Natasha Klemm ND

Naturopathic medicine is my passion. Using individualized natural medicine, I help patients achieve their best health and live their best life!


Leave a comment

Did you know there are 5 types of PMS?

Ladies, that time of the month is never as pleasant as the commercials depict with women frolicking in a park or dancing in a tight dress. PMS can be miserable. So miserable that we take time off work and away from family and friends to nurse our monthly flow. We are told that PMS is normal—your mom had it, your sister has it, your grandma had it—and the only treatment is popping Advil and retreating from society.

Guess what?! PMS IS NOT NORMAL. PMS is a constellation of symptoms that tell us our hormones are imbalanced. Using you symptoms as the guide sheds light on your specific imbalance.

The 5 types of PMS are caused by different imbalances, all of which are treatable with dietary and lifestyle changes and supplementation.

Type A for Anxiety. Up to 80 % of women experience this type, characterized by hypersensitivity, mood swings, irritability, tension and crying easily. This type results from a relative drop in progesterone at the end of the cycle, which can also cause the period to start suddenly and contain heavy clots.

Type C for pmsproblemsCravings. Women with cravings (you know who you are!), usually crave chocolate or sweets and notice a dramatic, sometimes uncontrollable increase in appetite. This type, affecting 50% of women, is related to abnormal insulin levels and blood sugar. Headaches, fatigue, moodiness and irritability can also occur. Eating frequently and focusing on protein curbs those cravings by stabilizing excess insulin.

Type D for Depression. Depression, forgetfulness, insomnia, confusion, withdrawal and clumsiness characterize this PMS type. It is caused by relatively low levels of estrogen and serotonin—your feel-good brain chemical. Exercise is very important and eating phytoestrogens, such as fennel and flaxseed, can reduce your symptoms.

Type H for Hyper-hydration. Water retention causes swollen fingers and ankles, breast tenderness, bloating and weight gain. There are a few causes, including too much stress, impaired lymphatic flow and high serotonin. Alcohol and excess sodium should be avoided and potassium-rich foods, such as broccoli, avocados and bananas, should be consumed to reduce these pre-menstrual symptoms.

Type P for Pain: Pain can be a debilitating symptom of PMS, occurring in the joints, lower back, abdomen or head. Because this is caused by an increase in inflammatory chemicals, the nightshade vegetables, which exacerbate existing inflammation and include potatoes, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes, should be avoided. Consuming omega-3s, which are high in anti-inflammatory chemicals, can reduce symptom severity over time.

What if you have symptoms from each category?! This is common, whether you experience a combination of types with each period or it changes from month to month. This is because our diet and lifestyle dramatically affect our interconnected web of hormones and brain chemicals. The starting point is a always improving your diet and regulating lifestyle factors, such as stress. These modifications make a huge difference and with a few herbal and nutritional supplements, PMS is no longer your norm.

 


Leave a comment

Specialty Tests to Improve your Health Outcomes

Lab work is a staple in any comprehensive treatment program. Many tests can be performed through OHIP (B12, iron, glucose, etc), but many blood tests can be inconclusive or not show us the whole picture.

For example, the ranges for TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone) and B12 are not adequatemedical_test_result on conventional blood tests. Many patients experience symptoms despite their lab results being in the “normal” range. In addition to interpreting these tests differently, there are many tests ordered through your naturopath that relay a better understanding of your health.

Food Sensitivity Test: By-far the most popular test! This quick, and simple pin-prick blood test, measures the amount of IgG antibodies that your body produces against 96 common foods. Unlike the skin-prick test that measures immediate food allergies (hives, swollen lips, difficulty breathing), this test measures a dCholesterol lab test reportelayed immune response to food that can cause bloating, gas, IBS & IBD, skin rashes like eczema & acne, headaches, fatigue, joint pain and impaired immunity.

Adrenal Stress Index: Canadians are under chronic stress, causing long-term release of cortisol. Cortisol has many negative impacts on the body,including insulin resistance, difficulties losing weight, mood imbalances, low libido, impaired immunity and fatigue. This test not only measures your cortisol rhythm throughout the day—Is it too high or too low in the case of burnout—but also the related hormones such as DHEA, progesterone and insulin, which are affected by its release. This test provides you with an accurate depiction of how stress is affecting your overall health.

Month-Long Female Hormone Panel: Menstrual irregularities, menopause and PMS are the result of an imbalance in female hormones. Simple blood tests provide only a snapshot during the month, being useful only if their is a gross abnormality. Also, blood tests of hormones do not accurately reflect the hormones that reach tissues and have a physiological effect. Salivary hormone testing is done for 11 days over an entire cycle, mapping out the absolute concentration and relative balance of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, FSH and LH.

Male Hormone Panel: Low libido, difficulties losing weight, and depression can be symptoms of testosterone and hormone imbalance. The hormones are also measured in the saliva, providing greater accuracy and they include testosterone, DHEA/S, Androstenedione, DHT and Estrogen.

*At least partially covered by most extended health benefits

**The results of most tests are reported within 3 weeks.


Leave a comment

Food & Chemical Exposure Can Harm Your Thyroid Gland

The thyroid is a popular topic in medicine (hence my second post on the thyroid gland). Responsible for how quickly our body uses energy, this small organ has a large effect on our overall health. Reduced thyroid function is a common problem that is not always obvious on lab tests. Many foods and everyday chemicals can have negative effects on the health of the thyroid gland, causing symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, depression, constipation and dry hair and skin.

300px-Thyroid_system.svgSoy

Although soy products are widely used for osteoporosis, cancer prevention, and menopausal symptoms, laboratory and human studies have shown that soy isoflavones, reduce thyroid hormone production. These compounds inhibit thyroid peroxidase, the enzyme that incorporates iodine to complete the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Soy can also inhibit the conversion of T4 to the active thyroid hormone, T3.

Thiocyanate

Thiocyanate is a detoxification product of cyanide and it inhibits the transport and uptake of iodine into the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. Thiocyanate levels increase with consumption of goitrogens, such as brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, environmental toxins and cigarette smoke. The effect is pronounced in individuals with iodine deficiency and is reversed with iodine supplementation.

PCBs

Despite being banned in the 1970s, polychlorinated biphenyls are still present in the environment. Long-term exposure to PCBs causes thyroid dysfunction, increased thyroid volume and nodule formation. By increasing the release of TSH, these industrial chemicals can cause an insensitivity or resistance of your body to thyroid hormones.

Pesticides

Pesticides are still ubiquitous in the environment and studies show that exposure increases the risk of developing thyroid problems. Similarly, nearly 60% of the pesticides used today can alter thyroid hormone production and make losing weight more difficult.

BPA

Plastics are dangerous to the body in a number of ways. In addition to the cancer-promoting properties of BPA in water bottles, storage containers and sports equipment, this chemical decreases the sensitivity of thyroid receptors, causing thyroid hormone resistance.

Antibacterial Products

Marketed as a tool to keep you healthy, synthetic antibacterial compounds can have negative effects on your health. Triclosan, which is added to soaps, can disrupt normal thyroid functioning.

Heavy Metals

Chronic exposure to heavy metals—mercury, lead and aluminum—alters the immune system, causing the production of antibodies that attack your own cells. These autoantibodies can lead to the autoimmune thyroid conditions, Grave’s Disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Although the thyroid gland has numerous effects on your health, its function is easily disrupted with food and chemical exposure. Limiting this exposure while enhancing your body’s detoxification pathways is an important first step to maintaining optimal thyroid function.


Leave a comment

A Gut Feeling

Anyone who has ever had a presentation, important meeting or otherwise nervous situation will know that the digestive systemBrain_Gut_Chess_2 also experiences your stress. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common symptoms of what your mind is thinking. But does it go further then this? How intimately tied is your digestive system to your mind and what are the implications on your health?

Studies have shown that individuals suffering with mental disorders have twice the risk of having a digestive illness. This creates a vicious cycle whereby anxiety leads to digestive upset, which leads to further anxiety. Anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers have symptoms that manifest in both the brain and gut.

The relationship between the mind and digestive system is clear when evaluating irritable bowel syndrome. As a “functional” disease IBS is not caused by a structural abnormality, but the symptoms of chronic abdominal pain, and diarrhea alternating with constipation are undeniably linked to its other symptom—anxiety. The gut is often called “the second brain” because the brain molecules and receptors that effect our mood and mental health are also present in the gut.

Up to 90% of the body’s serotonin, our “feel good” brain chemical, is housed in the gut where it activates serotonin receptors. Patients with diarrhea-prominent IBS secrete higher amounts of serotonin after a meal and those with constipation secrete lower amounts when compared to normal controls. The serotonin nerve cell signaling is involved in gut motility, sensitivity and digestive fluid secretions, implicating its involvement in the pain and extreme bowel irregularity of IBS.

A fascinating area of research focuses on the effects that commensal bacteria have on our mind. The digestive system is inhabited with 1X1013 to 1X1014 microorganisms or gut flora, more than 10 times the number of human cells in our bodies. While the gut flora is being established in the first year of life, negative consequences arise when the infant experiences stress—stress lowers and causes an imbalance in gut flora that has a lasting effect on digestive and mental health.

Research on animal models demonstrates that growing in a germ-free environment (no gut flora) leads to an increased stress response, as well as risky behavior and deficits in memory. Imbalances in commensal flora, caused by bacterial infections, leads to increased anxiety. A recent study demonstrated that re-establishing gut flora with probiotics causes changes in brain regions that lead to positive effects on emotion and cognition.

Research looking more deeply into the relationship between the mind and digestive system is ongoing, with the results thus far fascinating. This intimate connection proves the importance of adequate nutrition and stress reduction for mental health.


Leave a comment

Baby, It’s Cold (and Flue Season) Outside

What happens to our bodies when we get sick?

coldOur immune system is a complex array of cells and tissues working in concertum to protect us from becoming sick with the cold or flu. When you are exposed to a virus that causes either the common cold or flu, it enters your respiratory tract through the nose or mouth. Once it’s in the respiratory system, it starts to replicate, causing swelling and inflammation of the air passages, eventually entering the bloodstream, where it is met by antibodies and white blood cells, which fight to eliminate the virus.

A cold comes on slowly and is characterized by a sore throat, runny nose and sneezing. The flu differs, occurring suddenly with a fever and chills, muscle aches and a significant cough.

Although we cannot always prevent exposure to the cold or flu virus (work, public transport, schools etc), there are many precautions you can take to enhance your immune system function and reduce your risk of getting sick.

Sugar and alcohol reduce the activity of your white blood cells, the soldiers of your immune system.

Your stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline suppress your immune system by both reducing white blood cell formation and function.

Being overweight and sedentary increases your risk of infections by decreasing the number of white blood cells, reducing immune system efficacy and making your recovery slower.

Lastly, low quality or inadequate sleep can increase the frequency, severity and duration of infections, like the common cold.

 What can we do to prevent getting sick?

Although the flu shot can effectively protect your from only 3 strains of the flu virus, it does not protect against the common cold or other flu strains. Your best immune defense is offense—use food, lifestyle and supplements that enhance your immune system to prevent illness.

In addition to avoiding the foods that impair your immune system, adding fresh garlic and onions, which have anti-viral and immune-boosting properties, can help build your immune system. Brightly coloured vegetables and lean protein provide the nutrients and building blocks your immune system needs to fight infections. Supplementation with vitamins A, C and E, as well as zinc and selenium can improve your immune function and structure. Herbs, including echinacea, and elder can inhibit the virus from growing and reduce symptoms. Steam inhalation with essential oils, such as eucalyptus and rosemary, clear the inflammation and mucous that keeps the virus trapped in your respiratory system. Lastly, when you are sick, REST. This not only reduces the transmission of the cold and flu viruses, but also provides your body with the energy it needs to fight the infection.

Disclaimer: This information is for education purposes only and some of the products may not be appropriate for you. Before starting any supplements, please consult your naturopath.


Leave a comment

Just like Sleeping Beauty…

SleepAs our schedules get busier with work and school, our sleep routine is the first to go. Unfortunately, research demonstrates that sleeping 6 hours or less a night, increases your risk of developing a chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and chronic infections.

Furthermore, insomnia can be secondary to chronic disease or medications, like hypothyroidism, obesity, congestive heart failure, anxiety and antidepressants, beta-blockers, and decongestants–the very disease and its medication can be caused and made worse by a lack of sleep.

On average, you should get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, consistently. Your body wants routine so sleep should occur at the same time every night. This is due to the pattern of melatonin, our sleep hormone and its relationship with cortisol, our stress hormone.

Ideally melatonin release starts around 7-8 pm in response to decreasing light, and this prepares you for bed at 10 pm. When you stay up later and your body doesn’t follow this pattern, your melatonin secretion never reaches optimal levels. Due to its inverse relationship with your stress hormone, cortisol levels remain high because there is insufficient melatonin to depress it. Despite eventually falling asleep, reduced melatonin levels prevent a deep and recovery stage of rest.

When you are continuously stressed your cortisol is constantly released, leading to anxiety, restlessness and over-thinking at bedtime. Chronic high levels of cortisol prevent melatonin from peaking, causing insomnia. It is a vicious cycle–stress makes it more difficult to sleep and sleep disturbances prevent recovery from stress. This is the simplified link between stress, impaired sleep and chronic disease.

Many people turn to pharmaceutical sleep agents. Most of the OTC sleeping pills contain antihistamines (allergy medication), which lose effect with chronic use and can leave you feeling groggy in the morning. Prescription benzodiazepines (eg. Ativan) and similar drugs (the “Z” drugs) have an affinity for nervous system receptors that are inhibitory and cause subsequent relaxation. These drugs are very powerful but they are notorious for causing dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms when stopped.

Armed with this knowledge, many people seek alternatives that are just as effective and without serious side-effects.

Before Bed:

  • Keep household lighting dim starting at dinnertime
  • Make a to-do list or write in a journal
  • Exercise at the right time–no less than 3 hours before bed
  • Avoid bedtime snacks that are high in sugar or simple carbohydrates
  • Try to avoid fluids in the 2 hours before bedtime
  • Go easy on the alcohol
  • Complete your meditation or visualizations in the evening

Bedtime:

  • Make sure your room is as dark as possible
  • Keep electronics minimum 3 feet away
  • Turn off the TV
  • Use your bed for sleeping and sex only
  • Remove clutter from bedroom
  • Sleep nude (or as close to it as possible)
  • If you cannot sleep, get out of bed and do something else until you feel the urge to sleep
  • See light first thing in the morning

 

Melatonin: Supplements with melatonin can help you fall asleep especially if you are stress and burned out. Taking 1.5-5 mg between 7-8 pm mimics the ideal natural pattern of release. Melatonin can cause grogginess in the morning if too much is consumed. Start with 1.5 mg and titrate up to find your best dose.

Magnesium: Many natural sleep aids contain magnesium because it is a natural relaxant. Then combined with specific amino acids, magnesium can help you stay asleep.

Sleep Aid Teas: A warm cup of tea at night works wonders to calm you down, especially of you experience anxiety. Passionflower, Valerian and Skullcap are widely used herbs for sleep and relaxation.

Supplements can be a safe and effective way to fall and stay asleep. Minerals, amino acids and herbs can calm your anxiety and reset your sleep cycle. While it is important to determine the root cause of your insomnia–stress, thyroid disease, anxiety, lack of routine—natural sleep aids can support you getting those much-needed Zzz’s.


Leave a comment

Your Energy Powerhouse – The Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland is responsible for our metabolism, controlling how quickly the body uses energy. It is one of the largest endocrine glands, comprised of two lobes and a bridge connecting them. It is located in the neck, below the “Adam’s apple”.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the body produces too much thyroid hormone, leading to weight loss, insomnia, anxiety and heat intolerance .

Hypothyroidism is much more common, particularly in women. The low production or conversion of thyroid hormone leads to symptoms of fatigue, sleepiness, and weight gain. The fatigue can be so debilitating that individuals sleep for longer than 24 hours.

When patients are fatigued, a blood test for Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is ordered . TSH, produced by the pituitary gland, controls thyroid hormone output . Its release causes the production and release of T4 by the thyroid gland, which is converted to the active thyroid hormone form, T3, by removing an iodine molecule.

TSH and thyroid hormone have a negative feedback relationship. When thyroid hormone is low, TSH production and release is increased to stimulate production of T4, as is the case in hypothyroidism. If your thyroid hormone is too high, TSH drops as it is not needed to stimulate more T4 production.

Standard laboratory tests describe a normal TSH range of 0.35-5.00 mIU/L. Naturopathic doctors see this range as being too wide for useful diagnosis of thyroid disease. Clinical experience demonstrates that a TSH above 2.5 mIU/L indicates a problem with thyroid hormone production as many patients experience hypothyroid symptoms even when their TSH is within normal limits.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms:

  • fatigue, loss of energy, sleepinessthyroid
  • weight gain, inability to lose weight
  • decreased appetite
  • cold intolerance
  • dry skin
  • hair loss
  • depression, emotional lability
  • impaired memory, difficulty concentrating
  • constipation
  • menstrual irregularities

Another concern about thyroid disease screening, is that it measures only TSH, not T3, T4 or reverse T3. Although TSH can be in the normal range, T4 may be too high and T3 may be too low, indicating improper conversion to the active form. In addition, T4 may be converted to reverse T3, which is similar to T3, except the iodine has been removed from a different position, rendering it inactive. Reverse T3 is made in times of stress and systemic illness as a way to conserve energy. Without seeing all of these values, hypothyroidism can go undiagnosed.

Stress is also a factor in thyroid health. Under times of chronic and high stress, the production of cortisol requires tyrosine, an amino acid required for thyroid hormone production. Cortisol uses the body’s available tyrosine, leaving little for T4 production, leading to reduced thyroid function.
Although hypothyroidism is common, medication may not always be the answer. If the hypothyroidism is caused by a systemic illness, or the real culprit is chronic stress, these must be treated first. In addition, there are key nutrients that support optimal thyroid function, such as zinc, copper, iron, selenium and B12. Furthermore, herbs can stimulate T4 production and the conversion to T3. Lastly, avoiding soy, almonds and Brassica vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts) is advisable for people with hypothyroidism as these foods can inhibit thyroid gland function.
If you have been more fatigued lately and/or despite exercise and healthy eating are unable to lose weight, your thyroid function may be the reason.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.