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Mending the Body with Moxa

There are a lot of funky words that Western communities have had to acquaint themselves with when it comes to alternative medicine and health: yoga, reiki, pilates, Ayurveda, feng shui. Here’s a word you might not be quite so familiar with: moxa. Associated with acupuncture, the buzz word is short for Moxibustion, a traditional Chinese practice that targets a range of ailments including digestive disorders, arthritic pain, and asthma.

The Chinese believed that the application of heat and even burning to targeted parts of the body can increase circulation and encourage restorative properties. In fact, some traditional moxa treatments actually entailed burning and blistering the skin at targeted points on the body. Don’t worry though- today, Western versions of the treatment will typically only involve warming the areas of the body to be treated. Instead of directly applying a flame or lit paper to the skin, modern moxa keeps heat close to the body without contact.

Moxa 101

Here’s how a moxa treatment session will typically go: rolled leaves of plants like mugwort, ginger and mulberry are crushed and either wrapped in paper like a cigarette, or densely packed to resemble a cigar. At Thrive Health, Dr. Heins uses the latter, avoiding potential for burning paper accidents. The “cigarette” is lit at one end and depending on the practitioner, the stick is either held above the body or carefully placed on the skin. Sometimes the moxa stick is rotated or tapped against the skin as well. At Thrive, our moxa treatments never touch the skin, but have the same intended soothing effect. Patients find moxa to be deeply relaxing.

Moxa is believed to soothe and improve a variety of ailments and health conditions. The healing powers of moxa are derived from its perceived ability to provide the body with the necessary balancing “yang” energy. This energy is believed to direct the body’s movement and temperature. Moxa can also be useful in treating a pregnant woman whose baby is presenting breech, and for helping to ease post-birth pelvic and lower back pain.

Heating Needle Moxa

In this alternative form of moxibustion therapy, dried mugwort is rolled and placed on the head of the acupuncture needle. The practitioner then lights the roll which burns slowly in an upright position while the needle stays inserted in the target point. The heat from the burning mugwort travels through the needle and deep into the muscles. This is effective for arthritic muscle and joint pain.

As with many alternative and Eastern therapies that have been adopted by different trained Western health professionals, treatments and procedures will vary slightly from practitioner to practitioner. The patient’s condition is the primary factor in determining which form of moxa will be most effective, so your practitioner will have to assess the best course of action for your individual case.

Moxa can be a wonderful way to soothe and restore a targeted area or muscle by returning an equilibrium in energies to the body. If you want to avoid synthetic, over-the-counter medications for pain relief, moxa is definitely worth a try.

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5 Reasons You Feel Lousy at Work

 

You’ve been there. You walk out of the office feeling as if you might not live to see another day. In spite of feeling fresh and energized when you started your day, you might notice that by the late afternoon you are exhausted, sluggish, sore or nauseous. You don’t skip meals, you try to get a good night’s sleep and you don’t smoke or drink excessively. So what gives?

Some of the most common cause-and-effect health factors could be to blame. You might not see the harm you’re doing to your wellbeing and energy levels with every day habits. See if any of these behaviours could be taking a toll on your health or mood during the weekdays.

#1. Caffeine crashes: If you’re overindulging in coffee as a way to stay awake and alert, you might wind up feeling tired and lethargic. When you consume caffeine, it stimulates your adrenal glands. Adrenalin produces the boost in energy that you experience after enjoying your coffee-likely first thing in the morning. The caffeine also causes a slight increase in dopamine levels. When these effects wear off however- usually right in the middle of your work day- you might notice a marked drop in your energy and mood.

#2. Low blood sugar: When you’re working a full day, even if you’re seated for most of it, you need to properly fuel your body.  Drops in your blood sugar could be making you feel tired, irritable, light-headed and unfocused. Try to remain very conscious of the nutritional quality of what you eat, and ensure that you get enough protein. You probably know by now that if you reach for something sugary as a pick-me-up, you won’t feel full for a sustained period of time. But beware- sugary doesn’t just mean candy. Take a hard look at your snacks- granola bars, juice cocktails, crackers and cereals can be very high in sugar. These simple carbohydrates won’t keep you full for long or provide you with any real nutritional value. Instead, opt for a high-impact snack that is low in sugar and contains protein and healthy fats. You might also try breaking up your munchies into several small meals throughout the day. This way you avoid the extremes of feeling drowsy or uncomfortably full after a large lunch, or experiencing a dip in your blood sugar mid-afternoon.

#3. Misunderstanding your sleep needs: Not everyone’s optimal night’s sleep is 8 hours. Many people require more, and others need less. Quality counts too. If you go to bed at 11 but keep the television on and drift in and out of consciousness for an hour, you aren’t benefiting in the same way as you would if you’d slept soundly for that same time period. Unplugging fully and getting the requisite number of z’s can be difficult, but when you make it a priority, you’ll notice the difference in your day.

#4. Poor ergonomics: Feeling stiff? Achy?  Tight? Make sure that your office furniture is properly adjusted for optimal ergonomics! By following a basic office ergonomics guide, you can help reduce strain to your upper and lower back, neck, hips and wrists. You may not notice discomfort right away with a poorly arranged set-up. Over time however, muscle strain from distortions in your body’s positioning combined with the effects of poor posture will take its toll. Spare yourself long-term damage to your alignment and avoid sore muscles by taking the time to adjust your desk and computer.

#5. Eye strain + immobility: Too much of a good thing just isn’t good. No matter how focused you are on your projects, or how attentive you remain to your inbox, it’s always a wise idea to give your eyes a rest and your legs a stretch. Make sure your screen is about an arm’s length from your face, and adjust your screen brightness settings so that you aren’t squinting. Ensure your work environment is properly lit, and try to look up and away from the screen about every 20 minutes, even if it’s just for 15 seconds. Every hour you should aim to stand and stretch your legs. Take a walk to the washroom or water fountain to improve circulation, or stand and stretch for 30 seconds to loosen your muscles.

These practices have the potential to grow into habit. Implementing these manageable changes to your daily practices on the job can drastically improve the way you feel at the end of the day. When you leave work still feeling healthy and energized, you’re far more likely to have a productive evening. With the momentum to make a home-cooked meal, hit the gym, or tackle a household project, you’ll keep your energy flow up, your metabolism humming, and your body happy right until bedtime.

So think about your habits and empower yourself with small changes. We guarantee you’ll feel better for it!

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From Breech to Birth: The Webster Technique

We’ve discussed a few of the ways that chiropractic care can benefit an expectant mother.  Many women intuitively think of back pain relief when they hear the words “pre-natal” and “chiropractic,” but we know chiropractic adjustments to have other benefits for pregnant women than soothing a sore back.

One of these beneficial treatments is called the Webster Technique, an adjustment specifically designed and developed to help remove intra-uterine constraint. If your baby is not properly positioned to be birthed head-first, delivery can be longer, more taxing, and require additional invasive medical intervention. This technique is designed to remove constraint in the pelvis to free up space for the baby to move into a better position.  Often, the result of removing this tension is that a baby that is improperly positioned will turn to make delivery less difficult.

…So Who’s Webster?

The Webster Technique is named for its founder Dr. Larry Webster who witnessed his daughter experience a very difficult delivery as the result of her baby presenting breech. The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) provides a detailed history of Dr. Webster’s experience and the events that led him to develop this technique. During the early stages of his daughter’s labour, Dr. Webster was able to keep performing chiropractic adjustments for her, but eventually hospital staff put a stop to this as the labour intensified and progressed. His birth of his grandchild was long and arduous. After this experience, Dr. Webster was eager to develop an adjustment specifically for pregnant women to help facilitate easier births by reducing the complications and difficulty involved when the baby presents as breech.

So the Webster Technique came into creation as Dr. Webster began caring for another pregnant mother whose baby needed help positioning for birth. After practicing his chiropractic adjustment on her for several weeks, the baby turned vertex and was delivered successfully.

Dr. Webster’s technique was formally implemented by the ICPA in 2000. Today, this technique, which is formally called the “Webster In-Utero Constraint Technique,” is widely used by chiropractors on pregnant patients. Its goal is to improve misalignments of the sacrum, the triangular bone at the very base of your back (kind of behind your pelvis).

But how will it help to re-position my baby?

Sacral subluxations are thought to be an underlying cause of difficult labours. In fact the Webster Technique’s effectiveness is based on the connection between sacral subluxations and factors contributing to “dystocia,” or difficult childbirths: things like ineffective pelvic contractions, poor uterine health, and the improper positioning of the baby. When your pelvic bones are misaligned, it can result in the twisting and tightening of your entire pelvic region. This is what prevents your baby from transitioning into the optimal position for birth, and those unyielding muscles also make labour and delivery more difficult.

The way to open your body for birth is to align it properly. Regular adjustments and use of the Webster’s Technique can help to optimize your pelvic position and supporting ligaments and muscles for giving birth vaginally, and allows baby to find the best position possible.

The first step is of course a personalized assessment with a chiropractor, who can tell you more about your body’s alignment, and how it might be better adjusted to optimize childbirth. Depending on the presence of any other pregnancy symptoms you might be experiencing , your chiropractor can also recommend other treatments to combine with the Webster Technique to further reduce nerve pressure and muscle pain.

If you’re a soon-to-be mom, your delivery is a momentous and exciting event! While childbirth is never predictable, the entire process can feel more stressful if your baby is presenting breech.  If you’d like to chat about The Webster Technique or any other pregnancy-related adjustments, don’t forget that Dr. Wise has ICPA training to care for women during pregnancy with gentle, targeted techniques. Plus she loves to meet new moms! Make an appointment to meet her today.

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A Guide to Naturopathic Practitioner Principles

Seeking alternative health therapies and treatments can be a leap of faith for some new patients. If you’re unversed in naturopathic medicine and holistic healing, you might be hesitant about your first encounter. Before you make an appointment, it’s important to clarify about Naturopathic philosophy to help you better understand what  Naturopathic Doctors do!

Since patient-practitioner relationships in naturopathic medicine are built on trust and connection, it’s important to have a better understanding of who we are and what some of our beliefs are, rather than simply the treatments we offer. Hopefully these will translate into some serious considerations in favour of consulting a naturopathic team, but more importantly it will help you conceptualize naturopathic philosophy.

Make yourself at home at Thrive Health!

We’re warm, friendly, and family-oriented.  Our commitment to organic, holistic and nature is all-encompassing, and extends to the atmosphere we create in our office. That means that when you walk into our clinic you should feel comfortable and at home. Your kids too!

We really want to get to know you. Before we treat you, we need some details –and we love the process of getting acquainted with patients! In addition to telling us the usual health history, we like to know about your lifestyle, work, diet and even things like your home life if you are comfortable to share. We want to know about your concerns and questions too- we’re here to learn about you as a person, not a patient.

We want to treat the problem, not just the symptoms. While we do have treatment options that help reduce discomfort and pain, we’re most interested in finding the underlying or root cause of whatever is ailing you or your child. Also critical to naturopathic philosophy is helping teach you about improving your health rather than simply diagnose. This way we build on your everyday health and long-term healing rather than simply short term treatments. Which brings us to our next principle…

We don’t just want to get you healthy; we want to keep you healthy! Naturopathic medicine is as much about prevention as it is about treatment. In fact, we believe that prevention is a powerful “drug” for many of the acute conditions and ailments that patients commonly suffer from. We’ll help you to improve your entire lifestyle to optimize your present and future health. We invest in our patients and look out for their psychological and physical wellbeing.

We (like you) try and avoid pain, side effects, invasiveness, and chemicals! It’s our goal to treat you gently, naturally and effectively. We understand that you want to minimize risk to your health, the health of your children, or the health of your unborn baby. We take these objectives seriously. Know that you’re in good hands and that treatment doesn’t have to be unpleasant; it can in fact be soothing and relaxing.

Naturopathic medicine and alternative therapies can provide you with a very unique brand of care. It’s particularly useful to examine these options if you’re in a position where traditional medicine isn’t working for you. For example if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to conceive, or looking to treat an infant or young child, you’ll likely want to avoid synthetic medicines and invasive practices. We can help you find the natural alternatives that will work best for you and your family.

Naturopathic care is also a great way to facilitate and support a journey to better health for those who experience ailments and discomfort that has lasted a long time but remained undiagnosed or  unchanged. If you’ve long suffered from fatigue, aches, pains or digestive distress and you’re tired of it, a naturopathic team will help you to start identifying the problem. Even if you are sticking to a more traditional medical treatment plan for a specific condition, naturopathic care can be an effective way to supplement your other remedies and therapies.

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Managing Pain with Reiki

Reiki offers a natural alternative to over-the-counter and prescription pain management drugs.

With so many pain management therapies and drugs available, it can be difficult to determine a natural and gentle course of action. For those who suffer from chronic pain, often an alternative approach gives you a secondary, substitute or supplementary treatment option.

Yes but what is this “reiki”?

You might be unfamiliar with reiki since its introduction in Western alternative medicine is relatively recent. It is in fact an ancient Japanese practice based on a belief in the transfer of healing energy from practitioner to patient. During a session, the reiki practitioner will relax your muscles and open energy channels within the body. This is done either through direct touch, or by having the practitioner hold his or her hand just above the targeted area. Once restorative energies have been passed from the healer to the site of pain, patients will typically feel a reduction in stress, pain and fatigue.

Connecting the internal to the physical

Reiki is meant to soothe and repair both physically and mentally. There is an undeniable connection between a person’s anxiety levels and his or her ability to cope with pain. Reiki is meant to improve this coping capability by restoring productive energy. It is therefore not a cure for whatever ailment causes the pain, but has been an effective and soothing treatment for many patients.

One obvious benefit of reiki is its gentleness. For patients who cannot endure skin-to-skin contact, or for those who have been instructed to avoid any contact or rubbing, reiki is a comfortable and suitable choice. Additionally, it carries virtually no risk of adverse or side effects.

 

At Thrive Health we’re fortunate to have a very warm, skilled and compassion reiki practitioner in Monica Daoust. If you’re interested in learning more about the practice, you can expect a comfortable and rewarding introduction to reiki under her care. Click here to learn more about Monica, or book an appointment with her to continue your discovery of reiki!

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Child CPR Workshop: January 26

If you had only 60 seconds to save a child’s life, could you?

A non-breathing or choking person can die in one minute. That’s about the time it will take you to read this blog post.

Please arm yourself with the necessary training to protect your loved ones and little ones. We’re hosting another Child CPR workshop on Saturday January 26 at Thrive Health. We’d love to see you there!

Child CPR Workshop
Saturday January 26, 2013
10:00am – 1:00pm
Thrive Natural Family Health
110 Eglinton Ave. E, Suite 502
Toronto ON

In this invaluable and interactive workshop with 2HEALTH First Aid you’ll learn:

> Why you need to rescue in 60 seconds or less
> When to call 911/EMS
> Why CPR is needed and how to do it
> How to rescue a choking baby or child
> Day-to-day injury prevention

The session will also include plenty of hands-on practice on both your partner and mannequins. We’ll discuss First Aid Kit must-haves and go through detailed examples of first aid situations and how to deal with them.

It’s not our goal to scare you- it’s our goal to help you feel empowered knowing that you’ve done everything you can to learn potentially life-saving skills. Thrive Health and 2HEALTH First Aid are here to help, to teach, and to field any questions you can think of. We want you to feel confident in your new-found knowledge when you leave this course.
We still have room available and would love to see you there!
Please call us to register at  (647) 352-7911.

 

 

 

Thrive Natural Family Health
110 Eglinton Ave. E, Suite 502
Toronto ON

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Time to Butt Out: Kicking Cigarettes the Naturopathic Way

Even non-smokers can appreciate how difficult it is to treat and effectively end an addiction to nicotine.

Quitting smoking is a challenging process that is often interrupted or abandoned mid-way. When we talk about quitting, it’s common to first think of nicotine-weaning remedies like the patch as the best or only means of kicking the craving one step at a time.

Naturopathic medicine can offer a wealth of effective options for people trying to quit smoking. Even patients who are using other over-the-counter remedies can benefit significantly from supplementing their treatment with naturopathic means.

A combined approach is just plain smart, after all. Since quitting smoking usually marks a person’s commitment to ongoing health, it makes sense to make additional positive lifestyle changes at the same time. This will not only facilitate the quitting and healing process, but will also set a new precedent for taking care of one’s body.

A consultation with your naturopathic doctor can help you clarify an individualized course of action that will work best for you. Often we use a combination of botanical medicine, acupuncture and nutritional counselling. Sometimes patients benefit from psychotherapy as well, to help them understand why they smoke, and to offer the necessary emotional support during the quitting process.

Lobelia has a number of therapeutic uses, including the suppression of nicotine cravings.

Certain herbs like lobelia and avena sativa can help to suppress nicotine cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. In addition to prescribing these, your naturopath will likely recommend some dietary changes. If you’re quitting smoking, you should support your body in every way possible, which means that nutrient-dense meals are essential. It’s critical that you avoid skipping meals or skimping on your diet; behaviours that can trigger intense cravings for a cigarette. Many people say they smoke to suppress appetite, so quitting means properly addressing your body’s actual nutritional needs. Planned snacking, chewing sugar-free gum and drinking plenty of water are great ways to break the habit of reaching for a cigarette. This keeps your hands and mouth busy during the initial stages of quitting when you might feel jittery and fidgety to the point of distraction.

Acupuncture has also proven effective for many patients quitting smoking, and is used as a way to minimize cravings and restlessness. Thin acupuncture needles target various points in the body and specifically the ears, which are believed to trigger and channel the cravings. You can also enhance your treatment with massage therapy –a great way to relax yourself and refocus your mind.

A final consideration? Establishing a relationship with a naturopathic doctor or team can help to keep you accountable. The combined approach gives you both physical and emotional support, so that you have all your bases covered, so to speak, as you start the process of quitting.

If you’re going to quit, do it right! Take a completely inclusive approach to recovery. Since smoking often has much to do with appetite, emotion, stress and habit, all of these considerations should be factored into your treatment.

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Can You Massage Your Way to a Better Mood?

Often massage is seen as a luxury; an indulgence. It’s regarded as something purely enjoyable, rather than necessary or beneficial to one’s health. Understandably, many of us feel we don’t have the time or resources to prioritize something like massage. It’s therefore reserved for vacations and other special occasions, which contributes to the general association of massage therapy with relaxation and luxury.

Too often people forget that massage therapy is just that: a therapy!

In truth, massage offers a number of benefits, not only physical. In addition to being a wonderful way to improve circulation and combat stress, massage therapy is also an effective treatment for a variety of mood disorders. These include:

Seasonal affective disorder
Post-partum depression
Depression related to hormonal changes
Depression due to a traumatic event
Anxiety and stress

It’s important to note that massage is not a cure for depression, but for many patients it is a viable treatment for associated symptoms. A lack of the neurotransmitter serotonin is a key indicator of depression. Serotonin functions to transmit messages from your nerves to your brain, and to help you experience positive feelings. Massage is known to release serotonin and other “feel-good” endorphins. Simultaneously, massage helps to suppress certain stress hormones. That’s why you often walk come away from a massage feeling like you not only a happier back or neck, but a lighter heart!

In addition to these neurological results, we know that massage helps soothe muscles. It’s a great way to feel a significant reduction in physical tension, which in turn reduces how tense YOU feel! Massage relaxes you, which helps you to feel calmer and more comfortable.

We know that stress can cause a whole host of other damaging behaviours, including a poor diet, inadequate sleep, and repetitive clenching and stiffening of your muscles. It can negatively affect your relationships and performance at work. That’s why therapies that improve your mental and physical health offer a truly holistic chance at betterment.

So why not change the way you view massage? You don’t have to wait for a special occasion – or an opportunity to “treat” yourself – to begin experiencing its rewards. Consider it as a treatment option if you suffer from a mood disorder, or as an investment to improve your physical health. Make an appointment to meet our RMT Shelley Dukharan, who brings over 3 years’ experience to her massage therapy practice at Thrive Health.

You might find that massage becomes an integral part of your routine for optimal wellness!

 

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Chiropractic and the Expectant Mommy

Sore back? Aching knees? Pelvic pain? Chiropractic can help!

We recently came across a fantastic article from Birth Without Fear about why chiropractic is so helpful to women for enjoying an optimal pregnancy and birth. This post makes the important suggestion that women should never feel like they are out of options when suffering from intense pregnancy symptoms. Although certain physical effects of pregnancy are to be expected and tolerated, their severity and frequency can certainly be soothed and managed with the aid of chiropractic.

We appreciated the detail with which Birth Without Fear explained how specific muscle tensions and subluxations can produce negative outcomes and hindrances during pregnancy and birth. Some of the targeted problems for adjustment that were mentioned include:

1. Body imbalances that can produce a misaligned pelvis. Certain subluxations can cause your thoracic spine and lumbar spine to bend in opposite directions. As a result, one side of the pelvis can be raised, which can cause problems when your baby tries to re-position for birth. And, as with many imbalances, an uneven pelvis will cause a pregnant woman to unevenly distribute her weight to different joints and muscles. This can make those pregnancy aches and pains much more aggravated than they would be otherwise.

2. Nerve tension that causes inflammation and stress. When the muscles surrounding your spine get tighter, more stress is put on the nerves along the spinal column. These are important nerves; they exit the spine and lead to many critical organs and glands. If these nerves experience sustained tension and pressure, the stress could potentially lead to degeneration of these other vital body parts.

3. Thoracic, lumbar and sacral nerve pressure that decreases blood flow. When there is excess pressure exerted on your nerves, it can limit blood flow to the kidneys, liver and other vital organs. The article stresses the dangers of compromising the functioning of these organs. One possible result is the leaking of protein into the urine, which is a sign of preeclampsia. Undue pressure can also tighten your uterus, making it difficult to effectively labour and dilate.

Thanks to Birth Without Fear, for this enlightening article that does the important work of detailing why it’s so important to have a chiropractic assessment during pregnancy. Many pregnant women want to do all they can to ensure they have a healthy pregnancy and a delivery that doesn’t stray too far from their birth plan. While some elements of childbirth are certainly unpredictable, one component you can control is the care you give yourself leading up to your due date.

Expectant mothers consider chiropractic and massage as ways to relieve their immediate physical distress such as back pain and poor circulation. They may not know about the many other important benefits of undergoing an adjustment, and the link between chiropractic and an effective, healthy delivery. This connection is very important to us at Thrive Health, as we specialize in young family care. Our resident chiropractor Dr. Jennifer Wise is experienced and uniquely trained through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association to care for women during pregnancy with gentle and specifically tailored chiropractic care.

If you’re expecting, drop in and see what we can do to improve your pre-natal health and comfort. We’d love to meet you!

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Introducing Solid Foods

A recent blog post from ‘An Avocado A Day’ provided a useful starting point for when and how to introduce your baby to solid foods. We liked the author’s mention of how surprisingly emotional the experience of weaning and starting solids was.

A lot of people don’t acknowledge that this can be a sentimental and sometimes emotionally difficult time for moms. Breastfeeding creates a unique bond between mother and child, and while the introduction of solid foods doesn’t mean an end to breastfeeding, it’s an important step in your baby’s development: one that should be treated with care.

Moms who are ready to start introducing solids will benefit from detailed research, a consultation with a doctor or dietician, or joining a group workshop, like the one we hosted in September.

It’s always a good idea to find intelligent articles online however, as a means of doing your preliminary research. This one included some helpful tips that mothers may not be aware of.

Iron is important: When your baby reaches 6 months, you may not realize that her need for iron increases. Start with:

  • Root vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, squash and beets
  • Fruit: pear, avocado and ripe banana

Food sensitivities have many symptoms: Pick one food at a time every four days, and keep an eye out for reactions. This doesn’t necessarily just mean the ready associations we might have with food allergies, like hives or trouble breathing. Look for altered behaviours, shifts in sleep patterns, visible symptoms like rashes or dark circles under the eyes, and changes in bowel movements.

Be patient: Don’t be upset if your baby’s first reaction is to play with her food or throw it right on the floor. Like breast-feeding, this is a way to bond with your child and prepare them for the many meals you’ll share together. Have fun!

Like adults, babies have individual digestive systems. That means that what works for one baby might not be ideal for another. If you haven’t yet consulted with a trusted source, book an appointment for a naturopathic consultation. It’s an easy way to put your mind at ease and gain some valuable insights into food introduction that are accurately and insightfully tailored for your baby’s individual digestive system. Remember that if it’s a stressful process for Mom, it’s going to be stressful for Baby.

If solid foods are on the horizon for you and your baby, keep an eye out on the Thrive Health events page. We typically host food introduction workshops every few months.

With the right approach, introducing solids is an exciting developmental phase as your baby grows. It’s neat to discover what your child likes and dislikes, and you’ll find that new forms of bonding and routine come from sharing meals together face-to-face.

Bon appetit!

 

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