Rx: Headache or Rebound Headache?

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If you experience headaches or migraines and take over the counter (OTC) medication, such as tylenol, advil or aspirin to help relieve your symptoms, has your doctor or pharmacist discussed with you “medication-overuse headaches?”  If not, this is something to be aware of when it comes to addressing headache symptoms.

Medication overuse headache is a real clinical concern.  When over the counter analgesics are used too frequently to relieve headaches, a rebound headache can occur as a side effect of the medication.  Over the counter analgesics, such as tylenol, advil and aspirin, are a very common go-to for headache suffers.  However, many people are unaware that frequently using these medications can induce or worsen headaches.

To avoid medication-overuse headaches, OTC analgesics should be used for less than 15 days a month.  This is of consideration for those who experience persistent, frequent or long lasting headaches.

There are many effective non-pharmacological choices for the prevention and alleviation of headaches:

  • Optimal sleep (prevent + alleviate)
  • Eat regularly (prevent)
  • Exercise regularly (prevent)
  • Avoid triggers (prevent + alleviate)
  • Stay well hydrated (prevent + alleviate)
  • Stress management (prevent)

In addition to these non-pharmalogical options for headaches, there are many safe and effective natural remedies that can be used to alleviate the symptoms of a headache at it’s onset.  These options do not create the side effects or long term concerns that the OTC analgesics carry.  Also, when working with a Naturopathic Doctor to address headaches, you may also prevent headaches through optimizing other areas of your health and physiological function.

Live Dirty and Eat Clean

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Early in my practice I was so fortunate to learn about the importance of the body’s terrain, now commonly referred to as “THE MICROBIOME”, from my mentors in Naturopathic Medicine, the outstanding Dr. Gerard Guinot, Dr. Robert Abell, Dr. Dickson Thom and Dr. Mikhael Adams.  If you haven’t already heard, the next hot health topic is the microbiome, more specifically the gut microbiome.  We are going to hear more about this and there will be plenty of studies proving that our body’s terrain is an essential component to excellent health and illness prevention.

As a student, I first learned about the body’s ecology from one of my first professors in Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Denis O’Hara, who introduced us to the teachings of one of the first Naturopathic Doctors, Dr. Henry Lindlahr.  Dr. Lindlahr was talking about the microbiome way back in 1904!!

He wrote about his findings in which the microbiome of his patients were being bathed in a milieu of their own toxic excretions, which Dr. O’Hara would affectionately translate as “drowning in their own crud.”  This is as much of a problem now as it was then.  Food quality, environmental pollution, medication, physiological toxicity and a myriad of other things changes our gut terrain, which is leading to disease in so many people.  Moreover, the modern day focus on “killing germs” and germ phobia has decreased exposure, reduced tolerance to microbial diversity and limited immune development.  This has become a big obstacle for health in adults and an even bigger obstacle for the health today’s children.

This is not something that can be tested for in a lab, however when we build the terrain back up people feel better, their immune system gets stronger and physical symptoms disappear.

I always strive to educate patients about the value of supporting a healthy gut environment through nutrition and treatment.  Recently, I came across this video featuring Dr. Roynne Chutkan, an integrated gastroentrologist, that I had to share.  She eloquently and succinctly speaks to the the health philosophy that I am so passionate about and integrate in my health educating.

Time and time again, I have witnessed what my mentors and Dr. Chutkan have witnessed with regard to what it takes to live our healthiest lives.

Take some time to learn more about how gut health, clean eating and exposure to bacterial diversity can help prevent adults and children from developing chronic illness by watching Dr. Chutkan’s video.

For more information or to learn what you can do to strengthen the foundation of your health feel free to email me at drlaura@winhealth.ca.

 

 

Join Dr Laura: Tujawellness Meditation Challenge

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I have been invited to contribute to another awesome tujawellness initiative!  Last year I participated in their Mediation Challenge.  This year I am participating as a meditation guide.  I will be leading one of the meditations in the first week of the challenge.

I have also signed up and joined the meditation challenge this year.  Meditation benefits the body and the mind in so many ways.  I also love that tujawellness offers a link of the daily meditation to those who join, which makes completing the meditation that day easy.  Participants can meditate any time that works for them.

Last year, the meditation would be the last thing I did before going to bed.  I found that this was the best time for me as it was a great way to clear my mind of the things I did that day and cultivate some calmness and focus.

We can all use more restorative time in our lives.  Try out this challenge and feel the difference it will make!

Join me & learn to meditation for FREE – with daily guided meditation recordings. Sign up here.

 

Still Alice Sheds Light on Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

 

If you happened to watch the Golden Globes last Sunday you may have watched the lovely Julianne Moore accept an award for her performance of a woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease in a movie called Still Alice.

I read Still Alice when it was published a few years ago and its unflinchingly honest picture of a woman working through the diagnosis and symptoms of this disease was remarkable.  The impact of this story has stayed with me ever since.  In a very humanistic way the story reveals how Alice tries to make sense of her diagnosis and navigates her changing life.  The story pulls in Alice’s relationships with her family and the layers of life that are altered when a loved one is living with an illness, and more specifically, one that involves irreversible cognitive impairment.

As difficult as it can be to hear stories like this, Still Alice also shows us the bravery, strength, awareness and spirit that so many people diagnosed with a life changing illness carry with them and live out day to day.

The book is an excellent read.  I highly recommend it.  You will not be able to put it down.

Still Alice was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, and also in a few select theatres.  For those interested in the movie, Still Alice will be released in theatres at the end of January.

Dr. Laura’s Health Goals for 2015

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Do yoga on a tree stump in the mountains? That would be nice… I’m starting with just doing more of it. 🙂

 

I believe that it is the little things we do 365 days a year that keep us feeling great – body, mind and spirit.  However, it is always fun to consider a few attainable health goals for the new year.  It’s hard to not think of a new year as a fresh start.  So why not recycle, restart, refresh or renew some healthy habits?

Here are the simple healthy little things I’ve resolved to continue working on this year…

1) Drink More Water

Ahhh… water.   You and I are best buds.  Let’s keep it going this year.

2) Get A Regular Shot Of Yoga

The deep breathing and stretching from yoga significantly impacts how I feel physically and emotionally.  I find my joints feel better, my posture is better, my mood feels lighter and I can more easily adapt to the ups and downs that come my way each day.

Before having my first child five years ago I did yoga almost everyday.  After having my darling eldest, I lost that thread for a while and I have been working my way back to a regular practice.  In 2014 I did more yoga than in prior years and I noticed that I felt significantly better when I consistently practiced.

So here’s to 2015… more yoga for me… My Sunshine Vitamin.

3) Skin Brush Before Bed

I have had such positive feedback about those who have taken up skin brushing since reading my blog posts about it or my latest WO Magazine article.  I’m with you!  It’s such a great thing for our health.  This one’s staying in the mix with my bedtime routine.

4) Daily Dose of Fermented Food / Probiotic Supplement

This fall I made my first batch of probiotic rich, homemade fermented sauerkraut.  I’ve been enjoying a serving of it almost daily.  I just picked up two more healthy looking cabbages from the grocery store for my next batch.  My hope is to keep it going year round.

If sauerkraut isn’t your thing, taking a good quality (health food store variety or professionally recommended) probiotic is a great alternative.

5) Stay In The Moment

A patient told me today “Some days seem to go by so slowly until we look back and we realize how fast time has gone.”  Ferris Bueller once said “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around for a while you might miss it.”  I truly feel that savouring the moment and being in the present is so important.  There is so much beauty in the world and in our lives that is ever so subtle.  It is easily missed when we are hurried or caught up in our day.  When we slow down and clear our minds of the “static” we can take this beauty in and be part of it.

This goes beyond the awesome moments.  Enjoying the easy, breezy, fun in life is a given.  It is equally important to stay grounded, aware and appreciative of even the difficult or mundane things in life rather than rushing through or wishing these moments away.  Even these moments have purpose.

Slowing down and staying in the moment is a very challenging path, but I am going to keep working on it this year.

What are the healthy little things that you are working on this year?  I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment and let’s support each other in our journey toward our best health.

Wring Out The Stress: The Holidays are coming!

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Before you “Ring in the New Year” take time to wring out the stress.  The change of pace this time of year inevitably effects everyone in some way.  Some feel it more than others.

During the “regular” (i.e. non-Holiday) weeks of the year I feel my best when I get a weekly dose of yoga.  I always hope that the holiday bustle doesn’t sway me to skip my stretching because it can start to make a big difference in the way I feel, my energy, my sleep and my management of stress.

Stretching is a very effective way to release tension and detoxify the muscles, joints and organs.  When we combine that with deep breathing, even for just a few minutes, this can significantly balance our stress hormones (aka cortisol).

Taking in a regular yoga class is great, but there are some very simple and easy stretching exercises that you can do at home.  Check out this great example: How To Stretch The Toxins Out Of Your Body.

In the upcoming weeks and months, be sure to watch for more posts that feature the simple, easy, yoga inspired strategies that help detoxify and reduce stress.  These days I’m all about making the old school new again…those yogis truly knew what they were doing.

 

The Daily Health Habits I Swear By

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My colleague Dr. Natasha Turner was recently on Dr. Oz discussed her 9 daily health habits that she swears by.  This appearance was featured by Chatelaine magazine.  I thought it would be fun to share with all of you what my top picks would be.  Some of them are similar to Dr. Turner’s however, in my usual style, I tweak things a bit in my life to resonate with me.

Here’s my TOP Daily Health Habits — do these as often as possible each day and feel fantastic!

#1 DRINK REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER

This came in at #9 on Dr. Turner’s list but I put it up front and centre in my life.  If I have a day that I don’t drink enough water I feel it.  It’s important to drink clean water.  The cleanest water we can get these days is reverse osmosis water.  Many people ask me if drinking RO water is unhealthy for teeth and bones because it lacks certain minerals and I would disagree.  RO water can be re-mineralized and re-vitalized by adding a lemon wedge, some crushed mint leaves, a few cucumber slices or some liquid chlorophyll.

Bottom Line: Drink RO water to support detoxification and your body’s most essential needs.

#2 GET MOVING

Keeping my bones, muscles and mind strong by staying active is something that I highly value as the years go on.  More than ever before I really believe the old adage “Use it or lose it.”  I try to do something everyday that stretches and/or challenges my muscles and my bones.

Bottom Line: Regular activity is healthy for mind, body and spirit.

#3 EAT CLEAN

This can be easier some days than others due to my home and work life balance, but I always return to the basics each day.  Since I’ve been starting my day with a green smoothie I find this helps me get a good dose of greens at least once a day.  It’s also a great way to jump start my energy in the morning.  At lunch and dinner I try my best to incorporate veggies of some kind.  It’s all about a balance, and making healthy choices with nutrition always helps my body feel its best.

Bottom Line: Plant foods can help support regular healthy eating.  Choose whole foods when planning your meals.

#4 EAT GOOD FATS

My go to is olive oil when I’m cooking.  I drizzle it over everything.  I also often get a daily dose of coconut oil, flax seed oil, avocado, nuts and/or seeds in my day.  As time goes on I realize how good fats are important for the way my skin looks and how my joints feel.  Healthy fats are the body’s natural moisturizer and band-aid.  We also need fats to support the formation of all the hormones in our body.

Bottom Line: Don’t shy away from healthy fats.  Include them as often as possible.  I’d take a bath in olive oil if I could. JK. 😉

#5 BRUSH YOUR SKIN

I keep piping on and on about skin brushing… I am a true fan!  It is tremendously supportive of detoxification, breast tissue health and the immune system.  I find a place for skin brushing before bed.  I brush my teeth, floss my teeth and I brush my skin.  Not at the same time, of course.  But this is the best way I find I can get it done on a daily basis.

Bottom Line: Skin brushing is awesome!  It helps tone our skin, keep breast tissue healthy, detoxifies our cells and strengthens our immune system.

#6 EAT AT REGULAR TIMES

When I eat at regular times I find I have better energy, mental focus and mood.  Going too long between meals can cause dips in blood sugar, and I find I’m susceptible to feeling these.  Moreover, regular meals help keep metabolism sharp.  Our bodies favour routine and this goes for the way we nourish our bodies and how this support our metabolic needs.

Bottom Line: Eating regular meals provides better energy, mental focus and mood.

#7 I AVOID ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS, TOO!

I agree with Dr. Turner on this one.  Artificial sweeteners are nothing but trouble for our physiology.  Dr. Joseph Mercola talks in great length about how Artificial Sweeteners are a toxin for our body.  A long time ago I used to eat and drink things that contained artificial sweeteners and never gave it a second thought.  Over the years I have swapped them out for healthier options.

Bottom Line: Read labels to avoid artificial sweeteners.  Use natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup or stevia) in food and beverages.

#8 SLEEP!

I find I feel my best when I am asleep before midnight.  I have had instances in my past where I’ve had one too many late nights and I’ve come down with a cold.  Aside from depleting energy stores, lack of sleep impact the immune system, memory, hormone balance and metabolism.  Like many people, I can sometimes feel tired but wired at night.  There are times when I take natural sleep support before bed so I can get a solid restorative sleep without feeling drowsy in the morning.  I feel the most productive when I get to bed at a reasonable hour and have quality sleep.

Bottom Line: Regular bedtimes and quality sleep can help us feel like Wonder Woman (Guys: Insert superhero of choice here)!

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