Nova Health Naturopathic Centre Blog

True Health and Well Being

The Soy Controversy & Quick-and-Easy Miso Soup January 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — novahealthnaturopathic @ 3:09 am

Biochemical factors in food can be used to influence a person’s health concerns. The foods you consume not only provide nourishment for every cell of you body, but can also act as medicine. The potential for soy foods to reduce risk of cancer has been a major topic of research in the past few years. Soy contains isoflavones, compounds which bind to estrogen receptors and act like week estrogens in the body.  The relationship between soy foods and breast cancer has had some controversy because some preliminary studies in animals, but none in humans, showed that isoflavones may stimulate the growth of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.  Overall, there is no clinical evidence to suggest that isoflavones will increase breast cancer risk or worsen the prognosis of women with breast cancer.  In fact recent studies are showing soy to be protective against breast cancer. Research that examined 18 studies from 1978 to 2004 showed that soy consumption was related to decreased risk of breast cancer (Journal of National Cancer Institute, 2006;98: 459-71).  Components of soy have also been shown to increase bone mineral density (preventing osteoperosis) (Bone Mineral, 1992;19:57-62), and decrease menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes (Menopause, 2006; 13: 831-839).

With all the health benefits of soy, it is time to start incorporating it into your diet.  This may be a new food for you, but it is very versatile and easy to use. Fermented soy is easy to digest for people with sensitive stomachs, and with this cold weather, another soup recipe is always welcome.

Quick-and-Easy Miso Soup

Serves 1-2

  • 8 oz. homemade vegetable or chicken stock (see below re. packaged stocks)
  • 1 T low-sodium miso paste
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 T of minced garlic
  • 1/4 chopped zucchini
  • 1 – 2 cups frozen vegetables (This or this would be delicious)
  • 10 small shiitake mushrooms (if not already included in your veggie mix)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
  • 1/4 t flaw oil per serving
  • Optional: wakame or kombu seaweed, precooked soba noodles, sprouted beans or lentils, green onions

In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, bring the stock to a simmer. Add the miso paste and minced garlic & ginger. Stir until well combined into the broth. Add in the chopped zucchini and let the soup simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the frozen vegetables and shiitakes, and simmer 4-5 more minutes until all of the vegetables are tender. Pour soup into bowl(s) and garnish with fresh cilantro and drizzle with flax oil.

**Note on packaged stocks: Choose something low in sodium and without added preservatives, yeasts or starches. Imagine and Pacific Naturals are good brands.

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Calm Your Mind: Natural Treatments for Anxiety January 10, 2011

Filed under: anxiety — novahealthnaturopathic @ 5:23 pm

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric condition in North America (American Family Physician 2005; 71: 733-739). Moreover, an unfortunate reality is that many anxiety sufferers endure additional distress as a result of not knowing their complete treatment options. This article will briefly outline available treatment choices, so that those suffering with anxiety can become more empowered to make treatment decisions appropriate for themselves.

Before we discuss how to treat anxiety, however, we should do a brief overview of the types of anxiety to better appreciate the subject. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive, unrealistic worrying; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is persistent reoccurring thoughts that cause the cause the person to perform ritualized routines to free their anxieties; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder involves flashbacks and hyper-arousal after exposure to a traumatic event; Panic Disorder is debilitating attacks of panic accompanied by heart palpations, difficulty breathing and overwhelming fear; and Social Anxiety Disorder is an extreme fear of being judged by others leading people to avoid social settings.

What can you do to treat these types of conditions? Conventional treatment for all forms of anxiety involves both counseling and medication. Counseling focuses on identifying why the anxiety is occurring and uses exercises, such as relaxation techniques, to manage the anxiety. Evidence shows that these behavioral modification techniques are an effective treatment of anxiety disorders; however, regular sessions with a therapist and self directed techniques must be continued for patients to benefit.

The most commonly prescribed medication for anxiety is a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These drugs work by decreasing neuron firing in the brain, and thus reduce anxiety and the related symptoms. However, a major concern with these medications is addiction. Patients will experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, impaired memory, and insomnia within 72 hours of discontinuing the medication and these symptoms can persist for months to years. To prevent this from occurring medication, doses should be tapered or stopped after an appropriate period of time. Unfortunately, all too often, the side effects from withdrawing the medication lead to chronic life-long use. Although medications can be beneficial during acute crises of anxiety, patients should be weaned off their prescription after a short term and have other treatment options in place.

Going beyond the conventional drug therapy option, anxiety sufferers have a detailed list of potential effective interventions. Dietary factors can be a huge contributor to a person’s anxiety. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can cause anxiety. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include irritability, nervousness, poor concentration, and fatigue. Two of the main causes of hypoglycemia are skipping meals and an unbalanced diet.  Infrequent and poor food choices, particularly refined foods and sweets, are the most common causes of low blood sugar levels. Sugar and processed foods should be eliminated and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins should be employed when treating anxiety.

Alcohol and caffeine are other dietary factors that influence anxiety. The immediate effect of alcohol may be calming, but it can cause anxiety-like symptoms as it is broken down in the body, and thus should be used in small amounts if not completely avoided. Caffeine is a well-known stimulant which can increase anxiety and should be completely avoided.

After dietary adjustments have been implemented, supplementation is necessary. A form of medicine that uses substances found naturally in the human body, such as minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, is called orthomolecular medicine. Niacinamide, commonly referred to as a form of vitamin B-3, has been shown to have an effect similar to prescription drugs (Nature 1979; 278: 563-565).  It acts by modulating neurotransmitters commonly unbalanced in anxiety (Prousky, Journal of Othomolecular Medicine 2004; 19: 104-110). In contrast to conventional drugs, however, it is not addictive and has few to no side effects. Inositol is another substance that has shown to have anti-anxiety effects similar to conventional drugs. In a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (1995; 152: 1084-1086), inositol was shown to significantly decrease the severity and frequency of panic attacks. 5-HTP is an amino acid precursor to serotonin (a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood).  A study published in the Internal Clinical Psychopharmacology (1987; 2: 33-45) showed that 5-HTP was effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially those found in fish oil have been shown to affect brain processes that control mood and anxiety in animal models (Biol Psychiatry 2005; 57: 343-350). A must read book that highlights and details the othomolecular treatment of anxiety is written by Dr. Jonathan Prousky, ND, and is titled Anxiety: Orthomolecular Diagnosis and Treatment.

Lastly, botanicals can be used to complement nutritional and orthomolecular therapies in treating anxiety. Melissa officialis (lemon balm), Passiflora Incarnata (passionflower), Scutellaria laterflora (scull cap), and Valeriana officinale (valerian), to mention a few, all have a long history of use for the treatment of anxiety.

Anxiety sufferers should be aware that medical research has identified safe and effective treatments that are often not mentioned by medical doctors. These treatments can be used in combination with conventional treatments or on their own. It is important to educate yourself about available treatment options and to seek supervision from a physician knowable in alternative approaches to help you explore your options.

 

 
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