constipation

My Secrets to Staying Healthy While Traveling

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Considering I am on vacation at the moment (just finished flying down a snowy mountain…shoop shoop) I wanted to share a few things I do to stay healthy when I am on vacation. 

I’ve learned that it is important to not stray too far away from your usual routine, mostly in terms of food and sleep, to ensure you feel your best while getting some much needed R&R. With the abundance of colds and flus flying around at the moment it is even more important to take care of yourself. When your life is filled with commitments that keep you very busy and stressed, our cortisol is typically higher. A high cortisol level stimulates immune cells to ward off inflammation and infection. When we finally get to relax our cortisol decreases, our immune system is down regulated giving way to potential colds and flus. This is an actual phenomenon! This is why people often tend to get sick when they are on vacation. So without further ado here is what I try to stick to to stay healthy:

Lemon water in the morning:

  • If this means bringing a lemon with me on the plane I will do it. Lemons are filled with vitamin C, helps with detoxification and helps keep those pipes moving. If you suffer from constipation while travelling this could give you that little push. I don’t drink coffee so when my fellow travellers are drinking their cup of joe I don’t feel like I am missing out. 

Immune Tea:

  • Have you ever brought your own tea on the plane with you? Flight attendants are always intrigued when my good friend, and fellow ND, and I pull out our own tea and snacks on a flight. Echinacea tea by Traditional Medicinals or a David’s tea immune blend are great options during the cold and flu season. 

Healthy Snacks:

  • My family knows that while traveling it is important to keep me fed to keep my energy and mood up. I usually always have healthy granola bars or nuts with me (homemade trail mix on the ski hill? Yes please!). If I am staying somewhere with friends, making a batch of hummus or energy bites always helps. This curbs the craving to grab Timbits, a sugary latte or chips. 

Greens:

  • This is something I definitely try not to stray from. When I am at home my goal is always to have at least one meal, hopefully two, with greens. Greens provide so much healthy nutrients and help with detoxification. When I’m traveling I let this slide to one meal a day if more difficult. If eating out, I grab a big salad for lunch, grab a green juice or have salad as a side for dinner. When staying at someones place, this may be a green smoothie for the group, or salad with dinner. 

Supplements:

That's me in the pink pants :) 

That's me in the pink pants :) 

  • This will vary for everyone but I bring the essentials with me to keep energy up, bowels healthy, and immune system supported. I sometimes think I am going to jinx myself if I bring my Cold-Pro supplement, but will wish I have it in case anyone including me gets sick. Sproos collagen even has little daily packs for gut health. 

Get Moving:

  • I want to keep my blood and lymph moving during vacation and my muscle strong. I try to search out some activity to do, whether skiing, playing tennis, or simply walking and stretching. Don’t be surprised if you finding me stretching in the airport or on the plane by the bathroom. 😃 

There you have it, my tips to stay healthy while on vacation. What are yours?

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

Digestive Health - Where is the pain?

When someone tells me they have stomach pain I always ask them to point to where the discomfort is, since we tend to use that reference loosely. The abdomen is complex with lots of parts (remember the game Operation?!) therefore pointing to the area of pain gives me the best reference of which area or organ is the actual issue. 

I continue to see a lot of digestive concerns in my practice and treat it differently depending on the area of discomfort. An abdominal exam also gives me an idea of what to treat…something that many of my patients claim no one has done yet throughout their years of abdominal complaints! 

So where is your pain?

Let’s go through the main areas of the abdomen along with the common issues in those areas. This is quite simplified, however it may help you zone in on the true cause of your concern and possible treatment options.

Upper abdomen: 

  • Esophagus 
  • Stomach

Common concerns:

  • Heartburn, reflux, GERD - Pain in the upper chest or under ribs in the middle is typically due to low stomach acid instead of high stomach acid (refer to this blog for a full explanation if your mind is blown!), creating a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES). We want to strengthen the sphincter, sooth the stomach and ultimately increase stomach acid.
  • Food feeling heavy or sits there - This is a common symptom of low stomach acid, or silent reflux.
  • H.pylori - This bacteria has run rampant in your stomach and is now causing damage. It is treated with triple or quadruple antibiotic therapy along with natural remedies to sooth and protect the stomach lining. Some options are DGL, marshmallow root, melatonin and even broccoli sprouts.

Middle abdomen:

  • Liver
  • Gallbladder
  • Pancreas
  • Upper intestines 

Common concerns:

  • Gallbladder insufficiency - Is there a mild pain under your right lower ribcage, worse when eating fat or fibre? When the digestive juices (HCl, bile, digestive enzymes) are not stimulated properly there is stagnation in the liver/gallbladder causing issues. We need to stimulate bile production and release with bitters, choline or other herbs. 
  • Gallbladder stones or sludge - Prolonged stagnation eventually creates stones or sludge. People on an oral contraceptive pill, taking a heartburn medication such as Nexium, or have a history of parasites have a higher risk of creating stones. We need to be more careful with treatment in this case.

Lower abdomen:

  • Lower intestines/colon 
  • Appendix 
  • Uterus/Ovaries 

Common concerns:

  • SIBO (Small intestine bacterial overgrowth) - To put it simply, bacteria that should only be in your large intestines has ascending upwards into the small intestine. There are several causes of SIBO to long to discuss here. Symptoms could vary from bloating and heartburn, to chronic constipation and/or diarrhea. Getting tested with your ND is helpful.
  • Constipation - If SIBO is not the root cause, common reasons for constipation would be lack of routine, bacteria imbalance, magnesium deficiency, lack of fibre in the diet or even dehydration. 
  • Chronic bloating - The more common reasons for chronic bloating are food sensitivities, bacteria imbalance, or SIBO. A simple detox or elimination diet can do wonders in decreasing bloating at times.
  • Endometriosis - Do you have disperse pain, worse during your menstruation? Endometriosis can cause scarring and adhesions within the abdomen leading to more pain during certain times of the month. These cases require more extensive testing and treatment. 

These concerns are covering the more common and simple causes of digestive complaints. I suggest consulting with a Naturopathic Doctor like myself to help with correct treatment or with support for more complex cases. 

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

Magnesium: The Relaxation Mineral

Magnesium is one of my favourite minerals and one I use a lot of in my practice due to the plethora of conditions it can help treat. Mainly it is a relaxation mineral, relaxing your muscles, mind and mood. It is a very simple mineral but a common definitely we tend to have. 

Magnesium is crucial to our bodies as it is needed in over 300 reactions as a co-enzyme. Basically if we don’t have enough magnesium our body doesn’t work optimally leading to several issues, including high blood pressure, migraines, cramps and even acid-reflux, just to name a few. Unfortunately magnesium is hard to get in our diet due to soil depletion and heavy food processing. It is also depleted from an excess of coffee or pop. It is found in foods such as seaweeds and other leafy greens, as well as nuts and seeds but it is difficult to eat enough of these foods to get sufficient magnesium levels. Multivitamins also don’t typically have enough magnesium to top up what we do get from our diet. Those supplements tend to have 0-70mg/tablet, which is far lower than the recommended dose. 

Wondering if you could use magnesium? What does magnesium help with:

  • Muscle pain - relaxes skeletal muscle, which we use during exercise and which get tight during times of stress 
  • Cramps - either muscle cramps like charlie-horses or hormonal cramps during your period
  • Constipation - relaxes smooth muscles in your gut (magnesium citrate is the best form for this)
  • Migraines - a great addition for migraine treatment plan 
  • Insomnia - helpful to take before bed
  • Stress - the more relaxed we are the better we can handle stress
  • Hypertension
  • fibromyalgia
  • Acid reflux
  • PMS - balances mood
  • Metabolic syndrome - eg. diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Osteoporosis - helps to build bone
  • and so on!

I usually use magnesium bis-glycinate in my practice as it is more highly absorbable and has less side effects, ie. loose stools. Magnesium citrate is only helpful with constipation. The dose varies depending on the person and symptoms, however a good starting dose would be 400mg at night. working up from there if needed. Talk to your ND about what dose is right for you. Epsom salt baths are a great addition to your bath routine as well as they are full of magnesium. Myers intravenous therapy, which I do in my practice, is another great way to get a helpful boost of magnesium. It is a safe supplement to take however be cautious and speak to your doctor if you have hypertension, kidney disease or are pregnant. 

Crave chocolate? You might just be deficient in magnesium! 

 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

 

(Photo credit: www.purabotanica.ca; articles.mercola.com)