What Does Your Poop Say About Your Health?

Let’s chat about your bowel movements.

Did you just cringe a bit? Let’s face it, poop isn’t anybody’s favourite topic. Nonetheless, our bowel movements hold valuable clues to our overall health. But these signs are often ignored because most of us are a bit uncomfortable talking about them – even to our healthcare providers.

Your Appointment is a Judgement-Free Zone

Keep in mind that your healthcare practitioner will not be shocked or uncomfortable if you talk about your poop. In fact, that’s part of our job! We want to really get to the bottom of your health issues (no pun intended), and sometimes that means talking about the “unmentionable” topics. So, if you have a concern, please don’t hesitate to bring it up.

Your Poop is a Reflection of Your Health

The appearance and smell of your poop is a direct reflection of your overall health as well as any inflammation your gut is experiencing, as your digestive system connects intricately with your nervous system and detox pathways. Changes in your bowel habits can indicate changes in other parts of your body – from excess stress, to liver problems, to cancers.

The good news is that we don’t have to go into great detail describing the various types of bowel movements and what they signify. There’s already a chart that shows various problems and what to look for called the Bristol Stool Chart (http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs-wm/46082.pdf) after the hospital that developed it in 1997.

What The Bristol Stool Chart Looks At
● Smell
● Colour
● Frequency
● Ease
● Completion
● Red flags

What The Bristol Stool Chart Means for You

To summarize the Bristol Stool Chart, your stools should be having a daily event that is well-formed medium brown and not too smelly. If you see blood or mucus, or if you feel that anything about your stool doesn’t seem ideal, you should talk to your healthcare practitioner to address or rule out any issues requiring medical help.

How to Improve Your Bowel Movements

If you’ve ruled out a medical condition, but still feel that things are not moving quite like they should be, a few simple steps can improve your bowel movements.

1. Pay attention to your diet.

Fiber helps keeps things moving by adding some bulk to your stool – think seeds, whole grains, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, increase your fiber intake slowly to avoid upsetting your stomach, and always make sure to up your water intake alongside extra fiber. In addition, make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats from sources such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

Pay close attention to how particular foods affect your digestion. If you experience diarrhea or constipation, try keeping a diary of what you eat, and the symptoms you experience. We can help you set up an effective tracking system to monitor your diet if you need a little help with that.

2. Choose medication carefully.

Many medications can cause constipation, so it is important to be aware and adjust your diet accordingly. Avoid laxative medications as much as possible, as your body quickly becomes dependent on them, and some evidence links their use to colorectal cancer. Talk with your Naturopathic Doctor about natural solutions to constipation cause by medications if diet alone isn’t enough.

3. Stay hydrated.

Aim for the proverbial eight cups of water a day. It’s particularly important to get adequate water if you’ve recently increased your fiber intake. Not only are our stools 75 percent water, but the bowel muscles need plenty of hydration to work their best.

4. Increase your movement.

Exercise stimulates your digestion. Studies suggest that digestion is better if you exercise regularly and, if possible, at the same time of the day.

In fact, sitting for too long overall can lead to constipation regardless of other exercise, another argument for working at a standing desk for part of the day. And, on a similar note, pay attention to how your body moves. Some yoga poses are designed to assist with digestion.

5. Develop a routine and don’t fight the urge.

If you feel like you gotta go, don’t ignore that feeling! Fighting the urge to poop can lead to constipation. Setting aside a specific time of the day can help you stay regular.

6. Change positions.

As well, consider the way you sit on the toilet. Over the course of history, toilets themselves are a pretty recent invention. That means that we evolved pooping from a squatting position. Many people find that bringing their feet up onto a stool can help bring them into a squatting position which makes bowel movements easier. Check out the Squatty potty for more info on aids for better positioning.

7. Talk openly.

Don’t hesitate to come into the office and have an open talk if you have any concerns or questions about your bowel movements. Your stool can be a good indicator that your body has something going on that needs attention, and it’s always better to bring up a concern than to worry about it!

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25223576
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/may/18/truth-about-poo-doing-it-wrong-giulia-enders-squatting
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15043514

B Vitamins: Are You Getting Enough?

B vitamins are sometimes called the energy vitamins, since they help put a spring in your step and play an important role in maintaining your energy levels. In fact, they play such a key role that perhaps they should also be called the “Brisk, Bouncy, and Bright” vitamins. In actuality, there are eight different kinds of B vitamins, and each one has its own distinct job.

How do B Vitamins Help?

These vitamins work as a carefully orchestrated team. Together they play an important role in:
● Regulating moods
● Reducing stress
● Improving cognitive performance
● Contributing to cardiovascular health
● Lowering blood pressure

Protecting and Absorbing Your B Vitamins

A healthy diet should provide adequate amounts of each B vitamin. However, because they’re water-soluble vitamins, they aren’t stored in your body and are eliminated when you pee. That means you must replace them every day. It also means that the vitamins can be washed away by overcleaning foods. To preserve B vitamins, try not to over scrub produce. Soaking is the best method for cleaning.

In addition, certain medical conditions can interfere with your ability to absorb B vitamins. For example, people with Hypothyroidism, Crohn’s disease, and Celiac disease are at risk for deficiencies. As well, alcoholics often have low levels. And as you age, your ability to absorb the particularly important vitamins B12 and B6 diminishes.

The Various B Vitamin Sources and Functions

What does each B vitamin do? Take a look at the benefits and possible sources for each member of the B-complex team..

B1 (Thiamine):
Vitamin B1 helps convert carbohydrates into energy. Without enough B1, we can feel tired and lethargic. This vitamin also plays a role in the flow of electrolytes in and out of our muscles, so low levels can lead to muscle weakness. B1 can also help regulate blood sugar.
Good sources of B1: Fortified grains, peas, beans, and sunflower seeds.

B2 (Riboflavin):
Vitamin B2 also helps us convert the things that we eat into energy. It also plays an important role in red blood cell production. Interestingly, one study singled out B2 as being particularly helpful in protecting against postpartum depression. Signs of B2 deficiency include dry, chapped lips.
Good sources of B2: Eggs, salmon, almonds, milk. Light can destroy B2, which is one reason why milk is often stored in opaque containers.

B3 (Niacin):
B3 contributes to our metabolic functions. It also helps regulate our nerves. B3 assists with the production of serotonin, so low levels can contribute to depression.
Good sources of B3: Meat, peanuts, fish, enriched grains.
Although over-consuming B3 won’t happen with food sources, overdoing niacin supplements can lead to flushed skin, nausea, and possible liver problems.

B5 (Pantothenic acid):
Research suggests that Vitamin B5 helps to regulate our adrenal glands. That means that maintaining good levels of pantothenic acid can help reduce stress.
Good sources of B5: Eggs, avocado, mushrooms

B6 (Pyridoxine):
Vitamin B6 plays an essential role in our metabolism. In fact, it’s involved in over 100 enzyme reactions. It also aids in the production of insulin and hemoglobin.
Because B6 helps to metabolize estrogen hormones, a deficiency can lead to more intense premenstrual symptoms.
Good sources of B6: Beans, nuts, leafy green vegetables

B7 (Biotin):
In addition to its role in converting fat and carbohydrates to energy, vitamin B7, more commonly called biotin or sometimes vitamin H, helps our hair shine and our skin glow. In fact, it gets the alternate name of vitamin H from the German words for hair and skin.
Good sources of B7: Egg yolks, liver, salmon, avocados and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin B9 (Folic acid):
Folic acid has an impressive list of tasks. It’s essential for hemoglobin production, as well as protein metabolism. It may also help reduce your risk of heart disease. Because folic acid can help repair damaged genes, it may even slow the aging process. Pregnant women should ensure they get enough folic acid, as it can reduce the risk of birth defects.
Good sources: spinach, lentils, fish, meats, citrus fruits.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin):
Vitamin B12 is one of the key vitamins for converting food to energy. Together with B9, it works to produce red blood cells and help with iron absorption. It also helps to regulate the nervous system. Vitamin B12 plays such an important role in our cognitive function and moods that sometimes patients are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when they actually are short on B12.

Because vegans are often unable to get B12 through food sources, they can experience fatigue, nerve issues, and other symptoms of anemia unless they take B12 supplements.
Good sources of B12: Fish, meat, eggs, and nutritional yeast.

Make Sure You Have Adequate B Vitamin Levels!

As you can see, the B-complex vitamins are essential for good physical and emotional health. If you’re wondering about your B-vitamin levels, it’s best to review your symptoms and diet with a healthcare practitioner. The correct amounts of B vitamins that you should be consuming can depend on many different factors, like your age, gender, and other factors. Together, we can work on a plan to brighten your mood, increase your energy and ensure your body is functioning properly with the help of B vitamins.

Sources:
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/vitamin-b
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2885294/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30704890
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19622819
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26799654
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19631047
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16815556

Hyper or Hypothyroidism: Often Misdiagnosed

Your thyroid is your body’s powerhouse. Your energy levels, metabolism, and heart rate are all controlled by this small, butterfly-shaped gland. Without enough thyroid hormone, your mitochondria aren’t able to produce the energy that your cells need for optimum performance. At the other end of the spectrum, your body can go into “overdrive” if it produces too much thyroid hormone.

Thyroid

Issues are More Common Than you Think

With so much at stake with regards to your overall health, maintaining balanced thyroid hormone levels is important. However, one in eight women produce either too much or not enough thyroid hormone. Females are at higher risk for thyroid issues than men, and the risk for both genders increases with age. In fact the stats for those with undiagnosed thyroid disease are shocking. Hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause can also make women more vulnerable to thyroid problems. Of course, it’s also easy to attribute thyroid symptoms to age or menopause instead of getting to the root of the issue.

TSH, The Master Hormone

To understand how your thyroid can wreak havoc on your health, you need to understand how it functions. Your thyroid sits at the base of your neck, where it performs the vital task of secreting thyroid hormone which in turn triggers a cascade of other hormones and processes throughout the body. The key point about thyroid hormone is that your body is very sensitive to the amounts it receives. Any imbalances can have far reaching repercussions.

The amount of hormone your thyroid secretes is controlled by the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. In other words, TSH is the “master” hormone, and it’s produced in your pituitary gland.

Autoimmune Disorders Can Affect Your Thyroid

Further complicating thyroid health is the fact that your thyroid is vulnerable to autoimmune disorders. The autoimmune disorder Grave’s disease causes too much thyroid hormone to be produced. In contrast, Hashimoto’s disease causes your autoimmune system to attack your thyroid, slowing down thyroid hormone production.

Your thyroid can also become inflamed (this is called Thyroiditis), or develop nodules or small lumps which can disrupt your normal thyroid function.

Hypothyroidism: When Your Body Slows Down

If your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, your body slows down, resulting in a condition called hypothyroidism. The symptoms of hypothyroidism show up in many troublesome ways and include:

● Feeling cold all the time
● Dry skin
● Dry hair
● Muscle weakness
● Poor libido
● Memory problems
● Constipation
● Depression – thyroid can impact serotonin levels
● Weight gain
● Hoarseness
● Elevated cholesterol

Could You be Experiencing Hypothyroid Symptoms?

Despite this long list of issues, about 60 percent of people with hypothyroidism aren’t aware of it. One reason for this is that it’s easy to blame thyroid symptoms on a poor diet or growing older. As well, hypothyroid symptoms tend to develop slowly, and we often blame ourselves for weight gain.
If you experience any of the symptoms above, it’s a good idea to dig deep and figure out the root cause – including checking your thyroid! These uncomfortable symptoms do not have to be part of your “normal” day.

Hyperthyroidism: The Consequences of Too Much Thyroid Hormone

In contrast, when your body produces too much thyroid hormone, the condition is called hyperthyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, your body’s functions accelerate. Although this might sound appealing, many of the symptoms are debilitating. Some signs of hyperthyroidism include:

● Feeling hot all the time
● Anxiety
● A rapid heartbeat
● Weight loss
● Sweatiness
● Tremors
● Restlessness
● Missed periods

As with hypothyroidism, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are often attributed to other issues, such as stress.

With So Many Symptoms, Why Are Thyroid Disorders Hard to Diagnose?

One challenging problem with identifying thyroid issues is that many conventional medical doctors run one test for thyroid, only testing the amount of TSH in your blood. However, testing one hormone often doesn’t give the complete picture of thyroid health. A more holistic approach which tests various hormone levels throughout the system can often yield more information – and more effective treatment.

Prevention: How can you Avoid Thyroid Problems?

Unfortunately, prevention isn’t always possible, since triggers can sometimes be genetic. Other risk factors include chronic stress and a history of autoimmune diseases. In addition, more research is pointing to the role of environmental factors in disrupting thyroid function.

Addressing the lifestyle factors which can cause inflammation of your immune system can do a lot to help stabilize thyroid hormones whatever the cause of your imbalance.

Strategies for protecting your thyroid health:

Reduce stress.

Since stress can interfere with thyroid function by slowing the production of TSH, addressing your stress levels is important. Exercise is a good way to both reduce stress and improve your metabolism, which can help balance the effects of hypothyroidism.

Cut your sugar intake.

Your thyroid is a crucial component of your endocrine (hormonal) system. Sugar is metabolized by another vital organ in the interconnected endocrine system, your pancreas. As a result, there is a complex relationship between diabetes and thyroid disease. Managing your glucose levels can help stabilize your thyroid.

Eat to protect your gut health.

Maintaining enough good bacteria in your digestive system can protect your immune system and reduce the risk of autoimmune problems.

Watch your iodine intake.

Iodine is essential for good thyroid function, but too much can also lead to problems. Fortified salt, seaweed, and some seafood all contain high levels of iodine.

Pay attention to how gluten affects you.

People with celiac disease are three times more likely to have a thyroid problem. Celiac disease can interfere with the absorption of nutrients such as iodine. If you have trouble digesting gluten, consider eliminating it.

Look for high-fiber foods

Especially if you’re hypothyroid. Having hypothyroidism can slow your digestive system and lead to constipation, so you want to focus on keeping things moving.

In general, the key is to focus on a whole-foods diet that will reduce inflammation. Avoiding artificial ingredients and regulating your blood sugar will reduce dietary stress and help maintain thyroid health.

I’m Concerned About My Thyroid. What’s the Next Step?

When it comes to resolving thyroid issues, early detection is the key. It’s also important to complete thorough testing- evaluating thyroid hormone levels can be complex and often left undiagnosed by the conventional healthcare system. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of thyroid issues – either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism – give us a call! Thyroid issues do not have to affect your daily life.

Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030460
https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-manage-stress-if-you-have-autoimmune-thyroid-disease
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/healthy-eating-for-a-healty-thyroid
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30060266
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16580033

Candida: Are You Experiencing Yeast Overgrowth?

White coating on your tongue, mysterious skin rashes, bloating, constipation and you’re always ready to eat something sweet? You could be suffering from Candida overgrowth.

What is Candida Albicans?

Candida albicans is the most common kind of yeast that co-exists with humans. Under optimal conditions, candida plays a valuable role in our digestive systems, since we need small amounts of candida in our mouths and throughout our digestive system in order to fully digest our food.

However, as anyone who’s ever baked bread knows, yeast likes to grow. (It is a fungus, after all.) When circumstances are ideal, our gut bacteria keeps intestinal yeast growth in check, creating a harmonious balance between bacteria and yeast.

The delicate balance between gut bacteria and yeast

This delicate balance is, however, easily disturbed. For example, we can lose beneficial bacteria after taking a round of antibiotics, or power candida’s growth by binging on sugar or alcohol. Estrogen dominance, birth control pills and stress can all multiply the amount of yeast in our systems. The result? Candida overgrowth.

Is systemic candida the same as a yeast infection?

Most people are familiar with the different kinds of yeast infections. A candida infection in the mouth is called oral thrush, and is marked by white, bumpy patches in the mouth and on the tongue, as well as difficulty swallowing. A vaginal yeast infection causes redness, swelling, and itchiness, and produces an unpleasant white discharge. These reactions are typically immediately noticeable – and very irritating.

In contrast, a systemic candida overgrowth can be much more subtle – although it’s impact may be more troublesome. When beneficial gut bacteria decrease and yeast multiplies, the overall effect on our bodies can be far-reaching.

How does systemic candida overgrowth work?

When candida grows unchecked, it can permeate into the lining of your intestine leading to “leaky gut” syndrome. As the name suggests, leaky gut syndrome causes undigested food, bacteria, and toxins to “leak” from your intestine into your bloodstream.

When the immune system is faced with these unknown invaders, it kicks into overdrive trying to neutralize the threat in any way it can. This can lead to a number of symptoms ranging from inflammation to autoimmune diseases.

Candida overgrowth is often overlooked or misdiagnosed because the symptoms vary so greatly. If you’re experiencing autoimmune symptoms, wondering why your thinking has been foggy recently, or trying to figure out troublesome digestive issues, it’s possible that a systemic candida overgrowth could be the underlying problem.

What are the symptoms of systemic candida?

1. Despite your best intentions, you have strong cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. (Candida wants to keep multiplying, so a taste of sugar will leave you wanting more!)

2. You feel itchy all over, especially, and sometimes embarrassingly, in the anal or vaginal area

3. Speaking of embarrassment, you suffer from toenail fungal infections or unexplained itchy foot rashes.

4. Your digestion feels out of whack, with a lot of gassiness and bloating.

5. You experience mood swings and frustration for no obvious reason – or you frequently feel anxious or depressed, even though you are doing your best to look after your emotional well-being.

6. Unexplained joint pain makes it hard to keep up with your exercise routine, and that lack of exercise is only worsening your other symptoms. You want to work out, but it’s not easy!

Diagnostic testing for gut bacteria and yeast

Boxed candida “kits” may be popular, but in reality overcoming candida overgrowth and restoring a healthy balance of yeast and gut bacteria can be very challenging. Our office can work with you to develop a program that’s tailored specifically for you – starting with a complete analysis and treatment plan.

Once we have a good picture of what’s really going on in your system, we can work on a plan to restore balance.

A Naturopathic approach to managing candida

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, as our naturoapthic approach means taking an in depth look at various aspects of your lifestyle.

Specialized candida diet

In general, the first step of treatment consists of dietary changes. (You knew that was coming, right?) Together we can work on a diet plan that works for you to starve out the candida.

Dietary changes should be realistic and manageable over the long term. After all, we want to create a sustainable solution, not a quick fix that may be too difficult to stick with.

Say goodbye to sugary sweets

To get candida under control, patients have greatest success by limiting all processed sweets from their diet. We also recommend cutting back on starchy carbohydrates. Low-sugar fruits such as berries are the best options for a sweet treat.

and alcohol

Eliminating all fermented or moldy foods and drinks, including alcohol, will help control candida growth. This includes well known fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha, and also the less-obvious ones, like soy sauce or peanuts.

Add extra fibre

Adding more fibre to your diet and drinking lots of water (2-3 litres a day is a good goal) can help improve your intestinal “transit time” so nothing lingers too long in your system.

Carbs are allowed, in moderation

It’s important to note that carbohydrates aren’t necessarily completely forbidden on a candida diet. Although processed flour can contribute to a candida overgrowth and slower transit time, whole food carbohydrates such as rye or quinoa can add good fiber and minerals to your system. We can work together to look at your carb consumption and make any necessary adjustments.

The steps above can slow the growth of candida which may improve some of your symptoms, but as always tackling one side of the issue isn’t enough. You also want to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. An effective way to do this is by consuming more probiotics or “healthy bacteria”. A high quality supplement of the right kind of probiotic for you is usually recommended, as they are able to rapidly populate the gut and restore balance.

Foods that kill candida

Research has found that many substances aid in the killing off of stubborn overgrowth. Studies have found turmeric to be effective as well as coconut oil, some essential oils and much more. In order to determine the right solution for your body, help by your naturopathic doctor is recommended. We can talk about the best treatment plan to eradicate this overgrowth and eliminate the problems candida overgrowth can cause in your system.

The effect of stress on candida

In addition to dietary changes, reducing your stress levels can help. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which over time will increase blood sugar.

Since candida feeds off sugar, stress can make us more vulnerable to candida overgrowth. It’s not always easy to lower stress levels – life often gets in the way. However, we can change the way we react to stress through science-backed stress reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga.

Candida overgrowth is one of the more common reasons people seek holistic care. The good news is that we are experts in treating digestive issues.

If you suspect that you may be experiencing an overgrowth of candida, give us a call at 416-234-1888. Together we can make an effective plan to get you back on track.

https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26709650
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17083732
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26723514
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17651080

Why Is Adult Acne on the Rise?

Growing numbers of women are dismayed to discover they didn’t leave acne behind when they finished high school. Yes, it might seem like a cruel joke, but it’s possible to have pimples and wrinkles at the same time. In fact, 54 percent of women over 25 experience some acne. And the numbers are expected to increase, with some skin care experts calling the increase in outbreaks in adult women “an epidemic.”

What’s behind the rise in problem pimples?

Although we tend to associate acne with the angst-ridden adolescent years, in actuality many of the factors that contribute to teenage acne are still at play in older women’s lives. In particular, stress and hormonal fluctuations can wreak havoc on our skin – and many women these days do experience that magical combination of hormonal changes and lifestyle stress.

Stress and acne: a vicious cycle

The relationship between stress and breakouts can quickly become a vicious cycle. When our bodies feel stress, our adrenal glands respond by producing more of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as small amounts of testosterone. These cause the oil glands in the skin to produce more sebum, which can raise the risk of skin infections and pimples. Of course, when we notice pimples appearing, we feel more stress. Add to that the fact that many of us can’t resist the temptation to pick and spread any bacteria present, and you have the formula for ongoing acne outbreaks.

The emotional and financial burden of adult acne

Finding a solution for adult acne can feel like a quest for the impossible. Consider this: Acne costs Americans an astounding $15 billion a year in related products and services. Perhaps ironically, we seem to be surrounded by skin care marketing that promises to clear up all skin issues and restore a flawless, youthful glow. But many of these products can actually worsen inflammation.

It all adds up to frustration. It’s no wonder that 95 percent of people with acne say the skin condition has affected their lives, with 63 percent citing lower self-confidence.

How can you treat adult acne?

The simple truth is that treatment has to start from within. Instead of seeking a “magic bullet” skin cream, it’s often best to start with a bit of self-reflection. For example, try tracking outbreaks to see if they coincide with your hormonal cycle, with other symptoms, with specific foods, or with stressful periods in your life.

Reduce stress to tackle breakouts

Think of ways you can reduce the stressors around you. Yoga and meditation have been proven to reduce stress, and ayurvedic tradition holds that many yoga poses can help with acne.

In addition, don’t forget one of the most essential parts of stress management: adequate sleep! (To keep your skin extra fresh while you sleep, make sure your pillow cases are always clean).

The food you eat affects your skin

Much research remains to be done on the impact of diet on acne, but it’s been confirmed that the quality of the food we eat is reflected in our skin. Ultimately, you’re the best test study for which foods affect your complexion, since people can react differently to various foods. Keeping a food diary and reviewing it with your healthcare practitioner is a good starting point.

A sensible approach is to eat a healthy, whole-foods based diet, opting for antioxidant-rich foods whenever possible. (Yes, that can include dark chocolate!) Antioxidants can reduce inflammation and destroy harmful free radicals.

In addition, studies have shown the following nutrients may have a positive effect on the health of your skin:

  • Zinc. The anti-inflammatory properties of zinc can help relieve the irritation of acne. Some research shows that taking a zinc supplement can even reduce acne scars. Zinc can also be applied topically, but it usually won’t be as effective. When it comes to your diet, zinc rich foods include beef and shellfish, especially oysters, and vegetarian sources like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
  • Omega-3 Fats. Not only do omega-3 fats soothe inflamed skin thanks to their antioxidant properties, they can also help regulate hormones. Omega-3 fats can be found in nuts, flax, hemp seeds, and many types of fish. Supplements containing fish oil or a vegan blend are also an excellent way to benefit from the acne-fighting powers of Omega-3. (It might seem as if oil will make acne worse, but remember that the goal is to tackle hormonal imbalance, and healthy fats are vital building blocks for hormones.)
  • High fiber foods. Eating food with a lot of fiber can help control your blood sugar by slowing down sugar absorption and keeping you fuller longer. This helps to curb acne breakouts since healthy blood sugar levels can influence cortisol production. Aim for plenty of green veggies with each meal!
  • Stay Hydrated. You may have noticed that your skin loses some luster when you’re dehydrated – It’s important to drink plenty of water to keep your skin cells healthy and nourished.
  • Green Tea. In addition to water, don’t hesitate to pour yourself a cup of green tea. Studies show green tea can decrease sebum production. Plus, this delicious beverage is high in antioxidants!

Acne creams that work

A more natural approach to moisturizing and nourishing your skin may be helpful, as many people react to the chemicals, perfumes and preservatives in skin creams. Natural oils such as Jojoba, which has similar properties to the sebum produced by your skin, may work better to keep your oiliness in check than the drying benzoate creams of your youth. However be cautious when adding essential oils to your regimen as some can be a little harsh on sensitive skin.

Talk to your healthcare provider for guidance if you are having difficulty finding the right skincare solution. A number of effective remedies are available, but you want to make sure to pick a treatment that works for your particular skin.

Hormonal Adult Acne

Treating adult acne at the root cause can help you deal with this often-frustrating issue in a more permanent way, and often the more stubborn cases come down to a hormonal imbalance. Whether you’re in your 20’s or firmly in perimenopause, working with a Naturopathic Doctor can help you look at your full hormonal picture, and find the right plan to bring your hormones, and your skin, back in balance.

What worked in high school for clearing up your pimples might not be as effective as an adult, because as we get older the reasons for breakouts change. So if you see pimples developing, remain calm and take a focused look at the lifestyle factors that could be contributing.

If you have done what you can and are ready for professional analysis and guidance on skin-friendly treatments, come into the office! Together we can look at your diet, coping mechanisms, and other possible contributors. We can discuss various treatment options such as acupuncture, homeopathic remedies or perhaps detoxify your body with the use of herbs or colon hydrotherapy. Adult acne doesn’t have to be frustrating.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5384166/
http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961614P0692X#close
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308187676_The_Psychosocial_Impact_of_Acne_Vulgaris
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884775/
http://time.com/5014072/stress-pimples-acne/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5029236/

5 Natural Ways to Improve Cognitive Health

Should you be concerned about your cognitive health? Consider these facts:

  • Dementia affects between five and eight percent of adults over 60. As the average age of the population rises, that could add up to an astounding 150 million people with dementia worldwide by 2050.
  • Dementia is more complex than most people realize. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, many other diseases can play a role.
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) happens when someone experiences enough impairment to be noticeable, but not enough for a dementia diagnosis. People with MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Everyone experiences some moments of “brain fog” from time to time, whether they’re trying to find their keys or are struggling to remember a name. As we age, these little moments of forgetfulness become more worrying. And in fact, the damage from Alzheimer’s can start up to 10 years before symptoms become troublesome. But stress, fatigue, and nutritional deficiencies can all contribute to cognitive issues, even without Alzheimer’s.

The good news is that foggy thinking and poor memory don’t have to be a normal part of aging. Cognitive decline is not inevitable. And the steps to protecting our brain health can also help the rest of our bodies – further evidence that everything is connected when it comes to our optimum health!

So what can you do to maintain peak mental fitness? Check out these tips.

Get enough sleep. A great deal of research supports a link between brain health and adequate sleep. Scientists think the relationship may work both ways: not getting enough sleep can lead to cognitive decline, but cognitive decline can also cause sleep problems. Either way, the best approach is to be proactive. For example, avoid substances like caffeine or alcohol before bed. Practice good sleep hygiene by sleeping in a cool, quiet room and pay attention to when the body wants to sleep. Your circadian rhythm is your natural sleep cycle, which is ideally around 10-10:30 pm. Fighting it and staying up later sends an adrenaline rush to your body to keep it awake. Talk to a healthcare provider if sleep issues interfere with daily living. You may also find that following the other tips on this list help with sleep – did we mention that it’s all connected?

Focus on a plant-based diet with plenty of healthy fats. Good nutrition fuels our brain. Processed, low-nutrient foods can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress. The result can be cognitive and mood issues. Up to 95 percent of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in our gut, so what we eat can have a profound impact on our emotions and the way we think. As a result, having adequate “good” bacteria in our gut can reduce the inflammation throughout our bodies, so it’s important to eat with this in mind.

Some important nutrients for brain health include:

  • Vitamin K: Several studies suggest Vitamin K helps prevent cognitive decline. To boost Vitamin K intake, focus on leafy greens, such as spinach or kale.
  • Omega 3: This fatty acid has been shown to lower levels of beta amyloids, which are the building blocks of the amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Look for fatty fish and plant-based sources like flax seeds or avocados.
  • Flavonoids: These phytonutrients are found in many fruits and vegetables, particularly brightly coloured, flavourful foods like strawberries and blueberries. Flavonoids have been found to play a role in preventing memory decline.

Move to keep your brain active. Exercise is a must when it comes to brain health. Not only can cardio activities like swimming and walking ease stress, but physical activity can also increase the size of the hippocampus. That’s the part of our brain responsible for verbal memory, among other important functions.

Which exercise is best? The best activity is always the one you’re most likely to do, but experts say to strive for 75 minutes of intense activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. As an added bonus, exercise can help you sleep!

Keep learning. You’re never too old to learn something new. In fact, acquiring new knowledge can help keep your brain young. One study found that adults who learned a “complex skill” such as quilting or basic coding had improved memory function after only three months. And knowing a second language (even if you learn it late in life) can help slow memory loss.

Relax. You’ve probably noticed that when you’re stressed, your thought process isn’t as clear as it is when you’re relaxed. Scientists confirm that even short-term stress can affect the hippocampus. It’s important to note that most studies refer to a relationship between perceived stress and memory. We all have negative events in our lives and some of these can’t be avoided. But we can change how we react to them and how we deal with daily stress. It’s possible to reframe the stress of daily life and change how we perceive it. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, and cognitive therapy are all effective ways to reduce our feelings of stress.

It’s important to remember that there isn’t necessarily a “magic bullet” solution to protect your brain function. As with all elements of well-being, maximum health is the result of a holistic approach. By taking conscious steps to protect your brain health, you can minimize memory loss.

Proper brain function is also linked to hormonal balance. Having an imbalance of your cortisol levels, estrogen, melatonin, pregnenolone, testosterone or thyroid can all contribute to memory loss, confusion, and issues concentrating. Testing and treatment for imbalances can help get your brain working at peak function again.

Please visit the office if you have questions about your brain health! And if you’ve noticed any symptoms that worry you, it’s important to check them out right away.

Sources:

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/related_conditions/mild-cognitive-impairment
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080311182434.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4323377/
https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/alzheimers-disease-and-dementia/stress-increases-risk-mild-cognitive-impairment/article/459497/
https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-walnuts
http://www.brainfacts.org/brain-anatomy-and-function/cells-and-circuits/2012/hormones-communication-between-the-brain-and-the-body

Biohacking: Improve Your Well-being With Simple Health “Hacks”

If you follow health-related news, you’ve probably come across the term “biohacking” recently. The word itself might sound intimidating to the average person, but the concepts behind biohacking are actually quite simple: The goal is to “hack” your body’s natural processes to improve your physical, emotional, and cellular health.

Taken to extremes, biohacking’s “citizen science” approach can lead to unsupervised experiments outside of conventional research facilities. Extreme biohackers pursue activities such as trying to alter their DNA or implanting cybernetic devices into their own bodies. That’s not necessarily a safe or recommended approach!

Fortunately, you don’t have to track every nanosecond of your day or spend a small fortune to benefit from biohacking best practices. Biohacking your health can be as easy as applying the latest scientific discoveries to your own life and adjusting as you go. That’s always a good approach to our well-being.

One of the central tenets of biohacking is that the things you put into your body (what you eat, the air you breathe, the sounds you are exposed to) shape your body’s output (your energy, productivity and moods). Your mitochondria are at the heart of this process. Mitochondria are the “batteries” that give energy to every cell in your body. These tiny powerhouses are easily influenced by their environment – in other words, they are impacted by everything your body is exposed to. When you improve their environment, you can improve the energy produced by mitochondria. The results? Far-reaching improvements on your overall health and energy levels.

What does this process look like in everyday life? Well, because we’re all different, what works for one person might not work for someone else. As you make changes to your lifestyle, you should carefully monitor your progress as you go. Biohackers draw on the data they create to come up with solutions that make them feel their best. They avoid “one size fits all” formulas.

That means paying close attention to how you feel, but the results are definitely worth it. By improving cellular function, biohacking your basic daily activities can have noticeable benefits. And it can be fun. After all, who doesn’t want to use science to feel better every day? Check out some easy ways to biohack your own health. The results might surprise you!

Monitor your diet. Adjusting your nutritional intake is an easy way to start biohacking. It’s a simple concept: Any change to your diet that results in noticeable improvements in how you feel is a biohack.

In general, focus on the fact that what you eat influences your gut bacteria and, in turn, every aspect of your health. By choosing natural, high-fiber foods, you can reduce inflammation. Too much inflammation affects mitochondria, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction, which can impact your entire body.

In general, biohackers focus on the nutritional quality of foods, not the calorie count. Many biohackers follow a gluten-free diet with plenty of healthy fats. Some have good results with intermittent fasting. But ultimately, the key is to pay attention to how your diet makes you feel and make adjustments based on that.

Focus on natural products. Even if we’re careful about what we eat, our bodies are still exposed to harmful elements as we go through the day. The water we drink, the substances we clean with, and the beauty and grooming products we use can all hold harmful toxins. These toxins impact our cellular health in ways we may not even realize. Consciously seeking out natural beauty products and non-toxic cleaning solutions can help you assess the impact of toxic ingredients on your body.

Improve your sleep. By adjusting our night routines, we can improve the quality of our sleep. Biohackers look beyond the standard advice on improving sleep to carefully consider what we surround ourselves with at bedtime. For example, you may have great results by reducing the amount of blue light you’re exposed to at night. Blue light comes from electronic devices. What can be a helpful practice is staying off your devices for 3 hours before bed or switching your devices to “night mode.” Reducing the temperature in your room and minimizing exposure to electromagnetic fields can also lead to world-class sleep.

Keep in mind that our mitochondria want to sleep when it’s dark and awaken when it’s light. Make it easier for them by creating a sleep environment that’s as dark as possible. If needed, invest in some blackout curtains or a sleep mask. You can also create a sleep-friendly internal environment by avoiding caffeine at least eight hours before you go to sleep.

Adapt to stress. Some biohackers use complex biofeedback systems to monitor the effect of stress on their bodies, but controlling stress can be as simple as paying attention to your breathing. (One biohack technique is “block breathing,” which means exhaling while counting to five, then repeating the count on the inhale. Do this several times and note how you feel after.) Classic stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, and “forest bathing” (walking in the wilderness) can all contribute to lower stress levels.

It may seem like a bit of a paradox, but some biohackers recommend high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for improving a body’s ability to handle stress. That’s because HIIT emphasizes taxing a body to its maximum capacity, then allowing it to recover. As a result, we teach our bodies to be more resilient. Talk to a healthcare provider if you haven’t tried HIIT training before.

Hormones control it all. The hormonal balance in your system plays a huge role in pretty much everything. Having a balanced hormonal state is key to maintaining not just good health, but this balance also allows for all of the above-mentioned tips to actually work for you. When our hormones are out of alignment, it affects so many of our daily activities. Trying to even get through the day can be a challenge, let alone trying to take your health to another level.

As you can see, biohacking doesn’t have to be complicated. Ultimately, you’re the best scientist when it comes to your own well-being. Why not make a few simple changes to your lifestyle to see how you feel?

If you’d like to look deeper into your current status of health, find out if your hormones are causing issues in your body or learn how you can take your health to the next level, come into the office and let’s talk. We are experts in looking at the individual as a whole and creating a unique plan to get your body functioning its best.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22496061
http://www.jbc.org/content/280/22/21061.full
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170307155214.htm
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/nov/18/biohackers-strange-world-diy-biology

Alcohol: Is Any Amount Safe?

Or Is Alcohol Really a Detriment to Your Health?
Or How Much Alcohol is Safe to Drink?

A glass of wine with dinner. A beer after a hard day of work. It’s not hard to integrate an occasional drink with a healthy lifestyle. Or is it?

In recent years, we’ve read that red wine is rich with antioxidants, and that an occasional beer can raise “good” cholesterol. But results from a new study suggest that even moderate alcohol consumption – the kind we tell ourselves is healthy – may actually be detrimental to our health. In other words, the much-heralded health benefits of drinking don’t outweigh the risks. As a result, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

A recently published research study looks at data collected in almost 700 studies, spanning 195 countries and territories. Some of the findings are startling:

  • Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death in the age 15 through 49 age group.
  • Alcohol use was responsible for 2.8 million deaths worldwide in 2016.
  • For women in particular, the health risks increase with age. Alcohol was responsible for over 27 percent of cancer deaths in women over 50.

The authors of the study are firm in their conclusion: “By evaluating all associated relative risks for alcohol use, we found that consuming zero standard drinks daily minimizes the overall risk to health.”

In other words, the only safe amount of drinks is none at all. This finding differs from many earlier studies, which often concluded that moderate drinking was the best approach.

Why did this study reach a more decisive conclusion than previous examinations of alcohol’s effect on health? Several factors come into play. This study was careful to consider the ways they measured consumption. For example, researchers looked at regional variations in alcohol consumption that could be attributed to things like tourism. In addition, the study looked at alcohol’s impact on 23 different health-related problems. For some of those problems (such as heart disease), mild alcohol consumption had a positive effect. But that positive effect was balanced by a greater negative impact on other health issues (cancer is a strong example).

What does this mean for you? If you drink, should you stop? Alcohol consumption is a very personal decision. This study looked at the picture, worldwide. It was not studying individuals, but rather analyzing vast amounts of data previously collected, specifically looking at the risks for the 23 health issues. That data was conclusive. But it’s up to you how you apply it to your own life. This latest study can’t, for example, tell you if it’s OK to have some wine for New Year’s given your own unique genetics and other lifestyle factors.

One thing is clear: If you’ve told yourself that drinking is healthy, you may want to reconsider that rationale. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must immediately quit. However in deciding whether or not alcohol is something you want in your life, it’s best to be realistic about the health risks.

If you’re wondering about alcohol, talk to a healthcare practitioner. And be upfront about your drinking during the visit. Many people underreport how much they drink, but it’s best to be honest. You want to have an open discussion about all of your health concerns. Remember that healthcare providers aren’t looking to judge you – they want to work with you to create your best life.

You also want to look at your own medical history and perhaps check out more specific studies. For example, another recently published study concluded that alcohol is the biggest controllable risk factor for dementia. If you have other dementia risk factors that are out of your control, such as a genetic history, you may want take action on the things you can control.

Similarly, if you have a history of depression, consider alcohol’s impact on mental health. If you are trying to control your weight, the extra calories of alcohol aren’t going to help. Alcohol can also lower your judgment and keep you from making your best decisions.

Some patients express frustration at the different results they see in health studies: One minute something is good for you, then suddenly we need to avoid it! Studies on alcohol use can be proof that when we read an eye-catching health-related headline, we need to look beyond the numbers.

One thing to keep in mind is that the media will typically seize the most dramatic sound bite, although it’s impossible to always convey the nuances of a well-run scientific study in a short headline. For example, a news story doesn’t always mention who funded the study. For the record, the Lancet study on alcohol safety was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, while some others that emphasized alcohol’s benefits were funded by companies who sell alcohol. That doesn’t necessarily mean the studies are false, but we should all remember the funders have a vested interest in how the results are reported.

As well, correlation doesn’t always equal causation. That’s sometimes hard to capture in reporting large studies. In fact there are studies that show that Resveratrol an antioxidant found in red wine is beneficial to your health however if you have other health issues like, poor gut function, low energy, sleep issues and more, alcohol will likely have negative impacts and could make your health issues worse.

Whenever you’re confused about a health issue, the best approach is to consider it from a sample study of one: yourself. That means talking to a healthcare provider about your own personal history and choices and your current health concerns. We can help you sort through all of the information you face every day and figure out what’s best for your unique body, in fact we are experts in doing just that! Give our office a call, we are here to help 416-234-1888

Sources:
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(18)30022-7/fulltext
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874911/
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31310-2/fulltext

Top 10 Tips for Healthy Holidays

Are you enjoying the final stretch of 2018? It’s a fantastic and fun time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also a difficult period for maintaining healthy habits. Check out our list of the top 10 ways to stay healthy and happy over the holiday season.

1. Reframe your holiday expectations. Consider this: If you think of the holidays as an exhausting test of your endurance, and holiday treats as evil temptations to be resisted with all available willpower, how will your body react? That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but many patients come into the office at this time of the year showing signs of anxiety and tension. In fact, one study found that 90 percent of adults feel stressed over the holidays. Isn’t this supposed to be a joyous time?

These high stress levels may be at least partly attributed to the fact that many of us simply have more to do at this time of the year. Because we have more tasks to keep track of (even if those tasks are going to parties, buying gifts, and other fun stuff), our prefrontal cortex (in our brain) is overtaxed. This can affect our memory and overall ability to cope. Add in the extra pressure of maintaining a perfect diet and workout schedule, and you have a recipe for sleep problems, digestive difficulties, and tense muscles – all of which can add to our stress. And when we’re stressed, we tend to overeat. You can probably see why holiday stress can create a vicious cycle of guilt.

Reframing our expectations that we need and having a “perfect” holiday while staying disciplined, can end the frustration. So don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t go as planned. In the long run, our happiest memories are sometimes the ones when things didn’t go as we’d pictured them, or the times we slowed down to take in the moment. Letting go of expectations of perfection (from ourselves and others) will ultimately help our health.

2. Play games. If you get together with family or friends in the next weeks, why not introduce a low-tech way to have some old-fashioned fun by playing board games? Board games can also offer cognitive benefits – not that you need an excuse to start rolling the dice.

3. Stay mindful. A mindfulness practice has obvious benefits when we’re extremely busy. Even if you’re not a regular meditator, just five minutes a day of meditation can help you cope with holiday stress. And why not share the love? Suggest a short meditation before holiday meals. It can set the tone for a peaceful celebration. Studies show that group meditation can have powerful results.

4. Get moving. Fitting in some exercise can be easier when you mix it up by with physical social activities with loved ones. Snowshoeing, making snowmen, skating for those in the cold climates: there are plenty of options. If you’re not a cold-weather person, try bowling or a trip to the pool. You may not end up with six-pack abs, but might start a new holiday tradition. Suggesting fun activities for social gatherings also helps take the focus off food.

5. Cook up some love. Looking for a unique gift idea? Want to stay away from the mall and its atmosphere of seemingly relentless consumerism? Try baking some holiday gifts. For example, put some homemade sweet and spicy holiday almonds into a fancy jar (you can find a good recipe here: https://mywholefoodlife.com/2012/11/28/sweet-and-spicy-holiday-almonds/ ). Or wrap up a box of vegan hazelnut cups. (This recipe is amazing! https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16557/like-nutella-try-these-vegan-hazelnut-cups.html ) or even start making some natural soaps as gifts, it’s easy, natural and fun!

6. Go green. When you’re thinking about ways to keep your body healthy over the holidays, don’t forget that the planet deserves love too. It’s easy to have a green holiday season (even if it’s snowing). Use recycled wrapping paper, serve food on real plates (not paper), and consider turning the heat down a degree or two for large gatherings (maybe you’ll encourage guests to bring out their tacky holiday sweaters). To conserve electricity, use LED lights only, and defrost your freezer before you load it up with holiday baking.

7. Learn to say no. This is a tough one for many patients who come to the office. However sometimes refusing a social invitation or a request to do work is the healthiest choice for everyone involved. If you find it hard to turn down an invitation or request, remember that you don’t have to apologize. Decline right away and resist the urge to make up an elaborate excuse. Suggest an alternative activity or a later date – but only if you really want to.

8. Keep your gut healthy. Sugar laden holiday treats, cocktails and parties galore can really put a damper on your gut health. Rightfully so an imbalance of extra sugar lowers both your immune system and can lead to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Take some high quality probiotics and some digestive enzymes prior to meals to give your gut a healthy boost and some likely much needed assistance!

9. Start some healthy food traditions. The internet is bursting with healthy holiday recipes. Think about your loved ones’ food preferences and find some yummy dishes to bring to gatherings. For example, here are some outstanding vegan dishes: https://minimalistbaker.com/christmas-recipe-roundup/. Other guests might thank you for providing an alternative to Aunt Mary’s special salad! Try replacing carb heavy side dishes with healthy ones like Rutabaga and carrot mash or creamy butternut squash and thyme! Remember it’s OK to say no!

10. Be grateful. The holidays don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we have to go to work instead of eating great meals. Sometimes we miss people who are no longer in our lives. It’s normal to experience sadness at this time of the year. Acknowledge your feelings and be gentle with yourself. Take some time to think of the good things (even if they’re not always picture-perfect). Grateful people experience better sleep, more optimism, and improved relationships. And we could all use a bit of that at this time of the year.

Happy New Year from all of us! We look forward to working with you to create a fulfilling and healthy start to 2019.

Sources
http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain

https://www.healio.com/psychiatry/journals/jpn/2017-12-55-12/%7Ba2fc3f63-4c18-455c-a761-5efae89bb9fb%7D/three-simple-mindfulness-practices-to-manage-holiday-stress#x02793695-20171117-01-bibr26

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/254796

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21075238

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping/page/0/1

Dealing with Depression

Have you ever suffered from depression? If so, you’re not alone. The World Health Organization estimates that 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide and that it is a leading cause of disability. Fifteen percent of adults will experience depression at least once in their lifetime.

Depression knows no bounds. It can impact anyone at any point in their life, regardless of age, gender, medical history, or socioeconomic status. While depression may seem like an invisible condition, there are warning signs to look for.

Signs of Depression

So, how can you tell if you or someone you know might be experiencing a major depressive episode?

A major depressive episode is defined as a depressed mood lasting at least two weeks or more. Life seems filled with darkness or heaviness, and there is a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Depression also comes with the baggage of other symptoms that can interfere with your work, school or social life. These symptoms include:

  • Sleep issues — either sleeping too much or having difficulty falling asleep
  • Low energy or feeling fatigued almost every day for no reason
  • Inability to focus, make decisions or think clearly
  • Moving slower than usual or making unintentional motions to a degree that is noticeable by others
  • Changes in weight and appetite, with an increase or decrease of more than five percent in body weight a month
  • Recurring thoughts about death or suicide, a suicide attempt, or a specific plan in place for suicide

If you are or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to start a conversation right away, get professional help to identify the cause, and find some appropriate solutions.

What Causes Depression?
What makes depression so elusive is that there is no one single cause. Hormones, brain chemistry, family genetics, life experiences and physical health are all possible factors that can trigger a depressive episode. While some types of depression can be attributed to conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or postpartum depression, for many the source might not be immediately apparent.

Unfortunately, in many situations, doctors prefer to medicate rather than investigate, prescribing antidepressants instead of exploring the cause of the condition. Antidepressants may have their time and place, but with a myriad of possible side-effects, they are not always an option for everyone. Also, a lifetime prescription to antidepressants is only a band-aid solution that never really addresses the underlying problem.

Research shows that high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammatory disease, have been documented in subjects with depression. In fact, results from a national health and nutrition examination survey showed that subjects with depressive symptoms had CRP levels that were 46 percent higher than those of non-depressed subjects. Studies also suggest that subjects with a depressed mood have low levels of fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), which is an indication of airway inflammation.

Over time, depression can also lead to significantly more inflammation in the brain. Inflammation is our body’s response to injury or illness, and when left untreated, it can cause chronic illnesses like heart disease and potentially even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. So not only is identifying the cause of depression early on important for your mental health; it’s also for your long-term physical health!

This is why visiting a naturopathic doctor can be so crucial. Not only is depression a serious condition not to be taken lightly, but there are so many possible influences, that it requires a 360-degree assessment to determine what might be the cause. The first thing you need to ask yourself is “Why am I feeling depressed?” Then take it from there.

Ways to Treat Depression
For those with mild to moderate depression, there are a variety of natural options that can help fight the blues effectively, without pharmaceuticals.

1. Sunshine & Exercise
It may sound trite to suggest a little fresh air and exercise; however, you can never underestimate the value of a brisk walk in the sunshine. Activity pumps up serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, which are our feel-good happy chemicals. Go for a run to experience a true natural high.

And don’t forget, the sun doesn’t just light up the sky. It can also lighten up your mood with feel-good rays of vitamin D. Invest in a therapeutic light box for those cloudy days and winter months.

2. Create a Regular Bedtime Routine
Depression and sleep issues are intimately connected. For those who have trouble falling asleep, a nighttime routine can help ease you into a more restful slumber.

Set a regular bedtime and unplug from all devices at least two hours beforehand. Use that digital downtime time to take a bath, read a book, listen to music, meditate or unwind in any other low-key way. By eliminating sources of constant stimulation and slowing down your evening habits, you will foster a better mental environment for sleep. If you’ve been dealing with insomnia for a while, melatonin is also a helpful natural supplement to reset your internal clock.

Keep yourself on a consistent schedule by setting your alarm to go off after 8 hours. If you need a nap later in the day, then, by all means, take one, but try to resist the urge to sleep your life away.

3. Natural Supplements
Serotonin is a vital chemical and neurotransmitter. It regulates our moods, behaviour, libido, sleep, and memory. Keep your serotonin levels elevated by getting your fill of healthy omega-3 fatty acids ─ the kind you find in fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and more.

Cut down on coffee, which can reduce serotonin levels. Instead, try green tea which has L-theanine, an amino acid that has a relaxing effect. L-Theanine boosts neurotransmitters and helps to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Rhodiola rosea and St. John’s wort are other natural supplements that many individuals have had success with for treating depression. That said, St. John’s wort may interfere with birth control or other medications. This is why it is always important to get professional guidance on which supplements and what dose might work best for you.

4. Get Your Hormones Balanced
Our hormones have an impact on our entire bodies. They can be the reason behind depression, chronic fatigue, weight gain, and more. Think of your adrenal, sex and thyroid hormones as Jenga blocks. When certain blocks become imbalanced, it can send our whole life tumbling out of control. The longer you take to correct the imbalance, the more difficult it will be to heal. Getting your hormones tested is an easy and effective way to assess the issues so that you can effectively identify what your options are to get back into balance.

5. Talk to someone
While you may feel vulnerable or uncomfortable at first, opening up to friends and family may be the relief you need to get through dark times without feeling so alone. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your burdens with the people you know, then seek professional counselling, whether a therapist, life coach or trusted doctor. They are there to help and can offer you a new perspective on things.

If you think you are dealing with depression or can’t shake the blues, I invite you to reach out to our clinic. Please feel free to book an appointment with us by calling or emailing us at 416-234-1888 or wellnessreception@sympatico.ca.

You don’t have to battle depression alone. We can help you get your life back!

To your best health!

Wellness Institute

References:
https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanpsy/PIIS2215-0366(18)30087-7.pdf
http://www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/2016/v77n12/v77n1221.aspx
http://ndnr.com/mindbody/case-study-herbal-treatment-of-depression/”
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005791617300629#sec4