You can have a healthy heart…Naturally!

6 Sep

There is so much we can do support the functioning of the most precious organ of our body- the heart.  Prevention plays a pivotal role in significantly decreasing our risk for cardiovascular conditions. A holistic approach that takes into account all the factors that may be contributing to our health including our nutritional status, lifestyle, stress, and environmental influences can provide a more sustainable avenue for long-term health and a better quality of life.  Naturopathic Doctors take a comprehensive approach to deal with the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease and promote prevention. Here are some easy ways to naturally support a healthy heart.

Get Moving!

Our heart is a hard working muscle that has to continuously contract and relax to provide blood to our entire body.  Just like every other muscle in our body it needs to be stimulated to remain strong.  Physical activity 4 or more days a week can have significant therapeutic benefits to our heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, mood, sleep and energy.  Create buddy system with a friend to encourage sustaining an exercise routine. Make it fun! Engage in physical activity that you enjoy doing.

Know your blood pressure!

Blood pressure measures the force of blood against your arteries as it circulates through your body.  High blood pressure puts more strain on the heart to pump harder.  It can affect the health of your arteries and important organs of our body such as our kidneys. Many factors influence our blood pressure including our salt intake, hydration, the condition of our arteries and kidneys, our stress levels and family history. One tip is to reduce your salt intake by avoiding packaged and canned foods. Avoid caffeinated drinks as they stimulate our nervous system and drink water instead to ensure hydration. Practice relaxation techniques and deep breathing on a daily basis.

Eat foods that have therapeutic benefits to your heart!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids– Which is found in fish, walnuts, hemp and flaxseed reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They improve our cholesterol markers, arterial health, and blood pressure.

Nuts and Seeds- Reduce cardiovascular risk. Nuts and seeds improve blood flow, normalize blood clotting, reduce total cholesterol and support healthy arteries.

Vegetables- Anti-oxidants in carotene or flavonoids which are found carrots, squash, dark greens and sweet potatoes protect our arteries from being damaged by free radicals and oxidation.

Fiber- Found in legumes, fruit, vegetable fibers and oatmeal help to reduce cholesterol.

Important vitamins vital to cardiovascular health

B Vitamins– Specifically B6, B12 and folic acid play an important role in decreasing homocysteine. High homocysteine levels are associated with cardiovascular risk. B Vitamins are depleted by many medications and stress.

Vitamin C– An important anti-oxidant may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by supporting arterial health and by preventing oxidative damage.

Magnesium- helps to relax the muscles of our arteries and supports the healthy contraction of our heart muscle.  It is found in dark green leafy vegetables and whole grains.

 It is important to consult with a health care practitioner such as a Naturopathic Doctor before introducing supplements and other natural health products as there may be interactions with your medications or health condition.

 

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Mood and Food. How the foods we eat can impact the way we feel!

27 Jul

 

Many of us can attest to the foods that make us feel good- often referred to as our comfort foods. These are the foods we crave in moments of stress, boredom and even when we’re sad. But why do we have these cravings? Often, cravings are a sign that there is a lack of essential nutrients in the body, or that there is an imbalance in the system. The body is tightly controlled by an array of reactions and chemical pathways that fuel the production of hormones, and influence our moods. These chemical pathways are influenced by our nutrition, genetics, environment and physiology. Let’s take a look a few connections between our food and our mood.

Brain Chemistry and Carbohydrates

The chemistry of our brain helps determine our moods. Certain foods have a direct effect on how our body  produces these chemical signals called neurotransmitters. Think of neurotransmitters as messengers that send signals to our cells to react and function in specific ways. The neurotransmitter serotonin is directly related to how we feel and our mood; it causes us to feel calm, happy and too much of it can cause drowsiness and fatigue. One theory suggests that this naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the brain can be influenced by the foods we eat. Carbohydrates directly affect our serotonin levels by increasing tryptophan, the aminoacid precursor of serotonin. Think of it this way: our body requires tryptophan to produce serotonin. Our bodies also require other essential vitamins and minerals to produce serotonin as well. If you are constantly craving carbohydrates or are struggling with depressed mood, it may be an indication that your body isn’t producing enough serotonin. Not every one responds to carbohydrates the same way. Some of us may be more sensitive to the effect of tryptophan and it’s relationship to producing more serotonin than others. Most pharmaceutical drugs that treat depression often target serotonin levels and allow serotonin levels to remain higher in the brain for a longer period of time.   Unfortunately antidepressants often have many side effects, and flooding your body with carbohydrates in response to our cravings can create many more health problems rather than providing a temporary solution. Naturopathic Doctors are trained to assess for nutrient depletions and can support your body to restore the chemical imbalances that could be playing a role in your food cravings.

The Insulin Connection

Simple carbohydrates like white breads, muffins, cookies, pastas etc, are broken down through our digestion system into sugar, or glucose. When our body is constantly flooded with high amounts of sugar, the pancreas becomes stressed to produce more insulin. Insulin is released in high amounts to deal with the high sugar load that’s in the system, and allows the cells to take up the glucose to be used for energy or to be stored as fat. As soon as the insulin responds to this demand, our blood sugar levels crash and we often go into reactive hypoglycemic state with the release of catecholamines. Symptoms such as anxiety, shakiness, nervousness, irritability, sleepiness and hunger take over as our body struggles to adjust to the spike and drop of blood sugar it just experienced. Unfortunately these simple carbohydrates are broken down quite rapidly and stored or used up in a matter of minutes, which further just leaves you feeling hungry and irritable, reaching for more. The cycle continues….

Stress and Cravings

We live in a culture where stress is often an unavoidable part of our daily lives. Our constant battle to cope with stress causes a myriad of hormonal fluctuations in our bodies. Cortisol, the main stress hormone that is released from our adrenal glands directly has an effect on our insulin and blood sugar levels. Consequently, our blood sugar goes on a roller coaster as it struggles to keep up with the body’s demands, and we often reach for a sweet food to keep our energy up. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that sugar craving as much as tripled in response to increased stress hormone levels and concluded that this opens the door to compulsive eating as well as other behaviors, such as taking drugs.

How our gut health influences our cravings

There are millions of organisms that reside in our gut. These beneficial and sometimes undesirable organisms are referred to our gut flora. Our diet has a significant impact on what types of organisms reside in our gut and influence the environment which allows for the growth of good and bad bacterias. A diet rich in simple carbohydrates, yeast and sugar support the overgrowth yeast and fungi. This can cause increased sugar and carbohydrate cravings for those who have fungal and yeast over growth. Further, food allergies and sensitivities, which are, impart due to an altered integrity and health of our gut can have a significant impact on our mood. Proper assessment of our digestive function, gut health, and detection of food allergies can provide insight and possibly resolve mood disorders, and many of our uncontrolled cravings.

Easy Ways To Help Control Your Food Cravings

1. Eat regular small meals every few hours

It’s It’s really important to eat regularly, as this helps to stabilize your blood sugar. Skipping meals can cause your body to fall in a hypoglycemic state, and also puts the body under stress. This often causes one to overeat, and reach for the sweet foods that give us that immediate sugar rush but which ultimately leaves us feeling more irritable, tired and hungry. The hormones that respond to this cycle of starving and over eating also cause us to load on the pounds!

2. Eat foods that high in fiber

Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber. Fiber allows us to feel full longer, and also helps to stabilize our blood sugar levels. Fiber also supports the beneficial gut flora as it helps to have regular bowel movements. We get most of our essential minerals and vitamins from these whole foods and whole grains. Grains such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, rye, flaxseed are a few examples of whole grains. Processed carbohydrates are void of essential minerals and vitamins and do not support healthy gut flora.

3. Practice stress management

We can train our bodies on how we would like to respond to stressors. Engaging in healthy coping mechanism when faced with a stressful situation allows us to avoid reaching for those comfort foods. It can be quite difficult to break old habits; however remembering to show compassion to our mind and body is critical to understanding the importance of doing something positive for yourself. Naturopathic Doctors can support your body to respond to stressors with more resilience and discuss ways to avoid going back to old habits of thinking and doing.

4. Assess for nutrient depletions

Consult a Naturopathic Doctor in order to determine if your body is getting enough nutrients for your body’s requirements. Not only does chronic stress deplete our bodies of vitamins and minerals, but medications also influence our nutrient load. Depending on your lifestyle, diet, and health history your body has unique requirements for proper functioning. A Naturopathic Doctor can also assess your gastrointestional function, treating any underlying dysbiosis and supporting healthy gut flora.

Mood conditions are among the fastest rising health issues worldwide. It’s encouraging and empowering to learn that what we put in our bodies can have a significant effect on our mood and well being. You have the power to change the way you feel!

Keys to unlocking effective weight loss

26 Jun
Have you tried different fad diets and weight loss programs only to gain the weight back?      
Are you tired of the weight around your waist that doesn’t seem to budge no matter what you do? 
Weight loss is far more complicated than burning more calories than one consumes.  There are many factors that may be causing or contributing to weight gain.  A naturopathic doctor will review a detailed assessment of your health and provide a much more comprehensive, sustainable and lasting approach that targets hormones, behavioural strategies, fat metabolism and neurotransmitters. Here are 7 factors that can contribute to weight gain.

1. Stress

Increased fat around the midline is often a sign that the body has been under chronic stress.  Cortisol is our main stress hormone that is released particularly when we are under long term stress, and it plays many roles in weight gain.  Cortisol will cause blood sugar spikes, leading to increased insulin levels and the production of fat.  Cortisol also negatively affects thyroid function, slowing down metabolism contributing to weight gain.  As a protective mechanism in response to high levels of cortisol our bodies store fat around our organs.  This not only leads to that dreaded abdominal fat, but also increases the risk of heart disease.  Healthy coping mechanisms and stress reduction techniques such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and deep breathing can help regulate the stress response. Studies have shown that herbs such as Rhodiola, Eleuterococcus Senticosus and Schisandra Chinesis have been effective in modulating and normalizing cortisol levels.  Vitamins such as Vitamin C, B5, B6, Mg, Zinc and K+ also help to support healthy cortisol levels.

2.      Blood Sugar Stability

If blood sugar is consistently fluctuating, even within normal ranges, it stimulates the release of insulin, which promotes fat production. Chronic amounts of insulin in the system may eventually lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.  Further, fluctuating blood sugar levels perpetuate carbohydrate and sugar cravings making it harder to make healthy food choices. Stress reduction, daily aerobic exercise and eating foods that are low in the glycemic index will reduce blood sugar spikes. Eating frequently and insuring proper amounts of protein and fiber throughout the day will also help stabilize blood sugar.  Studies have shown cinnamon, Mg, essential fatty acids and chromium to be effective in regulating blood sugar levels.

3.     Behavioural Strategies

Adopting healthy habits promotes sustainable weight loss and long term health.  Remember that one healthy habit breeds others!  The number one rule is don’t overwhelm yourself.  Make it easy by breaking it down to achievable and realistic goals.  Track your progress by monitoring your behaviours and journaling.  Cultivate relationships with health conscious individuals, friends and family. Social support will increase your likely hood of sticking with your health goals.

 4.     Movement Therapy

Walking 30 minutes 3-4 times a week at 60-70% of maximum heart rate can go along way in improving mood, making you feel motivated and promote weight loss.  Make exercise a daily habit that is as vital and non-negotiable to health as brushing your teeth.

5.      Sleep and Hydration

Sleep deprivation promotes insulin resistance and cortisol production. Healthy weight and insulin sensitivity requires an optimal level of 8 hrs of sleep/night. Individuals that  are chronically dehydrated often mistake thirst for hunger.  Drinking more water and staying hydrated will give you more energy and make you feel full longer.

6.     Fat Metabolism

Studies have shown deficiencies of certain key vitamins such as Vitamin C, B6, B3, Zinc and Mg  adversely affect healthy fat metabolism.  Correcting nutritional deficiencies can allow your body to optimally breakdown fat.

7.     Neurotransmitter Connection

Neurotransmitters are biochemical signals  your cells use to communicate.  Serotonin and dopamine are two neurotransmitters that affect your mood and “feel good” centers of your brain.  People who are emotional eaters often need support in the functioning and production of these signals.  Certain vitamins and amino acid precursors can help increase these neurotransmitters and significantly help in emotional stress related over eating.

To book a free 15 min consultation or an appointment with Dr. Arjomand, ND please call 519-823-1450.

Detoxification – How you can support your body

4 Apr

As a Naturopathic Doctor  one of our main principles when approaching health is striving to treat the root cause of illness. It is far too often that we determine toxicity be the root cause of many common conditions such as obesity, infertility, diabetes, asthma, fibromyalgia and depression.  Symptoms that are most commonly associated with increased toxicity include bloating, fatigue, brain fog, headaches and neurological symptoms.

In fact, evolving research is now starting to realize that exposure to many toxic agents in our environment are indeed associated with many common health concerns facing North America today. 

 So how are we exposed to these toxins, and what are they? 

Our exposure to toxins begins while we are still in the womb, and continues throughout our entire lives. We are in constant contact with toxins which are present in everything from the food we eat, to the water we drink, the products we put on our skin, and the air we breathe.  Every two years the Center for Disease Control  and Prevention in the United States conducts a chemical study which identifies human exposure to 212 toxic chemicals. This year they added 75 new chemicals which had never before been studied. Every chemical tested in the study including the 75 new ones, was found to be present in most or all of the study participants. Some of the most widely spread chemicals they found present in nearly everyone were Bisphenol A which is found in plastic products and can linings, Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers or PDE which is used as a flame retardant, Perfluorooctanoic Acid or PFOA which is found in non stick cookware, mercury which is most commonly found in seafood, and Acrylamide  which is chemical carcinogen formed when carbohydrate foods are cooked at high temperatures. All of these chemicals are associated with reproductive and developmental abnormalities, neurological dysfunctions, cancers, and are contributors to infertility.

So when we talk about detoxification, we’re referring to the natural process of clearing toxins from the body and mind while temporarily reducing the amount of incoming toxins.  Our liver, kidneys, colon, skin and lungs are the main detoxifying organs in our body.  They naturally have the ability to process toxins and rid them out from our bodies.  But due to the increasing levels of toxins we are exposed to, and the lack of necessary nutrients to fuel this filtering process sometimes our bodies can’t keep up with the stress. Over years toxins can build up and be stored in fat tissue, joints, the brain and various other tissues.  Certain foods can also burden the detoxifying process, while other foods and nutrients can help it.  In fact, specific nutrients, vitamins, minerals may be extremely important in influencing how well your body can detoxify.  Naturopathic Doctors can help you determine if the symptoms you suffer could be due to excessive toxins, and help put together a treatment plan that focuses on key nutrients which can assist your body’s detoxifying process become more efficient.

Spring is the perfect time to focus on detoxification since it’s a time of new beginnings, and a time to restore health.  In Chinese medicine the season corresponds to our liver, which is one of our main detoxifying organs.

So what can YOU do?

1.  Reduce exposure.  Use chemical free products in your home, take off your shoes when you entire a house and avoid personal products that contain pthalates and paraben. More than 50% of our toxin exposure comes from the food we eat; so avoid eating fruits and vegetables that part of the “dirty dozen list”; instead focus on getting these fruits and vegetables from the organic section in your grocery store.  These are a group of fruits and vegetables that tend to absorb a lot of water from the soil and therefore store a lot of the chemicals and pesticides inside themselves so that no matter how well you wash them–you’re still taking in the chemicals.  Some of these foods include celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, spinach, potatoes, kale and bell peppers. Always wash all produce very well before eating, peeling or cooking.

Conventionally raised meats/dairy products have been consistently tested and found to have the highest “hormone disrupting” chemicals in them.  Did you know that 25 million pounds of antibiotics per year is fed to livestock?   Choose free-range, hormone, antibiotic free dairy, meats, eggs when possibleChoose fresh cold-water fish instead of farm raised fish.

It’s not only what we eat that contributes to our toxicity, but also how our food is packaged.  Use stainless steal or glass drinking containers, reduce or eliminate plastic utensils, plates or storage containers…and never microwave food that’s stored in plastic!

2.  Consult with a professional before buying a detox kit!  Products and detox programs should support your liver and improve your body’s natural detoxification process.  They should also support the body’s ability to excrete these toxins to avoid them from recirculating and being stored.  Not all detox programs are healthy.  A lot of the kits you see at the health food stores are often quite aggravating to the gut and colon and some can cause muscle wasting, dehydration and further energy depletion.  It’s really important to consult with a naturopathic doctor before self prescribing yourself to different detox programs to ensure that your body is receiving the proper nutrients to fuel it’s toxin clearance activities, and to be conscious of any contraindications.

3.  Eliminate the foods that are known to be most allergenic.  Dairy, Sugar, Wheat and the nightshade vegetables are some of the main culprits for food sensitivities in our society. Eliminating these foods for 3-4 weeks gives our bodies a break and reduces the stress these foods could have on our digestive tract.   Instead increase eating vegetables in the Brassica family such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale which contain high levels of indol-3-carbinol which assists in metabolizing harmful estrogens.  They also contain high levels of antioxidants, which are crucial to the health of the liver during detoxification.

4. Start your day with a glass of warm water and ½ a lemon.  The taste of the sour lemon jump starts our digestive system and also acts as a gentle detox to the liver. Lemon is also high in vitamin C which is a potent antioxidant.

5.  Go to a steam room or sauna at least two times a week during this time. The heat from the sauna encourages toxin removal from the skin. Make sure to stay hydrated and drink 7-9 glasses of water a day during this process.  Water is so important in cleansing the blood and kidneys.  Dry skin brushing also helps the skin to clear toxins.  With a dry natural soft bristle brush, gently brush in circular motions starting from the feet and hands and work towards the heart.  The brushing can be done before bathing to help with exfoliation and the movement of lymph.

 6. Castor oil packs applied to the abdomen can also improve elimination through the bowels, kidneys and bladder.  It’s properties also stimulate the liver, pancreas and gall bladder.

Although these are some simple steps one can incorporate during a 3-4 detox period, it is important to consult with a naturopathic doctor to find out what nutrients, vitamins and minerals are essential to your body’s needs in order to provide it with the most effective, safe and pleasant detox experience.  This would intern decrease your risk for future chronic diseases and help treat your current health concerns.

Clear Skin for the Summer! How to combat acne naturally

28 Mar

Acne is almost never a stand alone issue.  All of our bodily systems are connected, and the skin is a major reflection of what’s going on inside the body.  People will often reach for those acne specific facial cleansers, creams and topical ointments to zap those unwanted breakouts, ignoring the fact that acne is often a sign that there are deeper underlying issues going on.  Using these topical treatments may reduce the unwanted physical appearance of acne, however most of us know that the results are often temporary- as soon as we stop using the product the acne returns, often with a vengeance.

So, what could be going on?

Let’s take a look:  Acne is an inflammatory condition of the sebaceous glands (oil producing glands) and hair follicles of the skin that is marked by the eruption of pimples or pustules, especially on the face. An increase in oil production beneath a blocked pore allows the bacteria (usually Propionibacterium acnes, and yeast) to cause inflammation.  This increase in oil production is usually stimulated by androgens; a group of steroid hormones which are increased during our puberty years, testosterone being the main one.

Since acne is multifaceted, it’s important to look at the whole picture and figure out what might be the underlying cause.  Here are a few aspects to take into consideration:

1)  Is there a hormonal imbalance?  Looking at hormone production can be vital when treating acne.  Women who notice a cyclical pattern with their acne, worse premenstrually, during menses or at ovulation usually indicates that a hormonal imbalance is in place. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition where you have excess androgens in the body and can cause significant acne.  Birth control pills can sometimes make acne worse, and I have often found when women come off their birth control pills, their acne comes back worse than before.

2) Identify Food Sensitivities.  Although there is much debate about the influence of food on the skin, it’s well known that certain foods don’t agree with everybody. If you’re eating foods that your body has an underlying sensitivity to, it may be causing chronic inflammation in your system.  The most common allergenic foods I have found which contribute to acne include : Dairy, sugar, wheat, soy, corn and peanuts. Dairy in itself contains many growth hormones which are precursors to androgens, as such they have many acne-promoting and acne-aggravating effects.  Take a look at your diet; how much dairy do you consume?

3) Improper digestion.  If you’re not breaking down your food properly, your body is not able to absorb and use the nutrients and vitamins from your food.  If you’re not eliminating properly (ie. suffering from constipation) toxins are accumulating and circulating in your system and can contribute to acne.

3) Insulin and Blood Sugar.  Spikes in blood sugar are known to contribute to the formation of acne.  Maintaining healthy insulin levels can play a major role in preventing breakouts.

4) Stress.  We all can relate to breakouts when we are under stress!  Cortisol our major stress hormone affects an entire cascade of hormones which can contribute to breakouts.  Further, stress also effects our insulin levels!

Here are a few tips you can implement in your life to promote clearer skin:

– Eliminate the main allergens (dairy, wheat, corn, soy, sugar, peanuts) for a period of 4-6 weeks to identify if any of these foods may be a contributor to your acne. After eliminating them for a period of time, introduce them back one by one spacing them days a part and monitor how your skin reacts.

– Consume a diet which is high in protein and low in carbohydrates and saturated fats.  The carbohydrates you consume should be whole grains high in fiber. Avoid “white foods” (white rice, white breads, white potatoes, sugar) and instead focus on brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat as your sources of grains.  This low-glycemic diet will help stabilize insulin levels and blood sugar.

Increase your consumption of vegetables high in vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and other greens.

Increase your Omega-3-fatty acids.   Cold water fish is your best source of omega-3, however most of us don’t get enough so I often recommend a Fish-oil supplement to insure you’re getting dosages which would be therapeutic.  Omega-3’s not only have anti-inflammatory effects, but they also may alter steroid hormone metabolism in a manner that reduces androgen production; and further may improve insulin sensitivity.

Practice skin hygiene:  Change your pillow case on a regular basis, clean cells phones or phones you constantly hold close your face on a regular basis as well.  Wash your face twice a day (morning and night) with gentle skin cleansers and luke-warm water to prevent irritation to the skin.  Remove all makeup before exercising or going to a sauna to avoid blocking your pores.

Talk to a Naturopath about supplementation that would be individualized to your needs.

Your liver is the main metabolizer of hormones, and the main filter of your blood. Often our liver is not able to keep up with the demand it’s faced with due to increased circulating toxins, hormones, and so many prescription medications it has to metabolize.  As such B Vitamins assist the liver in doing their job properly, and herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion, artichoke, curcumin also assist the  liver. Herbs such as chaste-tree help to balance estrogen and progesterone ratios.

Minerals such as magnesium, zinc and chromium may also help with insulin sensitivity.

Supplementing with probiotics contributes to a healthy gut flora, and will would help with better absorption of nutrients and better elimination of toxins.

Can’t Sleep? Talk to a Naturopath.

27 Mar

Over 30% of the population suffers from insomnia, and a total of 12.5% of the adult population uses prescribed anxiolytics or sedative hypnotics to help them sleep.  Recent evidence shows that even taking as little as 18 pills/year can increase your risk of death by 3.6 times. Avoiding taking these medications can significantly improve your quality of life and improve long term health.  Since psychological factors account for 50% of insomnia cases, Naturopathic Doctors can play a huge role in treating and preventing insomnia.

Insomnia may be a presenting symptom for a more serious health condition.  Naturopathic Doctors will take the time to do a thorough history and physical examination that can help identify any underlying health condition.

If you’re suffering from unrestful sleep take a look at some possible factors that can be affecting you:

Prescription medications: thyroid preparations, oral contraceptives, beta-blockers

Stimulants:  coffee, tea, alcohol, marijuana, chocolate, sugar

Anxiety and Depression: psychological factors can significantly impact sleep and quality of sleep.  Racing thoughts, nervousness, heart palpitations,  shallow breathing and worrying are some signs that your nervous system is wired and not allowing your body to relax for sleep.

Environmental Change: Our bodies LOVE routine and pattern.  Shift work, travel and sleeping in different environments can impact your sleep.  Our body has a tightly knit network of neurotransmitters and rhythm of hormones that are released at certain times of the day help to relax the body in preparation for sleep and that help sustain sleep.  Any change in time of day can prevent and alter the proper rhythm of melatonin your body releases for sleep. Changes in physical environment can also throw your system off.

Disruptive Environment: Whether it’s a tv, crying baby, a big window with light shinning through or a snoring partner, identifying the factors in your sleeping environment that may  be disrupting your quality of sleep is essential to making proper changes.

Weight: Obesity is the major risk factor for sleep apnea.  Excess fatty tissue in the airway can cause it to be narrowed leading to heavy snoring, and periods of interrupted breathing.  This can greatly diminish the quality of sleep and lead to serious health problems.  Weight loss is the most important aspect of long-term management.  A naturopathic doctor can help you get started on a sustainable and effective weight loss program that would contribute to long term health.

Restless Leg Syndrome  can significantly alter your quality of sleep.  It is characterized during waking by the irresistible urge to move legs, and almost all people effected by this also have a neuromuscular disorder that causes repeated contractions in one or more muscle groups typically in the legs during sleep.  Your partner might tell you that you’re constantly jerking in your sleep, or moving your legs in bed.  Most people are unaware they suffer from this, and might only notice that they repeatedly wake up during the night.  Digestive issues usually coexist with this condition and many have difficulty absorbing vitamins and minerals from food, as such they have deficiencies in many vitamins and minerals.  Magnesium, Vitamin B12, folic acid, Iron, and other minerals can significantly improve restless leg syndrome.

Here are some helpful tips to improve your quality of sleep before reaching for that pill!

1.  Sleep hygiene:

– Get a routine going.  Have a set ritual you do before bed, every night. Whether it’s drinking a cup of chamomile tea, taking a warm epson salt bath, or reading a book. Routine allows your mind to tune in that it’s bed time. That mindset allows your body to physiologically and psychologically prepare for sleep.

-Lights out.  Make sure there are no lights in the room, including night lights. Melatonin (our sleep hormone) is triggered by darkness.  Any small light in the room can be disrupting your body’s ability to produce  adequate melatonin.

-Only sleep in bed.  If you wake up during the night NEVER watch tv, read a book or do work in bed.  Train your mind that your bed is only meant for sleep. If you wake up during the night or can’t sleep get out of bed and do something else.

-Go to bed and wake up at the same time, if possible.

2.  Avoid all stimulants after 2pm. Avoid coffee, sugar, chocolate, alcohol and nicotine after 2pm as it will cause your nervous system to gear up an prevent your body from relaxing.

3. Exercise!  Regular physical activity improves sleep quality; 20 mins of aerobic exercise at heart rate between 60% and 75% of maximum (220 – age in yrs). Avoid exercising late in the evening.

4.  Stress management.  Progressive relaxation techniques and meditation can really help calm the mind and body before bed.

5.  Maintain healthy blood sugar levels by eating small portions of food regularly.  Focus on foods that are low in the glycemix index, and make sure meals contain protein and fiber. A drop in blood sugar can stimulate anxiety and cause awakenings at night.

There are many effective and safe herbs, amino acids and supplements that can significantly improve your sleep, without the negative side effects of sleeping pills.  Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor to find out what would best help you.