Strawberry Almond Smoothie

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This recipe is from the www.NourishingMeals.com website and is a variation of some smoothie recipes that appear in the cookbook we carry called Nourishing Meals by Tom Malterre and Ali Segersten.  Given the abundance of fresh organic strawberries recently this is a simple, lovely option any time of day.

1 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight (8-10 hours) (cover the almonds with water and rinse in the morning)
1 1/2 to 2 cups water
2 to 3 cups fresh or frozen organic strawberries
1 whole vanilla bean
1 tablespoon raw honey (optional)

Place the almonds and water into a high-powered blender (such as a Vita-Mix) or a blender fitted with a sharp blade. Add water and blend until very smooth, about 30 to 60 seconds. Then add the berries, vanilla bean, and honey, blend again until smooth. Serve immediately. Source: www.NourishingMeals.com


The Hormones of PMS

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Dr. Natalie MacIsaac, ND

Although we have all heard of PMS we still have a limited understanding of the complexity of hormonal interactions that create the long list of symptoms that women can experience each month – some with more drama than others. The signs can be mild to severe – from weight gain and cramps to depression and insomnia.  If you suffer from any signs of PMS, you may want to take a close look at your hormones levels.

Each hormone in our body has signs associated with deficiency or excess and many of those symptoms can overlap.  An example of this is fatigue: it is a very common PMS symptom that can be due to too much estrogen, not enough estrogen, too much DHEA, not enough thyroid hormone, etc…it can get complicated.

Feeling healthy and balanced each month is possible once you determine the cause of the imbalance. This is where naturopathic medicine excels.  Our goal is to find why the imbalance happens and then treat the individual with the most effective and least invasive solutions.  Ask your naturopathic physician about hormone testing and treatment, and say good-bye to PMS.

Common causes of PMS:

  • Overwork
  • Imbalanced sleep
  • Constipation
  • IBS
  • Thyroid imbalance
  • Dietary deficiencies – healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, etc
  • Dietary restrictions
  • Emotional stress
  • Inflammation

Common PMS symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Emotional
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Food cravings – salt, sweet…
  • Temperature changes
  • Faint or dizzy spells
  • Libido changes
  • Yeast infections

Essentials of Sleep

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Dr. Lisa Polinsky

Ideally, we spend about one third of our lives in restful, restorative sleep and awake feeling fresh and ready for the day.  Yet estimates of 40-50% of Canadians complain of difficulty achieving a good night’s sleep.

On average 8+ hours of sleep are ideal.  If we adjust for the seasons and light exposure perhaps longer hours of sleep in the winter (9 hours) and less when the days have longer light (7 hours).  Fully 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep are needed to achieve deep REM sleep which is considered the most restorative and beneficial time for the body.  If you have light sleep, interrupted sleep or don’t allow enough time then this essential, basic healing process is weakened.

Sleep deprivation is different than true insomnia.  If your schedule is such that you do not allow enough time to sleep – common for many busy people – then you are more in the ‘deprivation’ zone.  Simply focus on creating a window of more time available for sleep.  If you take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, wake for more than 30 minutes in the middle of the night or wake 30 minutes earlier than you need to in the morning you likely are suffering from a form of insomnia.

In addition to the obvious symptom of increased fatigue sleep difficulties are more likely to be correlated to:

-heart disease

-diabetes

-increased blood pressure

-depression, irritability

-reduced memory, attention issues

-ADHD

-obesity

-cancer

Naturopathic Doctors commonly address sleep issues as they can be a hurdle to optimal function of many other health systems – endocrine, immune, hormonal, digestive.   Options for treatment include simple ‘sleep hygiene’ recommendations, gently sedating herbs and nutrients, nervous system support and in some cases stronger prescription medications.  The goal of restoring the ideal sleep rhythm cascades to so many other benefits that it is of primary concern.

The Circadian Rhythym is managed by the hypothalamus which manages alternating states of wakefulness and the drive for sleep.  Shift work, travel, stressful life events and exposure to light can alter this.  Melatonin which is secreted by the pineal gland helps with the signal for sleep induction and is lowered by bright lights both in the room and outside with ambient light.  Having just passed the Summer Solstice we are in the time of year of highest light exposure and often sleep is more erratic and elusive at this time

 

Helpful Sleep Hygiene for everyone:

-darken your room with black-out curtains

-reduce room temperature

-dim lights in the evening before retiring to bed

-have a fan in your room for the cooling and ‘white noise’ effect

-avoid alcohol, smoking, caffeine later in the day as these impact sleep

-Exercise earlier in the day (3 hours before bedtime)

-Create a regular sleep/wake schedule with onset of sleep ideally before 11:00 p.m

-Monitor what you read/watch before bed. (consider a ‘media fast’)

-Consume a small amount of protein before bedtime to limit blood sugar drops at night which can lead to frequent waking and night sweats.

If the above are not enough to assist you in achieving a better sleep state then seek naturopathic care to customize treatment options.  Difficulties of sleep onset in the evening require a different treatment plan than do difficulties of frequent waking at night.  Given that sleep issues are often related to other health concerns the individualized approach yeilds the best results.  Many have already tried melatonin or Valerian on their own by the time they come in to seek care.  Given that medications tend to suppress REM stage sleep, have drowsy side effects and provide a ‘band-aid’ like approach that masks the underlying issue they are often used for much longer timeframes than is ideal.

 

Options for treatment may include:

-testing for adrenal function (Eg.high cortisol can reduce sleep onset)

-testing for neurotransmitter levels (eg. Low serotonin can impact melatonin)

-sedative herbs at sleep time

-minerals such as magnesium at bedtime

-determining and removing food sensitivities

-shifting exercise routines

-managing emotional stress

-nervous system support (homeopathics, acupuncture, cranio-sacral treatments)

If sleep is eluding you, enlist the care of a naturopathic doctor to help you reclaim restful sleep.


Learn the ABC’s of the Vitamin B’s!

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Dr. Stephanie Peltz, ND

Through the lens of my family practice I have witnessed a growing number of frantic parents, frazzled students, and frustrated teachers with the sudden end to the school year.  Lets bridge this chaotic time into a restful and joyous summer!

As naturopathic physicians we have several tools to assess and address stress.  At the top of our list are the B vitamins.  Patients often ask me about the elusive ‘vitamin B’.  Did you know that there is not just one, but 8 core B vitamins?  They include Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Folic Acid, Biotin, and Cobalamin (B12).  These vitamins share some functions (like the metabolism of food to produce energy), but are also unique in their own way.

The B vitamins are all water-soluble.  This means they are poorly stored by the body and require daily replenishment.  Their water solubility also makes them very safe with a low risk of toxicity from taking too much.  Food sources rich in the B’s include meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and whole grains.  However, these foods are also highly allergenic for many patients.  And keep in mind, under stress, our natural hydrochloric acid production decreases and this is exactly what’s needed for proper absorption of most B vitamins.  If you are vegetarian, vegan, on a low allergenic diet, or under significant stress, you are a great candidate for a B vitamin supplement.

There are many ways to supplement B vitamins. Sometimes one B is prescribed alone (like vitamin B6 for morning sickness in pregnancy); otherwise they are used in combination (such as a general B complex to boost immunity).  As well, different B complexes have distinct formulas (for instance one highlights B5 needed for support during stress, but also offers smaller amounts of the others).  When choosing a supplement there is also a question of liquid vs. capsules, and oral vs. injected.

I see a true need for B vitamins in many of my patients right now, and a lot of careful consideration goes into the prescription of a supplement. If you are not taking any, or have questions about the ones you are taking, come on in to discuss the details with us today.  Let’s ease this challenging time with a good dose of the B’s!

 


MTHFR Mutation: Common Link Between Many Disorders

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Dr. Preet Kangura, ND

Something that goes by the name methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene mutation might not sound like something the average person would need to worry about.  However, it is now known that 20 – 40% of people have one copy of the MTHFR mutation, and 14 – 30% of people have two copies of MTHFR mutation.  There are multiple forms of this genetic mutation, but two specific variations – C677T and A1298C – have now been shown to lead a vast number of health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Depression, anxiety, and panic disorders
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Pulmonary embolisms
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Memory loss
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Migraines
  • Brain fog/poor concentration

Wow, now that’s a list.  How could a gene mutation lead to so many different ailments?  It comes down to a biochemical process called methylation.  People with a MTHFR mutation, have a greatly decreased ability to perform methylation processes in the body.  Methylation is required for a multitude of molecules to be produced and to be metabolized.  And one specific molecule that requires methylation to work properly for its production is called BH4.  Each turn of the folate cycle, which converts one form of folic acid to another form, produces 1 molecule of BH4.  People with one copy of the MTHFR mutation have a 30% decrease in BH4 production, while people with two copies of the mutation have a 70% decrease.

These numbers are staggering because the BH4 molecule has extremely important functions that cannot be over looked.  BH4 is needed for nitric oxide synthase – which is needed to control blood pressure.  It is also the rate-limiting factor in the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, and melatonin – which are important for mood, energy, and sleep.  BH4 is also required for the detoxification of ammonia, which if isn’t detoxified efficiently, becomes a powerful toxin.  The production of the powerful antioxidants, glutathione and co-enzyme Q10, are also very reliant on BH4.  When these two antioxidants are deficient, it drastically reduces the body’s ability to deal with free radicals and their cumulative damage – leading to diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer.

Testing for the MTHFR mutation is quite easy as it only requires a simple blood test, which can be done at Sage Clinic.  There is no cure since it is a genetic mutation, however, there are a multitude of naturopathic treatment protocols that can be implemented that supplement the body’s methylation processes.  Once such protocols are started, many of the seemingly separate and distinct health problems listed above begin to subside.  If you can relate to at least a few of the MTHFR related health problems, it might very well be worth checking your genes for answers.