Why your NDs are Eating Paleo-ish and Using Pinterest to Stay Inspired

Our Paleo-ish Journey

For the last six weeks we’ve been experimenting with a modified Paleo diet, “Paleo-ish” as we’ve coined it around here at SOW Health. We’ve been avoiding all the grains (wheat, rice, oats), refined sugar and cow’s milk. Legumes, sweet potatoes and goat’s milk are allowed. Why did we decide to do this? The Paleo Diet is very popular and we’re asked about it all the time. We’ve done our research and it’s a diet we’ve been recommending to help balance blood sugar (especially for those with diabetes and PCOS) as well as aiding with weight loss and body composition. We find we’re the best Naturopathic Doctors when we’ve experienced a diet personally. We were also ready to recommit ourselves to some clean eating and learning new recipes. Done right, the paleo diet focuses on vegetables as the main source of carbohydrates and includes lean protein and healthy fats.

It’s been a great learning experience but when making dietary changes often it’s often difficult to come up with recipe ideas. We like to rotate meals so we don’t get bored of eating the same meals regularly (and this also helps decrease food sensitivities). We’ve been exclusively using our favourite social media tool, Pinterest, to keep us inspired.

Pinterest is a great tool for recipes because it’s so visual. We’ve been sharing recipes with pinterest for a while, but created a new Paleo Board for this experiment.

Here are some fun recipes that we’ve made:

Chia Parfait

Inspired by the beautiful Green Kitchen Stories Recipe.  Simply soak chia in your favourite non-dairy milk as you assemble and warm the ingredients. This parfait includes slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, & sliced apple sauteed with lots of cinnamon and a dash of maple syrup. We also love adding some almond butter.

Crispy chickpeas and edamameThe idea came from This Garlic Diaries Recipe. The key is rinsing and drying the canned chickpeas before roasting. In the future we are going to use separate pans because we find the the edamame and chicpeas take different amounts of time. Feel free to add other spices like cumin, coriander, or paprika!

Pear and Raspberry Tartlets

These are our absolute favourite! The idea is from Meghan Telpner’s The Undiet Cookbook – which is absolutely amazing and worth buying now! The base is simply ground dates & nuts baked low and slow. Hers had a pear cinnamon filling & we also made a chia raspberry filling. Can’t get enough of these!

Cauliflower crust pizza

We’ve been wanting to make cauliflower crust pizza for a while and finally got around to doing it – so easy and delicious. We used this recipe because of it’s simple ingredients and added a bunch of veggies and goat cheese. Next time we will double the recipe to start 😉

Other recipes we’ve tried and thoroughly enjoyed:
Our tips for success:
  • Have a buddy and try cooking together! We get together on Thursday nights and have been trying new recipes and cooking together once a week (at least!)
  • Have lots of resources. This is why pinterest is so handy. If you don’t have pinterest you can also follow our social media stream.
  • Make your own rules! We modified The Paleo Diet to fit our needs and found it allowed us some healthy flexibility. Small changes can make a big difference.

Looking to make a dietary change yourself? We’d love to help you decide on a plan and succeed. We now have online booking which makes it even easier to work with us 😉

Yours in health,

Dr. Aliyah & Dr. Sarah

SOW Health’s Top 5 Tips to survive the Holiday Season

The holiday season is here! This often means lots of food and festivities, overindulgence, lack of routine, irregular sleep habits and lack of exercise. The holiday season can also be a very stressful time and in order to survive we need to make sure we have enough rest and that we’re eating the right foods. This is not to say that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to indulge a little, but the key is to make smart choices, eat in moderation and maintain routine as much as possible.

Here are SOW Health’s top 5 tips to survive the Holiday Season:

  1. Eat Regular Meals:
    • If you are going to a big party or dinner, don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation. You’re in danger of arriving there feeling ravenous and eating everything in sight.
    • Prepare healthy snacks to have throughout the day


  • Using an appetizer or salad size plate instead of a dinner plate to minimize intake by up to 40% less, cutting down roughly 1200 calories (The typical holiday meal can contain up to 3000 calories)!
  1. Stay Hydrated:
    • Staying hydrated is essential to maintain your appetite, keep your bowels regular, improves energy levels, helps with detoxification (especially after holiday parties!) and keeps your skin healthy
    • Water does not increase your blood sugar levels like many other beverages
  1. Rest Up:
    • Sleeping between 7.5 – 9 hours per night will optimize hormone function and control your appetite and blood sugar
    • Sleep loss is associated with an increase in appetite
    • Studies show that after a short night’s sleep adults ate about an extra 300 calories and tended to choose higher-fat, higher-calorie foods
  1. Reduce Your Stress:
    • Manage your stress levels in the day by focusing on stressors in your control
    • Techniques to help you wind down include: deep breathing exercise, reading for pleasure, meditation, learning to play an instrument, adult colouring books, minimizing screen time, practicing gratitude
  1. Make Exercise a Priority:
    • Keep up or start exercising regularly, especially during the holiday season. This will help improve energy levels and help burn off excess calories.
    • Benefits of exercise: Controls weight, Improves mood, Boosts energy, Promotes better sleep

SOW Happy holidaysThese are just a few tips to better prepare you for the month ahead. We hope that you have a safe and healthy holiday season!

Best Wishes,

Aliyah Alibhai
Naturopathic Doctor at SOW Health

What to eat and what to avoid in preparation and throughout your pregnancy

Did you know that your diet plays the most significant role in improving your fertility and maintaining a healthy pregnancy? No matter where you are on the journey towards a healthy family, your diet is the single most important step you can take to improve your overall health. The good news is that it’s also something you have complete control over!

In my six years as a Naturopathic Doctor (and also a birth doula at the beginning) I’ve treated and supported many women through fertility, pregnancy and delivery. We always discuss nutrition first as I truly believe food is medicine. I’d like to begin with what a healthy diet in pregnancy includes as it’s important to focus on the amazingly nourishing foods you can eat. This is what you should eat to allow for healthy baby development and normal weight gain. It’s also what I find decreases morning sickness as well as swelling as baby grows.

What to eat for a healthy pregnancy:Health Check Mark

  • Remember that you’re not technically “eating for two.” You typically need 300-450 extra calories per day by the second or third trimester. This means one extra healthy snack per day.
  • The most healthful diet is The Mediterranean Diet – this is what these recommendations are based on. Think about how you would eat in Greece: lean protein, lots of veggies, some full-fat cheese and fruit as dessert. You’ll simply be skipping the wine for now 😉
  • You need building blocks for pregnancy and this means choosing protein. Aim to have protein with every meal and snack. This includes vegetarian proteins like nuts and seeds, beans/legumes, or hemp hearts. Also include lean meats like fish (always low mercury), chicken, turkey, eggs, as well as some organic full-fat dairy. Limit beef and pork to one serving a week. Protein is what I find most women are lacking – this is what specifically helps with morning sickness and swelling. Sometimes you will need to eat smaller portions more frequently. Including protein helps stabilize your blood sugar and settles your stomach.
  • Focus on nutrient rich plant foods, this includes:
    • Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Choose a variety of vegetables in various forms: raw veggie sticks, soups/stews, greens in smoothies, or try roasting or spiralizing your veggies. Green leafy vegetables are especially important to include.
    • Fruits are great sources of antioxidants and can help with sweet cravings. Include berries, apples, pears, and any other fruit you enjoy.
      • Grains are good, but include them in their whole form. Use brown rice, quinoa, and steel cut oats for nutritious and low glycemic carbohydrates.
  • Don’t be afraid of healthy fats! Use healthy oils like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Eat avocados, olives, and nuts – they’re great for you and for baby’s brain development.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking filtered water is important for keeping your cells healthy and to eliminate swelling. Drink water and safe herbal teas (like rooibos, mint, chamomile) to avoid excess sugar from drinks.
  • What does this look like? Here are some ideas for you to envision some meals:
    • Breakfast: can include a smoothie with protein, eggs with stir-fried veggies, or oatmeal with nuts, chia & hemp hearts.
    • Lunch: try making soups and stews or large salads with protein.
    • Dinner: think about the rule of thirds: 1/3 protein, 1/3 starchy vegetable (e.g. sweet potato) and 1/3 green leafy vegetable (e.g. roasted broccoli or asparagus)
    • Snacks: veggies with hummus, whole grain toast with avocado and hemp hearts, apple with almond butter, homemade energy balls or a handful of nuts

What to avoid in pregnancy: photodune-10290287-no-to-junk-food--xs

It’s well known now that you should avoid alcohol as well as smoking when you’re trying to conceive and throughout your pregnancy. I find women tend to focus on what they can’t eat and it breeds negativity. There are lots of foods that you can eat, so focus on the list above of all the wonderful and tasty foods you can have. Here is a list of foods that you shouldn’t focus your energy on:

  • High sugar foods, artificial sweeteners, and refined flours. Eliminate pop, juices, and fancy drinks. Yes you can indulge but know these are not nutritious foods.
  • Trans fats: avoid fried foods as they increase inflammation and are bad for your heart and blood vessels.
  • Caffeine: you can have some caffeine but I tend to limit to 1 cup of coffee or 3 cups of green tea per day (max 300mg caffeine per day). More than this increases your risk of miscarriage.
  • Foods that can harbour infections: this includes raw or undercooked meat, seafood, and eggs as well as deli meats/pates, and soft cheeses (mold-ripened, blue-veined, and unpasteurized ). You can have pasteurized cheeses like goat cheese. I simply tell women to act like you’re travelling to avoid food poisoning – don’t eat foods that are suspicious and seem “off.”

What you may need to supplement in pregnancy:

Your diet is the most important source of nutrients for you and baby but pregnancy (and breastfeeding) can be demanding and I typically recommend some supplementation. These are the nutrients to consider throughout your child bearing years (remember to consult a healthcare practitioner for individualized recommendations):

Supplements on white background

  • A high quality prenatal: a prenatal vitamin is your insurance policy in pregnancy. It’s making sure you’re not deficient in any nutrient, specifically folic acid. Choose a prenatal that has its B vitamins in the methyl form.
  • Omega 3s: EPA and DHA in fish oils are especially important for baby’s brain development as well as your postpartum mood. If you’re not having three servings of low mercury fish per week you likely need to include omega 3s as a supplement. Aim for a balanced formula that includes at least 300mg DHA.
  • Vitamin D: Two-thirds of the Canadian population is deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for your baby’s bone development and helps you absorb calcium. Look for vitamin D in liquid form as it’s easiest to take and assimilate.
  • Iron: Have your iron tested throughout your pregnancy. Many women need to supplement an extra 20-30mg of iron in the last trimester. Look for iron glycinate – it’s inexpensive and gentle on the digestive tract.
  • Probiotics: Healthy bacteria line your skin and digestive tract. If you have a personal or family history of food sensitivities, asthma, or eczema, probiotics can help your baby’s immune system and digestion to decrease the frequency of these conditions.

What to be informed about for a healthy pregnancy:research

Unfortunately living in North America we are exposed to more toxins and processed foods than in Europe. Although you can’t completely avoid chemicals in your pregnancy, it is important to be informed and eliminate them where you can. Below are my favourite resources to be sure you know you’re avoiding toxicity in your food, on your skin, and in your environment:

  • Try to buy high quality protein sources: organic is best. The next best option is naturally raised meats.
  • For buying produce, follow The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. These are the fruits and veggies with the most pesticides, so try to buy them organic.
  • Avoid high mercury fish. Focus on the least mercury fish.
  • Beware of plastics: do not heat food in plastic containers. Use glass and stainless steel instead.
  • Choose cleaner personal care products. “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.” Use simple oils like rosehip seed and coconut oil as moisturizers. Use these tips for safer products.
  • Use green cleaning methods and these healthy home tips.

I am fascinated by the body’s ability to create and deliver a perfectly scrumptious human being. With these tips I hope you and your baby have the healthiest pregnancy and delivery possible.

Yours in health,

Sarah Oulahen
Naturopathic Doctor at SOW Health

We're running this spring!

What Your NDs Aliyah & Sarah are Up To…

Spring has finally arrived and the weather has been awesome. Sarah and I have both signed up for the Sporting Life 10K run to stay active and kick start the great weather.  Not only does it force us to be active, we also have the opportunity to support a great cause, Camp Oochigeas, which is a camp for children who have been diagnosed with cancer. This is my first organized 10 km run that I’m participating in so I’m quite excited. I enjoy being active on a regular basis and am involved in various organized sports/activities (ball hockey, softball, soccer, yoga) but I’ve never really got into running.

I got serious about training for this particular run 6 weeks before the race date and have been gradually increasing my distances. I have been trying to do 3 outdoor runs a week.  I’ve set a goal for myself to finish the 10K in 60 minutes or less.  I’m really enjoying the challenge for a few reasons:  running forces me to be outside and take advantage of the great weather, it gives me time to focus on my own health goals and I get to listen to great tunes throughout the duration of my run.SOW runners polaroid

I was a bit reluctant about doing this run because roughly 4 years ago I was rear-ended badly and have experienced low back pain since. Over the past 3 years I’ve really worked on strengthening my core and low back and have been able to enjoy playing sports with minimal pain. I’ve learned that stretching is so important and try to balance the high intensity activities with just as regular hot yoga and stretching sessions. I recently purchased a foam roller, with which I have developed a love-hate relationship. While using it, it really helps release tension in my muscles and can be quite painful but after stretching I realize how good it is for me.  With all this running and exercise, I’ve also realized how important staying hydrated is. I carry a water bottle around with me everywhere I go as a constant reminder to keep drinking. I occasionally add some electrolytes to my water, especially on the days that I run. By doing this, I’ve noticed during my runs I feel less fatigued overall, I do not experience muscle cramps and my muscles are not as sore as they used to be the day after exercising. 

The Sporting Life 10K is something I’m really looking forward to and who knows I may even sign up for another run to keep me on my toes. With the great weather and longer days we have ahead of us, I highly encourage you to find something you love doing outdoors and get active. If you’re interested in joining us at this run you can find more info here

Smallest Steps QuoteOur Naturopathic Recommendations for starting to run:

  • Start slow! If you haven’t run before it simply takes time to build up your endurance. Start with a combination of running and walking. Work up to 10 minutes running, 1 minute walking and repeat this until you can run continuously. The Running Room teaches “10 and 1s” and some people use this technique to run a full marathon. It’s ok if you need to rest 😉
  • Stay hydrated! Try to drink 2L of water daily and replenish more if you’re sweating a lot.
  • Stay positive! A lot of running is in your head. Try to focus on positive thoughts: you CAN do it. Focus on steadying your breathing as you run. It will get easier.

Other great resources include:

  • Run Guides:  A guide to all the runs (varying distances) taking place in the GTA in 2015
  • Run Keeper App: An app that allows you to track walks, runs, cycling and various other activities
  • Endomondo: Another fitness tracking app that allows you to connect with and motivate your friends
  • Google Map Pedomeder: Great for mapping out your run and finding new routes in your area
  • 8 tracks: An internet radio that lets you choose a playlist on genres you enjoy

Seize the great weather and get active! Let us know how you’re doing on social media #sowfitness 

Yours In Health,

Aliyah Alibhai HBSc, ND
Naturopathic Doctor at Sow Health

Show your Heart some LOVE – February is Heart Month!

Naturopathic Medicine & Heart Health

Did you know heart disease and stroke take one life every 7 minutes and 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor?

Cardiovascular disease can be managed and prevented. You may be susceptible to heart disease if your parents or grandparents have a heart condition or if your current lifestyle and dietary choices are suboptimal. Heart disease consists of a variety of conditions that may affect the structure and function of the heart muscle. Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of heart problems. Risk factors that put you at an increased risk of coronary artery disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, stress, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, physical inactivity and being overweight.

A key indicator of whether you are at an increased risk is waist circumference. Fat stored in your mid-section puts you at risk for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation almost 60% of Canadian adults are overweight or obese. Canadians who are obese are four times more likely to have diabetes, more than 3 times as likely to have high blood pressure and more than two times more likely to have heart disease than those with a healthy weight.

Measure your waist circumference and determine if you are at an increased risk of developing heart disease and other metabolic conditions.

Waist Circumference Heart & Stroke

Naturopathic Medicine and Heart Disease

In 2013 a study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that evaluated the effectiveness of naturopathic care in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.  The findings of the study concluded the addition of naturopathic care to enhanced usual care may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease among those at high risk.

If you are aware that cardiovascular disease runs in your family, if you have risk factors that put you at an increased risk or if your waist measurement is telling you that you are at an increased risk, you are a good candidate for naturopathic medicine.

As a Naturopathic Doctor it is our role to look at the whole body and work towards optimal health.  Lifestyle factors such as a poor diet, increased stress levels, environmental toxicity, lack of sleep and exercise are just some of the interventions a Naturopathic Doctor can help improve. Food sensitivity testing, environmental toxicity testing, adrenal stress testing and additional blood work for cardiovascular risk factors are just some of the additional lab tests that can be conducted to further investigate your specific situation.  We can educate you on these numbers and track your progress.

Top 3 Tips for a Healthier Heart:

  1. Get moving – Regular exercise helps strengthen your heart and can help burn calories and build muscle. Try the New York Times Scientific 7 Minute Workouts HERE
  2. Focus on healthy fats – Good fats fight inflammation, produce hormones to burn fat, and keep you satiated. Healthy fats include olive oil (2 tbsp per day), Fish oils, and Coconut Oil. Avoid deep fried fats and Canola Oil.
  3. Reduce your stress – Increased stress contributes to cardiovascular disease. Consider activities like yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises. Learn how to meditate with a 10 day challenge from Headspace.

Be proactive about your heart health and work towards a healthier you!


Spring Clean Your Fridge & Body


SOW Health Challenges You To Join Our 2 Week Spring Clean Program

It’s been an extra-long and dreary winter. Are you in need of more energy, smoother digestion, and an increased sense of wellness? With spring in the air, we challenge you to join us to spring clean from the inside out. Let’s recalibrate our health together!

Our two Naturopathic Doctors will personally be completing the challenge and guiding you every step of the way. The Spring Clean Program costs $85 and includes:

  • 15 minute Naturopathic Consultation to explain details of the program and include an individualized supplement plan (includes 1 supplement kit to support with elimination of toxins – up to $70 value)
  • Hypoallergenic eating guidelines + recipe booklet (this means no sugar, gluten, dairy, caffeine or alcohol – but plenty of nourishing meal ideas to support optimal health)
  • Facebook group support page where we’ll share resources, help motivate you and answer any questions you may have as you complete your program

The Spring Clean Program is only available between April 21 to May 18, 2014. To get started, call or email us to book a time for your 15 minute consultation and to pick up your detailed guide and supplements. Once you have these, you can start the program whenever you’d like!

The SOW Health team plans to complete the challenge from April 28 – May 12 and we would love for you to join us!


SOW Health

Probiotics 101


Did you know that you are only 10% human? There is actually 10 times the amount of microbial cells in your digestive tract than cells in your entire body. So, 90% of you is bacteria!

Probiotic Data

Sometimes referred to as a “newly discovered organ”, the bacteria in your intestines weighs about 1.5-2kg, which if collected together would be approximately the same weight as your liver. These bacteria take up residence from the day we are born (or earlier), and remain with us all our lives. They are essential to overall health.

So, now that I have your attention, let’s go over some key terms and definitions related to bacteria and human health.

1)      Microbiota (formerly known as flora): the collection of microorganisms that reside in a previously established environment. For us, this means we have microbiota in and on our skin, lungs, digestive tract, urinary & vaginal tracks. The term “flora” has been used as a term for microbiota, but it relates to plant life instead of live microorganisms, so is technically incorrect. Each of us has an individual collection of species of bacteria (there are at least 1000 species known) so your microbiota is like an internal fingerprint (since the majority live in your gut). Similarly, the term microbiome is used interchangeably with microbiota, but refers to the combined genetic material of microorganisms in a particular environment (this “second genome” actually makes up 99% of our genetic information).

2)      Probiotics: Live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, give health benefit to the host. Probiotics are simply live food or supplements you take to support your microbiota.

So, what do these little guys do for us? Bacteria are our friends. They’re actually more than that, they are friends with benefits! Our microbiota performs many physiological functions and directly impacts our health in the following ways:

  • It helps us digest our foods properly so that we can comfortably absorb our nutrients. It ensures proper digestive function and even assists in the production of some vitamins (B and K).
  • It acts as a barrier to infectious microorganisms and also combats pathogenic toxins (like those from Clostridium difficile).
  • It balances and drives correct development of the immune system, influencing the formation of white blood cells & cytokines in the gut to prevent allergies and autoimmunity.

The development of gut microbiota starts at birth. As the newborn baby enters the world, it is quickly colonized by the microorganisms from the mother and external environment. Vaginal vs. C-section birth will influence a baby’s microbiota development (more on this in another post). From the third day of life, the composition of intestinal microbiota is directly related to how the infant is fed. Breastfed babies colonize different bacteria than those who are formula fed.

As we age, our microbiota is constantly in flux and is reduced or becomes imbalanced (a term called dysbiosis) by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Antibiotic or medication use
  • Lifestyle and poor diet (specifically a diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates)
  • Stress (which hormonally can influence the type of bacteria in your gut)
  • Digestive disorders
  • Infection or illness
  • Travelling

Since these factors relate to all of us daily, it is imperative to introduce probiotics to maintain health. This can be done in the form of fermented foods or supplements. Probiotics are naturally occurring in fermented foods such as yogurt, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir. If you’re looking just to maintain your health, including fermented foods in your diet daily may be all that you need. However, if you’re looking to improve or therapeutically treat a condition, I would suggest consulting a Naturopathic Doctor and supplementing with a good quality probiotic. A good quality probiotic will:HMF Intensive Sow Health

  • Be potent. Look for colony forming units on the bottle, or CFUs. For therapeutic probiotics, I generally recommend a minimum of 10 billion CFUs and increase the dose depending on the condition being treated.
  • Be scientifically proven to work. There are many probiotics on the market so it’s important to use strains that have been studied. Strains used in the probiotics are important for therapeutic use and are studied continually. Supplements have unique strains for certain conditions or uses. Brand does matter and affects quality of the product. Brands I recommend to my patients include: Genestra, Metagenics & NFH.
  • Be human. Human strains of probiotics will naturally adhere to your digestive tract more readily than animal strains. They also tend to survive stomach acid better.
  • Be free of allergens. Many people are sensitive to dairy and, therefore, yogurt wouldn’t work for them. High quality supplements are a great way to take your probiotics without dairy.

So, in my opinion, daily probiotic supplementation can be a component of a healthy diet throughout your lifetime. If you’re not quite convinced, here is a list of clinical conditions that probiotics are most indicated for:

  • Digestive complaints: diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation
  • Food sensitivities (LINK food sensitivity blog)
  • Antibiotic use
  • Atopy: eczema, allergies, asthma
  • Any infection: colds & flus (treatment and prevention – LINK BLOG treating colds and flus naturally), urinary tract infections, digestive infections, ets
  • Dysbiosis and candida (yeast infections)
  • IBS, Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis
  • There is also growing evidence in probiotics supporting healthy mood and weight management

This was an overview blog on the wonders of bugs. Don’t be afraid – we need them to live! Please let me know if you have any questions. Also, please consult a Naturopathic Doctor for treatment as we are experts in probiotics and optimizing your microbiota.

Yours in health,
Sarah Oulahen HBHSC, ND

Naturopathic Doctor at Sow Health



Treat your Seasonal Allergies Naturally

Natural Remedies for Seasonal Allergies

Spring is in the air…for many this means that pesky seasonal allergies are about to begin, if they haven’t already. Runny nose, itchy eyes, endless sneezing bouts are a few symptoms that allergy sufferers experience. Typical options include avoiding being outdoors or taking anti-histamines to alleviate symptoms. There are other options! Naturopathic Medicine provides great solutions for seasonal allergies and immune system balance.

Allergies are a state of hypersensitivity induced by exposure to a substance (allergen) that results in harmful immunologic reactions in the body. Common allergens that trigger such reactions include: pollen, grass, ragweed, pet dander, dust, mold and even some foods. These triggers result in an IgE (immediate hypersensitivity) response which leads to mast cells releasing histamines and leukotrienes, subsequently leading to inflammation and allergy symptoms.

You can identify potential triggers based on the time of year you are most affected. In Ontario, common onset is as follows:

  • Tree pollen: March to June
  • Grass: May to July
  • Ragweed: August to September

If you are noticing allergy symptoms year round, it is more than likely that you are reacting to something other than the above allergens. Indoor allergens such as dust mites, mold, pet dander or food sensitivities may be the culprit. Identifying the cause is half the battle!

There are other factors that can contribute to the allergic response. These include genetic predisposition, lifestyle choices (overuse of sugar & dairy, unresolved food sensitivities) and the environment (overburdened by toxicity, chronic exposure to polluted air).

What can you do to minimize allergic symptoms? Try some of the natural solutions that we recommend:

    • Uncover food sensitivities
      • A side note on food sensitivities. Food sensitivities can either be immediate reactions (mediated by IgE antibodies) or delayed hypersensitivity reactions (mediated by IgG antibodies). Continued exposure to these foods can lead to gastrointestinal damage, leaky gut symptoms, malabsorption, chronic inflammation and even dysregulation of the immune system. Identifying and removing food sensitivities can help heal the gut lining, where at least 70% of your immune system resides. Paying attention to your body and getting in touch with food sensitivities will most definitely help in bringing your immune system back in balance. You can uncover food sensitivities one of two ways: 
      • Hypoallergenic diet – remove the most common inflammatory foods for a period of time and then re-introduce them one at a time and make note of any reactions (minimize sugar, alcohol, processed foods)
      • IgG food sensitivity test – Finger prick blood test done in office byone of our Naturopathic Doctors (a typical panel tests either 96 or 184 foods)
    • Remove the cause in your home & sinuses
      • Refer to our Health in the Home Blog
      • Remove shoes at the door to minimize tracking dirt around
      • Keep plants around the house
      • Avoid toxic cleaning products
      • Neti Pot or sinus rinse squeeze bottle – saline nasal lavage for the sinuses to physically remove allergens from the sinuses
    • Immune Support (balance your immune system)
      • Vitamin D – Immune system modulator year round (increased need during the winter months but also beneficial during the summer months)
      • Probiotics – Professional grade human strain probiotics (beneficial bacteria) to support the immune system and build & repopulate existing flora
    • Support Elimination organs (Liver, Kidneys & Bowels)
      • Lemon and warm water on waking. This activates the liver & gall bladder and initiates digestion
      • Eating plenty of fibre to maintain regular bowel movements
      • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and avoiding sugary beverages
      • Supplements to support liver & kidney (we typically use herbal combinations, phytonutrients, and/or biotherapeutic drainage remedies)
    • Symptomatic Support
      • There are some great remedies that we use in our clinic as non-suppressive support for your allergies. These are typically complex homeopathics to be taken orally on their own or in combination with mesotherapy injections
      • Local honey is a great way to prime your immune system with pollen. The small amounts of pollen in honey act to desensitize your immune system.
      • Vitamin C and Quercetin are supplements that can be used to stabilize your mast cells and decrease the release of histamines in your body

As you can see, there are plenty of options. If you are unsure of where to begin the best place to start is to see a Naturopathic Doctor for an individualized treatment plan and support.

Yours in health,

Aliyah Alibhai ND & Sarah Oulahen ND


Take time to Meditate!

Sarah Oulahen ND

If any of you follow me on facebook or twitter you may be well aware that I am very interested in meditation as a way to promote health & balance. I truly believe that we move so quickly in life that we forget to slow down and appreciate the present moment. Really, we need to stop and smell the roses a little more so that we are better able to appreciate the moments of greatness in our daily lives.

When we are constantly on the go, our sympathetic nervous system is fully engaged. This arm of our nervous system is responsible for our “fight or flight” response. When we’re running to catch the subway, at work, constantly checking our to-do list in our heads, and then rushing home to do all our chores, our body thinks it’s literally fighting a threat. Our breathing is shallow and quick, our heart rate and blood pressure increase. Blood is shunted to our muscles to allow us to run away from this threat. Our body is ready and anticipating an intense battle.

On the other hand, we also have a parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems oppose each other, so when one is “on” the other is “off”. This is why the parasympathetic system is foreign to many of us! We’re always in the sympathetic mode and so we can’t turn “on” our parasympathetic system.sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems

Why is this concept important? It’s not only important, it’s vital to health. Your parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for resting and digesting. Yes, that’s right, we need this system to be engaged in order to sleep and in order to grab our nutrients from our foods. This is why so many of us have problems with insomnia, fatigue, heartburn, gas & constipation. It’s all tied to nervous system balance.

So, moving beyond the physiology lesson, what’s the best way to help nourish your parasympathetic nervous system to enable your organs to function properly? Honestly, I don’t know any better way than to take a few minutes to breathe and slow down – this is the definition of meditation. Simply put, meditation is the skillful, sustained, applied use of attention.

The health benefits to meditation are enormous, here are just a few:

  • Meditation regulated mood: it stabilizes emotions & builds self confidence. It also effectively treats depression, anxiety & pain and also improves your relationships. 
  • Meditation decreases blood pressure, heart rate, and even blood sugar levels. It reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes and it also helps with weight loss.
  • Meditation increases concentration and energy
  • Meditation increases immune function and helps you fight infections.
    Deepak Chopra 21 Day Challenge

    Sign up for Deepak Chopra’s 21 day challenge today (click on this picture)

One of the reasons why I decided to write this post today is because of an amazing opportunity that began yesterday: Deepak Chopra’s 21 day meditation challenge. For anyone considering or even open to the idea of taking 15 minutes a day to slow down, this is a fabulous introduction. It allows you to set a goal for meditation and each day you listen to a lovely introduction and are guided through meditation with music. It’s incredible and I urge you to sign up (it’s not too late – the meditations are available a few days after the 21 days to allow you to catch up!) If you read this blog after the challenge, purchasing these challenges would be well worth it.

Here are some ways to practice meditation on your own: Meditation posture

  • Choose a place where you won’t be disturbed and away from distractions
  • Sit on a chair with your back straight or on the floor with your legs crossed
  • Set a timer for your desired amount of time (even 5-10 minutes is great). There are many meditation phone apps with timers and music available for free
  • Close your eyes, and simply take a few moments to observe the inflow and outflow of your breath. Breathe in and out slowly through your nose.
  • When thoughts enter your mind, relax and continue. Return to your breath. You can use the following mantra: So Hum (I am in sanskrit). You can also choose to count your inhalations and exhalations.

Be patient. Meditation takes practice. The goal is not to “turn off” your mind but simply to take time to be aware of your thoughts. Also, it’s important to simply let your thoughts flow then chasing them around in your head. Congratulate yourself on breathing deeper and taking a few moments. This is part of a Naturopathic lifestyle and should be done consistently.

Yours in health,

Sarah Oulahen HBHSc, ND

Naturopathic Doctor @sowhealth


The Girls: Something to Love & Celebrate!

Breasts, boobs, knockers, ta-tas, the twins – no matter what you call them, are you giving them the respect they deserve?  From cancer to implants, breasts make the news for all kinds of reasons these days, but they’re rarely admired for simply being the incredible organ they are.  After all, what else can provide optimal nourishment for a brand new life as well as sexual pleasure?

It’s time that we celebrate our womanhood and embrace our breasts! We, as women, come in all shapes and sizes, as do our breasts. Here’s how you can show your girls some love, naturopathically.

1)  Nutrition.  A low sugar, anti-inflammatory diet is best for your breasts. Here are some specific examples of what to think about when eating right:
  • Focus on vegetables: The cruciferous vegetables are especially important (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, bok choy). These all contain the plant chemical indole-3-carbinol, which has been shown to decrease estrogen’s ability to bind to breast tissue, thus making the body’s own estrogen less apt to promote cancer. These veggies are also great for your liver!
  • Ground flaxseed: The lignans found in ground flax have potent anticancer and estrogen balancing properties. These can prevent breast cancer itself and also prevent recurrences. It also is a great source of fibre and helps keep you regular. Note that ground flax is susceptible to oxidation, so keep it in the fridge or freezer if you’ve purchased it in that form. I normally recommend 2 tablespoons daily (in your smoothie, yogurt, apple sauce, or water/fresh juice).
  • Limit alcohol: Alcohol consumption is associated with breast cancer risk. The risk increases with the amount consumed, so know that moderation is key. In one study, researchers found that the risk of breast cancer in women who had one or more drinks per day was 60% higher than those who didn’t drink.
  • Reconsider caffeine: The methylxanthines (caffeine and theobromine) in coke, coffee, and chocolate can cause overstimulation of breast tissue in some women, though not all. A trial run of eliminating caffeine is worth it (and may decrease breast pain if you are suffering from it).
  • Watch dairy products: Dairy (specifically cow’s dairy) is associated with breast tenderness and lumps in some woman. This may be due to the source of the dairy, as non-organic cows may have been fed antibiotics and hormones to increase their milk supply, which are then passed into their milk and consumed by humans. Try eliminating dairy for a month to see if you note any changes. Otherwise, try to consume only organic dairy products.

2)  Emotional health. Spiritual healer, renowned speaker and New York Times bestselling author, Caroline Myss notes, “The major emotion behind breast lumps and breast cancer is hurt, sorrow, and unfinished emotional business generally related to nurturance.” Emotions such as regret and the classic “broken heart” are energetically stored in this centre of the body. Guilt over not being able to forgive oneself or forgive others blocks the breasts’ energy. An important 1995 study found that the risk of developing breast cancer increased by almost twelve times if a woman had suffered from bereavement, job loss, or divorce in the previous five years. It is not the loss itself that causes the problem – it is the inability to express one’s grief fully, release it, and respond to the situation in a healthy, adaptive fashion.

3) Breast self exams. Recently, new medical guidelines state that it is not necessary to teach breast self-exams because they do not change the mortality rate from breast cancer. What they mean is that women who do breast self-exams tend to find more benign growths. In my opinion, it’s important to know your breasts. It is women, not their doctors, who find the vast majority of breast abnormalities. It also allows time to appreciate this amazing organ. 

How to do a breast self-exam: It’s important to approach your breasts with respect.

  •  Start by paying attention to them daily in the bath or shower, and try to not be afraid of them or their “lumpiness”.
  •  If you are menstruating, you will find doing this exam after your period is best as you’ll be less sensitive.
  •  First, look at your breasts in the mirror. Look for any changes or dimpling of the skin, then you raise your arms above your head and look for changes. Dimpling may be a sign of something under the skin.
  •  It’s easiest to start the exam either in the shower with your arm over your head or lying down with your arm over your head. Use three or four fingers of your right hand to explore your left breast firmly, carefully, and thoroughly feeling for any unusual lump or mass under the skin. Beginning at the outer edge, press the flat part of your fingers in small circles, moving the circles slowly around the breast. Pay special attention to the tail of the breast (area between the breast and armpit) and the armpit. Repeat this for the right breast using your left hand.