Supporting Your Liver

With Stampede season coming to an end, one of the things that can be on people’s mind is their liver. Especially depending on how much drinking was involved. The liver works constantly to detoxify your body from everything from alcohol to hormones in your body. Though the liver does this by itself without any help from the outside, it can be often overburdened, especially in today’s urban environment with pollutants being rampant where ever you go. So how do you care for your liver?

Detoxification of the Liver

The liver has 2 phases of detoxification. Both of these phases require a number of various vitamins and minerals in order to have the pathway within the liver functioning and eventually have the metabolites excreted. The first phase metabolizes the various compounds or toxins that your body has been exposed to into an intermediate form that is somewhat broken down, but can still go through the body and cause damage. This is why some people turn red after they drink alcohol. It is because this phase is generally faster than the second phase or they may be missing an enzyme in this pathway to bind the alcohol properly. Phase 2 then binds these intermediate forms to become water soluble, so that they can be excreted in your sweat, urine, and feces. Below shows another diagram of the phases, and some of the compounds that each pathway needs to function.

Clean Your Diet

You can get a number of the compounds needed to support your liver through your foods. The first thing you can do, is to decrease the amount of processed foods you are eating. This actively decreases the burden you are introducing to your body. For example, eliminating alcohol automatically helps your liver function better by the sheer fact that your liver no longer has to metabolize another thing.

Increasing the amount of Brassica or cruciferous vegetables (eg. broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, daikon, etc) will support your liver by providing sulforaphane, which is a compound that is needed to create detoxifying compounds in your body like glutathione, and is very important in the detoxification process of the liver. It is also an antioxidant, protecting your body from oxidative damage (Kapusta-Duch J, et al).

Other herbs and vegetables you can add to your diet, include beets and turmeric. Beets contain a compound called betalains, that is used to support phase 2 of detoxification in the liver (Krajka-Kuźniak V, et al), while turmeric supports both phase 1 and 2 (Hodges and Minich).

Ensure You Are Eliminating

As seen in the diagrams above, you also need to be eliminating your metabolites through your sweat, urine, and bowel movements to be detoxifying properly. If you do not eliminate regularly through these routes, you are most likely reabsorbing a certain amount of those metabolites into your body, and that would defeat the purpose of detoxifying. So make you are you having a bowel movement every day, and that it is a substantial amount (eg. size of your forearm), if your stool looks like pebbles, you are most likely constipated, and that stool has probably been in your intestines for a few days. To help you go more regularly, drink more water, and eat more fibre. If you clean up your diet, and eat more vegetables, you should get enough fibre to start going more regularly, though supplementing a healthy fibre would also be helpful to ensure adequate fibre intake.

See a Naturopathic Doctor

If you feel like you would like to do more to help support your liver by using herbs and supplements, and you feel like the results you are getting isn’t what you want, find a licensed Naturopathic Doctor who can guide you. You can find your local Naturopathic Doctor here.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Teas Safe in Pregnancy

Not all teas are safe during pregnancy, and pregnant persons will be told that they have to limit their caffeine to 200 mg a day. This is equivalent to a 12 oz coffee or 10 x 8 oz of black coffee or 5 x 8 oz of green tea. Caffeine during pregnancy has been associated with a decreased birth weight of the baby, and a higher risk of miscarriages. So it's easy to see why some people avoid it altogether!

There are some teas that are safe to drink during pregnancy, and they have additional benefits as well. These teas are listed below, along with a short description of what they do, and when it is safe to drink them because some of them are not safe to drink throughout the pregnancy. Note that these teas, while safe, should be enjoyed in moderation (ie. not drinking 6 cups of a single tea a day).

Ginger - throughout pregnancy

Ginger is one of the teas that are safe to drink throughout pregnancy. It is amazing for nausea and unsettled stomachs. As a root, you want to steep it for 20 minutes to get all of the good phytonutrients and contents from it.

St. John's Wort - throughout pregnancy

This herb is renowned for it's antidepressant or mood elevating properties. It should only be used for mild depression, otherwise seeing a health care practitioner is warranted.

Dandelion Leaf and Root - throughout pregnancy

The leaf has diuretic properties, which is really helpful for fluid retention during pregnancy. The leaf is also high in various minerals. The Root has a laxative effect, to help you have regular bowel movements. As a root, you want to steep it for 20 minutes to get all of the good phytonutrients and contents from it.

Marshmallow Root - throughout pregnancy

Both of these herbs are wonderful for heartburn symptoms. They help to coat the lining of the esophagus to decrease irritation from the acid that comes up during heartburn. As a root, you want to steep it for 20 minutes to get all of the good phytonutrients and contents from it.

Echinacea - throughout pregnancy

Is helpful for boosting your immune system when you think you are getting sick. It can be taken when you notice you are getting sick, and during depending on when you are able to notice it. It can be taken as a tincture, and you know you have found a good tincture if your tongue gets a tingly sensation afterwards.

Chamomile - throughout pregnancy

Can help with calming down the nerves and to improve digestion, especially if you notice that you are more gassy or bloated than normal. The trick to making it helpful for digestion is to cover the pot or cup and steep for 20 minutes, that way you are able to extract those compounds that are more helpful for digestion instead of just the calming effect this tea has with shorter steeps. However, if you have a history of hayfever, this is not the tea for you.

Red Raspberry Leaf - from weeks 18-20 and onwards

Wonderful for tonifying and strengthening the uterus. It is also rich in some minerals that can help to support momma. Add 1-2 tsp of the loose herb into your cup of hot water, and let steep for 10 minutes. Can drink up to 2 cups a day.

Nettle - from 20 weeks and onwards

Nettle is rich in minerals, and as a result, is wonderful for tonifying the body and uterus. It can help support kidney function and connective tissues. Best if you steep for 6 hours. You can put it in the fridge overnight, and drink it throughout the day.

Withania - third trimester

Is a very useful adaptogen and nourishing herb. It is able to help you respond to stress better (making it an adaptogen), and helps strengthen you up by nourishing various parts of your body. As a root, you want to steep it for 20 minutes to get all of the good phytonutrients and contents from it.

Note that there are Red Flags that always warrant medical attention, and should be treated by a Medical Doctor instead of with herbs. These include:

  • Edema or swelling of the hands and face

  • Continual vaginal bleeding

  • Initial outbreak of herpes blisters during the first trimester

  • Severe pelvic or abdominal pain

  • Continual, severe mid-back pain

  • Severe headaches, blurry vision, or epigastric pain

  • Rupture of membranes prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy

  • Regular uterine contractions prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy

  • Cessation of fetal movement (Aviva Romm)

Happy tea drinking!

~ Dr. Charmagne

PCOS and Fertility

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), is a condition that is often associated with infertility. Women who experience PCOS often have longer menstrual cycles that are greater than 35 days or them to have less than 9 cycles a year. They also experience “hyperandrogenism,” where they exhibit symptoms of high androgens, such having acne anywhere on the body (commonly back and/or face), or hirsutism, where they have facial hair along their jawline. Asian women are less likely to display facial hair due to PCOS. During Ultrasound, a String of Pearls is often seen, caused by 10 or more follicles that were not able to mature along the periphery of the ovaries (Merck Manual). People who experience PCOS often have a difficult time regulating their blood sugars, sometimes leading to later diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome.

Balance Hormones

This goes without saying. Hormones are how the body communicates what to do between different organs. Your brain sends messages to the pituitary gland, which sends messages to different organs to get things done. Every hormone if your body comes with a feedback loop, where the concentration of certain hormones is regulated. Balancing hormones would allow your body to regulate itself better and allow more regular cycles, and better regulation of insulin, and a decrease of hyperandrogenism symptoms.

One of the easiest recommendations to help with hormonal balance is by losing weight. A 5-10% decrease in body weight can be enough to regulate your menses, blood sugar, and allow you to get pregnant (Jiskoot et al, 2017). This might be all you need to balance your hormones and get pregnant; however, you may want to do more to continue enhancing your chances.

Regular Cycles & Ovulation

One thing that can happen from having irregular cycles or missing your cycle, can be not ovulating for that month. This is also known as anovulation and can be due to a hormonal imbalance between progesterone and estrogen. Women that do not ovulate can experience breast tenderness, fluid retention, PMS symptoms, and painful cramps with clots and heavy flow. These symptoms are also associated with estrogen dominance, which can prevent the body from ovulating and having regular cycles. Which brings us back to hormonal balancing.

As mentioned above, losing 5-10% of body weight can be enough to regulate hormones. However, if you are still not where you want to be, there are certain foods you can eat to help balance hormones. The Cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane glucosinolates that can up regulate glutathione, which is the master antioxidant in the body. It helps bind metabolites and is able to stop reactive oxygen species from attacking the cells (Fahey J, 1999). As a food, you would have to eat a ridiculous amount of these vegetables to experience the benefits.

If you have thyroid concerns, specifically hypothyroidism, make sure that you are cooking these vegetables because they are goitrogenic. This means that they can interrupt the production of thyroid hormones (Paśko et al, 2018).

Playing with hormones without proper knowledge can be a challenge and be potentially dangerous, depending on how you choose to go about it. So before you start working on your hormones, make sure that you find a practitioner that will be able to guild you properly.

~ Dr. Charmagne

When Should I See a Naturopathic Doctor?

A Naturopathic Doctor (ND) is someone who has been trained and educated to become one. To become an ND, first one must have a Bachelors Degree, and meet the scientific prerequisites required to apply to an accredited Naturopathic College. Once accepted, one goes through a minimum of 4 years of rigorous academic studies, where they learn all about anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology, etc. (like in Medical school), in addition to learning about alternative medicine (botanical medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, etc.). After all of this education, they must become licensed, and write the NPLEX (Naturopathic Physician Licensing Exam), which is a 2-part licensing exam.

That being said, NDs are well equip in supporting you achieve your health and wellness goals. Don’t expect a magic pill that is a quick fix. With the different therapies at the disposal of an ND, these improvements to your health tend to take some time, because most of what is being addressed is lifestyle. This means that it tends to take a while to obtain the results you want; however, the changes are long-term, this benefits you and your life. NDs see more than just your symptoms and diagnosis, they see you for who you are, because you’re the one that is going to be implementing the changes, and if you have habits that get in the way of your goal, that needs to be addressed.

So, when should you see an ND? You should see an ND when you want to become healthier and achieve wellness, and you are ready to take responsibility and take action in becoming healthier. NDs are excellent with working with people with all types of concerns, ranging from chronic illness to preconception care, and everything in between: digestive issues, hormonal issues, stress management, sleep issues, etc. It is amazing to have someone in your corner, wanting you to experience wellness for yourself, so that you can live your life fuller, and really LIVE your life.

People who have talked to their medical doctors and have been told that there is nothing that they can do for them, or people who want to get better, and their doctors haven’t been able to help them also tend to seek out NDs for another perspective. Especially since we look at everything (NDs are somewhat notorious for having extensive intake forms) and have the time to be with you to see how different issues may be tied together.

“Before you heal someone, ask him if he's willing to give up the things that make him sick.” 
― Hippocrates

~Dr. Charmagne

Self Talk

There has been quite a few people on social media talking about self talk - and this is great! We all talk to ourselves every day, and the way we talk to ourselves can really affect how we feel and behave every day. As much as I don’t like certain commercial products, I can’t deny that some companies are extremely good at making ads that get you to think or feel a certain way. Dove is a great example of this. They posted a video a few years back about negative self talk (take a look over here). The question generally is: You would never talk to another human the way you talk to yourself, so why do you talk to yourself like this?

We are often our worse critic, often expecting so much of ourselves - perfection. The beautiful thing is, we are all human, and perfect isn’t something we are meant to be. Yes, we are meant to push ourselves, and grow into better people, but that doesn’t mean you should tear yourself down on the way there. It can be a rough journey to where you are working towards, and you do not need to be your worst enemy on the way there. The best thing to do is to start practicing positive self talk - because just as you can be your worst enemy, you can also be your greatest ally.

Some ways to improve positive self talk is to become aware of your negative self talk, and work on talking to yourself like you would to your best friend. There may be times that your negative self talk will win, but it takes small incremental steps to improve your self talk. As long as you work on your self talk, day by day it will improve, and eventually, you will truly love yourself, and have a stronger relationship and respect for yourself. You will discover a more empowered and confident you, and when you bring this on your journey, things start to change.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Health Resolutions

Health and weight resolutions are the most common resolutions to start off the new year with. That’s one of the reasons why gyms do so well at the beginning of the year, and the reason they are so crowded. However, within the next month or sooner, the gyms are almost back to normal, and that huge rush of people aren’t there any more.

It’s awesome that people want to become healthier versions of themselves, that is something to be proud of - wanting to become a better version of yourself. But what is stopping you? When February comes rolling in, why do you stop going to the gym, or eating healthy, or drinking as much water as you should?

You obviously want this for yourself, otherwise, you wouldn’t have made it a resolution. It’s funny how we tend to be our own biggest obstacles when it comes to achieving goals. So get out of your way, and stop making up excuses as to why you have given up. Use some tough love on yourself - with love being the key word. You have to be your own cheerleader, and if you need a boost, look at all you have accomplished in your life. These accomplishments can be anything, from finishing high school, developing your talents, having your own business, building long lasting and strong relationships, having your own family, etc. Find and make evidence that you are an awesome person, and you are deserving of your goal.

Your self talk is extremely important when accomplishing your goals, and developing new habits. Start off small, and collect your evidence. If you make incremental changes in your life, everyday, and build them onto each other, you will change the trajectory of your life. And while going on your journey to accomplishing your goal, remember to be kind and gentle to yourself.

This is your life - you only have this one to experience and hold dear. So if you want to live a healthier life, then make conscious decisions to become a person who is healthy. For more inspiration, here is a list of amazing people, who can change your perspective about various things in your life, from habits, resolutions, and relationships:

  • James Clear

  • Brené Brown

  • Joe Dispenza

For further tips and tricks to accomplish your goal, check out last year’s blog: Another Year, Another Beginning.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Holiday Stress

The holidays are a magical season, were friends and families come together to celebrate, spend time together, and create memories. It is a season that is suppose to represent all of the qualities and values that we treasure, and have grown up with. And as children, this season is even more magical; however, as we have grown up - and seen the other side of it - it can become stressful. It becomes a time of immense stress: financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Especially if you don’t fill your proverbial cup as you go. There is a lot of people who experience burn out during the holidays, and it’s no surprise, when it’s such a busy time of year, with demand after demand. So how do you keep going during the holidays, and not burn out, or feel as stressed out? Let’s talk about some things you can do.

Know your Limits

There are times when your mind and body are going to tell you to stop adding onto your plate, and taking up more demands. These are the times that it is important to listen to your body. It is sending you these messages for a reason, and it is warning you that you are reaching your limit and need to recuperate; otherwise, you’ll burn out. Honouring yourself and your limits is the best way to support your mind and body, prevent from burn out, and decrease any unnecessary stress. Once you learn your limits, and boundaries, you can take this with you throughout your life, because healthy boundaries is something everyone needs to learn and practice for your own health and wellbeing.

Ask for Support

If you do find that you have piled your plate full of responsibilities and duties, and are struggling to get everything done by the time they need to be, or you feel like you are at your limit, the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask for support. Ask your friends, family, and/or partner if they can support you in finishing a task. Dividing the work with people can be a great way of decreasing your stress load. In addition to asking for support, having your priorities set is helpful. Is it really important to pristinely wrap the presents or is it more important to spend quality time with your partner and/ or children? The gift wrapper is going to torn to shreds regardless of how nice it looks, while memories and experiences you gained spending time with your loved ones, can last a life time.

Self Care

You have to fill your cup, so that you can give to others. If filling your cup looks like having a massage to relieve those tense muscles, or having a manicure and pedicure to feel like you’ve been cared for, then do it. If it looks like having a retreat, where you do all the activities you love, or do yoga, meditate, read, then do it. You know what refuels you, so listen to your body. Right now is the best time to use your benefits for what they’re suppose to do - benefit you. You can also see a Naturopathic Doctor so that they can recommend additional lifestyle changes, supplements, and therapies that can help rebuild you, prevent burn out, and make you feel more energetic. They’re your benefits, so use it in a way that will benefit you.

Have a Joyous Holiday Season!

~ Dr. Charmagne

Padsicles!

Padsicles are a great way of providing postpartum relief by helping the perineum heal after birthing your baby. In general, after birthing, the vagina becomes swollen and sore. So having something there to help decrease the inflammation, and provide some healing support is wonderful.

Padsicles are pretty much exactly as it sounds - pads that you put in the freezer to make them into padsicles. The only thing is that before you place these pads into the freezer, you put wonderful ingredients onto the pads, and let those absorb first.

Ingredients:

  • Witch hazel

  • Aloe vera

  • Overnight/super absorbant pads

  • Optional:

    • Essential oils - lavender and frankincense

Directions:

  1. Open up the pad. Don’t remove from the covering.

  2. Spread 1 tbsp of Aloe vera on to the pad.

  3. Pour some of the witch hazel into a 250 mL spray bottle, and add 1 drop each of lavender and frankincense into the bottle.

  4. Spray this mixture onto the pad until damp from the spray (should be around 1 tbsp)

  5. Package up the pad, and place into individual ziplock bags

  6. Place them into the freezer.

Make 10-20 of these pads before birthing, that way they are available for you right after you birth your baby.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding

This isn’t the typical type of blog that I post; however, having new fun recipes to test out and taste can be a lot of fun, especially if it’s something new that you really like.

I’ve been craving pumpkin so much (it’s just so yummy, and it’s autumn), I have been experimented with making Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding. I’ve tried making chia seed pudding before, and I found it to be quite powdery in texture, but I’ve been using sprouted, ground chia seed, and I don’t find it powdery. I have gotten a few of my friends to try this, and they’ve all like it. So I’m sharing the recipe:

Ingredients:

2-3 tbsp of pumpkin puree

1/3 cups sprouted, ground chia seed (though regular chia seed is fine)

2 cups of coconut milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

A pinch of cardamom

Optional:

1/2 scoop of protein powder

2 tsp of maple syrup

Coconut Icing to top

Directions:

Combine all ingredients into a mason jar, and mix thoroughly. Let sit for a few hours, or overnight for an easy grab-and-go breakfast! You can put some coconut icing on top as well.

Enjoy! <3

~ Dr. Charmagne

Boosting Immunity

School has started, and I know a number of my friends and family’s kids have already started to get sick - and because sharing is caring - it’s only a matter of time before everyone starts having symptoms. In this blog, I will be talking about 3 things that you can implement to Boost your Immune System, but first, let’s talk about the immune system.

Everyone talks about the immune system, but how does it work? The immune system is split up into 2 different parts: the Innate and Adaptive Immune System. The Innate System is the system that fights the infection first, it is the faster part of the immune system. It is made up of physical barriers (eg. skin, and GI tract, etc), defence mechanisms (eg. mucous, bile, gastric acid, sweat, etc), and a general immune response (eg. inflammation, complement system (where the pathogen is marked and then punches are holes into their membrane to kill the pathogen), and non-specific cellular responses). The Innate System is non-specific, and is the general response to foreign bodies (the “not you”) markers. It has a number of different types of white blood cells working for it (eg. macrophages, phagocytes, NK cells, etc.) (Khan Academy). The Adaptive Immune System, on the other hand, has fewer cells working for it, these cells would be the B and T cells, and it works with antibodies and cytotoxic cells. This response is slower to respond to a pathogen, and is more specific because your body builds up memories of a past pathogen and can create defence specifically for that pathogen - this is the system vaccines use to create immunity (Khan Academy).

Medicinal Mushrooms

I love medicinal mushrooms. They’re are absolutely amazing, and are able to regulate the immune system through their high concentrations of beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is able to work with the immune system and enhancing the immune cells that kill microbes, and clean up the dead cells (Akramiene D, et al). Mushrooms work on the immune system depending on what it needs - making it immunomodulating. Also, the way the mushroom is extracted can affect the way it interacts with your immune system. Alcohol extraction of a mushroom inhibits cytotoxicity. This means that it decreases the amount of toxins released in your body. Alcohol extraction can also affect the number of receptors on a cell surface. While water extraction enhances NK cell cytotoxic activity - NK cells are the cells that act like assassins, and are able to distinguish which cells have been sabotaged (by a virus or becoming a cancer cell), and kill them via apoptosis. Water extraction also stimulates the expression and production of cytolytic proteins, which allows it to kill cells by “cutting them" (Lu C, et alJournal of Hematology & Oncology). These mechanisms allow mushrooms to support your immune system and help them fight pathogens more effectively and efficiently, to decrease the chances of getting sick or decrease the duration of the illness.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is known for its immune-supportive abilities, especially since several immune cells need it to function. It supports the external barrier that we all have (our skin), by protecting us from environmental stress by acting as an antioxidants (Ströhle A, et al). When taking vitamin C, it can be interesting to see what your bowel tolerance is. Bowel tolerance is the dose needed to make you have looser stools or diarrhea, because taking too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea. This is interesting to know because when you are sick (Ströhle A, et al), your bowel tolerance increases. This is amazing, since your immune cells sequester vitamin C when you are sick, and it is able to utilize it more because they are working harder, and need more of it (Carr AC, et al). Taking vitamin C as a preventative measure, and in conjunction with treatment(s) can help support your immune system during times where several people around you are getting sick.

Astragalus

Astragalus is one of my favourite herbs when it comes to immune system health. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is seen to be able to defend the Wei Qi (the defensive barrier around us), and as a result, prevent anything from coming into your body to cause illness. However, saying that, if you do get sick, it also doesn’t let anything back out, and as a result, you should stop taking Astragalus when you are sick. As a herb, Astragalus has immunomodulating, immune boosting, and anti-inflammatory effects - though the mechanism is unclear (Qi Y, et al; Guo Z, et al). It is able to modulate the immune system systemically and through the GI tract - where 70-80~% of the immune system is (Lim JD, et al). It’s long history and use in Asia, and recent and ongoing studies make it a very promising herb that you can implement easily into your daily routine for this cold and flu season as a preventative tonic.

For more tips on how to maintain and promote a healthy immune system, check out Back to School - Strengthening Your Little One’s Immune System.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Acupuncture and Fertility

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, first seen documented around 100 to 200 BC. Initially, sharpened stones or bones were used during treatments (News Medical Life Science), instead of the needles we now associate it with. Luckily, practitioners now use sterilized needles, with various widths and lengths. These needles are not coated with any medication and are single use, and are disposed into a sharps container afterwards. All of the needles that I use are thinner than a needle that you get with injections. Some needles have a very thin layer of silicon around the shaft of the needle to help the practitioner insert the needle "faster and painlessly;" however, in my experience, it does not make much of a difference, unless you have fibromyalgia or another condition that makes you extremely sensitive to pain. Acupuncture is an incredibly safe therapy to use, whether it's for pain, improving fertility, relieving stress, regulating the nervous system, etc. when done by someone who has been trained properly. Treatments range from 30-45 minutes, depending on what is being addressed. 

Acupuncture is a useful therapy to use in conjunction with preconception care. Treatments have been known to decrease stress, and modulate the nervous system - which in turn can modulate hormones. There have been studies that have found that acupuncture, especially after in vitro Fertilization (IVF) increased rates of pregnancy, and delivery (Qian). Jungyoung found that acupuncture increased pregnancy, and ongoing pregnancy rates in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). While Balk found that women undergoing IVF and receiving acupuncture, objectively felt less stress than women who did not have acupuncture. As a result, more women receiving acupuncture with their IVF became pregnant (64.7%), where as 42.5% of the women not receiving acupuncture with their IVF became pregnant. 

Using acupuncture to help increase conception rates with or without IVF, is another tool in the toolbox that naturopathic doctors can use to help couples conceive. It helps increase blood flow (and therefore nutrition) to the uterus, improve egg quality, decreases uterine spasms, decrease stress, promotes relaxation. If you were looking for extra support throughout your journey, having a Naturopathic Doctor on your side would be a great addition to your health team. 

~ Dr. Charmagne

Improving Your Sleep

Several people are concerned about their sleep. They wonder how to get more sleep, how they can improve their sleep quality, how to stop waking up in the middle of the night, how to fall asleep faster, among others. For those who have a hard time sleeping, sleep is all they can think about - and who can blame them? Sleep is vitally important for our bodies; sleep is one of the only times our bodies heal. If we don't sleep, or sleep poorly, we can inhibit or slow down our bodies ability to heal. It also allows your mind to sort out what has gone through your day. Different ages require different amounts of sleep; that being said, 8 hrs does overlap with all of them (check out Foundations of Health: Sleep for more information).

Sleep Hygiene

An important practice to have to help ensure that you have good sleep, is good sleep hygiene. It’s pretty much the night time ritual that you do before you sleep, to wind down and promote good sleep. This includes discontinuing any electronics for 1 hr or more before bed, using a night filter on your electronics as soon as the sun sets, and sleeping in a dark room with no lights. 

Electronics emit a blue light, which throws off our circadian rhythm, causing several people to have a difficult time falling asleep. The blue or white light from electronic devices are strong enough to make our bodies think it is day time, and as a result, it suppresses the production of melatonin by the body, making it harder for you go to sleep. Exposure to any light while sleeping could do this - especially if they are blue light, which can come from LED light bulbs; which is why it is best to sleep where it is completely dark.  If this is difficult to do, an easier way to do this would be to use a sleeping mask to mimic a dark room. 

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that our pineal gland produces to allow us to go to sleep. It is suppose to be highest at night, when we are sleeping. The problem comes for those who are experiencing a lot of stress. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, and the two of them have an inverse relationship. This means, that when melatonin is high, cortisol is low, and vise versa. Cortisol is suppose to be highest during the day, and there is a secondary peak in the mid-afternoon. However, people who are stressed can experience high cortisol at night, and this interferes with the concentration of melatonin your body can make. As a result, some people feel like their minds are racing, and are unable to stop it to go to sleep. Melatonin helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, and promotes sleep by improving the sleep wake cycle, and studies have shown that it can help decrease the time it takes to go to sleep, as well has increase overall sleep amounts (Psychology Today). 

Meditation 

I’ve heard different numbers for how much sleep a good 20 minute meditation is equivalent to. They are generally between 4-6 hrs of equivalent sleep. Meditation can be difficult to do, especially if it’s your first time doing it. It allows your mind and body to go into a deeper state of relaxation, where it can rest. Finding time for 20 minutes of meditation during the day can help you with your energy for the rest of the day, and meditating before you sleep can improve your quality of sleep. There's a thought out there that says meditation is about not thinking. Based on Sri Sri’s wisdom talks (The Art of Living), meditation is the “art of doing nothing.” What he means by this is, it’s the art of allowing yourself to do nothing - so you position yourself in such a way that your senses can have a break. This doesn’t mean to actively think, “do nothing or think nothing,” it means that if a thought comes to mind, you see it, and let it go. Like when you are looking out a window in the passenger seat. You let the images go past you. Because the mind doesn’t work like the body. If you actively work your body, it does amazing things. If you actively work your mind, it doesn’t work so well. How many of you at night actively attempt to go to sleep? It doesn’t work, you end up feeling more awake. If you were to meditate, and use no effort into sleeping, then you will be able to sleep easier. 

Happy Sleeping!

~ Dr. Charmagne

How to Support Your Body During the Stampede

The Stampede is here, and as we all know, the city is going to come alive! It is one of my favourite times of the year - I love seeing our city come to life, and enjoy themselves. I also have some very fond memories of the Stampede. Along with coming a live, people tend to party hard. 

Now, how do you support your body, while partying hard, and not feeling like garbage the next day, and after Stampede is over? I will be providing some really easy tips you can use throughout the week to support your body, and allow you to enjoy this coming week to the fullest. The Foundations of Health will always serve you to support your body; however, these tips will also help specifically for the Stampede. 

1. Hydrate - Make sure you are drinking enough water. Being out and about, in the gorgeous sun, and drinking alcohol will dehydrate you. Drinking water will help your body clean out toxins, and hydrate your body. It will allow your organs to be functioning better by providing them a way to eliminate their metabolites more efficiently - including helping to regulate your bowel movements (Harvard Health Publishing - Harvard Medical School). If you are becoming dehydrated, you can also add some electrolytes to balance the minerals found in your blood stream. This becomes more important when you drink a large volume of water at one time.

2. N-acetyl-cystine (NAC) - If you have read some of my other blogs, you know how much I love this molecule. It is absolutely amazing, and helps to build up the master antioxidant your body: glutathione. Glutathione is used in a number of different processes in the body, including the liver, where it is used as a part of Phase I, and Phase II detoxification. These phases bind to toxins that go through your bloodstream, and allows your body to excretes them. 

3. B Complex - B vitamins are used in a number of different processes in your body, they can help provide energy, by being involved in the Kerb's Cycle (eg. Vitamin B1, and B3). Where as vitamins B12 and folate are known to help with red blood cell development, and as a result, helps with transferring oxygen to the rest of the body, and carbon dioxide out of the body. Vitamin B1 (otherwise known as thiamine) in particular that tends to become depleted with increased alcohol consumption. Thiamine is used to help certain enzymes that deal with the breakdown of carbohydrates (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse ad Alcoholism). When there is a deficiency present, the cells are not able to have enough thiamine, which means they have a harder time making energy (ATP), and can cause sub-optimal functioning of the brain. Therefore, taking a B Complex during the Stampede can help protect you from these effects, and allow your body to produce more energy to enjoy it!

Have a wonderful Stampede!

~ Dr. Charmagne

Breastfeeding Mama's Nutrition

Did you know that breast milk is amazing? It is entirely filled with the perfect nutrients needed for your baby, complete with antibodies to protect your baby from bacteria and viruses. These antibodies coat their entire lining and give them this protective shield. Breastfeeding babies tend to get sick less, and if they do get sick, it doesn't tend to last as long (Chantry, Cushing). However, all of that being said, what should the diet of Mama be?

Breast milk will always have the right nutrients for your baby. Every mother around the world has a different diet, and even in causes such as famines, breastmilk still had the proper nutrition needed for baby to thrive. So there is no particular diet Mama needs to be on to support the nutrients in her milk, the nutrients needed to make breast milk will go to the milk. As a result, having a healthy diet helps mom be healthy, helps her feel better, and replenish her stores. 

The nice thing about breastfeeding, is that Mama doesn't have to avoid any foods. She can enjoy the foods that she likes, and can drink coffee and alcohol (if you can drive, you can breastfeed) in moderation as well (without having to pump and dump). Eat as much food as you need to to be full, and drink as much as you need to stay hydrated. You may notice you are hungry, want to snack, or drink water more often, and that is because making milk takes energy and water. Adding fish oils is also helpful for Mama and baby, because as said before, baby will get all the omega-3s they need from your breastmilk - leaving you with whatever is left. This can be fine if you are regularly eating fish and taking omega-3 supplements; however, if you are not, it isn't good, and may be part of the reason for mommy brain, and postpartum depression (Hsu, Guesnet). When selecting a fish oil, find one that has more DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), because this is the one that is utilized for developing nervous systems and eye health (Echeverria, Guesnet). Vitamin D is often another consideration; vitamin D can be taken by Mama (6400 IU/day), and not have to supplement baby, or baby can be supplemented with vitamin D, if they aren't able to have adequate sun exposure (Hollis). 

Other than those last 2 recommendations, Mama's diet can be whatever she wants it to be. Having a healthier diet will benefit Mama more than baby, so I would encourage Mama's diet to be healthier (Foundations of Health - Diet), with other foods thrown in moderation. 

You've got this!

~ Dr. Charmagne

Managing Your Allergies

With spring finally making it's way here, we can all bath in the wonderful warmth that is spring. However, along with spring, comes pollen - and hay fever. It can be unbearable going through your days with a runny nose, red eyes, and a general sense of "this sucks." Here are a few things you can do to help decrease these symptoms.

Gut health

70-80% of your immune system is found in your gut, and as a result, it play a very important role in balancing your immune system (Vighi). As such, it makes sense to start here, since allergies are an immune response to something outside yourself (includes food, and environment). One way to heal the gut is by eliminating any food sensitivities you have from your diet. This way, your gut can start to heal since it is not constantly being bombarded by reactive foods. The best way to see which foods you are sensitive to is by doing the Elimination Diet, which can last 4-6 weeks, plus a food reintroduction phase - where you DO NOT add any foods that you are anaphylaxis too - which can make it last quite a while. That being said, it is the most accurate way of finding out which foods you are sensitive to. Another way is by doing an IgG test, that you can ask your Naturopathic Doctor or me about. This test is an easy finger prick, and the results tell you which foods your body is sensitive to, based on that finger prick. It saves you from having to commit to a diet and reintroduction phase; however it is not 100% accurate, and there can be foods that it misses, or foods that it added for one reason or another.

Probiotics

Probiotics help regulate your immune system, by interacting with immune cells found in your intestinal track. These interactions have cascading effects throughout your body, depending of the bacteria. Different strains of bacteria can help modulate in different ways, by either exerting immune-activation, deviation, regulation, or suppression responses (Hardy). As such, it is important to know which probiotic you are looking for, and how it effects the immune system. For allergies in particular, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus lactis, Bifidobacteria longum, Bifidobacteria breve  (Hardy) are the probiotics that have been seen to improve symptoms of allergies. They are able to do this by modulating the immune system and shifting it from a more reactive state to one that is not. 

Isoquercetin or Quercetin

Quercetin has been used and recommended for control of allergy symptoms, among other things. It is found in a number of herbs, fruits, and vegetables including: apples, berries, green tea, onions, etc. Quercetin is helpful for allergies because it is able to stabilize mast cells and prevent them from releasing histamine (Natural Medicine, Li) - which causes you to have your allergic symptoms. Quercetin on its own may not be enough to manage your allergy symptoms, and is often recommended with Vitamin C, because they work synergistically. Lastly, I have switched to recommended Isoquercetin instead of quercetin because it is more bioavailable to your body, it is 40 time more absorbed (Valentová). 

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle is an amazing herb, full of minerals, and helpful for a number of different ailments. They are also a natural anti-histamine (Roschek), without the sedative effect of pharmaceutical anti-histamines. It can be taken as a tea (1-2 tsp/cup, let steep for 15-20 minutes; and drink 2-3 x day), or as a capsule. Find capsules that use freeze dried stinging nettle, for the most effective relief. This herb is safe to sure during pregnancy.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Preconception

Preconception is when couples start planning on having a baby, and preparing with what they think will improve their chance of conceiving. This period can be filled with stress and expectation - on yourself and your partner. This expectation can be counter productive, and in some cases, cause quite a bit of tension. Know that you may not conceive the first time you try - and that is completely normal! Medically speaking, it's not considered infertility until you have tried for over 1 year - that being said, it wouldn't be considered infertility if you have only tried a handful of times within that 1 year.

Preconception is the perfect time to address diet and lifestyle changes with both partners. Lifestyle can heavily impact rates of fertility (to find out how you can improve your Foundation of Health, check our my series about it here). Being overweight, has a tendency to increase risk of malformation in the developing baby, and poses a greater risk for complications later on in pregnancy for Mama and babe (Zeynep), while decreasing sperm count, quality, and mobility in men (Ramaraju). The good news, is this is modifiable! Which means you have the power to change this factor! And what makes it even better, is the weight loss doesn't have to be dramatic - losing 5-10% can improve ovulation and fertility! Another lifestyle change that can have a huge impact of your fertility is quitting smoking. Smoking causes can increase infertility by 60%,  increase miscarriage, and risk of malformation in developing baby. 

Stress can be another influencing factor on fertility. If your mind and body is stressed, it isn't going to think you are safe to have a baby, and as a result, will suppress those functions until it thinks you are safe. Check out my other blog for tips and tricks to manage your stress. There's a high chance you may know someone, who wanted to have a baby, couldn't, and decided to adopt - just to conceive on their own shortly after. Yes, there can be a number of reasons why this happened; however, they also weren't putting that much pressure on themselves or their partners to conceive. 

It's nice to give your body 100 days to reboot from all of these changes. It takes at least 3 cycles for a woman to improve fertility and decrease risks, this is because the ova (eggs) are susceptible to damage 100 days before ovulation. As for men, it takes 72-116 days for sperm to mature, and during that time, they are also susceptible to damage. Rebooting your body during these 100 days is an amazing way to give your body the time it needs to optimize your fertility. During this time, be gentle with yourself, practice self care via taking care of your body via healthy diet and activity, and any additional lifestyle changes you want to implement. You have enough pressures in your life, you don't have to add the stress about fertility on it as well. Practice this for 100 days, with no expectations, and be gentle with yourself.

There are also supplements and vitamins that you can take to improve fertility (eg. CoenzymeQ 10, and omega-3s); however, these basics are much more important, and in some cases, this is all couples need to conceive. If you have been working on this already, and are still having a difficult time. Book in with someone to help guid you, and who can make specific recommendations for you and your partner - because after all, it takes two to tango. Fertility isn't isolated to a single gender. 

Warmly, 

~ Dr. Charmagne

Breastfeeding Series - Self Expression

Self expression is a useful tool to have especially before going into labour. It allows you to collect some colostrum before your baby comes into this world, allowing you to start a stockpile of breastmilk for when you want to go out, or let your partner feed your baby. As an added bonus, if for any reason - doctors or nurses are worried about baby's blood sugar, or baby has jaundice, for example - you can give your baby expressed colostrum instead of formula. 

Colostrum is what your breasts produce before they start making breastmilk. It is yellowish in colour, and has a very viscous and sticky consistency. Some liken it to honey. Colostrum is absolutely amazing and perfect for your baby, especially the first few days of breastfeeding, when your baby's stomach is the size of a grape, and their intestines have not been exposed to any bacteria. Colostrum is rich in antibodies, as your baby drinks it, it coats their stomach and gut - protecting your baby from bacteria. As a result, colostrum is high in protein, and lower in fat than in breastmilk. That being said, it is the perfect transitional food to the outside world because your baby has not had to use their digestive tracts in utero, so they get a few days to practice before breastmilk comes in. 

When you start self expression, you may not collect anything the first few times. Don't be discouraged if you don't collect anything the first few attempts, or if you only collect drops. Collecting drops is amazing, and it will build up! You can collect the expressed milk into a cup or spoon, then use a syringe to collect all of it. Make sure you label it with the date before putting them into the freezer. Let your care providers know you have expressed milk to use instead of formula, so they can let you know when you need to use it. 

Stanford Medicine made an instructional video that shows you the steps of how to hand expression. This is one way you can self express. There are other ways as well - including compressing the breast, pulling back towards the ribs, and pushing forward towards the nipples (instead of compressing more there), among others. Try different ways, some might work better than others, and which ever one works for you is the perfect one for you and your body. 

~Dr. Charmagne 

Foundations of Health - Stress Management

In this article, I will be talking about 1 Pillar of Health - Activity, and what you can do to have this foundation. These foundations is an awesome start to work towards your health goals, but if you have other underlying conditions, this is the first step. To accelerate your health journey and make sure you are going in the right direction, book an appointment with someone you trust and can work with.

Stress

Stress affects everything in your body. It is difficult for your body to digest and absorb nutrients from your meals if you are stressed since your body is in sympathetic mode. Sympathetic mode is when you go into a "fight, flight, (and more recently) or freeze" state. When you are in this state, your body prioritizes these actions by pumping blood to the heart and muscles so that you can fight or run, but at the same time, it decreases the flow of blood to your intestine and stomach. As a result, your digestive system is suppressed, and you don't digest your food or absorb the nutrients, which can cascade to different effects, such as being tired. Your body doesn't differentiate between life threatening stress and having-to-meet-a-deadline stress, your body reacts the same regardless. 

To heal, you need to switch your mode from sympathetic, to parasympathetic. Parasympathetic is the "rest, digest, and repair" mode, where your body can nourish itself and heal. This is the mode you want to be in when you are eating and sleeping, that way your body can do these functions optimally; otherwise, you will not be able to recover and nourish your body fully. An easy way to do this is by using breathing techniques. The one I generally recommend is the Square breathing technique, where you breath in for 4 seconds, then hold it for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and then hold again for 4 seconds, before continuing this kind of breathing for a few cycles (try 5-10 cycles, you can do more if you want to). Doing this puts you into the parasympathetic mode, and is also a great way to help with anxiety.

One of the best ways to help relieve and manage stress is by physically active. Being active gives you a great outlet to let out your emotions, and allows you to express it. If you're really frustrated or angry, doing contact sports can be helpful since you get to hit a punching bag and let it go. If you feel really emotional, dancing is a beautiful way to express that feeling, and to let it go. This way to help relieve stress is related to the Activity part of the Foundations of Health, and as you may have gleaned, stress related to all parts of the foundation.

Another way to help manage your stress is by journalling, this way you are able to reduce the stress from your mind. You are able to express yourself in words - unfiltered. Express how you are really feeling and not have to censor yourself from saying certain things. This can be very liberating, especially if you find that you have to censor or filter yourself the entire day. This lets you be you, all of you, without fear of judgement. 

Lastly, there are herb that you can use to help your mind and body cope with stress better. These herbs are said to be adaptogens in the botanical world, and though they will all generally help you with stress, some of them are better than others - especially depending on your constitution and how you are currently doing with the stress. Some herbs are good for long time use, while others are better for short term use. The herbs for short term use tend to use your nutritional and energy stores to help you get through the stressful situation - which can be good, if you have those stores. The ones for long term use tend to be also very nutritive for the body, which is why you can use them for long term. It is best to talk to a health provider with herbal knowledge to determine which is the best one for you.

Happy breathing!

~Dr. Charmagne

Foundations of Health - Activity

In this article, I will be talking about 1 Pillar of Health - Activity, and what you can do to have this foundation. These foundations is an awesome start to work towards your health goals, but if you have other underlying conditions, this is the first step. To accelerate your health journey and make sure you are going in the right direction, book an appointment with someone you trust and can work with.

Activity

Movement is important for the body, for mood, and energy, among other things. It has been seen to be more effective than some antidepressants when it comes to depression, and it is an excellent way of managing stress by giving you an stress outlet.

When you are first starting out, it is important to start of small, especially if you haven’t been active for a very long time. This can be something like walking for 20 minutes/day. Commit to doing this for at least 20 days, and watch how your mood and energy change as you begin to make this a regular part of your life. Afterwards, you can gradually increase the difficulty of the activity by either increasing the time to 30 minutes/day or by changing it up to jogging based on how you feel you are doing. Continue to gradually increasing the difficulty as you see fit (you can increase the time again, or change it up to running). Afterwards, you will be doing compound exercises, this is where you are training more than one muscle group at a time. You can do this by doing squats, lunges, push ups, etc.

A good workout should make you feel good - like you just worked out, and have achieved something - not completely ruined or exhausted. If you do not enjoy going to the gym, find an activity that you enjoy. This can be anything you want it to be, whether its yoga, soccer, swimming, martial arts, dancing, etc,. and make a commitment to do that regularly. You'll notice how much more energy, and how much lighter you feel after making this a habit.

Happy moving!

~Dr. Charmagne

Foundations of Health - Sleep

In this article, I will be talking about 1 Pillar of Health - Sleep, and what you can do to have this foundation. These foundations is an awesome start to work towards your health goals, but if you have other underlying conditions, this is the first step. To accelerate your health journey and make sure you are going in the right direction, book an appointment with someone you trust and can work with.

Sleep

Sleep is very important to help your body heal and your mind sort out what has gone through your day. Different ages require different amounts of sleep, but 8 hrs does overlap with all of them.

  • Newborns (0-3 months):14-17 hours each day 
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours 
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours 
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours 
  • School age children (6-13):  9-11 hours 
  • Teenagers (14-17):  8-10 hours 
  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours 
  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours  (National Sleep Foundation)

A way you can increase the quality of your sleep is by having good sleep hygiene.  This includes discontinuing any electronics for at least an hour before bed, using a night filter on your electronics as soon as the sun sets, and sleeping in a dark room with no lights on, and having a night time ritual (where you wind down, eg. you can take a bath, meditate, or read a novel).

Electronics emit a blue light, which throws off our circadian rhythm, and suppressing the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone our bodies make to help us get into deep sleep to heal and recover. With the suppression of melatonin, it becomes difficult for us to get into deep sleep, or to fall asleep at all, especially with the compounding effect of the light throwing off our circadian rhythm. Exposure to any light while sleeping could do this - especially if they are blue light - which can come from LED light bulbs. This is why it is best to sleep in complete darkness; however, if this is not possible, you can mimic having a dark room by using a sleeping mask. Another thing that could help you go to sleep easier would be using a white noise machine to drown out outside noises, it sounds very similar to the ocean, and is very relaxing. 

Happy sleeping!

~ Dr. Charmagne