Sunday, August 5, 2018

Obstacles to Healing - Ayurvedic Do's & Don'ts

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Health is a natural state of balance of harmony - anything that gets in the way of this is an obstacle to healing. You may be doing many things "right" to be healthy, but have you looked at what might be "in the way"? For example, maybe you prepared a delicious, well-balanced meal and suddenly, you get a call from a friend that is upset with you...and you have a tummy ache the rest of the day.

Obstacles to healing can be for example, emotions such as anger or jealousy or lifestyle habits such as eating inappropriate food for the time of day or season. Ayurveda has long recognized the importance of daily routines (dinacharya) and seasonal routines (ritucharya) to prevent disease. While some of these routines may have been considered as superstitious or old fashioned, there are many which have a scientific basis. You might be doing all the right things - eating organic, eating healthy, exercising, taking your supplements but, if certain lifestyle habits are out of alignment, it could be slowing you down. Let's look at a few of the lifestyle habits below and what to avoid:

Ayurvedic Don'ts


1. Ice Cold Smoothies

Smoothies seem like a convenient way to pack in fruits, veggies and proteins in one meal, but when they are loaded with ice or frozen berries it will put out your digestive fire. Digestion requires heat, provided by your metabolic activity and blood circulation to the stomach. Ayurveda considers the digestive fire (jatharagni) to be a driving force in breaking down food in your stomach so when you eat anything cold, digestion quickly slows down. If you are a vata or kapha type, it's like you already struggle from gas or bloating and cold will worsen it. In the morning, your digestive fire is just beginning to wake up. When you eat anything cold, it will take around an hour for it to return to normal temperature depending on your body type. It is best to have smoothies that are room temperature (thaw out berries the previous night or keep the ingredients out of the fridge before blending). Other suggestions include avoiding cold fruits in the morning for breakfast, ice water with meals, or ice cream after meals.

2. Eating While Distracted 

You digest best when you are relaxed. When you eating on the go, while walking, driving, or watching tv, your body is in sympathetic mode where the nervous system is activated. When you're distracted, you're less likely to pay attention to your chewing, notice signals from the body that you are full and enjoy the experience of the meal. Ayurveda suggests eating meals when relaxed, sitting down with minimal conversation to digest at your best. How often do you do this? The more you try this, the more likely you will feel satisfied from your meal.

3. Suppression of Natural Urges

How often to you stifle a sneeze, hold your bladder until it's bursting, hold back a yawn in public? Due to hectic schedules or social situations, you may find yourself holding back natural urges until a convenient time or until the urge is gone.  Natural urges like going to the bathroom, sneezing, yawning, crying, coughing, feeling hungry, thirsty or tired are natural signs from your body. Ayurveda has actually identified how suppressing specific urges can lead to imbalance and specific illnesses over time by disturbing the flow of doshas in the body and allowing toxins to accumulate (read more). In some cultures, belching after meals is considered a sign that you have eaten well and in other cultures, passing gas goes unnoticed in public. While it may seem unpleasant or socially inappropriate, it is important that you pay attention to what your body is telling you and allow a natural release when possible. Next time you feel like sneezing, try allowing it to happen and see how you feel.

4. Improper Food Timing

You might be eating the "right" food for your body type or health concern, but are your timings off? Your body is tuned to the natural cycles of the day. As the sun rises and reaches peak, so does your digestive strength. As the sun sets and night rolls in, metabolic activity slows down. Tuning your mealtimes according to your digestive strength allows the body to work at its best. When you eat when you are not hungry, or eat large meals at times when digestion is weak, or ignore hunger when you are busy, you are working against the natural forces of nature.

The recommendation is to eat a wholesome breakfast before you start your day, followed by a well balanced lunch between 11-1pm (largest meal at the peak of the day when digestion is at peak) a light afternoon snack, and an early dinner before sunset. For many people, breakfast and lunch are light and quick and they are starving by the evening and either end up eating a very heavy dinner, or snacking before dinner. If you consistently skip breakfast because you don't have time or are not hungry, this creates havoc with your stress hormones. Heavy and late dinners are difficult to digest and lead to bloating, sluggishness and weight gain. By simply adjusting the timings of your meal to optimize your digestion, you will notice that you feel lighter and healthier. Speak with your ayurvedic practitioner who can help guide you on an eating regime customized to you while supporting your digestion

5. Overstimulation of the Sense Organs

Your 5 sense organs are constantly receiving information from your surroundings through vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch. While the senses are crucial for survival, your body's resources are constantly processing this information. When the senses are overstimulated, you may experience sensory overload, and divert energy needed for healing the body. How do you do this? It means reduce screen time, computer games, tv, bright lights and anything which stimulates vision and consequently the the nervous system.

We live in an era where we constantly need to respond to sounds - such as cell phone beeps and calls which easily puts you into sympathetic mode where the body is unable to relax. Impressions through our senses are processed by the brain and leave an impression on the mind. When there is imbalance, this can lead to anxiety, ADHD, hyperactivity and general disturbance. In yoga and Ayurveda, there are several techniques to help you gain control over the 5 senses and currently, "float tanks" (which minimize noise, light and other stimuli) are becoming very popular due to their relaxation benefits.


When you can identify and remove obstacles in your diet and lifestyle, you are allowing the vital healing force of nature doing it's work. Living in disharmony with the environment, the people around us and within ourselves, is the first step of dis-ease. Work with your naturopathic doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner to help you identify obstacles to your health and find harmony in your daily routine.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in chronic disease. She applies Ayurvedic treatments to help you realign to your state of healthy balance. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.




Thursday, May 31, 2018

Natural "First Aid" Tips for Summer

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

What's in your First Aid Kit? It's likely to have an assortment of bandages, gauze, gloves and the like for emergencies, but what about for the less critical injuries you might get while camping, hiking or for the kids spending time outdoors this summer?

What do you use if you get a burn while cooking? Or a knee scrape while hiking? What do you use for kids' mosquito bites? While critical emergencies require a visit to the ER, most common injuries are minor and can be treated with natural remedies which have fewer side effects and are gentle but effective for speeding up recovery.

Naturopathic first aid involves using naturopathic principles when treating acute concerns such as burns, bites, stings, rashes, strains and sprains etc. Naturopathic doctors use a variety of modalities to help heal naturally and effectively: botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, nutrition, laser and light therapy, TCM & acupuncture and counselling.

Read more about the most common concerns and natural tips for your First Aid Kit. These remedies can be further customized by your Naturopathic Doctor depending on if you are camping or travelling or need a kit for kids.

Burns 

Too much fun in the sun (at peak time especially) can lead to sunburns. Children, those with sensitive skin, or on certain medications can be more prone to burning. To soothe irritated or peeling skin, use a natural aloe gel which is cooling and soothing for the skin or Manuka honey that you can apply directly to the affected area to help speed up healing. This applies for other kinds of burns such as in the kitchen. While outdoors, protect yourself from strong sunlight by wearing a hat or thin, cotton clothing that protects the skin.

Bites

Insect bites from mosquitos, black flies, bees or spiders are inevitable if you spend time outdoors. Bites are not only itchy, painful and irritating, but can also transmit infectious disease. Prevent yourself by being bitten in the first place by wearing appropriate clothing that provides a barrier for bites and using natural bug repellants made of essential oils such as citronella. It is not just a myth that mosquitos are attracted to "sweet" blood. When you eat a diet high in sweet (bananas, juice, sugar), you become a palatable target. Increase bitter foods such as leafy greens and consider supplementing with neem capsules which are blood cleansing. Speak to your ND about essential oils for bites and natural homeopathic pellets or creams for after-bites such Apis.


Cuts & Scrapes

Minor wounds to the skin such as cuts and scrapes disrupt the barrier and can lead to infections and scarring if not treated properly. Your natural first aid kit should contain a herbal antiseptic cream to apply to injured skin to disinfect the area. Some examples are creams that contain calendula, neem oil, tea tree oil, yarrow and comfrey. Other creams such as vitamin E cream or aloe are very beneficial to promote skin healing and reduce scarring. Essential for moms to keep on hand for active kids!

Bumps & Bruises

A must-have for everyone in their natural first-aid kit for any injury or trauma is Arnica. This well known herb appears in many formats such as creams, gels, oils and homeopathics. This herb is well known for healing bruises and speeding up any injury. Homeopathic arnica can be used in creams or taken orally to help with any physical or emotional shock. In addition for injuries, lymphatic creams are handy to help with reducing swelling as are anti-inflammatory supplements which may contain herbs such as turmeric or boswelia. Speak to your ND to learn more about which anti-inflammatories would be good for you.


Putting together a natural first-aid kit can be fun and very handy to keep on hand this summer. Most of these suggestions are safe to use alongside with other conventional treatments. When you are empowered with knowledge, you can be more equipped to help yourself and family members with minor injuries to speed up healing. At Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic, we accept walk-ins for acute naturopathic care for concerns such as sprains & strains, skin reactions, bites, scrapes, hives and other conditions. You don't need to be a patient of the clinic to use these services. Read more about naturopathic walk-in services.


Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in 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.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Constipation? Get Moving Naturally

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Let's face it - most people don't pay much attention to their bowel movements or make elimination a top priority in their day. A large percentage of people have unhealthy bowel movements and don't even realize it unless symptoms become uncomfortable. For many, constipation means not going to the bathroom for many days and straining. However, chronic constipation is more common than you might think, and is an indication of imbalance, so it is important not to ignore it.

A healthy person should have around 1-3 bowel movements daily with the consistency of a ripe banana. Healthy elimination starts with a bowel movement in the morning. According to the classical Ayurvedic definition, when the body doesn't eliminate naturally first thing in the morning, it is considered a sign of imbalance - a mild form of constipation. If addressed with balancing diet, lifestyle and herbs, this can be corrected before it turns chronic and leads to more serious conditions such as hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse and bowel disease.

While conventional medications or laxative herbs such as senna can give quick relief for blockages, they can cause cramping and discomfort and are not a long term solution since the bowels become dependent on laxatives. Many people will find that a morning coffee does the trick, but are unable to go without a stimulant such as coffee, meaning your body is not doing the job on its own.
Naturopathic medicine works with providing relief and removing obstacles to healthy elimination, while reminding the body to do its job.

Some causes of constipation are related to diet (lack of hydration, inadequate fibre, food sensitivities, refined food), lifestyle (lack of exercise), stress and anxiety, and other conditions such as hypothyroidism, IBS, depression, cancer and nervous system disorders.  Increasing fibre or drinking more water may not always fix constipation for many people, so you need to look at what is out of balance and treat it accordingly.  Read below for an overview of different types of constipation according to Ayurvedic body types and ways to correct imbalances.

Ayurvedic Body Types & Constipation


Elimination is governed by apana vayu, think of this as the force of the wind which helps expel things from the body.  This force regulates the "urge" to go, and can be easily thrown off balance with stress, anxiety, overthinking, poor eating habits and excess activity. Have you ever had to go, but then you had to rush to work or run to do something and lost the urge? Elimination is natural so listening to your body is crucial. When you know your body type, you can understand which factors in your daily life will throw off your digestion and elimination. 

What kind of constipation you experience will depend on your constitution (vata, pitta, kapha), the season and symptoms with which you present. Additionally, tongue and pulse diagnosis can pinpoint what kind of imbalances are manifesting.

Vata Constipation

There is an essential connection between the nervous system and elimination. When you are relaxed and at ease (parasympathetic mode), it is much easier to eliminate. When you are in fight or flight mode, blood and energy shunt away from your digestive system to your muscles in order to flee from what the body sees as potential danger. Chronic constipation develops quickly in individuals who have a Vata imbalance and is characterized by a dry colon with hard, dry stools. Eating too much fiber, such as raw vegetables, in Vata constipation can actually worsen constipation because it is rough and drying.

Tips: 
Increase your water intake and healthy omegas to help lubricate the intestinal passage. Make time in the morning to eliminate without rushing. Avoid suppressing the natural urge to go, and avoid eating on the go. The nervous system plays an important role in the digestive system, so spending time to eat in a relaxed environment and eating at regular times can improve regularity. Working with your ND for a customized diet, soothing demulcent herbs and natural lubricating suppositories can help with Vata constipation.


Pitta Constipation

Constipation in these body types is not as common as in Vata & Kapha, because of their innate digestive strength.  However, elimination issues manifest from excess heat in the body, particularly in the colon, leading to mucus, inflammation, burning sensation and hemorrhoids. These body types tend to be "doers", often pushing their body's limits to get work done and ignoring natural urges.

Tips:
Hydration in key for Pittas and so is slowing down. Following a Pitta balancing diet with cooling foods such as abundant leafy greens, salads and fruits can help treat constipation. Acupuncture can also help reduce heat in the body and stimulate movement in the colon. Cooling herbs such as aloe vera work well to soothe the intestines and work as a natural laxative.

Kapha Constipation

Kapha body types can struggle with elimination, in addition to fatigue and weight gain. This type of constipation is characterized by slow, sluggish bowels and mucous. Bowel movements tend to be large and oily. Eating heavy foods such as deep fried, excessive oil, cheese and creamy foods or eating late meals can aggravate this kind of constipation. Lighter food rich in fibre and vegetables are helpful to address this kind of constipation. If constipation is not addressed in a Kapha body, toxins can accumulate quickly and lead to weight gain, fatigue and other diseases.


Tips:
Exercise and gentle self massage or dry skin brushing can help stimulate movement in the colon. Fibre and dry foods support elimination and reduce mucous and heaviness in the intestines. Warming digestive spices such as ginger and black pepper can help as well as drying, astringent herbs and food (such as leafy green veggies). Triphala is a great herbal formula to address constipation in all types, including Kapha constipation. There are various ways and dosages to take this herb so speak with your ND to find out if this will help you.

Other Naturopathic Tips

Regardless of your body type, there are some foundational factors to ensure that your bowels move well. You can work on these tips with your naturopathic doctor to help identify your imbalances and what approach to take for your treatment.
  • Adequate water intake
  • Healthy fibers (such as vegetables, chia seeds, psyllium)
  • Probiotics to restore gut flora and promote healthy bowels
  • Healthy oils such as fish oils, ghee, coconut, seabuckthorn and olive oil
  • Food sensitivity testing: many people suffer from food sensitivities to dairy, wheat and other common foods. Identifying which foods are triggers for digestive health can make it easier to treat constipation.
  • Posture: the colon is meters long and muscle tension and poor posture can obstruct the route for healthy elimination.
  • Letting go: identifying emotional blockages or areas where you feel "stuck" in your life - in relationships, career etc. Working with your practitioner with counselling, homeopathic remedies, acupuncture and body work can help you release unprocessed emotions which often coincide with physical symptoms such as constipation.

If you notice any changes in your bowel movements, it is important to bring it up with your naturopathic doctor as they could be a sign of a more serious health issue such as hypothyroidism, bowel obstruction, IBD or side effects of medications. While constipation is common, it isn't normal or healthy. You don't have to live with constipation - there are natural treatments that can bring relief. Healthy elimination means the body is able to dump out toxins and help your body work much more efficiently!

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health, pain and chronic disease. She has a special interest in Ayurvedic nutrition. 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.



Spring Cleaning: Your Home

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND & Marie Lennox

Spring is a time for renewal. The body does its clean up after the winter and begins to detoxify. Externally, it is also a good time to clean up your environment – at home, work or even in the car. Removing old clutter makes space for new things and can help you feel more at ease in your space. Physically cleaning your environment can go a long way in helping you feel reenergized this season.

When you clean with conventional products, unfortunately you are exposing yourself to chemicals that interfere with health - often unknowingly. Common products that contain chemicals are laundry detergent, softeners, dish soap, air fresheners, bathroom cleaners, drain cleaners and many more common household cleaners. These chemicals can enter through your skin, eyes or respiratory tract and can be very toxic to adults, children and pets. You can read more on common contaminants here.

During spring, the body is naturally trying to detoxify so you want to minimize toxins in your food & environment. Even if you are eating organic, exercising and keeping up with a healthy lifestyle, you could be getting unhealthy chemicals through household cleaning products. At Naturopathic Foundations, we use natural cleaning products and techniques, and thought we would share some healthy and easy spring cleansing tips that you can use at home.

Natural Cleaning Tips


Fridge Cleaning:
While your fridge may store many of your nutrient-rich foods, it is one of the most common places that harbours rotting food and unhealthy mold. Start by clearing out food shelf by shelf. Check for expiry dates, and throw food in compost and recycle glass jars in the blue bin.
  • Wipe shelves and inside of fridge with a touch of natural dish soap and baking soda on a damp cloth. This lifts and softens hardened drips and spills. Rinse with white vinegar and water solution (1/2 c. vinegar to 1 c. water) which will deodorize and disinfect your fridge.

Laundry solutions:
Washing your clothes with conventional detergents and softeners leaves residue on clothing and bedsheets which gets absorbed through the skin. This increases the toxic burden on the body and can eventually lead to hormonal imbalance, autoimmune conditions, cancer, and more.
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar in the rinse compartment to soften and deodorize your clothes and replace softeners. This is especially great for baby clothes and will not leave a vinegar smell. Choose natural laundry detergents which are environmentally safe and natural (unscented is best).
  • Essential oils placed on a damp cloth and placed with clothes in the drier will give a natural scent to your clothes. Choose essential oils such as lavender, jasmine, eucalyptus or any other blend you like. Check out the wide variety of essential oils in the clinic that you can use for this.
  • Drier balls can be used to reduce the time of your load by creating more space in the load. We have some available at the clinic at the front.

Surfaces & floor cleaners:
Tables, counter tops, floors pick up dust, grease and grime and cleaning with water won't always cut it. When you use conventional surface cleaners, chemical residue sticks to the surface and can be picked up by crawling infants, pets and adults through the skin. Keeping a bottle of homemade surface cleaner in a spray bottle will come in handy for regular use.

  • 1/4 c. hydrogen peroxide (as a disinfectant) and 10-15 drops of essential oils (such orange, grapefruit) and few drops of natural dish soap in 1 bucket of hot water. Use a mop or cloth to clean floor surfaces. (If cleaning granite or stone surfaces, rinse again with warm water.)

Home-made drain cleaner:
This non-toxic solution can clear drains clogged with grease and residue and is much safer than corrosive drain cleaners.
  • 1/2 c. of baking soda sprinkled in a clogged drain, followed by 1 c. of white vinegar. Let the mixture bubble for a few minutes and then pour boiling water. 

Natural Air Freshener:
Essential oil diffusers break up aromatic oils into small volatile particles in the air and add a wonderful fragrance on the home that is non-toxic. You can choose oils that you like for their scent or even their therapeutic properties. Lavender and floral scents tend to be calming, while citrus scents tend to be energizing and invigorating. We carry diffusers in the clinic that you can use at your home or office.


You will find that if you can replace your conventional household cleaners with natural alternatives, you will reduce the toxic burden in your home and support the healing of you and your family.  We carry a variety of natural cleaning products and essential oils at the clinic which you can come in to learn about anytime. You can speak with any of the naturopathic doctors at Naturopathic Foundations to find out more about ways you can help reduce toxins in your home, food and body care products, and improve your body’s ability to detoxify.



Saturday, March 10, 2018

It is not about Work-Life Balance; It is about Prioritization and Coherence

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

The concept of Work-Life Balance sounds great. It has been the catch-phrase for the last decade or so.  The lack of work-life balance has often become the justifcation for anxiety, stress, depression, just about anything.

Trying to achieve work-life balance often results in people trying to do more. Trying to put a little of their energy into many different things. The focus often becomes the length of time a person spends in any one task, not whether or not they enjoy the task, whether they are getting something valuable out of it or even whether it is really important to them.

As a naturopathic doctor, I often encounter patients that are struggling to achieve specific health goals, and working to include a healthy regimen into their life.  What I hear all the time is that they struggle because there are "too many things to do". Life has become about doing more, versus enjoying what you do, really experiencing what you're doing and choosing to do things that really matter. The challenge is that what a person often ends up doing does not bring them closer to what they want to achieve.

Achieving anything - whether it be health, success, recognition, etc - starts with knowing what you want to achieve (intention), making sure what you do is consistent with those goals (coherence) and prioritizing your time accordingly.

Intention

Your intentions drive everything; whether you are conscious of them or not. In fact, your subconscious intentions are often more impactful than your conscious ones. Intention is defined as one's purpose, aim, objective or goal. Intentions can be more important than actions. Next month I am going to expand more on the role of Intention in health and disease and in overall happiness and contentment in life.

Coherence

Coherence has two general meanings. It relates to things being logical and consistent and it relates to thing have a unifed focus. We think of it as the waves of your life being in sync. When it comes to health, coherence is about recognizing that there are many internal and external factors that influence health. Such as;

Copyright: Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND
2018
It can look overwhelming, but it is really about appreciating that a person's health is influenced by everything they encounter.  When you see yourself as part of the whole, versus being in "own bubble", it can actually make life easier.

Dr. Lloyd, ND copyright 2008
Coherence recognizes that all aspects of an individual are connected.  That a person's thoughts and emotions (i.e., the psychological) is intertwined with the functional and structural aspects of a person. That a person's thoughts affect how their body functions and likewise, a person's posture influences how they think and feel and how the body functions.

What is "right" for each person, whether we are talking diet, exercise, supplements, sleep, etc, depends on a person's age, their health status, their constitution, even the seasons and time of day.

The more you evaluate things based on their relevance and their applicability to you; the better.  For example, coffee and salt are not necessarily good or bad. It simply matters whether or not they are good for you. Whether or not your body type, your age and your current health status is enhanced or negatively impacted by them.  Too often the focus is on evaluating "things" - whether they be food, exercise, supplements or anything - as good or bad, versus looking at whether they are right, or in coherence, with a specific person.

I encourage you to catch yourself any time you are wondering if something is "good" or "bad" and change your thinking to whether or not it is "right for you" or whether the impact is even "relevant" for you.

Prioritization

There are so many things that can pull on your energy and time. Preparing food, exercise, household tasks, work, email, social media, news, commitments with family and friends, travel, and the list goes on and on. For most people, the issue is there are are too many things to do. And, at the end of a day or a month, there is that feeling that you still didn't do enough or you never got to what mattered.

There are some trues that you want to keep in mind:
  • No matter who you are there is only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week.
  • Everybody only has 100% of energy and not everybody's 100 is the same.
  • Whatever you focus on gets done!
If you want to know what your priorities are; look at what you do and the order that you do them. What I often find is that when a person is listing their priorities and when they are listing what they do in a day or week, they often don't match. For example, a person will state that exercising or losing weight is their key priority, but they don't find the time to exercise or they still end up stress eating or snacking late at night. 

It is always a good idea to track what you get done and to get a sense of whether or not that is what you want to be defined by. Another good exercise is to make lists and check off what gets done. At the end of each week, check the list and review what got done and what was left unfinished. It is also helpful to highlight different tasks by colour - green for personal tasks, blue for household chores, red for work, etc. That way, you can more easily see where your focus and priorities lie.

There is a saying, "Whatever gets measured; gets done."  If you want to be more successful, in life, health, anything, spend time determining your priorities and then tracking what you do to determine if they match.

Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND is a naturopathic doctor with a special interest in the role of the mind in health and disease. Check out her website to find other articles and blogs that she has written. If you would like to book an appointment with her, please call the clinic at 905-940-2727.




Thursday, March 8, 2018

Recurrent Miscarriages: Is Your Immune System To Blame

By Dr. Beata Skorka, ND

Sadly, 15-20% of human pregnancies end in clinically recognized miscarriages, with the majority of them occurring within the first trimester. Reasons for recurrent miscarriages can vary, but include: parental genetic disorders, infectious diseases, endocrine dysfunctions, autoimmune disorders and uterine anatomical malformations.

Many couples trying to start or grow their family experience the painful and devastating end of a pregnancy, with some experiencing it multiple times. A miscarriage is recognized as a loss of a baby before 24 weeks of gestation. Recurrent miscarriage is seen as having had three or more consecutive miscarriages.  Below I will discuss one of the reasons for which miscarriages can occur- autoimmune and abnormal immunological responses.

Immune Conditions that Impact Fertility

When we think of our immune system, we often recognize it as a beneficial system in our body's that protects us from foreign invasion. However, our bodies ability to recognize what is self from non-self can either help or hurt us.  When functioning optimally, our immune system is protective. Problems arise when it sees parts of our bodies as non-self or foreign and attacks.

A woman's body must be able to recognize what is going on within itself and nurture the growing fetus.  Pregnancy is threatened when the body sees the placenta, uterus, fetus or blood as foreign and attacks, creating problems with fertility and/or miscarriage.

  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS):  This condition in which the body makes high concentrations of antiphospholipid antibodies (APAs) in the blood, can increase the chance of blood clots. Antibodies are protective proteins made by the immune system in response to a 'foreign' substance. Multiple miscarriages can be the result of having this syndrome.  They are associated with both early and late fetal loss miscarriages, pre-eclampsia and poor growth of the fetus.  If recognized, treatment can significantly decrease the risk of miscarriage anywhere from 40-70% vs 10% if left untreated.
  • Anti-Nuclear Antibodies (ANA):  These antibodies are related to females suffering from autoimmune conditions such as Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE) and/or Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), but can also be found in healthy individuals.  ANAs attack the cells of the uterus and the placenta, leading to inflammation which can affect implantation and cause early miscarriage.
    • SLE:  This is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues.  Some symptoms to look out for include: butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose; raised red patches on the skin known as discoid rash; photosensitivity to sunlight resulting in rash; mouth and nose ulcers which are typically painless; arthritis; blood disorders; too much protein in the urine; disorders of the nervous system; heart and lung disorders.
    • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): An autoimmune condition that affects the joints, causing swelling, stiffness and pain.
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis:  Thyroid antibodies can be present and affect a woman's ability to conceive and carry a baby.  Autoimmune thyroiditis can lead to either hypo or hyperthyroidism.  Alongside the thyroid, gluten reactivity needs to be addressed.  Celiac disease (immune reaction to gluten) is closely associated with autoimmunity and can be a compounding component of fertility.  Undiagnosed Celiac disease can lead to severe nutritional deficiencies that can cause infertility, recurrent miscarriage, stillbirths, poor growth of the fetus and unexplained infertility.
  • Natural Killer (NK) Cells:  NK cells are a type of white blood cell that acts as the immune system's first line of defence against infections and life threatening diseases such as cancer.  They are the main type of immune cell found in the uterus.  During pregnancy, they increase in number in order to facilitate the development of the placenta.  However, too much NK cells can be toxic and lead to fetal cell death and miscarriage.

Naturopathic Approach to Recurrent Miscarriages

Autoimmune conditions are just one cause of recurrent miscarriage and infertility.  We are all unique in our health, genetics and lifestyle and, therefore, our health needs to be addressed in this way.  A thorough assessment and treatment is vital to a woman's and man's fertility outcome.  A naturopathic workup would likely include:
  • Thorough current and past health history
  • Food intolerance testing and dietary monitoring
  • Antibody testing
  • Standard blood tests for fertility (thyroid levels, inflammatory markers, hormone levels etc.)
  • Standard and naturopathic physical exams

Naturopathic Treatment Options to Fertility Success

As a naturopathic doctor, I address the physical, emotional and structural issues associated with fertility. To complement diet and lifestyle recommendations, the following are often beneficial when working to optimize fertility:
Everyone's journey to starting a family is different.  Sometimes a little extra support is needed.  In subsequent blogs, I will explain the health benefits of the treatments listed above.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty conceiving, has unexplained infertility or has experienced the devastating loss of losing a baby and would like to book an appointment with Dr. Beata Skorka ND, please call Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at (905) 940-2727. 

Dr. Beata Skorka, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor practising in Ontario.  She has an interest in fertility and is certified in Intravenous Therapy, which she utilizes in practice.