Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pediatrics Pillars of Health: SLEEP

by Dr. Nadine Cyr, ND

There are three pillars to health: movement, nutrition and sleep. Good quality sleep is the most important pillar of health for adults and for growing children. Sleep is a biological necessity. Sleep is needed 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 academic performance, optimum functioning, quality of life, health and ultimate personal success.

Research Says "Children Are Sleep Deprived"

  • "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?

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, it is estimated that children need the following amount of sleep:

  • Babies & Toddlers need 12 to 16 hrs. The ideal bedtime 7-7:30 pm.
  • School-Aged children need 10 to 12 hrs. The ideal bedtime 7:30-8 pm.
  • Teenagers need 8.5 to 9.5 hrs. Later bedtime, around 9 or 10 pm is okay due to later melatonin release.

What Happens to Children When They Don't Sleep?

The following are signs that your children are not getting enough 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 During 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. Sleep is important for many biological functions.

Enuring Adequate Restful 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
  • ensuring that children drink adequate water throughout the day
  • ensuring movement or 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 children 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)
  • Bedrooms should also be as clutter-free as possible and not too warm (18 degrees Celsius is ideal).

Naturopathic 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 or imbalances, nervous system conditions such as anxiety or ADD/ADHD or environmental factors such as EMF interference.

There are a number of naturopathic treatments options that can improve not only the quality of sleep, but the duration of sleep.  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 pediatrics. 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

5 Tips to Relieve Pain

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Chronic pain doesn’t just hurt – it can be debilitating, frustrating, and can impact daily activities such as walking, cooking, dressing, bathing etc. It can further lead to other concerns such as insomnia, fatigue, depression and anxiety.

Even though you may have had arthritis for years, you don't have to live with the pain. Arthritis pain, even in seniors, generally responds very well to simple changes in diet and gentle exercise. There are also a number of naturopathic treatments that can reduce the pain, without causing side-effects.

If you are dealing with arthritis, I encourage you to try the steps below to reduce your pain and to regain better movement of your joints.

Tips for reducing pain:

As a foundation, anyone with arthritis should be taking natural anti-inflammatories and supplements for joint support. Most anti-inflammatories work in the same way as prescription medication and are natural without causing major side effects. For example, Boswelia is a herb that is very effective in reducing pain, and fish oil is widely accepted for it's ability to reduce inflammation in the joints. It is important to speak with your naturopathic doctor to choose the right supplements for you to ensure the dosage and quality is effective for your condition, and to ensure that there are no interactions with other medications you may be on. In addition to supplementation, below are tips you can do on your own to relieve arthritis.

1. Diet 

Customized supplements and herbs will speed up healing and give your body the building blocks to rebuild joint tissue and reduce inflammation. However, even if you are taking the best supplements, if you are not eating a supportive diet, your arthritis may not improve as well as it could.

  • Avoid: foods that cause inflammation; sugar, artificial sweeteners, deep fried foods, refined flour, additives, red meat and alcohol. Different foods can cause different reactions in each person. To personalize your diet and identify the foods that you are sensitive to, your naturopathic doctor can run a simple food intolerance test. If you are struggling with cravings or making changes to your diet, your naturopathic doctor can guide you on how to include anti-inflammatory foods into your diet while enjoying your meals.
  • Include: a diet that is suited to your constitution and condition. Bone broth soups can easily be made at home and provide minerals and nutrients to nourish your joints. Anti-inflammatory foods can be included into your meals such as ginger, turmeric and leafy greens.

2. Gentle Movement

It may be difficult to move if there is significant pain, but gentle exercises can help you decrease pain, increase range of motion and flexibility, strengthen muscles, improve circulation and help you feel uplifted. It is important to discuss with your naturopathic doctor to choose the right kind of exercise for you.
  • Avoid: pushing yourself to exercise or doing repetitive movements which can strain the joints. Listen to your body and don't push beyond what is comfortable.  
  • Include: gentle exercises that improve flexibility and blood flow to the muscle and joints. Restorative yoga, tai chi, walking and water exercises are examples of low-impact exercise that you can include into your day. For example, simple hand stretches (opening and closing your fists) can be done a few times a day to increase joint mobility. Knee curls don't require any special equipment and can improve flexibility in the knee joint. To do this, you support your hands on the back of a chair while standing and bend one leg at a time. Depending on the severity of your arthritis, doing even 10 minutes of gentle exercise twice a day can result in significant improvement in joint health.   

3. Hot & Cold Therapies 

Ayurveda & Traditional Chinese Medicine are systems of medicine which evaluate the presence of hot (yang) or cold (yin), in the body. The eastern systems of medicine examine the causes and manifestations of joint issues and treat accordingly with the opposite quality. If your joints are warm and inflamed, cold treatments are recommended. If your joints are painful and stiff due to cold weather, warm treatments are recommended.
  • Avoid: cold weather or cold treatments on arthritis that is worse with cold. Avoid excessive heat on arthritis that is worse with warm weather or is inflamed. Speak to your naturopathic doctor who can guide you on what kind of arthritis you have and what is the best way to manage it.
  • Include: warm baths for arthritis that is worse with cold weather. If you have difficulty getting into the tub, you can try foot or hand baths, or apply heat packs to affected areas. For arthritis where the joints are inflamed, you may find relief with cool washcloths or topical ointments with cooling ingredients such as menthol. Topical hot or cold packs are simple and effective ways of relieving pain at home.

4. Massage with Oils or Topical Ointments 

Applying oil to your joints topically can be very effective in lubricating the joints and soothing pain. For example, castor oil can reduce the inflammation in arthritic joints and relieve pain. Warm castor oil can be massaged gently into the affected joints before bed, and wrapped with a cloth and a heating pad for the castor oil to penetrate deeper. Another example is Mahanarayan oil which is a popular Ayurvedic oil that is effective in reducing pain. 
  • Avoid: straining yourself by trying to do self-massage. Avoid positions that could put you at risk of falling. If you have difficulty doing self-massage, ask someone to help you or book a massage with a professional for pain relief (such as abhyanga massage). 
  • Include: oil suited to your constitution and type of arthritis. Ensure that the oil is not rancid and is a good quality oil (organic is best). The following essential oils can also be added to a base oil (such as castor, olive, sesame oil) for pain relief: boswelia, camphor, ginger, peppermint, myrrh. The frequency of application and the type of oil are best recommended according to your constitution and health condition. Topical treatments don't only include oils, but include other varieties of creams, gels and ointments. Speak to your naturopathic doctor for more personalized guidance. 

5. Positive Attitude 

The mind-body connection cannot be overrated. Mood can play a significant role in managing chronic disease, and it’s common for individuals with arthritis to feel frustrated and discouraged by the pain and inability to do daily activities. Depression and anxiety can further increase the experience of pain and decrease your ability to cope. Rather than fighting arthritis, try focussing your attention to nurturing yourself. Self-love and self-care promotes healing in the body, mind and spirit. Knowing that you can get better with self-care treatments and professional guidance can give you strength and hope.
  • Avoid: negative thoughts (“I wish I…I should have…I’m useless) and avoid focussing on what you can’t do. If you find yourself having difficulty coping with chronic pain, speak to your naturopathic doctor. There are many options to help alleviate depression, fatigue, anxiety often associated with chronic disease.
  • Include: meditation and gratitude on a daily basis. Plan activities or events to look forward to: lunch with a friend, a short vacation, outings with family, book clubs, hobby groups etc. Focus on your strengths and what you can do. Individuals who have a positive attitude towards life and look forward to the day are better equipped to cope with illness. 

Managing chronic pain on your own may not be enough. If you are struggling with arthritis, you are not alone. Talk to your naturopathic doctor who can identify the root cause of your pain and customize treatments to bring relief - even if you are already on medications.

There are numerous treatments such as acupuncture, cupping, massages, diet and supplements that are very effective in reducing pain and managing chronic arthritis, but they need to be customized based on your condition, constitution and other factors. Taking the time to do activities that you enjoy, pampering yourself with treatments, taking suitable supplements and eating a diet which replenishes your body are all ways of improving your condition.  You don’t have to live with chronic pain. There is hope. Take steps forward to pain-free living today!

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in chronic pain management related to aging, metabolic issues and chronic disease. She is skilled in pain relief with naturopathic & Ayurvedic treatments. If you are experiencing joint pain, please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Athparia. 

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.
  • Link to food and allergies. If you have allergies to environmental toxins it is often best to avoid foods that have similar proteins.  For example, 
    • Ragweed: melons, bananas, cucumbers, zucchini
    • Birch: pears, plums, apples, peaches, kiwi, cherries, celery, carrots, fennel, parsley, almonds, walnuts
    • Grass: peaches, melon, oranges, tomatoes, garlic, onions, celery, peanuts, port, egg whites
    • Mugwort: melons, carrots, celery, bell peppers, sunflower seeds
    • Late: apples, bananas, melons, kiwi, avocado, papayas, potatoes, tomatoes, chestnuts
  • 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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