Back To School Health

September is here and your kids are back in school. Whether you are a first time school parent or September marks a recurring school routine for your kids, its best to start the school year right and healthy. Here are some tips for parents in making the school year full of health and wellness:

1. Dress fit for the weather: With change of seasons and summer temperatures cooling down, make sure to dress kids warm. It is very common for many children to get sick in the fall and one of the reasons is due to the onset of cooler temperatures that cause some viruses to flourish. Helpful tip: Be prepared and pack an extra sweater, socks and scarf at your child’s school and keep warm.

2. Get your child a good backpack: wide, padded and doubled shoulder bags are the way to go! Avoid single shoulder bags that may strain your child’s shoulder. Carrying a heavy bag incorrectly can cause your child to develop poor posture and have muscle strains. It is recommended that backpacks not be hung too low, no more than 3-4 inches below the waistline to balance out the weight of
the bag.Back to school health-01

3.Establish healthy dietary habits:
~Wholesome lunch ideas: Wholegrain sandwiches made with lettuce, tomatoes and choice of organic meat (chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, eggs etc), bean vegetable chilly, variety of soups, avocado turkey wrap, quinoa and wholegrain pasta.
~Healthy snacks: Reduce the sugar load! High sugar consumption in children and adolescence can be associated with increased dental cavities, hyperactivity, weakened immunity and chronic colds, and increased risk of obesity and diabetes later on in life. “The American Heart Association has issued its recommendations on added sugar, urging parents to make sure children between two and 18 are eating fewer than six teaspoons per day.” Healthy snack ideas: mixed fruit and vegetables, hummus with carrot, cucumbers, celery sticks, wholegrain granola bars, popcorn and wholegrain crackers + cheese. Limit consumption of chocolate bars, candy and chips – healthy eating habits start young! Be sure to check with your child’s school and make sure there aren’t any classmate allergies before packing their lunches!

4. Make sure your child is staying hydrated: Many children during school hours consume very little water and consume more sugary juices and pop instead. Did you know that on average, your human body is about 60% water. Water is essential for cellular function, makes up many body fluids, regulates body temperature, provides moisture to mucosal membranes, flushes body waste, lubricates joints and is the most abundant component of articular cartilage. Lack of water can also contribute to constipation in many children among other factors. The amount of water your child needs depends on their age and weight. Set a goal with your child and follow up daily on their water consumption.

5.Does your child need supplementation?
~Vitamin D: According to Stats Canada (2015), about 32% of Canadians had vitamin D inadequacy with 40% having vitamin D inadequacy in the winter months. Low vitamin D levels have been linked with poor bone mineralization and skeletal deformities, muscle pain, asthma, low immunity, risk of cardiovascular disease among more. Sources of vitamin D include egg yolk, fish (salmon, sardines, tuna etc), mushrooms and fortified dairy products. Limited sun exposure and having darker pigmented skin can put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor or healthcare provider to see if you are getting an adequate amount of vitamin D and if supplementation may be necessary.
~Probiotics and immune support: The gut has a strong influence on your immune system. Keeping your gut healthy is an essential step in keeping your whole body healthy! Incorporating probiotics in the diet is one recommendation I often tell my patients to help improve their gut. Probiotics are live bacterial organisms that are beneficial to your overall health. There are many factors that can affect the gut such as poor dietary habits, stress and medications. Antibiotics for example not only kill the bad bacteria but they also destroy the good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics will help restore the microbiota balance. Probiotic foods include pickles, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and tempeh. Probiotic supplementation may also be helpful in many cases such as constipation. Talk to your healthcare provider or Naturopathic Doctor and see which strain and dosage is right for your child!
~Botanical herbs: There are a number of botanical herbs that are immune stimulating and strengthening. These include Astragalus, Codonopsis and Echinacea. These herbs are often used more preventatively than during an active infection. Be sure to discuss with your health practitioner if these herbs are right for your child. These herbs would not replace the need for antibiotics, if needed.

6.Ensure your child is getting good quality of sleep. It is generally recommended that children and adolescents should get 8-10 hours of sleep daily. Setting a bedtime and establishing a bedtime routine can be helpful in getting quality of sleep.

7.Manage stress and anxiety: No matter what the age is, school can be stressful and anxiety provoking for many. Stress can lead to many health ailments and impact the immune system. Good communication with your child can help create an open discussion. Mindfulness and breathing exercises can also help. Extracurricular activities are important but keep in mind not to over schedule your child!

Have a healthy school year 🙂

A Healthy Ramadan – Advice from a Naturopathic Doctor

The holy month of Ramadan is around the corner. Muslims will be fasting from dawn to dusk for 30 days. Fasting during the month of Ramadan provides spiritual discipline and personal development to millions of Muslims each year.
As summer is approaching and fasts are getting longer, the importance of eating high quality nutritious foods is necessary to obtain the full benefits during the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Suhoor is the morning meal eaten before sunrise and iftaar is the meal upon breaking the fast at sunset.
If you come from a South Asian family (like I do), then you may be accustomed to eating a carbohydrate-rich suhoor consisting of rotis, parathas and breads, and iftaars made up of deep fried foods like samosas, spring rolls and pakoras followed by Rooh Afza (a sugary artificial flavoured drink). These foods seem satisfying and ‘hit the spot’ after a long day of food deprivation but high carbohydrate fried foods are not nutrient dense and make us feel full quicker! This can be problematic in Ramadan because food intake is below normal and there is a limited time to consume food.13320925_296757560663005_7983407683100394673_o

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am often asked what are the most nutritious, high energy yielding foods to consume during suhoor and iftaar? Here are my general recommendations:
Suhoor: Protein-rich, complex carbohydrates and good quality of fats should be the goal for Suhoor. Complex carbohydrates are recommended to help release energy slowly during a long day’s fast. Complex carbs include barley, oats, wholemeal flour, beans and lentils. Fibre rich foods are also beneficial as they are satiating, normalize bowel movements and lower cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar levels. Protein rich foods will help curb blood sugar levels and carbohydrate cravings while having positive effects on metabolic and cardiovascular health. Avoid simple carbohydrates as they provide instant source of energy but are digested faster. Simple carbohydrates include foods containing processed refined sugar and white flower, high fructose corn syrup often found in soda pop, cereals, cookies, etc.
Iftaar: Have a balanced meal but consider high protein and low carbs, especially if you are looking not to gain the extra pounds that many ironically experience during ramadan. Avoid fried foods and high sugar foods that contain empty calories and will fill you up without meeting your nutritious needs.
Avoid fried foods such as samosas and pakoras, and if you must have them, bake them instead! Deep-fried foods often contain trans fat and are rich in empty calories which can cause fatigue and sluggishness throughout the day. Aim to bake or grill your foods instead!
6) Hydrate! During eating hours be sure to drink your daily water consumption of 8 glasses. Keep water bottles during evening prayers. Avoid sugary drinks including juices and pop, and instead replenish your thirst with water + lemon. Coconut water is also hydrating and has electrolytes too!
7) Do you experience increased thirst during the day? Limit overly salty foods and caffeine during suhoor as they cause water to flush out resulting in increased thirst.
8) After a whole day’s fast, you may have the urge to eat everything in sight within a few minutes but practice mindful eating and eat your food slowly. Take smaller portion sizes will allow time for your stomach to signal your brain that its been eating. This is essentially useful to prevent over-eating!

Hope you found these tips helpful. Ramadan Mubarak!! 🙂

Preventing colds and flu – A naturopathic approach

More and more cases of influenza are emerging across the country and infectious-disease experts are warning the worst is yet to come.  The past year the flu vaccine had low effectiveness rates and although this year’s vaccine may be a closer match it still won’t offer full immunity against influenza. “Experts believe the flu shot is a much closer genetic match to the H3N2 strain in circulation, which should bring up protection rates. However, Dr. Skowronski (an epidemiology lead for influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control) cautioned that it still won’t offer full immunity against influenza. Flu viruses are constantly mutating and changing, so even though a vaccine protects against the H3N2 strain, that doesn’t mean it will be very effective against the virus in circulation, she said.”

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am often asked what are some ways that can help prevent the flu:

Here are my tips:flu-post

    • Strengthen your immune system: A strong immune system can help fight off many pathogens. There are many factors that can influence immunity: healthy eating, sleep and stress can play a role in your immune response. Ensuring each of these aspects is optimal can help your body fight off an infection. Naturopathic medicine can help with nutritional counselling, improving sleep quality and reducing stress! A healthy diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins and essential fatty acids which all play an important role in a healthy immune system. Reducing the sugar load is also helpful. High sugar consumption in children and adolescence can be associated with weakened immunity and chronic colds as well as increased risk of dental cavities, hyperactivity and increased risk of obesity and diabetes later on in life. Supplementation and herbs can also help strengthen your immune system. Low vitamin D levels for example have been linked with low immunity and limited sun exposure and dark pigmented skin can also put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency!  There are a number of botanical herbs that are immune stimulating and strengthening. These include Astragalus, Codonopsis and Echinacea. These herbs are often used more preventatively than during an active infection. Be sure to discuss with your health practitioner if these herbs are right for you and if they can help strengthen your immune response. 
    • Wash your hands frequently to decrease spread of germs! During the winter months,  more time is spent indoors which increases the risk of spreading germs from person to person. Don’t forget to moisturize, dry hands are common during the winter!
    • Hygiene: Change your bed sheets, pillow cases and toothbrush often! Especially if you have been sick and are fighting an infection, it is important to wash bed sheets, pillow cases and blankets right after and replace your tooth brush. Sometimes viruses and bacteria can survive in respiratory droplets or other bodily secretions and by ensuring good hygiene it may help preventing a recurring cold and flu!
    • Dress warmly and keep warm: Layer up, drink soups and herbal teas and take warm baths! Soups made of bone broth are rich in amino acids, collagen and gelatine. Honey lemon tea and ginger-cinnamon tea are warming with nutritive value! Also make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids and are hydrating with water – it will help flush out toxins! A nice warm bath with lavender essential oils and epson salt can be relaxing and help you de-stress after a long cold day!

Source: The Globe and Mail

Other Modalities

I also utilize hydrotherapy, physical medicine and lifestyle counselling in my practice. Together with other modalities a comprehensive treatment plan is formulated to achieve wellness goals and improve health!

Herbal Medicine

Herbal Medicine involves use of herbs for therapeutic purposes. Different parts of herbs can confer different benefits. Herbal medicine includes dried extracts, tablets, tinctures, powder and teas and can be used to treat many conditions.

Nutritional Medicine

Nutritional medicine includes dietary counselling as well as nutraceutical supplementation when needed. I am often asked if there is a supplement pill that can replace a healthy diet and the answer is…no! Supplementation may be recommended in many cases when therapeutic doses cannot be achieved through diet.

Dietary counselling is customized to each individual’s needs and health presentation to improve health and wellness and reduce risk factors.

Acupuncture and dry cupping

Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which involves understanding patterns of energy flow or Qi throughout the body. The Qi can become stagnated and disrupted flow can contribute to illness. Acupuncture is one of the most common modalities I use in practice. It can be effective in treating many health ailments such as back pain, sciatica, headache, chemotherapy-induced side effects, smoking cessation, menstrual pain, infertility, insomnia and stress/anxiety among others.

I also offer pain management acupuncture which involves using acupuncture needles with electrostimulation at different frequencies.

Cupping is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine that is done by applying hot glass cups or plastic suction cups to different parts of the body. It helps relieve tight muscles, bring blood flow to the area and allows for healing of sore muscles. It is in many ways similar to acupuncture and can provide pain relief. Despite the look of large red circles, dry cupping is not painful, and instead creates a massage-like effect. Next time you you have back soreness or tight leg muscles, consider trying dry cupping from an ND!