Tag Archives: Healthy Communities

Reconnecting to the Earth, Barefoot!

I was listening to an introduction on Earthing by David Wolfe.  For those of you who are new to this concept, it is this growing idea that speaks to how the widespread use of plastic- and rubber-soled shoes have contributed to our disconnection from the Earth and its natural electric charge.

While this idea may seem rather bogus at first, it is does offer an explanation as to why people feel so much better after kicking off their loafers and burying their toes in the sand, or after swimming in the cool ocean waters, or after having walked barefoot across a dewy lawn.  On a mechanistic level, it is thought that when we make direct contact with the earth’s surface, negatively-charged electrons from the earth are absorbed into the body and reduce free radicals and sites of inflammation (which are positively-charged).  It is only when these inflamed sites are neutralized that destructive action on healthy tissues is decreased.  If true, this simple concept would have incredible implications that may be utilized world-wide to help individuals experiencing chronic conditions such as Lyme disease, persons with chronic fatigue and even those with depressed mood disorders, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disorders, chronic pain and insomnia.

David Wolfe suggests that the advent of the modern day shoe is changing the natural infrastructure of our feet and ultimately our natural gait, and he has stated that he has noticed positive improvements since walking barefoot.  All that is needed is 20-30 minutes of direct contact with the earth on a regular basis!

For more information on this neat topic, you can read Earthing The Most Important Health Discovery Ever by Clinton Ober.

Spring Has Sprung…and So Have Allergies

It’s that time of year when patients waltz through the doors of my office, looking for natural alternatives for their over-the-counter (OTC) medicine cabinet staples – the most popular being Claritin, Allegra, Aerius, Reactine (oral antihistamines), Visine (antihistamine eye drops) and Sudafed (decongestant).

Not sure you suffer from allergies? Typical symptoms and signs can include an itchy nose, eyes, or mouth, sneezing, tearing of eyes, runny nose (post-nasal drip or rhinorrhea), swollen nasal cavities (rhinitis) and nasal and sinus congestion (rhinosinusitis). You may also get frontal headaches as a result of a sinus obstruction. If you also suffer from asthma, your symptoms may also include coughing and wheezing. Parents of little ones may also commonly report the chronic nasal obstruction in their child reliably precedes the complaints of a chronic inner ear infection (otitis media).

Seasonal allergens may include tree pollen (late-April through May), grasses and weeds (late-May through mid-July) and weed pollen (late-August through late-Fall). Perennial allergies affect sufferers year-round and are typically triggered by indoor allergens like dust mites, animal fur and dander, mould, feathers and/or cockroaches. Environmental exposure to pollution, perfume, aerosol sprays, cold air, humidity and second-hand cigarette smoke can further exacerbate seasonal and perennial allergies.

Interestingly, the allergies you experience are caused by a mishap or hypersensitivity of your immune system. While a properly functioning immune system is able to distinguish a true foreign invader from that of a “harmless” or innocuous substance, a person with a hypersensitive immune system will respond to the allergen with furry, initiate an immunological response when it comes in contact with IgE antibodies, and causes immune cells to release histamine, causing blood vessel dilation and smooth muscle contraction to varying degrees.

Several natural therapies that can block the allergic response or can target inappropriate inflammation at the root of allergic symptoms include:
Quercetin, a widely consumed flavonoid in the diet, and a potent inhibitor of allergic and inflammatory responses, which inhibits histamine release.
Butterbur, (latin name, Petasites hybridus) a shrub found in North America, Europe and Asia. Its antihistamine effect is comparable to Cetirizine, a popular antihistamine for seasonal allergic rhinitis minus unwanted sedative effects. It is also able improve lung ventilation and decrease bronchial reactivity.
Rosemary, whose medicinal constituent is rosmarinic acid, is able to inhibit alternate pathways of inflammation via the complement system. It is able to block cytokines IL-4 and IL-5 (protein messengers).

In addition to some of the above strategies, one of my natural favourites is the use of a netipot with warm saline water diluted with some of my favourite immunomodulating herbs, as guided by my patient’s concerns.

While OTC medications may be used to suppress unwanted spring time symptoms, they do not treat the underlying cause of allergies. Get a head-start on building your allergy strategy by asking yourself the following questions prior to your visit with your Naturopathic Doctor or other healthcare provider: What symptoms do I typically experience? When do my symptoms typically occur? Are my symptoms triggered while indoors or while outdoors? Before starting any course of treatment, particularly if you have moderate to severe allergies, it is important for you to begin treatment supervised by a regulated healthcare provider to ensure your safety.

Your Naturopathic Doctor can assist you in developing a plan that is most appropriate for you and may include management techniques, provide you with practical recommendations you can incorporate to alleviate and remove/avoid known triggers, as well as the suitability of sublingual immunotherapy to help desensitize your immune system to specific allergens.

Prone to Change of Season Coughs and Colds? “Weather-Proof” Your Immunity

I was just musing over a keynote presentation given by Dr. Kerry Bone at the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors’ Annual November 2011 Convention, “Emerging Trends and Treatments in Naturopathic Medicine”. Every year this conference invites leading physicians and field-experts to share their knowledge on an array of hot topics.

To give you some background information on Dr. Bone, he is a highly experienced researcher and industrial chemist turned well-respected, leading phytotherapy (or herbal medicine) expert. He has maintained an active practice over the last 28 years in Australia and is a prolific author on herbal texts used world-wide and over 30 peer-reviewed scientific journals.

He spoke about how immunity is the “new” priority in the modern day patient. With every new epidemic that arises, be it severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), avian flu, swine flu or an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as clostridium difficile (C. diff), methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a popular question becomes, what can Naturopathic Medicine offer?

Though winter is almost over, from an immune system stand point, we aren’t quite out of the woods just yet. As a Naturopathic Doctor, based on the character of, say your cough (is it dry, wet, spasmodic?) we can make recommendations on the botanical herbs most appropriate for you.

Some dry cough remedies may include glycerrhiza glabra, tussilago farfara, verbascum thapsus or althea officinalis. If you have a wet cough we may recommend sanguinaria canadensis, lobelia inflata or aspidosperma quebracho. If you present with more of a spasmodic cough, grindelia robustica, foeniculum officinale, hyoscyamus niger, actea racemosa, or prunus serotina may be most appropriate.  These botanical medicines are not only fantastic but they are also safe when used appropriately and while under supervision of your Naturopathic Doctor who is aware of your medical history [this point cannot be emphasized enough].

To illustrate my point, there are upper dose recommendations that should not be exceeded when using glycerrhiza glabra (you may know it as licorice) in patients with high blood pressure or hypokalemia (low potassium levels).  Tussilago (colt’s foot) is best used short term only because its medicinal constituent, pyrrolizidine alkaloids can be toxic to your liver when used for an extended period of time much like many other over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.  Additional considerations include a discussion about which part of the botanical herb is best (is it the roots, flowers, leaves)?  Is this better as a hot liquid extraction (ie. tea) or better as a cold infusion, or does it require alcohol extraction (ie. tincture)?  What is the appropriate dose?  What will inhibit its absorption?  What vitamins can enhance its delivery and efficacy?  What can it interact with?  Are you a woman of child-bearing age, who may require an alternative botanical?  Do you have an autoimmune disorder that must be taken into consideration?

There are many herbal medicines that may be used to strengthen your immune system so you are able to cut down the duration of your cold and flu, and the latest antibiotic epidemic.  The great thing is, as a Naturopathic Doctor, this is only one of several other modalities, or tools, at our disposal to help address your concerns.

We encourage you to come, chat with us about your concerns, so together we can investigate the most appropriate treatments for you and your family.

Naturopathic Word of the Day: Sirtuins

Sirtuins are a class of longevity genes which function as universal regulators of the aging process in all living organisms. It appears that the activation of these genes extend life by initiating processes in the body which slow metabolism and increase oxygen uptake. The result: up to a 60% extension in life, which could mean a life span of up to 140-160 years of age. Can you imagine? Scientists have not completely unlocked all the secrets and minutiae implicated in the activation of this segment of our genetics. The potential to one day do so is impressive, to say the least. In the interim, you can always visit your neighbourhood Naturopathic Doctor to find out what changes you can make to slow down your cellular aging process.

Got Milk? Perhaps You Can Actually Skip It.

Part of the problem is that the milk you bring home from the grocery store comes from modern dairy farms, where milk is mass-produced 300 days of the year. For much of that time, these dairy cows are pregnant. The hormones contained in the cow’s milk increase as her pregnancy progresses.

The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our grandparents and great grandparents were drinking. Before the advent of mass-produced milk, cows were milked for human consumption approximately five months a year, and certainly not when cows were in their later stages of pregnancy, therefore minimizing the amount of estrogen in the milk consumed.

It is thought that cow’s milk accounts for 60-80% of the estrogens consumed (WOW!), further contributing this idea that we live in an “estrogen dominant” society. For comparison’s sake, it is thought that a dairy cow in the later stages of pregnancy excretes as much as 33 times as much estrogen (in the form of estrone sulfate) than its non-pregnant counterpart.

The link between heightened cancer risk and dietary estrogen was examined in 42 countries. Curiously, the rates of testicular cancer among men aged 30 to 39 are higher is places such as Switzerland and Denmark, where cheese is a national food, and lowest in Algeria and other countries where dairy is not widely consumed.

What can you do?

Of course there are not going to be any radical changes in the dairy industry and this of course is not the only factor that needs to be considered when examining the pros and cons of dairy consumption as we often think “milk does a body good”.

However, if you are consuming cow’s milk to get your daily dose of calcium, perhaps this is a reason to explore other sources – green leafy vegetables, carrots, and other tasty dairy substitutes (goat, almond, rice or soy milk).

Also, you can help yourself reduce your dietary estrogen consumption by swapping your homogenous milk (containing 3.25% fat) and even 2% milk for 1% milk or skim milk (as hormones reside in milk fat).

If you have great dairy alternatives you use, please let us know! We look forward to hearing your thoughts and recommendations!

Spring Forward to Better Sleep

I absolutely love spring.

What’s not to like?  Days become longer and warmer so you can spend more time with your family and loved ones.

It also means the start of daylight savings, rolling forward the clock and subsequently losing one precious hour of sleep. Adjusting to the lost hour of sleep in spring is harder than adjusting to the gained hour of sleep in the fall. If you are a person who has to drag yourself out of bed, this adjustment in time makes this process even more difficult, particularly if you are sleep-deprived.

The importance of sleep and its role in restoration, cannot be emphasized enough. If we look at shift workers, who epitomize irregular sleep patterns at the extreme, we see increased rates of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, digestive issues, irregular menstrual cycles, difficulty shedding weight, depressed moods, occupational injuries, decreased mental acuity, daytime sleepiness, impaired judgement etc.

24 hours without sleep is roughly equivalent to consuming enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk!

Not sure if you are sleep-deprived? A good question to ask yourself is do you wake up in the morning feeling rested?

Some tips for you to help improve your quality of sleep:
– Get to bed at a regular time each night, before midnight.
– Sleep in complete darkness.
– Keep the bedroom only for sleep so your mind associates it with sleep alone.
– Get exposure to ample amounts of sunlight to help entrain your circadian rhythms (biological clock).

Contrary to what they tell you, ordering a venti Cafe Americano from Starbucks or grabbing a Red Bull (or another energy drink) from your local convenience store is not an adequate substitute for quality sleep.

If you don’t snooze, you lose.

Welcome Whole Woman Network!

I am very pleased to announce I will be participating in the Whole Woman Network’s Healthy Lifestyle Walking Club initiative!

Please feel free to contact either myself or Diana and Juliet, Whole Woman Network co-founders for details about joining a walking group in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Whole Woman Network is a lovely organization facilitated by women, for women!  They strive to educate, empower, inspire and engage women (very much in line with the philosophy Naturopathic Doctors take!), regarding health and well being.  For more information, visit Whole Woman Network.

Please stay tuned for more information regarding a complimentary presentation Dr. Judy Ancheta, ND will be giving on menopausal health at the Whole Woman’s Network Meeting in April 2012!

Laughter to Longevity

This past week, I attended a Laughter Yoga session with the Richmond Hill Walk-In Laughter Yoga Club at the McConaghy Community Centre.

For those of you who haven’t experienced laughtercise, essentially as a group, you go through various ice breaker activities essentially practicing simulated laughter.  For me, the best part was that a lot of the activities led to infectious, genuine laughter, especially watching and hearing those around me.

Did you know? When you laugh you use approximately 50 facial muscles and more than 300 distinct groups of muscles of the body! Amazing, isn’t it? What’s especially neat is the fact that the brain is not able to distinguish between simulated laughter versus self-induced, red-faced, belly-aching laughter (and for me, the occasional laugh interspersed with some snorting – I know it happens to you too!)

The scientist in me could not resist looking up some of the comprehensive laughter literature studies confirming quantifiable physiological, psychological, social and spiritual benefits to improve quality of life and enhance wellbeing.  Essentially, laughter is great for combating burnout (by decreasing cortisol, our stress hormone), helps persons who are grieving, it induces natural pain-killing effects, enhances muscle relaxation, improves oxygenation of your tissues, is heart protective, contributes to longevity and directly improves immune function (by increasing natural killer cells, or NK cells) to name but a few of its benefits.  Laughter is simply one of my favourite past times; I left the session feeling energized, centered and more calm.  The days that followed were probably some of my more efficient days.

As it turns out, we can’t practice laughter with others, if we can’t laugh at ourselves.  Half the benefit of laughter is sharing it — so do that!

Richmond Hill Community Events

OnRichmondHill is a great website to find out about events happening in our vibrant Richmond Hill Community.  The Director of the website, Marj Andre is a passionate individual looking to connect our fellow neighbours with one another.  I thoroughly encourage everyone to sign up for the weekly e-newsletter.  See you around town!

A Movie Worth Watching: What the Bleep

“What the Bleep” (2004) is a psychological account of how our thoughts elicit a physiological response and how our emotions determine our biochemistry.  In this movie, the protagonist is able to utilize the mind-body connection to change her distorted perceptions and physiology.  With successive steps, she is able to progress toward a serene, optimistic physical state that was largely reflected at a cellular level.  By the end of the movie, she is able to traverse her addictions and overcome past injuries.

While there are many compelling ideas raised in “What the Bleep” in particular this movie discusses the integral role emotions play in our well being and its activation of our limbic system (which is responsible for our emotions, memory formation and autonomic nervous system).  This movie highlights the science of our neural networks, which assembles peptides that match daily experiences with emotional state.  The reference that “nerve cells that fire together, wire together” speaks to this idea that specific neural networks are created from the entry of information through our eyes.  Though the information seen by the eyes is usually more than what is processed by the brain, the material we are conscious of is coloured by our emotional experiences, whereby it is processed and then internalized.

Food for thought – if our thoughts alone are able to transform water in a way that reflects our thoughts as seen in Dr. Masaru Emoto’s work Hidden Messages from the Water, then one should wonder how our thoughts are able to dictate the physiology of our bodies, which is primarily composed of water.

Our modern world is teeming with individuals who have been conditioned to emotional suppression since early childhood. Yet, while emotional suppression may sometimes serve a useful purpose, over the course of a lifetime this can cause serious damage to our bodies and minds. In light of the holistic philosophy practiced by Naturopathic Doctors, it is imperative that our health care paradigms aim to increase awareness of how our emotions impact our physiology and in turn our biopsychosocial health and wellness. As informed healthcare consumers, emotional suppression undermines the healthy function of the body and mind; it is necessary that we understand the role our thoughts, attitudes and emotions play in reclaiming health.