All posts in Naturopathic Medicine

Natural Pest Control Options for Your Summer Garden

By Dr. Kristin Heins

 

Heather Rhodes wrote a useful article on her website “Gardening Know How” that I thought would be worth sharing. It contained a few great recipes to allow you to make natural pesticides for plants that may be under attack by bugs this summer. Organic garden pest control is a popular topic since as consumers we are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of exposing ourselves and the earth to the least toxic materials possible. Natural home pesticides are not only easy to make, they are cheaper and safer than many products you can buy on store shelves. Remember that there are benefits to many of the little critters in your garden and you always want to be sure the damage a bug may be causing is worth using the pesticide for.

Rhoades points out in her article that garden pests are repelled or killed by a surprising number of safe and natural products. Here are a few natural insect repellent recipes she includes on her site:

Garden Pest Control Recipe #1

1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon dish soap (Note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)

2 tablespoons mineral or vegetable oil 
2 cups water 

  • Peel the garlic cloves and puree the cloves along with the oil and water. Allow to sit over night and then strain the mixture. Add the soap and mix thoroughly. Pour into a spray bottle and use on pest infected plants.

Organic Garden Pest Control Recipe #2 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon dish soap or Murphy Oil (Note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)

2 quart of water

  • Combine ingredients and pour into a spray bottle. Use this organic bug spray on your affected plants.

BEFORE USING ANY HOMEMADE MIX: It should be noted that anytime you use a home mix, you should always test it out on a small portion of the plant first to make sure that it will not harm the plant. Also, avoid using any bleach-based soaps or detergents on plants since this can be harmful to them. In addition, it is important that a home mixture never be applied to any plant on a hot or bright sunny day, as this will quickly lead to burning of the plant.

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Surviving the Dark Canadian Winter

By Dr. Kristin Heins
 

I read an interesting article recently about beating the winter blues. I was then reminded the next day, when a boost of sunshine elevated my spirits in a noticeable way, that “winter blues” is a catch phrase for a spectrum of mood related changes that affect many of us in winter months. As a naturopath, I work with patients to physiologically support their neuroendocrine (the complex interplay between our brain and hormones) system. Now as a psychotherapy student under supervision, I look at the social and psychological implications of these mood changes. Both these options would be ideal for someone who is feeling that the quality of their life is being notably impacted by the change of season.

For others who may feel “winter blues” to a lesser extent – I have listed a few lifestyle ideas to help increase the pep in your step until our longer days and warmer temperatures fill our spirits once again.

  1. Brighten your environment: using a light box / SAD lamp for 30 minutes a day has shown to be highly affected in some studies on SAD ( a clinical diagnosis of seasonally related depressive symptoms).  Sit close to Windows and draw open curtains when possible.
  2. Eat for Mood: speaking to a naturopath or nutritionist to help support mood through diet can be a great support. Simple carbohydrates like sugar can provide short term boosts but longer term patterns of mood instability. Alternatively increasing proteins and in particular tryptophan and tyrosine containing foods can help boost mood.
  3. Exercise: A 2005 study by Harvard university suggests fast walking 35 minutes daily 5 days a week to improve mild to moderate depressive symptoms. Exercising under brighter light may also improve general mental health and social functioning according to a preliminary study on exercise and mental health.
  4.  Get Outside: Being outside and in nature when possible can help improve focus and lower stress levels. So add a layer and bundle up!
  5. Get Involved: Social isolation in cold winter months can add to poor sense of wellbeing. Make social arrangements or find volunteer or charity groups to be involved with as a way to boost spirits and outlook.

If you would like individualized support please email drheinsnd@thrivehealth.ca or online at www.thrivehealth.ca

 

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Understanding More About Gestalt Psychotherapy

By Dr. Kristin Heins, ND
 

Working as a Naturopathic Doctor, I view mental health as a natural and necessary part of holistic health care. With this philosophy I began, almost ten years ago, seeking to obtain a skill set to speak with patients about their emotions and mental health.

Now, many years later and in my fourth year of the full five year programme, I am able to see clients as part of the supervised practice portion of my training as a psychotherapist. Here is a little taste of the Gestalt approach to give a clearer understanding of what it is and how it may be helpful for you.

  • What is The Gestalt Approach to Psychotherapy?

Gestalt focuses on meeting clients where they are at in the moment and providing support to their experience. At our core, humans are dynamic and adaptive beings always attempting survival. Gestalt refers to this as “creative adaptation”. Sometimes, however, the way we adapt isn’t helpful in all circumstances. We may experience feeling “stuck” or at an impasse. The therapy session is intended as a safe place to both identify these patterns of adjustment and explore alternate ways of adapting.  This is an experiential form of psychotherapy, which may include using exercises to help foster new awareness, understanding and techniques for self support.

Please contact the clinic if you would like to learn more or determine if working together is the right fit for you.

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Keeping Families Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

As school starts back up, many families start to anticipate, or fear, cold and flu season. Yikes! Naturopathic treatment for colds and the flu can help reduce symptoms and shorten illness time; but, an even better approach for the fall is prevention. Take active steps to boost your family’s immunity and reduce exposure to the germs that get you and your little one(s) sick in the first place.

The body’s immune system works to ward off and kill germs that we are exposed to. Children are more vulnerable to sickness because they are still ‘growing’ an immune system…and because they touch everything!! In order for an immune system to function optimally, it requires adequate nutrients, proper rest and balanced exercise. While these principles may seem basic, they can be tricky to implement regularly in a busy household. Below are some specific strategies to help you maximize your children’s health. Apply them to yourself and double the benefits.

  1. Keep a routine bedtime that ensures your child stays well rested through the winter. White blood cells (the guys that fight germs) multiply most while we sleep.
  2. Enroll children in lessons or make time as a family to engage in activities through the fall and winter – be it swimming, skating, skiing or sledding.
  3. Increase protein, vitamin C and zinc in your family’s diet as they are all required for optimal immune system function.
  4. Reduce germ exposure through regular hand washing and proper nasal rinsing. Sound strange? If we breathe in germs and they grow and multiply, in part, in our nasal passages, cleaning them out regularly also flushes out the germs. Infant and child nasal rinsing products are easily available through health and drug stores and are best used in the evening

 

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Natural Remedies Provide Relief from Chronic Sinusitis

If you have been suffering from a series of chronic sinus infections year after year your doctor may have sent you for an allergy test or for a visit with the Ears, Nose and throat Specialist. A common practice for medical practitioners is to prescribe a steroid nasal spray which can provide some relief for a short period of time for most patients. However, if you have found that the effectiveness of the nasal spray has lessened you may be searching for something to provide relief from the constant sniffling, post nasal drip and head pain related with sinus infections. There are some natural remedies that have proved to be effective in easing the symptoms of sinus infection you might be interested in trying.

Antibiotics Ineffective for Sinus Infections

It has long been argued what exactly the correct prescription should be for patients presenting with signs of sinusitis. In fact, it has even been disputed exactly when a patient does in fact have a sinus infection. The common symptoms most patients present with when suffering with a true blown infection include:

  • Facial pain especially when you shift position or lean forward
  • Discharge from the nose that is green, yellow or brown
  • Coughing up green, yellow or brown phlegm
  • Post nasal drip
  • Congestion
  • Fever

Antibiotics may be prescribed for sinusitis however because of the bacterial and fungal nature of the infection they are not always effective. This is one of the reasons they may recur.

Echinacea and Golden Seal

This herbal combo has been dubbed the dynamic duo. They provide a double whammy for assisting in many ailments including boosting your immune system and treating cold and flu symptoms, tummy troubles and urinary tract infection. Echinacea stimulates your defence system while golden seal helps control the irritating inflammatory symptoms and mucous production associated with repeat sinus infections. It is these two treatments that also make golden seal an effective remedy for tummy troubles which can cause inflammation of the stomach’s lining as well as the bowels. The production of mucous can coat everything from sinuses and eyes to urinary tracts, digestive tracts and upper respiratory tracts. Golden seal is the enemy of mucous and is very effective in removing it from your system.

Sage

Sage is a common herb favoured in the preparation of poultry dishes. Your thanksgiving turkey has probably been dressed with a sage stuffing at least once in your life. However, sage also has a powerful diaphoretic effect which means it aids in the flow of bodily fluids. Sipping sage tea a few times a day allows sage to act as an expectorant to help remove the mucous as well as to aid in getting it moving when you are plugged up.

If you suffer from chronic sinusitis you should consider speaking to a Naturopath who can recommend the proper dosage of these herbal remedies so you can best benefits from there natural healing effects.

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Why Holistic Healing Treats the Cause not the Symptoms

Have you ever noticed that more often than not when you are suffering from an illness many doctors will treat the symptoms? For example, if you have chronic sinus infections you are just given antibiotics. When you visit a Naturopath, they will not ONLY treat your symptoms. Instead they will get to the root of what is causing the symptoms, eliminating the cause and WORKING TO STOP the symptoms once and for all.

In-depth Analysis and Discovery

The holistic approach to healing treats the whole person addressing every aspect of your health: Physical, mental and spiritual. You will be given a thorough examination considering all contributing factors that could be affecting your health such as diet, stress and lack of exercise. Each individual requires a very personal analysis to address what treatment will work best for you.

The Many Aspects of your Health

In order to achieve perfect health you may require many disciplines to begin your path to recovery. Your treatment will use a multi-disciplined approach from many areas such as:

  • Environmental health
  • Acupuncture
  • Nutritional counselling
  • Massage
  • Homeopathy
  • Meditation
  • Dietary changes
  • Food allergies
  • Vitamin supplementation
  • Exercise
  • Oxygen or hydrotherapies
  • Organic living

Heal Thy Self

Your body is designed to handle illness and naturopaths believe health conditions are often brought on by imbalance. The naturopath will work with you to help realign your body and return balance in order to allow your body to follow its natural course of self healing. Together, you will come up with an agreed upon strategy that will work for you. Your lifestyle will play a huge role in your healing process and compliance is required for your treatment to be MOST effective. That is why it is important for you to work together with your naturopath to find a course of action that will suit you AND YOUR LIFESTYLE.

Mental Health and Coping

You may not realize what ill effects your mental health can have on your body. Changes to your life such as marital problems, job related stress, family CHANGES or the death of a loved one can all contribute to your sense of well-being. Sometimes holistic healing involves psychotherapy to provide you with the coping skills you require to maintain a well-balance mind. Stressful and traumatic events from you past may also still be affecting your ability to function properly in the present and these issues can be addressed.

As you can see the holistic approach to healing works towards complete treatment that will result in overall health for life long relief of all of your symptoms

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Solving the Riddle of Seasonal Migraines

freeimages.co.uk medical imagesMigraines can be a debilitating health problem, triggered by a variety of factors from sleep habits, to diet, to the weather. Many sufferers claim they seem to become more prone to migraines at certain times of year –during the changing seasons, or in the spring and summer when they may also be plagued with seasonal allergies.

The frustrating thing about migraine sufferers is that many don’t take the time to seriously consider all of their options for prevention and symptom relief. It’s definitely worthwhile to explore natural therapies as a means of better understanding, minimizing, and preventing your migraines, not to mention nixing the dependency on potentially harmful medications often used to manage symptoms. Here are just some of the therapies that migraine sufferers frequently respond to.

Chiropractic care
Many headaches and migraines start in your spine. When your body is misaligned your nerves get very irritated, and communicate quickly with your brain. For some clients, spinal adjustments are an effective way to reduce the pressure on those unhappy nerves. Chiropractic care also helps restore mobility to patients who experience consistent and debilitating muscle tension. Blood flow to and from the brain may also be restricted when muscles are tight in the base of the skull, which can contribute to headache and migraine symptoms. The cumulative effects of rigidity and restriction can lead to severe headaches – so it’s important to target the problem at its source, rather than just treating the resulting migraine. Consider your posture, alignment, and date of your last adjustment. Could a poorly aligned spine, stressed nerves or strained muscles be an underlying cause of your migraine? A chiropractic consultation can help you find out!

Massage Therapy
Seeing a massage therapist isn’t a luxury- for many it’s a highly effective treatment option. Headaches frequently result from tension and stress, which are manually targeted during a massage session. Your therapist will also help to improve circulation throughout your body, which can draw blood away from the head, reducing pressure that contributes to headache. It’s also incredible to see the effects of loosening and treating muscle tissue. If you have a muscle injury, chances are you’ve been carrying yourself differently. An adjusted or irregular posture of any kind can cause soreness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. So give massage therapy a try –the combination of targeted manual therapy and the valuable opportunity to reduce stress might be just what you need to manage or minimize migraines.

Naturopathic and Nutritional Counselling
Food sensitivity and allergies might also be causing your migraines. A holistic health practitioner can help you begin an elimination diet or food diary to uncover patterns in your eating that might cause headaches. Many sufferers of migraines know which foods they need to avoid in order to help prevent a killer headache. Don’t worry- this isn’t arbitrary. A nutritionist or ND can help you identify which ingredients are giving you grief- whether it’s a popular additive like MSG, or a less widely identified substance like tyramine. Tyramine, which is found in aged cheese, processed meat, canned soups and several other foods, has been known to trigger migraines in certain individuals. Without some health counselling however, you might never identify something like this as a potential source of your suffering. It’s worth looking into- The sooner you know your problem foods, the sooner you can begin adjusting your diet and lifestyle so you can enjoy more long-term management of your migraines.

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Decoding and Managing Cravings

A juicy burger. Salty fries. A cold, sugary soda.

Have we sparked a craving? Food cravings are unfortunate road blocks in many people’s diet plans. While some cravings are circumstantial and easier to resist (like salivating at the smell of a bakery) others can be persistent, frequent and much more physical by nature (like craving a cup of coffee in the morning). For those who eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, cravings should be minimal and controllable, but of course this isn’t always the case. Here are a few common cravings, what they mean for your body, and how you can deal with them.

pretzels1. Salt:
Your body requires a very small amount of salt each day. As an electrolyte that helps your body maintain regular, consistent fluid levels, salt is an important ingredient in your biological balance and health. Often we crave salty snacks, or foods that have an exorbitant sodium content that we may not even be aware of (check your canned soups as an example!)

Why do we crave it? Cravings for salt are often the result of your body’s conditioning. A high-sodium diet makes your body accustomed to lots of salt. When you try to cut back, your body reminds you. Excessive perspiration and dehydration can also trigger salt cravings, since our bodies lose sodium and other minerals when we sweat. It is also possible that salt cravings can be an indicator of more severe consitions associated with our endocrine / hormonal system so make sure to speak with a Health Care Professional if symptoms are unexplained or persistant.

How to manage the craving: Drink an electrolyte beverage after heavy exercise. Learning about proper endurance exercise hydration and electrolyte protocols are helpful for routine exercise. If your salt craving isn’t related to sweat, try  something crunchy and flavourful like seasoned rice crackers, a small handful of nuts, an algae product or dill pickle.  Follow up your snack with a big glass of water.

2. Sugar:
Sugar is another ingredient that hides in many foods and habits. Minimizing your sugar intake isn’t just about avoiding sweets like pastries and candy. It means being mindful of the sugar content in everything that you eat-from granola to peanut butter to juice.

Why do we crave it? When we consume a lot of sugar it causes a spike in blood glucose levels. You’ve likely experienced this- you eat something sweet and immediately feel good. Your energy rises and peaks and you may even feel happier. But shortly afterwards, your blood sugar dips again. This is the unfortunate reality of refined sugar; it sends your body on a roller coaster. When your blood sugar drops, your brain starts thinking it needs more refined sugar. Your craving returns. The cycle continues.

sugar cubesHow to manage the craving: Read your labels! Avoid products that have sugar added. Choose natural sweeteners like stevia or a touch of honey. You may also try satisfying cravings for sweetness with flavours. Add a pinch of cinnamon to your coffee instead of a sweetening agent. Use vanilla or nutmeg in oatmeal instead of brown sugar. And if you need a sweet fix, choose a tasty fruit like strawberries or watermelon. Remember to always balance out sweet fixes, even healthy ones, with some protein or healthy fat. This helps keep your blood sugar more stable and avoid the rollercoaster effect.


3. Caffeine:
For you coffee-addicts, you may find that your caffeine intake requires much more willpower to control than those cravings for sugar and salt. In truth, a single caffeinated drink triggers a significant reaction in your body, producing for many people a “rollercoaster effect” similar to that of sugar.

Why do we crave it? Caffeine triggers neural activity that stimulates the release of hormones. These stimulate your adrenal glands to produce that burst of energy you might experience after a dose of caffeine. When the “high” ends however, you may experience lethargy, restlessness, and an inability to concentrate. It’s a combination of taste and effect that brings most of us back to caffeinated beverages on a regular basis. With enough consumption however, your body will reach a state of adrenal exhaustion. It will require more caffeine to reproduce that desired high.

coffee mugHow to manage the craving: Ensure that you are getting enough sleep so that you aren’t depending on caffeine as a major source of energy. Try alternatives like herbal tea and natural coffee alternatives such as chicory. Any caffeinated beverage should be taken in moderation, to avoid putting your body through the unnecessary stress responses that caffeine can produce. Speaking to a Naturopath is a good way to identify if your adrenal glands need support and the best way to use herbs and lifestyle modification to help get your energy levels back up…sans caffeine!

 

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Seasonal allergies in young children

Springtime has finally arrived and after a long, cold winter we’re all rejoicing. While the weather is still inconsistent, overall warmer temperatures mean that many people are experiencing the unwelcome return of seasonal allergies.

Baby_allergiesSeasonal allergies occur when your body reacts to airborne particles, most commonly pollen. At this time of year so many different things are in bloom- flowers, trees, weeds, plants- that a whole new host of spores and particles have been reintroduced into the air we breathe. For those who are allergic, these substances are met with a defensive reaction by the body. Upon contact with the allergen, allergy sufferers will experience a release of histamine as the body tries to shut out the particles that it perceives as harmful. The result is any combination of a runny nose, sinus congestion, itchy ears, nose, throat, and watery eyes. All of these symptoms are your body’s way of keeping airborne toxins out.

As adults we know to brace ourselves for allergy season, and it’s a time of year when many will reach for over-the-counter relief. As Modern Mom reminds us however, babies and children suffer from allergies too, and require safe and gentle forms of treatment. If your child is showing symptoms of an allergy, take a look at the different environmental factors that could be to blame.

Allergy symptoms in children

Springtime allergies can produce many of the same symptoms in young children and infants as adults, along with hives, fussiness, and impaired breathing. You may notice your child rubbing his or her face and presenting with a red nose and red, swollen eyes. A common sign of allergies in children that Dr. Heins notes is a palmed wipe up the nose- this is commonly referred to as the “allergy salute.” Children with allergies may also present with darkening around the eyes, which we’ve dubbed “allergic shiners.”

Treatment Strategies

file000107727382Dr. Heins’ best preventative health tip for allergy sufferers is nasal rinsing after school or before bed. This helps to literally wash out the allergens and reduce the histamine response in your child. Companies like HydraSense make baby-safe saltwater misting sprays and nasal rinses that are gentle and effective.

Use a vaporizer to keep air moist in your nursery or child’s bedroom, and consider elevating one end of your crib mattress to help with congestion during naps and at night. For an older child, encourage that they sleep on an extra pillow to slightly elevate the head. Just be sure that the neck is supported and doesn’t sit at an extreme angle.

You can also limit allergy symptoms by minimizing your outdoor time and keeping windows shut when the pollen count is high. Depending on the severity of the allergies, Baby Center recommends washing hands and faces when your child comes in the house from outdoors and removing clothing so it can be added to the laundry immediately.

Remember that babies are very sensitive and haven’t had as much exposure to various airborne substances, so keep a close eye on your child to avoid mistaking allergy symptoms for a cold.  If your baby has hives or a rash, consult with a health care practitioner who can help you determine if the allergen is more likely airborne or ingested. Naturopaths can run allergy testing panels and use modalities like homeopathics to great effect- these are safe in infants and children, and can help push the immune system to better handle environmental aggravants.

Wishing you a safe and sniffle free spring!

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Hormonal Imbalances 101

We often only think about hormones in terms of side effects. Despite their importance to our body’s functioning, they tend to go unacknowledged until they begin to cause us grief.

woman_stock photoHormones are key to the performance of many processes and capabilities of the body, including our fertility, digestion processes, and thyroid function. Since they play such a multi-faceted and important role, a number of unpleasant side effects can present themselves when our hormones fluctuate.

So what causes our hormones to get out of sync or off the charts? Human hormone levels are highly sensitive to a variety of factors. These include oral medications you may be taking, the things you’re eating, and lifestyle factors such as stress. Hormonal imbalances can also result from major physical changes that are facilitated by hormonal releases (such as reproductive process and the onset of puberty). When these factors come into play against your natural hormone levels, eventually your body may struggle with overall hormone regulation and control. At this point, a treatment method is often needed to restore balance.

Symptoms of hormonal imbalances include:

  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite

If you’re consistently experiencing these symptoms, a saliva or blood test can determine whether you have a hormone imbalance and its severity. While many people fear they’ll have to take synthetic hormone doses to treat an imbalance, this isn’t always a necessary or ideal solution, particularly when an imbalance has been triggered by lifestyle factors.

Some of the dietary strategies used to treat hormone imbalances include:

  • Enriching meals with protein, fibre and iron by incorporating more lentils and beans.
  • Eating more foods that contain phytoestrogens, a compound in plants that resembles the human hormone estrogen. Soy and flaxseed are great choices.
  • Increasing soluble fibre intake.
  • Ensuring that you’re getting enough vitamin D and calcium.

If you think you may have a hormonal imbalance, have a consultation to find out if a natural, nutrition-based approach is best for you.

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