Saturday, February 25, 2017

                                 Paediatric Pillars of Health:      SLEEP / Nutrition / Movement

Are your children sleeping their way to Optimal or Sub-Optimal Health?

I strongly believe that good quality sleep is the most important pillar of health for adults and especially for our growing children. Sleep is a biological necessity. We need to sleep to recover from the physical and mental fatigue accumulated during the day. Without proper sleep, the body is simply unable to maintain homeostasis, regenerate, and rejuvenate. In fact, sleep may be one of the most important factors in the achievement of peak performance, optimum functioning, quality of life, and ultimate success.

Our Sleep Deprived Children
"As many as 40% of [Canadian] children aren't getting enough sleep, which is not only impairing their ability to function properly, it's hurting their ability to learn.” Dr. Reut Gruber of Montreal's Douglas Mental Health University Institute

According to a 2011 report from the World Association of Sleep: Sleep problems (including insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and sleep deprivation) affect up to 45% of the world’s population. Adults and children are struggling to cope with "an epidemic" of sleep disorders.

Dr. David F. Finges from Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has found that a few nights of sleep deprivation leads to reduced brain activity in regions of the brain that control critical thinking and behavioral function including:
Perceptual-motor coordination, consciousness, emotion, physical homeostasis, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive function, personality, planning complex behaviour, decision making, social behaviour, and working memory.

Are Your Children Getting the Sleep They Need?

Babies & Toddlers:     Need 12 to 14hrs        Ideal Bedtime 7-7:30pm
School-Aged:               Need 10 to 12hrs        Ideal Bedtime 7:30-8pm
Teens:                           Need 8.5 to 9.5hrs      Later Bedtime due to late Melatonin release
Canadian Pediatric Society

What Happens to Children When They Don't Sleep?
       Hyperactivity, short attention span
       Increased desire for sugar
       Irritability, anxiety, pessimism, paranoia
       Impaired moral judgement
       Difficulty finishing tasks
       Falling asleep in boring situations ie. short car trips, during class
       Impaired short-term memory
       Weakened immunity
       Impaired growth

What's Happening When We Sleep?
Research has demonstrated that during sleep, the brain makes more distant neural associations that don’t occur in wakefulness. These neural associations lead to enhanced aspects of creativity, problem solving, decision making, learning, memory consolidation, and insight.

In addition to allowing the brain to process, integrate, and understand new information learned in the daytime, sleep is when our cells grow and are renewed, immune function is enhanced and detoxification takes place.

Getting A Good Night Sleep
A good night sleep is highly dependent on the quality of our day. The better and healthier the day, the better and healthier the sleep. “Daytime sleep essentials” include: 
Starting the day with a protein-rich breakfast, eating mostly clean, whole foods and ensuring lots of water and movement/exercise throughout the day.

A good night sleep is also highly dependent on our bedtime routines. Known as sleep hygiene or night time sleep routine, what our kids do or don’t do in the evening has a serious impact on their sleep. Ideally, bedtime is at the same time every night. If some nights have to be later due to activities, it is important to make up for it the next night. "Night time sleep essentials" include:
At least 1 hour before bed, all screens/blue light electronics are shut down and there’s a “down time” period with a book, bath or music. Bedrooms are best kept completely dark (no night lights on all night please), as clutter-free as possible and not too warm (18 degrees cel.).

Additional Support
For some children, daytime and night time sleep essentials aren’t enough to promote optimal sleep. In such cases, the underlying causes of poor sleep may be related to nutritional deficiencies, particularly Magnesium, or nervous system stress and imbalances such as anxiety.

Children who benefit from Magnesium supplementation are:
Athletes, drink carbonated drinks, suffer from anxiety, eat sweets, crave chocolate, suffer from muscle and stomach cramps, and have difficulty falling asleep.

For those children who suffer from more intense anxiety, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, recurrent nightmares, calming herbs such as Passiflora and Avena sativa can be exceptionally helpful at healing an overactive nervous system.

Helping Build Strong Pillars of Health

As parents, we all want our children to be healthy and happy so they may lead a successful and fulfilling life. Helping them build a strong and solid first Pillar of Health – Sleep, is one of the greatest gift we can give them.

Dr. Nadine Cyr is a Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus on paediatrics. She has been a Naturopathic Doctor for over seventeen years and is passionate about finding and treating the underlying causes of dis-ease. To book an appointment with Dr. Nadine Cyr, please call the clinic at 905-940-2727.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Seasonal Allergies - healing them naturally

by Iva Lloyd, ND

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Iva Lloyd is a naturopathic doctor at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus on identifying the true causes of symptoms and diseases and on treating the whole person. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Lloyd, ND.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Beat Winter Lethargy with Ayurveda

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

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 naturopathic doctor 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 specialized 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.