Q&A with Dr. Lewis: Today’s Topic Natural Cold and Flu prevention

Patient Q:  I am looking for a natural approach to prevent illness.  What are some ways in which I can stay healthy during cold and flu season this year?

Dr. Lewis A:  The Naturopathic medical model recognizes that the best strategy in the prevention and treatment of seasonal illness is to balance the immune defences to ensure that your body is able to effectively deal with any bugs that you may come across.

Cold and flu prevention begins with a foundation of basic healthy diet and lifestyle choices.  This includes consuming a whole food diet rich in proteins, whole grains, good fats and an abundance of fruits and vegetables.  Avoidance of processed and refined foods especially ones that are high in sugars will support the goal of optimal immune health.  Lifestyle choices like daily exercise that increase body temperature and induce sweating, sleep hygiene that promotes quality rest and stress management activities like deep breathing and yoga will all play a key role in immune system balance.

In addition there are many different vitamin, mineral, herbal and homeopathic formulas that have been shown to prevent and treat colds and flu.   A Naturopathic doctor will further assess your individual needs and develop a specific treatment plan to prevent cold and flu during this season.

Q&A with Dr. Lewis: Today’s Topic Wheat vs. Gluten

Patient Q: What is the difference between wheat and gluten? Should I be avoiding both?

Dr. Lewis A: Wheat is a grain whereas gluten is a protein that is found in wheat as well as other grains like barely, rye, oats, spelt and kamut.  Wheat is by far the most popular and most processed grain consumed in the North American diet and is present in most breads, crackers, cereals, baked goods etc… Because of it’s over consumption as well as genetic modifications many people are likely to develop a sensitivity to it. The symptoms of this sensitivity are varied but common complaints are headaches, weight gain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, frequent cold and flu, eczema, and depression.

Other grains like amaranth, millet, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, corn do not contain gluten and are considered to be both wheat free and gluten free.

Unless there is an obvious gluten sensitivity that is identified through the assessment of symptoms patterns or shown in diagnostic testing, I typically recommend that a person first start on a wheat free program. If symptoms do not improve then I will ask them to move towards a gluten free diet. In both cases I suggest the elimination be maintained 2-3 months to allow for desensitization.

Even in the absence of any symptoms that may indicate sensitivities I highly recommend that you rotate your consumption of the different grains so that you prevent the symptoms associated with an overexposure to the same foods.

Suffering from a cold? Try warming socks treatment.

wool socksThis amazing at home treatment acts by increasing the circulation and decreasing congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat. It has a relaxing action and many patients report that they sleep much better during the treatment.  Warming socks is effective for pain relief and has been shown to speed the healing response during acute infections.

Indications:
Sore throat or any inflammation or infection of the throat, neck pain, ear infections, headaches, migraines, nasal congestion, upper respiratory infections, coughs, bronchitis, and sinus infections.

Supplies:

1 pair of thin white cotton socks
1 pair of thick wool socks
towel
warm bath or warm foot bath

Directions:
1. Warms your feet first – this is very important as the treatment will not be as effective and could be harmful if your feet are not warmed first. Warming can be accomplished by soaking your feet in warm water for at least 5-10 minutes or taking a warm bath for 5-10 minutes.
2. Dry off fee and body with a dry towel
3. Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them in cold running water. Wring the socks well so they do not drip.
4. Put the cotton socks on your feet while sitting on your bed. Cover with the wool socks and go directly to bed so as to avoid getting chilled.
5. Keep the socks on overnight. You will find that the wet cotton socks will be dry in the morning.

For best results repeat this for three nights in a row, or as instructed by your Naturopathic Doctor.

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Are Homeopathy and Naturopathy the same? Quick answer is No!

A common response when people find out I am a Naturopathic doctor is something along the lines of … “I totally believe in homeopathic medicine” or “my neighbour went to see a homeopath”.

When I try to explain that I practice Naturopathic medicine and that homeopathy is one of many tools that I use, I am often met with a confused look or a blank stare.

Homeopathic medicine and naturopathic medicine are indeed distinct forms of medicine.

Homeopathy works on the principle that the symptoms a person is expressing are actually the body’s attempt to heal itself.  By matching a remedy with the pattern of symptoms it is expected that the body will be further assisted in promoting the healing response.

Naturopathic doctors are primary health care providers and the only regulated health professionals in Ontario that have extensive training in all of the natural medicines, including homeopathy.

So…to be clear Naturopathic doctors are different from homeopaths but may use homeopathy as one part of a treatment plan in addition to nutrition, botanical medicine, acupuncture, lifestyle counseling and other therapies together or individually.

Healthy Alternatives: Coffee

I love the smell, taste and impact that coffee has on me and in moderation I, like the next person, loves a well prepared latte. Unfortunately like many of the pleasures in life too much coffee maybe a detriment to your long term health.

Although the immediate reaction to coffee is an increase in energy, focus and concentration, this short term stimulation on the nervous system and adrenal glands ultimately ends up causing stress to the body.   Typically too much coffee intake results in anxiety and nervousness, energy crashes, sugar cravings, insomnia and heartburn.

So what alternatives to coffee do I recommend that will give you the similar impact without the physical cost to the body?

Yerba mate tea, green tea, chai tea and cocoa powder all contain caffeine but at much lower amounts than that found in coffee. They provide the energy and focus without the after effect of jitters and energy crashes.  In addition these teas are rich in nutrients, antioxidants and compounds that have an overall healing impact. They have been shown to assist with weight management, reduce the risk of cancer and support detoxification.

The good news is that many of these alternatives are now available at your favourite coffee shop or trendy tea store.   So the next time you are ready to order you morning java consider switching things up with a cup of green mint tea or chai tea with honey.

At Home Treatments: The Castor Oil Pack

A castor oil pack treatment is an easy and safe way to gently detoxify the liver,  improve digestive function, support the female reproductive organs and/or decrease inflammation of the muscles.

Supplies:

castor oil

  • Castor oil: found at your local health food store
  • An old towel, cotton t-shirt or piece of flannel
  • A heating pad or hot water bottle

Directions:

  1. Apply a generous amount of the castor oil onto the towel, cotton or flannel
  2. Place the material on the affected area
  3. Place the heating pad or hot water bottle over the pack
  4. Relax for 30-40 minutes
  5. Remove the pack and wash the area with soap or baking soda
  6. The pack can be wrapped and stored in the fridge to be used again up to 10 times
For optimal results aim for 3 treatments a week.
 
Castor oil packs are contraindicated during pregnancy, breast feeding and menstruation.