Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fertile Ground

Spring is a lovely time to think about growth, expansiveness, sprouting seeds, starting new projects, and of course, fertility! The natural world is full of fertile inspiration this season as fresh green things emerge almost magically from the earth, birds sing out their special appeals for mates, and the increasing sunlight, mild temperatures and abundance of fresher foods helps us feel that much healthier overall. 
What is "overall health"? Beyond just the absence of disease, optimal health is a total state of wellness in body, mind and spirit - giving us the freedom to experience our fullest and best lives. The same factors holding you back from experiencing your best health are often the same as those preventing you from conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy.
Last night I spoke to a group at our local public library about getting back-to-basics when dealing with infertility. Rather than trying to force the body to do something that contradicts its wisdom at a given time, we want to try to work with the body-mind to hear its messages and respond to its needs. Dietary habits, environmental toxins, immune system imbalances, anatomical and hormonal issues aside, stress is a significant obstacle to healthy fertility. How many of us have known a friend who's been trying to get pregnant for a year or more, finally "gives up", decides to adopt, and then gets pregnant? As Dr. Verna Hunt, ND, DC puts it, "If you were being chased by a grizzly bear, would you lie down and make love?" (Resounding "of course not"!)  Simply put, being in a stressed state or "fight-or-flight mode" is incompatible with "fertile mode", and it's all due to two different arms of the nervous system - sympathetic ("fight-or-flight") vs. parasympathetic ("rest-and-digest", a.k.a. "let's make a baby") and the hormones that correspond to these states. Only one of these nervous systems gets to be dominant at at time. When we're under chronic stress, we don't get enough of the "rest-and-digest", healing or fertile state that our bodies need to be healthy.
Consider these simple strategies for diminishing stress:
-Chop your to-do list. Planning to get too many things done in one day can lead to the stressful feelings of being overwhelmed, rushed, irritable, then disappointed when we realize we didn't get it all done. Be realistic with your to-do list. See how you feel when you cut your list of tasks for today in half, and go from there.
-Just say "no" to multitasking. Despite having become a strangely revered skill in the employment marketplace, multitasking can lead to feeling scattered, accomplishing less, frustration and even burnout. Recent studies have shown that multitasking can actually be harmful, by decreasing levels of serotonin - our "happy hormone" in the brain. Instead, focus on one thing at a time to decrease stress.
-Get great sleep. Deep, restorative sleep: the ultimate "rest-and-digest" state. While we're asleep, our bodies and minds recover, rebuild and repair. By contrast, insomnia, sleep deprivation and irregular sleep schedules increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which interferes with sex hormones. A simple way to start getting better sleep is to completely darken your room, eliminating all "light pollution" from windows and electronics. Get your sleep environment so dark that you can't see your hand when held up in front of your face.  
For more natural ways to support healthy fertility and pregnancy, visit, the web site of the Association of Perinatal Naturopathic Doctors (APND).

Sunday, April 3, 2011

You Deserve It

Women's Show Apr. 17, 2011 to Benefit Guelph Wellington Women in Crisis

Ready for some new health info, lots of fun and pampering? 

On Sunday, April 17th, drop by the "You Deserve It" women's show at the Guelph Delta Hotel from 10am-5pm. The theme of the day is helping women to put themselves first, not second and certainly not last. Learning to make our emotional, physical, financial and spiritual well-being a priority has a positive impact on our health and our entire lives. I will be there providing free blood pressure checks and information about how naturopathic care can help you to put your health first and enjoy life more through improved health.

The fantastic lineup of other exhibitors will ensure you are pampered (e.g. mini-massage, facial, waxing), fed (e.g. chocolates; cheeses), enjoy great deals on shopping items (e.g. shoes, purses, jewellery) & have fun (e.g. live entertainment; belly dancing). Free giveaways are being provided by all exhibitors and the grand prize is a $3,500 Jamaica vacation.

Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.  Contact me or see the links below for more info.  Hope to see you there for a day of healthy pampering, ladies!

You Deserve It Flyer.jpgYou Deserve It Flyer.jpg
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Naturopathic Weight Loss Strategies

Weight Loss Drug is Unsafe

More about Meridia (sibutramine!) Two new Health Canada advisories have been issued this week concerning products marketed for weight loss that contain the unsafe pharmaceutical drug, sibutramine. Health Canada is warning Canadians not to take "Celerite Slimmine Capsules" or "Herbal Flos Lonicerae (Herbal Xenicol)" as these products were found to contain undeclared sibutramine. Sibutramine was withdrawn from the Canadian market in October 2010 when its use was identified to be associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Sibutramine also causes increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, dry mouth and constipation. Although I posted about this drug back in October when it was pulled from the market, it remains a concern as sibutramine-containing products are still available online from jurisdictions outside Canada, or are illicitly added to products that are presented as being herbal or natural weight loss formulas. While some natural supplements can support modestly improved weight loss in the context of an overall health program, the much hoped-for, safe, "magic pill" for weight loss is simply nonexistent. If that's a tough pill to swallow, let me reassure you that you CAN lose weight, you CAN feel better about yourself and you CAN experience improved overall health. 

Many Factors Influence Your Weight
Weight loss is a complex process influenced by multiple factors, such as your stress levels, hormonal balance, the quality of your sleep, inflammation, exercise, the foods you choose, toxicity, emotional health, and the list goes on.  YOUR program for safe, healthy and permanent weight loss program must be just that - YOURS. It must be individualized to YOU and all of the factors that influence your overall health - it's never about just the number on the scale.
Naturopathic Approach to Weight Loss
I can empathize with my patients' sense of struggle and discouragement and all of the feelings that come along with being overweight and wanting to make change.  As a naturopathic doctor I have helped people to understand and address the many factors influencing their ability to healthfully lose weight through compassionate naturopathic care - always honouring the uniquenesses of each person's situation and needs.  Weight management, like any other personal health goal, is a journey and a process that you deserve to be supported in.  If you need to lose weight, be sure your program includes personalized support and that you are being treated safely and as a whole person - body, mind and spirit.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stimulating but Sleep-Friendly: Caffeine-Free Chai

Chai time: ginger root, whole cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks. 
Today I begin a new role as a Peer Review Board member for the peer-reviewed publication, IHP (Integrated Health Practitioners) magazine. Gearing up for an afternoon/evening session of reviewing citations, I decided to consider my home office "my favourite internet cafe" and that a nice, warming, zingy-sweet chai would be the perfect complement to my pursuits.  However, I'm all out of black tea, and don't feel like a caffeine jolt at this time of day anyway (I REALLY value my deep, refreshing, quality sleep and having caffeine noticeably interferes with it). So I got resourceful and made my own, caffeine-free version. It turned out really yummy, and I believe it's "chai time" I shared it with you!

RECIPE: Caffeine-Free Rooibos Chai

In a 1 litre glass teapot or mason jar put 2 thin slices of ginger root, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 cardamom pods, 1 pinch of ground cloves (alternative: 2-3 whole cloves), 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract and 2 ROOIBOS tea bags. Fill to brim with boiling water. Wrap a tea towel around your teapot to keep it nice and hot while the brew steeps for at least 20-25 minutes. The longer it steeps, the more flavours from the spices come through. Serve in your favourite mug with a splash of rice, almond or regular milk. 

Black peppercorns would be another nice addition to this chai - add 3-4 peppercorns to the teapot or jar before steeping. 

Rooibos needles are found in bright reds and yellows and give this caffeine-free chai that traditional deep red-brown glow that actually corresponds to its high antioxidant content. In general with edible plants, the brighter the better, as brightness reflects antioxidant content and freshness. This antioxidant-rich chai is a lovely warm stimulatory blend that evokes the energy and spirit i experienced while visiting India and I shall enjoy its warming, mind-refreshing benefits during this afternoon's academic pursuits. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Loving the Guelph Farmer's Market

A posting of gratitude for my favourite place to buy fresh whole foods, the Guelph Farmer's Market. Farmer's Markets are a fantastic source of locally grown produce, often direct from the growers; healthy prepared foods; local crafts; and a place of community. The Guelph Farmer's Market is back in its original home with new-and-improved-roof, and seasonal green things are once again available in abundance!

What might a naturopath pick up at a Farmer's Market, you ask?  Here are my week's pickings:

  • organic dandelion leaves (!!!) - perfect green diuretic addition to a cleansing smoothie!
  • organic kale (gone to seed, it looks like a tall, slim rapini)
  • 1 lb carrots
  • 3 turnips
  • free-range chicken from Matt and Armando's farm - some for baking this weekend, some for freezing
  • cabbages: 1 green, 1 red
  • thick-shelled eggs generously produced by happy hens

Looking forward to using these fresh veggies this week in some rice and lentil egg in my gluten-free pancakes...and dandelion and kale in some energizing green smoothies. Health is delicious!

BONUS POINTS for anyone who can name 3 veggies above that provide a dose of the natural cancer-fighter, I-3-C (Indole-3-Carbinol)! (Hint: two are green, one is red).

Thanks again, Guelph Farmer's Market and especially Guelph Farmers!  See you next week.

Gluten-Free Apple Apricot Pancakes

Ever get that hankering for some good old fashioned, made-from-scratch pancakes, but worry about feeling too sleepy afterward to get on with your Saturday?  
Here's a gluten-free version I've developed that's flavourful yet not sugary, satisfying yet won't put you into a Carbohydrate Coma.

Photo: E. Cherevaty 03-12-2011
Dry ingredients:
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*
1 TBSP ground flax seed1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup chopped pecans or other nuts (set aside)

Slice apple into thin horizontal slices, so that the middle of the apple gives you its pretty star cut-out. Remove seeds. Drizzle apple slices with fresh lemon juice and set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients (EXCEPT apple and nuts) together in a mixing bowl.

Wet ingredients:

2 dried apricots, finely chopped (yes, they're a "dry" ingredient  but they'll soften nicely with a bit of a presoak here)
1 organic free range egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup grapeseed and/or coconut oil**
1/2 cup rice milk
3/4 cup water
1-2 tbsp raw honey
1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract

Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.  
Preheat skillet to medium heat, adding just enough coconut and/or grapeseed oil to lightly coat it. It's ready when you can place a tiny drop of batter in the pan and hear it sizzle.
Make a small well in the dry mixture and add wet mixture to dry. Stir until just combined. Fold in nuts. If you'd like to thin the batter, add water or rice milk a small amount at a time. Pour about 1/3 cup amounts of batter at a time into the hot skillet to form four pancakes of 3-4" diameter. Once small holes appear on the surface (approx. 3-4 mins), place an apple slice on top of each and then flip 'em!  Cook on the apple side for 4-5 minutes or until golden.

Yield: Makes about 6 hearty little pancakes. Enjoy them with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon, a drizzle of maple syrup or spread with almond butter.

Wouldn't be an naturopathic doctor's blog without 'em, so here goes:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gluten-Free Cookbooks

Looking for helpful and tasty gluten-free recipes?  Look no further! I've compiled this cookbook list to make things easier for those of you exploring gluten-free cooking for the first time...or looking for ways to change up your same-old gluten-free meal plans. 

I'll be the first to admit that going gluten-free is new and challenging...necessary for those with Celiac disease...and totally worth the effort for many others who suffer from gluten sensitivity symptoms.  Hang in there and have fun trying out some of these recipes!   

Your feedback on these or other gluten-free cookbooks is welcome - post your comments below or email, click here for more healthy cooking resources. Eat well, be well!

1.  Rawcliffe P, Rolph R.  The Gluten-Free Diet Book: a guide to celiac sprue, dermatitis herpetiformis and gluten-free cookery. Toronto: NC Press Limited, 1985.

2.  Hills HC. Good Food, Gluten Free.  New Canaan: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1976.

3.  Savill A. The Gluten, Wheat and Dairy Free Cookbook.  Hammersmith, England: Thorsons, 2000.

4. Plant S. Finally Food I Can Eat.

5. Segersten A, Malterre T. The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook.

6. Turnbull W. Gems of Gluten-Free Baking: breads and irresistible treats everyone can enjoy.