The Only Fudgesicle Recipe that you’ll Ever Need (GF/DF)

Who doesn’t crave a cooling treat on a hot summer day? Years ago when my partner and I lived in Vancouver, we embarked on a friendly competition called “The Fudge Off.” We were competing to create the creamiest and tastiest homemade fudgesicle; a way to distract ourselves from the sweltering Vancouver sun and our teeny home that had no air circulation and no air conditioning. I tried many, many different strategies to get the creaminess right; dates, avocado, cream, coconut cream, milk, oat milk, different cans of coconut milk (full fat, half fat), dates AND coconut milk, different ratios of liquid to powder and on..and on it went. We ultimately did not succeed that year in creating the most perfect homemade fudgesicle but we had lots of fun trying.
A few years later, I claimed victory. I would like to say that I was a good competitor – friendly and humble – but I was too excited and perhaps on too much of a sugar high to be gracious. It is equal parts creamy and delicious and – you know me! – it also has some good ole botanical medicine infused into the final product. I would like to say that it was my genius idea to add in arrowroot powder to thicken it but, alas, I found that tip online. Whether or not I confess that to my competitor…we’ll see! And now, I present to you the recipe of all fudgesicle recipes:

Creamy Mushroom Fudgesicles
Makes ~5-6 popsicles depending on your mold.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup 5 Mushroom Chocolate Powder from Harmonic Arts
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups mylk – I use Aroy-D coconut milk
1/2 cup honey – my favourite is Keller’s

Steps:
Combine the mushroom powder, arrowroot powder and salt in a bowl.
Heat up the mylk in a small sauce pan and then add the dry ingredients in
Add honey
Simmer until it thickens
Pour into molds
Freeze for at least a few hours and then enjoy!

On Slowing Down

A week ago I found myself on a small island with limited cell service, an outdoor shower and an ocean view minutes away in each direction. For many people, this sounds magical. I had them at “no cell service” and each additional detail brings about an even deeper sense of peace. And even though the environment itself was conducive to peace, there was another component that was much more subtle: The tempo of the island was slow, thoughtful and intentional. This can be an abrupt contrast to any city life. It is nearly maddening at first to be operating at such a high “speed” and to be surrounded by people, places and nature that are slow and deliberate. However, once you allow the nervous system to settle into this tempo, well…that’s when the real magic begins.

 

We end up stuck operating at a higher-than-necessary tempo for many reasons. Typically, we get asked to up-level our capacity due to fleeting life circumstances; we have a busy week ahead, our partner is travelling for work so now we are responsible for all things related to home life, we have family to care for or a busy work project. Let’s also not forget that there is external pressure from society to work harder and produce more. We value overwork. We devalue rest. The ability to function at this level serves us and it often initially gifts us with praise and progress. Once our spell of busy-ness is complete, some folks can relax back to their own original rhythm. However, it is very easy to get stuck there; doing more and more while being less and less. We begin to believe that if we stop to rest, we will stop entirely and succumb to our body’s cries to slow down. And then what would happen? We cannot risk the thought. I couldn’t risk the thought.

 

Fortunately after spending many days in seclusion while learning a deeply energetic and profound modality, my rhythm slowed. In my silence, I had the capacity to observe the contrast between my usual tendencies and my new-found slowness. The space in between them was sobering. My tendency to overwork propelled me through school and beyond. It served me very well and now here it was, at the shoreline, asking me to please just stop and rest. I obliged.

 

As we approach the yang season of summer, it can be quite challenging to slow down. There are lots of plans, vacations and social obligations. It is only natural that our energy will match that of nature as she blooms and lengthens the sun. However, if you would like to join me, I am committed to carving out time for rest. To slow down this summer, I will be doing the following:

  • Taking more time off and going on my first vacation in years.
  • Taking a social media hiatus to mitigate the constant pressure to create content.
  • Spending entire days reading great books (I have a pretty amazing line up!)
  • Being present with food from selecting ingredients to preparing to cooking to eating.
  • Focusing more on restorative and yin yoga.
  • Carving out more time in my day to slow down my breathing pattern and connect to my body.

 

Your turn…what will you do to slow down this summer?

Loving Your Lymph

I often say that the lymphatic system is the most underutilized and under-appreciated system of the body. As your own personal waste disposal and recycling system, your lymphatic system spans the entire body and is interconnected with the circulatory and immune system. The lymphatic system consists of various tubes and cleansing stations that move lymphatic fluid or lymph throughout the body along with the spleen, thymus, GALT [gut associated lymphoid tissue] and tonsils. Lymph consists of fluids from cells, minerals, fats, proteins, bacteria, viruses and foreign particles. The cleansing stations – lymph nodes – house white blood cells that mount a response to any infections or cancers brewing in the body. Lymph nodes are typically the size of a kidney bean and yet they are actively surveying the body at all times. When they come across an intruder, the amount of white blood cells increase and the lymph node itself swells as the body fights to keep you well.

 

The direction of lymph is a one-way street that relies on nearby blood vessels, deep breathing or muscle contraction for movement. Lymph naturally tends to move slower however, if there is too much debris and not enough movement, lymph can become congested. This is best explained by using the metaphor of a bus route; we ideally want just as many people exiting the bus as people entering the bus. If there are too many people on the bus, your lymphatic system becomes overwhelmed and congested. This can also cause lymph nodes to swell and it can lead to any of the following:

  • Acne and other skin concerns like rashes or itchy skin
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Constipation
  • Clogged ears or chronic earaches
  • Brain fog
  • Bloating and water retention
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throats
  • Chronic sinus congestion
  • Weight loss resistance
  • Puffiness

 

Ways to support your lymph:

  • Deep breathing
  • Contrast showers (alternating hot and cold in the shower)
  • Castor oil packs
  • Jumping into cold lakes (my personal favourite)
  • Dry skin brushing
  • Rebounding
  • Exercise
  • Using herbs to move lymph – top choices are cleavers, calendula, dandelion
  • Lymphatic massage

 

Neither of the above are exhaustive lists as lymphatic congestion and release is a really rich area of discussion. However, I hope this intrigues you enough to consider this amazing system that harbours amazing healing potential.  As we…eventually…move into spring, show your lymphatic system some love and thank it for its endless work in keeping you well!

Play with the Bitter Principle this Spring!

Call me optimistic but I am choosing to believe that spring is here. Although I had a wonderful winter, as they go, I am fully ready to embrace a new season. And with a new season, comes a classic spring culinary friend – dandelion greens! If you’ve ever tried them, you know that they are quite bitter and if you happen to know me, you know that I LOVE bitter foods and herbs.

 

Aside from the bitter receptors that reside on our tongue, we have bitter receptors all through our bodies including the gonads and the heart. This should raise a curiosity: Why would this be? We evolved from eating bitter foods such as berries and roots. Bitter foods are very much a part of our ancestral diet. However, as the food industry evolved, they favoured flavours that were addictive like sweet and salty leaving our bitter taste receptors untouched.

 

Whether or not we flock to bitter foods, there is a series of physiological changes that happen when we engage with bitters. In botanical medicine, we call this the bitter principle. When we taste bitterness, it automatically shifts us into parasympathetic or rest and digest mode; saliva increases, enzymes increase and peristalsis begins. What this ultimately means is less gas and bloating and better bowel movements. Oh, and of course a more relaxed nervous system.

 

Dandelion is one of the first “weeds” that peaks through the earth in spring. The greens also happen to be a wonderful choice for a bitter food. Below are three of my favourite ways to eat dandelion greens.

 

  1. Dandelion Greens Pesto

Ingredients
2 cups dandelion greens, packed, chopped, and washed
½ cup olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, or walnuts
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, parmesan or pecorino (my favourite!)
A squeeze of lemon juice or 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

Directions
Add into a small blender in this order:

Garlic

Nuts or seeds

Greens

Half of the oil

Lemon or balsamic

The remainder of the oil; if you have the option to drizzle in slowly as the blender runs – please do!

Add in cheese and give one final blitz.

 

Enjoy this pesto on crackers, drizzled on meat, tofu, fish, with pasta or drizzled over a yummy soup!

 

  1. Sauteed in a salad and sprinkled with sheep or goat cheese like this awesome recipe here 

 

  1. Dandelion Juice

To mellow out the bitter (if you must!) of dandelion greens, you can always juice them with citrus and apples. I prefer that folks add in some ground flax seed to their fresh pressed juice to stabilize blood sugar!

 

I typically do some variation of the following:

1 apple

1 large bundle of organic dandelion leaves

Small chunk of ginger

1 lemon

And sometimes I add a little pineapple for some more flavour

 

Please do enjoy playing with all of the above. I promise that if you welcome bitter herbs and foods into your life, you’ll grow to love them! Another promising tidbit for you is that your bitter receptors will change over time. What this means is this: The first time you have something bitter, you will have a wicked response (make a funny face, announce how much you disliked it, etc) but over a few weeks, you’ll notice that even though it is still bitter…you can handle it much better. The body adapts beautifully to old friends like the bitters.

 

P.S. – Do not harvest your own dandelion greens unless you know for sure that they were not sprayed!

 

P.P.S – If you’re looking for some tips on how to support the body this season, check out this freebie on my website.

Why Herbal Workshops Matter

Growing up, I was always encouraged to interact with nature; watching thunderstorms, taking a big huff of the air fresh after a rain storm, playing in dirt, listening for the crisp crunch of walking on fresh snow. My love for nature took me to rural Tuscany where I climbed olive trees and harvested my dinner fresh every night from the garden. It took me to small towns in Germany where I planted tulips and harvested elderberry flowers. And then it took me to British Columbia where I became a student of naturopathic medicine.

It was here where my deep appreciation of botanical medicine sparked with the help of three little embers: 

First, a book written by the well-respected and well-loved Stephen Buhner titled “The Lost Language of Plants” that introduced me to the concept of biophilia. Essentially biophilia is the acknowledgement of plant spirit. Buhner explains it best by using the metaphor of a puppy; it is one thing to acknowledge that a puppy as a living entity, and another thing to engage with the puppy’s being just as much as the puppy will engage with your being. As Buhner states, “something” passes through you to the puppy and from the puppy to you but what is this something? Once you begin to understand that plants are seeing and experiencing you just as much as you are experiencing them, I promise that your relationship to nature will change. 

Second, an immersive internship spent on the lovely Innisfree Farms where I was able to interact (touch, taste, sniff, sense, harvest, prepare) trees, flowers, herbs. That summer changed me. Nature held me calmly and consistently as I tried to tried to catch my grounding after a first and very intensive year of naturopathic medical school. Although I was there to tend to the earth, an unpredicted reciprocal relationship developed where it also tended to me.

Third was a particular talk by Dr. Lee Brown from the wolf clan of the Cherokee Nation. One of the many things I learnt that day was that when elders of his community were called upon to heal somebody, they would first walk around their property. They were looking for the herbs that were growing wildly throughout their yard; not planted and cultivated but sprouting through the earth on their own will. This was their first indication of what ailment this person may be suffering with; they knew that the plants will always find you, especially when you need them the most.

This story changed my daily walks. I became aware of what was around me, I identified it and I studied its medicine. I pondered why plantain, a plant widely used for its demulcent or soothing properties was popping up on every street corner or why St. John’s Wort, a sunny plant used to lighten the mood was gladly thriving in the city. Maybe it was coincidence or maybe it was a solution to the disconnection and pain that is often too abundant in our society today.

So, what do all of these things have in common? They all demanded that I simply be present and engage with what was around me. They did not beckon inaccessible protocols, complicated instructions or skillsets that I did not already have. The use of herbs does not need to be complicated or intimidating. You can easily incorporate their gifts into your everyday rituals and cooking. You can also create a relationship with them and spark your own sense of biophilia. This is why workshops matter; they offer a road to connection and empowerment (oh, and better health.) 

If you want to join me for an upcoming and (FINALLY!) in person work shop, head here to grab your spot to spend a day with me and some other wonderful folks.

Feeling Eco-Anxious?

I’ve written in the past about the intersection between naturopathic medicine and environmentalism. Specifically, about the importance of honouring sustainability as – without a healthy ecosystem – we truly have no medicine. As you may have noticed if you have read any of my other blogs, I value sustainability in naturopathic medicine and lifestyle. Perhaps a little too much. Let me explain.
When I lived in Vancouver, I was pleased by the infrastructure that allowed citizens to make more environmentally-sound choices: Soft plastic recycling, minimal packaging in the produce aisles, composting (oh, the composting!), textile recycling, freecycle groups in every neighbourhood, and of course the pedestrian lifestyle that they are well-known for. When the zero waste stores started to pop up, I was in all of my glory. Between the composting, soft plastic recycling and the capacity to refill my home goods thereby skipping unnecessary plastic containers, we produced one tiny bag of garbage every 3 weeks. You know that feeling when you’re in alignment with one of your values? Yeah, that.
When I had moved back to Regina, I will openly tell you all that I had a melt down at the grocery store. Everything was either in a net bag or wrapped in plastic that cannot be recycled in this city. And while this seems like a completely trivial thing to be concerned about (especially in a pandemic), those sweet potatoes in a netted bag were simply a symbol of the real problem: I was eco-anxious.
Eco-anxiety refers to persistent worries about the future of Earth and the life it shelters and it is becoming more and more common. It is near impossible to watch the news or listen to the radio without hearing of yet another natural disaster. From Greta Thunberg to fast fashion to the documentaries on Netflix opening our eyes to the drastic decline of diversity in the ecosystem, the message is clear: Our collective footprint is much, much too large. The consequences of our actions (or inaction) weighs heavily not only on the environment but also on each other both locally and globally.
It can be easy to disengage, numb or to bow out because you recycle especially if you are not in the eye of the next storm. Truthfully, looking closely at our damage to the earth is a difficult thing to do. Many folks are holding big questions and big feelings regarding reproduction, recycling and the impact of starting their car every day. And, so, the question becomes: What do we do about it?
Outside of all of the other ways that we can support the body as it experiences anxiety, the antidote is action. Although challenging, if we can shift our focus ever so slightly from the mass destruction on a global scale, we can make some space for our actions locally. Perhaps we can begin to acknowledge that less waste produced here makes a difference elsewhere. If you’re new to recycling, refilling, rehoming and rewilding, it can be daunting to know where to start. However, know that one small step is always enough. Little changes and big changes are all radical in the end. Here are some ways in which you can step into caring for this earth:
  •  Consider your own personal Buy Nothing [except food and necessities!] project for 30 days, 60 days, 1 year. These types of projects encourage you to ask the question “do I really need it?” and to get creative all while establishing a community built on sharing.
  • Lobby for city-wide composting and soft plastic recycling.
  • Skip unnecessary plastic bottles and refill your home cleaning goods and body care products at our local refill stores.
  • Do your best to find produce that is not packaged. Once the Farmer’s Market is back up and running, find your produce there; support local and skip the plastic.
  • Purchase meat wrapped in paper vs. cartons wrapped in plastic
  • Make your own milk and/or juice to avoid tetrapaks
  •  For menstruating folx, opt for diva cups, period underwear and/or biodegradable period products
  • Host clothing swaps
And if you’re feeling doom and gloom about the future, that is okay. In fact, it is a completely valid feeling. The take away from this blog cannot be “folks, it’s going to be okay!” because I think we all know by now, we’ve long surpassed that idealistic notion. However, I take deep peace in knowing this: Mother nature was totally fine long before us and she will be fine long after us. What happens to humankind in the process…well, that’s up to us.
Places to go for more support:
A Guide to Eco-Anxiety: How to Protect the Planet and Your Mental Health – Anouchka Grose

Holiday Menu

From our homes to yours, we would like to share our favourite recipes as you prepare for your holiday feast.  From all of us, we wish you a very happy Christmas season and many blessings in 2022!

With love, Brittany, Michelle, Julie and Allison

 

Apple Cider & Herb Brined Turkey 

From Nourishing Meals, one of Dr. Ziegler’s favourite cookbooks.

You will want to have your turkey thawed and ready for brining 24 to 72 hours before you plan on cooking it. Pictured here is a 15-pound turkey. The larger the turkey, the longer it will need to soak in the brine. I add all of the ingredients to the pot, except for the water, then add the turkey and add water to cover. It will be about a gallon, give or take some, depending on the size of your turkey. If you add more than a gallon of water (say for a larger turkey), you will want to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more salt, otherwise the brine may not be strong enough.

1 gallon apple cider
1 cup coarse sea salt
2 onions, chopped (I leave the skin on)
2 oranges, sliced
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 small bunch fresh rosemary
1 small bunch fresh thyme
1 small bunch fresh sage
2 to 4 bay leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 whole turkey (12 to 24 pounds)
1 gallon filtered water (or just enough to cover)

Place the apple cider, salt, onions, oranges, garlic, rosemary, sage, bay leaves, and black peppercorns into a large pot or container, stir well, and then place the turkey into it. Cover with filtered water. Place a weight on top of the bird to keep it submerged in the brine (like a glass bowl with a rock or a bag of water in it). If you don’t use a weight you will need to flip the turkey once or twice during a 24 hour period. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 72 hours.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Pull the turkey out of the brine and place into a roasting pan. Pull some of the onions, herbs, and orange slices out and stuff them into the cavity of the turkey. At this point I like to truss the bird with cotton butcher’s twine (you should be able to find this at your local kitchen or grocery store).

Next, remove the remaining solids from the brine and place them around the turkey in the bottom of the pan. This will flavor the bird even more during cooking and create an amazing gravy! Take about 4 cups of brine, along with about 2 cups of filtered water, and add it to the bottom of the pan.

Season the top of the bird with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil.

Place in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to 325 degrees F and continue roasting until juices run clear. I like to baste the turkey a few times during cooking as well. Brining can reduce total cooking time by a little, but you can use these guidelines from FoodSafety.gov for average cooking times (since I am not fully stuffing the cavity, I use the guidelines for an unstuffed turkey). Use a meat thermometer if needed to test for doneness. It should read about 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, though I usually take it out of the oven when the temperature is a little lower to prevent overcooking.

8 to 12 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Once the turkey is done, let it rest in the pan for about 30 minutes before carving. This allows for the juices to go back into the meat. You can then remove the turkey and place it on a large cutting board to carve. Pour the pan juices through a fine-mesh strainer into a 2-quart saucepan. Follow these directions to make Gluten-Free Gravy with them!

Once you have pulled all of the meat from the bones, use the carcass to make a rich, nourishing Turkey Stock

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberry Brown Butter

One of Dr. Zepp’s holiday favourites

4 pounds brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted organic grassfed butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 teaspoon chopped thyme

Preheat the oven to 400°. On 2 large rimmed baking sheets, toss the brussels sprouts with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the sprouts are tender and browned in spots.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, maple syrup, ginger and orange zest. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the cranberries break down and thicken, about 10 minutes.
In a medium skillet, cook the butter over moderately high heat until deep golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the shallot and thyme and stir into the cranberry sauce. Transfer the butter to a bowl, add the brussels sprouts and toss. Season with salt and serve.

Festive Kale Salad

From Oh She Glows, Dr. Wolfe’s pick

SALAD

2 bunches of finely chopped green curly kale
Hefty sprinkle of pecan parmesan (see below)
1 cup pomegranate arils
Optional additions but highly recommended: goat feta, one apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
DRESSING (Sweet apple cinnamon vinaigrette)
6 tbsp apple cider vinegar
~4.5 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
PECAN PARMESAN
1 cup pecans toasted
3 tsp nutritional yeast
3-6 tsp olive oil (start with 3 and work up slowly)
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until fragrant and lightly golden.
Remove the stems from the kale and discard. (Save the stems for a stir fry, broth or smoothie!)
Wash the kale and spin dry. Finely chop the leaves if needed otherwise place them in a large bowl with a glug of olive oil and a splash of lemon juice then massage the leaves until softened.
Make the dressing in a small bowl by mixing all of the ingredients together.
For the Pecan Parmesan: Add the pecans into the processor and process until the pecans are the size of peas or a bit larger. Now add in the nutritional yeast, oil, and salt and process again until it has a coarse crumb texture. Go slowly on this one so as not to overprocess into a fine powder.
Arrange your salad by adding all ingredients into the bowl, top with a hefty serving of the parmesan and serve the dressing on the side.

Super Seed Chocolate Bark

Dr. Sthamann’s delicous dessert

2-3/4 ozs dark chocolate
2 tsps cocnut oil
¼ cup pumkin seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsps hemp seeds

Line plate or baking sheet with parchment paper.
Fill a medium pot with an inch of water and place a small pot or heat-safe bowl on top ensuring the water is not touching the bottom of the smaller pot or bowl. The smaller pot or bowl should rest tightly on top of the pot and any water or steam should not be able to escape. Bring water to a boil then reduce heat to low.
Add the chocolate and coconut oil to the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted completely.
Remove the bowl for the double boiler and stir in the seeds. Mix well until the seeds are completely covered in the chocolate.
Transfer the chocolate and seeds to the prepared parchment paper and spread into an even layer. Place the bark in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until solid.
When solid, break into pieces and store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge until ready to eat.

A Local and Green Christmas Shopping List

A  thoughtful, sustainable and local Christmas gift roundup by yours truly just in time for those of you who have not started your Christmas shopping just yet!

We’re so fortunate to have some great local businesses in this community. We can eat, drink, love our bodies and be merry all while looking mighty chic. If we have the capacity to gift the people we love with presence AND presents then why not support our local businesses this holiday season?

For the zen-seakers:

If you have yet to experience a treatment from Sam Tran Beauty , you really ought to! She offers relaxing and effective facials, some really amazing and cost-efficient green beauty products and she has also created a spa kit that makes a really great gift. Gift yourself or someone that you love with a treatment by Sam.

  • If you have yet to experience the instant soothing effect of Wilkie Wellness, now is the time. You’ll likely feel instantly calm the second that you walk into the building. They have many, many offerings to choose from but if I had to make a recommendation, I would encourage you to try a restorative yoga class. The yoga and acupuncture classes are pure bliss. Give the gift of relaxation amongst community this season.

 

For the eco-friendly folx:

  • For your pals that are eco-conscious, consider a gift that keeps on giving: Zero Waste Starter Kit by The Alternative  is a great round up of sure-to-please green products. The best part? No more single use plastic bags! Your friends and mother nature will thank you.
  • By now, I am sure that you’re familiar with the questionable ingredients in paraffin-based candles. Beeswax candles make a great gift for winter as they add ambience, clean the air and they naturally smell great. Joan’s beeswax candles are my favourite and they are found at Traditions Hand Craft Gallery

Consider adding in one of these gorgeous candle holders from Fort Home and Co .

For the stylish:

  • Repurposed fabrics dyed with flowers? You had me at hello. To Live and Let Dye has a selection of clothes for everyone in the family. You can also find some of her collection at Mortise & Tenon and Groovy Mama.

P.S. The owner and creator – Sage – is a wonderful soul who puts a lot of time into community efforts. Go show her some love!

Born from Saskatoon, Elizabeth Lyn  jewelry is a crowd pleaser. You can find the goods at many local retailers including Fort Home Co, Wilkie Wellness and wascana flower shop.

 

For the coffee/tea lovers:

  • Any coffee or tea aficionado needs a sleek pour over kettle.  Find it at Mortise & Tenon and while you’re there, take a look at their great selection of kitchen wares, toys, soaps and jewelry.

 

Don’t forget to grab some gift cards for our local (and divine) coffee shops such as 33 1/3, happy hi and The Everyday Kitchen.

 

For the organized folx:

Leuchtturm1917 are my favourite planners and lucky for us, Paper Umbrella  carries a wide selection of their goods. Peep their great cards, puzzles and other gift ideas while you’re there!

P.S. I also adore the Saskatchewan vs The World poster and I think it would make a rad present!

For the snackers:

I am well-known for my love of snacking and this local joint hits the spot! Check out Takeaway Gourmet and consider giving the gift of delicious snacks. Perhaps make a date night out of it!

 

For the allies:

There are so many great organizations in our community that could use a hand – especially over the holiday season. Never underestimate the power of a donation on behalf of someone or perhaps on behalf of yourself. Many hands make for lighter work. Let’s lift up our community. Consider donating money or items to a community fridge, the food bank, Salvation Army and animal shelters.

Whatever you choose to shower your loved ones with this season, remember to support your local businesses and organizations and keep sustainability in the forefront of your decision making. If presents are not in the cards this year, show up wholly for yourself, your family and your community in any which way that you can.

Happy holidays!

Making the Most of Your Mask Free Time

In what turned out to be rather serendipitous timing, I was enrolled in a course on trauma at the start of the pandemic. I was there to understand what it is, how it manifests in the physical body and – more importantly – how to create a container for folx to move through it safely. At that time, Vancouver had just begun its first lock down; what were once overcrowded streets were now bare, bustling shops were boarded up and I was trying to keep busy in a 500 sq foot apartment. When the chance cam
e to leave our abode for groceries or our daily walk to stretch our legs, we were all encouraged to wear some sort of face covering. It was a rational and seemingly innocent request; something small that I could do to protect my community. Unbeknownst to me, I had not yet been fully introduced to the nervous system. Unbeknownst to us all, we were all on the cusp of understanding this component a little bit better when we lost the opportunity to see each other’s faces.

As I sat in front of the screen, enrolled in what would be my first of many (many) ZOOM courses and meetings, the facilitators piqued my interest when they mentioned that they preferred an online approach where we could continue to see each other’s faces rather than wearing a mask in person for this particular course. And then they explained why: If you have yet to meet the social nervous system as presented by the polyvagal theory, please do read on.

The polyvagal theory was brought forward by Stephen Porges and it is named for the many (poly) branches of the vagus nerve (vagal.) If you’ve been following along with naturopathic medicine for awhile then you know that we are interested in this nerve. The vagus nerve runs from the brain through the face, throat, heart to the organs residing in your abdomen. We discuss it most often in cases of mental health and digestion and if you’ve ever heard the phrase “rest and digest!” then you’ve also met at least a portion of this nerve.

The polyvagal theory invites us to think beyond our understanding of the autonomic nervous system whereby there is a sympathetic (fight/flight) and parasympathetic (rest/digest) response. This theory introduced the social nervous system; the system that essentially governs our social relationships.

With our social nervous system, we are continually scanning our environment and those in our environment (i.e. their facial expressions, their tone, their body language) to determine whether or not we are safe. Safety is drastically different for everyone as it is influenced by internal and external factors. However, once the pandemic began, we quite suddenly lost the capacity to assess our own safety. When we scanned the crowd to observe facial expressions, we were only permitted to see half of the faces and therefore our safety was inconclusive. Around the same time, we lost the capacity to share space with others and observe their body language and their tone. Many of us relied on emails or text messages to complete tasks or check in without realizing that our nervous systems were not built to communicate in these ways. The course facilitators knew that reading facial expressions was a critical part to feeling safe; when we feel safe, we are in a better position to take in new information and solidify techniques among many other possibilities.

Without the understanding of the social nervous system, we neglect to fully understand how the pandemic has contributed to our understanding of trauma, safety and nervous system function. Within this context, the rise in mental health concerns and dysmotility take on a new light and this offers us valuable information on how to bring the body back to homeostasis. This is obviously not to discredit the importance of masking in public spaces in order to keep our community safe. Of course not. Instead, it is an invitation to make the most out of your mask free time when you are near the people that you likely love and cherish the most. Put down the phone, make eye contact and express yourself fully. Our nervous systems depend on it.

Breathe Your Way to Better Health

We all do it every day all day. But how many of us are actually doing it correctly? We’ve all likely heard snippets of the Wim Hof (AKA iceman) and his breathing techniques that allow people to sit on the freezing cold snow without developing frostbite. It seems miraculous. Breathing, as a function, kind of is miraculous.
Breathing is an autonomic function; this means that our body does it automatically without us having to put too much thought into the process. However, this does not mean that you cannot change your breathing patterns and, in fact, this can be one of the fastest ways to derail looming anxiety. The benefits of breathing stretch well beyond the nervous system and are critical to health as a whole; when we breathe, we’re balancing the chemical composition of the body and healing all of our tissues.
The evolution 
When we were cave people, we had perfect teeth, spacious sinuses and a very well-defined jaw. As our diets changed to incorporate foods that were higher in sugar and softer to chew, we chewed much less and our brains grew thanks to the sugar. The evolutionary result of this simple change was that our brains took up valuable space leaving our sinuses and the dimensions of our mouth as a whole to shrink. One of the main muscles that we rely on for chewing, the masseter, lost strength. Teeth began to crowd, mouth breathing became prevalent and sinusitis became rampant.
Mouth Breathers Beware
We have long known that breathing through your mouth is not ideal for health. The reasons for this splay from increased cavities to dehydration to sleep apnea. In fact, mouth breathing rivals sugar consumption in its ability to create cavities. Alternatively, when we breathe through our nose, we create 6x as much nitric oxide which, in turn, allows us to absorb more oxygen into the tissues. Oxygen is a potent healer and when our capacity to create nitric oxide dwindles, our immune system, circulation, weight, mood and sexual function will all be impacted.
Can you shift from mouth breathing to nose breathing? Yes, you can. It requires investigation to determine why you become reliant on mouth breathing in the first place (chronically congested sinuses, anyone?), removing the obstacle and then relying on a few techniques to retrain your brain and your body.
Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?
– Mary Oliver
Breathing into Life
As you might have guessed, the way we breathe largely dictates the way we live. Perhaps the most clear example of this is what is known as “email apnea”; this speaks to our tendency to breathe very shallow when we are thick into work (responding to emails, text messages.) Most of us move through our day without a single full breath.
The Perfect Breath
So, how should you breathe? If you are a mouth breather, take this as your sign to begin your journey to breathing through your nose. Otherwise, how you breathe largely depends on what you are trying to accomplish for the physical body. There are breath techniques to calm you down, techniques to mitigate pain and techniques to help you reach deep sleep. But the perfect breath is called the 5.5 breath (AKA resonant breathing.) This type of breath places the heart, lungs and circulation into a place of coherence or maximal efficiency. It is as simple (or as challenging) as inhaling for 5.5 seconds expanding the lungs and belly and then exhaling for 5.5 seconds.
This topic is of particular interest to myself and many of my colleagues as recently there has been an influx of research regarding the oral microbiome and how critical it is to maintaining proper health. However, long before the oral microbiome or the microbiome in general, the elders of our medicine knew that breath was a necessary component to health. I have a suspicion that we are on the very cusp of understanding how we can breathe our way to better health.
I leave you with a quote that I heard several times over from a naturopathic elder and that I continue to tout in the yoga studio and the clinic space:
 “Never underestimate the healing capacity of your breath.”
Interested in learning more? Check out these resources:
Breathe+ App : this neat app allows you to set your breathing pattern and then practice it