Archive: Nutrition

How to Savour the Holidays While Still Staying Healthy

journalMy friend just gave me an inspiring book to read: Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

I watched Simon’s TED Talk and was inspired to add the book to my growing pile of holiday reads (including too many baby books to count!).

The TED Talk got me thinking; am I consciously aware of the WHY behind everything I am doing on a daily basis?

I do believe that I have incorporated more mindfulness and gratitude in my day-to-day life than even a year ago, especially since hearing about The Five Minute Journal from Tim Ferriss. He inspired me to incorporate a daily journaling practice into my morning routine, which has been crucial in allowing me to set intentions for and aim to get the most out of each day.

I created my own questions to answer each morning in my journal, with inspiration from The Five Minute Journal that you can buy online. I printed off a word document with these questions and pasted them into the front of a regular notebook to answer daily:

1. What would make today great?
2. List 3 amazing things that happened yesterday.
3. What are your weekly challenges?
4. What are you grateful for:

a. Relationship? Name one person.
b. Opportunity you have today?
c. That happened/you saw yesterday?
d. That is simple and near you?

5. Affirmation/Intention
6. How could you have made yesterday better?

I have recently added 2 more questions:

7. What do you love about yourself?
8. What is the message of the day for baby (since I am 27 weeks pregnant)?

It literally takes me less than 5 minutes to answer these and I feel armed and ready to take on my day in a way where I am more proactive and less reactive to any drama that may arise. It does make it easier to savour the small things that happen and not dwell on the negative parts.

So how can we apply “Start with Why” for the holidays?

Many of us get stressed out about hosting a party. We want everything to be perfect, from the linens and table setting, to the h ‘or d’oeuvres and wine selection. It is often easy to get caught up in these details and forget about the WHY of the party in the first place, which is a gathering of loved ones to share a fun, relaxing and entertaining collective experience. Instead of mulling over hundreds of recipes (unless that is something you truly enjoy), you could spend that time visualizing and planning what would make the party meaningful and memorable. You could have everyone at the table stand-up, one-at-a-time, and say one thing that they are grateful for/one good memory together from the past year. You could all play a fun game of charades or look over pictures of past holidays for a good laugh or cry. Yes, people may remember if the meat is overcooked, but the emotions and memories will last much longer and leave a bigger imprint on the guests’ hearts.

How can we apply “Start With Why” to stay healthy over the holidays?

Many of my patients struggle with keeping up their health habits over the holidays. They may exercise less or stop completely; they may eat out too often or get too busy and end up skipping meals. They may overindulge in alcohol, sweets, or that tempting cheese tray.
In these moments or struggle, the WHY may be: to get through a busy time, to treat ourselves, to save time. But, if we can remember WHY we started these health habits in the first place, we are more likely to stick with them.

If someone is aware that they are going to get heartburn (that will keep them up most of the night) from having too much alcohol or eating dessert, then they may be able to step back and moderate their intake, realizing that a lost night of sleep is just not worth it. If they just think of the short-term reward, then they may overindulge and suffer later.

If someone forgoes their workout to sleep in after being out too late, then they may not sleep as well that night and have less energy to exercise the next day. The vicious cycle can continue.

I recognize that we can’t be perfect over the holidays. You can modify your health habits over the holidays to avoid the “all-or-nothing” mentality. Even if you get up earlier to do a 10-minute workout (as opposed to your regular 30-60 min one), then you have succeeded.

If you set the intention before going to a party to not allow yourself more than 2 drinks (as opposed to several cocktails plus a half bottle of wine), you have won the battle.

Here are some simple tips to stay healthy over the holidays (and always remember the WHY!):

1. Don’t go to a party hungry. Have a snack before, such as a hardboiled egg, some nutbutter spread on a sliced apple or pear, or have some vegetables and hummus. You will be less likely to overindulge and make poor food choices when presented with the bread basket and dessert platter.

2. Always keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand, such as sparkling water, herbal tea, or water with splash of punch/juice if you are craving something sweet. Staying hydrated will make you feel full and prevent you from picking at the endless trays of appetizers.

3. Continue to exercise. You may not be able to get to the gym, but ask your trainer for a short workout that you could do at home several times per week. Or, schedule a family or friend get-together around a physical activity such as a walk, building a snowman, playing Wii fit, snowshoeing or skiing.

4. Don’t skimp on sleep. The less sleep you get, the more stress hormones are released the next day, leading you to feel anxious and irritable, tired and wired, and reaching for more sweets than usual. Do your best to have a set bedtime and don’t feel bad about leaving a party early.

5. Say no to parties or get-togethers that you are not going to enjoy. Don’t spread yourself too thin and over schedule. Choose those activities and gatherings that will feed your soul.

And, before each day starts (and before each party), ask yourself WHY to remember what is truly important so you can get the most out of it.

Warriors Within

SickYou know it is cold and flu season when…you are on the subway and the person behind you starts to cough uncontrollably. You wish you could avoid public transit altogether, but driving to work takes way too long.

You are reminded again that everyone around you is getting sick when you get to work. Your cubicle neighbour comes by to update you on the new guy she is dating. She puts her fingers all over your computer to show you his photos on Facebook after you just saw her sneeze into her hands.

Yuck! Germ overload!

No matter how many times you wash your hands, no matter how many times you try to avoid touching door handles in public, you ARE going to be exposed to illness-causing viruses and bacteria.

It may seem impossible not to get sick, but you can take action to prevent yourself from coming down with colds and the flu.

Luckily, we have an army within us, circulating from head to toe, ready to attack any invading virus or bacteria at a moment’s notice. This white-blood-cell brigade called the immune system is always working behind the scenes to keep us healthy. But we have to give these warriors the rest they need, along with the appropriate supplies, route maps and a hospital/place to live.

Just how can we do that?

See below and/or JOIN ME on Tues Oct 25th at 7:00pm (EST) for my Free Webinar: Sick of Getting Sick? Natural Prevention of Colds and Illnesses. Sign up HERE

First of all, get some sleep! A good night’s rest reduces our susceptibility to colds. Mammals that get the most sleep have been shown to have higher numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells. In a study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine (2009), participants who slept an average of less than seven hours a night over a two-week period were three times as likely to get sick as those who got at least 8 hours a night. They figured this out by tracking the sleep patterns of 153 men and women for two weeks, and then exposing them to the cold virus for five days following while in quarantine. It turns out that extra hour can really pay off!

What else can we do?

These warriors have very specific nutritional requirements to be able to work their hardest. If we are overweight, they slow down and get lazy. Consuming sugar and processed food robs them of vital nutrients while fruits, vegetables and good-quality protein sources keep them marching around the body ready for action.

Foods that particularly keep them going include:

  • Ginger, garlic and turmeric.
  • Zinc-rich foods such as cremini mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, spinach, sea vegetables, oysters.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, papaya, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, cauliflower, kale, parsley, lemons, limes, spinach, snow peas and rose hip tea.
  • Beta-carotene-rich foods including carrots, spinach, turnip, kale, sweet potato, cayenne pepper, cantaloupe, winter squash, apricots, broccoli, collard greens and asparagus.
  • Supplements and herbs that give them the mojo they need include zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, probiotics, bioflavonoids, astragalus, garlic, sambucus nigra, ginseng, andrographis, cordyceps, reishi, shiitake and maitake. Be sure to consult with your licensed healthcare practitioner to ensure you are taking safe, effective herbs and nutrients that will not interact with any medical conditions you may be suffering from or with any medications you may be taking.

Now that they are armed and ready to go, they need a route map to find their way and some sturdy vehicles to help them race around. Exercise and hydrotherapy are crucial to keep them moving around the body and prevent them from getting side-tracked. Muscle contractions during exercise pumps the fluid that carries them around the body so that they can provide surveillance from head to toe. Taking alternating hot and cold showers (three minutes hot, one minute cold, repeat two more times OR end your shower in 30 seconds to one minute of cold water) keeps their jeeps moving along the road to health. If we aren’t moving, neither are they!

We also want to provide a hospitable environment for them to live in. If we are stressed out or angry, they won’t perform at their optimal level. Stress-relieving techniques such as yoga, meditation, exercise, journaling and counselling are great ways to support these natural warriors. If we talk about our emotions and get them out, then we are less likely to succumb to that cold or flu virus.

With the right preparation, when you hear that stranger on the subway start to cough, you will know that you have done all you could to get those warriors within ready for action!

If you want further support for boosting immunity naturally, book an appointment with me for an individualized program to keep you healthy throughout the fall and winter.

You can also sign up for my FREE WEBINAR on Tues Oct 25th at 7:00pm: “Sick of Getting Sick? Natural Prevention of Colds and Illnesses”. SIGN UP HERE.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

Big Announcement

announcementI’ve been keeping a secret from you.

I knew I could only last so long until I just couldn’t keep it in anymore.

Anyways, if I didn’t tell you, you would probably have guessed what it was, eventually.

Because,

You may have noticed that my waistline was starting to get bigger. Perhaps I was looking a little more run down. No, I wasn’t over-indulging (more than normal) over the summer or neglecting my health– although my appetite definitely has definitely increased lately and my tastebuds have changed!

So, here goes…time it get it off my chest…

I am 18 weeks pregnant! My husband and I are expecting a baby the first week of March! It is our first child, so I know we are in for a shock.

We have just started to spread the word to family and friends. I didn’t want to leave you out of the loop.

Being my first pregnancy, I have a new-found respect for what expectant moms go through. I have always treated women in my Naturopathic practice who were: trying to get pregnant, wanted to feel their best while pregnant, needed support recovering post-labour, had challenges breastfeeding, or wanted help choosing the best formula for their infant. But, I had never gone through it first-hand. The recurrent nausea I experienced in my first trimester had me shunning salads and raw vegetables in the dead heat of summer. The thought of drinking green tea and eating dark chocolate made me shudder (I used to love having a few squares per day of the Giddy YoYo raw, dairy-free dark chocolate). Where I used to be able to eat every 4-5 hours, I now had to eat smaller meals and snack between. If I got hungry, the nausea hit like a ton of bricks. Before pregnancy, I would do mini intermittent overnight fasting periods for 12-14 hours (by not snacking after dinner and by eating my breakfast after my moderate workouts in the morning). But, in the first trimester, if I didn’t eat right when I woke up, my stomach rebelled.

I had to get creative to ensure my body still got the nutrition it needed to support the growing life inside of me.

I steamed and roasted vegetables or ate them in the form of soups (yes, even on those 35C + days!). Scrambled eggs, avocado and tomato were my go-tos, and I was even starting to crave comfort foods from my past. These included pizza, yogurt, pancakes and cereal. Eating mostly Paleo in my day-to-day before pregnancy, I was shocked at how my taste buds had changed.

I still wanted to avoid gluten and discovered that Queen Margarita Pizza had the best gluten-free crust I have tasted (for the occasional treat). Udi’s brand also carries a frozen one that we use for pizza night at home. If I have avocado toast in the morning, I have it with one slice of gluten-free bread – either the Queen St. Bakery’s Romano bread or the Silver Hills’s Chia Bread. I love slathering olive oil on top, adding avocadoes and tomatoes and having it with a side of 2 scrambled eggs cooked in coconut oil. The only raw vegetables I could tolerate at the end of the first trimester was organic carrots, celery and cucumber (I was craving savoury breakfasts with vegetables).

I have avoided dairy for the past 12 years (with the occasional indulgence on the weekend), so I first opted for a coconut milk yogurt. I found it too sweet, so I switched to either a sheep’s milk yogurt or a goat’s milk yogurt that were nice and tangy without added sugar. I love sprinkling hemp hearts and organic berries on top for a filling snack. Since I did a lot of gut-healing before pregnancy, I was able to tolerate some cheese and goat/sheep yogurt without the typical reaction I would get of brain fog, acne, bloating and stool changes.

For those pancake cravings, I make Paleo Coconut Pancakes, which satisfy my cravings without the guilt. I slather on almond butter or coconut oil and bit of maple syrup, or make a reduction of cooked apples/pears and cinnamon to put on top. Delicious!

As for cereal, I make my own version by adding banana, chopped nuts, hemp hearts and shredded coconut to a small bowl with coconut or almond milk.

Now that I am in the second trimester, I am back to eating salads and raw vegetables (and loving them!). But, I still can’t eat chocolate and green tea can be hit or miss. I no longer feel nauseous and my energy definitely has increased. I feel great in the day but crash at night. My bedtime is now 9:30pm if I am lucky, sometimes earlier, but I still manage to wake up at 5:30am or 6:00am to do my morning yoga, meditation and journaling.

Perhaps you are wondering what this means for my Naturopathic practice? I can reassure you that I plan to keep seeing patients during my regular clinic hours as long as I can before my due date of March 1, 2017. I am planning on taking a 6-8 week maternity leave from practice after which I will resume part-time hours (most likely 2-3 half days/week, including an evening and every other Saturday). I plan to have a back-up Naturopathic Doctor to refer you to during my 6-8 weeks off if you require treatment before I resume my clinic hours.

I will also still be accepting new patients up until I go on my short maternity leave (if the space is available).

My husband and I are excited to open this new chapter in our lives! I look forward to the journey and sharing the tools and tricks I pick up along the way to get through what I hope is a healthy pregnancy, delivery and post-partum period. Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will cover how acupuncture/acupressure can enhance fertility and reduce nausea/pain in pregnancy. I will also give you a brief overview of some super-nutrients that are key in pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and post-delivery.

Feel free to reach out to me to book in for your Healthy Fertility (for males and females), Healthy Pregnancy or Healthy Baby appointments.

The Negative Effects of Acidity in the Body

Hearing the word “acid” evokes images of chemical skin burns, and liquids dissolving cans and various metals. It sounds like something we definitely want to stay away from!

That can be hard to do. Our body actually produces various acids every single day from the food we eat, from shallow breathing, from exercise (lactic acid) and from numerous other normal metabolic processes. Foods such as non-organic grain-fed meat, cheese, milk, grains and carbohydrates increase acid levels in the body. Medications, soda pop, processed meat and foods, artificial colours and flavours, and preservatives make us more acidic, too. Excess stress, inflammation in the body (such as arthritis) and lack of fresh air increase acidity even more!

Mind you, the effects are not quite as extreme as my first two examples, but acids in our body take their toll on our bones, teeth, muscles, joints, connective tissues, and various organs and systems. When we are too acidic, extra stress is placed on the body, which further aggravates various health issues. The body has to work overtime to reduce and buffer these extra acids. Our digestive system, lungs, liver and kidneys may all be taxed using their special mechanisms to buffer acidity in the body. When these systems are overloaded and acidity is still too high, calcium leaves our bones to buffer acidity in the bloodstream. This greatly reduces our bone integrity and increases our risk of fractures, osteopenia and osteoporosis. Excess acids can also deposit in the muscles, joints and connective tissue, increasing pain and inflammation, and contributing to arthritis, fibromyalgia, various chronic diseases, fatigue, generally feeling unwell and early aging.

You are probably now wondering how to decrease acid and increase alkalinity in the body to optimize your health!

First of all, we need to know just how acidic you actually are. Under the supervision of your Naturopathic Doctor, you can measure your urine and salivary pH at various times during the day to see how much acid you are exposed to and producing, as well how much acid your body is able to get rid of. This will give you a good yardstick to measure progress with your treatment plan.

To reduce acidity in the body, follow these 5 simple and easy tips. You may need to take alkalinizing minerals, herbs or nutrients to further reduce acidity, but be sure to discuss that with your Naturopathic Doctor before starting any natural prescriptions. The following 5 tips will get you well on your way to reducing acidity!

  1. Increase your consumption of spinach, potatoes, raisins, cauliflower, radishes, celery, eggplants, miso soup, dark leafy greens and berries. All fruits and vegetables are alkalinizing and buffer acidity in the body.
  2. Be sure to exhale fully to expel carbon dioxide from the lungs. If we are shallow breathing, then carbon dioxide is retained in the lungs and converted to an acid. Use your diaphragm and abdominal muscles to fully inhale and exhale. Count to 4 as you inhale, hold for 4 and then exhale fully for 4.
  3. Take Epsom salt baths. This helps to pull acids out of the body and introduce alkalinizing minerals into it.
  4. Eat less meat, cheese, processed foods, processed grains and carbohydrates. If you do eat something that is more acidic, be sure to get in dark leafy greens or other vegetables to counteract it.
  5. Ensure that your liver, kidneys, lungs and digestive system are working properly.It is advisable to see your Naturopathic Doctor to be put on specific drainage, detoxification and supportive remedies for these organs to function optimally.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed health care practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed health care professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

Listen to Nature When it Comes to Food

I was lucky to be up at my family’s cottage in Muskoka over the Thanksgiving weekend.  The temperature during the day felt more like summer, but the nights and mornings were cool. The leaves didn’t lie about what season it was, and their bright orange, red and yellow hues lit up the sky. The views were spectacular and the colours reminded me that with a change of season, comes a change of diet. It was time to limit those cold and raw salads that we devour in the summer, and include more cooked and warming foods that the fall harvest has to offer. If we listen to nature and eat foods that have the colour of the changing leaves, then our bodies will be better equipped to handle the cold and dark days of winter. Pumpkins and squash are the perfect vegetables to incorporate into our diets at this time of year to boost immunity and prepare our bodies for the drop in temperature. As added bonuses, they are also in season and grown locally!

According to Chinese medicine, the lungs and large intestine are the organs most active in the fall. Our lungs are very sensitive to changes in temperature, and the wind and cold. They control our defensive energy (Wei-Qi) that keeps us from getting sick. It is important to use this time to boost immunity to prevent colds, the flu and sore throats. Our intestines also play a very important role in immunity. They act as a barrier against invading pathogens, and approximately 70–80% of our immune system is found in the intestines.

When the temperature is dropping, it is best to limit cold and raw foods as they can increase dampness and phlegm in the body. Cold and raw foods consumed in the fall and winter tax the digestive system. Our body can handle these foods much better in the warmth of the spring and summer. It is best to eat lightly steamed vegetables or cooked food in the fall and winter. Foods such as garlic, onions and ginger support lung function and help to break down phlegm and mucous in the respiratory system.  Dark green and orange vegetables protect the lungs and mucous membranes of the body and boost immunity because they contain beta-carotene. Beta-carotene boosts the defensive energy of the body, protecting us from the invading bacteria and viruses that make us sick.

I made this soup after the Thanksgiving weekend when my body was craving warming and nourishing food. I used turkey broth that I made from the weekend leftovers. You can substitute coconut milk for the broth and add in spices such as turmeric, cumin, curry powder and/or garam masala to spice it up if you like. This time I decided to keep it simple and not add any extra spices as the turkey broth I prepared had enough flavour. This recipe is quick and easy, and very powerful in preventing colds and flus. Our bodies have an easy time digesting this soup, and the garlic and onions further help to break down any phlegm or mucous in the body. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium to large sized butternut squash

1 small head of garlic

2 small to medium sized cooking onions

½–1 cup of organic vegetable stock, turkey broth or chicken broth

Spices such as sea salt, turmeric, cumin, curry powder and/or garam masala (optional, to taste)

  • Wash the squash, cut in half lengthwise and place face down on a cookie sheet coated with a small amount of olive oil.
  • Peel off the excess skin from the garlic, leaving enough to surround the whole head and keep the cloves together. Chop off the top of the head of garlic so that there is an opening for each clove. This will make it easier to squeeze the garlic out once it is roasted. Wrap the head of garlic in aluminum foil with a little bit of olive oil, sea salt and pepper sprinkled on top for added taste. Make sure you seal the foil completely. Place garlic bundle on cookie sheet with the squash.
  • Peel the onions, chop in quarters and place on the cookie sheet with the other ingredients.
  • Roast in a preheated oven, uncovered, at 365°C for approximately 30–35 minutes (until the squash is nice and soft). You may need to cook the squash a bit longer than the onions and garlic.
  • Remove from oven, let all ingredients cool, and then add to a food processor. Blend while adding in broth of choice or coconut milk (spices optional). Add enough fluid to your desired consistency of soup. I like mine a bit thicker, so I don’t add too much broth.

Resource:
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books, 1993.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.