Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Ayurvedic Therapies - Part 3: Gharshana (Ayurvedic Dry Skin Brushing)

Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, AAWC

Ayurvedic Therapies Series: 
What is Ayurveda and What Can it Treat?
Part 1 - Nasya (Nasal Herbal Oil Application) 
Part 2 - Kati Basti (Herbal Oil Treatment for Back Issues)

Next in this series of Ayurvedic Therapies, we will explore Part 3: Gharshana, a traditional Ayurvedic form of dry skin brushing, suitable for this spring season.

Gharshana (or Garshana) Treatment:

Gharshana involves massaging the body vigorously with gloves or herbs to stimulate blood & lymphatic circulation, tonify the skin and release accumulated toxins. It is often used in conjunction with weight loss or detox plans, as the skin is one of the routes of natural detoxification.

According to Ayurveda, friction on the skin increases agni. Agni can be described as a spark of fire (Sanskrit origin of the word "ignite") which is the source of metabolic activity. In the cold winter months, agni is often at it's lowest. You may experience fatigue, dullness, low motivation and sluggish digestion. The metabolism is slower, and needs agni to kickstart things. Agni can be boosted with certain herbs, daily lifestyle practices, exercise, yoga as well as therapies like abhyanga or gharshana.

In Ayurvedic medicine, the skin is used as a method to apply therapeutic herbs and oils to reach into the deeper layers of the skin. The skin is the largest organ in the body which expels waste products (such as sweat) and absorbs products such as creams, lotions or oils. Gharshana is a way of stimulating the skin to detox, while providing a route for medicinal herbs to do their work.

How to do Gharshana:

A simple form of Gharshana can be done at home on your own (known as dry skin brushing), prior to showering. Instructions on how to do dry skin brushing: http://www.naturopathicfoundations.ca/files/7513/7088/0736/NF13_Dry_Skin_Brushing.pdf

Gharshana traditionally was done with raw silk gloves as a therapeutic treatment (part of the 5-fold detox program known as Panchakarma) by an Ayurvedic practitioner. Therapeutic herbs can also be used for their exfoliating and medicinal qualities. This can help stimulate weight loss by removing toxins from the body and stimulating fat tissue. Gharshana is very beneficial in Kapha body types as it stimulates agni and warms skin that generally tends to be cool and moist. Gharshana therapy can be done in other constitutions as well; Vata type may benefit from an abhyanga (oil massage) prior to gharshana exfoliation, and Pitta types may benefit from skin & blood cleansing herbs such as neem and manjistha.

Speak with your Ayurvedic practitioner for more details on Gharshana treatment customized for you and your health concerns.

Benefits of Gharshana:

  • Promotes weight loss 
  • Supports detoxification 
  • Improves lymphatic circulation 
  • Tones the skin 
  • Enhances circulation 
  • Reduces cellulite 

Gharshana treatments can be done regularly. Self-care Gharshana may take 5-10 minutes, and a treatment done by a practitioner may last up to an hour if combined with abhyanga oil massage. For best benefits, it is recommended to work with a practitioner to tailor a detox treatment with diet, herbs and other recommendations.

If you are wanting to detox or already taking detox herbs, Gharshana may be just what you need to support your skin's natural detoxification! Spring is the perfect time for a detox, inside and out!

All Ayurvedic therapies are customized according to your constitution and health concerns. It is advised to have an initial naturopathic consultation with Dr. Leena Athparia, ND before proceeding to ayurvedic therapies so that the treatments can be customized according to your needs. To book an appointment, contact Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Beat Winter Lethargy with Ayurveda

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Have you ever wondered why it’s hard to feel energized in the winter? Do you make excuses to avoid the gym or to avoid stepping out?

There are certain reasons why you might be feeling lethargic and slow in the winter. According to Ayurveda, an ancient system of wellness, the forces and principles found in nature also exist in humans.  For example, when it is cold outside, you feel cold more easily.  If you pay attention to your body, you will notice that you feel different during the various seasons. You might notice that health issues resurface more in one season than another, or you might notice that you feel more energetic in the spring than in the summer.

Ayurveda outlines three fundamental energies (doshas) that govern the outer environment and influence one’s physical and mental constitution: vatapitta and kapha. In the winter season, kapha is dominant, characterized with these qualities: cool, slow, heavy, stable and softThese qualities exist in nature but also within you, influencing your body and mind. You are more likely to feel the qualities of accumulating kapha during the winter which may manifest in different ways such as: difficulty getting up in the morning, low energy, low mood and other concerns.

 Signs of Kapha Excess :

  • Lethargy: Do you have difficulty getting out of bed?
  • Dullness: Do you feel like watching TV all evening?
  • Lack of motivation: Do you make excuses to put off exercise?
  • Cold: Do you need to wear lots of layers?
  • Cravings: Do you crave sweet, salty, oily, creamy or heavy food, or bend towards emotional eating?
  • Weight gain: Do you put on weight more easily in winter?
  • Low mood: Do you feel more down, depressed or sad in winter?
  • Respiratory or sinus issues: Do you have a tendency towards coughs, colds, sinus infections?
If kapha isn’t addressed, it can accumulate and lead to more serious health concerns. Think of it as a leaking faucet – one drop can go unnoticed, but once the bucket is full, it overflows and spreads. This same analogy happens in the body as well. When the first signs of imbalance are noticed, you need to act on it before it turns into a more serious health issue.

 Tips for Balancing Kapha :

Winter is the time when you need to play a close check on kapha. The good news is that if you take care of balancing kapha, you can prevent winter lethargy and minimize health concerns such as weight gain, low mood and lack of motivation. To restore balance, kapha management is centered around the qualities of warming, drying and lightening. Read below for more tips. 

  • Eat a kapha balancing diet: To beat winter lethargy, avoid foods that are heavy, cold, damp and hard to digest (deep fried food, dairy) and include warm foods that are easier to digest (soups, broths, grilled veggies). Flavours that are spicy, bitter and astringent can help you feel lighter and more energized in winter. Some examples of spices that you can include in your cooking are: turmericfenugreekgarlicginger, black pepper, thyme, cloves and cinnamon. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to learn more about a customized diet for you in winter.
  • Stay active: Schedule exercise daily - ideally early in the morning to move the stagnant quality of kapha. If you find yourself making excuses to put it off, join an exercise or yoga class that you can commit to, or make a plan with a friend to go together. Once you get moving, you will feel more flexible, energized and you will feel good about it. If you can get moving outdoors, you will have the added benefit of sunshine to boost your vitamin D levels. 
  • Wear bright colours: Winter colours tend to be dark and heavy (brown, grey, black). Notice how you feel with the clothing you are wearing. Adding bright colours into your wardrobe can help you feel more energized and motivated. How do you feel in yellow, orange or red? If you're hesitant about making a bold change to your wardrobe, try adding a splash of colour such as a scarf, a tie, socks, a hat, etc. 
  • Get motivated: This is a good time of the year to start a new project or hobby to help you get motivated. Find something that you are excited about. This is also a great time of the year to plan for the upcoming months and book appointments. For example, putting off your appointments with excuses such as "it's too cold" or "I'll wait until spring to detox", may be further adding to your lethargy.  If you plan your appointments now, you will feel more committed and motivated to stepping out.
  • Declutter: You might be putting off your cleaning until spring, but winter is a good time to change things. You may want to change furniture around to create more space in your home. This helps cut through the dullness you may be experiencing, and remove old baggage from the past as you start the new year. 

Wellbeing, according to Ayurveda, is a delicate balance between the body, mind, spirit and the environment. If your constitution is dominant in kapha, try making some changes this winter and you will notice more energy and vitality! A kapha diet and lifestyle should be lively, full of energy and stimulation - this is the time to beat winter lethargy, start exercising, wearing bright colours, adding spices to your food and staying warm.

If you have tried the above tips and are still struggling with health issues such as low mood, weight gain, lack of motivation, it is best that you work with your naturopathic doctor to identify your imbalances and treat them. What you should eat and when you should eat, along with daily routine suggestions and therapies, can all be customized based on your unique constitution. Maintaining balance is essential to feeling healthy and enjoying the winter season!

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with specialized training in Ayurveda and can help you identify your constitution to guide you on a customized health plan – whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness. Please contact Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

5 Ayurvedic Tips for a Healthy New Year!

Whether we like it or not, the new year is a time to reassess what may not have gone smoothly last year, and what changes we can make in the coming year. According the Ayurveda, winter is the time of Kapha - when the elements of earth and water are at their peak. This often manifests as lower energy and less motivation.

Making changes towards wellness will help you move forward into to the new year with clarity and motivation. You might make resolutions and then fight yourself for not being able to stick to them. Rather than making a bunch of resolutions at once, try changing one thing for a month and focus on making it a part of your life. Below are a few tips to help inspire you to make realistic goals going forward.

You can think of Ayurveda as being a lifestyle, rather than a "diet". As you incorporate these lifestyle suggestions into your life, you can make Ayurveda a part of your life, rather than something you "should do".

1. Understand your Constitution

Before jumping to conclusions on which diet is the fad, you need to understand your constitution (your physiological and mental makeup) so you can better understand what your body needs. A diet that works for one person, may not work as well for you. According to Ayurveda, the 3 doshas not only exist in nature, but in your body. Once you understand which dosha is dominant in your system, you can get a better idea of what you need to do to bring balance - in terms of diet, herbs, exercise and more.

There are many online quizzes that can help you identify your dosha balance, however to get a more accurate assessment, it is best to see a qualified practitioner: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/prakriti-quiz/

2. Eat According to your Constitution

What is "eating healthy"? For one person it may mean avoiding junk food, for another it may mean eating a low-fat diet, or for another it may mean eating a raw food diet.

But what is healthy for you? Once you understand your constitution, it is much easier to know what kinds of foods are more suited to you. For example, Vata dosha types may not do so well on a raw food diet which is cooling in nature. Instead they feel more grounded and nourished with warming food such as soups and stews. Kapha dosha types don't do well with much fat in the diet as they gain weight easily however, Vata types tend to do better with healthy fats such as ghee or olive oil.

When you know your constitution, you can eat according to your dosha type. Banyan Botanical's has good resources on Ayurvedic diet:
Vata Pacifying Diet: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/vata-pacifying-diet/
Pitta Pacifying Diet: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/pitta-pacifying-diet/
Kapha Pacifying Diet: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/kapha-pacifying-diet/

Instead of trying to change your diet 360 degrees, try making small, realistic changes that you can do to consciously change your eating patterns.

3. Improve your Digestion

Once you know your constitution and have more clarity about which foods support your body type, you shouldn't overlook the digestive system. You may be eating a healthy diet and taking multivitamins - but are you really digesting and absorbing it?

According to Ayurveda, the concept of agni relates to your digestive fire - your capacity to digest and process not only food, but emotions and experiences. Agni can be dampened by stress, poor eating habits and so forth. Strengthening agni can improve your digestion and help you make the most of everything you are eating. Herbs such as ginger are excellent for supporting digestion, as are lifestyle habits such as sitting while eating and eating meals at regular times. 

4. Address Health Issues as They Manifest

Don't wait for your health issues to get worse before you address it. Ayurveda and other systems of health use tools to help identify imbalances in the body before they manifest as disease. Minor issues that are persistent, such as aches & pains, weakness, irritation, restlessness can indicate deeper issues that can bubble to the surface. If you wait until the issues become diagnosed conditions, it may take more intensive treatment to treat. Practice daily self-care (dinacharya), balanced eating and work with your naturopathic doctor to maintain health.

5. Start moving !

Are you making unrealistic goals for exercise? Going to the gym and giving up in a few days? 

First, assess your daily exercise habits and see what are obstacles to being active. Once you have a realistic idea of where you are at, see where you would like to be. Break it down into steps that are realistic, create a plan and go with it.

Maybe you want to get off your bus one stop earlier and walk to work everyday. Maybe you want to join a yoga or dance class if you find it difficult to be self-disciplined, or sign up for a walking group. Staying active has many benefits: it improves your circulation, keeps you warm, and helps release endorphins which help you feel good.

Choose 1 or 2 tips that you can start with this month and integrate it into your daily routine. If you need some motivation or customized guidance, work with your naturopathic doctor or ayurvedic practitioner to help you move forward in the new year!

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with specialized training in Ayurveda and can help you identify your constitution to guide you on a customized health plan – whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness. To book an appointment with her, please write to her here: Dr. Athparia

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Start the New Year with Ayurvedic Wisdom!

With the start to a new year, it is a time for a fresh start...to shed old habits and take steps towards clarity, balance and health. 

Join us for 2 upcoming free workshops to inspire you this January! 
  • Beat the winter blues and learn about the medicinal benefit of Ayurvedic spices and how you can use them in your cooking on Tuesday, Jan 17th at 6:30pm @Naturopathic Foundations (RSVP: 905-940-2727)
  • Get inspired with healthy eating according to your Ayurvedic body type on Saturday, Jan 21st at 2:30pm. (RSVP: 905-294-1813) 

Tips for Healthy Travelling

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND  

Are you travelling this winter? Learn more on how to stay healthy, naturally for family-friendly travel.

Increased accessibility to global travel offers the luxury of escaping the cold weather and heading to warmer climates to relax, enjoy the warmth of the sun and enjoy new experiences abroad.  Travelling is an opportunity to take time for yourself, spend time with family and friends, immerse yourself in cultural activities and new adventures to break the regular mundane routine. Depending on the purpose, location and duration of your trip, your travel may range from being hectic to relaxing, low risk to high risk, and overstimulating to rejuvenating.  Being adequately prepared for travel ensures a more enjoyable and healthy trip.

Travelling can be exciting. However, it may expose you to new situations and environments which may pose additional health risks. How prepared you need to be depends on whether you are planning a short family vacation to Mexico, or a longer solo trip to volunteer abroad, or a business trip to Asia. Based on your previous experiences, you may need more extensive preparation if travel triggers unwanted symptoms. Included below are a number of tips which may be beneficial to help you prepare for your travel.

Seeking naturopathic advice can help address specific health concerns such as: jet lag, travel anxiety, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, insect-borne illnesses, infections, parasites, cuts, burns and altitude sickness.  The tools that a naturopathic doctor has access to can support prevention (prophylaxis), diagnose and treat travel-related illnesses.  Sleeping patterns and food habits may shift drastically on a trip. By supporting the body, the chances of travel-related illness may be reduced. In addition, supporting mental and emotional health in unfamiliar environments is critical to well-being.

Every individual is unique with inherent strengths or weaknesses. Depending on your constitution, certain organs or body systems may be more susceptible to illness.  For example, individuals with weak immune systems may become more vulnerable to respiratory tract infections; individuals with circulation issues may experience swollen feet and ankles after a flight; individuals with anxiety may experience panic attacks triggered by the stress of travel. A naturopathic doctor can help you identify and treat aspects of your health which require strengthening, as well as treat illnesses contracted during a trip.

Naturopathic medicine can prevent and treat the following travel-related concerns: 

  • Jet lag: shifting from one time zone to the other can have a significant impact on the body's circadian rhythms which regulate our sleep/wake cycle.  Melatonin is a natural hormone that is made by the body which helps us sleep.  When changing time zones, melatonin production may take a while to readjust, leading to symptoms commonly associated with jet lag.  For individuals struggling with jet lag, natural melatonin supplements or nervine herbs can help your body readjust more quickly to the local time zone.  Sunlight exposure also helps us reset our circadian rhythms and reduces the effects of jet lag.
  • Infections:  coldflu, and parasite exposure multiplies when travelling. Coupled with a weakened immune system, travellers become more vulnerable to illness.  With naturopathic medicine, you can keep the terrain strong to prevent microorganisms from thriving.  When the environment is unfavourable, parasites are less likely to thrive.  If you do contract parasites, proper diagnosis and treatment options can be provided by your naturopathic doctor. Certain herbs have specific properties that are anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic to target the pathogen and support your recovery.
  • Digestive issues: diarrheaconstipationindigestion are the most common unpleasant "side-effect" of travelling.  Ingesting new foods from unknown sources, combined with the stress of travelling can lead to a range of uncomfortable situations.  Traveller's diarrhea can be very unpleasant and prevent you from enjoying your trip.  Constipation may develop due to anxiety or due to poor hydration or lack of fibre.  Prevention is key to strengthening the digestive tract prior to travel, reducing susceptibility to digestive upset.  Naturopathic medicine can treat acute digestive issues, allowing you to enjoy your trip.
  • Travel anxiety can escalate into more severe anxiety and fear.  Panic attacks triggered by fear of flying can leave an individual exhausted and terrified of future travel.  If you are a worrier and experience anxiety frequently, herbs and homeopathic remedies that support the nervous system can help you relax, along with meditation techniques.
  • Altitude sickness: when travelling to mountainous regions such as the Himalayas, Andes or the Rockies, the sudden change in atmospheric pressure and oxygen can result in dizziness, nausea, fatigue and more serious symptoms.  Supporting the circulatory and respiratory systems are critical prior to your trip. A naturopathic doctor may do lab work to check your hemoglobin and iron levels, and suggest herbs, homeopathics and lifestyle suggestions to reduce the risk or altitude sickness. 
  • Mosquito & insect bites may carry infectious diseases.  Malaria is prevalent in many tropical regions and can be a serious health issue if not diagnosed or treated promptly. Know the risk at your destination and which prevention and treatment options are available. Reduce your risk of infectious diseases in the first place by reducing your chances of being bitten.  There are numerous internal and external options to ward off insects, in addition to diet and lifestyle factors.  Bitter foods, homeopathics and herbs, such as neem, can repel mosquitoes, as do a variety of essential oils.
  • First aid: cuts, burnsbruises are unfortunately common scenarios while travelling for adults and children.  Help prevent infections and complications by carrying naturopathic first aid supplies such as lavender oil, aloe vera gel, or calendula cream for bite or burns, arnica cream or homeopathics for bruises and sprains, in addition to bandaids and gauze.  These can help in minor injuries, or carry you through until you receive medical attention.
For detailed tips for healthy travelling, please check-out our handout titled, "Travelling Tips" at: http://www.naturopathicfoundations.ca/patients/handouts/

A naturopathic doctor can help you prepare for your trip, help you to stay healthy during your trip and improve recovery after your trip.  When you are adequately prepared, you can reduce your chances of travel complications such as traveller’s diarrhea, parasites, infections and fatigue.  Naturopathic medicine can assist you with any pre-existing conditions which may flare up during travel and help you recover from acute illnesses contracted while abroad, to ensure healthy re-adjustment.

Staying healthy while travelling will allow you to enjoy your trip to the fullest and open you to a world-full of exciting experiences. Wishing you safe and happy travels !

[Original Article posted on Naturopathic Foundations website: http://blog.naturopathicfoundations.ca/2015/12/healthy-travelling.html]

 Dr. Leena Athparia ND has travelled extensively to many countries in Asia, Europe, Middle East and South America and has had first-hand experience with naturopathic travel medicine.  She focuses in preparing you for travel so you stay healthy and enjoy a wonderful trip. If you would like to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND, please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email lathparia@naturopathicfoundations.ca