Saturday, October 3, 2020

Autumn: the Season of Facial Rejuvenation and Detox

 by Parisa Wang

The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Cold Dew, (Chinese: 寒露), the 17th solar term of the year, begins this year on Oct 8 and ends on Oct 22. In China, the 24 solar terms were created thousands of years ago to guide agricultural production. But solar term culture is still useful today to guide people's lives through special foods, cultural ceremonies and even healthy living tips that correspond with each term.

Autumn is the season of autumn harvest. The yin and yang atmosphere is relatively peaceful, presenting a pleasant and refreshing scene, and it is also the most suitable season for beauty and detox. In terms of yin and yang and five elements corresponding to the five internal organs of the human body, regulating and nourishing the five internal organs will naturally get our body better.

So how should we detoxify and maintain health in autumn?

Fall Detoxification: Focus is the Lungs

From a Chinese perspective, autumn is the golden rule of the lungs, which means that during the year, the lungs act as executive officers in the meridians of the human body. During the autumn season the following symptoms tend to be more common:

1. The skin is rusty and dull. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the lungs manage the skin of the whole body, and whether the skin is moist and fair depends on the good function of the lungs. When there are more toxins in the lungs, the toxins will be deposited on the skin along with the action of the lungs, making the skin color look dull.

2. Constipation. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the lungs and large intestine are a connected system. When there are toxins in the upper lungs, there will be abnormal stasis in the lower intestines, and constipation will occur.

3. Sentimental and easy to be sad. Toxins in the lungs will interfere with the circulation of qi and blood in the lungs, making the lungs unable to smooth the suffocation in the chest normally, and feeling depressed much more sentimental.

How to detoxify lungs smoothly?

The ideal strategy for each person varies based on health status and constitution.  It is always best to work with a practitioner when you are starting any form of detox, but here are a few recommendations that may apply:

1. White radish is a detoxification food for lungs. In TCM opinion, the large intestine and the lungs are the most closely related. The degree of toxin excretion from the lungs depends on whether the large intestine is unobstructed. White radishes can help the large intestine to excrete stool. It can be eaten raw or mixed with cold dishes.

2. Lily improves lung resistance to poison. The lungs have always disliked dry air. In dry conditions, it is easy to accumulate toxins. Mushrooms and lilies have a good effect of nourishing the lungs and nourishing yin, and can help the lungs to fight toxins. Do not process them for too long when eating, otherwise the juice in the lily will be reduced and the anti-virus effect will be greatly reduced.

3. Your practitioner can show you the meridian points of lung detoxification. The acupuncture point beneficial to the lungs is He Gu, which is located on the back of the hand, between the first and second metacarpal bones. At the midpoint of the radial side of the second metacarpal bone, you can pinch this part with your thumb and index finger and press hard.

4. Perspiration and detoxification. The lungs manage the skin, so we sweat smoothly, allowing the sweat to take away toxins from the body and refreshing our lungs. In addition to exercise, the method of sweating can also be a hot bath. Add some ginger and peppermint essential oils in the water before the bath to make the sweat secrete more freely and expel toxins deeply in the body.

5. Take a deep breath. Every time you breathe, there are residual exhaust gases in the lungs that cannot be discharged. Compared with those fresh, oxygen-rich air, these exhaust gases are also a toxin. Just a few deep breaths can reduce the residual exhaust gas in the body.

6. Good sleep. TCM believes that the movement of the twelve meridians begins with the lungs, and the yin and yang alternate time of the day in the human body is at yin every day, at 3 to 5 in the morning, starting with lung qi. At this time, if you can sleep soundly, it will have a cosmetic effect, which will help the lung meridian to smooth the distribution of qi and blood.

7. Also, because of the dry climate and low air humidity, especially after the Mid-Autumn Festival, people’s skin is prone to dryness. You can choose plants that can moisturize the skin. You can blend one or two kinds of fungus, almonds, pine nuts, yam, mulberry, and honey. If you want to make your skin look more delicate. You can choose pear juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice, loofah water or barley juice, one of which is used to wipe the face (double dilution with water).

8. The best time to detoxify the lungs is from 7 am to 9 am. At this time, it is also better to detoxify through exercise. Performing aerobic exercises such as jogging when the lungs are at their strongest can strengthen the lungs to discharge toxins.

We have talked about Lung detoxification in autumn. I will continue to discuss the detoxification of other organs (kidney, liver, heart, and spleen) in winter, spring, and summer.

According toHuang Di Nei Jing (an ancient Chinese medical text that has been treated as the fundamental doctrinal source for Chinese medicine for more than two millennia), there are two types of toxins in the human body, endogenous and exogenous. If the toxins in the body exceed the ability of the body's detoxification system to interpret, it will easily lead to various diseases, and also easily lead to premature aging and accelerated aging. Strengthen detoxification and timely removal of toxins from the body, which can protect the body from disease and prolong life.

Working on different aspects of your health by season can often yield better results.  If you have questions about what type of detoxification or nutritional plan is best for you, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you. For more information, please follow my blog post on Yin Yang theory and detoxification.

Please contact Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Easing the transition into Fall

In Ayurvedic medicine a person’s body can be predominant in one of 3 body types Vata (Air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (earth).

Fall carries with it qualities of vata. The vata body type contains elements of ether and air. Vata is responsible for movement, digestion, and circulation. Vata minds are creative, quick to learn and enthusiastic. In the fall season we experience the cold dry wind picking up and causing movement of the air element that can aggravate Vata types.

A vata imbalance can show up as cold hands and feet, dry skin and hair, excessive worry, scattered thoughts, fear of the unknown, irregular appetite, and constipation. This year we face the added challenge of worry that aggravates vata further. 

Keeping your vata in balance is good for overall health to balance the immune system, keep you grounded, and energized. These physical and mental-emotional signs also show up in all body types. Here are some guidelines to keep your Vata balanced into Fall:


The following lifestyle factors can help keep your Vata in balance:

  • Waking up early when the air is calm and still.
  • Eat at roughly the same time everyday, routine is key to ground Vata types.
  • Dress warm and in fall colours- oranges, red, yellow, white as these colours are grounding. If you tend to feel depressed avoid dark colours, such as black and grey.
  • Avoid fast movements- driving fast, loud music, running in wind. These movements create more movement of the air element and worsen anxiety and restlessness.
  • Gentle and strengthening exercises- hiking, swimming, biking, yoga and tai chi.
  • Abhyanga/self massage with warm sesame oil before shower can go a long way to ground Vata.
  • Pranayama/alternate nostril breathing and meditation- helps ground and control the air element.
  • Vata types need to avoid fasting during this season to prevent undernourishment.
  • Apply ghee to navel and soles of feet at bedtime if suffering from dry skin and lips.


In general eating warm, oily and grounding easy to digest foods (such as kitchari- recipe below ). Adding warming spices and favouring sweet, sour and salty tastes will help keep vata stable. Reduce raw, cold and bitter vegetables. Increase protein and fat sources

  • Breakfast- oatmeal, cream of rice, stewed apple or pear- cook in ghee and/or milk.
  • Lunch and dinner- grains, steamed or cooked vegetables, soups, stews.
  • Protein: eggs, meat, tofu, legumes and lentils.
  • Fats: nuts and seeds, coconut or olive oil, avocado

Increase Underground Vegetables: sweet potato, turnips, beets, squash, pumpkin, carrots
Reduce bitter vegetables: kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, bitter melon, arugula, cabbage, cauliflower- ensure they are cooked with warming spices.

Fruits- apples and pears (cooked), peaches, grapes, avocado, mango, dates, figs, banana

Spices- asafoetida, anise, bay leaf, cinnamon, clove, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, rosemary, turmeric, saffron, dill,

Oils to favor- ghee, sesame oil, olive oil, flax oil, almond oil.

Teas: CCF tea (Coriander, Cumin, Fennel equal parts), or ginger-cinnamon tea.Warming and soothing bedtime tea- warm milk with a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Herbs: dashamoola, ashwagandha, haritaki, triphala, vidari.

Kitchari Recipe: 

To book a consultation with Dr. Durrani, ND and to find out about more about your body type and the recommended diet and lifestyle for you, please call the clinic at 905-940-2727.

How To Improve Iron Absorption For Pregnancy

by Parisa Wang, Nutritionist

After the initial excitement or shock of seeing a positive pregnancy test, how many of us are aware that mom’s nutritional foundation sets up the future health of our babies. Pregnancy nutrition matters for baby and mum as it:

  • Supports skeletal development
  • Supports brain development
  • Reduces risk of birth defects
  • Prevents low birth weight
  • Reduces preterm delivery
  • Reduces risk of gestational diabetes
  • Reduces risk of obesity later in life
  • Reduces risk of chronic disease later in life
  • Decreases nausea and other symptoms associated with pregnancy
  • Decreases unnecessary weight gain

When you are pregnant, eating the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, as well as micro-nutrients like iron, folate, calcium, and vitamin D is crucial!

The average female adult requires between 10 and 18 mg of iron a day. During pregnancy, Iron needs are increased by 1.5 times. This increase can be even higher and even higher for vegetarians. The increase need for iron is because of the large increase in red blood cell production which is necessary to support the growth and development of baby, and the placenta. Low iron is linked to preterm delivery, low birth weight, and impairs the mother’s thyroid function. However, everyone’s iron needs can be variable depending on their constitution, their iron level at the time of getting pregnant, how many pregnancies have had, how close together they have been and the symptoms that they have during pregnancy.

The symptoms that you may experience during pregnancy that are associated with iron deficiency include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn

Food Sources of Iron

It’s always best to get your nutrients from food first.

Iron can be found in animal foods that originally contained hemoglobin, such as red meats, fish, and poultry (meat, poultry, and seafood contain both heme and non-heme iron). Your body absorbs the most iron from heme source. Iron from animal foods have the highest absorption rate and bioavailability. The amount of iron in animal foods include:
  • chicken liver (12.8 mg / 100 gm)
  • beef liver (6.2 mg / 100 gm)
  • ground beef, 75% lean (2.36mg/100 g)
  • turkey, dark meat (2.30mg/100g)
  • lamb, shank (2.11mg/100 g)
  • haddock (1.35mg/100 g)
  • halibut (1.07mg/100 g)
Even though if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, don’t worry. Iron can be found in grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds as well. Vegetarian food sources of iron contain non-heme iron, which takes a little longer time to convert in your body.  The amount of iron in vegetarian sources includes:
  • lentils (6.6 mg/ cup)
  • soybeans (8.8 mg / cup)
  • dates (1.8 mg / cup)
  • spinach, boiled (6.43mg/cup)
  • olives (4.44mg/cup)
  • shiitake mushrooms (3.59mg/cup)
  • brussel sprouts, boiled (1.87mg/cup)
  • broccoli, steamed (1.37mg/cup)
Iron is a key aspect to healthy pregnancy, but there are other nutrients that are also important. Working with a nutritionist during this important time of your life will help you: 
  • Optimize your nutrition
  • Understand whether you’re getting enough iron and other nutrients in your diet
  • Ensure that your weight gain is optimal – not too little; not too much
  • Relieve fatigue and other iron deficiency symptoms
As a nutritionist, I can assist you in figuring out how to balance your overall nutrition levels, and provide you with individualized, personalized, customized nutrition plans. 

To book an appointment, call the Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Ayurvedic Skin Care for Summer

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, AAWC

Do you have dry skin? Oily skin? Mixed skin or sensitive skin? If you pay attention to your skin, you will notice that it will respond differently based on the season, weather, your activities and your diet.  The more you pay attention, the more you will also know what your skin needs.

Your skin is the largest organ in the body and it breathes. It removes waste from inside the body through sweat as a route of elimination. Your skin also absorbs what you put on it – creams, oils, lotions etc. So what you put on your skin should be clean to the extent you could eat it! Just take a look at your bathroom counter and see if you would eat any of your skin creams.  If not, it may be time to re-evaluate your personal care products.

According to Ayurveda, skin can be qualified by dosha type. The five elements in nature are also at work in your body: space, air, fire, water and earth. For example, if you have excess fire element, your skin may be triggered by hot weather or internal changes like too much spicy or fried food. Inflamed, red or breakout skin can be prevented by taking steps to keep your skin clean and cool.

Ayurvedic Skin Types

Although each person’s skin is unique, most people have a dominant skin type. Read below to see which skin sounds most like yours:

Vata skin:

This skin type tends to be dry, rough, thin, cool and worse with dry, cold, windy weather. Vata skin is most affected in the winter. This skin type does best with nourishing oils such as sesame or almond oil, warm oil massage, thicker creams topically along with frequent hydration, and a diet rich in healthy oils.

Pitta skin:

Pitta skin type tends to be red, inflamed, oily and warm with sensitivity to the sun and hot summer weather. Treatments for pitta skin types include cooling oils or creams such as coconut or olive oil, pitta balancing diet and bitter herbs to clean the skin from the inside out.

Kapha skin:

Individuals with kapha skin tend to have naturally moist skin that can get cold, clammy or oily easily. This skin type is worse with humid weather. Treatments for kapha skin involve oils or creams that are very light and warming such as mustard or almond oil, herbal scrubs, dry skin brushing and toners that are astringent.

Treatments for Summer Skin Health

In the summer, heat and humidity can easily push your skin out of balance leading to common concerns such as: acne, hives, rashes, rosacea, sun spots, redness and sun-sensitive skin. In addition, a diet rich in spicy, oily food and acidic foods (such as excess red meat, alcohol, caffeine and sugar) can cause pitta imbalance in the digestive system to ‘overflow’ into your circulatory system and out through the skin as the body attempts to detox excess waste. Spending too much time in the sun or overdoing your work can add to skin breakouts. You can read more about pitta imbalance and ways to keep cool in the summer here. Below are some tips on a few natural compounds in skin products for pitta skin:


Neem is a tropical plant with so many uses. For skin, it is found in soaps, creams and shampoos. It has cooling qualities so assists the body in removing excess heat. It is very anti-microbial so good for conditions such as fungal skin infections. It is available as an oil but has a strong odour so is more manageable mixed with other ingredients. It can be also taken as a capsule internally to clean the skin inside out. Speak with your naturopathic doctor on how to take neem based on your health concern.


Aloe is a well-known plant that grows in the desert, but very versatile to keep at home to heal burns or inflamed skin. It is very soothing for sensitive skin and makes a great base for skin gels and creams. Try taking a small piece of aloe gel from your plant and apply it to your skin – observe how it feels. Great for pitta and vata types in the summer.


Rose is known for its aromatic scent associated with love, romance and feminine qualities. As an herb, it is cooling and rose water or hydrosol is extremely refreshing. Rose oil or creams work well with pitta skin types to help calm and cool the skin and refresh the mind. Rose mist can be kept handy in the car or at work to spray at the hot times of the day to refresh you, or used as a toner as part of your skin care routine. Rose hip oil, from the fruit of the rose, has a slightly different quality but is also very beneficial for healing burns and scars.


Clay comes from the earth and is rich in minerals. There are many different types of clays that will have different qualities but essentially clay works well in soaps or cleansers due to its exfoliating nature. Clay is drying and tightens the skin due to its astringent qualities. It is excellent to detoxify the skin by pulling out toxins. It is great to use as a cleansing mask in the summer. Great for all skin types but vata skin types may need a moisturizer after using clay as it can dry out the skin.


Calendula is a flower which has been used traditionally in healing burns and rashes. It is commonly found in diaper rash creams, salves for burns, or as an oil infusion to apply on the skin. It is excellent in pitta skin conditions especially where there is irritated or red skin as it is an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. It can be used as a cream, oil, ointment or infusion.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is cooling for the skin and is great for pitta skin issues. It has been used for centuries to strengthen skin and promote healthy hair growth. It grows in tropical climates so it often suits hot climates – best to avoid using in the winter or those with very vata skin since it cools the body down but great in the summer.

These are just a few of the herbs that are used in naturopathic & Ayurvedic treatments to heal skin. These systems treat not only by condition, but by the underlying constitution of the person. Different care is needed for each skin type. If you have chronic skin concerns, topical skin care may not be enough – you may need internal approach to cleaning skin from the inside out. Triphala, burdock, neems are just some of the cleansing herbs used for skin conditions. Use these tips for healthy, glowing summer skin or speak to your ND if you have chronic skin issues that you would like to address. Ayurvedic massage with healing oils is also offered at the clinic by Mamta Pranjivan to promote healthy skin and more. 

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. If you are looking for Ayurvedic massage, Mamta Pranjivan is offering full body Ayurvedic treatments and head massage. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Natural "First Aid" Tips for Summer

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

What's in your First Aid Kit? It's likely to have an assortment of bandages, gauze, gloves and the like for emergencies, but what about for the less critical injuries you might get while camping, hiking or for the kids spending time outdoors this summer?

What do you use if you get a burn while cooking? Or a knee scrape while hiking? What do you use for kids' mosquito bites? While critical emergencies require a visit to the ER, most common injuries are minor and can be treated with natural remedies which have fewer side effects and are gentle but effective for speeding up recovery.

Naturopathic first aid involves using naturopathic principles when treating acute concerns such as burns, bites, stings, rashes, strains and sprains etc. Naturopathic doctors use a variety of modalities to help heal naturally and effectively: botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, nutrition, laser and light therapy, TCM & acupuncture and counselling.

Read more about the most common concerns and natural tips for your First Aid Kit. These remedies can be further customized by your Naturopathic Doctor depending on if you are camping or travelling or need a kit for kids.


Too much fun in the sun (at peak time especially) can lead to sunburns. Children, those with sensitive skin, or on certain medications can be more prone to burning. To soothe irritated or peeling skin, use a natural aloe gel which is cooling and soothing for the skin or Manuka honey that you can apply directly to the affected area to help speed up healing. This applies for other kinds of burns such as in the kitchen. While outdoors, protect yourself from strong sunlight by wearing a hat or thin, cotton clothing that protects the skin.


Insect bites from mosquitos, black flies, bees or spiders are inevitable if you spend time outdoors. Bites are not only itchy, painful and irritating, but can also transmit infectious disease. Prevent yourself by being bitten in the first place by wearing appropriate clothing that provides a barrier for bites and using natural bug repellants made of essential oils such as citronella. It is not just a myth that mosquitos are attracted to "sweet" blood. When you eat a diet high in sweet (bananas, juice, sugar), you become a palatable target. Increase bitter foods such as leafy greens and consider supplementing with neem capsules which are blood cleansing. Speak to your ND about essential oils for bites and natural homeopathic pellets or creams for after-bites such Apis.

Cuts & Scrapes

Minor wounds to the skin such as cuts and scrapes disrupt the barrier and can lead to infections and scarring if not treated properly. Your natural first aid kit should contain a herbal antiseptic cream to apply to injured skin to disinfect the area. Some examples are creams that contain calendula, neem oil, tea tree oil, yarrow and comfrey. Other creams such as vitamin E cream or aloe are very beneficial to promote skin healing and reduce scarring. Essential for moms to keep on hand for active kids!

Bumps & Bruises

A must-have for everyone in their natural first-aid kit for any injury or trauma is Arnica. This well known herb appears in many formats such as creams, gels, oils and homeopathics. This herb is well known for healing bruises and speeding up any injury. Homeopathic arnica can be used in creams or taken orally to help with any physical or emotional shock. In addition for injuries, lymphatic creams are handy to help with reducing swelling as are anti-inflammatory supplements which may contain herbs such as turmeric or boswelia. Speak to your ND to learn more about which anti-inflammatories would be good for you.

Putting together a natural first-aid kit can be fun and very handy to keep on hand this summer. Most of these suggestions are safe to use alongside with other conventional treatments. When you are empowered with knowledge, you can be more equipped to help yourself and family members with minor injuries to speed up healing. At Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic, we accept walk-ins for acute naturopathic care for concerns such as sprains & strains, skin reactions, bites, scrapes, hives and other conditions. You don't need to be a patient of the clinic to use these services. Read more about naturopathic walk-in services.

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.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Addressing Chronic Inflammation

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, AAWC

Inflammation is a normal immune process in the body in response to infections, toxins or trauma. The word itself originates from Latin meaning to "set on fire".  Common symptoms of acute inflammation manifest as redness, swelling, heat, pain and loss of function. A common example would be when you hurt your finger on the stove or get a sliver. While acute inflammation is a natural response to promote healing, chronic inflammation may be more subtle to notice and can go on for months or years, contributing to degenerative diseases such as: ulcerative colitis, arthritis and chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, skin diseases, gingivitis, diabetes and many other health conditions.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, wellness is based on the understanding of your constitution (prakruti) and balance of the 5 elements, 3 doshas, the digestive fire (agni), the health of the 7 tissues (dhatus) and proper elimination (malas). If any of these aspects are not aligned, this leads to disease. Inflammation is often a manifestation of excess pitta dosha, otherwise seen as "too much fire" or heat in the body or mind for prolonger periods of time. If this is not brought into balance, inflammatory process sets in leading to illness. Summer is also a time where the weather is hot and may provoke imbalance with individuals prone to Pitta conditions.

Identifying Inflammation

Chronic or advanced inflammation may show up as pain, stiffness, fatigue, redness or just feeling 'off'. However, often inflammation can go unnoticed for years before it shows as symptoms in the body. Speak with your ND to find out some of the tests available to identify inflammation:

Tests for inflammation:

  • Food sensitivity
  • CRP, ESR, Ferritin, CBC
  • Vit D, uric acid
  • Ayurvedic tongue & pulse diagnosis

Factors that increase risk of inflammation:
Your constitution, genetics, diet and lifestyle play a role as to whether or not you are more susceptible to inflammatory conditions. Understanding and identifying these risk factors can help you take steps in managing inflammation. Some of the common factors that promote inflammation are:
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor diet (such as refined foods, sugar, alcohol)
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Recurrent injury
  • Chronic viral or bacterial illness

Tips to Reduce Inflammation

The goal of naturopathic and Ayurvedic treatment is to identify the causes of inflammation and restore balance. There are certain aspects that increase inflammation and certain things that reduce inflammation. For example, let's say you are eating a fairly 'balanced' diet most of the time, but do eat some fried food occasionally and some wheat that you may have a sensitivity to. On top of it, you are dealing with a stressful deadline at work for the week. These factors, combined, may be enough to trigger an inflammatory response which you may or may not notice. For example, you may notice more fatigue or stiff, puffy joints. Below are some tips to help you address inflammation:

Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

  • Avoid: Deep fried and trans fats. Limit refined foods and sugars as these can aggravate blood sugar imbalances, leading to inflammation. Consider testing for food intolerances. This will help you identify which foods your immune system may be fighting (such as wheat, dairy, eggs and even certain nuts, grains fruits or vegetables. 
  • Include: From an Ayurvedic perspective, a Pitta-balancing diet is often helpful for reducing inflammation. This often includes a variety of leafy greens and vegetables, herbs & spices such as turmeric and ginger and healthy omegas such as ghee, fish oil and olive oil. Speak to your practitioner to understand what foods are balancing for you. Read more on top anti-inflammatory foods here.

Supplement with Natural Anti-inflammatories

There are numerous supplements that have anti-inflammatory properties. However, every herb works in a different way in the body and so it is always important to understand your constitution and your state of health to customise the best treatment approach.  For example, turmeric is a well-know herb that is widely studied for reducing inflammation. However, turmeric is not advised to take as a supplement alongside blood thinning medications or before surgery as it may thin the blood. Fish oils also have a similar effect. I will highlight a few of the lesser known anti-inflammatory herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine.

  • Boswelia Serrata (Frankincense): This is a resin extract from a tree which has been studied to improve outcomes of Ulcerative Colitis and Arthritis, amongst other inflammatory diseases. The best form to take it is in a capsule or powder with a standardized about of boswellic acid,  the active ingredient. This is often found in arthritis or pain supplements paired with turmeric as they work well together (1).
  • Commiphora mukul (Guggul): This is also a resin extract that is most well-know for it's cholesterol reducing effect. However in Ayurvedic medicine, it has traditionally been used to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, obesity, atherosclerosis and thyroid conditions (2). From an Ayurvedic perspective, this herb is often give to individuals with a kapha imbalance or who have high 'ama' (accumulating toxins). 

Inflammation is a broad term and needs a customised approach for long-lasting treatment. Conventional medications such as aspirin or corticosteroids can suppress the inflammatory response in the body temporarily but doesn't address the root cause of the issue. You may not be able to see or feel it, but chronic inflammation that is left untreated can slowly damage your body. For long-lasting health, identifying the causes of inflammation increase the possibility of treating imbalances before they become more complex, establishes diseases. Summer is a season where Pitta is at it's peak and for many, this can mean flare-ups. Speak with your naturopathic doctor to learn more about ways to assess your level of inflammation and treatments tailored for your constitution.

(1) Siddiqui, M.Z. (2011). Boswellia Serrata, A Potential Antiinflammatory Agent: An Overview.  
(2)Surendran, Saritha. (2018). Commiphora mukul: An Overview. Research Journal of Pharmacy and Technology. 

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in chronic disease and health promotion with Ayurveda. She has a keen interest in Ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle. If you would like to work with Dr. Athpariaplease call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Why Are Elderly More Susceptible to COVID-19?

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

Over 80% of deaths due to COVID-19 have been in those over the age of 70. Although there is some variability based on country, the fatality rate for those in their 40's is about 0.4% and it is just over 1% for those in the 50's.  The fatality rate jumps to about 8% for those in their 70's that contract COVID-19 and can be as high as 15% for those over 80 years of age that have the virus. Those of any age that have co-morbidities and are in institutions are the greatest risk.

As we have seen, people of all ages contract COVID-19.  Most people experience no symptoms or mild symptoms that don't require hospitalization or medical treatment. When we see the tremendous impact that COVID-19 is having on the elderly it is imperative to delve into this situation in more detail and to understand the various factors that are contributing to this situation.  We have all unfortunately heard of the issues around the management of some old-age homes, this blog focuses on other factors that contribute including age itself, co-morbidities, nutrient deficiencies, lack of movement, stress and isolation and air quality.

Understanding why the elderly are more susceptible to dying from COVID-19 is a complex problem that will require a multi-factorial approach on an ongoing basis.

Age Itself

As people age their ability to fight infections decreases.  Older people are generally not as good at reacting to microorganisms that they haven't encountered before. They have less immune chemicals to fight pathogens, such as viruses and their immune system is slower and less effective.  This gradual deterioration of the immune system is referred to as immunosenscence and there is a concern that older people who have survived COVID-19 may not have the same immune memory as younger people exposed to COVID-19 and may be at greater risk of contracting the virus again.

It is important to recognize the difference between chronological age and biological age.  Chronological age is your actual age based on date of birth.  Biological age is the accumulation of your genetics, lifestyle factors, health habits, accidents and conditions that you have encountered throughout your life.  Some people in their 70's and 80's are in better health and have more resiliency or vitality than people in their 50's that have poor lifestyle habits and chronic conditions that they are managing. When deciding if you or a loved one is at high risk, the biological age will be more accurate.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Research has shown that nutrient deficiencies are a global problem. The elderly and those that are institutionalized are more likely to be nutrient deficient.

Although nutrient deficiencies are more common with age, this is a problem as there are a number of nutrients that are required for the immune system to function properly.  Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin D, Omega 3 Fish Oil, Selenium, Zinc and Melatonin are all essential nutrients in immune function. When a person, of any age, is deficient in essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, what we find is that the immune system is not able to efficiently handle a virus or pathogen that it encounters.

It is common for dietary habits to change with age.  If that change includes a decrease in fresh fruit and vegetables and lean protein then nutrient deficiencies will result. Immunosenescense and chronic inflammation are correlated with nutritional deficiencies.  Maintaining adequate nutritional levels throughout a person's lifetime, whether through diet or supplementation, is essential for optimal health.

Check out blog: Food and Immune Health .

Lack of Movement

Movement is required for every function in the body.  It promotes proper blood and lymphatic circulation which keeps the cells of the immune system functioning and moving.

Movement may actually help flush pathogens out of the lungs and the airways.  It also supports the role of white blood cells in fighting disease. Moderate movement is associated with immune health.  Walking 20 minutes a day, bicycling, swimming, playing golf and other gentle types of movement are best for immune health.

As COVID-19 is impacting the cell's ability to carry oxygen, it is not surprising that the elderly that are institutionalized and generally less active are more affected.  When active, be cautious about wearing a mask. Although the new trend is for people to wear masks often, they can actually be detrimental - especially if worn while exercising.  Here is some update information on the pros and cons of masks.

Check out our blog: Movement - Top 5 Things to Remember

Stress and Isolation

The connection between stress and a weakened or compromised immune system is well understood.  When a person is under a lot of stress the immune system's ability to fight off infections is reduced. For some people this time of isolation has been an opportunity to recoup and to catch up on sleep and and tasks around the home.  Some people have welcomed the opportunity to work from home and spend time with their family and loved ones.

For others, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unyielding stressors.  For many elderly people the fact that they have not been able to socialize with their family and friends has been a tremendous physical and emotional burden. Seniors are also more likely to be institutionalized and isolated.

The impact of stress and isolation can not be overlooked.  How a society treats older adults plays a big role in their risk from diseases like COVID-19. Isolation worsens everything and the current situation is a stark reminder of the importance of reaching out to those that are alone to let them know that we are thinking of them and that we are here to help.


Irrespective of age, co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and obesity are associated with increased risk of COVID-19 affecting the health of those affected at any age, especially in the elderly.

A person's ability to handle an infection partly depends on how stressed the body is in dealing with other chronic diseases. It is also important to note that nutrient deficiencies, a sedentary lifestyle and excess stress are also correlated with increased risk of chronic diseases. It is not surprising that elderly have a greater chance of having one or more chronic disease.

Addressing any co-morbidities is an important part of health promotion and disease prevention.

Blog: Don't Wait Until You're Sick To Get Healthy
Blog: A Crash Course on Respiratory Health

Air Quality

Addressing the management of COVID-19 must include assessing air quality especially as most people that have been infected have contracted the virus while inside. COVID-19 is more likely to spread indoors with hospitals and institutions having been associated with the most infections other than family transmission while at home. Air quality in institutions, especially those with high rates of infected individuals, is important to assess and address.

There has been a tremendous focus on washing hands frequently and cleaning surfaces, but there is growing research that in order to control COVID-19 the focus must also include the role of indoor air on disease transmission and occupant health. When the indoor air is dry, human occupants are more vulnerable to viral respiratory infections. Dry air can impair respiratory immunity by drying out the nose, sinuses and throat thus lessening the ability of cilia, the hair-like projections on cells lining airways, to expel viral particles. Dry air also lessens the effectiveness of the skin, eyes and other mucous membranes that are there to protect us from infections.

Over the next few months expect to hear more about ways that companies are improving the air quality in offices, air planes are making it safer to travel by addressing the air quality in planes, hospitals are assessing air exchange and there will be numerous recommendations on how to have healthier air quality at home. I expect that there will be a competition on what type of building or plane has the best and worst air quality.

The growing focus on air quality should be a reminder of the importance of spending time outside, ideally in a park or area with trees. When outside, especially with exercising, consider not wearing a mask so that you and your lungs can take advantage of everything that nature has to offer.

It is important that we look at why elderly are more susceptible to COVID-19 from as many angles as possible. Going forward we need to be aware of the health promotion and disease prevention strategies for each of us, including the elderly.

Additional Symptoms of COVID-19

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

A common question over the last month is whether or not a specific symptom could indicate COVID-19.  The focus of Public Health and the media has been on the three most common symptoms, that is tiredness, fever and cough.  Tiredness is the most common symptom with about 68% of people experiencing it, followed by 60% of people having a dry cough and 56% of people experiencing fever, especially in the early stages of COVID-19.

An interesting symptom that has received a lot of focus over the last few months is loss of smell.  There are a number of research articles that indicate that an early indicator of contracting COVID-19 appears to be anosmia, or loss of smell.  The loss of smell does not appear to be correlated with how severe the symptoms of COVID-19 will be as there are some individuals that only experience a loss of smell, whereas others have digestive and/or respiratory symptoms as well.  Some people experience an altered sense of taste which can be associated with the altered sense of smell.

There are a number of other symptoms that are commonly experienced in those that tested positive for COVID-19.  Digestive symptoms such as loss of appetite, diarrhea and nausea are common in 44% to 55% of individuals that tested positive.  Muscle and joint pain and headaches are also common in about 45% of individuals.

What Does This Mean?

Based on:
Many of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 are common symptoms that people experience all the time.  The chart to the right highlights the frequency (by percentage) that the following symptoms were experienced in 202 individuals with mild to moderate symptoms (age range from 20-89 years with a median age of 56) that tested positive for COVID-19.  The results in this study were similar to those reported in a number of other studies from around the world.

A symptom that is not on the chart, but was the focus of the study was loss of smell and/or taste. The study found that 64% of those that tested positive also reported an altered sense of smell and/or taste.

The presence of any one symptom does not necessarily mean that you are dealing with COVID-19.  For example, many people commonly experience headaches, digestive issues or muscle pain and other symptoms on an ongoing basis.

Four Phases of COVID-19

There are four stages to COVID-19: prevention, infection, inflammation and recovery.  A person's ability to move through the four phases determines how sick they get and how long it takes them to recover, if infected.
  1. Prevention.  Public health policy is primarily focused on the prevention phase with their recommendations for social distancing, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces and wearing masks when unwell or unable to social distance.  The naturopathic profession adds to this by emphasizing the importance of focusing on overall health and addressing lifestyle factors as a means of ensuring that you are equipped to handle life challenges, including viruses and other pathogens when you encounter them.  It is also important to work with your naturopathic doctor or other health professional if you have or suspect underlying health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, obesity, respiratory conditions or other lifestyle-related conditions that might impact your ability to heal.
  2. Infection.  When someone feels that they have become infected it is important to get tested and to follow the recommendations given.  The chart above highlights the symptoms that may be associated with being infected.  If you do experience any of these symptoms and they are new to you or are accompanied with an overall sense of being unwell, it may be beneficial to get tested.
  3. Inflammation.  The inflammatory phase is the one that appears to be the most concerning for COVID-19.  The fatality risk associated with COVID-19 is associated with the tendency in some people for an excessive or persistent inflammatory response. When the inflammatory response is high the symptoms are apparent and if they result in shortness of breath or difficulty breathing it is important to seek medical care directly.  At times, the inflammatory response is more low-grade and persistent. In this case the symptoms are less extreme, but can weaken a person overtime. 
  4. Recovery.  The aim of the recovery phase is to resolve inflammation in order to inhibit tissue damage and to restore and optimize functioning in the body.  Continual clinical surveillance, such as blood work, is an important step to ensure that the body has fully recovered after being sick with COVID-19 or any other infection.

When Are Your Symptoms A Concern?

Research continues to point to the fact that the majority of those that have COVID-19 will not have any noticeable symptoms or will experience mild symptoms that resolve without medical intervention. Trusting your innate healing ability is a foundational principle of naturopathic practice.  It is also true that if the body is struggling to recover, you will have symptoms that will help to guide your medical practitioner to determine the cause.

If your symptoms come on suddenly AND you feel exhausted or unwell for more than three days it would be worthwhile to contact your medical practitioner or Public Health and get tested.  It may also be concerning if your symptoms are accompanied by a loss or altered sense of  smell that doesn't seem to resolve. This study also highlighted that an altered sense of taste and/or smell often proceeded other symptoms.

In naturopathic practice we acknowledge the "never-well-since" aspect of any illness or accident. Generally speaking the body is designed to handle life's stressors and challenges and to heal, but at times it gets stuck and the body doesn't recovery properly.  This healing process can become stuck due to nutrient deficiencies, other underlying conditions, medications or environmental factors and at times it is unable to heal due to the psychological impact of the injury.  Anytime that a person feels that they have "not been well since  . . . ", it is important to talk to your naturopathic doctor or other health practitioner to figure out what needs to be addressed for the body to heal.  If someone feels that they were unwell earlier this year and that they haven't fully recovered it would be helpful to have laboratory tests done to ensure that the inflammatory phase of COVID-19 was properly resolved and that the body has fully recovered from COVID-19

COVID-19 is a new disease and the information that we have on it is changing and evolving all the time.  What is the most important is your overall health and safety.  If you have any questions, please talk to health practitioner.

Associated Blogs

Don't Wait Until You're Sick To Get Healthy

Food And Immune Health

A Crash Course on Respiratory Health


Giacomo Spinato, Cristoforo Fabbris, Jerry Polesel, et al. Alterations in Smell or Taste in Midly Symptomatic Outpatients with SARS-CoV-2 Infection. April 22, 2020.  JAMA doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6771

Yanuck SF, Pizzorno J, Messier H, Fitzgerald KN. Evidence Supporting a Phased Immuno-physiological Approach to COVID-19 From Prevention Through Recovery. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal.  May 2020

Maggini S, Pierre A, Calder P. Immune Function and Micronutrient RequirementsChange over the Life Course. Nutrients. 2018.

Marinosci A, Landis B, Calmy A. Possible Link Between Anosmia and COVID-19: sniffing out the truth.  Eur Arch Otohinolaryngol. 2020 April 17. 1-2.  PMID: 32303881.

B12 Deficiency, a Growning Concern in Children and Adults

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in foods that come from animals, including fish and shellfish, meat (especially liver), eggs and milk products, as well as fortified cereals and other fortified foods. With changes in dietary patterns and other factors, vitamin B12 deficiency is becoming a major concern.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis.

Signs of B12 deficiency in adults include:

Signs of B12 deficiency in children include:
  • developmental delays or regression in behaviour and impaired neurological development including seizures, mental retardation and even Autism.
  • irritability, apathy, as well as, ADD and ADHD type behaviour. 
  • Treating B12 deficiencies in children is critical for their development, both physically and mentally.

What causes a deficiency?

A deficiency of B12 can be caused by:
  • food intolerances can result in blow B12 levels
  • digestive issues, especially hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) or any condition that impairs the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal track
  • decreased consumption of dietary red meat, fish or eggs
  • vegetarian diets increase the risk of deficiency for both an individual and for any breastfed children
  • increased consumption of folate-fortified foods and supplements
  • some parasites and bacteria compete for the available B12 which can result in a deficiency
  • there are some conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, endocrine disorders, hemorrhage and other conditions that deplete B12 levels
  • surgeries that involve the removal of part of the colon often results in B12 deficiency
  • exposure to medication which depletes B12 status or block Intrinsic-Factor-mediated B12 absorption (birth control, antacids, heartburn medications, anti-epileptics, etc.) 

The Link between folate and Vitamin B12

Over the last twenty years specific foods have been fortified with folate. Folate fortification and maternal supplementation were a public health initiative aimed at reducing folate-deficiency neural tube defects at a time when populations were eating large amounts of red meat (B12 rich) but few fruits and vegetables (folate-rich).

Part of the rise in Vitamin B12 deficiency rates is due to the high amounts of folate-fortified foods that individuals have consumed over an extended period of time. High levels of folate block Vitamin B12 and can both mask and exacerbate B12 deficiency symptoms.

Testing for Vitamin B12 deficiency

The normal blood testing for Vitamin B12 levels is often not diagnostic and normal values do not exclude B12 deficiency. If you experience any of the symptoms above, I encourage you to ask your naturopathic or medical doctor to run a blood test for both Vitamin B12 levels and for RBC folate.  A high level of folate will result in a Vitamin B12 deficiency, even if your blood level of Vitamin B12 is normal.

Because of the strong link between Vitamin B12 levels and decreased cognitive function, it is often recommended that anyone with signs of memory loss be tested for Vitamin B12 deficiency.

Another way to gauge Vitamin B12 deficiency is to request an intra-muscular injection of Vitamin B12 and see if you notice any symptoms.  Generally speaking, a positive result to a Vitamin B12 injection will be noticed within 48 hours.

Treating Vitamin B12 deficiency

Monthly intra-muscular injections of B12 are the most efficient way of building up low levels of B12 in the body. Often after the first injection there is a notable improvement in either energy, cognitive function or sleep. Vitamin B12 injects are generally regarded as very safe.

Depending on your levels, it can take between 3 and 6 months, or more, to re-establish normal B12 levels. For mild symptoms or once levels have been re-established with intra-muscular infections, sublingual Vitamin B12 may be indicated, especially if there is also a decreased consumption of B12 rich foods.

There are three types of B12:
  1. cynocobalamin is the most common and least expensive form of B12. It is the form that is often used in the United States for intra-muscular injections.
  2. hydroxycobalamin lasts longer in the body and requires less frequent injections. It is often considered more potent than cynocobalamin.
  3. methylcobalamin is the most expensive form of B12. It is more effective when B12 injections are being used for cognitive concerns or for peripheral or diabetic neuropathy.
If you suspect that you have a B12 deficiency and you have been taking B12 injections without much improvement, I encourage you to request a different form of B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is very common and is very easy to treat.  If you are suspect that you may be deficient I encourage you to get tested.  For more information talk to your naturopathic doctor.