Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Agni (Digestive Fire) - How Is Yours?

Agni is known as the 'digestive fire' according to Ayurveda - it is the basis of all major functions in the body and is the foundation for health. Agni is what allows us to process nutrients from food while burning off waste products. Digestion is important and elimination of waste is equally as crucial to maintain health.

Agni refers to the principle of processing food, in addition to processing experiences, memories, emotions and sensory impressions. We not only physically digest our food, but we need to "digest" and process our experiences on a daily basis.

In an Ayurvedic assessment, your state of agni is assessed and treated accordingly. When agni is unbalanced, digestion weakens, toxins linger in the body, illness takes a hold and vitality diminishes. Balanced agni is essential for well being !

According to Ayurveda, we are each born with a different constitution - our tendencies in our agni is based on our constitution, as well as environmental and lifestyle factors such as climate, daily routine and the food we eat. Below are the four major types of agni and tips on how to help balance your agni:

Vishama Agni: irregular metabolism 

Often associated with excess vata, vishama agni is erratic with digestive patterns that alternate between fast and slow.  This may be evident in conditions such as IBS, diarrhea, constipation (or alternating between the two), gas and rumbling in the abdomen.  Appetite may be irregular and elimination may be irregular.

How to Balance Vishama agni:

  • Establish routine: regular meal times & avoid overeating in one sitting
  • A pinch of cumin and rock salt can be ground and chewed before meals 
  • Add spices such as ginger and black pepper in the diet
  • Vata care if present in your constitution (Vata pacifying diet & lifestyle)
  • Regular abhyangas or Ayurvedic massage
  • Herbs such as Triphala (dosage and timings should be customized by your practitioner)

Manda Agni: slow metabolism 

Often associated with excess Kapha, manda agni indicates slow, sluggish digestion. Only small meals can be eaten, and undigested food sits in the stomach and intestines leading to heaviness in the body and mind.  There may be associated kapha conditions such frequent colds & coughs, mucous, congestion, swelling, lymph congestion, oversalivation, excess weight, cold clammy skin etc. A thick white coat may be observed on the tongue first thing in the morning.

How to Balance Manda agni: 

  • Tongue scraping in the morning
  • Practise yoga that is invigorating and rejuvenating (surya namaskar, hatha yoga)
  • Chew on fresh ginger before meals to stimulate agni
  • Use spices such as cinnamon, clove, fenugreek, ginger
  • Prepare food that is colourful, fresh and pleasing to all the senses
  • Focus on 2-3 main meals a day: avoid snacking and make lunch the largest meal
  • Kapha care if present in your constitution (Kapha pacifying diet & lifestyle)

Tikshna Agni: fast metabolism

Often associated with excess Pitta, tikshna agni is when digestion is too strong and fast.  Appetite may be insatiable, desiring large amounts of food which may pass too quickly through the digestive tract. Symptoms may include burning sensations, acid reflux, diarrhea, hot flashes, inflammation and low energy.

How to Balance Tikshna Agni:

  • Follow a Pitta pacifying diet
  • Avoid pungent spices such as garlic, chili and stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol
  • Incorporate cooling foods and spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander, mint, dill etc.
  • Drink lassi (Indian buttermilk) after meals - customize with spices suiting your constitution
  • Herbs such as amla, licorice and aloe juice can be beneficial for Pitta balancing
  • Meditation and rejuvenating yoga to balance and calm the system

Sama Agni: the balanced state 

When agni is balanced, you can enjoy healthy digestion and a clear state of mind. Individuals with sama agni can digest a reasonable amount of food in any season and enjoy balanced digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients along with a strong immune system and happiness in their lives.  They are also able to process and handle new situations, experiences and emotions with strength and balance. Unfortunately in our modern lifestyle, sama agni is rare : processed food, erratic & high-paced lives throw agni off balance very easily.  However, the earlier an imbalance in agni is detected, the easier it is to correct with ayurvedic guidance. 

Agni is the key to health. It is the force that processes your food, emotions and experiences. The four varieties of agni help you identify a healthy balanced state of agni versus factors that throw your agni off balance. It is important to understand that each individual will have a unique set of symptoms and need a customized approach to balancing agni. In an Ayurvedic assessment, state of agni is determined by looking at the tongue, pulse, abdomen and other key observations in the consultation. Yoga, meditation, wholesome food and state of mind, balance between work and life, relaxation and spending time with friends and loved ones can help keep agni strong through the winter months!

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

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Keeping the Resolution of Health

Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

Becoming healthier is one of the most common New Year's Resolutions. It is important to remember that health is a life-long process, not a project that can be accomplished and  then set aside again for a number of months or years. Health is a way of life and a cumulative reflection of your life.

1st Step - Determine Your Areas of Concern
The first thing you want to do if you are on the path to becoming healthier is to take an honest look at your health -- all aspects of your health. Most people have a tendency to focus on the one or two things that are currently bothering them, but in my experience as a naturopathic doctor, many people end up ignoring the aspects of health that are either "feeding" the other areas or those that pose the greatest health risk.

For most people over the age of 30, or for those with a suspected or known health issue, the first step generally involves getting up-to-date blood work and a physical exam. One of the advantages of naturopathic medicine is that laboratory testing it is not controlled by OHIP or other provincial health-care guidelines and we can often offer patients a thorough blood work-up and physical exam. For example, our access to testing for environmental toxins and chemicals and food reactions is very extensive. There are also a range of laboratory tests that can help clarify the best treatment plans for conditions such as high cholesterol, hypertension or diabetes.

2nd Step - Follow the Logic of Healing
Yes, there is a logic to healing and re-establishing health. A lot of frustration, time and money can be spent with very little results if this logic is not followed.  Generally speaking the way the body works is as follows:
  •  Acute Takes Priority -- Acute illness generally take priority.  If you are dealing with an acute situation the "healing energy" of the body will be focused on the acute problem.  This is one reason it is important to allow your body the time it requires to heal acute illnesses, like colds and flus or sprains and strains.
  • Reverse Order - The last symptom will often heal first.  If you have had eczema for years and recently ended up with a cough, it is most likely that the cough will resolve before the eczema improves.  As deeper symptoms "move to the surface", it is common for them to get a little worse before they resolve. 
  • Grouping of Symptoms - Symptoms that started at the same time often are related.  For example, digestive symptoms can cause joint pain, skin issues, mood changes and changes in bowel movements are simultaneously.  Hormone imbalances can contribute to insomnia, anxiety, decreased memory function, dry skin, weight gain and other problems.  One of the main jobs of your naturopathic doctor is to find the core imbalance that is contributing to your symptoms instead of treating each concern as a separate thing. Treating the core imbalance is simpler, more effective and a lot less costly.
  • Top-Down - Symptoms that appear above the waist generally resolve before symptoms that are lower in the body. Chronic patterns are generally held in the lower body, including circulatory problems (peripheral artery disease), or the impact of kidney or liver disease, etc.
  • Inside-Out - The vital organs are located deep within the body. As the body is healing, it will generally heal the deeper organs prior to the joints, skin and other more superficial organs.

3rd Step - Open the Routes of Elimination
Being able to eliminate what the body doesn't require is essential to health.  In traditional systems of medicine, such as Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, opening the routes of elimination is the most important single step to achieving and establishing health.

For example, having proper bowel movements every day and breathing effectively need to be part of every health-building plan. Many people find that once they are able to eliminate toxins from their body, many other symptoms resolve.  Check out my blog on Eliminating Toxins - Top 5 Things to Remember for more information.

4th Step - Regular Movement
Movement is essential to health. Most people are much too sedentary in their jobs and at home.  Regular movement is required not only for proper functioning of muscles and joints, but movement is an integral part of cardiovascular health, blood sugar control, mood regulation and other aspects of health.  Check out my blog on Movement for more information.

5th Step - Eat For Health
What you eat will strongly impact your ability to heal. Knowing how to choose what food is best for you is the single most important factor that a person has to ensuring health, next to positive thinking.

There is no magical healthy diet. It generally boils down to ensuring that you eat more vegetables, adequate protein, complex carbohydrates, good fats and 1 or 2 pieces of fruit a day. Some additional general guidelines are as follows:
  • Identify and address your personal food allergies and sensitivities.  Identifying the foods that your body reacts to and then avoiding or limiting those foods is a great first dietary step to achieving health.
  • Address your personal weakness and indulgences. Most people are aware of their specific weaknesses and the "bad" habits that they have that affect their health. One of the best ways to achieve your health goals is to be honest with yourself and commit to addressing your "bad" habits and making more healthy choices.
  • Avoid the "feast then famine" phenomenon. The solution to eating too much is not to spend the next couple of weeks or months eating too little.  Keep in mind that January and February are often the coldest months of the year. Dramatically changing the amount that you eat will often increase the chance that you will come down with a cold or flu. Major fluctuations in dietary intake often worsen underlying conditions such as thyroid conditions, diabetes and other metabolic conditions.
  • Get rid of the sugar and the "white processed food". Those chocolates, sugary sweets, morning danishes, muffins or bagels are packed with calories, but offer very little nutrients.  The increase in sugar and empty carbohydrates is one of the main reasons for those added pounds that creep on over time.  If you are serious about getting back on track with your diet, it is time to get rid of the sugar and the calorie-dense, nutrient-deficient foods.  To learn more about the health impact of sugar, click here. 
  • Drink water -- lots of water.  Sweets, alcohol and many other "treats" are dehydrating.  Ensuring that you are drinking sufficient water is a safe and effective way of helping the body re-balance and rid itself of the excesses that it has accumulated.  Click here for tips on how much water is ideal for you. 
  • 4 to 6 cups of vegetables a day.  Increasing your consumption of cooked vegetables, especially those dark green vegetables like swiss chard and kale, is a great way to help the body detox. Vegetables are also the primary source of minerals and nutrients.
  • Cut out the snacking.  Only children and those with low blood sugar need to snack between meals.  Unless advised otherwise by your naturopathic doctor, stick to three meals a day.
Check out my blog on Nutrition for more information.

6th Step - Adequate Sleep
The body heals while you sleep. Ensuring adequate restful sleep is essential to establishing and retaining health.  There are many reasons why sleep can be a concern.  It is important to identify the reason before engaging in any treatments.  Check out my blog on Sleep for more information.

7th Step - Work with Your Naturopathic Doctor
If you are serious about becoming healthier, then book an appointment with your Naturopathic Doctor. They will be able to help you determine what steps are best for you and will help you stay on track. For more information visit our website at:

The S.M.A.R.T. way to achieve your health goals in 2020!!

Happy New Year

It’s that time of year again! Time to start thinking about what you want for this new year ahead.

Making New Year's resolutions seems to be the "in" thing to do each year, but do they really work? The answer depends upon how serious you are when you make the resolution. Sometimes it can be hard to settle on just one resolution, which often leads people to make lots of small ones. The problem with this is that it's too difficult to truly focus on so many resolutions, and by the end of January, your motivation will be sorely lacking. 

Many people will set a New Year's resolution that focus on health, wellness and fitness goals.  Today, I want to share with you the SMART system of goal setting, in order to help you stick with your New Year's resolutions and accomplish your health goals.

Why Do We Set a Goal?
Studies show that having a defined goal that you can plan, measure the progress of and eventually achieve gives a sense of accomplishment and raises our self-esteem.

Avoid the Biggest Goal Setting Mistake
The most common goal setting mistake people make is setting a goal but not thinking about how to achieve it. Now that you know that, you can avoid becoming part of the group of people who break their New Year’s resolution! 

The 3 Keys to a Successful New Year’s Resolution:
  1. Clearly defining your goal
  2. Creating an action plan
  3. Measuring your progress

How to Set a SMART Goal
Since its inception in 1981, George T. Doran’s SMART acronym has taken on many different meanings, but the main logic still stands - make goals that you can achieve! Here’s how you do it.

S – Specific
Your goal should be clear and precise so you can focus your energy and efforts on achieving it.  Think about:
  • What you want to achieve
  • Why it’s important to you
  • What resources you’ll need
  • If there are any limits
Thinking about these points will mean the difference between a vague goal like “I want to be healthier” and a specific goal like “I want to increase my daily activity so that I get a clean bill of health at my next physical”. One sets a clear path to get to your end goal.

M – Measurable
You need to track your progress to stay motivated, meet your deadlines, and in the end celebrate achieving your New Year’s resolution! When setting your goal, think about:
  • How will I know I’ve reached my goal?
  • How much or how many?
  • Do I have a way to track this?
Thinking about how you’ll measure success will help you come up with an action plan. For example, if your goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day, you’ll need a pedometer or other way of tracking your steps. Don't forget that many goals can be measured with non-scale victories. If you are wanting to eat cleaner foods you will know that you are on the right track by how much better you sleep, improved digestion, clearer skin, etc. 

A – Attainable
One of the most critical elements of goal setting is being realistic about your abilities and setting an achievable goal for yourself. That doesn’t mean choosing a ridiculously easy target. It means thinking about the following:
  • Do I have the mindset to achieve my goal?
  • Is my goal realistic based on my current situation?
  • Do I have the resources or support needed to achieve my goal?
  • Is this goal directly influenced by me and my actions?

R – Relevant
Choosing a goal that is exciting and relevant to you is important as well. You must be motivated by your target to work towards it. Ask yourself these questions about your goal and see if it’s still relevant to you:
  • Is achieving this goal a worthwhile effort?
  • Is it the right goal for me at this point in time?

T – Time-bound
Finally, you want to make sure you set a deadline to meet your goal. It helps you to plan out how you’ll achieve your goal and set priorities if needed. You want to consider thinking about:
  • When do I want to achieve my goal by?
  • What can I do today to meet my goal?
  • What can I do in the next six months to meet my goal?

Now that we’ve gone through the SMART system let’s look at our starting goal of “I want to be healthier”. After applying the SMART system, a more specific goal might be “I want to lower my blood pressure and cholesterol to recommended levels by August 31st".  "In order to do this, I will walk 10,000 steps a day”.  By using the SMART system, you now know what you’re aiming for and what you need to do to achieve the goal set.