You may have seen hints and sneak peaks if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, but I'm THRILLED to officially announce my new clinic location, the Integra Health Centre, located in the heart of the Financial District in Downtown Toronto!
Integra Health is not your typical Doctor's or Naturopath's office! It is a state-of-the-art facility, with a fantastic team of healthcare professionals ready to serve all of your healthcare needs. Some of the things I am loving about my new practice location are:
There are a lot of great things about Integra Health Centre, and I encourage you to come check it out for yourself! If you are a patient of mine from my previous practice location, I assure you there will be a smooth transition, and we can pick up right where we left of. If you are a new patient, or just considering if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you, then I would be happy to sit down with you for a complimentary 15 minute consult, where we can discuss your health and I can answer any questions you may have.
I'm so excited about this new opportunity, and I hope to see you in the clinic soon! If you have any further questions about Integra, please feel free to contact me!
I love comfort food as much as the next person. Really, who doesn't love a big bowl of pasta? As a Naturopathic Doctor I'm always trying to make my favourites a little bit healthier, and this recipe is no exception! I'm consistently trying to figure out easy ways to add more veggies to my diet, so in this recipe I've swapped out the pasta noodles for Spaghetti Squash! As the name suggests, this vegetable is a perfect substitute for spaghetti noodles and boasts a much better nutritional profile! Since it is considered a high glycemic index (high GI) carbohydrate (meaning that the sugars from the carb are absorbed slowly into the blood stream) this spaghetti is ND approved! This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, low carb and paleo.
Ingredients (Serves 4, or 2 for dinner and 2 lunches for the next day!)
It’s that time of year again – the weather is warm and the sun is shining! The UV index seems to be getting a little bit higher each day, which means that we need to keep in mind a bit of safety when enjoying the outdoors. I love the sun just as much as the next person, but unfortunately my skin does not. I have childhood memories of spending lots of time outside where my sister and I (both red heads with fair skin) were slathered in sunscreen and donning our hats. My parents did a good job, but once I was responsible for my own sun protection, I’ll admit I didn’t always do enough. I’ve had my fair share of sunburns unfortunately, and spending all my teenage summers working as lifeguard at an outdoor pool likely didn’t help. Now that I’m a bit older, and I like to think a bit wiser, I take sun safety much more seriously. We know that excessive sun exposure has both esthetic and health consequences ranging from premature wrinkles to skin cancer. The reality is that we can’t always avoid the sun (nor should we, the sun has health benefits too!) As a naturopathic doctor, my job isn’t just to treat symptoms or disease once they occur, but to prevent disease from occurring at all. So - how can we prevent skin damage due to the sun?
1. Choose your sun exposure wisely
The sun is at it’s strongest mid-day, so try to plan your outdoor activities for earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. Don’t be fooled by cloudy days either, you are still getting exposed to damaging UV rays which can cause your skin to burn.
2. Cover Up
When outside, protect your skin using a hat and appropriate clothing. Don’t forget about your eyes, which are also susceptible to damage from the sun – so sunglasses are a must too! The shade works too - seek out protection from an umbrella or a generous tree.
3. Check your sunscreen label
Sunscreen can be a saviour when you are outdoors for a long period of time, but know that they are not all made equal. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases an annual sunscreen guide with the low-down on the year’s best and worst sunscreens. You want to avoid the ones that have oxybenzone or vitamin A based compounds like retinyl palmitate/acetate/linoleate or retinol in them, as these two chemicals are thought to be carcinogenic (contribute to cancer). Additionally, avoid any that are labelled higher than SPF 50 (no additional benefit, but might mislead you to think you are more protected). Finally, those spray on sunscreens, while convenient, are bad for your lungs as a lot of the product is inhaled, so opt for lotions instead. I’ve just discovered a new brand called Goddess Garden that I am really excited about – no harsh chemicals, SPF 30 and lotion based means it meets all of the EWG’s criteria – and it actually rubs into your skin and doesn’t leave you pasty and white! (p.s. I’m not affiliated with them, just a red head who knows a good sunscreen when she sees one!)
4. Love your skin from the inside out
It’s more than likely at some point you are not going to be able to follow all of the guidelines listed above to protect your skin from the outside, so it’s additionally helpful to know what you can do to help protect your skin from the inside. We know that the sun can damage your cells, and thankfully there are compounds (hooray for antioxidants) that can help prevent and manage this damage. Lucky for us, some of the most delicious foods contain high levels of antioxidants, and other skin-loving compounds – feel free to share this picture with your family and friends so that they know what to eat to protect their skin too!
Spring has (finally!) sprung! Naturally, many people associate spring with new beginnings, cleaning, and detoxing. Why detoxing? It may be because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, springtime is associated with the Liver, which is our main organ of detoxification. I personally like to think of this time less about literally removing toxins from our body, and more about giving our body a bit of a reset for spring! Think of it like “spring-cleaning” for your body and mind!
So before you click away from this page thinking that you don’t want to hear about yet another detox plan, hear me out! I do not recommend week long juice cleanses or fasting. A detox or “reset” does not mean starving yourself, nor does it mean you must be drinking concoctions made of weird ingredients that taste terrible.
What do you mean then by reset?
Yes, let’s be crystal clear about what I’m talking about! We have all been guilty of it at sometime or another – falling into a trap of bad habits that don’t serve our body or mind well. For some people these are dietary – eating too much sugar or junk, drinking too much alcohol, or eating too little of the good stuff! For others it’s a lack of sufficient movement throughout the day due to our desk job or commute to and from work. For others, it’s mental or emotional stress, from work or school, being in relationships that don’t bring us happiness, or not living an authentic life.
How do you know you need to reset?
So what does this involve?
This reset plan is going to emphasize putting into place health-promoting habits, and minimizing or avoiding those things that don’t encourage our health or happiness. We’re all human, and we’re all different. For some people, an all-or-nothing approach works best. For others, a bit of freedom or flexibility with the reset would make it easier to stick to the plan. Either way – the point is to stick with the healthy habits to the best of YOUR ability. Be kind to yourself, if you make a mistake or slip up, don’t worry! Just get back on track. If the reset is stressing you out, then we need to adjust.
Our body eliminates wastes through a number of pathways in the body, and it’s important to ensure that each of these is functioning at it’s best for this reset plan to work well. We want to promote healthy elimination while we add in our healthy habits. We will keep these in mind through the reset plan. We eliminate through:
The Reset Plan
Follow these 6 steps for 2 weeks, and I am confident you will have more energy, and feel as though you are back on track to living a healthy and happy lifestyle.
I suggest that you actively commit to the reset plan for at least 2 weeks. You may not notice much of a change during week 1, but I am confident that by week 2 you will have more energy and really start to feel well! One last bit of advice – it is key to plan in advance! Go grocery shopping to stock up on healthy foods so that you always have something reset-friendly on hand. Plan your week out and set aside time for movement and breathing. Bring a water bottle with you everywhere you go. And remember, be kind to yourself! This commitment that you are making to your health is something to be proud of!
The Period. It comes and goes each month, sometimes without much fuss, and other times it really makes it’s presence known. From it’s onset at puberty until the time one is trying to get pregnant, it can seem like a bit of a nuisance – but sometimes understanding something fully allows us to appreciate it a bit more. Sex education in elementary and high school gave us some of the basics, but perhaps not enough as it’s fairly common that women don’t fully understand their menstrual cycle. So, let’s change that!
There are different parts of the menstrual cycle, which are generally characterized by changing levels of hormones. Hormones act like messengers. When they arrive at their destination, they give information or instructions for another event to occur. The main goal of your menstrual cycle is to produce an egg that has the potential to be fertilized and grow within the uterus. Of course, the vast majority of the time fertilization does not occur, and therefore the cycle starts over again from the beginning. For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to use the “average” menstrual cycle, which is 28 days in duration, but this can vary from woman to woman. Let’s start at the beginning – what we call Day 1 – or the first day of your period/menstruation.
Day 1 – Menstruation Starts
Menstruation is the shedding of the lining of the uterus, and can last anywhere from 3-7 days. It is caused by a decrease in the amount of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone that are being produced in the ovaries. Some women experience menstrual cramps, for which there are a few different contributing factors. I’ve written about these previously here.
Day 4-7 – Start of Follicular Phase
After menstruation is completed, our system starts to get ready to try again to produce an egg, and create an environment in which the egg can grow. The follicular phase is defined by a fairly steady increase in Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which signals to the ovaries to produce estrogen.
Day 7-14 – Follicular Phase
The increases estrogen levels in the ovary cause 10-20 follicles (groups of cells that contain an immature egg) to start to grow and mature. Ultimately only one makes it to the final maturation phase.
Day 14 – Ovulation
The rising levels of estrogen trigger another hormone called Leutinizing Hormone (LH) to rise. It is the sudden rise of LH that causes ovulation, or the release of the egg from the ovary, to occur.
Day 15-28 – Luteal Phase
The rest of the follicle from which the egg was released is now referred to as the corpus luteum, and these cells release some more estrogen, but mainly produce progesterone. These hormones combined stimulate the lining of the uterus to thicken in case fertilization were to occur. This would be the place where the embryo would nestle into and call home for the next 9 months! If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum will break down, and progesterone levels start to fall. The declining progesterone levels are the signal for menstruation to occur, which takes us back to Day 1.
Do you track your menstrual cycle?
This is one of the easiest ways to start to get a better idea of what is going on with your cycle. This is especially important if you are trying to conceive! It also gives us useful information if you suffer from PMS, menstrual cramps, PCOS, or irregular periods. Some of the solutions lie in correcting imbalances in hormones at different points in your cycle. It can be as easy as keeping track on paper, or using an app on your phone!
Photo Credit: TipsTimesAdmin from Flickr
We’ve all been there. 2pm rolls around and you start to feel yourself dragging mentally and physically. Your eyelids might feel heavy, your vision isn’t clear, even the thought of your next meeting is exhausting. You feel like taking a quick nap at your desk (please, just 10 minutes!) Since this isn’t acceptable in most work places (though debateably it should be), most of us reach for something to give us a boost. The usual suspects? Coffee and carbs. While it’s true that they are going to work in the short term, they perpetuate the problem in the long term. I know that you need your energy to get your work done and perform at your best. My job as a Naturopathic Doctor is to try and figure out the cause of your afternoon fatigue. If we can make positive change to the underlying cause, we can see resolution of the fatigue all together. So let’s explore some common reasons for this slump and what to do about them.
Slump Cause 1 - You’ve been inside, sitting and staring at your computer screen - All. Day. Long.
They say that “sitting is the new smoking” – it’s bad for your health! If your body has been stagnant all day, how can we expect our mind to be any different? Depending on where your desk is in your office, you may not have seen the sunlight since you arrived at work. And that computer screen? It’s contributing to eye strain and muscle tension.
The Fix - Get up and move! I’m not even suggesting a full workout, just try to get up out of your seat at least once per hour. Get a drink or go to the washroom if you don’t have another reason to leave. Instead of emailing a co-worker, get up and go talk to them in person. Suggest a walking meeting with a collegue. Stand when you are talking on the phone. Go outside on your lunch break, even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes. When on your comptuer, remember to take breaks and look into the distance every few minutes. All of these little things add up.
Slump Cause 2 - All you’ve had to drink today was your morning coffee, or nothing at all.
You’re dehydrated. Every single cell in your body needs to be properly hydrated to function at it’s best. Even mild dehydration can contribute to fatigue, low mood, and difficulty concentrating. The more exercise you do, the more water you need to replace what you’ve lost via sweat.
The Fix - Drink more water. Try to have a glass before you leave for work (try it first thing in the morning with lemon to give your digestive system a kick start). Keep a glass bottle or pitcher at your desk and try to get through at least 500mL before lunch, and another 500mL after lunch. Another 500mL towards the end of the day will get you to a good average daily water consumption of 1.5-2L. And if you have to go to the washroom more because of this increased intake, that will get you moving too. Two birds…
Slump Cause 3 - You had carbs at breakfast and lunch.
Cereal, muffin, toast, croissant, or bagel for breakfast? Sandwich, pasta, or rice for lunch? Your blood sugar levels might be to blame here for your afternoon slump. Whenever we eat carbohydrates (even the good kind), our body breaks them down into sugar or glucose. This causes our blood sugar levels to spike, and eventually crash a few hours later. The crash is what you’re feeling mid-afternoon.
The Fix - Think about what you are eating for breakfast and lunch (and any snacks in between). Swap out some of the carbs for some vegetables and protein. Vegetables have fibre (amongst other important health benefits) which along with protein help to stabilize your blood sugar levels preventing the spike and crash. If you’re eating well at these two meals and still feeling low, you might want to add in a protein-rich snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon to tie you over between meals.
Slump Cause 4 - You are busy or stressed.
When we think of the circadian rhythm we often think of sleep and the sleep hormone called melatonin. There is another part of our circadian rhythm that is equally as important, and it is related to our stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol rises and falls rhythmically thoughtout the day, just like melatonin does. It is normal for our cortisol to be higher in the morning (helps us to feel alert and awake) and lower in the evening (which helps us to feel calm and relaxed). However, mental and physical stress from the hustle and bustle of our daily activities can cause this smooth rhythm to be disrupted leading to symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, irritability, depressed mood, or anxiety.
The Fix - There are lots of ways to help manage stress in our lives such as exercise, meditation, mindfulness, reading, or spending time with family or friends. Whatever you find works best for you is the tool you should use. It is important to carve out time in your day for relaxation. A healthy mindset is key, and sometimes we need help in getting ourselves there. Your Naturopathic Doctor will be able to assess any hormonal imbalances and make recommendations to help your body and mind become more resilient to stress, in addition to helping you develop healthy relaxation and stress management tools.
Still feeling tired? There might be another underlying cause – it’s important to recognize that just because fatigue is common doesn’t mean it’s normal! Your ND can help you understand what is going on and help you on the path towards resolving afternoon fatigue.
Menstruation is a normal physiological process that women experience cyclically (approximately every 28 days, but this varies from woman to woman). It is governed by a series of hormonal signals and inflammatory chemicals that predictably rise and fall throughout the cycle. The whole process is set up so that the uterus is prepared to be the perfect environment for a fertilized egg to develop and grow. However, if fertilization doesn’t occur, the result is menstruation. For some women this occurs with minimal and manageable discomfort, or no pain at all (awesome!) For others, the pain is so intense that pain medications, or even staying home from school or work are required. Month after month, this can become exhausting and stressful. Traditional medical interventions like prescription pain medication and the birth control pill aim to treat the symptoms. However, to nip the pain in the bud once and for all it is important to address the underlying cause. Here are 5 possible causes of dysmenorrhea.
1. Endometriosis or Fibroids
Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrial tissue that normally grows inside of the uterus is found outside of the uterus (in the pelvic or abdominal cavity, attached to your ovaries, etc.). Fibroids are benign growths within or on the uterus. Both can cause severe menstrual pain.
2. Hormonal Imbalance
Remember I said that the menstrual cycle is governed by hormones? If these hormones are out of balance, or rise and fall at the wrong time during the cycle, they can contribute to pain. Furthermore, if the hormonal detoxification pathways are compromised in anyway, an excess of hormones like estrogen may develop which can also lead to dysmenorrhea.
3. Nutrient Deficiencies
Our uterus is a muscle, and like all muscles it can contract and relax. This is necessary for the endometrial tissue to get out of the uterus if it is no longer needed. Muscles need particular nutrients like calcium and magnesium to allow full relaxation after contraction. We also need certain vitamins and minerals for our detoxification pathways to work properly to prevent that build up of hormones in our body.
4. Excessive Inflammation
Those contractions I was talking about – they are due to inflammatory chemicals our body releases called prostaglandins and leukotrienes. When these chemicals are present in large quantities, they are going to cause more intense contractions that can starve the uterine muscle itself of oxygen, and therefore cause more pain.
I often look to Traditional Chinese Medicine to give me clues as to the underlying cause of different symptoms. In TCM, menstrual cramps may be due to something called Qi Stagnation. Qi (“chee”), akin to energy, is supposed to flow freely through the body. When the flow isn’t smooth as it related to the menstrual cycle and the movement of endometrial tissue out of the uterus, it can lead to cramping and pain. Why does Qi stagnate? From anger, worry and stress, inactivity, poor diet, and poor sleep, among other things.
Want to learn more? Join me this Thursday, February 12th at 6:30pm for my Menstrual Cramps 101 Seminar. Sign up HERE or by contacting the reception team at the Integrative Health Institute.
Photo Credit: Vanessa Bazzano via Flickr CC
Tired of feeling tired? There are a lot of reasons why someone might be experiencing fatigue, one of which is not sleeping well! Just like you practice dental hygiene daily, making a habit of practicing good sleep hygiene might just make the difference between tossing and turning all night, and sleeping like a baby! Here are 5 ways to get a better night’s sleep.
1. Swap out Caffeine
Most people say that you should avoid caffeine after 2pm, but if you are someone who has difficulty with sleep on a regular basis, you may want to consider cutting down earlier in the day, or cutting it out completely! Some of us are more sensitive to caffeine than others, meaning that for some, even our morning coffee can hinder our ability to get a restful night’s sleep. The reason we reach for caffeine later in the day is often because we feel like we need more energy! Did you know that dehydration or wonky blood sugar levels can make you feel sleepy? If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep at night, consider swapping out your dose of caffeine for water, or a protein-rich snack.
2. Create a Routine
Creating and sticking to a routine is super important for a lot of aspects of our health, but particularly our hormones! Melatonin is our sleep hormone and it has a rhythmic rise and fall throughout the day so that we feel tired in the evening and alert in the morning. The more regular we are with a routine around the time we go to bed and get up, the easier it is for melatonin to do it’s job! As part of your bedtime routine, give your body the signals that it is almost sleep-time. Enjoy a cup of caffeine free tea, take a warm bath or shower, read a relaxing paper book, do a breathing exercise, or meditate to get you physically and mentally prepared for a solid night’s sleep.
3. Ditch the Electronics
I know this isn’t news to you… but I’m serious! Since you’ve now developed your new sleep routine, one hour (or more) before your bedtime, setup an alert or notification on your phone that signals to you that it’s time to shut off all electronics. Not only can the alerts from our email and text messages trigger anxiety, but the light produced from the screens can hinder our melatonin’s ability to work. The signal for melatonin release comes from a part of our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is located at the point where our optic nerve enters our brain from our eyes. The SCN is always aware of how much light is in our environment. When it senses darkness, it signals to the pineal gland to pump out the sleep-inducing hormone which in turns helps us to feel tired, and makes for more restful sleep by the time we doze off. Not only should you put your phone away an hour before bed, it is imperative that you also keep it outside of your bedroom. The radiation that your phone is receiving and putting out into the world is disruptive to your sleep.
4. Sleep Naked
Again, I’m serious - sleeping with PJs on can also negatively affect your sleep. If your pajamas bunch up or constrict your limbs this will likely cause you to wake up, provoking you to readjust. It might feel cozier this way to get into bed, but over the course of the night you might overheat, again, causing you to wake and readjust. To get adequate melatonin production, our bodies need to be cool in temperature.
5. Take Notes
Some people use journaling as a part of their bedtime routine, which is something I encourage! If that doesn’t sound like it’s your cup of (caffeine free) tea, you may still want to take note! Almost all of my patients who report having difficulty falling asleep cite ruminating thoughts, anxiety, or worrying about forgetting to do something as the reason why. A great resource is to keep a notebook and pen at your bedside. If you are having difficulty falling asleep due to thoughts circulating in your head, you have something to jot them down on so that you can release them from your mind.
Have you tried all of these things and are still having difficulty with sleep? You might have a hormonal imbalance. Naturopathic medicine is excellent at figuring out the cause of your sleepless nights and providing safe treatment to help.
Photo Credit: Rachel Calamusa via Flickr CC
Call me weird, but I’ve always loved the word “breakfast” – a clever term for the meal where we literally break our overnight fast. It is the first and (debatably) the most important meal of the day, yet it is estimated that 50% of people skip it. While they may seem no worse for ware, having a healthy and nourishing breakfast each morning can set you on the path to health. Eating the right foods can help with your energy, hormone balance, digestive health, mood, and anxiety. You can use breakfast to your advantage to help you improve your body composition by losing fat and gaining muscle.
Trust me, I’ve been there, and I know it can be hard to fit this meal in with the rush of the morning. The issue with “convenience” options like bagels, breakfast sandwiches, or commercial cereals is that they are high in carbohydrates and low in protein, fibre and nutrients. This means we’re likely to have an energy crash within an hour or so of eating them, and they’ve given us very little health benefit. I also know what it’s like to have eaten oatmeal every single morning – B O R I N G.
Here are 5 breakfast ideas to have on rotation for each day of the work week. They are simple and quick to prepare, nourishing, and taste great. There are even options to make them fresh each morning, or prep them the night before.
1. Steel Cut Oatmeal
Despite my earlier comment, I do love oats. Warm, gooey and nutritious, if done right! Steel cut oats are less processed than regular oats, which is why I opt for them. Cook the oats according to the directions on the package, and top with any variety of toppings you wish, such as berries or apple for fibre, vitamins and minerals, and a touch maple syrup or honey for sweetness. Make sure to include a source of protein, such as hemp seeds, almonds, pecans, walnuts or almond butter. You can also add a nut/seed milk of your choice to make the whole bowl creamier. Try swapping out steel cut oats for quinoa for an extra protein-packed porridge.
Night Before Prep: If cooking a hot pot of oats in the AM is too much, mix 1/3 cup oats and 1 cup of nut/seed milk of your choice in a mason jar. Cover and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, stir well and add your choice of toppings for an awesome instant breakfast that you can take on the go.
2. Eggs any way you like ‘em with toast & avocado
Cooking an egg takes mere minutes. If I’m in a real rush, I’ll go with hard boiled eggs, and start boiling water as soon as I get up. After my shower, I go back to the kitchen and toss one or two eggs in the boiling water, turn on the timer for 7 minutes, which gives me enough time to get dressed and back to the kitchen to run them under cold water. I’ll put a slice of whole grain bread (GF if you wish) into the toaster while I cut an avocado. Toast pops, mash ½ the avocado over the toast, peel my eggs, add a dash of salt and pepper over everything, and done - Quick & Easy.
Night Before Prep: You can boil eggs in batches in advance, and keep them in the fridge in their shell for up to one week. The night before, you can pre-cut and remove the pit from your avocado, keeping the halves in their shell and face down in a sealed container to prevent oxidation (why avocado turns brown after a little while).
This is my favourite way to include veggies with breakfast. I don’t fuss too much about making an omelette perfect, and sometimes it ends up more as an egg and vegetable scramble. Chop up all of your vegetables into small pieces, you can sauté them first in some butter or just leave them raw. Crack 2 eggs into a bowl and whisk. Add the eggs into the pan with the sautéed vegetables and let them cook through, fold and serve. I love to use bell peppers, tomatos, mushrooms, olives, onion, and spinach or kale. If you can tolerate dairy, add some cheese if you wish. For an extra treat, add bacon or sausage (chorizo is delicious).
Night Before Prep: You can make mini omelettes, or egg muffins for a few days in advance by using all of the same ingredients above (approximately 1 egg per muffin cup, give or take). Mix everything together in a bowl, grease your muffin tin, and distribute the egg mixture evenly amongst each cup of the tin. Bake at 350°F for 18-20 minutes or until set in the middle.
I’ve wrote previously about how to make a healthy smoothie here, but here is a quick run down:
Night Before Prep: Put all of the ingredients in your blender container the night before and keep it in the fridge, add some ice cubes in the morning and blend. Alternatively, you can blend everything the night before and keep the smoothie in the fridge overnight. Things may separate but just give it a good shake and it will be ready to drink! (Note: for early smoothie prep, omit chia and flax seeds, when they are left to soak overnight they become mucilaginous or gel-like, which solidifies your smoothie).
5. Chia Seed Pudding
Yes, chia - the same seed you use to grow yourself a plant-haired pet. But for this breakfast option, no growth is required. This is probably the simplest recipe of the list, and is super healthy. Chia seeds are full of fibre which helps to keep you full and regulates blood sugar. They are also gluten free, and contain omega-3 fatty acids and lots of minerals. In a bowl, mix 3 tbsp chia seeds with ¾ cup unsweetened nut/seed milk of your choice. You can add cinnamon or nutmeg, honey or maple syrup, or a splash of vanilla. Let sit for 5-15 minutes or until the chia seeds have absorbed enough milk to make the pudding your desired consistency. Top with your choice of fruit and nuts.
Night Before Prep: In a mason jar (or other container with a lid), mix the chia seeds, milk, vanilla, sweetener, and spices of choice, cover and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, add fruit, nuts, or seeds on top and you have yourself a quick and healthy, fibre-filled breakfast.
Do you have a go-to breakfast that is quick and healthy? Comment below, I would love to add it to my list!
Photo Credit: Collective Nouns via Flickr
Concussions are an injury that we hear a lot about due to their prevalence amongst NHL and NFL stars. Despite the fact that it is one of the most common neurological disorders in athletes and non-athletes alike, little research has been done in the field of non-sport concussions, and this is why physicians often have difficulty treating people with these injuries. The good news is that we can take sport related concussion research and “return-to-play” protocols and adapt it for proper management of non-sport related concussions.
Maybe you fell off your bike, slipped on some ice, tripped when you were walking, were playing a sport with your friends or kids, or even fainted – if you hit your head, you might have had a concussion. And if you’ve had a concussion, it’s likely that you will experience some undesirable symptoms, and perhaps you’ll need a “return-to-life” protocol before you can start to feel better.
A concussion, or a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is defined as a complex pathophysiological process that affects the brain due to some type of biomechanical force (either a direct blow to the head, face, or neck, or to another part of the body with an “impulsive” force that gets transmitted to the head). In more simple terms, a concussion is an injury that causes the brain to shake in the skull and results in symptoms that are related to the disruption of normal brain function, and are not necessarily due to any structural injury of the brain.
Once your medical doctor has ruled out any complications, such as bleeding or fracture, you may be wondering what the next steps are in terms of managing your injury. It is estimated that 80-90% of patients who get a concussion recover in 7-10 days. However, that means 10-20% of these people will have persistent post-concussion symptoms for weeks or even months.
After a concussion there may be many physiological processes and reactions that are not functioning normally. This can be due to inflammation, disruptions to our neurotransmitters that are responsible for how we think and react, oxidative stress that may lead to cellular damage, “excitotoxicity” or excessive neuron stimulation, and mitochondrial dysfunction leading to decreased energy produced for brain cells. Additionally, there may be post-traumatic deficiency of certain vitamins, minerals and nutrients due to their increased use by the body after the injury. Ultimately, all of these factors can contribute to any number of symptoms that are associated with concussions, including:
I’m still not feeling right, what should I do?
Naturopathic medicine focuses on treating the cause of your symptoms. Though nothing can reverse your head injury, figuring out what physiological processes are contributing to your symptoms is critical. With this knowledge, an evidence-based treatment plan can be developed that will help you to return-to-life symptom free.
Think of your brain injury like a broken bone. In order to heal, it needs rest. Immediately after a concussion you need complete physical and cognitive rest. If you are still having symptoms after a few days, it is likely a sign that you are doing too much too soon. You need a step-by-step protocol in place where you don’t move on to the next step until you are symptom free. You may require strategies to help you get back to work or school, manage stress or anxiety, get adequate sleep, and modify your exercise plan to promote optimal brain health and recovery. An important habit to adopt if experiencing symptoms is to limit your screen time to an absolute minimum (TV, cell phone, tablets, and computers). Not only are screens incredibly stimulating to our brain, they can contribute to headaches, visual disturbances, light sensitivity and sleep issues that result from concussions.
Changing our diet is one of the best ways to mitigate inflammation. It is helpful to adopt a diet where you avoid foods that promote inflammation like red meat, sugar and dairy, and add foods that decrease inflammation such as herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. Additionally, if you have any food sensitivities, consuming those foods may result in additional inflammation for you. This may include eggs, gluten, or certain fruits and vegetables.
Did you know that your brain is surrounded by fluid? So remember to also stay hydrated, drinking at least 1.5-2L of water per day to keep the environment around your brain as healthy as possible.
Though diet and lifestyle changes are often profound in their effect, supplementation is also important to correct for any deficiencies and address some of the dysfunctional processes that are occurring in our brain. Fish oil has been show to be very important for brain health and recovery after a concussion. Antioxidants like curcumin and resveratrol can be supplemented in concentrated doses to help counteract oxidative stress. Certain vitamins and minerals may also help to correct any faulty physiological reactions. Vitamin D and magnesium have been shown to help decrease inflammation and decrease neuron excitability respectively.
Acupuncture is incredibly effective at treating the nervous system, and helping to calm down any neurological “excitability” that may be present. It is helpful for sleep disturbances, headaches and anxiety. Furthermore, certain acupuncture points increase blood flow to specific areas of the brain. When the brain gets adequate blood flow, there is proper delivery of nutrients for repair and removal of waste products that will help to decrease inflammation.
After any injury our soft tissue structures like muscles, tendons and ligaments may react by tightening up or by under-performing. If you are experiencing headaches, neck or shoulder pain and stiffness, seeking out additional physical therapy from a chiropractor, registered massage therapist or osteopath may help to correct any soft-tissue dysfunction.
Suffering from a concussion can be very difficult both physically and emotionally. It is important for your long term brain health that you manage this correctly! Your naturopathic doctor can make specific and individualized recommendations along with monitoring your progress so that you can feel better and return-to-life symptom free.
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