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Cookies! - Dr. Sarah Tanner

Monday, December 04, 2017

I love cookies! I will eat a cookie at any time.
 
Unfortunately there are no “great” cookies on the grocery store shelves that are safe for those of us with food intolerances. Heartwood Restaurant (both locations) is where I purchase my cookies if I am not making them. Heartwood is a restaurant on Quinpool Road and the Hydrostone and all of their cookies are vegan (made with maple syrup) and made with non-enriched flour. They have 5-6 kinds depending on the day and usually a few gluten free choices.
 
If you are going to make cookies there are a couple of tips you should know:
  • Honey doesn’t work well (unless it’s called for in the recipe already). Because it bakes at a lower temp your cookies get crispy.
  • Many cookies require creaming butter and sugar together. I accomplish this with maple syrup and my earth balance buttery spread (but you can use what works for you). It gets nice and fluffy.
  • If you want a chewier cookie then replace 2 Tbsp of whatever sweetener you’ve chosen with brown rice syrup
  • Some cookies NEED a crystallized sweetener. I use coconut sugar or maple sugar (found in bulk at Acadian Maple Syrup products in Tantallon) and occasionally xylitol.
  • Vegan cookie recipes are delicious and are usually free of a lot of the basic intolerances. You still sometimes have to replace the sugar though.
I am not delusional. I know that the cookies will not taste exactly the same or have the same texture. But they end up pretty darn good. So take your favourite recipes or use some of mine to make your cookie craving a reality! I’m always looking for new recipes so if you have a great cookie recipe please send it my way.
Be sure to check out our Facebook page in December for some links to delicious cookies!

 

PEANUT OATMEAL COOKIES
This recipe was converted by a long time patient years ago who said I was welcome to share it. It’s a favourite!
½ cup apple sauce
1 cup maple syrup
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (or almond butter)
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup spelt flour (or gluten free flour blend)
½ tsp arrowroot starch (or cornstarch if that is what you have)
7/8 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
 
Mix apple sauce and peanut butter together. Beat in egg. Add vanilla and peanut butter.
Mix in remaining ingredients. Shape into small balls or drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet allowing room for expansion. Bake in 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.
Makes about 3 dozen

Top 5 Flu Strategies for a Healthy Winter - Dr. Callaghan

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Colds and flus can be debilitating in the winter decreasing activity and ruining holidays! Our immune system need lots of support at this time of year and fortunately research confirms there are lots of ways we can do our best to stay healthy this winter. I will outline my top 5 strategies for immune support

1.Eat Well. Avoiding sugar in baked goods, candy, chocolate, sodas and desserts is probably the most effective way to take strain off the immune system that is working overtime this time of year. Sugar is awesome at driving inflammation and directly suppressing the immune response. Its also bad for depression and anxiety which can ramp up for a lot of people when the sun goes away in the winter. Focus on soups and stews that are rich in vegetables and contain protein that will stabilize sugar cravings and provide building blocks for the immune system. Soups and stews are also nice ways to get immune boosting foods into the diet like onions garlic and ginger. Using bone broth in those soups and stews offers even more support.

2.Take Vitamin D. Many people in Canada are vitamin D deficient because of our lack of sun which of course decreases immunity. I recommend supplementing with at least 2000 IU/day for adults (depending on the person) in the winter to help protect from the flu as well as depression.

3.Sleep! It restores and heals the body and keeps inflammation low. Without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible! Go to bed earlier on dark nights and aim for a regular wake up time getting 7-8 hours of sleep/night. Sleep also helps us respond to stress in a healthy way and cope which further helps with immunity. Being chronically stressed and run down is going to directly supress immunity.

4.Try some herbal medicine if you do get sick. There are some beautiful herbs that can help decrease the severity and duration of a cold or flu if you do get sick. This can help us to avoid antibiotic use which can lead to a vicious cycle of re infection all winter for some people. I like to use herbs like echinacea, goldenseal, usnea, horehound to name a few. Check with your ND for contraindications you may have to any of these herbs.

5.Protect your gut flora: The bacterial flora in the gut known as the microbiome is key in regulating immunity and inflammation in the body. Given the huge body of evidence we have for the role of this microbiome it makes sense to take good care of it. We do this of course by eating the right food and including fermented foods in the diet like sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi and kefir. If you do end up on antibiotics be sure to take a full spectrum strong probiotic supplement to reinoculated the git with all the healthy bugs.

 

Hope these suggestions help you have a healthy antibiotic free winter!

How to Break Stubborn Eating Habits… And Start Healthier Ones - Derrick McEachern

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

 


Do you find yourself struggling to build and sustain healthier eating habits? That may be because you are relying on willpower, when in fact the problem is one of patience and self-compassion.
 
To create change in our lives, we have to create an environment that will allow that change to take place.
 
Gardeners don’t just toss seeds on to unprepared ground and expect healthy plants to grow. Instead, they start with turning and preparing the soil, pulling out weeds and mixing in compost. The same is true of creating change in our lives.
 
If we want to change stubborn eating habits, we can’t simply cut out foods and start eating new one’s and expect new habits to take root and thrive. Relying on willpower may work for a time, but for lasting change, we have to prepare our minds so that new habits can take root.
 
Here are some simple ways to begin preparing our minds for breaking old, and creating new, lasting eating habits in just 21 days.
 
Start a 2 Minute Gratitude Journal: Begin each day by taking 2 minutes in the morning to consider all the things that are going right in your life. Be sure to consider all five areas of wellbeing: Career, Social, Physical, Financial and Community. What do you have to be grateful for? Maybe you are grateful for the fact that your heart beats about 115,200 times per day? Maybe you are thankful for a family member’s unique sense of humour, Or for the incredible natural beauty of a place you once visited?
 
2 Minute Meaning Journal: This is a simple activity done each evening. Consider one meaningful experience that you had in the last 24 hours. Take a few moments to note and list every detail you can remember about that experience.
 
2 Minute Thank You Message: Send an e-mail, a text, or tell someone in person what they mean to you, or how thankful you are for them in your life.
In his book, Before Happiness, Shawn Achor shows that by doing activities such as these for 21 days, you will be change the way you brain views the world around you, preparing you to see yourself, the people around you, and the world in new ways.
 
Practice Self-Compassion
 
Eating Healthier begins with your mind. Begin noticing how you think about food and eating. Do you see some foods as “good” or “bad?” If so, you are likely being hard on yourself when you choose “right” or “wrong” foods. Self-criticism is the trap that prevents us from sustaining new habits.
 
Have you ever seen a baby get frustrated when learning to walk or pronounce a new word? You don’t because they haven’t yet been programmed to believe they can’t. They simply try again, and again, until they master the new skill. They aren’t concerned with how long it takes.
 
Unfortunately, for many of us, at some point in our lives, we were told there was something wrong with us when we didn’t make changes according to someone else’s timeline (or unrealistic standards). As a result we begin to judge and criticize ourselves in the very same way.
 
To create change, we need to shift this habit by starting to be more compassionate with ourselves. We begin to appreciate how this self-criticism sabotages our best efforts – we punish ourselves by abstaining from foods, then “treat” ourselves by indulging again later.
 
With self-compassion, we can begin to observe this process of harming ourselves both with our self-talk and with eating things that may harm us over time. Rather than starting by cutting out the typical foods you’d prefer to avoid, start with not beating yourself up when you eat those things. Simply notice how you feel.
 
If you like, before having the chips, cookies, muffin or sweets, try having a serving of a whole food – something healthy you enjoy. Slice up an apple, or have a handful of baby carrots or snap peas with ½ cup of hummus or almonds and a glass of water.
 
Then have the food you want to avoid, and be aware of how you feel. Do the different foods make you feel differently?
 
Remember, your longing to change habits comes from a place of insight, a place in you that knows what your body needs, and how you feel after. Take time to listen, and see if what you are eating is satisfying you the way you think it is.
 
Be patient. A gardener wouldn’t criticize or blame a seed that didn’t sprout, or a plant that only grew to half it’s height. They care for the plant, and try to provide it with what it needs.
 
Learn to understand what your body needs. Nurture it by giving it the fuel it wants.
 
Allow, don’t force, new habits to develop. In time, you will be making stronger, healthier choices, and will have developed eating habits that make you feel better each day.
 
Yours in Wellbeing,
Derrick
 
Additional Resources:
It is important to understand your nutritional needs to manage cravings and remain mentally and physically strong. Make an appointment to speak with a Naturopath or a Registered dietician. Sarah Tanner of Natural Choices Health Care Clinic, specializes in digestion and food intolerances, and can speak to you to ensure you are getting adequate nutrition.
 
If you are looking for healthy food suggestions check out Michael Gregor’s Daily Dozen App, it is a good, research-based starting point on foods for preventing illness and improving our mood and our lives.
 
If you need a boost of motivation, you might also want to check out Hungry For Change, a documentary found on Netflix that discusses the deceptive marketing strategies and the way processed foods are engineered to be addictive. It demonstrates the importance of compassion as an alternative to willpower.
 
Finally, take a few minutes to take the Five Star Wellbeing Quality of Life Assessment. It's a way of looking at your life overall, and may help uncover some other reasons you are struggling with changing your eating habits. Alternatively, you may find yourself appreciating all that is going well in your life, which will provide comfort and hope as you are making changes to your eating habits.

 

Upside of Stress - Dr Sarah Tanner

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Upside of Stress
Last summer I read a book while I was on a 10 day camping trip in Alberta called The Upside of Stress, by Kelly McGonigal. I was considering applying to a Girl Guide Trip in Switzerland, to hike in the Alps. I would be one of 2 leaders taking 8 high school aged girls on the trip of a lifetime! The essay was about my biggest challenge. After reading this book I knew exactly what to write about. And I was chosen! I’ll be going to Switzerland at the end of this month and couldn’t be more excited.

Stress is all around us and if we look at it as evil, it will be. If we embrace what we are able to and use it to work for us we will be in a better place. Don’t get me wrong, not all stress is good and sometimes hard decision have to be made to change your life for the better. But sometimes easy decisions can be made too. I always get asked how and why I give a lot of my time to Girl Guides of Canada. I hope by reading the essay below I give you an idea of why I do what I do and how it helps me (and therefore my family) on my health journey. I hope I can inspire you to do something that you love to do that will be rewarding for you and those around you!

I also wanted to say thank you to those who have been supporting me and my unit through our endeavours! While Switzerland is something I am doing on my own my unit is doing a service trip to Costa Rica in March of 2018. I often have iPad tickets for sale at the clinic and thank you to those of you who have been around during this times and were able to get tickets!

Essay:
The biggest challenge in my life is balance. I have a lot of things on the go at all times. As a mom of 2 who owns a business I am often asked why I am a member of Girl Guides of Canada. Until recently my answer was that I wanted to give back to my community and that I enjoyed it. That’s an ok answer but at times where my stress level was higher than others I kept wondering if that answer was enough? Would I be better off scaling back what I do in my unit? Not to try new things? But it wasn’t fathomable to quit altogether and somehow those questions just didn’t resonate with me.

I just finished reading a book called “The Upside of Stress”. It discussed all of the ways that stress can be good for us and that stress isn’t all bad. The people who experienced a moderate amount of stress in their lives were happier than those who didn’t experience any stress at all. This book went into great detail about three healthy stress responses that the body can have and made the reasons I approach my life the way I do clear to me.

Tend and Befriend Response: When thinking about this essay this was the first response that came to mind. In times of stress we reach out, we want to build a community around us to help us get through it. If there is a crisis, no matter what happens, we want to band together to help. This made so much sense to me, as I get energy from camps and gatherings with GGC, no matter how I am feeling leading up to them. We have such a fantastic community, with people from so many walks of life, that there is always someone that I can support and someone I can call on if I need them.

The Challenge Response: Our body is hard wired to rise to a challenge. This response helps our system manage our stress because we think more clearly, sleep better and are more productive when it happens. This is why taking on new projects within my Pathfinder unit feels good to me. Yes, there is a fine line between new and too much, but I’ve learned that line over the years and realize now that I have been able to elicit a proper challenge response by making the choices that I do.

Learning and Growth Response: I love to learn, I always have. I’ve always read all of the books at the library during the summer as a kid, I do more continuing education for my job than I need to and learning is one of the main reasons why I like working with girls and adults from so many backgrounds. I thrive off of new information, it doesn’t matter what it is about or where it comes from.

As you can see, Guiding is something that brings me great joy, the thing that helps me manage my stress (although sometimes creating it!) and is an integral part of my life. The trips and camps I do with my girls help me to recharge, to be a better mom, to be a better entrepreneur and doctor. I am a firm believer that everyone needs to do something for themselves. I am lucky that what I do to fuel myself, also has the capacity to fuel others. This is a huge draw for me. I have no doubt that a trip to Our Chalet; to hike the Alps, meet new people and learn from the girls would help me to recharge and to strive for the balance that is within my reach.

Breath is Life - Monica Perry

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We know breathing is important. So let's take a look at it in a bit more depth.

At its most basic, breathing is to bring oxygen in the body and get carbon dioxide out. (You need the oxygen for cellular function and you need to get rid of the carbon dioxide before it becomes toxic.) But it is so much more. The lungs sit in the chest protected by the rib cage. Muscles, ligaments and fascia surround the boney structures and create a bellows like action. The most important of these is the respiratory diaphragm. If you have had any training in singing or playing a wind instrument you would have heard the phrase 'use your diaphragm'.

This is one of the interesting things about breathing. You can breathe happily and effectively without effort or thought. But you can also intentionally control your in breath and your out breath to do such amazing things as sing, play a trumpet, whistle and blow out the candles on your birthday cake!The ability to consciously control your breathingis also a vital part ofmeditation, yoga and many other mind-body activities.

The reason that you can do these amazing things is your nervous system. The diaphragm is innervated by voluntary and involuntary nerves. It responds to the stress response-flight/fight/freeze and the relaxation response-rest/digest. When you experience fear, anxiety and other stressful things, your diaphragm tends to get tight and restricted. This makes if difficult to get a full breath and therefore you get less oxygen in and less carbon dioxide out. This makes the cellular processes less efficient and the toxic effects increase. When you feel less stressed, the diaphragm relaxes and you can take deeper more efficient breaths. But the diaphragm will also respond to your intentionally breathing deeper which will then trigger the neural responses to relax. This is exciting stuff. This is how mind-body, mindfulness training, meditation and other practices work to benefit yourhealth.

There are many conditions that can effect your ability to breathe optimally. The most serious are known as COPDs. These are chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases –namely emphysema, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis and asthma. These effect the actual lungs themselves. However, there are some other situations that effect the breathing while the lungs themselves are fully functional. These are postural dysfunctions and rib dysfunctions. For example if you fall and land on your side you could damage the ribs, their joints, ligaments and muscles. This might be fractures, sprains, strains, dislocations and partial dislocations. Breathing becomes painful and difficult. Then the diaphragm may tighten or even spasm. Sometimes partial dislocations or subluxations can even occur from coughing and sneezing. This is when you call me and get help with joints, fascia and muscles. Postural conditions, especially scoliosis can disrupt the optimum functioning of the ribs and therefore inhibit breathing. These conditions can take longer to treat and require corrective remedial exercises.

How well do breathe? Do you have pain or discomfort when you take a deep breath? Can you even take a deep breath? Many of us breath very shallowly, only in our upper chest. This is common when we are experiencing high stress or anxiety. Optimal breathing engages upper, middle and lower parts of the lungs in the thorax. Watch a baby or a dog or cat breathe. The belly rises with the in breath and falls with the out breath. Does yours? If not, there is good news—you can retrain yourself.Your meditation or yoga teacher can help you or you can see me for help. Full breathing makes you feel more relaxed and gives you plenty of oxygen andclears out carbon dioxide.

Breathe easy my friends—Breath is Life!

Travel and BBQ During The Holidays - Dr Sarah Tanner

Friday, July 28, 2017

It’s summertime and many people are travelling and entertaining more than usual. Impromptu gatherings happen after work as the days get longer. How do you continue to eat the way you’ve been eating and not draw too much attention to yourself? How can you feel your best while still enjoying your vacation and your family and friends?
It depends on what stage you are at. If it is the first 3 months after you have cut out your intolerances then it can be more challenging but is doable. If you are at the point where you can have little bits of your intolerances without repercussion then it’s a little easier. Keep in mind there will be times where you don’t have a choice in what you eat and that’s ok. There will also be times that you choose to eat something that isn’t the best for you and that’s ok too.
Being prepared is everything.

If you are going on vacation where are you going? Your options vary on where you are going. Most of the time you will be able to find a grocery store. If you have family in the area you can send them to scout it out first. If not, try to figure out what chain it is so you can have a general idea of what they carry. At all grocery stores you can find fresh fruit and vegetables. There will be lemons, vinegar and olive oil for salad dressings. There will be nuts and seeds. There will be canned beans and fish.
If you are staying with family or at a cottage or hotel with a kitchen you can also purchase meats, fish and other proteins to cook along with the vegetables. You can make your own grains. The challenge may be breads and crackers. These you could bring with you or do without.

If you are eating out for every meal, scout out the restaurants in the area first. You may go to one more often than others because they have a variety of food you are able to eat. When we were in BC there were a few restaurants we ate at multiple times because Mike and I could both enjoy something there. Call the restaurants, ask what options they have. Most restaurants are very accommodating. If you are in a very small town you may not have a lot of options and may have to compromise or bring most of your own food.

Once you’ve figured out what you have available then you want to make the list of things to bring with you. If you are flying these things need to be light. If you are driving you have more flexibility. No matter what, these things need to be sturdy to hold up to travel. The things I bring with me include (keep in mind I am vegetarian and it isn’t as easy for me to get clean protein):
•Nuts and seeds (either raw or in the form of granola)
•Nut butter (in a small size or travel package * https://www.upayanaturals.com/Organic_Raw_Almond_Nut_Butter_Single_Squeezy_Pack_p/art-011.htm))
•Hemp seeds for oatmeal/applesauce or topping salads/stirfries with no protein
•Crackers: rice crackers or these endurance crackers (LINK), this summer I will bring Detox Crackers from Hot Detox (http://www.harpercollins.ca/9781443450676/hot-detox)
•Dried fruit (apples, apple juice sweetened cranberries (http://www.patiencefruitco.com/en/products/whole-juicy-dried-cranberries-sweetened-with-apple-juice/), raisins, mango)
•Oatmeal or Buckwheat/Hemp/Chia cereal (see recipe on our website), I mix up little baggies with coconut sugar, nuts/seeds and the grains depending on what I bring and I can add hot or cold water or make overnight oats in a mason jar (http://ohsheglows.com/2015/07/22/vegan-overnight-oats/)
•Sauces: coconut aminos, ketchup, BBQ sauce in small mason jars
•Tetra packs of almond or coconut milk (not if you are only flying with a carry on)
•Protein bars: this recipe (http://ohsheglows.com/2013/08/29/quick-n-easy-no-bake-protein-bars/) or bought (vega 1, greens(http://www.wholeearthsea.com/en-ca/product/organic-vegan-green-protein-bar/), go macro)
Materials I bring to Facilitate eating:
•Bamboo fork, knife and spoon (you can bring these on an airplane)
•Empty 2 cup mason jar with lid
•Reusable bags (http://www.thekitchn.com/1-lunchskins-785-for-144318)
•Stainless steel containers (https://dalcinistainless.com/)
•Travel mug (https://www.libretea.com/)

If you are flying, remember to check out the restaurants in the airport before you go to see what you can eat. Most airport websites have a list. If you are driving try to figure out what restaurants and markets you will be passing along the way.

The wild card when you are on vacation is if you are camping. Backcountry camping differs a lot from front country. I’m going to focus on front country camping but will look at backcountry in another post. Bring a good sturdy cooler with you and figure out where you can purchase ice. Only bring the food that you will need. Portion out your oatmeal, pasta, and other dry goods into what is needed for the recipe. Check for grocery stores but there might not be any in the vicinity that you are camping. Plan all of your meals in advance, make the sauces you need (don’t forget the maple syrup!) and store them in mason jars. You will be able to bring all of your own snacks with you so a lot of the eating will be like it is at home. A sample menu would be chips and salsa on Friday night, eggs and bacon Saturday morning, crackers, hummus and veggies for lunch; chicken and veggies in packets on the fire for supper and then oatmeal with fruit for Sunday breakfast. Any leftovers for Sunday lunch before packing up. Add your own twist to that but if you build off those ideas you will keep what you need to bring to a minimum.

What should you do if you are invited last minute to a BBQ? Ask what type meat is being served or if you should bring your own. Ask what else you could bring. Then make it something you are able to eat. Bring your own BBQ sauce (we use Organicville) and a pineapple to grill for dessert. If you always have veggies in the fridge you can bring some of those with you. Keep bananas in the freezer and then you can make “nice cream” for everyone for dessert and no one will be the wiser (http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-creamy-ice-cream-with-just-one-ingredient-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-93414). If you had time you could even make these chocolate chip cookie bars (http://www.fitmittenkitchen.com/vegan-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-cookie-bars/).

The more you practice, the easier this becomes. Make healthy eating your lifestyle and you will never feel deprived. Enjoy summer to the fullest!

Meditations with Nature - Monica Perry

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Do you meditate? Have you tried different kinds?

There are many types and many good teachers. Since we are getting into nicer outdoors weather, lets talk about meditation outside.

Finding the perfect spot can be very rewarding. Looking for a place to sit that is resonably comfortable, in the elements but not in the extremes can be a bit of a challenge. How much sun? How much rain? Nova Scotia has an abundance of beautiful views. Beach and ocean, rocky shore and ocean, light house, village, forest, lake and trees, stream and rocks, flowers and butterflys, deer and birds so many possibilities. You can take a drive to the South Shore or the Valley or Cape Breton. You can sit by the flower beds in your garden. You can go to Point Pleasnt, Public Gardens or another park.

In the spot you have chosen, you can sit and meditate on the beauty before you. Take in the sights, the sounds, the smells, the taste, and the feel of your surroundings. Allow the peace to wash over you. Feel the gratitude in your heart. If there isn't a good place to sit, you can adopt a standing posture for meditation. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and have your knees slightly bent. This is like a Tai Chi or Qi Gong stance or other martial arts. You need to relax the muscles in your buttocks (gluteals) and backs of thighs (hamstrings).

The third form of meditation with nature is the moving meditation. There are several types and possibilities, One kind is the Lotus Walk. This is from Qi Gong tradition. It is simple. Walk slowly; send your awareness to your feet. Pay attention to the sensations from your feet. Walk the direction your feet take you not your head.

Another form of walking meditation comes from the ancient Druids of Ireland. Bare feet if it is safe, are preferable. Shift your awareness to your feet. Focus on each step and how it connects you to the earth. Send love and gratitude to each plant, stone and creature that you are sharing space with that day. Consider meditating on the Earth as Mother and how are you walking on Her. What impact do you have on Mother Earth? Are you walking with Compassion upon Her?

Another walking meditation is Walking the Labyrinth. A labyrinth is a convoluted pattern leading to a centre and back out again. It is not like a maze, there are no dead ends or tricks. There are different variations of these patterns. The most famous is from the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France. You can get instructions for constructing your own labyrinth. There are labyrinths that are temporary or more permanent. Many places dedicated to healing and spirituality have build their own. You enter with the intention of learning about yourself as you walk the pattern towards the centre. It is symbolic of the journey to your centre, your spirit. If there is not one big enough to walk near you, there are finger labyrinths. Using pottery or wood or paper you transfer the pattern. Then you use your fingers to do the walking as you meditate.

I wanted to create a Labyrinth in my back garden but I did not have enough space. So instead I created a sort of hybrid with the Druid walk. I created a triple spiral and placed a small Celtic Cross in the topmost circle. So I walk around the three circles as I focus on my feet on Mother Earth. Sometimes I add a Aboriginal chant for Mother Earth-'Mother I feel you under my feet, Mother I feel your heart beat'. You can see the triple spiral pattern on the obverse of my business cards.

So I wish you well as you try exploring Meditation with Nature. We have so much beauty around us here. It is easy to love it and be grateful for it. Peace.

Ticks and Other Bugs - Dr. Sarah Tanner

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


It’s bug season!
 
The blackflies are out (just about done now), the ticks are in full force and the mosquitoes are on their way. In Bayswater, where my family has had cottages for years, there will be horseflies as well.
 
I just spent 3 weekends camping, 1 for an International Briefing, 1 for Beaver camp with Jack and one for my Pathfinders District camp. It is the season of BBQ’s, picnics, campfires and hikes. We had to keep reminding everyone that we are in the bugs house and we cannot get rid of them. But, we can manage how much we get bitten and how we deal with the bites afterwards.

 

Let’s start with ticks. Why are these guys scary? They hide in places that we can’t see and burrow in, instead of biting and then flying away. The majority of ticks in NS also carry Lyme disease, a potentially debilitating disease that can become chronic if it isn’t caught in time. Bottom line, you want to avoid being bitten by a tick at all cost. Prevention is the key. A bug repellent with geraniol is helpful as well as taking 1 drop of garlic flower essence oil (ordered from Woodland Essence in the States or from an ND in Halifax) an hour when you are going to be exposed to a tick infested area. If possible, avoid high grass and low lying trees. The ticks like to hide in these places. It isn’t always possible so when you are out in the woods or hiking through grass wear tall socks with your pants tucked into them. The ticks have nowhere to go at that point. They can still attach to clothing but you can brush them off. Wear a hood or a bug jacket if possible to avoid them falling into your clothes. Wear brightly coloured clothes so it is easy to see them (black is not optimal). When you do see them, brush them off but be careful not to brush them on to someone else. After your time outdoors is over, check yourself, your kids and your pets thoroughly. This includes hair, ears, armpits, in between fingers and toes and ALL areas, even if they weren’t exposed. If we can, we strip our kids down, check them and then put them in the tub for a good scrub. Canlyme has tick removal kits as you don’t want to leave any tick pieces in your skin (https://canlyme.com/product/tick-removal-kit/). If you are bitten by a tick don’t waste any time, go to your MD or a walk in clinic and call us at Natural Choices. Everyone can work together to keep you healthy.

 

Other bugs. Everyone reacts to bug bites differently. I’ve always reacted strongly but since I met my husband I don’t have to worry as much, they like him better. When Jack was 2 he broke out in a rash all over his body that was diagnosed as serum sickness. It usually comes from a new medication or food that the kids have never had. The only thing we could put it down to was the 30 mosquito bites Jack got at my grandmothers that past weekend. But Jack doesn’t seem to mind bug bites now and for the past few years he hasn’t gotten many bites. Olive on the other hand, will swell for every bug bite she has had and we took her to a walk in a couple times last summer for a suspected infection as it was hot and hard. We were clear.

 

Needless to say, we need some measures in place to prevent as many bug bites as possible. We don’t buy bug repellent. The chemicals on your skin and in your lungs are cancer causing and they interrupt liver detoxification pathways (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17936932). This is especially true for DEET. Instead, we have bug jackets (https://www.fcsurplus.ca/shopping/products/2679-kids-bug-blocking-jackets/) that we got at Canadidan tire but you can order online and I think they are at Walmart. One for all of us, but Olive’s is a little big yet. My aunt found this terrific natural bug spray made out of essential oils that we use each year (the trick is remembering to use it!).

 

Bug Repellent:
16 oz. bottle
15 drops Lavender Oil
3-4 tsp. Pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice
Fill bottle with water, shake and ready to use.

 

We have a variety of homeopathic remedies on hand for different uses. They come in all different strengths and I recommend having a 30ch and 200ch on hand. Dosing for this type of reaction (an acute one) is one pellet, under the tongue (let it dissolve as much as possible) as often as needed, up to once an hour. If the reaction is severe, start with the 200ch. If it is a regular reaction for you then start with the 30ch.

 

  • Apis: Best used for bee or hornet stings but also for any type of allergic reaction to bugs (hot, red and very swollen)
  • Ledum: Best used for blackflies and mosquitoes and can be taken before your exposure to minimize the adverse effects of the bites. Still effective when taken after the bite has occurred. Also good for contusions or black eyes.
  • Arnica: For bruising and swelling so we use it for extra large bites or multiple bites in an area that is quite swollen.
  • Staphysagria: if you seem predisposed to the bugs loving you, this is the remedy for you! Best take before the exposure.
It is true that all of the remedies may suit you. That’s ok, take as many as you need to for an acute reaction like bug bites. If you aren’t sure, then it’s worth talking over with your Naturopathic Doctor. All of the remedies are available at the clinic but call first to make sure they are in stock and not sold out!

 

Ok, the bites have happened, you are using the homeopathics but in the meantime you (or your family) are still in discomfort. What should you put on the bites?
The one that you probably have on hand is baking soda and water. Make a paste out of the baking soda and apply to the bites. This helps to stop the itching but is usually short term.

 

There are a number of commercial topicals that you can purchase. You may need to try a few before you find one that really works for you.

 

  • Calendula ointment: For years, this was my go to for itching bites. As an ointment form it seals the bite and decreases the itch. It is also useful for any burns or injuries that are not open, it speeds the healing.
  • Arnica ointment: Because this is also an ointment it has similar properties to the calendula ointment but is more indicated for a swollen bite. It is also used for bumps and bruises. It can be used with the calendula ointment.
  • Orange Naturals Bites + Stings Homeopathic Cream: This is a topical cream (although it’s more like an ointment) that has the homeopathics listed above within it. So the healing happens from the outside in, and inside out. This is a new one for us this year and we are loving it! Available at the clinic.
  • Hyland’s Homeopathic Bug Bite Ointment: Similar to the Orange Naturals Cream but is in a base of citronella. That helps if you are going to continually be exposed to the bugs. Available on Amazon.ca.
Don’t let bugs deter you from enjoying our fantastic summer. Find the methods that work best for you, your kids and your pets and get out there!

4 Areas to Explore When Working with Fatigue - Dr. Robyn Callaghan

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fatigue is hands down one of the most common complaints I hear in practice. Its also one that requires some investigation because of the thousands of potential causes. Fatigue also runs on a spectrum but whatever the level or severity of the fatigue there are some effective and general places to start when working with it. Here are some of the big hitting lifestyle and functional medicine approaches I take when starting out with this complaint

  • 1.Nutrient deficiencies. This is an obvious one but very common. Sometimes its just a straight up anemia like B12 or iron. Have your doctor run blood work to check that B12 levels are about 600 and ferritin (iron stores) are above 18 not just within range. If you are vegan, vegetarian or low on animal protein consumption its possible these numbers aren’t great. Magnesium is another nutrient that can improve energy sleep and anxiety and is involved in many biochemical reactions in the body. I find this nutrient will help with fatigue directly or indirectly by improving sleep.
  • 2.Poor nutrition or food intolerances: eating processed or convenience foods higher in refined carbohydrates sugar and unhealthy fats will rob the body of nutrients by increasing inflammation in the body. Many of these foods are full of common reactive food proteins like gluten and casein which can compromise the gut barrier and trigger inflammatory reactions which never feels good. In practice, I promote a whole food diet that is focused on sustainable free range meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, a little fruit, and lots and lots of vegetables. Learning to reduce dependence on grains (bread, pasta, cereal, rice, baked goods) and identify any food intolerances is key for a healthy gut and your health in general.
  • 3.Poor thyroid function: your thyroid gland sets your metabolic rate and is involved in mood, heart rate, bowl function, cholesterol levels and the list goes on. Thyroid has its hand in every body system but fatigue can be one of the most debilitating symptoms of hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, this condition is not picked up very efficiently on blood work. When assessing for a thyroid problem its good to start with TSH (want it below 2) T4 (want middle of the range or higher) and anti TPO antibodies (below 500 or absent). If these numbers are optimal but all signs are pointing to this condition or if you are unable to get the blood work you need start working on lifestyle changes that will help this condition. In my experience a grain free (especially gluten free) paleo type diet high in nutrient dense vegetables is very effective to reduce thyroid antibodies and normalize TSH. I also use a nutrient called selenium to reduce antibodies and keep a close eye on the gut working to normalize any digestive complaints and identify any chronic infections like H.Pylori and Epstein Barr Virus.
  • 4.Adrenal Fatigue: in the literature this condition is referred to as Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal dysfunction HPA axis dysfunction and refers to low or high levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone secreted from the small adrenal glands on top of the kidneys and has to do with energy, inflammatory control, water retention, blood sugar regulation and blood pressure. It’s a stress hormone so when we go through prolonged periods of stress or stressful situations our adrenal glands can lose the ability to put out enough cortisol for you to feel energetic and normal or can get stuck on secreting too much cortisol. Both high and low cortisol can result in fatigue (especially morning and mid afternoon), mood disruption, sleep problems (waking in the night), allergies and inflammation. If the health history and intake point to this we start to work on improving sleep, decreasing stress, meditation, breathing, appropriate exercise or movement, diet changes and often apoptogenic herbs like rhodiola and ashwaganda that help to restore adrenal function. Botanical medicine can be a valuable tool to help restore the connection between the brain and the adrenals bringing cortisol levels up when they are low and down when they are high.

Fatigue is a vague symptom with hundreds of potential causes but when you can focus on some of the basics I have talked about here the payoff can be huge.

Getting Creative with Your Healing - Monica Perry RMT

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

This spring my sister turned 60. I find it hard to believe. I still think she is the older sister- the real adult and I am still the kid. Strange how our perceptions of time affect our lives. For her birthday, I wanted to make a gift. So I got my pencil out and started drawing. I ended up with a sort of fantastical forest scene that you might see in The Hobbit. I hope she likes it.

The experience of creating the drawing got me thinking. Since I received new art supplies for Christmas I have been spending more time drawing and colouring. I began to notice some changes were happening that reminded me of how creative activities can be so good for us.

First of all don't worry if your first response is “I can't draw” or “I am no good at art”. There is a very important concept to understand when we are working with creativity as a healing aid. Here it is.

PROCESS NOT PRODUCT

What does this mean? It means that the actual activity is what is important. The drawing, painting, sculpture is not.

So how can we make this PROCESS work for our healing? How does it help?

There are a number of different benefits depending on which activity you choose. We can start where I did with drawing with pencil and paper. But you could choose pastels, or acrylic paint or finger painting or watercolour pencils... Or modeling clay or woodcarving... Or knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching... Or singing, playing an instrument...Or baking, cooking... Or flower arranging, scrapbook making...Or colouring. You get the idea. You go into the activity for the experience, not the end product. So if you rip out the crocheting, crumple up the drawing or toss out the contents of the frying pan that is okay.

Try your chosen task-- that is the point. I will use the example of drawing. Try different pencils, some darker some lighter. Try closing your eyes and drawing by feel (this may not be appropriate for cooking) Pick a shape and repeat it with variations. So we are playing with our senses, textures, colours, shapes, shades... Then get rid of that page and start again. This time before you start, think of the health concern that will be your focus. Then start drawing again. Give your full attention to the drawing. After a while you will notice a change. You become absorbed in the creative act, then everything else falls away. This indicates that you have switched from left brain to right brain. You may get new insights into your situation or new options may come to mind.

The changing of your brain processing is not the only benefit. You may feel calmer or quieter suggesting that some stress is reducing. You may switch from 'fight, flight, freeze' to 'rest and digest'. This part of the nervous system also handles healing like tissue repair and reducing harmful stress hormones.

A very quick summary of left versus right brain. We need both and use both but many of us get a bit stuck in the left. Some characteristics of left are verbal, analytic, symbolic, abstract, temporal, rational, digital, logical, and linear. This probably sounds familiar and like a good thing, which it is. However, the right has a lot to offer; nonverbal, synthetic, concrete, analogic, non-temporal, non-rational, spatial, intuitive, and holistic. It would seem like both sides working together would give you the most creative solutions and the plans to put them into action. (for more on art and the brain see Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards).

Another exercise that uses our creativity is giving a voice to the different parts of the body. If you like the drawing exercise, continue to draw. Give the body part a face- make it like a cartoon if you wish. Or try to draw how it feels. Give the cartoon some talk bubbles so it can express itself. For example (I am your right kneecap and it stresses me out when you change from boots to shoes in the spring). If you do not want to draw, then write. Conduct an interview asking the body part how it feels, what its history is, what it needs. Then write the answers that come up. You can add another layer of intensity to this by writing the answers with your non-dominant hand. This changes sides of the brain again for most people. You may need to start with printing. Writing, drawing doing everyday tasks with your non-dominant hand increases the communication neurons between the left and right.

Finally if none of this appeals, try colouring. Start simply if you wish with kids stuff from the dollar store. If you like it move on to the many adult coulouring books now on the market. Then try mandalas. Mandalas are used as spiritual exercises in several different traditions. They are circular patterns but of great variety. You can think of a question or concern and then colour the mandala and see what insights come to you about your question. Some traditions like Tibetan Buddhism and Spirituality of the Navajo Nation create mandalas from different coloured sands. The mandala is prayerfully/meditatively created for a specific spiritual purpose and then swept away. It is the process that is important.

PROCESS NOT PRODUCT

This spring get creative with your healing. And Have Fun!

 


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