Monthly Archives: March 2018


What Do My Fingernails Have To Do With My Health?

You probably don’t think about them too much, except maybe which polish colour to choose next? But, you would be surprised what those little keratinized extensions of our fingertips (your fingernails) can tell us about our nutrition, and our health status overall.

Naturopaths often include an examination of a patient’s nails as part of their routine health evaluations. Signs on the nails may be an indication of certain conditions or deficiencies. However, it is not a definitive diagnosis without also looking at many other aspects of an individuals health in order to get the most informed view and create a holistic treatment plan.

What’s considered normal differs in everyone, but generally, fingernails should be clear, smooth, pliable and peachy-pink in colour.

There are numerous conditions that can affect the nails – too many to mention here, but in many cases, it is a nutritional deficiency that may be causing your nails’ odd appearance. However, it may also be that your body is not effectively absorbing nutrients or you may even be low in stomach acid – vital to digestion.

The 5 nail health signs to watch out for 

White spots

Ever noticed white spots on your nails? While this is most often due to mild trauma (like nicking your nail), it can also indicate a zinc deficiency.

Zinc is found in such foods as oysters, red meat (especially lamb), legumes, nuts, egg yolks, oats, pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables, and cocoa or dark chocolate.

Hangnails 

Lack of Vitamin C can cause pesky and often painful hangnails. Vitamin C-rich foods are citrus, berries, mango, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, and leafy greens.

Horizontal lines, ridges and spoons 

What about horizontal lines or ridges across your nails? Sometimes called Beau’s lines – these may also be due to a zinc deficiency but could be indicative of low iron or anemia. Nails can be spoon-shaped at the tips with iron deficiency as well.

To pump more iron into your day, try spinach and other dark leafy greens like kale. Also, red meat, liver, egg yolks, beans, shellfish, dried fruit and blackstrap molasses – are all good sources.

It’s a good idea to pair those iron-rich foods with sources of Vitamin C for better absorption.

Example: fresh spinach and strawberry salad, topped with lean chicken for extra protein – also vitally important for healthy looking nails.

Dry, brittle and peeling

Dry, brittle, thin or peeling nails? Could just be dry nails, but possibly a lack of protein, Vitamin D &/or B Vitamins in your diet.

Food sources of Vitamin D are limited as it’s naturally attained by exposing your skin to sunlight, hence being dubbed the Sunshine Vitamin. However, fish, liver and egg yolks are reasonable sources, as well as many fortified Dairy products.

Be sure to incorporate Vitamin B-rich foods into your diet as well, such as whole grains like brown rice and oats, eggs, yogurt, milk and cheese, poultry, lamb, mushrooms, pumpkin, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, cauliflower and many types of beans.

No half moons? 

Ever noticed the lighter-toned half-moons at the base of your fingernail? Or perhaps you haven’t noticed them because they’re absent!

This is usually due to a Vitamin B12 deficiency and is associated with anemia. Vegetarians often have trouble attaining enough B12 as it’s found primarily in animal foods, so they’re encouraged to sprinkle cheesy-tasting nutritional yeast onto foods – or supplementation may be prudent.

As always, getting your full complement of nutrients is encouraged through whole food sources, but sometimes our diet just isn’t meeting all of our needs and this is where supplementation may be necessary – for all of the reasons we discussed in the article “Nutrient Deficiencies: Why Nearly Everyone Has Them!”

Check your nails weekly for something that may be out of the “norm” for you and inform your health practitioner. Be sure to discuss what nutritional deficiencies, digestion and/or absorption issues may be a contributing factor to the problem.

CanPrev recommends 

Vitamin D3 + K2
Zinc 
Iron 
Synergy B 

Beyond The Health Benefits: 10 things You Should Know About Water

Water is the foundation and truly the lifeblood of our health.

It is essential to sustain life, and assists in everything from our digestion to brain function. But, there are a lot of surprising ways water can help us maintain our health that we’ve maybe never considered.

Here are 10 things to know about how water keeps us healthy and how you can keep our drinking water safe:

Say goodbye to 8 cups a day

So how much water do we really need to drink? Gone are the days of the “8 cups of water per day” rule.  

In fact, the Dietitians of Canada recommend approximately 12 cups (3 L) for men over 19 and ~9 cups (2.2 L) daily for women over 19 years of age. However, this is the total recommended fluid intake which includes other beverages as well as high-water-content fruits and vegetables.

While this is a good guideline to start with, it’s also important to note that factors such as activity level and humid climates will increase our need for water.

As we lose more sweat with activity and in warmer temperatures, it’s important to replace the fluid in our body more frequently.

Drink up before you drive (water that is!)

It turns out that a hydrated driver is a better driver.

A 2015 study from Loughborough University studied the effects of dehydration on drivers. The conclusions were that dehydration significantly affected a driver’s cognitive and motor skills.

According to the study, when drivers were mildly dehydrated, they were more likely to make errors such as lane drifting and late braking.

Since our brain is primarily made of water, ensuring adequate hydration will help to keep it functioning at its best and as indicated by this particular study – help you stay safe on the road!

Some like it hot

Can the temperature of your drinking water really make a difference in your health? Some believe that it can.

Drinking your water tolerably hot can aid in digestion, improve circulation and even relieve nasal congestion.

Try drinking your water at a higher temperature, plus adding a little fresh lemon juice to it will give it an extra boost for your digestive health while keeping you hydrated.

Others like it cold

Just as the temperature of your drinking water is important, so is the temperature of your shower.

While it may not seem appealing to start your day with an ice-cold shower, the benefits may cause for pause!

Taking a cold shower touts significant health benefits including improved circulation, quicker post-workout recovery (think like an Olympian!), better sleep and a stronger immune system.

One 2015 study found that participants who took a cold shower had 29% less sick days than those who didn’t.

If you’re not ready to commit to a full cold shower, you can still reap some of the rewards by turning the temperature down just before you get out.

Are you bottled in or tapped out?

Is “clean” bottled water really all it’s cracked up to be? The bottled water industry really wants you to think so.

Bottled water manufacturers lead us to believe their water is coming from a pure mountain spring, when in fact, over 25% of the sources are using a municipal supplier.

Translation: it’s not a whole lot different than your tap water.

The other major concern with bottled water is the plastic packaging which often contains harmful chemicals such as phthalates; an endocrine disruptor that has documented negative effects on our health and hormones.

And while most bottles are recyclable, it is estimated that only 14% of bottles are recycled.

The bottom line on bottled water: Bottled water isn’t any safer than tap water. Save your dollars and use a reusable, preferably glass vessel to fill up and drink from, and to keep the environment – and your health safe.

Want to know more about the safety of bottled water? Read more in this CBC News Report.

Go alkaline – your bones will love you for it

Some swear that alkaline water is the key to health, while others say it’s not worth the hype. The verdict, however, is entirely dependent on your body’s unique needs.

At a basic level (pun intended), alkaline water has a much lower acidity than tap water and also contains a higher amount of essential minerals such as calcium, silica, magnesium, and potassium.

Drinking alkaline water is reported to have a positive effect for those with osteoporosis, as well as on pancreatic beta cells due to its higher mineral content and antioxidant effect.

You can go too neutral  

While there can be significant benefits of alkaline drinking water for some, there can also be negative side effects for others.

Drinking water with a higher pH level changes the stomach’s natural acidity. This change of stomach acidity can lead to a condition called alkalosis. Side effects this condition can include nausea, vomiting, muscle twitching, and extreme confusion.

Check with your Naturopath to decide if alkaline water would be a helpful addition to your health routine.

Float your worries away

You don’t always have to drink your water to receive health benefits from it! Floatation therapy is a growing trend citing benefits from improved creativity to stress reduction.

A typical floatation therapy session involves entering a sensory deprivation chamber filled with water and an abundance of medical grade Epsom salts. Participants put in earplugs and then simply lie back and relax.

After a typical 60-90 minute session, participants report a significant reduction of stress.  

A Swedish research study concluded the same, citing significant beneficial effects for those with sleep difficulties, difficulties in emotional regulation, and depression.

Our water sources are on the decline

It’s easy to take our drinking water for granted when we can literally just go to our tap and get fresh water on demand.

However, our water sources are becoming increasingly more limited and contaminated on a global level. Without change, we run the risk of relying on polluted drinking water that can make us sick.

We can do our part to keep our water safe by reducing or eliminating widely used chemicals such as fertilizer and toxic cleaning products in our homes.

Regular car maintenance can also eliminate oil and antifreeze leaks that run off into our water system.

Small changes to our lifestyle can help us maintain the safe drinking water that does so much to keep us healthy.

Stop the salt insanity!

Every winter, folks in colder climates salt their roads, sidewalks, and driveways to prevent slips and falls.

While this may be good for keeping us upright as we navigate the icy conditions, this salt doesn’t just disappear into thin air. It ends up in our lakes and streams AND our drinking water.

The consequence? High amounts of salt in our water can harm or even kill aquatic animals and plants which affects overall water quality. In addition to this, drinking water with a higher salt content can be dangerous for those with hypertension.

To reduce the harm to our water supply, use salt more sparingly if not at all. In cooler temperatures (-10C or lower) try switching to sand instead.

Hopefully, we’ve shed some light on all the ways water touches our life, our environment, and its health benefits.

Nutrient Deficiencies: Why Nearly Everyone Has Them

Health Canada advises, along with many nutrition professionals, “that a healthy and balanced diet can provide most people with the nutrients essential for good health.” [1]

Does that mean that if we eat a “healthy and balanced diet”, that we’ll be meeting all the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) and we’ll be safe from nutritional deficiency?

Or do some of us follow this recommendation and still have a nutrient deficiency – and not even know it?

According to the latest Health Canada Community Survey (June 2017), Canadians as a population are not as well nourished as we may think.

Fruit and vegetables contain a range of beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and other phytochemicals. Consumption of at least 5 servings per day is linked with a reduced risk of various diseases, including cancers and heart disease. [2]

Therefore, fruit and vegetable consumption is considered a healthy behaviour, and a good indication of the overall diet and nutritional quality of a population.

However, in data from the 2017 survey, less than a third (30.0%) of Canadians aged 12 and older reported that they ate the recommended number of servings.

Given the rather significant shortfall in Canadians reaching their “5-a-day”, it’s not surprising that there are a number of nutrients reported to be lacking in our diets.

With the overall lack of adequate fruit and vegetable servings, along with soil depletion, over-processing of food, and treated water…well, it’s no wonder that many of us are lacking in a number of key nutrients that we once attained easily and ought to supplement.

For example, today you would have to eat 4 carrots to get the full amount of Magnesium available that was in just one carrot 80 years ago. Unfortunately, you’re not eating your grandmother’s carrots anymore!

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps maintain normal vision and keeps your immune system, skin, and eyes functioning at their best.

More than 35% of Canadians age 19 and over consumed vitamin A in quantities below the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR). [3]

Carotenoids, such a beta carotene, are converted into vitamin A in the body, and it gives fruits and vegetables their orange, red and yellow colour (such as pumpkin, carrots and bell peppers).

It is also found in dark green leafy vegetables; with liver, dairy, eggs, and fatty fish also being good sources of Vitamin A.

Magnesium

A nutrient that is commonly found in plant foods, but also commonly lacking in our diets, is Magnesium.

This multi-tasking mineral is involved as a cofactor for a range of biochemical reactions in the body including nerve and muscle function, protein synthesis and blood glucose control.

It is also involved in the structural development of bone and plays a role in nerve impulse conduction, maintaining a normal heart rhythm and muscle contraction.

Evidence suggests that 34% of Canadians over the age of 19 consumed magnesium in quantities below the EAR. [3]

Magnesium is found mostly in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables. Milk and yogurt contain some magnesium as well.

Calcium

Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, provides the structure and rigidity of bones and teeth. It is also important for proper muscle function, hormone secretion, and nerve transmission. [4]

It was reported that there’s an increasing prevalence of calcium inadequacy with older age.

Calcium is found in dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, fish with soft bones and fortified products.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of Calcium from the gut, and for supporting optimal bone health. It is also thought to play a role in immune function, healthy skin, and muscle strength.

While our bodies can make vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, during the fall and winter months, and in northern climates, where sunlight hours are limited, it can be hard to get enough of this critical nutrient, and vitamin D deficiency can become (and is becoming) more prominent.

While about 80% of the adult Canadian population are not getting the vitamin D they need from dietary sources [3], available clinical measures do not suggest widespread Vitamin D deficiency in the Canadian population. [5] [6]

The major food sources of Vitamin D are foods that have been fortified or through supplementation.

So, how do we get all the nutrients we need?

We’ve always recommended, first and foremost, that people strive to meet their nutritional requirements through eating a varied diet with a foundation of whole and unprocessed foods.

But, as we’ve established, for various reasons it’s apparent that many of us may not be getting all the nutrients we need for optimal health.

Lack of nutrient bioavailability, poor dietary choices, restricted diets, food sensitivities, various health conditions (such as gastrointestinal disorders and poor absorption), some medications and age can all play a part in an individual’s ability to meet their recommended dietary intakes.

To determine whether or not you are at risk of a nutritional deficiency, it is important to discuss your concerns with a naturopathic doctor, a qualified nutrition professional or another healthcare provider.

In many situations, as we’ve discussed here, where diet alone is unable to meet your recommended nutrient requirements, therapeutic supplementation may be a good option.

 

Referenced Studies & Content

[1] Statistics Canada: Canadian Community Health Survey, June 2017 – Nutrition: Nutrient intakes from food and nutritional supplements
[2] Statistics Canada: Health Fact Sheets. Fruit and Vegetable consumption
[3] Health Canada: Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone?
[4] Health Canada: Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes
[5] Health Reports, March 2010: Vitamin D status of Canadians as measured in the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey
[6] American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011: The vitamin D status of Canadians relative to the 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes: An examination in children and adults with and without supplement use

Don’t go through spring without these 5 wonder herbs

The perfect herbal remedies for your healthiest spring yet

Spring is just around the corner, and for most of us, it couldn’t come soon enough. Though winter has its charms, namely the cozy evenings by the fireplace and hikes in the snow-covered forest, the short days and blizzards can sure get to us after a while. When spring finally comes, we start to feel alive again. But here’s the thing: as much as we love spring, it’s also a season that can spark its own set of health issues. Read on to find out which health concerns are most common in the spring, and which herbal remedies you can turn to for your healthiest, happiest spring yet.

Spring detox

There’s no better time than spring to kick-start a gentle body cleanse. After the long winter months spent inside, usually exercising less (hello, Netflix!), and indulging in yummy comfort foods like casseroles and roasts, common spring concerns include feelings of fatigue and sluggishness. Other symptoms like sneaky weight gain and brain fog also signal you might benefit from a healthy spring detox.

Start your cleanse by kicking your daily coffee habit and cutting back on sweets, alcohol, and junk foods. Swap your usual beverages for fresh juices, superfood smoothies, and warm tonics like golden milk or matcha. Food-wise, up your intake of fiber and colorful plant foods like antioxidant-rich berries and dark leafy greens.

For herbal support, try dandelion. The whole plant supports a healthy spring detox. Use the leaves as a salad green or steeped as tea to stimulate the gallbladder, support digestion, and for better liver and kidney health. Use dandelion root to clear liver toxins and banish bloat.

Seasonal allergies

Flower buds and blooming greenery are a sight most of us look forward to—but if you’re one of those who suffers from seasonal allergies, spring equals weeks of constant sneezing and sniffling. Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, brings unpleasant cold-like symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes, and coughing.

Tree pollen is a usual culprit when it comes to seasonal allergies, and common advice to kick hay fever symptoms includes staying indoors with windows closed (sounds like fun?). That’s where herbal remedies come to the rescue. To relieve seasonal allergy symptoms, try nettle. Use it as a tea, tincture, in capsules, or even fresh and whipped up in a tasty batch of wild nettle pesto.

Nettle acts as a general tonic to naturally increase the body’s resistance to allergy, while also lowering inflammation and curbing the release of histamine.

Spring blues

Yes, even though we tend to associate seasonal affective disorder with the cold, dark winter months, spring too can trigger a set of difficult emotions for those of us who have depression and anxiety. Experts blame a few factors when it comes to the spring blues: hormonal shifts, melatonin imbalance, and even inflammation-causing seasonal allergies might be involved in bringing you down.

To kick mild spring blues symptoms, your self-care action plan includes upping physical exercise to trigger a flow of feel-good endorphins. Herb-wise, you can turn to St John’s Wort. Herbal remedies made from the sunny, bright yellow flower can alleviate symptoms of mild depression, especially when combined with light therapy.

Skin woes

Taking off the winter layers and stepping out into the world post-winter lull means your skin is more exposed to the elements during the spring. Common skin ailments at that time of year include sunburn, mosquito bites, brushes with poison ivy, and the occasional nettle sting. What’s more, since your skin hasn’t seen the sun in a while, you can be more prone to a sun rash on your arms and face. Cue the red, inflamed, and itchy skin that makes you wish for just one more snowstorm.

But, as with most things, there’s a herb for that: plantain. The common weed that pokes its head in the springtime also happens to be the ultimate skin savior. Use it as a salve and apply it over the skin whenever needed for instant relief from inflammation and itch.

Lyme time

The return of warm weather can bring anxiety for those of us concerned about Lyme Disease. After all, fun outdoor activities like camping and hiking can up your risk of tick bites. Though there is no guaranteed way to guard against Lyme Disease (besides, maybe, avoiding the woods at all cost!), anyone who wants to curb their risk of getting sick can focus on boosting their immune system.

This spring, try reishi mushroom as an adaptogen to support immune function. Use it as a herbal tea, tincture, in capsules, or even in powder form added to smoothies and hot chocolate for a tasty, immune-boosting treat.

Preparing Your Immune System for Air Travel

You’re dreaming of sunshine, scenic views, and counting the minutes till you board an airplane en route to your spring break getaway. But, have you stopped to consider how you’ll stay healthy during your travels?

It’s no secret that airports and planes are well-traveled public spaces that contain a ton of germs! Some of which can make you sick, thanks to close proximity with the thousands of passengers that frequent air travel on a daily basis – and we have no control over the hygiene of others!

Even if you aren’t overly concerned with germs in everyday life, it doesn’t hurt to take extra precaution to protect yourself from potential illness-causing germs when traveling.

A healthy immune system is your first line of defense against catching an unwelcome virus, like the cold or the flu. Before you put the finishing touches on your packing list, there are a few items you’ll want to include to help ensure you arrive at your destination in good health.

1. Sanitize Your Air Space

Come prepared to clean your personal flight space!

  • Include cleansing wipes and hand sanitizer in your carry-on and use them diligently throughout your flight
  • Upon boarding, wipe down any surfaces you may touch, like your tray, seatbelt buckle, headrest, armrests, and overhead air vent controls
  • Clean your hands with sanitizer before eating and drinking and after using the bathroom.
  • To avoid direct contact with bathroom surfaces, use clean paper towels when handling flushers, faucets, and door handles
  • 2. Stay Hydrated

    Flying is dehydrating to the body due to dry air and low humidity levels found at high altitudes. A study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research suggests the low humidity levels on planes are to blame for the increased prevalence of colds among air travelers [1].

  • Drinking water throughout your flight can counteract the drying effects of air travel
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, like coffee and soda, as these can dehydrate you further
  • Don’t rely only on the beverage cart for your hydration needs – it’s not enough, especially during long flights.
  • Purchase bottled water in the airport prior to take-off or bring a refillable bottle from home to guarantee you have plenty of fresh water to sip throughout your flight
  • Vitamin C can also enhance immune system function to help protect you against germs. However, our bodies are unable to make and store this vitamin, so consider enhancing your water with a supplement containing Vitamin C, like the healthy dose you get in our effervescent ElectroMag!

    3. Protect Naturally

    Proper hydration also helps support the mucous membranes in your nostrils and throat. These membranes, also known as the Mucociliary Clearance System, are a first-line of defense against invasive air-borne pathogens [1].

    The dry air found in plane cabins prevents this mucous from effectively clearing away harmful bacteria, leaving your respiratory system more susceptible to catching a cold while you’re flying.

    Essential oils, like tea tree and oregano, have antimicrobial properties that can aid your mucous membranes and immune system in protecting against air-borne bacteria.

    Studies have found tea tree oil works as an antimicrobial by disturbing microbes’ protective cellular structures [3].

    Naturopath tips:

    Place a dab of tea tree ointment in each nostril before flying to help capture harmful germs and prevent them from entering and infecting the respiratory system.

    It’s believed oregano oil works the same way. A few drops of oregano oil placed under your tongue or added to your water can help ward off harmful germs.

    While research shows you can boost your immunity and/or shorten the duration of a cold with supplementation, the best thing to do to ensure a strong immune system during travel is to take good care of it regularly – aka before and after any trips.

    Regular healthy habits to help keep your immune system strong include:

    • getting plenty of quality sleep
    • drinking lots of water
    • eating a balanced diet, rich with whole foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables
    • supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin and a therapeutic dose of gut-protecting probiotics

    Managing stress is also important since chronic stress decreases the function of your immune system.

    If flying or preparing for travel leaves you feeling stressed or anxious, take extra care in finding time to rest. Whether it’s with meditation, light physical activity, a massage, or other activity that you find relaxing or decompressing.

    Wherever your destination, planning ahead and “preparing” your immune system before and during air travel will leave you feeling energized and ready to make the most of your travels.

    CanPrev recommends

    Immuno-multi
    Probiotic 15B
    Synergy C with Seabuckthorn

    Studies & Referenced Content

    [1] Journal of Environmental Health Research, 2004, Common cold transmission in commercial aircraft: industry and passenger implications

    [2] Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, 2013, Roles of vitamins D, E and C in immunity and inflammation

    [3] Journal of Applied Microbiology, 2000, The mode of antimicrobial action of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil)