Healthy Planet

Menstrual Cramping: Diagnosis and Treatment

Menstrual Cramps
Is period pain common? Yes. Is it normalized? Yes. Is it normal? No! The medical term for menstrual pain is dysmenorrhea. It’s the most common menstrual cycle complaint. Most of the time, it shows up as lower abdominal pain in the form of cramping, throbbing, and aching; it starts up a few days before your period or once flow has begun. It can also show up as lower back pain, upper-leg heaviness or numbness, nausea, heavy bleeding, headaches, and fatigue. Menstrual pain tends to be worse on the heaviest days of flow (usually the first and second days of a period), and it can show up for a few hours or even stick around for a few days. lining of the uterus, the endometrium, is shed. This shedding occurs thanks to a coordinated hormonal and inflammatory response. The inflammatory process brings more blood cells and fluid to the endometrium and involves immune compounds called prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Menstruators with period pain tend to have more of these compounds in their flow, so we think that’s part of the story. But, like most stories, there are plot twists. There doesn’t seem to be a singular cause for period pain, and contributing factors can include family history, age at menarche (first period ever), nutritional deficiencies, and heavy menstrual flow. Then, we have to account for the possibility of an underlying condition or structural issue. Dysmenorrhea can be categorized into “primary” and “secondary” types. Primary dysmenorrhea is period pain that does not have an underlying pathology that’s causing the pain. This kind is more common if you’ve recently started menstruating, and it’s related more to an exaggerated inflammatory response. Secondary dysmenorrhea is period pain caused by an underlying structural issue or medical condition like endometriosis, infections, fibroids, or cysts. These conditions can be present in the early menstruating years, but they are more likely to develop later. Diagnosis Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of tests to pinpoint the cause of an individual person’s period pain. Not just that, but the normalization of cramping is so deep-seated that many healthcare providers don’t even blink when menstruators share their experiences. So, the onus falls on the patient to really advocate for themselves and describe their pain effectively to their practitioners. Tracking your pain is extremely helpful here, so I’ve come up with some questions that you can answer and take to your healthcare provider: » Where is the pain? » When does it start and end?  » What’s the severity (rate it on a scale from 0–10)?  » Are there any other symptoms?  » What do you do to manage it (painkillers, heating pad, tea, etc.)?  » What makes it better/worse?  » How does it impact your quality of life? Imaging (ultrasound) and a manual exam are good places to start to identify if there are any growths or structural issues. Sometimes, these tests may yield no diagnosis. This could mean that it’s primary dysmenorrhea; however, it could also be indicative of endometriosis, especially if your pain is not responsive to painkillers, is associated with painful penetrative intercourse or bowel movements, or if you also have unexplained infertility. Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition in which tissue that looks like your endometrium grows outside of the uterus—sometimes around the ovaries, bladder, and rectum. It’s a sneaky condition that can evade ultrasound technology. Laparoscopy (a minimally-invasive keyhole surgery) is the gold standard for diagnosis . . . but it’s a challenge to get that done in Ontario. Getting a referral to a gynecologist can be helpful here. Gynecologists are specialists in reproductive health that are more familiar with endometriosis (and other reproductive tract conditions). They can help expedite diagnosis and are more up-to-date with treatment options as well.  “The birth control pill and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are also used for period pain and heavy flow, but they can come with a bunch of adverse side effects.” There can be an element of pelvic floor dysfunction in period pain. The pelvic floor refers to the muscles in the pelvis to which the uterus, bladder, and rectum are tethered. When these muscles aren’t working together as they should, it can lead to pelvic pain. A pelvic physiotherapist is super helpful here. Treatment Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, mefenamic acid, and naproxen, are the most conventional options for treating menstrual cramps. These drugs target those inflammatory mediators called prostaglandins, and they do a good job at it. The nice thing about these meds is that you can use them for a few days as needed, then put them aside. The downside? Long-term and frequent use can damage the gut and liver.  The birth control pill and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are also used for period pain and heavy ...

Feeling Your Best Through Menopause

Menopause in Women
“Sage and rhubarb are two herbal medicines that can help reduce hot flashes, and St. John’s Wort is a wonderful aid for mood support.” My friend looked over at me and said, “Well, I guess this is just how it is now.” She was going through perimenopause and experiencing the classic symptoms of hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sleep issues. We live in a time where there are tools and resources to help women feel well during this important time of change, yet they often feel overwhelmed and lost on where to seek support. Women may believe they must simply accept distressing symptoms, even if they interfere with their quality of life. As a naturopathic doctor that focuses on helping women navigate perimenopause and menopause, I can assure you that this is simply not the case. The goal of supporting women through menopause is to help alleviate aggravating, acute symptoms and to create a long-term plan to support healthy aging and vitality. Every woman deserves a personalized approach when working toward health goals. 5 Tips to Ease Menopause Symptoms Building upon healthy foundations can make a positive impact on reducing your symptoms of menopause and supporting your health in the long-term. Avoid triggers for hot flashes, such as caffeine and alcohol. These substances, although delicious, can exacerbate hot flashes. Eat protein and good quality, healthy fats at every meal, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts and seeds. Focus on eating complex carbohydrates and reducing your sugar. Incorporate foods into your diet that act as phytoestrogens, such as soy and flaxseed. These help to modulate hormones in your body.  Add omega-3s to your diet by eating fish, fish oil, and nuts and seeds.  Reduce stress, expose yourself to sunlight, and move your body daily. Hormone Replacement Therapy  As hormones begin to decline during perimenopause, women may start to experience a constellation of vasomotor, urogenital, and physical changes. Vasomotor symptoms can include bothersome hot flashes and night sweats. Urogenital symptoms may include vaginal dryness, pain, and urinary incontinence. Physical symptoms such as insomnia, mood and memory changes, and joint and muscle pain can also begin. Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be an excellent option for alleviating many of these symptoms.  There are numerous forms and options when it comes to this treatment, and when chosen appropriately, it can have tremendous benefits that go beyond just symptom management. Hormone replacement therapy can also be supportive for long-term bone, cognitive, and metabolic health. With the right discussion on the risk and benefits of treatment with their healthcare practitioner, women can take control of their health and make informed choices around HRT. Let’s explore some of the options.  Bioidentical HRT   Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy simply means that the hormones used in treatment are identical to the hormones your body produces. Some bioidentical hormone preparations are standard and found in conventional pharmaceutical products, whereas other preparations can be personalized and made in compounding pharmacies for customized doses and forms. Synthetic HRT  The hormones used in this therapy are not identical in chemical structure to the hormones produced in your body. Many common hormone replacement prescriptions come in this form.  Both bioidentical and synthetic HRT can come in gels, topical or vaginal creams, patches, or be taken orally. Depending on the goals, health history, and preferences of each individual, there are pros and cons to each option. Although there can be some risks with HRT, the safety profile of these treatments can be very high and the benefits immense. Talking with a practitioner who is well-versed in the options is a good idea to determine which approach is best for you.  Natural Medicine  Natural medicine can have powerful benefits for supporting women in this important phase of life. It can be used in combination with HRT, or on its own for women who prefer a non-hormonal treatment option. Sage and rhubarb are two herbal medicines that can help reduce hot flashes, and St. John’s Wort is a wonderful aid for mood support. Optimizing your nutrient levels of Vitamin D, B12, and iron can be important for your energy and mood; melatonin and magnesium are supportive of sleep.  If you are struggling with vaginal dryness and pain, using a vaginal moisturizer that has hyaluronic acid can be extremely effective. The list of natural medicine that can be beneficial is extensive and is most effective when utilized in a personalized plan that fits your needs and goals. Naturopathic doctors are excellent resources to help you choose the right nutraceuticals and supplements to support your health.  Long-term Health   Along with supporting current health goals, menopause is a wonderful moment t ...

How Fears Shape Our Experience?

Fears
Have you ever considered your fears in life? Physical and psychological fears are often rooted in a lack of security. Physical security may be established through basic food and shelter, but psychologically, our fears continue to shape our experiences until we look at the root cause. Let’s study this universal experience through a mindful approach. “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” There are many fears: The fear of judgement (from people or God), of loneliness, poverty, heights, loss, and death. There are millions of different fears, and many of us are working through our own personal fear now, at this moment. Sometimes when fears arise, you can receive help with the assistance of a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, or another healthcare professional. This often becomes a cyclical pattern, however, that deals with one branch of fear at a time without looking at the whole structure of fear itself. Fear can be said to begin from a deep need for psychological security—a feeling of comfort found through a steadiness in life that most people desire.  Psychological Security  Throughout history, we have looked for psychological security to overcome fear. This has led to the creation of ideologies like politics, religion, economy, education, professions, family, etc. If we look at any one of these ideologies, we can see that although our minds have been trained to “believe” there is security in them, it’s not intrinsically there. Let’s look first at family. One may believe there is security in a relationship with a husband or wife, but at any moment, that security may be lost to illness, divorce, or death. A child may feel secure with a parent, but is then left alone by being pushed out by a loved one, or they may venture out on their own. These kinds of scenarios will bring some level of fear to the child. Therefore, the familial home may not actually be a place of everlasting security. We can look at the ideology of a particular political group and see that at any time, the group may not deliver on promises made to a community or nation—security here, too, is fragile. In education, after acquiring the credentials needed for a particular job or career, continuing education may be needed to practice in a new city or country, or you may need to adapt to new life situations due to the loss of a job, moving, illness, politics, etc. This does not bring psychological security either. At this point, you may seek security through new training or a new workplace, but this new search or work also brings fear. Sometimes, people seek psychological security through the ideology of a religion, a guru, or a spiritual leader. Over time, they might find that such a leader or role model changes, or a person no longer enjoys the teachings of a new minister at a familiar church or the new administration behind it. In such cases, you may look for a new church, temple, mosque, or leader to find psychological security as you work through personal fears. The same experience is often felt through working with one’s healthcare team. The team is appreciated when all is going well, but when personal health or the team itself changes, you may look for a new provider. This also brings fear and often resentment, anxiety, and frustration. Understanding And Awareness  These examples of ideologies we look to for psychological security each show that they are temporary, which inevitably breeds fear. Our entire world experience is temporary, and fear can grow because we’re conditioned to believe that security can be found in short-term experiences. But there is no security in fleeting things. Just like fear, a happy moment or anger is also temporary. Any one of these emotions can further feed fear. For example, if someone is very happy living in a particular home, they will likely fear any damage or loss to it. Eventually, they will look for a new home due to changing needs, then fear that change. Usually, people are encouraged to overcome their fears; they may seek out a parent for help, a teacher or leader, or a healthcare professional, but rarely can these helpers treat the root cause of the fear. Physical pain also connects with psychological fears. If a person had excruciating pain yesterday, but the pain is gone today, the mind will fear experiencing that pain again. The memory of the past filters through the present, projecting this fear into the future. Thus, even without the pain, people will carry the fear.  Thought and time can sabotage us; both can intensify fears and move a person out of the present moment. If there’s no fear currently, thought and/or time can bring it about. When there is fear requiring immediate action, it doesn’t need conscious thought or time to express itself It’s just suddenly there. For example, avoiding being hit by a car or getting up after a sudden fall are instinc ...

Fatigue: Why Am I So Tired All The Time?

Fatigue
Our bodies are great at sending us signals when something is wrong. We just have to learn to read them. Whether you wake up exhausted, feel like you're dragging your feet throughout the entire day, or always hit that afternoon energy slump, there are reasons to investigate further. Nutrient Deficiencies  The standard North American diet is full of opportunities for improvement. With an emphasis placed on simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, and rice); sugar (juices, sodas, and baked goods); and saturated fats (deep-fried items, meats, and butter); it comes as no surprise that overall nutrient intake is low. In the busy lifestyles of our fast-paced "go-go-go" society, quick and easy meals are often the norm These quick and easy meals are usually void of substantial healthy nutrients, but high in calories. This means that although we feel full, our bodies still crave nutrients, and this will trigger a hunger response that doesn't have to do with being hungry. When we fuel our bodies and mind with the right nutrients, energy is more balanced and cravings are kept in check. Having a diet full of fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure nutrient intake is high. Poor digestion is another big cause of nutrient deficiencies. Even if you are eating all the right foods, your gut has to be able to break down your food properly and absorb nutrients from it. The phrase "you are what you absorb" is a much better analogy to the commonly heard "you are what you eat." Symptoms such as frequent bloating, excess gas, constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux are indications that your digestive tract may not be functioning optimally.  Common nutrient deficiencies include iron, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 (especially if you are a vegan/vegetarian). Although water isn't a "nutrient" per se, inadequate intake can also cause fatigue. Be sure to compensate for caffeine items such as coffee, which can dehydrate you further. Thyroid Concerns  The thyroid is a small but mighty gland that sits at the base of your throat. This gland is involved in numerous processes in the body, including metabolism, body temperature, digestion, period health, cognition, and skin health. A low-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) can be a big contributing factor to fatigue, sensitivity to cold, dry skin, heavy and/or irregular periods, resistant weight loss, and anxiety/depression. Often, the thyroid will become dysfunctional due to stress, impaired gut health, and autoimmune conditions.  There is a genetic component to thyroid dysfunction, so it may be a good idea to get assessed if you have a family history. If you have reason to suspect a thyroid concern, speak to your healthcare professional about getting a full thyroid panel checked through blood work.  Mental Health  Health is comprised of your physical, mental, and emotional realms. Unfortunately, our physical health often takes precedence over our mental health, sometimes simply because it’s more externally visible. As such, it's important to distinguish mental and emotional energy from physical energy. For example, an excess mental load can result in burnout fatigue. This can cause mood fluctuations (including being quick to anger and impatience), feeling "wired but tired," and feeling overwhelmed when decision-making. This can also cause difficulties sleeping, which in turn results in poor mental, emotional, and physical energy because our bodies aren't able to properly restore from the previous day. Sometimes, what we deem as fatigue is actually mental and emotional exhaustion from depression or anxiety. A key question to ask yourself would be, "Am I lacking motivation or the physical capacity to do what I want to do?" The latter describes a lack of physical energy. Lack of motivation and disinterest in things that used to bring you joy are signs that your mental health may need tending to. Many physical concerns, such as unrestful sleep despite adequate hours of shut-eye and brain fog, can be signs of depression or anxiety. Although it can be scary to face, you are not alone. Mental health concerns have skyrocketed throughout the young and old alike, and have been increasingly evident throughout the COVID pandemic. Stress (Hpa Axis)  The hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis describes the link between the brain and the adrenal glands. While stress impacts all body organ systems, the adrenal glands are a key player in regulating the stress hormone called cortisol. Stress is not inherently a bad thing. It’s a great driver for productivity and allows our senses to heighten in dangerous situations to get us to safety. When the body's stress response is activated, it quickly mobilizes resources so that they are readily available for use. However, when stress becomes chronically high without adequate support for restoration, it begins to rapidly deplete the body's resources to keep up with demand.  “When we don ...

A Herb for Calm: Lavender

Lavender Herb
Lavendula angustifolia is a scent that most of us can recognize perhaps you’ve had the good fortune of visiting a field full of lavender to experience it. At one time, lavender was a natural, wild-crafted crop that could easily be cut and harvested in the hills of the Mediterranean. Over time, it was domesticated and has gradually become one of the major ingredients in the manufacture of perfume and scented cosmetics. The highest-quality essential oil is derived from steam-distilling fresh lavender flowers. The amount of volatile oil found in lavender is often very small; it makes up only 0.005–10 percent of a single plant. To obtain 454 ml (1 lb) of this essential oil, you need 150 lbs of lavender. Knowing this, we might wish to consider using essential oils sparingly, as large quantities of land and plant life are required to produce even small amounts of essential oils. Plant Description  Lavendula angustifolia (English Lavender) is a perennial plant native to Eastern Europe, northern Africa, and the Mediterranean. There are many genotypes, but English Lavender is most commonly grown and used. It has narrow, grey-green leaves and a long spike with purple flowers that attract pollinators. The flowers are covered in star-shaped hairs. The name Lavendula originates from the Latin lavare, meaning washing or bathing; the herb was venerated for its cleansing and purifying properties. The Romans used lavender to perfume their baths, and for centuries it has been infused into laundry water in Europe. The Virgin Mary is reputed to have been especially fond of lavender because it protected clothes from insects and preserved chastity.  Pedanius Dioscorides - a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist posited that the fragrance of lavender surpassed all other perfumes. Herbalists in 16th-century Europe Herbal Profile Lavendula angustifolia (formerly Lavendula officinalis)  Common Name: Lavender, lavendula, lavandin Family: Lamiaceae, mint family Parts Used: Aerial parts—flowers, flower buds, leaves. Collect fully-opened flowers and leaves, usually between June and August. They should be gently dried at a temperature not exceeding 40°C.  Taste: Cool, aromatic, dry Energy: Cool, relaxant ACTIVE CONSTITUENTS: Lavender has over 100 constituents, including: Tannins, 0.5–¹ /5% volatile oil, coumarins (including coumarin, umbelliferon and herniarin), flavonoids (such as luteolin), 0.7% ursolic acid (found in the leaves)³  The essential oil contains: Linalyl acetate, geraniol, cineole, limonene and sesquiterpenes4 , linalool (which has the distinct smell of lavender)  Herbal actions: Nervous antidepressant, anxiolytic, and relaxant; digestive anti-inflammatory, carminative, antacid, and anti-emetic; integumentary anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and cicatrizant SYSTEM TROPISM: Nervous System: Nerves, muscles, neurovascular system  Digestive System: Stomach, intestines, liver Integumentary System Did you know? One of Ontario's loveliest jars of honey comes from a small organic farm in Prince Edward County that grows organic lavender and keeps honeybees. 24 the whole family | Look Inward Early Summer 2023 recognized lavender’s medicinal virtues, and the Italian herbalist, Mattiolus, observed that “it is much used in maladies and those disorders of the brain due to coldness such as epilepsy, apoplexy, spasms and paralysis; it comforts the stomach and is a great help in obstructions of the liver and spleen. Medicinal Properties & Indications  Nervous System  Lavender is a wonderfully uplifting and calming herb. It can lighten the mind, helping us to move through emotional blocks that may present as anxiety, emotional instability, and depression. Herbalist David Winston describes using it for stagnant depression, a situational depression often associated with emotional trauma, where one seems to be “stuck” on an event replaying over and over in their mind. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the unrelenting grief of becoming fixated on a traumatic event or tragedy (e.g., loss of a child, parent, spouse, pet, or job) fall into this category. Lavender may remedy physical symptoms as well, such as tension, headaches, migraines, trembling, and insomnia. Lavender in the bath, either the herb itself or a few drops of essential oil, can ease a restless child or adult to sleep. It works especially well when combined with Epsom salts. Sleeping with a lavender pillow is an age-old remedy to induce a restful night as well (see recipe at the end of this article). When used for aromatherapy, the essential oil of lavender was found to benefit sleep in studies done in elder care facilities. The residents fell asleep with greater ease and had improved sleep quality. This purple herb may also be used as a strengthening tonic for the nervous system to treat those suffering from nervous debility and exhaustion. Indications: » Anxiety  » Depression&nb ...

Slippery Elm: Healer or Hype?

Slippery Elm
If you’ve ever looked for a natural treatment for heartburn, sore throat, or constipation, you may have come across slippery elm. This large elm tree often flies under the radar, but its inner bark has a slippery mucilage, meaning it contains a polysaccharide that becomes a useful gel when mixed with water. It can be added to teas, supplements, and medicines to soothe skin and mucosal membranes and help facilitate movement in the digestive tract. Mucous membranes exist throughout our bodies. They are the lining of the respiratory cavities (e.g., nose, mouth, and throat), and digestive and urogenital tracts. These membranes can become inflamed after spicy meals or when you’ve picked up the latest daycare virus. With inflamed mucosal linings, you may experience symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, a sore throat, and congestion. Soothing these concerns is often a target for natural treatments like slippery elm. Psoriasis A collection of case studies using nutritional modifications and slippery elm in patients struggling with psoriasis found that all subjects saw improvement in their symptom ranking over a six-month trial, as well as a reduction in markers for intestinal permeability. Many of the studies that mention slippery elm are small and outdated at this point, but new studies are assessing its benefits in digestion and cholesterol, and the results are exciting! Digestion: Constipation  Stress is a significant issue seen in healthcare today that can impact the health of your digestion. One condition often associated with stress is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People struggling with this can experience abdominal symptoms like bloating, gas and discomfort, as well as changes in bowel movements (e.g., constipation, diarrhea, or both). Because of its connection to stress and brain function, healthcare providers lean on psychotherapy to address these concerns. Cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation therapy, and hypnosis may all be worthwhile investments if you are struggling with IBS. Natural options, like slippery elm, may also work.  The fibre content in slippery elm is a bulk-forming laxative which may help with constipation. In patients with constipation-type IBS, the slippery elm formulation was found to significantly improve bowel habits and reduce other side effects. Another small study associated slippery elm with improved digestive symptoms, including indigestion, heartburn, nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, and flatulence. On closer inspection, the stool of participants also showed improvements in healthy bacterial populations and reduced markers for leaky gut. “Because slippery elm contains insoluble fibre, it has become a natural consideration for the treatment of high cholesterol.” The same soothing effect slippery elm provides for people struggling with IBS can also be used to treat heartburn and sore throats. This demulcent coats the throat, easing irritation and coughing symptoms. Some older anecdotal evidence suggests that slippery elm has the ability to soothe inflammation and swelling, improve mucosal irritation, and ease laryngitis and acid reflux—but more investigation is required to understand the mechanism of action and effectiveness. Cholesterol High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) is a very common issue in Canada, with 28 percent of people aged 18–79 fulfilling the criteria for diagnosis. While lifestyle changes are helpful recommendations in the management of high cholesterol, many people require medication therapy to bring cholesterol into the normal range and reduce the risk for heart disease.  The first line of treatment is a drug family called statins. As with any medication, statins are not without side effects that may impact results. Because slippery elm contains insoluble fibre, it has become a natural consideration for the treatment of high cholesterol.  A recent randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial demonstrated that patients with untreated high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) who received 500 mg of Ulmus macrocarpa Hance (large-fruited elm) daily for 12 weeks showed a greater decrease in LDL and total cholesterol in comparison to the placebo group. In addition, none of the participants reported any notable adverse events. Having an effective treatment option for managing a prevalent health concern like hypercholesterolemia—without side effects—is very exciting! How To Use Slippery Elm  Slippery elm comes in convenient capsules and teas, but you can also add the powder form to a smoothie or try making your own soothing lozenges. Regardless of the form, always take doses a couple of hours apart. Lozenges Ingredients » ½ c slippery elm powder  » 6 Tbsp honey Instructions Combine the slippery elm powder in a bowl with your favourite honey and mix well.  Roll the mixture into small balls using your hands (use about ½ tsp for each ball).  Roll each ball in a little extra ...

Sciatica: Pain That You Don’t Have to Live With

Sciatica Pain
Sciatica is the shooting pain or numbness that goes down one leg to the toes due to direct irritation of the sciatic nerve, or the sciatic nerve root, that exits at the lower back from the spinal cord. Sciatica refers to the symptoms or feelings, but it’s not an actual diagnosis. It doesn’t tell us what’s causing the pain or where it’s originating from—it just tells us that the sciatic nerve is affected. Cause & Effect  In most cases, sciatica can be associated with a disc herniation in the lumbar region of the lower back, where the disc in the spine protrudes outward and either directly compresses the nerve root or has enough inflammation associated with it to irritate the nerve that goes down the leg. What Does It Do? The sciatic nerve is made up of the L4-S2 nerve roots. It provides direct motor function to the muscles in the legs, as well as sensation to the skin on the back and sides of the legs and the bottoms of the feet. When you visit a chiropractor with this type of pain, they should do a thorough assessment of motor function and sensation in these areas. This helps us identify which nerve may be the cause of the pain and rule out other conditions that could look and feel like sciatica. Finding out the cause of the pain is the most important step because this dictates your treatment options and recovery time. In some cases, we may ask for imaging either an X-ray of the lower back to see if there is any compromise to the joints or the discs, or an MRI to view the tissues, discs, and nerves in the lower back. Having something come up on imaging will help us confirm our diagnosis, but it’s generally unnecessary unless there’s a need for surgery in the rarest and most extreme cases (e.g., symptoms that affect bowel or bladder function, or cause a loss of muscle control). Very few people need to take this route; a lot of back surgeries don’t address the cause of disc herniation, so the pain is very likely to come back even post-surgery. In most cases, imaging is not required and won’t affect the course of your treatment. If you do experience weakness in the muscles, or loss of control over bowel or bladder function, please see your medical doctor immediately.  Recovery It can be a long, tough road to recovery from a nerve or disc injury that has led to sciatica symptoms. Every case will be different, but generally speaking, at least one or more years of rehabilitation will be needed before the condition can be in a place where it’s less likely to occur again. In a lot of disc herniation cases, the ligaments that surround the discs are weak and unable to do their job as well as before. This makes it much easier for disc herniation to occur through repetitive activities or a lot of bending, twisting, and lifting all at the same time. If an injury occurs, time will be needed to strengthen these ligaments. They require much longer to strengthen than muscles, hence the long recovery time. In my opinion, the most critical factor between an injury getting better and coming back again (usually much worse the second time), is whether people keep up with their rehab many tend to stop once they feel better. If you can incorporate rehab into your daily lifestyle and create a routine that you can stick to for many years, it will be much easier to keep up the habit. Feeling good is great, and it might be your goal, but the pain going away does not mean the injury is healed. “A huge part of the healing process comes from the amount of effort you put into your treatment plan at home, so carving out time for yourself every single day is really important for getting better.” Treatments Some types of treatments that may be offered depending on your exact condition are rehabilitation exercises, acute care relief (e.g., heat, ice, stretches, muscle creams), lumbar decompression or traction, chiropractic adjustments, laser, acupuncture, and/or muscle work. A huge part of the healing process comes from the amount of effort you put into your treatment plan at home, so carving out time for yourself every single day is really important for getting better. It may be helpful to work with other practitioners, depending on your needs. A therapist can help manage the stress that chronic pain can cause, or a physiotherapist can be great if you need someone to do exercises with you. If you’ve been suffering from sciatica pain and haven’t had improvement, or just need to know what’s causing it, book an appointment with your chiropractor. You don’t have to live with this type of pain, and there’s a good chance that you can get long-term relief. This type of pain is not likely to go away on its own, and it usually gets worse over time if left untreated.

8 Tips for Happy Babies: Promoting Their Physical and Emotional Health

Baby Health
Having a happy baby is something that every parent desires. There's nothing more rewarding than seeing your baby smile and laugh. Achieving this, however, can sometimes be challenging, especially for first-time parents still learning the ropes.  Signs of a Happy Baby  » Smiling and cooing  » Engaging with others  » Having good sleeping and eating patterns  » Displaying clear and relaxed body language While having a happy baby is often seen as a positive thing, it's important to note that babies experience many emotions, including fussiness, crying, and discomfort. As a caregiver, it's essential to provide comfort and support to them during these times. Understanding and responding to their needs, even when they’re not in a happy mood, is integral to providing excellent care and promoting healthy development. Research suggests happier babies may become more content adults. Studies have found that positive emotions in infancy and early childhood are associated with positive outcomes later in life, including better mental health, higher life satisfaction, and stronger social relationships. For example, happy babies who experience warm and responsive caregiving are more likely to develop secure attachment relationships with their caregivers which can provide a foundation for healthy emotional development and social interactions when they get older. In addition, positive experiences in infancy may lead to more positive attitudes and coping strategies in adulthood, helping individuals to manage stress and adversity better. While many factors contribute to an individual's happiness, promoting positive emotional experiences in infancy may be essential in fostering long-term well-being. OXYTOCIN  Also known as the "love hormone," oxytocin is released by the pituitary gland, which plays a crucial role in social bonding and attachment. It releases in response to positive social interactions, such as cuddling, hugging, breastfeeding, skinto-skin, and other forms of physical contact. Studies have shown that oxytocin release causes happiness and positive emotional experiences in both adults and infants. This can help foster a sense of trust and security for the baby and contribute to the attachment relationship with their caregivers. In addition to promoting positive emotional experiences, oxytocin release in infancy may also have long-term benefits for mental health and social relationships. 8 Tips for a Happy Baby  These are general tips. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for raising a happy baby; each is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.   1. Respond to Your Baby's Needs Promptly  One of the most important things you can do to have a happy baby is promptly respond to their needs. It can mean feeding them when hungry, changing their diaper when wet, and soothing them when upset. When you react promptly to your baby's needs, you build essential trust and security. 2. Provide a Safe and Comfortable Environment  Babies are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. So, providing a safe and stimulating environment to sleep, play, and explore can help promote their happiness and well-being. It also means ensuring their sleep area is free from hazards, such as loose bedding or stuffed animals, and checking that their clothing is comfortable and appropriate for the temperature. In addition, providing toys and books which stimulate their senses can be beneficial.  3. Provide Plenty of Physical Contact  Physical contact has many benefits, such as regulating the baby's temperature, breathing, and heart rate; reducing stress; and stimulating their natural feeding reflexes. Whether holding your baby, giving them a massage, placing baby on your bare skin, or simply cuddling, physical contact releases oxytocin, which helps create a solid emotional connection between parent and baby. 4. Establish a Routine  Babies thrive on routine, so creating a consistent schedule can help promote a happy baby. It means having a plan for eating, napping, as well as playtime. When your little one knows what to expect, they are more likely to feel secure, content, and calm. 5. Practice Positive Parenting  Positive parenting involves using positive reinforcement and praise to encourage good behavior in your baby. For example, it can mean praising them when they do something well, such as rolling over or sitting up. It also means avoiding negative language or punishments, which can harm a baby's development. 6. Connect Through Communication  While your baby may not be able to talk, they can still communicate with you through facial expressions, sounds, and body language. Paying attention to your baby's cues and responding with warmth and affection can help promote their happiness and well-being. 7. Try Babywearing  Carrying a baby in a sling, carrier, or wrap close to a parent's body has been sh ...

UTIs in Children: How They Happen and How to Treat Them When They Do

UTIs in Children
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be common for many children. They occur when bacteria travel into the urethra (i.e., the tube that connects to the bladder) and multiply. Children, and in particular girls, have shorter urethras which make it easier for bacteria to travel through and attach to the bladder. Normally, urine is sterile, meaning it does not contain any bacteria. However, bacteria from the anus can find their way into the urethra and cause a UTI—the bacteria E. coli is most often the cause of urinary tract infections. Symptoms  Depending on your child’s age, it may be difficult to tell when a UTI has developed. Usually, the bacteria will cause swelling and irritation in the bladder and urethra. This leads to the following symptoms: » Belly pain  » Pain and/or burning with urination  » Having to pee frequently (sometimes it’s just a few drops) » Fever » Foul-smelling urine  » Cloudiness or blood in the urine » Back pain (this can be an indication of a more severe  infection) In babies, symptoms of a UTI are similar to those of other infections, including fussiness, crying, and fever. Babies may also experience blood in the urine. Prevention If your child suffers from chronic UTIs, prevention is key to breaking the cycle; good hygiene especially for females is vital.  Top 4 UTI Prevention Tips Do not use any soap in and around the urethra and vulva for females; water alone is best for cleaning. Do not use any harsh or fragranced soaps for males.  After using the washroom, females should wipe from front to back (not back to front). This will prevent the spread of E. coli to the urethra. Wear breathable underwear, preferably cotton.  Do not hold your pee - holding it can allow bacteria to more easily grow within the bladder. Diet also plays a role in the prevention of UTIs. Studies show that no particular diet causes UTIs on its own, but certain foods can affect the health and environment of the bladder, making it more susceptible to UTIs. Food and beverages linked to an increase in UTIs: » Sugary beverages » Meat (particularly poultry and pork) can increase the acidity  of the bladder, which provides a better environment for bacteria to grow Bladder irritants to avoid during an infection: » Coffee and tea » Artificially-sweetened beverages  » Carbonated beverages Bladder irritants are not linked directly to an increase in UTIs, but they can increase discomfort and even cause symptoms similar to a UTI. Cutting out certain foods can be difficult, especially with your little ones. The great news is that you can also add food and drinks to their diet to help in prevention.  Foods That Help Water - This should be the main source of hydration for our little ones. Breastfeeding - Studies show that breastfed infants have a 50 percent lower risk of developing UTIs compared to non-breastfed infants. Unsweetened 100% cranberry juice - Cranberries contain certain molecules that block bacteria from being able to attach to the bladder and urethra, which reduces the risk of developing a UTI by 20 percent.5 Try sweetening it yourself with a little bit of honey or maple syrup, and dilute it with water to make it more palatable.  Freshly-squeezed berry juice - Just like cranberries, other berries (like blueberries) contain the same molecules that prevent bacteria from attaching to the bladder. Fibre - People who consume high-fibre diets, which improve constipation, are less likely to develop a UTI. This is partially because constipation increases the risk of UTIs. Examples of fibrous foods include apples, berries, avocados, broccoli, peas, sweet potatoes, lentils, chia seeds, flax seeds, chickpeas, and brown rice.  Diagnosis If you suspect your child has a UTI, please consult a medical professional immediately. Getting treatment as soon as possible will help minimize the severity of the infection. Your doctor may diagnose a UTI by assessing symptoms and testing a urine sample for bacteria.  Treatment If it turns out your child has a UTI, the best course of action is to consult your family doctor, pediatrician, or a walk-in clinic to assess the need for antibiotics. The prompt introduction of antibiotics will allow for clearance of the bacteria from the bladder before the infection spreads further down the urinary tract. In addition, drinking lots of water can help flush the bacteria out of the bladder.If you are concerned about the side effects of antibiotics, these can be addressed with a visit to your medical or naturopathic doctor. The most common side effects are loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and allergic skin reactions.You may consider adding a probiotic to help mitigate these side effects. Supplementation Probiotics - Lactobacilli-type probiotics are dominant in the bladder. Studies show that taking probiotics can reduce recur ...

The Family Table: Late Winter Snacks And Soup

lady enjoying snacks in winter
Paleo Granola This granola with coconut yogurt and berries is the perfect breakfast to help you get back on track after the holidays. It’s quick and full of healthy fats and protein to keep you satiated all morning long. It’s also grain-free, making it an excellent option for those following a paleo diet. Ingredients » 1 c cashews» 1 c walnuts» 1⁄2 c pumpkin seeds» 1⁄2 c coconut flakes» 1 Tbsp cinnamon » 1⁄2 tsp salt» 1/3 c melted coconut oil» 1⁄4 c maple syrup (use sugar-free syrup to make this recipe ketogenic) Instructions 1. Add cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, salt, cinnamon, and coconut flakes to a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds. 2. Add coconut oil and maple syrup to the nut mixture, stirring well until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. 3. Spread evenly on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. 4. Let cool for 10 minutes before breaking the granola into clusters. Collagen Power Balls These delicious, fibre-rich collagen balls make for the perfect mid-day snack. They include extra protein in the form of collagen and hemp seeds to help you reach your daily protein goals, plus a hefty serving of chia seeds as a source of dietary fibre. Ingredients » 2 c quick rolled oats» 1⁄4 c chia seeds» 1⁄4 c hemp seeds» 1⁄4 c nut butter of choice» 1⁄4 c collagen protein powder» 1/3 c pitted dates, soaked in hot water » 1⁄4 c melted coconut oil» Flaky sea salt» Mini chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds (optional) Instructions 1. Add all ingredients (except the chocolate chips) to a food processor and pulse until a sticky dough forms. 2. Stir in the chocolate and seeds (if using) and roll into 1-inch balls to keep in the fridge or freezer. Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Dip This dip takes full advantage of local produce available through the winter. Serve with your favourite seed crackers and crudites or use it as a spread on wraps and sandwiches. Ingredients » 1 head cauliflower, separated into florets» 2 large shallots, chopped» 2 Tbsp olive oil» 2 heads of garlic» 1/3 c tahini » 1/3 c pumpkin seeds» 1⁄2 tsp chilli flakes» Juice from 1 lemon» 1 tsp dried rosemary or sage» Salt and pepper, to taste Instructions 1. Prepare garlic for the oven by chopping off the tops to expose  the tops of the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil, or  place in a small oven-safe container with a lid.  2. Toss the cauliflower and shallots with olive oil and seasonings  and add to a baking sheet with your heads of garlic. Roast at  400°F for 30–35 minutes, until cooked through.  3. Once the vegetables cool slightly, add to a food processor with  the remaining ingredients and purée ingredients until slightly smooth.  Squash Soup with Tofu This soup recipe is a winter staple because it includes tons of orange vegetables and heal-ing spices to support immune health. It’s also beautifully warming and thoroughly cooked to support digestion in colder winter months. The tofu can be omitted, but we like that it adds 15 g of protein per serving. Ingredients » 1 large squash (butternut, acorn, delicata, and buttercup all work well)   » 1 onion, chopped» 1 orange pepper, chopped» 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped» 1 Tbsp coconut oil or avocado oil» 1 can of organic BPA-free coconut milk» 1  Tbsp curry powder » 1⁄4 tsp chili flakes (optional)» 6 c bone broth, or organic vegetable or chicken broth» 1 package organic tofu» Seasoning of choice and sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste Instructions  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  2. Cut your squash in half and lay it face down on a baking sheet.  3. Drain tofu and cut into small cubes. Spray or lightly drizzle with coconut or avocado oil, sprinkle with spices of choice, and bake in the oven along with the squash for 30 minutes while you prepare your other ingredients.  4. Add the onion, garlic, and spices to a preheated large dutch oven on medium–hot. Cook until translucent and fragrant.  5. Remove the squash from the oven and carefully scrape out the flesh of the squash. Add it to your pot along with the chopped pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  6. Add the bone broth, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes.  7. Add your can of coconut milk and use an immersion blender to purée your soup. Top with tofu cubes and hemp seeds (optional).