Healthy Lifestyle

Your Inner Child: Rediscovering the Magic of Play

Rediscovering the Inner Child
“Keep in mind that art and play need not be perfect. It can be simple and messy, like playing in sand or finger painting . . .” In the hustle and bustle of adult life where responsibilities, deadlines, and routines dominate our days, the concept of play and imagination might seem like a distant childhood memory. However, as we journey through the complexities of adulthood, it’s crucial to recognize the importance of practicing play and using your imagination even past the age of childhood. It’s not just child’s play; it’s a powerful tool for enhancing overall wellness. “Act Your Age!” Why do most people believe adulthood means giving up things that brought us joy as a child? We’ve been conditioned to associate adulthood with work and responsibilities, leaving “no time to waste” on “childish” things like play, art, and activities that are fun. Do you ever feel guilty for doing something fun for yourself, or shameful for “acting like a child” when you’re expected to be an “adult?” Maybe the phrase “act your age” comes to mind. Why can’t we go on swings or run around the playground, fingerpaint, or buy ourselves a squishmallow, rather than pretending we’re buying it for our kids? With all the complexities of life swirling around us, it’s important no, prudent to slow down and listen to the little voice inside of us silently screaming for us to acknowledge it. That voice is known as our inner child. Social Bonding  The adult in you may be questioning this concept of an inner child (which is your outer adult talking, by the way), and I can understand your skepticism. So, let’s discuss the facts. How does play improve health and wellness? It reduces stress; play triggers the release of endorphins, your body’s natural stress relievers, and helps reduce cortisol levels and promote relaxation. Playing also encourages creative thinking and problem-solving skills.  It can help you approach challenges with a fresh perspective and build mental resilience by encouraging adaptability. Adult “playdates” (like meeting friends at a park or art class) are great for engaging your creativity and connecting with others just like kid playdates. Sharing playful moments with others can strengthen social bonds and create memorable experiences. Engaging in play activates and grows your imagination another important benefit. Imagination is the canvas upon which we paint our dreams and aspirations. Encouraging adults to cultivate their imagination can lead to benefits such as: » evoking innovation  » engaging critical-thinking skills  » improving mood and reducing anxiety  » encouraging self-reflection and self-discovery  » enhancing communication skills  » aiding in expressing thoughts and ideas more effectively Imagination is one of our greatest gifts, yet we forget to use it as abundantly as we once did as kids just like having that imaginary friend who faded from memory as we grew up. Accessing Your Inner Child So, how do we bring back play into our adult lives? First, we need to make time for it. Set aside time for play, making it just as important as work and family commitments. This could be as simple as dedicating an hour each week to engage in creative activities or hobbies. Next, uncover what brings you joy by revisiting the things you loved as a kid, whether it’s painting, playing an instrument, or even building with LEGO. If you need help remembering your childhood likes, talk to family, look back at pictures, or walk through a toy store and see what makes you smile. Playtime can be solo or with companions; make it a sociable event by engaging in group activities, joining clubs, or participating in team sports to combine play with social interaction. You can also have a meditative time to reconnect with yourself and your inner child. This solo play can be a practice in mindfulness and a gateway to fostering imagination and creative thinking. Still at a loss for ways to begin creative play? Do what first comes to mind. It could be as simple as running down a hill, swinging at the park, or making snow angels in a field. If you need some guidance to activate your imagination, try learning a new art skill through video or alongside a friend. Keep in mind that art and play need not be perfect. It can be simple and messy, like playing in sand or finger painting art for the sake of art and just doing something “mindless” for the fun of it. Art and play shouldn’t be a chore or another thing that you need to do; it should be fun, carefree, and just an act of pure joy. As adults, we often underestimate the power of play and imagination. Yet, these fundamental aspects of human experience should not be reserved solely for children. By incorporating play and nurturing our imagination, we can lead more fulfilling, creative, and joyful lives. So let’s remember the magic from our childhood and make space for it, for our o ...

Mindful Minute: What is Love?

What is Love
“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides." ~David Viscott  Have you noticed how many songs, books, poems, and articles are written about love? For years, love has been linked with feelings of pleasure. We hear people using it to describe a multitude of things. But love is used without a full understanding of its meaning beyond the current dictionary definition. There are many opinions about love within society and from specialists like psychotherapists, priests, gurus; our spouses and partners; and of course, ourselves too. Many people connect love with desire; a desire for something often leads people to remark that they "love" that thing, whether it be travel, food, homes, sex, work, friendships, family, or God. Throughout this article, let’s reflect on this idea of “desire” together - is this actual love? Let us observe mindfully and understand the nature of pure love. Desire We must first understand that desire is related to the senses. When the senses are awakened, there arises a possibility of desire. A person may see a beautiful landscape in a foreign land, a beautiful person, an image of God/Krishna/Buddha, a property, meal, home, beautiful relationship . . . the list is endless. Pleasing sensations often lead to thoughts of, Oh, how beautiful that is. I would like to see, hold, taste, hear, or smell that beauty again. The senses can only experience beauty in the moment. When reflection becomes attached to an experience and wants more of it, desire is born; this desire wants to be fulfilled. Is this love? Any awareness of the senses can be a beautiful experience and bring about desire; once this desire becomes ingrained in us, we may become attached and feel pleasure from the mere idea of it. Is this love? Our conditioned minds will often not allow us to deeply understand the profound meaning of pure love, so contemplating this sincerely requires a true and honest intention to understand. Let’s reflect deeper and look at the nature of attachment. Attachment If we are attached to things that we desire, there surfaces uncertainty and inner conflict which often manifests as various types of fear. The more attached to something one becomes, the more a fear of losing it arises. A person may fear losing a home, a job or career, money, a lover, a relationship, a vacation, meals, sex, company, etc. This fear may cause that person to become even more attached, possessive, controlling, and demanding. For example, if one loves the only local restaurant available in town, they are likely to express anger, irritability, and disappointment if it closes down. Now, change the "love" of this local restaurant to the "love" of a person. The potential loss of a friend, lover, or partner becomes even more emotional. Such attachments often result in demands and controlling or possessive thoughts, words, and actions from each partner that can escalate and create conflicts in relationships. We see this through regular breakups in dating and divorces in marriages. Fear of loss brings questions such as, "Where were you last night?" At the beginning of a loving relationship, this question may contain care and concern about the safety of another (from a parent to a child or from one spouse to another); but over time, it may arise from a need to assert control, and from suspicion with a spouse. We can imagine it being like one person saying to the other, "I love you, and as long as you come back at a time that puts my mind at ease, you will make me happy." Such communication happens quite regularly in many homes. Is this love?  Perhaps now is the time to consider love as it relates to pleasure in relationships. As humans are social creatures, let us see what it is that brings love into our partnerships. We’re all familiar with “loving” things that bring us joy. Is love pleasure? Let's explore this idea. Pleasure A new employee, for example, may say they “loved” their boss when they were supportive, or a wife “loves” her husband of 20 years because he is communicative and attentive. We see in these examples, that when pleasure (positive feedback) is combined with an impression, the experience is wanted again and again. This experience creates the desire discussed earlier, and satisfaction of this desire brings pleasure. Is this love? This can happen for other memories connected with pleasure in the mind as well, which can unfortunately lead to addictions and unhealthy demands.  In another example, a new parent may hold their newborn child with a great deal of affection. They raise them with the utmost care to ensure their safety, good education, and support them in various ways. After a time, when the child is grown, the parent is ready for them to be more independent physically, financially, and emotionally. Is this love? Asceticism Priests, monks, gurus, and ascetics of all sorts say, "Have no desire, and no sex, as this will help you let go of all attachmen ...

What is Emotional Eating and How to Stop It

Emotional Eating
Sometimes our emotions get the best of us; it happens, we’re only human. Though we each have our unique way of dealing with our feelings, as a dietitian, there’s a common strategy I see with many of my clients: reaching for food. If you find yourself eating when you’re sad, bored, or stressed, you’re not alone. Everyone engages in emotional eating at some point in their lives. We can’t expect ourselves to be perfect and never use food for comfort; however, regular emotional eating can become an issue. It often leads to overeating, and “comfort” foods also tend to be high in refined sugar, salt, and saturated fats. Too much unhealthy eating increases our risk of developing chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If you have a pre-existing condition, overeating for comfort can end up leading to the opposite result. For example, emotional eating can trigger symptoms if you have gut issues. This habit can also worsen hormonal problems such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For those who don’t have any health issues, emotional eating can still leave you feeling uncomfortably full and lethargic for the rest of your day. So, what’s an emotional being to do? Though we can’t expect ourselves to eat healthy 100 percent of the time, there are concrete strategies you can use to decrease how often your emotions lead you to eat. What Is Emotional Eating?  The first step to decreasing any kind of negative behaviour is to gain an understanding of it. Emotional eating is when you engage in eating in response to your emotions. Notice how broad this definition is; we’re not just talking about eating a tub of ice cream after a breakup. Emotional eating also includes grabbing a chocolate bar after a frustrating day at work, munching on a bag of chips because you’re bored, or digging into some cake after an argument with a friend. Whenever we let feelings dictate our eating decisions that’s emotional eating. It’s important to understand this definition because sometimes, we confuse emotional eating with physical hunger.  If you are experiencing physical hunger but don’t realize it, this can cause major problems. I have seen clients beat themselves up over their “emotional eating,” when really their body is simply trying to tell them it’s hungry. They interpret their high appetite and overeating as personal flaws and feel guilty. A lot of people respond to this guilt by getting extra strict with their diet; however, this just makes their hunger and cravings more intense, ultimately making them feel like they’re out of control around food. We can prevent this vicious cycle by recognizing and satisfying our physical hunger. Though you might think it would be obvious to you when you are physically hungry, there are a few factors that blur the line between physical hunger and emotional eating. If any of these factors are present in your life, spend some time working on them. You might notice that what you thought was an emotional eating problem goes away. Lack of Sleep  We all feel drowsy when we don’t get enough shut-eye, but did you know that your appetite is also affected? Lack of sleep causes an increase in the hormones cortisol and ghrelin. Cortisol is a stress hormone that affects our metabolism, and ghrelin stimulates our appetite. When these hormones are high, we feel hungrier and crave carb-dense foods like sweets and savoury treats.1 Do you reach for a pastry for breakfast when you have an early start to your day? Do you reach for chips in the evening when you’re feeling burnt out? It’s likely because you’re tired. Decreasing your cravings and overeating often boils down to getting enough sleep. At a minimum, adults need seven hours of quality sleep each night do what you can to make sleep a priority in your life! Undernourishment Your struggles with food might be caused by plain ol’ hunger. If you don’t eat enough, or you have imbalanced meals, this can cause your appetite and cravings to intensify. Many of us skip one or more meals throughout the day because we’re either too busy or we’re trying to lose weight. Regardless of the reason, if we’re not giving our body enough nourishment, it’s going to send us signals so it can get what it needs. These signals feel like ravenous carb cravings and feeling like a bottomless pit when we finally sit down to eat. We can prevent our bodies from getting to that state of desperation by feeding ourselves properly. I suggest eating within two to three hours of waking up, then eating every three to four hours after that. This will prevent you from going too long without eating and provides a game plan so you don’t mindlessly graze throughout the day. Also, make sure your meals are balanced and contain a source of carbs, fiber, protein, and unsaturated fats.  Prevention Strategies  Now that we’ve separated emotional eating from unsatis ...

Using Holistic Nutrition To Help Recover from Hormonal Birth Control

Birth Control
Going off birth control is such an exciting transition, but it may also come with some hesitation and uncertainty because we are not sure how the body may react; every woman’s body is different. The good news is that there are many ways we can support the body during this transition, and with some preparation and a few nutrition and lifestyle practices, we can help minimize and hopefully avoid post-pill symptoms. What Does The Pill Do?  The pill essentially shuts down your natural menstrual cycle. When there’s no cycle, there’s no ovulation. Women, however, are meant to ovulate; this sixth “vital sign” is essential not only for reproduction but also to promote overall health and wellness. Withdrawal Symptoms Post-pill withdrawal symptoms may include:  » hormonal imbalances  » Long or missing periods  » mood fluctuations  » PMS-like symptoms  » weight fluctuations  » hair loss » acne or changes in skin  » changes in libido  » emotional changes One of the main symptoms is post-pill acne, which can wreak havoc on the skin due to hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, gut dysbiosis, and sluggish detox pathways. The best thing we can do is listen to our bodies and provide space and time to find harmony and rebalance.  Women experiencing post-pill withdrawal symptoms, please take heart: they won’t last forever. They could last up to a year or more but typically spike at the three- to six-month mark. For those of you who are suffering, here are some supportive holistic nutrition tips to mitigate these unwanted symptoms and help the body find balance. Be kind to yourself during this transition. Post-pill Superfoods  Fiber Adequate fiber(and water) is essential to support your body's digestion and detoxification pathways. Fiber helps maintain the daily and regular bowel movements which are necessary for eliminating unwanted toxins, including excess hormones. Nutrition Tip: Brown rice, kale, lentils, and steel-cut oats  Healthy Fats  Healthy fat is key to building hormones like progesterone, repairing the gut, balancing blood sugar, and healing acne naturally. Nutrition Tip: Avocado, quality olive oil, grass-fed butter, and nuts/seeds Omega-3s  Important for keeping the skin healthy and nourished, omega3s can help balance hormones and reduce inflammation as well. Nutrition Tip: Chia seeds, walnuts, wild salmon   Antioxidants Antioxidants are important in preventing free radical damage and oxidation, which can lead to dull-looking skin, acne scarring and pigmentation, and slow healing. Nutrition Tip: Dark leafy greens and red onions  Probiotic-rich Foods  The pill disrupts the gut lining and depletes the gut microbiome, so it's important to give it some love. If you feel good after consuming fermented foods, they can be a great source to help replenish good gut bacteria and calm inflammation in the body. Nutrition Tip: Bone broth, collagen, coconut kefir, raw sauerkraut, and kimchi Foods To Avoid  In addition to superfoods to add to your routine, think about foods to avoid to help reduce inflammation further and balance blood sugar. A couple of foods that commonly contribute to inflammation in the body and exacerbate post-pill symptoms are sugar and gluten. Sugar Sugar causes inflammation within the body, which will directly affect hormones. It does this in two ways: Sugar sticks to other cells in the body and triggers the immune system to make inflammatory cytokines to fight these sugar-damaged cells. Too much sugar causes insulin resistance, which messes with the body’s ability to balance blood sugar levels. This results in the pancreas having to dump out more insulin to keep everything in check. Too much insulin impairs ovulation and stimulates the ovaries to produce more testosterone. This free testosterone turns into free estrogen, and the body just can’t keep up.  Gluten This can be a very controversial topic, especially now that going gluten-free is a mainstream health trend. Wheat affects everyone differently due to varying genetics, gut microbiomes, and intestinal permeability. Gluten sensitivity is an inflammatory response that typically manifests itself as digestive symptoms. As we explored earlier, gut health is foundational to overall health and is linked to systemic inflammation. Reduce Liver Irritants  As discussed, the pill contributes to sluggish detox pathways, and opening these channels is key to rebalancing and finding harmony for our hormones and skin. During the post-pill transition, it can be supportive to reduce liver irritants so it can focus on eliminating excess hormones and toxins, instead of ridding itself of things like coffee and alcohol.  Final Thoughts  Lastly, keep in mind that a hormone cycle is three months. Giving the body time and space to heal really helped me during this time. If you can adopt these supportive tips approximately three months b ...

Doulas - How They Can Help You

Birth Doulas
You’ve just found out you’re pregnant. Congratulations!  You’re now faced with many decisions about your pregnancy and birth journey; this can be very overwhelming. So, how can this process be made easier?  A birth doula is a trained individual who provides one-on-one emotional, physical, and informational support to a birthing person through pregnancy, labour, and birth. They provide support at home, in birthing centres or hospitals, and maintain a constant presence with you through the entire labour process, from start to finish. The goal of a doula-assisted birth is to empower the birthing person to take control, decrease fear and anxiety, and ultimately leave them with a positive birth experience. The Doula Role  Typically, a birth doula meets with you one to two times during your pregnancy, depending on what stage you’re at when you first connect. During these meetings, you discuss how your pregnancy is progressing and a plethora of information about labour, birth, and postpartum. Together, you will develop a birth plan which encompasses all of the possible choices and outcomes that may come up during the birth.  The birth doula will provide constant support during the labour process, in which they communicate regularly and stay by your side. They assist with pain and discomfort, keep you calm, help with your emotional needs, can guide a partner on how to support you, and facilitate communication and informed consent with medical providers. A birth doula does not provide any medical advice and does not replace an obstetrician (OB) or midwife. Rather, doulas complement their care. In the postpartum period, your birth doula will follow up with you to ensure you are healing well, check in on your mood, and offer additional support. They may also be able to provide you with some breastfeeding support, depending on their experience and training. However, extensive breastfeeding support should be sought out through a lactation consultant.  Note that a postpartum doula is a different type of doula; they provide help in the postpartum period and focus on catering to your household needs and infant care. Training & Knowledge  Certified doulas are trained individuals who have a strong knowledge of the birthing process, including the physiology of labour. Oftentimes, doulas seek out additional training and certifications to help offer you the best care they can. Physiology Of Labour  An incredibly important part of how a birth doula helps to improve the quality of your labour, particularly by decreasing discomfort, can be explained through the physiology of labour.  First, let’s review the different states of the nervous system. There are two systems: The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The sympathetic nervous system can be described as “fight or flight” mode, while the parasympathetic nervous system is described as the “rest and digest” mode. When you are in an SNS state, it signals to the body that there is danger. The main hormones that take over are adrenaline and cortisol. When you are in this state, the blood flow is shunted to your muscles, heart, lungs, and brain to help fight whatever danger is near. Consequently, the blood moves away from your uterus and baby, resulting in lactic acid buildup, increased pain and cramping, and potential distress to the baby. When you are in a PNS state, the body produces hormones such as oxytocin (i.e., your love, bonding, and birthing hormone) and endorphins. Blood will redirect to organs in your digestive and reproductive system (e.g., your uterus). This state tells you that you are safe and induces calmness. Oxytocin is the hormone that creates contractions and facilitates bonding and breastfeeding. Natural oxytocin reduces cortisol and relieves pain and discomfort as well. Additionally, endorphins as you probably know also reduce pain and induce a happier state of mind. At this point, you can likely tell which state is more favourable for labour. On TV and in movies, most births are depicted in a way where the birthing person is screaming in intense pain, and overall, it seems like a very scary experience. Such expectations create fear and anxiety, which will put you in an SNS state; this prolongs labour, increases pain and discomfort, increases the need for medical interventions, and is associated with adverse birth/labour outcomes, including worse bonding and breastfeeding experiences.4 Other factors that induce an SNS state are the environment (e.g., harsh lighting, hospital sounds, various practitioners in and out), feeling overwhelmed or confused, and certain interventions and medical procedures during labour.  You might be thinking about how to keep yourself in a PNS state with all that is happening during labour. Thankfully, birth doulas are trained in techniques that help induce this state and also revert you to a PNS state should stress increase. ...

Am I Ovulating? The Ins and Outs of Cycle Tracking

 Period Cycle Tracking
As a naturopathic doctor who works primarily with women’s health and hormones, the menstrual cycle is an aspect of health that comes up in most of my patient visits. With the menstrual cycle, it’s imperative to develop consistent and reliable tracking methods to obtain objective data to truly understand each patient’s individual experience, and monitor treatment progression and outcomes. In terms of ovulation, many patients think this only matters for fertility tracking or if you’re planning to conceive. But becoming aware of ovulation can provide so much more information about a person’s menstrual cycle and hormonal health. Knowing if ovulation is occurring consistently can help doctors diagnose Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and determine treatment goals for patients with perimenopause and menopause, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), irregular menstrual cycles, and much more.  There's An App For That  For cycle tracking, I encourage my patients to choose a phone app to record their data. This can be a very effective way to track your cycle, basal body temperature, and cervical mucus. The following apps have been shown to have the best reliability and focus on the science of cycles: » Clue  » Flo  » Glow Ovulation  » Fertility Friend  » Fertility App The specific cycle parameters I suggest patients record/ track are: Day 1 of your period: This is the first day of a full bleed. Do not record spotting as your day 1. If day 1 is recorded consistently, this will provide information regarding cycle length and variability. Bleeding time/length and quantity: This will help determine if heavy bleeding is something we need to investigate.  PMS symptoms: Premenstrual symptoms are a result of our body’s response to fluctuations in hormones throughout the cycle (not the actual level of the hormone, as many might think). A lot of people experience symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, mood fluctuations, cravings, cramping, skin changes, and more during the luteal phase of their cycle (1-2 weeks leading up to their period). It’s important to record these symptoms as they occur; knowing if ovulation has happened is a key indicator that tells us if these symptoms are, in fact, due to fluctuations in hormones.  For ovulation specifically, we can also track cervical mucus:  » Record observations about your cervical mucus throughout the month.  » Egg-white cervical mucus that is sticky in consistency usually indicates ovulation and can happen between days 10–15 in the cycle. Other Tracking Methods  There are other ways that we can track and predict ovulation, such as kits, temperature tracking, and blood tests. It should be noted that there is a difference between predicting and confirming ovulation.  Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs): Ovulation predictor kits can be found in many stores and online. They are used to measure the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) that peaks right before ovulation occurs. Depending on the length of a person’s cycle, you start around day 11 and use the testing strips with urine every morning until you get a positive test (two solid lines). When your test is positive, this indicates that you will be ovulating in the next 24-72 hours this is a good time to make a note of that cervical discharge as well. There are circumstances, however, where these kits can falsely predict ovulation (e.g., PCOS patients have a consistently elevated LH hormone as the body tries to mature many follicles to ovulate throughout the cycle, leading to a false positive). Putting this all together can help us understand your cycle better. Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Tracking: Basal body temperature is a precise temperature measurement taken with a specialized thermometer every morning upon waking. Signs of ovulation include a 0.5-degree temperature increase due to the thermogenic property of progesterone, which occurs right after ovulation. Again, this method is best paired with tracking cervical mucus (looking for that egg-white consistency), as this is the gold standard for predicting ovulation between 10-14 days. Serum Progesterone Testing 7 Days After Ovulation: In certain circumstances, we can use serum blood testing of progesterone seven days after suspected ovulation to confirm if ovulation occurred that cycle. A level above 5–6 nmol/L can confirm ovulation; however, an optimal value around 30 nmol/L can make us confident that strong ovulation is occurring.4 This might be a test that’s recommended depending on a patient's goals and practitioner assessment.  Perimenopause Considerations  Tracking Your Cycle in Perimenopause: It is important to follow the same principles of cycle tracking as we approach perimenopause. Over the age of 40, a woman’s menstrual cycle becomes less consistent. An egg may not be released every single month, and this interferes with the producti ...

5 ways to combat Burnout For a Healthier Body and Mind

Healthy Body and Mind
In our fast-paced, results-driven society, it’s no surprise that burnout is an increasing phenomenon for both adolescents and adults alike. There are rising demands placed on individuals to do well in their personal and professional lives. Burnout is a stage that we don't want to reach because it signifies that the body and mind have worked past their limits. It can be easy to put your health on the back burner and just hustle on, as the majority of us have been taught to do. However, burnout can have detrimental long-term effects, especially if it’s left unchecked. The good news is there are ways to help prevent burnout or help us heal from it quicker. 5 Burnout Remedies 1. Set Proper Boundaries In the COVID era, many people had transitioned to working from home wherever it was possible. This meant that separation between work and home was extremely difficult, not only in terms of physical space, but also as the time to commute to and from your destination had also disappeared. People had to train their brains from being "off" at home to being "on" in the blink of an eye.  As more people are returning to their physical workspaces, the separation between work and home has become easier. However, there are still challenges, as many people literally and figuratively “take work home” with them. This has been an easy thing to do with advancements in technology, as well as the systems put in place due to COVID. Consequentially, this increases the demands on your body and mind and creates a recipe for burnout. Periods of rest are required to enhance productivity during work hours. The following are some tips to decrease the risk of burnout for those returning to their physical workspaces: » Use the commute time to do something you enjoy (e.g., read, listen to podcasts/music). » Finish your work at work and leave unfinished tasks on a to-do list for the next workday. » Have strict beginning and end times. » Mute all notifications after work hours. If you are still working from home, have the following parameters set in place: » If possible, work in a space that is separate from where you sleep and where you eat. » Develop a morning routine before starting work. » Change into work clothes during work hours, and into life clothes after finishing work. » Have strict beginning and end times. » Stay disconnected after work hours and days. Boundaries in your personal life are also important. Learn to be okay with saying no to others and yes to yourself. Leave the time and space for proper restoration and things that bring you joy, instead of being driven by obligation. 2. Ask for Help Just because you can do it all, doesn't mean you should. Asking for help not only allows you to decrease your burden, but also allows you the space to only do what you do best. This can result in increased enjoyment and fulfilment, which are some of the best tools to combat burnout.  This applies to both your personal and professional life. Determine what it is that only you can do and what is solely your responsibility, and delegate the rest wherever possible. If you're the type of person who takes care of everyone first, teach others not to need you; do not take on what is not yours to carry. 3. Prioritize Sleep Sleep is one of the most underrated and underappreciated aspects of health; however, it is the most crucial in maintaining a healthy body and mind. Above all else, sleep should take priority. Aim for a minimum of seven to eight hours per night. Do not sacrifice sleep for exercise. If your to-do list is impacting the time you're able to get to bed, either learn to shorten your to-do list for the day, ask for help, or set better boundaries (see Tip 1). Help yourself get a good night's rest by staying away from electronics and artificial light sources in the evening, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and avoiding heavy meals or exercise too close to bedtime. 4. Ensure Nutrition Basics Are in Place  Your body and mind need fuel to meet the demands of your day, so don’t skip meals and make sure you're eating at least three solid meals a day. Keep up with your water intake too, and remember that coffee and caffeinated beverages do not count towards hydration. Ensure that your intake of macronutrients (i.e., carbohydrates, protein, and fats) is well-rounded, but if given the option of only one, focus on protein-dense foods to help balance blood sugar levels (e.g., nuts, seeds, chicken, and eggs). For busy individuals, meal prep is your best friend. Spend one day grocery shopping and cook meals for the week so that you have ready-to-go nutritious meals on hand. 5. Be Intentional About Joy  It is far too easy to just "let things happen." We schedule our appointments and we have work hours, but we don't often think about scheduling joy. When was the last time you did something just for you that was fun? How often are you doing thing ...

A Herb for Parasites and More - Black Walnut

Black Walnut Herb
I remember my first time truly noticing the black walnut tree; what I saw was that nothing could grow around it. I found this to be quite unusual in an otherwise vibrant, diverse woodland. That day, I learned about black walnut's allelopathic (growth-inhibiting) effect on some plant species. The fact that not much will grow under a black walnut tree is likely due to its juglone compounds.  Another remarkable thing about the walnut tree is that although it may grow thousands of kilometers away from any seawater or sea vegetation, scientists have found that it's high in iodine and has the power to change one mineral to another through biological transmutation. The iodine found in black walnut (or Juglans nigra) is organic, antiseptic, and healing. Plant Description  Black walnut is a native North American deciduous tree that grows to a height of 15–23 meters, with a trunk roughly one meter in diameter. Approximately two meters from the ground, the tree divides into numerous neatly horizontal, wide-spreading branches with smooth grey bark that forms an upright, umbrella-like crown in the woods or a round-topped crown when out in the open. The leaves vary from 30–50 cm long, consisting of seven or eight pairs of leaflets along a central axis and a single leaflet at the tip. Leaflets emerge very late in the spring and are yellow-green in color; in the autumn, the leaves are yellow. Its flowers are inconspicuous in elongated green clusters. The fruit is three to five centimetres in diameter consisting of a hard shell, a furrowed nut enclosed in a green husk, and becomes darker when ripe. History It was said that in the “golden age” when people lived upon acorns, the gods lived upon walnuts hence the name of Juglans, Jovis glans, or Jupiter’s nuts. The name walnut comes from the German wallnuss or welsche nuss, which means “foreign nut.” The walnut was dedicated to the goddess Artemis in Ancient Greece, and the tree symbolized wisdom, fertility, longevity, and strength in adversity.6 The late Nicholas Culpeper, a renowned English herbalist, suggests that the bark is very astringent when he states, “Doth bind and dry very much.” He also says that the mature bitter leaves are useful for killing broad worms in the stomach, and the green hulls boiled with honey are a great remedy for sore throats and inflammation of the mouth and stomach.7 Black walnuts have historically been used to dye fabrics a rich tan to dark brown colour. The hulls have the most concentration of stain and cannot be removed with soap and water alone. Any natural fibre may be dyed with Juglans nigra. Medicinal Properties & Indications  Digestive System Juglans nigra is one of nature’s most powerful anthelmintics or antiparasitics. It eradicates the overgrowth of microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and yeasts, as well as addresses parasites, worms, and flukes. It is used as a remedy for digestive and liver insufficiency with possible jaundice, headaches, and tissue congestion. Naturopathic doctor Jill Stansbury writes about using it when there is a dry, acrid feeling in the throat and mouth.8 It may also be used specifically when there is soreness in the tonsil area experienced as a sensation coming from the external neck and throat, rather than from the inner throat.9 Though not specific for skin disorders, the colon cleansing and tonifying effects of the herb provide benefits for chronic skin disorders caused by imbalances of digestion and assimilation. Indications:  » parasites  » worms - pinworms, threadworms, roundworms, hookworms, giardia  » flukes - liver flukes  » candida  » fungal infections  » irritation of the intestines  » inflammation of the intestines  » constipation  » diarrhea  » liver congestion  » gallbladder congestion  » intestinal permeability  » dysbiosis Endocrine System  As a superlative herb for the thyroid, Juglans nigra is both stimulating for hypothyroidism, and a nourishing trophorestorative.  Juglans nigra is the remedy for times of change in life. It’s an ally for advancing the stages of maturity (e.g., teething, puberty, menopause) or big life-change decisions that break conventions, helping us leave old limits and habits behind. Indications:  » hypothyroidism   » goitre  » low metabolism  » boils  » abscesses  » electric shocks (often due to mycotoxin illness) Contraindications & Safety  » pregnancy » breastfeeding Use caution with long-term use.  Preparations & Applications  Dosage:  Tincture (1:5): Adult: 5 mL three times daily (TID)  Children:  >1 yr: 1–3 gtts (drops) TID  >2 yrs.: 1–2 mL TID  2–4 yrs.: 1–3 mL TID  >5 yrs: 3 mL TID Tea (Infusion): Add 1–2 tsp dried hull with 8 oz hot water. Cover and steep for 10–30 minutes. Take 3 c/day for adults, ½ c/day for children between 2–5 yrs. ...

Anti-Inflammatory Diet For Pain Relief

Diet For Pain Relief
If you’ve been trying to reduce overall aches and pains but have hit a bit of a roadblock, you might be able to move the needle by making a few small dietary changes. Some main dietary contributors that can increase pain are a lack of hydration, insufficient fiber, and too many processed foods. Making a few changes in just these areas can make a huge difference. Stay Hydrated  About 70 percent of the body including muscles and joints is made up of water. Not drinking enough water leads to dehydration, causing your muscles and joints to become less lubricated and stiff. It can also lead to faster degeneration of the spine and the discs over time. Not drinking enough can also lead to headaches, low blood pressure, and insufficient fluids to flush toxins out of the body, which can lead to more pain and inflammation. Mineral levels are also depleted when you are dehydrated. Due to their importance for the basic function and repair of many systems in your body, supplementation may be required if you’re not replacing these minerals within your diet. Fiber Slowly increasing your fiber intake (along with water) can help reduce inflammation, which can subsequently reduce pain. Eating fiber pulls sugar out of the body (that’s a good thing); sugar increases inflammation and leads to other physiological problems that may also contribute to increased pain in the body. Fiber also cleans out the intestines to ensure we don't have food and waste lingering for too long and getting reabsorbed into the body. Processed Foods  Another huge contributor to inflammation is processed foods, which the body will eventually break down into sugar. I encourage you to take a look at your diet and log your food for a week or two (yes, there are apps for that). You may be surprised at how much sugar is being consumed, even though you’re not eating anything sweet!  “While it’s beneficial to remove or swap out inflammatory foods, you can increase some anti-inflammatory foods as well.”  These days, a lot of our foods are highly processed even if we cook everything at home. Most flour, for example, is processed to some degree, with white and bleached flour being the most processed. Switching to a more fiber-rich flour (such as a whole grain), or reducing flour usage in general, might be worth trying if you’ve been cooking with it in excess. Cooking oils are also inflammatory, but avocado or olive oil are two of the better options. Using avocado oil for higher-heat cooking and olive oil for lower heat is best. You can also include coconut oil and butter in moderation for medium-heat cooking or baking. Switching from the more inflammatory oils like vegetable, corn, canola, sunflower, grapeseed, and safflower—as well as margarine—to these better choices could make a difference in your inflammation and pain levels over time.  While it’s beneficial to remove or swap out inflammatory foods, you can increase some anti-inflammatory foods as well. These fiber-rich nutrient foods include cruciferous veggies, greens, nuts and seeds, berries, and fatty fish (follow the acronym SMASH: sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, and herring). There are some spices you can use in your cooking and baking that may help too, such as turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, or garlic. If you would like a more structured approach to eating or more guidance, the Mediterranean diet or a whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB) might be right for you. Even within these diets’ guidelines, there may be ways to customize the foods you eat to make them specific to your needs. Nutrition and diet are very individualized when taking into account a person’s specific conditions and symptoms, so it’s worthwhile to consult with your healthcare practitioner to figure out what works for you. Remember, what’s good for your Aunt Minnie, may not be right for you.

A Healthier New Year: Putting the Focus on Your Health

Healthier New Year In 2022
Stress amid the impact of the pandemic years on has left a lot of people feeling disconnected from family and friends, along with having to adapt to new modes of ‘normal.’ This is, in addition to already ever-present daily stressors people must contend with – work, schooling, family life, relationships, finances… Anything that perhaps felt difficult or strained before is now even more so, especially with the rising costs of groceries and household items.  Making changes for the better health-wise, amid everything going on in the world, is unfortunately not a priority for many. Many fall back into bad habits, unhealthy patterns, or perhaps neglected to focus on themselves. While things might always seem to be in a state of flux, 2024 still promises the hope of another year to start anew and revitalize; it can start with healthier habits that are genuinely attainable (and maintainable).  New Year resolutions are always going to be personal and specific to an individual and about actualizing change that they feel they need to realize in their own life. This could mean weight loss (or gain), changing dietary habits, quitting smoking or drinking, re-designing their home environment and living space, or taking control of their own health and wellness.  That being said, highly personal New Year resolutions and goals can always be supported and encouraged by recognizing that those goals are, in fact, accomplishable.  That can mean reading about the success of others through blogs, social media, and peers – and it can mean knowing how best to support your own journey through supplements, vitamins, nutrition, and holistic approaches.  Many are looking for a starting point or a ‘plan’ to get a more concrete sense of how to actually achieve what they set their mind to.  A huge part of this is ensuring that you support your needs – if your goal in 2024 is to have a healthier year, then a priority is knowing how best to support your health. Supplements and vitamins can play a vital role in this regard to assist pre-existing dietary changes and exercise.  Is your goal weight loss? Putting on muscle? Sticking to your workout plan? In addition to finding a workout routine that best works for you and your goals, supplements can provide assistance to reduce appetite cravings, ensure proper carbohydrate metabolism, and boost workout performances. B-Vitamins, particularly Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), B3 (Niacin), and B12 (cobalamin) can play an important role in helping to metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fat.  When there are pre-existing nutrient deficiencies, it can be more difficult to properly utilize or absorb nutrients from food, maintain the energy needed to sustain high-intensity workouts, or to effectively lose weight.  A good B-Vitamin multi or individual supplement can assist the body when transitioning over to new dietary changes.  They also ensure you maintain adequate energy levels throughout the day, as B12 deficiency is common among those who feel ‘low-energy,’ ‘tired,’ or ‘lethargic’ – especially after eating larger meals or completing daily tasks.  Magnesium is another absolutely essential supplement for those who feel constantly ‘low-energy’ or unable to actively strive towards their goals – critical for the proper, healthy functioning of nerves, muscles, and cells.  While magnesium is not directly correlated with weight loss, it will ensure proper muscle function and improve sleep quality to support all your workout goals and daily activity for those looking to put on muscle and lose weight or gain mass. Specific “weight loss” supplements like Green Tea Extract, Caffeine, and Garcinia Cambogia can support energy expenditure and the body’s metabolism to help aid weight loss faster – dozens of clinical trials seem to support a reduction in body weight when used in addition to dietary changes and exercise compared to those alone.  Probiotics are a continuing area of research and study surrounding the ‘microbiome,’ as we begin to understand more about the role of digestive health and the ‘gut’ on overall well-being, immunity, and metabolism.  Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria) that can benefit both the gut and overall health – these can either be found in supplemental form, or in fermented food like kimchi and sauerkraut. Your gut also feeds off the fiber in plant-based food (leafy greens, seeds, legumes) to nourish the beneficial strains of bacteria present in the digestive system.   There are countless plant-based supplements that provide plenty of dietary fiber and act as a pre-biotic for those looking to up their intake. Supplements like Inulin, Psyllium Husk, or Guar Gum can feed beneficial bacteria in the gut naturally, the same way high-fiber healthy foods like beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetables can. Hence the name ‘pre-biotic.’  Th ...
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