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

Digital Minimalism

I have been known to take prolonged breaks from social media from time to time. These breaks were born from necessity as I began to notice unfavourable changes to my mental health that seemed to correlate with the number of hours that I perused social media.  Each time, within three days of deleting social media applications off my phone, the fog cleared. I was sleeping better, had better focus and could actually connect with the people around me in real life. As anyone who has ever taken a break from social media can tell you, it is not easy. I was surprised (and slightly disturbed) by how many times I reached for my phone unconsciously and my fingers automatically knew how many slides and how many taps it took to get to my most-used applications. I have recently been reading a book titled Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport to gather some more tips to develop a healthier relationship with social media. I would love to share some of these tips with you and then discuss briefly how social media use can impact your health…most of the time without you even realizing it is happening.

How to Use your Phone Less, Successfully

Understand why you use the apps that you do.

This perhaps seems like a basic concept but I can assure you that it is actually a challenging task to list all of your social media outlets and then determine what purpose they serve. You might notice that some of these apps that you rely on throughout the day actually do not add anything to your daily existence. You might even notice that, on the contrary, they deplete you. For example, my list might look something like this:

Pinterest – solely for inspiration

Instagram – stay in touch with peers, learn new concepts, meet local businesses

Facebook – ???   (I truly have no idea what I do on facebook yet I log on 5x/day)

With this information, you now get to decide if these particular apps are the best way to serve yourself.

Collect Data on yourself

Most people are completely unaware of how many times they pick up their phone in an hour or how many hours they spend each day staring at their phones. However this is critical information for you if you would like to become more mindful with your social media use. If you guess that you spend ~20 minutes a day on your phone but in reality you actually spend two hours a day and pick up your phone 90 times in a single day, you will be antsy to fill that additional one hour and 40 minutes that snuck up on you.

Find yourself a Hobby

So if you will suddenly have two hours available to yourself, what will you do with this time? Perhaps you will do nothing. This is an art in and of itself. Embracing solitude is a true gift to yourself and others. However, it is a big ask for most people to go from constant scrolling to being completely alone with their own thoughts. This is where you might want to develop a new hobby or perfect a pre-existing hobby. If that new hobby could be an activity that allows you to engage with others in real life, well that’s all the better.

 

How to Find True Connection

I remember riding on the Vancouver Skytrain one day and sitting across from me was a younger male. He held his phone in his hand and his thumb was continually swiping but he was not actually looking at his phone. Instead, he was staring longingly out the window as we breezed past a stretch of trees. I started my first social media detox the very next day. It wasn’t that I was simply perplexed and astonished by what I saw but I was his mirror; I was doing the exact same thing.

 Many people will claim they use their phone to stay connected. I used to claim that I used my phone to stay connected. But I quickly realized that social media promises connection only to leave us behind a screen hitting a “like” button. When we compare the average social exchange on social media to how that might land in real life, we might begin to see that true connection simply does not transfer over a screen. Connection is derived from interactions that involve all of our social cues such as body language, voice tone, facial expressions and touch (when allowed). We automatically lose all of this when we attempt to wrap it up in one simple reaction through the touch of a button.

 

Why it Matters

 None of the above is to say that social media is a curse. I think that many of us could agree that, without social media use, this pandemic would have been immensely more difficult. I also do not think that I need to list out all of the reasons that social media use has the potential to become problematic. From the bullying and dehumanization; to filters that completely alter our perception of ourselves and others; to hours wasted each day absorbing the thoughts of complete strangers. The repercussions of all of this speak for themselves. Only you can decide what you lose when you engage haphazardly with social media.

I once wrote on my personal blog that somedays the entire day passes by and I was not present for a single moment. These days are my worst days. I feel completely and utterly disconnected from myself, from others and from the natural world around me. I’m aware of the antidote and my relationship to social media is changing rapidly these days. Ultimately, my goal is to make my use more intentional and not a coping mechanism. It begins with a purchase of an alarm clock which will then permit my phone to be outside of my bedroom. It begins with a reclamation of my mornings and then it evolves from there to some place with more presence. Perhaps you’ll join me?

 

P.S. – If you’re curious regarding the implications of social media and addiction, there is a documentary on Netflix titled The Social Dilemma. It is worth a watch!

Lunar Community Acupuncture

We have started a little pilot project known as lunar community acupuncture over at Prairie Sky Integrative Health and today’s blog post serves as a way to introduce you to our new offering and to answer some common questions.

First, why lunar?

Currently these services are being offered on a bi-weekly basis following the moon cycles until September. At this time, we will revisit need, feasibility and efficacy to determine the future of our pilot program.

What is community acupuncture?

Community acupuncture is essentially group acupuncture treatments that can be done in a cost-effective, accessible and efficient manner. The intention of this offering is to introduce people who are new to acupuncture to the experience, the philosophy and the process.

Where is this service offered?

Community acupuncture is offered on the main level of Prairie Sky Integrative Health in our newly renovated IV suite. If you have yet to see pictures of the IV space, check out our previous blog post. For our acupuncture purposes, folks can rest on our recliners, with the lights lightly dimmed and some soft music playing in the background. You are also welcome to bring earplugs or headphones to play your own music if you would like.

How is this different from one-on-one acupuncture done in office?

There are many differences between the two services but the main difference is that, in your personal appointments, you have the sole attention of your Naturopathic Doctor. In a group acupuncture environment, the practitioner is typically overlooking multiple appointments with staggered start times to allow for a small assessment prior to acupuncture point selection. It is also important to note that community acupuncture is just that: Acupuncture. Dr. Brittany Wolfe will not be fielding questions pertaining to naturopathic medicine and all questions that are beyond the scope of the acupuncture appointment will be redirected to your naturopathic doctor.

When you see a naturopathic doctor in private practice, you are able to have discussions regarding how your Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis influences your overall health and vice versa. In essence, we are able to paint a more clear picture of your health history that weaves together the more conventional biomedical approach with the esoteric. Of course you also have the room all to yourself when seeing a practitioner one-on-one whereas you share the space in community acupuncture.

Who can benefit from community acupuncture?

Community lunar acupuncture would be best suited for the following:

  • Irregular periods
  • Painful periods
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Pelvic pain
  • Those undergoing fertility treatment (i.e. IUI, IVF)
  • Throughout pregnancy (for sleep, pain, general support)
  • Perimenopause
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Fatigue
  • Those with digestive concerns (i.e. bloating, gas, loose stools)
  • Anyone looking to fill their cup!

All other details regarding COVID-19 procedures, specifics and to book an appointment can be accessed here.

How To Care For The Earth While It Cares For You

You would be hard-pressed to find a naturopathic doctor that does not also identify as an environmentalist on some level. The reason for this stretches well-beyond the tired notion of “tree hugging hippie doctors.” Instead, naturopaths are well aware of two very important things:

  1. Nature is an integral part of the healing process. If you have never heard of the term shinrin-yoku, I’m pleased to introduce you. Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese word for “forest bathing.” It is very common in Japan to leave the doctors office with a prescription that simply says “spend more time outside.” We are often unaware of how our bodies become unaligned and truly frazzled by living in a world that does not appreciate the healing capacity of nature. Whether it be dew-walking, moon-gazing, gardening, jumping into a cold lake, taking a deep breath in a forest…this is one of the easiest ways to regulate a nervous system. Also, check out this very interesting research on the impact of nature on community health. Fascinating!
  2. Without mother nature, we no longer have botanical medicine and many of our nutraceuticals are also moot (i.e. fish oils). To put it bluntly, without mother nature, we are empty-handed.

 

When we consider the state of the natural world, it is incredibly easy to become overwhelmed and hopeless. However, this blog post serves to remind you that small acts and big acts are all radical in the end. If you can simply change one habit and/or one product a month, you could lessen your impact on this earth drastically in a single year. I have compiled a list of some easy places to start as well as some of the best places in the city to stock up on bulk products and green alternatives.

 

KITCHEN

  •  Keep your cloth bags in your car; that way, you’ll never be caught off guard on a grocery run.
  • Swap out plastic with glass or stainless steel.
  • Keep track of the food that you purchase in netting and wrapped in plastics that are not recycled in our city. If you’re unpleasantly surprised by the amount of waste that you accumulate, make it a goal to seek out plastic-free, netting-free alternatives instead.

 

BATHROOM

  • Save the extra plastic and refill your shampoo and conditioner at The Alternative
  •  Invest in a re-usable razor.
  •  Is your toilet paper wrapped in plastic? Consider investing in TP that is wrapped in recyclable paper instead.

 

GARDEN 

  • Consider a compost bin to recycle yard clippings, food waste and papers.
  • Invest in a rain barrel and then do a little rain dance for our province!
  • Leave the dandelions (yes, those dandelions, all of them – the bees need them to recover after a long winter and, as we know, bees are integral to our food systems.)

 

ON THE GO

  •  Pack your own utensils.
  • A handkerchief makes a mighty fine napkin.
  • Get your to-go cup ready for a post-pandemic coffee.

 

THE OFFICE

  • Recycle all of your printer cartridges and old pens. This can be done for free at Staples.
  • Reduce paper waste where possible.
  • Start a challenge to see who can produce the least amount of waste in a week.

 

THE NURSERY

  • Consider cloth diapers. You can find some great options at Groovy Mama.
  • Swap out plastic toys for wooden toys.
  • Invest in reusable hemp wipes.

As Robin Wall Kimmerer says, “When we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.” The health of your body is intricately connected to the health of the earth and vice versa. So as we engage in the work to heal our bodies, we should also consider the ways in which we can do our part to heal the earth. From the botanical supplement that helps you sleep, to the fish oil that supports your healthy skin, to the walking path that grounds you every morning; none of this is possible without earth stewardship.

Spring Clean Your Personal Care Routine

When the change of season finally hits in the prairies, we begin spring cleaning our homes; dusting, re-arranging, clearing out old items and making space for what is to come. Often times, we tend to forget that our physical body could also benefit from a little dusting as well. Dr. Julie Zepp wrote about the importance of spring cleaning the physical body in the previous post. For this blog post, I would like to share some of my tips for “green-ifying” your personal environment. Why is this even necessary, you ask? Many of the products – both cleaning products and personal care products – contain toxins known as xenobiotics. These are molecules that are foreign to the body and, generally speaking, our intelligent body knows exactly how to process them and excrete them. However, if your innate detoxification is running a little slower these days, xenobiotic exposure can begin to take a toll on the body. Some examples of well-known xenobiotics include bisphenol A (AKA BPA), phthalates and dioxins. If you are interested in swapping out some of your usual go-to products for home and body for greener solutions that are still effective, read on!

 

PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS

If you are perusing the ingredient list of your favourite products and there are words that are new to you, this is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the products that you use daily. Environmental Working Group has an excellent database called Skin Deep where you can begin to learn more about commonly used ingredients and their impact on the body. A word of particular caution would be around the ingredient “fragrance” or “parfum” as companies are not obligated to list the separate ingredients that add scent to their product; instead they can use the catch-all phrase fragrance. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds. Meaning, that a product could contain one or two ingredients to create the scent or it could contain 80 to 100.

 

I often joke that I have a PhD in green beauty. Although, truthfully, it is not much a joke; if it has a green beauty designation, I have likely tried it. Below are some of the products that I consistently come back to because they are effective, accessible and a fair price.

 

  • Menstrual care products: Joni, Veeda (found at London Drugs), a menstrual cup

 

 

PRODUCTS FOR THE HOME

Although I have been making my own cleaning solutions for years, I really had to kick it up a notch when I found myself moving during a pandemic. Knowing that I had a rather large cleaning day coming my way, I masked up and went to the local store. The cleaning aisle was desolate. All that remained was vinegar, distilled water, Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap and a few essential oils. Against all odds, that sweet little home of mine was spotless when it was all said and done. Here are some of my top tips and recipes:

 

All Purpose Cleaner #1

1 tbsp castile soap of choice

1 cup distilled water

Add essential oils of choice – my usual is rosemary (5 drops), peppermint (10 drops) and lavender (10 drops)

 

Tip: Add the water first and the castile second so that you don’t make too many bubbles!

 

All Purpose Cleaner #2

20% vinegar

80% distilled water

Add essential oils of choice   

 

Scum cleaner 

20% vinegar

80% distilled water

5 drops dish soap (I use Seventh Generation) 

 Method:

Spray liberally on the surface 

Let it sit for 15 minutes (this is key!)

Get yourself a nice scrubbing tool (a toothbrush is not strong enough here)

Scrub, scrub, scrub

Rinse

Dry with a cloth 

 

General sink cleaner – Spray a vinegar-based cleaner in the sink, sprinkle with some baking soda and then take half a lemon (squeeze the contents into a glass of water and drink it because it is delicious) and then scrub. Works like a charm and produces very little waste!

 

Eco tip: Replace paper towels with some reusable cleaning cloths

 

Also feel free to swap out some of your scented candles with some natural air purifiers such as:

  • Beeswax candles
  • Plants
  • Salt lamps

 

A WORD ON HORMONES

Many cosmetics, cleaning products and body care products contain endocrine disruptors. These are molecules that mimic our hormones very closely; in fact, the body cannot tell the difference between the two. Unfortunately, their effect on the body is a lot more potent than our own endogenous hormones which can be quite detrimental for the body. The most commonly referenced endocrine disruptor is a group of xenobiotics known as xenoestrogens. You can read more about xenoestrogens here. Limiting their use is of most importance for folx who are trying to be mindful of their estrogen exposures. 

 

Some tips:

  • Swap out your plastic storage containers for glass
  • Invest in a glass or stainless steel water bottle
  • Find some mineral makeup that you enjoy – My favourite is Canadian-owned, woman-run Pure Anada Cosmetics.

 

If you are feeling rather doom and gloom about the products in your cupboard right now, rest assured that these exposures are simply a drop in the bucket. Single-handedly, they will not harm you. However, consistent exposure to xenobiotics paired with sluggish hepatic detoxification can begin to have a larger effect on the body. The intention is not to spark fear but rather to spark small changes. The next time that you need to replace a product, perhaps you reach for a green alternative or play around with making your own. Taking care of your body can be creative and fun!

Insulin

When women seek out care for their hormones, they are usually not naming insulin as their main suspicion. However this hormone can be a key contributor for many hormonal ailments including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), weight loss resistance and fibroids and heavy bleeding. Read below to figure out why you need insulin, what happens when you have too much and how to know where you land on this spectrum!

 

Like any other hormone in the body, insulin is required for both men and women’s health where it functions predominantly in blood sugar regulation; insulin takes glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cell where it is used to make energy. Also like other hormones, when you have too much of it in your body, it can begin to cause problems. One of the main concerns is the development of insulin resistance. This occurs when the body has too much insulin and subsequently it learns how to ignore it. In other words, insulin resistance is the condition of having chronically elevated levels of insulin in the body. It is also referred to as prediabetes, hyperinsulinemia or metabolic syndrome.

 

Insulin is an anabolic hormone which means that it likes to build things such as muscle tissue. For females, insulin plays a role in building the endometrial lining of the uterus through its ability to convert to estrone (one of three estrogens that females have in their bodies). Estrogen is what builds the lining of the uterus. How I often describe this to patients is this: Estrogen lays the bricks, progesterone is the mortar that keeps the bricks in place. Thus, insulin is actually required to have a normal menstrual cycle. However, if you have too much insulin, and therefore too much estrone, the lining of the uterus can become too thick and, as a result, conditions such as heavy periods, fibroids, endometriosis and adenomyosis can develop. It is also important to note that insulin can fuel inflammation which contributes to painful periods and pain conditions such as endometriosis.

 

How do I know if my insulin response is doing something funky?

Some other signs and symptoms that you may have insulin resistance include the following:

  • Abdominal weight gain and/or weight gain in the upper body (Lara Briden refers to this as “bra strap weight gain”)*
  • Sugar cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Fatty liver
  • Skin tags
  • Dark velvet-like discolourations around skin folds known as acanthosis nigricans

 

*Please note that it is entirely possible to have increased insulin without weight gain.

 

Can I test my insulin?

Yes, of course! There are three main ways to test insulin:

  1. Fasting insulin
  2. Oral glucose tolerance test with insulin – This lab, although not commonly utilized outside of the naturopathic community, can be a really useful test as it allows us to see your insulin in action. First, your fasting labs are completed and then your values are re-tested ideally 1 hour post-meal and then 2 hours post-meal so that we can better understand your insulin response.
  3. Fasting glucose levels – Although blood glucose levels on their own will not provide any useful information about the insulin response, we can use this value along with a fasting insulin response to determine the degree of insulin resistance. This is called HOMA-IR and it is a simple calculation that can be done once we have baseline blood work.

 

Although insulin is most known for its role in PCOS, it greatly impacts hormonal health and can lead to several other hormonal concerns. If you suspect that you may have insulin resistance, fret not. There are many, many ways to treat insulin resistance within naturopathic medicine including diet, lifestyle, nutraceuticals and botanicals. Book an appointment with a naturopathic doctor to determine if insulin resistance is impacting your hormonal health.

 

 

FYI: There are many different pathways to develop PCOS. Join my webinar to learn about them all! Sign up here.

To Kegel or Not To Kegel?

Kegels have been touted as a surefire solution for any folx experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction ranging from prolapse to unsatisfactory orgasms to incontinence. However, not every pelvic floor can actually benefit from kegels and, in fact, many would benefit much more from relaxation. Whereas kegels are the act of tightening and lifting the muscles of the pelvic floor, relaxation requires softening and lengthening of these muscles. Although opposite in nature, both require acute awareness of your pelvic bowl and both are required for overall function.

 

Your pelvic floor is comprised of many tiny but mighty muscles that can become taut just like any other overused muscle in the body. As the saying goes, a taut muscle is a weak muscle. We tend to believe that pelvic floor dysfunction simply must be due to lack of strength or hypo-toned pelvic floor muscles. However, quite often, it is actually hyper-toned muscles that are impacting the function of the pelvic floor. If you continue to do kegels to “strengthen” a muscle that is too tight, you are simply aggravating the issue. A more fruitful way to approach treatment would be to relax and lengthen the muscle and then begin to strengthen the muscle.

 

What’s in a kegel, anyway?

When we think of doing a kegel, we most often think of the squeezing action. However, the purpose of a kegel is two-fold: It is not only how much can you squeeze inwards but also how far can you draw that contraction upwards towards the navel. I like to add in a third component to the kegel which is this: How quickly and how much can you relax in between kegels? Ideally, you should be able to squeeze and lift followed by a full relaxation of said muscle within 1-2 seconds. This is what is known as an “olympic pelvic floor.” But what does this actually mean for you? When we have better awareness and control over these muscles, we can experience less incontinence, less discomfort or pain and better orgasms.

 

So, how do you know if you should stretch or strengthen?

Ultimately, we want to be able to do both! However, when we are just starting to develop pelvic awareness, we should seek an assessment from someone who can tell us what is currently present in the pelvic floor. Even if you feel like you have a good understanding of your pelvic floor muscles, it is still very helpful to practice kegels with biofeedback (either a machine or a practitioner’s gloved finger) so that you can maximize your pelvic function. Not all kegel cues work the same for every body (i.e. pick up a blueberry with your vagina or pretend you just walked into cold water), so

 it is important that you find a practitioner that you trust and enjoy working with to find the right muscle, the right cues and the right frequency for your best pelvic health.

 

Who can benefit from pelvic floor work?

Every body! Cis-females are more susceptible to pelvic floor dysfunction due to anatomy and the additional challenges that can come with child-bearing and childbirth. However, any body experiencing pain, incontinence, sexual dysfunction and/or the desire to learn more about their pelvis should seek care. If you are concerned about an internal exam, please know that pelvic health extends well-beyond kegels and internal work; there is so much opportunity to support external pelvic work.

 

It is my experience that folx often wait until dysfunction presents itself before seeking care however it is never too early or too late to meet your pelvic floor!

 

For more information, feel free to check out my website here

Healthy Holiday Feast

From our homes to yours, we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season!

Enjoy the following recipes!

COVID compliant Holiday Turkey: Turkey for 6 and under

From Jamie Oliver – Dr. Marika Geis’ Kitchen guru

Ingredients

  • 4 kg higher-welfare turkey
  • 250 g stuffing, (from meat stuffing recipe: see below)
  • 250 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 bunch lemon thyme, (30g)
  • 2 clementines
  • olive oil

Method

GET AHEAD

  1.  Check the main turkey cavity for the bag of giblets; if they’re in there, remove and tip them into your roasting tray, discarding the bag. The added flavour they’ll give your gravy will be incredible – trust me.
  2. Peel the onions, wash the carrots and roughly chop with the celery or the leek tops, then add to the tray with the unpeeled garlic cloves.
  3. Place the stuffing in the neck cavity, then pull the skin back over it and tuck it under the bird. You’ll get a good contrast between the soft, juicy stuffing here inside the turkey, and the crispier stuff you can bake separately in a dish.
  4. Place the softened butter on a board and press down with your hands. Pick over 3 sprigs of thyme, finely zest ½ a clementine and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and scrunch all together to make your flavoured butter.
  5. Halve the clementines and place in the main turkey cavity with the remaining thyme – not filling it too full allows hot air to circulate, cooking the bird from the inside out and from the outside in.
  6. Get your turkey and use a spatula to work your way between the skin and the meat. Start at the side of the cavity just above the leg and work gently up towards the breastbone and towards the back so you create a large cavity. Pick up your butter and push it into the cavity you’ve created. Use your hands to push it through the skin right to the back so it coats the breast meat as evenly as possible. Do the same on the other side.
  7. Drizzle the turkey all over with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and generously sprinkle from all sides with salt and pepper.
  8. Cover the turkey snugly with tin foil and place it on top of the trivet in the tray.ON THE DAY
  9. Take your turkey out of the fridge 1 hour before it’s due to go in the oven.
  10. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.
  11. You want to cook a higher-welfare bird for 25 to 30 minutes per kg and a standard bird is 35 to 40 minutes per kg. For a 4kg bird, pop it in the oven for 1 hour 40 minutes, basting several times with all the lovely juices in the tray and covering with foil when beautifully golden brown.
  12. The simplest way to check it’s cooked is to stick a knife into the thickest part of the thigh – if the juices run clear, it’s done.
  13. Use heavy-duty tongs to lift up your bird so all the juices run from the cavity into the tray, then transfer the turkey to a platter and leave to rest for up to 2 hours while you crack on. You can cover it with a double layer of tin foil and a clean tea towel to keep warm, if you like.
  14. Skim away the fat from the turkey tray, save it in a jar, and leave to cool. When cold, transfer to the fridge for cooking with at a later date.CARVING THE TURKEY
  15. Once the turkey has rested, it’s time to carve. There are two ways you can do this.

– The first method is to remove the wings, slice the skin beside the legs, then pull out and chop the legs off. You can either slice or pull this brown meat – it’s so tasty. Keep it warm while you move on to the breast meat. Use the full length of the knife in a nice smooth action to slice through the breast meat, transferring it to a platter as you go.

– Alternatively, remove the leg as above, then feel where the backbone is and cut with the length of your knife all the way down beside it until you hit the carcass. You can then lift the whole breast off the bone. Remove to a board and slice. Enjoy!

 Tips

“You must let your bird come up to room temperature after being in the fridge. It’ll give you more reliable cooking times, as well as juicier, more tender meat, as the bird isn’t shocked when it hits the heat of the oven.

Don’t be under the illusion that when you remove the turkey from the oven it stops cooking. The residual heat will continue to cook the bird, giving the juices time to travel back throughout the meat, meaning a juicier bird all round. Piping hot meat is not a clever thing – warm, juicy meat, hot gravy and hot plates is the holy grail.”

Best Rice Stuffing for the Holidays

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups water, divided
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • ⅓ pound bacon
  • 3 cups diced onions
  • 3 cups diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 1 ¾ cups currants
  • ¾ cup dried cherries
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ ounce dried apricots
  • 1 cup diced, unpeeled apples
  • ½ cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 6 tablespoons dried mixed herbs

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 1/2 cups water and the chicken broth to a boil. Stir in wild rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes.
  2. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Reserving drippings, drain bacon, crumble, and set aside.
  3. In the skillet with the reserved bacon drippings, sauté onions and celery with 1 tablespoon water. Cook until very soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir remaining water, white rice, currants, cherries, cranberries, apricots, and apples into the wild rice. Continue cooking 20 minutes, or until wild rice and white rice are tender.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the bacon and the onion mixture into the rice mixture. Season with the Italian parsley and dried mixed herbs. Proceed to fill your turkey to capacity. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Dr. Julie Zepp’s tried and true holiday side dish

Casserole Ingredients

  • 4-5 boiled and drained sweet potatoes (3 cups when cooked and mashed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup organic butter
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk. (unsweetened almond, rice or oat)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Topping Ingredients

  • 1 cup ground nuts (I like to use pecans)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup rice flour

Method

  1. Mix together the casserole ingredients and place in a casserole dish.
  2. Mix together the topping ingredients.
  3. Sprinkle the topping mixture on top of the casserole and bake for 30 minutes at 350C.

Winter Salad with Fennel and a Blood Orange Vinaigrette

From Nourishing Meals – A staple in Dr. Allison Ziegler’s home

Salad Ingredients

  • ½ head red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 8 cups)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced diagonally then into strips
  • 2 large carrots, sliced diagonally then into strips
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 to 3 blood oranges, peeled and segmented (or chopped), can replace with navel oranges
  • ½ to 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ to 1 cup almonds, roasted and chopped

Dressing Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed blood or navel orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Method

  1. Place the red cabbage, fennel, carrots, red onion, blood oranges, and parsley into a large bowl. If you are planning on serving the salad right away then add the almonds too. If you would like to extend the salad over a few days then sprinkle the almonds over what you plan on serving (otherwise they get soft and lose their crunch when sitting in the dressing).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad and toss together. Serve. Leftovers can be stored in a glass container in your refrigerator for about 3 days.

Festive Herbal Shrub Recipe

Dr. Brittany Wolfe’s specialty

If you’re a fan of kombucha and tart tonics, then you will love an herbal shrub. A shrub is essentially a fermented herbal-infused vinegar that is often mixed with soda water or champagne if you’re feeling festive! Think fizzy, healing and refreshing! It makes a great base for a delicious and herby mocktail. You can follow the recipe below or get creative and use what you have on hand.

You will need

  • 1-quart mason jar with lid and ring
  • Cheesecloth or thin, clean rag of breathable material (with fine holes)
  • Wooden spoon or muddler
  • Raw vinegar (apple cider vinegar – must be raw for fermentation)
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced rosemary
  • Parchment or wax paper
  • ~1 tbsp of sugar or honey

Method

  1. Place all foods and herbs into a mason jar and muddle with a wooden spoon to release juices, oils and fragrances (and medicine!).
  2. Cover with raw vinegar of choice but leave 1-inch airspace remaining under rim.
  3. Make sure all ingredients are submerged under vinegar or else you will develop mold.
  4. Drape cheesecloth or other breathable cloth over mouth of jar, then screw on the ring portion of the lid only to keep cheesecloth in place.
  5. Leave jar out at room temperature overnight (~12 hours).
  6. Remove the cheese cloth and replace it with wax paper. This time screw both the lid and the ring portion over the wax paper. The wax paper is there to protect the metal from the vinegar.
  7. Leave your mixture out on your counter for about 3-5 days and give it a good shake every day. – Double check to make sure the solid stays below the liquid.
  8. After 3-5 days, strain off the fruit and herbs and store in a mason jar in the fridge. You can always add a little more sweetener if you like.
  9. Use about 2 oz of shrub with sparkling water or champagne!

Grain-free, Nut-free Chocolate Chip Cookies for Santa

 From Oh She Glows – One of Dr. Michelle Sthamann’s favourites

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (63 g) natural smooth sunflower seed butter*
  • 2 tablespoons (25 g) packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) pure maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (37.5 mL) coconut oil (room temp) or grapeseed oil**

Dry Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons (54 g) raw sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons (30 g) cassava flour***
  • 1 teaspoon (2 g) ground chia seed****
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) dark chocolate squares

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. To a large bowl, add the wet ingredients (sunflower seed butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and oil) and stir until completely smooth.
  3. Place the sunflower seeds into a food processor and process for about 40 to 60 seconds until a fine meal forms. You want to process the seeds to as fine a meal as possible without them turning into butter!
  4. Add the dry ingredients (ground sunflower seeds, cassava flour, ground chia seeds, baking soda, and salt) to the wet mixture bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. The dough will be very sticky, but this is normal. Chop the chocolate, reserving one heaping tablespoon for later. Stir the remaining chopped chocolate into the dough until combined.
  5. Using a 2-tablespoon (30-mL) cookie scoop (or simply a spoon), scoop small mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet a few inches apart. There’s no need to flatten the mounds as they’ll spread out during baking. Now, using the chocolate you set aside, press a few chunks into each mound (this just helps the cookies look a bit more chocolaty when baked!).
  6. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes (I bake for 10 minutes) for a soft and tender cookie.
  7. Remove cookies from the oven and cool directly on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Using a spatula, gently transfer each cookie (they’ll be very fragile) to a cooling rack for another 10 to 15 minutes. The cookies will be crumbly until they are fully cooled, so it’s very important that you give them some time to firm on the rack (I know, it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do!).
  8. Serve and enjoy! Cooled cookies will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 to 2 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 weeks. I love the delightful “snappy” texture these cookies get as the chocolate firms up from chilling!

Tips

* The sunflower seed butter should be 100% sunflower seeds without any added sugars or oils. I use Organic SunButter. Be sure to stir the sunflower seed butter before measuring and avoid using the dry/hard butter at the bottom of the jar. If using thicker seed butter, the cookies won’t spread as much when baking.

** If your coconut oil is hard as rock, you can melt it over very low heat and then cool before using. Avoid using warm coconut oil as it’ll melt the chocolate chips.

*** Cassava flour can be a bit tricky to locate. Your best bet is to buy from an online retailer (such as this one on Amazon) or a natural food store.

**** To make ground chia seed, add seeds to a high-speed blender or coffee grinder and blend/grind on high until a flour forms. An equal amount of ground flaxseed also works in place of chia, but it will yield a thicker cookie. I prefer using ground chia. Leftover ground seeds can be stored in the freezer in an airtight freezer bag for future use.