Thursday 28 December 2017

Fight the Cold and Flu with Food!

It's that time of year. Everyone around you is starting to develop some sort of sniffle, cough, sneeze or runny nose. You'll try your absolute best to avoid all contact with those you know are infected, but eventually someone you don't know will sneak up behind you and cough in your direction, almost as if they're doing it on purpose. Like you are sworn enemies and the target of their biological warfare in a battle you never wanted to be a part of. Cold and flu season is here whether you like it or not, but you can do something about it! The best offence is a good defence, so let me tell you about some foods you can eat that will help you fight off these nasty viruses this year!

Mushrooms are quite impressive organisms. This Honey Mushroom currently holds the record for being the largest living organism on earth, spanning 3 square miles across the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon. Aside from their incredible ability to adapt and thrive, some species of mushrooms are incredibly nutritious and have been used medicinally for centuries. The fungal polysaccharides found in mushrooms are responsible for boosting our immune system and helping us fight the good fight against colds and flus. Not all mushrooms are created equal however, as certain species will have stronger immune boosting effects than others. Maitake, shiitake, reishi, cordyceps and chaga mushrooms have the strongest immune boosting effects and as an added bonus, act as adaptogens to better manage stress.

This one came as a bit of a surprise to me as well, but this common household condiment can be used to fight infection as well. Aside from it's immediate sinus clearing actions from the burn you feel when you eat it, horseradish actually has bacteria fighting properties. Throw in some garlic and you've made yourself a tasty, virus fighting garnish!

Oil of Oregano
This stuff works! It definitely is not pleasant to take and should not be overused, but taking a few drops when you feel the beginnings of a cold or flu coming on can sometimes stop that virus dead in it's tracks and prevent it from ever becoming a full blown attack. Some people have sworn by this virus busting oil for some time now and we know it can fight bacteria with force. Definitely worth keeping on hand. 

Vitamin D
I can't stress this last point enough! Vitamin D is absolutely crucial to anyone living in Canada, and even more so in the winter months. It's no wonder cold and flu season begins when we enter into eternal darkness (a.k.a. winter). We simply do not get enough. Vitamin D actually acts more as a hormone than a vitamin and is strongly linked to our immune defences. Up your Vitamin D intake and you'll greatly increase your chances of not getting sick this season while everyone around you starts to sniffle. Good food sources include fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, egg yolks and certain mushrooms as well like portabella, chanterelles, and maitake. 

As a last point, remember to do your part to stop the spread of germs as best you can. Wash your hands with soap and water and avoid contacting areas of your body where germs can easily enter like your eyes and mouth. Minimizing your exposure while increasing your defences are the best way to avoid any nasty viruses this cold and flu season!

Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Impacts of stress on memory

I've known of the performance advantages in competitive athletes who use a carbohydrate mouth rinse just before competition for some time now. It consists of swishing a sugary solution in your mouth and spitting it out just before competition. It stimulates reward pathways in your brain and can improve performance in competitions where every millisecond counts. This can be particularly helpful in Ketogenic athletes since they won't actually be ingesting any sugars and not altering their ketotic state.

This new article out of the JISSN however, opened my eyes to a broader topic that is relatable to almost everyone. Basically they found that a carbohydrate mouth rinse after exercise halted the decline in executive function associated with exercise. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that the researchers also measured stress hormones and found that the reason executive function was not hindered was the associated decrease in stress hormones found in test subjects who took the carbohydrate mouth rinse after exercise. So, athletic performance aside, what this article really outlines is that we simply cannot perform our best when under constant stress. Executive function deals with our ability to plan, pay attention, problem solve and remember things.

I'm not saying sugars are the answer here! I just want to point out that stress can immediately impact our cognitive abilities. Living constantly stressful lives without taking the time to meditate, enjoy hobbies, learn something new or just do things you love can have significant impacts on how you live your day to day life.

My favourite 2 apps that I recommend to almost everyone I see in practice for helping destress at home for free are Headspace and Down Dog. Headspace is a guided meditation app for your phone that you can set for as little as 2 minutes or as long as you can tolerate. Down dog is an amazing free yoga app that creates a new workout for you each time you use it and can be set to a time and difficulty level of your choosing. I love yoga for it's focus on breathing techniques while getting in some exercise and much needed stretching at the same time.

Let me know if any of you have other apps or things you like to do to help destress at the end of a long day or particularly difficult week. I'd love to hear and learn of new methods for myself and others!

Link to the article for those interested:

Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)

Monday 28 August 2017

Relieve Your Arthritis Pain At Home With These 3 Simple Tips!

action, adult, affection

What is it?

There are many forms of arthritis that can lead to the classic presentation of achy, swollen joints, however the form we tend to see the most of is Osteoarthritis or OA. OA is also know as the "wear and tear" type of arthritis. What this means is that over time the slippery cartilage that meet on each side of your joints and keep them gliding across one another painlessly has been damaged from an injury or worn out over time. Either way, what is left is a surface that is no longer smooth, and articulating bones that may now be exposed to one another. What results is pain and inflammation. 

Who is affected?

Due to the nature of OA, the population that is most commonly affected are those over the age of 65. This is simply due to the fact that this group of people have had more time for their joints to wear against one another throughout their lives. That being said, OA can affect people of any age and is seen more so in people who have previously injured the affected joint, obese individuals (from increased stress of additional weight on certain joints) and those who have overused a specific joint (think baseball pitchers or sprinters). 

What joints are affected?

Typically OA is a one sided condition where the pain and damage to the joints affects only one joint on one side of the body. This is not always true, multiple joints can be affected, however the distribution is usually not symmetrical. Symmetry in diseased joints may be indicative of other forms of arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis being the most common of these. The joints that are usually involved in OA include the hips, knees, fingers, feet and spine.

What are the symptoms?

Pain and stiffness are the most commonly reported symptoms of OA. Particularly morning stiffness that improves with motion throughout the day is very common. Swelling, heat and redness around affected joints is also fairly common especially after prolonged use of the joint. Other symptoms include a grating sensation with audible crackling or popping sounds (referred to medically as "Crepitus"), bony growths at affected finger joints, and even difficulty grasping or holding objects due to weakness or pain. 

How can you help yourself?

Fortunately there are things you can do at home to help relieve some of the pain. Before any home treatments are initiated however, I do recommend confirming the diagnosis with your doctor and working together to treat the pain and prevent further erosion. That being said, here are my top 3 tips for helping resolve arthritic pain at home:

  1. Reduce weight - If arthritis is affecting your hips, knees or feet and you are carrying around a few extra pounds, no other intervention will make as immediate an impact as a moderate reduction in weight. If done safely and slowly, it can take that extra stress off your joints, reducing pain and increasing your ability to begin and maintain a steady exercise routine. For more tips on weight loss read my 7 Tips For Successful Weight Loss.
  2. Warm water pool exercises - Whether you're only able to walk or you can swim full lengths, nothing beats warm water pools as an effective pain relief method when it comes to arthritis. The buoyancy takes the weight and stress off your joints while the heat soothes and calms them. This, combined with gentle exercise to strengthen the surrounding muscles will have you feeling pain free and more mobile  in no time!
  3. Castor Oil - When applied topically to the affected joint, castor oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory intervention. It is absorbed into the skin and provides pain relief that is comparable to NSAIDs [1] (the standard drug prescribed) without any of the harmful side effects. 

How can your naturopath help you?

In addition to these at home pain relief techniques, Naturopathic Doctors can use various modalities to suite your specific needs in accomplishing your pain management goals. Modalities such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, nutraceuticals, botanical medicines and the ever emerging prolotherapy and PrP techniques can all offer additional and complimentary benefits to the treatments you may already be undergoing. Remember not to try to tackle any condition without the help of a registered professional, instead, work with them in coming up with a treatment that works best for you!

Rob Raponi CISSN, B.Kine,
Naturopathic Graduate

1. Medhi, B., et al. "Comparative clinical trial of castor oil and diclofenac sodium in patients with osteoarthritis." Phytotherapy research 23.10 (2009): 1469-1473.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Cheat Clean with Delicious Keto Chocolate Lava Cakes

I've made these once before and they turned out great, so in preparation for some Sunday afternoon football I decided to give them another go and share the recipe with all of you. This recipe comes out great and takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish. Perfect dessert for those of you trying to keep the carbs low and the weight off!

I used a muffin tin and the easiest way to get these things out of there was right side up. So I guess that makes them upside down as far as lava cakes go. This recipe made 7 so you can adjust it to whatever suits your snacking needs:


6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp xylitol
3 eggs
3 tbsp heavy cream (Substitute with coconut cream if dairy doesn't sit right with you)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp baking powder
3 pinches of salt


Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees celsius. 
Mix in the cocoa powder and xylitol together in a bowl. The better you combine them, the smoother your final product will be. In a separate bowl beat the eggs as the air will help with the rising of the cakes. Add the cream and vanilla extract to the eggs then combine with the cocoa powder/xylitol mixture. Lastly, add in the baking powder and salt and mix together until you get the mixture as smooth as possible. 
Pour your mixture into a muffin tin, filling each spot about 1/2 way. Now for the baking aspect, remember that the smaller you make these guys the less time they'll need to bake. You don't want to overcook them or you'll just have cake and no lava. For this batch I went for 12 minutes and it left me with a decently gooey centre. I'd suggest maybe 11 minutes if you really want the lava to flow. 

Try pairing these delicious cakes with some low carb ice cream right after they come out of the oven while they're still warm for some extra incredible, keto friendly, indulgent desserts! 

Nutritional Information (per lava cake)

Calories: 68cals
Fat: 4.7g
Carbs (total): 2.5g
Carbs (fiber): 1.7g
Net carbs: 0.8g
Protein: 3.5g

Monday 27 March 2017

Lose weight and keep it off! Here are 7 tips to achieve successful weight loss

Weight loss can be a tricky thing to accomplish. Many individuals will struggle with weight throughout their lives and it can become a health concern if left unchecked. We often don't even notice the 1-2 pounds per year, but these pounds add up. It is very important however, to understand that the media plays a large role in creating an unrealistic "ideal body" and having perfect abs and the tightest glutes around are not always the goal.

That being said, with the warmer weather around the corner, here are a few tips to cut down on those few extra pounds we didn't intend to gain over the cold and dark winter season...

1) Start your day with a Metabolic Boost!

Begin every morning with a nice glass of room temperature water with half a lemon squeezed into it. This acts to jump start your metabolism and is commonly used in many detox programs as well. Getting those calories burning after they had to slow down while you slept will impact how many calories you burn during the day even if you decide to not do anything else for weight loss!

2) Get Moving! Exercise!

Now I don't mean you have to join a gym and commit to going for 3 hours a day 7 days a week. If you're a beginner, try to walk a few extra minutes a day, take the stairs instead of the elevator (just a few floors will do!), pretend you drive a $300,000 sports car and park that beautiful thing just a bit further then all the other cars when you go to the mall or grocery store. Whatever you can add to your daily routine will impact your overall success. Do remember this though, the more muscle mass you put on, the easier the weight will be to lose and keep lost. Muscle costs your body more calories to maintain than fat does. Add resistance training to your routine to really boost those results!

If you're already a regular gym goer, there are still a few things you can do to really boost that fat loss! Let's be honest, straight up cardio can really suck. No need to worry though! It is not the only option! High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a combination of highly intense bouts of exercise followed by recovery periods that still require some movement. Not only are these exercises more fun, but in the same amount of time (or even less!), the body will burn more calories than it would with constant, moderate intensity cardio. It will even continue to burn fat long after you've stopped exercising as well!

Lastly, for those of you out there who are really keen, try adding a 4-5 minute finisher to the end of your routine. If you aren't familiar with the term, check out an example here. This stuff will really melt the fat off your body!

3) Get rid of refined carbohydrates!

I'm not trying to say you have to cut out all carbs in order to lose weight, but I do strongly recommend getting rid of any grain that starts with the word "white". Instead, make the switch to whole wheat/grain, wild or brown rice, and swap out white potatoes with sweet potatoes. These complex carbohydrates are slower digesting which means you'll stay full longer and your body has to work harder to break them down. Working harder means raising that metabolism once again and all you've done is add some color to your diet.
This does also mean cut out the sugar! Sugar is the enemy and it's hiding in almost anything you don't make for yourself. Sugar is super easy to break down and use as energy, which means anything else you eat in that meal is super easy for your body to store and save for later as fat! Get rid of the sugar and watch the fat melt away!

4) Do not starve yourself!

This one is really important. Starvation diets are the absolute worst thing you can do to lose weight! Aside from not obtaining enough essential nutrients, you will actually hold on to more weight than you might expect. Your metabolism slows down in starvation states to preserve energy, holding on to weight in order to keep you alive. Not effective for healthy weight loss!
Instead, use a simple online calculator to estimate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories you will burn if you lay in bed all day and did nothing. NEVER drop your calories below this number! As a general rule, any diet under 1500 calories per day should be avoided. To lose weight successfully, focus on increasing metabolism through dietary choices and exercise and avoid doing things that will slow it down.

5) Set SMART Goals!

Be Specific - "I want to lose weight" is not specific. Instead pick a number or a dress/pant size that you hope to accomplish by the end of your goal.

Measure - Have a unit to track your goal in. Weight can fluctuate as you lose fat and put on muscle. It isn't really a great unit to track your progress. Try evaluating yourself by tracking how many notches on your belt you can tighten or your pant/dress sizes. If you have access, track your body fat percentage too!

Attainable - Make sure the goal you set is realistic. Don't set yourself up for failure by saying you want to lose 20% body fat when you're only at 26% to begin with. Make the goal 1 belt notch at a time and congratulate yourself when you're successful.

Relevant - Is losing weight something you actually want to do? Why? Make sure that if you decide to start on a weight loss journey it's because it's important to you and no one else.

Timely - We all know without deadlines nothing gets done. Procrastination is just so easy! Weight loss is no different! Set an end date. Whether that is your next birthday, New Years, or by the end of the month, make sure to give yourself an end date but always refer back to "A" , ensuring your goal is realistic and attainable.

6) Slow and steady wins the race!

Weight loss should never occur suddenly and rapidly. It is and should be a slow process. This is the best way to ensure success. Aim for no more than 2 pounds per week as an average. Some weeks you may notice that you've lost more than this, others may be under or stagnant. There's no need to measure weekly or even daily, instead take a look monthly as an overall average and make sure weight is not being lost too quickly. Dropping pounds too fast may mean you are limiting your calories by too much and this can lead to more problems down the road. A small deficit of 500 calories per day will be the equivalent of 1 pound of weight loss per week (3500 calories = 1 lb of fat).

7) Stress management!

This is my final tip and it is not spoken about often enough, however it can be that lingering factor affecting so many people who struggle to shed those last few pounds. This is especially true for belly fat in particular. Stress, more specifically cortisol production, can lead to abdominal fat deposits that just won't go away. Diet and exercise can have positive impacts, but if you don't take the time to slow down and breathe each day, that belly fat will be there to stay! So set aside a few minutes each day to meditate, breathe, relax, color, read or whatever it is you do to unwind. Simply making time for yourself can help you achieve those SMART goals you've set!

There it is, my top 6 ways to lose weight healthfully and effectively. Try it out for yourself and let me know how it works for you!

Rob Raponi
B.Kine, CISSN, Naturopathic Intern