Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

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

Are Your Emotions Influencing Your Joint Pain?


Have you ever taken a moment to tune in to how your joints really feel? If you suffer from arthritis you may not be able to ignore the pain or stiffness in your joints. Most joint diseases develop gradually, with initial signs of discomfort, stiffness, reduced mobility that might come and go with weather changes, activity, stressful events and life changes. 

Conventional medicine generally identifies the structural and functional aspects of joint diseases such as misalignment, cartilage damage, reduced fluid in the joint cavity and inflammation. Common treatments include medications such as anti-inflammatories and pain-killers. However, if you look deeper into the subtler anatomy of joints, you can't dismiss the psychological fabric of mental and emotional factors in joint damage. For many individuals, the amount of pain experienced doesn't always correlate to the amount of deterioration in the joint. It is how you experience the pain and what you make of it - not just what injury is there. 

Joint symptoms can be looked at from another perspective. Joints are the hinges for movement and indicate how you move through space. Your ability to move through your joints can reflect your ability to move through life. Do you feel stuck? Do you move with ease? Tune into your emotions – they may be playing a bigger role in your joint pain

Psychological State is Reflected in the Body

The way you perceive and process experiences in day-to-day life can imprint itself on the body. For example, do you notice that when you are anxious or worried about the future your neck tightens up and your shoulders round forward? Even if you may not realize how worried you are, your body mimics what is going on in your life. As you age these features become more accentuated, and can be interpreted by your naturopathic doctor. 

Why do some people experience pain in their fingers and others in their knees or elsewhere? Where you experience discomfort may be connected to the way you are experiencing your life. Unless there is specific trauma due to an injury, arthritis may manifest in different areas of the body. For example if pain is predominant on the right side of your body, according to TCM, yang may be out of balance. You may be in a stage of life where you are pushing yourself to do many things and not making enough time for receiving things. Or maybe your left sided-joints tend to be weak and give way easily indicating yin deficiency. Your naturopathic doctor can help you understand why specific joints are more affected and can help you connect the dots.


The 5 Elements & Joint Health

According to Ayurveda, the 3 doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) manifest in the joints. They play a role in maintaining healthy joints, but when out of balance, can cause symptoms that can hold you back. For example, someone with a vata imbalance tends to be more fearful and may struggle with joints that are dry, crackly and painful. Someone with a pitta imbalance who tends to be angry and irritable may suffer from joints that are hot, swollen and inflammed. Someone with a kapha imbalance who tends to be sluggish and depressed may struggle with joints that are puffy and stiff. According to Ayurveda, these 3 doshas are made up of the building blocks of the 5 elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. These 5 elements are dominant in different areas of the body and represent different qualities:

Earth element reflects in the structure, stability and support of joints. Excess earth element may manifest as stiffness or reduced ability to move. Lack of strength in the joint indicates lack of earth elementEmotions related to imbalanced earth element are resentment, lack of safety and support, poor boundaries and depression.

Water element reflects in the fluidity of movement. Excess water may manifest as swollen joints full of fluid. Lack of water element results in joints that are dry or movement that isn't smooth. Emotions related to imbalanced water are attachment, fear of letting go, being guarded, feeling lack of nurturing, and relationships that are not flowing.

Fire element reflects in the strength of the joint and surrounding muscles. It is the impulse behind movement. Excess fire may manifest as redness and heat in the joint, indicative of inflammation, and deficient fire results in cold, weak joints with poor muscle tone. Emotions related to imbalanced fire are anger, irritability, frustration, lack of motivation and drive.

Air element reflects in the movement of the joint and muscles and is related to the nervous system. Excess air may manifest as twitching and crackling joints or pins and needles. Deficient air may cause slow moving joints. Emotions related to imbalanced air element are anxiety, worry, feeling erratic and unsettled with constant flow of thoughts.

Ether reflects as the overall space in the joint cavities and the overall ease of body movement. Emotions related to imbalanced ether are feeling "spaced out" and disconnected where the body does not flow as one unit.

Health is a complex fabric of structural, functional and psychological factors that weave together. How your joints move and feel can be a reflection of how you are experiencing your life. The naturopathic approach combined with Ayurvedic wisdom identifies factors that may be reducing your joint health and aims at identifying what is causing your stiffness, pain or reduced motion. If you have worked on joint health or chronic pain but haven’t found significant improvement, it is time to look at the underlying emotional fabric of your life. When this comes into your awareness and released through therapies, you can find relief from suffering. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to learn more how emotional factors of joint health and chronic disease can be released through naturopathic treatments and lead to a healthy, pain-free life.



Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health and chronic disease. If you are experiencing joint pain, please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Athparia.  If you are interested in learning more in a free seminar she will be giving on Joint Health on Nov. 14, RSVP at 905-940-2727.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Spring Detox: Your Skin

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND


As the largest organ in the body, your skin is in constant contact with the outside world, processing temperature, texture and other sensations. Your skin is porous and absorbs whatever you put on it or bathe in: creams, gels, lotions, oils, bubble baths etc. 

While skin plays a significant role in receiving sensory impressions and absorbing materials, did you know that your skin is the largest organ of elimination?

When we talk detox, most people think of the colon, liver and kidneys as the organs that eliminate toxins from the body. While these organs play a critical role in detoxifying, other routes often go unnoticed such as the lungs, menstruation and most notably your skin which helps eliminate up to a third of all body impurities.

If there is a build up of toxins in your body or if one of the other channels or organs of elimination is blocked, skin is the overflow route, especially for the kidneys, liver and lung. Impurities in the blood, digestive buildup from food sensitivities and poor digestion often are mirrored in the quality of your skin. For example, someone who experiences constipation may find that they develop pimples more often. A naturopathic doctor can assess your skin to understand where there may be blockages in your body and treat it accordingly.

Skin Detox Tips
The skin is a reflection of what is happening inside your body. It is working constantly to remove the build-up of both topical and internal toxins. Sweat glands excrete waste products from below the skin and when these pores become clogged with dead cells and debris, your skin cannot eliminate waste efficiently, leading to toxicity and disease. Below are some tips to support efficient skin detoxification.

Ways to Ensure Skin Detoxification is Working

1. Avoid Synthetic clothing:

Your skin breathes whether you are aware of it or not. Artificial fibres such as polyester, nylon and plastic derivatives don’t allow your skin to breathe. They can trap moisture and heat, and provide a breeding ground for rashes, acne and skin issues. Choose loose clothing made of natural, breathable fibres such as cotton, silk, hemp or linen.

2. Avoid Excessive Lotions & Moisturizers:
As much as it is important to hydrate and moisturize the skin, it is also important not to clog pores with chemical products that reduce your skin’s ability to breathe. There is a wide variety of natural skin products available these days suited to different skin types. Speak to your naturopathic doctor on a suitable regime suited to your skin type to allow your skin to detoxify naturally.

3. Avoid Deodorants & Anti-perspirants:
Anti-perspirants are purposefully made to block the sweat glands to reduce body odour. Regular use of these products block your skin’s ability to eliminate toxins and can lead to more serious health concerns over time. There are certain natural deodorants and products that are made to support detoxification in the underarms as well as the feet with herbs to help draw out toxins. Unpleasant body odour is an indication of toxicity in the body so it is best to work with your ND on ways to identify levels of toxicity through assessment and testing, and tailor a comprehensive detox plan for you. Drop by the clinic to learn more.

Ways to Support Skin Detox
1. Include Saunas & Alkaline baths: 
Saunas (especially infra-red) provide deep heat that promotes sweating which removes metabolic waste and other chemicals stored in the body. This is a safe and effective method of enhancing skin detoxification with added benefits of toning your skin and providing relaxation. Sauna and steam detox exists in many traditions around the world, and is also a part of Ayurvedic therapy known as swedana which is used to help the skin eliminate toxins and promote absorption of medicinal oils. Exercise can also support elimination through sweating and provide other health benefits, but saunas reach the tissues at a deeper level. Saunas are an excellent way of detoxing for people taking medications which may interact with detoxifying herbs.

Warm baths with alkaline salts have the benefit of promoting relaxation while detoxifying. Alkaline salt baths stimulate the skin to eliminate acid and toxins in the body, and provide an alkaline environment that wards off diseases such as cancer. Taking regular baths several times a week for 30+ min can soothe pain, relax muscles and detoxify the entire body. If you have not tried alkaline bath salts, come into our clinic for a free sample!

2. Include Dry Skin brushing: 
This is a technique which exfoliates the skin, stimulates elimination of impurities, promotes gentle massage and lymphatic drainage. You can do this simple practice at home on a daily basis. Read instructions on how to do dry skin brushing here or ask your naturopathic doctor to show you how in your next visit.

3. Engage in Regular Massage
Massage can help move you from a state of stress to a state of relaxation where your body has more resources to eliminate efficiently. Certain massage techniques geared towards detoxing may involve gentle lymphatic massage. Ayurvedic abhyanga massagepromotes detoxification and is an essential aspect of panchakarma therapy which is a traditional 5-fold detox program. Gharshana is a more elaborate form of dry skin brushing where an Ayurvedic practitioner uses skin cleansing herbs to exfoliate the skin and support detoxification with the added benefit of weight loss. These techniques are customized to your dosha type and health condition.

4. Work from the Inside Out 
Ensuring that you have healthy looking skin always involves working from the inside-out. You require adequate hydration, a healthy diet, and you need to support any organ system that is struggling. To read more about balanced nutrition and other detox suggestions, read more on the "Do's & Don'ts of Detoxification". Keep in mind that detox goes beyond physical elimination of impurities - emotions such as fear, worry, resentment, guilt and negative emotions are toxic and need to be let go of to prevent disease. Spring is a great time for shedding old patterns and making space for fresh start.  Your naturopathic doctor will help guide you on customized treatment recommendations to help you detox from the inside out.  


There is a lot of hype about detox these days. While detoxing may be more critical than ever nowadays, it is also important to know what kind of detox is suitable for you, and which organs to support while detoxifying. In addition to self-care techniques you can do at home to detoxify, your naturopathic doctor can further support your detox regime with herbs and supplements depending on how gentle or intensive cleansing you need. 

Supporting your skin’s natural ability to detoxify can not only lead to bright and glowing skin, but will lead to you feeling better this spring from the inside out.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in chronic pain management and chronic disease. She is further trained in Ayurvedic detox treatments (panchakarma). If you interested in a detox this spring please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Athparia. 
Join the free seminar on Tues. April 25th: Do's & Dont's of Detoxification

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