How to Identify an Addiction & 6 Steps to Overcome Bad Habits

Many patients and friends have asked me this question over the years: when does drinking or drug use become a problem?  The easy answer is when someone feels like they NEED the substance to relax or to over come anxieties.  But there are many other signs that I will outline below.

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Depression and addiction is incredibly common among Canadians.  In fact, in any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem.

Who is affected?

  • 70% of mental health problems have onset during childhood or adolescence.
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
  • People with a mental illness are twice as likely to have a substance use problem compared to the general population!
  • At least 20% of people with a mental illness have a co-occurring substance use problem. For people with schizophrenia, the number may be as high as 50%.

Is that glass of wine really a problem??

Using alcohol in moderation may not be a problem at all.  However, for some, drinking or using drugs gets out of hand and begins to affect work, school and relationships.  Below are the signs of substance abuse and are often indicators that the use of drugs or alcohol has gone too far.

Signs of substance abuse:

  • Loss of Control: Drinking or taking drugs more than a person wants to, for longer than they intended, or despite telling themselves that they wouldn’t do it this time.
  • Neglecting Other Activities: Spending less time on activities that used to be important (hanging out with family and friends, exercising, pursuing hobbies or other interests) because of the use of alcohol or drugs and/or a drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Risk Taking: More likely to take serious risks in order to obtain alcohol drug of choice.
  • Relationship Issues: People struggling with addiction are known to act out against those closest to them, particularly if someone is attempting to address their substance problems; complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates.
  • Secrecy: Going out of one’s way to hide or lie about the amount of drugs or alcohol consumed or one’s activities when drinking or drugging; unexplained injuries or accidents.
  • Changing Appearance: Changes or deterioration in hygiene or physical appearance such as lack of showering.
  • Family History: A family history of addiction can significantly increase one’s predisposition to substance abuse.
  • Tolerance: Over time, a person’s body adapts to a substance to the point that they need more and more of it in order to have the same reaction.
  • Withdrawal: As the effect of the alcohol or drugs wear off the person may experience symptoms such as: anxiety or jumpiness; shakiness or trembling; sweating, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, depression, irritability, fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches.
  • Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences: Even though it is causing problems (on the job, in relationships, for one’s health), a person continues drinking and taking drugs

 

If you think that either you or a loved one is dealing with an addiction, it is never too late to get help.  Below, find 5 important steps for recovery (adapted from Dr. Jonathan Prousky, 2013).

Step 1: Getting help

The most important first step in recovery is to admit there is a problem and help is needed. This usually means reaching a major low point (hitting rock bottom). However, if the desire to change is there, many organizations can be contacted for help.

Step 2: Rehab

Successful recovery often involves completing some type of addiction program, such as a rehab facility or an outpatient program. These programs are associated with reductions in drug use and criminal behaviour and better employment status.

Step 3: Peer support

Involvement in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) helps to maintain sobriety and provide essential peer support. These groups are free, incredibly accessible, and provide unlimited support.

Step 4: Wellness

For long term success, focusing on wellness is key.  Certain therapies that are associated with stress and anxiety reduction are very helpful when dealing with addictions.

Yoga
Yoga is excellent at calming the nervous system. According to a 2011 study, yogic practices “promote recovery from and treatment of addiction; reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain; improve sleep patterns; and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.”

Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps people to focus attention on the present and encourages a positive attitude toward that experience. People with addictions tend to have difficulty staying in the moment and often struggle with anxiety and depression. Mindfulness training insulates one’s thoughts to be more present, positive, and life-affirming.

Exercise
Recent scientific research reveals exercise’s amazing impact on addiction. Benefits of exercise include reduced cravings for cigarettes and managed withdrawal from nicotine dependence, reduced urges for alcohol, decreased anxiety and depression among problem drinkers, and even reduced withdrawal and anxiety among heroin users on morphine.

When treating depression, often associated with addiction, regular physical exercise might be as effective as psychotherapy and is perhaps more effective than other behavioural interventions. No pill has more therapeutic value than regular physical exercise!!!

Step 5: Healthy Diet

Focusing on a healthy diet is incredibly beneficial for those in recovery.

High amounts of sugar consumption increases inflammation within the body and may reinforce addiction. In addition, it is believed that excess sugar stimulates food or drug addiction. Fast foods and packaged foods are also devoid of important nutrients that are critical in recovery.

Those who are in recovery benefit from a  diet moderately high in good sources of protein and fat, such as lean chicken, lamb, organic beef, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Including more healthy sources of protein and fat should stabilize blood sugar, decrease sugar cravings, and also reduce compulsive behaviours. Choosing natural sugars such as fruits is much preferred over refined sugars.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help! Addiction and depression is much more common than most people realize and recovery is possible.

 

Yours in Vitality,

Dr. E

 

Works Cited

Center for Addictions and Mental Health, 2016

Smetanin et al (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: Risk Analytica.

2Government of Canada (2006). The human face of mental health and mental illness in Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, 2016

Dr. Jonathon Prousky, 2013

Why Am I so Tired? Key Points to Boost your Iron Levels

Frustrated Woman at Computer With Stack of Paper

Fatigue is a very common complaint I receive from my patients. There are various reasons why one may be tired and ruling out low iron stores is an important step in helping my patients feel more energized!

Iron is a key player in the body, leading the way for several imperative physiological functions, including carrying oxygen to your red blood cells and producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is vital for cellular energy. Low levels of iron are associated with fatigue, decreased athletic performance, concentration, mood and even increased hair loss.

Before supplementing with iron it is best to have your blood levels checked via blood. This can be done by having your health care provider request a ferritin blood test.

Why Boost Iron Levels?

Aside from fatigue, low iron has other implications in the body:

  1. Depression: A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found an association between depression and decreased ferritin levels!

 

  1. Thyroid: Adequate iron levels are also necessary for proper thyroid production (a major component to your metabolism).

 

  1. Weight gain: According to recent research low iron levels can also have an impact on your waistline. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, looked at adolescents between 9 and 13 years of age for body fat and visceral fat (otherwise known as fat around the organs in the abdominal area), along with measurements of iron status. The subjects with the highest percentage of body fat and visceral fat mass were over two times more likely to have low iron stores.

 

  1. Determining your risk factor: Ferritin is considered an iron-storage protein that keeps the iron in a dissolvable and usable state, which also makes the iron non-toxic to cells around it. A blood test for ferritin measures the iron that is readily available for use. Although ferritin levels above 12 are often considered “fine”, optimal levels in women should be close to 70 and 100 for women. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding are more susceptible to low iron levels, which makes it one of the top must-have blood tests.

How to Increase Iron Absorption

Taking iron away from meals (20 minutes before or 2 hours after) can enhance the absorption of iron. Additionally, taking 1000mg of vitamin C at the same time iron is taken, significantly improves the absorption of iron.

If you are taking calcium supplementation, take your iron at lunchtime and your calcium before bed. This schedule works even if you are on thyroid medication and take it in the morning, since both iron and calcium will reduce the effectiveness of your medication if they are taken to close together. It may take months to get your ferritin levels up, so diligence is key.

Did you Know?… There are many other ways to get your iron aside from red meat! Take a look at the chart below for other great sources of iron.

 

Vegetarian Sources of Iron

Source Serving Size Amount of Iron per serving
Spirulina 1 tsp. 5 mg
Cooked Soybeans ½ cup 4.4 mg
Pumpkin seeds 1 ounce 4.2 mg
Quinoa 4 ounces 4 mg
Cooked Spinach ½ cup 3.2 mg
Lentils 4 ounces 3 mg
White beans ½ cup 3.9 mg
Blackstrap molasses 1 tbsp 4 mg
Swiss Chard 1 cup 4mg
Kidney Beans 1 cup 3.9 mg
Tempeh 1 cup 4.5mg

 

 Want to know more? Book an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor!

What Exactly is Naturopathic Medicine?

As Naturopathic Doctors, we understand that many people are slightly confused as to how we practice. We are not homeopathic doctors (a common misconception) nor are we herbalists or nutritionists.  However, as Naturopathic Docotors we can offer you a tremendous benefit in improving your health by using Nutrition, herbs, diet & lifestyleDSC_0638.

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine.Naturopathic medicine is the art and science of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention using natural therapies including: botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, acupuncture, and prevention and lifestyle counselling. Naturopathic Medicine is covered by many medical insurance and benefit programs.

 What is the Education required to become a Naturopathic Doctor?

Becoming a licensed Naturopathic Doctor (ND) requires at least seven years of academic study. Licensed NDs will have completed a relevant undergraduate degree, followed by four years of rigorous training and practicum at an accredited North American institution for naturopathic medicine.. Once they become registered professionals, NDs are then required to maintain their competency with ongoing continuing education courses that must be approved by the regulator.

What can Naturopathic Medicine do for you?

In Ontario, Naturopathic Doctors offer alternative avenues for access to primary health care and health promotion. Naturopathic Doctors can provide early diagnosis of and treatment for many health-related conditions. Naturopathic Doctors can:

  • Requisition blood tests
  • Perform physical examinations
  • Create a personalized health plan for you
  • Order additional lab testing such as allergy, hormone (saliva) and urine testing
  • Vitamin B12 injections (upon completion of the prescribing examination)
  • Treating the patient with natural substances such as supplements, botanical medicines and nutritional foods
  • Acupuncture

How are Naturopathic Doctors Regulated?

Naturopathic doctors are regulated in Ontario under the Regulated Health Practitioners Act 1991, and Naturopathy Act 2007. As of 2015, The College of Naturopaths of Ontario is the regulating body for Naturopathic Doctors in this province.

Are you interested in exploring Naturoapthic Medicine? Or having an informative & fun wellness lecture at your place of work? Contact Infusion Health at info@infusionhealth.ca

CORPORATE WELLNESS TORONTO: INFUSION HEALTH AT RBC, IT’S ALL ABOUT STRESS

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This past Friday, I had the pleasure of talking to some wonderful woman at RBC about stress management and thyroid health. It still amazes me that so many people do not know about the MANY different tests available to investigate thyroid health. These tests help doctors and patients completely understand the functioning of this important gland. TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is not the only test to investigate thyroid health, even though it is typically the only test run for thyroid.  If you would like to know more about the 6 informative tests read here: http://www.infusionhealth.ca/category/thyroid-health/.

As always, many people are interested in how to manage stress, but so many individuals (myself included at one time in life), despite knowing exactly what to do, choose not to take care of themselves. WE MUST PRACTICE SELF CARE!!! Stress, eventually, catches up with people. And long term stress can increase pessimism, anxiety and depression.

Interestingly enough, work appears to be the #1 source for Canadians.

The majority of highly stressed workers (62%) identified work as their main source of stress. Clustered far behind were financial concerns and not having enough time (both at 12%), family matters, and personal and other issues such as relationships, health and generalized worries These proportions are very similar to those reported in 2005(Stats Canada 2011)

A little stress can increase performance and help us carry out our necessary daily activities. However, long term stress can decrease our performance and can have significant effects on our mental and physical health.

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By practicing self care and managing our stress we become happier, healthier more productive individuals.

Infusion Health specializes in helping corporations learn how to properly manage stress with diet and lifestyle interventions. We offer interactive seminars and provide in house Naturopathic Doctors (covered by most benefits plans:)

For more information, please email info@infusionhealth.ca

In Health,

Dr. Lipinski, ND

Natural Ways to Decrease Estrogen

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Estrogen dominance has become common amongst many woman today. We are constantly exposed to toxins and pesticides that can disrupt on hormone balance, namely by increasing estrogens (or “xenoestrogens”) in our bodies. Read below to find out ways to naturally decrease estrogen/

 

 

  1. Increase Fiber Intake

A low-fiber diet causes estrogen levels to be higher, while a diet high in fiber results in decreased estrogen levels in the bloodstream. This is because excess estrogen is excreted in the bowel. When stool remains in the bowel for a longer time, as in constipation, the estrogen is reabsorbed. Studies have shown that women on a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen. High fiber foods: fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, chia seeds and flax seeds.

 

  1. Avoid Toxins (Xenoestrogens)

Xenoestrogens, such as PCBs, phthalates, pesticides and DDT, cause estrogenic effects. Although banned in 1972, DDT, like its breakdown product DDE, is a xenoestrogen, which is still present in the environment. Chlorine and hormone residues in meats and dairy products also can have estrogenic effects. In women, it may lead to an epidemic of female diseases, all traceable to excess estrogen/deficient progesterone. It is critical to incorporate a pure, clean diet consisting of organic foods whenever possible in an effort to decrease exposure to harmful xenoestrogens. Additionally, it is important to avoid these harmful chemicals in beauty care products, detergents, perfumes and deordorants. Do not use plastic containers to store food in.

 

  1. Increase Indole 3 Carbinol

Many studies have demonstrated that specific compounds isolated from these cruciferous vegetables—including diindolylmethane (DIM) and its precursor, indole-3-carbinol (I3C)—have unique cancer-fighting benefits and help to lower xenogenous estrogens. I3C appears to be effective in shifting the metabolism of estradiol from the dangerous 16-alpha-hydroxylase pathway to the 2-hydroxylase pathway.43-46 As a result, consumption of I3C boosts the ratio of 2-OHE1:16a-OHE1, which correlates with reduced risk of breast and other cancers, including cervical, prostate, and even head and neck cancers. Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale. Supplementing with 13C may also be beneficial.

 

  1. Decrease Alcohol Consumption

Drinking too much alcohol can impair liver function. Since estrogen is metabolized by the liver, failure of the liver due to excess alcohol consumption may lead to increased estrogen levels. It is best to limit one’s alcohol consumption to one glass per day or even less.

 

  1. Perform Aerobic Exercise.

Research shows that physical activity curtails overproduction of estrogen. Walking and swimming are great forms of aerobic exercise.

 

 

 

 

Could the Birth Control Pill be Interfering with our Attraction to Others?

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We all know the birth control pill alters the levels of hormones in your body, but did you know that the pill may actually alter how attracted you are to your partner?

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that women who use oral contraceptives may change who they find good looking, or who they find most attractive.

The study looked at 70 heterosexual couples for one year and an additional 48 heterosexual couples during four years of marriage. The researchers asked the couples about their birth control use and their marital and sexual satisfaction. They also asked impartial judges to rate the attractiveness of the husbands’ faces based on photographs.

The researchers found that the women who started their relationships while on the pill became less satisfied with their relationship after they stopped taking it, but only if their husbands had scored low in attractiveness. In contrast, the women who married the men who were ranked higher in attractiveness were more satisfied in their relationships after they stopped oral contraceptives.

Although this information is interesting, and the researchers were able to control for many factors that might affect women’s marital satisfaction ( ie if she was pregnant or her husband’s satisfaction in the marriage) Study leader Michelle Russell still warns that the study’s design makes it hard to prove that the hormones were the direct cause of the change in satisfaction.

This research however, is similar to previously published results on hormonal pills and attraction.

We know that the type of man a woman is drawn to is known to change during her monthly cycle, when a woman is fertile, for instance, she might look for a man with more masculine features. Taking the pill or another type of hormonal contraceptive seems to change this natural dynamic, making less-masculine men seem more attractive, according to a small but growing body of evidence. The findings have led researchers to wonder about the implications for partner choice, relationship quality and even the health of the children produced by these partnerships.

Researchers have long been interested in factors that lead to people’s choice of mates. One influential study in the 1990s, dubbed the “T-shirt study”, asked women about their attraction to members of the opposite sex by smelling the men’s T-shirts. The findings showed that humans, like many other animals, transmit and recognize information pertinent to sexual attraction through chemical odors known as pheromones.

Studies have also shown that women seemed to prefer the scents of men whose immune systems were most different from the women’s own immune-system genes known as MHC. Scientists believe that children should be healthier if their parents’ MHC genes vary, because the offspring will be protected from more viruses and bacteria.

These natural preferences appear to be wiped out when the woman is on hormonal birth control, research has shown. Females on the pill no longer experience an increased desire for traditionally masculine men during ovulation. Their preference for partners who carry different immunities than they do also disappears. And men no longer exhibit changes in interest for women based on their menstrual cycle, possibly because those cues signaling ovulation are no longer present, scientists say.

All forms of birth control come with advantages and disadvantages, however if you are concerned about possible side effects of using hormonal contraceptives talk to your Medical or Naturopathic Doctor about other options for birth control.

In Health,

Dr. Emily Lipinski

Thyroid Health: Keed to know info! and the 6 thyroid tests you need to ask for from your Doctor

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(adapted from Dr.Aviva Romm, MD, 2014)

I see a lot of patients that complain of weight gain, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, PMS, and complaining of always being cold. All these symptoms point to the possibility of hypothyroidism, or under active thyroid function. Sometimes, their TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), the most common test for thyroid function, has been tested and may still fall into the “normal range”. However, TSH is only one of the markers for abnormal thyroid function, and many patients are unaware that there are other tests that can give a much better picture of thyroid health and function.

Statistically, hypothyroid is an under diagnosed condition. In fact, in the US only ½ of Americans that have hypothyroidism know it.

What is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at front of your neck and controls your metabolism. It therefore controls your weight, energy levels and also plays a role in cholesterol and hormone production.

When the thyroid is out of balance and not functioning optimally you can gain weight, have sluggish bowels, experience dry skin, have fertility problems, brain fog and feel tired…even if you have a great diet and activity level!

The Key Thyroid Tests

Thyroid tests should be easy to obtain from your primary doctor, naturopathic doctor or functional medicine doc. However thyroid tests do take some skill to interpret and some docs may be reluctant to order more than a TSH test. If this is the case, consider getting a second option by a doctor that is familiar with thyroid health and testing.

Thyroid Test #1: TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)

TSH is the commonly order thyroid test. This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland (a small gland in your brain). TSH communicates with the thyroid to tell it to produce more thyroid hormones T3 and T4. When all is going well in the body, TSH is in a normal healthy range and so is T3 and T4. When T3 and T4 (those important thyroid hormones produced by the thyroid gland) are LOW, TSH starts to INCREASE, telling the thyroid gland to produce more T4 and T4.

The “healthy TSH range” has become a somewhat controversial topic in medicine. Most Canadian labs consider the upper range of TSH to be 4-5mU/L. However, many experts, including many conventional endocrinologists, consider the upper limit of TSH should be no higher than 2.5-3mU/L. This is based on the data collected on Americans without any hypothyroid symptoms. When they have a TSH test done, this is the common upper range.

Thyroid Tests #2 and #3: T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine)

As mentioned above, T3 and T3 are hormones produced by your thyroid gland. T4 is produced in much higher amounts by your thyroid gland, and then is converted into T3 in the periphery. This is important because T3 is the more active form of thyroid hormones and is necessary for proper metabolic function.

Thyroid Tests #4 and #5: TPO and TGAb (Thyroid Antibodies)

As mentioned previously, autoimmune hypothyroidism is the most common cause of hypothyroid. As with any other health condidition, to achieve optimal health we must look at the underlying cause of the problem. If a patient has hypothyroidism, but does not address the autoimmunity (if present), the problem will not be addressed at the root cause. Thyroid antibodies can also be measured every 6-12 months to gauge how thyroid treatment is progressing.

Thyroid Test #6: Reverse T3 (RT3)

Although there is some controversy over the usefulness of this test, I have personally found it of benefit in my practice, especially if hypothyroid symptoms are persisting despite treatment. Sometimes, when the T4 is being converted to T3, it can be converted into RT3, a less active form of T3 that the body cannot use as well as T3. This can happen is one is under a large amount of stress or is sick. If the patient it producing a large amount of RT3, certain medication or supplements can help replenish the body with T3 and encourage the body to produce T3 over RT3.

If you have an inkling that your thyroid health is sub-optimal and your doc is not open or familiar with thyroid testing, consider switching docs or having a second opinion.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Emily