Tagged with 'Healthy Planet Canada'

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 ...

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 ...

Biohacking To Enhance Your Child’s Academic Potential

Biohacking has become a popular topic since the early 2000s, referring to intentional changes in one’s diet, exercise, and environment to unlock the mind and body’s full potential. While typically associated with anti-aging and preserving cognitive function, biohacking can also optimize children's mental, physical, emotional, and cognitive performance in school. Epigenetics To understand how biohacking can improve academic performance, let's explore the concept of epigenetics. Identical twins may exhibit different abilities and performance in school due to epigenetic factors, despite being genetically identical. Epigenetics looks at how external factors like nutrition, exercise, and environment can alter our genetic expression, thus promoting change and potentially even preventing disease; it’s the study of these factors that can shape the way our bodies express themselves genetically, and how we can utilize these factors to harness our greatest potential. With that in mind, let’s delve into some of the things that we can do to optimize academic performance. Critical Nutrients When it comes to school-aged children (6-12 years of age),factors such as nutrition, physical activity, sleep, healthy stress, and environmental management have been found to significantly impact academic performance. While adequate nutritional intake is important at all ages, ensuring adequacy at a young age can have especially significant impacts on both short-term and lifelong academic and cognitive performance. Here are a few of the more critical nutrients to consider: Iron: Several recent studies out of the University of Toronto and SickKids Hospital have demonstrated that low levels of iron in the blood can predict poor cognitive development and performance; meanwhile, a TARGetKids study suggests that just over 10 percent of children up to the age of 6 are iron-deficient.1,2 Numerous studies have been conducted to determine whether iron supplementation can improve academic performance, and while not all studies agree, there does seem to be a trend showing that supplementation may improve attention, concentration, performance, and even IQ test scores.3 As dosages across these studies vary, it is imperative that you speak with a healthcare provider before starting any supplement. However, one of the safest ways to improve iron levels is to simply eat a well-rounded diet. Foods high in iron include meats, eggs, fish (e.g., mackerel and sardines), vegetables like spinach and sweet potatoes, fruits like strawberries and watermelon, beans, and even grains and certain breads. Zinc: This is another integral mineral for childhood development; it can impact height, immune system function, and even cognitive development. Intake needs increase with age, and several studies have shown that supplementation can improve multiple intelligence domains in children, including verbal comprehension/fluency and non-verbal skill capacity. Foods high in zinc include beef, lamb, oysters, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, mushrooms, and spinach. Omega-3 fatty acids: Numerous studies have shown that dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake is associated with improved academic performance. A study of over 17,000 school-aged children found that those who consumed at least eight grams of fish per day performed significantly better in several academic areas, including mathematics and language.6 Supplementation may also be beneficial for attention, memory, and hyperactivity. Dietary omega-3 sources include fish, particularly SMASH (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring); as well as vegetarian sources, including seeds (chia, flax, hemp, and pumpkin), nuts (walnuts, almonds), beans, spinach, and more. Other Considerations Aside from these commonly studied nutrients, the impact of heavy metals, toxins, and other environmental factors on academic performance is also worth considering. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) "Clean 15" and "Dirty Dozen" lists can help identify the cleanest and most contaminated foods.8 Heavy metal poisoning has been associated with cognitive decline in adults and reduced IQ scores in children.9 In short, these guides can help you determine which common foods are the “cleanest” and which need serious consideration or avoidance. Aside from achieving optimal nutrition, which is the cornerstone of biohacking for all ages, several other important factors can impact the social, emotional, cognitive, academic, and physical development of children. Physical activity: Daily physical activity may have the capacity to not only aid physical development, but also concentration, cognition, and academic performance. In a recent study that spanned nine years, researchers found that school-aged children who engaged in daily exercise achieved an average of 13.3 grade points higher than those who engaged in physical activity only twice a week.10 They also found that those who engaged in daily exercise were ...

Lowering Cholesterol For Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular Health and Cholesterol
High cholesterol is something that many of us deal with at some point in our lives. Cholesterol is not inherently bad; your liver makes enough naturally for proper health. The problem occurs when we add more cholesterol to our bodies through food, such as meat and dairy. These foods also have saturated and trans fats which cause your liver to create even more cholesterol the result can be high cholesterol for some people. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease, so keeping it under control is very important. Supplementation can be an effective solution for your high cholesterol but check with your healthcare provider to see if this approach is right for you. Monitoring your cholesterol levels while taking supplements through regular blood tests is advisable. Taking cholesterol-lowering supplements consistently is essential to see positive results. AOR Cholesterol Control For vascular health and healthy cholesterol levels, AOR’s Cholesterol Control contains a proprietary extract of bergamot which has been shown to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and boost good cholesterol (HDL). The antioxidant and inflammation-reducing properties of bergamot also help to prevent vascular damage. It’s vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free. A. VOGEL Omega-3 Capsules A source of omega-3 fatty acids (not derived from fish or other animal sources) which support cardiovascular health. A. Vogel Omega-3 is made from fresh plant sources and is sugar-, gluten-, lactose-free, and vegetarian-friendly. CYTO MATRIX Lipo Matrix Overall cholesterol and triglyceride support your cardiovascular health. Herbal ingredients in Lipo Matrix help reduce total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol (through lipid metabolism) while increasing good HDL cholesterol. It is vegan, soy-, dairy-, gluten-free, and non-GMO. GENESTRA Col-Sterol Plant sterol intake has been shown to decrease dietary cholesterol absorption. Genestra Col-Sterol Plant Sterol Formula contains 1,300 mg of Brassica napus plant sterols in each easy-to-swallow softgel, decreasing total and LDL cholesterol while supporting cardiovascular health. NATURAL FACTORS Niacin Inositol Niacin (vitamin B3) assists in the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbs and is good for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Natural Factors Niacin Inositol improves cardiovascular function by promoting good cholesterol and decreasing the bad. Natural Factors niacin is delivered as inositol hexanicotinate this minimizes the flushing effect and further side effects of other niacin forms. NFH Chol Sap-15 Delivering a plant sterol intake of 1.05 g/d, overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol can be lowered between 8-15% with NFH Chol SAP-15. In addition, plant sterols have been shown to support healthy immune function and reduce inflammation. NFH Chol SAP-15 is formulated with organic flaxseed oil, ensuring optimal absorption. Flaxseed oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acid, which are essential for maintaining good health. It’s non GMO, corn, egg, dairy, yeast, citrus, sugar, wheat, gluten, and starch-free, contains no preservatives, and has no artificial colour or flavor.

The Family Table: Summer Tasty Treats

Summer Snacks Recipe
Honeybee Granola This bee-inspired granola recipe made from wildflower honey and bee pollen is an ode to summer’s favorite picnic visitor. It is sweet and satisfying thanks to healthy fats from almonds and protein-rich hemp seeds. Be sure to use sustainably harvested honey and bee pollen sources to protect the bees and support local beekeepers. Serve with honey-sweetened, lemony vanilla Greek yogurt. Ingredients » 2 c old fashioned rolled oats » 1 c raw slivered almonds (or other nuts) » 1 tsp fine grain sea salt » ¼ tsp cinnamon » ½ c melted coconut oil » ½ c wildflower honey » 1 tsp vanilla bean paste » ¼ c bee pollen Instructions 1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. 2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well. 3. Gently stir in the melted oil, honey, and vanilla until well combined. 4. Turn the mixed granola out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread it in an even layer. 5. Bake for 20–25 minutes, stirring halfway until lightly golden. Mix bee pollen into the hot granola and let set. 6. Cool for 10 minutes, then serve on top of homemade yogurt with more bee pollen and wildflower honey. Lemony Vanilla Greek Yogurt Use this yogurt as the base for your bee-inspired granola parfait, or pair it with grilled pineapple kebabs (on page 58) as a high-protein dipping sauce for your dessert your Greek yogurt just got a little more interesting! Ingredients » 1 c unsweetened Greek yogurt » 2 Tbsp wildflower honey » 1 Tbsp lemon zest » Juice from 1 lemon » 2 tsp vanilla bean paste Instructions Mix everything together and store in the fridge for up to 10 days. Rosemary Pineapple Kebabs An easy low-sugar dessert that doesn’t require the oven on a hot summer day. Fruit-based desserts provide tons of antioxidants and fibre, and the grilling of marinated pineapple brings out its natural sweetness no need for refined sugar in this recipe! Ingredients » 1 large ripe pineapple, cored and chopped into 1-inch pieces » 1 sprig fresh rosemary » 2 Tbsp honey or organic cane sugar » 2 Tbsp high-heat-safe cooking oil (coconut or avocado) » Juice and zest from 1 lime Instructions 1. Remove rosemary leaves from stem and finely chop. 2. Mix all your marinade in a large bowl and add the chopped pineapple. Toss to coat and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours. 3. Place pineapple pieces onto wood or metal kebab skewers and cook over medium heat on the grill, flipping halfway through so both sides have nice grill marks (approximately 3–5 minutes on each side). Rice Noodle Bowl This no-bake, family-friendly dinner recipe is interactive and customizable, making it a great option for picky eaters. You can prepare all the ingredients ahead of time for a quick and simple weekday dinner; swap vegetables, proteins, and herbs based on what you have fresh at home, or whatever looks great at the farmers’ market. Ingredients » 1 c natural creamy peanut butter, almond butter, or tahini » Juice of 2 limes and zest of 1 lime » 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger » 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce or sweet soy sauce » 2 Tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos » 1 tsp maple syrup or honey » 2 tsp hot sauce (optional) » ¹ / ³ c hot water » 1 package rice noodles » Protein of choice: 1 package of firm tofu, 1 package of wild shrimp, 6 chicken thighs, or 2 chicken breasts » 1 c chopped herbs of choice: mint, basil, Thai basil, cilantro » A minimum of 2 vegetables: lettuce, peppers, carrots, mung bean sprouts, bok choy, zucchini, cucumbers, cabbage » ½ c roasted salted nuts of choice: cashew, peanuts, slivered almonds Instructions 1. Prepare your sauce by mixing the first 8 ingredients together in a large bowl to create a smooth and creamy consistency. 2. Set the sauce aside while you prepare your proteins and vegetables. Prepare proteins first so they have a little bit of time to marinate. Leave shrimp whole if using, otherwise cut your proteins into bite-sized pieces. 3. Pour ½ the sauce over your protein and let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Set the remaining sauce aside. 4. Chop your veggies into long strips, excluding mung beans (if chosen) since they’re already in the perfect shape. Set aside. 5. Cook your proteins on the BBQ or stovetop until cooked through. Prepare the noodles according to package directions, then strain and mix with the remaining creamy sauce until well incorporated. 6. Serve noodles in a bowl and let everyone at the table add their own protein, vegetables, herbs, and roasted salted nuts to finish. Serve with more lime.

Healthy Eating Tips For Veggie Haters

Healthy Eating Tips
During my years in practice, I’ve realized that for many people, visiting a dietitian does not sound like fun. Unfortunately, some of my sisters and brothers in dietetics have established a bad reputation for themselves. I’ll never forget one of my first appointments as a newly-fledged dietitian with a client who was not interested in being there. “What are you going to do—write down everything I say and then tell me what I’m doing wrong?” she asked. Cue the eye roll. But I get it. If you’re already struggling with eating healthy, the last thing you need is someone telling you you’re doing everything wrong and that you need to completely overhaul your diet. The advice given by health and wellness experts is not always relatable either; I’ve seen plenty of examples of this. I follow a fitness instructor on social media who recently suggested that people with a sweet tooth should munch on cherry tomatoes when they have a craving since they have a slightly sweet flavour. “Healthy eating tips” like that frustrate me because I know that for most people, they will actually have the opposite effect. Expecting to never eat sweets and only eat vegetables will just set a person up for intense cravings, followed by immense guilt when they give in to those cravings. I’d rather see health professionals be honest and realistic with their clients. It’s a lot easier to eat healthy when you know you’re allowed to be human. You don’t have to turn into a complete veggie lover to improve your diet. I’m proof of that. I am not a fan of the taste of raw vegetables. Hand to my heart, it’s the honest truth. I have my reasons for being “frenemies” with raw veggies—maybe you can relate to some of them. First, there’s the taste. I’ve never liked bitter flavours, and veggies like broccoli and kale taste so bitter to me when they’re raw. Then, there are the potential unpleasant stomach issues that arise after eating large amounts of uncooked vegetables—the bloating, gas, and loose bowel movements are not so fun. Lastly, I don’t find that vegetables satisfy my hunger. If I eat a salad for lunch, it won’t hold me over until dinnertime.  If you can relate to any of these veggie-related problems, don’t worry. Despite these issues, I’ve figured out how to include vegetables in my daily diet while keeping my tastebuds and body happy. Don’t Like The Taste? Try This . . .  The key to adding more veggies to your diet when you don’t like the taste is to go on a flavour exploration. The easiest way to do this is to try out a variety of cuisines. Check out the restaurants in your area, or go online to find recipes for dishes from different cultures. Exploring cuisines will help you determine what makes a dish taste good to you, which you can then apply to your own cooking. This will help to improve the taste and appeal of vegetables for you. For example, when trying Indian dishes, you might discover that you prefer your veggies to be cooked with hot, spicy flavours; you might enjoy the tangy salads from Mediterranean cultures; or perhaps you like the umami flavour of a Thai stir fry.  “If you don’t know how to make veggies taste good, you aren’t going to eat them.”  While you’re taking note of the flavours you like, also pay attention to textures and colours. Do you like your veggies to be crunchy or soft? Do you prefer to eat veggies on their own or incorporate them in a mixed dish? Are brightly coloured vegetables appealing to you, or do you prefer dark greens? These may seem like rudimentary questions, but they are important to answer. If you don’t know how to make veggies taste good, you aren’t going to eat them. So, give a lot of thought to what you enjoy and apply those concepts to your grocery shopping and cooking at home. Stomach Issues . . .  The discomfort that happens in your stomach after eating a bunch of raw veggies is the result of a fibre overload. When we’re not used to eating a lot of fibre, the microbes in the colon have a heyday with the influx of insoluble fibre found in veggies. These microbes ferment the insoluble fibre that our body’s cells can’t break down, causing it to produce large amounts of gas and organic acids—the culprits behind bloating and loose stools. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent these unpleasant side effects. Whenever you’re introducing something new to your diet, be sure to start slow and gradual, and build from there. If you’re not used to eating veggies regularly and suddenly start eating them at every meal, you’re definitely in for some gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort. I suggest adding vegetables to your diet one serving at a time. If you aren’t in the habit of eating them, begin by having one serving of veggies each day. Give yourself a solid two weeks to adjust to this change. If your gut is feeling happy, introduce another serving of vegetables to your d ...

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 ...