Every week I hear the same question, “What is reiki?”
It doesn’t surprise me in the least. Reiki is not as common as its sister therapy, acupuncture. It is a bit more ‘mysterious’ and unknown. But don’t let that fool you. In essence, reiki is an effective and gentle way to increase the body’s ability to heal more efficiently while decreasing the physiological and emotional effects of stress. Not bad right?
Reiki is performed while the client rests laying down. The practitioner manipulates the body’s energy field by gently laying hands on and above areas of the body. This positively affects energetic flow and vibration of the main energy centers, allowing for more balance and relaxation. Just as acupuncture helps clear the many lines of energy through the body (known as meridians), reiki helps clear the 7 major energy centers (known as chakras).
Why do I need energy cleared and balanced?
Einstein himself has said, “Everything in life is vibration”. At the deepest level of our being, we are energetic. Each atom, the building blocks of our body, breaks down to vibrational energy. When we treat the body at this foundational level, every aspect of health is influenced.
If I were a piece of music, what would I sound like?
This is one of my favourite questions. Once we understand that we are vibration and frequency, we can think in terms of music. We are so much more than we ever believed ourselves to be! At any moment we are sending out a signal, an energetic signature. Have you ever been around someone who makes you feel lighter and happier just by being in their presence? And we all know those people who make us feel heavier and more negative. This is the work of energy. Our music resonates with some and not others. We can be a beautiful symphony or fall into disharmony and imbalance, living slightly off key so to speak. By the end of a reiki treatment, the goal is to have the ‘instruments’, or energy centers, playing in tune with each other.
So how is this a secret weapon for optimal health?
Science based research has shown that reiki activates the parasympathetic nervous system which increases the body’s ability to rest and heal while reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Because of this, reiki is an excellent complement to ongoing treatments of chronic illness and pain such as chemotherapy, chiropractic and naturopathic care.
I like to think of reiki as one of the best defenses against stress. When receiving regular treatment, the physical and emotional body becomes resilient. Decreased inflammation and decreased blood pressure are only the beginning. Reiki increases immunity and increases feelings of self-worth and compassion as well. Once the body enters deep relaxation, the body naturally frees up energy for healing. Because of this, reiki is a wonderful preventative treatment as well.
So whether presently suffering from chronic issues or just looking to stay healthy and balanced, reiki is an excellent choice for self-care and is now available at Dalhousie Health & Wellness. Reiki truly is you secret weapon to optimal health!
Shoulder Pain at Night
Night pain is a commonly encountered symptom for patients with shoulder injuries. Night pain is of great importance as it disturbs sleep and diminishes quality of life. Good quality sleep is of utmost importance to all of us! Without proper sleep we may be less active during the day, have a lower threshold for dealing with stress and injury, mental exhaustion and even delayed healing.
There are many conditions associated with night pain in your shoulder such as: bursitis, rotator cuff injuries, adhesive capsulitis [frozen shoulder], osteoarthritis and tendinosis to name a few. The cause of pain in these conditions can be divided into three major subtypes: movement related, compression and inflammatory
Movement Related Shoulder Pain
When we injure the muscles, ligaments or tendons in the shoulder it may cause a decreased range of motion, which means that certain movements become difficult and painful. Our unconscious bodies may toss and turn at night causing us to move our shoulder in a painful direction, waking us up and disturbing our sleep.
Compression and Shoulder Pain
Did you know that most of us are side sleepers? Often patients tell me that they usually sleep on the side of their injured shoulder. Changing our sleeping position can be very challenging, however laying on the same side as the injury can further aggravate your pain and discomfort. Making efforts to avoid compressing the injured tissues is also recommended as a way to speed up healing times.
Inflammation and Shoulder Pain
Some of my patients report that no matter how little or how much they move around, whether they sleep on their backs or sides, they just cannot relieve their shoulder pain at night! This night time aching that does not seem to be positionally related is the most perplexing and frustrating for patients. Researchers have found that this type of night pain is related to increased blood flow through the arteries of the shoulder suggesting an increase in inflammation.
So, What is the Best Way to Sleep When my Shoulder Hurts at Night?
The best option is always to consult a health care professional for a proper assessment, diagnosis and individualized treatment. Your health care provider may suggest some of the following depending on your specific type of shoulder injury and cause of the night pain:
1. Use a pillow to restrict your movement: If you are concerned about moving in a painful direction or rolling onto your shoulder, placing a pillow behind you may help prevent you from turning over.
2. Avoid sleeping on the side of the injury: Sleeping on your back, opposite side or even using a wedge pillow to elevate your shoulders may relieve some of your discomfort.
3. Perform your prescribed stretches and rehabilitation exercises. A health care professional can prescribe therapeutic exercise to relieve pain, stiffness and improve your range of motion.
4. Icing. Using ice or other anti-inflammatory measures before bed as prescribed can help delay the onset of pain and allow you to fall asleep faster.
5. Avoid any activities which are likely to worsen your pain. Knowing your limits and decreasing overall irritation will also aid in a faster recovery.
6. Practice good sleep hygiene. Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Reduce fluid intake and avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed. Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes prior to bed.
If you’re experiencing persistent pain, restricted or painful motion, night pain or shoulder issues which are affecting your quality of life, please make sure to consult your chiropractor, doctor, massage therapist, physiotherapist or other trusted health care professional
Dr. Pepper has a special interest in the treatment of children, adolescents and adults with concussion. Much of my time treating concussions is spent answering questions and providing education. Despite the surge in interest, many questions and misconceptions linger around the topic of concussion. The following are some of the most common myths I hear about concussion in my office.
You have to hit your head to have a concussion
People commonly believe that you need to hit your head to have a concussion and that the harder the hit the worse the concussion. Neither of these statements are true. A concussion can be sustained by hitting your head, but also by a rapid acceleration-deceleration or your head or a coup-countercoup motion. This kind of injury can be produced in a car accident, a fall or even a hit to the body. We also see in practice that the degree of the injury does not correlate well to the number or intensity of symptoms.
You need to lose consciousness to have a concussion
Loss of consciousness is not a diagnostic criteria for concussion, in fact it occurs in less than 10% of concussion cases. Although it seems logical that a loss consciousness would indicate a more severe concussion this is also not the case. It is always important to report loss of consciousness to your health care provider but it may not be a reliable indicator in determining if you have a concussion or how severe the symptoms may be.
You have to keep someone with a concussion awake
Sleep is actually vitally important in concussion recovery. This misconception is likely a result of advice that is intended for those with bleeding in their brains. Brain bleeds are very rarely associated with concussion. If the patient has been assessed by a health care professional and a bleed has been ruled out, it is safe for them to sleep. When you sustain a concussion your brain is suffering from an energy crisis and adequate sleep can help restore your brain’s energy. However, daytime sleeping and excessive napping is discouraged, try to get your restorative sleep at night.
You will have symptoms from your concussion right away
Although concussion symptoms may come on right away, they are often delayed. Some symptoms may take hours or even days to appear after the initial injury. In the time following a concussion the brain is more susceptible to injury, this is why we say “when in doubt, sit them out”. Returning to play before a concussion is healed and sustaining a second injury may lead to Second Impact Syndrome which is a very serious complication that causes neurological impairment, brain swelling, coma and possibly death. For more information on this please read up on Rowan’s Law which is legislation designed to protect those with head injuries.
All physical activity should be avoided, you need complete rest
An initial period of complete rest may be recommended for 0-48 hours post injury. Following this, light aerobic activity is highly recommended. Research demonstrates that light activity is
associated with faster recovery than complete rest. Your health care provider will assess your individual case and make recommendations based on your symptoms. Usually a short walk or stationary biking are preferred. As your symptoms improve your health care provider will include rehabilitation exercises and slowly re-introduce you to your previous activities. Incremental exposure to your normal demands will be a critical part of your return to work/play or school plan.
Did you know that having a weak immune system is what brought me to Naturopathic medicine?
I used to get yearly throat infections, which meant yearly antibiotics. This lead to other problems! Now helping people have a strong immune system is one of my passions.
This article will discuss what to avoid, what to increase, and how to restore the immune system leading to lowered antibiotic use and better overall health.
Naturopathic doctors strive to support weakened systems in the body. When the immune system has become weak, we can start by removing obstacles to overall health and immune function. Some obstacles may include:
• Sugar in the diet – each time we eat sugar our white blood cell count decreases.
• Stress – stress is known to have a detrimental effect on the immune system, including reduced antibody production and natural killer cells. The mind-body connection is powerful!
• Too much caffeine – this acts as a stressor to an already depleted immune system. It also depletes the body of nutrients that the immune system needs
• Food sensitivities and Leaky gut (Intestinal Permeability) – causing the immune system to become over active and weakened
• Nutrient deficiencies – such as zinc, vitamin D, and selenium
• Toxic load – heavy metals bind to minerals like selenium, leaving your immune system depleted. Heavy metals are found in amalgams, tap water, and in the pesticides on our food.
Next is to start a more healthful regime.
• Avoid your food intolerances, sugar, caffeine, and fake food such as preservatives, colourings, and additives. The body understands these things as foreign and should be avoided.
o antioxidant rich food – dark coloured fruits and veggies like berries, kale, broccoli, onion, garlic, carrots, spinach etc.
o protein – grass fed, organic meat, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, poultry.
o whole foods diet – foods as close to their natural state as possible. This ensures a synergistic mix of essential vitamins and minerals in their natural most absorbable state.
o 2-3 ltrs of clean water
Stimulate your natural healing mechanism
One way to do this at home is through home hydrotherapy. Take a hot bath or shower for 5-10 minutes. Get out and dry off. Take a large towel wrung out in cold water and wrap it around the torso, from the armpits to the groin. Cover up with a robe or blanket to avoid a chill. Leave in place 20-30 minutes. Do not remove the towel until it becomes warmed. At the end of this treatment you should feel better and not chilled. Discontinue if feel chilled after.
Another way is through acupuncture and homeopathy. This is prescribed in office from your naturopathic doctor.
Support and Regenerate the Immune System Itself
This may be achieved by taking:
• probiotics – modulate immune function
• vitamin C – is rapidly used by the body during infection or high stress. It is also has a broad range of immunological effects, like stimulating interferon, white blood cell proliferation, and regenerates vitamin e.
• vitamin D – now known as imperative to proper immune function. Pro tip – cod liver oil has absorbable vitamin D in it, along with essential fatty acids which are the gatekeepers of immune regulation. 2 for 1! Not for the pregnant population thought!
• Selenium – 200 mcg/d. has a profound effect on healing the immune system.
• Deep Immune by St. Francis – acts as an immune tonic which improves the vitality of the immune system, and modulator.
Thomas was a young boy with chronic repeated ear infections. We started by removing his food intolerances – in his case dairy. We stimulated his natural healing capacity by using homeopathy – Silica, used for chronic ear infections and lowered immunity. We added the basics – probiotic and cod liver oil. Mom was armed with what to do in case of another infection, like the warming sock treatment and to call the office at first signs of infection, but he did not have another ear infection.
Mrs. H used to get sick every year with the flu. We balanced her immune system with monthly acupuncture sessions supporting her “wei qi”. We used homeopathics that tonify and keep the immune system on guard ready to fight the flu. She stuck to the basics: nutritious diet, exercise, vitamin D, probiotics and fish oil. While others around her got sick, she remained healthy all winter.
I love helping people treat and prevent infections in the urinary tract, lungs, sinuses, ears, throat, and skin. Along with an in office oxidative stress test, a chakra check can help us discern which chakras need strengthening, and what the repeated infections may be trying to tell you about your emotional health.
Call us at 289 668 5433 to start your immune strengthening program.
By Dr. Donata Girolamo, Naturopathic Doctor
Energy Medicine, Reiki, EFT and Mindfulness Coach
Stephanie Chorozy is a passionate practitioner of energy medicine as well as a dedicated mindfulness coach. She is a certified mindfulness instructor with the Mindful Schools Institute and has maintained her own personal meditation practice for over 20 years. She was introduced to the power of meditation while completing her degree in Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. The study of Epistemology and Eastern Philosophy led to a life-long fascination with the mind and a desire to tap into the life force energy of the body. The mind-body connection became crystal clear.
Stephanie is a certified Reiki Master and EFT therapist, offering over 10 years of experience in the field of energy medicine. Helping clients find balance in the body and the mind is her priority. Learning how to handle stress at the mental, emotional, and physical level is the goal. Stephanie believes that each client has their own unique path back to health. Energy work, in combination with mindfulness techniques, is often the missing link to health and wellness.
Reiki is a therapeutic and relaxing form of energy healing. It brings the body's energy centers into alignment and balance. This balance in the body brings balance to the mind and spirit as well, resulting in a holistic tune-up! Clients often feel lighter, more relaxed and experience intuitive clarity after a reiki treatment.
Reconnect with your life while learning mindful practices which will help you manage stress more effectively. You will learn how to stay in the driver's seat of your life...moment by moment. The goal here is to see yourself as less restricted by circumstances while becoming more powerful in designing the experiences you would like to have. We work on heightening awareness so you can feel more in control of your thoughts and emotions. We explore mindfulness as a lifestyle and shed some light on negative thought and behavior patterns that might be blocking you. Meditation is introduced.
Emotional Freedom Technique
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is most commonly known as tapping. It is a form of energy healing that works with the meridians, or energy channels, in the body. It helps rewire one's emotional response to a thought from the past, present or future. In essence, it energetically helps you loosen your grip on negative thought patterns. Tapping on specific points helps balance the body and calm the mind.
Learn how to develop your own personal meditation practice with private one on one instruction. Learning how to focus the mind and stay in a state of presence is the goal. Meditation is a game changer, a skill that will bring clarity and increased health to the practitioner. Want an edge in this life? You will find it in stillness and awareness..
The Energy Shift is a deep dive into wellness, creating a lasting shift in emotional and energetic health. Customize your experience by choosing two services and experiencing them back to back. Most often, an energy healing session is followed by a mindfulness session but you are the architect here! All of the services offered by Stephanie complement each other and when experienced together, offer a much needed shift in both energy and the mind
Our hormones can be a beautiful symphony, or they can be like a bull in a china shop.
When our hormones are in balance, we feel comfortable in our bodies, centered, intuitive, and can express our true natures.
However many women describe that for most of the month, they have hormone related symptoms, making each week a different an uncomfortable experience.
How did this happen? And how do we fix this?
Our hormones are made and respond to various processes in the body. Stress, sleep, nutrition, and environmental toxins all play a role in their function and genetic expression. The organs affected and involved in their balance are the digestive and endocrine systems. Your body can restore hormone function without the use of external hormones. Even if you do take hormone replacement, for optimal wellness you may consider healing the underlying imbalances.
Signs and Symptoms of a Hormone Imbalance
• Mood swings like anger, depression,isolation
• Weight gain
• Food cravings
• No sex drive
• Mid-cycle spotting or bleeding
• heavy periods
• Anxiety and paranoia
Causes of Hormone Imbalances
The most common factor that I see in a woman’s health history that causes a hormonal imbalance is long-term stress. This creates a problem with cortisol, the stress hormone, and taxes the adrenal, hypothalamus, and thyroid glands. High or low cortisol can have devastating affects on our hormones, skin, mood, sleep, weight, and libido.
We are not all created with exactly the same Qi, Constitutions and Temperaments. Trying to accomplish, be, and do all the things everyone else is doing can lead to a burn out – of body and mind. Currently, self-care is in fashion and rightfully so! Respecting your boundaries is a way to renew depleted resources.
Other stressors are not making enough time for rest and play, improper breathing, wrong diet, obesity, negative thinking, allergies and sensitivities, low grade infections, candida, toxins, and elevated blood sugar all act as stressors to the physical body.
Chronic sleep deprivation
Melatonin, the hormone released during sleep, modulates women’s menstrual cycles. This affects shift workers, those with insomnia, those who are exposed to strong electromagnetic fields, alcohol and caffeine consumption, stress, and just not getting enough sleep.
Eating foods that constantly trigger insulin, will affect the rest our hormones, and cause acne, pms, weight gain, and mood changes. These foods are sugar, soft drinks, alcohol, excess carbohydrates and animal fats, along with lack of exercise and chronic stress.
A standard diet filled with processed foods, excess saturated and hydrogenated fats, dairy, and not enough veggies, fiber, quality protein, and essential fatty acids contributes to inflammation, poor digestion, and faulty liver detoxification pathways.
These are pervasive, and disruptive to our hormones and physiology in general. Many toxins like mercury bind to our minerals, and stop us from absorbing these minerals from our food. Currently there are more than 80,000 (closer to 250,000) chemicals in use today, many of which are unregulated, and are associated with long-term problems on our health and the environment.
Three key strategies to fix hormone imbalances
These are usually the steps I take my patients through to soothe and nourish hormone imbalances like low progesterone, high estrogen, high and low cortisol, and high insulin.
1. Reduce Inflammation to Balance your Hormones
Inflammatory compounds are associated with insulin resistance, tissue damage, chronic inflammation and other metabolic deficiencies. Once you start to reduce inflammation, the body in its’ wisdom will start healing your hormones for you! Some diet recommendations are:
• follow the anti-inflammatory diet, with lots of herbs like turmeric and ginger, fish and flax oils, and flax seeds
• keep gluten-free whole grains like quinoa, millet, and oats to a minimum
• balance your pH with chlorella, spirulina, or fresh veggie drinks
2. Target the Gastro-intestinal tract to Balance your Hormones
Secondly, targeting your digestive health is a good next step. This could involve regulating stomach acid, healing fatty liver (often undiagnosed until you go looking for it), helping the gallbladder not be so sludgy, restoring the flora and lining of your digestive tract. These organs help to process hormones, balance blood sugar, regulate mood, weight, and detoxification. In-office, we check all these things through urine or bioenergetic tests, questionnaires, and your health history. Hormone balancing programs should include the following to balance digestive organs:
• a probiotic and fermented foods like kim chi and sauerkraut, fibrous foods like garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, oats, flax, seaweeds
• brassica family foods – cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower
• a liver supporting formula including Milk Thistle, Dandelion, and Artichoke or nutrients such as NAC or glutathione
• B vitamins
• If fungus or other pathogens are suspected, some deeper digestive work should be done.
3. Replenish Deficient Nutrients to Balance your Hormones
Finally, it is time to replenish deficiencies like magnesium, vitamin D, anti-oxidants, and chromium. Now that inflammation has diminished and digestion has improved, you will be absorbing the nutrients from your food better, plus any other supplements. Herbs are another good option, as they have an affinity for the endocrine system along with containing minerals within them. They are plants after all! Some options include:
• Magnesium, zinc, selenium, tyrosine, and anti-oxidants to promote progesterone and thyroid function
• B complex including higher amounts of B5 and B6
• Herbs like Vitex, Ashwaghanda, and Guggul are nourishing and balancing.
• other minerals and essential fatty acids
Along with these strategies, a stress management program throughout is essential. If there is a stressor in your life that needs reframing or a new perspective, then counselling is a good option. We can support the adrenal gland, but if the perception of the stress remains, then results may not be as effective. Acupuncture is an excellent therapy to support the stress response, increase and decrease hormones, support digestion, sleep, and mood. Homeopathy is another good modality to help change the stress response. These strategies are a foundation to start rebalancing your hormones.
Depending on your health history, signs and symptoms, and corresponding lab tests, other options may be helpful too.
Written by Dr. Donata Girolamo, ND
Fatigue is such a common concern for the women I see in my Naturopathic practice. It is also a marker of health that Naturopathic doctors use as part of a health intake.
Being tired is often a catch 22; you know that eating better and exercising would make you feel better, but… you’re too tired to do them! With some targeted individualized solutions, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Here are the most common reasons I find women suffer from low energy and fatigue.
If our bodies become too acidic, this paves the way for malabsorption of nutrients, inflammation, allergies, and a build up of acidic waste in our connective tissue. Acids also cause hormones like estrogen to increase, as more is required to do its’ job.
Our digestive enzymes and other energy hormones like thyroid hormone don’t work as well in an acidic environment. All these issues can leave us feeling tired, depleted, and bogged down.
We need right amounts of carbon dioxide in the blood to have enough oxygen to nourish our cells. Many people breathe too much – chronic hyperventilation – leading to low levels of CO2 in the blood. When CO2 levels are low, haemoglobin molecules are less able to release oxygen from the blood. When there is enough pressure of CO2 in the blood and lungs, oxygen is released more readily.
The way we breathe determines the amount of carbon dioxide present in our blood, and therefore how well our bodies are oxygenated, and energized.
Build up of Toxic waste
Everyone feels better after a detox. This is because our liver and kidneys do hundreds of functions per second. When they become sluggish from an acidic body or other toxins like environmental, water and food, from lack of sleep, nutrient deficiencies, prescriptions, and stress, then we can feel it in our sense of well-being or energy levels.
Toxins can interfere with the energy production centers of the cell, causing fatigue but also a lowered metabolism, and other symptoms of disease.
Blood Sugar Imbalances
Chronic dips of blood sugar and surges of insulin can cause people to be on a roller-coaster of highs and lows of energy. This is true even if your blood work says your blood sugar is normal.
Many women suffer with hypoglycemia without being diagnosed with diabetes. Acidic waste blocks glucose from getting into the cell and may lead to insulin resistance, along with nutrient deficiencies like chromium, calcium, magnesium, and others.
Long periods of stress are commonly combined with nutrient deficiencies, which then lead to hormone imbalances and fatigue. The hormones are often linked – too much stress hormone, lowered thyroid hormones, along with blood sugar balancing hormones are all closely related to each other, and fall under the umbrella of adrenal fatigue. If one system goes, the others often follow.
If you feel like you don’t have enough energy to do the things you love, to achieve the goals you have set for yourself, or to be there for the people who need you, time to get things sorted! We also don’t want feelings of low energy to lead to worse symptoms or other conditions down the line.
By Dr. Donata Girolamo, ND
If you feel down during the winter, it could be just a case of the “Winter Blues”. Or it could be something more!
Winter can be a time of fun for some of us, but for others, it can be a long season. The crisp weather and reduced daylight hours can combine to produce some nasty winter symptoms.
Now, I’m not talking about the colds and flus that can hit us at this time of year. I’m talking about the mental and emotional changes that can occur for some of us during the winter season.
This can simply mean a dip in energy or feeling a bit “down”, or it can be more serious.
You may find yourself thinking “why do I feel so sad in winter?” But you’re not alone! Many suffer from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short (one of the most appropriate acronyms out there).
Neurotransmitters and SAD
As the name suggests, the symptoms of SAD occur in certain seasons, namely fall and winter, and disappear in the spring and summer.
One theory of SAD proposes that the reduced number of daylight hours during the fall and winter causes changes in the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
The two neurotransmitters that seem to be the most important in SAD are serotonin and melatonin.
This is believed to predispose a person to typical depressive symptoms like sadness and hopelessness and to “atypical” symptoms like excessive sleep, lethargy, cravings for carbohydrates (including sweets), overeating, and weight gain.
Conventional Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Since SAD is associated with depression, conventional treatment of SAD sometimes includes the use of anti-depressants.
Some medical doctors and alternative practitioners may prescribe light therapy, which has been shown to reduce the depressive state of SAD. The idea is that increasing your exposure to light will normalize the brain’s melatonin levels - melatonin is normally produced in your sleep, when it’s dark.
When your melatonin is normalized, it will help bring your serotonin into balance, which can help your mood.
Bright white “full spectrum” lamps that emit 10,000 lux of light are used for this purpose. It is recommended that you sit 30-60 cm from the light source, not looking directly into the light, for 30-60 minutes a day.
Alternative treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder
A naturopathic approach to both SAD and to the less severe “blues” that may occur in winter, will be multi-faceted.
5-HTP, a pre-cursor to tryptophan, can help to stabilize levels of serotonin and melatonin in the brain, which, as I mentioned earlier, may help your mood.
Vitamin D, in addition to being important for bone health and your immune system, may be helpful in regulating mood. Studies have shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with depression.
St. John’s Wort has been extensively studied for its anti-depressant qualities. Acupuncture can be used to regulate energy flow in the heart and liver organs to address mood changes.
And exercise, especially in daylight, is an extremely powerful way to improve one’s emotional state.
Of course, any attempt to restore balance in the brain’s neurotransmitters to improve mood must also address any underlying inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, digestive problems, and issues with blood sugar regulation.
These natural treatments, under the supervision of a naturopath, can make a big difference in how you feel during the winter!
If you suffer from SAD and feel that alternative treatments may be helpful, make sure to consult with a qualified health practitioner. Only by addressing all of the issues that may be influencing an individual’s emotional state, will it be possible to cure the “Winter Blues”.
Written by: Dr. Pat Nardini, ND
Is the Cooking Oil You’re Using Improving Your Health or Damaging it?
If you like to cook, you probably have a favorite cooking oil - your go-to standard of choice. But the oil you think is the healthiest may not be healthy after all!
There’s a lot of misinformation out there on the nature of oils, and which are healthiest for cooking. Unfortunately, much of it focuses on the use of refined, polyunsaturated oils, which are anything but healthy!
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I’m naturally a big fan of cooking my own food. I’d like to set the record straight on which oils are healthiest to cook with and which ones you should avoid like the plague.
What is an oil’s smoke point? It’s the point at which the oil will begin to vaporize in the pan, creating smoke. This smoke is made up of water, free fatty acids, and some oxidized compounds that are createdby the heating process. It can also contain toxic chemicals, like acreolin.
If you heat oil past its smoke point, it suddenly becomes more toxic and less healthy for you than it would have been previously. It can even put the fats through a process called polymerization, which can increase the formation of damaging free radicals.
But it’s important to note that break-down of the oil can occur before the smoke point as well.
And some oils are refined by subjecting them to high heat and chemical processes to artificially increase their smoke point. This naturally reduces the nutritional value of the oil, and can add unnecessary toxins as well.
Smoke point is a good guideline, but not the only thing you need to determine whether or not an oil is good for you.
Top 5 Cooking Oils
Below are five of my favourite cooking oils. They have proven health benefits, and are relatively easy to acquire or make.
Coconut oil (Smoke point: 280-365°F)
You’ll find experts across the internet speaking in favour of coconut oil, and I tend to agree with them. Coconut oil can aid weight loss, improve energy, treat fungal infections, and may even serve as a supplement to natural thyroid treatments.
Of course, it’s also a great cooking oil. It’s primarily made up of saturated fat, which is highly stable and resistant to rancidity. Rancidification is a nasty chemical breakdown of the fats into potentially harmful substances called aldehydes and ketones. Exposure to oxygen and heat can speed up this process in unsaturated fats.
Now you might see the word “saturated fat” and be surprised that a naturopathic doctor is suggesting the stuff. That’s not surprising. Saturated fats have been vilified by conventional medicine and the mainstream media for decades, but there is no good evidence to suggest that saturated fat is bad for you – in fact, evidence shows that it is good for your health!
Coconut oil also contains high levels of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) that give it many health properties.
Clarified Butter/Ghee (Smoke Point: 425-480°F)
Butter, like coconut oil, contains a high percentage of saturated fat, making it resistant to rancidity. But it also contains a small amount of protein and sugar that can burn when heated. The clarification process removes that protein and sugar, leaving only the butter fat behind.
You can buy ghee in most health food stores, or you can easily do it yourself at home.
Ghee, if made from grass-fed cow’s milk, is a great source of Vitamins A, K2, D and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fat that may aid in weight loss and blood sugar balance.
Butter (Smoke Point: 325-375°F)
Grass-fed butter, that is butter produced by cows who were given a diet of grass more in line with their natural diet than the cheap GMO corn many cows are fed, has a number of demonstrable health benefits.
It can give you the same nutritional value as ghee, but is generally less expensive and more convenient, since you don’t need to worry about turning it into ghee.
But because it still has the proteins and sugars, which would have been removed in the clarification process, it has a lower smoke point.
Palm Oil (Smoke Point: 430-455°F)
Palm oil, harvested from the fruit of oil palm trees in Africa and the Americas, is also high in stable saturated fats like the others above.
They’re also high in nutritional value. The red palm oil contains natural anti-oxidants like vitamin E and carotenoids which further protect the oil from going rancid.
But a caution is advised before you buy just any old palm oil. Make sure what you get is sustainably harvested, as much palm oil production leads to the destruction of wildlife habitat.
Olive Oil (Smoke Point: 320-350°F)
You’ve likely heard that olive oil is good for you, and it’s true. It’s different from the above oils, though, because it isn’t very high in saturated fat.
It does, however, contain antioxidants and mono-unsaturated fats which have been shown to promote heart health.
But despite these facts, as well as its undeniable deliciousness, it isn’t as resistant to break-down by heat as saturated fats are. It is best used for low heat cooking only, or as part of a vinaigrette on a salad.
It’s also important to know where your olive oil is coming from. A lot of cheap commercial olive oil is cut with cheaper, refined oils like corn, canola, or soy oil, even if it says “100% extra virgin olive oil”.
Cooking Oil For Health
Now that you know some of the healthiest oils out there and even one that may benefit your thyroid, it’s important to keep the following things in mind when choosing your oil.
Make sure to use organic oils, as conventionally grown ones often contain high levels of pesticide residues.
Steer clear of refined oils, like peanut oil, corn oil, soy bean oil, canola oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil, and generic “vegetable oil”. These oils have a high smoke point because of the refining process, but they are also highly processed and often contain chemical solvent residues and harmful trans-fats. Avoid these at all costs!
However, if you manage to find unrefined versions of sunflower oil and grape seed oil, these are acceptable. They do have lower smoke points than their refined cousins, so use them cold or for low heat cooking only.
Keep an eye on the cooking oil you use. A simple change from processed oils to one of my top 5 can be a big step toward living a healthier lifestyle, naturally!
Written by: Dr. Pat Nardini, ND
Coffee has its benefits and drawbacks. Does it fit in your lifestyle? Toronto naturopath Pat Nardini explains.
Many people enjoy a cup of the dark stuff at least every once in a while. Others can barely function before their first cup of Joe. Much ink has been spilled about the benefits of coffee, but is it really a healthy way to boost your energy and mood?
Certainly we feel better after knocking one back, but are the benefits worth the negative effects it has on the body? I feel it’s important for you to know the benefits and drawbacks of coffee, so you can make an educated decision about your health.
As you probably know, the major active ingredient in coffee is caffeine. A typical cup of coffee has anywhere from 65 to 120 mg of caffeine in it. A decaf coffee has 2-4 mg, and green or black tea has around 30-50 mg.
Caffeine is the stuff that gives you that energy boost when you have a cup. From a biological level, caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands and tells them to maufacture the hormones cortisol and adrenaline (also called epinephrine).
The adrenaline increases your heart and respiration rate as well as blood pressure, which delivers more blood to your brain and muscles. This also increases your alertness and energy. Meanwhile, the cortisol increases your blood sugar, making more fuel available to your brain, blood cells, and muscles. That’s where your caffeine boost comes from.
Caffeine is known to enhance mood as well. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA are affected by caffeine. These chemicals in your brain affect your mood, and caffeine can have a positive affect here.
In fact, several studies have shown that brain function and mood can be at least temporarily improved with caffeine consumption. So if you’re feeling down, a cup of coffee may help.
Natural and Antioxidants
Coffee contains a certain number of vitamins and minerals which your body needs. You can find vitamins like riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), as well as minerals like potassium, manganese, and magnesium.
Coffee is also full of antioxidants. In fact, coffee has among the highest number of antioxidants available in any food. Antioxidants are nutrients that counteract the process of oxidation in your body, which has beenconnected to diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and others.
One particular antioxidant in coffee, chlorogenic acid, has been shown to lower blood pressure and aid weight lossin overweight individuals. While the roasting process reduces the amount of chlorogenic acid in coffee beans, the amount in your typical cup of coffee is still quite high
While coffee does have its benefits, there are several drawbacks to coffee as well.
One of the biggest ones is the effect it can have on your thyroid. I have a special interest in thyroid health in my practice and, for this reason, coffee is a little concerningto me.
Coffee has been shown to raise your cortisol levels, as we mentioned above. And cortisol has been shown to slow down the conversion of T4 thyroid hormone into T3 thyroid hormone. T3 is 4-5 times more active than T4 in stimulating your body’s metabolism, so reducing your T3 levels can cause fatigue, low body temperature, depression, hair loss, and weight gain. This is why regular coffee drinkers feel better after coffee, but their overall energy levels are low.
And while elevated cortisol levels have their issues, elevated adrenaline levels can be dangerous as well. Symptoms of anxiety, like heart palpitations, racing thoughts, shaking, and shortness of breath have been linked to elevated adrenaline levels.
Caffeine also changes your cortisol curve, which can make it difficult to sleep at night. This is true even if you only drink coffee in the morning. And if you already suffer from heightened stress and anxiety, difficulty sleeping can make this worse.
Digestive System Effects
You may have noticed that you often need to visit the washroom shortly after drinking a cup of coffee. This is because caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it makes you urinate more.
This can cause a loss in water-soluble vitamins and minerals from your body, which can cause malnutrition. As a result, our bodies often miss out on some of the nutrients coffee does contain. This can also lead to dehydration, which comes with all sorts of issues.
Coffee also increases acid production in your stomach. This can actually help you digest your food better, but if you suffer from ulcers or gastritis, coffee is a nightmare. IBS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and other inflammatory bowel diseases can be aggravated by coffee too.
Of course, the rest of these issues wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t for coffee’s addictive qualities. Coffee is known to be physically addictive, meaning your body can become dependent upon it and experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink it.
Should I Drink Coffee?
Although there are benefits to coffee, drinking it every day can increase its negative effects.
For many people, having a cup of coffee a few times a week, or even once a day, is alright. But if you’re suffering from anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, or thyroid problems like Graves’ disease, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or Wilson’s temperature syndrome, you should avoid coffee, and all caffeine for that matter, until these issues improve.
Those worried about coffee’s negative effects can drink decaffeinated coffee. Decaf has the same levels of anti-oxidants and nutrients, but without the heavy stimulatory effects. It will still impact your digestive system like regular coffee does, but the effects are reduced. Also, most decaf coffee and tea is decaffeinated using toxic chemicals, like methylene chloride. Make sure to get decaf that is “naturally decaffeinated”, using a water or carbon dioxide extraction method.
If you decide to cut out coffee, though, you should find a new source for your antioxidants. Consider clove or peppermint tea, since they have much higher levels of polyphenols, a potent type of antioxidant, than coffee does.
Remember, it’s your choice whether coffee is right for you. Consider both its benefits and drawbacks when you decide whether or not to drink coffee, and how much.
Written by: Dr. Pat Nardini, ND