Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Trying To Have a Baby, But Don't Know When To Try

By Dr. Beata Skorka, ND

Have you ever wondered when the right time to have intercourse is in order to get pregnant? Knowing when you need to be sexually active with your partner shouldn't be a barrier in trying to start or grow a family. This article will bring you back to the basics of ovulation and teach you tools you can utilize to help you know when you are about to ovulate, are ovulating and have just ovulated.

In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as premenstrual symptoms (PMS), heavy painful periods, bleeding between cycles, long cycles, short cycles, and the list can go on forever. These types of symptoms may be common, but they are not normal, and could be an indication of hormonal imbalances in your health. We know that the average cycle length is 28 days and that ovulation occurs on day 14. Although this may be true for some women, this is not the case in all women. If you happen to be one of those women who doesn't ovulate on day 14, you could be having sex at the wrong time. 

Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from a woman's ovary. Depending on a woman's health and age, this will happen once a month. Once an egg is released from the ovary, it has up to 24 hours to be fertilized by the male sperm. Dependent on the health of the male sperm, it can remain viable and fertilize the mature female egg within a maximum of 5 days after intercourse.

Hormones within the female body change daily, and even fluctuate throughout the day. Due to these constant, but organized changes, women are able to use various tools to inform them about when they ovulate. 

Below I will discuss three methods that will tell you when you're about to ovulate, are ovulating and have just ovulated. These tools will help you time intercourse for conception.

1.  Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Strips:

In women, luteinizing hormone is a sex hormone that controls the production of estrogen from the ovaries.  It is important in fertility because prior to a mature egg being released from a woman's ovary, LH will surge (increase).  Once your LH surges, an egg is released within the following 24-36 hours, at which point you have up to 24 hours for the sperm to fertilize the egg. 

Testing Your LH: Just like you would use urine to check if you were pregnant, you can use urine to check if your LH is surging (positive strip).  Depending on your cycle length, you will start checking your LH daily anywhere from day 9 and onwards of your cycle. Day 1 is the first day you bleed. 
  • Your LH strips should come with a chart indicating which day to begin checking your LH based on your cycle length. Typically your results from day to day should look like this:
  • Negative - Positive - Negative - Stop checking
  • A positive strip indicates an LH surge.  Intercourse should start now, and continue for the next two days. Once you've done this for a few cycles, and you know on which day you have your LH surge, you can begin having intercourse 1-2 days prior to your surge day. 

2.  Cervical Mucous:

Based on where you are in your cycle, the amount and quality of your cervical mucous will differ. This is due to the ever changing hormones in your body. Cervical mucous is present to either prevent things from entering the cervix (days where there is less mucous and it's thicker) or help transport sperm through the cervix in the the uterus to fertilize (days where mucous is like the whites of a raw egg). Knowing what to look for can help you  know when you are ovulating. When a woman is ovulating, the mucous will resemble raw egg whites and she will typically have more discharge. Assessing your cervical mucous will require you to touch your mucous between two of your fingers to see how sticky or dry it is. 

How you can mark your daily discharge.
P = during period
D = dry
S = sticky
E = egg white - ovulation

3. Basal Body Temperature (BBT):

A tool to let you know that you have ovulated. Needs to be done for a few cycles so you know which day you ovulate and can have intercourse prior to.
First things first, to measure your BBT, you will need a thermometer that has a tenth decimal reading (two numbers after the decimal). You can check your local pharmacy or simply order online. Your BBT needs to be the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, even before getting out of bed. Be patient, this reading can take a bit longer then a normal thermometer for fevers. Once you have your reading, record it on a paper BBT chart (easily found online to print) or via various available phone apps. You want to search for 'ovulation' or 'BBT' when looking for an app. Phone apps will also typically have areas you can record your daily vaginal mucous.


  • Take your temperature at the same time every morning
  • First thing you do when you wake: before getting out of bed, eating, drinking, going to the bathroom. You open your eyes, you take your temperature.
  • Be consistent in your routine
What to look for: a sudden increase in basal body temperature on your chart. This sudden increase indicates that you have ovulated. 

Your readings can be affected by the following:
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Medication
  • Stress
  • Jet lag
  • Illness/infection/fever
  • Sleep disturbances
Knowing when you are ovulating is an important part of trying to conceive. For more information on pre-natal, natal or post-natal care, contact Dr. Skorka at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic. 

Dr. Beata Skorka, ND has a special interest in fertility.  To book an appointment with her, please contact the clinic at 905-940-2727 or email b.skorka@naturopathicfoundations.ca

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Is Change Causing Your Anxiety?

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Fall is a season of transition - from warm summer months of outdoor activity to the cold winter season of indoor activities. Change not only happens with the seasons, but is a continuous process with life situations, relationships and work. Take a moment and reflect on what is stable currently in your life right now...and what is changing. How does change feel? Do you cope well with change or does it make you feel unsteady? Do you feel afraid? Are you holding on or letting go?

For some people, change results in anxiety.  Often, feelings of worry and anxiety are reactions to thoughts of the future or fear of the unknown. You may experience instability, fear and a general sense of "holding on" as you step out of your comfort zone and face the unknown. Anxiety is a natural response to danger - or perceived threat. Your system is trying to protect you with the fight or flight response even though there may not be any actual danger.

It may be a change of season, change in career, change of life stage (ie. puberty, menopause) - whatever change you are going through can lead to anxiety characterized by signs such as running thoughts, chronic worry, elevated heart rate, shallow breathing, sweating, short temper and many other signs. While temporary anxiety is a normal reaction, when it impacts daily activities or continues for extended periods of time, it can be disruptive and reduce quality of life. Chronic anxiety can even lead to other conditions such as depression, irritable bowel syndrome, substance abuse and other conditions.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety can affect anyone at anytime and can be acute or chronic. The most common symptoms relate to:
  • heart palpitations
  • pain in the chest or tightness
  • sighing or hyperventilation
  • muscle tension - causing spasms, headaches or pain
  • excessive sweating
  • dizziness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sleep disturbances

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety is often a complex issue with more than one factor. Sometimes you may be able to identify the cause, especially when it is related to a specific event, but for many with chronic anxiety, routine daily activities can provoke constant worry. Lifestyle factors and nutrition are a commons causes of nervous system imbalances. In addition, if you are on new medications, speak with your doctor since some pharmaceuticals such as stimulants, thyroid medication and analgesics can have side effects leading to anxiety. Many times, zooming the lens to re-examine your fears can help bring them to the surface so you can start working at the tip of the iceberg.

Ways to treat anxiety:

Naturopathic doctors treat the person, not just the condition, to restore balance. Your age, your health issues, prescriptions medications and symptoms are taken into account when creating a tailored health plan. Below are a few ways to help ease anxiety:

1. Address Lifestyle Factors
First identify any stimulants that may be in your diet or environment and eliminate them. Caffeine in the form of coffee or chocolate stimulates the nervous system and if you are prone to anxiety, cutting caffeine out is a first step. Drugs, alcohol, and even sugar can also contribute to anxiety. Other stimulants in your environment such as loud noise, cell phones, TVs put your body in fight-or-flight more. Reducing stimulants, in addition to adequate sleep, exercise, yoga, meditation and 'down time' support nervous system balance and allows your body to relax. It is also helpful to identify factors in your life which have changed, such as jobs: relationships, homes, routine, outlook on life etc. Write these down in chronological order for the past month or year(s). This can help narrow down some factors contributing to feeling unsettled. When you identify factors, you may notice the anxiety softening by simply bringing it to your attention.

2. Get Grounded through Bodywork
According to Ayurveda, anxiety is predominantly an imbalance of vata dosha, characterized by increased air & space elements and not enough earth element. During times of change, you may feel unsteady or like the ground below you is shifting as you try to hold your footing through life situations. Treating anxiety starts by supporting you to feel more grounded. There are many ways to do this. Grounding foods such as root vegetables, warm liquids, healthy fats and protein nourish and stabilize the body. Sitting, squatting or keeping your feet on the ground help you connect with the earth. Bodywork such as massage, cupping or acupuncture is very effective for treating anxiety by connecting you with your body. Ayurvedic oil massage or abhyanga is an excellent therapy for anxiety since it helps ground you and promotes deep relaxation.

3. Support Nutritional Factors
Common causes of anxiety on a physiological level are through nutrient deficiencies and food intolerances.  Food sensitivities and allergies can also stimulate adrenaline and make you feel anxious. Speak to your naturopathic doctor if testing for food sensitivities is beneficial for you. Many vitamins, minerals and amino acids are lacking in our food and lead to deficiencies. When the nervous system is lacking nutrients, it cannot perform its functions properly. Speak to your ND if supplements such as B vitamins, magnesium, glycine, inositol would suit your symptoms and constitution. There are numerous herbs that promote relaxation such as skullcap, lavender and lemon balm. How much to take, when and how can be tailored to your specific concerns.  

4. Seek Counselling
Managing anxiety on your own can make you feel like you are going in circles. Speaking about it with someone can help give you a different perspective and allow 'rambling thoughts' to find verbal expression. Sometimes speaking with friends and family can be supportive, but can also be a source of worry and fear of judgement. Consider working with a counsellor or psychotherapist to help identify triggers, especially if there is history of trauma or if you are having difficulty going through a life transition. Addressing the mental-emotional causes of anxiety along with supporting the nervous system with nutrients and bodywork can support you in a wholistic way if you are struggling with anxiety.

While temporary anxiety is a normal response and can be managed with self-care techniques, if anxiety is a chronic concern for you or if you find that it is affecting your daily activities, speak with your naturopathic doctor. There are many ways to assess causes of anxiety and develop a treatment plan that is customized using nutrition, supplements, botanical medicine, counselling, acupuncture, homeopathy and other therapies to bring balance to your system. As we wrap up this year, it is a good time to identify your challenges and stressors, and work through old patterns to make room for new growth. Take some time this fall to reflect on ways to stabilize yourself and open up to positive change. For many people, this can be challenging to do fully on your own, so work with your practitioner who can support you through times of change.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health, pain and chronic disease. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Winter Is Coming! Feed Your Fire

By Dr. Denis Marier, ND, MA

With the beautiful season of Autumn upon us, our minds, bodies, and spirits are making the adjustment to lower light levels and a change in temperatures. Many prepare for the winter season of drawing inwards and settling into periods of less activity. Some even come close to hibernating.

The phrase, "Winter is coming!" brings dread for some, as well as excitement for others. The cues from nature that we receive are brilliant at helping us to adjust, and it is important to pay attention to them. Food has a lot to do with these cues in order to function optimally and keep us healthy. In this day and age of easily accessible food from all over the world, year round, we can forget how important it is to eat seasonally, locally, and mindfully for our health. Here are some gentle guidelines:

Eating Seasonally

Our bodies have adapted brilliantly to the cues from nature for getting all that we can from the nutrients in our food.
  • For instance, spring and summer fruits and vegetables are high in sodium and low in potassium. When we eat an abundance of these foods, the sodium-to-potassium ratio sends a signal to our bodies that we must be in Spring/Summer where sunlight levels are highest, therefore, there is plentiful access to vitamin D so the body doesn't have to store as much.
  • Conversely, root vegetables are higher in potassium and lower in sodium, and that higher potassium-to-sodium ratio in our diets tells our bodies that we are in Autumn/Winter when sunlight levels are lowest, and therefore it needs to store vitamin D.

Eating Locally

  • The best way to explain this concept is to compare apples and bananas, which contain similar amounts of vitamin C (otherwise I would have used the aphorism "comparing apples and oranges," but oranges have about ten times the amount of vitamin C found in apples or bananas). Now let's consider the two individuals - one from Canada, and one from the Tropics. Even though the available vitamin C content is similar in both fruits, the person from Canada will biologically absorb more vitamin C from the apple, whereas the person from the Tropics will more easily absorb the vitamin C from the banana. Bodies naturally adapt to get the most nutritional value from local foods. 
  • Eating locally is also good for the environment as the production and shipping costs of bringing in food from far away is drastically reduced. Local food is fresher, and nutritionally better as most tropical food is picked green and left to ripen in containers transported thousands of miles to their destination.
  •  Sure, it's nice to have a banana once in a while or some strawberries from California in the winter months, but consider these as treats. In York Region, we are surrounded by great agricultural richness, and Farmer's Markets are plentiful. Autumn is harvest time, and traditionally the time to make "preserves" for the long, cold, dark winter months when the smell of fresh apple pie baking on a blustery day fills the Soul as well as the stomach.

Eating Consciously

  • There is a difference between good food, and food that is good for you. Making better choices at the grocery store and in meal preparation goes a long way in improving your health and vitality. Working with a naturopathic doctor to investigate food intolerances and ways of eating is an excellent way of optimizing your nutrition. 
  • Fad diets come and go but learning to choose the foods that work best with you and your constitution and ways to eat them are the cornerstone of optimal wellness. "You are what you eat," is more than just a catchy slogan. It is the truth. 
  • Having nearly twenty years of experience as a naturopathic doctor has made this point clear to me time and again. I've even seen it said, that every bite of food you put into your mouth is either medicine or poison. I like to take a more moderate approach in helping to empower my patients to consistently make better choices, armed with a whole lot of information.
  • Another important consideration in eating consciously is eating mindfully. Because when we take the time to truly enjoy our food, savouring each bite and flavour, the truth is we become satiated faster and tend not to overeat. Chewing our food starts the whole digestion process in the mouth, making food easier to digest and nutrients more easily absorbed. But the truth is, digestion really begins with our eyes and noses - the sight and smells of yummy food starts the whole digestion process by getting our digestive system ramped up and excited for the nutrition we're about to ingest!
  • Being thankful for the food we eat, taking a moment to acknowledge the numerous lives and labours that have combined to bring this food to our table so that we may be nourished is important, even if we only acknowledge it privately before tucking into a great meal. Although, I've yet to see a cook/chef balk at being thanked for preparing a meal.
   Naturopathic doctors are experts at nutrition, digestion, and optimal wellness. If you are looking for easy, tasty ways to improve your energy, vitality, and overall wellness, talk with me.

To book an appointment with Dr. Denis Marier, ND, MA to talk about how you can be making more personalized and better nutritional choices and ways of eating, call the clinic at 905.940.272 or email me at d.marier@naturopathicfoundations.ca.