Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dealing with the Winter Blues

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

Winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), refers to bouts of depression and desire to sleep longer during specific periods of the year. SAD is most common in the winter months and is most prevalent in areas with decreased sunlight.  

Who is prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder?

  • Those individuals who spend more time indoors when it is cold and decrease their outside activities in the winter.
  • Those individuals who decrease their social activities and interaction with others in the winter months.
  • There tends to be an association between low thyroid function and increased risk of SAD.
  • High stress levels during the winter can increase the likelihood of SAD or can make it more extreme.
  • Conditions such as insomnia, depression, mood disorders or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) are associated with increased risk.
  • Getting a cold or flu in the winter can often trigger SAD, especially if it lingers. Some blogs that you may find helpful include:

What Happens in the Mind

  • The shortening of daylight hours in the winter causes a shift in normal circadian rhythms which leads to increased production of melatonin and cortisol.
  • Melatonin is the hormone associated with sleep.  When melatonin increases a person's desire and ability to sleep longer is enhanced.
  • Cortisol is considered the stress hormone. When it rises people tend to feel more edgy. For some people the rise in cortisol results in feelings of sadness, for others it results in feelings of agitation or frustration.
  • Together an increase in melatonin and cortisol can result in a decrease in serotonin which is a mood-elevating neurotransmitter.

Symptoms of SAD

The two main symptoms that are always present include depression and increased desire to sleep. Other symptoms that may also be present include:
  • lethargy
  • daytime fatigue
  • melancholy
  • craving for carbohydrates
  • overeating with increased appetite
  • weight gain
  • loss of sexual interest
  • irritability

Natural Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Staying active and social is an essential part of limiting the risk or severity the SAD has on you. Other strategies or natural treatments include:
  • When at home: Keep your drapes and blinds open. Sit near windows when relaxing or reading. On cloudy days, turn on bright lights - ideally full-spectrum lighting - in the room that you spend the most time.
  • Stay active - Get outside as much as possible, especially in the early morning light. Aim for 1 hour in the sun each day.
  • Dietary recommendations - there are a number of ways that diet can assist including:
    • Decrease alcohol and caffeine - or at a minimum, ensure that you don't increase them in the winter.
    • Eat by season. When it is cold outside, avoid cold, raw and dry food. Winter is a great time for soups, stews and casserole. Leave the smoothies and the salads for the summer.
  • Exercise - Stay active. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week, preferably outside. 
  • Sleep - As much as possible stick to the same sleep regimen that you have in the summer, especially as it relates to the number of hours that you sleep.
  • Vitamin D - Most people do better if they take Vitamin D in the winter months. To learn more about Vitamin D, read our blog titled, High Dose Vitamin D, is it safe and effective?
  • Natural health products (NHPs) - There are a number of NHPs that are used to address SAD including: Melatonin, Tryptophan, Fish Oil, and others. 
  • Herbs - St. John's Wort, Kava-kava and other herbs are often beneficial in the treatment of SAD.
  • Light therapy - There are a number of ways increasing your exposure to natural light. There are light visors that you can wear for 15 - 20 minutes a day, specific light bulbs that you can use in your home, light units that you sit in front of and other instruments.  Light therapy can be very effective on its own or as an adjunct to other therapies.
If you think that you have a case of the "winter blues" and would like advice on how to deal with it naturally, speak to one of our naturopathic doctors by calling the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

IV Therapy: A Useful Tool in the Treatment of IBD

By: Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND

Patients often ask me - "Why did you decide to do the extra training to become an IV Certified Naturopathic Doctor?" My answer is, "because this treatment works and it works fast!" I first became interested in intravenous (IV) therapy while in a severe flare while attending naturopathic medical school.  My Naturopathic Doctor at the time thought that I could benefit from IV Therapy and I sure did.  Within 48 hours my energy was better that it had been in months and the flare-up that I was in started to turn around after consistent treatment.  I knew I had to be able to offer this kind of help to people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) because of the immense value it could bring to their overall quality of life.

Why IV Therapy is a Valuable Treatment for People with IBD

The fact is that patients with IBD have a harder time extracting the nutrients from their food as the integrity of their digestive tract has been compromised and weakened by inflammation. The inflammation damages the small, finger-like cells in the intestine - called "villi"-, allowing the body to breakdown complex nutrients like protein into a usable fuel source for the body.  Needless to say, when villi become damaged, the body's ability to derive the nutrition it needs from food is decreased.
When the body is deficient in key nutrients, cell-to-cell communication is inhibited, thus making it harder for damaged tissue to heal.  Nutrient deficiencies can also cause a barrage of other symptoms, such as:
  • Headache
  • Pain
  • Dry Mouth
  • Mouth Ulcers
  • Acne
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

How IV Therapy Works

IV therapy uses high dose vitamins, minerals and natural substances intravenously.  This offers a route of administration that bypasses the digestive system and goes directly into the circulatory system guaranteeing a greater concentration of nutrients into the cells.  IV Therapy allows for highly concentrated nutrients to enter cells more easily in order to heal and repair cellular damage caused by chronic  inflammation.  It can correct for deficiencies much faster than oral supplementation. This leads to the patient feeling better and promotes shortened flare-ups and lengthened periods of remission in patients with IBD.  Each IV bag is custom-formulated based on what their individual needs are.

Constantly "just getting by" or "not being able to eat or do what everyone else is eating or doing" or feeling like " your life has to be put on hold" is not conducive to a healing state of mind. Sometimes feeling just a little bit more "like you" is all we need to keep working on getting better.

To find our more about the how IV Therapy could benefit you please call Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND.
    This is the fifth in a 12-part series on the Irritable Bowel Disease.  We encourage you to check out the other blogs by Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND.

    Thursday, December 24, 2015

    Healthy Travelling

    By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND  

    Winter season is travel season for many. Increased accessibility to global travel offers the luxury of escaping the cold weather and heading to warmer climates to relax, enjoy the warmth of the sun and enjoy new experiences abroad.  Travelling is an opportunity to take time for yourself, spend time with family and friends, immerse yourself in cultural activities and new adventures to break the regular mundane routine. Depending on the purpose, location and duration of your trip, your travel may range from being hectic to relaxing, low risk to high risk, and overstimulating to rejuvenating.  Being adequately prepared for travel ensures a more enjoyable and healthy trip.

    Travelling can be exciting. However, it may expose you to new situations and environments which may pose additional health risks. How prepared you need to be depends on whether you are planning a short family vacation to Mexico, or a longer solo trip to volunteer abroad, or a business trip to Asia. Based on your previous experiences, you may need more extensive preparation if travel triggers unwanted symptoms. Included below are a number of tips which may be beneficial to help you prepare for your travel.

    Seeking naturopathic advice can help address specific health concerns such as: jet lag, travel anxiety, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, insect-borne illnesses, infections, parasites, cuts, burns and altitude sickness.  The tools that a naturopathic doctor has access to can support prevention (prophylaxis), diagnose and treat travel-related illnesses.  Sleeping patterns and food habits may shift drastically on a trip. By supporting the body, the chances of travel-related illness may be reduced. In addition, supporting mental and emotional health in unfamiliar environments is critical to well-being.

    Every individual is unique with inherent strengths or weaknesses. Depending on your constitution, certain organs or body systems may be more susceptible to illness.  For example, individuals with weak immune systems may become more vulnerable to respiratory tract infections; individuals with circulation issues may experience swollen feet and ankles after a flight; i
    ndividuals with anxiety may experience panic attacks triggered by the stress of travel. A naturopathic doctor can help you identify and treat aspects of your health which require strengthening, as well as treat illnesses contracted during a trip.

    Naturopathic medicine can prevent and treat the following travel-related concerns: 

    • Jet lag: shifting from one time zone to the other can have a significant impact on the body's circadian rhythms which regulate our sleep/wake cycle.  Melatonin is a natural hormone that is made by the body which helps us sleep.  When changing time zones, melatonin production may take a while to readjust, leading to symptoms commonly associated with jet lag.  For individuals struggling with jet lag, natural melatonin supplements or nervine herbs can help your body readjust more quickly to the local time zone.  Sunlight exposure also helps us reset our circadian rhythms and reduces the effects of jet lag.
    • Infections:  coldflu, and parasite exposure multiplies when travelling. Coupled with a weakened immune system, travellers become more vulnerable to illness.  With naturopathic medicine, you can keep the terrain strong to prevent microorganisms from thriving.  When the environment is unfavourable, parasites are less likely to thrive.  If you do contract parasites, proper diagnosis and treatment options can be provided by your naturopathic doctor. Certain herbs have specific properties that are anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic to target the pathogen and support your recovery.
    • Digestive issues: diarrheaconstipationindigestion are the most common unpleasant "side-effect" of travelling.  Ingesting new foods from unknown sources, combined with the stress of travelling can lead to a range of uncomfortable situations.  Traveller's diarrhea can be very unpleasant and prevent you from enjoying your trip.  Constipation may develop due to anxiety or due to poor hydration or lack of fibre.  Prevention is key to strengthening the digestive tract prior to travel, reducing susceptibility to digestive upset.  Naturopathic medicine can treat acute digestive issues, allowing you to enjoy your trip.
    • Travel anxiety can escalate into more severe anxiety and fear.  Panic attacks triggered by fear of flying can leave an individual exhausted and terrified of future travel.  If you are a worrier and experience anxiety frequently, herbs and homeopathic remedies that support the nervous system can help you relax, along with meditation techniques.
    • Altitude sickness: when travelling to mountainous regions such as the Himalayas, Andes or the Rockies, the sudden change in atmospheric pressure and oxygen can result in dizziness, nausea, fatigue and more serious symptoms.  Supporting the circulatory and respiratory systems are critical prior to your trip. A naturopathic doctor may do lab work to check your hemoglobin and iron levels, and suggest herbs, homeopathics and lifestyle suggestions to reduce the risk or altitude sickness. 
    • Mosquito & insect bites may carry infectious diseases.  Malaria is prevalent in many tropical regions and can be a serious health issue if not diagnosed or treated promptly. Know the risk at your destination and which prevention and treatment options are available. Reduce your risk of infectious diseases in the first place by reducing your chances of being bitten.  There are numerous internal and external options to ward off insects, in addition to diet and lifestyle factors.  Bitter foods, homeopathics and herbs, such as neem, can repel mosquitoes, as do a variety of essential oils.
    • First aid: cuts, burns, bruises are unfortunately common scenarios while travelling for adults and children.  Help prevent infections and complications by carrying naturopathic first aid supplies such as lavender oil, aloe vera gel, or calendula cream for bite or burns, arnica cream or homeopathics for bruises and sprains, in addition to bandaids and gauze.  These can help in minor injuries, or carry you through until you receive medical attention.
    For detailed tips for healthy travelling, please check-out our handout titled, "Travelling Tips" at: http://www.naturopathicfoundations.ca/patients/handouts/

    A naturopathic doctor can help you prepare for your trip, help you to stay healthy during your trip and improve recovery after your trip.  When you are adequately prepared, you can reduce your chances of travel complications such as traveller’s diarrhea, parasites, infections and fatigue.  Naturopathic medicine can assist you with any pre-existing conditions which may flare up during travel and help you recover from acute illnesses contracted while abroad, to ensure healthy re-adjustment.

    Staying healthy while travelling will allow you to enjoy your trip to the fullest and open you to a world-full of exciting experiences. Wishing you safe and happy travels !

     Dr. Leena Athparia ND has travelled extensively to many countries in Asia, Europe, Middle East and South America and has had first-hand experience with naturopathic travel medicine.  She focuses in preparing you for travel so you stay healthy and enjoy a wonderful trip. If you would like to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND, please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email lathparia@naturopathicfoundations.ca



    Saturday, November 21, 2015

    Inflammatory Bowel Disease: The Gut-Brain Connection

    By: Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND

    Have you ever felt "sick to your stomach" or had a "gut wrenching" experience?  As a naturopathic doctor, I often encourage patients to explore their "gut feelings" and trust their "gut instincts" especially when  making a difficult decision.  This is one example of the "Gut-Brain Connection".

    The connection between the gut and the brain goes both ways.  A "distressed" intestine sends signals to the brain, just as a "distressed" brain sends signals to the gut.  Therefore, your digestive symptoms can both be the cause and the product of anxiety, stress and depression. When emotions are causing your gastro-intestinal (GI) symptoms there is often a delay between physical findings, such as a colonoscopy or abnormalities found in a physical exam.  This delay, in turn, can delay the treatment for a developing disease.

    On a personal level, I recall that when I was young whenever I got really upset or nervous my stomach would start to hurt and I would end up having to go to the bathroom more frequently.  As I got older I noticed these symptoms occurred more quickly whenever I was frustrated or overwhelmed. What I also realize now was that my symptoms became more easily triggered by small stressors. When my doctor would ask me if I felt stressed I would often answer "I don't feel stressed" because I had yet to make the link between my digestive symptoms and what was going on in my life.  As time went by my physical tolerance for stress decreased.  The build up of stress culminated in even more significant symptoms such as blood appearing in my stool.  When my doctor did the initial scope and blood work it indicated that everything was fine as he was looking for a physical cause.  It wasn't until months after I started have blood in my stool that the physical manifestation of my emotional stress presented itself. 

    As naturopathic doctor is trained to treat the whole person and to recognize the link between the gut and the brain. As such, a naturopathic doctor, particularly when there is an absence of physical findings, would often indicate that a patient's emotional and physical state needs to be examined to address the cause of the symptoms and to prevent the progression of any disease.

    File:Breathing.jpgWhen stress and suppressed emotions are the cause of physical symptoms they must be dealt with directly. The nervous system should always be worked on in-conjunction with any digestive symptoms. It is interesting to look at the intestines as the organ that "lets waste go".   Although our gut has the physical capacity to store and rid our body of waste it can also be affected when we choose not to let emotions go.  This could result in you becoming "emotionally constipated"!  Having strong emotions is not a problem.  It is when we have them and we hold them in or suppress them. Our body and our emotions always find a way to be heard and felt.  So, if you are not addressing the emotional distress in your live, your body may consequently become effected physically and pathologically. The bright side is - our gut "feelings" can become another important instrument in our IBD healing tool box.  If we start listening to our gut "feelings" and acknowledge and learn to "let go" of unhealthy emotional patterns we can control another aspect contributing to our gastrointestinal symptoms.  

    Just as there is an inflammatory response to stress there can be an anti-inflammatory response to peace within one's self.

    Is stress causing your symptoms? 

    Ask yourself - " When I'm stressed, where do I feel it my body?"  When you are upset, frustrated or emotional about something what do you do?  Do you release the emotion, or do you distract yourself and focus on something else. Distracting yourself and focusing on other things versus what is bothering you can often result in emotions being held in the body. Emotions that are held in or suppressed can often manifest as: 

    Physical symptoms:

    Behavioural symptoms:

    • Procrastination
    • Grinding teeth
    • Difficulty completing work
    • Changes in amount of alcohol or food you consume
    • Taking up or increase smoking
    • Increase desire to withdraw from others
    • Racing thoughts

    Emotional symptoms:

    • Crying
    • Overwhelming sense of pressure or tension
    • Trouble relaxing
    • Nervousness
    • Anxiety
    • Quick Temper
    • Depression
    • Poor Concentration
    • Trouble remembering things
    • Loss of sense of humour

    Understanding the gut-brain connection can provide a valuable approach to any health condition, especially digestive symptoms. To find our more about the gastro-intestinal relationship with the brain please call Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND.
    This is the fourth in a 12-part series on the Irritable Bowel Disease.  We encourage you to check out the other blogs by Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2015

    Balancing Vata in Fall

    As the seasons change, and the climate shifts to cooler days, you may notice changes in your body, your thoughts and your emotions.  The change of seasons influences people differently depending on the individual constitution that they were born with.  According to Ayurveda there are 3 vital bio-energies (doshas) that make up a person's constitution: vata, pitta, kapha - each made up of a combination of the 5 elements (earth, air, fire, water, space). 

    The 3 doshas are not only found within us, but also exist around us in nature. As we prepare for fall, it is helpful to understand the impact that the change of the seasons can have on your health.  Fall is considered vata season because the qualities that characterize vata - dry and cold - are dominant at this time of the year.  The weather changes are apparent with colder days, dry wind, lightness in the air and crackling leaves. 

    Characteristics of Vata

    Vata is made up of the air and space elements and has the qualities of dry, cold, light, moving, irregular, subtle, rough and quick.

    Vata loosely translates as "wind" and its function is movement - one can think of vata being their internal wind that keeps things moving. Vata body types are active and mobile, and they often find themselves doing many activities at once. Physically, those with a vata constitution tend to be thin with a light frame and energetic in bursts. They tend to be lively and creative when in balance. 


    Functions of Vata

    As vata is responsible for movement, some of the functions in the body include:
    • Circulation
    • Movement in the digestive tract
    • Sensory perception
    • Speech
    • Nerve impulses
    • Breathing
    If any of these functions are not functioning optimally, it is likely that an imbalance with vata is involved.  Due to vata's mobile nature, it is the easiest dosha to experience imbalance. 


    Common Health Conditions

    Vata tends to become unbalanced and accumulates in the body and mind when there is too much Vata in our life. Irregular eating or sleeping, concerns with stress, erratic schedules, overstimulation and excess worry can contribute to a vata imbalance.  In addition, seasonal and weather changes can impact the balance of vata, pitta & kapha.  An excess of Vata can manifest in a variety of health concerns which include (but are not limited to): 
    Though all individuals are susceptible to the changes brought on by fall, individuals with a constitution that is vata dominant, are more susceptible to aggravation as the environmental factors add to tendencies that already exist internally.  

    To help keep vata in balance during fall, incorporating daily lifestyle routines and eating according to your constitution can ease the transition into the cold season. 

    5 Suggestions to Balance Vata in Fall

    The following suggestions are important for those with a Vata constitution, but are also valuable for other constitutions during the Vata seasons of fall and winter.

    • Stay warm: Dressing in layers and drinking warm liquids can help keep us warm as the temperatures dip.  Drink herbal teas during the day and incorporate nourishing soups, stews and broths. Avoid cold foods and excess raw food.
    • Eat a Vata-balancing diet: Choose seasonal foods that are organic and local, such as apples, squashes and root vegetables.  Warming spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and black pepper, can also be a great addition to your meals.  Flavours that are naturally sweet, salty & sour help pacify vata.
    • Establish routine: Fall can get busy and we are soon swept off our feet and find our heads buzzing with erratic schedules.  Waking up and sleeping at consistent times and eating meals at the same time each day can bring stability and help keep us grounded during fall.
    • Choose rejuvenating activities: Plan time in your schedule to get sufficient rest and relaxation time. Activities that are relaxing and rejuvenating, such as curling up with a book as you sip ginger tea, taking a hot bath with essential oils in the evening or embracing meditation into your routine, are valuable at this time. Plan to get to sleep earlier as the body needs more sleep in the winter than in the summer.
    • Enjoy oils: Healthy oils are essential in counteracting the dryness associated with fall. Internally, oils such as ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil, can pacify vata when added to your meals. Externally, warm oil massage (abhyanga) with oils can be a wonderful way to relax and nourish the skin. This can be done in the morning or evening on your own, or abhyanga can be done by a qualified practitioner with customized oils to suit your constitution.

    Keeping the 3 doshas balanced within ourselves is vital in staying healthy as seasons change.  Ayurveda offers many tools to balance vata dosha.  Only when we understand our unique constitution can we do the necessary groundwork to stay healthy in fall.  When we can make changes that support our constitution, we can enjoy fall while staying healthy and energized ! 

    If you would like a comprehensive healthcare plan which includes understanding your Ayurvedic constitution and how that impacts your health, you can book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic: 905-940-2727.

    Inflammatory Bowel Disease Part 3: Food Sensitivity Testing

    By: Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND

    There are several laboratory tests that provide value in assisting with the management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and that provide supporting information to assist in determining the best treatment plan.  Standard laboratory tests are markers that allow your doctor or naturopathic doctor to assess for inflammation, nutritional status and to look for deficiencies of necessary vitamins and minerals.  Most of this testing in Ontario is considered standard of care and should be done on a somewhat regular basis.  However, there are very specific tests that are generally not part of conventional medicine that can be done by naturopathic doctors to provide specific information about foods, the way you break down your food and pathological microbes that could contribute to the onset of disease and the progression of disease.

    This blog is part of a series on IBD and my personal journey on learning how to live with it. Please check out my previous blogs:

    IBD Part 1: My Story
    IBD Part 2: Food Does Matter

    File:Bread wheat.jpg


    Now, remember when I said I had more lessons to learn...

    While studying to become a naturopathic doctor, I experienced symptoms of IBD for about two and a half years and then it went into remission for two years. For me, the stress of school, performance and grades triggered an IBD flare. While stress was a contributing factor to my flare, I knew that I had to also get my diet back on track.  Like most people with IBD, when symptoms go away for a long enough time, the thought is that we can "cheat" a bit with the foods we eat, which is the trap I fell into. 

    Being in school and learning about the different types of therapeutic diet regimes, I decided I would try the "Hypoallergenic Diet", also known as the Elimination Diet.  This is a diet that has great clinical value in establishing what and how foods affect you.  I use this diet in practice regularly with patients.  However, for some it may not be specific enough and may be too labour intensive.  

    After being on the hypoallergenic diet for awhile, I noticed improvements but not remission.  I was disappointed and could not understand why I was still having symptoms.  I was eating gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and still not feeling 100%. One of my naturopathic professors told me about a blood food sensitivity test that was commonly used by naturopathic doctors in order to determine what foods the immune system was overreacting to and, therefore, causing inflammation in the body. 

    Food Sensitivity Testing

    The immune system exists to defend the body against bacteria, viruses and any other potentially harmful organisms.  It protects the body by producing cells called immunoglobulins, also called antibodies.  There are five major immunoglobulins: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG and IgM.  Each one of these components produces a different kind of physical reaction in the body. Let's compare. 

    Food Allergy vs Food Sensitivity 

    When you go to the medical doctor or an Allergist to test for food allergies, they will typically perform a skin prick test or a double-blind, placebo-controlled oral food challenge in order to test for IgE reactions.  IgE reactions are considered true food allergies.  IgE reactions typically occur within minutes of exposure to or ingestion of a food antigen.  Commonly observed IgE reactions include: hives, itchy watery eyes and breathing difficulties.  They are considered anaphylactic-type reactions.

    Food Sensitivity is a term that usually refers to delayed immune reactions to foods.  For example, IgG and IgA reactions to foods are commonly referred to as food sensitivities because they don't always cause immediate reactions.  They can take anywhere from the time the food hits our digestive tract to 3 days later.  The reactions can vary and compound based on the amount and combination of foods we consume.

    In an IgG reaction, the IgG antibodies attach themselves to the food antigen and create an anti-body-antigen complex.  Special cells called macrophages normally remove these complexes.  However, if they are present in large numbers and the reactive food is still being consumed, the macrophages can't remove them quickly enough.  The food antigen-antibody complexes accumulate and are deposited in body tissues.  Once in tissue, these complexes cause inflammation which plays a role in numerous disease and conditions.

    Of the five major antibodies circulating in the bloodstream, IgA is produced in the greatest quantity on a daily basis.  IgA antibodies are the first line of defence against suspected disease-causing agents like viruses and bacteria.  IgA antibodies to specific foods may form when the lining of the intestinal tract becomes inflamed or damaged due to stress, alcohol, medications or other inflammation-causing conditions.  Elevated IgA to specific foods is widely believed to be a sign of damage to the mucous membranes in the gut.  Individuals with Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, or even those with suspected "leaky gut", may benefit from testing IgA food reactions.

    Allow me to illustrate this case in point with Sumo wrestlers:

    Imagine your body is a pool.  Now imagine Sumo wrestlers have decided to have a pool party using your pool.  The 1st Sumo wrestler named "Dairy" cannonball jumps into the pool.  He makes a big splash.  Then the water calms down fairly quickly, but the water level of the pool rises.  Then the 2nd Sumo wrestler, "Eggs", dives in.  The water levels rises a bit more.  Now here comes the 3rd, "Gluten", who gracefully slips in.  Now the water level is as high as the pool can hold.  Now comes along skinny little "Sesame". He is all ready with his water noodle and jumps right in the middle of all the Sumo wrestlers. YOUR POOL EXPLODES!

    So, whose fault is it that the pool exploded?  
    The answer: EVERYONE

    Your body is like a pool, in the sense that it is designed to hold a certain load.  We all have different foods that cause our systems to reach capacity.  So, when that happens, symptoms of inflammation occur (i.e. the pool exploding).  This is what happens when our body is having an IgG/IgA reaction.

    I will often hear patients say "Sometimes foods bother me and sometimes they don't.  I can't figure it out!"  That is how I felt before I completed a food sensitivity test and discovered that I had an extremely high sensitivity to sesame seeds!  Five to ten years ago there were not many options for gluten-free or dairy-free foods that did not contain sesame seeds. No wonder I wasn't getting better.  After my food sensitivity test, I adjusted my diet accordingly and very quickly saw and felt the benefits.  I never would have figured that out without doing a food sensitivity test.

    Food sensitivity testing is a valuable and cost-effective way of determining what specific foods you should be avoiding, whether you are dealing with IBD, Crohn's disease or any other symptoms or conditions.  Many naturopathic doctors recommend determining your food sensitivities as the starting point to creating a treatment plan that works for you.

    To find out more about food sensitivity testing, contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND.

    This is the third in a 12-part series on the Irritable Bowel Disease.  We encourage you to check out the other blogs by Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND.

    Thursday, October 1, 2015

    Nature Cure: Health Benefits of Time Spent in Nature

    Getting outside into nature has been one of the primary prescriptions naturopathic doctors have been giving their patients across centuries.  This simple, affordable and accessible ‘treatment’ is starting to gain support in the research community as well.  Most recently, research being done out of Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto is focusing on the effects of time spent in nature on memory and cognition.  This research shows that a 50-minute walk in nature can improve memory and focus by 20%.  Interestingly, the positive effects were even more pronounced in individuals diagnosed with depression.  A walk in a busy urban environment, on the other hand, doesn’t have any significant effects on either memory or cognition.  Don’t think that the benefits of being out in the trees can only be found on sunny days.  The same benefits are observed in February as in June, despite participants reporting not enjoying their winter walks as much.
     
    Benefits of Spending Time in Nature (check-out www.ndhealthfacts.org)

    • Synchronizes Circadian Rhythm
    • Helps you to stay grounded
    • Increases energy
    • Improves sleep
    • Improved mental/emotional sense of well-being
    • Increased Vitamin D levels
    • Improved vision
    • Increased immune function

    Other researchers are finding the benefits of being in nature extend well beyond memory.  Getting outside in nature helps with ADHD, surgery recovery, breast cancer, elevated cortisol (our stress hormone) and high blood pressure.

    So why is being in nature so good for us?  Our current understanding is that time in nature acts in a “softly fascinating” way.  Looking at trees, leaves, water and clouds holds our attention, but not too much.  This balance lets us de-focus and self-reflect in a way that the bore of a dark room or the over-stimulation of TV wont allow. 

    It’s clear that finding ways to spend time in nature is one of the most important things you can do for your health.  Take ‘green breaks’ at work and go for a walk in a park or a green space near you.  Schedule a walk on the weekend with friends rather then going for coffee.  There are countless ways to incorporate nature into your daily routine.

    For more information on the benefits of being in nature, or for some tips on how to work your 30 minutes in every day, please talk to one of our naturopathic doctors.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2015

    Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Food DOES Matter

    By Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND



    A well balanced diet plays an integral role in achieving proper nutrition and health for everyone.  It is even more important for those who have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  These individuals have a harder time extracting the nutrients from their food as the integrity of their digestive tract has been compromised and weakened by inflammation.   Inflammation damages the small, finger-like cells in the intestines called intestinal villi.  These villi increase the surface area of the intestine allowing your body to breakdown complex nutrients like proteins into amino acids which are the building blocks of our tissues . They also contain enzymes that aid in digestion. Needless to say, when villi become damaged, the body's ability to derive the nutrition it needs from food is decreased. People with IBD, in particular, have to be diligent about the food choices they make in order to avoid malnutrition (which leads to a cascade of other issues) and dehydration

    "But what do you do when it feels like everything you eat hurts, makes you nauseated or causes you to run to the bathroom?"
    That is one of the first questions I asked my initial Gastro-Intestinal (GI) Doctor when I was first diagnosed with IBD .  His answer to that question is one that I have heard many times in my personal journey and when I treat people with IBD.  He said, "It absolutely DOES NOT matter what you eat."
    So, during my first IBD flare and not knowing much about diet, I decided to eat whatever was convenient at that moment.  My food of choice, as a 18 year old, was pizza pockets.  It was the only thing that was appetizing to me.  However, after I ate, more pain and more frequent bowel movements would always follow. I realize now that I wasn't craving the pizza pocket itself but the fat content and simple carbohydrates.  This thought led me to view cravings clinically as a clue to what nutrients patients could be deficient in. For example, (this is for all the chocolate lovers out there) if you are craving chocolate on a daily basis, this could potentially indicate a magnesium deficiency. So, take note of what you are craving and make sure to talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about it.

    I also thought that in order to function at a somewhat normal academic level and continue to see my friends,  I would only eat at  night so I wouldn't have symptoms during the day.  While the hunger was present, the pain wasn't and that worked for me. The eating patterns that I developed quickly led to malnutrition and dehydration which had their own effects on my body such as fatigue, gas pain, hair loss, mood changes, inability to focus and so on.

    "Food Does Matter!"

    File:Veg mix.jpgAfter my initial diagnosis, I visited a Naturopathic Doctor and was informed that, in fact, food does matter a lot. It made sense when I thought about it. What I was eating directly came into physical contact with the part of my body that was sick. My intestines would either react negatively with inflammation or positively with healing.  He proceeded to completely change my diet and the specifics about the way I ate.  When I first started to implement the changes he recommended, it felt like nothing was changing but, after the first week, I started to notice that I had less pain, less blood, less bowel movements and, most important to me a the time,  I began to be able to sleep through the night without being awakened by painful cramping.  Every week got a little better, until one day (which I remember vividly), I had no symptoms after I ate.  The happiness I felt in that moment when I realized "I could do this" was incredible.  Before visiting a Naturopathic Doctor, there was a part of me that doubted I would ever feel "normal" again but now I did.  I knew that what I put into my body would  make or break my remission and I was determined to make it.  It wasn't easy, I will say, and 10 years ago there were a lot less options than there are available now.  My new diet took some getting used to and a lot of trial and error. When it became difficult to make good food choices, I reminded myself I never wanted to go back to that place physically or mentally again and that continuing with my diet was what I had to do.

    Two years after my initial diagnosis, I decided  to become a Naturopathic Doctor.  I took every opportunity in school to learn and research everything I could about what I could do in order to optimize diets to help the  gastro-intestinal tract heal.  When in school,  I realized quickly that I had barely scratched the surface. There was science behind how food can cause inflammation and Naturopathic Medicine had a lot to offer on this topic.


    Quality of Food


     Raw vs Cooked


    What I have learned is that one of the first changes a person needs to make is removing raw food until the gastro-intestinal mucosa has healed.  Raw food has a rough quality due to all the fibre it is composed of.  Fibre's job is to go into our system and scrape against the waste that is stuck to the colon wall.  While in a healthy system this is ideal for proper colon function, in a system where the walls of the colon are weak and ulcerated, this is the last thing you want to do.  Additionally, raw food requires more digestive enzymes to break it down so we can absorb nutrients from them.  Cooked food is more gentle on a compromised digestive tract and requires less work to break it down as the heat from cooking has already started that process.  Softer food, especially in a flare, will give the body a chance to heal while still getting the required nutrients.


    Inflammatory Foods


    Any food that causes inflammation will weaken the digestive tract and will worsen IBD.  Some foods are more inflammatory by nature. When trying to calm down an inflammatory process like IBD, it is important to avoid the following inflammatory foods: 
    • Red Meat
    • Night Shade Vegetables: Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes
    • Fried Foods
    • Spicy Foods


    Customizing Your Diet


    Every person is different, therefore, every diet has to be tailored to meet the individual's needs. Learning how the specific foods trigger an inflammatory response in your system is key to decreasing inflammation and choosing the best diet for you.  I  tried many types of diets through my journey. While most of them had value, I always felt there was something missing until I learned of a test that was able to measure what foods were causing inflammation in my system.  This was amazing to me because I realized I could take the guess work out of what was affecting my system.  The test helped me identify an unexpected food item that was causing my inflammation and gave me the last key piece in completing IBD food puzzle.

    So let me ask you this -  Do You Think Food Matters?

    ***In next month's blog I will be focusing on IgG & IgA food sensitivity panels as well as  the different types of testing that are important in monitoring patients with IBD. 

    To book an appointment with Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND, please contact Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic on 905-940-2727.

    This is the second in a 12-part series on the Irritable Bowel Disease.  We encourage you to check out the other blogs by Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND.








      
       


    Friday, August 28, 2015

    Inflammatory Bowel Disease Part 1 :My Story

    by Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND

    Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella diagnosis that refers to chronic inflammatory conditions that affect the lining of the intestine, with Crohn's disease (CD) and Ulcerative colitis (UC) being the two main branches.   This disease process disrupts the body's ability to digest food, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste.  

    IBD is prevalent now more than ever, especially in Canada.  One in every 150 Canadians is living with CD or UC - a rate that ranks highest world-wide.  Most alarming to me is the number of new cases of CD in Canadian children has almost doubled since 1995.

    This disease can be very disruptive, isolating, exhausting and debilitating.  With symptoms like bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, bowel urgency, nausea, vomiting, weight fluctuations, anemia and the worst fatigue you can imagine, it can very well feel like life won't ever be the same.  


    The conventional medical system looks at IBD as being idiopathic, which means that there is no reason for onset other than possibly genetics. Hearing that there is "simply no reason" can make people feel helpless as to what can be done to put them into remission and keep them there.   Naturopathic Medicine does not subscribe to this thought process. As a ND I believe that IBD has a root cause that needs to be addressed and that there can be multiple blockages that are internal and external, which can prevent someone from healing.   Over the next 12 months I have decided to write about the main factors that are contributing  to the increase in incidence of IBD, as well as what can be done from a naturopathic perspective to promote healing and hope.  

    I am using my first post in this 12 part series to explain how the word hope started me on my journey to becoming a Naturopathic Doctor who has a passion and special interest in IBD.

    I was 18 years old when I started my first year of my undergraduate degree in biology.  I had moved to Alberta from Toronto and, like many young adults, this was my first time away from home.  I was excited and motivated to do my best in school so that I could pursue a career in the medical field.  

    Slowly through my first year I noticed I wasn't feeling the same.  My energy was lower, I lost my appetite, would have constant stomach pain, and "The Freshman 15" weight gain everyone talks about, was more like " The Freshman minus 15" for me.  I started noticing changes in my stools, especially mucus, but had no idea what that meant and  I sure wasn't going to start talking about it with my friends because I thought it would just go away.  

    I remember the night that I couldn't ignore it anymore.  I had ended up passing out after a very painful bloody bowel movement.  It was the first time the pain was that intense and the first time I noticed blood.  I was taken to the hospital in Calgary where they did a colonoscopy.  The reports came back clear and that everything was normal.  Needless to say, everything was not normal.  Later, when I returned to Toronto for the summer, I was put on a course of antibiotics that made all my symptoms worse and this was the beginning of my first "Flare". 

    I was diagnosed with Moderate UC and told that I would have this disease for the rest of my life.  The options put to me by my 1st Gastro-Intestinal specialist were "medication, then if that doesn't work more medication, then if that doesn't work, more serious medication, and if that doesn't work we would have to cut your colon out, maybe just a piece, or the whole thing, which in that case you would have to have a bag attached to your abdomen for the rest of your life." I remember feeling devastated, like I would never have the life I wanted.  I was 19 years old at this point and never had been seriously sick before. So now to be told I would have this for the rest of my life felt hopeless.  

    I decided to do what I was told and take the medications that were prescribed for the next 3 months. My main symptoms got better for a month but didn't hold.  I packed my bags and decided to go back to school for as long as I could.  When I returned to school, I was lucky enough to have the Women's Dean looking out for me.  She told me that she had a friend in the community that was a Naturopathic Doctor and he would be willing to see me.  Within our first meeting he changed my diet, talked to me about my emotional state, which I had never explored before and prescribed a solid supplement regime.  Over the next couple of weeks I literally saw and felt my body change.  By the time I was home for Christmas that year my symptoms had cleared and I was better than my old self.

    My UC story definitely does not end there as I had many more lessons to learn about how true health is obtained and maintained on the physical and the emotional level.   This was, however, the beginning of my journey to becoming a Naturopathic Doctor.  When my patients ask me why I became a ND, my answer is always "Hope."  I decided when I went into remission that if I could give one person the hope that life could be more than a disease and that we have the ability to change and heal, then that's what I wanted my life's work to be about.  

    If you are interested in learning more about the Naturopathic approach to IBD please contact me at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment or schedule a 15 minute meet and greet that can be done in person or over the phone.  

    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 : http://www.who.int/ipcs/features/benzene.pdf