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

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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.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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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

5 Dietary Recommendations for Enhancing Fertility

a921b1a5953616fa7b1e415200b149c7.jpg_srz_p_697_723_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzPreparing for pregnancy can involve preparing financially, spiritually, physically and nutritionally.  Whether you are having difficulty conceiving or are consciously preparing for pregnancy, diet is very important.  What we eat can influence fertility, affect hormones and later, affect the fetus.  More and more woman are wishing to be pregnant at later stages of life. As our fertility peaks in our early 20s and begins declining in our late 20’s, many woman who are 30 plus often are interested in foods that can boost their chances of conceiving. (May I add that woman who choose to wait for babies can still have very healthy and happy pregnancies !! ) So without further ado please find my top 5 dietary recommendations for fertility:

  • Eat Organic as much as possible a year before conceiving.  Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms and therefore harmful to humans. Children are actually four times more sensitive to exposure to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults. Many toxins used in pesticides are also known hormone disruptors. Some of the chemicals that are used in pesticides are fat soluble, meaning that they can be stored in our fat cells for long periods of time.  Therefore it is best to avoid these chemicals as long as possible before becoming pregnant to minimize the exposure of the growing fetus to these toxins found on conventional produce.

  • Increase consumption of nutritious seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Nutritional deficiencies of zinc and B6 can affect fertility. Sunflower seeds are a good source of B6 and other trace minerals and pumpkin seeds contain a high amount of zinc amongst other minerals.  You can add these seeds to cereals, salads or even buy (pumpkin or sunflower) seed butter and spread it on toast.

  • Make you sure your iron intake is adequate.  The best way to find out if your iron levels are high enough is to have your ferritin levels measured through blood.  Ferritin levels lower than 70 can decrease fertility and can also lead to anemia throughout pregnancy.  Red meat is the best source of iron (opt for grass fed, organic). Dark leafy green veggies, beans, legumes and molasses also are higher in iron and cooking in a cast iron pan can also increase the iron levels of the foods that are cooked in them. Some individuals, despite their best nutritional efforts still have low iron and need to take an iron supplement.

  • Eat a diet rich in omega 3 Fatty Acids: These healthy fats are great for the brain, help to balance hormones and also lead to better birth outcomes for the baby.  Aim for 2-3 servings of low mercury fish (sardines, anchovies and mackerel are best), chia seeds, flax and walnuts and/or supplement with a high quality fish oil daily.  Make sure the fish oil has been third party tested for mercury and other heavy metals and the source of the fish is from mackerel, anchovies and/or sardines.  

  • Aim to eat low- medium glycemic index carbohydrates. When we consume carbohydrates they are broken down into sugars that provides energy to our cells. Some carbohydrates break down into more sugars than others and these certain carbohydrates can affect our insulin levels, thus affecting our hormones.  Choose low glycemic index carbohydrates such as rice bran and other whole grains and bright coloured vegetables. Avoid high glycemic index foods such as refined sugars, white breads, white rice and white pastas.

 In Health,

Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND

 

How Naturopathic Medicine Can Help Manage Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can be caused by a blocked upper airway (called obstructive apnea), by your brain not signaling your lungs to breathe (central apnea), or by a combination of these two problems.

 

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Many physical conditions, such as being overweight, or having large tonsils and adenoids, can cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is also linked to medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.  Additionally, some individuals may have low thyroid function, causing them to gain weight and feel tired. The typical person with sleep apnea is an overweight, middle-aged man with allergies. However not everyone with apnea is overweight!  Apnea can happen at any age, regardless of weight and is found in women as well. Sometimes drugs, such as alcohol, sleeping pills, or heart medications, can trigger apnea. It can also be inherited.

Not getting enough sleep can lead to more problems such as anxiety, depression, brain fog and more weight gain.

The treatment of sleep apnea often requires breathing devices, dental devices or surgery. However, Naturopathic medicine can be a great adjunct therapy to increase your overall well being.

Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND uses a combination of evidence based therapies, including dietary and lifestyle changes, supplements, botanicals and acupuncture to treat the underlying cause of the disease.

Conditions treated include:

Weight loss

Allergies

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol)

Insomnia                                                                                            

Diabetes

Hypothyroid

Depression/Anxiety

Stress

Working on proper sleep hygiene (i.e. no watching TV or looking at computers right before bedtime!) can also greatly benefit the ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep.

Take care of yourself! Find a Naturopathic Doctor that can help you have a more restful sleep so you can lead a happier life!

Linoleic acids and Gamma Linolenic Acids (GLAs)

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Studies have found that consumption of linoleic acids (an essential fatty acid) and vitamin C decrease drying and wrinkling of the skin.  Linoleic acid plays a key role here because once ingested, linoleic acid turns into gamma linolenic acid also known as GLA. Through a series of steps, GLA is eventually converted to prostaglandin 1, which has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and is also effective in regulating water loss and protecting the skin from damage. You can also supplement with evening primrose oil or borage oil, both contain high amounts of GLA.  Watch my video with the wonderful Kristen Ma to learn more about evening primrose oil here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-ClA89C-K0.

Walnuts contain both linoleic acid and omega 3 fatty acids.  This is excellent because in our western diets we tend to have a higher amount of omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3 and this can cause an imbalance.  Additionally, some of the major sources of omega 6 fatty acids in the western diet come from corn, wheat and soy bean oil.  These have been heavily modified and now cause digestive and health problems for many individuals.

A handful of walnuts make a great snack, or can be added on top of a salad or are great additions when baking healthy treats.