By Dr. Kristin Heins
I came across an article on the Mayo Clinic website (www.mayoclinic.org) on stress management around the holidays and really liked it. It may be especially helpful during the hectic and emotion-filled holiday season; but, is also a useful life approach to stress management. Most of us know that stress and feeling overwhelmed does not limit itself to holidays!! When stress is at it’s peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. The feeling is often one of overwhelm vs. support. Below are ten ways to try and shift the balance back to a more supportive experience:
1. Acknowledge your feelings: If historical or present day loss and sadness exist, accept that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings.
2. Reach out: If you feel lonely or isolated – seek out community, faith-based or other social events as they can offer support and companionship. Volunteering may also lift your spirits and broaden friendships.
3. Be realistic: The holidays may not (likely won’t) be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if adult-children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, videos, skyping.
4. Set aside differences: Set aside familial grievances during gatherings until a more appropriate time for discussion. Try and find understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry – chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress just like you may be.
5. Stick to a budget: Before you shop, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Ways to manage budgets:
- Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
- Give homemade gifts.
- Start a family gift exchange
6. Plan ahead: Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. Ask for support for party prep and cleanup.
7. Setting Limits: Saying yes when you want to say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. If you can’t participate in a project or activity, try and be clear about which ones you can say no to and take that time for other activities like rest and self -care.
8. Keep healthy habits:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day as it helps with both physical and emotional wellbeing.
9. Take a breather: Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slows your breathing and restores inner calm.
10. Seek professional help if you need it: Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, seek help from a professional.
I hope that this helps make the holidays more enjoyable for you and yours. Happy Holidays!
By Dr. Kristin Heins
Heather Rhodes wrote a useful article on her website “Gardening Know How” that I thought would be worth sharing. It contained a few great recipes to allow you to make natural pesticides for plants that may be under attack by bugs this summer. Organic garden pest control is a popular topic since as consumers we are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of exposing ourselves and the earth to the least toxic materials possible. Natural home pesticides are not only easy to make, they are cheaper and safer than many products you can buy on store shelves. Remember that there are benefits to many of the little critters in your garden and you always want to be sure the damage a bug may be causing is worth using the pesticide for.
Rhoades points out in her article that garden pests are repelled or killed by a surprising number of safe and natural products. Here are a few natural insect repellent recipes she includes on her site:
Garden Pest Control Recipe #1
1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon dish soap (Note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)
2 tablespoons mineral or vegetable oil
2 cups water
- Peel the garlic cloves and puree the cloves along with the oil and water. Allow to sit over night and then strain the mixture. Add the soap and mix thoroughly. Pour into a spray bottle and use on pest infected plants.
Organic Garden Pest Control Recipe #2
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons baking soda
By Dr. Kristin Heins
1 teaspoon dish soap or Murphy Oil (Note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)
2 quart of water
- Combine ingredients and pour into a spray bottle. Use this organic bug spray on your affected plants.
BEFORE USING ANY HOMEMADE MIX: It should be noted that anytime you use a home mix, you should always test it out on a small portion of the plant first to make sure that it will not harm the plant. Also, avoid using any bleach-based soaps or detergents on plants since this can be harmful to them. In addition, it is important that a home mixture never be applied to any plant on a hot or bright sunny day, as this will quickly lead to burning of the plant.
I read an interesting article recently about beating the winter blues. I was then reminded the next day, when a boost of sunshine elevated my spirits in a noticeable way, that “winter blues” is a catch phrase for a spectrum of mood related changes that affect many of us in winter months. As a naturopath, I work with patients to physiologically support their neuroendocrine (the complex interplay between our brain and hormones) system. Now as a psychotherapy student under supervision, I look at the social and psychological implications of these mood changes. Both these options would be ideal for someone who is feeling that the quality of their life is being notably impacted by the change of season.
For others who may feel “winter blues” to a lesser extent – I have listed a few lifestyle ideas to help increase the pep in your step until our longer days and warmer temperatures fill our spirits once again.
- Brighten your environment: using a light box / SAD lamp for 30 minutes a day has shown to be highly affected in some studies on SAD ( a clinical diagnosis of seasonally related depressive symptoms). Sit close to Windows and draw open curtains when possible.
- Eat for Mood: speaking to a naturopath or nutritionist to help support mood through diet can be a great support. Simple carbohydrates like sugar can provide short term boosts but longer term patterns of mood instability. Alternatively increasing proteins and in particular tryptophan and tyrosine containing foods can help boost mood.
- Exercise: A 2005 study by Harvard university suggests fast walking 35 minutes daily 5 days a week to improve mild to moderate depressive symptoms. Exercising under brighter light may also improve general mental health and social functioning according to a preliminary study on exercise and mental health.
- Get Outside: Being outside and in nature when possible can help improve focus and lower stress levels. So add a layer and bundle up!
- Get Involved: Social isolation in cold winter months can add to poor sense of wellbeing. Make social arrangements or find volunteer or charity groups to be involved with as a way to boost spirits and outlook.
If you would like individualized support please email firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.thrivehealth.ca
By Dr. Kristin Heins, ND
Working as a Naturopathic Doctor, I view mental health as a natural and necessary part of holistic health care. With this philosophy I began, almost ten years ago, seeking to obtain a skill set to speak with patients about their emotions and mental health.
Now, many years later and in my fourth year of the full five year programme, I am able to see clients as part of the supervised practice portion of my training as a psychotherapist. Here is a little taste of the Gestalt approach to give a clearer understanding of what it is and how it may be helpful for you.
- What is The Gestalt Approach to Psychotherapy?
Gestalt focuses on meeting clients where they are at in the moment and providing support to their experience. At our core, humans are dynamic and adaptive beings always attempting survival. Gestalt refers to this as “creative adaptation”. Sometimes, however, the way we adapt isn’t helpful in all circumstances. We may experience feeling “stuck” or at an impasse. The therapy session is intended as a safe place to both identify these patterns of adjustment and explore alternate ways of adapting. This is an experiential form of psychotherapy, which may include using exercises to help foster new awareness, understanding and techniques for self support.
Please contact the clinic if you would like to learn more or determine if working together is the right fit for you.
As school starts back up, many families start to anticipate, or fear, cold and flu season. Yikes! Naturopathic treatment for colds and the flu can help reduce symptoms and shorten illness time; but, an even better approach for the fall is prevention. Take active steps to boost your family’s immunity and reduce exposure to the germs that get you and your little one(s) sick in the first place.
The body’s immune system works to ward off and kill germs that we are exposed to. Children are more vulnerable to sickness because they are still ‘growing’ an immune system…and because they touch everything!! In order for an immune system to function optimally, it requires adequate nutrients, proper rest and balanced exercise. While these principles may seem basic, they can be tricky to implement regularly in a busy household. Below are some specific strategies to help you maximize your children’s health. Apply them to yourself and double the benefits.
- Keep a routine bedtime that ensures your child stays well rested through the winter. White blood cells (the guys that fight germs) multiply most while we sleep.
- Enroll children in lessons or make time as a family to engage in activities through the fall and winter – be it swimming, skating, skiing or sledding.
- Increase protein, vitamin C and zinc in your family’s diet as they are all required for optimal immune system function.
- Reduce germ exposure through regular hand washing and proper nasal rinsing. Sound strange? If we breathe in germs and they grow and multiply, in part, in our nasal passages, cleaning them out regularly also flushes out the germs. Infant and child nasal rinsing products are easily available through health and drug stores and are best used in the evening
A juicy burger. Salty fries. A cold, sugary soda.
Have we sparked a craving? Food cravings are unfortunate road blocks in many people’s diet plans. While some cravings are circumstantial and easier to resist (like salivating at the smell of a bakery) others can be persistent, frequent and much more physical by nature (like craving a cup of coffee in the morning). For those who eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, cravings should be minimal and controllable, but of course this isn’t always the case. Here are a few common cravings, what they mean for your body, and how you can deal with them.
Your body requires a very small amount of salt each day. As an electrolyte that helps your body maintain regular, consistent fluid levels, salt is an important ingredient in your biological balance and health. Often we crave salty snacks, or foods that have an exorbitant sodium content that we may not even be aware of (check your canned soups as an example!)
Why do we crave it? Cravings for salt are often the result of your body’s conditioning. A high-sodium diet makes your body accustomed to lots of salt. When you try to cut back, your body reminds you. Excessive perspiration and dehydration can also trigger salt cravings, since our bodies lose sodium and other minerals when we sweat. It is also possible that salt cravings can be an indicator of more severe consitions associated with our endocrine / hormonal system so make sure to speak with a Health Care Professional if symptoms are unexplained or persistant.
How to manage the craving: Drink an electrolyte beverage after heavy exercise. Learning about proper endurance exercise hydration and electrolyte protocols are helpful for routine exercise. If your salt craving isn’t related to sweat, try something crunchy and flavourful like seasoned rice crackers, a small handful of nuts, an algae product or dill pickle. Follow up your snack with a big glass of water.
Sugar is another ingredient that hides in many foods and habits. Minimizing your sugar intake isn’t just about avoiding sweets like pastries and candy. It means being mindful of the sugar content in everything that you eat-from granola to peanut butter to juice.
Why do we crave it? When we consume a lot of sugar it causes a spike in blood glucose levels. You’ve likely experienced this- you eat something sweet and immediately feel good. Your energy rises and peaks and you may even feel happier. But shortly afterwards, your blood sugar dips again. This is the unfortunate reality of refined sugar; it sends your body on a roller coaster. When your blood sugar drops, your brain starts thinking it needs more refined sugar. Your craving returns. The cycle continues.
How to manage the craving: Read your labels! Avoid products that have sugar added. Choose natural sweeteners like stevia or a touch of honey. You may also try satisfying cravings for sweetness with flavours. Add a pinch of cinnamon to your coffee instead of a sweetening agent. Use vanilla or nutmeg in oatmeal instead of brown sugar. And if you need a sweet fix, choose a tasty fruit like strawberries or watermelon. Remember to always balance out sweet fixes, even healthy ones, with some protein or healthy fat. This helps keep your blood sugar more stable and avoid the rollercoaster effect.
For you coffee-addicts, you may find that your caffeine intake requires much more willpower to control than those cravings for sugar and salt. In truth, a single caffeinated drink triggers a significant reaction in your body, producing for many people a “rollercoaster effect” similar to that of sugar.
Why do we crave it? Caffeine triggers neural activity that stimulates the release of hormones. These stimulate your adrenal glands to produce that burst of energy you might experience after a dose of caffeine. When the “high” ends however, you may experience lethargy, restlessness, and an inability to concentrate. It’s a combination of taste and effect that brings most of us back to caffeinated beverages on a regular basis. With enough consumption however, your body will reach a state of adrenal exhaustion. It will require more caffeine to reproduce that desired high.
How to manage the craving: Ensure that you are getting enough sleep so that you aren’t depending on caffeine as a major source of energy. Try alternatives like herbal tea and natural coffee alternatives such as chicory. Any caffeinated beverage should be taken in moderation, to avoid putting your body through the unnecessary stress responses that caffeine can produce. Speaking to a Naturopath is a good way to identify if your adrenal glands need support and the best way to use herbs and lifestyle modification to help get your energy levels back up…sans caffeine!
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.
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.
UBC blogger Thea Treahy-Geofreda poses a good question in her article about the little-known benefits of chiropractic for overall health. The truth is most people don’t make any association between chiropractic and common acute conditions like a head cold. Most will only connect chiropractic with things like back pain.
One of the best parts of this article is the extended analogy the author uses to explain the preventative health benefits of chiropractic for total-body health. She encourages readers to think of the human body as a car that needs a functioning control system. This system sends information to all of the vehicle’s separate components –everything from the engine to the high beams.
How’s your engine running?
If one of those connections were to come loose, sure your car would still function, but it wouldn’t be operating at 100 percent effectiveness. The same thing is true for your body, whose control system is the central nervous system. In order enjoy optimal health, your central nervous system must be free of interference and maladjustments. When we’re below optimal health, our systems are more likely to be infiltrated with the cold virus.
Before you end up reaching for those cold meds that knock you out, optimize your health. Check your spine alignment, go for regular adjustments, eat properly, and take measures to reduce stress. The article does a great job of advocating these natural techniques for overall health. Preventative care in the form of therapies like massage, medication and chiropractic adjustments make you feel and function better. In addition to improving posture, sleep and relaxation, these therapies keep your system running at its best, and boost your immune system too.
Taking a defensive approach to health is smart, natural, non-invasive and effective, so give yourself a tune-up at every opportunity!
Conceiving and giving birth are natural processes, but we all know that unpredictable challenges can make them feel stressful and difficult rather than intuitive. That’s why added support in the form of naturopathic or chiropractic therapy can help you on the path to starting your family.
Being in tune with your body is one of the most important elements in a successful conception. This goes beyond knowing where you’re at in your menstrual cycle though. Everything from your diet to your stress levels to the function of your central nervous system can have an effect on your reproductive system.
Adjust Yourself Properly
Stress is inevitable. When it becomes overwhelming however, it can delay pregnancy and affect your reproductive cycle. Chiropractic adjustments help to optimize your central nervous system, which is a key player in regulating stress responses in your body.
Patients don’t just benefit physically from natural health treatments; they also benefit emotionally from being able to bring questions and concerns to a trusted and informed environment. Conception and pregnancy are critical times for forging new relationships with mentors, trusted friends, family, and health practitioners. From the moment you start trying to conceive, you should be building your support network.
The Fertility Formula
Although conceiving has much to do with planning, preparation and timing, there is no exact formula to determine when you’ll be successful. For some couples, this is frustrating and a little scary if you’re anxious to get pregnant. Knowing that you’re taking every measure available to you to optimize your chances can help to lessen your worries. So what exactly can a naturopath do for you? She’ll start with an analysis of your hormone levels and immune function, and do an evaluation of your current diet and lifestyle. These factors will be useful for creating a personalized plan for your health during conception.
Many natural approaches to fertility have facilitated successful conception. Botanical medicine, acupuncture and dietary strategies can all help to regulate your hormone cycles. If you’re already involved in a medically assisted fertility treatment, these factors are still extremely important.
Bottom line: Baby-making should be fun! It’s our goal to help you feel confident and healthy as you embark on what is an exciting time in your relationship. And the support doesn’t end when you’re pregnant- That’s when you’ll want to optimize your diet, immune system and chiropractic health more than ever. There’s lots that we can do to facilitate a healthy pregnancy. We’ll continue to tailor your diet to address morning sickness, deficiencies and your new nutritional needs.
We love to follow families through different stages: from conception to pregnancy to new family-hood. It’s our goal to help keep your health optimized as a woman, an expectant mom, and as a young family!