Fall Allergy Relief the Natural Way

Are you excited for fall? Many people love the vibrant colours of this beautiful season. It’s a time to get out our cozy sweaters, enjoy the crisp fall air, and for some people, sneeze a lot. Yes, unfortunately, many people experience watery eyes, sinus pain and other allergy symptoms when fall arrives. This annoying phenomenon can occur even if you made it through spring without sneezing.

That’s because even though the symptoms of fall and spring allergies are the same, the triggers are different. So it’s definitely possible to enjoy one season allergy-free but suffer through another. And because there are more culprits to blame for fall allergies, many people experience the adverse effects.

The good news is that fall allergies can be avoided. In fact, new research in immunotherapy and nutrition has made it easier than ever to get through autumn sneeze-free.

THE SYMPTOMS OF FALL ALLERGIES

We tend to hear more about spring allergies, but fall allergies can be just as unpleasant. Symptoms often include:
● Sneezing
● Runny nose
● Itchy or watery eyes
● Headaches
● Sinus pain or pressure
● Increased asthma symptoms

These symptoms can appear when you’re exposed to an airborne allergy trigger. Common sense would suggest that the best solution may be to avoid the trigger, but, of course this isn’t always possible.

Because allergies are often due to weaknesses in the adrenal, immune, or the digestive system, sometimes a more lasting – and practical – approach is to treat allergies from the inside out, by getting to the root cause within your body.

FALL ALLERGY TRIGGERS4 NATURAL WAYS TO CONTROL FALL ALLERGIES

Instead of moving to the southern hemisphere every fall, you can gain control of fall allergies by working with your body’s immune system and adapting your environment.

1. HEPA FILTER

No matter how careful you are with keeping outside pollution from getting into your home, allergens can still get into your home. After all, you have to open the door many times a day, so they can easily enter uninvited. Using an air purifier with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter can significantly reduce airborne allergens like dust, dust mites, pollen, mould spores, and pet dander. HEPA filters trap these allergens and lock them away. If you’re particularly sensitive to allergens, it could also be helpful to use a vacuum cleaner that also has a HEPA filter so that you can allergen-proof your home even more.

2. NASAL IRRIGATION

Flushing the nose and sinus with saline solution twice a day goes a long way in ensuring that congestion-causing allergens like pollen, spores, dust and dander are expelled before they can settle in and cause the symptoms that make it hard to enjoy the change of seasons.

Since your eyes, nose, and throat are connected, nasal irrigation or using a Neti Pot is a great way to naturally remove allergens. If you choose to make your own saline solution it’s important to make sure the water you use is distilled or purified so no microorganisms are present.

3. ELIMINATION DIET

If your allergies are unbearable and the above solutions fail to provide relief, it might be time to try an elimination diet, temporarily removing common inflammatory foods to provide your gut the opportunity to heal. Optimal gut health can give your body the strength to better deal with allergens.

As well, sensitivity to airborne allergens and sensitivity to certain foods may be related. At the very least, when the body is already on high alert coping with one form of sensitivity, it can be more reactive overall, making it harder to fight off multiple allergens. The result is often a worsening of any already-present allergy symptoms.

Elimination diets can be challenging and are best implemented under the care of your integrative health team. Speak to your practitioner about whether an elimination diet could help you better manage your allergy symptoms this season.

4. NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS

Often allergies are the result of weakness or exhaustion in the adrenal, immune, or digestive system. There are a number of nutritional supplements that are known to support and strengthen each of these systems. That means you’ll be better prepared to deal with allergens when they appear.

● Bioflavonoids and Vitamin C
While onions make our eyes tear up, they also contain the bioflavonoid quercetin – a natural antihistamine – that can treat allergy-related itchy, watery eyes! Quercetin also has antiviral properties and can help reduce other symptoms including asthma, hay fever, and even cold sores. Onions aren’t the only source of quercetin; apples, berries, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage & cauliflower, and black tea are all good sources.

Bioflavonoids work best when taken with Vitamin C. That’s because they work together to amplify their effects, keeping the immune system strong and prevent the formation of histamine (rather than interfering with the histamine the body produces like over-the-counter antihistamines do).

● Probiotics (such as lactobacillus acidophilus)
When you take care of the good bacteria in your gut, your digestive system and your immunity can benefit. And a strong digestive system can combat allergies by keeping inflammation at bay. Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods like yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, pickles, and miso soup.

● Local honey
The allergens you’re exposed to in the fall will reflect the pollens that are circulating in the air where you live. Honey produced in your area can contain these same pollens (thanks to local bees). Some studies have found that consuming this honey can reduce allergy reactions, possibly because you build up immunity to the allergy-triggering pollen.

● Fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acids offer an effective defense against inflammation. Because inflammation plays a big role in allergy symptoms, fish oil, which is rich in omega-3, can help reduce those annoying autumn allergy symptoms.

● Vitamin D
Some research suggests that having low levels of Vitamin D in your body can make you more susceptible to allergies. So it may not be a coincidence that as the number of people deficient in Vitamin D has gone up, so has the number of people developing allergies.

● Zinc
You may know that zinc lozenges are great for the scratchy throat that can accompany a cold, but did you know that getting enough zinc can help reduce your allergy symptoms, too? Zinc plays an important role in how histamine is kept in check. A deficiency means that more histamine can be released throughout the body, increasing your sensitivity to allergens.

IMMUNOTHERAPY FOR ALLERGIES

This cutting-edge allergy-reduction strategy centres around exposing patients to small amounts of an allergen from their environment and gradually building up their immunity. At first glance, immunotherapy may seem counter-intuitive. Why would you willingly expose yourself to the cause of your symptoms? However, when done carefully, your body can become less sensitive to allergens and build up its natural immunity.

Many people experience lasting relief from symptoms over the course of treatment (which can often last a few months – this is a gradual, but effective, approach). Of course, immunotherapy should only be done under close supervision from an experienced healthcare provider.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Natural treatments for seasonal allergies often take longer to take effect than typical medications. So it’s wise to begin natural treatments one or two months before the season starts to help prepare your body ahead of when allergens are at their most severe.

Not sure you can wait that long for relief? Try pairing nasal irrigation or HEPA filter air purifiers with your nutritional supplement of choice for speedier results.

Just remember: good health begins in the gut and we recommend starting with ensuring your gut is balanced. If you’d like to get tested to see what imbalances you may have, what foods and allergens you may be sensitive to and get a clear picture of what’s going on so you can reduce the risk of bad allergies, give us a call we can help!

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21196761
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18187018
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22192170
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784923/
http://www.ergo-log.com/fishoilhayfever.html
https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/110063/factsheet/en
https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/10.1164/rccm.201809-1657OC
https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/JAMC-D-15-0172.1
https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/sinus-rinsing.html

Support Your Hormones For A More Peaceful Period

The week before your period, it’s not unusual for many women to experience an unwanted transformation from Doctor Jekyll to Ms. Hyde. As our hormones shift, some of us will fall apart into sensitive sleep-deprived puddles. Other simmering souls will find themselves raging without warning. Then there are the mopey bloated hermits who will choose to wrap themselves in a blanket and binge-watch Netflix until Aunt Flow takes a hike. Whoever your PMS alter-ego might be, it’s hard not to feel out of control. But it’s just a part of womanhood we all have to accept, right? Wrong.

Sure, hormones will always shuffle, but we don’t have to be held hostage by their fluctuations. You have the power to overcome many common PMS symptoms and maybe even prevent them from happening!

What Are The Phases Of The Menstrual Cycle?

First, let’s take a moment to revisit Sex Ed 101 to understand the different phases of your menstrual cycle. Once you get to know your natural rhythm, you can begin to accommodate a few healthy habits that will help each phase go more smoothly. In a standard 28-day menstrual cycle, our bodies go through four different phases:

  • Release
  • This begins the first full day of your period when your womb lining is released. During this phase take time to slow down, keep workouts short and be kind to yourself, your body needs it and deserves it!

  • Rise
  • Days 8 to 14. As the title suggests, estrogen levels rise during his stage to continue the cascade of hormonal triggers. This is the time of the month ovulation usually happens, and is accompanied by good moods, energy and feeling powerful.

  • Plateau
  • Days 15 to 21. Estrogen stops surging now and is naturally flushed out of the body as your hormone levels begin to shift. This is a good time to start supporting your body as it detoxes by drinking plenty of water and eating your veggies.

  • Pause
  • Days 22 – 28. During this final stage just before the next period some women experience cravings, cramps and irritability. You are still detoxing, and adding a little cardio into your exercise routine here can help your body to cope better.

    Seed Cycling for Balanced Hormones

    Seed cycling is just as it sounds. It is a way to optimize your health by ingesting seeds that contain the right hormone-helping oils for each part of your cycle. Because the length of the moon’s lunar cycle perfectly aligns with an ideal monthly menstrual cycle, women with irregular periods, postpartum moms and postmenopausal women can also benefit from the hormone supporting powers of seed cycling to help bring balance and regularity. Simply initiate the practice on the first day of the new moon, then switch to the second phase on the first day of the full moon (day 15), and repeat.

    Follicular Phase – Pumpkin & Flaxseed

    The first half of your cycle, the Release and Rise phases (Days 1 – 14), fall into what is known as the Follicular phase. This is when your estrogen increases and an egg is prepared for ovulation. During this time, you will want to help boost your estrogen levels by incorporating pumpkin and flaxseed into your diet. Rich in fatty acids, 1 – 2 tbsp of freshly ground flaxseed or pumpkin seeds a day can help improve your estrogen to progesterone ratio. Other benefits of these seeds include a healthier metabolism, reduced breast tenderness, and a decreased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.

    Luteal Phase – Sunflower & Sesame Seeds

    The second half of your cycle, the Plateau and Pause phases (Days 15 – 28), are grouped together into the Luteal phase. During this time of your cycle, progesterone levels rise and peak. Adding 1 – 2 tbsp of freshly ground sunflower and sesame seeds to your diet each day can support your progesterone levels and help to ease PMS symptoms that may occur during this time. Full of lignans and essential fatty acids, these seeds are beneficial for helping hormones even beyond our reproductive years.

    Tips For Balancing Your Hormones the Week Before Your Period

    During the last week of your cycle, assuming no egg was implanted, estrogen dwindles and is flushed out of your body while progesterone goes up. It is possible to explore short-term strategies on top of the long game of seed cycling during this phase to help reduce some of the symptoms that accompany the dramatic hormonal shift. By supporting your hormones with the following natural strategies, you should be able to have a happy – or at least happier – period.

    1. Drink Less Coffee & More Green Tea
    2. Do you ever feel irritable or anxious after drinking too much coffee? That’s because caffeine raises cortisol levels, which can worsen those types of symptoms. Too much caffeine can also cause sleep issues, inflammation and breast tenderness, as well as lower your progesterone levels. Progesterone is an important feel-good hormone, responsible for your overall sense of well-being. It boosts the metabolism and supports thyroid function. Because you want to raise progesterone the week before your period, not lower it, consider switching your caffeine to green tea.

      Instead of increasing irritability, green tea is thought to help reduce anxiety. High in antioxidants, it also reduces inflammation, helps to balance estrogen levels, and reduces bloating and water retention.

    3. Avoid Alcohol
    4. Alcohol has a way of quickly increasing estrogen levels which can trigger a storm of PMS symptoms like anxiety, mood problems, headaches, and disrupted sleep patterns. Not to mention, too much estrogen also reduces your ability to burn fat by more than half — which isn’t something anyone wants!

      The week before your period, swap your cocktail for a mocktail. Kombucha is a refreshing alternative that you can make at home or find in an increasing number of restaurants. Made from tea fermented to produce healthy probiotics, kombucha offers many similar health benefits to green tea and is also great for promoting gut bacteria to assist in the estrogen detox.

    5. Reduce Sodium
    6. It may seem like a no-brainer that foods high in salt will increase water retention and bloating, prime PMS symptoms you would likely happily live without. But did you know that sodium can affect breast tenderness as well? Reducing your sodium intake will help to ease these types of annoying symptoms so you can still manage to feel comfortable in your favourite clothes.

    7. Increase Magnesium
    8. Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps keep your progesterone levels balanced by regulating the master-hormone gland, the pituitary. And magnesium also helps your muscles to relax, easing crampy symptoms. The week before your period, add more high-Magnesium foods to your diet such as spinach, beans, nuts and seeds.

      This is also the best time of the month to indulge in some delicious dark chocolate! Not only is dark chocolate rich in Magnesium and Iron, it is also packed with powerful antioxidants. Aim for the highest cacao content available, starting with at least 70%. Explore higher levels of cacao and discover how your taste gradually adjusts. Challenge yourself to see if you can get your buds to brave a pure 100%. Even if you find it to be beyond bitter, your body will reap the rewards of your valiant effort.

    9. Remember to Wind Down
    10. It’s easy to get wound tight by life’s demands. The thing is, most of us don’t take the time we need to really effectively wind down. So many of us regularly operate in a hyper mental state, fueled by an unhealthy balance of stress and restless energy. We rush through the day, our minds constantly jumping onto the next thing. When we experience continuous levels of stress, we overwork our adrenal glands’ fight-or-flight response causing our cortisol to elevate and our progesterone to drop. When progesterone is low, it can lead to a variety of problems including PMS, bloating, breast tenderness, sleep issues, and anxiety.

      To keep your cortisol and progesterone levels in healthy balance, give yourself more time to rest by going to sleep a little earlier or reducing the intensity of your workout routine. Limiting screen time and cutting down on social media are also good ways to clear your mind from potentially toxic sources. And of course, meditation is one of the most effective ways to slow down and get yourself grounded.

      Other Factors That Can Contribute To Hormonal Imbalances

      While the above suggestions are helpful for women with healthy hormone levels, there are a number of other factors that can impact hormonal imbalances. Many cosmetics and hygiene products contain a barrage of chemicals that can toxify our systems. Gut health is also connected to a wide number of problems in our body beyond digestive concerns, including hormone imbalance, mental health issues and more.

      If you find yourself suffering from PMS-type symptoms all the time, bigger hormonal imbalances might at play. Our hormones naturally shift throughout our lives, so it is a smart decision to have your levels checked by a healthcare professional from time to time. The sooner you can identify any potential issues, the sooner you can get your body back to normal.

      Don’t let your hormones ruin your life — or even just the week before your period. You have more control than you think!

      References:
      https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-abstract/77/5/1215/2649961
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4859868/
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22792003
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3208934/
      https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/prior-stress-could-worsen-premenstrual-symptoms-nih-study-finds
      https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/3/e019490

What You Need to Know About Proper Hydration

A Holistic Perspective On Water And Hydration

Water, the lifeblood of Mother Earth. That free flowing H20 is crucial for the survival of every organic species on the planet. Our earth is made up of 71% water – just a little more than the human brain which floats at 70%. In fact, water comprises up to 55-60% of our entire bodies. With over half our bodies composed of water, it’s clear to see why staying well hydrated is one of the most important (and easiest) things you can do for your health.

3 Common Hydration Myths Busted

Myth: Water Is The Best Way To Hydrate
The truth is, it depends. For most of the year, water on its own should be enough. However when we sweat on particularly hot days or after a lot of exertion, we don’t only sweat out water. We sweat out minerals such as sodium and potassium. These are electrolytes and are vital in keeping the body balanced and hydrated, and the muscles working effectively.

Adding a pinch of Himalayan salt and a splash of apple or lemon juice to your water on days like these will go a long way towards replenishing your electrolytes, helping to prevent muscle cramps and other symptoms of electrolyte imbalance.

Myth: Store-Bought Electrolyte Drinks Are Healthy
Brightly coloured electrolyte sports drinks are readily available in every corner store, but what are you really drinking?

While over the past few years most brands of sports drinks have changed their ingredients to remove brominated vegetable oil (BVO), an additive used to emulsify the ingredients which comes with a long list of unfortunate side effects, other problematic ingredients still remain. Always read the label and avoid drinks that have very long ingredient lists, are very high in sugar or contain artificial food dyes. Reach for coconut water as a naturally electrolyte-rich alternative.

Myth: Coffee & Tea Are Dehydrating.
Recent research shows that while the diuretic effects of drinking 1-2 cups of coffee minimally increase urine output for about three hours after consumption, exercise seems to negate those effects altogether.

If you’re a tea drinker, research shows that drinking 4-6 cups of tea can actually be more beneficial than water consumption alone as teas can provide antioxidant and herbal benefits as well.

This does not take into account caffeine’s effects on your adrenal glands however, so if you’re avoiding coffee in order to get a good night’s sleep, by all means keep it up!

Dehydration And Chronic Dehydration: Know the Signs

Dehydration happens when you don’t drink enough water for your body’s needs. Even being just a half litre under-hydrated can lead to an increase in cortisol levels – the stress hormone – which can put a real strain on your overall well-being. In the summer months, common culprits for dehydration include extreme temperatures, excessive physical activity in the heat, and let’s be honest, too much alcohol consumption. Fortunately, these triggers are all preventable by maintaining a healthy balance of water, rest and shade.

The Warning Signs Of Chronic Dehydration

When the body is constantly forced to function without enough water over days and weeks, chronic dehydration can begin to set in. Chronic dehydration can cause a variety of health complications from high blood pressure to kidney stones.

You may already be familiar with the most common signs of dehydration, which include:

● Extreme thirst
● Tired muscles
● Dizziness and disorientation
● Dark-coloured urine (deep yellow, brown or maroon)

However, chronic dehydration reacts a bit differently.
As the body kicks into survival mode, it gets creative by sucking moisture from other sources.

Chronic dehydration may present itself in a variety of ongoing symptoms, such as:

● Constipation
● Fatigue
● Muscle weakness
● Headaches
● Dry or flaky skin

If you suspect you might be suffering from chronic dehydration, increasing your intake of water may not be enough to get you back on track. It is important to make an appointment with your healthcare practitioner so they can properly assess your concentrated blood volume, electrolyte levels, and kidney function to help get you back on the path to optimum health.

Beyond staying hydrated, how do we know what type of water is best? Must we wet our lips only with melted artisanal ice chipped by hand from Alpine glaciers — or are bottled brands no better than the backyard hose?

What’s In Your Tap Water And Is It Always Safe?

With upwards of 90,000 cases of illness and 90 deaths a year due to waterborne illnesses, it’s no surprise that we have become skeptical about the quality of our tap water. Who knows what variety of microorganisms, pollutants, and other foreign disruptors might be flowing from our faucets, or not? While municipal tap water is generally considered to be safe, and in areas with a modern water supply system tap water still remains better for you than allowing yourself to become dehydrated, there are a few potential contaminators that can, and sometimes do, leech their way into our water sources:

Pathogens
Bacteria and parasites can easily enter water sources such as private wells from human or animal fecal matter. Some of the most common bacterial gastrointestinal diseases transmitted through water include salmonella, shigella and in some parts of the world even cholera. While cholera may not be a current concern in North American waterways, parasites like cryptosporidium can be, causing diarrhea and leading to potentially fatal illness if not immediately treated.

Glyphosate
Used in pesticides, glyphosate can enter our waterways from farmland runoff. It can also be found throughout our food chain and is regularly detected in human urine. Research suggests that glyphosate-based herbicides may be endocrine disruptors and can also have an impact on kidney and liver function.

Lead, Aluminum & Heavy metals
When plumbing pipes grow old and begin to corrode, lead, aluminum and other heavy metals can leak their way into our tap water. Lead consumption can lead to severe developmental challenges and learning disorders in children. Meanwhile, aluminum and other metals have been shown to cause nerve, brain and kidney damage.

Hormones & Pharmaceuticals
We now know that staying properly hydrated is necessary for helping to manage hormones like cortisol; however, tap water can also be responsible for causing hormone imbalances. This is due to a variety of hormone disruptors and pharmaceuticals found in many municipal water supplies such as birth control pills, antibiotics, painkillers, antidepressants, among a cocktail of other micropollutants. Even small amounts of hormones can shift our chemistry in unwanted ways.

Chlorine
A disinfectant used in water treatment facilities; chlorine is effective for killing microorganisms. Unfortunately, it also poses toxic effects to our bodies, destroying healthy gut bacteria, which can cause all kinds of issues. Chlorine has been identified as the number one cause of bladder cancer. It is also connected to rectal and breast cancers, as well as other conditions including asthma, birth defects and premature skin aging.

Fluoride
For years, our government has pumped fluoride into our water supplies, while many European countries have banned its use altogether. Current research suggests that fluoride in our tap water may do more harm than good. Some studies have linked fluoride suppressed immune system and thyroid function, disruption of the pineal gland, and an increased risk for fractures and even cancer. Furthermore, fluoride may contain arsenic and also leaches lead from piping at much greater rates.

Now, who wants any of that in their water?!

So, Is Bottled Water Any Better?

Sadly, bottled water comes with its own baggage. First of all, the bottled water (or rather the plastic bottle) industry is not sustainable. Much like the disposable plastic straws we hear so much about, the majority of plastic bottles do not get recycled and end up in landfills – or back into our oceans with heartbreaking irony. This doesn’t even take into consideration the energy it takes to produce and distribute bottled water to every corner store and hot dog stand around the world. When you add it all up, a lot of unnecessary pollution goes into every last drop.

As for the quality of water itself, a lot of bottled water is simply glorified tap water hiked to an exorbitant cost. Mold, microbes, benzenes, phthalates, trihalomethanes, and yes, even arsenic have all been found in bottled water. And then there are the harmful plastic chemicals from the bottle itself, such as BPA among other elements, that can also be found floating in your drink.

Overhyped and overpriced, simply put – bottled water is bad for the planet and not so great for you either. So, what’s a person to do?

What Is The Best Possible Water Source?

Your very best option for clean, pure water is to invest in a good quality filtration system for your kitchen. For an added vote of confidence, be sure your filtration system is certified by NSF International or the Water Quality Association. And of course, you should set a reminder to change your filters on schedule to ensure your drinking and cooking water is always the best possible quality.

Are you always on the go? That’s easy solution. Get yourself a BPA-free reusable water bottle (look for glass water bottles) and keep it with you at all times. That way you are sure to keep your body healthy and hydrated, looking out for your own best interest and the health of our planet, which is in everyone’s best interest.
Not a huge fan of drinking water no matter where it comes from? You aren’t alone but there are options; try adding in cucumbers, mint, orange or lemon slices to flavour it up a bit and remember water is crucial to not just hydrate our bodies but also to flush out all the toxins we are exposed to.

References:

http://www.cwwa.ca/pdf_files/2016Katarina%20Pintar.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3886980/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996186/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=PMC3690253
https://detoxproject.org/glyphosate-in-food-water/
https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/water-stress-reduction
http://fluoridealert.org/content/europe-statements/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/089203629400070T?via%3Dihub
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16895092

Do You Need a Digital Detox?

Have you ever felt slightly panicked when you’re separated from your phone? Do you know how many hours a day you spend on your digital devices? Do you feel your online activities have a positive effect on your overall well being?

Those are all important questions. And another to consider: Does doing a digital detox feel like a good idea for your health? Or does it simply sound impossible?

A More Conscious Approach To Technology

The truth is that we could all benefit from a more mindful approach to our digital lives. And for many of us, a short “detox” period can help us put the role of technology into perspective.

The Benefits Of Reducing Screen time

If you’re wondering about cutting back on your screen time, check out these potential benefits.

Less Comparison

Do you ever feel like your life isn’t quite measuring up after logging in to your social media accounts? Many of us end up wondering why everyone else takes such great vacations, looks so good, and has such perfect children.

The old adage “don’t compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides” certainly applies to social media. However, the cumulative effect of “comparisonitis” can take a significant toll on our mental health. Many studies confirm a link between Internet use and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Better Mental Health

Of course, this relationship may work both ways. For example, have you ever looked down at your cell phone to avoid social interactions? Sometimes we see our phones as “security blankets.” Unfortunately, however, these kinds of habits can only reinforce anxiety. In other words, in addition to triggering anxiety and depression, we may be more likely to turn to the online world when we’re anxious or depressed.

Excessive time on digital devices can also lead to habits that can harm our mental and physical health. One study found that people who are on their phones a lot are less likely to eat regular meals, follow a healthy diet, and get a good night’s sleep. That all adds up to an increased risk of depression and other health issues.

Improved Brain Function

Even more alarming is the physical effect of screen time on our brain. It’s true: Screen time can actually change the structure of our brain. The results include impaired processing, reduced ability to focus, and “dopamine loops” in which we become addicted to the hit from the feel-good chemical dopamine. After all, who doesn’t get a small thrill of satisfaction when someone likes their Instagram post? That kind of instant gratification is often missing from our offline lives. In fact, researchers have found that the dopamine cycle connected to Internet use and video games is similar to that experienced with drug addiction.

More Restful Sleep

The blue light from our digital devices affects melatonin production. The result? Difficulty falling and staying asleep. Even more troubling are possible links between blue light exposure at night and an increased risk of diabetes, cancer, and depression.

Better Posture

You may have experienced “tech neck” or a sore thumb after spending a long time on your phone. As well, researchers note that the slumping posture that develops while using digital devices can also affect your breathing. One study found that 83 percent of people with neck pain have altered breathing patterns.

Better Hormonal And Cellular Health

One researcher found that people tend to hold their breath when checking their devices. This habit can trigger the “flight or fight “response, in which the body becomes primed for flight. That process served us well in the past, when our body’s response helped us escape predators, but if you’re checking a social media status while sitting down, you can just end up with a lot of extra glucose, adrenalin, and cortisol in your system.

As well, our increased reliance on technology has led to high levels of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in our bodies. Although the long-term effects need to be studied further, some evidence links this exposure to an increased risk of neurological disease.

Are you ready for a digital detox?

So, what exactly is a digital detox? Ultimately, it’s up to you. If you’re inspired by the list of possible benefits above, you may be ready to implement your own detox from technology. However, as with many behavior modifications, a slow and realistic approach is often more successful. Your long-term goal could be a weekend (or even a week) without any devices.

Digital Detox Retreats

Digital-detox retreats are a growing trend in the travel business, and provide opportunities to be pampered in spa-like conditions, or to pursue recreation adventures, all without a digital device. There are alternative free options too, of course, such as implementing your own retreat! Examples can be planning a weekend hike in a local area and connecting with nature, or spending time indoors with your kids, a book or your journal. Be creative!

Creating Healthy Digital Habits

Before starting a cold-turkey detox, it’s a good idea to simply be more mindful of your device use. Pay attention to when and why you pick up your phone. Make it a habit to put it away if you don’t need it. Make it a habit to put away any digital devices at least an hour before bedtime.

Fighting FOMO

As you adjust to having reduced online time in your life, try going an entire day without checking a device. This might be uncomfortable at first. Recognize your FOMO (fear of missing out) feelings and acknowledge that really, if something urgent happened, you would hear about it. Remind yourself that don’t really need to know every detail of your friends’ lives, or every piece of celebrity (or political) gossip in real time. In other words, the urgency the Internet can create is not real.

Top Tips For Your Digital Detox

Here are some tips that can help you set up your own digital detox retreat, on a level that works for you.

  1. Make your bedroom a cellphone-free zone
    If you don’t have a landline and you’re worried that your loved ones won’t be able to contact you in an emergency (for example, if you have teenage kids who work late at night), simply put it on the other side of the room, with the volume turned up high enough so that you can hear it. And put it face down so other notifications won’t disturb your sleep.
  2. Choose your activities wisely
    Even in today’s wired world, you can find places where cell phones can’t be used. If you’re swimming, hiking, practicing yoga, or watching a movie, you can’t check your Facebook updates. And you might end up having more fun.
  3. “Go old school”
    We think of our phones as indispensable, but for centuries, people survived without them just fine. And fortunately, many “real-life” tools exist that can do the tasks we rely on our phones for. If you’re worried about losing the functions on your phone, consider a few alternatives:
    – A paper calendar or day planner to book appointments
    – An alarm clock to wake up
    – Books – read them in yellow or natural light.
    – Letters or cards sent through the post office. (Who doesn’t love receiving an old-fashioned, hand-written letter?)
    – A classic watch
    – A camera
    – A landline phone. We tend to think of the landline as unnecessary, but just over 40 percent of households still have one, and they provide a reliable back-up for getting in touch.
  4. Reschedule your email habits
    Many busy executives try to put aside specific times of the day for checking emails. That means they’re not looking for new messages every 30 seconds, or reading every notification. If this makes you feel anxious, remind yourself that in most instances, emails don’t need an immediate response. Try using an out-of-office response letting people know how to contact you in an emergency.
  5. Use technology
    Yes, the idea that technology can help reduce your tech use is ironic. However, many apps and programs can measure the time you spend on your phone. If you don’t do this already, try monitoring it for a few days to get a baseline of your usage.
  6. Get your friends and family on board
    If you have contacts who expect an immediate response to every text, let them know you’re dialing back on screen time.

    Similarly, if you’re out at a social event like a restaurant dinner, suggest everyone put their phones away. Perhaps the first person to check their device pays for dinner!

  7. Listen to your body
    How do you feel after a few hours without technology? Get in touch with any anxiety you feel that needs to be addressed. And it’s also important to note the positives. Do you notice more of the world around you?
  8. Get help if you need it
    If you’re worried about your digital media use and you’re not sure where to get help, or if you’re wondering if you’re actually addicted to technology, help is available! Give our office a call if you’d like to talk about switching to a healthier, more conscious path.
  9. References:

    http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
    https://www.cbsnews.com/video/new-study-links-phone-use-and-mental-health-issues-in-teens/
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5970452/
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563215303332
    https://www.ejradiology.com/article/S0720-048X%2809%2900589-0/abstract
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/brain-wise/201209/why-were-all-addicted-texts-twitter-and-google
    https://www.statista.com/chart/2072/landline-phones-in-the-united-states/
    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/just-breathe-building-the_b_85651

Thinning, brittle hair? Check your hormones!

Luscious locks. Flowing tresses. Who doesn’t want to have a full head of shiny hair? Our culture certainly gives us the message that beautiful hair symbolizes youth and beauty.

However, particularly as we age, many of us find that the soft, full hair we may have taken for granted in our younger days starts to fade and becomes thinner and more brittle. These changes can happen to both men and women.

As You Age, So Does Your Hair

Of course, it makes sense that hair can be damaged as we age. Because hair grows so slowly (less than half an inch every month), the hair on your head may have experienced years of sun exposure and damage from the elements. It also is affected by hormonal changes in our bodies which play a role in both hair growth, texture, and those pesky grey hairs of course!

Searching For The Fountain Of Hair Youth

What’s the solution? The beauty industry tells us the secret to beautiful hair is finding the right “products.” And it’s definitely possible to spend hundreds of dollars trying to find the perfect match.

However, no matter how many shampoo reviews you read, you can only find so much hair magic in a bottle. In fact, many shampoos and other hair products can actually damage your hair because they contain harmful substances.

The truth is that beautiful hair starts from within. As a result, what we put into our bodies is far more important than what we put on our hair.

Laying A Foundation For Stronger, Fuller, Faster-Growing Hair

To fully understand the impact of lifestyle choices on your hair, it helps to know more about its composition – the main building blocks that give hair its strength and structure.

Keratin

Hair strands are composed of a protein called keratin (in fact, so are your nails). One of the primary components in keratin is choline, an essential nutrient with many roles in the body that is found in a variety of foods such as eggs, salmon and cauliflower.

Biotin

Vitamin B7 (also known as biotin) contributes to the formation of keratin. Because of this relationship, it’s not surprising that scientists have found that being deficient in biotin can lead to hair loss. In fact, one study found that supplementing with biotin helped slow hair loss in women with thinning hair, leading to fuller, shinier hair as well as smoother skin after 6 months.

The Gut Health Connection To Good Hair

Interestingly, scientists have also found that the amount of bad bacteria in our gut affects the formation of biotin. That means that beautiful hair isn’t necessarily as simple as making sure you have consumed enough biotin. Your digestion and absorption need to be working right too.

Factors that can positively influence the delicate balance of gut bacteria, and in turn improve biotin production, include managing your stress levels, keeping sugary snacks in check and ensuring your nutrition is balanced.

Top Tips For Healthy Hair:

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the factors behind healthy hair, how can you overcome the effects of aging and environmental damage? Check out these tips for a healthy head of hair.

1. Check your hormone levels.

Cortisol isn’t the only hormone that can impact your hair health. If you’re experiencing hair loss or changes to hair texture, you should check the levels of your other hormones as well.

For example, low levels of thyroid hormone can indicate a stressed-out thyroid. One of the thyroid’s “lesser” jobs is to regulate hair growth, however in times of stress the body will focus all of the thyroid’s energies on more important functions such as regulating the body’s temperature and metabolism. Hence thinning hair is one of many possible symptoms of lowered thyroid function.

Low estrogen, which may be a sign of perimenopause or other hormonal imbalances, can also lead to hair troubles. While slower growth of pubic and underarm hair might easily go unnoticed, an estrogen imbalance can mean that androgens have a stronger effect on hair follicles, leading to thinning hair on the head, and even rogue chin hairs.

These are just a few reasons why the best start to improving your hair’s texture and fullness begins with testing to see where your hormonal levels are and ensuring you are balanced.

2. Make sure you consume enough Biotin.

Good sources of biotin include:
            Liver
            Salmon
            Carrots
            Bananas
            Wheat Germ
            Whole Grains
            Chicken
            Nuts

(Bonus: Biotin will also strengthen your nails!)

3. Eat plenty of protein.

This may seem like a no-brainer, since hair is composed of protein. Keep in mind that your protein sources don’t have to be meat-based, since the protein found in plant sources are just as effective.

In addition to biotin, the amino acid cystine assists in the formation of keratin. Good sources of cystine include garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprouts, oats, wheat germ, sprouted lentils and eggs.

4. Watch your mineral intake.

One of the many roles of minerals in the body is growth, and iron and zinc in particular contribute to keratin formation which helps your hair to grow strong.

Zinc can also protect your hair from sun damage just as zinc oxide in sunscreens can protect your skin from sunburn, and zinc helps your body flush out excess insulin too. Good sources of zinc include shellfish, beans, and seeds.

5. Reduce your sugar consumption.

When you eat a lot of sugar, your blood sugar rises. In response, your body produces more of the hormone insulin and androgens such as testosterone, which have a shrinking effect on hair follicles. That means your hair could start growing finer and more brittle.

6. Don’t smoke.

Smoking increases the speed at which your body breaks down and excretes biotin, reducing the amount of biotin in your blood and leading to weaker hair and nail growth.

7. Avoid high-mercury foods.

Consumption of food with high levels of mercury has been linked to hair loss. Some kinds of tuna, swordfish and mackerel can all contain high levels of mercury.

8. Boost your intake of fruits and veggies.

To protect your hair, you want to reduce the damage that can be caused by free radicals. Those are compounds that can damage your cells, and they’re often created by environmental factors and the internal processes that can be triggered by stress.

Free radicals can lead to lifeless, gray hair. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and restore your hair’s shine. Fruits and vegetables can provide the key antioxidants for healthy hair: Vitamins A, C, and E.

9. Consider collagen supplements.

Choline, one of the building blocks of keratin, is found in collagen. Collagen can also strengthen the layer of your skin that contains hair follicles. (This layer of skin is called the dermis). With a stronger anchor point, hair is less likely to fall out.

10. Choose hair products carefully.

Many shampoos, conditioners, and styling products contain ingredients that can be hard on your hair and unhealthy for you. The reality is that many of them don’t address hair problems where they originate – in the protein structure of the hair itself. Instead, they “gloss” over any problems with superficial coverings. Plus, many substances used in hair products can be absorbed by your skin, and have been linked to cancer. In addition, many are harmful to the environment. So avoid products with sulfates, parabens, and silicones. Your hair will thank you!

If you’re experiencing issues with your hair, it may be time to test your hormones and make sure your gut health is supporting your hair goals not impeding them!

GIve our office a call we are happy to help.

References:

https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/109/9/djx202/4102324
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428712/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27538002
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201279/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4174066/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=28813664
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428712/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=27554239

Infertility Rates are Rising- What You Need to Know

Fertility. It’s something we often take for granted when we’re planning our lives. In fact, many women spend a lot of money and effort in preventing pregnancy until the timing is right for conception. However, even when the timing is right, our bodies don’t always cooperate. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in infertility. One study found infertility rates increased from 5.4 percent in 1984 to 15.7 percent in 2011, a substantial increase in a short period of time.

An Integrative Approach To Fertility

What makes infertility particularly frustrating is that it’s often hard to determine a cause when a couple has difficulty conceiving. Causes of infertility are often multifactorial, and many elements of a couple’s health need to be considered to understand the potential cause(s) in order to best optimize their ability to conceive. That’s why an integrative approach, taking into account lifestyle, genetics, stress levels, and overall health is best if you’re experiencing fertility issues.

Timing is important because so many different elements need to be considered – and timing is a key component, both in terms of your chronological age and the timing of conception. In general, a couple is considered infertile if they’ve been trying for a year to conceive without success. However, it’s often a good idea to start taking some proactive steps to improve your fertility as soon as you have decided you want to conceive.

Factors That Can Affect Your Fertility:

What’s contributing to the increase in infertility? Medical scientists can’t pinpoint one specific cause, but many lifestyle factors can play a role. Some things that can influence fertility include:

Hormone levels

Many hormones work in tandem to create the optimum conditions for conception, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol, luteinizing hormone (LH), and progesterone. Perhaps not surprisingly, even a tiny variation in your hormone balance can affect your fertility.

That’s why the first step to any fertility treatment is often testing hormone levels. Knowing how your hormones are working together gives your healthcare practitioner an excellent starting point.

Genetic history

If you have a relative who had difficulty conceiving, you may also be at risk for fertility issues. Recent research has found genetic components to some chromosomal problems.

Your Vital Stats

Age & Fertility

It’s often frustrating for women to realize that age is one of the biggest factors that can contribute to infertility. After all, for many women, it can feel like a narrow window between being financially and emotionally ready to have a baby and being the right age to conceive.

Of course, we all see many examples of women well into their 40s (and beyond) having babies. And it’s definitely possible. However after 35, the odds of getting pregnant decrease at a faster rate. Simply put, we are born with a set number of eggs in our ovaries. As we grow older our risk for other factors that impact fertility increase.

Still, it’s important not to overstate the decline women experience in their 30s. Consider these stats:

  • Percentage of 27-to-34-year-old women who conceive after a year of having sex at least twice a week = 86 percent
  • Percentage of 35-to-39-year-old women who conceive after a year of having sex at least twice a week = 82 percent

So through our 30s, the odds of conception doesn’t decline very dramatically. However, fertility rates do drop faster after 40, so about 30 percent of women between 40 and 44 will experience infertility.

Weight & Fertility

In addition, your weight can impact your fertility. That’s because excess weight can affect your hormone levels and lead to irregular ovulation. The good news is that studies have found that losing just small amount of weight can make a difference.

Somewhat paradoxically, women who are underweight (with a BMI of less than 18.5) can experience similar problems because not having enough body fat can also impact your hormone production. However, it’s not just the number of your BMI. Body composition (the amount of body fat and lean muscle) and activity levels also play a role.

Of course, it takes two people to conceive. Interestingly, scientific studies have found a clear link between male obesity and low sperm levels. In fact, men whose BMI places them in the obese category have 60 percent less seminal fluid than men of normal weight. That’s a pretty significant difference. Underweight men also have lower amounts of seminal fluid, so it’s all about having the right balance — as with many aspects of your fertility.

Stress Levels

Can stress affect your infertility? The answer often is yes. For some women, this is an added source of frustration. After all, dealing with infertility is stressful in itself. However, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense. Your body might realize that when you’re stressed, you need to conserve energy. In our busy modern life, this process can continue. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands produce more of the “stress hormones” adrenaline and cortisol as well as elevates prolactin. Both of which can suppress ovulation, not to mention weaken your libido (which is definitely necessary for conception!)

Thyroid Health

Another hormonal issue that can affect ovulation is having low levels of thyroid hormone, a condition called hypothyroidism. Also paradoxically, hyperthyroidism, or high levels of thyroid hormone, can affect ovulation. (You’re probably starting to understand why achieving the right hormone balance is so important!) Thyroid hormone plays a big role in letting your ovaries know when to ovulate, so when your thyroid hormone levels are out of whack, ovulation can be too.

Chemical Exposure

Exposure to certain chemicals – in your foods, your clothing, your cleaning products, beauty care and elsewhere – has been shown to impact fertility levels for both men and women. And you don’t have to work with toxic substances to experience the effects. Even a fairly healthy standard Western diet can introduce pesticides that have negative impacts on our reproductive systems. Removing the toxins from your system requires professional guidance but well worth it for improving your overall picture of health.

How You Can Take Charge Of Your Fertility

As we can see from the list above, treating infertility can be complex. Is there anything you can do on your own to improve your fertility? The most important thing is to act now if you have concerns. Don’t forget: Conception requires careful timing, so you do want to address any issues right away. Here are some steps that can help with fertility issues.

1. Visit your Naturopathic Doctor that is trained in fertility and women’s health issues.

Proper testing to see what’s really going on with your whole body will give us a better picture. Treating infertility requires addressing your overall health, not just your reproductive system. While your hormones play a key role so do many other factors. We can work together to help prepare your body for conception and eliminate the stress of wondering if there is more you should be doing and how to start!

2. Manage your stress levels.

We understand that this is easier said than done, especially when you’re worrying about fertility. (It’s always a bit of a vicious cycle if you start to get stressed about having to relax!) Meditation is a good way to consciously address your emotional concerns.

3. Improve your diet.

One recent study found that women who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables with high pesticide levels were less likely to conceive. So choose organic produce when possible, or opt for produce that doesn’t typically have as much pesticide exposure (think thick skin that protects the fruit like avocados or oranges).

In addition, certain foods have been associated with higher fertility levels. Your Naturopathic Doctor can help you determine the best diet for your needs. In general, you want to ensure you’re getting adequate levels of folate, Omegas, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D.

4. Limit toxic exposure.

Both males and females should think about the chemicals they’re exposed every day when they’re trying to conceive. In addition to possible pesticides on produce, frequent exposure to x-rays, radiation, cigarette smoke, alcohol but also toxins in the home and in products you use on your body everyday can all impact infertility. In addition, workplace hazards like exposure to lead and cadmium can all upset the hormonal balance required for peak fertility.

5. Consider Preconception Counselling.

Please visit our preconception page at http://wellness-institute.ca/infertility-treatments.aspx for more information.

Next Steps

If you’re concerned about your fertility, give us a call. Together we can dive deeper and see where your issues are and put together a clear treatment program. Fertility is a common issue. Just know that you are not alone and that we successfully treat many men and women with fertility issues at our clinic.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3279129/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885174/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6016043/
Pollutants Linked to Lower Fertility in Both Men and Women
https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/27/meditation-fertility_n_5256027.html
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/pesticides-produce-fertility-women/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31035310

Environmental Pollution in the Home: Everyday Things May be Harming Your Health

Is your home affecting your health? If you avoid obvious pollutants like cigarette smoke, you may be pretty certain your home is not toxic. And if you clean regularly, you might even be slightly offended by the suggestion! However, indoor pollutants are much more common than many people realize. The sources of many pollutants are everyday objects and products we don’t consider harmful.

The media devotes a lot of attention to outdoor pollution (and it’s a valid health concern). However, indoor air pollution is a growing concern, in part because we spend about 90 percent of our time inside. According to emerging research, including a landmark United Nations study, many commonly used chemicals within the home can act as endocrine disruptors when we’re exposed to them.

What’s An Endocrine Disruptor?

Simply put, your endocrine system controls various functions in your body by releasing hormones. It controls how much of each hormone is released based on intricate feedback loops. Certain environmental pollutants have been found to disturb this process.

The result? Imbalances in your hormonal system. When taken to the extreme, these imbalances can put us on the road to disease such as breast, thyroid and prostate cancer, and disruptive conditions like ADHD.

Common Environmental Pollutants In The Home

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to recognize an environmental pollutant. In fact, some products we identify as “healthy” can be harmful.

Take a look at this list of possible sources of indoor pollution:

1. Cleaning products

Keeping a clean home has long been recognized as an important step in maintaining good health. However, many common cleaning products contain carcinogens such as methylene chloride, which has been linked to increased breast cancer rates.

One thing to keep in mind with cleaning products is that compounds can linger in the air long after the smell has disappeared. For example, molecules in aerosol sprays can be absorbed by dust. That can lead to respiratory irritation.

In addition, these chemicals can react with other compounds in the air, such as ozone and create “secondary emissions” which can be even more harmful.

2. Nonstick cookware

The same chemicals that make nonstick cookware so convenient can also harm your health. Compounds found in materials such as Teflon can contribute to certain cancers and even high cholesterol.

3. Air fresheners

A quick spray of air freshener can make our homes smell fresh and clean. However, the effects on our bodies undermines the pretty scents. When it comes to scented products, it’s often difficult to obtain a complete list of all of the chemicals they contain, but many air fresheners do contain phthalates, which have been linked to hormonal problems, particularly in males.

4. Antibacterial products

Using antibacterial products might seem like a good step towards a healthier home, but studies have found that many commonly used substances in antibacterial products, such as triclosan, can impact our reproductive hormones. As well, overuse has been linked to an increase in allergies for children.

In addition, overuse of antibacterial products is leading to an increase in drug-resistant bacteria.

5. Water

Government regulations are supposed to keep our drinking water safe from contaminants. However, growing evidence shows that our water supplies contain small amounts of hormones, particularly estrogen. Even these small amounts can disrupt our natural hormonal balance over long periods.

6. Plastics

Plastic containers and water bottles might make life more convenient, but in the long run, they’re not the best choices. Many containers and cans contain BPA, or other xenoestrogens. (In fact, many items marked as “BPA free” contain compounds which may be just as harmful.)

Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors which specifically mimic the effects of estrogen. Overexposure can lead to weight gain, mood swings, and other symptoms of estrogen dominance.

7. Scented bathing and personal care products.

Did you know that the chemicals that give scented products their distinct smells aren’t regulated? And that 95 percent of those scents originate in petroleum byproducts?

It’s easy to feel a bit concerned when you read a list like the one above! After all, we want a clean home and to use the most convenient products possible. Fortunately, a few small changes can reduce environmental pollution in your home.

How To reduce Environmental Pollution In The Home (AKA Give Your Home A Detox)

1. Don’t try to “mask” unpleasant scents.

Instead of spraying air freshener, try removing the source of the bad odor – wash the dirty clothes (without scented fabric softener!), change the kitty litter. If you need extra ammunition against odors, baking soda is a natural air freshener. A HEPA air filter can also clean air odors right at the source.

For a natural scent, try boiling cinnamon sticks or vanilla pods on the stovetop.

2. Choose cleaning products carefully.

Be aware of “greenwashing” which is the practice of making products appear more eco-friendly than they actually are. The Environmental Working Group has a searchable database of more than 2,500 products.

As well, vinegar, baking soda, and plain hot water can be surprisingly effective cleaners, so doing a bit of research on natural options can pay off.

3. Avoid aerosols.

Using natural air fresheners that rely on essential oils, or even simmering some lemon slices and a few cloves in a pan, will do the trick just as well and without the side effects.

4. Think about the long-term effects of your purchases.

A plastic container might be the cheapest option to store your leftovers, but pause and take a minute to consider the possible impact on your health (and the environment for that matter). Sometimes investing a bit more money is the best choice in the long run. Plus, a stainless steel water bottle, or a glass or ceramic food container should last you much longer.

5. Be careful with plastics.

If you have to use a plastic container, don’t heat it in the microwave. That can cause more xenoestrogens to be released into your food.

6. Consider your water source.

If you want to avoid tap water, consider using a filtration system. (It’s best to avoid bottled water, which is often not much better than tap water and has the added risk of contamination from plastic bottles.) However, the water industry is filled with false claims, and prices can be steep. We can review your options in the office to make sure you make the best choice for your needs.

Of course, everyone is different and we all have unique health concerns and personal goals. If you’d like to learn more about environmental toxins and how you can reduce your risks, give our office a call. Additionally if you are suffering from health issues you can’t seem to figure out the cause of, it could be related to toxins. We can help!

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30953899
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20976153
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110824091537.htm
http://www.immuneweb.org/articles/perfume.html
https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas
https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/09/your-best-air-freshener-isnt-air-freshener
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243727/
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-12/documents/lenehan-hormones_in_water_using_spe_and_lc-ms.pdf
https://news.un.org/en/story/2013/02/432272-un-report-examines-link-between-hormone-disrupting-chemicals-and-health
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18942551

Improve Your Sex Life At Any Age

Let’s talk about sex.

Is your sex life not what you thought it would be? Does the thought alone make you tired? Many people find their interest in lovemaking naturally drops with age. And the stress of daily life is enough to put anyone in a rut in the bedroom at times. Changing bodies can mean self-confidence takes a knock, not to mention that for women, those changes can sometimes make sex painful. Yikes! Who wants to willingly do something that causes pain?

So, let’s have a real conversation. After all, communication is the key to good relationships and good sex at any age. And it’s important not to overlook the vital role sex can play in our lives. That’s partly because a healthy sex life can improve your health, crazy but true – good sex is associated with a longer life, better sleep, and a lower risk of depression, to name just a few benefits.

Here are some steps you can take to improve your sex life:

1. Start by talking to your naturopathic doctor

There are a number of medical issues that can affect your interest in sex. And while they are fairly common, they are not ideal and deserve some attention.

Both depression and thyroid problems can reduce your interest in sex, but to compound the issue, many of the medications used to treat these conditions can have a dampening effect on libido.

In addition, you might want to get your hormone levels checked. As we get older, our androgens (testosterone being a key player here), starts to decline. One of the roles androgens play is to rev up our libido, so this process can have a serious impact on desire. And the drop in estrogen levels that accompanies perimenopause can affect your libido too.

Shifting hormones can affect your sex life in other ways. For example, lower estrogen levels can sometimes lead to so-called “vaginal atrophy”, which is characterized by:

  • Vaginal dryness, even during daily life activities
  • Reduced lubrication during intercourse
  • Thinning vaginal tissue, leading to pain during intercourse
  • Urinary incontinence, which can make women self-conscious

Other physical changes caused by declining hormones can also reduce your sexual desire. For example, some women gain weight during perimenopause, which reduces their self-confidence. Others find they’re simply too tired to think about sex. And some are just too hot – not hot in a “sexy” way, but so troubled by hot flashes that they can’t imagine having another warm body near them.

Sexual desire can require a careful balance of hormones to maintain. You may have taken this for granted when you were younger, but changes are a normal part of your life cycle. Fortunately, help is available. There are many ways to treat the effects changing hormones can have on sex, from vaginal lubricants to hormone replacement therapy and supplements. Your healthcare practitioner can help you find what works for you. So, don’t be embarrassed to talk about a change in your libido!

2. Focus on the positive and be in the moment

Yes, your body changes with age. However, it’s time to let go of any negative feelings you have about those changes. Inhibitions and problems with self-confidence are a sure way to lose interest in your sexual self. Try to accept the changes you’ve experienced. Be honest with your partner about your feelings (they may have similar thoughts about themselves).

Focus on the good things you’ve acquired with age. You may not have the body you once had, but you now have the experience to know what you want and what turns you on. In the end, self-confidence and communication are more attractive than a perfect body. Think about who are you are now and what you want.

3. Look beyond the bedroom

Many people lose interest in sex when they’re stressed. For women in particular, emotions that originate far away from the bedroom can influence their sex life. For example, many women are more likely to experience physical pain with intercourse if they’re experiencing tensions with their partner. In other words, your emotions can play as much of a role as your physical health in your sexual pleasure.

Talking about your relationship before a sexual encounter can help prevent those other problems from spilling over into your sexual relationship. If you’re experiencing relationship troubles, consider counseling. Your healthcare provider can provide advice on the next steps if you feel this is something you could benefit from.

What else can you do outside the bedroom to improve your sex life? Exercise is an excellent start. Even light exercise has been proven to improve sexual function. Not only can exercise improve your confidence, it lowers your levels of the stress hormone cortisol and raises your endorphin levels. Strength training, pilates, yoga, and cardio exercise have all been shown to improve women’s sex lives. So, do something that makes you feel powerful and confident.

4. Make the time

Unfortunately, the physical changes we experience with age often happen at a busy time for most women. Whether you’re pulled away from romance by work, family, or just the pressures of modern life, it can be hard to find time to address sexual problems. It can even be difficult to put time aside that prioritizes your relationship.

It’s important to make the time to talk to your partner about sexual concerns. Even something as simple as vowing to go to bed at the same time a few times a week can help you rediscover each other. In addition, many couples find that their sex lives improve if they find time to do fun things together other than sex.

Sex matters. If you’re experiencing a less than amazing sex life, don’t hesitate to call the office. Testing and treatment for hormone imbalances can restore your libido. And talking about concerns with an open-minded listener is a great way to start improving your sex life. Sex can become even better with age!

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15889125
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30699876
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671314/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5963213/

Happiness Checklist: Are You as Happy as You Want to Be?

Are you happy?

It might be a simple question, but for many people, happiness feels like an impossible goal to reach. In fact, studies show that only about one in three people consistently identify as “happy.”

If that seems a bit depressing, rest easy. The steps to living a happier life are easier than you think. And no, those steps don’t involve winning the lottery. Believe it or not, most lottery winners have the same level of happiness they had before hitting the jackpot. Researchers call this the “hedonic treadmill” in which we repeatedly adjust to a base level of happiness even if our external circumstances change. Crazy right?!

Happiness Comes From Within

The simple truth is that living a happier life starts from within. Becoming happier involves a change in our internal circumstances. That may sound a bit far fetched, but the science of happiness has found consistent patterns in people who live their lives with joy.

And there’s a lot of motivation to join those happy people. In addition to making our days more pleasurable, happiness offers many health benefits, including:

  • A lower heart rate and blood pressure
  • A stronger immune system
  • Lower levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol
  • A better response to pain

The Happiness Checklist:

Take a look at this happiness checklist to see the areas of your own life that could provide a happiness boost.

Is your gut happy?

When we say happiness starts from within, we mean it literally. More research is finding that our gut bacteria has a profound influence on our moods. Researchers call this dynamic the “gut-brain-axis.” In simple terms, when our gut is inflamed, we can experience increased levels of anxiety and depression. That’s because your gut contains microbes that produce substances that control your mood – serotonin is a good example of a substance that is produced in your gut. In addition, your gut and your brain are connected by a complex network of nerves. The Vagus nerve continuously mediates from the gut to the brain and neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) produced in the intestines control the behaviour of our Gut and flood our Brain. Colonic irrigation has been shown to stimulate gut serotonin and directly affect the Vagus nerve. This undoubtedly accounts for the fact that colonic irrigation generally leaves someone feeling peaceful, uplifted and more clear headed.

Some dietary changes can improve your gut health and your mood. Focus on high-fiber whole foods, foods with plenty of Omega-3 fats, and fermented foods. (Fermented foods can positively influence your brain activity!)

Are you around other happy people?

You really can catch a good mood. One study found that happiness can go viral. In other words, being around people who are upbeat and feel good about their lives can impact your own happiness levels, The study didn’t just consider the impact of the moods in your immediate family, but also your neighbours. And being around a happy person can quickly multiply since your own increased happiness can influence those around you. The whole process is not unlike a cold – but much better!

Do you get a regular dose of Vitamin N (for nature)?

Spending time in natural environments boosts happiness levels in several ways. Interestingly, this effect has been shown to be stronger in women than men, and stronger in older adults than their younger counterparts.

Are you balancing movement and rest?

You probably know that exercise releases feel-good endorphins that improve your mood. However, you may not realize that you don’t have to make a big commitment to fitness in order to feel the impact of movement. In fact, endorphins can kick in quickly. One study found that it only takes 20 minutes of walking outside to experience a boost in your mood.

It’s important to note that rest is just as important as exercise. Sleep’s effect on our brain helps us to focus on the positive, and being sleep-deprived makes us more sensitive to negative emotions. In another study, researchers found that people who don’t get enough sleep recall unpleasant memories much more quickly than people getting enough sleep.

Do you help others?

Acts of kindness are another way that happiness spreads. In other words, by making others happy, you can feel happier. Doing something nice for someone else, whether it’s donating to charity, volunteering your time, or simply holding the door for an older person, makes us feel better about ourselves. And if you think you’re too busy or too stressed to donate your time, consider this: One study found that 78 percent of people who volunteer say it lowers their stress levels. And in another study, people felt happier after buying something for someone else than they did after treating themselves!

Can you forgive?

Forgiving others may ultimately be a kindness to yourself. By forgiveness, we don’t necessarily mean letting bad behavior slide or turning into a pushover. Instead, focus on letting go of resentment and anger. Those negative emotions are not helping you, and often can keep you stuck in the past instead of moving forward. And studies show that a more forgiving attitude can lead to multiple physical and emotional benefits.

Are you grateful?

Being grateful for what we have also increases happiness levels. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. For example, if you keep a gratitude journal, you will look for things you’re grateful for to record in it throughout the course of your day. Over time, you’ll find yourself focusing on the positive.

How did you do? Are you interested in improving your happiness levels? As you can see, living life happily requires a holistic approach. If you’d like to work together for a happier, more fulfilling life, give us a call and let’s do this together. Science and nature are a powerful combination!

References:
https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/content/dam/UHG/PDF/2013/UNH-Health-Volunteering-Study.pdf
https://www.annelisemiller.com/education/blog-articles/23-effects-of-colonics-on-gut-flora1
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161005102254.htm
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Safaria_Triantoro/publication/275025845_Forgivness_Gratitude_and_Happiness_among_College_Students/links/552f3cf00cf2acd38cbbf270.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197458005002769\
https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97848789https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2011/04/how-to-quickly-and-easiy-feel-happier-and-mor/#ixzz2b36XGs00
https://my.happify.com/hd/forgiving-others-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-for-yourself/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3839572/

Is Insulin Resistance Slowing Your Weight Loss?





You do everything “right.” Somehow, however, those stubborn extra pounds won’t leave. And worse, they seem to have shifted to your midsection. What happened to your shape?

You can be eating healthy and still struggle with weight.

For women, it’s easy to blame slowing weight loss on the hormonal shifts that come with age, but these changes are not necessarily due to menopause. Instead, insulin resistance could be the cause.

How Does Insulin Affect Your Weight?

Let’s start by looking at the role insulin plays in the body. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas which helps your body to use glucose (sugar) from your food by converting it to energy. A healthy insulin level goes up after a meal, and goes down when your blood sugar drops. The natural fluctuation of insulin is what keeps your blood sugar in a healthy balance.

When your body’s cells are no longer able to respond to insulin properly, they become “insulin resistant”, your blood sugar levels rise higher than they should even if your pancreas is producing a lot of insulin.

Excessively high blood sugar has many harmful effects, causing damage throughout the body. So your body has a back-up plan to protect itself: it stores the extra energy by converting it to fat, often around your midsection.

This is why high blood sugar and high insulin levels make it harder to lose weight.

More Than Just a Spare Tire – Insulin’s Many Roles

It’s important to note that insulin plays a role in many body functions, so insulin resistance can affect other facets of your health in addition to giving you a spare tire.
In fact, up to 50 percent of people who are insulin resistant go on to develop life-changing diabetes or prediabetes. And insulin resistance has been linked to the development of several types of cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

At the hormone level, insulin is an intricate part of many systems in the body and can affect the performance of your other hormones. For example, high insulin levels can magnify menopausal symptoms. For women who are struggling to manage hot flashes, mood changes or other symptoms, being insulin resistant can make it even harder to regain control of their hormones.

How Do You Know If You’re Insulin Resistant?

Despite its widespread effects, insulin resistance can be difficult to diagnose. In fact, many people don’t experience any symptoms until they develop prediabetes or diabetes. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, your best first step should be to talk to your healthcare provider.

● Velvety dark patches of skin in your groin, neck, or armpits (a condition called acanthosis nigricans)
● Abnormal fatigue
● Cravings for sweet or salty food
● Increased hunger and thirst
● High waist-to-hip ratio (if you’re female, measure your waist and hips, then divide the number you measured for your waist by your hip measurement. If the result is higher than 0.8, your ratio is on the higher end. For men, a result greater than 1.0 is concerning.)

The Main Risk Factors (Reasons) For Insulin Resistance

Our bodies need carbohydrates. However, consuming more carbohydrates than your body can manage, can contribute to insulin resistance.

Other risk factors include:

● Excess weight
● Genetics (Some people who develop insulin resistance don’t have other risk factors. For these people, genetics are thought to be the primary factor.)
● Inactivity
● Not getting enough sleep
● Medications, including antidepressants and steroids
● Certain medical conditions, including

○ Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
○ A history of gestational diabetes
○ Hypertension

How Can you Improve Insulin Resistance Naturally?

The good news is that lifestyle changes can dramatically improve the balance of insulin in your body, and also have a good impact on other hormones – particularly the hormones that cause many menopausal symptoms.

1. Take a close look at your diet.

If you are struggling with balancing insulin and blood sugar, you should aim to eliminate simple carbohydrates from your diet as much as possible. That means no sugar, white flour, or sweet drinks. Try to eliminate or at least limit alcohol as well.

An added bonus of cutting back on sweets and starchy foods is weight loss. Having too much body fat, especially around your middle, can lead to insulin resistance. Of course, this creates a vicious cycle, since as we discussed insulin resistance makes it harder to lose weight. It is important to make healthy diet changes though, as one study found that losing just five to seven percent of your body weight can improve insulin resistance.

However, don’t restrict calories too aggressively. You don’t want to stress your body, which can raise your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. High cortisol levels can wreak havoc on your insulin and blood sugar balance. So focus on getting your energy from whole foods without starving yourself.

2. Reduce stress.

This is always easier said than done, but it’s important to keep your cortisol levels balanced. We can work together to find a stress-reduction plan that works for you.

3. Get enough sleep.

Even one night of bad sleep can negatively affect your insulin levels.

4. Get some exercise.

Many studies have linked physical activity and improved insulin levels. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed though, even moderate levels of daily activity can help. The key is avoid long periods of being extremely sedentary.

In fact, especially for middle-aged women, exercise that is too intense can raise cortisol levels, which in turn, can raise insulin levels, so getting creative with your exercise becomes more important as you get older. In addition to increasing moderate exercise, aim to increase your other daily movements. For example, park a bit further away, do the dishes by hand at the end of the evening, or even just stretch for a few minutes at home. Even little bits of activity can add up.

5. Stop smoking.

You can add “insulin resistance” to the long list of reasons not to smoke. This is another step that sounds easier than it often turns out to be. If you smoke, you don’t have have to give it up alone. We’re here to help!

6. Supplements

Certain supplements can help as well, but making sure that you’re taking the right ones which are a good fit for you is best discussed with your Naturopathic Doctor.

As you can see from the list above, our bodies are very intricate, and when something goes amiss in one area, the effects can be felt in many other areas. This dynamic is particularly true when it comes to middle-aged women and hormones. Although insulin resistance may not always have obvious symptoms, addressing your insulin levels will help many areas of your wellbeing.

If you’re wondering about your insulin levels, how your blood sugar is responding, and what it may be doing to your weight loss efforts, give us a call! 416-234-1888.

References:
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance#resistance
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2551669/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20371664
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2895000/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501863/”>