Dr. Tara’s Guide to Staying Well While Traveling

Trips to the sunny south are what makes a Canadian winter bearable–at least to a cold-hating, sun-loving person like me. 🙂

As result, we’ve traveled to many different countries under many different circumstances ranging from 5-star resorts to 0-star bunks. In some of these situations, it can be challenging to stay well.

Here’s what I do to stay healthy while I travel, and get back to work full-swing upon my return without an unwanted bodily invasion.

My travel-day ritual:

  • If I feel a little under the weather before I leave I get hooked up to an IV Vitamin C.
  • I buy 2 bottles of water when I get through security, and put an Emergen-C packet in each of them. I drink one while waiting for the plane and one during the flight. (I do this for the trip home, too.)
  • I’m chemically sensitive and find the jet fumes very irritating, so I take CoQ10 and other solvent detoxifiers before and during the flight.
  • If there is lots of coughing and hacking on the flight, I’ll take Echinacea/Goldenseal capsules–2 during the flight, 2 when I get off, and 2 before bed that night. (Some of our patients use oil of oregano instead, which also works great.)

To stay healthy, and avoid GI complaints:

  • I’m 100% strict with water. I only drink bottled water, and even brush my teeth with bottled water.
  • I LOVE eating the local food and street vendors are my favourite. To deal with the risk for picking up a critter I do the following:
    • Take a high potency probiotic before bed every night.
    • Take a high potency digestive enzyme with HCl before eating, and if what I ate seems suspect, take another one after.
  • If I have been somewhere very exotic, upon my return I do a parasite cleanse and hydro colonics to clean the bugs out.
  • If I feel like I am fighting something when I get home, I go back to the IV Vitamin C as soon as humanly possible once I get off the flight.

This combination of prevention and treatment when necessary has worked wonders for me. Safe travels!

Breakfast Ideas for Food Intolerances

We do a lot of food intolerance testing in our office. Patients come in with symptoms of IBS, sore joints, headaches, fatigue, skin issues and all manner of other inflammatory conditions, and often the first place we look is food.

It’s not uncommon for those tests to show issues with gluten, dairy, or eggs (or all of them). Unfortunately, the typical North American diet is high in all of those things. We love cereal and toast, eggs and bacon, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, French toast or waffles, so first question we are often asked is:

“What do you eat for breakfast?”

So, by popular demand, here’s a peek at what the StoneTree team of naturopathic doctors do.

  1. Smoothies. The entire gang at STC loves smoothies, and Dr. Kendra is always sporting a green jar of goodness. It’s such an easy way to get greens and fruits, and can be a wonderful source of protein and good fats. You can find the recipe for one of her smoothies in our February 2014 newsletter here.
  1. Fruits and nuts. One of Tara’s favourite breakfasts is apple with nut butter. Almond is delicious, but peanut butter is also great, too. Just slice the apple in half, and replace the core with your favourite spread.
  1. Oatmeal, brown rice cereal, or gluten-free granolas with milk alternatives. These high protein cereal replacements are also full of good fats that will help balance blood sugar and hormones. You can find a recipe for “blow your doors off” granola in our June issue here.
  1. Last night’s dinner. This is one of Dr. Shelby’s tricks. Why not heat up a bit of last night’s chili or a warm bowl of soup for breakfast? How about a piece of chicken with some sautéed veggies, or that leftover rice and beans with a bit of salsa and avocado? Yum.

For more ideas, or any kind of help with your nutrition needs, you can book an hour with our in-house nutritionist Barb Andrews. With over two decades of experience in helping people with healthy food choices, she is very skilled at supporting positive change.

There’s still space available for our next Well-Woman Day on Feb 23. This unique service offers a warm, caring environment for annual visits that includes a complete breast exam, self breast exam education, and full gynaecological exam with PAP test. Space is limited. To book a Well-Woman Visit with a Collingwood naturopath, call (705) 444-5331.

Understanding Your Hormones in a Post-40 World

Valentines Day is approaching, and it brings to mind thoughts of beautiful flowers, delicious chocolates and LOVE.

For many of our patients in their 40’s and beyond, however, this time of year leaves them wondering just where their thoughts of love have gone. Or, if the thoughts are there, what happened to the get up and go to act on them?

For the Boys

Andropause can be a scary time for men. It is described medically as the end of male virility.  Gasp. What dude wants to hear that?

What’s really going on? The brain is making less of the hormone that stimulates the testes to make testosterone, so production goes down. Sex hormone binding globulin, or SHBG, increases as well, which binds testosterone and makes blood levels even lower.

To add to that, loss in lean body mass and increase in fat mass causes an increase in estrogen secretion, which inhibits testosterone further. In other words–you’re trading one bulge for another.

For the Girls

Menopause can be an irritating time for women. It is described medically as the “end of the female’s productive life”, but the symptoms that can show up make it feel less like the end of your period’s life, and more like the end of life, period.

What’s really going on? As the ovaries age there are fewer eggs around to mature. The brain keeps trying to stimulate the ovaries to make an egg but it either doesn’t happen, or it takes a really long time. Progesterone, which is made by the mature egg, starts to fall and estrogen, which is one of the hormones required to mature the egg, just keeps climbing. This results in heavy periods, breast tenderness, hot flashes, major mood swings (AKA Keep-the-Knives-Locked-Up), and insomnia.

Once it’s all over the body should find its new balance, but sometimes it doesn’t, perpetuating the old symptoms, or creating new problems like lack of libido and vaginal dryness.

How do you figure out what’s going on?

Most hormones in the blood are bound to proteins, which serve the purpose of ferrying them around to the various cells. Bound hormones don’t have any effect – only unbound ones do.

You can test blood levels, but they only show bound, or non-active hormone levels.

Saliva tests can reveal unbound levels. This is the active form of the hormone, so we get a better look at what is going on. (Remember with andropause, for example, one of the things that happens is the binding protein increases, so that even if there is enough testosterone around, it isn’t active.)

What to do about it?

Twenty year-olds can find their mojo regardless of how much they sleep, run or eat. It’s the biological imperative, and all us 40-somethings can remember it clearly. Now that we’re making our way into middle life, however, what we do or don’t do matters a great deal.

  • Exercise. Losing muscle mass and gaining fat mass takes a huge toll on testosterone levels and jacks up estrogen, both of which make for more sitting on your butt and less getting it on. Regular exercise not only battles the bulge, but it maintains the lean tissues. It also increases circulation in the extremities – and blood flow is always an important part of an intimate encounter!
  • Diet. Foods that put on the pounds increase our fat stores and then increase estrogen in the body. This perpetuates the estrogen dominance in women making menopausal symptoms worse, and makes testosterone fall even further in men. Eat foods that nature makes. Lot of veggies, fruits, lean proteins, legumes and nut and seeds.
  • Avoid xeno-estrogens. Plastics, pesticides, non-organic dairy – all are full of xeno-estrogens that can make the problem worse.
  • Hormone Balancing. This can be done with herbs and supplements, or bioidentical hormones, and Naturopathic Doctors are trained and to help you do just that.

You can’t avoid aging altogether, but you can definitely change its pace and impact. How about for this Valentine’s Day, you give yourself the gift of getting your mojo back!

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Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk, is credited with coining the phrase, “Sitting is the new smoking.”

Levine has studied the impact of sedentary lifestyle for years. Here’s his take, summed up in two sentences:

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”1

While Levine makes a dramatic case, what caught my interest most about this is the completely different way of looking at the problem of the lack of physical activity. It’s not just that we exercise too little. It’s that we are sitting entirely too much.

“But I Go to the Gym”

New research, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, indicates that excessive sitting is linked to increase risk of death due to all causes, even if you engage in “regular exercise”.2

This is mind-blowing! In the health care world we have been spouting off for years that so long as you get your 30-60 minutes a day of exercise in, you’re fine–what happens in the rest of the day is not important.

It looks like we might be wrong.

Just like regular physical activity will not negate the negative effects of smoking on your body, so too won’t it erase hours of sitting in front of Netflix or trolling on Facebook.

Maybe instead of a Fitbit to track our activity, we need a “sit bit” to track our inactivity? It’s an interesting idea. If you reduce your inactivity, then by default you’d be increasing your activity.

But what do you replace inactivity with? Is this a call to spend seven hours a working out? Not at all.

Ambient Activity

What’s missing isn’t more time at the gym. It’s more ambient activity. It’s the background, low-intensity movement that has been slowly erased from our lives by remote controls, lawn mowers, clothes dryers, restaurants, and the multitude of other conveniences that allow us to be sedentary.

Want to be more active? Sure, take a walk or workout. But try taking the stairs, hanging our laundry, washing your own dishes, and cooking real food at home. Stop trying to make everything so physically easy. And for those hours at your desk? Make sure you take a few short breaks during long work sessions. Or maybe even try a stand-up desk!

Too easy? You could try giving up sitting altogether for a month like this guy.