Bundle Up and Keep the “Wind-Cold” Away

It feels like this winter has been forever-lasting. It. Is. So. COLD. Thankfully, the days have been getting longer and, more often than not, we are waking to a shining sun. Even so, it’s important to stay bundled up with the daily below-freezing temperatures (the shorts and sandals will have to wait a little longer!). Whenever I’m faced with brutal winds outdoors, I remember the lessons on TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) during our naturopathic medicine program, and the recommendation to wear scarves in the winter to prevent “Wind-Cold Invasion” through the nape of the neck. Sound bizarre? Let me explain.

According to TCM, there are internal and external causes of disease. “Wind” and “Cold” fall under exterior (a.k.a. environmental) pathogenic factors, as do “Summer-Heat”, “Dampness”, “Dryness”, and “Fire”. Giovanni Maciocia, in The Foundations of Chinese Medicine (2006) states that the body can normally protect itself against these exterior pathogenic factors, and “[t]he weather becomes a cause of disease only when the equilibrium between the body and the environment breaks down.” The Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) of the body may be temporarily weaker than the environmental pathogen – due to overwork, poor diet, emotional stress, etc. – leading to Wind-Cold Invasion. Alternatively, Wei Qi may be functioning optimally, but strong and/or frequent changes in the environment (i.e. rapidly rising and dropping temperatures) may overwhelm the body and cause illness.

Wind often attacks the top part of the body, and can get stuck in the throat, causing an itchy sensation (that “tickle” at the back of your throat, indicating the beginnings of the common cold/flu). If Cold is present (i.e. in wintertime), then Wind can whisk it into the Lungs (the first line of defence against exterior pathogenic factors) and lead to sweating, a runny nose, itchy throat, and headaches. Sometimes, Wind-Cold skips the Lungs and invades other organ channels directly – causing Painful Obstruction Syndrome (Bi Syndrome), which is intense pain, often in a single joint, worse with cold exposure and better with applied heat. Just as it can affect joints, Cold can also attack muscles and sinews, and manifest as extremely stiff neck and shoulder muscles.

Treatment typically starts with prevention: dressing warmly, maintaining a nutritious and balanced diet, properly managing emotional stress, etc. Acupuncture and warm diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) herbs (e.g. ginger, cayenne, garlic, elderberry, peppermint) can also help to expel the Wind and Cold that have invaded the body, and restore the proper function of the Lungs.

While we wait for that sweet breath of Spring to save us, remember to protect yourself against Wind-Cold and bundle up!

Fighting Colds & Flu Naturally

cartoon fluIt’s only November, and people are already sneezing, coughing and congested! My winter immune-boosting regimen actually begins in August, long before the weather changes (prevention IS the best medicine!). Even if you haven’t started yet, implementing simple and natural treatment strategies will help to shorten the duration of your cold/flu, and prevent recurrences of a nasty winter bug.

First things first…Is it a Cold or the Flu?

Cold

Flu

Dry, scratchy or sore throat Fever
Runny nose or congestion Body aches or stiffness
Sneezing Headache
Headache Extreme tiredness (may last for weeks)
Earaches, especially in children Runny nose or congestion, sneezing
Slight fever + chills (more common in children) Sore throat
Coughing – dry or with sputum/phlegm Dry cough (may last for weeks)
Tiredness Poor appetite, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Conventional Treatments

Antibiotics: Antibiotics attack bacterial infections; however, colds/flu are caused by viruses. Though antibiotics are often the first-line therapy given by medical doctors, they are often ineffective and can disrupt your natural gut flora (“good bacteria”), which can ultimately decrease immune function.

The flu shot: An analysis of 31 studies on the flu vaccine has shown that, though the vaccine works, it does not demonstrate the level of efficacy that has been reported previously. The flu shot is often recommended for those at a higher risk of flu complications (children, elderly) and individuals working with immune-compromised populations.

Cold/flu Prevention

1. Frequent hand-washing and surface cleaning: The most common routes of viral transmission are sneezing or coughing, hand-to-hand contact, and object transfer.

2. “Proper sneeze technique”: Sneeze/cough into the corner of your sleeve or a tissue.

3. Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water

4. Regular exercise: Activity stimulates the immune system and increases body temperature, which can help to kill off bugs.

5. Reduce stress levels

6. Avoid refined sugar & food allergens: Our immune system is closely linked to our gastrointestinal health. When gut function is down, our ability to fight infections suffers as well.

A herbal cold formula tea will provide antiviral, antispasmodic (anti-cough), mucolytic (mucous breakdown) benefits. Add fresh lemon slices for Vitamin C and natural, unpasteurized honey for an immune boost!

A herbal cold formula tea will provide antiviral, antispasmodic (anti-cough), mucolytic (mucous breakdown) benefits. Add fresh lemon slices for Vitamin C and natural, unpasteurized honey for an immune boost!

Strengthening Immunity Naturally

1. Vitamin C: increases chemotaxis & phagocytosis (bug destruction!), and T-cell (immune cell) activity

2. Vitamin D: some studies suggest it is even more effective than Vitamin C at strengthening immunity

3. Zinc: essential nutrient for all immune cells – blocks virus replication

4. Probiotics: this addresses our gut health (which in turn helps our immune function)

5. Botanicals – Echinacea, Elderberry, Goldenseal, Garlic, Oregano, Astralagus, Ginseng: antimicrobial, immune-boosting, breaks up mucous, decreases coughing, etc. Certain herbs need to be taken with caution, so it’s important to speak with your Naturopathic Doctor regarding any contraindications.

6. Acupuncture: can increase immune function, expel mucous and nasal discharge

7. Hydrotherapy (water therapy): contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold water, to stimulate blood and lymph circulation), steam inhalations, and nasal irrigation (e.g. Neti pot)

Too Much Turkey: How to survive expanding waistlines at Thanksgiving

Fall is here – and the crisp air, changing colours of the leaves, and clear blue skies herald in a season of scarves, squash and other hearty vegetables from the farmer’s market, and Thanksgiving. If your family is anything like mine, then you know Thanksgiving is a weekend of decadent and delicious food at family gatherings, and no time for the gym…leading up to a holiday Monday of indigestion and regret.

Thanksgiving usually means overindulgence, indigestion, and forgetting our usual healthy lifestyles.

Thanksgiving usually means overindulgence, indigestion, and forgetting our usual healthy lifestyles.

With some simple adjustments, we can survive a weekend of overindulgence while still experiencing the joy that comes with spending time with the people we are most thankful for.

Chew thoroughly. Digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing not only mechanically breaks down food into smaller pieces for swallowing ease, it also stimulates the secretion of saliva, which contains enzymes for digestion.

Drink plenty of water. All the butter, sugar, salt, and alcohol that makes up a delicious turkey meal can be very heavy and dehydrating for the body, causing constipation, headaches, sluggishness, etc. Water is also a natural detoxifier – add freshly squeezed lemon juice to water for the added benefit of stimulating the liver’s digestive and detoxifying processes.

Make your own fresh ginger tea: add 1-2cm piece of peeled & thinly sliced ginger to 2 cups water, and boil at med-high heat for 10-20min (more ginger and longer boiling time will yield a stronger tea). Drink straight, or add pure honey or agave to taste.

Make your own fresh ginger tea: add 1-2cm piece of peeled & thinly sliced ginger to 2 cups water, and boil at med-high heat for 10-20min (more ginger and longer boiling time will yield a stronger tea). Drink straight, or add pure honey or agave to taste.

Grab a mug of carminative tea. Ginger, peppermint, licorice root, and chamomile teas are wonderful soothers of indigestion pain, gas and bloating, and nausea. They are non-caffeinated, can be sipped after each meal (up to 3 cups/day), and taste delicious! These herbs are not safe for everyone, however: peppermint can aggravate acid-reflux; licorice root should not be used by those with hypertension (high blood pressure); and chamomile is to be avoided if ragweed allergies are present.

Take digestive enzymes. A full-spectrum enzyme supplement taken before (or in the middle of) a large meal can help minimize indigestion. There are plant-based (vegetarian) and animal-based (ox or porcine) enzymes available. They both provide the same benefits, but an animal-based enzyme may be better suited for individuals with a history of low bile or pancreatic secretion (e.g. gallbladder removal). Also, enzymes should be taken only occasionally when we need extra help with larger, fattier meals, since our bodies already naturally produce digestive enzymes.

Don’t go back for seconds. This can be the toughest one to follow! With all the delicious home-cooked food around, it’s tempting to go back for seconds…or thirds. Remember that satiety (the feeling of being full and satisfied) can take up to 20 minutes to register in our bodies, which explains how we can suddenly hit a wall of being uncomfortably stuffed (like the turkey!). Pace yourself – set down the fork in-between bites and have a conversation with the people around you. Arrange and fill your plate as you would eat any other meal, and be sensible about going back for seconds since it will exceed your normal caloric intake.

Take a walk after the family meal. Start slowly burning off those calories you’ve just put on! It will help you feel less heavy and sluggish to be moving rather than slumping onto the sofa, in a food stupor. Encourage the whole family to go on a walk after the turkey meal – it may be the start of a fun family tradition to enjoy the fall weather together.

Staying Healthy in a Stressful September

September can be a stressful time: it’s back to school and back to work, and the end of summer getaways and warm weather. But not all hope is lost! We can maintain that stress-free outlook well into the winter – and it starts with a healthy diet, to fuel our brain and body, keep our moods elevated, give us energy, and provide a refreshed night’s sleep.

1. Create balanced meals and snacks – carbs, protein, and fat. Yes, we need all three, in the right amounts and from the right sources, for each of our individual needs. Include complex carbs (take longer to break down, therefore yielding a steady output of glucose for energy), such as whole grains and veggies. Protein is important at every meal, including breakfast, which is when it’s typically forgotten. Include “good” fats from nuts and seeds, fish, avocado, coconut oil, etc. to provide essential fatty acids.

2. Maintain a steady blood sugar level. A blood sugar level that spikes and dips throughout the day can cause poor concentration, mood disturbances, fatigue, and cravings for all the wrong foods (sweets, deep-fried/baked carbs). Remember to eat or snack on something healthy every 2-3 hours. Preparing ahead of time is key to eating healthy – wash and cut up fruits and veggies, or make your own trail mix, to keep nutrient-rich snacks handy for your midday cravings.

Discovering new fruits and vegetables will expand your tastebud AND nutrient horizons!

Discovering new fruits and vegetables will expand your tastebud AND nutrient horizons!

3. Eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. Aim for 2-3 colours on your plate at each meal to get a combination of vitamins and antioxidants in your diet. Consume fruits and veggies raw, lightly steamed or sautéed, or baked to maintain the integrity of the nutrients. For anyone wanting to expand their dietary horizons, I recommend walking through the grocery store and choosing 3 new fruits/veggies that you’ve never tried before…and then finding a recipe (online, in a book, or ask a friend). You may discover a new fruit or veggie that you now can’t live without!

4. Drink enough water daily. Remember that coffee and caffeinated teas act as diuretics, and so your body will lose more water throughout the day. Drink an equal amount of water for your coffee/tea to even it out, and then add on the extra 8-10 glasses of clean water (~1.5L)/day. Oftentimes, fatigue, headaches and poor concentration are a simple matter of dehydration. Drink up!

5. Minimize the “junk”. It’s okay to treat ourselves once in awhile…the problem is when we rely on the “junk” (fried fatty foods, sweets, caffeine, etc.) to get through our days. Junk foods will give us a boost of energy, but there is just as dramatic of a drop in energy afterwards (remember the spiking blood sugar levels?), which perpetuates a cycle of fatigue, moodiness, and restless sleep. Use the junk as a treat, not a diet regular, and your body and mind will thank you for it!

Tips for Safe Summer Sun Exposure

We’ve all heard about (and felt) the great benefits of sunlight on our moods, energy, and that vital nutrient Vitamin D. On hot summer days, however, it’s also vital to remember proper skin care and sun protection. By following these basic tips – and teaching your family to do the same – you can help prevent sunburns, wrinkles, unwanted freckles and pigmentations, and even skin cancers.

Kids sun safety

Wear sunscreen. Choose a sunscreen of SPF30 or higher, apply 30 minutes before heading outside, and re-apply every 2 hours afterwards (more frequently if swimming/sweating). Sunscreen should be applied to all areas of exposed skin. A higher SPF does not mean you are protected for significantly longer periods of time. SPF30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, while SPF45 blocks about 98% of rays.

Take extra precaution during 10am – 4pm. This is when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. Limit your skin exposure during these times. Even on a cloudy day, you can get a sunburn. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and lightweight long sleeve shirt.

Drink plenty of water. Our skin stays thirsty all summer! Our favourite iced coffees and teas don’t help the matter, since caffeine is a diuretic and causes our bodies to lose even more water. Aim for 1.5-2L of clean water per day. As little as a 2% loss of fluids is considered dehydration (that’s before symptoms, such as thirst, hunger, lightheadedness, and headache even appear!).

Eat plenty of fruits and veggies. Fresh (and frozen) fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, which protect against free radical damage from the sun. Accumulated over time, free radical damage leads to cellular aging (e.g. wrinkles, infections, arthritis, blood vessel damage, cancers). Aim for 5-8 servings and 3-4 colours (red, orange, purple/blue, green, etc.) per day.

Supplement with Vitamin D. Our bodies require more Vitamin D than what we can make through limited sun exposure…and revving up our sunbathing in the summertime cannot make up for lowered Vitamin D stores in the winter. Vitamin D has countless benefits, such as better moods and concentration; increased energy and bone density; prevention and treatment of immune disorders, heart disease, diabetes; etc.

Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor for an individualized summer care plan for your health. By taking some simple precautions, we can enjoy the weather without worry!

 

References

http://beta.active.com/articles/6-tips-for-staying-safe-in-the-sun

http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/91/15/1304.long

http://www.epa.gov/radtown/sun-exposure.html

http://www.webmd.com/beauty/sun/high-spf-sunscreens-are-they-better

http://www.webmd.com/beauty/sun/sun-exposure-skin-cancer

A Guest Post: The Myth of Gaining Weight While Traveling

Many people have expressed the opinion that those who go on vacation will inevitably gain weight. For those who have fought hard to eat right and live healthy, this can be distressing. However, this sentiment is largely mythical, and those who focus on the following tips can be assured that they will enjoy their vacation without gaining weight.

Eat Right While Traveling

Eating right while traveling can be difficult, but there are steps vacationers can take. Most airports now offer healthy eating options, and arriving at the airport early can allow travelers to sit down and enjoy a healthy, tasty meal. Another option is to simply eat before leaving. Those taking long flights may also want to bring healthy snacks along as well. Bringing dried fruit, vegetables, nuts, or even whole grain crackers can prevent you from being forced to order a high calorie, fattening meal on an airplane. Always pack something to nibble on during flight.

Eat Right at Hotels and Restaurants

It can be difficult to eat well at hotels. One option many travelers are now taking advantage of is bringing along a small crockpot or other cooking device. A quick trip to a nearby grocery store to stock up on fruits and vegetables can allow travelers to eat healthy meals in their rooms. High in nutrient soups and oatmeal can be made in room simply with hot water as well. That said, travelers will want to explore local restaurants. By finding healthy restaurants and deciding what you will eat before leaving, you can avoid the temptation of eating unhealthy meals at local restaurants. Reading reviews online of restaurants in your area can prevent you from choosing between the lesser of two evils. On my latest trip I found a great site that listed reviews for hotels in Las Vegas regarding not only their amenities and services but also the restaurants in the nearby area. This made it easier than ever to plan out my meals both in and out of the hotel. Fortunately, healthy restaurants are easier to find than ever before, and choosing vegetarian varieties of local meals can help tremendously.

Oftentimes eating right can be difficult because the party that you are traveling with does not wish to maintain the same healthy lifestyle as you. This can be combated by bringing along your snack items to munch on when they indulge in ice cream or treats. When you are discussing which restaurant you wish to go to, try and meet in the middle with something that they want to do that will also provide healthy alternatives. Try and visit a restaurant that has a wide variety on the menu. This will increase the likelihood of you finding something that is nutritious and delicious.

Exercise While Traveling

Those who use exercise as a form of controlling weight and staying healthy may struggle while on vacation. By walking to destinations instead of taking taxis or other forms of transportation, it is possible to burn calories while enjoying local scenery. In addition, most vacation destinations offer great places to walk or run. Scheduling a morning run at the beach every morning, for example, can allow travelers to maintain their exercise schedule while away. Many vacation hotspots also offer guided tours and other activities that can allow travelers to get out and exercise a bit while enjoying their time away from home.

The notion that vacations inherently lead to weight gain is a myth, and there is no reason to believe that you will necessarily gain weight if you travel. With a bit of preparation and some perseverance, it is possible to enjoy your vacation while maintaining your healthy habits.

About the Author

Cole Millen is an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life’s best memories are made through real life experiences. Some people plan a trip to “get away,” while others realize benefit of adding something greater to their current repertoire of knowledge, thought and emotion. Through my writings, he hopes to influence the earlier, and connect with the latter.

From “First Step Pain Relief & Wellness Inc.” Clinic in King City, ON…

Naturopathic Medicine Week

May 6 – 12, 2013

“To teach members of the community about the value of naturopathic medicine, health promotion and disease prevention.”

Top 10 Reasons to See a Naturopathic Doctor

1. We listen to you. Your health concerns are not trivialized or dismissed.

2. Our intakes are thorough. By knowing your health history, medications, mental/emotional state, and environment, we can better understand how and why you’re experiencing illness.

3. We offer a range of natural therapies. Nutritional and lifestyle counselling, acupuncture, botanical medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine, etc.

4. No side effects! Natural therapies support your body, rather than medicate.

5. We work well with your other health care providers. Together, we provide the best care for you.

6. Your treatment reflects your individuality. Everyone experiences disease differently – why shouldn’t your treatment reflect your unique needs and situation?

7. We educate. You walk out understanding what’s happening in your body and why. Having power over your own health is vital to life-long health.

8. We treat all types of conditions. There are effective natural therapies available for all health conditions.

9. We treat all ages and walks of life. Each stage of life experiences different health concerns, nutritional requirements, and ways of healing.

10. IT WORKS! 

Tip of the Month – April and Injury-free Exercise

For me, Spring is here when some internal “switch” flips on in anticipation of another outdoor soccer season. The smell of fresh grass always conjures up fond memories of the soccer pitch, awesome teammates, and great exercise.

Soccer also reminds me of sore muscles, creaking joints, and past injuries. I’ve been playing for 19 years now, and with each year I find myself making extra efforts to maintain good muscle and joint health through natural treatments and prevention.

Stretching helps to prevent muscle strain and injury.

Stretching helps to prevent muscle strain and injury.

No matter the type of physical activity you enjoy, it’s important to remain injury-free so that you can enjoy exercising well into the golden years. Warm-ups and cool-downs with stretching should be a vital part of your exercise plan. If you’re having trouble recovering from a workout, it may be a sign that your body is being pushed too hard and needs a break. Acupuncture (a combination of traditional and sport-specific techniques) is one of the most effective treatments for injury.

Studies have shown that following physical activity, athletes are better able to digest and absorb a liquid meal (i.e. a protein shake) rather than a solid meal. More nutrients absorbed means better muscle-building, healing, & overall energy!

Studies have shown that following physical activity, athletes are better able to digest and absorb a liquid meal (i.e. a protein shake) rather than a solid meal. More nutrients absorbed means better muscle-building, healing, & overall energy!

Protein shakes after exercise is a great way of providing your body with nutrients required for building lean muscle and maintaining a boosted metabolism. Shakes are also incredibly versatile (experiment with the ingredients as you wish!), and you can have a different delicious drink every day. Remember to follow the basic formula of: protein (powder, nut butters) + complex carbs (fruit) + good fat (flax/coconut oil). Try using almond or rice milk since cow’s milk can increase inflammation in the body.

A post-workout shake can also help to heal injury. Try adding a handful of detoxifying and antioxidant-rich greens (spinach, kale, parsley, wheatgrass), or a tablespoon of anti-inflammatory herbs (ginger, turmeric).

Something as simple as a recovery protein shake can help keep your body healthy and injury-free to enjoy a full and active summer season. Try inventing your own “signature shake” and share the recipe with your exercise buddies!

January is “Resolution” Month

From “First Step Pain Relief & Wellness Inc.” Clinic in King City, ON…

Did you make New Year’s Resolutions for 2013?

Today's "The Day"! Carpe Diem!

Today’s “The Day”! Carpe Diem!

Book an appointment with the Naturopathic Doctor and learn how to stay on track with your goals!

 

February is “Heart Health” Month

From “First Step Pain Relief & Wellness Inc.” Clinic in King City, ON…

Remember that there are physical and emotional aspects to keeping a healthy heart

Promoting a healthy heart means focusing on both physical and mental-emotional health.

Promoting a healthy heart means focusing on both physical and mental-emotional health.

Physical – When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked?

Emotional – When was the last time you did something special for yourself?