouble managing your symptoms. Walks in nature can help you, but sometimes you may need more support. There are many other resources that are available to you to address your concerns. Ask your naturopathic Doctor about what treatments are right for you. 

Ann-Marie Regina is a Naturopathic Doctor (pending) at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic with a focus on helping patients make healthy lifestyle choices that are specific to them. If you want to learn more about what your body and mind need, Ann-Marie Regina, ND (pending) can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727.

Vitamin Earth…When Did You Have Your Last Dose?

By: Dr. Jessica Nesbitt, ND, CFMP

Earthing is a natural process of connecting with our environment that many of us in our modern, fast pace culture have lost. We spend most of our time inside buildings and our homes insulated from the healing power of nature. Then when we do venture outside, we are wearing shoes with rubber/plastic soles that again insulate us. We have lost our connection with nature and in doing so we are missing some amazing benefits to our sleep cycle, immune function, decreases in pain and inflammation.

Earthing occurs anytime that your body comes into direct contact with the ground. This could be done through walking, sitting, or lying down.  Anytime that our skin touches the surface of the earth there is a powerful exchange that happens that can help to bring about positive changes to our health.

How Does Earthing Work?

All living systems have an electrical charge, including the earth, and our bodies. The earth has a supply of free electrons that carry a negative charge, while our bodies tend to a more positive charge, due to the build up of free radicals and exposure to electromagnetic waves, and Wi-Fi.  When we are in contact with the earth, the negative charge helps to ground the positive charge we carry, and we connect to the same electrical energy as the earth.

Health Benefits of Earthing

Practising earthing can help to de-stress your body and allow for it to begin repairing and restoring any imbalances.  People who regularly connect to the earth report better sleep, feel more relaxed or grounded, and experience improved immunity. Research has been conducted and found that earthing can help with:

·         Promoting relaxation, and decreasing the stress response [PMID: 22291721]
·          Improving sleep by normalizing cortisol rhythms [PMID: 15650465]
·         Decreasing inflammation and improving wound healing [PMID: 25848315]
·         Reducing blood viscosity [PMID: 22757749]
·         Reduction in pain [PMID: 15650465]

How to start Earthing
Begin by walking barefoot on your lawn or your local green space, even just a few minutes a day can start to help your body come into a relaxed state.  Remember that the benefits of grounding happen when your skin is connecting to the Earth or wearing conductive footwear such as leather moccasins. You can even practise grounding on cement because it is conductive.  Because earthing / grounding is so important for our health,  special products are available such as grounding mats or bed sheets that will allow you to sleep grounded in the comfort of your own bed.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Digestion: The Mind-Body Connection

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, AAWC

The gut is often referred to as our 'second brain'. The Ayurvedic system of medicine has examined the connection of mind-body for thousands of years and now modern medicine is beginning to understand that the gut makes serotonin - an important neurotransmitter also made in our brain that helps us feel good.  So, does what we eat affect our mood or does our mood affect our digestion?

When you are angry or upset - how's your appetite?
When you are happy - how's your appetite?
When you are nervous - how's your appetite?

Everyone has experienced a time when their appetite was instantly affected by a thought, bad news or something someone said to them. There is no doubt a link between your mental state and the quality of your digestion.

In Ayurveda, there is a concept called 'agni' which means fire. This metabolic fire is omnipresent in your body: from your cells, to your mind and your digestive system. An example of this metabolic fire is stomach acid that your body makes to break down food. When you are stressed, the stomach doesn't make as much stomach acid. People who are chronically stressed have hypochlorhydria or lack of hydrochloric acid which leads to a host of other issues such as parasites, yeast and undigested food. Whenever the nervous system gets a jolt, 'agni' immediately dwindles. This happens in every part of your body including your stomach. Just think of what happens when wind (vata) blows your campfire out and you can't cook your hot dogs! This is a rough analogy of what happens in the body as well.

There is a lot of focus on the physical aspect of digestion - digestive enzymes, probiotics, healthy foods - all of which play a very important role in breaking down your food. However, we need to address some of the subtler aspects of digestion and support a balanced nervous system. When you experience stress, your sympathetic nervous system is dominant (your survival response) meaning your body is preparing for fight-or-flight and digestion is not a priority at that moment. IBS is commonly associated with stress leading to abdominal cramping, diarrhea and constipation and it's a common fact that your stomach acid is altered by increased stress levels which has a cascade effect for next stages of digestion. Taking steps to build resilience to stress, support ease of mind are critical aspects to healthy digestion.

Here are a few tips to support digestion from a mind-body perspective:

1. Do a diet diary: track what you ate and any associated symptoms such as digestive upset, gas, acidity and note how you were feeling that day (such as rating your stress levels from 1-10). You can bring it into your ND to help make connections on what factors in your mental-emotional state may be weakening your digestion.

2. Eat in a relaxed environment: when you are in fight-or-flight (sympathetic mode), your body's resources divert away from digestion, and towards your muscles for survival. When you are relaxed, (parasympathetic mode) your body is in a state when digestion is at it's strongest. To support relaxation, minimize talking at meals and focussing on your meal. Keep your phone away, or turn it on silent to minimize distractions. You can play relaxing music or practice mindful eating - bringing awareness to your experience of eating.

3. Have a routine before you eat: say a prayer, a chant, take a few deep breathes or simply close your eyes to give gratitude for the meal you are eating. When you take a minute or two to settle your mind before your eat, this creates a healthy routine to prepare you to eat in a relaxed way. Sit in a comfortable position and avoid eating on the go (walking, in the car). Here's a simple 5 minute yoga practice you can try involving breathing which helps balance your system.

4. Eat food prepared with love and care: many people say their mom (or grandma's) cooking is always the best. Compare that to a take-out meal. Regardless of the recipe, food that is prepared with care, always tastes better! When food is prepared with positive intentions, the food imbibes those qualities. If you are preparing food for your family, try paying attention to what intentions you are putting into your food. When you put your heart into it, everyone will notice it tastes better - and will digest better.

5. Replace food cravings: when you are feeling a certain way (sad, upset, angry, stressed), subconsciously people tend to go for food to feel better. Food cravings are often a sign of a deeper imbalance, rooted in the mind. Instead of looking for food for instant nourishment, work with your practitioner to find other ways to help support and nourish you in a deeper way. This can be through meditation, exercise, healthy food preparation, homeopathics and more. According to Ayurveda, sugar cravings are associated with the feeling of lack of love. Is it a coincidence that sugar intake in modern society has increased dramatically?

With busy lifestyles, it is not always possible to create a perfect atmosphere to eat your food, but as you bring more awareness to your eating habits and as you feel more at ease at meals, you will notice your digestion will also be more at ease. If you are taking probiotics, enzymes and other supplements for digestion but still not noticing enough change, speak with your ND to address subtler aspects of digestion. There are many tools, from herbs to yoga, to help you enjoy your food and digest with a relaxed frame of mind. When you take steps to be mentally at ease in your day, your digestion will thank you for it - and you will feel better!

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.