Nova Health Naturopathic Centre Blog

True Health and Well Being

Weekend Round-up December 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — novahealthnaturopathic @ 4:45 pm

This article on how the food industry (particularly fast food) shapes health policy is very interesting and relevant. However, it fails to acknowledge how the pharmaceutical industry has had an equally detrimental effect on medical policy and people’s overall health. For example, most anti-depressants, lithium (for BPD), and even many diabetes medications can cause sudden and uncomfortable weight gain.

News about the dangers of eating too much tuna aren’t new, but protests against heavy metals in fish have been more frequent. Mercury poisoning is nothing to joke about! Please talk to your doctor about testing if  you think you may be affected. Intravenous (IV) therapy (done here at the clinic) is extremely effective for getting heavy metals out of the system. Fish like sardines, herring and WILD salmon are low in heavy metals and contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. They are much safer to consume than tuna and other large fish.

Just in time for the holidays, this soup looks delicious and includes seasonal chestnuts (which are delicious with bay leaves and thyme).

Thanks to Pretty in Primal for passing along this article! Low-carb diets are great for helping diabetics regain quality of life. In general, they can be very healthy (and definitely a far superior option to flour- and sugar-laden diets), but balance is always key- not all carbs are the enemy!

Tim Ferriss’ new book is causing quite a stir. Here’s an interview he did in Wired Magazine. What do you think? Too extreme? Any diet that promotes extreme restriction 6 days a week just to get ready for your 1 “binge day” is not healthy!!! Fad diets may cause weight loss short-term, but weight-gain is inevitable after you relax those extreme rules (International Journal of Obesity (2004) 28, 278–281). The best way to ensure healthy weight loss is through doctor-assisted nutritional and lifestyle adjustments.


Sleepless in Kingston? (Insomnia: Nothing to Lose Sleep Over!) December 22, 2010

Filed under: relaxation and insomnia — novahealthnaturopathic @ 4:47 pm

Do you toss and turn in bed all night? Do you fall asleep only to wake in the wee hours of the morning?  Do you sleep ‘normally’, but feel exhausted during the day? It is time for you to discover and explore possible solutions and alternatives to your insomnia.

Insomnia is the difficulty in falling asleep, an inability to maintain sleep, or inadequate sleep quality that results in the sensation of not being refreshed or rejuvenated in the morning and with deteriorating capacity to function during the day.

We all complain about sleeplessness at some points in our lives, but it is usually short term and brought on by stress or illness. With adequate rest, and a healthy state of mind it usually passes with recovery only taking a few days.  It is when it goes beyond this period that the downward spiral begins and the fear of not falling asleep becomes the cause of the insomnia. Life often becomes complicated by the frustrations of sleeplessness, ability to function deteriorates, and personal relationships may suffer. This often leads to resorting to addictive sleep promoting drugs or alcohol due to desperation. The problem with sleep aiding medication, also known as hypnotics, is that they effect the sleep cycle, not allowing you to get the restorative sleep you need and in turn causes next-morning hangover effects. Hypnotics also cause dependence (you can not sleep without them) and tolerance (after a while they are no longer effective). There are many alternatives to these medications and it is important to be informed about your options.

A starting point is to determine some common causes of insomnia. Firstly, it is imperative to identifying the root cause of the insomnia.

  • Hormonal and thyroid imbalances should be ruled out through blood work.
  • A breathing disorder known as sleep apnea, and a movement disorder know as restless leg syndrome greatly effect sleep quality and may need to be ruled out by a few nights of testing at a sleep lab.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder and depression can also interfere with sleep and appropriate treatment must be sought.
  • The most common cause of insomnia is psychological or emotional stress, i.e. the stresses of daily life, but many other factors can also affect sleep.
  • Medications can have a major influence on sleep. Some can directly stimulate the central nervous system and others can cause insomnia upon withdrawal. Drugs used for the treatment of asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, arthritis, and even medications for coughs and colds can affect sleep. If a medication is at the root of your insomnia, there may be natural alternatives fro you to explore.
  • The use of stimulants such as caffeine even early in the day can interfere with both falling asleep and can trigger awakenings in the night.
  • Nicotine is another stimulant and studies have shown that smokers take longer time to fall asleep than non-smokers.
  • Alcohol also has an effect on sleep and although it does induce sleep, the sleep is distorted, with little REM (one of the sleep stages important for restorative sleep).

Let’s examine the importance of proper sleep hygiene.

  • It is important to have a regular sleep-wake schedule seven days a week. This means going to bed and getting up at the same time every day (even on weekends and holidays) and no daytime napping.
  • Use your bedroom for sleep and intimacy only. If the bedroom is used for other activities, such as reading, watching TV etc, this conditions you to be alert in a place that should be associated with sleep.
  • It is also very important that the room is as dark and sound proof as possible to create an atmosphere that promotes sleep.
  • Plan a quiet relaxation routine before bed. This helps with the transitions from wake to sleep.  Have a 10 to 15 minute slow down period in which you do quietening activities.  If you do waken during the night and feel wide awake, it is important to leave the bedroom and do something quietly in low lighting until you feel sleepy again. You should never lie in bed for longer that 20 minutes awake.
  • Last but not least, if you are having considerable difficulty sleeping, it is important to try completely avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, and to avoid large meals in the evening.

Diet and exercise have a significant effect on sleep patterns. A diet rich in nutrients including whole grains, fruits, veggies, and lean proteins is not only important for overall health but also for sleep.

  • Concentrate on foods high in magnesium. Magnesium is a natural sedative. A high magnesium, diet has been found to be associated with high-quality sleep time and fewer awakenings in the night (Pharmacopsychiatry, 2002;35:135-43). Magnesium-rich foods include whole grains. kelp, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, and blackstrap molasses.
  • Regular exercise consisting of 20 to 40 minutes of activity with sufficient intensity to cause sweating, helps to promote sleep. However, exercise should be earlier in the day to prevent the boost in alertness that negatively effects sleep. A recent study has shown that a moderate intensity exercise program significantly improved both objective and subjective dimensions of sleep (J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008;63:997-1004).

Medicinal herbs are a great alternative to sleeping pills.

  • Valeriana officinalis (valerian) has been shown to have sleep-inducing, anti-anxiety, and tranquiling effects.  Several clinical trials have shown that valerian before bed improved insomnia by decreasing sleep latency and improving sleep quality (Alternative Medicine Review 2000; 5: 249-260). One study showed that valerian taken three times daily increased delta sleep (a component of deep sleep), and decreased stage 1 or light sleep (Pharmacopsychiatry 1994; 27: 147-151).
  • Other herbs that have been demonstrated to induce sleep are Humulus lupulus (hops), Passiflora incarnata (passionflower), Pipermethysticum (Kava Kava), and ginsing to mention as few.

Some physiological agents helpful for sleep are L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytrytophan (5-HTP). Both are precursors to serotonin and act through increasing serotonin in brain cells to induce sleep. L-tryptophan has been shown to reduced sleep latency and increased sleep time (Martindale: the Extra Pharmocopea 1996; 336-337). 5-HTP has been shown to increase slow wave or deep sleep (Annales Medico Psychologiques 1997: 792-797).

Acupuncture has also been found to be useful for insomnia. Acupuncture can cause endorphin production resulting in relaxation and a sense of well-being. Specific acupuncture sites have been shown to be involved in sleep-wake cycle regulation (Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 1995; 49; 119-120). A placebo-controlled study showed that acupuncture improved both subjective and objective measures of sleep quality in insomniacs (Forschende Komplementarmedizin, 1999; 18: 185-194)

It is important to be informed of alternative options often not mentioned by medical doctors. It is essential to seek supervision from a physician knowledgeable in alternative approaches to ensure that you are receiving the best care possible for your individual needs. Best of health to you and sleep well tonight.


Heart Health: Take a New Approach December 20, 2010

Filed under: heart health — novahealthnaturopathic @ 5:34 pm

The number one killer and biggest health concern affecting North Americans is heart disease.  Also known as Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), it refers to any disease of the heart and blood vessels, including myocardial infarction (heart attacks), hypertension (high blood pressure), arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), coronary artery disease (reduction of blood to the heart muscle due to narrowing arteries around the heart), stroke, congestive heart failure (inability of heart to pump enough blood to the body’s organs) and many others.  According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, 31% of deaths in Canada are due to heart disease, and every 7 minutes someone in Canada dies from heart disease.

Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, being overweight, physical inactivity, diabetes, stress, excessive alcohol intake, poor diet, family history, and aging ( Most of the risk factors for heart disease can be minimized or eliminated.

Too often, patients resort to prescription medication with adverse side effects when research shows that diet and lifestyle changes and natural therapies can effectively combat heart disease.  Clinics offering scientific-based treatments to prescription medication are accessible and are growing in popularity.

There are many laboratory tests and physical examinations that can be performed to help determine a patient’s risk of developing heart disease, many of which often are not performed on routine visits to your medical doctor.  These tests include:

C-Reactive Protein (CRP): A protein that useful in determining future risk of heart disease.  It can be elevated years in advance of having a heart attack or stroke and is also highly predictive of heart attack and stroke reoccurrence (J Periodontal, 2008. 79:1544-1551).

Fibrinogen: is another protein that is involved in blood clotting.  Research shows that although a person may have elevated cholesterol levels, if fibrinogen levels are low they are likely to have a low incidence of heart disease (Arterioscler Thromb, 1994. 14: 54-59). Fibrinogen should be checked with annual blood work, however it seldom is.

Homocystiene: is an amino acid that research has shown higher levels to be associated with a significant increase in the risk of heart disease (N Engl J Med, 1997.  337: 230-236).

Apolipoprotein B: a form of cholesterol that research has shown to be a better indicator of heart disease than total cholesterol or LDL (Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol, 2009. 27: 661-70).

These blood tests can be performed by a Licensed Medical or Naturopathic Doctor to determine the right treatment for a patient with heart disease.

The most important and fundamental component of the prevention and treatment for heart disease is modification to diet and lifestyle.  The well studied “DASH” diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) which encourages the consumption of nuts, whole grains, fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables while lowering the consumption of red meats, sweets, and sugar has as been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure and risk of death from heart disease (New Eng J Med 1997; 336: 1117-24).  Several studies have examined a Mediterranean type diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans) and healthy fats, and found it is beneficial for decreasing heart disease mortality (Circulation, 1999. 99: 779-85: Arch Intern Med, 1998.  158: 1181-87: Eur Heart J, 2002. 23: 277-285).  This diet includes minimal consumption of meat, butter, cream, deli foods, which contain high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol, and limited consumption of simple carbohydrates (sugar, honey, processed foods, and white flours).  Instead, it focuses on increasing consumption of complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans) and soluble fiber (oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant, okra) and omega-9 and 3 fats (olive oil, fish oil and flax oil)

The importance of appropriate weight maintenance for heart disease prevention can not be understated. Over half of the North American population is over weight and these numbers continue to rise. One study showed that for both men and women, the most significant health concern observed related to body weight was increased blood pressure (JAMA 1999; 282: 1523-29).  Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association used a waist circumference of 100 cm (36 inches) as a reference point and showed that each increase of 15 cm corresponded to a 60% increase in the risk of cardiovascular death (JAMA 1993; 269: 483-7).

Exercise is also extremely important for cardiovascular health. A sedentary lifestyle is considered to be one of the most important modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.  Research shows approximately half the incidence of heart disease in active compared to sedentary persons. (Ind J Med Sci; 2009; 63: 33-42). One study found that after only eight weeks, exercise alone significantly lowers markers of heart disease.  Exercise consisted of 25-45 min of either use of stair-stepping machines and stationary bicycles and reaching the individuals target heart rate three times per week.  (Am J Clin Nutr. 2004; 80: 1159-66).

Perhaps most importantly, smoking cessation is arguably the single most important intervention in preventing cardiovascular disease. Smoking has been associated with a fourfold increased risk of heart disease, and a greater than 70% excess rate of death from heart disease (Am J Med. 1992; 93: 8-12).  If you smoke, quitting is the most important lifestyle change you can make to prevent heart disease.

Once lifestyle is addressed, several options exist to both treat and prevent heart disease.  Nattokinase is an enzyme from soybeans that has shown to thin the blood and help prevent blood clots from forming (J Biol Chem, 2001.  276: 24690-24696).  One study involving patients with high blood pressure who received nattokinase for 8 weeks, showed that their blood pressure decreased significantly compared a control group who did not receive the nattokinase (Hypertens Res, 2008.  31: 1583-1588).  Another study looked at the effect of nattokinase in patients with an increased risk of blood clots.  Only 7% of patients receiving nattokinase experienced a blood clot vs 19.6% of patients not receiving the treatment (Angiology, 2003.  54: 531-539).

Another effective treatment for heart disease is intravenous EDTA Chelation therapy.  Research shows that EDTA removes calcium buildup from blood vessels, reduces cholesterol, reduces injury to blood vessels and reduces blood clot formation (Circulation, 1999. 99: 164-165).  In one study, patients who received a series of intravenous EDTA treatments over six weeks showed improved blood vessel function and decreased levels of homocystiene (mentioned above as an indicator of heart disease risk) (Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol, 1999. 26: 853-856).  Another study examined patients with peripheral vascular disease (obstruction of blood vessels in arms and legs, another form of heart disease).  When EDTA was given intravenously, symptoms and blood work showed significant improvements in 91% of patients treated (J Natl Med Assoc, 1990. 82: 173-177).

Due to the astounding numbers of North Americans afflicted with heart disease, it is now more important than ever to understand the risk factors and treatment options available for this highly prevalent disease.  Patients need to be aware of the medically studied options that exist for the prevention and treatment of heart disease. It is essential to seek supervision from a physician knowledgeable in these approaches to ensure that you are receiving the best care possible for your individual needs.  We must begin to proactively treat this disease and shift our focus towards wellness.

Wishing you the best of health and keep that ticker tickin’!


Warm Winter Salad December 15, 2010

Filed under: recipes — novahealthnaturopathic @ 9:48 pm

Serves 2

  • 4- 5 cups of kale, massaged with 1 T of flax oil, 1 T of lemon juice and 1/4 t of salt
  • 1 cup of green beans, steamed
  • approx. 10 cooked chestnuts
  • 1 large maple sausage, cooked and sliced
  • dried persimmon, 2 T chopped
  • 1 T pumpkin seeds

Start with your chestnuts. They are one of winter’s great gifts. Sweet and chewy, they aren’t high in fats like most nuts, and provide you with energy-bearing complex carbohydrates.  They are also the only nuts that contain vitamin C (40mg per 100g). To cook them, just follow these instructions. Roasting gives them a great flavour, but I find boiling makes them a lot easier to peel.

The chestnuts will take the longest (about 20 mins) . While they’re cooking, cook the sausage and steam the green beans. (A little secret is to pan fry the beans instead, using leftover grease from your sausage. Yes, it makes the salad higher in fat, but the extra flavour is well worth it).

Next, de-stem and shred your kale (by hand or with a knife – either works). Massage in the flax oil, lemon juice and salt until the kale is wilted. Please don’t leave out the oil! The healthy fats in flax oil will help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (A & K) in the green beans. When your chestnuts are peeled, beans are steamed and sausage is cooked, toss these with the kale, dried persimmon and the pumpkin seeds. The beans, chestnuts and sausage will warm your kale, making this salad ideal for cold winter evenings. Thanks to the flax and sausage, this salad needs no extra dressing.

*A note on the persimmon: Dried persimmon can be hard to find unless you live in a city with a large health food store. You can make your own by slicing fresh persimmons and ‘drying’ them using a 200F oven. This can take some time though (up to 6 hours), and unless you’re used to dehydrating food, you might not find it worth the effort. Dried apples are also really good in this salad. Conversely, you could use fresh persimmon, which I’m sure would be excellent as well.

For vegans and vegetarians: try baking smoked tofu in maple syrup to to get that salty-sweet taste of the sausage.

Bon appetit!


Weekly Round-Up December 10, 2010

Filed under: round up — novahealthnaturopathic @ 5:19 pm

Here are links to some of the articles we came across that piqued our interest . Hope you enjoy!

While I’m usually an advocate of vegetarian-oriented eating, this post on ‘paleo’ nutrition, ketosis and the brain is interesting.

Right in time for Christmas, this recipe is delicious AND gluten-free (no sacrifice here!).

A very unusual take on eggnog! Haven’t made it yet, but if you’re brave enough, let us know how it turns out!

Love this idea! Anything that combines recycling, yoga and crafts is ok by me.

Working in naturopathic medicine, we are often confronted with ‘pseudo-scientific’ approaches to health. We always go for evidence-based medicine, and this psychological approach to less-than-scientific medicine is intriguing.

More on this later, but for now, let us know what your thoughts are on the new ‘wonder drug’.

That’s all for now! We hope you have a great weekend!


Cold Weather Recipes, part 1 December 6, 2010

Filed under: recipes — novahealthnaturopathic @ 4:19 pm

With winter in full swing, you may be finding yourself craving something heartier and more warming for your evening meal. Both of these recipes feature brown rice, which, because it is minimally processed, has a high nutrient content and contains satiating starches, without causing it to spike your blood sugar. (For more information on the nutritional properties of brown rice, go here:

They also feature warming spices, such as cinnamon, allspice and chili powder. In energy-based medical systems, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, cinnamon is lauded for its ability to warm one from the inside out. Chili powder is really a mix of spices, usually containing cumin, oregano, garlic powder, salt and some variety of chili peppers. Chilis are famous for their ability to you up, but they also fight inflammation, boost immunity, clear congestion and can aid in healthy weight loss. (Chilis are perfect to help you combat winter woes!)

Baked Plantain with Tofu and Brown Basmati Rice

  • 3 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Brown Basmati Rice
  • 1 medium sized Onion
  • 1 lb. extra firm Tofu
  • 5 Plantains
  • 2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Allspice

Peel and dice the onion. Boil the water and place in a large covered glass or ceramic casserole dish. Add the rice, onion, cinnamon, and allspice. Stir and place the dish in the oven (preheated to 350F) for about twenty minutes.

Dice the tofu. Peel and slice the plantain lengthwise, then slice the plantain halves into pieces not over 1/4″. Remove the casserole dish from the oven after the initial cooking and add the tofu and plantain. Mix well and place back in oven for another 35-45 minutes, mixing at 15 minute intervals. When it is ready, the plantain should be soft, but not mushy, and all the water should be absorbed.  Serve warm or chilled, as breakfast or dessert.

Chickpea and Eggplant Stew

  • 2 large eggplants (cubed)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 can chickpea (drained and washed)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (or freshly diced)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • Cooked brown rice

Cut off the ends of the eggplant, then chop into ¾” cubes. Chop the onion roughly. Mince the garlic. Heat a large deep-sided fry pan over a medium heat with water. Add the minced garlic, onion, chili powder, cumin and cinnamon. Stir well to prevent sticking. Steam fry.  Cook until the onions have softened (approx. 4-5 minutes). Add the eggplant, tomatoes and chickpeas, along with the stock. Simmer over medium-low heat, covered, for fifteen-twenty minutes (until the eggplant is tender). Uncover and stir. If the stew looks very soupy, let the liquid bubble away for a few more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over brown rice.  Add more seasoning to liking.


The Light at the End of the Tunnel: A Cure to Constipation December 1, 2010

Filed under: constipation — novahealthnaturopathic @ 6:27 pm

Constipation affects almost everyone at some point in their lives and a small percentage of people live with chronic constipation, often having sought medical help without much success. Let’s try to expel some of the myths about the treatment of this common ailment. Although laxatives provide temporary relief from constipation, prolonged use causes reliance and dosages need to be increased as the bowels build up a tolerance to this short-term solution. This makes it very difficult to stop the use of the laxative leading to not only long-term slow bowel function, but also chronic nutritional deficiencies as many laxatives interfere with nutrient absorption.  In order to cure constipation it is imperative that the underlying cause is resolved.

Serious causes of constipation must first be ruled out.  Included in these are certain medications that cause constipation (narcotics, some blood pressure medication and antidepressants), a history of excessive laxative use, irritable bowel syndrome, and specific disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and low thyroid function. On-going constipation requires a complete medical history, physical exam and diagnostic testing to rule out serious causes of constipation.

The most common cause of constipation is a poor diet low in fibre, and high in processed foods and animal fats such as cheese, meat, and eggs.  A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts and seeds contains high amounts of fibre, which gives a soft gel-like texture and bulk to the stool.  This prevents hard dry stools and makes bowel movements softer and easier to pass.  Fibre supplementation such as flax seeds or psyllium act as bulk forming laxatives, lubricate the gut and also help to feed healthy gut flora.

Maintenance of a healthy gut flora is essential for regular bowel movements.  This can be achieved from a diet rich is fermented foods, but often supplementation with probiotics can be very helpful to allow for optimal flora. There are many strains of probiotics specific for different gastrointestinal concerns, thus it is important that you consult with a physician knowledgeable in this area to determine the probiotic strains and doses required for your specific condition.

Low levels of hydrochloric acid (HCL), the acid in the stomach, have also been found to cause constipation.  Symptoms associated with low hydrochloric acid include heartburn, bloating after meals, and infrequent, difficult to pass bowel movements. This condition can be remedied by replacing low stomach acid with specific dosages of Betaine Hydrochloride (in a pill form), as it is the same acid produced by the stomach and provides the same role in digesting food by breaking up fats and proteins.

Medical research has identified safe tests and treatment options that can treat or eliminate constipation. Education is key- it is important to seek professional supervision to explore your treatment options.

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!


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