Thursday, April 2, 2020

Past The Tipping Point

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

This current health crisis is affecting our lives in ways that we could have never imagined a month ago. We have the uncertainty surrounding the virus, the economic impact, the self-isolation, the
reality of the death toll around the world and the concern for family and friends, to name a few.

At times like this, it is important to approach the problem from as many perspectives as possible. The guidelines set by Public Health and Ministries of Health are essential and need to be followed. The government's aims to the protect the public and to make decisions that are the best for the population at large. Healthcare practitioners are there to ensure that you have the support and care that you need when you need it.

It is important to recognize that there are a lot of things that you can do as well to support your mental, emotional and physical health. Health crises have a way of reminding us that lifestyle and self-care are  important. They determine our ability to handle something that threatens us. The best you can do for your family and friends right now is to focus on your individual self-care and that of your family and loved ones.

It Is Harder To Be Healthy

Health is a accumulation of your life. Starting with your genetic makeup and your exposures during pregnancy to your present health status. It includes the accidents, injuries, lifestyle choices and decisions that you have made throughout your life and how you have handled them. It is based on the
balance encompassing the food and drink that you have consumed, the experiences and choices that have added positively to the strength of your resiliency and those that have deterred from it.  The body was designed with a tremendous ability to heal and recover, especially in early and mid-life. As you get older, the body's innate functioning is more on maintaining health which is one of the reasons that chronic diseases are diagnosed more so after the age of 60. Remaining healthy throughout life is about making choices - throughout your life - with health in mind.

The impact of any threat on the body is a balancing act. Which is stronger and has more "power"?  The question is whether or not the threat is greater that the a person's resiliency?  Who or what is going to "win"?  The threat can be a stressful situation - like the loss of a job, the death of someone that we love, or a sense of despair.  It can be a diet that is lacking in nutrients, excess of smoking or alcohol, or a chronic lack of sleep. The threat can be exposure to heavy metals or chemicals, a sensitivity to wireless technology or it can be a virus or pathogen that threatens health. Everyone is unique and has their own specific susceptibilities. Some are more sensitive to food, others to environmental toxins and wireless technology, some tend to get more emotionally overwhelmed and others are more impacted by pathogens such as viruses, bacteria or mold.

In this current crisis, it should not surprise anyone that there is so much confusing information. The human factor is too often missing and when included can shed a lot of light. We have seen this same situation repeatedly in the past. Different people respond differently to the same "threat".  If we try to make sense of this virus, any virus, by only considering the virus and not the human factor, it will unlikely never make sense.

Focus On What You Can Control

There are so many factors that affect health. Trying to focus on all of them at the same time is overwhelming. It is important to be aware of those factors that are out of our daily control - unless you have chosen to be an advocate for a specific cause - and to focus on those that you can influence more readily.

Ubiquitous Health Factors are those that are all around us. They are created by manufacturing, technology, climate change and other global issues. The include things such as acid rain; pollution and destruction of the water, air and soil, natural disasters; pathogens; plastic, wireless technology and the additives and chemicals that are put in the food that we eat. It is important to be aware of these and we all need to do our part, but they are not factors that you can have control over in a crisis.

Controllable Health Factors are those healthy habits that you can influence. They are the ones that you can choose to do or not do. From a naturopathic perspective, they are an essential aspect of health. They include the food you choose to eat, your lifestyle habits, sleep hygiene, how you manage your stress; your posture; whether or not you breath properly; your movement and exercise; the time you spend in nature and the limitations you put on your wireless exposure. There are so many ways that you can improve the status of your health and that of your family and loved ones.

The following provides an overview of the main health factors that you can influence on your own.

Nutrition

One of the tenets of naturopathic practice is that health starts with a healthy diet and healthy digestion.

What you eat and your ability to digest your food determines the water and nutrients that your body has to work with. There are numerous biochemical pathways that control how the body functions. Those pathways and the building and maintenance of every structure (bone, muscle, tissues, blood, etc) depends on nutrients.

In my blog, Food and Immune Health I go over the link between food and immunity, highlighting the need to have a whole foods diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and nuts and seeds. The aim is have food from every food group every day.

One of the risks of both stress and self-isolation is the tendency to eat unhealthy foods and to snack more often. I encourage you to focus on diet as a staple for health. Ensure you get adequate water, eat according to your activity level.  If you are less active it is often helpful to eat less so that you don't put on unwanted weight.

Stress can also results in an increase in "comfort" food and drink, such as sugary desserts, pop, alcohol, chips and junk food. It is best to limit these during a time when the focus needs to be on optimizing immune health.

Check out our other blogs on nutrition for more tips:

Sleep

Sleep is essential to health. It is the time when the body heals, repairs and recovers from the stress of the day. Getting adequate sleep is associated with better overall health and vitality. It decreases the rate of aging and improves mental and cognitive function. 

Those with adequate sleep generally have a strong immune system and a stronger immune response. Ideally, at the first sign of not feeling well you want to slow down and allow the body time to heal. Turn off the alarm and let the body sleep as much as it desires. If you struggle with getting good quality sleep, talk to your naturopathic doctor to figure out the best strategy for you.

For more information, check out our blog on Sleep - Top 5 Things to Remember.

Movement

Daily movement is essential to optimal immune health, especially when we are talking about immune and respiratory health. Regular exercise or movement is associated with a decreased risk of respiratory infections and a decrease risk of infections becoming severe. Anyone who has specific health concerns is always best to talk to their naturopathic doctor, but some general guidelines to follow include:
  • Walk. Aim for a twenty minute walk once or twice a day.  If you are in self-isolation, than it is helpful to walk around your house or room a couple of minutes every hour.
  • Stretching. If you want to maintain flexibility throughout your life it is important to stretch on a daily basis.  If you already have some limitations in flexibility than start by stretching while sitting in a chair.
  • Swimming. If you access to pool, swimming is a great exercise and it is one of the best for those people that have joint problems.
  • Releasing stress. Movement is a great way to help release stress. A short burst of activity, such as hitting a tennis ball against a wall, punching bags or kick boxing can be helpful in releasing stress.
The most important thing is to stay active.  For more information, check out our blog on Movement - Top 5 Things to Remember.

Breathing

Breathing is essential to life. It is linked to every function in the body. The ability to take a deep full breath is an indicator of overall respiratory function. There are so many different ways that you can use breath to improve your overall state of health and well being. For example,
  • Cleansing breath.
  • Exaggerated exhalation.
  • Alternate nostril breathing.
I recommend that you take a few minutes to really feel and listen to your breath. Are you breathing deeply?  Holding your breath is very common in times of uncertainty and fear.  If you are holding your breath practice the cleansing breath or the exaggerated exhalation (details on the Breathing blog).  If you are having difficulty sleeping, the alternate nostril breathing can be helpful to settle the mind. Mastering breath work will help improve your physical and mental state of well being.

For more information, check out our blogs on Breathing - Top 5 Things to Remember and Breathe Better With Self Care Techniques.

Stress Management

Stress is not always bad. There is "good" stress which has to do with being busier or having a lot to do.

Stress impacts health negatively when it is intense, recurring or unrelenting, Stress has the greatest impact when your body goes "on hold", when you feel trapped or there is a sense of despair or uncertainty. Your stress management skills determine the impact that stress and traumatic events have on the body.

It is helpful when under times of "bad stress" that you focus on what you can control. For example:

  • Practice breathing exercises every day. When you feel uptight do some exaggerated exhalations or cleansing breaths.
  • Be sure to stay active. If possible, walk outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.
  • Avoid binge watching movies or spending hours on your laptop or computer.
  • Limit how much time you spend listening to the news.  Give you mind a break and focus on something enjoyable or productive.
  • Now would be a good time to read up on mindfulness or meditation.
  • Finish the story!  Don't block the mind from thinking things. Allow the mind some time to plan out what will happen if this current situation continues for another month, or two, or three.  One of the worst things for the mind is spinning on a topic, that is thinking the same thing over and over and never coming to a resolution. It is helpful if you can guide the mind to think through problems.
  • Be productive. Recognize that you can't change the current situation and focus on something productive that you can do.
For more information, check out our blog on The Power of the Mind - Top 5 Things to Remember.

Other blogs that you might find helpful during this time of physical distancing:
  • Copying with Change & Anxiety: Ayurvedic Tips
  • Is Change Causing You Anxiety?
  • Wireless Technology - 5 Safety Tips

When this current crisis is over the question will be "What were you doing during the COVID-19 crisis".  What do you want your answer to be?



Monday, March 30, 2020

Coping with Change & Anxiety: Ayurvedic Tips

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, AAWC 

We are currently living in a time of constant change. With the recent pandemic, it may feel like life has turned upside down for some and for others it can be a scary time of uncertainty. You may be scared about getting sick or worried about finances and job security or you may be concerned about the wellbeing of your loved ones. Whichever the case, fear is a natural response to the unknown - a natural instinct to a perceived threat. While it is normal to experience stress, long term anxiety can be consuming, exhausting and detrimental to your health. It can also spill over into your daily life and relationships.

In this blog, I want to share a few tips from the wisdom of Ayurveda & naturopathic medicine to help you cope during this time and make this an opportunity for positive change and raising consciousness. We won't elaborate on the symptoms and causes of anxiety in this blog, but you can read more in this previous blog Is Change Causing Your Anxiety?.

Stress Response

In times of stress, what is your response? Choose from the below options if any sentence resonates with you:

1. I feel anxious, restless, edgy. My mind is racing and I can't fall asleep.

2. I feel frustrated, irritable and angry. I don't like when things are not under control.


3. I feel defeated, lethargic and unmotivated. I feel like 'giving up' and 'what's the point of doing anything'.


Do you relate to any particular sentence? #1 is primarily a Vata response to stress. These types of people are naturally worriers and feel anxious quickly. They may feel tightness in their chest, have trouble taking deep breaths and feel 'wired and tired'.

#2 is a Pitta response to stress. These types are generally very organised and like things in control. When things get out of control, they may feel frustrated and angry and take it out on the people around them.  They need tools to help them 'cool' down and make room to 'allow'.

#3 is a Kapha response to stress. These dosha types may handle stress the best - at least on the outside. However, their coping mechanism is to shut down and feel defeated. They may stop exercising, doing activities and can get depressed. If you have friends and family like this, you need to support them by keeping them motivated and checking up on them.

When you understand your constitution and your response to stress, it becomes easier to take charge of what you need to do to stay balanced. Here's a link to a brief Ayurvedic Quiz if you want to learn more about vata, pitta, kapha and which dosha may be dominant at this time. Rather than wait and hope for the problem to go away, we can take ownership of our body, mind & emotions to improve our resilience to stress. Below are some of the tools that you can use.

Ayurvedic Tips to Stay Grounded 

Regardless of whether you are anxious in the midst of a pandemic or general life stress, Ayurveda has many tools to support a healthy, balanced body, mind & spirit. There is a lot of information circulating around including health tips, so it is important to pick a few tips that you can do on a regular basis to keep yourself healthy.

Lifestyle: 


With recent changes in lifestyles or routines, you may feel more easily 'thrown off'. Working from home, adjusting to new schedules can be initially chaotic until you find your new pattern. Incorporate these fundamentals into your day to help stay balanced.

  • Set Routine: you may find it helpful to plan a schedule of your day to include work time, exercise, meals, breaks as well as time for self-care (warm bath, reading a book, listening to music, or Ayurvedic self-massage).
  • Sleep: set a goal for bedtime, ideally by 10-11pm and ensure around 7-8 hours of sleep. According to the the Ayurvedic clock, 10pm-2am is the Pitta time of the night. If you stay away during this time (watching tv, reading news etc), you may be more prone to insomnia, anxiety and poorer quality sleep. While most Canadians are sleep-deprived, over-sleeping can be lead to fatigue and lack of motivation.
  • Limit News: while it may be tempting to keep up to date with the latest happenings, news can make you feel worried, upset, anxious about the future. Especially if you are vata dominant, news can have a significant impact on your nervous system. Set a limit as to how much you read and limit to 1-2 times/day, ideally not before bed. 
  • Nature Time: as many people are limiting their commuting and staying more indoors, it is crucial to get fresh air and connect with nature - earth element, which can help balance vata and pitta doshas. Find a nearby park where you can walk safely, maintaining social distancing.

Diet & Nutrition

Food plays a vital role in managing anxiety and supporting you through change. Here are a few Ayurvedic tips:
  • Dosha Diet: the best diet is a diet that is suited to your dosha type. In times of prolonged anxiety, many people will benefit from a vata diet which includes grounding foods. Those who are feeling sluggish or gaining weight will often benefit from a kapha-friendly diet. 
  • Support Agni: essentially, healthy eating is about keeping healthy agni - or digestive fire. By keeping your agni in good shape, you are also able to digest well. Read more in this blog about supporting agni.
  • Fasting: if you find yourself at home and constantly craving food, you may want to consider doing a cleanse or juice fast o reset your system. This needs some planning and guidance from your ND to see what is safe for you. This is especially great for Kapha types who are concerned with gaining weight during social distancing/working from home.

Mental, Emotional, Spiritual Wellness

While lockdowns and efforts to maintain social distancing have their purpose, many people are already experiencing the impacts of reducing social contact. Humans are social beings and when they are restricted, many people start to anxiety, frustration, restlessness and depression. Mental health is critical to holistic wellness. Yoga, the sister science of Ayurveda is a deep science that looks beyond the physical body to support the subtler aspects of life and is an excellent way of building ojas and prana. Below are some resources and tools to help you take charge of your wellness.

  • Breathing: when we feel anxious, we tend to hold our breath. Gaining awareness over your breathing can help you manage anxiety and promote oxygenation and lung capacity. You can try this simple but powerful technique, known as pranayam, which helps promote relaxation: Nadi Shuddhi - alternate nostril breathing
  • Yoga & Meditation: many yoga studios are offering live online yoga classes.  If your gym is closed and you're needing some motivation, this is a great way to improve physical activity while dissolving stress. If you don't already have a favourite yoga studio, you can check out this studio currently offering online classes. You can also check this resource for many free yoga & meditation practices geared towards building health & immunity.

Herbs & Spices

Many herbs, spices and supplements can support your nervous system and immune system, but remember, no two bodies are the same! Herbs and spices are easily accessible, can even be grown at home and add lovely flavour to your food.

  • Tulsi: known as Holy Basil is a very popular Ayurvedic herb used for lung health as well as for stress. It is soothing, calming and very easy to take as a tea. 
  • Brahmi/Bacopa: a therapeutic Ayurvedic herb that supports the brain and nervous function. This is an excellent tonic that reduces cortisol levels and elevates mood.
  • Saffron: this exotic spice can be warmed in a little milk or alternative milk as a bedtime drink with other spices according to your dosha. Saffron has been studied to improve depression and is a great tonic for the nervous system. 

While you may be experiencing anxiety and worry about the future, keep in mind that many people may be experiencing the same. Be patient and understanding with your friends, family members, colleagues and don't be afraid to ask for support. Speak with your naturopathic doctor if your worry or anxiety is getting in the way of your daily activities. There are many ways we can help and provide you with ways to build your resilience to stress - whether it is through counselling, customised herbs or re-evaluating your treatment plan.  Together, we will get through challenging times and come through stronger and more resilient!

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with advanced training in Ayurveda and can help you identify your constitution to guide you on a customized health plan – whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness. Please contact Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.


References: 
Safety and Efficacy of Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) for Treating Mild to Moderate Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32221179



Saturday, March 28, 2020

Food and Immune Health

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

What you eat truly is the foundation of overall health.  But, choosing the ideal diet can be challenging as the "right diet" can vary based on age, health status, food intolerances and other factors.

This current health crisis is reinforcing the need for a healthy diet as the health of your immune system is strongly linked to what you eat and what you don't eat.  When looking at diet from the lens of immune health it can be helpful to increase foods that support immune function and ensure adequate hydration, and to limit foods that cause inflammation or that impede immune function.


The following is a general guide. For recommendations specific to you or your family members it is always best to work with your naturopathic doctor.

General "Rules"

Although there is not one diet that is best for everyone, here are some general "rules" to keep in mind:
  1. Eat primarily to be healthy
  2. Eat from all the food groups
  3. Ensure proper portions. 
  4. Eat regular meals.
  5. 75% whole foods 
To learn more about these general rules, check out our blog Nutrition - Top 5 Things to Remember.

Foods That Support Immune Function

A balanced diet is essential to proper immune function. The following is an overview of the nutrients that are required for the immune system to work properly and the foods that contain them:
  • Vitamin C: blackcurrant, broccoli, citrus fruits, kale, parsley, spinach
  • Vitamin A: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, chicory, dill, dried apricots, egg yolk, kale, liver, parsley, red pepper.
  • Vitamin B6: avocados, walnuts, spinach, nuts and seeds, whole grains
  • Vitamin B12: beef, poultry, fish, dairy, sauerkraut, seaweed
  • Vitamin D: butter, dairy, eggs, liver, sardines, mackerel, oatmeal, oysters, salmon, shitake, sprouts, sweet potatoes, tuna
  • Omega 3 oils: fish such as sardine, mackeral, salmon and tuna, almonds, avocado, beans, chia seeds, linseeds, olive oil, spinach, walnuts
  • Folic Acid: dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruit, dried beans, peas, whole grains.
  • Copper: liver, oysters, cashews, soy beans, dark leafy greens, avocados, kale, linseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pistachios, pine nuts, legumes, dried fruits
  • Zinc: oysters, seafood, pumpkin seeds, beef, chicken, cashews, brazil nuts, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, hazel nuts and whole grains.
Nutrient deficiencies are a global problem.  Research indicates that deficiency in nutrients impairs immune function, contributes to chronic disease and increases the risk of mortality.  Health and longevity is strongly correlated with overall nutritional status.

Foods That Contribute to Inflammation

When the immune system is overwhelmed it creates inflammation. This inflammation can often do more damage than the pathogen or toxin that it is trying to protect the body from.  Avoiding foods that add to the inflammatory process, especially if you have respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath or fatigue, will assist you recovery.  The following strategies will help limit the amount of inflammation due to food:
  • If you have known food intolerances, it is recommended to limit these as much as possible.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pastries, cookies, white rice and other "white" highly processed foods.
  • Avoid trans fats, vegetable oils and foods high in sugar.
  • If you have mucous-related symptoms limit dairy, wheat, yeast and bananas. Fruit is healthy, but it is important to limit your fruit intake to a couple servings a day.

Stay Hydrated

Ensuring regular hydration is an important aspect of immune health.  The following foods can help ensure adequate hydration:
  • Water. Drink about 1/2 your body weight in ounces a day.
  • Herbal teas are a great alternative. There are a number of herbal teas that also support immune and respiratory health.
  • Green drinks and diluted vegetables juices can be beneficial as long as the sugar content is minimized.
For more information, check out our blog on Water - Top 5 Things to Remember.

Foods That Might Weaken Immune Function

There are some foods and drinks that impede immune health. To ensure that your immune system stays strong limit the following foods:
  • Sugar. The consumption of refined glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, pop and high-sugar juices, has been shown to compromise the immune system for three to five hours. The most important thing you can do when you are sick or when you are concerned about your immune system is to stay away from all processed sugar.
Salt.  Avoid high-salt foods such as processed meats, and packaged soups and foods. Salt adds to the inflammatory response and weakens overall immunity.
  • Junk Food. Most people enjoy a bit of junk food every now and then, but it is important to limit it or avoid it completely when working on strengthening overall immune health. Junk food is generally nutrient deficient, high in salt and/or sugar and high in food additives.
Eating healthy is pretty straight forward it you have a lot of variety and ensure that the majority of food that you eat is whole food.

If you would like any guidance on what is best to eat for you or your family, please work with one of our naturopathic doctors.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

COVID-19 Q&A

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

A crisis generally evokes confusion, anxiety and for some fear; and this pandemic is no different. To a large degree, the anxiety is due to the fact that there are so many unknowns - which is understandable as this virus is new.

As a naturopathic doctor, what I find encouraging is that there have been hundreds of research papers  published in the last few months. Doctors and researchers are madly working to understand how to manage COVID-19.  Rest assured that the information we are gathering is helping the medical profession figure out what needs to be done.  I trust the following answers some of your questions:

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 
A: The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath or tiredness. A person might have additional symptoms such as aches and pains, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea, but at least two of the three main symptoms are generally present. 

Q: Who can get COVID-19? 
A: Anyone can get COVID-19, but currently older adults that have hypertension, heart disease, diabetes or lung disease are at a higher risk of developing serious complications. It is important that everyone be diligent and take the proper precautions. 

Q: How is COVID-19 spread? 
A: The virus is believed to be spread primarily by person-to-person through respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough of an infected individual. It can also be transmitted by touching surfaces where infected droplets have recently landed. 

Q: Is the COVID-19 virus airborne?
A: NO! COVID-19 virus is NOT airborne. It is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The respiratory droplets quickly fall to the ground or on a surface. They only stay in the air for a very short period of time. 

Q: How long do the respiratory droplets last on surfaces?
A: Respiratory droplets can last between two to three days on plastic and/or stainless steel.  Keep in mind, the viral-load (concentration) of the droplets decreases quite quickly. Respiratory droplets can appear on other surfaces (e.g. clothing) but they do not last for very long and are not easily transmitted to someone from these surfaces.

Q: Why the 6 Foot Rule?
A: You never know when you may cough or sneeze and the six-foot rule is based on the fact that respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough may travel up to six feet. Social distancing is primarily about protecting you from a cough or sneeze.  Coughing and sneezing into a tissue or into your sleeve is important to contain the spread of respiratory droplets. 


Q: What is Social Distancing? Why is it important? 
A: Social distancing, quarantines and self-isolation are terms in wide use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing involves avoiding crowds and keeping a safe distance between you and others when shopping or going for a walk.  It is a preventative measure through limiting inter-personal contact. Until we understand more about COVID-19, it is important to follow the social distancing guidelines set by your government.

Q: How can I protect myself from COVID-19?
A: The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being directly exposed. Four things to keep in mind:
  1. The most important is to avoid close contact with anyone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  2. Wash your hands frequently especially after coughing or sneezing and being in public places. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands after touching surfaces that others would have commonly touched. 
  3. Practice social distancing. 
  4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Q: If you have symptoms or if you have tested positive for COVID-19, is it important to self-quarantine? 
A: YES.  First and foremost, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 it is important to call your local public health for testing. Anyone who has symptoms or has been tested positive MUST self-quarantine as directed by public health, usually for 14 days.  When self-quarantining it is imperative that you stay home, avoid visitors, and stay at least six-feet away from other people in the household. It is also important to avoid sharing things like towels and utensils and that you use standard hygiene measures. Ask friends and family to do your shopping and drop groceries or other supplies outside your door, in order to limit personal contact. If your symptoms worsen, call public health and they will direct you further.

Q: How long is the COVID-19 incubation period?
A: FIVE days! The time between exposure and showing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus can be 1-14 days. Most commonly it is about 5 days. 

Q: What is flattening the curve? Why is it important?
A: Flattening or slowing the rate of infection helps prevent overloading of local healthcare providers. Social distancing helps to spread out the rate of people with severe symptoms so that the hospitals are able to effectively manage the situation and it gives researchers and other medical professions more time to understand how to manage COVID-19.

Q: Can I get the COVID-19 virus from my pet?
A: NO! There is no evidence that pets can carry the COVID-19 virus. However like any surface that an infected person sneezes or coughs on, infected droplets can be carried on pet fur for a short period of time. Anytime you happen to cough or sneeze on your pet, please wipe their fur down with a damp towel before another family member or another person interacts with them.

Q: Who should wear a facemask?
A: If you are sick wear a facemask when you are around other people and before entering a public place or a healthcare provider's office. A facemask minimizes the chance that a cough or sneeze will affect others. If you are unable to wear a mask, or do not have one, it is important to follow the proper hygiene protocol for a cough or sneeze and to avoid close contact with others.  If you are NOT sick it is only necessary that you wear a facemask if you are caring for someone who is sick. 


Q: Is it helpful to wear gloves?
A: Gloves are necessary for those in the service industry, especially with those involved with food preparation or handling. For the general population, gloves are not necessary.  Gloves, whether they are latex, cloth or winter gloves, can all carry the virus. When you touch a surface that has respiratory droplets from the virus then the virus may be transferred to your gloves. My experience is that people are more likely to touch their face while wearing gloves than they are to touch their face if they are hanging onto a disinfectant wipe or tissue.  Keep in mind, healthcare workers have an increased risk of exposure and wearing gloves is important for them.

Q: What is the overall mortality rate of COVID-19?
A: It is going to take awhile to figure out the actual mortality rate (the number of people who may die if they catch COVID-19).  The World Health Organization (WHO) currently suspects that the mortality rate is around 3.4%. It currently appears higher in some countries (such as Italy), but is also much lower in other countries.  As the testing for COVID-19 has primarily focused on those that have symptoms, there is a chance that the mortality rate will decrease as we learn more about this virus.


Q: How many people who get infected will have significant symptoms?

A: Research currently indicates that about 80% to 90% of those that have the virus will be asymptomatic or will have mild or moderate symptoms. Which means that about 10% to 20% will have concerning symptoms that will require medical intervention or hospitalization. That being said, it is important for everyone to practice proper hygiene and social distancing.

Q: How many people will someone who is sick infect?
A: Reproductive rate is a measurement of how many people an infected person will infect. For example, the reproductive rate for the common flu (Influenza) is one - which means that for each person that is sick they will infect one other person. Recent research is indicating that the reproductive rate for COVID-19 is between 2 and 2.5.  There is speculation that as we learn more about COVID-19 the reproductive rate may actually decrease closer to that of the flu. 

Q: How long is someone who is infected able to infect someone else?
A: It is generally believed that someone who is showing symptoms can affect someone else for about 10 days. The term viral shedding relates to the ability of the virus to move from one part of the body to another (i.e., from your hands to your mouth) and from an infected person to the environment (i.e., from an infected person's hands to a hard surface) where it can affect others.  The current research indicates that it less likely that someone who is symptom-free will affect others with the virus.

Q: What is the difference between COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2?
A: COVID-19 stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019. It is the name of the disease. SARS-CoV-2 stands for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Coronavirus 2 and it is the name of the virus.

Q: What is the source of SARS-CoV-2?
A: Based on the analysis of the virus, the source is from a dead animal. The transfer from animal to human would have occurred at a meat or fish market when humans were interacting with meat - NOT a live animal and NOT from a pet. At this time, the actual animal source has not been found but many are working tirelessly to figure it out. Part of the "unknown" factor for SARS-CoV-2 is that it originated from an animal and hence humans do not have the same natural immunity to this virus.

Q: How can your naturopathic practitioner help?
A: The naturopathic community is here to help you through this pandemic. Check out our blog "A Crash Course on Respiratory Health" The focus of naturopathic practice is to provide:
  • Health Promotion: guidance on a healthy lifestyle
  • Prevention: reinforcing the importance of hygiene and social distancing
  • Supportive Care: providing guidance on how to support your overall health. Currently there are no proven treatments - conventional or naturopathic - for COVID-19.
  • Recovery: helping patients recover and reestablish their health if they have had any symptoms.
Q: What is best to do when home in self-isolation or quarantine for a couple of weeks?
A: Situations like this are a good reminder of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips while in self-isolation:
  • First and foremost, create a routine. Plan out your day. Avoid the tendency to sit around and watch movies or television all day.  
  • Exercise is important. This might be a great time to focus on stretching, walking (even if it is around your house) or other activities you can do at home.
  • Work on a project. Take the time to clean out the garage, paint a room in the house, clean out those closets that you never get to, or other tasks at home.
  • Eat healthy.  This is a time to focus on healthy eating. Avoid filling up on junk food and high starch foods. To help the body stay healthy, eat your fruit and vegetables, adequate protein and healthy starches. 
  • Keep in touch with friends and family. Self-isolation and quarantine can be quite uncomfortable for may people. It is important to reach out to others. 
  • Mindfulness and meditation are very helpful in times of stress.  If you are not familiar with these coping strategies there are a number of apps that you can download and enjoy.
  • Limit the amount of time that you are listening to the news. Think of news, especially "bad news" as a challenging workout for your mind. Like any muscle, it can handle a bit, but it can't handle too much!
By ensuring a holistic approach to this problem, we will get through this pandemic together. As new information and research is available the global health care community will master this infection as it has all others.


 References:


Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Crash Course on Respiratory Health

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

We recognize the distress that the COVID-19 crisis is causing many people.  We do hope that you and your loved ones are safe, healthy and following the advise from public health officials.  Is there reason for concern - Yes.  Is there reason for panic - No.  Often the difference between the two is information and reason.  I hope the information below provides you with both.

There are five main aspects of healthcare to address which includes:
  1. Health Promotion / Healthy Lifestyle
  2. Prevention
  3. Self Isolation / Quarantine Recommendations
  4. Supportive Care
  5. Recovery
To understand what is required for each of these steps we have to look at what we currently know.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has over 325 clinical trials going on with respect to COVID-19.  The results of these studies will help guide every aspect of how this virus is managed. It is also important to keep in mind that our understanding of this virus is growing and changing daily.

What Is The Risk

  • The reason for concern is that the COVID-19 virus has a higher mortality rate than the seasonal flu.  It is also spreading  significantly faster than the seasonal flu. 
  • It is important to keep in mind that ONLY about 6% of people that get COVID-19 experience significant symptoms - which means that 94% of individuals that get the virus will have mild symptoms.
  • Of the 6% that have significant symptoms, 50% are recovering when they receive proper medical treatment.
  • We also know that when someone has severe symptoms it is important that they get oxygen and medical care quickly.






  • According to the current research, the people at greatest risk are those over 70 years of age AND that have compromised immune function, diabetes and/or hypertension or cardiovascular disease.  
  • Children and young people may be carriers, but they do not appear to be overly affected by this virus.
  • Studies have also showing that in pregnant women that are affected with COVID-19, their newborns are not being affected.
  • Research is suggesting that the warmer weather may actually decrease the spread of the virus.


  • How COVID-19 is approached depends on addressing both factors - the virus and its impact to lung function, especially as it relates to oxygen carrying capacity.

    Health Promotion / Healthy Lifestyle

    From a naturopathic perspective the impact to health of any infection depends on two things - the first is susceptibility and the second is exposure.  Health promotion is about adopting a healthy lifestyle which contributes to decreased susceptibility.  The one thing that this current crisis has reminded us is the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle.  The following guidelines may be beneficial in supporting overall health. For specific recommendations it is important to work with your naturopathic practitioner or medically trained health care practitioner.
    • Stay hydrated: Ensure adequate hydration. It is important to drink healthy fluids throughout the day.
    • Clean balanced diet: Limit known food intolerances; ensure balanced nutrition including lean protein, vegetables and whole grains; and limit foods that contribute to mucous (such as excess bread, dairy, yeast and bananas).  Limit processed food and foods high in salt and sugar.
    • Spices: Many warming spices have anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Spices such as garlic, ginger, thyme, oregano and sage are easily added to teas and food dishes. 
    • Sleep: Ensure adequate sleep. When you have symptoms of a cold or flu it is common to require more sleep.
    • Stress Management. Reduce and manage stress.  Immune function and breathing are closely linked to stress. Focusing on stress reduction techniques are always beneficial.
    • Indoor pollutants. Address indoor pollutants such as mold as they can worsen lung related illnesses.
    • Avoid smoking. Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can increase your susceptibility of lung-related illnesses.
    • Exercise: Moderate exercise enhances immune function and lowers the risk of respiratory infections. Intensive exercise can suppress normal immune reactions and is best avoided if unwell.

    Prevention

    Prevention is about decreasing exposure. In the last few weeks we have all had a crash course on hygiene and preventive measures.  According to the CDC, we are still learning about how this specific virus is transmitted.  The main preventative steps (taken partly from the World Naturopathic Federations's Update) include:
    • Greeting Someone: When greeting someone (yes, even children!) is it important to keep distance.  Instead of hugging, kissing or shaking hands, use an elbow bump or acknowledge with a nod or a slight bow. 
    • Hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water. Always wash your hands before preparing food and before eating. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Use your knuckle to touch light switches, elevator buttons, etc.  Open doors with your closed fist or hip - do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door - or use a paper towel or wipe when touching public surfaces.
    • Cough hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, it is better to cough into your shirt sleeve; not your hands and always wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
    • Food hygiene: Avoid sharing water, food, or products (glasses, cutlery, hygiene products) with someone who has a respiratory infection.
    • Clean surfaces: Whether grocery shopping, flying or exposed to something new, clean and disinfect all objects and surfaces that you touch. 
    • Avoidance: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you have a cold or flu stay home to limit your risk of spreading the infection to other and to support the healing process. Avoid large crowds when the risk is high. If you choose to wear a mask, choose a mask that covers both your nose and mouth.


    Self-Isolation / Home Quarantine


    With the aim of containing the virus, governments are increasingly encouraging self-isolation or home quarantine for individuals that have symptoms, have traveled to high risk areas or where the rate of infection is high.  It is important to follow the guidelines of your region.   For information on self-isolation guidelines here is the link from Canadian Ministry of Health.  The focus of this blog is on how to maximize health while at home. 

    First and foremost, if you have symptoms it is important to call your local Public Health authority.  Here is the link with the numbers. 

    If you are at home I encourage you to take it as an opportunity for some self-care for you and your loved ones.  I encourage you to review the health promotion guidelines listed above and the supportive treatment guidelines listed below.

    Supportive Care

    There is no current treatment specifically for COVID-19.  As stated above there are over 325 clinical trials that are in progress.  They include the use of Intravenous Vitamin C, different herbal formulation and other natural therapies. We will let you know the outcome of those trials as they become available.

    Although the large majority of people will have mild symptoms, it is important that anyone with significant symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, strong cough) notify Public Health and follow their guidelines.

    If your symptoms are mild, to accompany the recommendations from Public Health, naturopathic supportive care may include addressing immune and respiratory function, especially as it relates to oxygen carrying capacity. As with any condition it is always best to talk with your naturopathic doctor or health practitioner to determine what is best for you specifically, but some general recommendations include:

    • The importance of food when supporting health can not be overstated.  It is always an important aspect to staying and achieving healthy.  Increase foods high in oxygen and nutrients, which includes fruits and vegetables. Dark green leafy vegetables are a great source of oxygen.  Fruits and vegetables also have the vitamins and minerals needed to support healthy blood formation.  Specific foods that may be helpful include spinach, kale, broccoli, sprouts, berries and citrus fruits, watermelon, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, avocado, fresh fish, onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric.
    • Reducing alcohol, sugar and refined foods would be advised.
    • As this virus affects lung capacity, avoiding foods such as dairy, wheat, yeast, bananas would be beneficial.  If you are aware of any specific foods that cause you mucous or other symptoms, it would be beneficial to avoid them at this time.
    • Stay hydrated.  Water carries oxygen to the cells. Increasing the intake of healthy fluids (water, green drinks, vegetable juices) may be beneficial.
    • Regular exercise.  Take the time to exercise everyday.  Walking is ideal. Focus on exercises that support cardiovascular system.  
    • Spend time outside (if not in isolation). On a nice day, go for a gentle walk outside.  Spending time in nature is beneficial to the immune system, the respiratory system and can help decrease stress.
    • Stay calm.  This too will pass!!  Practice deep breathing, relaxation, meditation and other exercises focused on stress reduction.
    • There is some indication that reducing your exposure to Wifi may also be beneficial in supporting overall health. For further information on wireless technology, check out my blog on Wireless Technology - 5 Safety Tips.

    Other supportive therapies for immune or respiratory health or to assist in managing the stress associated with this crises such as:
    • Nutraceuticals that help support oxygen carrying capacity of the lungs such as Chlorophyll or NAC.
    • Herbs specific for the immune and/or respiratory function such as Cordyceps, Ginkgo biloba, Ashwaganda
    • Vitamins such as Vitamin A, B, C or D
    • Mineral supplementation such as zinc lozengers
    • Tissue salts, essential oils and /or homeopathics may also be beneficial for some individuals

    Recovery

    Ensuring that you recover from any acute infection is always important, and often overlooked.  The steps to recovery include those of a healthy lifestyle and include individualized recommendations outlined in the supportive treatments section above.

    It is always best to work with your Naturopathic Doctor or other trained health care provider to ensure that you fully recover from any acute illness.

    When everything is said and done the best advise is to be diligent, informed and reasonable.  Understand your personal risk.  Take steps to stay healthy.  If you have symptoms act quickly and follow the guidelines in your local area.

    Remember that Canada has a very strong health care system.  It also have a lot of open spaces and access to healthy foods.  As new information becomes available we will share it with you.

    If you have any questions please call to book with one of our Naturopathic Doctors.

    Please remember, if you have symptoms or suspect you have COVID-19, please contact your local Public Health authority.  

    Saturday, February 15, 2020

    Beat Winter Lethargy with Ayurveda

    Have you every wondered why it’s hard to feel energized in the winter? Do you make excuses to avoid the gym or to avoid stepping out?

    There are certain reasons why you might be feeling lethargic and slow in the winter. According to Ayurveda, an ancient system of wellness, the forces and principles found in nature also exist in humans.  For example, when it is cold outside, you feel cold more easily.  If you pay attention to your body, you will notice that you feel different during the various seasons. You might notice that health issues resurface more in one season than another, or you might notice that you feel more energetic in the spring than in the summer.

    Ayurveda outlines three fundamental energies (doshas) that govern the outer environment and influence one’s physical and mental constitution: vata, pitta and kapha. In the winter season, kapha is dominant, characterized with these qualities: cool, slow, heavy, stable and soft. These qualities exist in nature but also within you, influencing your body and mind. You are more likely to feel the qualities of accumulating kapha during the winter which may manifest in different ways such as: difficulty getting up in the morning, low energy, low mood and other concerns.

     Signs of Kapha Excess :

    • Lethargy: Do you have difficulty getting out of bed?
    • Dullness: Do you feel like watching TV all evening?
    • Lack of motivation: Do you make excuses to put off exercise?
    • Cold: Do you need to wear lots of layers?
    • Cravings: Do you crave sweet, salty, oily, creamy or heavy food, or bend towards emotional eating?
    • Weight gain: Do you put on weight more easily in winter?
    • Low mood: Do you feel more down, depressed or sad in winter?
    • Respiratory or sinus issues: Do you have a tendency towards coughs, colds, sinus infections?
    If kapha isn’t addressed, it can accumulate and lead to more serious health concerns. Think of it as a leaking faucet – one drop can go unnoticed, but once the bucket is full, it overflows and spreads. This same analogy happens in the body as well. When the first signs of imbalance are noticed, you need to act on it before it turns into a more serious health issue.

     Tips for Balancing Kapha :

    Winter is the time when you need to play a close check on kapha. The good news is that if you take care of balancing kapha, you can prevent winter lethargy and minimize health concerns such as weight gain, low mood and lack of motivation. To restore balance, kapha management is centered around the qualities of warming, drying and lightening. Read below for more tips. 

    • Eat a kapha balancing diet: To beat winter lethargy, avoid foods that are heavy, cold, damp and hard to digest (deep fried food, dairy) and include warm foods that are easier to digest (soups, broths, grilled veggies). Flavours that are spicy, bitter and astringent can help you feel lighter and more energized in winter. Some examples of spices that you can include in your cooking are: turmeric, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, black pepper, thyme, cloves and cinnamon. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to learn more about a customized diet for you in winter.
    • Stay active: Schedule exercise daily - ideally early in the morning to move the stagnant quality of kapha. If you find yourself making excuses to put it off, join an exercise or yoga class that you can commit to, or make a plan with a friend to go together. Once you get moving, you will feel more flexible, energized and you will feel good about it. If you can get moving outdoors, you will have the added benefit of sunshine to boost your vitamin D levels. 
    • Wear bright colours: Winter colours tend to be dark and heavy (brown, grey, black). Notice how you feel with the clothing you are wearing. Adding bright colours into your wardrobe can help you feel more energized and motivated. How do you feel in yellow, orange or red? If you're hesitant about making a bold change to your wardrobe, try adding a splash of colour such as a scarf, a tie, socks, a hat, etc. 
    • Get motivated: This is a good time of the year to start a new project or hobby to help you get motivated. Find something that you are excited about. This is also a great time of the year to plan for the upcoming months and book appointments. For example, putting off your appointments with excuses such as "it's too cold" or "I'll wait until spring to detox", may be further adding to your lethargy.  If you plan your appointments now, you will feel more committed and motivated to stepping out.
    • Declutter: You might be putting off your cleaning until spring, but winter is a good time to change things. You may want to change furniture around to create more space in your home. This helps cut through the dullness you may be experiencing, and remove old baggage from the past as you start the new year. 

    Wellbeing, according to Ayurveda, is a delicate balance between the body, mind, spirit and the environment. If your constitution is dominant in kapha, try making some changes this winter and you will notice more energy and vitality! A kapha diet and lifestyle should be lively, full of energy and stimulation - this is the time to beat winter lethargy, start exercising, wearing bright colours, adding spices to your food and staying warm.

    If you have tried the above tips and are still struggling with health issues such as low mood, weight gain, lack of motivation, it is best that you work with your practitioner to identify your imbalances and treat them. What you should eat and when you should eat, along with daily routine suggestions and therapies, can all be customized based on your unique constitution. Maintaining balance is essential to feeling healthy and enjoying the winter season!


    Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with advanced training in Ayurveda and can help you identify your constitution to guide you on a customized health plan – whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness. Please contact Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.