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