Naturopathic care is a safe method of relieving stress and optimizing one’s health without the potentially harmful effects of drugs.
The Nature Of Stress
What does “stress” mean to our bodies both mental/emotionally and physically? We feel stressed because of the daily pressures of work, relationships, family and finances. Stress is often translated from worry and constant mind chatter to insomnia, muscle tension, headaches, digestive disturbances and later on, lack of energy. In an article that I recently wrote, I address the relationship between stress, cortisol and overall well-being. Testing and treatment strategies are also touched on to help you determine how stress is effecting your health.
Popular Articles On Naturopathic Benefits
In an article published by Alive written by a fellow ND, it is mentioned that as much as 40% of the general population will at some point be diagnosed with cancer. This means that it is important for everyone to take strides towards healthy lifestyles and diets to help our bodies protect against carcinogens that we come into contact with on a daily basis.
Favourite nutrient-rich foods are mentioned in this article such as leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, garlic and onions. Green tea has one of the most potent natural anti-cancer components that nature has to offer and can be enjoyed multiple times per day. Cooking foods the right way such as lightly steaming vegetables, baking and avoiding non-stick pans will help to deliver the nutrients more completely than using the BBQ or deep-frying.
Supplements that help to protect our DNA from mutations are also described. It is recommended to seek advice from a naturopath to see if these are appropriate for you and which doses are most effective.
Using acupuncture as an adjunct to naturopathic and medical treatment for infertility has been clinically shown to improve pregnancy rates. The following article was written by a women who underwent treatment for infertility herself and while the study quoted was published back in 2002, there are many more recent studies showing the same data.
In 2006 from the May edition of the Journal of Fertility and Sterility, a prospective, randomized trial showed that a statistically significant outcome occurred when acupuncture was used on the day of embryo implantation with IVF patients. In my practice, I have a focus on family planning and infertility. Combining acupuncture with treatment of the underlying cause of fertility concerns has helped many of my patients achieve a successful pregnancy.
When you sit down to a healthy, home cooked meal it feels good. Not just the pride involved with doing something good for your body but also knowing each ingredient used ie – no additives and preservatives, perhaps no GMO foods and maybe cooking with mainly organic choices. Left-overs to bring for lunch the next day or to provide a quick dinner for a day or two to come are also beneficial. So for today’s blog, I thought that I would take a step back from the details of the foods that should be consumed to more of a guideline of what your plate should look like when you sit down.
Going through naturopathic medical school, there was an excellent nutritionist/ND who taught nutrition for several terms. She introduced me to the 25-25-50 rule and I have used it just about with every patient to explain how to eat healthy. When looking down at your plate, you should see 25% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 50% vegetables with a metaphorical drizzle of healthy oils on top.
Carbohydrates 25%. This represents complex carbohydrates, which are important for energy and metabolism as well as containing many important micronutrients like B vitamins and minerals. The portion size is around ½ cup of grains such as brown rice, quinoa and whole grain pasta. This category also includes starchy vegetables for example corn, potatoes, yams, squash, beets and other roots. Try rotating through different carbohydrates to get a wide variety of nutrients within a week. One of my favourite sides is mashed roasted sweet potato with rosemary, garlic and olive oil.
Protein 25%. A portion of meat or fish is around the size of your palm, corresponding to about 3 ounces. Tofu and beans/legumes are other good sources of protein when mixed with a grain to provide a complete protein meal containing all of the essential amino acids. Choosing good quality meat is important – look for organic or non-medicated, grass-fed or wild. Non-vegetarians should have a few vegetarian meals per week, perhaps 2 or more with fish, another 2 with poultry and a meal per week of red meat. Try buffalo or bison as an option as it is usually free-range, grass fed and hormone-free.
Vegetables 50%. This is where most often patients are telling me that they need to increase the amount consumed. Remember that the 50% vegetables do not include starchy vegetables so we are looking at mainly greens. Salads, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard as well as brussel sprouts, peas, green beans, broccoli, zucchini and so on. Since raw vegetables can be more difficult to digest for some, lightly steaming them is the preferred method. See below for a delicious recipe for homemade gomae.
Healthy Oil drizzle. By cooking with healthy oils or using nuts, seeds or avocado in your meal, this component is covered. Olive oil, grapeseed oil, and coconut oil are all very nutritious and can handle higher temperatures without oxidizing. Other oils such as sesame and specialty types are best used after cooking as an added flavour or dressing. A serving of nuts or seeds is a small handful and about 1/4 – 1/3 of an avocado contains all of the good fats that you need. The gomae recipe below covers both the vegetable component and healthy oils.
Dinning atmosphere. Another faculty member told us that she lights a candle at each meal to promote a restful and relaxing setting for meals. Every bite is chewed slowly and the meal itself takes a good 30 minutes to eat. While this might be unrealistic for most of us with busy lives and families, the concept is important. In order to properly digest, we need our bodies to return to parasympathetic mode, or “rest and digest”. This is the best way to absorb all of those nutrients that you have spent time and effort preparing into a great meal. So, try not to eat at your desk or have dinner standing up in the kitchen. Take the time to settle, sit and enjoy!
This yummy dish is packed full of nutrients, you will never make enough to satisfy everyone. My kids will eat a half bunch of spinach each and still ask for more!
1-2 bunches of spinach, washed and trimmed
5 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1.5 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
honey or unrefined sugar to taste
Steam spinach until wilted, remove from heat. Gently squeeze to remove some of the extra water.
To prepare the sauce, using a coffee grinder or other electric blender, grind the sesame seeds until a thick paste forms. Remove from grinder and place in a small bowl. Add the sesame oil (I used toasted sesame oil when I can find it), tamari and honey and mix with a fork until combined. Taste and add more sweetener if desired. Add sauce to spinach and refrigerate as often gomae is served cold. Enjoy!
It is becoming more mainstream knowledge that garlic has antiviral and antifungal properties and that ginger can soothe digestion and nausea. People are taking their health into their own hands using foods that are commonly found in their kitchens and getting great results. Many of our culinary spices have medicinal properties that were promoted for use in cooking by healers of long ago. Below is discussion of a handful of herbs that can be used to create delicious foods and have extra health benefits. The BBC website has an eclectic mix of recipes that are worth checking out. Follow the links at the end of each herb discussion, please send us an email or write a comment if you have feedback on any of these delicious looking recipes!
Fenugreek Trigonella foenumgraecum. An herb commonly found in Indian, Persian and Ethiopian dishes as a spice (the seed), vegetable and flavouring (dried or fresh leaves). In medicinal circles, fenugreek is used for gastrointestinal inflammation to soothe and reduce gastric upset. It also lowers blood sugar and blood levels of cholesterol making fenugreek an excellent diabetic herb. Nursing mothers rely on fenugreek to increase and promote breastmilk production and an Australian study completed in 2011 showed that men who took fenugreek extract for 6 weeks had an increased libido by 25%. The following link has more information and recipes on using fenugreek in cooking. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/fenugreek
Cinnamon Cinnamomum species. A tasty addition to your morning bowl of steel cut oats and baked goods, this herb has many properties of healing including lowering insulin resistance in diabetes and blood sugar regulation. It can be used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent and provides pain relief and decrease of excessive menstrual flow or other bleeding irregularities. Small amounts can be used to soothe digestive irritation and correct nausea and vomiting. Try adding a pinch of cinnamon to your daily routine. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/cinnamon
Cayenene, Capsicum frutescens. This spicy culinary herb does more than just set your mouth on fire. In small doses cayenne can stimulate appetite and be used as a gargle for sore throats due to its antiseptic nature. Topically in an ointment of cayenne extract called capsaicin, it can be used as a vasodilator to promote blood flow to an injured area and reduce pain by depleting substance P (a communicator of pain to our pain receptors). If ingested it can stimulate circulation while lowering blood pressure and helping to break down clots. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/cayenne_pepper
Tumeric Curcuma longa. This root is in the same family as ginger has too many medicinal properties to properly address. Commonly used in curry dishes, the active medicinal ingredient is called curcumin and can be used for a wide variety of health concerns ranging from gallstones to cancer to cardiovascular disease, arthritis and gastric ulcers. Curcumin is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties for use in auto-immune diseases, inflamed joints, digestive disorders, atherosclerosis and cancer. It protects the liver and can be used in cases of liver disease such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. Curcumin must be extracted properly and placed into supplements in forms that are absorbable so it is not recommended that generic brands of curcumin be used for medicinal purposes. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/turmeric
There are many more culinary herbs that are commonly used in naturopathic medicine such as alfalfa, anise, caraway, cardamom, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon balm, licorice, oregano, parsley, peppermint, rosemary, sage and thyme. Watch for Part 2 of Spices that Heal coming soon!
– Dr. Jennifer Luis ND
Dr. Luis is a Naturopathic Physician practicing at Downtown Wellness Centre in Vancouver. Educating her patients on nutrition and lifestyle is part of every treatment plan and is combined with supplementation, acupuncture, IV therapy and/or homeopathy to help achieve optimum health.
It’s time to get back into the groove and return to those exercise routines now that eggnog and holiday treats are more difficult to find. This time of year is the perfect time to do a cleanse to reset your palate and get rid of sugar cravings and maximize your metabolism. Cleansing and exercising work together well to kick-start weight loss, fat-burning and muscle building when done properly. A favourite cleanse that I often recommend is 3 weeks and mainly diet based with a morning shake and liver support supplements and can be enhanced with a few Meyer’s injections (high-dose IV vitamin therapy in 15 minutes). It is based on products from a supplement company called Thorne Research, which we carry at our clinic. Please email for more information. Now onto the exercise component…
It is becoming more mainstream these days to eat, drink or take supplements before, during and after workouts. The company Vega has recently launched several new products that target athletes specifically and are presented as enhancements to improve metabolism, endurance, muscle-building and recovery. Protein is an important component in all of the above as muscles (among other important body tissues) are made of proteins. A post-workout shake with around 20-30g of protein within 45 -60 minutes of exercising will enhance muscle rebuilding. Excessive protein intake will lead to fat production as any unused/un-needed protein is converted into fat. As to the type of protein, whey is considered among the best as it contains higher amounts of particular amino acids and is well digested by most (even those with dairy sensitivities can often digest whey – it is usually other proteins in dairy such as caisen that cause problems). Those who prefer to avoid dairy or look for vegan options may choose the Vega line products. If you are new to protein shakes, I recommend that you look for sample packages of a few different types, as you don’t want to get stuck with a large container of something that makes you gag when you drink! One caution to new shake drinkers as well is that those with kidney disorders should only take extra protein under medical supervision. As carbohydrates are also important to include after workouts, the addition of a banana is an excellent (and delicious) way to balance out your shake.
Other popular additions to the post-workout shake include a scoop of L-Glutamine (helps build muscles, improves digestive function, contributes to neurotransmitter production), anti-oxidants and electrolytes. Anti-oxidants can come from the addition of dark red/purple/blue berries, which contain a variety of anti-oxidants in good concentrations. The purpose of including this to your shake is to quench the free radicals produced when exercising. As the body is working harder and chemical reactions are occurring at a faster rate, more by-products and “waste” are circulating. Anti-oxidants will bind and neutralize free radicals before any damage can be done. I have seen some new lines of supplements that are targeting anti-oxidants specifically beneficial for athletes, such as including larger amounts of R-Alpha Lipoic Acid and have started using them with patients at the clinic.
Sports drinks often contain artificial colouring and flavouring that requires your liver to work harder to break down and excrete. It is also important to look at the type of sugar used in these drinks (not all sugars are equal) as well as the timing of consumption. It has been determined that drinking high carbohydrate drinks prior to an event can actually impair performance due to the invoked insulin-response which can lead to hypoglycemia. One homemade healthy sports drink that can easily be put together includes the following:
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons maple syrup/honey or sugar
½ cup of either orange juice, mashed banana or coconut water
water to bring the drink up to 1L
There are many other supplements that can enhance performance, optimize muscle building and fat burning, improve endurance and replace lost nutrients. Some favourites include carnitine, creatine, vitamin C, Co-Q10, B-complex, magnesium, omega 3s and mineral mixes. Please feel free to contact our clinic for more information or to develop a strategy for your specific training needs.
– Dr. Jennifer Luis, Naturopath at Downtown Wellness Centre
When planning a holiday meal for the family, there are some beloved dishes that must be present on the dining table. Those with food sensitivities won’t feel left out if a few simple substitutions can be made to create a delicious array of traditional foods. For specific recipes, I suggest checking out my favourite block from Whole Life Nutrition www.nourishingmeal.com and especially taking note of the desserts, however here are some quick tips.
Mashed potatoes typically contain a lot of dairy with the high amounts of butter and cream or milk used to fluff it up. Rice milk (unsweetened) works very well instead of milk as does vegetable stock either homemade or store-bought. I like using a combination of both rice milk and stock as the salt from the stock adds in a delicious flavour. Instead of using butter, Earth Balance makes a dairy-free spread (look for the soy-free variety if soy is a problem for you) that works very well in mashed potatoes. A family secret is to add about ¼ cup of very finely diced sweet onions into the potatoes, which gives this dish a subtle, delicious enhancement.
Stuffing can easily be made by using your favourite gluten-free bread for the base of breadcrumbs and ground flax with hot water (1 tablespoon flax to 3 tablespoons hot/boiling water for each egg called for) will easily replace the eggs. Make sure to add handfuls of fresh herbs to the mixture. I have used our family’s go-to gluten-free potato-flax bread, which was a hit with all at Thanksgiving this year. Lastly gravy is made even tastier with rice flour or cornstarch than wheat flour in my opinion.
Traditional potato latkes are a staple around the Chanukah table each year. For those with gluten or egg sensitivities, this can be a challenge when going to Chanukah parties or making up a batch of those delicious potato pancakes. To make latkes without gluten or eggs is simple and ingredients can be substituted that are in your cupboard already. Flour can be replaced with rice flour, potato starch, arrowroot or cornstarch in equal proportions (usually not more than a few tablespoons or ¼ cup is required). Ground flax seeds mixed with hot water in a separate as described above added to the mix work wonderfully. And you get the added benefit of having some extra fibre to help digestion with all those potatoes!
If you are going out to dinner and think you may be exposed to an allergen, don’t forget to bring some digestive enzymes to help out. It may not prevent unwanted symptoms but it will at least help your body to get the nutrients from the food into your system. Enjoy the holidays and make sure to try out some traditional recipes without allergens.
By Dr. Jennifer Luis
Red Bull, Monster and 5-Hour Energy Drink are go-to drinks for adults who are feeling tired or drained and need a quick boost in energy levels. The drinks act as stimulants and often contain concentrated amounts of caffeine to promote wakefulness and alertness. A recent story headlined in the US linking 5-Hour Energy Drink to 13 deaths along with 33 hospitalizations in the past four years (see link below). In the newsreel hyperlinked above to ABC’s take on the story, Monster drink also has 5 deaths claimed against it.
Adrenal glands are important in producing and regulating the release of the stress hormone cortisol into our bodies. Adrenals sit on top of the kidneys and are responsible for the production of a wide range of hormones that help to regulate and balance our blood sugar, stress response, mineral retention and contribute to sexual function. Stimulants such as caffeine will push our adrenals to work harder to pump out more cortisol and keep us awake and alert when otherwise our body is tired and wanting to rest. The common symptoms in response to caffeine in varying amounts include an increased heart rate or palpitations, shaky limbs, widened pupils and insomnia.
If a person is under increased amounts of stress – both physical as in an intense exercise program or mental/emotional stress – the adrenal glands can become less effective at producing cortisol in the regular daily pattern or amounts. Symptoms of this condition termed adrenal fatigue include lack of energy, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, waking in the middle of the night on a regular basis, low blood pressure (felt by a change in position leading to dizziness or seeing spots), frequent infections or illnesses, cold hands and feet and an increased “need” to consume caffeine. However, stimulants will only cause the adrenals to work harder and thus become more fatigued so it is important to stop the cycle and look for solutions to strengthen and improve adrenal function.
Reducing stress and learning how to manage stress is one of the most important things that a person with adrenal fatigue can do. The use of yoga, meditation, gentle walks, journaling and problem solving with friends are some ways to manage stress more effectively. It is also important to look at the main nutrient requirements that adrenal glands have and to eat foods rich in these nutrients on a regular basis. Vitamins C, B5 and B6 are the main ones and are found in foods such as bright, colourful fruits and vegetables, whole grains and eggs. In cases of more severe adrenal fatigue, certain herbs can be used to improve adrenal function as can other naturopathic supplements. Testing can be done through salivary or urine analysis to determine if you have adrenal fatigue and the degree of dysfunction and is available through your naturopathic physician. Remember – it is always more important to determine the cause of your fatigue, whether it be due to your adrenals or other – than to mask it with excessive caffeine consumption!
Dr. Tejinder K. Ghag
About Dr. Ghag
Dr. Ghag, known to her close friends and family as TJ, is a licensed Naturopathic Physician who is passionate about hearing your unique health story and providing guidance where needed. A firm believer in individualized health, Dr. Ghag strives to identify the root cause of dysfunction as she believes there is no single cause. Using a multidisciplinary approach, Dr. Ghag will work with you to explore any physiological imbalances, mental emotional triggers, life stressors, and environmental toxicities and create a unique treatment plan that caters to your needs.