Breathe Better with Self Care Techniques

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

How often do you tune into your own breathing? Have you noticed that your breathing changes depending on what you are doing and how you are feeling - happy, angry, excited? Are you breathing more through your right or left nostril? Shallow or deep?


Breathing involves more than just providing oxygen to the lungs; it provides qi or prana (life force) to your entire system and is a bridge between the body, mind and consciousness. From the moment you are born, until your last breath, breathing is an automatic activity that goes on continuously whether you are aware of it or not. The more you can bring it into your awareness, the more you can pick up on cues that your body is telling you. For example, if your nose is always stuffy after meals, it could indicate that you have sensitivities to certain foods or that digestion is sluggish. If your breathing is often shallow and rapid, this could be a reflection of tension in your body and mind.

The quality of your breathing determines your quality of life. Here are some self-care techniques that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you breathe better. These can be adjusted based on your state of health, climate and current concerns.


Self Care Tips for Breathing


Neti Pot

Neti, which means "nasal cleansing", is an Ayurvedic technique that dates back to ancient India and was used by yogis to improve breathing. This is a daily cleansing routine that involves gently irrigating the nose and sinuses with warm saline water to help flush out excess mucous, dust particles and waste from the sinuses. It can reduce congestion, prevent colds, reduce dryness and open up your breathing. Neti practice can be done in the morning, daily or weekly and can be customized with antimicrobial herbs, homeopathics and even probiotics to help restore balance in the sinuses. If the neti pot intimidates you, or if have never tried neti pot, your ND can show you how to do it safely and effectively.

Nebulizer

For individuals who suffer from lung concerns such as chronic cough, sinusitis, COPD, mucous in the chest and asthma, the nebulizer is a tool to help deliver medicine directly to the lungs through inhalation. Glutathione is used in the nebulizer and is considered the best antioxidant to quench free radicals, increase immune function and decrease mucous in the respiratory tract. Glutathione is absorbed best through nebulized form or IV. Homeopathic remedies can be added to the nebulizer to relieve specific symptoms. This is a treatment that is done in clinic initially under supervision by your naturopathic doctor, and can then be done at home. It is painless, easy to administer and can be done even for children to open up the respiratory tract.

Steam Inhalation

One of the most popular DIY treatments for colds and coughs is steam inhalations. To do a steam inhalation, boil water, place into a bowl and sit with a towel over your head and inhale the steam through the nostrils for 5+ minutes. Warm steam helps relax breathing muscles, opens the bronchioles, lubricates the mucous membranes and loosens phlegm. Adding additional essential oils, such as eucalyptus, camphor or pine, can enhance the therapeutic effect. A short cut version can be done in the shower by applying a few drops of diluted essential oil into the tub and inhaling the steam in the shower in the morning. Essential oils can be customized based on your concerns. Oils with antimicrobial properties, such as tea tree, are good for fighting infections, and oils, such as camphor and eucalyptus, help open up breathing. In the clinic there are a variety of specific blends that can be used for infections, sinus issues and other respiratory issues. An add-on to the steam inhalation is the Ayurvedic nasya treatment which involves applying warm oil to the nasal passage and is often preceded or followed by steam inhalation to enhance the effect. Read more about nasya here.

Pranayam 

Exercises to help breathing are not a new concept. In the eastern traditions of yoga, Ayurveda and martial arts, specific techniques were refined over thousands of years to harmonize prana or qi and direct life energy to specific areas. This mastery over the breath is called pranayam. Alternate nostril breathing is one of these techniques which has become popularized and has been studied to reduce anxiety, promote mental clarity and much more. Increased energy, clarity, balanced breathing are some of the benefits. Pranayam can be practised by anyone, including children. If you can incorporate a minimum of 5 minutes in your daily routine to dedicate to bringing awareness to your breathing, the quality of your health will reflect the investment in your health. You can learn pranayam through many yoga or meditations instructors, or learn on your own with videos such as this one: Nadi Shuddhi

By paying more attention to your breathing and incorporating these tips, you can experience better breathing. If you have questions on your breathing, your ND can do an assessment and customize treatments and self-care techniques that you can do at home. Self care is the basis of a healthy lifestyle and the investment in wellness.


Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health, pain and chronic disease. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

Water Element: is Yours in Balance?

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

When you think of water, what comes to mind? It may be a river or an ocean, or a glass of water. You may not immediately think of the 60-70% of water that makes up your body. According to Ayurveda, there are 5 elements that exist in nature and manifest in the plants, animals around us, and within our body: ether (space), air, fire, water and earth.

In the winter and early spring when the climate is cool, damp and wet, kapha dosha (which is composed of the earth and water element) is dominant in the environment. Your surroundings impact your body, mind and emotions, so an imbalance in kapha can contribute to common concerns such as weight gain, fatigue, dullness or having trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

Water element reflects the fluidity of movement and manifests as nourishment, growth and lubrication. Some examples of water element in your body are digestive fluids, mucous membrane secretions, plasma and lymphatic system. Water element cools, smoothens, moistens and softens tissues in the body.

When your water element is in balance, weight is consistent, skin and mucous membranes are soft and moist, joints are well lubricated, emotions are stable and you feel connected to the people around you. When the water element is either too high or too low, this can lead to health issues. Read more to find out signs of excess or deficient water element.


Signs of Excess Water Element

When water element accumulates in your body you may gain weight or experience swelling around your ankles or other joints. Your hands may feel clammy, your skin may feel damp and sticky and you may experience increased urination. Excess water tends to put out your digestive fire so you may experience weak appetite, heaviness after meals, thick coating on your tongue and excess mucous. If you struggle with candida or yeast infections, it's likely that your water element is out of balance. Water element in excess can often indicate that there is an electrolyte imbalance, as electrolytes are responsible for the movement of water throughout the body. Emotions can also affect water levels. Water related to imbalanced water are attachment, fear of letting go, being guarded or excessively emotional, feeling lack of nurturing and relationships that are not flowing.

Signs of Deficient Water Element

What happens if you lack sufficient water? You can relate to this on a day that you don't drink enough water, for example, and feel thirsty, have a dry mouth, dry skin and eyes etc. In Ayurveda, this relates to 'rasa dhatu kshaya' or plasma deficiency. When plasma is well hydrated, your blood and lymph flows smoothly and all the tissues are well lubricated. Deficient water can also lead to health concerns such as dry joints, arthritis, lack of sweating, constipation and overall lack of nourishment in body, mind and emotions. Speak to your ND if you have some of these health concerns to help identify and treat the imbalance.


Tips to Harmonize Water Element

When imbalances are identified, it is easier to treat the root cause. Keeping your water element in balance, along with all other elements is the key to living a life that is harmonized and flowing. Here are some tips to try at home :

  • Exercise: helps unblock channels in the body. It allows the body to sweat, eliminate toxins and regulate water. Sun salutations in yoga are an excellent way to help harmonize the elements in your system and regulate excess water.

  • Hydration: often overlooked but be sure to not miss the obvious. Drink at least 8 glasses of pure water a day. In addition, hydrating herbal teas, coconut water and electrolytes can replenish deficient water element.

  • Diet: foods rich in water such as melons and squashes help you hydrate, while drying foods such as vegetable chips, dry fruit, black pepper and dry ginger powder help regulate excess water. Salty and sweet foods also tend to increase water element and can lead to concerns such as water retention. Each individual has a unique constitution so speak with your ND on which foods and herbs are best for you.

  • Lifestyle: if water element is deficient for you, keeping a water fountain or pictures of the ocean can bring this element back into your life. Swimming is another easy way to connect with water element. If water element is in excess, work with incorporating movement in your day, and finding healthy ways to express your emotions.


According to Ayurveda, health is a balance between body, mind, spirit and environment. When you understand how nature influences your health, you can make subtle but powerful changes to harmonize the 5 elements within you and restore balance. Speak with Dr. Leena Athparia, ND if you would like an assessment to help you find out if your water element is in balance.


Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health and chronic disease. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Athparia.  

Is Change Causing Your Anxiety?

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Fall is a season of transition - from warm summer months of outdoor activity to the cold winter season of indoor activities. Change not only happens with the seasons, but is a continuous process with life situations, relationships and work. Take a moment and reflect on what is stable currently in your life right now...and what is changing. How does change feel? Do you cope well with change or does it make you feel unsteady? Do you feel afraid? Are you holding on or letting go?

For some people, change results in anxiety.  Often, feelings of worry and anxiety are reactions to thoughts of the future or fear of the unknown. You may experience instability, fear and a general sense of "holding on" as you step out of your comfort zone and face the unknown. Anxiety is a natural response to danger - or perceived threat. Your system is trying to protect you with the fight or flight response even though there may not be any actual danger.

It may be a change of season, change in career, change of life stage (ie. puberty, menopause) - whatever change you are going through can lead to anxiety characterized by signs such as running thoughts, chronic worry, elevated heart rate, shallow breathing, sweating, short temper and many other signs. While temporary anxiety is a normal reaction, when it impacts daily activities or continues for extended periods of time, it can be disruptive and reduce quality of life. Chronic anxiety can even lead to other conditions such as depression, irritable bowel syndrome, substance abuse and other conditions.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety can affect anyone at anytime and can be acute or chronic. The most common symptoms relate to:

  • heart palpitations

  • pain in the chest or tightness

  • sighing or hyperventilation

  • muscle tension - causing spasms, headaches or pain

  • excessive sweating

  • dizziness

  • difficulty concentrating

  • sleep disturbances


What causes anxiety?

Anxiety is often a complex issue with more than one factor. Sometimes you may be able to identify the cause, especially when it is related to a specific event, but for many with chronic anxiety, routine daily activities can provoke constant worry. Lifestyle factors and nutrition are a commons causes of nervous system imbalances. In addition, if you are on new medications, speak with your doctor since some pharmaceuticals such as stimulants, thyroid medication and analgesics can have side effects leading to anxiety. Many times, zooming the lens to re-examine your fears can help bring them to the surface so you can start working at the tip of the iceberg.

Ways to treat anxiety:

Naturopathic doctors treat the person, not just the condition, to restore balance. Your age, your health issues, prescriptions medications and symptoms are taken into account when creating a tailored health plan. Below are a few ways to help ease anxiety:


1. Address Lifestyle Factors
First identify any stimulants that may be in your diet or environment and eliminate them. Caffeine in the form of coffee or chocolate stimulates the nervous system and if you are prone to anxiety, cutting caffeine out is a first step. Drugs, alcohol, and even sugar can also contribute to anxiety. Other stimulants in your environment such as loud noise, cell phones, TVs put your body in fight-or-flight more. Reducing stimulants, in addition to adequate sleep, exercise, yoga, meditation and 'down time' support nervous system balance and allows your body to relax. It is also helpful to identify factors in your life which have changed, such as jobs: relationships, homes, routine, outlook on life etc. Write these down in chronological order for the past month or year(s). This can help narrow down some factors contributing to feeling unsettled. When you identify factors, you may notice the anxiety softening by simply bringing it to your attention.


2. Get Grounded through Bodywork
According to Ayurveda, anxiety is predominantly an imbalance of vata dosha, characterized by increased air & space elements and not enough earth element. During times of change, you may feel unsteady or like the ground below you is shifting as you try to hold your footing through life situations. Treating anxiety starts by supporting you to feel more grounded. There are many ways to do this. Grounding foods such as root vegetables, warm liquids, healthy fats and protein nourish and stabilize the body. Sitting, squatting or keeping your feet on the ground help you connect with the earth. Bodywork such as massage, cupping or acupuncture is very effective for treating anxiety by connecting you with your body. Ayurvedic oil massage or abhyanga is an excellent therapy for anxiety since it helps ground you and promotes deep relaxation.


3. Support Nutritional Factors
Common causes of anxiety on a physiological level are through nutrient deficiencies and food intolerances.  Food sensitivities and allergies can also stimulate adrenaline and make you feel anxious. Speak to your naturopathic doctor if testing for food sensitivities is beneficial for you. Many vitamins, minerals and amino acids are lacking in our food and lead to deficiencies. When the nervous system is lacking nutrients, it cannot perform its functions properly. Speak to your ND if supplements such as B vitamins, magnesium, glycine, inositol would suit your symptoms and constitution. There are numerous herbs that promote relaxation such as skullcap, lavender and lemon balm. How much to take, when and how can be tailored to your specific concerns.  


4. Seek Counselling

Managing anxiety on your own can make you feel like you are going in circles. Speaking about it with someone can help give you a different perspective and allow 'rambling thoughts' to find verbal expression. Sometimes speaking with friends and family can be supportive, but can also be a source of worry and fear of judgement. Consider working with a counsellor or psychotherapist to help identify triggers, especially if there is history of trauma or if you are having difficulty going through a life transition. Addressing the mental-emotional causes of anxiety along with supporting the nervous system with nutrients and bodywork can support you in a wholistic way if you are struggling with anxiety.



While temporary anxiety is a normal response and can be managed with self-care techniques, if anxiety is a chronic concern for you or if you find that it is affecting your daily activities, speak with your naturopathic doctor. There are many ways to assess causes of anxiety and develop a treatment plan that is customized using nutrition, supplements, botanical medicine, counselling, acupuncture, homeopathy and other therapies to bring balance to your system. As we wrap up this year, it is a good time to identify your challenges and stressors, and work through old patterns to make room for new growth. Take some time this fall to reflect on ways to stabilize yourself and open up to positive change. For many people, this can be challenging to do fully on your own, so work with your practitioner who can support you through times of change.


Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health, pain and chronic disease. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

Obstacles to Healing - Ayurvedic Do's & Don'ts

 

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND
 

Health is a natural state of balance of harmony - anything that gets in the way of this is an obstacle to healing. You may be doing many things "right" to be healthy, but have you looked at what might be "in the way"? For example, maybe you prepared a delicious, well-balanced meal and suddenly, you get a call from a friend that is upset with you...and you have a tummy ache the rest of the day.

Obstacles to healing can be for example, emotions such as anger or jealousy or lifestyle habits such as eating inappropriate food for the time of day or season. Ayurveda has long recognized the importance of daily routines (dinacharya) and seasonal routines (ritucharya) to prevent disease. While some of these routines may have been considered as superstitious or old fashioned, there are many which have a scientific basis. You might be doing all the right things - eating organic, eating healthy, exercising, taking your supplements but, if certain lifestyle habits are out of alignment, it could be slowing you down. Let's look at a few of the lifestyle habits below and what to avoid:
 

Ayurvedic Don'ts

 

1. Ice Cold Smoothies

Smoothies seem like a convenient way to pack in fruits, veggies and proteins in one meal, but when they are loaded with ice or frozen berries it will put out your digestive fire. Digestion requires heat, provided by your metabolic activity and blood circulation to the stomach. Ayurveda considers the digestive fire (jatharagni) to be a driving force in breaking down food in your stomach so when you eat anything cold, digestion quickly slows down. If you are a vata or kapha type, it's like you already struggle from gas or bloating and cold will worsen it. In the morning, your digestive fire is just beginning to wake up. When you eat anything cold, it will take around an hour for it to return to normal temperature depending on your body type. It is best to have smoothies that are room temperature (thaw out berries the previous night or keep the ingredients out of the fridge before blending). Other suggestions include avoiding cold fruits in the morning for breakfast, ice water with meals, or ice cream after meals.
 

2. Eating While Distracted 

You digest best when you are relaxed. When you eating on the go, while walking, driving, or watching tv, your body is in sympathetic mode where the nervous system is activated. When you're distracted, you're less likely to pay attention to your chewing, notice signals from the body that you are full and enjoy the experience of the meal. Ayurveda suggests eating meals when relaxed, sitting down with minimal conversation to digest at your best. How often do you do this? The more you try this, the more likely you will feel satisfied from your meal.
 

3. Suppression of Natural Urges

How often to you stifle a sneeze, hold your bladder until it's bursting, hold back a yawn in public? Due to hectic schedules or social situations, you may find yourself holding back natural urges until a convenient time or until the urge is gone.  Natural urges like going to the bathroom, sneezing, yawning, crying, coughing, feeling hungry, thirsty or tired are natural signs from your body. Ayurveda has actually identified how suppressing specific urges can lead to imbalance and specific illnesses over time by disturbing the flow of doshas in the body and allowing toxins to accumulate (read more). In some cultures, belching after meals is considered a sign that you have eaten well and in other cultures, passing gas goes unnoticed in public. While it may seem unpleasant or socially inappropriate, it is important that you pay attention to what your body is telling you and allow a natural release when possible. Next time you feel like sneezing, try allowing it to happen and see how you feel.

 

4. Improper Food Timing

You might be eating the "right" food for your body type or health concern, but are your timings off? Your body is tuned to the natural cycles of the day. As the sun rises and reaches peak, so does your digestive strength. As the sun sets and night rolls in, metabolic activity slows down. Tuning your mealtimes according to your digestive strength allows the body to work at its best. When you eat when you are not hungry, or eat large meals at times when digestion is weak, or ignore hunger when you are busy, you are working against the natural forces of nature.

The recommendation is to eat a wholesome breakfast before you start your day, followed by a well balanced lunch between 11-1pm (largest meal at the peak of the day when digestion is at peak) a light afternoon snack, and an early dinner before sunset. For many people, breakfast and lunch are light and quick and they are starving by the evening and either end up eating a very heavy dinner, or snacking before dinner. If you consistently skip breakfast because you don't have time or are not hungry, this creates havoc with your stress hormones. Heavy and late dinners are difficult to digest and lead to bloating, sluggishness and weight gain. By simply adjusting the timings of your meal to optimize your digestion, you will notice that you feel lighter and healthier. Speak with your ayurvedic practitioner who can help guide you on an eating regime customized to you while supporting your digestion
 

5. Overstimulation of the Sense Organs

Your 5 sense organs are constantly receiving information from your surroundings through vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch. While the senses are crucial for survival, your body's resources are constantly processing this information. When the senses are overstimulated, you may experience sensory overload, and divert energy needed for healing the body. How do you do this? It means reduce screen time, computer games, tv, bright lights and anything which stimulates vision and consequently the the nervous system.

We live in an era where we constantly need to respond to sounds - such as cell phone beeps and calls which easily puts you into sympathetic mode where the body is unable to relax. Impressions through our senses are processed by the brain and leave an impression on the mind. When there is imbalance, this can lead to anxiety, ADHD, hyperactivity and general disturbance. In yoga and Ayurveda, there are several techniques to help you gain control over the 5 senses and currently, "float tanks" (which minimize noise, light and other stimuli) are becoming very popular due to their relaxation benefits.


When you can identify and remove obstacles in your diet and lifestyle, you are allowing the vital healing force of nature doing it's work. Living in disharmony with the environment, the people around us and within ourselves, is the first step of dis-ease. Work with your naturopathic doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner to help you identify obstacles to your health and find harmony in your daily routine.

 

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in chronic disease. She applies Ayurvedic treatments to help you realign to your state of healthy balance. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.
 

 

Natural "First Aid" Tips for Summer

 

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

What's in your First Aid Kit? It's likely to have an assortment of bandages, gauze, gloves and the like for emergencies, but what about for the less critical injuries you might get while camping, hiking or for the kids spending time outdoors this summer?

What do you use if you get a burn while cooking? Or a knee scrape while hiking? What do you use for kids' mosquito bites? While critical emergencies require a visit to the ER, most common injuries are minor and can be treated with natural remedies which have fewer side effects and are gentle but effective for speeding up recovery.

Naturopathic first aid involves using naturopathic principles when treating acute concerns such as burns, bites, stings, rashes, strains and sprains etc. Naturopathic doctors use a variety of modalities to help heal naturally and effectively: botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, nutrition, laser and light therapy, TCM & acupuncture and counselling.

Read more about the most common concerns and natural tips for your First Aid Kit. These remedies can be further customized by your Naturopathic Doctor depending on if you are camping or travelling or need a kit for kids.
 

Burns 

Too much fun in the sun (at peak time especially) can lead to sunburns. Children, those with sensitive skin, or on certain medications can be more prone to burning. To soothe irritated or peeling skin, use a natural aloe gel which is cooling and soothing for the skin or Manuka honey that you can apply directly to the affected area to help speed up healing. This applies for other kinds of burns such as in the kitchen. While outdoors, protect yourself from strong sunlight by wearing a hat or thin, cotton clothing that protects the skin.
 

Bites

Insect bites from mosquitos, black flies, bees or spiders are inevitable if you spend time outdoors. Bites are not only itchy, painful and irritating, but can also transmit infectious disease. Prevent yourself by being bitten in the first place by wearing appropriate clothing that provides a barrier for bites and using natural bug repellants made of essential oils such as citronella. It is not just a myth that mosquitos are attracted to "sweet" blood. When you eat a diet high in sweet (bananas, juice, sugar), you become a palatable target. Increase bitter foods such as leafy greens and consider supplementing with neem capsules which are blood cleansing. Speak to your ND about essential oils for bites and natural homeopathic pellets or creams for after-bites such Apis.


Cuts & Scrapes

Minor wounds to the skin such as cuts and scrapes disrupt the barrier and can lead to infections and scarring if not treated properly. Your natural first aid kit should contain a herbal antiseptic cream to apply to injured skin to disinfect the area. Some examples are creams that contain calendula, neem oil, tea tree oilyarrow and comfrey. Other creams such as vitamin E cream or aloe are very beneficial to promote skin healing and reduce scarring. Essential for moms to keep on hand for active kids!
 

Bumps & Bruises

A must-have for everyone in their natural first-aid kit for any injury or trauma is Arnica. This well known herb appears in many formats such as creams, gels, oils and homeopathics. This herb is well known for healing bruisesand speeding up any injury. Homeopathic arnica can be used in creams or taken orally to help with any physical or emotional shock. In addition for injuries, lymphatic creams are handy to help with reducing swelling as are anti-inflammatory supplements which may contain herbs such as turmeric or boswelia. Speak to your ND to learn more about which anti-inflammatories would be good for you.


Putting together a natural first-aid kit can be fun and very handy to keep on hand this summer. Most of these suggestions are safe to use alongside with other conventional treatments. When you are empowered with knowledge, you can be more equipped to help yourself and family members with minor injuries to speed up healing. At Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic, we accept walk-ins for acute naturopathic care for concerns such as sprains & strains, skin reactions, bites, scrapes, hives and other conditions. You don't need to be a patient of the clinic to use these services. Read more about naturopathic walk-in services.


Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health, pain and chronic disease. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

Constipation? Get Moving Naturally

Let's face it - most people don't pay much attention to their bowel movements or make elimination a top priority in their day. A large percentage of people have unhealthy bowel movements and don't even realize it unless symptoms become uncomfortable. For many, constipation means not going to the bathroom for many days and straining. However, chronic constipation is more common than you might think, and is an indication of imbalance, so it is important not to ignore it.

A healthy person should have around 1-3 bowel movements daily with the consistency of a ripe banana.   Read more here...