Saturday, August 1, 2015

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

by Dr. Jacqueline Cooper, ND

When I sat down to write this blog, my intention was to balance the scales a bit with regard to the over-promoted message to ' protect yourself with sunscreen'.  My issue with this common advice is that it leaves the consumer thinking "as long I slather on a lotion with a decent SPF level, I am protected".  This, however, could not be further from the truth.

The truth is that sun exposure is not inherently bad for you.  Like many factors that influence health, when it come to sun exposure, in order to optimize your health. moderation is the key.  A sunburn is certainly something to be avoided but the health risks associated with vitamin D deficiency from a lack of sun exposure are equally as worrisome.

The second issue I had with sunscreen is the toxicity of chemicals typically used to block or absorb UV rays.  While there are now many safe and natural options on the markets, most people still rely on chemically-based sunscreens.

These were the two points I hoped to educate people on with this blog.  However, as I started researching in preparation, I stumbled upon two other huge issues with the synthetic chemicals traditionally used to keep us 'safe' while having fun in the sun.  First, these chemicals wreak havoc on the coral in our oceans.  While this is devastating from an environmental perspective alone, it also has major consequences for our health as humans - we cannot possibly achieve health while living in a polluted, unhealthy world.  The second problem is that conventional sunscreens only protect the top layer of your skin.

The Sun: An epidemic of underexposure.
Vitamin D is made in the skin to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D. Society at large has become so scared of burning that we now typically deprive our skin of the much needed sun exposure.  Vitamin D has massive effect on a number of different facets of health, including prevention of osteoporosis and the development of certain forms of cancer and autoimmune diseases.
Visit NDHealthfacts for more information about vitamin D.

For help in determining how to optimize your vitamin D levels through sun exposure, read this article by Dr. Mercola.  It has information and links to a calculator that will approximate how much sun exposure you need daily depending on where you live, the time of year and the pigmentation of your skin.  As Dr. Mercola references in the article, regardless of whether you utilize the sun or oral supplementation, it is important to get your vitamin D checked annually to ensure your levels are staying within the optimal range.

Trading one assault on the skin for another.
Most suncreens on the market use synthetic chemicals to block or absorb UV rays.  While they are effective at preventing burns, they happen to be quite toxic.  Toxins in products applied to the skin not only increase the toxic load on the skin but also penetrate deeper into the body contributing to more serious health issues such as: chronic fatigue, mood fluctuations, poor sugar control, hormonal imbalance, infertility and the development of certain cancers.

Our oceans are suffering.
Our health is not the only thing that suffers from the toxic chemicals in sunscreen.  When you choose a natural sunscreen, not only are you taking a step to dramatically improve the health of your skin, you are also helping to keep the oceans clean.  Benzophenone-2 or BP-2 is a common chemical used in sunscreens and personal care products since the 1960's to provide consumers with UV protection.  However, it is known to disrupt hormones.  Scientists have discovered that it is damaging ocean ecosystems by killing off young coral as well as causing mutations in more established coral, including a loss of colour.  Sunscreen Chemical Threatens Coral Reefs by National Ocean Service is an article about the role the synthetic chemicals used in typical sunscreens play in the the damage to coral reefs.  Currently most water treatment plants do not take measures to mitigate the damage of this chemical, therefore, educating consumers on product selection is the most effective action to preventing further damage.

SPF is not enough.
Most people gauge a sunscreen's ability to provide protection based on its SPF.  While that gives the consumer an idea of the lotion's ability to block UVB (the rays that are responsible for causing a burn), it does not speak to the ability of blocking UVA rays.  UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin where they inflict damage in three ways:
  • They damage DNA by creating a pro-oxidant environment.  Anti-oxidants like Zinc, Selenium and Vitamins A, C and E are protective nutrients that promote healthy skin by decreasing free radicals caused by overexposure to UVA rays.
  • They disable the skin's natural defense system by inhibiting it's ability to produce melanin (the protective pigment that results in a tan).
  • They activate progerin, a protein that is associated with aging.  Progerin inhibits the production of collagen, which results in the development of wrinkles and overall thinning of the skin.
Another benefit to choosing a sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as its active agent is that, besides being the least toxic agent, zinc oxide also provides comprehensive protection by effectively blocking both UVA and UVB rays.

There are plenty of sunscreens on the market now that utilize zinc oxide.  To find a product that fits your needs check out the Environmental Working Group's Guide to Sunscreens.

Choosing the Right Personal Care Products

by Dr. Jacqueline Cooper, ND

Choosing the right personal care products can certainly help you look your best, but did you know that they can help you feel your best as well?

I talk to patients a lot about the fact one of our skin’s functions is to eliminate toxins and waste from the body via sweat or sebum (oil). Another function that perhaps receives less focus is the skin’s ability to act as a delivery system of nutrients into the body. We are all familiar with transdermal patches that deliver medicine (nicotine patches, certain forms of birth control). Few people, however, tend to think about how nutritive and nourishing their skin products are for their body. Choosing personal care products that meet your skin and body’s nutritive needs can make a hugely positive impact on your health.

On the flip side, there are numerous health consequences of choosing chemical based products instead of natural nutritive ones. I will often tell patients, “if you can’t eat it, then you shouldn’t be putting it on your skin.”  Research has clearly shown that even in minuscule doses, environmental chemicals can wreak havoc on our hormones and nervous system. In Canada, the personal care industry is largely unregulated and, as a result, conventional products found on most store shelves are ridden with toxins. Some of these chemicals are suspected or known to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) and yet manufacturers continue to use them.

The lack of regulations means it is up to the consumer to self-educate and select products that are not harmful to their health. One of the challenges in doing this is that it can be tough to decipher between clever advertising messages and legitimate information. I hope this blog helps bring some clarity to the issues around personal care products, and assists you in going beyond simply avoiding chemicals and instead, finding products that are genuinely nourishing. 

When shopping for personal care products there are three questions to ask yourself when deciding if a product is right for you.

1. Does this product contain toxic chemicals that pose a threat to my health?
Take a look at the ingredient list. If you see a long list of items, none of which are recognizable, it’s a pretty good indication you should probably put the product back on the shelf. A list of natural ingredients is much more promising, but does not guarantee that it’s free from toxins. Unfortunately, the personal care industry in North America is barely regulated, making it tricky for consumers to know for sure what they are getting. There are a few ways that companies hide toxins. One is in fragrances. Fragrances are considered trade secrets, so companies do not have to disclose their contents. Fragrances are generally highly toxic, so it is a good idea to avoid anything with ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ listed. Another sneaky way chemicals end up in products without being listed as an ingredient is as preservatives in extracts. For example, the ingredient list might say ‘Mandarin Extract’, but what they are not telling you is that there are parabens used as preservatives to stabilize that extract before it gets added to the product.

So what is a concerned consumer to do?
Ultimately, ask questions. Either consult with your ND or a trusted aesthetician that specializes in natural skin care. You can also email or call the company directly. Ask them how they extract ingredients (with alcohol, which is the safe method; or with chemicals, which can leave chemicals in the final product that goes to market).

2.  Is this product rich in nutrients?
When establishing an optimal skincare regimen, it should mirror the tenets of a healthy diet. You want your personal careproducts to be highly nutritious, have lots of variety, and you want to change what you use seasonally. Most people don’t typically think of their skin care products as nutritious, but they should. If you want your skin to look good, you need to give it the raw materials it requires. If you want to increase your collagen, it’s important to ensure your skin has sufficient vitamin C and iron, two important nutrients required for its production. You are not likely to see iron listed as an ingredient in many skin care products, but you can find products that use nettle or kale extract two plant sources rich in iron.

Eating healthy and staying well hydrated are both absolute musts for maintaining health skin, but keep in mind there are a number of organ systems competing for those essential nutrients. Priority will always go to the vital organ systems such as the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, etc. So, to ensure your skin has the nutrients it needs, it is important to use products that are rich in vitamins and minerals.

It is also important to make changes in which products you use over time. In the winter you will naturally need to select products that are more hydrating, while in the summer months products that contain zinc and other anti-oxidants are important for mitigating sun exposure.

3. Do the nutrients in this product meet my skin’s therapeutic needs?
Everyone’s skin requires hydration and nutrients, particularly anti-oxidants to help mitigate free radicals that form from chemical exposure and excessive time spent in the sun. However, each person’s skin has unique needs. Understanding your skin symptoms and the root causes behind them is necessary for selecting products that will deliver maximal effects. For example, two people can both have hyper-pigmentation (darker patches), but for one person it may be due to hormonal imbalance while for the other it is more of a toxicity issue. While their skin problem may appear the same, these two people require different products in order to correct their respective issues.

Starting from scratch?
If you are just starting to pay attention to natural personal care products, the idea of doing a complete overhaul can feel overwhelming. Here are some practical tips for where to start.
  Start by lining up the products you use on a regular basis. Assess how toxic each one is by comparing it with the chemicals on David Suzuki’s Dirty Dozen list. If it has any of the top 12 worst offenders, you should consider throwing it out right away. If it has three or more ‘Dirty Dozen’ chemicals, definitely throw it out!
  Once you have determined which products are the most/least toxic, one of the main priorities should be replacing the products you use most frequently. For example, the nail polish you use may be far more toxic than your moisturizer, but if you use your moisturizer daily and only paint your nails occasionally then purchasing a clean moisturizer is the greater priority.
  Another consideration is whether the product is rinsed off vs one that penetrates the skin - i.e. shampoos vs moisturizers. It is more important to replace the penetrating products first. There are a few exceptions to this rule.

  1. If breast cancer runs in your family, or is a current health concern, you absolutely must eliminate all products that contain parabens. Look for any ingredient that ends with -paraben, i.e. methylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben, etc.
  2. If hair loss is a concern, it is important to use natural shampoos and conditioners that promote the health of your hair, as opposed to increasing the toxic burden of the scalp. Sodium lauryl sulfate (the ingredient that causes shampoos to suds up) erodes the hair follicles. Most people struggle to adjust to natural shampoos because they miss the ‘sudsing’ feeling of conventional shampoos, but the chemicals that create this effect are incredibly damaging to your hair follicles. A tip for using natural shampoos - use less and add a little bit of water as you massage them into the scalp. Unlike conventional chemically based brands, most do not contain any water and thus are highly concentrated. Often people complain that natural shampoos leave their hair feeling greasy, when in fact it is residue from using an excessive amount of product.
  3. Microbeads are common in many conventional exfoliants. These microbeads are made of plastic and can not only damage your skin, but they are horrendous for the environment. Because they are so small they slip through filtration at water treatment plants and make their way to the ocean where they accumulate and permanently pollute the water since they are not biodegradeable. See some images of massive plastic accumulation in the oceans by clicking here. 
  Coconut oil is a good multipurpose item to stock in your bathroom as you start to make the switch to clean natural personal care products. It can be combined with essential oils and used as a deodorant, or simply used on its own as a makeup remover, a moisturizer (for both body and face), a leave in conditioning treatment for hair, a vaginal lubricant, as well as being used for a form of oral care called oil pulling (click here for Dr. Mercola’s instructional video and explanation of its benefits).

I hope after reading this blog you look at your personal care products with new respect, or perhaps healthy suspicion. Optimizing your health, means making your beauty regimen part of your healthcare plan. While this is important for everyone, it is particularly important for anyone with a skin concern. If you are unsure of your skin’s needs are and what nutrients would serve it best book a visit with a naturopathic doctor to discuss what choices are most therapeutic for you.

If you live in the Markham Unionville area and would like to have a comprehensive healthcare plan that includes optimizing your personal care regimen, please contact the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment or email me directly at, if you would like additional information.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Benzene Exposure in Your Car

There is an email going about concerning the impact of Benzene exposure in cars when the windows are rolled up and temperature outside is high.  We would like to shed some light on the topic.

The email is as follows:
"Do NOT turn on A/C as soon as you enter the car. Open the windows after you enter your car and then after a couple of minutes, turn on the AC . Here's why:  According to research, the car's dashboard, seats, a/c ducts, in fact ALL of the plastic objects in your vehicle, emit Benzene, a Cancer causing toxin.  A BIG CARCINOGEN.  Take the time to observe the smell of heated plastic in your car when you open it, and BEFORE you start it up.

In addition to causing cancer, Benzene poisons your bones, causes anemia and reduces white blood cells. Prolonged exposure can cause Leukemia and increases the risk of some cancers.  It can also cause miscarriages in pregnant women. The "acceptable" Benzene level indoors is: 50 mg per sq.ft.

A car parked indoors, with windows closed, will contain 400-800 mg of Benzene - 8 times the acceptable level.If parked outdoors in the sun, at a temperature above 60 degrees F, the Benzene level goes up to 2000-4000 mg, 40 times the acceptable level.

People who get into the car, keeping the windows closed, will eventually inhale excessive amounts of the BENZENE toxin. Benzene is a toxin that affects your kidneys and liver. What's worse, it is extremely difficult for your body to expel this toxic stuff.  So friends, please open the windows and doors of your car - give it some time for the interior to air out – (dispel the deadly stuff) - before you enter the vehicle."

Like most things, there is a bit of truth and bit of fiction to the statements.
  • Benzene is carcinogenic.  Exposure to benzene has been linked to some types of cancers, like leukemia.
  • The plastic in cars does contain benzene - as well as a number of other toxic environmental chemicals.
  • The link between benzene exposure and cancer has only been done in those people with direct occupational exposure, such as chemical, shoe making and oil refinery jobs.  It has not been directly or adequately researched with respect to automobile exposure.
  • We are exposed to low levels of benzene from many sources - automobile exhaust; vapors from glues, paints and furniture wax and indoor air especially in new buildings.
Bottom line . . . 
  • It is generally better to ventilate a car when you first get in, if just to decrease the inside temperature and make it more comfortable.
  • The more time you spend in your car, the more you would benefit from paying attention to the materials in your car and the car's environment.
  • We are likely going to be exposed to many emails and messages about our toxic environment and it's impact to health.  It is true, our environment -- all aspects of our environment - are more toxic than they used to be.  The more you pay attention to those things that you are exposed to the most, the better for your health.

Additional information on Benzene : 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Proclamation of the Naturopathy Act 2007

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

As of July 1st, 2015, naturopathic medicine will now be regulated under the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) which is the umbrella legislation that governs all regulated health professions in Ontario.

The History

Naturopathic medicine has been regulated under the Drugless Practitioner's Act since 1925. The scope of practice for Ontario naturopathic doctors has steadily increased since 1925 and includes gynecological exams, rectal exams, naturopathic manipulation, acupuncture, intravenous therapy, taking blood samples and communicating a naturopathic diagnosis. The Drugless Practitioner's Act was an antiquated Act that did not provide the same degree of regulatory structure as other regulated health professions and restricted the scope of practice. In order for naturopathic doctors to have the level of regulation commensurate with other regulated health professions in Ontario the profession had to move under the RHPA.

In 2007 the Naturopathy Act was passed and the decision to move naturopathic doctors under the RHPA was confirmed. At the time that the Naturopathy Act was passed, naturopathic doctors were informed that they would  maintain their current scope of practice.

Current Status

Proclamation has taken a number of years. But, we are pleased to announce that naturopathic doctors in Ontario have, for the most part, maintained their full scope of practice. Click here for the link to the College of Naturopaths of Ontario (CONO) to access the list of the controlled acts.

One of the positive things that will happen under the RHPA is that the College of Naturopaths of Ontario (CONO) will be able to ensure that anyone who uses the title naturopath or naturopathic doctor has received the training that they require. The terms naturopath, naturopathic doctor, ND and others are now officially protected titles.

There are some changes in the way that naturopathic doctors will have to practice. Some of these changes, we hope will be short term. The changes include:

Laboratory Testing
  • Taking of blood samples: Although naturopathic doctors have been authorized the act of taking blood samples according to the Laboratory and Specimen Collection Centre Licensing Act, they are currently not allowed to take blood samples that have to be sent to a lab for analysis as an inspection program has not yet been developed and approved and the access for standard medical blood testing has not been written into the Controlled Act. The Controlled Act, currently, only allows for point-of-care blood samples for seven laboratory tests that are assessed in-office.  For standard medical blood test naturopathic doctors will, for the time being, have to provide patients with a requisition form and have patients visit an Ontario laboratory facility for the blood draw. Results will still be sent directly to their naturopathic doctor. Although the blood will be drawn at an Ontario laboratory facility, the blood work will not be covered by OHIP.  
  • Range of laboratory tests: Prior to proclamation, naturopathic doctors were able to order any laboratory test. During the consultative process a list has been created which defines what laboratory tests naturopathic doctors are able to order. Generally speaking, the list is fairly comprehensive and includes 194 laboratory tests, but there are some common laboratory tests or test panels that did not make it to the approved list. Click here for the list of approved laboratory tests, or talk to your naturopathic doctor directly. The OAND and the naturopathic profession will continue to work with the CONO and the MOHLTC to seek inclusion of the remaining laboratory tests that are required.
  • Handling of external laboratory tests: Thankfully, naturopathic doctors maintained access to a number of external laboratory tests, but similar to blood testing, the handling of external laboratory testing, such as saliva testing, urine testing for environmental toxins, urinary organic acid testing, will be handled differently than it is now. The process is not completely worked out, but it most likely will involve your naturopathic doctor providing patients with a collection test kit and having them return the kit to an Ontario laboratory facility for shipment to the external lab. Your naturopathic doctor will be able to clarify the new process and any change to fees when they provide you with the test kit.
Prescription Rights and Intravenous Therapy (IVIT)
Prior to proclamation only those naturopathic doctors that were IVIT certified were able to prescribe a select list of drugs and substances as part of their IVIT treatment. The following is the update on prescription rights and IVIT therapy.
  • List of IVIT substances: Most of the substances that naturopathic doctors have been using for intravenous therapy (IVIT) are included on the prescribed list, yet there are a few that have been removed at this time. The OAND and naturopathic profession will continue to work with CONO and the MOHLTC to add back the substances that have been omitted.
  • IVIT treatments: Under the new regulations that requirements for IVIT practitioners are much stricter and ensure optimal patient care. Any naturopathic doctor that meets the new standards and that passes the prescribing course will be able to continue to offer patients IVIT treatments.
  • Prescription rights for non-IVIT naturopathic doctors: The controlled act of prescribing primarily relates to substances that are used in IVIT treatments, but under the new RHPA regulations there are a few substances that non-IVIT naturopathic doctors will have the ability to prescribe once they successfully complete a prescribing course.  The substances that have been added include bio-identical hormones estrogen and progesterone and thyroid hormone, as well as the ability to prescribe high doses of Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin K and Folic acid.  

Next Steps

There are a lot of positives about the move to the RHPA, but there will be some challenges during the transitional period.  Generally speaking, patients that are working with naturopathic doctors will primarily experience changes with respect to the handling and access to laboratory testing.

If you have any questions about these regulatory changes, I encourage you to visit the CONO website at:, the website of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors at or talk directly to your naturopathic doctor.

This is an exciting time for the naturopathic profession.  These regulatory changes will ensure greater patient safety, increased clarification as to the scope of naturopathic doctors and will increase the opportunity for intra-professional collaboration and support.

It is a great time to work with a naturopathic doctor to optimize your health.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Sprains & Strains

by Dr. Jacqueline Cooper, ND

For many people, injury or pain management involves some combination of pharmaceutical pain killers, topical applications of ice and modified or minimized movement. The inherent problem with this approach is that it does not address the underlying cause of the pain, and, in many cases, can aggravate the issue in the long run.

Seasonally, this is an important time to give thought to your injury/pain management strategies. The reason being, for many people the spring/summer season brings with it greater involvement in activities after a sedentary winter. Golf, tennis and gardening are all popular activities that commonly result in injuries to the upper limbs.
For some tips on how to best manage pain resulting from acute or chronic injuries, read the tips below.

Avoid taking pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories

Inflammation is part of the healing process and it's important not to suppress it. Taking pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories may decrease pain, swelling and improve range of motion. However, it hinders the body's ability to fully recover. Recent research suggests that the use of anti-inflammatories increases the likelihood of an injury reoccurring at an affected joint, which is left weakened due to incomplete healing. As an alternative, there are many supplements and homeopathic remedies that will optimize the inflammatory process. A more efficient inflammatory response results in a quicker more complete healing process. Bromelain, glucosamine, MSM, turmeric and vitamin C,  are examples of supplements that work synergistically to modulate inflammation and facilitate healing. Arnica is a great homeopathic for acute injuries. The homeopathic Rhus-tox is ideal for acute or chronic injuries that feel better with motion and are worse after resting. Conversely, Bryonia is indicated when symptoms are aggravated by even the slightest motion. 

Use Ice and Heat Appropriately

When ice or heat are bested used depends on the time frame of when the injury occurred. Applying ice is only therapeutic for the first 48 hours after an injury occurs. After 48 hours you want to start alternating ice with heat. This helps by encouraging blood flow to the injured area. 

When pain becomes chronic (lasting more than 6 weeks), you should generally only use heat. Using ice after 6 weeks may feel good but it is not therapeutic. In fact, it can worsen musculoskeletal issues by causing muscles to contract and become tighter. It is this contraction (hypertonicity) of muscles that creates "knots". When muscles are chronically hypertonic (tight), they can compromise structure by pulling the bones out of alignment. When this happens, it can further worsen the stress on the joint, thereby increasing pain and causing one to compensate with other muscle groups (which can then go on to develop issues as a result).

Take Regular Alkaline Baths

Taking alkaline baths regularly, particularly following physical activity, helps keep joints healthy and minimizes pain in a number of ways. Alkaline baths are similar to epsom salt baths in that they help the muscles relax.  However, alkaline baths have additional therapeutic effects that epsom salts do not. Alkaline baths also speed muscle recovery by increasing the body's ability to process lactic acid and also help lower the body's toxic load by facilitating elimination through the skin which is important for healing and prevention of future injuries. 

For more about the benefits of alkaline bathing and tips on how to incorporate it into your regimen, read my blog 'Alkaline Hydrotherapy - Cultivating Health From the Inside Out'.

Incorporate Movement into Your Daily Routine
Incorporate movements into your daily routine. There is a fine line between resting an over used joint and limiting movement to such a degree that it impedes recovery. Every joint in the body has an ideal range of motion. The goal of movement should be to preserve optimal, pain free range of motion for all joints. 

Many people focus on strength building when they should be prioritizing flexibility, balance and maintaining or achieving optimal range of motion. Doing strengthening exercises without having optimal range of motion can actually worsen the issue over time. Maintaining good posture while sitting or during activity is another imperative component of healthy movement. For more on healthy movement, read Dr. Iva Lloyd's blog - Top 5 Things to Remember about Movement.  

Seek Professional Health When Needed

Some musculoskeletal issues will resolve with time and the diligent application of the above-mentioned factors. However, when healing doesn't occur as planned treatments such as massage, acupuncture and light therapies can be exceptionally helpful in accelerating the healing process. 

One of the treatments that I have found most effective in treating injuries of the joints is the MILTAPOD. This is a device that our clinic brought in from France. It combines the therapeutic effects of magnet, LED light therapy, with infrared waves. Regardless of the type of treatment chosen, best results are typically seen when clustering a number of treatments in close proximity to one another as opposed to several done sporadically over a longer duration of time. This helps the body to build momentum with respect to healing. 

If you have acute or chronic pain and are interested in receiving treatment or learning more about the options available to you, please do not hesitate to email me at

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Eliminating Toxins - Top 5 Things to Remember

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, BScH, BCPP, ND

In its most basic form, the body is like a bucket. The "bucket" stays healthy when it can sort through whatever is put in and keep what it needs and eliminate what it doesn't. Generally speaking, there are really only two problems that affect health. One- you don't get what you need to be healthy. That is, you are lacking nutrients, clear air, nurture and other essentials to health. Or two- you cannot or choose not to eliminate what you don't need.

The ability to eliminate toxins is a reflection of the body's ability to sort through what it needs and what it doesn't-to keep anything that is essential to health and to excrete what is harmful or unnecessary. The better you are at living a clean life and being an efficient eliminator, the better.

The primary routes of elimination in the body include:

Secondary routes of elimination include nasal discharge, coughing, ear wax, tears, hair, vaginal secretions, phlegm, mucous or blood in the stool, gas or flatulence and sneezing. 

Eliminating waste and toxins is important in order to prevent chronic disease, to aid in the treatment of acute diseases, to support organ function and to decrease aging and the slowing down of metabolic processes.

Proper daily hygiene is an important habit to support the body's ability to eliminate toxins.

Factors that affect an individual's ability to eliminate toxins include:

  • Water is the primary carrier for all toxins. Bowel movements, urine, sweating, menses and even breath require water. If a person is dehydrated, their ability to eliminate toxins is greatly reduced. 
  • Breathing is one of the innate ways that the body eliminates the waste products of cellular metabolism, including carbon dioxide. Learning how to breath properly and efficiently aids the body in eliminating and reducing phlegm, nasal mucous and will help to protect the body from inhaling environmental toxins found in the air.
  • Movement helps to eliminate toxins. Regular movement is associated with better bowel movements and with circulation. When an individual is too sedentary, toxins or waste products are more likely to "sit" in fat, lymphatic tissue, muscles and organs.
  • Lifestyle determines your exposure to toxins. Smoking, alcohol and drugs add to the toxic burden of the body and can consume a lot of energy and nutrients as the body tries to negate their toxic effects. Many people have jobs that expose them to toxins, such as mining, construction, certain types of manufacturing, farming and others. Where you live also determines your toxic exposure. Living in the country with a lot of trees and clean air is less toxic than if you live in a densely populated city. The important thing is to understand what your exposure is, and to work with your naturopathic doctor to determine how to support your body's ability to eliminate the toxins.
  • Mood and emotions impact health. We are all going to have good days and bad days.  Having negative emotions or periods of stress primarily affect health when we hold them in. The important thing is to learn how to express emotions and how to eliminate holding onto negative situations.
  • The environment that you live in greatly affects both your toxic exposure and your ability to eliminate toxins. Spending time in nature is beneficial and helps the body to eliminate toxins. Spending a lot of time indoors or exposed to urban life can increase your exposure to toxins. Taking measures to minimize exposure in your direct environment is a beneficial way to decrease your toxic burden.
  • Personal care products, such as cosmetics, perfumes, soaps etc. often contain synthetic chemicals which can be toxic to the body. These toxins accumulate over time and put stress on the body. Choose natural, chemical free personal care products as a way of decreasing your exposure to toxins and ensuring that your skin is free to work as an organ of elimination.
  • Drugs, such as prescription medications, influence the body's ability to excrete toxins and they, themselves, are often toxic to the body. Most drugs put added stress on the liver and the kidneys, two of the key organs for filtering out toxins in the body.
  • Supplements are often beneficial in assisting the body in eliminating toxins. Unfortunately, many supplements are designed to circulate toxins within the body.  To determine what supplements you require to actually support the elimination of toxins, work with your naturopathic doctor to find what supplements are best for you.

The Top 5 Things to Remember With Respect to Eliminating Toxins

1. Ensure daily bowel movements

Bowel movements are a major route that the body uses to eliminate toxins. As food is ingested, it passes through the digestive tract and is continually broken down. Ideally, the nutrients that are required for health are absorbed while anything that is not essential is eliminated through the stool. The elimination of toxins and wastes protects the body from accumulating or storing the toxins.

Ideally you want as many bowel movements as you have meals. Aim for at least two bowel movements a day. A normal bowel movement should be shaped like a banana, not too hard, not too soft.  Your bowel movements will fluctuate with your diet.  The aim is to achieve a healthy diet that supports normal and regular bowel movements. An active mind, dehydration and prescription medications are common causes, outside of diet, that affect bowel movements. If these factors are a concern for you, work with your naturopathic doctor to determine a healthy solution.

2. Sweating is good for you.

Sweating is a very efficient way to rid the body of toxins that are stored in adipose or fat tissue. As most environmental toxins are stored in fat, sweating is something that you want to support. Sweating is stimulated by exercise, fever, warm temperatures and saunas or steam rooms. Encouraging the body to sweat is a great way to achieve healthy skin.

During perimenopause it is common for women to have hot flashes or night sweats. As one route of eliminating toxins is shut down, i.e., menses, the skin will often act as the overflow route. Similarly, if your kidneys, liver, lung or digestion system are taxed or stressed, you will often find that the body reacts with skin lesions or itchiness on the skin. The skin is the largest organ of detoxification. Encouraging sweating, taking Alkabaths, doing hydrotherapy, doing saunas or steam baths are all beneficial at helping the skin support overall health.

3. Express Your Emotions.

Emotions themselves are neither healthy nor unhealthy. Healthy emotions are those that are felt and expressed. Unhealthy emotions are those that are held in or suppressed. The expression of true emotions and organic feelings through voice allows the body the opportunity to share experiences and to release anything that is "toxic".

Expressing emotions does not always mean talking to (or yelling at) the person that you have an emotion about. Expressing emotions can be done by through breathing, writing, painting or other forms of art, physical activity and emotional release activities. A cleansing breath can be effective in releasing the tension associated with frustration or anxiety. Learning to talk out loud, when you are alone is quite effective. For your health, the person that you have emotions about doesn't have to be in front of you when you express. For your emotions to have less of an impact on your health, you just need to focus on releasing them.

Using voice as a route of elimination is often forgotten when health professionals are listing the routes of elimination for the body. My experience is that emotions are one of the key toxins that people hold on to. Holding onto emotions can subsequently result on holding onto other toxins, resulting in constipation, urinary urgency or increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), chronic cough and other conditions. Working with a health practitioner who can assist you in finding effective ways of releasing your stored up emotions is an essential aspect of overall health.

4. Eliminate Your Exposure to Toxins

In today's society one of the main concerns is the amount of toxins to which we are exposed. There are toxins in food (herbicides, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, food colouringsadditives, genetically modified foods, etc), environmental toxins (heavy metals, chemicals, EMF radiation, polluted water and air, etc), toxins in personal care products (thousands of chemicals, preservatives, fragrances,etc), and then there are toxins or waste products that the body produces through its metabolic and biochemical processes.

Neutralizing, balancing and eliminating toxins requires a lot of nutrients and energy. Many people today are exhausted simply because their body is overwhelmed with dealing with all their toxins. In order to achieve optimal health and to prevent chronic diseases or cancer, the best thing you can do is to eliminate your exposure to toxins as much as possible.

5. Look, Listen and Investigate

The body is designed to naturally release toxins. Symptoms are a way that the body gets your attention.  Paying attention to how your body talks to you is your best strategy. If you are constipated, have skin rashes or lesions, a chronic cough, nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, chronic fatigue or a chronic disease, then you are best to work with a naturopathic doctor to figure out the cause of these symptoms.

On an acute basis, look for the cause of periodic symptoms. The acne, cough, itchy skin or constipation that wasn't there today, but has now shown up, is probably a reflection of what you ate yesterday. Any symptom that you have periodically is going to be in response to something that overwhelmed the body. Mentally go through a checklist - what was different in what you ate, what you put on your skin, your activity level, your stress, your environment - to help determine what your body is trying to tell you.

 Unfortunately, it is not possible to live a life that is completely clean of toxins. Achieving and maintaining health involves always supporting the body's ability to eliminate toxins on an ongoing basis.

Naturopathic doctors excel at assessing and supporting the elimination of toxins in the body. In our clinic, all of our practitioners focus on this aspect of health.  If you have any questions, please give us a call.

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:

January - Water
February - Breathing
March - Movement
April - Sleep
May - Healthy Eating
June - Elimination of Toxins
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 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.

If you have any questions about nutrition that you would like us to address, please contact us at 

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.