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5 Ways to Manage Your Seasonal Allergies This Year!

Well the first day of spring has come and gone, and finally we are getting some sunny warmer weather! Just this morning I saw some of my bulbs and hostas starting to sprout and I can’t wait to get out there and garden. But for a lot of you, I know that the wet mouldy leaves and pollen from flowering plants means a runny nose, repeated sneezing, watery eyes, and sinus congestion headaches well into the summer months.

I have seen in my practice an increase over the last few years of patients who have never had seasonal allergies before who are now developing symptoms every spring and fall, and who have to rely on OTC anti-histamines to help them get through the day and also help them sleep at night. That is a lot of medication! So I’d like to share with you some tips I give to my patients that have helped them manage and even eliminate their seasonal allergy symptoms:

1. Start off with a good Detoxification Program. I think the reason more people are developing allergies has something to do with the increased pollutants we are exposed to in our food, skin care products, cleaning chemicals, pesticides—all of which place a huge burden on our organs of elimination (liver, colon, lungs, kidneys, skin, lymphatics). A good detox will address all these organs and improve their function.  Stay clear of fasting cleanses, they have their purpose, but for most people they are too low in calories and will just make you feel tired. My two favourite detox programs are the Clear Change 10-Day Detox by Metagenics and the Whole Body Cleanse by Pascoe. Both are super easy to follow and do the job. However any detox you choose should be monitored by a naturopath to make sure it is appropriate for you, so come talk to me if you are thinking to doing a detox program.

2. Follow the Anti-Inflammatory Diet for April & May. There are some foods that are inherently inflammatory, meaning they get the immune system all worked up and can make your allergy symptoms worse. These foods are gluten, dairy, red meat, nightshades, soy, citrus, peanuts, alcohol, coffee, artificial sugars, sugar. You will find a full list here. This diet is not all-or-nothing. It will still help if you can follow it most of the time. So do your best, and don’t quit if you have a cheat. You might want to follow this all summer if your symptoms are really bad.

3. Use Pascallerg Tablets. These tablets work awesome. They are made by a company called Pascoe. Make sure to check the label for any potential allergies to the ingredients. Pascallerg is great as a replacement for your anti-histamines to help calm down the sneezing and watery eyes in the morning. When I go for long bike rides outdoors, I take two doses – 15 minutes apart (they just dissolve like candy in my mouth) and I am symptom free. This product is a must-try for all you stuffy sinus and congestion headaches out there.

4. Look after your gut with some probiotics. Did you know that 70-80% of your immune system is found within the lining of your digestive system? From your mouth to the other end J, your digestive tract is exposed to the bad bacteria of the outside world, and so we need to make sure it stays happy. Probiotics are the good bacteria that support digestive health. I try to aim for 50 billion bacteria per day during winter and spring seasons.

5. Modulate your immune system with Plant Sterols. For those of you who have several inflammatory things going on with your immune system…allergies, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, asthma…plant sterols (found in a product called Sterol 117), have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties that help bring balance to the immune system. And as a side effect, the researchers found they lower cholesterol and prevent enlarged prostate, called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH for short)! Oh but a word of caution, don’t take this product if you have an auto-immune condition or if you’ve had an organ transplant.

That was a lot of info! And if you’re not sure where to start, come and ask me about what products and detoxification programs are right for you.

And to support you in this, for the months of April and May, book an appointment with me, Dr. Misa (fee is $180, and you can use your naturopathic benefits!) and you will receive a complimentary Whole Body Cleanse Kit and a box of Pascallerg Tablets (a value of $120) to get you on your way to a healthier and more enjoyable spring this year!

New Healthy Habits for 2013!

It’s a new year and for some of you it’s a fresh year meaning fresh beginnings while for others it may feel like just “back to the grind”.  But wherever you are at, setting goals for a healthy 2013 is always a good thing, and our team at Meridian is here to help you do just that.

WEIGHT LOSS is always one of the top New Year’s resolutions, yet we all know that after the first few weeks of going to the gym everyday, “life” kicks in, and that new gym membership may go unused for weeks or even months at at time.  I’ve even had a few patients tell me that they have not been to the gym for a years, but keep renewing their memberships so that they feel better that there is at least the potential to go (c’mon really???).  And if you’re a PERFECTIONIST like me (yes I’ll admit it :)) and have that “all-or-nothing” mentality, then if you can’t do it right, you won’t do it at all, or you will keep “re-starting” over and over again, telling yourself that “this time I’m going to do it, I’m going to get it right.”

And then the excuses set in…”I have no time”, “work is too stressful right now, too many deadlines”, “I have to drive my kids everywhere”, “I don’t have the money to eat healthy”, “it’s my spouse’s fault he/she keeps chips and cookies in the house”, “I injured my ankle so I can’t do any running or jumping.”  Yes, they are all excuses.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound condescending or judgemental here.  I totally get it–I work full-time, own a business, have two small children, a house to clean, meals to cook, and the list goes on.   But you have to admit, sometimes we can use these as excuses to avoid the feeling of repeated failure or defeat, especially when it comes to weight loss.

And that is the totally WRONG way to look at health, isn’t it?  The process of leading a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be a negative thing, nor is it an achievement or a prize that you get at the end, because you’ve lost “X” amount of pounds.  Leading a healthy lifestyle is about getting up in the morning and not feeling tired, it’s about being strong enough to pick up your children and swing them in the air, it’s about having the endurance to pull that toboggan up the hill one more time, it’s about enjoying a coffee at 3pm because you like the taste of it, not because you need the caffeine, it’s about being physically able to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and not just dream about it,  it’s about looking ahead 30-40 years and telling yourself you don’t want to be on 10 different medications because you didn’t pay attention to your health NOW.


So here are my “New Year’s” Top Habits to help you integrate healthy into your busy life:

1. Drink 1.5-2 litres water or herbal tea daily.  If you have a caffeinated beverage, then drink two more glasses water on top of that.

2. Learn to drink your coffee without sugar or sweetener of any sort, except stevia.

3. Do 10 push-ups, 20 sit ups, and a 60 second plank as soon as you get out of bed in the morning.

4. Get off the subway or bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way to work or school.

5. Eat your proteins and veggies at the beginning of the meal and your carbs at the end of the meal to help control your blood sugar better.

6. Stop eating bagels. Choose rye bread instead.

7. Breathe deeply.  We can live without water or food longer than we can survive without oxygen.  Breathing to survive is not enough, your tissues may still be slowly suffocating!  Breathing DEEPLY will keep all systems functioning optimally and lower stress.

8. All kids love piggy-back rides!  Put your child on your back and do some squats and walking lunges every day (…be careful no one gets hurt!).  You get some exercise, plus laughs and fun with your kids.  It’s a win-win 🙂

Stay posted for a new Healthy & Active Metabolism Lifestyle Program coming to Meridian Wellness in Spring 2013!  For the “inside-scoop” ask the Naturopath (Dr. Misa) about it at your next visit!

 

Natural Flu ‘Shot’ for Your Family in Richmond Hill

What is Pascoleucyn?

This product is supported by research to show when taken during the first onset of a flu, it decreases the severity of the symptoms and length illness significantly in children and adults. That is why we started using it as a preventative treatment to boost the immune system to fight off a cold or flu before it becomes full-blown.

It can be administered as an injection in arm or as a “shot” in the mouth and is taken in two separate doses, in October and January. It can also be used in conjunction with the conventional medical flu shot.

It is safe for all age groups, however it does contain Echinacea so patients with allergies to the daisy family should avoid this product, but you can talk to our naturopath Dr. Misa about other ways to keep your immune system healthy for the fall and winter months!

Here are some handy health tips to get yourself started!

Please call to schedule your natural flu shot…905-773-5794

How To Lose Weight By Sleeping More!

Sleep and Weight LossAre you burning the midnight oil?  A good night’s sleep is one of the keys to good health—and may also be a key to maintaining a healthy weight. There is mounting evidence that people who get too little sleep have a higher risk of weight gain and obesity than people who get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.  There are even a few published books on this topic out there.

It’s true that many of us are getting a lot less sleep than we used to.  Our lives have become so busy that essential things like exercise, taking the time to relax and eat properly (are you eating a late lunch at your desk working as you read this??) have taken a backseat.  But we all know that at some point we face total burnout, and perhaps even a point of no return with our health.  And when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, sleep is super important, as reported by Harvard School of Public Health, who reviewed several studies on the association between lack of sleep and obesity.

As parents, we also have a duty to set a good example of proper sleep habits to our kids.  An observational study in New Zealand followed over 1000 children from birth to age 32 and found that each one hour reduction in sleep was associated with a 50 percent higher risk of obesity by the age of 32.

So how exactly does sleep affect body weight?

  1. Sleep deprivation may alter hormones that control hunger and therefore increase appetite.  Researchers found that the hormone leptin, which tells your body that you are full, is lowered in people who don’t get enough sleep.  With lower levels of leptin, your body doesn’t get the signal to stop eating.
  2. Sleeping less gives you more time to eat, especially those late night snacks which are often high in fats and refined sugars, leading to weight gain.  Have you ever reached for celery sticks as a late-night snacks?  If so, good for you, most people crave fats and sugars like chips, chocolate, popcorn, cookies and all kinds of unhealthy foods at night.
  3. Sleep deprivation may prompt people to have less healthy diets–they tend to eat out more, eat at irregular times, skip meals and binge eat.
  4. Decreasing exercise and physical activity.  People who don’t get enough sleep are tired during the day, and the last thing they want to do is exercise.

Ready to make some lifestyle changes

and sleep better?

The first step is to book a free 15-minute naturopathic “Meet & Greet” with Dr. Misa so that you can learn more about how naturopathic medicine can help you de-stress, sleep better and lose weight.  You can also stay tuned in my future blog about good sleep habits.  Cheers to a good night’s sleep!  As we say in Japanese, “oya-sumi-na-sai!” (that means “goodnight”!)

How To Treat The Heat of Menopause Hot Flashes

Perhaps it’s because of the extremely warm weather we’ve had this summer, but I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that many of my new naturopathic patients at Meridian Wellness are women with menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. In fact, the late-forties-to-mid-fifties group of women has grown so significantly in my practice this year, when I see “hot flashes” as one of their chief concerns on the intake form, I can pretty much guess that I will also need to address mood changes, decreased libido and difficulty losing weight in their naturopathic treatment plan.

And maybe you’re connecting with this blog entry so far, because you are in fact entering this next phase in your life–maybe your periods are getting less frequent and lighter, or actually even getting heavier. Maybe your children have commented that you don’t seem yourself lately, you’re a little more “short-fused”, or nervous or depressed. Maybe you feel like one minute you love your husband, and the next minute you can’t stand him!

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that your hormones do all kind of things that change your body and can change your moods. In menopause, your hormones are changing again–your ovaries start making less estrogen, and this leads to symptoms varying from fatigue, weight gain, depressive mood or lack of motivation, anxiety, hot flashes, insomnia, and the list goes on.

Many MD’s have stopped prescribing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because of the cardiovascular risks for women and so there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done other than being told to “just try to bear it for a few years”. If you are one of these women, perhaps you would consider giving acupuncture a try. A small study published in March 2011 in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, showed that the postmenopausal women who had acupuncture twice per week for 10 weeks had a significant decrease in symptoms, especially hot flashes, compared to the women who did not have acupuncture. How does it work? The study showed that estrogen levels increased in the women who had acupuncture, as well as endorphins (your body’s natural happy hormone) increased in these women.

I’ve been using acupuncture for women’s health conditions for over 10 years now, and have found combining it with herbs like Wild Yam, Chaste Tree, St. John’s Wort, Rhodiola and ground flax seed gives even better and consistent results in my patients.

Interested in trying acupuncture for your hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms? Come for a free 15-minute “meet & greet” session with me to find out how naturopathic medicine and acupuncture can help you live happier, and healthier. See you soon!

Dr. Misa

Do A Detox! – Spring Cleaning For Your Health

The term “detox” has become a trendy buzzword over the last few years and it has created a lot of confusion about what healthy detoxification really means.  It’s actually quite simple.  Detoxification refers to the processing and removal of waste from the body and doing a “detox” is a way of improving those mechanisms of elimination.

The organs involved in detoxification and waste removal are the colon, liver, skin, lungs, kidneys, and lymphatics.  Most commercial detox supplements will target one or more of these organ systems.  But if you want to venture into trying one, you have to be careful about the ingredients as well as some of the dietary restrictions–for example, fasting is not appropriate for everyone!  So I highly recommend speaking to a naturopathic doctor about which detox (if any) is right for you.  In my experience, certain symptoms like headaches, eczema, muscle aches, digestive issues, joint inflammation, fatigue, can possibly indicate the need for a detox program.  So in my practice, I customize a program for my patients that is safe and focuses on the necessary organ systems.

Does everyone need to do a detox program?  Not necessarily.  If you live a healthy lifestyle, maintain good weight, exercise (and sweat, because the skin is a detox organ!), eat fresh and chemical-free foods, drink lots of water, have regular bowel movements, and keep stress levels low, you are already incorporating easy ways of helping your detox organs on a daily basis.

Here are some key tips on how you can incorporate daily detox into your lifestyle:
1. Drink plenty of water.  For most people that is between 1.5-2 litres per day.  This does not include other fluids–your body needs pure H2O!
2. Eat lots of veggies.  Beets full of nutrients as well as the green leafies like kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts.  Juice these veggies if you have a juicer.
3. Dry skin brushing everyday before your shower.  Using a body brush or loofah with a long handle, gently brush your skin in long strokes, working from the extremities and moving toward the heart.  This helps remove dead skin, and also to improve lymphatic circulation.
4. Exercise daily – you must sweat!  Sweating is a way for the body to remove waste, just like going to the washroom.
5. Make sure you are going to the washroom regularly.  Bowel movements should be 1-2X daily!
6. Deep breathing.  Exhaling is a way for our lungs to eliminate waste.  Focus on both inhalation to get enough oxygen to your tissues, and the exhalation to eliminate CO2 from your tissues.

Interested in doing our 10-Day Clear Change Detox?  We have them now in stock.  Come in and fill out a Detox Questionnaire and talk to our Richmond Hill Naturopath, Dr. Misa, to see if a detox is right for you!

 

Natural Remedies for Travel

An exciting week is coming up, March Break!  For those of you travelling, I thought I’d share with you some of the natural remedies I pack in my luggage just in case I need some first-aid while away, especially outside of North America where they speak a different language and pharmacies are not so easily accessible.

My family loves to go to the Caribbean for our holidays.  We just got back in February from Cayo Coco, Cuba.  The food was decent, you may know Cuba doesn’t have a great reputation for food, but the gorgeous beaches make up for that.  It’s terrible to be sick on vacation so I’m always overly cautious to bring a few key natural remedies (and drug medications too!)

Here are my 10 health tips on how to prepare for vacations:
1. Buy health insurance.  This is so important.  Sometimes it is included when you buy with a certain credit card or you may have with your work benefits.  Make sure you have it, and the proper documentation with you during your travels.
2. Make a photocopy of your passport and carry it in a different bag than your original passports, in case they get lost or stolen.
3. Eat cooked veggies only for the first 2-3 days.  This especially applies if you are going south to a resort or a cruise.  Travelling is a change in environment that the body has to adapt to, so the stomach can be more susceptible to diarrhea for the first few days (even if you don’t have an infection).
4. Probiotics – Those good bacteria that we get in yogurt.  But in a more concentrated capsule form.  This is my #1 weapon for a healthy gut during vacation.  Don’t worry about the bottle not being in the fridge while you are driving/flying.  They will be ok, just put it in the fridge as soon as you get to your destination.
5. Grapefruit Seed Extract (NOT Grape seed) – I love this stuff for fighting bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning, and colds too!  It comes in capsule and liquid form.  I bring both on vacation with me.  The capsules can be taken daily as a preventative for food poisoning or infections.  A few drops of the liquid form can be used in water or juice as well, especially if you’re not sure if the water is properly filtered.
6. Heat stroke and high fever – I take a homeopathic remedy called Belladonna 30CH with me.  The first thing you want to do is get to a cool place and drink lots of fluids, of course.  Belladonna can help if there is a lot of hot flushing and a red face.  I also carry Tylenol with me, so that I have the option of using it if necessary.
7. Bug bites – I carry a natural remedy called homeopathic Apis 30 CH, as well as Benadryl in my luggage, again so that I have more than one option if needed.
8. Diarrhea – There are alot of natural remedies out there for diarrhea, it is difficult to just suggest one.  I do find though, that I most often I use the anti-diarrhea tablets from the drug store–but this rarely happens if I have been diligent with my probiotics and grapefruit seed extract (a.k.a. GSE) pills.
9. Lymphdiaral Drops & Cream – This is a must-have in your first-aid kit at home and on vacation because they have so many wonderful uses.  The drops (taken in the mouth) can be used to prevent your ear plugging on the airplane at take off and landing; also for any swollen glands, lymph nodes, ear infections, sinus congestion, the drops help to get the fluid moving.  The cream (used topically on the skin) is great for any kind of swelling–bug bites (use immediately), bruises, lymph nodes, etc.
10. And last but not least: STAY HYDRATED!!!  You can put some Emergen-C Vitamin C/electrolyte powder in your water too!

Now, you should always make sure you talk to a Naturopath about specific dosages and remedies for your family, because not all remedies are appropriate for everyone, especially if you have any allergies.

Don’t have time to come for a visit before you leave?  You can book an easy 15-minute phone or skype consultation and I can advise you on what you need to make sure your family stays healthy this March Break!

Safe travels!
From your Richmond Hill Naturopath,
Dr. Misa

P.S. Don’t forget to take your melatonin with you if you are changing time zones.  And you can take it before bed this Saturday night before we change our clocks on Sunday morning, to help your body adjust to the time change.

7 Steps to Getting Better Nutrition For Your Money

I was picking up a few groceries at the Superstore in Aurora yesterday afternoon and I always like to check out what kind of things people are buying while I am standing in the cashier line.

The woman in front of me was with her son, who looked about 9 or 10 years old, and they first caught my attention and made me smile because they were telling jokes and just having fun hanging out in the checkout line.  The cashier started ringing through her purchase–2 blocks of “no name” salted butter, 1 box Neapolitan “no name” ice cream, 12 cans Coca Cola, kid’s chicken nugget “lunchables”, 2 large bars or Dairy Milk chocolate, a case of water, a few sanitary items, and a few boxes of take out fried chicken and potato wedges from the hot deli.  The bill came to $56.

Now it was my turn–a box of mushrooms, 1 mini watermelon, 1 cantaloupe, 1 pineapple, 5 navel oranges, 2 bottles Renee’s salad dressing, 1 carton So Nice organic soy milk, 1 bag of red grapes, 1 bunch green onion, 1 carton half & half, 1 container Hellman’s mayo, 1 tub PC plain Greek yogurt, a small piece of ginger root, and 3 boxes of clearance valentine’s cards.  My bill came to $43.04.

Now, I’m not trying to sound condescending or judgemental here…for all I know the family in front me may have done their groceries for fruits & veggies on another day.  But my point in this comparison is that, for less money, it is possible to buy high nutrition foods (high in vitamins and antioxidants, and even some natural anti-inflammatories) versus negative nutrition foods (high fat, more preservatives, carcinogenic chemicals, etc.).

My patients often tell me that it is expensive to eat healthy and struggle make the dietary changes I suggest.  For example, switching from regular yogurt (which is full of sugar and lower in protein) to plain Greek yogurt (which has little or no sugar and has as much protein per serving as legumes does) is difficult, because Greek yogurt costs 1.5X more (at regular price).  Yes, I agree it’s expensive to eat purely organic, but I would argue that it is still possible to eat healthy on a budget if you know how to shop and plan your meals.

So, here are 7 simple tips on eating healthy on a budget:
1.  Know how much you spend.  First of all, you need to track how much you actually spend per month on groceries.  I have been tracking for the last few years and it is so helpful.  All you need is to use a program like Microsoft Excel, or if you want to get fancier you can use Quickbooks or some online apps.  Keep all your receipts for the next 3 months and track them in four basic categories: Regular groceries, Organic groceries, Eating out (includes coffee/tea trips), Alcohol (if you drink).
2.  Determine your food budget.  From tracking your bills and looking at where your money is going, re-structure what categories you want your money to go every month.  Keep tracking for the next few months to see if the re-structuring is realistic for your family and adjust it as needed.
3.  Check your weekly flyers for sales.  Now chances are, if you are on a budget, you are already doing this, so no need to expand.  Some grocery stores price-match, so instead of running store to store, carry all the flyers with you to show the cashier.
4.  Buy in multiples as much as possible.  For example, if brown rice, whole wheat pasta or frozen berries is on sale, buy a few of them.
5.  Stop buying bottled water.  Most inexpensive bottled water is the same as drinking from your tap.  Save your money and carry a glass bottle (I carry a Perrier one that I reuse) so you can fill it wherever you go for free.  If you go out for lunch, ask for a glass of tap water instead of buying a bottle of water.  Yes, filtered water is the best, but occasionally drinking tap water is not going to be detrimental to your health.
6. Only buy organic for the high-pesticide fruits & veggies.  Check out www.foodnews.org for a list of the most highly sprayed produce.
7. And now the most important: MEAL PLAN!!  When I tell patients to do this, they are a bit overwhelmed and feel like it will take a lot of time.  But trust me, it will only take 1 hour of your time every week and will SAVE you time and money in the long term.  Start with finding your favourite recipes.   Choose 5 of them, and that is your plan for the week.  (Yes there are 7 days in a week, but one day is usually left-over day, and another is eating out day.)  Now make your grocery list from these recipes, taking into account that you will make more each night to cover your lunch for the next day.  This will prevent last minute shopping (and paying higher prices) and grabbing take-out.   Every Thursday night when the weekly flyers come to your door, sit down and plan your meals and make your shopping list.

Does meal planning still sound overwhelming to you?  I can help with that!  Book your Naturopathic appointment and I can work together with you to develop a meal plan that will fit your cooking-comfort level and healthy recipes to get you started.

There are two things that are most important to health–the food you put in your body and exercise.  Is it time you invested in your health and your family’s health?

Some “food” for thought from your friendly neighbourhood Richmond Hill Naturopath,

Dr. Misa