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.

girl-1064664_1920

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Advertisements

Natural Ways to Decrease Estrogen

089d27_0d5e840de6d742489d4664cb72bab07a.jpg_srz_p_633_656_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

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?

b47856daa790242ec1c3aa2a3310789c.jpg_srz_p_697_613_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

thyroid-gland (tuberose.com)

 

 

 

 

 

(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

Infusion Health Stress Reduction Techniques for Corporate Culture: A recap from our corporate wellness seminar in Toronto last week

IMG_20141030_132024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week Infusion Health had the pleasure of working with BHP Biliton, providing helpful stress reduction tips and tricks.  Here is a recap of some important points from our interactive workshop.

 

1. Cell phones can impact stress levels!

A study by the Families and Work Institute found that 1 in 3 US employees’ feels chronically overworked? Cell phones and email are partly to blame: “Better technology hasn’t meant that we can work from anywhere, anytime,” says Ellen Galinsky, president and cofounder of the institute. “It’s meant that we can work everywhere, every time.” (Families and Work Institute, 2014)

Turing off your phone for even 1 hour can help one to relax and improve mood.

2. Work is stressing Canadians out!

Work appears to be the #1 source of stress 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)

3. Try herbal teas, such as holy basil, instead of coffee.

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) can help the body’s natural response to physical and emotional stress. Multiple scientific studies have found that supplementation with Holy Basil tea have helped lower cortisol levels in the body (the hormone that is associated with stress). This tea is easily found at most grocery stores in the natural foods section

 

3. Integrate relaxation techniques into your daily life.

It can be deep breathing, meditation, exercise, yoga or another technique to help you relax. Whatever it is, these techniques that help us calm down are so important for our health! Read on for steps on Progressive Muscle Relaxation- this technique has been proven to help relax and improve focus in treatment groups.

PMR is a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body. PMR brings awareness to tension and relaxation in different parts of your body. Combined with deep breathing, this awareness can help you counterbalance the feelings of stress in your body.

***Warning: Consult with your doctor if you have a history of muscle spasms, back problems, or other serious injuries that may be aggravated by tensing muscles before trying PMR.

Most progressive muscle relaxation practitioners start at the feet and work their way up to the face. Follow the steps listed below for a complete PMR body sequence (adapted from http://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/ndarc/resources/AppendicesCC.pdf)

  • Loosen your clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.
  • Take a few minutes to relax, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.
  • When you’re relaxed and ready to start, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
  • Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
  • Relax your right foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and the way your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
  • Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
  • When you’re ready, shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
  • Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the muscle groups as you go.
  • It may take some practice at first, but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.
  • Lower Legs (Left foot/ Left Calf) – point feet towards face, and then curl them downward all toes at the same
  • Thighs – Clench them hard
  • Hips and Buttocks – Press your buttocks together lightly
  • Stomach – Suck it into a tight knot ( looking at the chest and stomach for tension)
  • Back – Arch your back up and away from the chair (or floor)
  • Shoulders – Shrug them ( raise toward your ears)
  • Biceps and Upper Arms – Clench your hands into fists, bend our arms at the elbows, and flex your bicep
  • Wrists and Forearms – Extend them, and bend your hands back at the wrist.
  • Hands – make fist and clench them
  • Chest – Take a deep breath, and hold it
  • Front of the Neck –touch your chin to your chest
  • Back of the Neck – Press Neck against floor, or imagine pressing against a car seat
  • Mouth – Press your lips together tightly ( use only your lips – check your face for tension)
  • Cheeks and Jaws – Smile as widely as you can
  • Eyes and Bridge of the Nose – Close your eyes as tightly as you can ( remove contacts first)
  • Forehead – Wrinkle it into a deep frown

We would love to hear from you! How to you relax?

For more information on Infusion Health’s wellness workshops and seminars please email info@infusionhealth.ca or visit http://www.infusionhealth.ca

In Health,

Dr. Emily

Why Melatonin in Important and 4 Ways to Naturally Boost this Anti-Aging Hormone

sleeping woman

Melatonin is a natural hormone that is released from a small gland within the brain known as the pineal gland. Melatonin is known to be responsible for the regulation of our internal body clock, referred to as the circadian rhythm and regulates female’s reproductive hormones. However, science is now discovering that this is only one of the many benefits adequate Melatonin levels have in the body.

  • Insomnia: Boosting melatonin levels appears to reduce the time it takes for individuals to fall asleep, increase the number of sleeping hours and boost daytime alertness.
  • Menopause: Increasing melatonin may also benefit woman suffering from disordered sleep during the time of menopause.
  • Breast Health: Melatonin appears to be protective against breast cancer. Several studies suggest that low melatonin levels may be associated with breast cancer. Further, several preliminary studies suggest that melatonin may strengthen the effect of chemotherapy drugs.
  • Prostate Heath: Studies show that men with prostate cancer have lower melatonin levels than men without the disease.

Melatonin levels appear to naturally decline as we age. Read on to find out how you can naturally boost the levels of this important hormone in your body.

 

1. Avoid Exposure to Bright Lights at Night
Nighttime light exposure disrupts melatonin production and interferes with sleep. We recommend dimming the lights, avoiding looking at TV, computer and smart phone screens 1 hour before going to bed. This also applies for if you wake during the middle of the night, use dim light and avoid putting on bright overhead lights.
2. Expose Yourself to Sunlight During Your Waking Hours.
Nighttime night interferes with melatonin production, however inadequate exposure to light in the daytime also disrupts the body’s natural melatonin cycles. Make time to get outside in the sunshine during the day, or sit in a sunny window when you can.

3. Melatonin-Boosting Foods in Your Daily Diet.
By increasing the substrates necessary to produce melatonin through food, you can naturally increase the production of our this important hormone in our bodies. Make sure that you are consuming adequate protein (especially in the morning) and foods with calcium and magnesium. Good choices include seeds and dark leafy green vegetables.
4. Consider Supplementing with Melatonin
The dose of melatonin required will vary from for each individual and it is best to consult your Naturopathic doctor before taking melatonin. Melatonin should always be taken 30 minutes  to one hour before bedtime, preferably on an empty stomach. Melatonin should not be used by anyone who is pregnant or nursing or before driving a vehicle.

If you are interested in having a Naturopathic Doctor come into your place of work for a interactive wellness seminar or for Naturopathic treatment in the comfort of your own office, please check out http://www.infusionhealth.ca or contact info@infusionhealth.ca.

In Health,

Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND

Why Heat Can Help Ease Menstrual Pains

hot water bottle 2

I have countless patients that come to me to help them have more tolerable periods. A great deal of woman suffer from monthly menstruation pain and many are looking for alternatives to conventional oral pain killers.

Applying heat to the tummy to ease menstrual pain is advice women have passed down through the generations.

Now scientists have proved your grandmother really was on to something when she told you to use a hot water bottle.

Scientists say that placing a warm water bottle on the abdomen can not only alleviate menstrual cramping but can also relieve pain caused by cystitis. They say placing something warm on the skin above where the pain is felt can alleviate abdominal pain in a similar way to painkillers for up to an hour.

The scientists, from University College London, found that heat treatment works by blocking pain messages to the brain.

According to Dr. Brian King, when presenting his findings to the Physiological Society’s annual conference, ‘The heat doesn’t just provide comfort and have a placebo effect – it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers work. We have discovered how this molecular process works.’

The scientists found that if a warm temperature over 40 degrees Celsius is applied to the skin near to where internal pain is felt, it switches on heat receptors at the site of injury. These heat receptors in turn block the effect of chemical messengers that cause pain to be detected by the body”

Unfortunately, the relief from heat is only temporary, and many woman may need other solutions (like our many tips on periodmakeover.com or completing our Period Makeover Detox, that will be available on the Period Makeover  site soon!).

Lying down and using a hot water bottle can be very helpful, but sometimes our busy schedules do not allow for this! Luckily there are many over the counter, convenient, “on the go” heating pads available at drug stores that can easily be used under your clothes at work or throughout the day.

I would love to hear from you- have you found heat an effective way to decrease period pains?

In Health,

Dr. Emily