All posts by admin

Golden Milk, Turmeric Tea

Turmeric is an herb that is ubiquitous with many Indian dishes. It is a powerful plant, holding many medicinal properties. Curcumin is a well studied medicinally active compound found in turmeric. Curcumin inhibits leukotriene formation, acting as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Curcumin also acts as an antioxidant, anti-cancer compound, stimulates bile, and can help to protect the liver.

To increase the absorption curcumin, it’s best to consume it with fat because it is a fat soluble compound. Black pepper contains a compound called piperine that will also increase the absorption of curcumin. This recipe is a delicious way to consume turmeric and will also help to maximize the absorption of the active compounds of turmeric.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp honey or maple syrup (to taste)
  • Pinch of black pepper (increases absorption)

Directions 1. Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth 2. Pour into a saucepan and warm but don’t allow to boil. Will take approximately 3-5 minutes. Note: As with everything on this website, this blog post is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions. This is for informational purposes only. As with many herbal remedies, there can be allergies and contraindications with certain conditions and medications that make them unsafe for everyone to take. Before taking any herbs or supplements, it’s best to consult with your naturopathic doctor or medical doctor.

Naturopathic Approach to the Winter Blues

The winter can be a dreary time and downright depressing for those who have “the winter blues.” The winter blues refers to seasonal affective disorder or SAD for short (such an appropriate acronym!). People with SAD will have bouts of depression during specific time periods of the year, usually during the winter months. SAD is associated with decreased hours of sunlight exposure, making it common in Northern latitudes such as Canada.

Symptoms

Some typical symptoms of SAD include:

  • Sadness
  • Increased sleep
  • Decreased energy/lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased libido
  • Withdrawal from family and friends

If you suspect that you have seasonal depression see a healthcare professional to get an accurate diagnosis.

Causes

The exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown. Some factors that may contribute include:

  • Biological clock (circadian rhythm). There is a link between reduced exposure to sunlight and developing seasonal depression. Inadequate light exposure can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. The disruption of your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Retinal sensitivity. Some individuals who develop SAD have a lower retinal sensitivity to light and might be more susceptible to the decreased sunlight in the winter.
  • Family History. Individuals with a family member who have a mood disorder (insomnia, depression, anxiety, etc) are more likely to develop SAD, suggesting a genetic component.
  • Neurotransmitters. Changes in your brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) can contribute to the development of SAD 

Neurotransmitters

  • Melatonin, your sleep hormone. People with seasonal depression have a longer duration of nighttime melatonin secretion in the winter compared to the summer. Sunlight suppresses the production of melatonin and a lack of sunlight in the winter causes the brain to overproduce melatonin. Excess melatonin can contribute to increased fatigue and changed sleep patterns of people with SAD.
  • Serotonin, your “feel good” hormone. Reduced sunlight can cause a decrease in serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone in our body that can affect mood. Lower levels of serotonin are often seen in people with anxiety and depression. The changes in melatonin and serotonin levels can affect energy, mood, appetite, and more.

Light Therapy

Light therapy is timed light exposure to help normalize melatonin levels. Melatonin levels can be disrupted in people with SAD, and light therapy may help to balance the levels.  Bright “full spectrum” lamps are used in light therapy, and some studies have shown benefit for both treatment and prevention.

Vitamin D

Most of our vitamin D comes from exposure to the sun. Vitamin D is very important and plays many roles in the body such as bone metabolism, immune system support, and mood regulation. An association between low blood vitamin D levels and symptoms of a mood disorders such as SAD have been suggested in several studies. Supplementation with vitamin D is generally recommended in Canada in the winter because of decreased sun exposure. Inquire about Vitamin D testing (25-Hydroxy Vitamin D) at Junction Health.

 Diet

Carbohydrate cravings occur because carbohydrates can temporarily promote the release of serotonin in the brain. Unfortunately, consuming simple carbohydrates is followed by a crash as blood sugar drops. Avoid this cycle by balancing your blood sugar by consuming protein and good fats with each meal. Some other helpful changes would be to avoid alcohol and caffeine and keep hydrated.

Exercise

Exercise is an excellent way to help boost your mood and research supports the benefit of exercise for depression.  Exercise releases endorphins that can help to improve your mood. It can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise in the winter, so finding an exercise buddy can provide encouragement and motivation.

What Should you Do?

Go for a walk! Getting outside will give you sunlight exposure and will provide important exercise.

Speak to a professional! Please book an appointment to speak to your doctor or with a naturopath if you suspect you have SAD. Other conditions need to be considered such as depression, bipolar disorder, or other medical conditions and medications that may contribute to depression. Seeing a naturopath will help you get to the root cause to receive an individualized treatment. Feel free to book a 15 minute free consultation with Dr. Jennifer MacDonald, ND if you would like to learn more.

References:

Eyles, Darryl W., Thomas HJ Burne, and John J. McGrath. “Vitamin D, effects on brain development, adult brain function and the links between low levels of vitamin D and neuropsychiatric disease.” Frontiers in neuroendocrinology 34.1 (2013): 47-64.

Healthy Granola, Date and Pecans

If you’ve never tried to make your own granola before I highly recommend that you try out this recipe. Homemade granola is healthier for you, cheaper, and much more delicious. Try different combinations or nuts, seeds and dried fruit. I happened to have a surplus of dates and pecans and I find they make a delicious combo. Almonds and cranberries are another favourite of mine.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups gluten free oats
  • 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 + 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional but suggested, adds great flavour)
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (optional but also suggested)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl mix the oats, pecans, coconut, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
  2. In a small saucepan, whisk the oil and honey together over low-medium heat. Add the salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
  3. Pour the mixture over the oat, nut and seed mixture. Stir to completely coat everything with the oil honey mixture.
  4. Place approximately half the mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes (depending on how hot your over runs). Remove baking sheet and stir mixture. Place back in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and stir again. Repeat this process until the granola is golden, approximately 20-25 minutes.
  6. Cool mixture. Stir in the dates and chia seeds.

Avocado, Banana and Spinach Smoothie

Ingredients:

• ½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond, rice, coconut, oat)
• ½ cup water
• ½ ripe banana
• ½ avocado
• 1 large handful of spinach
• 1 scoop protein powder
• Optional: you can add 1 tbsp nut butter to vary the flavour and add a bit more protein

Directions:
1. Place everything in the blender and blend until smooth. The addition of an avocado makes this smoothie very rich and creamy. If your smoothie is too thick add ⅛ cup water, blend and assess the consistency. Keep adding water until a desired consistency is reached.

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Pumpkin oatmeal

I love when Fall comes around each year because it is stunning with the leaf changes, but I also love the seasonal food items that are available, especially squash. I also enjoy cooking up batches of stews an soups and using warming spices in my cooking such as ginger and cinnamon. This recipe has warming spices and squash and is a real winner! It tastes like pumpkin pie in a bowl and will fill you up in the morning. Using canned pumpkin gives you access to this recipe all year long, not just when pumpkins are in season.

Pumpkins are not only delicious but are also very nutritious. They are high in fiber, vitamin A as well as vitamin K. Vitamin A is recognized as being essential for vision as well as for cellular differentiation, growth, reproduction, bone development, and immune system actions. Vitamin A plays a role in maintaining the adrenal gland and  the synthesis of hormones such as thyroid hormone.

I recommend adding pumpkin seeds to this oatmeal as it helps add interest to the texture as well as added nutrition. Pumpkin seeds have beneficial fats such as linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid) and are a great source of magnesium.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked pureed pumpkin (canned can be used)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup large flake oats (gluten free is necessary)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamon (optional, I find gives it a nice flavour. You can add ground nutmeg instead if desired)
  • Pumpkin seeds for serving
  • Honey or maple syrup for serving

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan combine pumpkin puree, water, almond milk, spices and the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the oats, stir, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
  3. Simmer the oats until cooked throughout, approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Serve with pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top, a drizzle of your natural sweetener of choice (honey or maple syrup are my choices). I’ve added chia seeds as well and Greek yogurt can also be a nice addition.