Nova Health Naturopathic Centre Blog

True Health and Well Being

Spotlight on Relora June 23, 2011

Filed under: anxiety,relaxation and insomnia,research,sleep,weight loss — novahealthnaturopathic @ 6:51 pm

Hi everyone! I hope you’re enjoying this beautiful sunny afternoon!

We’re very excited about a new supplement that’s recently been offered by Douglas Labs, one of our main supplement providers. Douglas Labs is a reputable company that provides top-grade products available exclusively to licensed healthcare professionals. We’ve always been impressed with their rigorous standards for testing and quality. This new product is a patent-pending blend of two herbal extracts, combined with a B-complex. This product, Relora-Plex, is specifically designed to support normal mental functioning during stress and anxiety. We’ve found it to be useful for treating sleep disorders, anxiety, stress-related negative activities (such as overeating), and to promote general well-being.

Cortisol, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, plays an important role in the body’s regulation of cardiovascular function and fat, protein and carbohydrate utilization. When the body experiences stress, cortisol secretion increases, thus causing a breakdown of muscle protein and the release of amino acids to form glucose via gluconeogenesis. The resulting higher level of glucose in the body, combined with the decreased use of glucose by other tissues in the body, ensures that the brain is receiving adequate energy.

Continuing research indicates that stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on the body’s health and wellbeing. While cortisol secretion is an important part of the body’s response to stress, the prolonged secretion of cortisol can have detrimental effects to the proper functioning of the body’s cardiovascular, immune, neurological and metabolic systems.

Magnolia officinalis

Relora is a combination of two herbal extracts, Magnolia and Phellodendron bark (Asian cork tree). Both herbs have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for several hundred years. In a human study, 82% of the participants taking Relora agreed with the statement that: “Relora helps control…. irritability, emotional ups and downs restlessness, tense muscles, poor sleep, fatigue, and concentration difficulties.” Relora was found not to cause sedation, though 74% of the patients had more restful sleep. Additionally, no adverse side effects were reported during the trial. A second human trial studied the effects of Relora

Phellodendron amurense bark

on salivary dehydroepistandrosterone (DHEA) and cortisol levels in patients with mild to moderate stress. The effects of stress on the body are sometimes associated with lower levels of DHEA and higher levels of cortisol. Two weeks of Relora increased salivary DHEA by 227% and decreased total salivary cortisol by 37%. Both hormones were brought into the normal range.


Michael A, Jenaway A, Paykey ES, Herbert J. Altered salivary dehydroepiandrosterone levels in major depression in adults. Biol. Psychiatry. 2000 Nov 15; 48(10): 989-95.

Ockenfels MC, Porter L, Smyth J, Kirschbaum C, Hellhammer DH, Stone AA. Effects of chronic stress associated with unemployment on salivary cortisol: overall cortisol levels, diurnal rhythm and acute stress reactivity. Psychosom Med. 1995 Sept-Oct; 57(5):460-467.

Schulz P, Kurschbaum C, Prubner J, Hellhammer D. Increased free cortisol secretion after awakening in chronically stressed individuals due to work overload. Stress Medicine 1998; 14:91-97.


Warning: If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if  you are taking any prescription medication, consult a physician prior to use. Excessive consumption may impair ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. Not recommended for consumption with alcoholic beverages.


Infrared Saunas for Health and Well-Being March 25, 2011

Filed under: diabetes,heart health,relaxation and insomnia,weight loss — novahealthnaturopathic @ 5:57 pm

The skin is a major organ of detoxification. We release toxins through our skin when we sweat, and ideally, we should sweat daily to maximize the skin’s function as a detoxifying organ. Recently, the infrared sauna has become recognized as one of the most effective methods to channel your body’s natural detoxification mechanisms. It helps remove toxic chemicals from the body, particularly when they are stored in fat cells.

Infrared radiant heat can penetrate 4 centimeters beneath the skin and can speed fat metabolism. When fat is discharged from the body as sweat, it carries with it toxins, chemicals and heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead, copper, etc. which cannot be discharged by either the kidneys or the lungs.

Instead of heating the air, infrared saunas emit an infrared wavelength that heats the body core from the inside out. Infrared saunas cause sweating at lower temperatures than non-infrared heat, so it is safe for anyone with high or low blood pressure or cardiovascular issues.

Benefits of Infrared Heat

  • Improves circulation, cardiovascular function and lymphatic flow – Repeated sauna treatment improves impaired vascular function for patients with coronary risk factors.
  • Enhanced detoxification – Toxins such as alcohol, nicotine, environmental pollutants and heavy metals accumulate in the body during daily living. The body can eliminate toxins through sweating and research has shown that the body burden of chemicals, heavy metals, carcinogens and other pollutants can be significantly diminished through infrared sauna treatments.
  • Rejuvenates skin – Helps skin conditions (acne, eczema, scarring, cellulite, etc) – Infrared sauna improves circulation, expels toxins and chemicals, reduces the appearance of cellulite and moves dead cells from the surface of the skin. It clears debris, oils, and make-up residue from the pores of your skin leading to a softer, clearer and firmer complexion.
  • Boost metabolism and energy – Similar to exercise, being in the infrared sauna increases your heart rate and metabolism and uses a large amount of energy, while you just relax! Perspiring also reduces fluid build-up, sodium and subcutaneous fat.
  • Pain relief – Arthritis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, muscle and joint pain – By expanding blood vessels and increasing circulation, more oxygen reaches injured areas of the body reducing pain and speeding up the healing process. Infrared sauna treatments help to remove lactic acid build-up, often felt after exercise or exertion, leaving the muscles feeling renewed. Infrared sauna is a successful additional treatment for arthritis, muscle pain and spasms.
  • Boosts immune system – Why do our bodies create fever when we are sick? Simply, heat kills harmful bacteria that cause infection. Fever is a natural part of the immune response. Infrared sauna induces an “artificial fever” which activates immunity and can decrease the duration of cold- and flu-like illnesses.
  • Relaxation and stress relief – Infrared sauna relaxes and loosens muscles prior to a massage or chiropractic treatment, making treatments more effective. However, the calm environment and soothing heat are also relaxing and therapeutic all by themselves.
  • Improves quality of life for those with diabetes, chronic pain and depression

Sources: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2010; 42(5): 818; Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, June 2010; 16(6): 677-681; Journal of the American College of Cardiology, October 2001; 38 (4): 1083-1088; International Congress Series, April 2006; 1287: 298-303.


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.


%d bloggers like this: