The Poop Scoop

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There is something Naturopathic Doctors are well known for among their patients.  Our discussions around digestion.  Healthy digestion is paramount for optimal health.  So… we want to know all about your poop.

Constipation is a common problem but it is very important to resolve this condition.  Sluggish gut function ultimately leads to the pooling of toxicity in the body.  If you can’t get it out, it re-circulates.  Makes sense.

This can lead to further deterioration of the gut, congestion of the liver, bad breath, water retention, skin problems, immune weakening and much more.

Many people feel squeamish talking about it.  In my office, we go there.  The more we understand the health of what’s going on in there, we can more easily uncover what each person needs and give health education to help them feel amazingly healthy.

Here’s my TOP 5 Poop Solutions:

  1. Free Your Mind
    • Stress is a major contributor to constipation.  Have you ever heard of the term “rest and digest”?  The digestive tract depends on downtime (mental and physical) to get it’s job done.  When we are all tied up being busy and important, blood flow to the digestive tract can be restricted and the musculature that is part of this organ constricts.
    • Hmmm… let’s see… contraction, restriction… that doesn’t sound like an environment for flow.
    • Also holding on to negative emotions (i.e. anger, grief, hatred, fear, resentment) can also restrict and constrict the gut.  Finding ways to let this go through healthy outlets like exercise, yoga, counselling, deep breathing, qi gong, tai chi, prayer or meditation is a top priority for gut health.

2. Hydrate

  • Drinking enough water cannot be understated.
  • Health Canada recommends 8-10 glasses of water a day.  This equal 2.0-2.5 LITRES of water.  Remember to drink clean filtered water.  Herbal teas count, too.
  • Water helps to flush the colon of stool.   ‘Nuff said.

3. Eat Roughage – Non Salad Veggies & Chia Seed

  • I’ve posted before and I’ll post it again… including a healthy dose of non-salad veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, green beans, asparagus, zucchini, cucumbers, celery, and so on, has way more clout that lettuce.
  • Salad greens are mainly water and do not contain much fiber.  Non salad greens contain lots of fiber and a little bit of water.  To strengthen your gut and provide the roughage needed to push the stool through we need a healthy dose of plant fiber.
  • Not to mention, choosing plant fiber from real food over taking a fiber supplement like metamucil will also provide us with a plethora of nutrients.
  • I also recommend adding 2 tbsp chia seed everyday for people who are chronically constipated.

4. Probiotics

  • Introducing health gut flora back in to the system can help relieve constipation.
  • Buyer beware: not all probiotics are effective.  Email me for more information.

5. Follow a Routine

  • Meal routine, sleep routine, exercise routine = poop routine.
  • Many people who find themselves out of synch will inevitably find their bowels out of synch.
  • Our bodies CRAVE routine.  We may not realize it when we have lost that in our lives, but once we get back to it, we feel so much better and things fall into place.

If you are already doing these things, have tried them and haven’t had success or aren’t sure were to start, talk with a Naturopathic Doctor to explore other safe, effective and balancing treatment options that are the best fit for you.  For more information, feel free to email me at drlaura@winhealth.ca.

 

 

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Spring Health Feature: Lung Health

lungs

When I was training to be a yoga instructor at the International Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Val Morin, Quebec, while learning about and practicing the yoga postures we also attended theory lectures.  Even though I was fresh out of my Naturopathic training, what I learned during my yoga teachers training really solidified my understanding about the union between health and mindfulness.

One moment during a lecture that struck me and has stayed with me ever since was when Swami (our teachers were Swamis) asked three simple, yet profound, questions:

1) How often do you feel you are hungry through the day?

— the class thought about it and we all could note that this was a noticeable and regular cue… especially with all the yoga we were doing!  😉

2) How often do you feel thirsty through the day?

— the class agreed we felt thirsty regularly, similar to feeling hungry.

Then she asked…

3) How often do you notice your breathing?

— And this question… to a class of people who had to deep breath through the all the yoga were were doing… left us all baffled!  For me the answer was “Never.”

Swami went on to say something that changed the way I thought about my body forever.  She reminded us that our lungs work silently, around the clock, our entire lives, to provide us with life.  Unyielding in its work, it goes on without pause and rarely gets noticed.  The same for the heart, digestion, brain and all the vital activities in the body.

I had a new respect and reverence for my internal organs.  Sounds weird…but this is essential.  Mindfulness brings an understanding for what each vital organ systems needs to thrive and stay in a healthy, happy state.  (Yes, happy… Remember Ketut telling Liz to “Smile in your Liver” in Eat, Pray, Love).

Our lungs are an important organ of detoxification, however they are also the gateway to our emotional, mental and spiritual health.  Being mindful of our breath, and deepening our breath can reduce anxiety, improve mental focus and help transport us firmly into the present moment.

We can support detoxification through our lungs by regular exercise.  Additionally, just taking a few seconds to listen to only our breath can bring about a calmness and a connection to how we breath, how we feel and what we need.

 

WIN-ning Wednesday: Popcorn = Toxic Treat?


Ever wonder how microwavable popcorn doesn’t stick to the bag when popped?  Or how the heat of the microwave doesn’t cause the bag to catch fire?  Hmmmm…

For many people, these questions don’t come up as they are preparing microwavable popcorn.  It’s been a fast, convenient treat for a couple decades.  Popcorn is supposed to be healthy, isn’t it?

Concern #1: A (Non) Sticky Situation – Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)

Microwave bags are coated with chemical substances to prevent the popcorn from sticking to the bag and prevent the bag from burning or catching fire.  A chemical part of this inner coating that has received a red flag is Perfuorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).  This is a chemical related to teflon, and is known as a “pervasive” chemical.

A pervasive chemical is one that lingers in the body long after it’s exposure.  It doesn’t get detoxified very well and can hang out for weeks, months or even years in our tissue.  When something lingers in our tissues, this means it becomes part of, or held on to by, our cells.  Our cells contain DNA.  These are the types of chemicals that can affect DNA over time.  Anything that messes with DNA has the potential to injure it, which can change a healthy cell into a cancer cell.

Some researchers would argue that there is such a small exposure through microwavable popcorn, so there couldn’t possibly be a risk.  However, microwave popcorn lovers take note, there are researchers who intensively study in the cutting edge field of Environmental Medicine who would say the opposite.

From Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Blog, an article on the health risks of microwave popcorn notes this:

Bill Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, reports that exposure to PFOA has been linked to cancer and other health risks. Eating as little as one bag of microwave popcorn a week gives you enough PFOA that it shows up on blood tests, according to Chameides.

Even if a person eats microwave popcorn occasionally, why does this matter?  The modern day human is exposed to a variety of pervasive chemicals every day – don’t let me get going on Glade air fresheners and Febreeze!!!   Over the course of months and years, we are exposed to countless amounts of chemicals through air, water and food.  PFOA may be a drop in the bucket, but put enough drops together and we can get an rainstorm.

The reality of our modern day environment is that it’s extremely polluted, and to protect my long term health I need to avoid burdening my body with chemicals that I can prevent being exposed to.

Dupont, the creator of all things non-stick, is the company that provides the manufactures of microwavable popcorn the chemicals to create the non-stick coating for their bags.  They have agreed to remove PFOA from their non-stick recipe by 2015!  Which means, we have a few years to go before it’s gone, and more than a boat load of popcorn will be eaten by people before that time.

Here’s what Dr. Andrew Wiel says about popcorn and PFOA in a web post reply to “Microwave Popcorn Threat?” from his Q & A library:

PFOA is also used to make Teflon and other stain-and stick-resistant materials including pizza boxes. In June 2005, a scientific advisory panel to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified PFOA as a “likely carcinogen” but drew no conclusions as to whether products made with it pose a cancer risk to humans. However, animal studies have identified four types of tumors in rats and mice exposed to PFOA.

In a 2009 agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, eight U.S. companies, including DuPont, agreed to remove all PFOAs from their products (excluding Teflon) by 2015 and to reduce manufacturing emissions by 95 percent as of this year (2010). While scientific studies have not established a link between microwave popcorn bags and other products containing trace amounts of PFOA to increases in cancer in humans, the chemical has been shown to cause cancer and birth defects in animals, and it is so pervasive that it’s detectable in the blood of 95 percent of Americans.

Concern #2 – (Artificial) Butter Best Forgotten – Diacetyl and Beyond

Diacetyl is the chemical used to created that delicious (fake) buttery flavour that we all know and love.  Unfortunately, it has been linked to a potentially fatal respiratory illness known as “pop corn lung.”

Yes.  I’m serious.  “Pop corn lung.”

Better known as, bronchiolitis obliterans, “pop corn lung” has affected people who regularly inhaled the aroma of the synthetic butter flavour.  Diacetyl is one of those pesky chemicals that you can’t see, and it doesn’t smell toxic (how could a buttery aroma be so bad?), but it is toxic.

Diacetyl was first linked to the development of bronchiolitis obliterans in those who worked at factories that made buttery flavouring agents.  In September 2008, the first reported case of the respiratory illness in a popcorn consumer came to light.

Diacetyl has been removed from the current artificial butter flavour, but there is STILL concern over the health impact of the ingredients for this flavouring agent.  Hey, I’ve not yet found an “artificial” food ingredient that’s actually good for us, so this is understandable.

Check out this blog post from “The Ethical Nag: Marketing Ethics for the Easily Swayed” by Carolyn Thomas which takes a witty look at microwavable popcorn, Diacetyl and the equally toxic replacement for it:

Microwave popcorn: (still) bad for you

Popcorn can be a healthy snack option when made the old fashioned way!  Ok… so I run the risk of sounding matronly, but there is an old fashioned way of popping popcorn that will result in a cleaner more wholesome snack.  Don’t worry… I listed a modern day options for all those whippersnappers out there.  🙂

1) On the stove:

*Special Note: my mom always used to make popcorn like this when I was young.  Of course, once we got that new fancy microwave back in the early 90s, there came a time when I started nagging her to buy microwave popcorn and this old way of popping corn faded for our family.  She was doing the right thing all along!  And… I am grateful that she did make popcorn on the stove, because I know it is possible and it actually works out quite well!

– Take a heavy bottom pot, like a soup pot.

– Add 2 tbsp coconut oil.  On low heat melt the oil until it coats the bottom of the pot.

– Add 1/2 cup corn kernels.  These can be purchased at the bulk food store and some grocery stores.

– Turn stove heat to Medium and put the lid on the pot.

– Wait.  The heat and steam from the pot will start the corn a poppin.’

– Gently shake the pot to help move the kernels around so they can all get popped.

– Just like in the microwave, as the popping noises diminish, the kernels are nearly all popped.

– Occasionally toward the end,  lift lid and check popcorn is not burning.

– Season with sea salt, other spices, or even consider sprinkling nutritional yeast over it for a buttery flavour.  Nutritional yeast is different from leavening yeast for baking.  You can find it at most health food stores and the bulk food store.

2) Air Popper

These can be purchased at most stores.  An air popper is a medium sized appliance that makes fresh pure pop corn from kernels using hot air.

WIN-ning Wednesday: Mood = Asthma?

A recent article about how the emotional state of mothers during pregnancy impacts their baby’s future health caught my attention today.  Firstly, because my baby is developing by the day, along with his/her state of health. Second, being in the field of Naturopathic Medicine for over a decade, I learned early on that emotions can be linked to certain health issues.

I was impressed by it!  It’s not often that main stream medicine makes these types of observations.

This is the article that features the study from the July issue of the medical journal Annals Allergy, Asthma & Immunology:

“ANXIETY, DEPRESSION IN PREGNANCY MAY RAISE KID’S ASTHMA RISK”

Certainly, asthma can have roots in diet, digestion, environmental triggers (like pollen, fragrance, chemicals, dander, dust) and/or a weak immune system.  But if health is build on mind, body and spirit, perhaps we should also add emotion as a factor on the list.

It has been accepted in Traditional Chinese Medicine that prolonged grief can injure the lungs.  I would have never believed it when I first learned this back in school, but time and time again, year after year, I often see people affected by grief, or chronic sadness, and concurrently struggle with breathing difficulties, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia.  My western medical brain says this may have to do with stress.  Grief and sadness can be interpreted as stress emotions by the body, and stress lowers the immune system.  However, for nearly 2000 years, long before there was knowledge of stress and the immune system, the connection between organ and emotion had been recognized and respected in Asia.

In addition to these emotions, what about anxiety?  Clinically, I have also seen a correlation between anxious states in people and asthmatic type breathing difficulties.  A revved up nervous system can cause the breath to quicken, and for some people to feel like they can’t get enough air in.  Many people who are anxious also complain of chest/lung tightness and can have a history of an asthma diagnosis.  Moreover, for these individuals, I’ll treat the anxiety and their lung symptoms get better or resolve completely.

As my baby develops, I am aware of the possibility that my fetus may have in utero experiences based on my reactions and emotions.  Mother and baby are connected physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Baby feels what mother feels.  We all know kids are very preceptive, and the same can be said for them before they are even born!

WIN-ning Wednesday: Yoga

I remember I took my first class when I was in university, and my instructor taught us classic hatha yoga.  I was looking for a way to deal with stress.

I didn’t know anything about yoga, but something drew me to it.  I didn’t have a yoga mat.  Some postures left me a bit taken aback (“… I have to do what…?”)  And as an exhausted student I always fell asleep during final meditation.

I felt great after we were done.  My senses were heightened.  I felt calmer and happier.  My mind was clearer.

Later, as I studied yoga, I realized how it worked on the physical aspect of muscle tone and flexibility, and also I was surprised to find out its deeper influence on internal organ health, brain function, self awareness and spirituality.  This is all well known now, and I’m happy to see such an understanding of the benefits of yoga in the mainstream.

I’m definitely of the more “simplistic” yoga camp.  Probably because of my own yoga training.  Likely because I prefer simplicity in many aspects of my life.  I know that props, blocks, pillows, blankets, bolsters, straps, etc., have a place in some classes and can be helpful for many people.

I most enjoy yoga that just involves a mat.  I find I can focus more on the yoga.  If my body is telling me that it’s not ready for a certain posture, I do what I can, rest if needed, and move on to the next posture when it’s time.

With just a mat, or a calm quite space to be in, there are so many great ways to put yoga in the day.

I can take a class when time allows it.

I also have some great DVDs at home.  Rodney Yee is one of my favorite instructors, but there are so many instructors out there on DVD, offering a variety of approaches to the practice.

Also, I get inspiration for one or two postures that my body might need on a particular day from the Yoga Journal website.  The Yoga Journal is one of the longest running magazines about yoga and their website has a great index of postures.

Just taking a moment to notice my breathing.  Full breath in, full breath out.  Exhale tension, inhale oxygen, positivity.