Ways to Improve Dry Skin

Living in Calgary, you think my skin would get use to the dryness, but when winter hits, my skin still has to adjust. The winters are more dry than the summer, at last in the summer, you are drinking more water with the heat there to remind you to drink. The same isn't true for the winter. There is a tendency to drink warm drinks - most of which isn't water - and some of them make you more dehydrated. 

Here are my go to's when winter hits, and my skin needs most moisture:

Drink more water - There is a tendency to drink warmer beverages during the winter, whether it's coffee or hot chocolate. Holding a warm cup also helps you warm your hands - or defrost them from the outside. But they don't hydrate you, so I've been opting for hot water, or hot teas (matcha is my favourite) - these drinks help to hydrate your body throughout the day. Drinking water first thing in the morning can also help hydrate your body and get it ready for the day.

Fish oil - The cells of our bodies are made up of phospholipids, which are made up of lipids (aka fat) - this includes your skin. So the best way to help your cells is by eating healthy fats, so that your body can use that as a building block for your skin and organs. By doing this, the body's ability to retain moisture increases. Barceloset al found that omega 3 oils, found in fish oil was able to restore and improve the integrity of the skin.

Using oil as a moisturizer - Oils are fantastic moisturizers! Contrary to popular belief, oil does not clog the skin. Olive oil is able to penetrate the skin, and moisturize from there, but it doesn't provide a barrier. This leaves the top of your skin vulnerable to dryness. Coconut oil is also a fantastic moisturizing oil, but it tends to stay on the top of your skin, and not moisturize the deeper layers like olive oil - the same can be said for avocado oil. The best thing to do is combine your oils, so they can work synergistically to moisturize your all of the layers of your skin. You can also add a few drops of essential oils of your choice (I use lavender, and tea tree) to add some aromatherapy when you moisturize. Try a few oils, and see which ones your skin enjoys, there are a number of amazing oils that are often recommended for the face, you can add some of these oils to your combination as well, but I wouldn't make it the main oil, because it can get quite expensive. Sweet almond oil is also a good choice instead of olive oil. Savy Homemade has a few really nice recipes on making your own body oils.

Milk baths - Use milk with a high fat content, and warm it gently before adding your choice of essential oil(s) (6 drops all of oil all together). Run your bath to the temperature that you want, and pour the milk + essential oils into the tube. Soak for as long as you wish (or the water allows before turning cold), then rinse off in the shower, and apply your choice oil. Milk contains a number of different vitamins and minerals that help the skin heal externally, along with small amounts of lactic acid to gently exfoliate the skin, decrease hyperpigmentation, and decrease acne by balancing the acid mantle. The milk bath helps to hydrate your skin with the fats and proteins found in the milk.

~Dr. Charmagne

Pregnancy & Delivery Support

Expecting a baby is very exciting - but also nerve racking. Let’s be honest - the best things in life occur when these two emotions are experienced together!

There are literally hundreds of books, websites, and opinions out there, exploring pregnancy and newborn health. Choosing your health team is key to navigating your way through all the information. Consider having a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in pregnancy and lactation on your team. Naturopathic doctors provide science based, safe, holistic medical advice to help complement your obstetrical care. 

Select few NDs have also received additional training to assist women in birth as a doula.  Birth Doulas have a long history - some people say as far back to Aristotle's time. Doulas are trained to provide techniques to assist in pain reduction - such as visualization, massage, counter-pressure, and movement. Coupled with the skills that are uniquely at the disposal of a trained Naturopathic Doctor (acupressure and homeopathy to name a few)- a ND/Doula is an outstanding option to consider. You can read more about the benefits of having a doula here

Birth is only the beginning of this life-changing time for a family...breastfeeding is often an overwhelming hurdle for many women. There is natural uncertainty and often rough patches along the way. Lactation Consultants are specifically trained to help Mothers with latching, milk supply, nipple pain, mastitis, and more. They are amazing at reassuring Mothers. Naturopathic therapies work exceptionally well for lactation needs - supply issues respond well to botanical medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture. This type of support has been shown to increase breastfeeding rates and durations, allowing Mothers to achieve their breastfeeding goals.  To read about some Do's and Don'ts have I have learned, read here

I am dedicated to ensuring Mothers and their children have the best possible start in life together!  As a Licenced ND with training as a birth doula and lactation specialist, my unique approach offers truly holistic medical care. I hope to meet you soon and join you on your journey!

You are welcome to book a complementary 15 minute meet and greet to answer any further questions you may have.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

I am happiest when I connect to people. When I feel that connection, it feels like I've become closer to the people I talk with - even if we've been friends for 10+ years. You can get this feeling by talking to people online, but it's not the same as being with those people in person. The experience is always richer, and more memorable. Your heart soars.

However, it is hard to connect with people when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you may not even know why. You might feel exhausted, that there's no point in going out, that you would just bring everyone else's mood down. But it isn't about any of that. It is about your mental well being, and what you need to do to help pick yourself up so that you can enjoy and live your life to the fullest. It is said that life is a present, and it can most definitely be.

Positive Self Coaching

Everyone talks to themselves in one way or the other, we all have that voice in our heads that speaks a certain way. For most of us, that voice puts us down. It tells you that you're not good enough, that you suck, that you aren't worth it, the list goes on. It knows your weak spots and will exploit it. For many, this the the only voice they hear. But it is not your voice, it is not you. Change the way you speak to yourself. Be kind to yourself - like you would to your best friend. It is difficult changing that voice to one of love, when it has been so negative for so long. But it can be done. I know it sounds cheesy, but calling yourself "love" can be one way to start the change. In addition to bringing more love to yourself by calling yourself love, you remind yourself that you should practice self-love. 

Support Groups

It is important for you to know that you are not alone - you don't ever have to be alone. There are people experiencing similar things, and when these people come together and support each other, something magical happens. Along with finding a group of people that can support you, new friendships can be made, along with a sense of purpose. This group can be whoever you want it to be. For me it's my friends and family, for others it is a group going through similar difficulties such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, alcoholism, etc. The following link to support groups found in Calgary:

Gratitude Journaling

Many people say that gratefulness is the key to happiness (Huffington Post). Gratitude journaling is an amazing exercise to practice daily, and helps to gently change your attitude to one of gratitude. It allows you to see different perspective, be more empathetic, create a deeper understanding of yourself, and keeps things in perspective. Having this journal can also be useful for when your mood is lower as a way to remind you of all the things in your life that brings you happiness. 

Going Outside

There are so many beautiful things to behold outside, whether it's a tender interaction between two people, seeing someone helping another, the fluffy clouds passing by, feeling the wind caress your face, or the beautiful changing colours of the leafs. There are things you can enjoy. Do the things you've always wanted to try. There's no pressure trying to placate another person, and you can do everything at your leisure, there are not time constraints to see another place unless you want to. After a few times, this is very liberating, this kind of independence is beautiful and something to savour. 

Finding Your Purpose

This one is really important. Finding your purpose will give you energy to get out of bed on the days you really don't want to. It gives you that extra push because there is something you are trying to achieve. Generally, purpose isn't material based. It is something bigger than yourself that you can dedicate your life to. For some, it's providing for their family, for others is taking care of their beloved pet, and yet, for others it's helping or supporting someone get through something going on in their lives. Finding your purpose can be difficult, so one way to start finding your own purpose is by learning more and discovering who you are. Your purpose can be whatever you want it to be, and it makes you feel like there's a reason you are here.

Remember, it is completely normal for you not to be happy every single moment of your life. It is okay to feel "blah," it's ok for you to feel down, content, etc. These emotions are not bad, and are often needed in life. Life ebbs and flows, and your mood will change accordingly. Social media has made it easier for people to show the best parts of their lives, the parts they feel alive - but behind the scenes, their moods can quite often, be the opposite of what they are displaying. 

With lots of Love,

~Dr. Charmagne

Back to School - Strengthening Your Little One's Immune System

As a little girl, I loved school. Yes, I was a nerd (and still am), but I loved going to school to be with my friends. I felt connected at school. I was able to build long lasting friendships with classmates. However, I tended to get sick quite often, especially with tonsilitis (that has left my tonsils quite large), colds and flus, ear infections, and stomach aches; the list goes on. When I was sick, I didn't go to school, I stayed home. But I loved school and I loved seeing my friends just as I loved learning, so I hated missing school. 

Whether your little ones love or hate school, it is important for them to go, and regardless of if they are in school or not, it's always unfortunate to have a sick child. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to help boost their immune systems, which helps fight off the infections better and also lessens the severity if they do happen to fall ill. 

There are the common methods that everyone talks about: Vitamin C, probiotics and Vitamin D. These are staples in helping to boost and regulate the immune system, but they are also supplements. I'll be talking about these 3, along with some lifestyle and dietary things you can do to help boost the immune system of you and your kids. 

Eat lots of vegetables and fruits

Eating a healthy diet is one of the 3 Pillars of Health (the other 2 being sleep and exercise). Having half a plate full of vegetables ensures that you are getting enough nutrients and fibre in your diet. I also like to tell my patients to eat "as many colours of the rainbow" as they can. Doing this allows them to have as many different phytonutrients as possible. Not all phytonutrients do the same thing, but they are beneficial in their own way. These phytonutrients tend to be different based on the colour of the vegetable and fruit. Rich purples, reds, and blues are rich in anthocyanin (Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology) - which is a strong antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory, that can help your body be at it's best.

Exercise or Play

Being active strengthens our bodies by keeping our cardiovascular systems healthy and strengthening our bones (MedlinePlus). Everyone knows that exercising is good for you, but no one understands how it improves the immune system. Some of the theories I've read and liked included: 

  • Increased body temperature during and after the workout deters microbes from replicating and allows your body's defence system to work more optimally - the same way a fever works.
  • Faster blood flow and changes in your antibodies allows them to move through your body faster, catch and neutralize microbes they encounter. 
  • Exercise helps to manage stress, and therefore, decreases incidences of illness.

Studies have shown that moderate exercise has the best immunomodulating effects, and that doing regular, strenuous activity can be detrimental to the immune system (Clinical Sports Medicine)

Sleep

Sleep is very important for the body and health. This is the time that the body recovers from the day's hustle and bustle, the stress inflicted to it mentally, and physically. The body recovers and heals, and builds up resources to be used the next day. Sleep can be called the best anti-oxidant you can give your body (American Journal of Physiology). Sleep and many immune functions are both influenced by the 24-hour circadian rhythm. Your body adjusts which immune cells are active throughout your sleep-wake cycle. Immune cells that actively kill bacteria and diseased cells (NK cells) are more active during the day, when you are active; while memory T cells and cells that haven't matured are the most active at night (Pflügers Archiv). Therefore, it is important that your child gets enough sleep; below is a chart of recommended hours of sleep needed for children depending on their age:

Vitamin C 

Vitamin C has been known to support and improve the function of the immune system and decreases the duration of the common cold. The mechanism of how vitamin C is able to do this is still not clear, but it is needed for certain cells of the immune system (phagocytes and T-cells) to function properly. These cells track, mark, and eat invading microbes. Vitamin C supplementation was seen to reduce viral infection and replication of the Epstein-Barr Virus (aka Mono) (Medical Science Monitor). Your body has it's own absorption limit when it comes to vitamin C. In Naturopathic School, my professor would challenge us to find our limit - take and measure the amount of vitamin C it takes you to have a Bowel Movement (BM) (because it will cause you to have a BM if you take too much, as a side effect). Knowing this number can be really useful because when you are sick, your body can absorb more vitamin C, as it uses more of it to fight off the invading microb (J. Prousky).

Probiotics

70-80% of your immune system is in your gut (Clinical & Experimental Immunology). Your gut is covered in bacteria, which is often referred to as your microbiota, or gut flora. These bacteria help regulate your immune system and crowd out pathogenic bacteria so that they can't take hold of your intestine which can cause problems. Your natural microbiota is dependant on the way you were born - if you were born vaginally or through a Cesarean birth - because the first microbs you are exposed to start to inhabit your gut, so whether you were exposed to your mother's bacteria or the hospital's bacteria plays a large role in the bacteria that inhabit your gut. One way to influence your microbiota is by taking probiotics which have various immunomodulating abilities depending on the strain (Dr. David Williams).  Strains such as Bifidobacteria infantis are really good for immune modulation (Gut Microbes, FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology), whereas, Lactobacillus fermentum are good for atopic dermatitis (Archives of Disease in Childhood).

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D modulates the passive and active immune system since there are vitamin D receptors on B cells, T cells and antigen presenting cells (Journal of Investigative Medicine). There was a study showing that supplementation with vitamin D resulted in statistically decreased incidences of influenza. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Vitamin D is also able to change the concentration of different T cells, moving it from a pro-inflammatory to more of a regulatory one - allowing your body to maintain self-tolerance, which is very important because you should not be reacting and attacking your own body (Journal of Immunology). 

~ Dr. Charmagne

Supporting Lung Health During Poor Air Quality

With the forest fires, we have been experiencing lower air quality. It was the worst this past Monday, with Environment Canada issuing a special air quality statement stating that most parts of the Calgary would be experiencing an Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) of 10, with higher numbers in the NW of the city. Right now the AQHI is at a 4, which is considered moderate risk to increase symptoms of pre-existing illnesses, such as asthma, or experience symptoms like difficulty breathing, coughing or irritated eyes (Alberta Environment and Parks). 

I know I've been clearing my throat and coughing more over the past few days, and I know I'm not the only one. Alberta Health Services gave a few recommendations to help decrease your exposure to the smoke.

Alberta Health Services has advised the following for those who are susceptible to smoke, when the AQHI is high:

  • Monitor your symptom and minimize physical activity outdoors
  • Stay indoors with windows, doors and air circulation fans/vents closed - including in the car
  • Run your car fan on re-circulate mode to avoid drawing in outdoor air
  • Turn off air-conditioners or fans that bring outside air inside
  • Turn down furnace thermostats and furnace fans to the minimum setting. Do not attempt to extinguish pilot light.
  • Switch all floor registers to closed position.
  • Close fire place dampers on wood burning fireplaces.

Here is a few more things you can do to support your lungs, clear out some of that built up mucous, and help your lungs feel like new. 

Get an air purifier 

These help clean out the pollutants in the air so that you can breath clean air. These are especially helpful if you have any pre-existing illnesses that make you sensitive to air quality. You can get these at places like Home Depot, Canadian Tire, etc. You could also opt for plant air purifiers, The Mind Unleashed has a beautiful infographic summarizing a study published by NASA that listed a number of plants that helped clean the air of various pollutants and toxins, such as formaldehyde. Though, you will need a few plants around your room before you start noticing a difference. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and found in fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants protects the body from free radicals that can damage cells and as a result, damage organs. A higher intake of vitamin C protects the body by reducing the air pollution-induced oxidative stress in the body. Researches at Imperial College in London studied a population of patients hospitalized, the air quality, and the patient's levels of vitamin C. They noticed that there was a 35% increased risk of hospitalization for breathing-related issues for people with COPD or asthma for every 10 mcg/m3 increase of coarse particulate matter in the air. This number was 1.2 higher for people with low vitamin C levels.

N-acetylcystine (NAC)

NAC is used in the body to make glutathione (along with glycine and glutamine), which is often called the master antioxidant or the "Mother of All Antioxidants" of the body. It is one of the most abundant antioxidants in the body, is found along the extracellular epithelial lining fluid, and respiratory cells (from the trachea to the alveoli in the lungs) (Hindawi Biochemical Research International), with highest concentrations found in the liver. As a result, it is able to defend the body similarly to vitamin C, by protecting the body from free radicals and pollution-induced oxidative stress (PLOSone). Glutathione is a very strong anti-inflammatory in the body; therefore, it will be able to quell the inflammation that happens to lungs in the presence of pollution and other irritants. NAC is also a muoclytic - meaning that it helps make mucus less thick and stick, so it is easier to cough it up - which is nice if you've been having a hard time.

Olive Oil or Fish Oil

These two are known to help the cardiovascular system as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, and as a result, studies were conducted to see if it could help with the respiratory system as well. Fish oil was found to be able to prevent and decrease the inflammation caused by pollution-related oxidation (The Guardian). Patients that took olive oil were able to increase tissue plasminogen activator right after they were exposed to concentrated ambient particulate. Plasminogen activator is a protein that is involved in breaking down blood clots (Medical News Today), protecting the vascular system from atherosclerosis as a result of endothelial (inner lining) dysfunction from the air pollution.

    Happy breathing!

    - Dr. Charmagne

    Breastfeeding Do's and Don'ts

    When it comes to breastfeeding, everyone has an opinion, and everyone thinks their way is correct. It doesn't help that the information found on the internet is often contradictory, and that physicians, nurses, and lactation consultants have a difficult time agreeing if a baby has a tongue tie or not. So how does this leave mothers? Confused. Very confused. 

    In the clinic, there is a number of moms that book appointments to have all of their questions and concerns addressed. To have someone they've met and trust answer questions, give tips on how to help with breastfeeding is very relieving.

    I've learned several things from my amazing mentor, Janet Regts RN IBCLC, being at the clinic, here is a few Do's and Don'ts when it comes to breastfeeding:

    Don't judge yourself

    As women, we tend to judge ourselves harshly. Now add a baby, and you judge yourself 10x harder. There's no need to add undue pressure on yourself to be the perfect mother and wife. Do the best that you can, and trust that it is good enough. If that means you have to feed your baby formula so he is gaining weight while you work on increasing your milk supply, then feed your baby formula. If you give your baby a few bottles of formula to give yourself a break, then do it. What is important is that you and your baby are in a happy and healthy relationship, and if that means you are adding formula, then it's fine.

    Don't be pressured to do something you don't feel is right

    It seems like everyone is judging mothers. What are they feeding their baby, how they're raising their baby, are they coddling their baby? If someone advises something to you, and it doesn't feel right, then don't follow it. You have the best interests in mind for your baby, and if that means you want to go the natural root and not take medication to increase your milk supply, then go for it. Make this breastfeeding journey what you want it to be, and remember there is always support for you.

    Don't limit yourself

    If your goal is to breastfeed for x number of months, and you are determined to do it, you should be able to do it without having painful breasts and/or nipples. There are treatments and different strategies that can help you accomplish that. But if you refuse to hear the options, then you will have a more difficult time accomplishing that goal, and may quit before reaching it. As with anything in life, you'll have to weigh the pros and the cons, and decide which route you want to go, but you have an open mind so you can see both sides.

    Do trust in yourself

    Women's bodies are amazing. We can create and give birth to life, and we can sustain that life solely on breastmilk - which our bodies make! You trusted your body to create your baby. You worked with and trusted your body to give birth to your baby (either through natural means or a cesarean birth), and you can do the same thing with breastfeeding. Trust yourself and your body. You know what to do. There's no need to stress about it. You have people making sure that your baby is growing accordingly. Feed your baby, and have confidence in your ability to care for them.

    Do seek assistance when you need it

    You should never have to be by yourself when working out something difficult. This goes for your health as well as breastfeeding. Everyone needs support, and encouragement. Find someone to help you through these difficulties. There are La Leche League meetings all over Canada to support mothers breastfeed. These are groups of mothers who talk about their hardships and get support from their Leader and their fellow mothers. Lactation Consultants (LC)are knowledgeable and specialized in helping mothers with any breastfeeding difficulty they may have. La Leche League Leaders will often recommend seeing an LC if your concern requires more knowledge and/or understanding. You are not alone. There are people that want to help support you and know what you are going through.

    Do find what works for you

    There's a saying in the clinic that is often said: "As long as baby poops, pees and gains weight, whatever you are doing is perfect." Every feeding situation is different for every mother and baby, don't be hard on yourself. You are doing everything you can to make sure your baby grows up healthy. If your feeding your baby a mixture of your breastmilk and formula, and both you and baby are happy, that's 100% perfect for you. 

    - Dr. Charmagne