Posts Tagged Naturopath Ottawa

Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy

by Graham Beaton

Consuming a healthy diet is vital to a healthy pregnancy. But what is a healthy diet for someone who is pregnant? Should a pregnant women consider that she is “eating for two?”.

This article will focus on the importance of healthy weight gain during pregnancy and on a few key nutrients that are required to promote healthy fetal development and a healthy pregnancy. It is important to keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, and more importantly, the requirement of maternal weight gain and intake of specific nutrients may vary according to the health of the mother both before and while pregnant, and the number of children a woman is carrying (i.e. twins, etc.). Thus it is important to consult with a health care provider to address your specific situation.

Maternal Weight Gain
Weight gain during pregnancy has a significant impact on pregnancy outcome (risk of preterm labour, c-section delivery, etc.), and on the short term and long term health of both the mother (increased risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, retention of weight post delivery, etc.) and child (increased risk of diabetes, etc.). The weight gained during pregnancy takes into account the weight of the baby and the weight that is required to allow a woman to sustain and nourish a child while pregnant and to have reserves available (stored as fat) to facilitate delivery and breast feeding.

The amount of weight a woman should gain during pregnancy varies according to her pre-conception weight. For instance, it is advised that women who are of “normal” weight (according to the Body Mass Index (BMI), (refer to chart) gain approximately 25-35 pounds (approximately 1 pound/week during the second and third trimesters) whereas overweight women should gain approximately 15-25 pounds (0.6 pounds/week during the second and third trimesters) during their pregnancy.

Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy by BMI

Folic Acid
Folic acid is a B vitamin that is essential during pregnancy as it is required for the rapid replication and growth of cells of both the fetus and the placenta (organ that connects the uterus of the mother to the developing fetus). In the fetus, folic acid is essential for the formation of the neural tube, which gives rise to the brain and spinal cord. If levels of folic acid are not adequate, the neural tube may be improperly formed (called a neural tube defect), which can lead to anatomical defects in the brain and spinal cord.

In addition to helping with placental development in the mother throughout pregnancy, folic acid is vital during the second and third trimesters for the production of new red blood cells, whose numbers increase in order to carry a greater amount of oxygen to the developing fetus.

Folic acid levels are often low in women, especially if prior to conception, oral contraceptive pills had been used for a long period of time (oral contraceptives lower the dietary absorption of folic acid and increase the rate that it is broken down in the body). Dietary sources of folic acid (green leafy vegetables, legumes, egg yolk, sunflower seeds) are generally insufficient to ensure women have adequate levels of folic acid, thus supplementation is advised.

During pregnancy there is a dramatic increase in the number of red blood cells (red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body) required to meet increased oxygen needs. Due to this change, pregnant women require an increased amount of iron. If iron intake is not increased or is inadequate during pregnancy (resulting in iron deficiency), several negative outcomes to both the mother and child can occur. Like folic acid, it is common for iron deficiencies to occur in women prior to becoming pregnant and in women who are pregnant. As deficiencies are common, it is important for a woman’s iron status to be tested, and depending on results of the test, supplementation with iron may be required (amount of supplementation varies according to test results).

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is readily available in most people’s diets (from the consumption of meats, eggs, dairy products and dark green and yellow/orange vegetables). Vitamin A is involved in the development of all major organs and tissues of the body. Additionally, it is important to the development of the immune system and deficiencies during pregnancy have been linked to the development of night blindness in the child. A note of caution regarding vitamin A – taking supplements with high levels of vitamin A can increase the risk of birth defects if it is taken during the first trimester of pregnancy. Thus, it is best to avoid supplementation as it can be easily obtained from food.

If you are pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant, it is important to consult a health care professional about what nutritional requirements you require to give birth to a healthy child and to have a healthy pregnancy. As a naturopathic doctor, I work with women who are planning/trying to conceive and with expecting mothers to create a plan to meet their individual nutritional requirements, exercise and physical activity requirements, and to help promote a healthy pregnancy.

Graham Beaton is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine in practice at Ottawa Collaborative Care Centres – 102 Lewis Street, Ottawa ON. If you have questions about prenatal nutrition, prenatal health, or how Naturopathic Medicine can help you, please call 613-290-6115.

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Diabetes and the Brain – Increased risk of Cognitive Dysfunction and Alzheimer’s Disease

Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Diabetes is a prevalent chronic disease amongst Canadians. Currently in Canada there are approximately 1.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes. Moreover, it is expected that with demographic changes, such as an aging population and increasing obesity rates, the number of those diagnosed with diabetes in Canada will increase to 2.4 million in 20161.

Diabetes can cause damage to many organs in the body. For example, it is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and non trauma related amputations in Canadian adults. As well, diabetes dramatically increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, increases the risk of osteoporosis, affects thyroid function, digestive health, damages nerves and may increase the risk of depression. Additionally, diabetes appears to have an impact on the brain, increasing the risks of cognitive dysfunction (characterized by changes in memory, attention, processing speed, executive function (e.g., conceptualization, reasoning and memory tasks), and general intelligence scores), dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Diabetes mellitus is a group of disorders that are characterized by impaired glucose control, resulting in elevated blood glucose levels. This impairment is caused by insufficient production of insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) by the pancreas, insulin resistance, or both.

Diabetes, Cognitive Dysfunction and Dementia
Diabetes has shown to be a risk factor for changes in cognitive function and for increased risk of dementia2. While the exact mechanisms that cause cognitive dysfunction are not fully understood, there are several mechanisms that are proposed to play a role. High glucose levels cause damage to the brain, as they have toxic effects on nerve cells, causing injury. Furthermore, high glucose levels stimulate an unregulated immune response in the brain which damages nerve cells, affecting brain function3.

In addition to blood glucose levels causing damage to the brain, insulin resistance can affect cognitive function and memory. The transmission of information between nerve cells is impaired with elevated glucose levels, further affecting memory. Moreover, blood vessels in the body, including in the brain, are affected by high glucose levels, which impairs the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells in the brain, causing damage4.

While diabetes has been shown to play a role in cognitive dysfunction and dementia, an important factor that mitigates the risk is achieving proper glucose control. In fact, for diabetic patients who are able to maintain glucose control, cognitive function is typically preserved5.

Diabetes and Alzheimers’s Disease
Diabetes has also been linked with increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease6. While a full understanding of this relationship is not known, it has been shown that there are changes in glucose utilization in the brain during initial stages of Alzheimer’s disease. These changes are exacerbated in diabetics who do not have proper blood glucose control and who have insulin resistance. In these individuals, elevated glucose and insulin resistance leads to further degeneration in the brain, causing Alzheimer’s symptoms to be apparent earlier, and prompting a faster rate of cognitive decline compared to non-diabetics (or diabetics with adequate blood glucose control).

As with cognitive dysfunction, proper glucose control has been suggested to lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease7.

If you diabetic, or if you are at risk of developing diabetes, it is important that you ensure that your blood glucose levels are properly controlled. Blood glucose control will not only decrease the risk of developing cognitive deficits associated with diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, but will also help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, blindness and other diabetes complications. As a naturopathic doctor, I work with individuals who are diabetic or at risk of developing diabetes to establish individual treatment plans that are designed to improve glucose control using nutrition and physical activity.

Graham Beaton is a Naturopathic Doctor in Ottawa.  He is in practice at Ottawa Collaborative Care Centres – 102 Lewis Street (Ottawa, Ontario). If you have questions about diabetes, vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or on how Naturopathic Medicine can help you, please call 613-290-6115.
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High Protein-Low Carbohydrate Diets and Heart Disease

Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Many individuals are turning to low carbohydrate-high protein diets for weight loss. While a number of studies have noted that these diets may be successful in promoting short term weight loss, there is concern over their overall safety.

A new study published in the June 26 edition of the BMJ (formerly titled the British Medical Journal) by Lagiou et al. (2012) looked to determine if eating a high protein/low carbohydrate diet was associated with increased cardiovascular risk.

In the study, the researchers selected 43,396 women aged 30-49 years and followed for an average of 15.7 years. Over the course of the study the women completed questionnaires that asked about lifestyle habits (smoking and alcohol consumption), health history (including cardiovascular events), physical activity, and diet. Participants were grouped according to their daily carbohydrate and protein intake. Results showed that women who consumed low carbohydrate-high protein diets were at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to the other participants. It should be noted that the researchers did appropriately note that this effect was seen in individuals who ate low carbohydrate high protein diets without considering their type or source.

While many continue to promote a low protein-high carbohydrate diet for weight loss, it is important to remember that they may only offer short term success, and without careful consideration of the type or source of the carbohydrates and protein, these diets also increase one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

If you are wanting to lose weight safely and effectively, have questions on what a successful weight loss program entails, or would like to know how naturopathic medicine can help you, please call Graham Beaton, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine at 613-290-6115. Graham is currently accepting new patients and his office is located in the Glebe neighbourhood of Ottawa.

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