• 03-11-2016

    8 Essential Tips for Living Well

    Living a healthy lifestyle is about more than just eating well, though that is what you hear about most in the media. Naturopath Dr. Andrew Eberding has provided his essental tips for living your healthiest life; all of this is within your reach.

    By Dr. Andrew Eberding, ND

    Sufficient Water
    Water is really the elixir of life. Unlike the myth it won’t grant you eternal life, but without it you are decidedly reducing your quality of life. Water is the solvent that our bodies run on. You lose it constantly through your breath, sweat and urine production. This corner of BC has high quality tap water and you should not be afraid to drink it. In many cases, it is better than bottled water, which may have extra contaminants from the plastic bottle it comes in. If you are a regular consumer of coffee and/or alcohol then you should at minimum increase your water consumption to compensate for the added requirements these habits contribute.

    Regular Movement
    Your body was made to move constantly. If you are like many of the worker bees in our society, you will find yourself seated for large sections of your day. Look for opportunities to add more movement. This is part of the detoxification process. It pumps the cellular waste from the extremities and prevents them from damaging your tissues. Lack of movement leads to breakdown of muscle tissue. When you lose muscle, your posture suffers and you will develop health issues as a result.

    Breathe fully
    Breathing with the full volume of your lungs is normal, but most people in western society shallow breathe. The act of breathing deeply has a calming affect by transferring energy away from the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. If you have never learned breathing techniques then you might consider finding someone to coach you through this: a qigong master, a yogi, etc.

    Quality Sleep
    It is not possible to heal or retain health without deep restful sleep. Sleep disruptions including noise, light, temperature, stress, alcohol, posture (inadequate mattress or pillow support), family relationships (parenting, co-sleeping, primary care giving), medications, poor air quality, pain, food reactions (heartburn, caffeine, etc), shift work, emotional turmoil, and the list goes on. Your pre-bedtime ritual can make a difference too. Looking into a screen (TV, phone, tablet or computer ) prior to turning in gives your primitive brain the idea that you are staring at the sun, and therefore, it is not time to sleep. Your body registers light even if you wear an eye mask. Your bedroom should be free of all light sources, including clocks; if you get up in the night, opt to leave the light off if possible. Just make sure the pathway to the toilet is clear before climbing into bed.

    Time spent outdoors helps in several ways. The fresh air invigorates your mind and stimulates your nervous system. Exposure to summer sun promotes Vitamin D production. The bright light, especially in the morning, helps to regulate the circadian rhythm thereby improving sleep.

    Promote Digestive Health
    We only function well if we are absorbing our food adequately. If you are uncomfortable after eating (bloating, gas, heartburn, cramping) then you are likely not getting the most of the foods that you are eating. If you are not having a well-formed bowel movement 1-3 times daily you are not removing toxins well from your body.

    Laugh and Play
    These activities improve mood. A strong social network that allows you the opportunity to experience happiness drives away long-standing undesirable moods (depression, anxiety, irritability) from your life.

    Complete Diet
    A healthy diet consists primarily of whole foods (not packaged or processed). If you prepare them yourself in your home then you have the most important part of a healthy diet in order. The rest is about balance of nutrients and moderating excesses.

    At the end of each day if you have taken care of these areas of your life you can expect to be moving your health in a positive direction.  These things underlie all others components of healthy living. If you feel you could use help with any or all of these items or other health challenges please arrange an appointment with me and we will work through your challenges together.

    This blog originaly appeared on Dr. Eberding's website.

    • 05-10-2016

    Happy? Avoid S.A.D

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) affects many people each fall and winter. Dr. Andrew Eberding explains what this is, what symptoms you might be experiencing and what to do to help yourself.

    You have probably noticed that the days are shortening rapidly. This decrease in daylight can lead to something that you might have heard of called Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD.  The long dark winters in our great northern country can be associated with particular feelings like fatigue, low moods, increased irritability, decreased sex drive, indifference to life and overeating. Then, almost magically, when spring comes, all of these negative feelings fall away.

    This occurs so commonly that it is recognized within the medical field with a well-defined diagnostic set of parameters.  For some, the feelings are so strong that they can be admitted to hospital.  Most people, fortunately, experience it to a much lower extent.  It is best to take a proactive approach and do what you can to minimize these feeling before they become overwhelming.  The time to do that is now.  Here are some things that I recommend to ward off SAD.

    Get Some Light

    If you know that winter brings an great sense of gloom, you should be strongly considering light therapy.  Not everyone needs this degree of commitment, but for those who do suffer every winter, light therapy can make a world of difference. The following factors are important considerations:

    - Lux Level: try to get 10,000 lux (equivalent of full daylight).

    - Spectrum: Full-spectrum (visible wavelength) light is also crucial

    - Size and proximity: small lamps may have 10,000 lux light but may not work at a comfortable distance.

    - UV Output: UV light is important to generate Vitamin D excessive amounts are damaging in several ways. Balance is the key. Know what you are getting.

    Eat a Supportive Diet

    Comfort foods (simple carbohydrates, salt and processed fats) are detrimental and are not beneficial any time of year, but are the worst possible choice in the dead of winter.  Instead choose to eat soups and stews with plenty of protein and vegetables. Beans, legumes, nuts, healthy lean protein and hearty fruits should also be regular fare.

    Promote the Release of Endorphins

    Endorphins are the feel good chemicals that your body produces.  There are many ways to promote production:

    - Vigorous exercise: If you can do something that gets your heart pumping and quickens your breath. Simple walking may help, but if you can push a little harder the results will be much greater.

    - Laugh: Along with laughing comes positivity, so spend time with your joyful friends, watch a comedian or join a laughter therapy group.

    - Strengthen your social network, support others and be supported. Share caring interactions.

    - Experience sexual pleasure: the sensation of having an orgasm is primarily due to endorphins

    Plan a Vacation

    If you can financially and realistically afford a getaway to a tropical region then strongly consider taking one. This provides two different benefits.  Firstly, this gives you a boost of mid-winter sunlight. Secondly, it gives you something to look forward to in dark days of winter.  I find most people do best taking this trip between mid-January and mid-February.  After the holiday season has past, but spring is not too far away once you return.

    If Necessary Supplement

    Certain nutrients, especially if they are lacking in your diet, can be useful to include in your regimen.  Consider adding Vitamin D, Vitamin B complex, Polyphenols, Omega 3 oils, L-Theanine and Tryptophan.  There are herbals that can also be supportive like Licorice root, Rhodiola, and Ashwaganda.

    Don’t wait until you get down before you do something to support yourself, especially if you have a history of low moods in the winter.   Take care of yourself because you deserve it!

    • 05-05-2016

    Food Behaviour: Is Your Child's Behaviour Linked to the Food They Eat?

    When I sit with parents in my treatment room I repeatedly hear the same themes:

    -   How do I get my child to stop arguing about everything?

    -   I just do the chores because I am tired of asking my child to do them.

    -   I see my child irritating other children by teasing and poking at them.

    -   Little things seem to make my child so angry, even violent.

    -   My child doesn’t take responsibility, always blaming others.

    There are many reasons a child may display these behaviours.  I would like to focus on just one component though: food.

    What a child consumes can have a huge impact on the way that they act and respond to others.

    Food Ingredients to Watch For

    Most people will start by blaming sugar and undoubtedly sugar can be involved, but it is not the only culprit.  But let’s start by looking at sugar. 


    The human body does not have the ability to receive large amounts of sugar in short amounts of time – such as is what is found in sodas.  When excessive sugar is eaten, the brain reduces the production of a signaling chemical (BDNF) thereby lowering the ability to focus, reason and form memories.  Mental communication pathways can literally slow down.  Free radicals can increase and result in cell death. High blood sugar can cause neurons to misfire leading to inappropriate messages.  Abnormal brain waves are produced.  As well, an increase in stress hormone production is seen after consuming high amounts of sugar, which can lead to agitation and anxiety.

    As big a problem as sugar is, it may actually be low on the list of ingredients that negatively affect behaviour. Many of the foods that are readily available, easy to pack and preferred by kids (and many adults) are loaded with perfectly legal and highly questionable additives. Let's look at a few.

         Artificial Sweeteners

    Researchers have shown that diet sodas, when compared to sugar-based drinks, produce a distinct decrease in the ability to delay gratification (seen in daily life as a child who is not able to wait their turn).  

    Artificial sweeteners are implicated here. The brain expects a rise in blood sugar that never arrives. The result is increased impulsiveness as the body seeks to rebalance its unfulfilled biological expectations.  There is evidence that artificial sweeteners act as excitotoxins. This means that they excite the nerve cells in the brain to such a degree that they cause either damage or cause death of those cells. Gut bacteria is negatively altered by artificial sweeteners and imbalanced digestive bacteria can have indirect adverse nervous system effects.

         Artificial Colouring

    Children both with and without Attention Deficit Disorder diagnosis are equally affected by artificial colours in foods; all children’s attention and behaviour suffered after consuming common artificial food dyes. In Europe, some of the common dyes we use have been banned or must have warning labels.  One of the most highly used dyes is simply listed as caramel coloring and has been shown to cause high blood pressure (and more insidious problems), which many people can only perceive as anxiety.

         Sodium Benzoate

    A preservative called sodium benzoate found in drinks and salad dressings has been shown to increase hyperactivity.  There is some evidence this chemical also increases skin sensitivity and reactions.  Flavor enhancers such as MSG (and other deviously hidden similar chemicals) work by acting directly on brain receptors that trigger excitability. Australian research into flavor enhancers’ effect has led the development of the Feingold diet which can be used as a guide to minimize exposure.

    Combining Additives

    One thing that is often overlooked is the effect of combining additives.  Science requires an isolation of factors to determine proof of a theory: simply put, minimizing the variables can lead to an increased value of the research findings.  This becomes an obstacle, however, as it is possible, (even likely) more problems can occur when we mix additives, drugs, chemicals and allergens than when we consume additives alone.  Most reports of these combining effects look at dangerous or challenging drug interactions because drugs are easy to track. However, it is likely that consuming highly processed foods could produce similar results, but there is no mechanism for tracking them as many of them are not even listed on consumer labels.

    What's The Solution

    I hear you asking, “What then is the answer to these challenging behavioural problems?”  From a food perspective, it comes back to simplified eating habits.  The guidelines I give most of my patients are straightforward.  If you are eating something that your great-grandparents would have recognized as a food then you are off to a good start.  The closer a food looks to the way that it did when it was harvested the greater the chances that it is good for you and has fewer of these harmful added chemicals.  Processing food rarely makes it healthier. Mostly, processing makes it more appealing, both in appearance and in flavor while increasing shelf life.  Food science has worked at finding the ultimate palate pleasing, brain stimulating concoctions with no regard to how challenging the products are to the consumers. 

    It is often difficult to get children to eat healthy foods, but healthy foods can taste good. Over time they will develop a palate for a broader spectrum of flavours than salty, sweet and fat (which are the basis of most processed foods). 

    Have a look at this video clip which distinctly shows the difference in behaviours of groups of children who were fed either highly processed foods or more whole foods.

    The results are evident and dramatic. Which of these two groups do you want to deal with every day? 


    Photo Copyright: sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo

    • 27-10-2015

    Treatments for ADHD

    By Dr. Andrew Eberding, N.D.

    For years people have been expressing concern about the number of children who are now prescribed Ritalin or Adderall for managing behaviour and concentration.  A question that should be kept in the back of every parent’s mind is, “Do these drugs really work?”

    When I ask this question, the parents of my patients often look at me stunned.  They tell me how much better behaved and focused their child is when medicated.  I think it is obvious in the short term children do have better attention and impulse control.  These are the facts that get distributed to doctors and patients’ parents, but is it the complete truth of the matter? 

    It is the long-term results which matter the most for the child and everyone around them. What most parents and patients have not been told is ongoing tracking of behaviour and academic achievement has shown disappointing results. Comparisons between treated and untreated groups show equivalent educational success and comparable behaviour after several years.  To make matters worse, people treated as children with these medications are smaller in adulthood compared to their peers and are subject to numerous other side-effects along the way (depression, high blood pressure, headaches and numerous others). 

    These drugs are actually stimulants, bringing up the question, “How does stimulating someone’s brain calm them down?”  Originally, experts theorized ADHD patients had different brain connections resulting in this contradictory effect.  But we now know this is not true as many healthy people (especially studying college students) have similar effects when they self-medicate to help focus.  Studies have shown that all children respond the same when medicated.  Basically, when given a boring or repetitive task to do people are more successful if they take a stimulant. However, the treatment does not improve a person’s ability to learn material.

    The problem that I see is the positive effects fade over time; the medication simply becomes less and less effective at making any difference in a helping a person function.  This is similar to the effects of caffeine; initially, it gives an energy boost but eventually, with prolonged use, you are boosting from a lower energy state than your original one. Indeed, you may be worse off then when you started, because you have adapted to its presence.  Stimulants’ effectiveness in treating ADHD is gone after 3 or more years when tracked by research.

    So where does this leave patients and parents who feel they need do something?  Giving children medications does not help manage the cause of the condition, yet the vast majority of research that is funded is targeting drug development.  This is not because there is a lack of interest in other treatments but designing and managing studies of other interventions is inherently more complex and costly.  Clinical experience has shown other changes, such as counselling, lifestyle and nutrition can make a big difference.  The challenge is the condition is caused by a single factor and without professional training it can be very difficult to determine what changes are going to have the greatest impact.

    As a Naturopathic Doctor who treats ADHD patients some of many issues I find in need of correction may include:

    -   Body Chemistry: This can only be determined through laboratory testing. Some examples are iron levels, electrolytes, excesses of metabolites, blood sugar management and thyroid hormone levels.

    -   Nutrition: Food sensitivities, imbalance in types of fats available, overexposure to food additives, insufficient individual vitamins and minerals and a deficit of healthy flora.

    -   Inadequate Detoxification Pathways: often due to constipation, overexposure, genetic vulnerability or organ dysfunction.

    -   Lifestyle factors: Sleep inadequacy, anxiety and stress management, activity levels and counselling may need to be addressed; these changes require more time and effort from the patient, the family and the society in general.

    This is just a framework and by no means covers off all the possibilities of changes that may be required.  As with any medical intervention, no two patients are ever identical.  Each patient presents a new puzzle to solve before a patient can achieve their optimum mental and physical state.  From my perspective, medications are simply a bandage that needs to eventually be removed; if you are not treating the underlying problem you might discover you are just masking the real challenge.