Effects Of Anxiety Can Disappear Just By Doing This!

effects of anxiety

With all the uncertainty that everyone has been experiencing this year, one of the most common concerns that I have been seeing in my practice lately is anxiety. Experiencing the effects of anxiety, stress, or fear are not necessarily problematic if the right coping strategies are in place.

Examples of coping strategies and tools for dealing with uncertainty include:

  • Exercise
  • Creative outlets
  • Mindfulness/prayer
  • Proper nutrition
  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal support

Since we’re nearing the end of gardening season and I have herbs on the brain, I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about herbs. These can help calm the mind when anxiety gets to be a little too overwhelming.

Here are five of my favourite herbs for helping to calm the mind and ease the effects of anxiety.

lemon balm herb

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm or Melissa officinalis, is a great herb for bringing some calm. In fact, the great thing about lemon balm is that it can help address stress and bring a sense of calm typically without any feelings of drowsiness. This makes it great to use in stressful situations where you may want some calm but still want to stay alert. My favourite way to use lemon balm is as a calming tea. Most people find the taste of lemon balm to be quite pleasant so it tends to work very nicely as a tea.

If you have any thyroid concerns, take some caution when it comes to lemon balm as it may interfere with the production of thyroid hormones (1).

passion flower herb

Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata)

Passion flower, like lemon balm, is another great calming herb to use during the day when you may still need to be alert. The two actually combine quite nicely to make a calming herbal infusion or tea. Passion flower has also been studied for its effects on easing symptoms of anxiety disorders and has even been compared to pharmaceuticals used in conventional treatment of anxiety disorders (2).

Like any of the herbs mentioned here, it should not be used as a stand alone treatment for anxiety disorders but can be quite helpful when used in conjunction with other treatments.

chamomile uses

Chamomile (Matricaria recucitata)

Chamomile is a herb most people have heard of or have had experience with. However, this herb can cause some drowsiness so is best used before bed. While chamomile has shown to be helpful in managing symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (3), it also helps with digestion. This digestive aspect of chamomile makes it great for those with “anxious stomachs” especially before bed or after dinner.

My favourite way to use chamomile is as an herbal infusion or tea but it can also be used as a tincture or dried herb capsule.

Lavender Essential Oil: Best Uses & Benefits + Quick How To

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)

This is another herb that many people are familiar with. If you have ever smelled lavender, you have probably experienced the relaxing effect that comes from simply smelling it. While I generally do not recommend extensive use of essential oils because of the huge amount of plant matter required to make them, lavender essential oil is one that I make an exception for. This is because of its strong calming effects.

A couple drops of lavender in a diffuser, on a pillow, or in a bath can be quite helpful in calming the mind. Please do not ingest the lavender oil, use for smelling purposes only.

best natural herbs

Valarian (Valariana officinalis)

Valarian or Valariana officinalis is a herb that has very strong calming or sedative properties. This is definitely one that is best taken before bed as you may not have the most productive day if you were to take it first thing in the morning.

When it comes to trying herbs for the first time, I usually recommend an infusion (like a tea) or decoction (boiling the herbs) before trying a tincture (alcohol extract). Although all three are great ways to diminish the effects of anxiety, stress and fear.

Valerian is one of the herbs I make an exception for mainly because it stinks! I’ve heard the smell described as “sweaty gym socks” and “my son’s hockey bag that hasn’t been cleaned for a week”.  Therefore, consider yourself warned. Valerian is a smelly but effective herb best taken as a tincture or dried herb capsule, especially for a restless mind that keeps you up at night.

What herbs have you tried that help you calm down? Are there any I missed? Comment below!

Remember to talk to your Naturopathic Doctor or Herbalist before using any herbal medicine

References

1. Auf'mkolk M, Ingbar JC, Amir SM, et al. Inhibition by certain plant extracts of the binding and adenylate cyclase stimulatory effect of bovine thyrotropin in human thyroid membranes.
Endocrinology. 1984 Aug;115:527-34

2. Miyasaka LS, Atallah AN, Soares BG. Passiflora for anxiety disorder. Cochrane Database Syst
Rev 2007;(1):CD004518 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17253512/

3. Amsterdam JD, Li Y, Soeller I, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral
Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin
Psychopharmacol. 2009;29(4):378-382 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19593179/

Natural Remedies Found In Your Own Backyard

natural remedies

Since my childhood days of watching my grandmother in her garden, I’ve always been excited by the idea of ‘backyard medicine’.  What do I mean by ‘backyard medicine’?  I mean walking into a backyard garden full of medicinal herbs for any ailment.  Thus a garden full of natural remedies.

I particularly enjoy my naturopathic practice in the summer when gardens are abundant.  This is when I can actually quite often practice ‘backyard medicine’.  If you want to learn more about living naturally, click here to read Clean Living Basics And DIY Cleaning Solutions.

Natural Remedies

Garden season is coming!  So, to get you as excited as I am, here are four herbs that are easy to grow.  Even in a container garden for those without yards.  All in which have wonderful health benefits as natural remedies.

fresh mint
Fresh Mint

Mint

Mint is very easy to grow.  It comes back every year, and can even start to take over the garden if you’re not careful.  It also happily grows in a container or planter.  There are two types or species of mint that I commonly use in my practice: peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Spearmint (Mentha spicata).

I will often use peppermint for digestive concerns.  It’s especially great for bloating and constipation, plus has a refreshing, cooling taste that most people enjoy.  This cooling aspect of peppermint also makes it good for soothing inflammation. Personally, I use spearmint more for its role in hormone regulation, especially in women.

It has actually been shown to have anti-androgenic effects in women with PCOS.  Meaning, it can help to decrease testosterone levels that may be causing issues such as unwanted hair growth or acne.

Oregano
Oregano

Oregano

I come from an Italian family so oregano is a staple our kitchen and garden.  It’s another hardy herb.  Like mint, I planted it once, and it comes back every year.  Oregano is great to have on hand for cooking since it adds delicious flavour (especially in tomato sauce!) and nutrients to your meal.

I most often use this one in practice as an essential oil.  Oil of oregano is traditionally used for its antimicrobial effects.  It appears that the phenolic compound Carvacrol found in oregano is a key contributor to these effects.

In the clinic, I have seen it work well taken orally to help clear viral infections like colds and flus as well as topically (on the skin) to help clear fungal infections like athlete’s foot or even viral infections like planters warts.  I usually combine it with other antimicrobial herbs like garlic for optimal efficacy.

Calendula Flowers and Oil
Calendula Flowers and Oil

Marigold

Take note!  There are two types of marigold that often get confused.  They are: French Marigold (Tagetes patula) and Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis).  Both produce beautiful, bright, cheery flowers and have their own benefits.

The one I will be talking about here is Calendula officinalis.  I often use Calendula for skin concerns.  It is quite effective at helping to heal broken or damaged skin, making it a great herb for sunburns in the summer or dry skin in the winter.  I love making oil infusions and skin salves with this little healing flower.  Don’t just take my word for it, there’s even research to show Calendula’s efficacy in wound healing.

It has been studied in the treatment of skin conditions from diaper rash to palliative care and cancer treatment. One of Calendula’s lesser known uses is in treating inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.  I will often prescribe it topically as an oil or cream for hemorrhoids or even as a tea or in a soup for inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis.

catnip
Catnip

Catnip

You’ve likely seen the effect that catnip has on cats but did you know it actually has a calming effect on humans?  I love cats.  So, if I’m being completely honest, part of the reason I planted catnip in my garden was to attract all the neighbourhood cats.

Really though, catnip is quite useful.  As a tea or tincture, it has calming effects, making it great for soothing anxiety or helping with sleep.  It can also be used to repel unwanted insects all summer.  As an essential oil, it may even be more effective at repelling mosquitos than DEET and even seems to repel cockroaches!  Who wouldn’t want catnip around?

And there you have it, four great herbs to start off your garden for use as natural remedies!  Click here for tips on How to Grow an Organic Garden.  

Herbs can be used in so many ways.  Teas, tinctures, oil infusions, essential oils, herb baths, even in cooking!  If you’re interested in learning more, send me an email to find out more about my herbal learning workshops in Burlington.  Interested in growing your own natural remedies garden but don’t have the outdoor space?  Don’t worry we have you covered!  Click here to read, ’10 Tips For A Successful Indoor Herb Garden’.

Sources

Grant, Paul. “Spearmint Herbal Tea Has Significant Anti-Androgen Effects in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. a Randomized Controlled Trial.” Phytotherapy Research, 2009, doi:10.1002/ptr.2900.Sakkas, Hercules, and Chrissanthy Papadopoulou.

“Antimicrobial Activity of Basil, Oregano, and Thyme Essential Oils.” Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, vol. 27, no. 3, 2017, pp. 429–438., doi:10.4014/jmb.1608.08024.Carvalho, Alexsander R., et al.

“Use of Some Asteraceae Plants for the Treatment of Wounds: From Ethnopharmacological Studies to Scientific Evidences.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, vol. 9, 2018, doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00784.Sharifi-Heris, Zahra, et al.

“Comparison the Effects of Topical Application of Olive and Calendula Ointments on Children’s Diaper Dermatitis: A Triple-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial.

” Dermatologic Therapy, vol. 31, no. 6, 2018, doi:10.1111/dth.12731.Cruceriu, Daniel, et al.

“Calendula Officinalis: Potential Roles in Cancer Treatment and Palliative Care.” Integrative Cancer Therapies, vol. 17, no. 4, 2018, pp. 1068–1078., doi:10.1177/1534735418803766.American Chemical Society.

“Catnip Repels Mosquitoes More Effectively Than DEET.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010828075659.htm>.

Are Naturopaths Doctors?

Are Naturopaths Doctors

“So are you like, a real doctor?” This is a question I still sometimes get asked as a Naturopathic Doctor. However, it’s a question that’s not always easy to answer because the definition and perception of a “real doctor” varies depending on who’s asking. It’s also an understandable question, as with so many titles being thrown around in the health and wellness fields, things can get confusing. So, are Naturopaths doctors?? Let’s take time to clear up some of the confusion about what it all means..

What Is Naturopathy?

Naturopathy is what Naturopathic Doctor practices. It’s a primary healthcare provider who is trained to:

  • Diagnose illness
  • Treat illness
  • Prevent illness

This is done by getting to know individual patients and their health concerns or goals. Then, using natural modalities that best support the optimal health of each individual patient. Visits with a Naturopathic Doctor are usually quite relaxed.

what is a naturopath

What’s Involved When Seeing A Naturopath?

  • Information gathering through chatting about each patient’s health story
  • Any necessary physical exams like taking body temperature, blood pressure, etc.
  • Any necessary bloodwork
  • Treatment

Typical Treatment Modalities Include:

  • Diet and lifestyle counseling
  • Nutritional support
  • Herbal medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Acupuncture
  • Hydrotherapy

Naturopathic Doctors work as a team with patients to come up with a plan to achieve desired health goals. Patients are always in the driver’s seat and a Naturopathic Doctor acts as more of a guide to health.

Day In The Life of a Naturopathic Doctor

How Is A Naturopathic Doctor Different From Other Natural Health Practitioners?

Depending where you are in the world, titles and regulations may vary slightly. For example, in Ontario, Canada, where I practice, a Naturopathic Doctor or ND is a regulated healthcare professional. This means every ND in Ontario has:

  • Spent 3-4 years completing an undergraduate degree
  • 4 years in naturopathic medical school
  • Passed all of the licensing exams required to practice in Ontario
  • Continues to be governed and regulated by the College of Naturopaths of Ontario

While other non-regulated natural health practitioners may also be very well equipped to help with your health concerns, there may not be any requirements or governing bodies that hold them to a standard of practice. Therefore, it is important to do your research ahead of time.

naturopathic doctor

How Is A Naturopathic Doctor Different From A Medical Doctor?

In Terms Of Education

Naturopathic Doctors and Medical Doctors both complete an undergraduate degree and four years of medical school. However, naturopathic medical students spend a great deal more time learning about:

Thus, less time learning about surgery and pharmacology.

Medical Doctors also specialize by completing a 3-7-year residency depending on the specialization. While Naturopathic Doctors have the option to complete a 2-year clinical residency. Although, many start practice without completing a residency.

In Terms Of Practice

As you may have realized from the differences in educational background, the major difference between Naturopathic Doctors and Medical Doctors lies in their approach for treatment. Medical Doctors are trained to recognize immediate concerns quickly and work with patients to come up with a solution that will act fast.

However, Naturopathic Doctors have the luxury of more time with patients. Therefore visits move more slowly. Allowing patients and ND’s to get to know each other and come up with a long-term treatment plan together.

ND’s have many tools at their disposal to help and patients often notice gentle, long-lasting changes, slowly over time. Along with an improved sense of well-being. These different approaches tend to make MD’s highly skilled at treating urgent, acute conditions. While ND’s tend to be more suited toward treating chronic conditions or optimizing health and preventing illness.

Medical Doctors are also covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan or OHIP while Naturopathic Doctors are often covered by extended health insurance plans.

are naturopaths real doctors

So Are Naturopaths “Real Doctors”?

So, what Is Naturopathy and are naturopaths real doctors?? Well, it still depends on what you mean by “real doctor” . But now at least now you know what it means to be a Naturopathic Doctor and you can decide whether or not that fits your definition of a “real doctor.” Click here to find a natural healthcare provider near you.

If you want to chat more about this topic or any of your other health concerns, reach out, I’m always happy to chat!

Supporting Healthy Brain Development In Children

brain development

Childhood and adolescence is an important time for brain development. From the rapid growth that occurs even before a child is born, to the fine tuning of neural connections that occurs in adolescence. This is the time of life where the brain changes the most!

Experiences during this time best inform the brain on what is important and what is less important. Which neural connections it should keep and which ones are less necessary. This will set the stage for adult life. This is why it is so important for kids to have many experiences. Not only does this include all the wonderful, magical, joyful experiences of life but also the stressful, painful, uncomfortable experiences.

Provided children have supportive adult relationships and stable environments, short-term, moderately stressful experiences can help them form healthy coping strategies and wire their brains for coping with these situations in the future (1)In addition to providing stable environments and loving relationships. Here are some other ways to support healthy brain development in kids.

eating as a family

Optimizing Nutrition

Nutrition definitely doesn’t look the same for every child and changes throughout childhood as well. But here are some general nutrition tips that can help support healthy brain development once a child starts eating solid food

  1. Ensuring a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. The more variety and colour you can get in, the better. Setting an example is important here. Trying to convince a two-year-old to eat something that mom or dad doesn’t eat will likely be an uphill battle.
  2. Healthy fats.  Foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, help support healthy brain development. This includes foods like; avocados, nuts and seeds. Also, olive oil, and fatty fish like mackerel, halibut, or anchovies. If you’re having trouble getting these foods in, a fish oil supplement may be helpful.
  3. Protein. This one more supports healthy muscles however is important to get in as well. High protein foods include things like fish, legumes, meat, nuts and seeds.
  4. Limited amounts of processed/pre-packaged foods and refined sugars. These foods are increasingly being shown to be linked to chronic inflammation and are usually best avoided.
  5. Sitting down for meals as a family. This helps foster connection, bonding, and the supportive environment that is so important for brain development. Especially if you can factor in some form of gratitude practice or prayer before the meal.

Click here to read, How To Encourage Children To Eat Vegetables .

brain development in children

Exercise

By this point in time, we probably all know the vast physical benefits of exercise. And yes there are studies to show that exercise even benefits kids. Not only does exercise increase self-esteem in children but it also appears to improve;

  • Cognition function
  • Executive function
  • Help in treatment of ADHD symptoms (2,3,4)

Playing outside is probably my favourite exercise for kids because as we’ll see in the next section, nature also helps foster healthy brain development. 

Spending time in nature helps mental health

Time In Nature

Spending time in nature promotes creativity and inspires wonder. When children are exploring in nature, they are learning with all of their senses. It also teaches them;

  • How to care for the environment
  • Brings a sense of mastery
  • Teaches that actions come with consequences

Activities for kids in nature can be as simple as going on a walk in the forest. Including your child in caring for a garden is also a great way to help them connect with nature. It helps them learn about consequences, build confidence and a sense of self-mastery.

meditation for kids

Mindfulness

Playing outside would cover this one too! Mindfulness doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as simple as allowing some time for kids to be bored and let their minds wander. 

You can even get involved with your children on this one and have a nightly bedtime meditation session. This would also establish a routine and contribute to a structured, stable environment that helps so much with healthy brain development. 

It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

Parents, try not be too hard on yourselves. Parenting is not an easy calling. It’s important to recognize when you’re trying your best and remember that your best is often enough. Some days, nutrition may not be optimal or exercise may fall to the wayside. Remember to reach out for support when you need it.

Also, don’t forget that caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your kids. Not only are you unable to care for your kids if you are unwell but you are also modeling for them how to care for themselves. 

Click here to read, 9 Ways Your Mind And Body Are Telling You That You Need Some ‘Self Love’ .

References

  1. Resilience. Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/resilience/.
  2. Ekeland E, Heian F, Hagen KB. Can exercise improve self esteem in children and young people? A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2005;39:792-798.
  3. Davis, C. L., Tomporowski, P. D., McDowell, J. E., Austin, B. P., Miller, P. H., Yanasak, N. E., Allison, J. D., & Naglieri, J. A. (2011). Exercise improves executive function and achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: A randomized, controlled trial. Health Psychology, 30(1), 91–98. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021766
  4. Archer, T., Kostrzewa, R.M. Physical Exercise Alleviates ADHD Symptoms: Regional Deficits and Development Trajectory. Neurotox Res 21, 195–209 (2012) doi:10.1007/s12640-011-9260-0

Natural Health Relief For Fibromyalgia Sufferers

natural health

You’ve probably heard the term fibromyalgia before. Maybe you’ve experienced the symptoms, received a diagnosis or know someone who has. Maybe you’ve heard about it from a friend or have even wondered if it’s possible that you have it. I’m a firm believer in natural health, so if any of the above sounds like you then you must try the following tips.

Click here to take our online fibromyalgia test.

Instantly download this mini report

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Let’s start by clarifying what fibromyalgia means. Fibromyalgia is a medical diagnosis. It is used to describe a certain set of symptoms. These symptoms can include;

  • Pain throughout the body
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Digestive issues
  • Brain fog
  • Lack of motivation

As you may be able to tell, these symptoms are quite vague and someone diagnosed with fibromyalgia may not have all these symptoms or may have other symptoms that are not on the list.

Fibromyalgia is known as a diagnosis of exclusion. This basically means that there is no specific test for it and every other relevant test has come back negative. That leaves us with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and a person who overall feels quite unwell and unable to accomplish their daily goals.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

It seems to be different for everyone. There is a lot of research going into this area and many theories and ideas into the causes and triggers of fibromyalgia are being investigated.

Theories range from changes in pain signalling pathways in the nervous system, to genetic variations, hormonal imbalances, and immune system changes. And, while each person is different, fibromyalgia often seems to be linked with stress and inflammation (1).

Naturopathic Approach For Natural Health?

Before we get into my naturopathic approach to fibromyalgia, I’d like to make an important distinction.

As a naturopath, I don’t treat fibromyalgia. I do, however, treat patients who may be experiencing symptoms that fit with a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

I make this distinction, not to be confusing, but because I find it can be too easy to focus on a diagnosis. Especially one as frustrating as fibromyalgia and lose sight of the unique person behind the diagnosis. That being said, here is my approach to helping patients who may be experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia get their health back on track.

Natural Health Steps To Achieve Relief

stress
1. Address The Stress

The symptoms of fibromyalgia are usually brought on by a stressful life event (1). Whether it was a traumatic experience or a flu that never seemed to go away, it is important to address and process any unresolved emotions around that experience.

Daily life stress also seems to make all of the symptoms of fibromyalgia worse so finding ways to manage and better cope with stress is so important. There are many tools that we use as Naturopaths to help manage stress. These tools range from;

Also, it can even be as simple as doing one thing a day that brings you joy. That last one gets written down on my prescription pad often!

It is important to work with a healthcare professional to form your own unique toolkit to help you best manage your stress.

2. Diet & Nutrition

As previously mentioned, inflammation tends to play a large role in fibromyalgia. There are a lot of ways to reduce inflammation with diet. There are anti-inflammatory diets, intermittent fasting, and even specific foods that can help reduce inflammation. This is where it becomes important to work with a Naturopath to come up with dietary habits that work best for you.

Click here to read, “Foods to Avoid with Fibromyalgia”.

fibromyalgia relief
3. Address Sleep

There has been research to show abnormal sleeping patterns in people diagnosed with fibromyalgia (2). Checking in with your sleep patterns and practicing good sleep hygiene can help to reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia. Herbs, acupuncture, nutrition, and exercise can be useful tools in getting sleep back on track as well.

4. Rest, Rest, Rest

I say this three times because it is so important and many struggle with taking time to rest. It can be hard to accept not being able to do everything you could do before. However, it is important to listen to your body and take the time to rest. This rest time is important for recovery but also in re-focusing and re-establishing some of your health and overall life goals.

natural health
5. Exercise

Everyone is different.  However, I often find people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia really benefit from restorative type exercises. Things that involve gentle movement like;

All of these help get the body moving and blood flowing without being too strenuous for someone who is already feeling depleted.

And there you have it, some areas to look into with your Naturopath if you are experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

References
  1. “Fibromyalgia – Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue Disorders.” Merck Manuals Professional Edition, Merck Manuals.
  2. Wu Y-L, Chang L-Y, Lee H-C, Fang S-C, Tsai P-S. Sleep disturbances in fibromyalgia: A meta-analysis of case-control studies. J Psychosom Res. 2017 May;96:89–97.

Are You A Sun Worshiper? What You Need To Know Before Stepping Out In The Sun!

sun damaged skin

Let’s start by making it clear that the sun is not an enemy.  The sun is actually very important to our health.  I’m sure you can even attest to the difference in your mood on a sunny day compared to a gloomy day.  The sun helps us produce Vitamin D, a nutrient that plays an important role in bone health, mood, and immune health.  But with the benefits of the sun comes risk as it can cause sun damaged skin.

Fibromyalgia And The Sunshine Vitamin!

While getting frequent small doses of sun exposure is good for your health, prolonged exposure is where sun damaged skin becomes a concern.  With skin damage comes all of the issues that tend to bring fear with the very mention of them, like skin cancer or… premature aging.

Luckily, there are lots of ways we can protect our skin while still reaping the benefits the sun has to offer.  Sunscreen tends to be the first form of protection that people think of.  But before jumping to sunscreen, it should be noted that sunscreen is not the only, or even the best way to protect against sun damaged skin.

What You Need To Know To Protect Against Sun Damaged Skin!

Here are a few other simple and effective ways to protect your skin from prolonged sun exposure:

sunhat

Wear A Hat

Preferably one that has a wide brim all the way around.  This will protect your face and neck from the sun.

sun shade

Hang Out In The Shade

Find a nice cool spot under a tree, tent, or umbrella.  This will minimize your sun exposure if you’re going to be out all day.

sunglasses

Wear Sunglasses

This may be helpful for protecting your eyes against sun damage and also helps to prevent the wrinkles that form from squinting against the sun.

Okay, now that we’ve got the basics down, we may need a little extra protection for those nature lovers.  Those who may be wanting to spend long, sunny, summer days out on the water for example.  Also, for someone who works out in the sun all summer long.  That’s where sunscreen can come in handy if used properly.

Here are some key things you should know before covering yourself in sunscreen.

It’s Not About The SPF!

A higher SPF can be misleading and can cause people to feel falsely protected from the sun’s rays (especially UVB rays) and spend too much time in the direct sun.  A higher SPF often also means more chemicals to reach this SPF, which brings us to the next, very important point…

Know What’s In Your Sunscreen!

Our skin is our largest organ.  It absorbs much of what we put on it.  So, if you’re going to cover yourself in lotion, make sure its ingredients don’t do more harm than good.

As a general rule, I tell my patients that the primary ingredient in their sunscreen should be zinc oxide both for optimal protection and safety.  Avoid sunscreens with oxobenzone or octinoxate.  These chemicals have hormone disrupting potential and are being investigated as culprits in the bleaching of coral reefs (1).  Click here for an important read on how, “Sunscreen is Damaging Coral Reefs – Everything You Should Know About It”.

Another ingredient to avoid that may not be so obvious is Vitamin A (often listed on the ingredient list as retinyl palmitate).  While Vitamin A is typically good for your skin when consumed by eating fruits or vegetables, directly applying it to the skin, or consuming it in unnaturally high levels, can cause skin irritation or an increased sensitivity to the sun.

If you are questioning an ingredient in your sunscreen, ask an expert.  The Environmental Working Group is another great resource for learning more about questionable sunscreen ingredients.  Their Skin Deep app is a great tool for checking the safety of skin care products.  Click here to read, “Best Sunscreen – Product Review”.

sun burn

What Happens If Despite All Precautions, You Still Get Burned?

Don’t panic.  Now it’s time to help your skin heal.  One key way to support the healing process is to keep the skin hydrated.  You can do this by drinking lots of water and applying oils, creams, salves, or gels to the skin.

There are also many herbs that help support the healing process.  Commonly used herbs like Aloe vera are healing and cooling on sunburnt skin but lesser known herbs like Calendula (Calendula officinalis), Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) or Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) can also be helpful in soothing and healing sunburns.  Click here for a video on making your own oil infusion for sunburns.  Don’t forget to always check with your naturopathic doctor or herbalist before using any herbal medicine.

If you have any other questions about sun safety, skin health, vitamins etc. get in touch!  I’d love to chat.

For further reading, click here to read “Enjoy the Sun in Small Doses”.

Sources

Siller A, Blaszak SC, Lazar M, Olasz Harken E. Update About the Effects of the Sunscreen Ingredients Oxybenzone and Octinoxate on Humans and the Environment. Plast Surg Nurs. 2018;38(4):158–61.
Environmental Working Group. “EWG’s 2019 Guide to Safer Sunscreens.” EWG, www.ewg.org/sunscreen/.

Don’t Kill The Dandelions!

health benefits of dandelion

Dandelions often get a bad rap.  Yes, they are an invasive species that tend to spread quite quickly, but they are also a really useful plant.  This is because there are many health benefits of Dandelion!  Here’s the low-down on dandelions and why I think they are one of the most underrated little weeds.

A Bit Of History…

Did you know that dandelions are actually thought to have been brought to America by early European settlers in the 17th century?  Yes.  That’s right.  The early Europeans leaving their countries thought dandelions were so important that they brought the seeds with them to their new home and planted them here.

Why would they do that?  Was it just for the pretty yellow colour?  Probably not. Dandelions were actually an important source of food and medicine.  And, since they grew so easily, the early settlers knew they’d be helpful to start them off in their new life.

Health Benefits Of Dandelion

Well first off, aside from maybe the stem, every part of the dandelion is edible and we now know that they do indeed have nutritional and medicinal properties.  They have been shown to help with inflammation, digestion, cancer, the flu and diabetes, just to name a few.  Dandelions are part of the Asteraceae plant family and mature dandelions consist of a strong taproot, serrated green leaves, a stem, and a bright yellow flower.

Nutritional & Medicinal Properties Of Dandelions

Taproot

The strong taproot of the dandelion is what can drive gardeners crazy since it makes it hard to uproot this tenacious little plant.  The best time to harvest the root is in the spring or fall when the soil is moist.  Once you do get a hold of the root, it is very much worth the effort.  The bitter root is a great source of inulin helping to support the digestive tract and liver in natural detoxification and fat metabolism.

One of the easiest ways to prepare the root (and extract that inulin from it) is as a tea.  But, it can also be prepared as a tincture (alcohol extract) or decoction (boiled).  The chopped up root can also serve as a great coffee substitute.

Fun fact: In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is the season of the liver.  How convenient that an herb that supports the liver grows so abundantly during this time!

Leaves

The leaves are high in nutrients like vitamin A, iron, phosphorus, calcium and potassium.  They also taste great in salads and help promote healthy digestion.  If you’re planning on using the leaves for a salad, they are best harvested in the early spring, before the plant begins to flower.

Once the plants start flowering, the leaves become more bitter.  This is when they are typically used in teas or tinctures, as their diuretic properties make them great for kidney support.  These diuretic properties are what can make dandelions useful in treating things like urinary tract infections (UTI’s) or kidney stones.

The Flower

The flower is highest in antioxidants known as polyphenols.  This can be helpful in the treatment and prevention of inflammation and cancer.  The flowers can also be consumed in so many fun ways.  My favourite way to eat the flower is in cookie form.  Click here for my recipe!

Want more information about the health benefits and additional recipes? Click here to read, “Don’t Pull Out That Weed! All About The Cancer Fighting Medicine That’s Growing in Your Yard”.

Be Safe!

Dandelions are not likely to cause harm when eaten as a food (unless you have allergies!) However, as we start getting into teas and tinctures, their medicinal properties become more potent.  In this way they do have the potential to interact with other medications and would not be safe to consume while pregnant or breast-feeding.  Always make sure you’re consulting your naturopathic doctor or herbalist before trying any herbal medicine.  Click here to find a doctor near you.

The health benefits of Dandelion are one of many different plants that can help with healing.  Do you have a health concern and are wondering if herbs and naturopathic medicine can help?  Get in touch.  I’d love to chat.

Sources

1. “Taraxacum Officinale Complex .” Invasive Species Compendium, CAB International, 2019, www.cabi.org/ISC/.
2. Jackson, Bernard S. “Dandelion.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 4 Mar. 2015, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/dandelion.
3. “Dandelion.” Natural Medicines, Therapeutic Research Centre, 19 Apr. 2019, naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/

Effects Of Stress – Stress Can Be Good For You?!

stress can be good

Yes you read that right! Stress can be good for you!  As a Naturopathic Doctor, I spend a lot of time talking with patients about stress.  Usually, we’re talking about how to best manage and reduce stress as it tends to be an aggravating or even causal factor in so many ailments.  But what if the solution to managing stress is actually stress itself?  I know, it sounds counterintuitive right?  How can you reduce stress with more stress?

Acute vs Chronic Stress

Well first, I want to make an important distinction between acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is the body’s short-term response to something stressful.  For example, if you were going to an important interview or giving a big presentation, acute stress would be that heart-racing, sweaty palms, nervous feeling you might have before or during the presentation.  This happens because your sympathetic nervous system is activated and your body goes into fight-or-flight mode.  However, once the presentation is over, things calm down and your parasympathetic nervous system is activated allowing your body to rest and recover.  This is your body’s normal response to stress and usually doesn’t cause any long term issues.

However, issues arise when your body is not given time to rest and recover.  This is where we get into chronic stress.  Chronic stress happens when you are repeatedly exposed to stressful situations.  For example, an overburdening work schedule or a stressful home environment.  This is the stress that lends itself toward many of the health issues that have been associated with stress.  Click here for more information on Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes.

Acute Stress Can Make You Cope Better

It turns out stress is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s more about how we cope with stress that affects our health.  Research has shown that experiencing tolerable levels of that acute stress we talked about can actually lead to an improved resilience to stress overall.  What does this mean?  It means experiencing small stresses that don’t harm us can actually make us better able to cope with the inevitable stress that life may throw our way.

For example, choosing to do more things that force us out of our comfort zone.  Like giving that presentation or going to that interview that makes us nervous, can make us better able to cope with bigger life stresses.   The stress of a loved one falling ill or the stress of losing a job.  The key is to make sure we’re giving our bodies time to rest and recover in between stressful events.

What Can You Do With This Information?

Build your resilience to stress!  Try stepping outside of your comfort zone once in a while. Maybe make it a goal to try one new thing that makes you a little nervous every day. Challenge yourself while remembering to take time to rest and recover.  Click here for 5 Tips You Must Know to Destroy Stress Today!

Check out this month-long “Step outside your comfort zone!” calendar for ideas.

calendar

Sources

1. Oken, B. S., Chamine, I., & Wakeland, W. (2014). A systems approach to stress, stressors and resilience in humans. Behavioural brain research, 282, 144-54.