Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Back to Basics: Top 10 Nutrients from Food

Do you sometimes ask yourself why you can't just get your multivitamins & minerals from food?  

The truth is that most people aren’t eating a healthy, balanced diet on a regular basis, even if they think they are. This may sound difficult to digest, but the reality is that what you think is healthy isn’t always the case. You may be eating a "healthy" diet which is not aligned to your body type, or you may not be absorbing your nutrients due to a weak digestive system.

Another reason why you may not be getting enough nutrients in your food is due to the modernization of food production. Farming methods have changed drastically in the last few decades in the interest of increasing quantity and profit, while compromising on quality. Food is picked before it is ripe and transported across the globe and artificially ripened. GMO foods are being grown in soil that has been overused and depleted in nutrients. For example, magnesium in food has rapidly declined because it is being grown in soil that is deficient in this mineral.

The good news is that there is increasing awareness about organic farming methods and local produce which is generally more nutrient-rich than conventional produce. When you eat organic, local produce, you benefit from the natural synergy of nutrients in whole foods – vitamins, minerals, enzymes and prana or qi (life force). Try going to a local farmer’s market this season, or growing edible plants in your backyard - you can definitely see, taste and feel the difference.

If you are trying to address your nutrient deficiencies through diet, keep in mind that you need to make a consistent effort to have an impact. If you are unsure if you are deficient in nutrients, there are many tests available through your naturopathic doctor to identify deficiencies and excess of heavy metals. Read more below on 10 nutrients you can get from your diet.

Top 10 Nutrients You Can Get from Food

1. Iron :

A crucial building block for hemoglobin, iron plays an important role in building blood. Meat is a rich source of heme iron (the type of iron our body uses in blood). It is best to choose meat that is lean and organic. Vegetarian sources of iron are non-heme iron forms and require consistency in the diet as they can be more challenging for some individuals to absorb.  You also need to be aware that iron absorption can be reduce with foods heavy in fibre or oxalates. If you would like to build your iron levels through diet, please speak with your naturopathic doctor on ways you can successfully do this.
Iron-rich foods include: liver, kidney, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dark green leafy veggies, beets, whole grains, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, nuts, raisins, prunes, dates and legumes.

2. Zinc : 

This mineral is involved in numerous enzymatic processes in the body, and is known for supporting wound healing and skin issues. It is a crucial factor for building the immune system, and essential for male health.
Zinc-rich foods include: shellfish, red meat, whole grains, legumes, nuts (cashews, pumpkin, sunflower seeds), mushrooms and eggs.

3. Selenium :

This is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in reproduction, thyroid metabolism and protection from oxidative damage.  Though you don’t need a lot of it, if you are deficient, your body can’t do everything it needs to.
Selenium-rich foods include: brazil nuts, garlic, onions, broccoli, tuna, halibut and other animal protein.

4. Calcium: 

This is the most abundant mineral in the body and is crucial in building bones & teeth. It is also involved in muscle contraction, signaling between cells and nerve transmission. Pregnant mothers and growing children require abundant Calcium and minerals in the diet, and they need to make sure they are getting enough in the diet or with supplementation. It’s a myth that you can only get calcium from milk. If you are unable to take dairy products, there are many other sources of calcium.
Calcium rich foods include: dark leafy greens (kale, dandelion, spinach, broccoli), almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, kale, tofu, salmon & sardines (with bones) and dairy (if able to digest). 

5. Chromium: 

This mineral is required in the body in trace amounts and plays an important role in blood sugar regulation, as it enhances the action of insulin. Those who have concerns about preventing or managing diabetes should speak to their naturopathic doctor on how much chromium they need.
Chromium rich foods include: broccoli, potatoes, meat, poultry, shellfish and whole grains.

6. Iodine: 

This trace mineral is a crucial factor in producing thyroid hormones which regulate your body's metabolism. Certain areas are lacking Iodine in the soil which results in Iodine deficiency.
Iodine-rich foods include: seaweed (kelp, nori, wakame). Found in seafood & dairy in smaller amounts.

7. Magnesium: 

This mineral is a cofactor in hundreds of reactions in the body involving muscle and nerve function, protein synthesis and much more. Magnesium promotes relaxation and helps build bones & teeth. If you are struggling with muscle tension, anxiety, check with your naturopathic doctor to find out if you may be deficient in Magnesium.
Magnesium-rich foods include: almonds, cashews and other nuts, green leafy vegetables, cacao, quinoa, whole grains, avocado and other vegetables.

8. Vitamin A: 

This is a fat soluble vitamin known for it's role in supporting vision, as well as reproduction and immune function. In excess dosage, vitamin A can be toxic during pregnancy so it's important to speak with your naturopathic doctor on how much Vitamin A you should be getting.
Vitamin A rich foods include: sweet potato, carrots, liver, butter, egg (yolk) and fish oil.

9. Vitamin B: 

This group of vitamins has a wide range of vitamins ranging from B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, Folate, B12 and are involved in energy production in the body, nerve tissue, blood formation and much more. These vitamins are widely available in food, so if you are eating a balanced diet with variety, it is not difficult to get your B vitamins from food. A lot of food is also fortified with B vitamins (cereals, pasta,  alternative milks etc).
B vitamin rich foods include: bee pollen, dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, animal products (B12) and fermented foods. To learn more about foods rich in specific b vitamins, speak with your naturopathic doctor to help identify foods that are beneficial for you.

10. Vitamin C: 

This water-soluble vitamin is an anti-oxidant that is essential in keeping your immune system strong. It also helps repair tissue (after an injury or surgery) as it is a backbone for collagen and connective tissue. Unlike in animals, humans cannot produce vitamin C in their body and require it in their diet. There are more foods than just orange juice that are rich in Vitamin C such as: guavas, red & green peppers, dark green leafy veggies, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries, papayas, cabbage, citrus fruits, amla berry (used in Ayurvedic medicine).

Click here to read more in this handout: Food Sources of Vitamins & Minerals 
Including some of the foods above on a regular basis can help you stay healthy. A balanced diet not only includes what types of foods you eat, but also at which time in the day & season, and according to your body type. If eating healthy is a challenge for you or if you have specific health concerns, there are many options for supplementation. In conditions such as osteoporosis, anemia, stress, active lifestyle, and pregnancy, there are extra demands on the body which may require you to supplement in addition to eating healthy. If you have digestive issues, even if you are eating right, you may not be breaking down and absorbing nutrients well enough to meet your body’s demands. There are a variety of good quality whole food supplements on the market which have concentrated nutrients from food. If you are interested in learning more, come by the clinic for a free sample and meet our naturopathic doctors to customize a diet plan for you.

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 at 905-940-2727 or email to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Navigating Perimenopause

By Dr. Nadine Cyr, ND

It has been referred to as “midlife metamorphosis”, the 10 years or so before the cessation of menses. Between the ages of 40 and 50, women experience hormonal changes as the body prepares to transition into menopause. How we experience this transitional journey is dependent on many factors: lifestyle, diet, liver health, thyroid function and adrenal status.

Some of the more common peri-menopausal symptoms include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Heavy periods
  • Increased irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings, anxiety, depression 
  • Decreased libido
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Hot flashes

The Adrenal Connection

While the range and severity of symptoms vary from one woman to another, there’s one key underlying factor that will ease or exacerbate perimenopause: adrenal status. As the ovaries decrease and eventually stop their production of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone, the adrenal glands need to be able to take over hormonal production. Women who have experienced extended periods of high stress throughout their life as well as those who may be nutritionally deficient as a result of sub-optimal dietary habits are far more at risk of experiencing a challenging hormonal transition.

There are many signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue including:

  • Difficulty falling and/or staying sleep
  • Need for caffeine to get start and/or get through the day
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insulin resistance, Sugar cravings
  • Foggy brain, poor memory
  • Depression, excessive worrying, anxiety, difficulty relaxing
  • Inability to cope with stressful events
  • Weight gain in abdominal region
  • Ringing in the ears, dizziness

Since the level of adrenal depletion will determine how challenging perimenopause will be, finding out one’s adrenal status (Salivary Adrenal Stress Index and DUTCH test) is an important part of this menopause preparation journey. Once the adrenal status is determined, the appropriate treatments, including vitamins, minerals, and botanicals may be used to support and restore the adrenals.

Perimenopause - A Time to Reflect and Reset

The pre-menopause journey provides a very important opportunity for women to pause and look at what’s working and what needs improving- self-care, lifestyle, relationships, diet, hormones, so that we may improve and build on the health that will sustain us for the rest of our lives. It truly is the perfect time to press the mental, emotional and physical health re-set button. 

Dr. Nadine Cyr is a Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus on women's health and 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, May 5, 2017

The Importance of Hormones after Age 50

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

Hormones affect every aspect of life. Unfortunately, the importance of adequate and balanced hormones is often ignored as someone ages.  But hormones play a significant role in healthy aging and treating a hormone imbalance can often make a significant difference on how a person feels.

If you are creeping close to 50 years of age or if you are older, I encourage you to examine whether or not your symptoms are actually due to hormone imbalances.

Impact of Hormones after the Age of 50

The following is a summary of the key roles of the main sex hormones.

Role of Progesterone

Role of Estrogen
Role of Testosterone
·         Precursor of other hormones
·         Higher progesterone levels decrease risk of cancer
·         Slows down the aging process
·         Facilitates thyroid function
·         Normalizes blood clotting
·         Regulates blood sugar levels
·         Helps use fat for energy
·         Natural antidepressant
·         Restores cell oxygen levels
·         Stimulates bone building
·         Decreases cholesterol, LDL and homocysteine levels
·         Protects against heart disease and decreases blood pressure

·         Regulates fat storage and speeds up metabolism
·         Stimulates vaginal thickness
·         Increases sex drive
·         Assists with joint formation/ decreases calcium deposits in rheumatoid arthritis
·         Facilitates the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin
·         Protects against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

·     Preserves muscle mass, bone growth, bone density and strength
·     Ensures strong sexual desire and sense of well being
·     Ensures adequate red blood cells
·     Protects against breast cancer and heart disease in menopausal women

Symptoms Associated with Hormone Imbalances

The following are common symptoms associated with hormone imbalances as you age:
  • Depression and anxiety are symptoms of low progesterone, low testosterone and both estrogen deficiency and excess.  If you feel sad and you don't know why, check out your hormones before you start addressing your symptoms with medication for depression or anxiety.
  • Difficulty remembering can be attributed to either low estrogen or low testosterone.  
  • Painful intercourse and vaginal dryness is often associated with low estrogen levels.
  • Lack of sex drive or sexual performance is too often just associated with aging when it can be due to low progesterone or testosterone or high estrogen levels.
  • Frequent urinary tract infections or incontinence can be due to low estrogen and, if so, can be greatly reduced by addressing estrogen levels.
  • Arthritis, especially when it affects the hands and causes deformity in the joints, is a symptom of low estrogen levels.
  • Weight gain since your 40s is often due to hormone deficiencies or imbalances.  If your estrogen levels are high it can often result in weight on the hips and thighs. If testosterone is low it will result in increased abdominal fat, Low progesterone will cause an overall increase in weight in the midsection.
  • Fatigue can be caused by low estrogen or low testosterone.

Causes of Hormone Imbalances

Hormone levels are naturally lower as you age, but the following factors can increase the rate of decline:
  • Genetics plays a role, but it is not overly significant for most people
  • Stress, especially when it is chronic and unrelenting
  • Sleep deprivation over a long period of time
  • Nutrient deficiencies or dietary imbalances - especially if your diet has been lacking protein, fat and/or minerals
  • Environmental toxins are known to disrupt hormone levels and how the body metabolizes and uses hormones
  • Trauma, especially head trauma can result in hormone changes
  • Chronic pain impacts hormone levels
  • Medications play with hormones.  Some of the most significant disruptors are SSRIs and birth control pills.

Assessing Your Hormone Status

There are a number of ways of assessing your hormone status.  For many, you can determine hormone deficiencies and excesses simply based on symptoms and health history.  Blood tests are never very accurate to assess hormone levels, but they become even less reliable as you age.  

The most accurate way to assess hormone levels, especially as you age, is via urine testing.  The Dutch Hormone test, for example, assesses hormones levels and whether the body is able to metabolize hormones appropriately.

Treating Hormone Imbalances

There are a number of different ways to treat hormone imbalances.  For some individuals, hormone levels can be normalized by simply improving one's lifestyle -- getting more sleep, decreasing stress, improving diet, and exercising more.  For others, nutraceuticals, herbs and homeopathics can be beneficial in addressing hormone imbalances.  For those that have severe or unrelenting symptoms, bio-identical hormone therapy can be a wonderful option.

The benefits of bio-identical replacement therapy include:

  • relief of menopausal symptoms
  • reduced risk of heart disease and cardiovascular events
  • improved cholesterol profile
  • prevention of osteoporosis
  • prevention of memory disorders
  • maintenance of nervous system
  • maintenance of skin health
  • maintenance of oral health
  • maintenance of eye health
  • prevention of urogential and vaginal atrophy
  • relief of arthritic symptoms

Bio-identical hormone therapy (BHT) is a safe option for treating hormone deficiencies. Bio-identical hormones are derived from plant sources and are modified to replicate the hormones found in the body. Naturopathic doctors in Ontario and British Columbia are able to prescribe bio-identical hormones.

If you suspect that your symptoms are related to your hormones, talk to your naturopathic doctor. The NDs at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic offer a range of options for assessing and treating hormone imbalances, including bio-identical hormone therapy.  Dr. Iva Lloyd, focuses on hormone issues, especially those related to peri-menopause and post-menopause.