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Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment of systemic factors causing varicose veins and spider veins

Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment of systemic factors causing varicose veins and spider veins

Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a safe and effective approach to treating and preventing spider veins and varicose veins, based on a clinical framework tested and refined over millennia of use.

by Saima Anto, R.Ac, R.TCMP

Western biomedicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine largely agree on why varicose veins form. Western medicine sees varicose veins developing as a result of weakened one-way valves in veins. All blood vessel traffic is one-way only, and both arteries and veins have many one-way valves along their length. These valves are supposed to prevent blood from flowing backwards, especially where gravity is working against blood flow. One area of the body where gravity regularly helps blood enter — and hampers blood leaving — is your legs. This is why varicose veins develop most often in the legs, and more rarely in other parts of the body.

When we walk, the repeated contraction and relaxation of leg muscles creates a kind of pumping action, which combines with the one-way valves in veins to move the blood in our legs back up towards the heart.  When we are lying down, the blood in our legs isn’t fighting gravity to make its way back to the heart. But sitting still for extended periods, for example during a long flight, can invite blood to pool in the legs — and standing for long periods is even worse. For those who do a lot of sitting or standing over time, the persistent pressure of pooling blood can stretch out the walls of leg veins and damage their valves, causing varicose veins.

Once this damage has taken place, the affected veins don’t usually recover. Specific leg exercises can help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis on long flights, while a quick online search yields a number of exercises that can be done while performing sitting or standing work, to help prevent varicose veins. Sclerotherapy can often safely destroy small veins, and large ones can sometimes be replaced with grafts, but sclerotherapy is painful and grafting is a significant surgical procedure; both risk scarring, and neither addresses the underlying causes of weak blood vessels — so the problem is likely to recur.

This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has something special to offer: Diagnosis and treatment of the systemic factors which promote the development of varicose and spider veins.

TCM agrees with Western biomedicine that poor blood circulation is a primary cause of varicose veins; this is called blood stasis in TCM. Both approaches agree that appropriate exercise is crucial to blood circulation, and that smoking is bad for blood vessels. But TCM goes beyond Western biomedicine in identifying another key factor in varicosity, a key factor besides smoking which governs the strength and elasticity of the blood vessels themselves. TCM calls this factor Spleen qi.

So what is Spleen qi, and how does it affect blood vessels? Is there something besides exercises, or quitting smoking, which people suffering from varicose veins can do that will improve their outcomes?

Yes — they can strengthen their digestive systems.

Treating blood vessels as an extension of the digestive system isn’t as strange as it may sound. Consider some of the structural and functional similarities between the digestive tract and blood vessels: Both are long tubes, made of smooth muscle. From the esophagus to colon, the digestive tract relaxes just in front of the bolus, and contracts behind it to move material through; this is called peristalsis. Similarly, the blood vessel relaxes just in front of the pulse, and contracts just behind it, moving the blood through.

Functionally, the digestive system produces nutrients and discharges wastes; the nutrients reach all the cells of the body via the circulatory system, which also carries metabolic wastes away from cells so they can be excreted.

Viewed in these terms, the digestive and circulatory systems are clearly co-extensive; that is, each finishes what the other starts. Not to mention that one source of Vitamin K, an important blood-clotting factor, is its production by friendly flora in the gut.

None of this is intended to prove anything; rather, it is intended to help minds make the imaginative leap, from one way of seeing to another, very different way of seeing. It suggests that, far from being separate and distinct physiologic systems, circulation and digestion have a common structure and purpose.

This common structure and purpose are represented in TCM by the Spleen organ. The Spleen in TCM is NOT identical to the spleen in Western biomedicine, so we cannot expect a TCM diagnosis to have an exact counterpart in the form of a Western biomedical diagnosis. In TCM, the Spleen is tasked with breaking down food and drink, and creating nutrients out of the resultant raw materials. Usually, we think of this as the stomach’s job, but in TCM the Stomach is primarily responsible for holding the food while the Spleen works on it, then descending it in a timely fashion.

What does this have to do with blood vessels?

According to TCM, the Spleen produces Blood, the Spleen governs muscle (including smooth muscle), and Spleen qi holds Blood in the vessels. Therefore, weak Spleen qi can cause some types of bleeding disorders (such as heavy menses, or easy bruising), as well as weakened blood vessels, which cause both varicose and spider veins in TCM. If the Spleen qi is weak, there will also be poor absorption, so the Spleen will not be able to make enough Blood. This can result in various types of deficiency, including anemias.

Once there is not enough Blood, the circulation will be compromised. In other words, Spleen qi deficiency is often a factor in poor blood circulation, which is a factor in varicosity and spider veins. Blood circulation is effectively a hydraulic pressure system, and it can’t work properly where there isn’t enough hydraulic fluid. This isn’t about blood volume so much as it is about the concentration of blood cells: for example, drinking fluids will help your blood volume return to normal a few hours after donating blood — but it will be weeks before you have fully made up the blood cells you donated.

TCM tells us that we need enough Blood before it can circulate properly and that Spleen qi is responsible not only for making Blood but also for keeping it inside the vessels and regulating the smooth muscle composting vessel walls. This is good news! It means that by strengthening digestion, by choosing to eat some things and avoiding others, we can normalize Blood circulation and strengthen Blood vessels.

Which foods strengthen Spleen qi? And which ones weaken Spleen qi?

In general, regular eating habits, and a diet comprising a wide variety of unprocessed foods, will strengthen Spleen qi. This is hardly controversial;  what may be more difficult to grasp are the foods and drinks that are seen as weakening Spleen qi.

Concentrated sugars are not just ‘empty calories’ that displace more nutritious foods: Too much sugar actively weakens digestive capacity, according to TCM. So far so good, right? Okay, how about this: Salads can damage digestion. Yes, I just said that. According to TCM, raw and cold foods are not only more difficult to digest, but they are also capable of weakening digestion. So an occasional salad may be okay for some people, but others should eat only cooked food. And eating a raw carrot cold from the fridge is not such a good idea for anyone.

This idea that raw foods are cold-natured, and that cold food can damage digestion, is not as easy to get on board with. But it’s an important idea within TCM, and it’s one of the reasons TCM can offer viable alternatives to biomedical diagnosis and treatment — because we start with an alternative way of looking at things. Which brings us to dairy…

Dairy products are considered cold-natured, but they are also Damp. Damp by its nature is heavy, and cold sinks; therefore dairy foods place a particular burden on Spleen qi, weakening both digestive capacity AND the ability to hold blood in the vessels. So for people affected by weak digestion, poor blood circulation, any type of ptosis or prolapse, some types of bleeding, or easy bruising, or varicose or spider veins, dairy in any form is particularly bad. Cold dairy is even worse, and sweetened frozen yogurt or ice cream is truly your Spleen’s worst nightmare — and your Blood vessels’ worst enemy.

Changing the way you eat can be difficult, and even time-consuming; try starting with one small and relatively simple thing, such as skipping ice cubes in drinks, or substituting soups for salads and smoothies, or cutting out ice cream. One important aspect of digestive health is regular eating habits, especially not skipping breakfast. Establishing good eating habits may not be easy, but the hope of a specific benefit, rather than a vague idea that it’s good for you, can help you stay focused.

What about acupuncture? Can treatment using needles and moxibustion help prevent and heal weakened blood vessels?

Yes! Acupuncture treatment can not only strengthen Spleen qi, but there are also acupoints whose actions specifically target blood vessels. Your acupuncturist can provide a highly specific and personalized treatment that works synergistically with the more general systemic benefits of dietary changes. For more severe or long-standing cases, consider adding customized herbal formulas.

Dietary therapy is very important to help prevent and treat varicose veins and spider veins. But by itself, dietary therapy would take much longer to show results. The same is true of acupuncture alone. If the diet is not addressed, acupuncture will take much longer to work, and the benefits will start to wear off once acupuncture is discontinued. For more rapid improvement (usually visible within weeks), and lasting results, dietary changes and acupuncture are both necessary

Saima Anto, R.Ac, R.TCMP provides acupuncture services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments four days a week.  If you would like to explore how acupuncture could help your health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958.  Acupuncture treatments are covered by most employee benefits.

Immune System Check-Up

Immune System Check-Up

Happy New Year and Welcome to 2018!

The holidays are an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones, but they can also make you feel like you need some serious recovery and “me” time.

By Bianca Drennan, ND, Toronto Naturopathic Doctor 

December brings parties, irregular and poor eating behaviors, lack of sleep, excess alcohol, and a constant “go go go” feeling. Combine these with a lack of sunlight and cold temperatures and you have a recipe for feeling less than your best. A lot of people choose January to change their habits in order to feel better – diet, detox, exercise, etc. Although these are all great intentions to start off the new year, we often overlook a huge component to why we feel so run down – our immune systems.

Immunity is not as “sexy” as detoxification this time of year, but it should be. If you’re feeling run down, burnt out, foggy, low, sick, and have an overall feeling of unwell, your immune system likely needs a reboot. The crammed schedules and irregular routines of the holidays takes a significant toll on your body’s immune system and can deplete its resources that help you fight infection, stay energized, and keep you strong and healthy. With a compromised immune system, you’re more susceptible to illness, chronic disease, fatigue, and irregular moods. Thankfully, there are many ways to support your immune system through diet, supplementation, and behavioral modifications. Below I have listed some of my favorite and most effective ways to get your immune system back on track and you feeling like your best self.

  • Ensure adequate protein at every meal and snack – protein is essential for the building blocks of our immune systems. They help form the backbone of antibodies and disease-fighting signals.
  • Eat more mushrooms – fresh or dried, raw or cooked, encapsulated or powdered, mushrooms contain fantastic immune-modulating properties, as well as serving as a source of plant protein.
  • Reducing or eliminating refined and added sugar – sugar is the enemy of overall good health, but it especially dampens the immune system, making it less able to do its job.
  • Incorporate adaptogens like maca – adaptogens such as maca help the body cope with stresses and changes to your system, and also improve energy and hormone function. I prefer maca in its powder form versus a capsule.
  • Immunity-based herbal tinctures containing Echinacea or Astragalus – these immune-supportive herbs are fantastically powerful. Echinacea is best taken while feeling sick as it is immune-stimulating, whereas Astragalus is best taken when not actively ill as it acts more as an immune booster. You do not want to take an immune booster while sick.
  • Take the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D – in it’s active form (D3), Vitamin D helps support the immune system, improve mood, ease the transition to less daylight, and regulate hormones. Most of us in the Northern Hemisphere lack Vitamin D in the winter, and often all year, and therefore we require supplementation via gel capsule or liquid. It is incredibly difficult to get adequate Vitamin D through diet alone.
  • Improve your gut health with probiotics – probiotics are key to supporting gut health and your microbial flora which is where a lot of the immune system originates. Kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi are great food sources. I recommend these foods in addition to a high-quality supplement in order to reap the most benefit.
  • Exercise in a gym or get outside – exercise, even when run down, will help improve energy, stimulate blood flow and oxygenation to the brain and muscles, build lean body mass, and improve resilience to illness. Whether you do it inside or outside (exercising outside has been shown to even further enhance immunity), get moving!
  • Get adequate sleep – sleep is when our body system enter a recovery phase, including the immune system. It is when all of the good things you’ve done for yourself have an opportunity to really take effect. This is especially necessary after a month of sleep deprivation. Aim for 6-8 hours per night.
  • Incorporate contrast showers daily – doing a series of hot and cold cycles at the end of your shower is a form of hydrotherapy treatment. This is similar to when you go to a spa and do a cold plunge after a sauna treatment. Alternating hot and cold has been shown to stimulate components of the immune system (white blood cells) and improve energy. Always remember to end on cold.

Always consult a health care professional, such as a Naturopathic Doctor before drastically changing your diet or taking any natural (or pharmaceutical) supplements to ensure safety, efficacy, and proper dosing. Some of the above-listed recommendations require a Naturopathic Doctor to safely and appropriately dose, and should not be self-prescribed in order to reduce the risk of side effects and ensure effectiveness.

Dr. Bianca Drennan ND, provides nutritional consulting and naturopathic medicine services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments four days a week.  If you would like to detoxify and trim your body, improve your lifestyle or address certain health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request to arrange your initial appointment.  The naturopathic appointments are covered by most employee benefits.

Paleo and Vegan Mushroom Pie

Paleo and Vegan Mushroom Pie

It’s common for people to lean toward more plant-based foods at this time of year. After a holiday season of indulgence, it is a great idea to balance it out with some healthful plant-based meals. However, we are still in the depths of winter, and a cold salad probably does not sound particularly enticing.

Enter this mushroom pie – warm and comforting, and happens to be completely Paleo AND Vegan (not an easy feat). It also contains some fantastic immune supporters including dark leafy greens and mushrooms. I have adapted this recipe from Laura Wright of The First Mess (blog and cookbook) to make it Paleo friendly while keeping it vegan. There may be a few steps in this recipe, but they are simple and well worth it. Plus, you can make this ahead of time and freeze/refrigerate and reheat as needed.

Dr. Bianca Drennan, ND

Paleo and Vegan Mushroom Pie

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 cups chopped and packed kale (about 6-7 stems-worth)
  • 1 small butternut squash, cubed into 2cm pieces (no need to peel)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and divided
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil plus more, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond, cashew, coconut), divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 small cooking onion, diced small
  • 2 tablespoons minced, fresh hearty herbs (ie. sage, thyme, rosemary)
  • 2 ¼ lbs (1020 grams) mixed mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free tamari soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch if necessary)


Preheat oven to 425F. Toss cubed squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread squash evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until squash is tender and lightly golden. Set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Add cauliflower florets and one of the peeled garlic cloves and simmer until cauliflower is fork-tender, about 5-8 minutes. Remove cauliflower and garlic using a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.

Drop the kale into the same boiling water and simmer until kale is just-wilted and bright green, about 1-2 minutes. Drain kale and run cold water over it. Squeeze all of the excess moisture out.  Set aside.

In a food processor or blender, combine the drained cauliflower and garlic, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the non-dairy milk, and plenty of salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Transfer the mashed cauliflower to a medium bowl. Roughly chop the cooked kale and fold it into the potatoes. Set aside.

Lower the oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 9×13 glass or metal baking dish (about 2 inches deep) with olive oil and set it on a baking sheet.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions to the pot and cook until slightly soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Mince the remaining 2 garlic cloves and add them to the pot along with the herbs. Stir until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushrooms and stir. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pot and let it sit for 2 minutes.

After two minutes, remove the lid and season the mushrooms with pepper. Stir. Place the lid on and let the pot sit for another two minutes.

Add the roasted squash to the pot. Stir the mushroom and squash mixture and then add the balsamic vinegar, tamari or coconut aminos, and tomato paste to the pot. Stir and scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot. Season the mushrooms liberally with salt.

Add the vegetable stock to the pot and stir. Bring the mushrooms to a boil. In a small bowl, stir together the arrowroot powder and the remaining 2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk to combine. Add the arrowroot slurry to the pot and stir. Let the mushrooms simmer until the surrounding liquid is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Dollop the mashed cauliflower on top, and gently spread them over the surface of the mushrooms with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

Drizzle the pie with olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Carefully transfer the pie to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling and the cauliflower is lightly browned about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the mushroom gravy pie from the oven and let it sit for a minute or two before serving.

Serves: 6

Dr. Bianca Drennan is available for nutritional consultations at The Pacific Wellness Institute.  If you have employee benefits that cover a naturopath you can claim this service.  Call our front desk at 416-929-6958 to inquire.

Supplements for Everyday

Supplements for Everyday

Just like there are staple foods to keep around your home to make healthy eating simpler, there are also supplements to always have on hand to support your healthy lifestyle.

By Dr. Bianca Drennan, ND

I call these “supplements for every day,” and they are for almost anyone. I often get asked what supplements are good for “overall” health and what are the things people should take on a daily basis. While I always use diet and lifestyle as my first and least invasive intervention with patients, there are certain nutrients and functional foods that are challenging to obtain in our diets, especially in the amounts needed to achieve a therapeutic effect. I am not the kind of Naturopathic Doctor that is going to prescribe numerous supplements, all providing a different action and benefit (unless absolutely needed). Rather, whenever I prescribe a supplement to a patient, I aim for things that are multipurpose and as a result have multiple benefits. This increases compliance long-term (which is what produces results), in addition to being much more cost-effective for the patient. Naturopathic medicine often gets a bad rap for being expensive because many people are prescribed a myriad of supplements that are never covered by health plans. I am also a firm believer that health does not need to be complicated, and some of the greatest benefits come from the simplest of interventions. However,  there are certain situations and conditions that do require more extensive supplementation, and that is okay too. Below is a list and brief description of some of my favourite supplements that nearly all my patients are on, and ones that I even take myself. Depending on your individual needs, you may require more than the “supplements for every day.” Before beginning any supplement, consult your Naturopathic Doctor to discuss brand and dosage information, as well as potential side effects.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which have been studied to be important for a multitude of conditions. I love fish oil because there are several benefits and you can read them all in one supplement. Although there are dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, anchovies, mackerel, walnuts, flaxseeds, eggs, hemp, chia), it is very difficult and nearly impossible to consume the amount that a supplement would contain. Fish oil has demonstrated benefit for heart health, brain function, memory, acne, eczema, psoriasis, depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalances – the list goes on. It is difficult to find a reason not to take it! Fish oil can be purchased in capsule or liquid form. I encourage you to buy a high-quality fish oil due to potential contamination and oxidation that is often found in generic brands. If purchasing the capsule form, be sure that the bottle is opaque or dark brown rather than clear, and store it in a dark place unrefrigerated. Exposure to light and heat can spoil the fish oil, and refrigeration causes a breakdown of the gel capsule lining which then exposes the oil to air. If purchasing the liquid form, the oil should again be in a dark container, but in this case, it should be stored in the fridge. Fish oil is a mild blood thinner, therefore those that are taking an anticoagulant should have their clotting factors checked to ensure safe and effective treatment.

Vitamin D

Like fish oil, vitamin D has an incredible number of benefits ranging from cancer prevention and treatment, mood balancing, hormone balancing, and immune-modulating. Those who live in northern climates are at risk for vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency due to the lack of sunlight. Vitamin D is synthesized through the skin via sunlight (approximated 15 minutes in the sun). However, many people in northern climates experience a lack of sun exposure, especially in the winter months. This lack of vitamin D is often related to many people’s low moods during those months. In addition, it is becoming more common in research to recommend protecting ourselves from the damaging effects of sun exposure, which has led people to use more sunscreen than in the past. This blocks UV absorption and inhibits vitamin D production. Therefore, it may not only be important to supplement with vitamin D in the winter, but also in the summer. Vitamin D comes in many forms – tablets, gel caps, and drops are the most common. I tend to tell patients to stay away from the tablet form as it is not properly absorbed. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is, therefore, best absorbed when consumed in a fatty medium. This is why gel caps and drops are better options. Store in a dark place unrefrigerated.


Probiotics are the new kid on the block. They have been around forever, but research is beginning to unveil more and more benefits of probiotics. Probiotics are filled with beneficial gut bacteria, which is difficult to obtain in the diet. Fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi are sources of probiotic bacteria. I often prescribe probiotics to patients who experience a lot of gas and bloating throughout the day and overall digestive dysfunction. Probiotics are incredibly effective at reducing these symptoms which are common in many people. I also use them frequently for patients who have just taken antibiotics or who have a history of frequent antibiotic use. Antibiotics are effective at killing “bad” bacteria, but unfortunately, also wipe out our “good bacteria.” This can lead to many side effects, which is why probiotic supplementation is essential. Probiotics are also effective for mood stabilization, immune regulation, skin conditions, and yeast infections. Promoting healthy gut bacteria is becoming one of the most essential ways to achieve long-term health. Our gut bacteria is linked to a number of systemic functions and is not restricted to digestion. As with fish oil, it is important to buy a high-quality brand. Probiotics are live bacteria, and therefore proper transport and treatment of these bacteria are essential in order for you to end up with a product that contains what the bottle says. Many generic brands do not transport or store them properly, which kills many of the bacteria. In addition, lower quality brands do not perform quality testing to ensure that the product you are purchasing is in fact up to par. Sometimes it is important to spend a little more in order to achieve a therapeutic effect. Be sure to purchase a multi-strain probiotic to reap the most benefit unless otherwise directed by your Naturopathic Doctor, and store them in the fridge.

Dr. Bianca Drennan ND, provides nutritional consulting and naturopathic medicine services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments four days a week.  If you would like to detoxify and trim your body, improve your lifestyle or address certain health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request to arrange your initial appointment.  The naturopathic appointments are covered by most employee benefits.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Tahini Dressing and Arugula

Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Tahini Dressing and Arugula

All the various types of winter squashes get me really excited about fall and it’s seasonal flavours.

This is a great side dish to any holiday feast, but is simple enough any night of the week. The squash and sauce can be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature. Drizzle the dressing over the squash and top with the arugula and seeds just before serving. Winter squashes are full of vitamins A and C, fibre, and many other vitamins and minerals. They are also a source of low glycemic, complex carbohydrates – meaning they can take the place of more starchy foods like white potatoes, rice, or pasta on your table. Most people peel their squashes, but often the skins are so thin that they soften when cooked, and provide a nice texture contrast, along with loads of fibre – so save yourself the effort! Feel free to use whatever type of squash you like best (Kabocha, buttercup, acorn) – although butternut is a crowd pleaser.

Dr. Bianca Drennan, ND

Ingredients: Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Tahini Dressing and Arugula


  • 1 2-3lb butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive or avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt

Maple Tahini Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup


  • 3 tbsp unsalted, toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups baby arugula


Preheat the oven to 425F. Rinse the squash well and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and discard them. Cut the squash into 2-inch irregular pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. To the bowl, add the oil, spices, thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Toss well and coat each piece of squash in the oil mixture.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the squash evenly in one layer, trying not to overlap any pieces. Place squash in oven and roast for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and caramelized.

While the squash is roasting, combine the dressing ingredients with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. It should be the consistency of thick cream, so add more water as needed. Set aside.

When the squash is done roasting, place on a platter and drizzle with maple tahini dressing. Sprinkle over toasted pumpkin seeds and baby arugula, and serve.

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Dr. Bianca Drennan is available for nutritional consultations at The Pacific Wellness Institute.  If you have employee benefits that cover a naturopath you can claim this service.  Call our front desk at 416-929-6958 to inquire.

Reducing Inflammation Through Diet

Reducing Inflammation Through Diet

Inflammation in your body can serve a useful purpose.

It’s your body’s first line of defense. But in some instances, inflammation can stick around longer than needed and may be contributing to certain medical problems. Fortunately, adjusting your diet may help decrease inflammation and improve health.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to harm, such as an infection or injury. Cells travel to the area of injury or infection. Inflammatory cells heal the injured tissue or trap the harmful substance, such as bacteria. The cells release chemicals that activate proteins, which further protect the body.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. The problem with inflammation is when it occurs chronically, it can have a negative effect on the body.

There are two types of inflammation including acute and chronic. Acute inflammation occurs in instances, such as if you get an infection or if you cut yourself. The inflammatory response helps protect your body and help it heal. Acute inflammation is short-term.

Chronic inflammation is different. Chronic inflammation involves your body sending an inflammatory response even when one is not required. When your body is in a high state of alert, and the inflammatory process goes on too long, it might damage your organs.

Diseases Associated with Inflammation  

When inflammation persists and becomes chronic, it can damage tissues of the body. The link between chronic inflammation and certain diseases is relatively new. Researchers are still learning how exactly the inflammatory response negatively affects the body.

Currently, studies have indicated that inflammation is associated with the following conditions:

Heart disease: The American Heart Association has been researching how chronic inflammation contributes to heart disease, and there does appear to be a link. One large study conducted at Stanford University indicated chronic inflammation leads to swollen or inflamed blood vessels, which may contribute to blocked arteries. 

Lung problems: Chronic inflammation may lead to breathing problems, especially for those who already have lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD. Inflammation causes fluid to accumulate in the tissues, which narrows the airway making getting air in and out more difficult.

Joint pain: Inflammation can lead to scarring or thickening of the connective tissue, which may increase pain and stiffness in the joints.

Depression: It appears that chronic inflammation may increase a person’s chances of developing depression. In 2015, a study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal indicated that those who reported symptoms of depression had higher levels of inflammation in their bloodstream than those who were not depressed.

Diabetes: People with chronic inflammation may be more likely to develop diabetes. Cytokines, which are released by the immune system as part of the inflammatory process, may affect insulin production and lead to blood sugar spikes.

Nutritional Guidelines for Decreasing Inflammation

An anti-inflammatory diet may help decrease chronic inflammation. Also, an anti-inflammatory diet is high in important nutrients and low in sugar and saturated fat, which makes it a good overall nutritional plan.

Before starting an anti-inflammatory diet, it’s best to have nutritional counseling. A nutritionist can provide you with specific dietary recommendations for your age, weight, and nutritional goals.

Before are general nutritional recommendations to decrease chronic inflammation.

Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids may protect against the damage of chronic inflammation. Foods that are high in omega-3 include fish, such as mackerel, salmon, and herring. Walnuts, flaxseed, and soybeans are also good sources.

Recipe: Green Goddess Salmon Cobb Salad

Spice things up: Spices, such as cayenne, ginger, and turmeric, contain anti-inflammatory compounds, which may decrease the negative effects of chronic inflammation.

Consider supplements: Taking certain supplements may also help decrease inflammation in the body. For instance, in some studies, people who took magnesium supplements had lower levels of C-reactive protein in their blood, which is an indicator of inflammation. Curcumin may also be a useful supplement for people with inflammation, as it is thought to curb inflammation in the body.

Eat the colors of the rainbow: Fiber-filled veggies and fruits are helpful to decrease inflammation. Foods, such as tomatoes, blueberries, and grapes are good choices. Cruciferous vegetables including Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli contain nutrients that also combat inflammation.

Choose grains wisely: Stick to complex grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats. Limit foods high in simple carbohydrates, which increase inflammation.

Lifestyle Do’s and Don’ts to Curb Chronic Inflammation

In addition to the nutritional recommendations listed above, there is useful lifestyle do’s and don’ts including:

  • Do have a nutritional consultation.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Do exercise on most days of the week.
  • Don’t eat foods high in sugar, such as cookies, candy, and cake.
  • Do drink plenty of water each day.
  • Don’t eat large amounts of foods high in saturated fat, such as fried foods.
  • Do eat a variety of fresh veggies and fruits.
  • Don’t overdo your alcohol intake.
  • Do practice stress management techniques, such as deep breathing daily.