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Spearmint Tea for PCOS

Hormone imbalances are a characteristic feature of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – you can read more about the many imbalances in my article Understanding PCOS. But research has shown that a simple treatment may help to balance one of the most common hormone imbalances in PCOS – elevated testosterone.

Researchers have found that drinking spearmint tea, two cups per day over a 30 day period decreased free and total testosterone levels compared to a group consuming a different placebo herbal tea. More importantly, the women in this study self-reported improvements in hirsutism (abnormal hair growth patterns).

This finding is remarkable for a number of reasons. First – improvements in testosterone levels can lead to more regular ovulation in women with PCOS and decrease symptoms associated with elevated testosterone (such as acne). Second – a decrease in hirsutism after just 30 days of study is a result many women with PCOS would be pleased to experience. A longer duration of spearmint tea use would likely result in more significant improvements in abnormal hair growth due to time needed to see changes in hair follicle response to androgen hormones.

Spearmint tea is also delicious, inexpensive and easy for most women to incorporate into their daily routines. Discuss with your Naturopathic Doctor whether spearmint tea might be a useful addition to your PCOS treatment plan!

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.

Reference:

Grant P. Spearmint herbal tea has significant anti-androgen effects in polycystic ovarian syndrome. A randomized controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2010 Feb;24(2):186-8.

 

 

The Uterine Fibroid Diet

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison” ~ Ann Wigmore

Below are listed some suggestions for ways food can be your medicine in the treatment of uterine fibroids. These recommendations will optimize nutrient levels, support detoxification and balance estrogen levels – all important treatment goals for improving health and managing the symptoms of uterine fibroids.

Fibroid Diet: Foods to Avoid

  1. Alcohol

Alcohol can alter estrogen metabolismAlcohol can wreak havoc on hormone balance. Consuming even moderate levels of alcohol can increase circulating estrogen levels in the body, impacting the progression of uterine fibroids and increasing the risk of endometrial cancer. Alcohol also interferes with the body’s ability to absorb and utilize B vitamins, nutrients that are essential for proper estrogen detoxification in the liver. Avoid alcohol or drink only small amounts infrequently.

  1. Refined sugar

Sugar is another culprit that can increase estrogen levels. Consumption of sugar in the form of fruit is fine, but eliminating all sources of refined sugars can help to improve hormone balance.

  1. Saturated fats

A diet high in saturated fats is associated with high circulating blood estrogen levels. Found predominantly in dairy products (cream, cheese, butter, ghee), fatty meats (beef, pork), processed and fried foods.   Limit or eliminate these foods from your diet and instead choose healthy polyunsaturated fats from olive oil, flaxseed oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

  1. Avoid the use of plastic

Plastics are an abundant source of hormone disrupting chemicals. These chemicals have similar molecular structures to estrogen, and are able to bind to estrogen receptors resulting in an increased estrogen effect in the body. To minimize the risk avoid using plastic food storage containers and never heat food in a plastic container.

Fibroid Diet: Foods to Enjoy

  1. Increase dietary fiberHealthy whole grains

    A diet low in fiber is associated with elevated estrogen levels, which has been demonstrated to increase the risk of endometrial cancer. A diet high in fiber also helps to improve elimination of estrogen by encouraging healthy and regular bowel movements.
    Focus on healthy whole-food based fibers: fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limit processed and refined grains (breads, crackers, muffins, etc.)

  1. Consume whole grains

Whole grains are a rich source of fiber and one of the best sources for B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for healthy detoxification of hormones, including estrogen.
Choose whole grains that retain the entire grain: brown rice, wild rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, rye, amaranth

  1. Eat tomatoes and an abundance of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants and fiber. Lycopene, a compound found in yellow, orange and fruits and vegetables (especially tomatoes) has been shown to have potential in decreasing the size of uterine fibroids.
Cooked and canned tomato sauces are the richest sources of lycopene. Consume 6-10 servings of whole fruit and vegetables per day.

  1. Cabbage family vegetablesTomatoes on the vine

The Brassica (cabbage) family of vegetables support detoxification and encourage a healthy estrogen balance by favouring production of the less active form of estrogen. Consume broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, kohl rabi and cauliflower regularly to reap these benefits.

  1. Soy and legumes

A diet rich in soy and vegetarian proteins like legumes has been shown to reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. Soy acts as an estrogen modulator, decreasing the action of high circulating estrogen. Choose organic, non-GMO soy products, like miso, tempeh, tofu and edamame and have one serving per day. Also increase other legumes such as beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils. 

  1. Flaxseed

The lignans found in flaxseed help to regulate estrogen levels and have been found in studies to have promise in decreasing the risk of cancer. One to two tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day will also provide a rich source of fiber and omega 3 fatty acids.

  1. Vegetarian diet

Women consuming a vegetarian diet have higher rates of estrogen detoxification and elimination. Vegetarian diets are rich in beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Eating a vegetarian diet even 60% of the time can make a big difference for hormone balance. 

  1. Soy is a vegetarian protein and source of ironIron rich foods

    Iron deficiency anemia is a common concern for women with fibroids. In a terrible catch-22, iron deficiency can make heavy menstrual bleeding associated with fibroids worse, leading to worsening iron deficiency. A supplement may be needed for some women, but consuming a diet rich in iron can be very important for women with uterine fibroids. Rich sources of iron include lentils, beans, soy, pumpkin seeds, nuts, raisins, fortified cereals, chicken, beef, turkey, oysters, shrimp and clams.

  1. Green tea

    One of the best foods for uterine fibroids is actually a beverage. Green tea is a rich source of polyphenols, especially epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). These polyphenols have been shown to be protective against cancer, help to balance hormone levels, and promote detoxification. In one study green tea extract was found to decrease the size of uterine fibroids, improve the quality of life and improve iron deficiency associated with uterine fibroids. Drinking 2-3 cups per day is a great choice for all women with fibroids.

Diet is one of the best ways to support your body when you have uterine fibroids.  Your Naturopathic Doctor can also give you guidance on how to decrease pain, prevent progression of fibroids and decrease excessive bleeding during your periods.  Contact a naturopath today and start yourself on a journey of optimal health.

Selected References

Hudson, Tori. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.

Roshdy E, et al. Int J Womens Health. 2013;5:477-486.

 

25 Uses for Tea

Obviously my favourite use for tea is as a delicious health-promoting beverage, but I love finding new ways to incorporate tea into my life.  I scoured the internet to find other uses for tea – either loose tea leaves, new or used tea bags.  I was amazed at the versatility of tea – just another reason to love it!

Around the house

1. Deodorize fridges: Place loose black tea leaves or used tea bags in the fridge to absorb odours.

2. Spice up your lingerie: Place loose herbal tea leaves in a muslin bag (or use a new tea bag – try chai or another spicy blend) and place in your lingerie drawer to add a subtle spice to your unmentionables.

3. Clear out kitty litter odours: Used tea leaves can help deodorize kitty litter boxes.  Dry out used green tea leaves and mix into the litter.

4. Clean carpets: Sprinkle dry, used green tea, mint, vanilla or spiced tea leaves onto dirty or musty carpets.  Leave in place for 10-15 minutes, then vacuum up.  Mint and other herbal teas leave a nice fresh scent without the chemical residue of carpet cleaners.

5. Clean surfaces: A number of different surfaces can be cleaned with tea.  Mirrors, windows and white boards are easily cleaned with a cool tea solution (or simply wipe the surface with a cool, wet green tea bag).

6. Polish wood furniture: Brewed black or green tea (both have a high tannin content) can help clean and shine wood furniture.  Dip a soft cloth in a small amount of cooled brewed tea (freshly brewed and cooled tea works best) and use to wipe down tables, chairs and other wood furniture.

7. Tenderize meat: A great substitute for meat tenderizer, place 4 tablespoons of black tea leaves in 3 cups of warm water and steep for 5 minutes.  Strain the leaves and place meat in tea solution before cooking.  Works best for pot roast or other oven-baked meat.

8. Flavour foods: Place tea in an infuser and drop in rice while cooking for tea-infused flavour (try making a chai-spice brown rice then using it to make a decadent oven-baked rice pudding!)

Body Care

9. Soothe tired eyes: Place brewed chamomile, black or green tea bags (let them cool until they are warm, but not hot to the touch) over tired eyes for 5-15 minutes. This can reduce puffiness and hydrate the skin around the eyes.

10. Soothe pain of pinkeye: Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) can be quite painful.  Use a warm, wet tea bag (try chamomile, Rooibos, green or black tea) as a compress to soothe the itching and pain of pinkeye.

11. Soothe a sunburn: If you don’t have any aloe around, you can use wet tea bags to soothe sunburn and other minor burns.  Be sure to cool the teabag before applying it to burnt skin.  If you are burnt all over, take a bath in tea infused water.

12. Soothe razor burn: Apply a warm wet black or green tea bag to skin irritated by razor burn.  The tea will soothe the irritation and calm the redness.

13. Soothe a lost tooth: When your child looses a tooth, soak a tea bag in cool water and place it on the site to stop bleeding and reduce the pain.  (Decaffeinated black tea bags or peppermint tea are a good choice if doing this for a child!)

14. Condition dry hair: If you have dry hair, try a tea rinse.  Brew a strong black or green tea, apply to hair and allow to dry.  Rinse with water once hair is dry.  Will leave hair softer and with more shine.

15. Cleanse face and body: Tea is a rich source of antioxidants and some people claim that it can be used to protect and beautify the skin.  Instead of using water, consider washing your face with green tea (said to help clear acne) or taking a bath in green tea infused water.

16. Resolve foot odour: Soak your feet in strong tea for 20 minutes daily to reduce foot odour.  A mixture of black and peppermint teas is particularly effective for this purpose – the tannins in the black tea will decrease sweating and eliminate odour causing bacteria, while the peppermint is cooling, refreshing and adds a pleasant fragrance.

17. Dry poison ivy rash: A strongly brewed black tea can be used to help dry a weepy poison ivy rash.  Simply dip a cotton ball into the tea, dab it onto the rash and allow to air-dry.  Repeat as needed.

Garden

18. Fertilize roses: Roses appreciate the acidic nature of tea (especially the tannic acid).  Spread used black or green tea leaves around rosebushes, then add mulch and water.

19. Feed houseplants: Use cold brewed tea once per week instead of water to feed ferns and other houseplants that thrive in an acidic soil (most plants that bloom).  See here for a list of acid-loving houseplants.

20. Encourage compost: Add strong tea to a compost bin (also put your used tea leaves in the compost!) to speed up the decomposition process and encourage the growth of friendly bacteria.

Other

21. Freshen up your car: Place loose lavender, chamomile or other soothing herbal teas in a bag under the seat to fight odours (and fight road rage!)

22. Dye paper and fabrics: Green and black teas can be used to dye fabric and paper to give it an antique appearance.

23. Paint with tea: Experiment with tea as paint or to accent black and white sketches for a weathered look.

24. Tell the future: Reading tea leaves is an ancient art that can be entertaining and enlightening.

25. Improve sleep: Make a tea leaf pillow.  Use dry loose tea leaves (brewed or unbrewed) and fill a small pillow for your bed.  Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners suggest using green tea so that you will wake ‘clear headed and fast thinking’.  Herbalists suggest using chamomile, lavender, or passionflower to calm the mind and relax the body for a more restful sleep.

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.

 

 

Natural First Aid Kit – Burning Man Edition

As one of my RMT friends prepares to embark on her yearly journey to Burning Man she asked if I could prepare a list of natural first aid supplies to support her during her time in the Nevada desert.  This is that list – supplies for general first aid, for digestive health, headaches and more.

What is Burning Man?

Once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever.  If you are interested in learning more about Burning Man, check out the website at http://www.burningman.com/

In addition to your conventional first aid supplies (bandages, alcohol, gauze, tweezers, etc.) I recommend bringing the following items to make your week in the desert easier and more enjoyable.

Bumps, Bruises and Blisters

Arnica 30C – a homeopathic remedy for all bumps and bruises.  Safe for all ages.  Speeds healing and decreases pain.

Arnica gel – a topical version of the arnica homeopathic.  Arnica has anti-inflammatory and circulation-stimulating properties.  Apply directly to sore muscles, sprains, strains, bumps and bruises to speed healing and decrease pain.  Do not apply to broken skin.

Witch hazel – apply witch hazel directly to a blister to dry it out, then cover with a bandage.  Once the blister is dry, apply calendula cream to speed healing.

Cuts and Scrapes

Calendula cream – calendula (Calendula officinalis) is marigold flowers.  An herb with astringent, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties.  Apply to cuts and scrapes (not to open wounds) to prevent infection and speed healing.  I recommend Weleda’s Calendula Diaper Care cream – a thick cream with a high calendula content.  Do not use if you have a ragweed allergy.

Hypericum 30C – a homeopathic remedy for deeper cuts with stinging nerve pain.  Use for puncture wounds, deep cuts or any time you have sharp shooting pain.

Tea tree oil – a broad spectrum antimicrobial that can be used as an antiseptic for cuts and scrapes as well as for acne, fungal infections, and athlete’s foot.  Can also be inhaled for sore throat (a common concern in the desert!)  Apply a 10% tea tree oil directly to wounds to prevent bacterial or fungal infections.  Apply a few drops to a handkerchief or bandana and inhale deeply two to three times per day to treat sore throat.  Do not take internally.

Sunburn

Aloe vera gel – cooling and healing, aloe vera gel soothes the inflammation of sunburn, speeds healing and decreases the severity of peeling after sunburn.  Of course, sunscreen should always be used while in the dessert and reapplied frequently.  Choose a safe sunscreen from www.ewg.org.

Glonoinum 30C – a homeopathic remedy for sunburn, sunstroke and headaches from sun exposure.

MediHoney Derma Cream – a medical grade honey for topical burns from fire hoops, fire dancing and other fires! Safe on all burns.  Available at www.integrativehealthinstitute.ca

Digestion

Ginger tea or ginger Altoids – best for nausea, motion sickness or indigestion.  Drink ginger tea hot or cold or suck on ginger Altoids for fast relief.

Peppermint tea, peppermint Altoids and Enteric Coated Peppermint Oil (ECPO) – peppermint is soothing to the digestive tract and is very effective at relieving gas pains or indigestion.  Use peppermint tea or peppermint Altoids for general indigestion or take ECPO to relief gas pains.

Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) – used for heartburn.  Chew one or two tablets as needed or 20 minutes before meals.

Licorice tea – soothing for a sore throat – especially dry and scratchy sore throats.  Licorice tea contains mucilaginous compounds that soothe and heal the inflamed mucous membranes of the throat.

Nux vomica 30C – a homeopathic remedy for over-indulgence.  Take for nausea, vomiting, headaches or other symptoms of hangover.  Remember to remain well hydrated if you are indulging in alcohol or other recreational substances.

Milk thistle tea – milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a plant best known for it’s liver supportive and detoxification properties.  Drink hot or cold to support your liver if you are planning on over-indulging during your time in the desert.

B vitamin complex – in addition to vitamin C, B vitamins are depleted by consuming alcohol and contribute to hangovers.  Take a B vitamin daily, with plenty of water.

Headaches

Lavender oil – a multi-purpose essential oil, lavender is analgesic (decreases pain), anti-spasmodic, and mildly sedative.  For headaches, apply lavender essential oil to the temples and rub in gently.  Apply to sore muscles to relief muscle spasms.  Place a few drops on your pillow to fight insomnia.  Do not ingest.

Dehydration

Coconut water – dehydration and electrolyte loss are major concerns for anyone planning to spend a week in the hot Nevada desert.  In addition to drinking abundant water, coconut water contains a high concentration of potassium, minerals and antioxidants.  It is ‘isotonic’ – meaning it has the same level of electrolyte balance as we have in our bodies.  It is delicious and will rehydrate faster than water.

Emergen-C – an easily absorbed vitamin C supplement that can be added to water.  Provides 1g of vitamin C, electrolytes, 24 nutrients and 7 B-vitamins.  Comes in small, easy to carry packets.

Mood

Bach Rescue Remedy – you never know when anxiety, frustration, fear or other bad moods are going to strike.  Rescue Remedy is a blend of flower essences that calm the mind, ease stressful transitions (like the long lines to get into Burning Man), and provide relief from stress or emotional fatigue.

Chamomile tea – calms the mind and relaxes the body.  Drink hot or cold.  Safe for children.  Can also relieve indigestion.  Apply a warm chamomile tea bag over a bruise, black eye, insect bite or other irritation to soothe and decrease pain and swelling.

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.

 

Tea and Iron Deficiency

Tea (Camellia sinensis) is one of the most commonly consumed drinks on the planet and is highly respected for its many health promoting properties.  To name a few, tea is:

  • antioxidant
  • anti-inflammatory
  • probiotic (promotes healthy intestinal bacteria)
  • antimicrobial – antiviral, antibacterial and anti-protozoal
  • anti-mutagenic
  • anti-carcinogenic

However, tea can have a significant negative impact on our health as well.   Green tea, black tea, and some herbal teas (such as peppermint) can contribute to iron deficiency. The polyphenols in tea (the same compounds that give tea – especially green tea – many of its health promoting properties) bind to iron and prevent the body from absorbing it.

When tea is consumed at the same time as iron-rich foods the absorption of iron is decreased by as much as 26%.  This impact on absorption is only a concern with non-heme iron, or plant based iron and is not seen with heme-iron (animal-based iron.)  This leaves vegans and vegetarians at greatest risk for the negative effects of this interaction.

In order to prevent iron deficiency it is recommended that green and black teas – including iced teas, not be consumed with a meal and that individuals at risk for iron deficiency (adolescents, pregnant women, vegetarians and vegans, menstruating women, and the elderly) be aware of the potential impact of tea on their iron status.

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 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!

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.

Green Eats – Ten Top Green Foods

As I look out my clinic window today I am greeted by the sight of green-clad Torontonians enjoying this uncharacteristically warm St. Patrick’s Day.

On this St. Patrick’s Day I encourage you to not only reach into your closet for green clothes but into your fridge for green foods.

Top Ten Green Foods

1. Asparagus

Spring is nearly here and that means fresh, local asparagus will soon be in stores.  Asparagus is high in vitamins, A, C and K and is one of the highest food sources of folate – a nutrient essential for heart health and reproduction.  Asparagus is also a natural diuretic and contains inulin – a fiber that promotes healthy digestive function.

2. Avocados

Avocados are another food that are abundant in the Spring time.  Avocados contain oleic acid – a monounsaturated fat that can help lower cholesterol and has recently been shown to offer protection against the development of breast cancer.  Avocados are also a good source of vitamin K, fiber, potassium and folate.

Avocados have the amazing ability of helping your body absorb carotenoids (antioxidant nutrients in foods – known for giving fruits and vegetables their yellow and orange colour) from other vegetables.  So add an avocado to your next salad to make sure you are getting the most from your foods!

3. Cabbage

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, a family of vegetables that are valued for their ability to decrease the risk of several types of cancer.  Regular consumption of cabbage and other crucifers (such as kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower) lowers the risk of prostate, bladder, breast, stomach, colorectal and lung cancer.

The cancer-fighting properties of cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables results from their high levels of glucosinolates, which our body metabolizes into isothiocyanates – powerful anti-carcinogens.

In addition to helping prevent cancer, cabbage is also an excellent source of vitamin C – an antioxidant that protects cells from damage by free radicals.

4. Celery

Celery can lower blood pressureCelery is rich in vitamin C and potassium but it’s main health-promoting effect is in lowering high blood pressure.  Celery contains compounds called phthalides which help relax the muscles around arteries, allowing the arteries to dilate.  This lowers blood pressure by decreasing resistance to blood flow.  Eat two stalks of celery every day to get the benefit of celery’s phthalides.

Celery has a reputation of being a high-sodium vegetable, but it would take 48 stalks of celery to reach the FDA’s daily recommended intake of sodium (2400mg).  Two stalks of celery provides only 4% of the daily value of sodium.

5.  Green Figs

One of my favourite foods, no healthy food list would be complete without figs!  Figs are in season from June to September and offer a plentiful source of dietary fiber and potassium.

The dietary fiber in figs can assist in healthy weight loss and may help prevent postmenopausal breast cancer.  Figs also are a good source of potassium which can help control high blood pressure.

6. Green Peas

These small green orbs are just bursting with nutritional value!  They are high in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, K, manganese, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, and fiber!

Green peas provide nutrients to support bone health (vitamin K), heart health (folic acid and vitamin B6) and energy production.  Green peas contain B vitamins – all of which contribute the energy production in the body, and are a source of iron – a mineral necessary for normal blood cell formation and function.

7. Green Tea

If this list wasn’t in alphabetical order, green tea would be number one!  Green tea has so many amazing health benefits it would take several articles to list them all.  Thousands of scientific studies have been analyzed the positive effects of green tea.

Green tea is rich in flavonoids, including epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which is thought to be the active constituent in green tea’s anti-cancer and antioxidant effects.

Green tea can protect against death from all causes, especially cardiovascular disease, protects against coronary artery disease, decreases atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), prevents blood clots, speeds recovery after a heart attack or stroke, lowers blood pressure, helps maintain healthy body weight by promoting fat loss, protects against gallstones, reduces the risk of kidney disease, increases bone mineral density, reduces the risk of breast cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, and enhances survival in ovarian cancer… and many more!

8. Oregano

Oregano is more than a seasoning for pasta.  This spice is a highly effective antibacterial agent.  The volatile oils in oregano, thymol and carvacrol are able to inhibit the growth of several types of bacteria as effectively as pharmaceutical medications.

Oregano also has the additional bonus of being a potent antioxidant, with 12 times more antioxidant activity than oranges!

9. Sage

Sage is the second spice to appear on this list of the top ten green foods.  In addition to it’s anti-oxidant effects, sage was selected for its anti-inflammatory effects and it’s ability to enhance memory.

Taken in food doses, or as an essential oil extract, sage has shown powerful memory enhancing effects.  It improves immediate recall and may be used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

10. Spinach

Green leafy vegetables are a source of vegan ironRounding out the top ten list is one of the most famous green foods around – spinach.  Calorie for calorie, leafy green vegetables like spinach offer more nutritional value than any other foods.  Spinach is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, K and numerous minerals.  Cooked spinach is also a rich source of iron.

Spinach contains at least 13 different flavonoids that function as antioxidants and anti-cancer agents.  Spinach can be used to decrease the risk of several different types of cancer, including prostate and ovarian cancer.

Spinach also contains nutrients that support bone health (vitamin K, calcium and magnesium), heart health (vitamins A, C and E, folate and magnesium), digestive health, brain health, eye health and energy.

In addition to the heart healthy nutrients, spinach also contains four peptides that inhibit antiotensin I-converting enzyme – the same enzyme blocked by ACE inhibitor drugs.  At a serving size equivalent to an entrée-sized spinach salad blood pressure was lowered in laboratory animals within just two to four hours.

Eating green can be nutritious and delicious!  Incorporate these green foods this St. Patrick’s day – and every day – for optimal health!

If you are interested in incorporating more greens into your diet, check out the Green Smoothie Challenge for a 14 day smoothie challenge.  Delicious recipes and support are provided during the challenge.

Tea for Tots

Sharing the Joy of Tea with Kids

There are few topics that I like to talk about more than tea.  I love tea.  I love the flavour of tea, the diverse kinds of tea, the ritual of making tea and the warm, calm feeling that I get when I settle in with a cup of tea.  Tea is also one of my favourite ways of prescribing botanicals (plant based medicines) for adults and children alike.

While I would not recommend giving a child a cup of orange pekoe, chai or English breakfast tea (all of which contain caffeine!) there are an abundance of other kinds of tea that are perfect for children.

Preparing Tea for Kids

Making a cup of tea for a child is very similar to preparing it for an adult, with a couple of simple adjustments.

  • Children often prefer a weaker tea.  Adults should steep tea for between 4 and 6 minutes (depending on the type of tea and personal preference).  For children steep the tea for only 2 to 4 minutes.  If the tea is too strong, add extra water to dilute the strength (this is also a good way to quickly cool the tea!).
  • The temperature of tea to be served to a child should be considerably cooler.  I suggest serving children’s tea chilled, at room temperature or lukewarm (the same temperature used for baby bottles or formula – around 26-36oC).

Selecting Teas for Your Child

Selecting tea is part of the pleasure of drinking tea.  You can have tea that calms you, tea that wakes you up, tea that soothes a sore throat or an upset tummy, or tea that just tastes good.  You can select tea for your children in much the same way.

Teas for Health

Anxiety – studies show that more and more children are experiencing anxiety, and at younger and younger ages.  If your child has anxiety associated with school, friends, separation or for any other reason try giving them a tea to help calm their nervous system.  Teas for anxiety include chamomile, oat straw, passionflower (for children over four), and skullcap (for children over six).  Prepare a cup of tea and enjoy it together in the evening or before stressful events.

Colic – even young babies can benefit from tea!  A tea made from fennel, chamomile or peppermint can be very helpful in relieving colic in infants.  A breastfeeding mother can drink the tea (1 cup three times per day) or the tea can be diluted and given to the infant with a medicine dropper (1 diluted tsp three times per day).

Constipation – use a flaxseed tea (1 teaspoon flaxseed in 1 litre of water, simmered for 15 minutes) to cook oatmeal.  Prepare the tea and then use the tea instead of water to prepare oatmeal for your child to eat.  Or add ¼ cup of flaxseed tea to 4 ounces of juice and give it to your child once daily.  Constipation should resolve within 24-48 hours.

Coughs – depending on the type of cough there are several options for teas to soothe a coughing child.  For a cough with sore throat, marshmallow root or slippery elm tea can be very soothing.  For cough with congestion, licorice or coltsfoot tea are both effective.
(Note: Do not use for more than 3 days in a row.  Licorice should not be used in children with high blood pressure).
Peppermint tea is a mild cough suppressant and can be used in the evenings to help children with a persistent cough to get some sleep.

Sambucus nigra berriesFever – To decrease chills and increase perspiration (which will shorten the duration and intensity of the fever) try a tea with any of the following ingredients (in equal parts): lemon balm, chamomile, peppermint, licorice and elder flower.  For a child over 2 years of age ½ cup of tea can be given up to four times daily for one day.  Serve this tea as hot as your child can tolerate.
Note: Do not use licorice in a child with high blood pressure.  Fevers are commonly a sign that the body is fighting a viral or bacterial infection.  If your child’s temperature exceeds 102F (38.9oC) consider contacting a qualified healthcare provider for further guidance.

Nausea – ginger tea is very effective in decreasing nausea, vomiting, upset stomach and for soothing the digestive tract.  Giving your child tea when they are nauseous or vomiting also provides much needed hydration.  Use ½ cup of ginger tea, three times per day for the first 24 hours of nausea.  Ginger tea is also very effective for motion sickness.  Try giving your child ginger tea as needed during car trips to treat motion sickness.

Teas for Taste

There are a great variety of herbal teas available that children love.  Try fruit based herbal teas as a delicious and low calorie alternative to fruit juice.  Many of the fruit based teas are delicious served cold as an iced tea.  Some of my family’s favourites are:

Hibiscus flowers give tea a bright pink colour kids love
  • Chocolate mint rooibos – a loose tea, naturally caffeine free and deliciously sweet.  Available at www.steepedandinfused.com.
  • Passion by Tazo tea – hibiscus flower, lemongrass, mango and passion fruit combine to make a sweet, pink-hued tea.  Fantastic as an iced tea.  Available at Starbucks stores or many grocery stores.
  • Raspberry Zinger, True Blueberry and Country Peach Passion – all by Celestial Seasonings are favourites of my 2 year old son.  Simple, sweet, fruity flavours are popular with young children and adults alike.

So go ahead and try serving tea to your child.  There is no reason why a tea party need only be pretend!   You may be surprised at how much your child enjoys the flavours and rituals of tea drinking.

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.

Resources:

Hoffman, David.  Medical Herbalism.  2003.
Zand, Janet.  Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child 2nd Ed.  2003.