Let's make meditation easier.

Let's make meditation easier.

Meditation…it’s become a “buzz” word.breathe relaxation

I hear A LOT that people have a hard time relax­ing and med­it­a­tion is appar­ently the best thing to do that.

Could be true…but maybe not? And what kinds? And how? How long?

I can see why.

So many people on social media, say­ing so many dif­fer­ent things that work for them, and just an excess of chat­ter overall..it gets over­whelm­ing, right?

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Are you a supplement junkie?

Take a look in your medi­cine cab­in­et.

How many bottles do you have in there for ran­dom vit­am­ins that are sup­posed to make you bet­ter?

The vitamin clutter quiz

  1. What does each of them do?
  2. What do they do for your body?
  3. How often do you take them?
  4. Do you feel bet­ter or worse when you take them or stop tak­ing them?

Congratulations!

You have become aware of what you are doing and wheth­er or not it is work­ing.

The real reasons you should be taking supplements

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Feelings are a speed bump, not a road block - Empathy, Part II

So in Part I, we talked about a few things:

  1. Feelings impact the phys­ic­al body
  2. Some of these feel­ings have pre­dict­able loc­a­tions in the body, and some­times they do not
  3. Everyone exper­i­ences this to some degree (some more some less, but every­one abso­lutely does)
  4. These feel­ings if they are not prop­erly addressed in a con­scious way, can add to the bur­den of ill­ness to which the body can cope with
  5. This is not sci­en­tific­ally meas­ur­able, which is a pain in the a$%

Wouldn’t it be great to quanti­fy (object­ively meas­ure) how feel­ings affect your body? It would hon­estly save every­one so much time and energy.

Until that time, you have to be your own detect­ive. You need to ask your­self:

Are my phys­ic­al symp­toms in any way supported/​related to how I might be feeling/​coping/​thinking about a situation/​person in my life?

If the answer is yes, then you must also say to your­self:

This is not always con­scious, but I’m going to allow myself sup­port in get­ting some answers.

And finally…are these feel­ings mine? Do they belong to me? Am I own­ing situations/​pain that is not mine?

Dealing with the Physical Results of Empathy

  1. Learn about what is yours, and what is not yours
    When you feel angry, where do you feel it in your body? Sadness? Joy? Know your own emo­tions. Learn to become friends with your emo­tions, so that they are not so intim­id­at­ing. They are just alert­ing you.
  2. What is yours, feel it in a safe way
    Can you allow your­self to feel angry, by just acknow­ledging it?? Do you have healthy releases for angry (exer­cise, punch­ing a pil­low, vent­ing to a friend, scream­ing into a pil­low)
  3. What is not yours, release it in a safe way
    See above. You know when you’re around a friend that is griev­ing or really ticked off? Think about how you often can absorb their mood. Then think about how you can choose to not carry it into the rest of your day/​week — and do it.
  4. Continue to take care of your body in the best ways you know (which may need help from someone else)
    A healthy body will always allow a release of phys­ic­al pent-up energy. A bath, a walk out­side, vig­or­ous exer­cise or res­tor­at­ive yoga…nourishing foods…water…do the things that make your body say “Ahhhh”

I leave these tips with you and wish your self-explor­a­tion well.

Feelings are present, and should not be feared, but embraced, and released.

To your health!

XO

Enter

The physical toll of empathy: Part 1

Since I was about 8, I knew I was a deeply feel­ing per­son.

Watching movies like hor­ror movies (yes, I had the unfor­tu­nate exper­i­ence of watch­ing a hor­ror movie at 8) and sad movies I’d think about the char­ac­ters for hours. Even now, if someone is being tor­tured, I feel like I’m being tor­tured. If the main heroine in the movie had a hus­band that left her for anoth­er woman, I’m heart-broken and feel it in my chest, aching deeply. Many times I’ve been told to suck it up, not be so sens­it­ive and so dra­mat­ic about my feel­ings.

So it wasn’t a huge sur­prise (although I have to say a bit of a relief), when I real­ized the term empath actu­ally described me more accur­ately.

You see, I feel oth­er people’s feel­ings.

Let me say that again.

I feel oth­er people’s feel­ings in my body.

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Breastfeeding does NOT a mother make

It’s taken me sev­er­al months to get the cour­age to share my feel­ings on this. This is an emo­tion­ally charged top­ic, and of course, when your own feel­ings are involved, it’s even more dif­fi­cult! 

I was lucky in that I was able to breast­feed my child; he latched eas­ily and was a good eater…initially.

At about 4.5 months, he was just starving. I was feed­ing 1 – 1.5 hours, and hon­estly I was exhausted. He needed more cal­or­ies than I could provide. For whatever reas­on, pump­ing wasn’t work­ing well at all..it was as if my body knew that it wasn’t a baby…none of the tricks worked to cause my milk to flow unless the baby was with me. I wasn’t get­ting breaks and he was not get­ting enough. Period.

I made a per­son­al decision to start adding some solids and sup­ple­ment­ing with goat milk for­mula…and it was a really con­flict­ing decision. I felt like I wasn’t provid­ing enough…and I could hear the guidelines “exclus­ive breast­feed­ing until 6 months” in my head.

I felt pretty bad until I real­ized that my baby was thriv­ing!

He star­ted sleep­ing for longer stretches dur­ing the night. He was much hap­pi­er through­out the day. He actu­ally reached for the bottle and was excited for foods! And even more, he pre­ferred the for­mula over the breast­milk. I truth­fully don’t think he felt full and so breast­feed­ing became more of a com­fort around bed­time where he sort of stopped need­ing to breast­feed around 7 months, his choice. He just star­ted refus­ing the breast and it happened nat­ur­ally.

So, why I am I telling you all of this?

We have become so obsessed with “should” that we are missing the necessary.

It was neces­sary for me to feed my child more. He’s robust! My ‘little’ man fits in 12 month cloth­ing and is over 22 lbs. He was grow­ing so fast. He already has 6 teeth!

He doesn’t fit the normal criteria,
but then neither do I.

A moth­er is a per­son whom:

  1. Pays atten­tion the needs of her child and responds to them
  2. Feeds them
  3. Clothes them
  4. Provides a safe envir­on­ment for sleep­ing and play­ing
  5. Allows the child to explore the world and provides reas­sur­ance on their return
  6. Loves them!

If the needs of the child involve breast­feed­ing because it is both pos­sible and the best choice for moth­er and babe, then great. But if breast­feed­ing is not pos­sible or exhaust­ing or not even enough cal­or­ic­ally for the babe, we must applaud and sup­port the moth­er for doing the next best thing for her baby — which may involve for­mula or food or both. Or all three!

Mother knows best. Her/​his intuition is KEY.

Caregivers, give yourselves per­mis­sion to know your child. To do your very best, but hon­estly, listen to what is right for you and for them. THAT is moth­er­ing.

Redirection - Accepting Change

This is my last blog post for 2016 before I wel­come a new life in to the world for our fam­ily in 2017.
Redirection

The changes occur­ring in our lives with this new life arriv­ing have not been easy, I’ll admit. I’m a plan­ner and per­fec­tion­ist, and chil­dren (even when wanted and wel­comed) are not beings that can be organ­ized, planned, or put into neat little boxes. They bring joy and chaos into a fam­ily at the same time. The unknown. 

I’ve been hibern­at­ing over the last few months; pre­par­ing myself, my patients, my home for these new changes.

What is right for you will find you without struggle or suf­fer­ing, and if it isn’t right, you are being redir­ec­ted.” ~Alan Cohen

So while change feels chaot­ic, it has found me without struggle. The moment is here, and I am being redir­ec­ted to a new way of being. My mind may not like the unknown, but the unknown is roar­ing in. It is the new way. It may be chal­len­ging or sleep-depriving or body-alter­ing, and not neces­sar­ily easy, but it is com­ing eas­ily.

This is an import­ant les­son for us all in the middle of change!

When we seek well­ness for ourselves on any level, the move­ment towards that new and “right” can indeed feel scary. Even if it means we need to say no more often, eat less sug­ar, head to a new gym class…change is hard. Ultimately, if the changes we seek are meant to give us a more joy­ful life, they will flow towards us. We will be able to make those changes. We will find the sup­port we need. We will meet the people that help us.

As I take a step into my new way of being for 2017, I wish you all on new jour­neys in any dir­ec­tion cour­age and faith, that what is right for you will find you, with ease.

Aoife Earls ND

Hormones and perimenopause: It's not in your head!

As I reviewed a hor­mone pan­el with a lovely woman this week, and then had a con­ver­sa­tion with someone else in the com­munity at lunch regard­ing her men­o­paus­al symp­toms, it hit me:

Many women as they approach men­o­pause (peri-men­o­pause) and enter into men­o­pause offi­cially often feel unheard, like they are going crazy, and there is little that can be done about it. It’s dis­ap­point­ing. Why is that?

  1. A lack of under­stand­ing on the part of health pro­fes­sion­als to prop­erly assess a woman
  2. The incor­rect inter­ven­tion assist­ing a woman with that appro­pri­ate stage
  3. Women them­selves feel­ing sheep­ish, or embar­rassed, about how their symp­toms are affect­ing their lives

Let’s go into fur­ther dis­cus­sion about the three points above:

1. A lack of understanding on the part of health professionals

Perimenopause is the stage before men­o­pause actu­ally starts, and can be 10 years before men­o­pause hits. That’s right ladies, 10 years before you stop men­stru­at­ing you can be hav­ing symp­toms of men­o­pause. If you think about it, it’s not that strange. Before you star­ted men­stru­at­ing, there were a few years of symp­toms (hair growth, breast devel­op­ment, mood swings), and there are sim­il­ar pre­dict­able symp­toms as women stop men­stru­at­ing:

  • Mood swings
  • Irregular peri­ods
  • Regular peri­ods, but dif­fer­ent than nor­mal
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pains

Vague, yes? It’s con­fus­ing for you exper­i­en­cing the symp­toms, and often we can also have chan­ging blood levels of hor­mones dur­ing this phase as well, lead­ing to symp­toms that look like men­o­pause, but are not actu­ally true men­o­pause yet:

  • Low/​high estro­gen
  • Low/​high pro­ges­ter­one
  • Low/​high testoster­one
  • Low/​high melaton­in
  • Low/​high cortisol (our major stress hor­mone)

To know wheth­er your hor­mones are start­ing to bounce around, you need to test, and often, that isn’t done. Why? Everyone assumes a women is either in per­i­meno­pause or in men­o­pause, and rarely is it checked, it is just based on symp­toms. While it’s true that clin­ic­al exper­i­ence does often lead us in one dir­ec­tion over anoth­er, my recent exper­i­ence has demon­strated that we can nev­er truly know unless we look at the hor­mone levels in the per­son.

2. Incorrect intervention to support the woman’s stage

So, if you haven’t assessed cor­rectly, you can guess that what often hap­pens is that the wrong treat­ment is selec­ted. Estrogen is giv­en for hot flashes, when it’s actu­ally a pro­ges­ter­one defi­ciency. Hormone replace­ment ther­apy is giv­en when really a woman just needs a lot of vit­am­in B6 (which is involved in hor­mone syn­thes­is in the liv­er). As a res­ult, the per­son on the treat­ment feels like they should be get­ting bet­ter, but really, they’re not, because they’re stag­nat­ing.

3. Women feeling embarrassed about their feelings and sensations

Women, you know your bod­ies best. No one can really tell you that what you are exper­i­en­cing is fine, if the treat­ment hasn’t sup­por­ted your symp­toms yet. There is no need to be embar­rassed about feel­ing not like your­self, how­ever. There is SO much shame that we really need to not be put­ting upon ourselves, as Brené Brown would say. The hor­mon­al swings that estro­gen and pro­ges­ter­one are cap­able of can impact mood and brain func­tion so pro­foundly that you can lit­er­ally not be your­self. There is noth­ing wrong with that at all, oth­er than find­ing out where the imbal­ance lies and sup­port­ing it best.

My recommendations?

  1. Get tested ladies. Find out where your hor­mones are.
  2. Get edu­cated on the type of hor­mone replace­ment (herb­al, bioidentic­al or oth­er) that:
    a) makes sense for you
    b) reduces your symp­toms
    c) has the least amount of addi­tion­al side-effects that you may need to con­sider
  3. Give it a try, and set out some real­ist­ic goals with your health care pro­vider about what qual­ity of life will mean for you over the next few years. This will change as your hor­mones do their dance.
  4. Get edu­cated on hor­mones and the pos­sib­il­ity of change. Does (or did) your men­stru­al cycle always behave like it should? No. Yes, it totally sucks that you may exper­i­ence symp­toms of per­i­meno­pause and men­o­pause for a peri­od of time. But think about it — if someone had told you when you were a preteen that you could be men­stru­at­ing for 30+ years, you would have been com­pletely hys­ter­ic­al. I’m not say­ing that you will be suf­fer­ing for 30+ years with men­o­paus­al symp­toms, but you may want to learn about it in order to deal with it at some point. The dev­il you know is bet­ter than the one you don’t, yes? And speak­ing of, there are some won­der­ful men­o­pause-sup­port­ing books out there, includ­ing:
    The Natural Menopause Book, Amanda McQuade Crawford
    What you Must Know about Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, Amy Lee Hawkins

It’s not in your head! Find out what’s hap­pen­ing and feel like your­self again.

8 Tips for Mild-Moderate Constipation During Pregnancy

Your bundle of joy may also be caus­ing you pain and sad­ness; wel­come to con­stip­a­tion in preg­nancy!

Progesterone slows down bowel move­ments. We can pre­vent it!

If you are already quite con­stip­ated and have not gone to the wash­room at all in sev­er­al days, reach out to your OB/​GYN or mid­wife or MD as you may need addi­tion­al sup­ports, and you want to be sure they are safe! Here are some tips to help you pre­vent or move things along…

8 Tips for Mild-Moderate Constipation During Pregnancy

  1. Water, water, water
    Gone are the days of dehyd­ra­tion ladies. Get a 1 L bottle con­tain­er, and fill it up and drink it twice daily. You’ll need it (although your blad­der may not love this!)
  2. Soluble and insol­uble fibre
    • Chia seeds: 2 table­spoons in cer­eal, or soaked with prunes (see Aviva Romm’s Natural Pregnancy book) daily for fibre or you could do a daily Chia Seed Pudding (see Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon cook­book)
    • Prunes: 4 – 5 day, or 1÷21 cup of prune juice
    • Oats and oat­meal
    • Hemp hearts
    • Metamucil
    • Nuts — Fibrous, but don’t for­get the water
  3. Veggies!
    Notice I’m not say­ing fruit? Fruit, while it does have a lot of nat­ur­al fibre, can be over­em­phas­ized in the diet, and it’s much high­er in sug­ar. One excep­tion is 12 an apple daily as the skins are very fibrous, but apples can also con­trib­ute to heartburn…so not the best choice either! To keep things simple, eat really decent amounts of the fol­low­ing veg­gies (12 servings a day MINIMUM).
    **I also real­ize how unreal­ist­ic this is as a com­ment if you are naus­eous or just turned off from cer­tain foods. Please pick the ones you can stom­ach, and even if it’s 12 cup daily, it’s def­in­itely bet­ter than noth­ing!**
    • Kale
    • Collard Greens
    • Carrots
    • Celery (organ­ic please)
    • Cucumbers (skin on)
    • Broccoli and cauli­flower (don’t go too crazy here, as they do cre­ate a lot of gas, which may cause addi­tion­al pres­sure if you are already hav­ing gas pains)
  4. Magnesium
    Ahh mag­nesi­um, the saviour of the con­stip­ated colon. Aim for approx­im­ately 300 – 400 mg/​night for hard stools. Magnesium cit­rate and Magnesium oxide will be bet­ter choices than gly­cin­ate, how­ever mag­nesi­um gly­cin­ate is very calm­ing for busy minds and anxi­ety, or rest­less legs. Good old Milk of Magnesia is safe in preg­nancy (see motherisk.org)
  5. Probiotics and/​or yogurt
    There are some great preg­nancy pro­bi­ot­ics on the mar­ket like HMF Maternity (Seroyal) but any good bac­teri­al com­bin­a­tion with a mix of good bac­teria (see the com­pan­ies New Roots, Metagenics, Innovite, NFH where pos­sible). If you don’t feel com­fort­able tak­ing a pill, yogurt (plain) with good cul­tures like Liberte is a good idea.
  6. Tummy rubs
    You or a loved one can do this easy little trick!
    1. Lie down, and find your pubic bone.
    2. Move your fin­gers to the right and make little circles going from your pubic bone to your hip bone along your stom­ach, up to your rib­cage, along the rib­cage, and down the oth­er side to your left hip bone and pel­vis.
      If you feel ten­der­ness, it’s prob­ably poo. I know, gross, but bet­ter out than in! This gently stim­u­lates the bowels to con­tract. You may even pass a little gas; burp­ing or oth­er­wise!
  7. Exercise
    Walking, espe­cially after a meal, can relieve gas, burp­ing, and gently mas­sages the colon. You can even do light tummy rubs while you walk around the block! Squats also move the bowels, as does yoga. Check out this link for good visu­al ideas for poses to release your bowels!
  8. Actual lax­at­ives
    There are times where every good woman must get some true phar­ma­ceut­ic­al help, and if you are ser­i­ously con­stip­ated, it is worth con­sid­er­ing to relieve your­self.
    motherisk.org has a list of the fol­low­ing (please see the below, ref­er­ence from The Hospital for Sick Children) and the risk/​benefit asso­ci­ated with each sup­port. A major­ity are safe, but of course, check with your health pro­fes­sion­al first (this is a blog, and ideas, not dir­ect health sup­port).
Drug Type of Study Details Outcomes
Psyllium Surveillance 100 > N < 199
dur­ing first tri­mester
No increased risk of mal­form­a­tions7
Docusate sodi­um Prospective N = 116
any­time dur­ing preg­nancy
No increased risk of mal­form­a­tions8
Surveillance N = 473
dur­ing first tri­mester
No increased risk of mal­form­a­tions (1÷473 = 0.2%)7
Surveillance N = 319
dur­ing first tri­mester
No increased risk of mal­form­a­tions (3÷319 = 0.9%)9
Surveillance N = 232
dur­ing first tri­mester
No increased risk of mal­form­a­tions (9÷232 = 3.9%)10
Lactulose Pharmacokinetics N = 6 adults
giv­en lac­tu­lose
Systemic bioavail­ab­il­ity < 3%11
Polyethylene glycol Pharmacokinetics N = 11 adults
giv­en poly­ethyl­ene glycol
Not absorbed12
Bisacodyl Pharmacokinetics N = 12 adults
giv­en oral and rectal bisaco­dyl
Minimal absorp­tion13
Pharmacokinetics N = 16 adults
giv­en bisaco­dyl sup­pos­it­ory
Systemic bioavil­ab­il­ity < 5%14
Senna Case Control N = 506 cases
(260 dur­ing first tri­mester)
No increased risk of mal­form­a­tions (OR 0.8; 95% CI 0.41.4) or adverse preg­nancy out­comes15
Pharmacokinetics N = 937 con­trol
(500 dur­ing first tri­mester);
N = 10 adults
giv­en senna
Systemic bioavil­ab­il­ity < 5%16

OR-Odds ratio

Data from Jick et al, Heinonen et al, Aselton et al, Briggs et al, Carulli et al, Wilkinson, Roth and Beschke, Flig et al, Acs et al, and Krumbiegnel and Shultz16

Above all ladies, just don’t suf­fer in silence. Get help from your health care pro­fes­sion­als, so you can be com­fort­able for you, and your baby.

Bun in the oven: Pregnancy late in life and surrender

Many of my cli­ents are see­ing my body change, and look­ing sus­pi­ciously dif­fer­ent, and so I’m com­ing clean.

This 37 year old woman is with child, and now in my second tri­mester of preg­nancy!

I’m very happy about this, and nervous, and curi­ous about the exper­i­ence of being a moth­er, and of course, I felt the need to share my exper­i­ence with my read­ers and any oth­er to-be mom out there.

Pregnancy, in a word, is about sur­render.

It’s not much dif­fer­ent than any oth­er health con­di­tion where you must:

  1. Listen your body and a bunch of its new rules
  2. Follow a diet of which you don’t have the manu­al, and stop doing a bunch of things you really like
  3. Implement these new things, even though you don’t always want to, for the hopes of some­thing good to come

It’s been inter­est­ing to exper­i­ence this jour­ney as a natur­o­path­ic doc­tor, and being that I work with so many women in preg­nancy and post­partum as well as with their babies, it is truth­fully so dif­fer­ent to exper­i­ence it from the inside out.

I real­ized some­thing import­ant in how women and cared for and nur­tured not only phys­ic­ally, but emo­tion­ally through the growth of their babies.

New moms are giv­en lists of do’s and don’ts to fol­low, and in no uncer­tain order:

  1. Take iron
  2. Take a mul­tiv­it­am­in with iron
  3. Take an omega sup­ple­ment
  4. Eat as many fruits and veg­gies as you pos­sibly can
  5. Exercise 30 minutes 3 – 4 times weekly
  6. Take up a new exer­cise régime
  7. Stop drink­ing, stop smoking, don’t do drugs
  8. No raw meats
  9. No unpas­teur­ized dairy products
  10. Don’t jump (?!) or do any­thing jar­ring that might move the baby around
  11. Don’t get a mas­sage until 2nd tri­mester

The list goes on…and doesn’t it all seem to be a lot? It is!

The lists of restric­tions and be amaz­ing! be super­hu­man! are truly too much. Women are now afraid to not only to do the right thing but the wrong thing, and there is a lot of pres­sure to do it all right. In preg­nancy, this is a lot of pres­sure, when a woman is feel­ing per­haps tired and emo­tion­al and unwell.

With the added risk of mis­car­riage in first tri­mester, many women have anxi­et­ies and wor­ries they are car­ry­ing alone. Few people asked me in my appoint­ments how I was feel­ing emo­tion­ally. That’s a shame. I talked a lot of it out with my hus­band, my friends, my fam­ily, and I feel very lucky to have such a great sup­port team. Talk to your posse, whomever they are.

A few pieces of sagely things I learned that have helped me immensely, and if they help oth­er fam­il­ies expect­ing a child, won­der­ful!

  1. If you need rest, rest.
  2. Ask for help. Lots of people are happy to help you and be kind at this time. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  3. Cravings paint a pic­ture. Indulge them a little.
    My first tri­mester crav­ings were salty meats, cheese, grapefruit, and straw­ber­ries. Interestingly, if you break it down nutri­tion­ally they rep­res­ent pro­tein, iron, sodi­um, cal­ci­um, vit­am­in C, and folate. Not such bad choices for a grow­ing fetus! I went with it. Yes, greens were not in there ;) They’re mak­ing their way back into my diet now.
  4. Sugar and car­bo­hydrates mean two things — you’re tired and need more rest, and your body needs more car­bo­hydrates (the good ones). Allow your­self the carb treats in mod­er­a­tion (unless you have gest­a­tion­al dia­betes) and eat the good stuff too (brown rice, sweet potato, squashes as examples)
  5. Vitamins
    • Folate — 800 mcg is the stand­ard to sup­port brain health and devel­op­ment. You can find this in your pren­at­al, but if you can’t stom­ach your pren­at­al, there is folate on its own.
    • Iron — this is needed, but not for all women, and not in all forms. I, for example, don’t need iron (I have very high nat­ur­al iron for a woman). For many women who do need iron how­ever, it can be very con­stip­at­ing. There are many liquid iron sup­ports that can be easi­er to absorb, like Floradix, Liquid Iron by Douglas Laboratories, or Spatone that you may want to take sep­ar­ately if you can’t stom­ach the iron in your pren­at­al.
    • Fish oil/Non-fish omega sup­ple­ments — Yep, these really do help with your baby brain.
    • Probiotics — These can be import­ant to build up immunity dur­ing preg­nancy for you and your baby, how­ever the strain type can be very import­ant to sup­port or reduce the vul­ner­ab­il­ity to cer­tain con­di­tions (eczema as an example). Some pro­bi­ot­ics can also cause con­stip­a­tion which can be unbear­able.
    • Constipation — I’m writ­ing an entirely sep­ar­ate blog post as there is lot to con­sider and sup­port!
  6. Exercise is won­der­ful, but again, listen to your body. First tri­mester most women feel either incred­ibly fatigued or incred­ibly naus­eous. If you can only walk a few days a week, do that. I walk and do a pren­at­al boot­camp and yoga once weekly to keep me in shape, or some free weights and a preg­nancy DVD the oth­er days when I feel up to it. Not every week is suc­cess­ful, but some are great. Move where pos­sible.
  7. It’s okay to feel emo­tion­ally topsy-turvy. One second you’re excited, the next second ter­ri­fied, the next second elated…and it’s all hor­mones shift­ing up and down. Allow your­self a good cry, get a ther­ap­ist if you need to…wherever you are in your preg­nancy is the right place to be. It’s your exper­i­ence, no one else’s.
  8. Unsolicited advice is just that. Take a few deep breaths and remind your­self again that you’re doing your best, you’re doing great, and it’s okay to do your health your way! Take the good advice and store it for later, and everything else just bless and release ;)

Surrendering to my exper­i­ence has been hum­bling, and I’ve developed more com­pas­sion for myself, and oth­ers. We are all doing the best we can, and preg­nancy is no dif­fer­ent!

Ode to Summer Fruit

Mmmm...peaches. Thanks Ontario!
Mmmm…peaches.
Thanks Ontario!

Juicy and deli­cious
Dripping down my hand in your glory
Taunting and call­ing me from your bas­ket
Glistening with your sug­ar crys­tals
A prom­ise of good health
Shattered with a sug­ar crash
~A. Earls

Thought for the day:
Fruit is dessert…it’s not its own food group.

Step away from the fruit people, step away.

What about an emotional 'cleanse'?

I hear the word ‘cleanse’ a lot as a natur­o­path­ic doc­tor, and hon­estly, it makes me cringe.

Yes, it is true that heavy metals, para­sites, poor eat­ing habits, should be sup­por­ted in the body. Eating well and treat­ing the body with respect is always import­ant.

What I don’t hear often enough is, “I’m head­ing to my ther­ap­ist to deal with the feel­ings I’m repress­ing from a trauma I exper­i­enced last year, and I’d like to pro­cess them prop­erly”. Imagine if a friend said that to you dur­ing a cof­fee date! You’d think they were los­ing their minds. In fact, it is a very healthy thing to address emo­tion­al dis­com­fort and neg­at­ive thoughts we have, as they impact our gen­er­al health.

It is won­der­ful that being mind­ful of our emo­tion­al states through med­it­a­tion, mind­ful­ness meth­ods, cog­nit­ive beha­vi­our­al ther­apy, and oth­er meth­ods of self-aware­ness, are now being encour­aged by all health pro­fes­sion­als, teach­ers, and even in organ­iz­a­tions to man­age stress and how we deal with our lives. These tools how­ever shouldn’t just be vogue or new and fun ideas. They should be a deeply inter­twined part of how we cope with our lives.

And what hap­pens if we don’t do these things?
Our phys­ic­al health will suf­fer.
Our body responds to emo­tion­al dis­tress, and will actu­ally cre­ate dis­ease when emo­tions are unable to be pro­cessed, syn­thes­ized, or under­stood.

Our body is the shell that holds it all togeth­er. It is most often not to blame, but try­ing to tell us that some­thing is amiss in our lives, and we need to find out what that is!

Stuffing down our feel­ings and not acknow­ledging what truly makes our heart soar is actu­ally dam­aging to our health. It it often what forces us to adopt poor health choices (drink­ing, smoking, binge­ing, work­ing too much) to avoid what we are feel­ing. Avoidance is a tool that many of us use to not make decisions, but we need to acknow­ledge that we are only hurt­ing ourselves.

If you are strug­gling with a phys­ic­al symp­tom right now, ask your­self:

Is it pos­sible that there is some­thing lar­ger in my life that I need to address?”

and

How can I best sup­port my body in sup­port­ing me make this decision?”

You might be sur­prised what you dis­cov­er about your­self.

Searching for Inner Peace?

Three years ago I embarked on a jour­ney.

Burned out from prac­tice and the emo­tion­al toll of run­ning my own busi­ness and being present for people when they are sick and stressed star­ted to have its effect on me, phys­ic­ally and emo­tion­ally. I was tired, I couldn’t get out of bed in the morn­ing, and I was eas­ily over­whelmed when people were ask­ing me to do some­thing for them. Sometimes being around cer­tain indi­vidu­als was put­ting me out of sync.

Like so many oth­er jour­neys in my life without true under­stand­ing, I felt called to explore mind­ful­ness and med­it­a­tion. I read the book “When things fall apart” by the bril­liant Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, and was imme­di­ately attrac­ted to her humour, hon­esty, and self-aware­ness. I felt like I could relate to her struggles for self-own­er­ship, emo­tion­al reg­u­la­tion, and just want­ing to be calm with­in her­self.

I decided to enrol in an Applied Mindfulness Meditation Certificate with the University of Toronto, because not raised Buddhist and a little wary of all things woo-woo, I was encour­aged to see that they were dis­cuss­ing the sci­entif­ic bene­fits I also thought poten­tially that I could under­stand with oth­er like-minded people. I thought per­haps this would help my patients to feel calmer if I could teach them the tech­niques I learned.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the bene­fits that came from a mind­ful way of liv­ing were mine to own first. Of course, a teach­er must be a stu­dent and so I found the bene­fits enabled me to be:

  1. Calmer and less react­ive in the face of stressors, espe­cially unex­pec­ted ones
  2. Kinder to myself, and oth­ers
  3. More under­stand­ing of myself and oth­ers
  4. More aware of my thoughts, body sen­sa­tions, and emo­tions in my body
  5. More equipped to deal with the chan­ging thoughts, body sen­sa­tions, and emo­tions that our body con­tinu­ally cycle through with­in every day, hour, and minute
  6. Aware that I was not alone in this struggle for self-peace
  7. Connected to a large com­munity of caring indi­vidu­als, who I real­ized were just the human race, around us all the time.

Truly, my exper­i­ence with mind­ful­ness and med­it­a­tion was life-chan­ging. I am now more patient with myself (and as a per­fec­tion­ist, that’s a ser­i­ously big deal), more accept­ing, aware, and curi­ous. I’m par­ti­cip­at­ing in the ebb and flow of life. The phrase “this, too, shall pass” really star­ted to make sense.

Was it easy? Heck, no. The best things in life are nev­er easy.

It’s my turn to give back now, and hon­our the guid­ance of my teach­ers in the last sev­er­al years, and those that con­tin­ue to inspire and guide me to this peace­ful way of life.

Join me in my mind­ful­ness series this sum­mer begin­ning July 14. If you think you’d love to, but aren’t around until the fall, keep check­ing in for my fall series begin­ning the third week of September.

I prom­ise you, it’s life-chan­ging.

5 tips to increase your emotional quality of life with celiac disease

May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month in Canada!

Being myself celi­ac, I came across a great art­icle (see below) on the qual­ity of life of people dia­gnosed with celi­ac dis­ease, and if people adher­ing to that diet actu­ally improves health-related qual­ity of life.

Of course, most people who begin and adhere to a glu­ten-free diet who are celi­ac notice a huge improve­ment in their mood, gastrointest­in­al tracts, their skin, their growth, and energy (provided that is the only issue with their body at that time). Nutritional defi­cien­cies like B12 dis­ap­pear, and there is a chance for the gut and body to heal.

What about the trauma of doing the actu­al diet, and being in a social or fam­ily situ­ations where the diet is, in fact, a stress of its own?

Education about what products have glu­ten (hid­den or not), under­stand­ing how to read food labels, learn­ing how to eat is over­whelm­ing on its own. Just under­stand­ing that you can’t have pizza day when you’re at school as a child newly dia­gnosed, and that birth­day cake is out at a birth­day party can be upset­ting. It can feel like you’re the odd one out, for sure, and often those around you who don’t under­stand what celi­ac dis­ease is and its poten­tial health risks with glu­ten expos­ure can unknow­ingly add to the intern­al feel­ing of isol­a­tion.

5 steps to increase your emotional quality of life with celiac disease

  1. Educate your­self and your loved ones
  2. Read as much as you can. At the bot­tom of this art­icle are a few links for those places that have great glu­ten-free inform­a­tion. Have a health pro­fes­sion­al edu­cate you on what is miss­ing from your diet when you go glu­ten-free and how to replace it, health­ily. Not everything glu­ten-free is good for your body. Restaurants (and chefs espe­cially) can be sur­pris­ingly accom­mod­at­ing when you are out for a meal in help­ing make tasty, filling, and healthy options.

    If you are an older per­son dia­gnosed and notice that oth­er fam­ily mem­bers are hav­ing trouble, give them a short list of things that you can eat when you are with them and they are host­ing. They will feel happy that they are not mak­ing you sick, and you will feel less afraid of being exposed.

  3. Find altern­at­ives for your­self to have with you that you enjoy
  4. If you keep look­ing back at all of the things you’re miss­ing, you won’t be able to enjoy new things that you actu­ally might like that don’t con­tain glu­ten. I know for myself, I remem­ber real­iz­ing I actu­ally liked salads as long as they had a great rela­tion­ship with dif­fer­ent pro­teins, a nice simple dress­ing, and some nuts and seeds. It got me away from sand­wiches for lunch until I found glu­ten-free breads that I liked.

  5. Have someone you love that you can trust keep you account­able (if you’re newly dia­gnosed)
  6. This one is import­ant. It is going to be hard if you are a per­son who has milder symp­toms and is only a small incon­veni­ence to your life not eat­ing wheat, so try to get someone you love to remind you, such as “are you sure it’s a good idea to eat that banana bread?”, and so on. It may help to remind you why you’re doing this in the first place if you write down some­thing to store in your phone or in a journ­al of how you felt eat­ing glu­ten and how you do not eat­ing it.

  7. Get emo­tion­al sup­port if you need it
  8. Gluten-laden foods are plen­ti­ful, deli­cious, and you can’t have them. It sucks. Sometimes it sucks more than you are able to cope with ini­tially. Allow your­self to feel sad/​angry/​left out…but we don’t want you to get stuck there. Get out­side sources of emo­tion­al sup­port such as psy­cho­ther­apy if you need, espe­cially if you have a sup­port net­work that is less than sup­port­ive.

  9. Find oth­er things that make you feel happy and joy­ous, includ­ing being around people that also make you feel that way
  10. There is more to life than food! Of course you know this. I’m not sug­gest­ing not eat­ing, I’m sug­gest­ing don’t hinge your entire life’s hap­pi­ness on wheth­er you can eat at every bakery you see. Enjoy your hob­bies. Enjoy your friends and fam­ily that are lov­ing and sup­port­ive.

Resources for Gluten-free Living

Canadian Celiac Association
Gluten-Free Society
Gluten-Free Coupons

Baking

Gluten-Free Girl
Gluten-Free Goddess

Burger JP, de Brouwer B, IntHout J, Wahab PJ, Tummers M, Drenth JP. Systematic review with meta-ana­lys­is: Dietary adher­ence influ­ences nor­mal­iz­a­tion of health-related qual­ity of life in coeli­ac dis­ease. Clin Nutr. 2016 Apr 30. pii: S0261-5614(16)30067-X.

White LE, Bannerman E, Gillett PM. Coeliac dis­ease and the glu­ten-free diet: a review of the bur­dens; factors asso­ci­ated with adher­ence and impact on health-related qual­ity of life, with spe­cif­ic focus on adoles­cence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 May 23. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12375. [Epub ahead of print]

Your under-functioning thyroid: How to identify if you have a problem and 5 things to do to help

The thyroid.

One of the more con­fus­ing glands I felt to under­stand when I was going through school­ing for natur­o­pathy; it is small but mighty, and when it’s not work­ing prop­erly, many things are not in their prop­er bal­ance.

I am going to describe briefly how the thyroid is sup­posed to func­tion, and some simple tests we have star­ted using to find out if it is work­ing. Please be aware that I will be men­tion­ing vit­am­ins that the thyroid uses for prop­er func­tion­ing, but I would recom­mend that if you are not see­ing a health pro­fes­sion­al to identi­fy these defi­cien­cies not to rush out and pur­chase any­thing. The thyroid is com­plex, and heal­ing it takes some time and wis­dom! This is to help you under­stand your thyroid bet­ter. This post will be about hypo­thyroid­ism, or when the thyroid under-func­tions. The basic activ­ity of the thyroid is the same how­ever even for oth­er thyroid con­di­tions.

The thyroid gets its instruc­tions and march­ing orders from the hypo­thal­am­us and pitu­it­ary, two centres in the brain that decide upon its activ­ity. TRH, thyroid releas­ing hor­mone, and TSH thyroid stim­u­lat­ing hor­mone. TRH from the hypo­thal­am­us tells the pitu­it­ary to release TSH so that more thyroid hor­mone is cre­ated, and the thyroid itself gets to work mak­ing T4.

In order to become act­ive thyroid hor­mone, the chem­ic­al T4 must be con­ver­ted to the act­ive con­stitu­ent T3. This requires an enzyme thyrop­er­ox­i­dase and the pres­ence of sel­en­i­um, zinc, and iod­ine. This is a simplist­ic dis­cus­sion, as there are fur­ther com­plex­it­ies, but in a nut­shell, that’s what is required.

There are a few places this con­ver­sion can go wonky:

  1. We don’t have the cofactors (zinc, sel­en­i­um, iod­ine)
  2. The enzyme thyrop­er­ox­i­dase is not work­ing prop­erly
  3. We don’t have enough T4 to make T3
  4. The body makes anti­bod­ies against the thyroid — seen in immune dys­func­tion like infec­tion — like anti-thyrop­er­ox­i­dase anti­body and anti-thyro­globulin
  5. T4 is made into an inact­ive form of T3 called reverse T3, that floats around and looks like T3 but isn’t act­ive

Why does this make a dif­fer­ence to you?

The thyroid has many respons­ib­il­it­ies — meta­bol­ism (weight gain and loss), flu­id move­ment, growth, and if it is strug­gling to get act­ive T3, you will feel many effects includ­ing:

  • depres­sion
  • weight gain
  • water reten­tion
  • exhaus­tion
  • dry skin
  • con­stip­a­tion
  • elev­ated cho­les­ter­ol
  • feel­ing cold all the time
  • hair that is fall­ing out
  • swell­ing of the thyroid gland (goiter)
  • feel­ing dif­fi­culty swal­low­ing or a pres­sure in the throat

What I’m describ­ing above is more asso­ci­ated with hypo­thyroid­ism; the thyroid is under-func­tion­ing. The TSH (thyroid-stim­u­lat­ing hor­mone) will increase to try to get more T4 pro­duced to pro­duce more T3, and yet noth­ing hap­pens.

What is also known to occur is the body tem­per­at­ure will start to decrease. This is well-doc­u­mented in what is known as Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome; low body tem­per­at­ure will indic­ate that the thyroid needs help and needs to be sup­por­ted.

5 things to do to help your thyroid

  1. Test your body tem­per­at­ure. For more inform­a­tion here see Dr. Wilson’s font of inform­a­tion, but in a nut­shell, if it’s below 98.3 con­sist­ently (nor­mal is 98.5) the thyroid is hav­ing trouble (even if your test num­bers are nor­mal).
  2. Test all of your thyroid with your doc­tor — this means TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3 and anti-thyroid anti­bod­ies
    • Please note: Anything over a TSH of 2.5 can be con­sidered hypo­thyroid­ism, des­pite clin­ic­al guidelines stat­ing that TSH is con­sidered “nor­mal” under 5. Many people feel symp­toms of hypo­thyroid­ism well below 5, so it’s an import­ant dis­cus­sion to have with your doc­tor if you are in this cat­egory.
  3. Eat food with iod­ine (but not too much)
  4. Eat foods with zinc
  5. Eat foods with sel­en­i­um

If in test­ing your body tem­per­at­ure and your thyroid func­tion­ing, you will need to make a decision with your doc­tor

  1. Take a T4-deriv­at­ive med­ic­a­tion (giv­ing the body more T4 avail­ab­il­ity can help it to make more T3)
  2. Get T3 sup­port dir­ectly
  3. Take sup­port­ive herbs that also increase the avail­ab­il­ity of T4/​T3
  4. Increase the cofactors (zinc, sel­en­i­um, iod­ine) with hopes that the T3 will be act­ively util­ized

Depending on the per­son, some­times all that is needed is a very good dose of nutri­ents to help the thyroid get back to nor­mal func­tion­ing. However, if you are exhausted and your TSH is very high (10+) then we know the thyroid is really strug­gling and med­ic­a­tion can be neces­sary to get it back on track. Sometimes the med­ic­a­tion is required for a long time or indef­in­itely, some­times it is just a few weeks to months.

Make sure to ask many ques­tions. This is a very simplist­ic break­down of hypo­thyroid­ism and there are oth­er syn­dromes that exist that mim­ic low thyroid func­tion­ing.

Our fear of disease is making us sick

When did we become so afraid of being unwell?

Pain, dis­com­fort, not feel­ing well in our body is def­in­itely incon­veni­ent.

We may not be able to enjoy the things we need to, or work, or prop­erly take care of our fam­il­ies.

Some of us are des­per­ate to feel well, and will try abso­lutely any­thing to do that. Which in itself, is very admir­able, because we are really will­ing to listen to what our body is try­ing to tell us to heal.

This will­ing­ness at times how­ever, has a tend­ency to become slightly man­ic. Our minds decide on a timeline for heal­ing, and come hell-or-high-water, we must achieve this state of well­ness, or we will be very frus­trated with our bod­ies, with the things we are doing/​taking/​not doing/​not tak­ing to sup­port them. We get annoyed with ourselves and every­one around us that we’re not heal­ing in the rate with thought we would.

Just notice that “when we thought we would” is really what is get­ting in our way, not actu­ally the heal­ing itself.

So what if it takes 6 weeks rather than 8 weeks?

So what if we have to do a little bit less in order to achieve that? Who is decid­ing what is the right way?

We need to be able to give our bod­ies the kind­ness and care that allows the body to heal at our own rate, and at a safe and tol­er­able rate.

And, shock of all shocks, what if our mind and emo­tions are not ready for our body to heal that quickly? What if our emo­tion­al cop­ing or our men­tal self-talk is actu­ally what is caus­ing some of that phys­ic­al “dis-ease”?

Sometimes what we think is what will get us to well­ness is not at all what will get us well.
It’s the jour­ney of that dis­cov­ery that will allow us to heal, and heal prop­erly.

What is actu­ally quite com­mon in body heal­ing is that we will get a mes­sage “my back hurts”, and in get­ting to the pro­cess of under­stand­ing what is the prob­lem, that anoth­er prob­lem is revealed. An unrav­el­ing in order to get to the true source of “unwell­ness” or so to speak.

A num­ber of mind-body pro­fes­sion­als, includ­ing Jon-Kabat Zinn, Gabor Mate, Bessel van der Kolk, all agree that the body will house emo­tion­al trau­mas, stress, neg­at­iv­ity, poor men­tal and mani­fest those things in the body. The body is the poor ves­sel that alerts us that some­thing is “not quite right”, and we get frus­trated in it, rather than pay atten­tion to the mes­sages. It is in turn­ing to the body and being curi­ous and under­stand­ing what nour­ishes and sooth­ing that we may indeed devel­op a rela­tion­ship with our truest selves.

Start record­ing your body sen­sa­tions and symp­toms. Start ask­ing ques­tions about those health symp­toms to your health pro­fes­sion­als, and get­ting more inter­act­ive and explor­ing what those health issues may be related to, from your whole self. Get curi­ous about your aches and pains, not afraid of them. They have some­thing to teach you! It’s a beau­ti­ful gift.