How to Be Sun Savvy

Summer’s here!  What feels better than a bright sunny day?  However, don’t forget the sun is still a force to be reckoned with, and as with many things, moderation is key.

Here is the what you need to know about keeping you and your family healthy for all of your summertime fun:

1. Skin cancer is not prevented by using sunscreen.

Despite increased use of sunscreen, the rate of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – have tripled over the past 35 years.  Most scientists and public health agencies  have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer.  What sunscreens do, when used correctly, is help prevent sunburn – a major risk factor for melanoma.  Sunscreen is only one measure, of several, needed for optimal sun protection.

Action plan: Prioritize other measures of self-protection, including:

  • wearing lightweight long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin from the sun’s rays
  • moderating your time spent outdoors mid-day, when the sun’s rays are the most direct and the hottest, which is good for vitamin D production, but also the time when you are most vulnerable to sun damage
  • doing outdoor activities in the shade
  • considering the UV index when making your plans
  • wearing sunglasses protect your eyes

2. Beware products with a high SPF rating.

Products with high SPF numbers pose many problems.  The formulations are usually slanted in favour of only protecting against UVB radiation, without offering balanced protection against  the skin damage that is caused by UVA radiation.  There is a high degree of discrepancy in the range of SPF offered by any products depending on testing methods and amount of product used, which worsens as SPF numbers increase.  Consumers also get lulled into a false sense of  security when using high SPF products and tend to use too little and too infrequently to obtain the sun protection required for their exposure.  At present, the FDA is considering banning the sale of sunscreens with SPF values greater than 50+, calling higher SPF values “inherently misleading.”  Australia, Europe, Japan and Canada already cap their labels at a maximum of “50+”.

Action plan: Choose products with an SPF between 30-50 and don’t forget to liberally reapply often based on your exposure/needs. Skip the spray-on sunscreens, since they evaporate too quickly to be consistently effective.

3. A common vitamin A sunscreen additive can actually speed development of skin cancer.

The sunscreen industry adds a form of vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) to 16 percent of beach and sport sunscreens, 14 percent of moisturizers with SPF and 10 percent of lip products.  An excess of preformed vitamin A has been known to cause cause a number of health problems, including liver damage, brittle nails, hair loss, osteoporosis and hip fractures in older adults.  Though normally added to products for its antioxidant qualities, studies indicate that retinyl palmitate may trigger development of skin tumors and lesions when used on skin in the presence of sunlight.

Action plan: Avoid sunscreens and other cosmetic products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, and retinoic acid.

4. Improve your UVA protection by going European.

European sunscreen makers can formulate their products with any of seven chemicals that filter UVA rays, compared to their American counterparts that use only three.  Therefore, American made products do not offer the same protection for UVA rays.

Action plan: Choose a sunscreen with a wide range of UVA and UVB protection.

5. SPF measures protection from sunburn, but not all types of sun damage.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can generate free radicals, accelerate aging, cause sunburn and may cause skin cancer.  Sunscreen does mitigate some of this damage, but it is mostly effective in preventing sunburn, reflected by its SPF.

Action plan: Be careful about how much sun exposure you get, regardless of sunscreen use.

6. Be wary of sunscreen ingredients.

Sunscreens are either “chemical” sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and often contain hormone disruptors, and “natural” sunscreens, made from zinc and titanium, that may contain nanoparticles to prevent you from looking like Casper the Ghost on the beach.  Since it only takes seventeen seconds for any substance you put on your skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream, be discerning about what kinds of sunscreens you are using for you and your loved ones.

Action plan: Use mineral-only products (offerings have doubled since 2007)  which offer protection against both UVA and UVB,  generally don’t contain harmful additives. Not sure?  Click here to check out your favourite brand’s rating.

7. You need sun exposure to make vitamin D.

Vitamin D, technically a hormone, strengthens bones and the immune system and reduces risks of breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancers and perhaps other disorders. It is estimated that about a quarter of North Americans have borderline low levels of this important nutrient.  Persons with darker skin, breast-fed infants and the elderly are more prone to having less than optimal levels for good health.

Action plan: Check your blood levels for your vitamin D status and supplement accordingly.

Follow these guidelines for a safe and enjoyable season.  Happy summer!

 

 

10 Health Myths Debunked

10 health myths debunked

Amidst all of the marketing and hype and information overload, it can be difficult to really know what to believe.  If you regularly consume these “healthy” choices, you just might want to reconsider…

1. Fruit Juice

Juice seems like it should be healthy, right?  In reality, it is concentrated sugar.  It takes 2-4 oranges to make one cup of juice.  It is unlikely that you would eat that much fruit in one sitting, yet it is not uncommon for someone to consume multiple servings of juice in one day.  Since you are drinking and not chewing, it is difficult for your system to register the caloric (and sugar) intake.  Fruit contains fructose, a special type of sugar, that bypasses the liver and goes straight into your bloodstream, which makes it very easy to overconsume.  Opt instead for whole fruits, since the fiber found in fruit slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and limit yourself to one to two pieces per day for optimal health.  Your best beverage options continue to be water or herbal tea.

2. Foods Labelled “Low Fat” or “Fat Free”

Most low fat/fat-free foods have had the fat replaced by sugar and/or chemicals to compensate for the change in flavor that fat provides.  Sometimes, this change doesn’t even mean the product is lower in calories!  Not only does your body need healthy fat, fat is what helps satisfy your appetite.  Every year, the food industry tries to dupe us into believing eating fat makes you fat, when in reality, we continue to eat our “low-fat” and carb-rich diets and get heavier every year. If you are going to eat store bought mayonnaise, buy the best (& healthiest) one you can afford and enjoy it.

3. Antibacterial Soap

Antibacterial soap contains triclosan, a known hormone disruptor that contributes to antibiotic resistance.   Opt instead for regular soap and water, as it is equally effective in washing away bacteria as antibacterial soap.

4. Bottled Water

Plastic water bottles are simply not sustainable. It is estimated that it takes 450 years on average for the earth to digest a single plastic water bottle.  Add to that the chemicals that leach into the water as it gets packaged and transported (even if it is not BPA) before consumption.  And to top it all off, bottled water itself has fewer, if any, regulations that ensure it is healthy drinking water.  Some brands are nothing more than tap water that has been filtered and repackaged for you.  From both a health and financial standpoint, you are better off carrying a reusable glass or stainless steel bottle for when you are out and getting a good quality filter (I like Santevia) for the tap water you have at home.

5. Frozen Yogurt

We think of yogurt as a health food.  Even the non-frozen variety is often candified, unless you choose plain quality yogurt.  What people don’t realize is that frozen yogurt often contains more sugar than ice cream.  If you are buying it from a frozen yogurt boutique, that means you are likely indulging in bigger portions with added toppings (usually candy or chocolate) that increase the sugar content even more. Not all yogurts contain probiotics and even when they do, it is not usually in an amount that makes any noticeable impact on your health.

6. Scented Candles/Air Fresheners/Incense

Scented candles and air fresheners are a quick and enjoyable way to either mask unpleasant odors or create ambience.  The scents in these products are created by hazardous substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, and phthalates, which have been shown to cause hormone imbalance, respiratory difficulties such as allergies and asthma, and even DNA damage.

Most candles are made from paraffin wax, which emit toxic toluene and benzene when burned (both known carcinogens).  When lit, scented candles also give off formaldehyde and contribute to indoor air pollution (the air inside your home is 10X more polluted than the air outside).  Their wicks are often contain heavy metals like lead which also get airborne when burned.

A better choice is to buy candles made from soy wax or beeswax (which help to improve indoor air quality) and/or an essential oil diffuser.   Other ways to improve your air indoors is to get a good quality air filter (I like IQair), have indoor houseplants (your best choices are weeping fig, Boston fern, peace lily and English ivy) and use salt lamps regularly.       

7. Sushi

Generally, sushi is considered a healthier eating option. The reality is, depending on the sushi you choose, eating two sushi rolls is like having six slices of white bread!  Sushi rice is so tasty because it has added sugar.  A better choice is to have sashimi (or at least sushi made with brown rice instead of white) with reduced sodium soy sauce and skip the tempura or rolls made with heavy sauces.  Don’t indulge too often though, as tuna tends to be high in mercury.  Salmon and shrimp are better options.

8. Protein/Meal Replacement Bars

A protein bar or meal replacement bar will never outperform an actual meal or snack.  Sometimes it is convenient to have something you can have on the go.  But not all bars are created equal.  Be careful to look at the ingredient list, the number of ingredients, the added sugars and the overall calorie count. Choose a bar with a small list of ingredients that you can identify, with low sugar content and depending on whether you need it as a snack or as a meal, calories that range from 200-400.  Otherwise, you might up with something that is no better for you than a candy bar.

9. Smoothies

Smoothies from a juice bar or a restaurant are usually loaded with fruit with additional sugar added and can end up as calorie (and sugar) bombs.  Make them at home instead, being careful to use an unsweetened base milk or water, low glycemic index fruit (like berries), an added serving or two of health promoting leafy vegetables, some healthy fat (like avocado, nut butter or seeds) and protein for a balanced meal.

10. Honey/Maple Syrup

People seem to think that if they make treats with honey or maple syrup, somehow that has made them sugar-free, which of course, is not the case.  Treats are treats and while it is certainly better for you to have ones that are homemade with quality ingredients and less processed types of sugar, sugar is still sugar.  If you really want to make a serious impact on your health, you could omit eating baked goods/desserts completely, and opt instead for fruit to satisfy sweet cravings.  Barring that, don’t kid yourself into believing that if it is made with honey or maple syrup, that a muffin is suddenly transformed into a health food, because, well, it is still a muffin.

6 Easy Ways to Spring Clean Your Eating Habits

easy ways to spring clean your diet

In the book “In Defense of Food,” author Michael Pollan writes:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

How simple life would be if we could all consistently follow that ridiculously simple advice.  As the bounty of nature recedes over the frozen winter horizon, for many of us, so does our commitment to eating well.  If you are anything like me, it is easy to allow comfort food, chocolate and red wine to creep in on more than an occasional basis to take the edge off winter.

Thankfully, the return of spring naturally catalyzes a desire to lighten up and refresh.  When it comes to eating right, being consistent about making better choices, however small, add up.  Follow these tips (the more the better) to add some spring to your step:

  1. Hydrate.  Most of us are chronically dehydrated.  This spring, ditch the warming coffees and hot chocolates (and the extra liquid calories) in favour of good quality drinking water (I like filtered, alkalized, room temperature best)  to support elimination and metabolism. Make sure to drink half your body weight (eg. a 160 lb person would need 80 oz or 10 glasses/day) daily for best benefits.  A great way to start your day is to drink warm water with fresh lemon squeezed into it.
  2. Drop a starch (or two).  Root vegetables and grains are readily available and make for great comfort food over the winter months.  Starches are essentially concentrated sugars and unless you are very physically active, chances are you tend to eat more than you need.  Opt for leafy greens and healthy fats (think avocado, fatty fish, nuts, or coconut oil) to round out your meal at least once per day and notice how much lighter you feel.
  3. Reduce/eliminate sugar. Giving up sugar is one of the greatest things you can do to improve your health. The easiest way to avoid sugar is to eat whole foods, since sugar hides under many names in processed foods.  Other strategies include choosing water over smoothies/juices, choosing vegetables over fruit (I consider 2 pieces of fruit/day a healthy maximum), and including protein in every meal (especially breakfast).
  4. Increase your fiber. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that simply increasing the amount of fiber you eat—even if everything else about your diet stays the same—will help you lose weight just as successfully as if you were following a strict diet plan. Fiber has many benefits – it satisfies hunger; is loaded with nutrients; detoxifies; promotes weight loss; improves blood sugar and cholesterol profiles, and slows aging. Aim for a minimum of 30 g/day. High fiber foods include vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, beans and whole grains. 
  5. Eat fresh.  Substitute winter root vegetables in favour of spring arrivals such as leafy greens, asparagus spears, fiddleheads, green beans and fresh peas.    
  6. Make a weekly meal plan.  Cooking is the best health insurance.  Planning a weekly menu and cooking results in less takeout and decreased food costs, as well as lower calorie intake with smaller portions and healthier ingredients.  It is also the only way to ensure what foods end up on your dinner plate.  Invest a few hours a week stocking and prepping, to ensure timely and efficient meal preparation during the busy weekdays.

Enjoy the return of the sun 🙂

Easy Everyday Detox Tips

detoxification

Detoxification is a primary cornerstone of optimal health.  We live in a world that has been polluted by chemicals which in turn affect our air, our water, our soil.  In the United States alone, over 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released by industry into the environment each year, including 72 million pounds of recognized carcinogens.  So it is easy to see how important it is to assist one’s body in ridding itself of such substances.

While I certainly advocate doing more rigorous detoxification practices regularly, making smaller lifestyles changes on a daily basis can really add up.  Your body has four main routes of elimination – skin, lungs, intestines and urinary tracts. In this article, I will discuss ways you can support each of these organ systems to keep them in good working order.

Skin.  Your skin is your body’s largest organ of elimination and it gets rid of toxins through sweating.  Use  deodorant instead of anti-perspirants which block the body’s sweat glands from working (if you find your sweat is particularly odorous, it is an indication that a more thorough detox is required.)  Exercising/moving your body is perhaps the best way to get your sweat going, but you can also use a sauna or even sip hot tea in a hot bath to induce sweating.  Dry skin brushing in the shower before you get wet is a great way to stimulate your skin as well as improve your lymphatic circulation.  Regular Epsom salt baths are great for two reasons – they open your pores and they are made of magnesium sulphate – the magnesium helps to soothe your nervous and musculoskeletal systems, while the sulphur is detoxifying.  Research indicates that bathing in mineral salts reduces circulating levels of inflammatory enzymes, improves symptoms of stress and enhances the urinary excretion of stress hormones.

Lungs.  Get into a regular practice of deep breathing on a daily basis to support your lung’s eliminative capacity.  Start with a minute/day and work your way up to several minutes several times a day.  Use a drop of essential oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint  over sinuses at bedtime to open up the respiratory tract.  Exercise is a great way to stimulate circulation, increase heart rate and improve respiration.   Houseplant s help to clean indoor air – your best choices are weeping fig, Boston fern, peace lily and English ivy.     

Digestion.  Go vegetarian 1x/week – vegetarian diets are higher in fibre which help support proper bowel elimination, as well as being easier to digest than animal protein.  Add freshly squeezed lemon to your drinking water which stimulates your gallbladder and other organs to increase digestive enzyme production. Give your digestive system a break by doing a modified fast – try to finish your evening meal by about 4pm and only have fluids (preferably clear) until noon the next day.  Try to eat fruit away from other foods as they get broken down at a different rate than all other foods – have them as snacks as opposed to part of main meals.  Add a good probiotic and antioxidant to your daily supplement regimen.

Support the liver and kidneys.  Drink dandelion or nettle tea on a regular basis.  Substitute coffee with Tulsi (Holy Basil) tea which helps to support your stress response and increase energy in a healthy supportive way. Replace/limit coffee, alcohol, soda and sugary drinks with good quality drinking water to support both your kidneys and reduce the workload of the liver.  Eat a minimum of 1-2 cups daily of inexpensive dietary detoxifying sulphur-rich veggies like garlic, onions, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.

Regular detoxification practices compared to periodic cleanses is like the difference between taking out the trash daily and taking it out weekly!  By following these guidelines, you are giving your body’s organs of elimination the continued nutrients and resources they need to work efficiently, ensuring optimal health for years to come.

Catching a Cold? Warming Socks to the Rescue

immune health and warming socks

The warming sock treatment is best if repeated for three nights in a row, or as instructed by your physician.

Indications

  • Sore throat or any inflammation or infection of the throat
  • neck pain
  • ear infections
  • headaches
  • migraines
  • nasal congestion
  • upper respiratory infections
  • coughs
  • bronchitis
  • sinus infections

Contraindications

Use with caution in diabetes, Raynaud’s phenomenon or syndrome, arterial insufficiency or advanced intermittent claudication. The warming phase is especially important for these patients. Please consult your physician.

Supplies

  • 1 pair white cotton socks
  • 1 pair thick wool socks
  • Towel
  • Warm bath or warm foot bath

Directions

  1. Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them completely with cold water (as cold as you can tolerate). Be sure to wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip.
  2. Warm your feet first. This is very important as the treatment will not be as effective and could be harmful if your feet are not warmed first. Soaking your feet in warm water for at least 5-10 minutes or taking a warm bath/shower for 5-10 minutes can accomplish warming
  3. Dry off feet and body with a dry towel.
  4. Place cold wet socks on feet. Cover with thick wool socks. Go directly to bed. Avoid getting chilled.
  5. Keep the socks on overnight. You will find that the wet cotton socks will be dry in the morning.

Effects of the Warming Sock Treatment

This treatment acts to reflexively increase the circulation and decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat. It has a sedating action and many patients report that they sleep much better during the treatment. This treatment is also effective for pain relief and increases the healing response during acute infections.

Why Use Homeopathy?

why use homeopathy

People often ask me why I focus on the use homeopathy in my practice and what motivates to continue my professional development in this area. The answer to that question is quite simple, “It works.” In my eighteen years of practice, I have yet to witness any supplement or dietary change or combination thereof, to have as profound an impact on a person’s health and well-being as a well selected homeopathic remedy.

Homeopathy is a system of medicine that utilizes the body’s own healing power through a law of cure, termed “Like Cures Like.” This law states that a substance that can produce symptoms in a healthy person will cure similar symptoms in a person who is sick. The therapeutic potential of a substance is explored through giving it in very small amounts to healthy people and a careful analysis is made of its effect on the mind and body of those taking the substance. Thus, the remedy is not so much for a particular disease process as much as it is for a person who expresses disease in a particular pattern. The homeopath’s task is to determine that individual’s pattern of disease expression and then choose a remedy that matches that pattern to bring about relief. The pattern often will resemble a pattern of a substance found in nature, as remedies are usually made from natural substances – typically animals, plants, or minerals.

How does a remedy work?

Homeopathic remedies stimulate the body’s innate capacity to cure itself. They are prepared in homeopathic pharmacies, as homeopathic remedies are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as drugs. Extremely small amounts of these remedies are given, the minimum amount necessary to stimulate a reaction in the body.

My favourite analogy is that of a computer program that has been infected by a virus. The virus distorts the information in the program and causes the program to malfunction. Once the virus is identified and removed, the program goes back to functioning normally. In the case of a person, the program is the body’s innate natural intelligence, or what we call the vital force in homeopathy.

When did homeopathy start and where is it used?

Homeopathy was established in Germany in the 18th century by the physician Samuel Hahnemann. It spread to all continents and is probably the most popular form of holistic medicine in the world. It is practiced by both physicians and non-physicians and is incorporated into the health-care system of many countries. It was brought to the United States in the 1830’s and has been a part of the American medical system ever since.

The fundamental principles of homeopathy and other holistic therapies.

  1. The body heals itself. The human organism has always shown a remarkable ability to adapt and survive. It is the “biological imperative” of the organism to create an optimal level of healthy. The body has a sophisticated immune system and natural intelligence that seeks to maintain health of the whole organism – mind, body and spirit – at all times. Homeopathy works by helping the body heal itself. Healing takes place through the conscious awareness of the body’s own healing power. Only then can the word “cure” be used. This is the goal of homeopathy.
  2. Homeopathy always treats the whole person. All functions of the body and mind are connected. The complex physical and psychological make up of a person creates a unique pattern for each individual. When we become sick, it is the whole body that is sick, even if symptoms express themselves only in one part of the body. Only by re-establishing a total balance will health be restored. Therefore homeopathy treats the whole person, not just the disease.
  3. There is an energetic “thread” that connects all functions of body and mind. Homeopathy belongs to a philosophy of healing that believes that we have an energetic “life force” that permeates all functions of the body. It is this “life force” which maintains health or creates disease through imbalance. This has been understood for thousands of years. In China it is called “Chi”, in India “Prana” and by homeopaths as “Vital Force”. It describes a phenomenon that exists in all nature. Modern physics is now exploring these dimensions of reality. There is a dynamic, living energy that permeates both body and mind. It is a consciousness, like a memory. It is this energy that keeps the body alive and well.
  4. Symptoms of disease are a result of an imbalance in the body/mind. Symptoms may express themselves in many ways. Some are purely physical, some are emotional, and some are combination of the two. However, it is important to know that they are an expression or a result of an imbalance in the whole organism. Symptoms are not the cause of a problem, only to be suppressed by drugs, but are an indication that something is not right in the whole system. They are a warning that something is not in balance and has to be changed.

Why do we become sick?

We become sick when we can no longer adapt appropriately to the circumstances of life. These circumstances may seem to be due to external factors, such as allergies, the weather, stress, germs, etc or may just seem to be an inability to feel well. In homeopathy, we look at both the internal factors and the external ones, seeking to understand the circumstances of life that may be influencing the health of the whole person. Much of modern medicine focuses on the external causes of disease – germs for example – and drugs are given to kill them. While that serves an important role, homeopaths also ask the questions “why do some people get sick while others do not?” and “what can be done to help the body’s own immune system fight off germs (or other factors) more effectively?” Merely killing the germs does not always lead to great health as the body has not cured the problem itself and some drugs merely suppress, which can sometimes make things worse in the long run. In this case, the same or more serious symptoms tend to recur and the problem may become more chronic and difficult to cure. Homeopathy and other holistic systems of healing seek to establish a higher level of health and in so doing prevent illness as well as helping to cure it.

What conditions does homeopathy treat?

Homeopathy is able to treat most physical and emotional conditions – such as asthma, allergies, skin rashes, acne, depression, lupus, tinnitus, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, gas and bloating, just to name a few. A homeopathic consultation involves an analysis of the whole person. Each person is unique and the homeopath needs to understand as much as possible about all the concerns a person has. This allows the homeopath to understand the underlying causes of any disease state. The correct remedy choice will allow the whole person – body and mind – to realign to a more optimal state of health. An overall wellness should be the result, including any particular condition a person is experiencing.

What does a homeopathic treatment involve?

The initial interview takes place between 45 to 90 minutes. During this time, the homeopath begins to investigate the particular features of your nature as well as the conditions that the patient experiences. Sometimes, the patient doesn’t feel that we are talking medicine anymore! But rest assured, it is all relevant in finding the best remedy to improve your health. Once a homeopathic remedy has been chosen, another appointment will be made 3-6 weeks after the first visit.

6 Lifestyle Hacks for a Healthier New You

With the New Year comes the optimism and desire to turn over a new leaf for better health, success and prosperity.  Most resolutions, while set in good intentions, usually require big changes and as such, are usually not sustainable.  A much more effective strategy is to implement smaller changes that you can incorporate into your daily life with ease.  Today, I would like to remind you of an often overlooked component to optimal health.  The lymphatic system is a critically important body system that most people don’t appreciate or know much about, yet it is key for optimal immune function, circulation and detoxification.

Your lymphatic system is your body’s largest circulatory system.  It consists of the superficial vessels near the surface of the skin that branch out from the main circulatory system.  Its primary functions include:

  • carrying away the metabolic waste products of every cell, tissue and organ
  • absorbing & delivering fats and fat-soluble vitamins
  • maintaining proper fluid balance
  • fighting infection and producing white blood cells

Garbage In = Garbage Out

Imagine how it might feel to live in a house where there was no garbage collection.  At first, it might seem manageable, but day after day, month after month, you might not think so.  That is exactly what happens to each one of the trillions of cells of which your body is comprised.  The metabolic waste products from each cell is excreted from the cell, but there is no flow to carry it away.  So the cell ends up sitting in their own waste – resulting in fatigue, swelling, infection, inflammation and degeneration. Once the lymphatic flow starts again, you can experience rapid and significant improvement in your overall sense of well-being.

Signs & Symptoms of Lymphatic Congestion:

  • allergies/headaches/recurrent colds & flu
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • swelling of the feet
  • brain fog/lack of energy
  • ear popping/ringing
  • mucus draining
  • inability to lose weight
  • constipation
  • soreness/stiffness on waking
  • swollen breasts/uterine fibroids/ovarian cysts
  • heaviness in extremities
  • arms/legs “fall asleep”
  • itchy/dry skin
  • cellulite

 Six Easy Ways to Improve Lymph Flow

1. Deep Breathing

Fact:  The physical act of breathing creates movement that helps to mobilize lymphatic fluid.  Many of us are shallow breathers without realizing it. Proper breathing is the most important facilitator of lymphatic function, especially in the chest region.

Tip: Breathe in slowly through your nose (over a count of 4), deeply pushing the stomach out. Hold for a count of 7 and slowly let your breath go out through your mouth (over a count of 8). Try doing 4 rounds of this 4-7-8 breathing 3-4x/day (I recommend just before meals and before going to sleep, as it also relaxes your nervous system for better digestion and sleep) will oxygenate the blood, circulate the lymph especially around the liver, and provide many other benefits. Whenever and wherever possible, do this exercise outdoors in fresh air.

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Fact: Water is important medium make your lymphatic fluid well, more fluid.  Only good quality drinking water (I recommend using a water filter for municipal tap water) can adequately rehydrate the body.  Monitor your hydration levels by checking on the color of your urine output – if clear, you are probably overdoing it.  A pale or straw colored urine is best for hydration, without overtaxing your kidneys.

Tip: I find starting the day with water first thing turns “on” my thirst sensors and ensuring I have good quality water in a thermos, stainless steel or glass bottle with me at all times makes it easy to keep my water intake levels up.  Avoid drinking bottled water, as it is contaminated with chemicals that can cause hormone disruption that leach from the plastic, as well as having no sanitation requirements and not being environmentally sustainable.

3. Dry Skin Brushing

Fact: This is perhaps my favorite, but most overlooked lifestyle hack for improved lymphatic flow.  Use gentle pressure to move lymph fluid in the direction of the heart.  Dry skin brushing promotes lymphatic drainage of toxic waste, which results in many other benefits such as improved immunity, glowing skin, and cellulite reduction.guide-to-dry-brushing

Tip: Start a habit of dry skin brushing a few minutes before your shower or bathe using an inexpensive natural bristle brush. Start with every alternate day (it is quite stimulating) for 3-4 weeks before brushing everyday.   It feels fantastic!

4. Alternate Hot and Cold in Your Shower

Fact: All blood/fluid vessels contract when exposed to cold, and dilate in response to heat. Using hot and cold in the shower is a type of hydrotherapy that uses these properties of water to move stagnant lymphatic fluid (and blood) to  increase circulation, boost immune function and improve metabolism.

Tip: After dry skin brushing, super charge your morning shower experience by alternating hot and cold water for between 90 seconds and several minutes at the end of your morning shower, taking care to always end on cold.  The greater the temperature difference between the two, the greater the stimulation on the circulation.  Note: Avoid this if you are pregnant, or if you have a heart or blood pressure condition.

5. Movement

Fact: The lymphatic system depends largely on muscle activity in the body for its circulation. One needs to move in order to activate lymph flow.

Tip: The good news is any movement helps – whether it is one minute of jogging in place, knee bends, jumping jacks, stretching or going for a brisk walk at lunch, it all counts, so find something you enjoy and can fit in your schedule.  I personally favor body squats – 1 minute 2-3 x/day to get the blood (and lymph) going and to get a nice tush in time for summer weather 😉

6. Eat Whole Foods, Especially Vegetables, Healthy Fats, & Fruit (in moderation)

Fact: Chlorophyll (found in all plant-based food, especially green ones) purifies the lymph and blood.  Eating whole foods will naturally decrease your intake of processed foods.  Plant based foods also have a higher water content, which adds to your overall hydration status.

Tip: Have at least three different colored vegetables make up half of your plate volume-wise at each meal.  Eat fruit in moderation (I recommend 1-2 pieces/day as they are still high in natural sugars) and be sure to consume healthy fats as nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, organic ghee and butter to support hormone production, immune function and nervous system health.


An active lymphatic system will help to reduce your body’s toxic load, improve circulation and revamp your immune function.  Pick two to three of these suggestions that work for you and put them into practice for 10 days and experience the benefits it creates to making a happier, and healthier you!

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5 Breast Screening Methods That Every Woman Should Know

breast health

Breast cancer is the leading type of cancer in women, affecting one in nine women in Canada. Lifestyle factors as well as minimizing environmental influences can certainly reduce your risk.  Performing regular breast exams and getting screened regularly will decrease your risk even further.

The key to successful recovery from breast cancer (as with any cancer) lies in early detection.  Participating in a detection program will increase your chances of detecting breast cancer in its earliest stages.  Screening is recommended for all women over the age of 40, even earlier if there is strong family history, though some are easy to adopt even earlier.

Here are the five screening techniques available for breast cancer detection:

Mammography

Mammography is likely the technique with which people are the most familiar.  It involves x-raying the breast tissue to identify any abnormalities.  The breast is pressed between two plates – pressure is applied to get a clear picture. Usually, two x-rays are taken of each breast, one from the top and one from the side.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound detects breast changes by sending high -frequency sound waves into the breast. The pattern of echoes from these sound waves is converted into an image of the breast’s interior. Ultrasound may be helpful in distinguishing between solid masses and cysts (fluid-filled sacs). Unlike mammography, ultrasound cannot detect small calcium deposits that may be present in the breast and that sometime indicate cancer, nor does it identify small tumors. Ultrasounds is very useful to confidently diagnose benign conditions and can reduce the need for an immediate biopsy.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) takes cross-sectional images through different parts of the body, and is a very sensitive imaging tool for finding breast cancer. MRI technology is better than either mammography or ultrasound in determining the extent of the cancer and its exact location, but it can be expensive which makes it less practical. It is the best tool for women with silicone implants.

Breast Exam

Clinical breast exams are shown to be as effective as mammography in reducing breast cancer mortality. The American Society of Breast Surgeons says that breast self exam is “as accurate as mammograms and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at detecting new breast cancers in high-risk women.”

Thermography

Thermography is a painless, non invasive, early detection method that gives women of all ages the opportunity to detect breast disease at an early stage without exposure to radiation. It uses a digital infrared camera and a high speed computer for imaging and measurement of body tissue heat energy. Tumors and areas of concern typically show high temperatures due to increased blood flow and elevated metabolic activity.  A single mammogram exposes you to 1000X the radiation of a regular chest x-ray, which can lead to new cancer formation as well as heart damage.

Thermography is particularly useful for younger women, under fifty years of age, whose breast tissue is denser which typically makes it more difficult for mammography to identify suspicious lesions. Thermography does offer these distinct advantages:

  • greater comfort – no contact or squeezing of the breast tissue is required.
  • earlier detection – problems with tissue function can be found before structural abnormalities are seen on x-ray
  • examination of the whole chest, breast and armpit areas, and is good for all breast types – young, dense, fibrocystic, and women on hormone replacement therapy.
  • improved chances for early detection of fast-growing, active tumors between traditional mammograms.

Information gathered from thermographs may also be used to supplement clinical breast examinations and mammograms, as it can guide doctors to the specific area of the breast that may need particularly close examination.

About mammograms…A controversial review published in the Lancet stated that mammographic screening likely reduces breast cancer mortality by a mere 0.5%. This means that for every 2000 women invited for screening over a 10 year period, only one will have her life prolonged.  Screening also leads to overdiagnosis and overtreatment, with an estimated 30% increase of treatment in women who would not need it otherwise.  For the same 2000 women, 10 healthy women, who would not have been diagnosed if there had not been screening, will be diagnosed with breast cancer and will be treated unnecessarily.

Another study stated that one fifth of cancers seen on mammogram spontaneously disappear. Another research study that followed 110,000 women who underwent periodic mammograms with the same number of women who did not. At the end of 5 years, everybody was screened, and the surprising finding was that the mammogram women had 22% more invasive cancers than the non-mammogram group. These findings suggest that perhaps mammography screening does more harm than good.

Regardless of what you choose to be your best option, you should be informed of all screening methods available to you, with their respective advantages and drawbacks. Breast exams, at a minimum, are of benefit to every woman and should be performed monthly, a few days into the beginning of each cycle (when hormone levels are at their lowest).

5 Flu-Busting Strategies to Keep You Healthy this Fall

sick teddyA recent CBC report stated that last year’s flu vaccine had an effectiveness rate of around 50%, up from “essentially zero” the year before.  Earlier this year, a Canadian study showed that people who were vaccinated consecutively from 2012-2014 appeared to have a higher risk of infection.  The article also states, “Canadians who had received a flu shot in late 2008 were between 1.4 and 2.5 times more likely to contract an H1N1 infection,” compared with those who did not.

Yet every year, the flu vaccine is advertised as the best (& only) prevention strategy.  Is this truly the best we can do?

The flu can be a very serious illness- especially in the very young, the very old and people who have any compromise to their immunity.  However, our current shot in the dark strategy of  vaccine production based on “our best guess” principle falls radically short of offering real protection for Canadians.

The state of your immune system is the strongest predictor of whether or not you will get sick this winter.  The good news is that there are sound yet simple immune-boosting strategies that need not be expensive, require no injections, come with no questionable fillers and actually will improve your resistance to all viruses and bacteria. So try some of these suggestions to keep your immune system supported and strong for a healthy winter season.

  1. Ensure your have adequate levels of Vitamin D.

    As the weather gets colder, we need to ensure adequate vitamin D status.  In one study, children taking just 1,200 IUs of vitamin D3 per day, were 42 percent less likely to come down with the flu.

  2. Eat well. 

    Focus on eating good quality fats (think coconut oil, nuts, avocado), lean protein, vegetables (frozen is the next best to fresh) and whole grains and fruit sparingly (due to their sugar content) for a well-balanced whole foods diet that promotes healthy immune function. Add fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and/or kombucha to provide sources of probiotics, or supplement a good probiotic as well.  One study of 3 to 5 year olds indicated that ingestion of probiotics 1-2x/day resulted in:

  • Reduced fever by 53 percent and 73 percent respectively
  • Decreased coughing by 41 percent and 62 percent
  • Reduced runny noses by 28 percent and 59 percent
  • Reduced antibiotic use by 68 percent and 84 percent (which is a major gain in and of itself because antibiotics are vastly overused in children and also devastate your gut flora)

Adding garlic, onion and honey into your daily foods can help ease symptoms of congestion, sore throat and cough.  Warm foods like soups and stews are always easier to digest in the winter months.

  1. Limit contact.

    Washing your hands frequently is perhaps the simplest measure we can do to stop the spread of the virus.  Just plain soap and water will do.  Take the time to wash thoroughly, between fingers and under nails.  Make a point to limit contact at the office/classroom by staying at home for much needed rest if you do get sick.

  2. Increase your body temperature.

    A warm body temperature is less likely to harbour the virus that causes the flu.  Short, intense bursts of exercise (like running in place as fast as you can for a minute) several times a day are enough to stimulate your metabolism and your immunity. Another option would be to perform warming socks – a wonderful,simple and effective method to use in both prevention and treatment of acute flu/cold.  Or sit in a sauna regularly to enjoy its immune-boosting benefits (and warmth).

  3. Manage stress.

    In a recent cold study, participants who had reported being under stress were twice as likely to get sick. Prolonged stress will, over time, decrease your immune response.  Conversely, skilled relaxation results in a corresponding increase in protective antibody production.  Balance your life between work and play, spend quality time with loved ones, practice deep breathing/yoga/meditation/prayer, exercise, and/or journal to help keep stress in check.

There is no guaranteed way to prevent the flu.  The best approach for staying well this winter is to have a robust and well-functioning immune system.  I hope these tips help you and your families stay well this upcoming season.

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Ward off Germs with Garlic Honey

Garlic honey is super easy to make and ready almost immediately to treat sore throats, colds, the flu, lung congestion, and sinus problems.

Use a small jar (4-8 ounces/125-250ml) with a good lid. Fill it with unpeeled garlic cloves (you can peel and chop the cloves if you prefer), then pour honey over it all, using a chop stick to poke the honey down into the garlic. After screwing on the lid, label the jar with the contents and date.  Overnight, so it seems, the garlic and honey combine to create a divine elixir that may be taken by the spoonful right out of the jar.

As it ages, both the honey and the garlic darken. After a couple of months, the garlic is suffused with honey and is lovely to eat.  Garlic honey keeps indefinitely at room temperature, but should not be given to children less than one year old (as per any honey).