Welcome! For those of you who are new to Naturopathic Medicine, this blog will help you to gain a better understanding about how to incorporate one of the oldest and most natural medicines into your daily life. Health is not just about waiting for a symptom or a disease to occur and then finding the appropriate treatment for it. Health is a lifestyle and a journey in which you embark so that you can witness every moment of your life and live it to its fullest. You and only you are responsible for your health; what you eat, your environment, your social network, your thoughts, etc., all affect your health and longevity. What you choose to do now with this information is up to you. A healthy body is a healthy mind and a healthy mind is a healthy body. Start taking care of your body, your mind, your spirit and your heart. I hope that this blog will help you kick-start your journey to health or if you are already on your way, then help guide you through it all; one article, one recipe, one health tip, one thought at a time.
You’ve heard this before but how do you know whether this applies to you? To answer that, we must first understand how the body responds to stress.
Stress is a physiological response in the body that releases chemicals in the blood stream to deal with any kind of demand. Cortisol is just one of these chemicals that give you more strength, stamina, focus and heightened alertness to get the job done. In other words it helps to eliminate the stressor. Let’s look at a typical “stressful’ scenario and break it down:
Imagine you are walking in the woods and all of a sudden encounter a bear with her cubs. Immediately you feel fear which sends a signal to the brain telling the rest the body to respond either by “fight or flight”. Your blood pressure, blood sugar and heart rate increase to send more blood and “fuel” to your muscles allowing you to run faster or fight harder. Every system in your body that helps you to survive the situation is activated. The systems not necessary for immediate survival are put on hold, like your metabolism and digestive system.
During ‘stressful’ situations at work or at home, the chemical response in the body (as described above) is the same. Our bodies have not developed the ability to filter between ACTUAL stress (like running away from a bear) and PERCEIVED stress (like worrying about things that you have no control over). Therefore if you are experiencing chronic perceived stress, your metabolism will be put on hold until the stressor is removed. Your body goes into a type of survival mode. In addition, it doesn’t know when you will be eating your next meal thus stores calories as fat (which is a reserve of energy for the body). Also to top it all off, your hunger increases.
A recipe for disaster in the world of weight loss! Can it get any worse?
Yes, it can. Research has shown that cortisol (the stress chemical), when released in the blood, travels to the area of the body with the highest concentration of cortisol receptors to stimulate storage of fat. Guess where that is… your abdominal fat cells. No wonder it’s so much harder to get rid of that belly fat and those love handles!
How can I prevent and treat stress related weight gain?
Here are some quick tips on how to reduce cortisol levels as well as re-balance the adrenal glands (the organ in our body responsible for releasing cortisol):
Nutrition ● Eating smaller meals more frequently helps with fluctuating cortisol levels. Identifying food sensitivities can be beneficial since these create a stress response in the body as well.
Supplements ● There are MANY supplements and herbs on the market that help to rebalance and optimize functioning of the adrenal glands as well as reducing cortisol levels. Finding the right one for you can be very effective but tricky. So ask your Naturopath before spending a fortune on unnecessary supplements!
Lifestyle Changes ● Replace coffee with green tea or herbal tea. Coffee gives you false energy while depleting your adrenal glands in the long-term. Regular exercise may be helpful as well as an outlet for the stress response. A combination of cardio and strength training is ideal but make sure you are enjoying it. If you don’t feel well or feel depleted after exercise, sometimes your Naturopath might recommend that you take a break from it all-together.
Managing Stress ● Admitting and recognizing the stressors in your life are key to managing your stress. At certain times when stress is unavoidable, practice one stress reducing activity daily (meditation, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi etc.). Also learn to identify your priorities and learn when to say no. Most importantly, don’t worry about things that you have no control over!
IMPORTANT NOTE: You might be wondering at this point whether you require adrenal support or cortisol lowering supplements/herbs. Please be aware that self-prescribing and self-dosing is not recommended, and in some cases can worsen conditions. I encourage you to speak to your ND about whether supplementation is right for you. Please pass this information along to anyone you know who might benefit.
First of all, what is drainage? Most people have never heard of drainage however we seem to be bombarded with the word detox. Drainage is basically done before a detox in order to open our body’s emunctories (an organ or duct that removes or carries waste from the body). This ensures that you are safely maximizing the effects of the detox and truly benefiting from it.
The best way to understand how to safely and effectively detox would be to use your home as an example. Let’s compare your body to your home. Your home has many windows and doors which allows the entry and exit of air, dust, people, and other things. Now imagine you begin dusting and sweeping your home and close and lock all the windows and doors; keep in mind, you have been away from your home for many years and have not maintained it very well. You can imagine how much dust has accumulated…
As you are sweeping and dusting, there is no way out for the dust; it is trapped. There is no exit. Therefore the dust that you are sweeping away from the coffee table lands on the floor. So you begin to sweep the floor, you accumulate it in the dust pan and throw it out in a garbage bag. After a while, you have accumulated many garbage bags. But there is still no way to throw out the garbage bags as the doors and windows are still closed and locked. Your home appears to be clean, but you can see the pile of garbage bags shoved in the corners of the room or stored away in the basement. You didn’t really clean your home. You just moved the dust and dirt from one part of the room, contained it and stored it in another part of the room.
You’ve probably clued in by now that the dust represents the toxins and waste that we are trying to remove from your body (home). The windows and doors are your body’s emunctories which are closed and locked up from years of being clogged by neglect and/or toxic/pharmaceutical drug overload. The dusting and sweeping represents the detox you are attempting to do without opening up the emunctories (windows/doors) and the garbage bags represent the dust (toxins/waste) settling in other organs of your body, since there is no other way out.
This might explain why some people go through a healing crisis after they’ve done a detox. A healing crisis could mean that they feel worse than when they started such that they experience a wide range of random symptoms like headaches, low energy, chronic pain, etc., to name a few and some might even be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. They’ve tried to move the wastes and toxins out of their body without first doing drainage causing a toxic overload to the system.
Like our home, we accumulate “dust” in the form of toxins and wastes. And like our home, our bodies need continual maintenance and care. But don’t worry. It is never too late. Ask your Naturopath for a good drainage protocol based on your symptoms and a healthy and safe detox program to get you on your way to health. You will feel happier, lighter and more energetic than you’ve felt in years!
I often get asked the same question: “Do you have any tips for losing weight?” My answer is always the same. Figure out what foods work best for your body and don’t worry about what diet your neighbor is on and how Jennifer Hudson lost all that weight. Because the truth is, it’s not the “diet”. It’s the discovery of your body’s metabolism and what makes it work optimally that is most important. The same goes for other people or athletes who want to gain weight. If you haven’t heard me say it enough, I will say it again. Everything is individual. No one person is the same. Therefore no diet should be the same between two people.
So how do you find out what types of food you should be eating? (notice I didn’t say what ‘diet’ you should be following…). There are many programs that restrict certain foods based on calorie allowance and claim that they will get you one step closer to understanding what your body needs to lose weight. Diets that restrict foods based on calorie counting alone are not getting you closer to a ‘healthy body’ and not feeding your body its optimal fuel. Yes, it is important that you understand portion size and the quantity of food you actually need in a day, but this is half the battle for weight loss. There are a few ways that you and your Naturopath can identify what your body needs, assuming that you have ruled out any conditions that may be preventing you from losing weight such as hypothyroidism, drug/metal toxicity, or other stressors in your life. The first is trial and error.
Choose a program that is based on a variety of factors that play into your individual self such as the hypoallergenic diet, the blood type diet or the metabolic type diet, to name a few. I have had much success with patients using these programs and often implement more than one at a time by taking some individual information from one and adding it to another. They often overlap with each other and stem from the same core of assisting you on your journey of understanding exactly how to make your body function optimally by discovering your food needs. The only thing you have to keep in mind is to listen to your body.
I encourage and teach people how to eat what feels right to them. If you think you need more carbs or more meat, then you are probably right, and there are ways of finding that out because it is very important for your weight loss . For example, according to the metabolic type diet, if you are a carb person and don’t eat enough, this can affect your body’s ability to function effectively thus affect weight loss. If you require meat according to your blood type or metabolic type but are following a diet that restricts meat, then you may be doing yourself more harm than good.
This information can become quite overwhelming for the beginner when addressing it alone. Jennifer Hudson had professionals guide her and tailor her diet to her needs which is what brought her success. Don’t get frustrated. Ask for help. And before committing to any diet, learn your body’s food needs.