Thursday, October 31, 2019

Five Signs That You May Have an Overgrowth of Candida

By: Dr. Jessica Nesbitt ND, CFMP

Candida / Yeast is a type of fungus that is normally found in the digestive tract, urinary tract, vagina, mouth and skin.  Problems arise when Candida starts to overgrow in these areas and causes a wide variety of symptoms. Well known signs of a yeast overgrowth can occur when women have a yeast infection, and when babies have oral thrush or a diaper rash. In my ten years of clinical practice I have seen and treated many patients that did not realize that they were dealing with an overgrowth of yeast, and suffering unnecessarily as a result. In this article I will review five less common signs that your body may be struggling to deal with an overgrowth of yeast.

1. Joint Pain

Candida arthritis has been studied (PMID:26858961) and found to occur in patients ranging from children to senior citizens. The most common joints affected were the hips and knees. Early symptoms noted were swelling, redness and pain in the joints. A common factor found in many of the patients studied was a pre-existing overgrowth of Candida that spread through the bloodstream to the joints.

2. Chronic Infections / Weak Immune System

When I have patient report that they suffer from reoccurring infections such as sinusitis I am suspecting that candida/fungus may be to blame and not bacteria (PMID:19008573).  When patients are treated with antibiotics for an infection, most times it does a good job of killing the bad bacteria, and the patient feels better. But, in some patients the antibiotics set up a situation where Candida can overgrow and weaken their immune system. When this happens I often see patients who have reoccurring ear infections, sinus infections, respiratory infections and yeast infections - sometimes on a monthly basis.  It can be a difficult cycle to break, but I have successfully helped patients of all ages to break the cycle of chronic infections, strengthen their immune system and treat their yeast overgrowth.

3. Digestive Upset

Candida can potentially cause a number of different symptoms of indigestion, starting with intense sugar cravings. Candida's main food source is sugar, and when my patients notice they are craving sugar daily, it is a red flag for me that they may have an overgrowth of Candida in their intestines. Other common digestive complaints associated with Candida are: bloating, gas and irritable bowel disease (PMID:31648369).

4. Brain Fog

This is described by some of my patients as having a cloud or fogginess when trying to think or read. It can manifest in daily life as experiencing problems with memory and lack of focus.  These symptoms  occur when Candida is metabolized. It is broken down into chemical by-products that are normally filtered through the liver. But when Candida has overgrown, the liver is unable to keep up with filtering large amounts of chemical by-products, and as a result symptoms affecting brain function can occur.

5. Skin Rashes

For many skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, toe nail fungus and jock itch,  Candida is a common root cause that needs to be addressed. Common areas that are affected by Candida are: under the breasts, armpits, groin and skin folds on the belly or thighs. The skin will appear red and may have small pimple-like bumps and be itchy.


An overgrowth of Candida can be a potential root cause for many health complaints that you may be experiencing. In my practice I screen all new patients for an overgrowth of Candida on their first visit, and find up to 80% of people do have some amount of a yeast overgrowth.  If you would like to learn more about Candida,  I invite you to join me on Saturday November 9th at 10 am as I host a seminar on "What your Doctor won't tell you about Yeast and Candida".

If you suspect that you may have an overgrowth of Candida, I am pleased to offer a 45 minute Yeast/Candida focused appointment where you will be assessed for yeast and provided treatment. The cost of this visit is $135.

If you would like to learn more,  I also offer a complimentary 15 minute "meet and greet". Please note, no assessment or treatment is given during this visit. If you have any questions,  I can be reached at jnesbitt@naturopathicfoundations.ca






Are the changing seasons causing your anxiety?

By Ann-Marie Regina, ND (pending)

How does change effect anxiety?


With the days becoming shorter, the human body and mind is beginning to prepare for the transition.  Change is occurring constantly in our lives. Whether it be a new season, new job or relationship, a change in lifestage (ie. puberty or menopause) there is always a period of adjustment and transition which can be challenging for some. How do you cope with change? Does it make you feel overwhelmed or off kilter? Does change make you fearful?

Change for some can result in anxiety. Fear of the unknown can be disruptive to our comfortable lives. Anxiety for a short period of time is normal. It acts as motivation to accomplish our goals or tasks. The issue is when anxiety becomes chronic. Chronic anxiety can worsen pre-existing conditions or even contribute to new ones. Conditions such as insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and many more can be triggered by anxiety. As anxiety persists, quality of life decreases and has a negative impact on overall health.

Symptoms of Anxiety


Common symptoms of anxiety include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Running or racing thoughts
  • Abdominal pain & bloating
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Restlessness & excessive worrying
  • Panic attacks 
  • Depression 
It is important to consider that there may be other health conditions causing the above symptoms. Consult with your naturopathic doctor or health care provider to rule out conditions other than anxiety.

What can you do to decrease anxiety in the fall & winter months?


1. Get your sleep Research consistently shows how important sleep is for mood. Having a good night's sleep allows your mind and body to rest and heal. Sleep is also a necessary factor in modulating hormones which can contribute to anxiety if your hormones are imbalanced. If your anxiety is keeping you up at night, you can add some relaxing hobbies to your bedtime routine such as meditation, a warm bath, light yoga or stretches, reading a book, or practise journaling.

2. Be Active As we know, getting a daily dose of exercise can help reduce anxiety. But how? You've probably heard of the "fight or flight" response, which is activated when anxiety or fear is present. The body and mind are trained to want to run or fight, which now can be translated into exercise. So when feelings of anxiety are overwhelming, give in to your body's desire. About 20-30 minutes a day of exercise, whether it be a walk outside or lifting weights, will have a significant impact on your mental health.

3. Meditate The research on meditation is profound in terms of its effects on reducing anxiety and other mental health disorders. Meditation creates an attitude of non-judgement and self love, which are attributes that can seem scarce while experiencing anxiety. The key to meditation is the ability to live in the present moment, which is a major way to combat anxiety. Anyone that feels anxiety knows that their feelings are either tethered to some future event or something that has happened in the past. Living consciously keeps the worries or fears about the past or future at bay, and it only takes 10 minutes each day.

4. Address lifestyle factors Anxiety is a complex emotion with multiple factors contributing to its presence. Lifestyle factors such as dietary changes are typically one aspect that is addressed when treating anxiety. Eliminate stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and sugar that aggravate anxiety. Other stimulants such as technology are taxing on the nervous system. Remember to take time out of your day to be in nature and experience the restorative effects it has on the mind and body.
 
5. Vitamin D Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is activated by the sun and made in your skin, liver and kidneys. Unfortunately, the amount of sunlight we get in the winter is very limited. It also doesn't help that most jobs keep us indoors all day, so even in the summer our sunlight exposure is reduced. Vitamin D has an essential role in mental health. It plays a role in modulating hormones, the immune system, bone formation and energy. Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is common in Canada, which is why it is so important to supplement. Before supplementing however, make sure you talk to your naturopathic doctor or other health care provider to find out what dose is right for you as toxicity is possible.

6. Know your triggers Your body goes through transitions of its own to accommodate the change of seasons. Recognizing what your triggers are will help to address the root cause of your anxiety. Are you being exposed to new allergens? Is this time of year difficult with school or work? Is your body having trouble adjusting to the change in weather? Did you want to accomplish more over the summer months? Transition can be a time for self reflection. Investigate your anxiety on a deeper level, recognize patterns, and then you will learn to address it.

When to talk to your naturopathic doctor about anxiety?


There are many contributing factors that can aggravate or trigger anxiety. If you are finding that your anxiety is becoming too overwhelming, make sure to always seek help. Naturopathic doctors have the unique ability to treat patients on an individual level. Our treatments are specific to what you need on your healthcare journey. 


Ann-Marie Regina is a Naturopathic Doctor (pending) at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic with a focus on helping patients make healthy lifestyle choices that are specific to them. If you want to learn more about what your body and mind need, Ann-Marie Regina, ND (pending) can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment or to schedule a complimentary 15 minute "meet and greet."


Healing Headaches & Migraines Naturally

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, AAWC 

Almost everyone has had a migraine or headache at some point in their life, but for many individuals chronic migraines can be debilitating and impact daily life. Conventional medicine has several tools to help ease the pain of migraines – though not without side effects. While these medications are commonly prescribed or taken over the counter, they don’t necessarily address the root of the issue. In this article, the words migraine and headache may be used interchangeably; though they manifest slightly differently, the treatment approach is similar.

Ayurveda and other systems such as Naturopathic medicine or TCM have developed thorough systems of assessments to help identify various types of migraines stemming from a variety of causes.  The first step to healing headaches is to understand why they are manifesting in the first place. Once the imbalance is identified, a treatment plan can be laid out.

Causes of Headaches & Migraines

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. Headaches could be a sign of dehydration or lack of sleep – a signal to get some rest. Chronic headaches can also be a sign of a more serious or underlying issue such as inflammation in the brain due to food sensitivities, auto-immune diseases or from chronic structural issues such as poor posture or injuries. Some common causes of migraines and headaches:
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Food allergies
  • Weather changes
  • Dehydration
  • Overwork
  • Postural imbalances
  • Eye strain
  • Hormones
  • Medications

According to Ayurveda, headaches are seen as a sign of dosha imbalances – when the equilibrium of the 5 elements is lost, there is an accumulation of vata, pitta or kapha leading to symptoms. The location, quality, severity, duration and characteristics of the migraine can give clear information on the specific dosha imbalance. Tongue & pulse assessments can further reveal the individual’s prakruti and vikruti.

Types of Headaches & Migraines

According to Ayurveda, headaches are seen as a sign of dosha imbalances – when the equilibrium of the 5 elements is lost, there is an accumulation of vata, pitta or kapha leading to symptoms. The location, quality, severity, duration and characteristics of the migraine can give clear information on the specific dosha imbalance. Tongue & pulse assessments can further reveal the individual’s prakruti and vikruti. Migraines can be classified into 3 major types:

Vata Headaches

Vata headaches are often caused by fear, stress, anxiety and chronic muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. These headaches are often triggered by travel and having too many activities or commitments. Pain is often felt in the back of the neck and head and may come and go. These headaches are generally relieved with warmth, rest, quiet and massage to release tension.

Pitta Headaches

Pitta Headaches are triggered by heat, dehydration, anger, impatience and overwork. When you are under pressure or take on too many responsibilities, this is your body’s way of telling you to ease up. The quality of these headaches are throbbing and pounding and are often felt at the temples or behind the eyes. These types of headaches resolve with relaxation, slowing down and cooling therapies.

Kapha Headaches

Kapha Headaches are perpetuated by heavy foods, sleeping in, colds and sinus infections. They are characterized by heaviness and dullness in the frontal and sinus areas and mucus congestion. These types of headaches get better with heat, movement and light food.

Treatments

Healing from headaches involves understanding the cause, relieving discomfort and preventing reoccurrence. There are many ways to do this using natural approaches once the type of headache has been identified. Someone with pitta headaches will need a different approach than a kapha headache for example. Below is an outline of some of the common treatments for headaches and migraines.

Diet

Eating according to the season and one’s dosha type is an essential foundation to healing headaches. In addition, it is very beneficial to identify food sensitivities and migraine triggers: this can be through keeping a food diary, or doing IgG/IgA food sensitivity testing with a practitioner. Some common triggers are: caffeine, alcohol, cheese, dairy, wheat, eggs, citrus and preservatives, though it will vary for each individual. You can do a food sensitivity test through your ND to identify your specific sensitivities or do an elimination diet where you remove all the common triggers for a month and slowly introduce one new food item at a time and record your symptoms.

Lifestyle

Ayurveda has always emphasized the importance of dinacharya – the concept of healthy daily routines as part of a healthy lifestyle. Many people have lost touch with the cycles of nature and healthy routines, yet they are a foundation for health. Waking up by sunrise, drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, tongue scraping, dry skin brushing or self-massaging and incorporating yoga and meditation before eating a balanced breakfast is an outline of a healthy daily morning routine. In the evening, eating dinner before sunset and winding down with bedtime routines (such as aromatherapy massage and light reading or meditation) can help reset the body for a restful sleep. There are many routines in Ayurveda that can be customized based on your dosha type and lifestyle. More than a medicine, it is a way of life.

Botanicals & Supplements

A mainstay of naturopathic, supplements play a key role of delivering concentrated nutrients to the body – especially when there are deficiencies. Common supplements that can benefit individuals with headaches are: Magnesium, omega-3 oils, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Many nervine herbs help to relax muscle tension and support relaxation, especially in vata headaches. Some common herbs used in botanical medicine are: skullcap, passionflower, lavender, brahmi and jatamansi. It is always advised to work with your practitioner before taking supplements and herbs so that they can be adjusted to your individual needs.

Therapies

When your head is pounding with a headache what brings the most relief? Many will enjoy a massage around the temples or forehead with a warm or cold compress. Receiving treatment is one of the most effective ways of dissipating pain. Some of the most effective treatments for relief of migraines (acute or chronic) are acupuncture and massage. These therapies reduce tension in the body and promote circulation. They also help your mind to slow down and break the pattern of stress and overwork.  Abhyanga or Ayurvedic massage along with essential oils can bring instant relaxation and you can learn which oils to keep handy. Lavender or rose oils cool down a pitta headache, eucalyptus or pine helps with kapha headaches, and lavender or frankincense helps with vata headaches.  There are many other oils and techniques that your practitioner can show you.


The body has the remarkable ability to heal. Migraines and headaches are not something that you have to live with. Once the cause has been identified it is much easier to treat them with a combination of diet, lifestyle, herbs and therapies according to dosha type. Before you pop that painkiller – take a moment and tune into what your body is telling you. With chronic migraines, a significant change in terms of diet or lifestyle is usually needed for lasting effects and best done under supervision by your practitioner. Once your headaches are addressed, you will feel better, have more clarity, productivity and energy in your day!

Dr. Leena Athparia is a Naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus on 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.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Blood Pressure - Risks and Concerns

by Ann-Marie Regina, ND (pending)

File:Bloodpressurecuff.jpgWhen your heart pumps to circulate blood throughout your body, it creates a pressure on your arteries, this is called blood pressure. This pressure is necessary to force blood to areas of your body that are farthest away from your heart like your fingers and toes.

So what is a healthy blood pressure reading for you? Everyone is different and there is a healthy range that is acceptable for each individual person. To determine if your blood pressure is at the right level for you, weight, height, level of exercise, family history, diet and any medical conditions that you may have, are necessary for a customized and accurate measurement.

High blood pressure (Hypertension)

When the pressure of blood on your arteries is too high, damage occurs resulting in an immune response. Immune cells try to fix the damage by covering the area with a plaque and cholesterol deposits, almost like a bandaid. The plaque may fix the damage, but it causes the artery walls to stiffen and become narrow. This process will continue as long as the blood pressure remains high. The more narrow the artery becomes, the more likely it can become clogged leading to heart disease.

So how do we recognize the symptoms of high blood pressure? The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure taken. High blood pressure is typically silent, meaning there are no symptoms.

Common risk factors for high blood pressure include:
  • Smoking
  • Stress especially is unrelenting or if poor coping skills
  • Family history or personal history of cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity, especially if carrying the weight in the abdomen or waist
  • Lack of exercise or too much strenuous exercise
  • Poor diet or imbalanced diet

Low blood pressure (Hypotension)

Making sure that your blood pressure is in a healthy range is important to your cardiovascular health. This also includes checking if your blood pressure is too low. Symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, headache or feeling faint can be signs of low blood pressure and will have significant consequences on your health. If your blood pressure is too low, areas of the body such as the hands, feet and brain are not getting the blood and nutrients they need to function optimally. This will increase your risk of a stroke, dementia, peripheral neuropathy, erectile dysfunction, severe fatigue, hemorrhoids and varicose veins.

Common risk factors and diseases that can cause problematic low blood pressure include:

How often should you monitor your blood pressure?

If you have been on medication for blood pressure for awhile, you would check your blood pressure about once a week. If you are changing any medications, blood pressure or otherwise, ideally monitor your blood pressure once or twice a day for 10 days, or as advised by your healthcare practitioner.

If your blood pressure is generally stable and you aren't on any medications, we recommend checking your blood pressure at least every month or if there is a reason to be concerned. Changing your  routine significantly such as beginning a new exercise regime, major changes to your diet, stopping smoking or other changes may impact on your blood pressure and therefore it is best to check your blood pressure more frequently so that you know the impact.

Another good reason to check your blood pressure is if you experience any new symptoms that are out of the ordinary for you or are concerning.

Complimentary Blood Pressure Check!

We are pleased to announce that every Friday between 12-4, you are able to come into our clinic for a complimentary blood pressure check. This will be a drop in service, so you do not need to book an appointment.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Do you have ear pain, itchiness, hearing loss? You need your ears checked!!


by Dr. Jessica Nesbitt, ND

Ear wax (cerumen) is a normal substance made by the cells lining the ear canal that helps to protect, clean, and keep the ears healthy.  When dust or dirt enters the ear, the ear wax provides a sticky substance that traps the debris and prevents it from travelling deeper into the ear canal.

Ear wax will normally make its way to the outside of the ear canal through the motion of our jaw, and by chewing food. At this point, it can flake off or be washed off.

Sometimes this natural process can be uninterrupted, and a build up of ear wax can occur. This is called impaction.  When this occurs, the ear canal will be either partially or full blocked and lead to symptoms such as:

  • ear pain
  • itching
  • sense of fullness in the ear
  • hearing loss
  • change in hearing aid function
  • odour coming from the ear

Keep in mind that it is possible to not have any symptoms at all. I have found throughout my years of practice that on routine physical exams many patients did have impacted ear wax and were not aware of it all.  It is important to have your ears checked yearly, or if you start to experience any of the above symptoms. 

In my clinical practice I have found that anyone of any age can have impacted ear wax. But, more commonly I have found it in children 2-6 years old, senior citizens and those who use hearing aids, or ear plugs. Other risk factors associated with impacted ear wax are; yeast/candida overgrowth,  having hairy ear canals, a narrow ear canal, people with re occurring ear infections, and swimmers.

Although you may be tempted to clean out your ears, it is important to remember not to stick items such Q-tips, keys, or bobby pins in your ears as they may push the was build up deeper into the ear canal.  

I am pleased to announce that I will be offering complimentary ear checks at the clinic. This will be a drop in service available on Wednesdays from 10am - 2pm. 



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

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 a detailed symptoms and health history.  Blood tests are seldom 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 as urine is able to more accurately assess 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 urogenital 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.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Feeling Anxious? The Answer May be Nature

By Ann-Marie Regina, ND (pending)

Do you ever question if your health is being helped or hindered by technology? With modern technology advancing, there is a diminished need to leave your home, let alone get off your couch. You can order food from your phone and have it delivered right to your door, a convenience that saves time in our busy and stressful lives. Convenience, however, comes at a price. If you are constantly being bombarded by emails, phone calls, text messages and updates, it can result in mental fatigue and contribute to symptoms such as anxiety. Our "fight or flight" response, is triggered when a phone buzzes. Though our ancestors lived in quite a different world than us, our brains remain the same. Prioritizing your body's intrinsic desire to connect with nature is fundamental to your health. Technology is creating barriers to engaging in the connectedness we seek. So how do we combat our anxiety? The answer is simple: disconnect from all your devices for a while and get back to spending time in nature.

How can nature reduce your stress?

Reduction in mental arousal: Research shows that spending time in nature has restorative properties due to its lower level of mental arousal. Exposure to the natural environment can also mediate stress by decreasing emotions such as anger, aggression and fear and can actually increase positive emotions such as happiness and friendliness immediately.

Recharging the brain: The prefrontal cortex of our brain that is in charge of decision making and cognition, is constantly being bombarded by stimuli. Eventually this can lead to burn out, fatigue and anxiety. Time in nature can give your brain that much needed break and can boost mental abilities such as short-term memory.

Buffering stressful events: Stressful life events can leave us feeling vulnerable and trapped. Access to nature has been shown to provide a distraction and the temporary feeling of "being away". When we create a buffer by removing ourselves from the perceived threat and look at a stressful event from a calm rather than fearful perspective, we can reclaim agency and control over our lives. Nature should be an important tool in your kit to combat anxiety.

How long do I need to be outside to see the effects?

In terms of how long you should be outside, there is evidence suggesting that walking for 90 minutes a day in nature can reduce activity in the part of the brain that is linked to negative rumination. More reasonably, 20-30 minutes 3-4 days a week will have the same stress relieving properties and is a great way to incorporate daily physical activity into your life which we also know decreases stress.

How to make the most out of a nature walk

To make sure that you gain all the benefits of a nature walk, follow these simple rules:

1. Disconnect completely! Leave your cell phone in the car or at home. The point of the nature walk is to disconnect from the technology that drives your anxiety. It may feel challenging to go out without your phone, but if you really want to combat your anxiety take that first step. Carve out time to be without technology and see how good you feel!

2. Be present! Thinking about the past or the future largely contributes to symptoms of anxiety. If you can live in the moment, you are not worrying about what responsibilities that you have waiting for you, or what mistakes you've made in the past. And what better time to live in the present when you are strolling through a beautiful forest? Focus on the breeze through your fingers as you walk, or the crickets and birds chirping. Stay grounded and calm and you will reap the rewards of your time in nature.

3. Breathe! To help you stay present, focus on your breathing. We know that deep breathing practices help to calm the mind, especially when anxiety is present. So let's compound the calming effects of breathing with the restorative effects of nature. What sort of things do you smell? Are there some fragrant flowers still in bloom? Take deep breaths, really expanding your belly and drink in all that nature has to offer.

Here are 5 tips to bring nature to your everyday environment:


1. Make sure your work space has plants! Have you ever noticed that an office or home with plants is more soothing? Integrating healing gardens in your place of work can increase mental, emotional and spiritual well-being by creating an opportunity for quiet reflection and restoration of the mind. Your healing garden doesn't have to be fancy. Just having a few plants that bring you a sense of calmness can make all the difference.

2. Listen to the sound of nature! Listening to soundscapes can also aid in reducing anxiety. MRI reports measuring brain activity while listening to sounds recorded from nature reflected similar activity that occurs during periods of wakeful rest. Similar effects hold true from looking at photographs that signify meaning to the individual.

3. Take a break! Stuck in the office all day staring at your computer? Make sure you take time out of your day to get outside. It can be a five minute walk around your building, or even just cracking the window and breathing in fresh air.

4. Find a restorative urban environment! Not all urban environments are depleting. Find a place that makes you feel like you are "getting away". This can be your favourite museum or an architectural building. As long as the building does not overload the attentive system and provides a level of fascination, the "artificial" environment can fill in the gaps.

5. Find a friend! Try catching up with friends in the great outdoors instead of sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop. Enlist a friend or a partner to go for a daily walk. Together you can be accountable for each other and provide motivation and encouragement. Social interaction is another important aspect of mental health and wellbeing.

Find your space to create inner peace! There are many trails in Markham to choose from. A sample of what can be found is listed below:
  • Milne Dam Conservation park Trail
  • Rouge valley Trail
  • Bob Hunter Memorial Park
  • Toogood Pond
Need help finding a trail close by, here's an application you can download on your phone or computer to locate a trail near you and bring you back to nature.
All trails: https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/alltrails-hike-bike-run/id405075943

Finding your anxiety to be unbearable? Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor

Feelings of anxiety can be very overwhelming. Remember to alway seek help if you are having trouble managing your symptoms. Walks in nature can help you, but sometimes you may need more support. There are many other resources that are available to you to address your concerns. Ask your naturopathic Doctor about what treatments are right for you. 

Ann-Marie Regina is a Naturopathic Doctor (pending) at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic with a focus on helping patients make healthy lifestyle choices that are specific to them. If you want to learn more about what your body and mind need, Ann-Marie Regina, ND (pending) can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727.