Monday, November 4, 2013

Sitting in the place of uncomfortableness

Recently in the last 2 weeks many events have forced me to re-evaluate... everything! Forced to face my worst fears I had 2 choices... stand strong or crumble. I welcomed the challenge, despite how my heart has been racing, lack of appetite and sleepless nights. Why? because it means progress, and let me explain why. Most people would rather live in the zone of comfortableness... a place that they can predict and know every move... a SAFE place. This may seem stress free for a while however most people will find a negative streak starts to creep in. All of a sudden life does not have the zing that in use to, your partner seems less then "shiny", your job drains you. How could this happen when everything is running smoothly?
What pushes us forward, makes life worth living, brings back that "spark" in our lives? The answer is living in the place of UNcomfortableness. Pushing ourselves to do things that make us fearful, apprehensive or anxious. It seems backwards, but this is what reminds us that we are moving forward. Pushing the envelope to gain further experiences, knowledge and growth in our lives. When we become comfortable with life, life becomes many shades of grey. The vibrancy tends to fade and we are left feeling less then complete. Perhaps anxiety, depression, anger or apathy sets in. Most often my patients will tell me they don't remember what excites them, what makes time stand still, what FILLS up their soul. By pushing yourself in that zone of "uncomfortableness" you gain self worth, self respect, you realize you are capable of a lot more than you think. You start to find that spark, that drive that pushes you out of bed every morning to taste what life has to offer you. I challenge you to do one thing today that is out of your comfort zone. Something you usually don't do, you have been putting off. Something that scares you. Go talk to a new person, take a different way home, eat a new food, try a craft, meditate, go dancing... anything that pushes your limits.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Adrenal Fatigue

Burnout is common up here in Fort McMurray. Its not hard to extrapolate one of my most common complaints is lack of energy. The medical term for this is adrenal fatigue. The Adrenal glads are a small sac that sits on top of each kidney. They are responsible for secreting several important hormones including testosterone, adrenaline, DHEA, progesterone and cortisol. They perform crucial functions like maintaining fluid and electrolytic balance, production of energy and regulate fat storage. The hormones produced in this gland are also responsible for maintaining a powerful immune reaction and normalizing blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

When the glands get overtaxed because of high demand the adrenals get "fatigued" and don't work properly. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are morning fatigue, drowsiness, depression, energy burst during strange times of the day, 3 pm decrease in energy, increased allergies, inability to handle stress, food longings and light headedness, and craving salt. Women could also experience heightened menopausal or PMS symptoms.

One way to treat this is by using herbs, which help restore and support the adrenal glands, instead of stimulating us or giving us bursts of energy (such as coffee, caffeine and nicotine). Useful herbs are:

Rhodiola rosea: Mood depressant, anti-anxiety and protecting against stress related fatigue.

Eleutherococcus: Helps increase stamina, mental clarity, immune health and supports bone reworking.

Astragalus root: Improves the immune system and improve insulin sensitivity.

Licorice root: Improves energy, endurance, help recovery from adrenal fatigue.

Cordyceps: Balances inflammation so helping stabilize blood sugar to rest the adrenal glands.

Lifestyle changes are just as important! Consider getting at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep each day, drinking herbal tea, modifying your exercise plan to enhance your energy, eating healthy and often, engaging in social activities and practicing stress reducing strategies like yoga or meditation.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ashwagandha

As many of you know I routinely prescribe herbs in my practice. One powerful herb is Withania somnifera, aka Indian Ginseng or Ashwagandha. Found in the drier parts of western India, northern Africa, Middle East, it is a small evergreen that only grows 2-3 feet. In ancient times rulers used it to feel younger and for longevity. The word Ashwagandha means "horse smell" in sanskrit, as the odor of the root does smell like a sweaty horse (ew!) However don't let this fact detour you, Ashwaganda has amazing health properties!

It is most commonly known as an adaptogen, having the ability to enhance the body's systems to deal with stress. It also is immunomodulating (increasing or decreasing the immune system depending on what you need), and reduces anxiety and depression without unwanted side effects. Most commonly it is made as a tincture (a liquid extract), using all roots, leaves and berries. Ashwagandha is high in iron and is pretty safe to use long term. Common benefits include:

Improves learning, memory, and reaction time

stabilizes blood sugar

lowers cholesterol

reduces brain-cell degeneration

contains anti-malarial properties

offers anti-inflammatory benefits

Anti cancer effects, anti-inflammatory benefits

Can be used for relieving arthritic pain

Reduction of insomnia and provides sound sleep

Helps in relieving hypertension and stress

It’s a powerful aphrodisiac, helps to treat erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, infertility and other erection disorders, and increases libido

Helps arteriosclerosis, malignancy, premature aging and fluctuating blood sugar levels.*

Helps in increasing physiological endurance.

Helps to reconstruct the nervous system network, hence effective for treating . Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

Education is key... spread the word :)

References: Bhattacharya, S.K., et al. "Anti-stress activity of sitoindosides VII and VIII, new acylsterylglycosides from Withania somnifera," Phytother Res, 1(1): 32-37, 1987. Ghosal, S., et al. "Immunomodulatory and CNS effects of sitoindosides IX and X, two new glycowithanolides from Withania somnifera," Phytother Res, 3(5): 201-6, 1989. Wallace, E C. "Adaptogenic Herbs, natures solution to stress." The chiropractic resource organization. Web. June 23, 2012.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Greens and more greens

As most people know I am a big advocate of healthy diet. In fact, most of my patients get a basic Naturopathic food revamp when they see me. As I grown in my practice I am learning less is more. The hardest part of my job is convincing people that food IS medicine! The more we bring things back to the basics the quicker people heal. You don't need a tonne of supplements or herbs... just a few key foods such as green vegetables. I have found by increasing dark leafy greens common complaints such as chronic pain, PMS, mood disorders and hormone balance can be improved tremendously. DARK LEAFY GREENS.... they more you get the better! Most people eat minimal amounts of spinach and think they are satisfying this requirement. However, spinach is usually genetically modified, and doesn't have a lot of fiber in it. It is not my favorite considering all the other greens... Collard greens, bok choy, swiss chard, mustard and turnip greens... and KALE (yes my favorite)! Variety is key.... the different type of greens provide diff vitamins and minerals. I rarely prescribe a multi vitamin, using dark leafy greens as a perfect substitute. Some properties of dark leafy greens:

Weight management (who gets fat off of salad?), Reduces mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and PMS, High in dietary fiber...no more constipation :), Rich in folic acid and vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, Lowers cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, High magnesium content helps with diabetes and high blood pressure (again), High in antioxidants which prevent cancer

I liked this description from this website. It explains the tastes of dark leafy greens, as most people are just use to the genetically modified sweeter tasting greens.

"Green, leafy vegetables provide a great variety of colors from the bluish-green of kale to the bright green of spinach. Leafy greens run the whole gamut of flavors, from sweet to bitter, from peppery to earthy. Young plants generally have small, tender leaves and a mild flavor. Many mature plants have tougher leaves and stronger flavors. Collards, Swiss chard, bok choy, and spinach provide a mild flavor while arugula, mizuna and mustard greens provide a peppery flavor. Bok choy is best known for use in stir-fries, since it remains crisp, even when cooked to a tender stage. One should always choose crisp leaves with a fresh vibrant green color. Yellowing is a sign of age and indicates that the greens may have an off flavor."

The best thing you can do is increase your greens, chop it up small and throw it in pasta, stew, mix it in different salads. Find any way to increase your intake of natures medicine for optimal health.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Between Each Step

A recent foot injury made me realize just a couple things about life... for one how important feet are: The foot is actually the shape of a tripod of a couple key bones, bound tightly together with ligaments and muscles. All the weight is distributed evenly over the three spots; the heel the first big toe joint and the baby toe joint. This allows the body to maintain balance as well as protect itself from injury (you can imagine how painful it would be to balance on just one point). With one foot out of commission, balance is out of the question. The opposite hip and knee bear double the weight they are use to, therefore collapsing to one side. For those anatomy junkies, the hips create a triangle shape where we hold out center of gravity. They help distribute the weight evenly over the two legs. However without one leg, the weight is lopsided, creating imbalance, and loss of movement. I am consistently amazed at how the body is designed and functions, everything is perfect balance!!! But I digress...

Second; how help is there when you need it, or "ask and you shall receive", "the universe always provides". Loved ones, family, friends, even strangers all step up to the plate, when you ask. In these last couple days I have been amazed at just how much love I have around me. My parents running out to get me bandages, my coworkers making work life easy, patients gently accommodating my schedule changes, close friends texting me for updates on my progress and giving me words of encouragement.

I have always shown my vulnerability.. wait we must clarify something here. What is the difference between vulnerability and being a victim (as I also was in my past...)?? Vulnerability is empowering. It is about being strong, showing a beautiful side of yourself, and not letting that side consume you. Being vulnerable is releasing emotions in a healthy way. A victim is defined by their weakness, looks for someone to "fix" their problems. As dictionary.com says... (and i love this).. "a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance."

Dictionay.com defines vulnerability as: vulnerability: 1.capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body.2.open to moral attack, criticism, temptation ...It implyies that you are open, and in turn weak, to something negative. Lets shift this definition... how about being OPEN to both negative and positive events and situation? The key word here is openness .

I have noticed for some people vulnerability is foreign, uncomfortable and taboo. If this is you I challenge you to try it out. The act of acknowledging you need help, and showing "weak" emotions can change the way you see the world. Being vulnerable gives others the space to open up and show all their emotions, in a free non judgmental space. I feel vulnerability is so beautiful... it reminds us that we are all human, with both light and dark.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A bit about Yoga

As most of you know I adore yoga... actually funny enough I first began yoga here in Fort McMurray. I had taken the random class here and there, but it was classes with Judy Funk that really made me fall in love with the practice. She taught a fusion of ashtanga, dance and hatha... Really helped me open up, and get to know my body. From there on I would explore all forms of yoga from Mokska, Bikram, Iyengar and Ashtanga.. my baby :) It all began while I was studying for my first set of Naturopathic board exams, NPLEX I. To get away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto, I moved to Edmonton for the summer, and there I became a diligent Ashtanga student. The regiment of studying for exams was incorporated with daily yoga. It helped me calm my mind, open my body and focus my thoughts. I was hooked, and have been ever since. I love the way my body feels after... like I have been massaged and stretched... the feeling of having just stepped out of the ocean!

Ashtanga means 8 limbs... it is a system of yoga founded by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures, always in the same order—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. Many people in yoga are very "cliquey" when it comes to which yoga is superior... especially in larger cities! My personal belief is do the one that makes you feel the best.
The fast pace makes me feel like its a work out... I love that adrenaline rush. It also aligns your body, strengthens muscles and sculpts your body (in three sessions I swear!). There is also a huge focus on the breath, as with many forms of yoga, but specifically the ujjayi breath, a form of breathing that is loud and elongates the inhalation and exhalation. I like this definition: The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out. For myself this breathing is the key, as I tend to be in my head alot... it forces me to come back into my body and stay grounded.

Over the years I have practiced ashtanga at home and taken classes at least 4 times a week, however I have to admit over the last couple months I have faltered. So throwing myself back into the yoga scene I searched for an Asthanga studio in Fort McMurray with no avail. Trying to be open minded I decided that any yoga was better than none... hence I signed up for Yoga that is offered in our clinic.

Today I took a class by Marie, our Holistic Nutritionalist. She is from Vancouver, and her yoga class was amazing! She teaches Hatha yoga (slower paced stretching class with some simple breathing exercises and perhaps seated meditation). I sometimes dread the slow pace, because my mind wanders too much, however I found her class challenging and enjoyable. Her energy and instruction allowed me to not just focus on my pose, but also focus my mind. Some of you may think Im promoting her because she is in my clinic, however any of you who know me know that I can be really picky when it comes to yoga. The environment, feel, energy and instruction all have to be "right"...for me :)

I always promote yoga in my practice, as it's a good way to center energy as well as strengthen the body. I used to have a really bad hip (from years of running and swimming), and I thought I would have issues for life. After a year of yoga all the pain went away... now I run with no pain at all! The unique thing about yoga is that it has the ability to strengthen and lengthen. Most people dont give credit to ligaments... the elastic fibers on either side of your muscle that is attached to bone. When you stretch for a short time you are probably stretching your muscle... however long stretches allow your ligaments to elongate... allowing you to appear slimmer, align your body (no body builder physique), and prevent injury (the more you stretch an elastic band the less likely it will break).

Other benefits of yoga
1. Reduces cortisol and releases stress.(preventing the muffin top, and psychotic mood swings!)
2. Increases immune system and white blood cells
3. Increases flexibility and range of motion (I was the most inflexible person... it took me a year to be able to touch my toes... now i can almost touch my nose to my thighs!)
4. Increased strength
5. Weight management
6. Cardiovascular conditioning: lower your resting heart rate therefore reducing high blood pressure and overall endurance.
7. Focus on the present: greater memory, concentration and reaction times.
8. Inner peace: also balances blocks in energy meridians which can lead to disease.

I encourage you to try different classes, see what suits you, and of course brings inner happiness :) Enjoy the journey!

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Beginnings....

Hello everyone... if it seems like I fell off the face of the earth, its because I am in Fort McMurray... lol! Ok, this joke may be lame... as I am known to do that once in a while. I am practicing in the northern part of Alberta... surrounded be evergreens, populars and bears :) Its an interesting city, full of people coming and going, a warm community with lots to offer. My new clinic is called Higher Health Massage and Acupuncture.

We are a wholistic clinic consisting of massage therapists, an acupuncturist, a holistic nutritionalist and myself, an ND. I am blessed to work with such amazing practitioners, in the most warm and caring environment, and to be serving the city of Fort McMurray. Thank you so much for following me, as I will be sure to share my journey here!