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.

Read more

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 1/2-1 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 1/2 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 (1-2 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 1/2 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 0.4-1.4) 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,7 Heinonen et al,8 Aselton et al,9 Briggs et al,10 Carulli et al,11 Wilkinson,12 Roth and Beschke,13 Flig et al,14 Acs et al,15 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 regime
  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!

 

 

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.

Do you have a go-go-gadget lifestyle? Here’s what to do about it!

“I’m tired”, she said. “I just can’t seem to get out of bed in the morning, and I feel like I’m dragging all day long”.

Sound familiar?

Our culture thrives on more, faster, better, smarter, more motivated, more driven. We keep doing until we literally are going to drop. All of us want more energy, but we are unaware of the places that we might give our time and energy away – either by not resting and taking care of ourselves, or by saying “yes” more than we should. Our thyroid and adrenal glands (our hormone glands that keep us going despite this frenzied pace) are screaming for a break and a rest, and yet we keep pushing. Possibly we are afraid if we do stop and take good care of ourselves, we’ll be hearing all of the things we’ve been avoiding for the last little while. The real reasons we are here on this earth – the nagging self-awareness that might wake us up and get us to quit the job we hate, or stop answering the phone to that friend that really needs a therapist rather than our ear. The voice that connects us to our life’s purpose, or true passions, and the things that are the essence of a life well-lived.

As a naturopathic doctor I do focus on the body and supporting it getting back to wellness. However, what’s even more important to me the longer I work with people is making sure the mindset behind the frenzied activity changes. Otherwise, we’ll end up in exactly the same position that we started, repeating the same behaviours, and perhaps the second time we hit burnout the body is even more tired than it was to begin with. Our true selves are sick of us self-sacrificing when we should be taking a step back and self-assessing who we are and what the heck we want.

Mentally and emotionally, it’s important to take a good step back, a reset if you will. This reset should involve the following components:

  1. Alone time. For those of you who have trouble being alone, pop on some music. The music will give your busy mind some company while you sit and contemplate what you need.
  2. Water. Dehydration prevents you from thinking straight, and our body and mind need water!
  3. Cut down your caffeine. Despite your exhaustion, addition of more coffee or caffeinated green tea will make you feel jittery and your adrenal glands will rely on this false energy surge from spiked adrenaline for a time, but have you crashing harder than when you started.
  4. A journal. Start to write out your thoughts. It may help to know the many frenzied things going through your head, as maybe some of these worries or concerns can actually be tackled, and perhaps others are out of your control and you need to work on letting them go. Regardless, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. If you don’t know what’s going on in your body and mind and soul, it’s hard to find your way out of your concerns.
  5. Sleep. Please go to bed with the aim that you are getting at least 7 hours of rest. If you are unable to get sleep for 7 hours, perhaps that is where you begin. Sleep is paramount to healing and rejuvenation.
  6. Positive affirmations. When you’re completely exhausted and feeling beat down by the world, it’s tough to remember how amazing you are to do all you’re doing and how special you are, and how your gifts and talents are truly unique and should be celebrated. Write down all of the wonderful things about yourself. Initially this will be tough potentially, but watch how the list grows. It can be small, and positive thoughts can often help us to shift our focus into a “what is possible” mindset compared with “it’s all doomed and hopeless” mindset.
  7. Replenish nutrients. I’m a huge fan of herbal medicine for this purpose, and I have blogged about this before so take a gander of this post if you want to learn more. I can say B-complexes alone will not get you out of a burnout place, so if you’re reading this and were just about to take your B’s, know that you may need additional attention.
  8. Start paying attention to your body and respond to it. If you respond incorrectly, you’ll know and then you can make adjustments. For example, if doing exercise makes you feel energized but doing it six times a week makes you feel tired, cut back to a schedule that supports your energy but doesn’t deplete you. If you are having trouble with anxious thoughts and worrying, and that calms after yoga or pilates or painting, then emphasize the activities that support the calming of your mind until it improves. Make sense?

Above all, remember that because you are unique there is not going to be a specific template that you can follow to get you feeling better.  These suggestions are just that – ideas that might trigger your own inner wisdom on the direction to head for your healing.  Just keep paying attention, and get help when you need it.