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Free 15 Minute Consultation

Taking charge of your health is a big step!  And choosing who will help you on your journey is a big choice.  I believe there is a Naturopathic Doctor for everyone – maybe I am the one for you.  The best way to find out is to come for a free 15 minute meet and greet.  A chance for you to ask questions – and for me to understand your wants and needs.

Set yourself up for success and start with a free 15 minute meet and greet.  It might be the first step towards your optimal self.

free 15 minute naturopathic consult

For appointments please call Dr. Watson’s clinic at 416-260-6038, book online for the Integrative Health Institute, or email at drlisa@drlisawatson.com.

Naturopathic Medicine for Teens

No one will dispute the fact that the teen years can be a challenging time.  School work, part-time jobs, sports, friends, chores, preparing for college – all of these things and many others make the teen years a very busy and demanding time.  So how do teens cope when a health concern adds additional strain to an already overwhelming time?

Naturopathic medicine for mood in teensHealth Concerns Affecting Teenagers

Teenagers don’t have it easy when it comes to health!  For some people it is a time of peak health – lots of energy, physical fitness, and few concerns or worries.  But the majority of teens are coping with at least one health problem.

The teen years are a transition from childhood to adulthood and during this time teenagers can have health problems that normally affect either children or adults.  The teen years are also a time when many chronic illnesses first are diagnosed.

Some conditions that teenagers may be dealing with:

  • Acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions
  • Addiction – alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, other legal and illegal drugs
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive complaints – stomach pain, ulcers, nausea, constipation, diarrhea
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Hypothyroid and hyperthyroid
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Menstrual cycle disorders – PMS, heavy periods, irregular periods, endometriosis
  • Nutrient deficiency – from poor diet, vegan, vegetarian diets and dieting
  • Pain and injury – including sprains, strains and fractures
  • Personal growth and development – mental, emotional and spiritual change and maturity
  • Pregnancy and birth control use
  • Stress
  • Weight management issues

Naturopathic Medicine for Teenagers

Naturopath for teensNaturopathic Medicine is an ideal treatment option for teenagers.  With a focus on prevention and individualized treatments Naturopathic Doctors are able to listen to and understand the unique experiences and symptoms for each teen and tailor a treatment plan to their needs.

I first discovered Naturopathic Medicine when I was seventeen and had undiagnosed nausea daily for several months.  After a consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor I discovered the link between my stress levels and my digestive symptoms.  With a few nutritional supplements and some stress management techniques my symptoms were cured within a few short weeks.  My personal experience encouraged me to become a Naturopathic Doctor and to help other teenagers find an alternative to suffering with their health problems.

Being a Naturopathic Doctor enables me to help other teenagers heal through the gentle and natural therapies I use in my practice.  I place an emphasis on finding the root cause of the problem and correcting it with:

  • nutritional and dietary counselling
  • nutritional supplements
  • botanical (herbal) medicines
  • homeopathy
  • acupuncture
  • stress management
  • lifestyle counselling

If you are a teenager, or know a teenager, that could benefit from Naturopathic Medicine consider booking a free 15 minute consult to meet with me and discuss how we can work together to make your teen years healthy, naturally.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Nutrients to Avoid in Excess During Pregnancy

Vitamins and minerals are vital in supporting a healthy pregnancy.  However, some nutrients can cause problems when taking in excess amounts during pregnancy.  Make sure you are not over-doing it with these nutrients during pregnancy.

Vitamin A

Birth defects are associated with vitamin A intake over 10 000IU per day.  Birth defects associated with excess vitamin A include malformation of the urinary and genital tract, skull and facial bones and heart.

These defects occur within the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, so avoid consuming more than 5000IU of vitamin A if there is a chance you may become pregnant.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is safe during pregnancy, but consuming high levels during pregnancy may result in a rebound vitamin C deficiency in your baby following delivery.  Avoid taking more than 1000-4000mg daily to avoid this effect.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for proper bone and teeth development.  However, excess levels can lead to hypercalcemia which can cause placental calcification and fetal arterial stenosis.

From 20 weeks onward 1000-1200IU daily is recommended to promote optimal bone development of the skull and other bones.  Research shows that this amount also promotes optimal bone mass later in the child’s life.

Proper supplementation is especially important if the third trimester occurs during winter months when inadequate sunlight reaches Canada for skin production of vitamin D.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E can inhibit proper coagulation of the blood and should not be taken in high amounts close to delivery.  Avoid taking more than 800IU per day from week 36 onward to decrease the risk of excess bleeding during and after delivery.

Calciumalmonds are a source of calcium

Calcium is important for both mother’s and baby’s health during pregnancy.  Supplementation can help to prevent pregnancy-induced hypertension and pre-term labour.

However, excess amounts can increase the risk of kidney stones for the mother and can lead to hypercalcemia (excess calcium) of the fetus and placenta.  Avoid taking more than 1200IU daily.

Also avoid dolomite, bone meal and oyster-shell sources of calcium as these may be contaminated with lead.  Instead use professional quality supplements or consume more broccoli, almonds, dark green leafy vegetables, canned salmon (with bones), sesame seeds and enriched soy milk.

Pregnancy is a great time to learn more about nutrients and how they support our health (and the health of our babies).  Naturopathic Medicine is a perfect complement to a natural, healthy pregnancy.  Book a free 15 minute consultation with Dr. Lisa Watson to learn more about how Naturopathic Medicine can support you, your body, and your baby during pregnancy.

Organics 101

 

Organic foods – once available only in farmer’s markets, health foods stores and co-operatives are now readily available in most large grocery store chains.  If you haven’t yet made the change to eating organics, it is time you did.

Changing to eating organics doesn’t have to be challenging.  Understanding the value in eating an organic diet, and knowing which foods to always buy organic is a good place to start.  So read on to learn more about Organics 101.

4 Benefits of Eating Organic

1. Higher nutritional value

Conventional farming practices have resulted in declining levels of minerals in fruits and vegetables since the 1940s.  Combined with the common practices of early (pre-ripened) harvesting, longer storage, and increased processing of food crops, and it’s not surprising that we are getting fewer nutrients from our food than we were 70 years ago.

Organic fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of minerals, vitamin C, and antioxidants.  Higher levels of lycopene have been found in organic tomatoes, polyphenols in organic potatoes, flavonols in organic apples, and resveratrol in organic red wine.  Scientific reviews have estimated that organic produce tends to contain 10-50% higher phytonutrients than conventionally grown produce.

2.  Lower pesticide residues

One in three conventionally produced food products contains a variety of pesticide residues.  Consuming pesticide residues in food has been linked by Israeli researchers to headache, tremor, fatigue, depression, anxiety, poor memory, skin rashes, convulsions, nausea, indigestion and diarrhea.

3. Better for our children

Children’s immature and developing nervous system, immune system, organs, and detoxification processes, plus their larger intake of food per kilo of body weight, combine to make them more susceptible to pesticides and toxins than adults.

A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that children eating primarily organic diets had significantly lower levels of organophosphorous pesticides in their system than children eating conventional diets.  Other studies indicate that chronic exposure to organophosphorous pesticides – even at low levels – may affect neurological functioning, neurodevelopment, and growth in children.

“Dose estimates suggest that consumption of organic fruits, vegetables, and juice can reduce children’s exposure levels from above to below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current guidelines, thereby shifting exposures from a range of uncertain risk to a range of negligible risk” – Cynthia L. Curl, Richard A. Fenske, and Kai Elgethun.

4. Better for our environment

Pesticide contamination of groundwater, loss of topsoil and the high energy costs of conventional farming are all minimized in organic farming practices.

Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen”

Making the transition to eating organic can be simplified by following the guidelines provided by the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.  Available as a downloadable and printable pocket guide, their listing of foods to always consume organically (the “Dirty Dozen”) and those that are conventionally grown but have low pesticide residue (the “Clean Fifteen”) is a valuable aid as you make the change to organic eating.

The Dirty Dozen (always buy organic)

The Clean Fifteen (lowest in pesticides)

CeleryPeaches

Strawberries

Apples

Blueberries

Nectarines

Bell Peppers

Spinach

Kale

Cherries

Potatoes

Grapes (imported)

OnionsAvocado

Sweet corn

Pineapple

Mango

Sweet peas

Asparagus

Kiwi

Cabbage

Eggplant

Cantaloupe

Watermelon

Grapefruit

Sweet potato

Honeydew melon

Sources:

Environmental Health Perspectives ehponline.org, posted online Oct. 31, 2002, C.L. Curl, R.A. Fenske, and K. Elgethun, “Organophosphorus pesticide exposure of urban and suburban pre-school children with organic and conventional diets

Organic Trade Association http://www.ota.com/organic/benefits/nutrition.html

Environmental Working Group – 2010 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides http://www.foodnews.org/sneak/EWG-shoppers-guide.pdf

Matcha Shortbread Cookies

Matcha is powdered green tea.  It is very high in cancer-preventing antioxidants, relaxing L-theanine, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, K, chlorophyll and trace minerals.

Matcha Shortbread Cookies

Matcha cookiesIngredients:

2 cups of flour (use coconut flour for a gluten-free cookie)
1-2 tbsp organic matcha powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb unsalted grass-fed butter
1/2 cup organic cane sugar

Directions

Sift together flour, matcha, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Slowly add flour and matcha mixture to butter and sugar, until just combined.  Do not over-mix!

Gently roll out the dough on a floured surface.

If you are using cookie cutters, refrigerate dough for one hour so that it is less fragile.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake cookies at 325F for approximately 10 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the cookies.

Keep a close watch on them so that they don’t brown!

Pregnancy – Foods to Avoid

Every mother wants what is best for her baby.  And pregnancy is a great opportunity to start our babies on a healthy diet.

More foods can affect your health and your baby’s health than you might realize.  Understanding what foods to avoid during pregnancy is an important aspect of pregnancy nutrition.

Following these guidelines will help you make healthier choices for you and your baby.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Raw Meat: Uncooked seafood and rare or undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided due to risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella.

Deli Meat and Hot Dogs: Deli meats have been known to be contaminated with listeria, which can cause miscarriage. Listeria is able to cross the placenta and may infect the baby leading to infection or blood poisoning, which may be life-threatening. If you are pregnant and you are considering eating deli meats, make certain that you reheat the meat until it is steaming.

Fish – Mercury and PCBs: Fish can be a great source of protein, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.  The omega-3s in fish support the proper development of your baby’s brain, eyes, and nervous system.  Research suggests that complete avoidance of fish during pregnancy may contribute to poor verbal skills, behavioural problems, and other developmental issues during childhood.

However, fish that contain high levels of mercury must be avoided. Mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage.  Fish with long life spans tend to contain more mercury than smaller, younger fish.

Farm-raised fish should be avoided due to the significantly higher levels of PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls.  PCBs can disrupt the normal development of the endocrine (hormone) system.  In addition, farm-raised fish have less nutritional value than wild fish due to the restricted diet they consume on fish farms.

High quality fish oil supplements are rigorously tested for mercury and other contaminants and are safe during pregnancy.

Use the following chart to help guide your fish consumption during pregnancy.

Fish Consumption and Pregnancy

Safe Restricted Consumption

DANGEROUS

  • wild pacific salmon
  • farm-raised trout
  • farm-raised catfish
  • fish sticks
  • summer flounder
  • croaker
  • mid-Atlantic blue crab
  • haddock
  • canned tuna
  • mahi mahi
  • eastern oyster
  • blue crab from the Gulf of Mexico
  • lake whitefish
  • blue mussels
  • cod
  • pollock
  • shark
  • swordfish
  • sea bass
  • tilefish
  • tuna steaks
  • King mackerel
safe to consume during pregnancy limit to approximately one serving per week do not consume while pregnant

Smoked Seafood: Refrigerated, smoked seafood often labeled as lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky should be avoided because it could be contaminated with listeria. (These are safe to eat when they are in an ingredient in a meal that has been cooked, like a casserole.)

Raw Shellfish: The majority of seafood-borne illness is caused by undercooked shellfish, which include oysters, clams, and mussels. Cooking helps prevent some types of infection, but it does not prevent the algae-related infections that are associated with red tides. Raw shellfish pose a concern for everybody, and they should be avoided altogether during pregnancy.

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Oww… My Head Hurts – Determining Your Headache Type

Headaches are one of the most common health complaints.  Almost every person will experience a headache at some point during their life (imagine being one of the few who never gets a headache!)

The majority of headaches can be classified as vascular (migraine and cluster headaches), tension headaches or a mixture of the two.  Less frequent causes of headaches include trauma, dental pain, jaw disorders, neck disorders, sinus pain and tumours.

So, with so many different types of headaches, knowing what kind of headache you have is important for you to understand and will have a big impact on conventional and Naturopathic treatment of your headache.

The Most Common HeadachesTypes of headaches

The most common headache types seen in clinical practice are (from most to least common):

  • Tension Headache
  • Chronic Daily Headache
  • Migraine
  • Cluster Headache

Important Features to Know About Your Headache

When trying to determine what type of headache you have there are a number of features you should consider.

  1. Onset: Does the headache come on suddenly, or slowly over the course of several hours?
  2. Regularity: Does the headache start at the same time everyday?
  3. Laterality: Is the headache on one side, both sides, or everywhere?
  4. Location: Where is the pain the worst?  At the back of the head, top of the head, sides of the head, base of the neck, behind the eyes, or elsewhere?
  5. Pain characteristic: How would you describe the pain?  Dull, band-like, throbbing, pounding, excruciating?
  6. Associated symptoms: Are there any other symptoms associated with the headache?  Any muscle tension, blurred vision, nausea, sensitivity to light, need to move around?
  7. Aggravations: Have you found anything that makes the headache worse?
  8. Ameliorations: Have you found anything that makes the headache better?

Determining Your Headache Type

Taking your answers to the questions above you can match the type of headache that most closely matches the features of your headache.

Migraines

Onset Sudden, occasionally with an ‘aura’ preceding it (a sense that a headache is coming)
Regularity Not typically at the same time everyday, but exposure to triggers (such as sunlight, odours, fatigue or foods) can cause the migraine to occur with some regularity
Laterality One side, or both sides
Location Behind eyes, top of head, temples, sides of head
Pain Characteristic Throbbing, pounding
Associated symptoms Blurred visionLack of appetite, nausea, vomitingNeed for avoidance of light (photophobia) and sound (sonophobia)
Aggravations Light, noise, odours
Ameliorations Ergotamine drugsCaffeine (for some people)

.

Cluster Headaches

Onset Sudden
Regularity Occur in ‘clusters’ – regularly for several weeks or months usually followed by a time with no headaches
Laterality One sided
Location Behind the eyes, at the temples
Pain Characteristic Excruciating, throbbing
Associated symptoms Inability to lie still
Aggravations Very individual – some people have seasonal aggravations (worse in Spring) or time aggravations (worse with no sleep) or foods (alcohol, gluten, etc.)
Ameliorations Rocking, constant movement

.

Tension Headaches

Onset Slowly over the course of hours
Regularity Can be daily or during times of stress
Laterality Depends on location of muscle tension
Location Starts at base of skull or forehead and spreads over the entire head
Pain Characteristic Steady, constant, dull, pressure-sensation
Associated symptoms Muscle tension
Aggravations Stress, tight muscles
Ameliorations Muscle relaxation, massage, stretching

.

Chronic Daily Headaches

Onset Can be migraine-type or tension-type
Regularity Daily
Laterality Depends on type (migraine-type or tension-type)
Location Depends on type (migraine-type or tension-type)
Pain Characteristic Depends on type (migraine-type or tension-type)
Associated symptoms Depends on type (migraine-type or tension-type)
Aggravations Depends on type (migraine-type or tension-type)
Ameliorations Depends on type (migraine-type or tension-type)

 

What To Do Now?

So now that you have an idea of what kind of headache you have, where do you go from here?  The answer to that is more difficult.  Each type of headache has a different cause and a different treatment.  And each headache sufferer will respond to different interventions.  One person may need additional nutritional support, another person may need relaxation exercises and regular massage therapy, another may respond best to botanical medicine.

This is where Naturopathic Medicine can be extremely helpful for headache sufferers.  Each person is treated as an individual.  Your Naturopathic Doctor will help you determine the root cause of your headaches, and treat accordingly.  A Naturopath will figure out why you have headaches and remove that imbalance, helping you strive for a headache-free life.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Matcha – Super’powdered’ Green Tea

The tea shop can be a daunting place!  Sencha, oolong, pu-erh, ceylon, Darjeeling, matcha – exotic words that can intimidate or inspire new and experienced tea drinkers alike.

One type of tea stands out from the crowd – a jade-green powder that looks out of place amongst the leafy green, black and white teas.  This is matcha –  Japanese for “powdered tea”.

What is matcha?

Matcha is a special kind of green tea.  It is the tea prepared in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies (Chanoyu) and has been used by Zen monks during meditation for over 800 years.  Matcha is also unique because it is the only green tea where the leaves are powdered and drank – so that you are actually consuming the whole leaf.

Why drink matcha?  The many health benefits of matcha.

Matcha, green tea powder, in a chawan vessel with a chasen. Shallow dof.Because matcha is a powdered green tea you get all the benefits of green tea, but to a higher degree.  Drinking one cup of matcha tea gives you the equivalent of ten cups of green tea in terms of antioxidant and health-promoting benefits.

Matcha is also grown in a special way.  The earliest spring leaves are covered for two to three weeks (‘shade grown’) which causes health-promoting nutrients to concentrate in the leaf of the tea plant.  Shade growing also increases the amount of the amino acid L-theanine in the tea leaf.

The L-theanine in matcha relaxes the brain, muscles and blood vessels.  It can help lower blood pressure, enhances mood and promotes a sense of wellness by enhancing alpha waves in the brain (associated with a feeling of happiness, relaxation, and alertness) and increasing dopamine (and possibly serotonin) production – two of the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals.

The combination of L-theanine and caffeine (matcha does contain caffeine, but it has less caffeine than other green and black teas) gives matcha the unique ability to result in a “calm alertness” or what has been termed “zest and zen” by matcha aficionados.  The caffeine gives an sense of alertness while the L-theanine results in relaxation and a sense of well-being.

Matcha is also an antioxidant powerhouse.  The ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity – a measure of the antioxidant capacity of a food) rating of matcha is 1348 units/g, compared to 105 units/g for pomegranates and 91 units/g for blueberries. A single cup of matcha contains 70 times the antioxidants of a cup of orange juice and nine times the beta carotene of two cups of spinach.  The antioxidants in matcha – catechin polyphenols – offer protection against many kinds of cancer, help prevent heart disease, reduce cholesterol and can slow the aging process.  The most important and abundant polyphenol in matcha is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) – the same polyphenol found in all green teas.  Sixty percent of the catechin content in matcha is EGCG.

Matcha also contains trace minerals and vitamins (A, B-complex, C, E, and K), chlorophyll, and is a source of dietary fiber (remember – you’re drinking the whole leaf in a powdered form) and has very few calories

Matcha has many positive impacts on diseases:

  • it may lower your risk of cancer – the antioxidants in matcha (and other green teas) protect against breast, skin, lung, stomach, prostate, ovarian, and colon cancers
  • it prevents heart disease – the flavonoids in tea help prevent the arterial blockage that leads to heart attack and strokes
  • it supports joint health – green tea reduces inflammation and prevents cartilage breakdown – both of which can contribute to improved joint mobility

How to make matcha

Making a cup of matcha is simple and can be a wonderful ritual in the morning or at any time of the day.

  1. Use a tea bowl (or wide mouthed mug).  Place the bamboo tea whisk (a chawan – available wherever you buy matcha tea) into the tea bowl and pour some warm water in to soften the whisk and warm the bowl.  Pour out the water and dry the bowl.
  2. Using a bamboo scoop (chashaku) place three scoops of matcha into the bowl (equivalent to approximately ½ to 1 tsp of matcha)
  3. Pour one quarter of a cup of hot, but not boiling (85 to 90°C) water over the matcha
  4. Whisk the mixture with the bamboo whisk to completely disperse the matcha.  This should take between 20 to 30 seconds (less time is needed if the matcha is sifted prior to use)
  5. Drink the matcha

Tips:

  • sift matcha prior to use to ensure a nice frothy cup of tea
  • store matcha in the freezer to maintain freshness
  • matcha can be made thick (Koicha) or thin (Usucha) by altering the amounts of matcha and water
  • a matcha latte can be made by adding prepared matcha tea to 3/4 cup of steamed soy milk (or other milks)
  • matcha can be used in baking – cookies, cupcakes, ice creams, and more can all be made with matcha

I hope you are all inspired to give matcha tea a try.  It is truly a “superpowdered” green tea.  Full of health-promoting benefits and gives you an immediate sense of calm alertness.  It is the favourite part of my morning ritual.  I encourage you to incorporate it into your morning, or any time you want a healthy boost to your day.

Nutritional Profile of Matcha Tea

Nutrient Per 1g Matcha
Total Catechins 105mg
EGCg 61 mg
Total Amino Acids 34 mg
L-theanine 14.26 mg
Caffeine 35mg
Fiber 318mg
Carbs 447mg
Vitamin C 1.75mg
Vitamin A 291 units
Potassium 26.6mg
Calories 3

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Sources and Further Reading

ORAC Analysis on Ceremonial Matcha Green Tea ME17916 Lot#D1805: Brunswick Laboratories

G Cao, SL Booth, JA Sadowski, and RL Prior.  Increases in human plasma antioxidant capacity after consumption of controlled diets high in fruit and vegetables .  Am J Clin Nutr 1998 68: 1081-1087.

Dr. Weil, MD.  Matcha Tea

Matcha Source, Matcha Tea Health Benefits

Health Benefits of Green Tea

Spring Cleanse – 12 Simple Tips for Cleansing Your Body and Mind

Spring Cleansing Can Be Simple

Spring.  Just hearing that word makes me smile.  It’s my favourite time of year.  It’s a time when we throw open our windows and let the sunshine and fresh air into our homes.  It’s the time when we spring clean our homes, and we should do the same for our bodies.

A spring cleanse can be a wonderful way to clean up our diets and feel as good on the inside as Spring feels outside.

There are many benefits to a spring cleanse: increased energy, better digestion, fewer allergy symptoms, improved immune system function, better sleep, better concentration, healthier skin, healthy weight and many, many more.

Spring cleansing doesn’t have to be hard.  Join me as I do my annual Spring cleanse (I cleanse for the entire month of April every year!)  I want to share with you 12 Simple Tips for Spring Cleansing so that you too can clean up your body without strict regimes or harsh restrictions.

1. Drink water

Our bodies need at least 8 to 10 glasses of water (or more!) daily to help flush out toxins.  Adding the juice of one organic lemon to a glass of water can add flavour, antioxidants, anti-cancer compounds and support the detoxifying actions of our kidneys, liver, and colon.

lime2. Eat clean

Eating clean is a simple strategy for a healthy diet.  Eliminate all the ‘trash’ foods – fried foods, sugary foods and all processed, pre-prepared, and packaged foods.  Eat whole foods – a general guideline is if the food looks like it does in nature, you can have it!

3. If you can’t read it, you shouldn’t eat it!

Read the labels – even on the so-called ‘healthy’ foods.  If the ingredient list is long, or contains words that you can’t pronounce, then you probably shouldn’t eat it.  Chemicals and food preservatives often have long, complicated names and should be avoided to lower our body’s burden of toxic chemicals.

4. Eliminate or cut back on meat and dairy products.

Meat and dairy over-consumption are responsible for a number of health conditions affecting North Americans (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity).  Meat puts a strain on your kidneys and intestines and requires a lot of energy to digest.  Dairy promotes mucus formation and is a common food allergy.   Give your body a break and eliminate or cut back on these foods.

5. Eat a rainbow.

Eat as many different colours of fruits and vegetables as possible each day.  This will make sure your body is getting a diverse selection of vitamins and minerals.  Aim to make three-quarters of each meal vegetables.

6. Discover whole grains.

Whole grains is NOT the same as ‘whole grain bread’.  Whole grains are foods like brown rice, quinoa, millet, kamut and amaranth.  If you haven’t tried these foods – you should!  They are simple to prepare and delicious.  Whole Foods Markets have a great variety of whole grain recipes on their website.  Whole grains are high in fiber, B vitamins and when combined with beans provide a complete meat-free protein.

Beans are a healthy carbohydrate7. Include 1/2 cup of legumes (beans) in your diet every day.

Beans are delicious, filling and a great source of fiber and nutrients.  Beans also help balance your blood sugar and can promote healthy weight maintenance and enhance energy levels.

8. Choose healthy snacks and enjoy them frequently.

Eating frequently throughout the day helps to stabilize your blood sugar and maintain your energy throughout the day.  Healthy snacks include: raw nuts (like almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts), almond butter on celery sticks, carrot sticks and hummus, berry smoothies with almond milk, frozen or fresh grapes, and dates with pecans.

9. Do alternating showers every morning.

Most people choose to shower in water that is much too hot.  Choose a temperature that is warm rather than hot to decrease dehydration.  At the end of the shower alternate between hot water (hot enough to turn your skin pink – but not so hot that it burns) for one minute and cold water (cold but bearable) for 20 seconds.  Repeat this sequence two or three times to encourage healthy blood and lymph circulation and promote detoxification.

10. Take deep, cleansing breaths three times per day.

The lungs are an important organ of elimination that are often overlooked during cleanses.  Spend one minute three times per day taking in five deep, cleansing, slow breaths.

11. Drink tea (instead of coffee).

As part of my cleanse I am drinking a cup of matcha daily.  Matcha is a green tea full of antioxidants and anti-cancer compounds.  You could also drink regular green tea or a botanical tea such as dandelion root teawhich supports the liver in it’s important detoxifying role.

Exercise for your mind and body

12. Go outside and exercise.

Exercise improves circulation, energy levels, sleep quality and encourages detoxification through the skin and lungs.  Exercising in the fresh air brings clean fresh oxygen to your blood and revitalizes your body, mind, and spirit.

Doing a spring cleanse does not have to be difficult.  I look forward each year to my spring cleanse.  It reminds me how good it feels to prepare healthy food for myself and my family.  It refreshes my mind, body and spirit and makes me feel happy, energized and healthy.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Getting to the Root of Female Hair Loss

Hair loss is a condition affecting many adults – both men and women.  Women are more likely to question why they are experiencing hair loss and may be more negatively affected by the hair loss than men.  Women with hair loss report lower self esteem and often have higher levels of fear, stress, depression and anxiety.

Conventional medicine is often dismissive of female hair loss.  The hair loss is most often not severe alopecia (the medical term for hair loss) and it is often diffuse (scattered over the scalp).

So why are women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s experiencing hair loss?  There are a number of potential causes.  By addressing the root cause of the hair loss, many women are able to stop the hair loss and in some instances, reverse it.

Aging

Unfortunately, hair loss is a normal part of aging.  By the age of 40, the rate of hair growth slows down.  New hairs are not replaced as quickly as old ones are lost.  This age-related hair loss affects both men and women.  In men the hair loss can be more prominent due to the effects of androgens (male sex hormones – such as testosterone).

Androgens

Androgens can contribute to hair loss in women just like in men.  It has been known since the time of Hippocrates that male sex hormones (androgens) contribute to hair loss.  This androgen-related hair loss is very common in women.  A report published in the Clinical Dermatology journal states that it affects approximately 30% of women before age 50.   When it occurs in women it is often referred to as “female pattern hair loss”.

There are a number of reasons why a woman may be affected by androgen-related hair loss.  Genetics, excess androgens, insulin resistance, diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and low antioxidant status are all associated with female pattern hair loss.

Drug-Induced Hair Loss

A long list of pharmaceutical drugs can cause hair loss.  Some of the most common ones are:

  • Medications_hair loss
    Many common medications can contribute to female hair loss

    Antibiotics

  • Anticoagulants (Coumadin, heparin)
  • Antidepressants (Prozac, lithium)
  • Antiepileptics (Valproic acid, Dilantin)
  • Cardiovascular drugs (ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers)
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Endocrine drugs (Clomid, danazol)
  • Gout medications (Colchicine, allopurinol)
  • Lipid-lowering drugs
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • Ulcer medications (Zantac, tagamet)

When possible, natural alternatives to these drugs should be considered if hair loss is occurring.

Nutritional Deficiencies

A deficiency of almost any essential nutrient can lead to hair loss.  A Naturopathic Doctor can assess your overall nutrient status, but there are a few signs you can look for at home.

Zinc – white lines on the nail can indicate poor wound healing, a common sign of low zinc levels.

Vitamin A – bumps on the back of the arms (called hyperkeratosis) is a common sign of vitamin A deficiency.

Essential Fatty Acids dry skin on the elbows and other parts of the body is a common sign of low essential fatty acid levels.

Another nutrient deficiencies that may lead to hair loss is iron.  A simple blood test is needed to determine iron levels.  Your Naturopathic Doctor can help you interpret this test – many labs have normal ranges that include low iron levels that should be corrected with iron supplements.

If you are deficient in any of these nutrients a test of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) should be considered to determine if you are not absorbing nutrients properly from your diet.

Hypothyroidism

Hair loss is one of the first features noticed by most women with hypothyroidism.  10 to 20% of the adult population has mild to severe hypothyroidism.  A blood test can be done to determine if hypothyroidism is causing your female hair loss.

Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance

Gluten Free LogoCeliac disease is a medical condition where gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye grains) damages the small intestines and causes systemic symptoms by cross-reacting antibodies that attack various cells in the body, including hair follicles.  The hair loss with celiac disease is often complete – a condition known as alopecia areata.

In people with gluten intolerance, the condition may manifest as hair loss (not complete) rather than digestive symptoms (which are a predominant feature of celiac disease).

Consider being tested for celiac disease if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Bulk, pale, frothy, foul-smelling bowel movements
  • Weight loss
  • Signs of multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies

A gluten-free diet will virtually eliminate symptoms in people with celiac disease.  A trial elimination of all gluten containing foods is recommended for anyone with hair loss to determine if gluten sensitivity is a cause.

Treatment of Hair Loss in Women

One of the central philosophies of Naturopathic Medicine is to treat the cause.  The treatment for female hair loss depends on the underlying cause of the hair loss.

hormone balance_feet
Hormone balance, addressing nutrient deficiencies and addressing the cause will improve hair loss in women.

Treatment of Androgen-Related Hair Loss in Women

  • Address underlying causes of androgen excess
  • Improve blood glucose regulation – low glycemic index diet, blood glucose normalizing supplements (such as glucomannan, fenugreek, or bitter melon), and regular exercise
  • Increase antioxidant intake – vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, green tea
  • Saw palmetto extract – reduces the formation of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) a more potent form of testosterone that is often elevated in male and female pattern hair loss.  Works in a similar manner to Propecia (finasteride) – a prescription drug often used in female hair loss.

Treatment of Nutrient Deficiency-Related Hair Loss in Women

  • Test hydrochloric acid levels to ensure nutrients from food are being absorbed and supplement when necessary
  • A high-potency multivitamin and mineral formula (with iron when indicated)
  • Flaxseed or fish oil daily as a source of essential omega-3 fatty acids

Hair loss in women is a concern that should be taken seriously.  Although some hair loss naturally occurs with aging there may be another underlying cause of hair loss.  Consult with your Naturopathic Doctor if hair loss is a concern for you.  There is help available.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.