Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Breathe Easy this Season

by Dr. Leena Sripada, ND, AAWC

As the season changes, we become more aware of the cold dry outside. For some people, this can trigger an onset of symptoms such as asthma, coughs, runny noses and other respiratory issues. Even if you are not prone to respiratory issues, the drop in the outdoor temperature makes us more vulnerable to catching 'bugs'. The respiratory tract (which includes the nose, sinuses, trachea, lungs and mucus membranes) is one of the major barriers to protect from germs in our environment as we breathe in air. In addition to its physical function,  the respiratory tract correlates in Ayurveda to the prana vaha srota which is understood as the energetic channel that receives prana or 'life-force'. 

In this blog, we will look at some of the common imbalances that affect the respiratory season, explore the impact of the doshas from an Ayurvedic perspective and take away a few self-care tips to incorporate into your daily routine.

Doshas and the Respiratory Tract

Concerns in the respiratory tract can often be qualified by certain dosha imbalances, vata, pitta, kapha or a combination of them. Accumulation of these doshas affect the respiratory tract in different but predictable ways. When we can identify the imbalances, we can work with more effective balancing treatments. 

Vata: imbalances due to this dosha can be characterized by qualities such as a dry cough, dry nasal passages, irritated throat, breathlessness or weakness in the lungs. Treatments for vata dosha respiratory issues involve oileating the tissues, steam inhalations and warm moisturizing treatments.

Pitta: issues to this dosha often manifest with heat or inflammation in the respiratory tract. This could manifest as yellow discharge, post-nasal drip or raw inflamed mucous membranes. These types of issues respond well to cooling, soothing treatment such as coconut oil or ghee in the nostrils (nasya) or herbs like goldenseal.

Kapha: this dosha is prone to accumulating in the respiratory tract. Those with a Kapha constitution are most prone to respiratory issues like sinus infections, colds, lung congestion etc. Food like dairy & sweet trigger kapha buildup and are best avoided in the cold season. Emotions also play a role - grief and sadness can accumulate in the lungs and predispose the body to accumulating congestion. Movement and expression can help prevent this, along with a diet rich in antioxidants, fresh warming spices like ginger, garlic, pepper and essential oils like eucalyptus, pine and camphor.

Tips for Healthy Breathing :

1. Steam inhalations: Breathing warm steam with essential oils is a simple and effective way of eliminating kapha or mucous buildup. Warm steam helps liquify and eliminate toxins and bring circulation to the sinuses. Oils such as eucalyptus or camphor support respiratory health and many oils have anti-microbial properties as well. Steam inhalations can be done over a pot of hot water (covering your head with a towel and breathing in the steam) or even as a short cut in a hot shower. Great for everyone, including children.

2. Neti pot: Have you tried the neti pot? This is a traditional yogic practice that is done to open up the sinuses to help with breathing. Neti pot is a simple nasal irrigation using warm saline water to flush out the sinuses. Keep in mind this can be customized with specific herbs, probiotics or homeopathics if there are chronic sinus infections or candida. This should not be done continuously for someone with significant mucous or Kapha buildup in the sinuses and is best done for prevention.

3. Herbal teas: a piping hot cup of herbal tea can do wonders this season - for the throat, lungs, sinuses and for uplifting your mood. Some herbs that can be steeped for respiratory health include tulsi (holy basil), comfrey, mullein and more. Each herb has a specific action so check with your practitioner to customize specific herbs based on your constitution. For example, Kalmegh (andrographus) is an excellent herb to help with excess kapha (such as thick mucus) in the sinuses or lungs and will benefit those with a Kapha dosha.

4. Supplements: There are numerous formulas out there specific to strengthening the respiratory tract. One supplement that I would like to highlight this season is NAC or N-acetyl cysteine.  It is an often overlooked supplement that is an excellent antioxidant and benefits the respiratory tract. It is especially good for mucous in the lungs and helps with prevention of respiratory tract issues. 

5. Pranayam: Breathing is more than just about circulating air & oxygen into the lungs. It is the vital passage of bringing in 'prana' or 'qi' into the body. This is the life force that keeps us going. If you have blocked nostrils, the passage of prana gets blocked, affecting our mood. Pranayama incorporates many types of 'breathing exercises' which can be simple or advanced. If you would like to try learning, there are various resources such as this video which outlines a beneficial alternate breathing practice:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5m6tMjcF8k

Breath is life. If our breathing is compromised, it affects our mind & mood as well.  So keeping a clear and healthy respiratory tract is the foundation to keeping healthy as we enter cold & flu season. If you would like to customize your treatment regime and daily routine based on your constitution, please speak with your Naturopathic Doctor this season.

Dr. Leena Sripada is a naturopathic doctor with extensive training in Ayurveda. Whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness Dr Leena provides customized care integrating Ayurveda & naturopathic medicine.  Please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email lathparia@naturopathicfoundations.ca to book an appointment.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Addressing Dryness Symptoms Through Diet

by Parisa Wang, Nutritionist

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dryness has root causes that are based on internal imbalances and weaknesses of specific organs. Dryness can also occur when the flow of blood and Qi (energy) within the body are blocked. A combination of dietary and lifestyle changes may help improve dryness by strengthening organs and dispelling pathogenic factors. 

Tips for staying hydrated

Some people have a higher propensity to become more dry than others, and their first reaction is to drink more water. In fact, drinking water can sometimes be part of the problem as water can quickly pass through the digestive tract, enter the blood and be excreted from the kidneys. The time to moisturize the throat and digestive tract mucosa is very short with simply drinking water. The internal organs and structures of the body are more efficiently hydrated through specific foods, such as: 
  • Selected carbohydrates  Some carbohydrates absorb a lot of water molecules, delay the absorption of water, and prevent the water from being excreted too quickly. In this way, there is more time for the mucous membrane of the digestive tract to become moisturized and hydrated. Good choices include: avocado, carrots, sweet potatoes, millet, flaxseeds and soybeans.  
  • Foods rich in fructose: A tea made with fructose-rich honey and warm water, when swallowed slowly can moisture your throat and will also make it feel more comfortable. Some fruits contain a lot of fructose and are hydrating, especially if consumed raw or boiled in water (i.e., applesauce or pear sauce). Grapes, pears, apples and persimmons are rich in fructose. 
  • Foods high in polysaccharides. In addition, Tremella (white fungus) soup is rich in Tremella polysaccharides and is also a good hydrating beverage. 

Tips for getting adequate amounts of vitamin A

Vitamin A is necessary for the synthesis and repair of epithelial tissues, like mucous membranes. If the level of Vitamin A is deficient, the resistance of the skin and mucous membranes will be reduced, The mucosal function will also be decreased resulting in dry and keratinized epidermis, protruding hair follicles, rough skin to the touch and prickly hands, and even dry eyes. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that likes to coexist with cholesterol. It is found in liver, kidney, high-fat marine fish, egg yolk and cream. Unfortunately, people eat very little of these foods nowadays. However, your body can produce vitamin A from carotenoids found in plants.
  • Carotene in plant foods can also be converted into vitamin A in the human body, but only orange-yellow and dark green vegetables are rich in carotene - for example, carrots, pumpkins, red sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, sweet potato leaves and other green leafy vegetables with black leaves. 

Tips for changing eating habits            

Food is a vital part of skin health. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can protect various functions of the body's organs. Certain foods, drinks and other substances can contribute to dryness.

  • Salty foods: Eating too much salty foods increases water consumption. After too much salt enters the blood vessels, it will increase the osmotic pressure of the blood, causing the blood pressure to rise, but the water in the tissues will decrease, which will naturally cause dryness. When salt leaves the body, it takes away a lot of water and makes the body drier.
  • Spicy foods: Although spicy food does not increase the osmotic pressure of human blood, it will speed up blood circulation in the skin, heat the body and increase sweating. This will also lose human body moisture. 
  • Barbecue foods are originally low-moisture foods, and then processed at high temperatures to remove the moisture, forming a very dry state. The protein contained in it is a hydrophilic substance, and it is very eager to take back the water lost during processing. Therefore, as soon as BBQ foods enter the mouth, the water in the oral cavity and throat mucosa will be ruthlessly taken away, making the throat and oral cavity dry. Also these BBQ foods often contain high salt content, which makes the mucous membranes worse. 
  • Sugary and baked foods: Eating a lot of sugary foods or baked goods can cause inflammation and change the thickness of the skin.
  • Dried nuts have high nutritional value, but we cannot eat a lot because they contain more salt. Be careful to choose dried nuts with less salt and eat a small handful a day. 
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is not only harmful to the stomach and intestines, but also to the skin. In order to break down ethanol (the scientific name of alcohol), the body consumes a variety of nutrients in the body. On the second day after drinking, many people feel thirsty in their throats. This is because ethanol has a diuretic effect, which can cause the body to excrete a lot of water and result in dehydration.

Tips for changing lifestyle

Most of the time, just making small lifestyle changes can improve the dryness symptom. 
  • Sleep: Some people don’t have enough rest. In this case, the best way is to rest in time to allow the body to recover in time. The moisture of the skin will gradually return to normal, and the eyes will be able to return to their original clear and bright state. 
  • Bath: Long showers or baths and hot water remove oils from your skin. Limit bath or shower to 5 to 10 minutes and use warm water, not hot water.
  • Clothing: Natural fibres, such as cotton and silk, let your skin breathe. You should also use natural detergents to wash your clothes instead of detergents with chemicals, dyes or perfumes that can irritate the skin.

A balanced diet is the foundation to health. What is optimum varies from person to person and is dependent on your underlying conditions, your age and health status. 

If you have questions about what type of foods or nutritional plan is best for you, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you. For more information on my approach to nutrition, check out my blog on Yin Yang theory and detoxification or check out my bio on the Naturopathic Foundations website.

To book an appointment, please contact Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727.