Digestive Health

September is RESET Time!

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Every year around this time is it a common theme that we need to reset after a summer of less routine. September 1st, or when the kids go back to school, is usually a set point to do so for many. So if you have fallen off any of your health goals this summer, remember there are many just like you and it IS possible to get back on track! 

With that said, I want to remind you of simple things you can do to optimize your routine, and ultimately your energy, sleep, weight and mood. 

1. Set a wake time and bed time:

There is much research on the benefits of getting up at the same time every morning and going to sleep at the same time every night. Our body LOVES routine so it thrives when this happens. You may notice that after waking at the same time for a couple weeks with an alarm, your body will then naturally wake on its own at that time. Try using the bedtime app on your iPhone, but then put it on the dresser across your bed (not beside your head!) so you have to actually get up to turn it off. Wear earplugs, or a face mask, if need be while you adjust to this schedule.

2. Lemon Water in the Morning:

There are two reasons I love this for my patients. One, the warm water and lemon are wonderful for gut health. It acts as a gentle detoxifier in the morning and stimulates digestive juices. This can initiate a bowel movement or simply prime the digestive system for food. Second, it forces you to sit and relax in the morning (yes, please set out time to do this and not while running to get the kids packed up, or during a workout). Taking a few minutes in the morning for calm sets the tone for the day. We want to carry that feeling throughout the day. Meditation could be this time of calm for you as well if that suits you. 

3. Exercise in the Am:

The best time in chinese medicine to exercise is between 9-11 in the morning. It is the time of the Spleen, which in chinese medicine controls the muscles. I understand this is unreasonable for most but the point to take here is the earlier the better for exercise, especially if you have trouble sleeping. We want to wind down and calm the nervous system in the evening so a gentle yoga class is fine but a vigorous one may not be helpful. I love getting up and working up a sweat in the morning and then be ready to take on the rest of the day without worrying about exercise. 

4. Greens, Greens, Greens:

I always like to challenge my patients to try and get at least one serving of greens in a day (getting two?...even better!). Add spinach to a smoothie, make a breakfast hash with kale, eat a big salad at lunch or roast broccoli for dinner. Just something green, once a day πŸ™‚ 

5. Roll Back on Sweets:

Ice cream galore, cold ciders or coolers a plenty…summer staples for some. Let’s roll back on the sweets this September to balance blood sugar and energy as the darker days approach. If you know me, I have a sweet tooth, but I try to limit myself to a healthier treat such as a couple pieces of dark chocolate, a energy ball with dates or a few chocolate chips in the evening or during that 3pm slump. Out of sight, out of mind right! 

6. Blood Work to check:

If you have been feeling sluggish or anxious even during these summer months, I suggest getting some blood work done to assess a couple things. Vitamin D is key to have in a healthy range as we move into fall, as well as thyroid levels (TSH). Both affect your mood and energy and your thyroid controls your metabolism. Hypothyroidism is often missed and TSH is often something I find can be out of an ideal range yet not actual out of range for your MD to catch it yet. 

There you have it, a few basic things to check in with for yourself as we RESET this month! Any questions, I am always here to help. 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen 

Naturopathic Approach to Healing Eczcema

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If you suffer from eczema you know that the itching, redness, peeling, cracking and even blistering can range from annoying to debilitating. It can be very hard to pinpoint what the trigger is especially as the severity and location of the rash can change quickly. 

What is most frequently prescribed for eczema, or most rashes for that matter, is topical cortisone cream. While this can be very helpful in the short term to decrease severity of symptoms and therefore sometimes your sanity (trust me I’ve been there!), longterm use of cortisone cream can thin your skin and simply suppresses the rash instead of targeting the cause. For those with eczema on their face, cortisone cream is still prescribed, although with a disclaimer to not use too much or longterm. However, what else are you supposed to use if the rash does not go away? 

This is where Naturopathic Medicine can step in. By treating the root cause of eczema, the use of cortisone cream becomes minimal or not even necessary and your skin can look and feel as good as new! The root is typically due to poor gut health and immune function so that is what I target first for my patients. 

6 Steps to Healing Eczema

1. Determine any pattern:

Patterns are helpful to determine to better identify the cause. Take note if your skin is worse in the heat or cold. Do you notice a correlation between your hormones and skin, eg. does it flare just before your period or improve during pregnancy? 

2. Look at your diet:

The most common cause of eczema I see in my practice is due to a food sensitivity damaging the gut. Food sensitivities can be determined through an elimination diet or a simple blood prick test. The most common food trigger I see related to skin issues is dairy. You may not need to eliminate all dairy longterm, however I suggest avoiding all in your diet for 4 weeks and take not of any skin improvements. Other common food triggers are wheat, eggs, soy and corn. 

3. Heal the gut:

From experience, simply eliminating a food may not do the trick completely, especially if too much damage has been done to the gut. That is why I always pair an elimination diet with gut healing support. With continued stressors, a molecule called zonulin is released which weakens the tight junctions holding the intestinal cells together, allowing more permeability. It is therefore important to knit those cells back together with amino acids found in collagen or from glutamine. Some of the most effective gut healing supplements are probiotics, glutamine or collagen powder and omega 3 oil. Dosing depends on severity of the symptoms.

4. Control the immune function:

When the gut is more permeable, the immune system then reacts to foreign substances to leak through into the blood stream. It is therefore important to support and control the immune system to decrease inflammation. Probiotics, omega 3 fish oil and D3 are all helpful nutrients for this purpose. 

5. Heal the skin:

As we work on healing the gut, it is helpful to calm down the inflammation on the skin directly, depending on the severity of the symptoms. My go-to cream for this purpose contains a variety of soothing and healing herbs and nutrients including calendula, aloe vera and vitamin E.

6 . Address stress: 

Last but not least, address your stress levels! High cortisol exacerbates inflammation both in the digestive tract and throughout the body. Consider adrenal or stress support supplements, create a mindfulness practice for yourself and get some sleep, eight hours every night!

If you struggle with eczema try out these tips or don't hesitate to reach out to discuss proper diet changes, supplements and dosing for you. 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

Announcing the Follow Your Gut - Spring Cleanse for Gut Health

As you may know by now, I am passionate about gut health and healing the body from the inside out. I also do a Spring Cleanse each year. So...this year I am combining the two to create a wonderful 10 Day spring cleanse focussed on gut healing. In my practice I have seen many health concerns, such as eczema, autoimmune thyroid condition, rosacea, histamine intolerance, basic gut issues and much more, improve when we clear up and heal the gut! This cleanse will focus on the 4 R's in gut healing I have mentioned before while eating delicious and nourishing foods. Click the photo below to bring you to all the details. 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen 

The 4 R’s in Gut Healing - How to Heal IBS

You have heard it from me time and time again that the gut has a huge influence on the rest of our body, especially our immunity, our hormones, our mental health and skin health. Many common symptoms that I see in my practice start in the gut. Whether you have an issue with depression, eczema, an autoimmune condition or simply been diagnosed with IBS, this system to treat the gut is a great place to start.