Digestion is the seed of our health. How we digest food is how we digest life. As Naturopathic Doctors we educate each and every patient about the importance of their digestion and how this one system can affect the well being of the whole. If we are not absorbing our nutrients, the body isn’t receiving the nourishment it needs to not only heal but to live optimally. One of the ways you can assure your digestive system is working for you and not against you is through a detox program specific to your needs.
Detoxification is defined as the process of removing toxic substances and qualities. Throughout the day we are exposed to all sorts of toxins,; these toxins include pesticides and preservatives from foods, cosmetics, mould, hormones from food and water, chemical cleaners etc. Chronic stress due to work, relationships, children, and finances send a cascade of problematic stress hormones that also need to be detoxified.
1. Your Body Is Constantly Detoxing
Imagine for a moment the analogy of your body as a bucket. With chronic exposure to the different forms of toxins your bucket would get so full that it would spill over the rim. The overflowing bucket is your body not being able to handle that toxic load. This would then show up as symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, constipation and diarrhea, bloating and gas, eczema, autoimmune conditions etc. Therefore, the body just like the bucket would need pathways for elimination to decrease the toxic load. These pathways are represented in the body as emunctories. The primary emunctories include the liver, kidneys, Intestines, stomach, pancreas, lymph and Lungs, and the secondary emunctories are the skin and mucous membranes. These pathways of elimination work together to create a nontoxic environment in the body. If any of these are not functioning optimally the body creates symptoms because the bucket is just too full.
2. Your Liver Is Working Harder Than It Needs To
The liver has a Phase I, and Phase II detoxification pathway that helps your body deal with anything from hormones to alcohol. There are critical enzymes involved in detoxification, these are called Cytochrome P450 Enzymes. These enzymes take the toxins and convert them into something even more toxic for the body. In order to neutralize these toxins they have to be conjugated to essential vitamins and minerals to convert them into a less toxic water soluble form now ready for elimination. If either one of these phases are up or down regulated by either diet or toxicity it will increase the load on the liver not allowing it to do its job. Therefore, the symptoms that may show up in the body will be even more aggressive. With today’s culture of fast paced lifestyles followed by eating for convenience rather than nutrition most individuals lack the proper support the liver actually needs. There are specific nutrients that can help support both of these phases for optimal detoxification. For Phase I-Cruciferous Vegetables, B6 Vitamins, Milk Thistle and Magnesium. For Phase II-Glutathione, Turmeric, B5 Vitamins and Whey Protein.
3. It’s Not Just About The Liver!
There are two other major systems that are not given much attention when it comes to detox, the Kidneys and the Lymphatic System. The Kidneys are now considered to be Phase III Detoxification and is dependent on your body’s pH levels. For proper detoxification the body needs to have an optimal ph level around 7.4. The standard diet however creates more of an acidic environment in our bodies, creating opportunity for toxins and infections that can manifest disease. Foods such as soda, coffee, beef, fried foods, dairy and alcohol contribute to an acidic environment. Where as foods like root vegetables, leafy greens, garlic and lemon create an alkaline environment.
Your Lymphatic System plays a role in transferring lymph, a clear fluid containing White Blood Cells responsible for ridding the body of toxic waste and other unwanted material. When congested, the Lymphatic System will disrupt both digestion and the respiratory system creating inflammation and mucous formation. In order optimal lymphatic flow your lifestyle must include regular exercise such as yoga, you should eliminate food sensitivities, get lymphatic massages, and learn to go with the flow!
The bowels tell the entire story! As a Naturopathic Doctor I always ask the question, how often are you having a bowel movement, what is the consistency and colour of your stools. This tells me how well your body is detoxifying, what your dietary intake is like and if there are any imbalances in the levels of bacteria in your gut. This will tell us that its time to make a change in your nutrition plan.
4. You Need To Challenge Yourself For 40 Days To Really See A Change Happen
“Maintain a positive attitude with promoting Habits for 40 days and you can change your Destiny” – Yogi Bhajan
By committing to 40 days you are making a decision to empower yourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. You are making a decision to take charge of your health and become an active part of our healing journey. This helps to get rid of the old patterns and habits and create new ones that will serve you for the rest of your life. These 40 days allow you to assess what it really is that you want for yourself. It is a kick start into being more proactive and committed to a new and healthy you that allows for lasting changes.
5. Not Everyone Will Benefit From The Same Detoxification Program
Each of us is unique in how we live, eat, digest, and respond to life. We all may have the same systems within the physical body, but our mental and emotional body is very unique and specific to us. When detoxifying we are working at the physical level, however, the other parts of us are involved as much if not more in this process of healing. We have all had experiences in our lives that have shaped who we are today. Therefore an individualized plan is essential to get you on your right path. Work with your Naturopathic to find the program that is right for you so you can make lasting changes in your health.
|By Dr. Sonya Jensen ND Movies like “I Don’t Know How She Does It” starring Sarah Jessica Parker really do highlight the qualities of today’s mom. Busy, busy, and busy! In that busy schedule of caring for the kids, the house, the career, a woman can feel lost, alone, and full of anxiety. Our culture congratulates those that multitask and stay busy and manage to get it all done and all perfect. What’s lost in that scenario is the woman, the woman before she was a mother, that woman that had her own dreams, that woman that could be centered, grounded, happy and still be a great mom. She has sacrificed just that to be that perfect TV mom that can do it all and keep up with the “Joneses”. The Mother of today, she is not just a mother but she’s a woman of influence with goals and aspirations of her own. When a child is born a woman is forever changed. However does that mean she needs to sacrifice herself and her dreams? Why do we see that time as an end to who we were? Yes we are different, we’ve evolved, we have created and brought a whole other being into this world. But does loving your child mean not loving yourself? What happens when we become mothers? What blocks us from being who we are in every moment, with or without a child? What are these “mistakes” or patterns that hold us back from the one goal we all have, which is to be happy. FEAR, FEAR, FEAR! Fear of failure, fear of judgment, fear of doing it all wrong! So lets face it, who really has the time! Between diapers, feedings, and driving to activities, to exercise, make meals, and on some days even shower? On the outside it makes logical sense to spend all your time caring for your children and putting yourself last, that’s what a good mother does.
Mistake #1: Thinking you’re not important.
You are important. You are the glue and centre of your family. If you are happy and healthy so is your family. There have been studies indicating that higher amounts of stress hormones like cortisol in a Mother’s blood stream is directly correlated with how connected she feels with her children and how well those children develop. “These studies have demonstrated that exposure to prenatal stress not only affects physical development of the infants (birth weight, head size, and structural malformations), but also their functional development, evidenced by poor psychomotor performance and more difficult behaviour during the first 10 years of life.” Prenatal Maternal Stress: effects on Pregnancy and the (unborn) Child. Take a moment and ask yourself, what is YOUR definition of happy? What feeds YOUR soul? Remember that guy that contributed his genes in making your children, your partner, what do you want out of your relationship? Children mimic what we do, not what we say. Taking time to nurture yourself instills in them the importance of taking care of themselves.
Mistake #2: Holding on….
Have you ever had that moment where your child says or does something that they have obviously learned from you but its something you wouldn’t say or do in public? And it’s in that moment that you realize that you just don’t have any control. Our children are our biggest teachers, and they do this by mirroring absolutely everything we do! Our need and want to have things go a certain way, the perfect way, can sometimes create a whole world of internal anxiety and conflict that keeps us from being happy. Learning the practice of letting go and having flexibility will create opportunities for you to relax and enjoy the process. As you may have already experienced the more we try to hold on and control, the more our children show us it just doesn’t work that way. Our Fear is being “that mom”… “that mom” that has a screaming child in the department store, “that mom” the perfect moms are looking at because you forgot to change after your son has thrown his food all over you, “that mom” that hasn’t put her kid in enough activities. Its that fear of judgment when all of you, even the “perfect ones” are doing the best you can, that creates anxiety over not doing it all right. It may be the judgment of others we fear but we really are our own worst critics. Creating a daily practice that grounds you like yoga, meditation, walking, whatever inspires YOU, can help you respond and not react to what comes up externally and internally. So if that other Mom looks like she’s got it all under control while you’re feeling like life is controlling you, take a deep breath and remember you’re doing the best you can.
Mistake #3: Letting Guilt be your Guide….
Guilt is defined as feeling responsibility or remorse for some offence, crime, wrong, etc. whether real or imagined. I think the focus here needs to be on the word “imagined”. As Moms especially new Moms we spend so much of our day indulging in this emotion of guilt that doesn’t serve anyone, especially not our children. Mommy guilt has a way of taking over our thoughts about not only ourselves but also those around us. Every decision we make now is not just about what we want as an individual instead we have to consider the whole. Last year I took a trip to Haiti to supervise a group of students in providing support and Naturopathic Care at Mama Baby Haiti, an organization created by a group of American Midwives in an effort to lower fetal death. This opportunity came at a time where I was still nursing and still very attached to my Son and our daily routine. The trip was for two weeks and that would mean all the responsibility of taking care of our Son and Clinic would fall on my husband. So not only was I feeling guilty about “abandoning” my Son, but then wife guilt showed up in all its glory! Right up to the day I left I was tormenting myself, how will this affect my son? Will he have abandonment and trust issues because of me? Will my husband resent me? The list went on and on. I talked to all the Moms I knew to get their opinions and thoughts on me leaving and consensus was that it’s even more important as a mom to follow your dreams so we can teach our children to follow theirs. Looking at the definition of guilt, I didn’t commit a crime, offence or wrong doing so then why when this amazing opportunity shows up to serve pregnant woman did my mind create all this drama and unnecessary stress? In the end I went and came back. My son and husband received me with open arms and it was as if I had never left. Yes you’re a Mother now but nowhere does it say that you are no longer someone that deserves everything you have dreamed and wanted for yourself.
Mistake #4: Not Asking for Help and Feeling Alone
The reality of raising a child today is that, it really does take a village! In talking to other Mothers there seems to be a fear in trusting others because we want our children raised a certain way. We are a generation of parents wanting to do it all. However, when we allow others into our children’s lives it creates an extended family that they can trust. It gives them a sense of security in themselves, and most importantly it gives you a break!! There is nothing wrong with asking for help, you are doing the best you can. You know your baby best and you know when it is time for you to reach out. You will be surprised to find out that most other Mothers are having the same thoughts, feelings, and challenges as you. My good friend said something that really resonated with me in reference to becoming a Mother, “When you become a Mother you are not only a Mother to your own child but to all the children”. That for me really created a bigger picture of its not just about me but all of us Mothers as a whole. We are shaping the future! We all have the same fears and dreams so why not take some time to connect with other Mothers, share your stories and help each other out?
Mistake #5: Not paying attention to your own Health.
Before having my son I exercised 5 days a week, ate well, looked after myself and even did my hair. When you’re a business owner and a Mother those simple things that created balance in your life can be neglected. Luckily as a physician working with others I am constantly reminded how important it is to take care of myself and make sure my health is a priority. If it’s not a priority for me I can’t help anyone else reach their own health goals. Having nutritional deficiencies, low energy, and mood swings is not going to help me get through a day with an energetic toddler! There’s a moment in the movie, “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, where Sarah Jessica Parker after a long day at work and organizing her daughters birthday pauses and takes a deep breath, and in that breath you can see the love she has for her daughter, her husband, and her life. We have all had these moments that make it all worth it. Every night as I stare at my son falling asleep and reflect on our day I have a feeling of gratitude and love for this experience as a Mother. With all its challenges and all its victories, being a Mother has helped me reflect on myself in ways I never thought possible. We Mothers are all given an opportunity to shift and shape this world through our love for our children and most importantly through loving ourselves.
Most have heard of the predominately female hormone Estrogen. Most haven’t heard of the term Estrogen Dominance. This term refers to an imbalance of the hormonal profile of an individual. Typically when we speak of estrogen dominance we’re referring to women. What is not well known is that most women are in fact Estrogen dominant. Men for instance, can also present with inappropriate ratios between Estrogen and Testosterone which can cause a host of problems and unfavourable side effects including prostate cancer. Estrogen in excess for men is like kryptonite for testosterone (for all of you Superman fans). For women, we usually describe Estrogen dominance in its relation to Progesterone.
Bringing these hormones into balance can decrease the risk for Breast Cancer as well as to reduce the symptoms of PMS, perimenopause and menopause.
As you can see from the graph, there is always more estrogen than progesterone but the degree of the difference will determine the extent of symptoms.
What are the signs of Estrogen Dominance in women?
When the estrogen to progesterone imbalance shows up in women there can be very difficult regulation of the menstrual cycle. Sometimes it will look like heavy PMS symptoms like cramping, bloating, mood changes, cravings, digestive problems, back pain, headaches etc. Once menses starts for the month it can create an increased number of days of flow, heavy clotting, extreme pain, spotting through the month, heavy flow, bloating and fatigue. What we’ve just described are tell tale signs of estrogen dominance in a menstruating woman. As this perpetuates over a number of years from menarche until the peri-menopause phase of a woman’s life this can set up a more exaggerated set of chronic symptoms as shown below and can also include Breast and Uterine cancer. What you will also see is that Estrogen Dominance and Progesterone Deficiency look very similar.
What causes Estrogen Dominance?
One of the main sources is through our food. Many foods contain pesticides and other unnatural chemicals. These chemicals have similar structure to estrogen and are called “xenoestrogens” which will also stimulate estrogen receptors and mimic its effects.
Supplementation of Estrogen through the birth control pill (BCP) or other sources. Many women are using the BCP to regulate their menstrual cycle, for skin problems (acne) or for birth control. We see many women on these for 15 years or longer. This is a significant accumulation of estrogen in the body further disrupting the balance between estrogen and progesterone. The reason so many women are using BCP’s for imbalances other than just for prevention of pregnancy is because they don’t know there are other options for them (and because sometimes it works really well). Some forms of BCP’s are the progesterone only pill which are non human identical and are in the form of progestin (medroxyprogesterone). Progestins are not structurally the same as progesterone and accumulating these progestins in the body will continue to disrupts the natural estrogen to progesterone ratio. This can potentially create problems in ovulation and make it more difficult to get pregnant. In addition to this, low progesterone is one of the most common reason for recurring miscarriages and therefore establishing a balance is critical.
The Overproduction of Estrogen
This can be due to ovarian cysts or tumors. Chronic stress also increases the production of estrogen by blocking healthy testosterone and increasing its conversion from DHEA (adrenal hormone-another hormone important for longevity). High fat storage as in obesity is a regular contributor to the estrogen excess. Adipocytes (fat tissue) release enzymes converting Testosterone and DHEA into estrogen. Therefore the more fat you have present, the more estrogen that will be manufactured.
Because estrogen is removed by the liver, a healthy functioning detoxification system needs to be maintained in order to keep things in balance. Nutrients such as B6, Magnesium, Protein, Essential Fatty acids, antioxidants, Indole 3 carbinol (found in flax), Diindole methane (found in broccoli), glutathione among others are responsible for regular elimination of these hormones and xenoestrogens. A healthy functioning digestive tract with good levels of the essential commensal bacteria in the gut also serve to eliminate an estrogen excess. Diseases such as liver cirrhosis and hepatitis already have compromised function. When we have too much daily alcohol and caffeine we further nutrient deplete our bodies to the point of impaired detoxification mechanisms. Increased sugar intake and low vegetable intake also decrease the livers ability to breakdown estrogen.
What is Progesterone’s role?
Progesterone is necessary for proper ovulation, it helps prepare the endometrium for implantation of an embryo and its level falls off quickly as soon as the body realizes its not pregnant. This sudden drop in progesterone is what causes a shedding of the lining and subsequent menstruation.
Protects against breast cysts
Helps use fat for energy and keep it off hips
Natural diuretic (water pill)
Facilitates thyroid hormone action
Normalizes blood clotting
Normalizes blood sugar levels
Normalizes zinc and copper levels
Restores proper cell oxygen levels
Helps prevent endometrial cancer
Helps prevent breast cancer
Increases bone building
Progesterone also affects brain function and produces a sense of calmness
Progesterone is a precursor to many hormones and one of the main Adrenal hormones is cortisol, our stress hormone. As cortisol becomes triggered chronically because of lifestyle factors, high sugar and processed food intake, stress at work, finances, kids etc it can have a very depleting effect on Progesterone. The more cortisol that gets triggered the less progesterone that’s available in the body.
We see many women through our Truebalance Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy Program and time and time again the biggest shift that progesterone creates for these women is a significant improvement in sleep, improved mood and sense of wellbeing, more energy and a reduction in hot flashes (if present). Bioidentical Progesterone works wonders on women and because of its effect on the breast tissue and antagonizing estrogen it has become a helpful tool for preventing breast cancer. As with all treatments hormone balancing or otherwise; working with lifestyle medicine, nutrition and stress reduction should all be part of the program.
We see many peri menopausal women and menopausal women in our practice. One of the the most common complaints during this time is hot flashes. This is an extremely uncomfortable and annoying experience for some and less so for others. What we see consistently in our practice is that lifestyle factors such as: history of medication (Birth Control Pills, acid blockers, SSRI’s etc), diet (high red meat, sugar and dairy), frequency of exercise, alcohol and stimulant use among others can contribute to the severity of these symptoms.
What is a hot flash? A hot flash is a sudden rise in temperature due to an activation of norepinephrine to dilate blood vessels causing flushing and sweating. This is in part caused by the drop in Estrogen at Menopause. Estrogen levels fluctuate considerably during the peri-menopausal period and then eventually bottoms out at menopause. Progesterone has been on a slow and steady decline and drops by 50% from the age of 25-40. These two hormones are constantly being monitored by the hypothalamus which regulates temperature and the subsequent release of norepinephrine.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Leutinizing Hormone (LH) are responsive to these levels as well and are stimulated for release when these levels drop. FSH remains high during the later stages of Peri-menopause and is looked at in relation to LH as a blood marker to determine this transition period for women. High FSH attempts to stimulate the follicle to release more estrogen during this time but does so unsuccessfully. This incomplete maturation of the follicles is also why there are more abnormal cycles around perimenopause.
LH surges, which in a normal menstrual cycle trigger the release of the follicle from the ovary and subsequent ovulation also coincide with hot flashes. Because ovarian function has declining receptivity and action during this time there can be multiple surges of LH through a single day. It becomes most uncomfortable when this is happening at night as it can prevent a restful deep sleep.
Why do some women get hot flashes and others don’t? There is something called a thermoneutral zone which refers to a narrow range of temperatures that when one fluctuates beyond their neutral zone a hot flash or shivering can be triggered. In women with frequent hot flashes, they tend to have a very small zone, so even 1/10 of a degree change can actually trigger a hot flash. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) in the form of Biest (Estradiol and Estriol) and progesterone is one of the main tools used in this clinic to create a larger thermoneutral zone therefore decreasing the frequency and elimination of these occurrences.
Steps to eliminate Hot Flashes:
1) Follow an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan. High red meat, dairy, peanuts, sugar, trans fats, processed foods stimulate prostaglandin’s to up-regulate arachadonic acid production. Arachadonic acid is part of an inflammatory cascade in the body which is highly reactive to free radical damage, oxidation and inflammation. This increased presence of Prostaglandins in the blood also stimulate the hypothalamus and subsequently affects temperature regulation. – Supplementation: Omega 3 oils, Curcumin, Boswelia, Bromelain, antioxidants.
2) Rest and Relaxation. Long, deep breathing and meditation down regulates the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight system) and subsequent release of norepinephrine. Supporting a healthy parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest and heal system) is critical for optimal neurotransmitter balance such as endorphins, serotonin and GABA. Getting to bed earlier (9-10pm) to work with the body’s natural hormonal rhythm can also be a significant help. – Heart Rate Variability is a very helpful tool to discover this imbalance and to reestablish an appropriate expression.
3) Exercise. Regular exercise not only helps to detoxify the body through the sweat, enhance the immune system by moving the lymphatics, and strengthen the cardiovascular system, it also helps to enhance the feel good endorphins which also support the parasympathetic nervous system. – Yoga works both as a form of exercise and a way to regulate the nervous system.
4) Balance Blood Sugar. Start the day with 30g of protein, have regular fibre (ground flax), 4-6 servings of above ground vegetables, limit your grain intake, and eat regular small meals every 3 hours. Oh, and avoid sugar! – First Line Therapy is a tool we implement for patients to structure individualized meal plans.
5) Check your hormones. Get some testing done to look and see what’s going on in the hormonal department. Estrogen, Progesterone, DHEA, Cortisol, Testosterone and Thyroid hormone all play a role in helping to restore balance. Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy is a very useful tool for bringing these organ systems into balance. There are also herbs, supplements, vitamins and minerals that can help to regulate the function of these systems as well which contribute to hormone balancing. They can be used together for an optimal wellness plan. – Our Truebalance BHRT Program is geared towards getting you back to being you through hormonal balance.
Check out our Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) page for more information. Click here