Tag Archives: Healthy Communities

Fat Genes, Fat Jeans and “Phat” Jeans!

I was reading two fantastic articles discussing nutrigenomics – how nutrients interact with our genes to produce health and disease.  Despite the massive promotion of “low-fat” food labels, as a society we have seen the rapid increase in the prevalence of increased weight, obesity and obesity-related health conditions.  There are many studies which suggest how lipogenesis, the production of fat, may be regulated in people.  It is thought that more than 20 genes are involved in regulating fat storage, appetite, the ability to process glucose and energy use.

When it comes to our waistlines, a protein specifically secreted from our adipose (fat) tissue named leptin is often cited.  Leptin is a protein which is transported to the part of our brain known as the hypothalamus.  It is significant in the discussion of weight reduction and maintenance because its binding of specific receptors in our brain affect neuro/endocrine signaling and elicit the feeling of satiety after a meal.  What we know is that food intake is controlled in part by inhibitory signals such as leptin; when this signal diminishes, this signals our body that it is time to eat.

When you gain weight, your lepin signaling becomes distorted.  In addition to this, your body becomes resistant to insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas, and keeps your blood glucose at normal levels by moving it from the blood stream into the cells of your body.  Conditions such as diabetes arise when your body becomes resistant to insulin, or does not produce enough insulin, meaning you need more insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.  This creates a somewhat vicious cycle – you may be recommended to take more insulin to regulate your blood sugars, gain more weight as a result, and need more insulin use.

As your Naturopathic Doctor, nutrigenomics is one important component of your treatment plan that we examine.  Signals such as leptin and insulin affect your ability to turn off your fat genes and reduce your waistline so you can swap your “fat jeans” for your “phat” jeans.

“Phat” – urban dictionary, meaning cool, trendy.

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Easing Alzheimer’s-Related Sundowning

I have always had an interest in the workings of the human brain.  While at McMaster University, I completed my research thesis on the ability of vitamins and minerals to off-set cognitive decline, which peaked my interest in the subject matter early on in my educational career.  The combination of my work in retirement homes, my clinical experience working with persons with dementia who are sun downing (a common finding whereby confusion and disorientation in persons with dementia tend to increase when the sun starts to go down, hence its name), as well as my work with their loved ones, has further fueled my interest in the ability to hail the later years of our lives with all of our cognitive faculties in tact and my interest in examining strategies to improve quality of life for persons with dementia as well as our much-loved and appreciated caregivers.

Selected Naturopathic Strategies to Ease Sundowning

Check-in to see if the person is trying to communicate hunger, thirst, discomfort or a need to toilet and therapeutic touch to bring reassurance and remind the person of who you are and your presence.

If the person is ambulatory, or able to walk with assistance safely, try to incorporate exercise earlier on in the day to reduce restlessness later in the afternoon and early evening.

Expose the patient to natural light in order to maintain their vitamin D stores and to help entrain circadian levels needed for sleep-wake cycles. As the sun goes down, ensure the person’s surroundings are well-lighted to reduce shadows that can mask common objects and create confusion or disorientation.

Minimize sugar intake, which can lead to an aggravation in moods due to the fluctuation in glucose levels.

Experiment with soothing herbal teas, including chamomile and passion flower.

Encourage feelings of self-efficacy by providing persons with bite-sized foods, in smaller meal proportions. The act of eating may help soothe agitation.

Ask your Naturopathic Doctor about nutrients including melatonin, which are safe alternatives to sleeping aids because they don’t interfere with REM sleep or produce that groggy “morning-after hangover”.

Are You Overly Acidic?

Find it difficult to concentrate?  Suffer from recurrent viral infections, allergies and respiratory problems?  Fatigue quickly and recover slowly?  Do you feel pessimistic?  Notice a loss of enthusiasm, joy and motivation?  Experience chronic muscle stiffness, soreness or pain?  Have recurring headaches?  Notice areas of inflamed and itchy skin?  Have you been told you have brittle, or thinning bones?  Noticed a change in your perspiration and body odours (towards one that is more rancid)?

We live in a society that is constantly on the go and will unquestioningly pop that prescription “cure-all” magic pill.  Imagine for a moment however, if you could roll back the clock prior to your diagnosis of hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, recurrent headaches, premenstrual dysphoria – and you had someone tell you your prescription could be wholesome food and a healthy lifestyle!  What would you do with that information?

I present to you the original happy meal

The primary force creating, or further contributing to many of the above-listed common illnesses is directly linked to your…drum roll please…you guessed it, diet!  As a Naturopathic Doctor, the vast majority of patients who walk in through our doors are persons with less-than-optimal health and are those who also have an acidic body terrain.

Fortunately, there is much you can do to turn an unhealthy acidic environment into a health-promoting alkaline environment. In fact, the most important step you can take in creating an ideal acid-alkaline balance in your body is to take control of your diet by making smart food choices.

Hind sight is always 20/20. What happens if you had the key to unlocking health and vitality, without the negative side-effects of pharmaceuticals, which consequently also require additional pharmaceuticals to offset your original prescription’s side effects? Would you unlock the door to your potential health and well-being?  Incorporation of an alkaline diet is not just a buzz word used by Naturopathic Doctors.  Ask your Naturopathic Doctor how you can achieve more of an alkaline body balance!

Forget Me Not – Alzheimer’s Dementia

The World Health Organization recently released a news piece, stating that 35.6 million people worldwide live with dementia.  By 2030, this number is expected to double to 65.7 million, and by 2050 it is expected to triple to 115.4 million (a number which is astonishingly high!)

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.  Dementia is a progressive, irreversible decline in cognitive function, which is marked by memory and language impairment, behavioural changes, deficits in reasoning, judgment, abstract thought, comprehension, learning and an inability to perform everyday activities.

Some helpful tips on brain health, which I have acquired over the years,
1.  Your brain is a muscle – use it, or lose it!  Give your mind a work out and try to memorize some phone numbers, fill your mind with new bits of information or try using your non-dominant hand to complete a task to flex your brain muscle each day.
2. Detoxify and rejuvenate!  Treat yourself to infrared sauna treatments to sweat out toxins, such as aluminum and other heavy metals in your body.  Speak with your healthcare provider about an appropriate and supervised food-based cleanse at least once per year.
3. Healthier oils, healthier brain!  Omega-3 essential fatty acids can help patients with mild cognitive dysfunction, while you also get the added benefits of lowering blood pressure, reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (I like to think of them as “lousy cholesterol”), while thinning out your blood.
4. “B” smart!  Ensure optimal amounts of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin).  Thiamine can potentiate the effects of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter for the healthy functioning of your brain. Addressing a vitamin B12 deficiency, ensuring the adequacy of vitamin B12 body stores and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) stores.  Speak with your healthcare provider about the most readily bioavailable forms of these vitamins, as all vitamin products are not created equal.  Ask your Naturopathic Doctor about the option of receiving intramuscular (IM) vitamin B12 injections in-office, which can bypass a digestive system that is not able to absorb the B12 you need to feel your best.

Walk for Memories

On May 27, 2012 I will be participating in the 5K Walk for Memories with the Alzheimer Society of York Region. I will be walking with a team of other young professionals who are also passionate about raising awareness for this cause! If you are a young professional in the Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Markham, North York region who is also interested in walking with inspired like-minded young professionals, please feel free to contact me directly to arrange to walk with us.  See you at the finish line!

Your “Brainy” Tip of the Day:  minimize your exposure to aluminum where possible.

Aluminum toxicity appears to play a significant role in the development of the neurofibrillary tangles of persons with Alzheimer’s.  Some ways of minimizing repetitive exposure includes swapping your aluminum foil with glass containers when storing food.  Your antiperspirants, deodorants and makeup can also be sources of aluminum; while present in minuet amounts, can add up over time with continuous exposure over a lifetime.  There are supplements that may be appropriate to chelate aluminum from the body and brain, which you can discuss with your healthcare provider.

Fertility Woes

Just how many people are experiencing this, you ask?  Approximately 7.3 million American couples of child-bearing age have trouble conceiving a child.  This means reproductive concerns affect one out of every eight couples.  The reasons for reduced fertility are numerous and increasing, especially given that many young couples are having to put off starting a family because they are busy pursuing their academic careers and entering into the workforce much later than their parents or their grandparents.

My wife is going through fertility treatments, what can I do?

Your partner needs you!  Your involvement is key, even if you are not the one undergoing a treatment.  Depending on the fertility treatment your wife is undergoing, the procedure can be more invasive.  An easy way to offer support is by attending medical appointments with your partner as a lot of information can be disseminated in an appointment and can be overwhelming for one set of ears to absorb it all in one sitting!  Learning how to administer medications if required can go a long way in terms of support, as well as taking the time to just simply understand what your partner is being prescribed. Be an informed consumer and do your own research about various fertility tests and procedures. Local fertility support groups are valuable resources you may also wish to attend together.

I’m already seeing a Fertility Specialist, can I still work with a Naturopathic Doctor?

Yes! Your Naturopathic Doctor is quite happy to work with you and all other members of your healthcare team, so you can achieve all your goals.  The real benefit to seeking Naturopathic medical care even if you are skeptical, is that we can discuss strategies to improve your overall health, which in turn can only improve your chances of conceiving.

Supporting Husbands and Partners in the Quest to Overcome their Fertility Fear Factors

Reduced fertility in men today is far more common than people realize — the great news is that people are speaking about their health concerns more openly.  We are moving into an era where people are recognizing that reduced fertility in male partners is by no means indicative of a person’s virility or manliness – and this change in perception is freeing people and allowing them to seek care.  If you are someone who suspects you might have difficulty conceiving a child, both you and your partner are encouraged to seek Naturopathic Medical care, which at the very least, will be able to improve your overall health.

I have compiled a list of questions and answers for you, particularly since knowing what to expect and what questions to ask at your appointment can help you feel more at ease as you prepare for your appointment. Remember, whatever you discuss with your Naturopathic Doctor is kept confidential. There are no embarrassing questions you could possibly ask – so don’t hold back, and ask them all.

When should I see a healthcare provider?

Both partners should consider getting tested if pregnancy fails to occur after a year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.  A comprehensive work-up with your Naturopathic Doctor, Family Doctor or Fertility Specialist can can help uncover the causes of infertility, and can also detect other potentially serious medical problems as well.

What topics might my ND want to speak with me about?

There are several factors that may affect fertility that will be important to discuss.  Your Naturopathic Doctor will likely ask you about frequency and timing of sexual intercourse, duration of infertility and any previous fertility events, childhood illnesses and any problems in development, past or current illnesses (diabetes, cancer, previous surgeries), sexual history (including any sexually transmitted diseases), any exposure to toxins (such as chemicals or radiation in the workplace or home), history of any medications and allergies and any family history of reduced fertility.

What treatments may be prescribed?

Treatments are geared towards understanding what the cause of your problems are.  Your Naturopathic Doctor will offer many suggestions, some of which will include an examination of your nutritional intake, and a discussion around lifestyle and environmental factors that may be contributing to decreased fertility (ie. quitting smoking, reducing heavy drinking).  You may be counselled to incorporate the following nutrients  to increase sperm count, improve sperm quality and motility as needed: essential fatty acids, zinc, vitamin E, selenium, glutathione and arginine.  If you have a low sperm count, it may be recommended that you pace your sexual activity to accumulate sperm.

Going for a fertility evaluation can provoke a lot of anxiety, however your fertility issues can only be dealt with by seeking help.  Don’t let a fear of having your suspicions confirmed deter you; it is in your best interest to know what it is you are up against and what it will take to overcome those obstacles, particularly if you or your partner are in a time-sensitive situation.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring your fertility care options – so do just that!