Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Constipation? Get Moving Naturally

Dr. Leena Athparia, ND


Let's face it - most people don't pay much attention to their bowel movements or make elimination a top priority in their day. A large percentage of people have unhealthy bowel movements and don't even realize it unless symptoms become uncomfortable. For many, constipation means not going to the bathroom for many days and straining. However, chronic constipation is more common than you might think, and is an indication of imbalance, so it is important not to ignore it.

A healthy person should have around 1-3 bowel movements daily with the consistency of a ripe banana. Healthy elimination starts with a bowel movement in the morning. According to the classical Ayurvedic definition, when the body doesn't eliminate naturally first thing in the morning, it is considered a sign of imbalance - a mild form of constipation. If addressed with balancing diet, lifestyle and herbs, this can be corrected before it turns chronic and leads to more serious conditions such as hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse and bowel disease.

While conventional medications or laxative herbs such as senna can give quick relief for blockages, they can cause cramping and discomfort and are not a long term solution since the bowels become dependent on laxatives. Many people will find that a morning coffee does the trick, but are unable to go without a stimulant such as coffee, meaning your body is not doing the job on its own.
Naturopathic medicine works with providing relief and removing obstacles to healthy elimination, while reminding the body to do its job.

Some causes of constipation are related to diet (lack of hydration, inadequate fibre, food sensitivities, refined food), lifestyle (lack of exercise), stress and anxiety, and other conditions such as hypothyroidismIBSdepressioncancerand nervous system disorders.  Increasing fibre or drinking more water may not always fix constipation for many people, so you need to look at what is out of balance and treat it accordingly.  Read below for an overview of different types of constipation according to Ayurvedic body types and ways to correct imbalances.

Ayurvedic Body Types & Constipation


Elimination is governed by apana vayu, think of this as the force of the wind which helps expel things from the body.  This force regulates the "urge" to go, and can be easily thrown off balance with stress, anxiety, overthinking, poor eating habits and excess activity. Have you ever had to go, but then you had to rush to work or run to do something and lost the urge? Elimination is natural so listening to your body is crucial. When you know your body type, you can understand which factors in your daily life will throw off your digestion and elimination. 

What kind of constipation you experience will depend on your constitution (vata, pitta, kapha), the season and symptoms with which you present. Additionally, tongue and pulse diagnosis can pinpoint what kind of imbalances are manifesting.

Vata Constipation

There is an essential connection between the nervous system and elimination. When you are relaxed and at ease (parasympathetic mode), it is much easier to eliminate. When you are in fight or flight mode, blood and energy shunt away from your digestive system to your muscles in order to flee from what the body sees as potential danger. Chronic constipation develops quickly in individuals who have a Vata imbalance and is characterized by a dry colon with hard, dry stools. Eating too much fiber, such as raw vegetables, in Vata constipation can actually worsen constipation because it is rough and drying.

Tips: 
Increase your water intake and healthy omegas to help lubricate the intestinal passage. Make time in the morning to eliminate without rushing. Avoid suppressing the natural urge to go, and avoid eating on the go. The nervous system plays an important role in the digestive system, so spending time to eat in a relaxed environment and eating at regular times can improve regularity. Working with your ND for a customized diet, soothing demulcent herbs and natural lubricating suppositories can help with Vata constipation.


Pitta Constipation

Constipation in these body types is not as common as in Vata & Kapha, because of their innate digestive strength.  However, elimination issues manifest from excess heat in the body, particularly in the colon, leading to mucus, inflammation, burning sensation and hemorrhoids. These body types tend to be "doers", often pushing their body's limits to get work done and ignoring natural urges.

Tips:
Hydration in key for Pittas and so is slowing down. Following a Pitta balancing diet with cooling foods such as abundant leafy greens, salads and fruits can help treat constipation. Acupuncture can also help reduce heat in the body and stimulate movement in the colon. Cooling herbs such as aloe vera work well to soothe the intestines and work as a natural laxative.

Kapha Constipation

Kapha body types can struggle with elimination, in addition to fatigue and weight gain. This type of constipation is characterized by slow, sluggish bowels and mucous. Bowel movements tend to be large and oily. Eating heavy foods such as deep fried, excessive oil, cheese and creamy foods or eating late meals can aggravate this kind of constipation. Lighter food rich in fibre and vegetables are helpful to address this kind of constipation. If constipation is not addressed in a Kapha body, toxins can accumulate quickly and lead to weight gain, fatigue and other diseases.


Tips:
Exercise and gentle self massage or dry skin brushing can help stimulate movement in the colon. Fibre and dry foods support elimination and reduce mucous and heaviness in the intestines. Warming digestive spices such as ginger and black pepper can help as well as drying, astringent herbs and food (such as leafy green veggies). Triphala is a great herbal formula to address constipation in all types, including Kapha constipation. There are various ways and dosages to take this herb so speak with your ND to find out if this will help you.

Other Naturopathic Tips

Regardless of your body type, there are some foundational factors to ensure that your bowels move well. You can work on these tips with your naturopathic doctor to help identify your imbalances and what approach to take for your treatment.
  • Adequate water intake
  • Healthy fibers (such as vegetables, chia seeds, psyllium)
  • Probiotics to restore gut flora and promote healthy bowels
  • Healthy oils such as fish oils, ghee, coconut, seabuckthorn and olive oil
  • Food sensitivity testing: many people suffer from food sensitivities to dairy, wheat and other common foods. Identifying which foods are triggers for digestive health can make it easier to treat constipation.
  • Posture: the colon is meters long and muscle tension and poor posture can obstruct the route for healthy elimination.
  • Letting go: identifying emotional blockages or areas where you feel "stuck" in your life - in relationships, career etc. Working with your practitioner with counselling, homeopathic remedies, acupuncture and body work can help you release unprocessed emotions which often coincide with physical symptoms such as constipation.

If you notice any changes in your bowel movements, it is important to bring it up with your naturopathic doctor as they could be a sign of a more serious health issue such as hypothyroidism, bowel obstruction, IBD or side effects of medications. While constipation is common, it isn't normal or healthy. You don't have to live with constipation - there are natural treatments that can bring relief. Healthy elimination means the body is able to dump out toxins and help your body work much more efficiently!

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health, pain and chronic disease. She has a special interest in Ayurvedic nutrition. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

Spring Cleaning: Your Home

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND & Marie Lennox

Spring is a time for renewal. The body does its clean up after the winter and begins to detoxify. Externally, it is also a good time to clean up your environment – at home, work or even in the car. Removing old clutter makes space for new things and can help you feel more at ease in your space. Physically cleaning your environment can go a long way in helping you feel reenergized this season.

When you clean with conventional products, unfortunately you are exposing yourself to chemicals that interfere with health - often unknowingly. Common products that contain chemicals are laundry detergent, softeners, dish soap, air fresheners, bathroom cleaners, drain cleaners and many more common household cleaners. These chemicals can enter through your skin, eyes or respiratory tract and can be very toxic to adults, children and pets. You can read more on common contaminants here.

During spring, the body is naturally trying to detoxify so you want to minimize toxins in your food & environment. Even if you are eating organic, exercising and keeping up with a healthy lifestyle, you could be getting unhealthy chemicals through household cleaning products. At Naturopathic Foundations, we use natural cleaning products and techniques, and thought we would share some healthy and easy spring cleansing tips that you can use at home.

Natural Cleaning Tips


Fridge Cleaning:
While your fridge may store many of your nutrient-rich foods, it is one of the most common places that harbours rotting food and unhealthy mold. Start by clearing out food shelf by shelf. Check for expiry dates, and throw food in compost and recycle glass jars in the blue bin.
  • Wipe shelves and inside of fridge with a touch of natural dish soap and baking soda on a damp cloth. This lifts and softens hardened drips and spills. Rinse with white vinegar and water solution (1/2 c. vinegar to 1 c. water) which will deodorize and disinfect your fridge.

Laundry solutions:
Washing your clothes with conventional detergents and softeners leaves residue on clothing and bedsheets which gets absorbed through the skin. This increases the toxic burden on the body and can eventually lead to hormonal imbalance, autoimmune conditions, cancer, and more.
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar in the rinse compartment to soften and deodorize your clothes and replace softeners. This is especially great for baby clothes and will not leave a vinegar smell. Choose natural laundry detergents which are environmentally safe and natural (unscented is best).
  • Essential oils placed on a damp cloth and placed with clothes in the drier will give a natural scent to your clothes. Choose essential oils such as lavender, jasmine, eucalyptus or any other blend you like. Check out the wide variety of essential oils in the clinic that you can use for this.
  • Drier balls can be used to reduce the time of your load by creating more space in the load. We have some available at the clinic at the front.

Surfaces & floor cleaners:
Tables, counter tops, floors pick up dust, grease and grime and cleaning with water won't always cut it. When you use conventional surface cleaners, chemical residue sticks to the surface and can be picked up by crawling infants, pets and adults through the skin. Keeping a bottle of homemade surface cleaner in a spray bottle will come in handy for regular use.

  • 1/4 c. hydrogen peroxide (as a disinfectant) and 10-15 drops of essential oils (such orange, grapefruit) and few drops of natural dish soap in 1 bucket of hot water. Use a mop or cloth to clean floor surfaces. (If cleaning granite or stone surfaces, rinse again with warm water.)

Home-made drain cleaner:
This non-toxic solution can clear drains clogged with grease and residue and is much safer than corrosive drain cleaners.
  • 1/2 c. of baking soda sprinkled in a clogged drain, followed by 1 c. of white vinegar. Let the mixture bubble for a few minutes and then pour boiling water. 

Natural Air Freshener:
Essential oil diffusers break up aromatic oils into small volatile particles in the air and add a wonderful fragrance on the home that is non-toxic. You can choose oils that you like for their scent or even their therapeutic properties. Lavender and floral scents tend to be calming, while citrus scents tend to be energizing and invigorating. We carry diffusers in the clinic that you can use at your home or office.


You will find that if you can replace your conventional household cleaners with natural alternatives, you will reduce the toxic burden in your home and support the healing of you and your family.  We carry a variety of natural cleaning products and essential oils at the clinic which you can come in to learn about anytime. You can speak with any of the naturopathic doctors at Naturopathic Foundations to find out more about ways you can help reduce toxins in your home, food and body care products, and improve your body’s ability to detoxify.


Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Is Your Diet Causing your Annoying Symptoms?

 Dr. Leena Athparia, ND


Have you noticed that when you eat certain foods, your skin breaks out? Do certain foods make you feel more bloated or sluggish? Common symptoms such as under active thyroid, insomniaheadachesbloating, weight gain, acne and skin conditions respond differently to different types of food.  Whether you notice it or not, the kind of food you eat impacts how your body works. 


Food and lifestyle play a significant role in laying the foundation for your health. If you do not have a solid foundation in a diet and lifestyle regime suited to your constitution, treatments such as supplements, herbs, acupuncture and massage can only take you so far in treating and preventing disease. Below are examples of how you can customize your diet to reduce your symptoms, along a perspective from Ayurveda and the 5 elements.

Dry Skin


Dry skin is often caused by a diet that is dehydrating; a diet lacking fluids and healthy oils, or a diet with too much dry food. If you eat right and have a healthy skin routine, your skin should be naturally soft, supple and moist, even as you age.
  • Nutrition for dry skin, involves reducing dry food (nuts, chips, fried food etc)
  • Address dehydration with increased fluids (water, electrolytes, herbal teas, soups). 
  • Increase healthy oils internally such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, fish oils, ghee etc. 
  • According to Ayurveda, when air element is elevated, such as in a person with a vata constitution, skin tends to be more dry and rough.  Eating foods that are vata pacifying can help moisturize and rejuvenate your skin from the inside out, along with topical applications such as oil massage.
When you understand when the elements are out of balance in your skin (too much/too little), you can eat foods to help restore balance. Speak to your ND to see which imbalances you have and what you can do in your diet and daily routine to find a healthy balance.

Sleep


If you are not settled or grounded at the end of the day, you will have trouble falling asleep. Have you ever noticed that you can't sleep if you eat too light a dinner? Or if you eat heavy food before bed? What kind of food you eat, when you eat and how you eat will make a big difference in your sleep quality. So many people struggle with sleeping and seek relief through sleeping pills and other medication - without making any changes in their diet.  If you want to improve your sleep quality, try making some dietary changes and see how you feel.
  • Eating foods that are more 'yang' are more energizing and are less supportive for relaxation. Examples of 'yang' foods to avoid are caffeine, sugar, spicy foods and stimulants. 
  • Ensure you finish your dinner by 8:00 pm at the latest (ideally by sunset) and avoid skipping dinner. Aim to have a regular set dinner time.
  • To help you feel settled at night, a diet rich in grounding foods can help you sleep better: warm, nourishing soups and stews, healthy oils, steamed or boiled food, and root vegetables. 
  • According to Ayurveda, an excess of air and fire elements and a deficiency in earth element are commonly associated with poor sleep and manifest as: restlessness, overactive nervous system, and racing mind. Your diet should be customized to correct these imbalances.

Headaches


Though headaches and migraines are common, they are not normal and indicate an imbalance; a blockage in energy and circulation in the some part of the body. Headaches have many causes such as structural issues, dehydration, blood deficiency, food sensitivities and stress.  Once structural causes are identified and addressed with treatments such as stretching, massagecupping and acupuncture, you need to address your diet.
  • Ensure that you drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day, have enough electrolytes, and have some portion of your food that is hydrating such as soups, stews and foods with high water content.
  • Food sensitivities can trigger headaches. Common food sensitivities are dairy, wheat, eggs and soy, though testing can reveal less common sensitivities such as nuts, certain fruits and veggies or grains. Eating foods that you are sensitive to creates inflammation in your digestive tract over time and can lead to other serious health issues.
  • Anemia and blood deficiency (according to TCM) is a major cause of headaches, especially in women. Including foods rich in iron such as nettle tea and beets can help. Iron is just one of the minerals needed to build blood and tissues. Other minerals such as copper, zinc, calcium, magnesium may be needed from food, supplements or tissue salts.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, if you struggle with overthinking, doing too much activity, or are stimulated by electronics for long periods of time, you may accumulate excess air and fire elements, often determined as a vata or pitta imbalance. In this case, it is very beneficial to have a vata or pitta pacifying diet depending on which dosha is out of balance, under guidance of your Ayurvedic practitioner.

Snoring/Postnasal drip


Do you or a loved one struggle with snoring and poor sleep as a result? Have you noticed how the food you eat affects snoring? There may be structural reasons why you snore, so you first need to rule out any injuries or obstructions. Once that has been ruled that out, the next factor contributing to snoring is the health of your mucous membranes - from your gut to your sinuses.  Foods that you are sensitive to will cause inflammation in mucous membranes so if you haven't been tested, check with your ND about testing for food sensitivities (which can range from dairy, gluten to grains and fruits/vegetables).

  • One of the primary foods that contributes to snoring is yeast, commonly found found in beer or bread, and thrives in a person with high sugar intake. If you struggle with snoring, examine your diet for food sensitivities, yeast and sugar and aim to eliminate them for several weeks or months under guidance of your ND. 
  • Individuals with a kapha constitution are more prone to blockages in the respiratory track and more prone to yeast proliferation so they may need to have a stricter diet to improve their snoring. 
  • In addition to dietary changes, treatments such as nasya, acupuncture, steam inhalation, nasal rinses and breathing techniques can improve snoring.

What Next?

While some aspects of diet are straightforward and apply to the general public (such as eating more healthy oils, less refined sugar, more vegetables etc.) there are many more aspects to diet that are complex and need to be customized. Here is what you can do:

  • Try cooking more at home. If cooking intimidates you, join a cooking class or just start experimenting. It is much easier to customize food for your own body when you make it yourself.
  • Track your diet for at least 5 days and bring it into your appointment with your ND who can go over it with you and identify which foods are beneficial for your constitution and your health concerns. 
  • Work with your practitioner to identify your constitution and which of the 5 elements need balancing. Food can be a wonderful and tasty medicine if you know how to use it for your body type and health concerns. Your Ayurvedic practitioner can identify your constitution through questionnaires, tongue & pulse diagnosis and other intake questions.

Depending on your constitution, activity level, age and health concerns, different foods can be tailored to your needs. If you would like to know more about how your diet might be impacting your health issues, speak with your naturopathic doctor.  Food can be a wonderful and delicious medicine if you know how to use it for your body type and health concerns.


Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health, pain and chronic disease. She has a special interest in Ayurvedic nutrition. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Start the New Year with Self-Care

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

How many of you find yourself motivated to make New Year's resolutions, only to drop them and end up feeling discouraged ? Maybe you want to lose weight, exercise more, eat a healthier diet or have more time for yourself. When you start integrating simpler, more manageable healthy habits into your daily routine that you do consistently, it is much easier than making ambitious goals. The small things that you do for your health add up, allowing you to prevent disease and feel better every day.

There are many self-care routines that you can incorporate this year. These are practices that you can do on your own such as: self-oil massagedry skin brushingbaths with therapeutic salts or morning stretches. Self-care also means tune-ups with your naturopathic doctor - depending on your state of health, this could mean monthly acupuncture sessions, regular massages or body work to realign yourself. Just like you go to the dentist every 6 months and brush your teeth daily for oral health, self-care is essential for optimal health and prevention of disease. Many people often go to the doctor when they are sick or have pain however, the naturopathic approach helps identify and prevent illness before you feel symptoms, saving you time and money in the long term.

When you take care of yourself, you will naturally be able to take care of the things around you that matter most: kids, family, career etc. Some people feel guilty taking time for themselves; it's not about being selfish, but instead it's about nurturing yourself. When your body, mind, emotions and spirit are in harmony with each other, you will not only feel great, but you will feel fulfilled with your life purpose.

Self-Care Tips

According to Ayurveda, dinacharya is a term used to describe daily routine and self-care practices which restore balance and attune ourselves to the natural fluctuations of nature. Below are a few suggestions for you in the new year and beyond.

1. Start the day with a warm glass of water. Sounds so simple, but how many of us actually do it regularly? This will help flush out accumulated toxins after the night and stimulate the digestive system to cleanse. For some individuals, lemon-water or light herbal teas may be advised.

2. Eliminate. No matter how much good food your eat or quality supplements you take, if you are not emptying your bowels in the morning regularly, you are accumulating waste material. Spending the time in the morning to eliminate is a basic healthy habit. If you struggle with constipation, you should speak with your naturopathic doctor as it is a sign of imbalance.

3. Care for your body. Depending on your constitution and the season, self-oil massage or dry skin-brushing can help nourish and cleanse your skin. For example, if you have a vata constitution, a warm oil self massage prior to showering can promote circulation and be a grounding to start the day. If you have a kapha constitution, dry skin brushing can also help stimulate lymphatic drainage.

4. Exercise and/or meditate. It may initially seem difficult to do, but starting the day consciously with even 5 minutes of meditation will enhance the quality of your day. Kapha body types need more vigorous exercise, while vata types need gentler movement or meditation and pitta types need moderation.

5. Start the day with a nourishing breakfast balanced with enough protein - don't skip it before rushing out the door or replace it with a sweet beverage that will spike your blood sugar levels and leave you feeling depleted. Aim for lunch to be the largest meal of the day, and dinner to be early and lighter for digestive health. Try to learn more about your Ayurvedic constitution so you can make dietary choices more aligned for your body. (Learn more about seminars on this topic here).

6. Hydrate! Seems easier said than done, but it is crucial to have adequate water during the day to keep your skin soft and support cellular detox.  Aim for 7-9 glasses of water per day. Drinking warm or adding lemon, ginger or other herbs can make it more palatable for those who don't like to drink water. There are also many herbal teas in the clinic that are therapeutic. Preparing a warm cup of tea can be very healing in itself, in addition to the therapeutic benefits of the herbs which work gently but effectively.

7. Schedule in appointments for self-care ahead of time rather than waiting until symptoms come up. If you struggle with body pain, regular bodywork can be very effective at preventing issues from worsening. For example if you suffer from tension headaches, monthly acupuncture can keep them at bay. If you have arthritic pain, regular Ayurvedic oil massage can nourish the joints and prevent poor circulation in the winter. These treatments can be done weekly, monthly or at every season transition. Cupping can also be done monthly or every 3 months for maintenance for muscle tension, scar tissue or detox. Speak to your naturopathic doctor on what would be the best maintenance treatment frequency for you depending on your health status.

8. Castor oil packs are very effective for reducing inflammation and detoxifying the liver. If you struggle with digestive complaints, menstrual issues or have a sluggish liver, speak with your naturopathic doctor on how often you can do castor oil packs. Adding this to your daily routine will feel good.

9. Treat yourself to a hot bath with alkaline salts and essential oils. Your skin is the largest organ of elimination, and in winter time we barely sweat. Soaking in a hot tub with ease tight muscles, allowing minerals to nourish your skin and eliminate toxins. If you have skin issues, you may need to soak 3x/week, otherwise a weekly bath can wash away physical and mental emotional residue. 

10. Sleep on time. Most people find themselves in a vicious cycle of struggling to get up and get everything done in the day, and sleeping later than planned. Quantity and quality of sleep are equally important, and can be promoted by simple sleep self-care routine such as: foot baths or massages before bed, screen-free time, meditation or listening to soothing music. If you end your day with a restful sleep, you will find your quality of day will improve, leaving you more time to do the things you love to do.

11. Regular appointments with your Naturopathic Doctor. Remember that the conventional medical system is geared to treat disease and while it can be effective in acute situations, it is not as preventative in nature. The naturopathic approach involves identifying signs of imbalance even before you feel symptoms or before your bloodwork results come out abnormal. Regular wellness checks are an important aspect of self-care and will enable your ND to work with you to identify imbalances early on and guide you on how you can prevent certain disease that you may be susceptible to. For healthy individuals, yearly wellness checks that include a physical exam may be sufficient for health promotion, just like you would for your family doctor. For most people though, appointments every few months may be required just like you would with your dentist or any health care provider.

Try introducing 1-2 of the self-care tips into your day this week until it's established, before introducing another routine. Once healthy routines become healthy habits, it will seem less daunting and easier to do. Remember, when you take care of yourself, you will be able to improve the quality in many aspects of your life, so it pays off. If you are feeling challenged with any of the tips above or want to know what self-care routines are best for you, speak to your naturopathic doctor. Support and guidance can help you stay on track, and keep you inspired to make this year healthier than ever before!

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations & Caish Ayurveda with a focus in joint health, pain and chronic disease. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please visit www.doctorleena.ca

Saturday, 28 October 2017

How are Electronics Impacting Your Health?

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND


The use of cell phones, tablets, computers and other electronic devices has multiplied dramatically over the last decade at work, school and at home. We are witnessing the first generation of children that are growing up with continuous screen exposure in their environment. While there are numerous benefits and conveniences of technology, we are beginning to realize the long term health implications of screen exposure. This is an area that is often overlooked and is best addressed in early years to set healthy patterns later in life.

The prolonged use of cell phones in younger children is raising concerns on many fronts including the impact of electromagnetic radiation, sleep, posture and other problems. 

Behaviour issues, ADHDimpulsiveness and temper tantrums have all been linked to increased technology use and frustrated parents often resort to prescribed medications to help control the behaviour problems, leading to other side effects. The effects of electromagnetic radiation is largely underplayed but can have significant impact on health. Especially in children where the brain, skull and nervous system system are still developing and hence they are more vulnerable to radiation. 

We are just beginning to understand the effects of radiation on mucous membranes leading to gut permeability and digestive issues.  While the effects of radiation may not be instantly noticeable, there are long term effects which may include digestive issues, mood changes, behavioural issues and more. Other concerns of technology use include neck & shoulder tension, leading to headaches and more serious concerns in children & adults alike. Eye strain and vision issues are directly related to the amount of screen exposure and radiation from electronics is raising concern. 

If your child is struggling with insomnia, restlessness, headaches, eye-strain, neck pain, digestive issues, low self-esteem or experiencing mood changes, speak to your naturopathic doctor to assess if digital technology is impacting their health, and what can be done to reduce the negative long-term impact.

How Screen Time Impacts Health:

1. Cognitive function:

Despite claims that say that computer games will make your child smarter, the reality is that they only develop certain aspects of brain function, and it may not be well-rounded learning.
  • Children who spend more time in front of a screen may develop increased restlessness, impulsiveness and decreased attention span. 
  • The ability to focus, pay attention to others and communicate with them with verbal & non-verbal cues can be reduced when replaced with too much time in front of a tablet or cell phone screen.
  • Developmental concerns such as ADHD are on the rise, and naturopathic medicine can help support your child's nervous system and brain development through supplements such as fish oils, nervine herbs and a whole food diet. Especially in the first few years of life, a child's brain is sensitive and develops rapidly. They need a supportive environment to grow in a healthy manner.

2. Sleep:

It is a known fact that the light emitted from electronic devices affect the brain. When it is dark outside at night, the body naturally produces melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. In the presence of blue light emitted from electronic screens, the body's production of melatonin declines making it more difficult to fall asleep and have a deep, restful sleep. 

  • If you (or your child) is having difficulty sleeping, ensure there is no screen time at least 1 hour before bedtime. Speak to your ND on options to filter blue light on your screens and other natural supports for a restful sleep.
  • Children should not speak on cell phones directly as the radiation easily passes through to the brain and they should never sleep with cell phones or other electronics next to them due to the constant radiation that they emit. 
  • Ensure all gadgets are turned off at night such as wifi, cell phones and computers. Aim to keep all electronics that can't be turned off at least 3' away from you or your child.

3. Posture:

Most people struggle with healthy posture. In addition, when you are sedentary at a desk or fixated on a screen, your attention generally goes to what is happening "there" vs. "here" in your body. 
  • As an experiment, stand in public transit or in a public place and just notice how many people are looking at a screen and observe their posture. Chances are that you are in ta similar forward-bending posture during screen time, causing neck strain, raised shoulders and caved-in chest. When this posture is constantly repeated, your muscles begin to adjust to that posture. This results in chronic neck/shoulder pain, headaches, tendonitis and more. If left ignored for a long time, it can take longer to treat. 
  • Regular breaks and stretching can help reduce tension and bring awareness back to your body. There are various tools to help you with this as well as other naturopathic therapies to help release neck stiffness such as acupuncture, cupping and massage.

4. Eye-strain:

More children are needing prescription glasses due to short-sightedness than 50 years ago, and struggling from headaches due to eye strain. 

  • When you look at any screen for long periods of time without a break, the eye muscles naturally begin to adjust permanently to focus on nearer objects, while diminishing the ability to see in the distance. You may naturally blink less often if you are engaged in what you are watching. 
  • When using any electronic device, ensure you take breaks frequently to look into the distance and rest your eyes. There are many naturopathic treatments for eye strain, and your ND can guide you on eye exercises & treatments to strengthen the eyes.

5. Mood & Behaviour

Unfortunately, many young adults and children are struggling with anxiety, low mood and low self-esteem. Oftentimes, there is a clear link to excess technology use and mood. 

  • Children who spend more time on the computer, replacing live play time with other children and adults may have slower development with social skills and empathy. They may become more irritable and agitated and develop low self-confidence. 
  • Observe your child's behaviour and ensure valuable play time is not replaced with tv or computer for long periods of time. 
  • Parents needs to set rules for balanced screen time use so that children understand they can enjoy digital technology within a limit. To help you understand healthy technology use, below are guidelines by the Canadian Pediatric Society.

Guidelines by Canadian Pediatric Society on Screen Time:
  • Screen time for children under 2 years old is not recommended.
  • For children 2 to 5 years, limit routine or regular screen time to under 1 hour per day.
  • Ensure that sedentary screen time is not a routine part of child care for children younger than 5 years old.
  • Maintain daily ‘screen-free’ times, especially for family meals and book-sharing.
  • Avoid screens for at least one hour before bedtime, given the potential for melatonin-suppressing effects.
Adults should model healthy screen use:
  • Choose healthy alternatives, such as reading, outdoor play and creative, hands-on activities.
  • Turn off their devices at home during family time.
  • Turn off screens when not in use and avoid background TV.
Reference: Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world:
http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/screen-time-and-young-children


What Can you Do to Reduce Negative Effects of Screen Time?

As children and young adults return back to school, you need to help them understand reasonable limits for screen time. Parents can set a positive example of screen time, by taking breaks from electronic for mealtimes or family time to promote bonding. Based on age, you can set a limit of screen time for children per day so that everyone understands that these tools can be used, but within a certain limit. Avoid using cell phones as toys for infants & toddlers and use the speakerphone under supervision if it is necessary to speak with family members on the cell phone.

Encourage activities outdoors and physical activity where children and adults can interact and socialize. Plan breaks at the computer desk to stretch, look into the distance, and set time aside in the evenings away from screens during family time. 


Your naturopathic doctor can help assess postural issues caused by prolonged screen time and give you tools to help reverse postural misalignment. In the clinic, we have various tools for healthy posture and can customize treatments for muscle and joint discomfort using acupuncture, cupping, laser and massage. Herbs, homeopathics, nutraceuticals, along with dietary and lifestyle changes can help strengthen you from the inside out. Your ND can also help you prevent neck tension, headaches, eye strain, support mood and promote healthy brain development. Understanding how to enjoy technology while minimizing associated health effects can help you and your child enjoy a healthy transition back to school. Further reading:
http://www.naturopathicfoundations.ca/files/9814/3578/2038/Vital_Link_IRL_Summer2015.pdf

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with a special interest in muscle, joint pain-related issues and has additional training in Ayurvedic treatments, acupuncture & cupping therapy. 


Dr. Athparia recently spoke at the Ayurvedic Conference in Toronto at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (Oct 21-22, 2017) on this topic. If you feel you or your family members' health is being impacted by the use of technology, there are many ways to help mitigate the negative effects of electronics. 
Please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email lathparia@naturopathicfoundations.ca to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND.
Dr. Athparia at the Ayurveda Conference Toronto, 2017
D. Athparia presenting on the Impact of Technology on Your Health, Toronto, 2017