Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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.

Healthy “Ice Cream”- Banana Raspberry

Banana raspberry ice creamI have a weakness for ice cream, ever since I was a child. There’s just something so appealing about the sweet creaminess of it, and add in the fact that it’s cold and you get a pleasing sensation overload. There’s also a big nostalgia factor. Going out for  for ice cream with my family was something we did frequently in the summer, and I’d anguish over which 1 or 2 flavours I had to limit myself to choosing that day.

I love this recipe because it actually is a healthy and delicious alternative to regular ice cream. I know my family and friends roll their eyes when I say “this actually is…” because that sets you up for thinking it’s really awful but I’m trying to convince everyone that it’s not. Try this yourself and you will see what I mean, it is truly delicious and so simple.

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries

Directions

  1. You need to make this using an already frozen banana. I always have bananas waiting in my freezer for smoothies. If you don’t, simply peel and cut up (or I like to break it in half) a banana and freeze it for at least an hour.
  2. Place the banana and raspberries in a food processor and blend until smooth. Note that this can be made with just bananas. You can also substitute the raspberries for another type of fruit like mango, blueberries, etc.
  3. Enjoy is right away. I haven’t tried to refreeze it and it might turn out okay but I’m not sure. If you have experience freezing it again please comment below and let me know how it turned out.

Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette

balsammic vinegar picThis is a versatile vinaigrette that you can make ahead of time and store in the fridge for a few days.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (better quality balsamic is less harsh and has a sweeter taste)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons* see note
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 minced clove of garlic (optional but adds to it)

Directions:

1. Place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. Drizzle over your salad and enjoy! Makes about 1/2 cup of dressing.

* Note: If you use a good quality balsamic vinegar you may not need to sweeten it. Make your dressing without the honey and taste test it. If it is too harsh then you may need to add the honey. Start with 1 teaspoon at a time and try it out.