Category Archives: Naturopathic Medicine

Articles, research, tips on naturopathic medicine topics including gaining energy, supporting adrenal function, detox, liver cleansing, and hormone balancing.

How to Beat Insomnia, Naturally – By Dr Julie Durnan, ND






Tired but Wired
Most adults have experienced trouble sleeping at some point in their lives.  An estimated 30-50% of people suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia can be a chronic issue or one that lasts just temporarily.  In either case, it can be very frustrating.  The good news is that you don’t have to suffer with insomnia and there are solutions beyond pharmaceutical medications.

Snoozing Solutions
Insomnia is a very common problem, particularly when there are feelings of anxiety during the day, problems regulating blood sugar, or hormonal imbalances, such as low progesterone.  If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your ND about the possible root causes of your sleep trouble.  In the meantime, try incorporating just a few simple “sleep hygiene” changes into your routine.  They can make a big difference.

Slow Down
Remember to give yourself plenty of time to wind down in the evening.  The best thing to do is to turn off the TV, get away from stimulating activities involving computers, cell phones, and other electronics, grab a relaxing book, practice some gentle yoga, have a bath, have a cup of soothing tea, and prepare for sleep.  Create a soothing rhythm for yourself in the evening and stick to it to help your body prepare for and to expect sleep.

Dark Truth
Melatonin, the hormone required for sleep, is released only in the dark.  So get away from flickering, bright, artificial lights in the evening while you prepare for sleep.  Ensure your bedroom is pitch black.  If necessary, buy some black-out curtains or shades for your window.  Get rid of night lights (yes, this goes for kids too) as they will disrupt your melatonin release.  It’s not necessary to supplement with melatonin if you are providing your body the proper building blocks to make it on your own.  The first ingredient is darkness and it works wonders for your hormonal system.

Get a Move On
Exercise has been shown to greatly reduce the stress response, relieve anxiety, and to improve sleep.   Since the hormones produced during exercise also help us to sleep, it’s important to get some exercise in DAILY.  During the day (not evening), do some form of interval cardiovascular workout or weight-bearing exercise for 20 to 40 minutes.  Exercise is wonderful for so many other reasons, but one benefit we can see quite quickly is its effect on sleep.

Unplug It
EMF (electro-magnetic frequency) can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and interrupt the regular hormones that regulate our sleep-wake cycles.  My advice for all women, men, and children, is to unplug the bedroom.  This includes getting cell phones and laptops out of the bedroom, but also removing TVs, plug-in lamps and clocks as well.  A battery-powered clock is best as long as it doesn’t shine light in your room while you’re sleeping.  If so, turn it around so it faces the wall instead.

Sleepytime Snack
Many people will wake in the night from a drop in blood sugar.  When hunger strikes, you will likely wake up!  Try eating a small snack at bedtime to get you through the night.  Something with a bit of fat and protein in it is ideal so it stays in your gut for longer. You may consider an apple with almond butter,  avocado/hummous/or cheese on a grainy cracker, a small protein shake, or handful of nuts and seeds.

Nutritional and Herbal Support for Sleep

A Calcium Magnesium supplement at bedtime can be helpful.  Aim for a  1:1 or a 2:1 ratio of  Calcium to Magnesium.  About 400mg of Cal and 200mg to 400mg of Magnesium at bedtime can help you to relax and fall asleep.

Relaxing Teas
Relaxing nervine herbs in a tea taken before bed can induce the relaxation response and cue sleep.  Botanicals such as:  lemon balm, catnip, valerian, skullcap, oat straw, chamomile, passion flower, lavender, and hops.

Herbs for Stress
If your sleep problems are due to stress, consuming adaptogenic herbs to modulate your response to stress can be incredibly helpful.  Herbs such as ashwagandha, eleuthrococcus, schisandra can be taken in teas, tinctures, or tablets throughout the day.

Sleepy Pillow
An alternative to taking botanicals in the forms of teas and capsules is to make yourself a sleepy-time pillow.  This is done by wrapping dried lavender and hops into a bandana or small, thin organic cotton cloth bag.  Place the wrapped herbs under your pillow case and enjoy a restful sleep.

Happy Snoozing!
Incorporating some of these suggestions into the rhythm of your day will help you get to sleep and stay asleep.  Please see your ND for sleep problems that are affecting your energy, mood, or productivity at work or home.    Sleep is one of the most important pillars of overall health.  Happy zzzs!




Do You Pass the Holiday Stress Test? – By Dr. Julie Durnan ND

Yes, it’s true that the Holidays are considered to be the most wonderful time of the year.  But for many, they can also be the most stressful time of year.  Instead of putting your health on the back burner right now, I invite you to take a moment to check-in and see how you’re doing.  The following Naturopathic Stress Assessment can be completed in just 5 minutes.  Answer true or false to the statements below and calculate your total score at the end.  The higher the score, the more likely that stress is adding up for you and taking a toll on your overall health.

  • I often feel dizzy, faint, sleepy, or foggy
  • After getting up from a seated position, bending down, or getting out of bed, I often feel light headed or dizzy
  • I have dark circles under my eyes
  • I catch colds or other infections (lung or sinus infections, cold sores, yeast infections, bladder infections) easily and often
  • I’m gaining weight around my mid section
  • I am forgetting appointments, deadlines frequently
  • My nails are brittle and weak, my hair is dry and thinning and/or my skin seems to be aging too quickly
  • I feel exhausted, tired, run down, drained, or simply out of juice emotionally or physically
  • I am working harder, but accomplishing less
  • I often have trouble waking in the morning even though I seem to get enough sleep
  • I’m often tired after exercise, rather than energized
  • I have developed allergies, hay fever, asthma or skin rashes over the last few years
  • My body temperature seems off balance. My hands and feet feel cold and my face feels warm even though I’m not sick
  • I drink more than one cup of coffee, caffeinated drink or cola everyday and need it to keep up with the pace of my life
  • I have strong cravings for sweet or salty foods
  • I feel overwhelmed or stressed by work, family and social responsibilities
  • I’m often irritable, impatient or pessimistic
  • I am experiencing more physical complaints, aches, pains, or headaches
  • In my free time I’m too tired to do anything that involves leaving the house
  • I rarely take pleasure in many of the things I used to enjoy

0-8: You’re probably just having a tough week.  After the Holidays, take this test again and see how you score.  For now, please be gentle on yourself.  Eat healthful food, get some rest, and ensure you’re sleeping 8 to 9 hours per night.
9-13: Stress is beginning to take a toll on your health. You need to be careful that you don’t burn out.  Begin by saying no to some of life’s demands and consider making some positive changes, such as improving your diet, resting often, ensure you are breathing properly (through your diaphragm and not your chest), and taking some additional supplements (B complex vitamins) or herbs (Astragalus or Ashwagandha are just two of the many options I recommend at this stage) at this time.
14-20: You are more than likely experiencing adrenal fatigue. When the adrenals become exhausted, this can lead to a more serious illness. Please consult with your naturopathic physician to be fully assessed and discuss treatment options.

Amino Acid Supplementation for Ultimate Recovery During Training – By Dr. Julie Durnan ND

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, muscles, growth hormone, and insulin.  Patients often come to our clinic and report that after an intensive training session, they experience muscle fatigue, aching, or tightness.  This is not simply a part of the aging process, it’s often due to poor nutrition and amino acid imbalance.

Athletes are at a greater risk of amino acid deficiency, so it’s important to rectify any imbalances in your daily diet and possibly consider supplementing with a high quality amino acid combination before training sessions.

There are 20 amino acids needed for proper muscle growth, repair, blood sugar balance, and immune function.  The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are the building blocks that help to maintain muscle tissue.  During training, muscle stores of BCAAs can be used as an energy source.  Arginine is another amino acid that is helpful for maintaining proper hormonal balance and supports wound healing.  Glutamine, is the amino acid that provides glucose for energy and supports proper immune function.  Supplementing with Glutamine is an excellent way to prevent the common immune suppression that can occur in athletes training at a high level.

In the Journal of Nutrition (2006; 136:538S-43S), it was reported that supplementing with a mixture of amino acids may lead to quicker muscle recovery after exercise and could reduce muscle damage caused by strenuous exercise.

Athletes often take great care to fuel and hydrate properly during training, but recovery can suffer if the proper increased requirement of amino acids is not met.

If you are embarking on an intensive training program, it’s important to carefully consider your daily nutritional needs since your amino acid intake can have a significant impact on your ability to recover, heal, and thrive while training.



ABCs of Children’s Immune Health – By Dr. Julie Durnan ND

One of the most common questions we hear from parents in the clinic is:  “How can I boost my child’s immune system?”.  This is an especially hot topic in the fall so I thought it would be handy to provide patients with a list of our all time favourite immune boosters.
A.  Vitamin A.  Found in organic butter (yes, not margarine!).
B.  Berries.  A diet rich in pigmented berries will provide your growing child with an abundance of antioxidants, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
C. Vitamin C.  Found in bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and of course, our favourite kale.
D. That’s Vitamin D.  Supplement children 2000IU to 4000IU per day depending on age and weight.  This vitamin is especially important for us Canadians, particularly those of us who live on the North Shore.
E.  Elderberry Syrup.  A wonderful fruit syrup full of antioxidants and shown to reduce incidence of colds and flus in children who take longterm.
F.  Food colourings and additives.  Avoid them.  If you’re still buying orange cheese or artificially coloured crackers (fishy crackers),  find chemical-free alternatives.
G.  Green leafy veggies.  These contain iron, folic acid, fibre, and minerals.  You can hide them in smoothies or popsicles, steam them and add tamari as a side dish, or serve them raw with other chopped veggies and dip.  Aim for at least one serving per day.
H.  Herbal teas:  Astragalus/Echinacea/Ginger/Garlic botanicals are great teas for boosting children’s immune systems.  Just as effective is adding these to soups, sauces, or stirfries.
I.  Infection. Prevent the spread of infection by washing hands frequently and covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
J.  Junk food.  Get it out of the house.  Kids are exposed to enough candy and processed foods at school and friends’ parties.  Keep your child’s daily diet free from sugar and processed foods.
K.  Keep their necks warm during cold, damp, windy weather.  According to Chinese medicine theory, when our “wind gates” (located at the back of the neck) are uncovered, they allow viruses to enter and infect the body.  Keep kids cozy with scarves and warm jackets during the fall and winter.
L.  Licorice.  This herb can be a wonderful tonic for the lungs and overall immune health.  It is great for cough and building the immune system.  It can be taken as a tincture/glycerite/syrup/tea.
M.  Multivitamin.  When kids get picky, it’s a good time to introduce a daily multi as an insurance policy that they are getting all they need for optimal immune function.
N. Nutrition. In the face of frequent colds or flus, it’s very important to focus on good solid nutrition and to rule out any food intolerances.
O.  Organic.  Avoid pesticides and herbicides as these contribute to the overall toxic load that can interfere with hormonal function, immune function and growth.
P.  Probiotics.  70% of our immune systems are in our digestive tracts.  Supplement your child with 5 to 40 billion probiotic organisms per day, depending on age.
Q.  Quiet time.  Kids need down time.  Things get busy with school and activities.  Allow for some time to rest and recharge.
R.  Regular meals.  These are the foundation for great eating habits and a wonderful time to catch up with family members  and talk about your day!
S.  Sleep.  Children under the age of 12 need up to 11 hours of sleep per night.  Sleep deprivation can result in lowered immunity.
T.  TV.  Turn it off.
U. Unconditional love.  A five year old once told me the secret to raising healthy children:  “Just love your kids”.  I think she’s got it right.
V.  Veggies. 5 to 10 servings per day. Yes, you heard me correctly!
W.  Water.  Plenty of fluid.  Up to 8 cups per day depending on child’s weight.
X.  Exercise.  Children need a minimum of 60 minutes of activity per day.  We are so fortunate to live here and have so many outdoor activities at our doorstep.  Get out there!
Y.  You need to lead by example.  If your child sees you eating your veggies, taking your required supplements, exercising, and resting as needed, they will learn that this is the norm and it will be much easier for them to develop healthy habits.
Zinc.  Foods such as oysters, cocoa, nuts, wheat germ, pumpkin/squash/watermelon seeds.  Also, zinc lozenges are nice and soothing for sore throats.

And don’t forget to bring your little ones in to the clinic for regular naturopathic check-ups.  We recommend well-child visits once per season to rule out any chronic issues that may be dampening their immune response.  Together, we will keep them vital and strong.  Happy Fall!



Vitamin C: The Super Vitamin – By Dr. Rick Santimaw ND

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is possibly the most safe and useful
nutraceutical around. It is a water-soluble vitamin (your body
doesn’t store it), which makes it very safe to use, even in high
doses. We can get what we need from our diet, including papaya,
bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, pineapple, brussel sprouts,
kiwifruit, oranges, cantaloupe, and kale. However, when preventing
or treating certain conditions we supplement higher doses of
vitamin C (either orally or intravenously) to attain therapeutiresults.

Vitamin C plays many important roles in your body. A few of the
major ones are:
●Essential in wound healing and scar formation.
●Repairs and maintains healthy bones and teeth.
●Helps make collagen, an important protein used to make
skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels.
●Very powerful anti-oxidant (protects your cells from free
radical damage caused by, radiation, tobacco smoke, or
simply aging).
●Strengthens and supports your immune system.
Because of its versatility, vitamin C is used to prevent and treat a
variety of medical conditions. Listed below are just a few:
●Heart Disease
●Colds & Flus
●Age related macular degeneration

Vaccine Viewpoint – By Dr. Nina Lange ND

One of the topics that we generally cover with parents is the very
controversial subject of vaccinations. It is an area that often is emotional
and difficult for parents as they struggle with what they believe is a
black or white answer : to vaccinate or not to vaccinate?  The problem
lies in the fact that we are inundated with “facts” in the media and
community and these only lead to confusion. Making these choices isn’t
easy but it should be an informed decision. Do as much research as you
need by reading some recommended books and talking to your health
care providers in order to feel comfortable with the choices you make.
Knowing that you are not alone, that there are many parents out there
who are trying to find a plan that feels best to them for their child, is
very important.  We will support you through this process.
It is important to know that whether you choose to vaccinate according
to the CDC schedule, whether you choose to use alternatives such as
homeopathic nosodes, whether you choose to delay or split up the
vaccinations on the schedule or even just select those which you feel are
most important, in all cases the child’s immune system and body should
be supported naturopathically.
What does this mean?  It entails a healthy diet free from processed
foods and foods that might aggravate the immune system,  supplements
for general immune support and  additional pre /post vaccination
support. Although we have some general immune support guidelines
and a naturopathic pre/post vaccine protocol that we recommend, we
always individualize the specific requirements based on the child’s
overall health.
A healthy immune system is necessary whether a person is vaccinated
or not!

Herb in Profile: Schisandra chinensis

Schisandra chinensis is one of the most wonderful herbs for tonifying the liver, supporting the nervous system and mood, giving support to the adrenal glands, and boosting the immune system. Schisandra’s berries are most therapeutic. At PNC, we use the berries as part of a blend with other botanicals to encourage liver detoxification in certain patients. We also prescribe Schisandra berries as a tea to give moods and adrenals a boost. The tea tastes wonderful and is chock full of antioxidants!

At PNC, we believe that herbs are best incorporated into your daily routine in the form of foods and teas. So try drinking a cup of Schisandra berry tea each day and let us know how you like it.

We think you will thank us!

A Happy Liver: How to Support Your Liver During Detox

By Dr. Rick Santimaw, ND

The Bucket Analogy

Here is an easy way to envision how the body’s detoxification systems work. Think of your body and its detoxification systems as a bucket. At the bottom of your bucket is a drainage hole representing your organs of excretion (skin, bowels, lungs, lymphatic system and kidneys). A filter that precedes the drainage hole will represent your liver as it regulates what stays in your bucket and what is drained out. Now, when you are very young, your bucket is filled up with to a certain level due to your genetic make-up, vaccinations, childhood illnesses, etc… Then, as you age, your bucket continues to fill up in the form of environmental toxins, allergens, life stressors (relationships, work, etc…), poor diet, drugs and alcohol, or lack of exercise (just to name a few). In a normal healthy person, the hole at the bottom of your bucket will drain out the “toxic water” faster than it can be put it. Thus, the bucket will never overflow!

However, when we are not living a healthy, balanced life or there is something wrong with our drainage hole or filter, our bucket will start to fill and fill until it eventually overflows. When our bucket overflows it usually presents as musculoskeletal pain, skin problems, and/or fatigue (physical or mental). This is our body’s way of telling us that it is not happy and that things are not going well.

As you can see the skin, bowels, lungs, lymphatic system and kidneys are all involved in the detoxification process. However, since the liver (filter) decides how quickly and efficiently toxins are drained from or body, it is critical that we support the liver while we detoxify.

How Do We Support Our Liver?

Now we can better understand how the detoxification process works and that a healthy liver is key to a successful detox. A healthy liver requires energy in the form of certain vitamins and minerals along with supportive herbs in order to function properly. Therefore, popular water or juice fasts are not beneficial because they deplete the body of the essential nutrients required for healthy detoxification. In fact, these fasts can have many adverse health effects, including decreased energy production, breakdown of muscle instead of fat, increased oxidative stress, and unbalanced detoxification. Instead of decreasing nutrient support during detoxification, we should eat a diet full of high quality proteins, which will provide the amino acids needed to run the detoxification process smoothly.

Nutrients and Herbs That to Support Liver Function

  • Cruciferous Vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, bok choy, broccoli and similar green leaf vegetables) contain indole-3-carbinol, which helps remove toxins and excess hormones from our system.
  • B-Vitamins support energy production and help to break down toxins.
  • N-Acetylcysteine helps to create Glutathione, a powerful anti-oxidant that also helps in thedetoxification of heavy metals.
  • The amino acids Glycine and Glutamine are also used to create Glutathione
  • Vitamin B12, Folate (B9), Methionine, and Choline
  • The herb Milk Thistle contains silymarin; it protects the liver as well and improves its overallfunction. Silymarin also increases glutathione and is therefore a strong antioxidant
  • Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is another liver-protectant herb, which also provides a strong antioxidant effect.

Energy Wealth and Adrenal Health

By Dr. Julie Durnan, ND

Do you feel tired and wish you had more energy? Do you struggle through your workouts or even find it hard to muster the energy to get to the gym? If so, depleted cortisol levels may be to blame.

Cortisol is a hormone released by your adrenal glands, which are the small organs on top of your kidneys. Cortisol, also known as our body’s “stress hormone” has the important job of helping our bodies adapt to stress. Whether it is physical, emotional, mental, or nutritional stress, cortisol acts to protect us when we need it the most.

Unfortunately, when we over-stress our body on a regular basis, our adrenal glands can go into overdrive. The result is an increasing secretion of cortisol. This over-secretion of our stress hormone can inhibit the release of other hormones, many of which are essential for proper digestion, immunity, energy, sleep, healing, and fertility.

Could this be you?

Luckily, before adrenal stress causes chronic changes in our systems, it provides us with many signs and symptoms that can be caught early, so the adrenals can be addressed and treated. Adrenal stress can manifest itself as low blood pressure, low blood sugar, or a weakened immune response. Since cortisol can interact with other hormonal systems, for some, the first signs of stress maybe be a long recovery time after workouts or an irregularity in a woman’s menstrual cycle.

To test is the best

For those with suspected adrenal stress, we at Pacifica Naturopathic Clinic (PNC) recommend an Adrenal Stress Index saliva test. This test looks at the cortisol released from our adrenal glands, at four points during the day. It also examines DHEA, which is an excellent marker for adrenal adaptation or deterioration.

The solution

Naturopathic medicine offers many solutions for adrenal stress. Depending on the level of depletion and other organ systems that have been affected, the options vary from botanical prescriptions such as Ashwagandha and Rhodiola, to nutritional suggestions, or injected cocktails of vitamins and minerals. Please speak with a naturopathic physician at PNC to find out how to prevent and treat adrenal stress.
You can feel more energy and you can thrive doing what you love. We look forward to showing you how!

PNC’s Natural Health Newsletter Spring-Summer 2012

PNC’s Natural Health Newsletter Spring-Summer 2012 is here! If you are not yet on our email list, please sign up on the right side of your screen or contact us today. Our newsletters are full of helpful natural health tips, delectable recipes, and health articles for the whole family. Happy spring and summer, from your health team at PNC.

Click here to open PNC’s Spring-Summer Newsletter