Autumn, change of season and immune support

It has finally rained here in the Cowichan Valley, which is a good sign that it is autumn. Transitions are difficult, as you may know from moving, starting a new job, a new school, a new relationship… They put us under quite a bit of stress to adapt. Autumn is the time to take particular care of our immune systems. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I do believe “getting sick” once or twice a year is actually good training for our immunity, and helps our immune cells to adapt to the ever mutating viruses. However, I don’t believe we should stay sick for long or suffer serious health complications because our bodies are not well equipped to fend off infections. Here are my favourite five methods to protect yourself from getting too sick this autumn and winter.

  1. Start out in good health – Have you already been feeling tired and rundown? Not sleeping well? Then its time for a full check-up to correct deficiencies and address any underlying health problems before working on preventing further deterioration throughout the year.
  2. Soup. Never mind juicing, green drinks, and cold smoothies. Its cold outside now, you need food that will warmly nourish you. Pull out your slow cooker and start simmering some bone broths and harvest veggie filled soups. Beyond simply keeping your body warm and thereby keeping your blood circulating, soup is full of readily available nutrition necessary for keeping your immune system humming along.  http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/broth-is-beautiful/
  3. Homeopathic prophylaxis. Dosing a homeopathic preparation based on the last 100years of flu pandemics encompasses the many genetic variants that occur with flu viruses. It is free of adjuvants, and will not interfere with any other medications or cause the immune dysregulation that is seen in auto-immune diseases.cowichanvalleytrail
  4. Hydrotherapy. Warming or “magic” socks work incredibly well to improve lymphatic and blood circulation, thereby accelerating various immune cells ability to clear infections. This is an excellent home treatment to use before and while sick. See my handout for more details.
  5. Go outside. Its much easier to adapt to the changes in season when we are a part of our environment. Get out for a walk or simply sit outside for 20min everyday. In our modern lives, many people go from cars, to homes, to buildings with minimal exposure to their external world. Head to a park, trail or even your backyard, and watch the leaves change and fall, witness how the plants and animals are preparing for winter. Breathe in the changing air and listen to what your body is telling you need at this transitional season. http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html#Reference
Advertisements

Spring has sprung! Time to clean ourselves up.

After an hour of hiking yesterday and scanning the periphery of the trail for bits of green, we found the first patch of many… beautiful vibrant green nettles (Urtica urens). Cautious of prickles, I collected a nice harvest and cooked them up last night. Mmmm… nourishing and cleansing.

nettles

Many traditions support cleansing in the spring. In Chinese Medicine, this time of year corresponds to the wood element, associated with the liver and gallbladder, the colour green (no surprise) and the emotion of anger.

Our livers are always detoxifying.. tucked up under our right rib cage lives a remarkable organ. I recall when studying anatomy how amazed I was with the size and density of the human liver. Everything that enters our bodies must be filtered through it. It decides what we keep and recirculate and what gets prepared for eventual disposal. These processes are intricate and detailed… but to simplify, it “metabolizes toxic substances into non-toxic, water-soluble compounds that can be eliminated by the kidneys and intestines. The liver and other tissues involved in detoxification must be supplied with the essential nutrients needed for this task, as well as botanicals that assist detoxification and aid in preventing damage to the body’s tissues during the cleansing process.” (Thorne Research)

Functions-Of-The-Liver-3

As a Naturopathic Physician, I love designing safe, effective and personalized detoxification programs for patients. Not everyone will benefit from the same nutrients/botanicals. Not everyone can handle the same nutrients/botanicals. We are all in different states of wellness, have been exposed to different toxic substances and have our own unique physiological needs. I urge people to be cautious, as some detoxification programs can be harmful, if your body is not prepared or capable for the various stages of elimination. liberating toxic elements from where they’ve been carefully sequestered (usually in adipose tissue/ fat), requires that your organs are able to process and eliminate them safely.

The other part of detoxification, strongly associated with liver function in Chinese Medicine, is the smooth flow of Qi – in other words the smooth flow of energy and emotion. Allowing the experience of a full spectrum of emotion is healthy and will prevent “stagnation”. I often see enlightened people who have adopted the “positive outlook” to life – which is great. But this outlook should not force an abandonment of our other less desirable emotions: usually sadness and anger, which get labeled as “negative”. In order to truly and honestly be happy and positive, it is important to allow the flow and release of your anger and sadness, too.

Tears are our emotional bodies’ sweat, and we all know the cleansing value of sweating to our physical bodies. So allow those tears to flow. And imagine how much cleaner your emotional body will be.

Happy Spring everyone!

 

 

Autumnal support

Another change of season is here.

cropped-february-forest.jpg

It’s time to slow down and nourish yourself for the winter to come. This time of year is always a challenge to our immune systems – and patients often ask me, what advice I have for cold/flu prevention. My first answer, is often… “let yourself get sick”. That may sound ridiculous. But catching a cold/flu once a year is actually good training for the immune system – it allows your body to produce antibodies to the ever-mutating viruses out there. If you consider your immune system like you would a muscle, it requires training, to remain fit. So, let yourself get sick, take some time off and rest. It’s a chance to press pause on our fast-paced lives and reflect a little bit.

That said, there are definitely things you can do to support your immune system (just as you would support your muscles in rebuilding after exercise). My favourites:

(1) Bone broths – their value you as a nutritional medicine should not be underestimated. Full of readily available amino acids, fats, collagen, glucosamine and other necessary vitamins and minerals, if it could be put into a pill, it would be the ultimate supplement. I prefer taking it in soup form – nice warm comforting stuff on cold, damp autumn days.

(2) Hydrotherapy – “magic socks” I call them. They encourage lymphatic and blood circulation in your whole body while you sleep. Stagnant circulation of both these systems will lead to inability to properly fight infections – lymph carrying all the necessary white blood cells and blood transporting the necessary nutrition and oxygen, and removing waste from clearing infections. *rinse out light cotton socks in cool water, put them on warm feet, then put on a pair of dry wool socks – jump into bed and let your feet warm up and dry out the socks* This will improve circulation to your whole body, as your feet are most often the area where circulation becomes weak/congested.

(3) Light/moderate exercise. It is important to slow down at this time of year, to allow your body to adjust, however, this doesn’t mean becoming a couch potato. Engaging in slow, contemplative walks through the woods or through a park is key to encouraging your circulation (blood and lymph) without exhausting your adrenals with intense (stressful) exercise. I always emphasize exercise outdoors – studies continue to show that better health is achieved through time spent in “green” spaces (forests/parks/gardens).

(4) Sleep. We may not hibernate this winter, but adequate restful sleep is essential in our ability to adapt to the cold. The shortened days are trying to tell us something…. before electricity and alternate sources of light, when it became dark, it was time to sleep. As it gets darker earlier, it is a good idea to get to bed earlier, too. Sleep before midnight has been shown to accomplish more for our bodies physiologically, than the same amount of sleep after midnight. So set an earlier bedtime this season, and fall into your slumber well before midnight.

Beyond that, autumn is a great time to check in with a Naturopathic physician to closely evaluate and attend to your health. If you have any nutritional imbalances, or underlying health issues, they will reduce the strength of your immune system.

Prevention is always key, but getting sick isn’t always a bad thing, just be sure to give yourself a chance to rest, reflect and heal during those times.

Spring Time Detox

Why Spring cleaning should extend beyond your home…

daisies - www-free-for-kids-com

It’s the ideal time to support your liver and gallbladder in cleaning out your body. In Chinese Medicine philosophy, the transition in seasons relates to a transition in energy from different organ systems. Winter is considered “water” time or the period of dormancy, when our kidneys and urinary bladders (our essence) should be supported. We build up our stores, through rest and warm nourishing foods throughout the winter. Spring is “wood” time, when our livers and gallbladders become more active, which makes it the ideal time for cleansing.

Consider the saying “April showers bring May flowers”  – your body deserves a cleaning or shower to prepare it to blossom or flower. By supporting change during this time of year, you will be empowered to move forward and emerge in optimal health for summer.

 If you’re considering a cleanse at this time of year, check in with your Naturopathic Doctor for an efficient, individualized plan tailored to meet your needs.


Personal care products – alternatives to risky ingredients

While it may seem difficult to avoid harmful ingredients and still engage in personal hygienic practices, there are appropriate alternatives available. Below are some suggestions of safe and therapeutic solutions that can be incorporated as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Soap

Soap making or saponification, was once a simple process accomplished by combining an alkali substance (wood ashes, soda deposits, seaweed or potash and perlash) with waste fats to allow the splitting of the fat into fatty acids and glycerin and joining the sodium or potassium of the alkali to the fatty acid, thus making soap. But this once short list of soap making ingredients has become much more lengthy with the introduction of new synthetic compounds purported to improve cleansing.

There are still companies making basic traditional soaps though, such as Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps made with water, saponified organic oils, essential oils and vitamin E as a preservative. Their bar soaps include sodium hydroxide in the ingredients list, which is the source of alkali (lye) to allow the saponification reaction described above. Other traditional bar soaps can often be found at local farmer’s markets; such as Nature’s Natural Solutions (Nova Scotia) which emphasize goat’s milk for its moisturizing and soothing properties.

Men are often looking for a thick lather for shaving; which can be found in products such as Saltspring SoapWorks’ StoneBay shaving soap, with nothing but saponified oils, spring water, beeswax, glycerine, Fullers earth and essential oils, thus avoiding all the additional endocrine disrupting ingredients. Using an old style shaving brush helps, as it stirs up more lather.

Then there are the folks with super-dry, sensitive skin. For them, bar soaps are often too harsh and drying. Cream cleansers are usually recommended, but instead of products full of toxic additives, aim for products that focus on using natural oils. Golden Naturals makes a SeaBuckthorn cream cleanser with liquid castile soap and several naturally sourced oils for maintain moisture.

Shampoo

Sodium laurel sulphate gives those ample bubbles that convince us that our hair is squeaky clean. Its not necessary. Recall, saponified oils = soap.

Saltspring Works makes shampoo bars with nothing but saponified oils and essential oils. Most alternate liquid shampoos include coco glucoside, which is a natural surfactant from corn, potatoes or wheat. Sodium cocoate is another alternative often listed, which is the term for saponified coconut oil.

Conditioners

Coastal classic creations has a line of hair oils to be used instead of creamy synthetic-based conditioners. Most list one or two ingredients: Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil and Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) leaf oil or an alternate essential oil. Dr. Bronner has a few conditioners to choose from all with relatively short ingredients list, and none with ceteryl alcohol, sulfates or parabens.

Edible personal care

One of the safest approaches to personal care is to use only what one would allow yourself to ingest, because in slathering things on our porous skin things end up in our bloodstreams and can accumulate in adipose tissue and internal organs, just as anything that would be eaten or drank. Substances absorbed via the skin bypass the first pass effect of the liver, making them even more of a systemic danger. Venturing into the kitchen for materials for personal care is a great idea. Some very affordable, DIY options include:

The use of edible oils as moisturizers; Coconut oil is an excellent facial or body moisturizer with anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Almond oil is a lighter option and olive oil, too (however the yellow/green color discoloration may be off putting for some skin tones). Rosehip oil is a powerful hydrator that also stimulates keratinocyte differentiation.

Having patients prepare good old fashioned oil infusions from our well-known arsenal of vulnerary herbs; Calendula officinalis (Calendula) and Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort) is a great alternative to expensive and often hazardous serums. Cooling herbs such as Mentha piperita (Peppermint) are ideal for TCM ‘heat’ conditions, such as acne or eczema.  Aloe vera is well-known for its vulnerary properties and also acts as an excellent acne treatment when used directly from the plant .

Green tea, has valuable astringent properties, that make it a worthwhile toner. Its potent antioxidant profile imparts anti-aging properties. Lastly, its a valuable resource for protecting against sun damage.

Yogurt can make a great cleansing mask for those suffering from acne. The probiotics help compete with the offending bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes). Honey, unpasteurized is well-known for its vulnerary and anti-microbial properties and can be mixed with yogurt or oatmeal into a paste for facial masks to treat scars and skin lesions.

The rich, fatty, nutrient-dense nature of avocado makes it an excellent hair conditioner or weekly hair treatment. And instead of drinking that next beer use it on your hair. Using it as a shampoo makes sense, as it is full of B vitamins that strengthen it; much like the brand of haircare that advertises its use of pro-vitamin B. Vinegar as a hair rinse is a great conditioner and shine-booster as it helps remove residues left by conventional hair products.

Clays help to draw out toxins in the skin, while muds help the skin by replenishing with minerals and nutrients. Zeolite is a particularly powerful clay. Its negative charge, attracts positively charged toxins, and its honeycomb structure allows it to bind the toxin effectively. Zeolite also absorbs moisture and neutralized odors, making its application as a deodorant highly effective.

Deodorants

While we know sweating is good; great detoxification, being ‘smelly’ can be cause social problems. The risks of absorbing aluminum through the surrounding lymphatic circulation pathways in the axillary area should deter anyone from using conventional deodorant and antiperspirants. Aluminum is a known neurotoxin and emerging evidence is revealing it likely plays a detrimental role in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

More than any other personal care product, natural alternative deodorants are often rated as inferior in their effectiveness. This may be something our society needs to become more comfortable with; people smell. And the odours that we emit are important indicators of our well-being and our compatibility, consider the importance of pheromones. Rather than cover that up entirely – evaluating those smells and addressing them by treating one’s state of health may be more appropriate to encourage as Naturopathic Physicians.

Himalayan salt deodorants, from various companies, that contain nothing more than salt, have strong customer reviews regarding effectiveness. However, the application seems a bit tricky for some folks though and it may require repeated application. Thincskin makes ‘PITS!’ a natural deodorant with a short list of ingredients; shea butter, olive oil (infused with calendula and chamomile), macademaia nut oil, coconut oil, baking soda, arrow root and essential oil blend. It has also been given high ratings of effectiveness. Lastly, Soapwalla has a ‘deodorant cream’ with a list of clean ingredients including various organic oils, kaolin clay, organic corn starch, baking soda, and essential oils.

Healing

WELCOME!

Wherever you are on your path to health, let me assist you on your way.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Healing is to make whole. It seems we spend our entire lives in the process or on the path to making ourselves whole. Like all of nature, healing is innate to life. We all have the power to heal, the ability to travel along that path. Obstacles may occur that prevent or slow us down. Lets work together to uncover those obstacles and work at clearing them away.

Through the use of an integrated holistic approach, involving a comprehensive clinical intake, including a focused physical exam and required lab investigations, an appropriate treatment plan can be developed that may include any or all of the following modalities; traditional chinese medicine (including acupuncture), hydrotherapy, nutrition, botanical medicine and homeopathy. The care of a naturopathic physician will empower you in your healing journey.

For more on Naturopathic Medicine and on me, please explore the site’s other pages.