Saturday, August 31, 2019

Digestion: The Mind-Body Connection

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, AAWC

The gut is often referred to as our 'second brain'. The Ayurvedic system of medicine has examined the connection of mind-body for thousands of years and now modern medicine is beginning to understand that the gut makes serotonin - an important neurotransmitter also made in our brain that helps us feel good.  So, does what we eat affect our mood or does our mood affect our digestion?

When you are angry or upset - how's your appetite?
When you are happy - how's your appetite?
When you are nervous - how's your appetite?

Everyone has experienced a time when their appetite was instantly affected by a thought, bad news or something someone said to them. There is no doubt a link between your mental state and the quality of your digestion.

In Ayurveda, there is a concept called 'agni' which means fire. This metabolic fire is omnipresent in your body: from your cells, to your mind and your digestive system. An example of this metabolic fire is stomach acid that your body makes to break down food. When you are stressed, the stomach doesn't make as much stomach acid. People who are chronically stressed have hypochlorhydria or lack of hydrochloric acid which leads to a host of other issues such as parasites, yeast and undigested food. Whenever the nervous system gets a jolt, 'agni' immediately dwindles. This happens in every part of your body including your stomach. Just think of what happens when wind (vata) blows your campfire out and you can't cook your hot dogs! This is a rough analogy of what happens in the body as well.

There is a lot of focus on the physical aspect of digestion - digestive enzymes, probiotics, healthy foods - all of which play a very important role in breaking down your food. However, we need to address some of the subtler aspects of digestion and support a balanced nervous system. When you experience stress, your sympathetic nervous system is dominant (your survival response) meaning your body is preparing for fight-or-flight and digestion is not a priority at that moment. IBS is commonly associated with stress leading to abdominal cramping, diarrhea and constipation and it's a common fact that your stomach acid is altered by increased stress levels which has a cascade effect for next stages of digestion. Taking steps to build resilience to stress, support ease of mind are critical aspects to healthy digestion.


Here are a few tips to support digestion from a mind-body perspective:


1. Do a diet diary: track what you ate and any associated symptoms such as digestive upset, gas, acidity and note how you were feeling that day (such as rating your stress levels from 1-10). You can bring it into your ND to help make connections on what factors in your mental-emotional state may be weakening your digestion.

2. Eat in a relaxed environment: when you are in fight-or-flight (sympathetic mode), your body's resources divert away from digestion, and towards your muscles for survival. When you are relaxed, (parasympathetic mode) your body is in a state when digestion is at it's strongest. To support relaxation, minimize talking at meals and focussing on your meal. Keep your phone away, or turn it on silent to minimize distractions. You can play relaxing music or practice mindful eating - bringing awareness to your experience of eating.

3. Have a routine before you eat: say a prayer, a chant, take a few deep breathes or simply close your eyes to give gratitude for the meal you are eating. When you take a minute or two to settle your mind before your eat, this creates a healthy routine to prepare you to eat in a relaxed way. Sit in a comfortable position and avoid eating on the go (walking, in the car). Here's a simple 5 minute yoga practice you can try involving breathing which helps balance your system.

4. Eat food prepared with love and care: many people say their mom (or grandma's) cooking is always the best. Compare that to a take-out meal. Regardless of the recipe, food that is prepared with care, always tastes better! When food is prepared with positive intentions, the food imbibes those qualities. If you are preparing food for your family, try paying attention to what intentions you are putting into your food. When you put your heart into it, everyone will notice it tastes better - and will digest better.

5. Replace food cravings: when you are feeling a certain way (sad, upset, angry, stressed), subconsciously people tend to go for food to feel better. Food cravings are often a sign of a deeper imbalance, rooted in the mind. Instead of looking for food for instant nourishment, work with your practitioner to find other ways to help support and nourish you in a deeper way. This can be through meditation, exercise, healthy food preparation, homeopathics and more. According to Ayurveda, sugar cravings are associated with the feeling of lack of love. Is it a coincidence that sugar intake in modern society has increased dramatically?

With busy lifestyles, it is not always possible to create a perfect atmosphere to eat your food, but as you bring more awareness to your eating habits and as you feel more at ease at meals, you will notice your digestion will also be more at ease. If you are taking probiotics, enzymes and other supplements for digestion but still not noticing enough change, speak with your ND to address subtler aspects of digestion. There are many tools, from herbs to yoga, to help you enjoy your food and digest with a relaxed frame of mind. When you take steps to be mentally at ease in your day, your digestion will thank you for it - and you will feel better!

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.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Ayurvedic massage for detox and the fall season

by Catalina Rahaianu

Vata season is on its way! Ayurvedic medicine speak extensively about all the prevention steps to take prior the windy season.
The word vata means to blow or move like the wind. Consisting of the elements air and ether, it is the principle force of motion in the body and mind.
When vata dosha is healthy, the movements of the body are graceful, unimpeded, controlled, the mind is quiet and calm.
When disturbed or imbalanced vata dosha increases nervousness, anxiety, fear, twitches, tremors, low energy, persistent fatigue and sluggishness.

Ayurvedic massages follows the principles of Ayurveda in approaching and resolving the symptoms caused by the vata season and to help preventing their development. In that sense the treatment will be adapted to work as lymphatic drainage and to eliminate accumulation of fat, eliminate toxins, fluids and impurities in the body.
Even for those with less vata in our makeup, it is important to take steps to keep vata in balance during this time because of its seasonal influence. 
Regular full body ayurvedic massages are the best therapy for this season.

Please consult with a therapist in our clinic for the ayurvedic body therapies.


How to prevent imbalance and support Vata dosha at home

Self care - Body therapies
Herbal Foot Bath
In this season a foot soak can do wonders! Warm water stimulates your feet and your whole body and softens your skin. The aromas of herbs and bath salts provide relaxation through the sense of smell.
  • Use one quart of boiling water. Make a small pouch of all or any of the following herbs: sage, lavender, rosemary. Place the pouch in a large wash bowl or bucket and pour the boiling water over it. Let it sit for twenty minutes.
  • Add cold water, if necessary, to reach a comfortable temperature between 100-110 °F.
  • Soak your feet in the water for about twenty to 30 minutes. Gently rub the herbs on your feet but do not scrub.
  • Dry feet thoroughly with a clean towel. Add bathing salts for extra benefits.
Foot Massage
By rubbing your feet, you massage your whole body. Massaging your feet helps detoxification, balances emotions, and improves blood and lymph circulation.
  • First wash your feet thoroughly. Neem soap is especially beneficial due to its antibacterial properties. Wipe your feet dry and sit in a comfortable position so you can easily reach your feet.
  • Apply warm sesame seed oil to one of your feet for lubrication.
  • Start by gently rubbing the base of your little (fifth) toe and continue to the big toe.
  • Stretch and pull the toes gently and rub each side of the nail.
  • Massage the ball of your foot in a circular motion. Apply gentle pressure on both sides of your heel below the ankle joint, followed by circling around your ankle joint with both hands in a clockwise motion. This improves circulation and the energy level of the body.
  • Finally massage your calf muscle to release tension. Repeat the same steps on your other foot.

Dress accordingly
Avoid synthetic closing touching your skin directly. Wear natural warming and breathable fibers, scarves around the neck and do not forget about the shoe wear. Cold feet is one of the triggers for the Vata imbalance. Keep your feet warm, wear socks and comfortable shoes.

Eat to balance
Vata dosha is balanced by regularity in routine.
Warm and cooked are key factors in the Vata-pacifying diet.  Soups and stews, hot cereals, hearty grains, wholesome beverages and desserts like rich rice pudding all feel welcome on cold days.
To keep Vata in balance, favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes and avoid bitter, pungent and astringent foods. All dairy products, for example, pacify Vata. Drink warm teas with a pinch of cardamom or dry ginger in it. Favor sweet, sour, heavy fruits, such as oranges, bananas, avocados, grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, berries, plums, pineapples, mangos and papayas.
Vegetables should be eaten cooked; reduce raw salads. Beets, carrots, asparagus and sweet potatoes are good choices. In moderate quantities, the following vegetables are also fine, especially if they are cooked with ghee or oil and Vata-reducing spices: peas, green leafy vegetables (chopped small, with thick fibrous parts discarded), broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini and potatoes.
Vata-pacifying spices include cardamomcumingingercinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed and black pepper in moderation.  Favor foods that are liquid rather than dry, and warm rather than cold.

Please consult with a therapist in our clinic before changing your diet. The above are general rules and on occasion need to be adapted and customized to each individual health conditions.


Catalina is an Advance Ayurvedic Wellness Practitioner, specializing in Ayurvedic massage, Marma therapy and Body Energetic treatments. If you haven’t tried an Ayurvedic massage yet, now is the perfect time to reset your system and treat yourself.  To learn more, contact Catalina at 905-940-2727 or send her an e-mail at catalina@naturopathicfoundations.ca  

To book your appointment, please call the clinic at 905-940-2727.







Monday, August 12, 2019

Reading Labels - a Necessity for Health

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

If you have a sense that it is not as easy to achieve or maintain health today as it was even 10 years ago you are correct. The number of factors affecting health is increasing on a daily basis.

As a naturopathic practitioner I have found one of the most consistent and annoying factors is food. There are just so many variables that come into play - organic versus non-organic, the "hidden" aspect of genetically modified food, the pesticides and herbicides and antibiotics used on  or added to food, food allergies and sensitivities, and the chemicals and additives used in the preparation of food.

Many of the food factors are difficult to deduce unless you are inclined to do a lot of research, which can be a worthwhile and eye-opening exercise, but is not practical while shopping. Reading labels on everything you buy is an easy way to identify and eliminate the chemicals, preservatives, additives and fillers that are added to food. Any food that comes in a box or package is going to include some of these. Getting into the habit of reading the ingredient list of all food is an essential part of achieving and maintaining health.

Food labels include the calories, fat, protein and sugar content as well as key electrolytes such as salt or potassium. This is important information especially if you are managing diabetes, cholesterol, weight or other health issues. What is equally, or even more important, is the ingredient list. The ingredient list is what conveys what has been added to the food. You will be surprised how much of the "food" that is sold on store shelves are actually "chemical cocktails" that contain additives and fillers that negate the health benefits of the "real food". For information on the health impact of food additives and colourings check out the these links:


Often when people are "doing the right things" like avoiding food sensitivities such as dairy and wheat, they are actually substituting foods that have a lot of chemicals and additives.  There is growing concern that many chronic health complaints are associated more with the additives and fillers than they are with actual food sensitivities. For example, there is a link between food colourings and ADD/ADHD behaviour.  The website for genetically modified food looks at the link between genetically modified foods, such as soy and corn, and the rise in gluten sensitivity. Some individuals with a gluten sensitivity find that by cutting out genetically modified foods they are able to handle wheat and other food sensitivities improve.

I encourage you to adopt a "Label-Free Diet" for awhile and get a sense of how your body responds when it  is fed only "real" food. At a minimum you want to avoid the following:
  • soy lecithin
  • carrageenan
  • xantham gum
  • MSG
  • nitrates
  • sulfites
  • all food colourings
For more information on this topic contact our clinic at 905-940-2727 and talk to one of our naturopathic doctors who can guide you to health.