Depression Beyond Serotonin

Are you suffering from depression or know someone who is suffering from depression? Mood disorders are quite prevalent. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if we’re depressed or just really tired. Symptoms of depression may include

  • Irritability
  • Appetite changes
  • Insomnia
  • Tiredness
  • Sense of guilt or worthlessness nearly all the time
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

There is also a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This usually comes on in the fall or winter and improves in the spring or summer. It is normal to feel down during our long Canadian winters and does not necessarily mean you have SAD but getting your vitamin D levels tested is always a good idea to make sure you are not deficient.

The cause of depression is not really known. The pharmaceutical industry has put a lot of money in researching the neurotransmitters in our brain such as serotonin and they have created drugs called SSRI or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (Prozac, Paxil) which increase the half life of serotonin in the brain. However, it is becoming more and more difficult to say with 100% certainty that low serotonin is in fact the only cause of depression. New research is challenging the assumption that the word’s most common mental ailment is just a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Stress can be a huge trigger for depression. It can damage our brain cells and alter nerve circuits that control emotions. The good news is that our brain is “plastic” meaning that it can regenerate.

My approach to depression is multifold. I don’t just look at the neck up. Mood disorders involve the whole body. I make sure there aren’t any deficiencies such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron etc. I look at how different organs are functioning such as the thyroid, the adrenals and the liver. All of these imbalances or dysfunctions can contribute to mood changes. Furthermore, counselling and neuroemotional technique are also tools that I use to help find the root cause of depression. Unfortunately, depression can rarely be cured with one pill. If you are courageous to embark on the journey of self healing and to find out what may be causing your depression, then book an appointment with me. I would be honoured to be part of your health path.

Dr. Debra Derbyshire, ND Biography

Debra May 2016_0009 cropped

Dr. Debra Derbyshire will be taking over Dr. Cecilia’s maternity leave in July for approximately 6 months. Click here to book with her online.

Dr. Debra Derbyshire, Naturopathic Doctor graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1981 with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree. After completion of the four-year program at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in May 2000, she successfully completed the board exams for licensing in Ontario. Debra then moved to Waterloo in 2003 to continue to practise in naturopathic medicine.  During the years between completing her undergraduate degree and starting at CCNM, she worked a variety of consultant positions and other occupations in science. Including a position in the Pathology Department at the Toronto Hospital as a licensed Laboratory Technologist specializing in Cytogenetics. After experiencing major health changes for herself with naturopathic medicine, she began this rewarding journey of lifelong study in this profession.

Now, Debra is in good standing with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario (CONO). And continues to take courses and seminars to further her education. With the goal of continually improving the care and empowerment of her patients.

Are you having difficulties sleeping?

Whether you have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep or both, you’re probably wondering if there’s anything you can do about it. When we don’t get enough hours of sleep or when the quality of the sleep is lacking, our energy will be compromised. It’s very frustrating when you wake up at the same time every night or when you keep staring at the clock because you can’t fall back asleep.

When falling asleep is an issue, it’s usually because the mind can’t shut up. You’re thinking about all the things you have to get done, or you’re rehearsing in your head what has gone on during the day.

One thing I tell my patients is to make a to-do list before bed. This allows for all of your planning thoughts to be put on paper and thus it won’t be in your head. You don’t have to worry that you’ll forget something. Another technique that is very effective is meditation and deep belly breathing before bed. I know this is hard to do but practice makes perfect. When the body is breathing deeply it goes into the “rest and digest” state, which lowers cortisol, our stress hormone and allows the body to fall asleep.

Did you know that if you wake up between 1am and 3am it is considered Liver time in Chinese medicine. This organ is associated with the emotions of anger, frustration and irritability. Waking up between 3 and 5am is Lung time and is associated with the emotions of grief and sadness. Often times subconscious emotions and stress will affect our sleep quality and should not be neglected.

Waking up in the middle of the night for no reason, can be due to hormone imbalances. Women who are in perimenopause or menopause are often low in progesterone. Progesterone is a calming hormone and helps with sleep. There are many ways to improve the progesterone status. One way is to help the liver metabolize the hormones better by using herbs or homeopathics. The other way is to include bio-identical hormones. I usually use hormones as a last resort.

Another hormone that many of us are deficient in, especially as we get older, is melatonin. Melatonin is made by a gland in the brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced at night when it’s dark. If you have electronic devices in your room that emit some light or if you don’t have dark blinds on your windows, this can inhibit proper secretion of melatonin by the body. Melatonin deficiency has also been linked to breast cancer. Make sure your room is dark when you sleep.

In order to measure your hormones properly, a salivary test can be conducted. Salivary hormone testing is more accurate than blood testing as it reflects what is going in the tissues. It’s not a cheap test, but if you are struggling to know where your imbalances lie, it’s a good investment.

Herbs and nutrients that can help both falling asleep and staying asleep are passion flower, l-theanine, GABA, valerian and lemon balm. Making sure your adrenals are well balanced will also help with improving your sleep.

If you would like to get your sleep assessed further, do not hesitate to click here and book in with Dr. Cecilia de Martino, ND.

I’m pregnant. What should I be supplementing with?

Folic Acid

Now most people by now know that folic acid is the number one prescribed nutrient when a woman is pregnant. Folic acid has been shown to reduce neural tube defects in a fetus. This would include defects of the spinal cord such as spina bifida. Often this imperfection can occur very early on in pregnancy. For this reason it is important that women who are considering to get pregnant should supplement with folic acid. There is however, an increase in babies born with tongue tie. Tongue tie is when the baby’s tongue is attached too closely the bottom or back of the mouth making it difficult for them to breastfeed. It seems that this may be the case in those that have a genetic defect in properly utilizing folic acid. There is no way of knowing if this is you without a genetic test. Therefore, it is advisable to be taking the active form of folic acid, Methyl-Tetra-Hydro-Folate (MTHF). Most standard prenatals contain only folic acid and not MTHF. I always recommend a supplement that has the active folate in it.

Common Prenatals

The most common prenatals that physicians prescribe are Materna and Preg Vit. My biggest beef with these supplements are the non-medicinal ingredients. If you read the label you’ll notice things like “FD&C Red No. 40 aluminum lake, polysorbate 80, sodium lauryl sulfate, titanium dioxide, lactose…” These are fillers and aren’t ingredients we want to consume even in small amounts. Also, the amounts of the vitamins and minerals in them are too low. Not to mention the form of the vitamins aren’t their most absorbable forms. For example, you want methylcobalamine for B12 not cyanocoabalamine.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K is commonly known as a clotting vitamin. In reality this is vitamin K1. Vitamin K2 doesn’t operate the same way. It actually moves calcium into the bones and is critical for the development of teeth and bones in the fetus. This is a vitamin that I strongly recommend to all pregnant women. The type of vitamin K2 that you must look for is MK7, not MK4 because MK7 is much better absorbed and you need much less of it to have the same effect.

Fish oil

Fish oil or omega 3 is important for proper brain development. Specifically there are 2 types of omega 3 that have the biggest health effects. These are EPA and DHA. When you are pregnant, you want to focus on the DHA component as this is the omega 3 that is involved in proper brain development. EPA has a greater affinity for the heart. Make sure you are taking enough omega 3 especially while pregnant.

Probiotics

Maternal intake of probiotics protects against allergic diseases in children such as atopic dermatitis. Please note that yogurt often contains sugars and fillers such as gelatin and starches and they don’t label exactly what kind of probiotic strains are in them and how much is in there.

Vitamin D

The role of vitamin D in bone growth, both in utero and after birth has been well assessed. Vitamin D also plays a role in the immune system, which may have implications in the development of asthma, wheezing, allergic rhinitis and type 1 diabetes. Inadequate vitamin D levels may make the offspring more susceptible to respiratory disease.

I always recommend that vitamin D levels in the blood are checked. This allows for more accurate dose prescribing. Vitamin D testing is generally not covered by OHIP but you can pay privately for it and runs at about $35-$40 through your medical doctor.

The above list of nutrients is by no means exhaustive as there are others that are also important in pregnancy such as iodine, calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. If you are pregnant or are thinking of getting pregnant, please book in with me so that I can make sure you are getting enough of the most critical nutrients for you and the baby.

The Hormone Dance

Whether you are a woman whose periods are irregular, too heavy or too painful. Or whether you are a woman who has hot flashes, difficulties staying asleep and losing weight, the common denominator is hormone imbalances. Our most talked about hormones are: thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, melatonin and cortisol. When one or more of these are out of balance, it can make us feel completely off. Getting your hormones checked can be a very valuable insight into your health. The best way to measure your hormones is through your saliva. This measures the hormones at a cellular level indicating what hormones your tissues are using and taking up.

As a naturopathic doctor who has passed the prescribing exam, I am now eligible to prescribe bio-identical topical estrogen, progesterone as well as thyroid hormone. I prefer to use these as a last resort. I first make sure that the stress hormone cortisol is balanced, that the digestion is working well and that the liver is detoxifying the hormone properly. Once all the natural and lifestyle options have been exhausted, bio-identical hormones may be an option.

Bio-identical hormones are identical to our own bodies hormones unlike the traditional synthetic Premarin hormone which is made from a pregnant horse’s urine and has had a lot of research showing that it causes cancer and cardiovascular risks. Bio-identical hormones have a smaller risk profile and can relieve many symptoms.

If you believe that your symptoms are due to your hormones and would like to test them, make an appointment with me at the clinic.

Bone Broth Soup

Your adrenals are two glads located above your kidneys (back side). They make the stress hormone cortisol. During periods of high stress (like back to school, work, family drama etc) the adrenals are working hard to deal with stress. Over time, the adrenals get tired and you may experience adrenal fatigue or burnout.

Symptoms include:

  • low energy
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty waking up in the morning
  • craving salty foods
  • low blood pressure
  • low sex drive
  • weight gain

A great way to nourish your kidneys is through diet. Specifically bone broth soup. In Chinese medicine it’s important to have a proper balance if yin and yang. Bone broth is great at nourishing yin and chi (vital force) as well as the Kidneys. Since the adrenals are part of the Kidney system in Chinese medicine, eating bone broth soup will also benefit the adrenals and will improve the immune system.

Here’s the recipe:

To a pressure cooker add:

  • 2 medium or 1 large leek – thoroughly washed and chopped fine
  • 4 small or 2 medium carrots chopped in small chunks
  • 2 lbs of grass fed beef bones or chicken bones. (Eating grass-fed beef is better for your health because it is higher in the anti-inflammatory omega 3 and the cow’s are healthier eating a diet that is meant for their health, unlike corn fed beef)
  • 1 tsp of apple cider or rice vinegar
  • 1 onion chopped in strips
  • 3-4 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tbsp of fish sauce (optional)
  • Salt to season (I used Herbamare salt)
  • 2 L of water

Put all of the ingredients in the pressure cooker and turn the heat to high. Once you hear it steaming, it has reached the top temperature. Turn the heat to low and let it sit on the stove for 1-3 hrs. Then release the pressure before opening the pot.

Add some cooked sprouted rice, quinoa or even some beans or lentils to the soup if you wish.

20151004_172451

I recommend eating this soup as often as possible through the fall and winter. Stay warm and enjoy!

Baked Apples

Apples are part of the dirty dozen so make sure you get organic apples. We order from Bailey’s Local Foods. It’s only $20 for the year. It’s an online farmer’s market and then you pick up your food at the First United church in uptown Waterloo (next to the LCBO).

With the apples we bought, I decided to bake them. Here’s my recipe:

  • 4 large organic apples
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (you can get this from bulk barn) or use brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp of cinnamon minimum (I love cinnamon! plus it helps balance out your blood sugar)
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw nuts (anything from pecans, almond, walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup dried currants (I got organic ones from Bowman’s Organic Produce. Berries are also highly sprayed, so if you can find organic, that would be best.)
  • 4 tsp of butter (ideally grass-fed/pastured butter, which can be found at Bailey’s Local Foods or Healthy Foods and More)
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup of water

apples

You want to remove the core from the apples using a small paring knife and then a small spoon to scoop out the seeds. Leave about half an inch of apple at the bottom.

mixture

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and then fill each apple with this mixture. Add 1-2 tsp of butter on top of each filled apple. Then add the water to the bottom.

20151004_173801

Bake at 425 for 20-30 min. You can also broil the last 5-10 min at 475 if you wish. Just keep watching the apples and make sure they become soft. The juicy liquid on the bottom is delicious! Happy Fall!

20151004_192725

Get your summer on!

August is already here! Make sure you take some time off to enjoy the weather. Winter comes much too quickly.

Get your daily recommended intake of Vitamin D

Vitamin D has potent anticancer properties. In fact it acts more as a hormone than a vitamin. Did you know that if you spend 10-15 minutes in the sun during peak hours without sunscreen, you will get 1000 international units of vitamin D? This website calculates the time you need to spend in the sun to get your daily recommended intake of vitamin D: http://zardoz.nilu.no/~olaeng/fastrt/VitD-ez_quartMED.html. To find your longitude and altitude coordinates, use this site: http://www.latlong.net/?lat=&lng=. You can see that if you have darker skin or if it’s cloudy out, you need longer sun exposure.

What about skin cancer? If you limit your sun exposure to 15 min without sunscreen during peak hours (11am-2pm), you shouldn’t burn. After that you can apply sunscreen. Speaking of sunscreen, how do you know that the one you use, is good for you?

Sunscreen choices

Out of all the brands, Neutrogena seems to stand out because it is rated the worse sunscreen on Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org)! All sunscreens are rated on that site so take a look to see if yours is listed and how well it is scored. They also make an app, so add it to your smartphone.

Did you know that SPF greater than 50 doesn’t really show more protection? 80% of Neutrogena’s sunscreens contain oxybenzone which is a hormone disrupting ingredient. A derivative of vitamin A (retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate and retinol) is added to a lot of sunscreens and there is some research showing that this isn’t good for your skin, especially in high doses.

Overall, a mineral sunscreen is better than a chemical one. Mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which block the sun but when applied appears like a chalky white coating. It’s not very appealing to the eyes, but it’s healthier than the chemical ones (oxybenzone, Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate)).

Some good brands include: Green Beaver, Badger and Goddess Garden.

If you have any questions about your skin care line or if you want to make sure you have adequate vitamin D levels, do not hesitate to contact me at cecilia@drcecilia.ca

Are you suffering from unknown food sensitivities?

Do you ever feel bloated and gassy after a meal? Or maybe you feel sluggish and tired and it seems like it’s coming out of nowhere. You may be eating something that your body doesn’t agree with. The tricky thing about a food sensitivity is that the symptoms can vary and may include:

    • Migraines
    • Foggy brain, depression, anxiety
    • Fatigue
    • Gas & Bloating
    • Diarrhea, Constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • Weight gain
    • Arthritis
    • Eczema, recurrent ear infections
    • ADHD
    • Recurrent infections

 

The difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity is that in an allergy the symptoms are usually acute and happen right after eating the offending food such as asthma, swelling and hives. These reactions are mediated by our IgE antibody and can be diagnosed with a skin-prick test.

A food sensitivity is usually more subtle and the symptoms may only gradually show up a few days after eating the offending food. The antibody that mediates these symptoms is often the immunoglobulin IgG.

Identifying a cause-effect relationship between ingestion of specific foods and development of symptoms is said to be further complicated by the tendency of people to become addicted to the foods to which they are sensitive. Hidden food sensitivities can be unmasked by a so-called elimination diet. This is when the top allergenic foods are eliminated from the diet for a period of time and then re-introduced one at a time to see what kind of reaction the body has.

Foods most commonly associated with sensitivities

Dairy products Citrus fruits
Wheat and gluten Soy
Eggs Rye
Corn Tomato, eggplant, potato (nightshade family)
Chocolate Nuts
Tea, coffee, caffeine Seafood
Sugar Pork
Yeast Beef

 

Another way to test for food sensitivities is to do an IgG blood test. In my office, I use a finger prick test in which a few drops of blood are put on a sample paper and the mailed to the lab in the USA after it dries. It can test 96 or 184 foods and in 3-4 weeks we get the results and it becomes clear which foods you should stay away from. It doesn’t always mean that you can’t have the offending foods ever again. It usually means that the foods were eating too often and a sensitivity was created. After the gut is able to heal with proper nutrition, probiotics and healing herbs, then the foods can be re-introduced one at a time and their reaction can be evaluated.

If you ignore your food sensitivities, then you may be at risk for chronic inflammatory conditions such as metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, arthritis, Crohn’s or Colitis and many more. Because your digestive system houses the majority of our immune system it is critical to have a healthy bowel function for a better quality of life.  If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me at cecilia@drcecilia.ca

Heavy Menses

Today I want to talk about heavy periods. For many women, that time of the month can be a dreadful ordeal. It is often filled with embarrassment, uncertainty and fear that an accident will happen.

Heavy periods may also be accompanied with cramping and low iron. Low iron causes fatigue and hair loss. If you are experiencing difficulties waking up in the morning and your periods are heavy, you most likely have low iron stores.

If you have had your iron levels tested, you may not have received a call from you doctor indicating that your levels are low. The reason for that is that stored iron (ferritin) has a large reference range. You may be in the range but this may not be ideal for you. In addition, there are many different kinds of iron supplements and many of them are difficult to absorb causing constipation.

Now back to heavy periods. There are many possible causes. The most common cause is what is referred to as estrogen dominance. This means that relatively speaking, there is more estrogen than progesterone in the system. Estrogen is an anabolic hormone. This means it likes to build things. For example, fibroids, which is a growth of the uterine wall, is usually due to an estrogen dominance and causes heavy periods. The main cause of this phenomenon is a “sluggish” liver.

The liver is the largest detoxification organ in our body. It detoxifies what we eat, drink, breath and put on our skin. It is constantly working and can commonly become “sluggish”. The liver also metabolizes our hormones. If it is not working properly, it will not be able to break down the estrogen hormone adequately and thus create a build-up. On top of that, if you are suffering from constipation, the broken down hormones cannot escape the body easily and will be reabsorbed through the bowels.

As a naturopathic doctor my first goal is to help the liver work properly in order to detoxify the hormones properly. I do this by primarily utilizing herbs and homeopathic remedies. When the liver is detoxifying correctly, the lymphatic system is what carries toxins away and so ensuring that this system is working well, is crucial. Next, I make sure that the digestive system is functioning well in order to eliminate toxins appropriately. Once this is all in place, my patients no longer dread their period.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask me by emailing me at Cecilia@drcecilia.ca.