Simplify Your Life in 7 Easy Ways

IMG_4565Deadlines, electronic medical records, parking tickets, paper grading and the cost of rent in Toronto. What do these seemingly varied delights all have in common? They all contribute to complicating our lives and do nothing more than turn the drip-rate up on our cortisol lines. When we think of healthy living, our minds frequently turn to proper diet and exercise. We often forget that while our bodies are undergoing the latest juice cleanse and sweating away impurities, our poor brains may be stuck masticating super-sized portions of the same soggy, deep-fried thoughts.

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Some Reflections on Not Being Able To Eat Things

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I have been gluten-free since the Spring of 2012 when I moved out of my Italian grandmother (Nonna)’s house and stopped being confronted by a daily arsenal of pasta and bread.

Being gluten-free is not hard; it’s only when you combine it with a dairy-free existence (often mistaken for lactose intolerance) that it then becomes problematic. When you start avoiding two or more separate things, you become one of THOSE people in cafes inquiring about the ingredients in everything. You start to hear yourself saying things like “so, are those raw vegan nut ‘cookies’ made with wheat flour? Oh, no? Well then – Ah… spelt. Hm. I’ll just have a $2 apple, then. Thanks.”

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“Poof! All Better!”: The Allure of the Panacea

Image source: Wikipedia
Image source: Wikipedia

“Once Henry discovered that the autoimmune disease was a manifestation of his own self-criticism, his symptoms slowly began to subside.”

“I told the couple to stop spending so much time together. They were then able to rekindle their desire and found that their sex life improved dramatically.”

I read a lot of books. Many of these books are on alternative healing and often contain the running theme of cunning practitioners who bore into the core of the case, bring it to the client’s willing attention and <poof!> solve a long-standing with the snap of two fingers on their healing hands.

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A Meditation on Appearances

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From the Art & Practice draft archives.

Things aren’t always what they seem. So goes the old adage.

The smiling mother chasing her kids in the park may be battling an ugly divorce or struggling with the guilt of a turbid affair. The white picket fence may not display the undercurrent story of addiction that runs through her life’s narrative. The beautiful home across the street provides a shiny façade that hides the modern-day enslavement to an unpleasant job that pays the mortgage.

I’ve come to understand that as a society we value the appearance of things rather than their actual value. We display to the world the happy side of life. We portray to others a sense of perfection and cover up the less-than-desirable aspects of our lives, creating the illusion that our lives are perfect and successful, free of suffering and pain.

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10 Tips for A Vibrant NPLEXperience!

The weekend before the Big Week is a time for serious contemplation.

1) Stimulate your Liver Qi. Embarrass yourself at grad formal. Have them reprint your award with the same word misspelled. Create an online dating profile. Get a day job and surround yourself by a species of human that is still trying to figure out what gluten is. Feel smugly superior and remember what this feels like: it won’t last.

2) Address the difference between neediness and having needs in relationships. Learn astrology.

3) Buy a $200 book that weighs more than you do and makes you feel legitimized by the medical profession. Carry it around as a cute accessory. Spill things on it so it looks used.

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7 Reasons For MDs to Collaborate with NDs


Dear Medical Doctor,

I am a naturopathic physician. On a Facebook page hosted by some peers in my profession, a young naturopathic doctor expressed distress at having her attempt to forge ties with one of her patients’ medical doctor thwarted. Needing her patient to obtain the diagnostic testing covered under provincial insurance only when ordered by a medical doctor, she wrote a letter to the patient’s MD, explaining the case, her assessment, the natural treatments that the patient was taking and her reasons for asking for diagnostic testing to be done. She expressed her hope to work collaboratively with this professional in order to provide better care for their mutual patient.

The response was less than ideal. The MD wrote a short, snappy letter, making clear his disinterest in “working collaboratively” with “alternative health practitioners”. He told her, bluntly, that he would not welcome further communications regarding their mutual patient.

Rooky mistake.

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Ode to NPLEX 2 (an acrostic poem)


Nalexone or naproxen: one’s an NSAID. After a month, they’re not straight in my head.

Porphyria is different from diphtheria. Now who can remember which diagnostic criteria includes

Left shifts? Or is it left shunts? And what’s that condition where the intestinal villi blunt?

Emergent conditions and therapeutic nutrition leave little room for healer intuition. I wish I was dating an

X-ray technician. With less than

2 weeks to go, we’re left counting the hours. It’s been a while since I’ve had a shower. I wonder if there is a botanical flower that will give me superhuman studying power?

On trust, control, yerba mate and other interesting things


“There are a lot of things up in the air in my life right now.” My friend, S, told me as we sat on the grass enjoying the first of two yerba mate-and-chit-chat experiences I’d partake in in the following two days. “I just have to trust that things will eventually settle,” she added.

“Hmmm…” I nodded, sipping from the bombilla. “It’s just that it can be so hard to do that sometimes…”

Brief silence.

“No it’s not.” S replied matter-of-factly.

And I wondered what my deal was.

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A Letter to an ND Graduate

Graduation 2014.
Graduation 2014.

If any of you have been my patients you know that I love assigning letter-writing homework. There is something powerful in expressing yourself to some person or entity with the written word and then being able to look back and reflect on your thoughts and feelings at a later date.

In the first few weeks of my clinic internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic, one of my supervisors, Dr. Wong, had us newbie interns write a letter to our future selves – our ND graduate selves. Sometimes it’s important to take a glance back to the start of our journey in order to fully appreciate how far we’ve come.

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On Climbing Mountains


There is nothing wrong with living on flat ground. In fact, it can be quite gratifying and liberating. You can walk in whichever direction you choose: right, left, east, west, diagonally. Flat ground is safe. It’s familiar. However, after a while, it becomes inevitable that you’ll want to experience the world from different vantage points. You’ve heard that there is real beauty up there, above the clouds. And that’s when you decide to start mountain climbing.

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How to Train Your Dragon


I woke up in the middle of the night to find the dragon lying in my bed. Snoring politely, he looked very small, about the size of a beagle. He was staying on his side of the bed, so I tried to get back to sleep. I’d met this beast before and knew he often brought with him ominous feelings of death and despair, but sometimes he would show up at night only to be gone in the morning. Maybe this time I wouldn’t need to worry.

The next morning, though, the dragon was still there. It rolled over and looked at me with its yellow lizard eyes. Its grey, shiny scales were smooth and glistening. I felt a sharp shiver of fear run through me. I wondered if this time he was here to stay. I worried about what he might do.

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What is a Naturopathic Doctor? (+ video)


The class of 2014 has graduated! I’ve received an email showing that I’ve officially completed my clinic numbers for the term. What has followed in the past few weeks has been a whirlwind of emotions: euphoria, exhaustion, excitement, sadness, grief, accomplishment, pride and anticipation for the future.

For the time being, I’ve returned to my part-time job as an English language teacher in down-town Toronto, entering the grey zone of being a post-graduate, pre-licensed ND on the one hand, and an ESL teacher on the other. Being a part of the real-world and outside of the naturopathic medical student bubble has proven to be interesting. It provides real insight into how other people see naturopathic doctors, or what things they associate with that term.

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Art Therapy for Stress

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I know about the healing power of art. Sitting in front of a painting and quietly filling in a private world of colour helps to open up the right side of the brain, dissolving the hard edges of worn thought patterns and softening us to possibility. I know that wonderful realizations arise from the quiet space that art can provide. Bright colours draw attention to inner darkness. Self-criticism becomes louder and steps out into the light, allowing us to properly examine it.

Therefore, when I decided to attend an art therapy workshop, I figured myself to be already part of the choir who I thought would be preached to. I knew that art held the magical power to do deep psychological work. I was just curious as to how that would look in a therapeutic setting.

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Reflections of a 2nd Year Student


When I was in my 2nd year at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, one of our professors, Dr. Leslie Solomonian, had our class answer 9 reflection questions. Once we had finished she collected them and told us we’d get them back once we were ready to graduate. Last week, during a celebratory lunch for our graduating class, she handed us back our reflections, giving us a chance to look back on the 4 years we’ve spent as naturopathic medical students – especially our 12 months working directly with patients in clinic, putting our naturopathic principles and modalities into practice – in order to realize how far we’ve come. Here are my answers:

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The Used Sweater (fiction)

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I enter the used clothing store, my expectations healthily repressed; it is better to approach the vintage-shopping experience from a position of openness to possibility, devoid of excessive hope and need. If one starts in this way then one has nowhere to go but to the land of pleasant surprises and amazing finds for under a dollar.

I browse through the racks, taking in the moth-balled musty scent of used clothes. Perusing the garments is like visiting a library or a bookstore. The fabrics contain the memories of the people who bought them, wore them, loved and hated them (secretly) but remembered to always have it on when Grandma came to dinner. I wonder which blouse was tossed to the floor in anticipation of passionate lovemaking and which pieces of clothing have borne witness to arguments, death and divorce. Which sleeves contain the traces of desperate tears? If the clothing could talk, I can only imagine the stories they would tell about desire, disgust, revenge, passion, despair, loneliness, bitter disappointment and the tragedy of lives of promise that fade away unnoticed.

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C is for Cancer

This piece was meant for the CCNM Body Monologues during the 2014 Women’s Health Week. It is an important story for me to tell, so I decided to finish the final edits and publish it here. 

It was in Kingston, Ontario on the campus of Queen’s University, my alma mater, where I first met my roommate, C. We were both giddy with the nervous anticipation of coming face-to-face with the person we’d sleep beside for the next year. We were like two halves of a mail-order marriage; since divorce wasn’t an option, we were determined to make it work.

The pictures we pasted on the walls of our respective sides of the room highlighted the differences in our personalities and adolescent experiences. On her wall, there were sunny photos of rows of carbon copy, bikini-clad young women, posed in a way as to accentuate their lean abdomens and disguise obtuse hips. Their skin was bronzed from the sun. They could have been models. Why weren’t they models? I’m sure some of them were models. On mine, I plastered photos of my mishmash of weird friends. We wore sideways baseball caps, looked into the camera making cartoonish Zoolander faces or tucked our necks in to parody double-chins. We held up our hands in ironic peace signs. We emphasized our ugliness in order to assure our public that we were not trying to fit in. It was hilarious.

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5 Detoxifying Herbs for Spring

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Go ahead, make a wish. Then make a tea. Image source:

Spring is about cleaning. The April rains wash away the dirt and grime from the winter, people emerge in fresh, light clothing, we tackle the stacks of papers on our desks, sweep out dust and clutter, open the windows to allow fresh air to ventilate our lives and donate old, knobbing winter sweaters to charity. Spring is also the season of the Liver and Gallbladder in Chinese Medicine. This means that our body’s ability to clean revs itself up at this time of year as well. Some wonderful plants also push their way through the ground. Pick some from your garden and start throwing them into everything you eat. Spring is in the air!

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What to Bring to Your Naturopathic Visit

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I remember sitting in the walk-in clinic. I’d been waiting for over an hour, not to mention the time lost denying my symptoms, waiting until they got bad enough to warrant the visit in the first place. Finally, it was my turn. I walk into the treatment room, where a thin, middle-aged doctor was seated, her hair short and grey, her eyes encased in dark, baggy skin. She didn’t smile. “How can I help you?” She asked, bored already. I began where I thought the story began, at the beginning. I got a few sentences out before she cut me off. I was surprised; couldn’t she see that all this information was relevant? I didn’t just have fatigue, it was a part of me. It was woven into the fabric of my life; it had a back-story. This doctor needed to know when it began, what my life was like at the time, what I’d tried to do to treat it myself, when it felt better, when it felt worse. I didn’t believe she could treat me without that information. Surely it all mattered.

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4 Women’s Health Reads

Britney Spears, transforms before our eyes. Image source:
Poor Britney Spears shrinks before our eyes. Image source:

Women’s Health Week and International Women’s Day have both come and gone. At the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Women’s Health Week is usually accented with the popular event, the Body Monologues. Body Monologues, like its vagina-specific counterpart, consists of the telling of narratives on female body image. Every yearly event is filled with challenging, heart-felt, angry and inspiring stories by women as they articulate, through poetry, dance, speech and song, their personal struggles with femininity, sexuality, eating disorders, abuse and fight for body confidence. Sadly, this year, the Body Monologues was cancelled (you can still attend the main event in April 2014, in Toronto – click here for more information). However, even if the Monologue is cancelled, the dialogue must still persist; here are some of my favourite books in the world of female health that challenge the way we view femininity and our relationships with our bodies.

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Questions for the Pain


I can feel the general feeling of malaise and a focal ache in the side of my head. My mind slows and I feel that stupid sense of dullness overcome me. I am engulfed in a wave of sickness and pain; I am getting a migraine.

Many of my patients suffer from chronic pain. Their lives become about experiencing life behind a veil of physical discomfort, which intrudes into everything they do. Pain can be a metaphor offered up by the body for other forms of discomfort that are either too hard to solidify or too easy to ignore. When my little dog vies for my attention he cries. Our bodies do that too. Pain can be sticky, it can be complicated and its cause unclear. It can also destroy life; it becomes an unrelenting presence that threatens to ruin every plan or dream we have for a life of balance and well-being. Pain, and more importantly our reaction to it, can succeed at controlling us. So, how can we take back the control and heal through pain?

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The Guatemalan Doctor


We take a chicken bus to the hospital in Sololá, Guatemala. The emergency room is simple: 5 beds in a row sheltered by curtains. The sanitation conditions are questionable. There are no respirators (patients are bagged manually, all through the night) or fancy medical equipment. The emergency room is a bustling gathering place for the daily misfortunes of any of the 500,000 residents of Lago Atitlán.

My classmates and I, fresh from the airport, are dressed in navy blue scrubs, shiny and new from Walmart. I have a stethoscope around my neck: a Littman Cardio III. I’d guess that it’s the most expensive stethoscope in the hospital. It’s also auscultated the least amount of hearts; I’d be willing to bet that too.

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The Art of Conversation


If you’ve ever participated in the medical system somewhere in the world, chances are there is a medical chart out there with your name on it. I have one in my hands now and I task myself with the job of getting to know it. It is based on a true story: a patient who has entrusted me with his case. I read through the 200-page document, transfixed as stories in the untidy scrawl of half a dozen interns – some of them now well-immersed in practices of their own – unfold on the white pages. These pieces of paper, bound together by a fragile cardboard shell, capture snapshots in time of the encounter between these young practitioners and the patient. I read between the lines. Coffee stains represent early mornings that followed late nights, plainly stated observations reflect the colour of different lenses with which these young naturopaths-in-training saw the world at that time. Their pens tell 6 versions of the same story. Their treatment plans tell the story of emerging practice styles and personal healing philosophies.

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Re-framing Stress to Live Longer


My second year of training to be a naturopathic doctor was horrific in many ways. It began with performance-based physical exams, which brought with them the crippling feeling of being a deer, stunned by a set of bright headlights, unable to act in the face of the impending doom before me. Before practicals, my stomach would do whatever it wanted, my heart would boom in my chest, rocking my whole body with its force. I swore in these moments that I didn’t know my name, let alone the entire series of steps of a thorough lung and thorax exam. I became a bumbling mess. I hated the feeling. Continue reading

The Definition of Health


Most people who come to see a naturopathic doctor are in some sort of state of dis-ease. That is, they are often exhibiting symptoms that indicate that their bodies have begun to offer up warning signs that something is off balance. After all, if they didn’t have symptoms, how would they know something was wrong with them? The trouble with our society is we often don’t notice our bodies until we have a glaringly obvious symptom that we can’t ignore – like how I never pay attention to a car I’m driving until there is a red light and a beeping noise I can’t turn off. And, even at that, how often do we find ourselves out-of-touch with even the most annoying symptoms – like gas and bloating or pain and itching – simply because we’ve “learned to live with them”?

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7 Treatments for Chronic Pain

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Anywhere from 10% to 55% of the population suffers from chronic pain. It is one of the conundrums of conventional medicine because, once the initial trauma (i.e.: the broken bone, bruising or cut, etc.) is dealt with, there are not many options for managing it. Pain medications usually have a host of side effects and offer only modest results. Many people are forced to live with pain, watching as their lives and well-being eventually deterioriate and they lose the ability to perform the activities they once loved. Thankfully, naturopathic medicine offers a variety of solutions for treating pain that can give you the chance to get your life back.

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Some Notes on Cleansing

Eat up those whole foods, but save the raw until spring!
Eat up those whole foods, just save the raw until spring.

A month’s worth of holiday excesses, combined with this wet, soggy weather can contribute to feelings of bloated, puffy lethargy. I feel that, at this time of year, everyone is shunning the scale and examining their side profiles in the mirror, lying down to button up jeans and secretly blaming life’s woes on apple pie. For many, weeks of over-doing it in December, mean a January of self-induced deprivation to get back on track and re-emerge as svelte and bounding again.

It seems intuitive to balance a period of indulgence with deprivation. If weeks of unrestricted treats pushed us off track, then surely a firm, hard shove in the other direction should get us back on the rails. However, as any winter driver or horseback rider knows, sometimes all we need is a gentle nudging to steer our stead back on to the right path.

This year I’ve held myself back from diving off the cleansing deep end. I’ve decided that this year I need gentle nourishment, not another nagging voice in my head, moulding my behaviour one way or the other. I need far more carrots (cooked delicately in stews, not raw) than sticks. I’ve decided to nurture my relationship with food using diplomacy, not by summoning the cavalry.

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Practices That Heal

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Losses and pivotal life changes can make us feel as if our world of comforts and familiarity is crumbling away beneath us, leaving us with a sense of emptiness and shaken emotional instability. However awful these times may seem, they can also offer us the gift of intimately knowing ourselves, and the opportunity to grow and learn. We are at our most vulnerable, our most creative and, in a sense, our most awake and alive during times of emotional duress. Our sensitivity is heightened, and although many of these feelings are extremely painful, our ability to experience this pain also leaves us open to the possibility of truly feeling everything the world has to offer: excruciating suffering but also the promise of immense joy.

When we think of healing we often think of taking medications, receiving treatments or long courses of therapy. We often overlook the importance of the little, comforting things we can do to help nurture ourselves through painful times. These rituals and small comforts are powerful healing facilitators; we only need the courage to turn to them and to trust that we are on the right path.

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5 Tips for Setting New Year’s Resolutions

Creating a vision board is a great, right-brained way to identify your goals for the new year.
Creating a vision board is a great, right-brained way to identify your goals for the new year.

New Year’s Day has come and gone, meaning it’s time for me to dust myself off, put away the wool blanket I’ve been camping out under with a good book, wash my coffee cup, change out of my pyjama pants and move from a state of “being” to “doing” again (just a bit more doing). I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions; they’ve always seemed to me like a fatalistic fad that we have already given ourselves permission to break. Even before we set off on our trek, we know that most New Year’s resolutions are doomed to die out and so we often resign ourselves to failing before we begin.

That being said, the new year, while just a symbolic date on our calenders, does signal new beginnings. It’s the end of down time – most of us are heading back to school after a period of rest and rejuvenation. It marks the passing of the winter solstice; the days are beginning to get longer, the earth is gathering warmth and rekindling our inner fires, which bring with them the motivation we need to accomplish our deepest, most important goals. So, this first post of the new year is dedicated to goal setting. It’s one of the skills we naturopathic doctors (and naturopathic interns) implement often, because getting to the root cause of disease and walking the path of health is never as easy as saying “start running and eating kale”. It requires a certain amount of foresight and personal empowerment.

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Acne Drug Linked to Deaths… but, it’s the naturopaths you gotta watch

Nettle tea: a botanical with the potential to treat acne... and not cause sudden death. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.
Nettle tea: a botanical with the potential to treat acne… and not cause sudden death. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.

How does naturopathic medicine treat acne? Well, it’s quite simple, really. We turn our focus to the root cause of disease. Is there a hormonal component? Is lack of hygiene an issue? Are food sensitivities at play? Is an increased toxic load on the body resulting in an elevated burden on the skin to detoxify? Is there a mental-emotional cause or result of this acne?

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6 Ways to De-Stress During the Holidays


It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to slowly ease into the holidays and enjoy it like I did before entering university, decorating the Christmas tree, sipping cinnamon spiced lattes, listening to Christmas music, taking my time with Christmas shopping and baking and acting in a holiday play.

However, for most people, the holidays are still a stressful time. The often commercial, faux-cheeriness of the season masks an underlying anxiety about being in close quarters with family, buying the perfect present, financial difficulties and all the work that must be done to meet the ever-increasing expectations we place upon ourselves at this time of year.

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Why Dr. Oz is Not a Naturopathic Doctor

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It’s rude to point, even for you, sir. Image source:

When I hear the phrase, “So, Dr. Oz says…”  in clinic, I feel like casting my eyes to the heavens and throwing up my arms. Hearing the successful cardiologist’s name means I either need to explain why this particular person doesn’t need to be on that particular supplement, why this caution is not applicable in this person’s case or why a certain treatment that this famous doctor recommends is probably not the best thing for this particular person at this particular time.

It’s great the there is someone in the media who is wildly popular singing natural medicine’s praises. It’s wonderful that people like him, watch his show and get excited about empowering themselves when it comes to their health. However, I have beef with hearing his name mentioned repeatedly in patient visits. The main reason: Dr. Oz is not a naturopathic doctor.

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Prevention is Not Just Screening: 6 Ways to Prevent Disease

Preventive medicine is a buzz-phrase that many medical professionals love to throw around. However, in the conventional medical system the term prevention is often used to apply to what should be known as screening. Tests such as PAP smears, mammograms and colonoscopies do not prevent cancer, they simply attempt to screen a large portion of the population to detect the presence of these cancers at an early stage, when treatment can be most affective. They are recommended for silent diseases that only produce symptoms once they are advanced, but they are screening exams, they do not, in and of themselves, prevent cancer. If one of these tests comes back positive, it means that the patient’s body is already along the course of disease and needs treatment.


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Colombian Hogao Recipe


Now that the first snowflakes are blowing our way here in Canada, I am missing the warmth of South America even more. Since vegetables in Colombia, South America are often hard to come by in traditional dishes, I often find myself piling on the “hogao”, a delicious vegetable salsa. I’ve since come to associate the taste with travelling, smiling friends and happy memories in the Andean sunshine. Here is a recipe for the delicious Colombian food staple that can be used as a dip for fried plantain, yucca, crackers or tortilla chips. It can also be used as a topping to meat, soups or sandwiches.  Continue reading

Turkey Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup


There is nothing like a bowl of warm soup, with steaming vegetables, to help nurse the body through cold weather and a stressful season. Save the salads and cold wraps for summer and protect your immune and digestive system by indulging in easy-to-digest warming foods. This is a hearty soup with a healthy serving of protein and a decent helping of leafy greens. Continue reading

9 Tips for Eating More Whole Foods


In North America, we are faced with a problem that is unique to our side of the world: over-abundance of food. We lack the traditional foundations of eating, most of us have spent our childhood in classrooms and in front of televisions, not helping our grandmothers need dough for gnocchi or boiling tomatoes for canning for the winter. Few of us know how to make bread from scratch or ferment milk for yogurt. Our time is slim and the emergence of the empowered, working female has taken us out of the kitchen and into the supermarket or restaurant where food brands compete for our attention, promising us lucrative health claims, confusing the matter even more.

When I travel, people from other countries ask me what a typical “Canadian Dish” is. I, think of how my favourite food is Ethiopian injera and stews or how we often celebrate by going out for sushi, taking part in enjoying cuisine from two different countries I have yet to visit. This is one of many reasons why North Americans are confused about what to eat: we lack a gastronomical identity and, because we don’t have our roots to guide us, we’re left in the dark, reading labels and feeling utterly confused.

However, eating well is a simple equation coined by author Michael Pollen, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This healthy eating ideology outlines the importance of eating something called “whole foods”, the holy grail of healthy food, which basically include food that is minimally processed, in its whole, natural form.

Putting this philosophy into practice may not always be easy, however, so here are some simple rules:

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A Homeopathic Remedy for Rob Ford

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As many of you know, Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, is in the spotlight again. It seems that the famous “Crack Video” that was reported on in May, 2013, does exist, as confirmed by Toronto Chief of Police Bill Blair, who confiscated it in the drug raid, Project Traveller, a few months ago. From his numerous instances of public intoxication to his controversial, fiery politics, Rob Ford has always been a controversial mayor. He is being asked by colleagues – opponents and supporters alike – and the people of Toronto to step down from his role while he gets his life in order. While the jig seems to be up, he maintains irritatingly steadfast, refusing to take a leave of absence and even refusing to admit that he has a problem at all. It’s clear he needs some nature cure, ASAP.

Turning to one of the modalities of naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, I wonder if there isn’t a remedy that could help Mr. Ford un-stick himself from this awkward predicament and give him the strength to move forward.

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You Know You’re in Colombia When…


I have been on hiatus from this blog because I went back to Colombia for vacation. Colombia is a country in which I’ve spent a lot of time in in the past few years, since living there from 2008-2010, and disconnected completely from technology. My smartphone (poor neglected thing) lay buried under dirty laundry at the bottom of my backpack and I removed my watch for the next few weeks, relying on the kindness of neighbours to tell me what time it was, when it mattered enough to ask.

Each time I venture across the Western Hemisphere to return to Colombia, it feels like trying a favourite dish in new ways; the past 11 months of life experience bring out certain flavours that I never noticed before and that add an exquisite richness to the palate of cultural experience. The more times I go, the more it feels like home, as if the culture has nuzzled its way into a part of me and I can never consider myself simply a “Canadian” again. Here are some of the experiences I had that, I believe, can only be found in this loving South American nation.

You know you’re in Colombia when…

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High Intensity Interval Training


When I was at Queen’s University, studying for my BSc degree, I would go to the gym daily to sweat out the stress and sluggishness of classroom and library time. I would go to the gym for as long as 2 hours, which didn’t seem much at the time, when you factored in the wait time for the popular cardio machines (especially after the New Year). Then I joined the Queen’s Triathlon Team and would bike or swim for 2 hours before hopping on the treadmill for another half hour. I worked out like an Olympian, watched what I ate and yet I still felt breathless while ascending stairs and I still maintained my weight at slightly higher than it is now (these days I do 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise a day). What gives? The answers, my friends, is physiological adaptation and cortisol.

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Supporting the Spleen

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In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Spleen organ can be more closely equated with the pancreas, rather than the western spleen, whose main function is simply to store blood. The TCM Spleen is responsible for digesting food and converting it into energy, much in the way the pancreas releases insulin to allow the body’s cells to absorb ingested glucose, providing the cells with energy. Unlike the pancreas, however, the TCM Spleen is also responsible for providing warmth and vitality to the body, providing energy for immune function and the mental energy to produce industrious and creativity work. The Spleen belongs to the Earth Element and its main season is late Summer and early Fall, right around the time that students dust off their backpacks and head back to school.

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Charting Basal Body Temperature

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Imagine no longer being surprised by a menstrual period while on vacation, knowing the best time to have intercourse for those trying to conceive, and being aware of high-risk times for those trying to avoid unwanted pregnancy. For women with concerns about fertility, PMS and other menstrual symptoms, those with hormonal irregularities, those who are interested in a natural, yet effective form of birth control and those who are simply interested in learning more about their bodies and menstrual cycles, BBT Charting is an important holistic practice to adapt.

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The Art of Ayurvedic Self-Massage

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I await my first real patient: a referral from a friend. I know this new patient suffers from chronic migraines, related to stress, and I am excited; I already have some ideas about what to prescribe. It’s been 9 long years since I decided that I wanted to enter into a healing profession and soon I will be face-to-face with a real human, someone who requires the skills I have so painstakingly acquired over the years through hours of book-study. I am elated. The appointment is cancelled, however, as I am attacked by a migraine headache myself, one that I used to suffer from regularly but haven’t experienced in months. The headache is all-encompassing and I am forced to go home. It’s only on reflection, months later, that I realize the irony of being forced to cancel an appointment due to being afflicted by an attack of the very condition I was to treat.

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10 Natural Uses for Coconut Oil

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The only beauty product you need, really, is a jar of coconut oil and a few ingredients from your kitchen. This delicious-tasting oil is great for cooking because of its high melting point, allowing it to be used in stir-frys or other foods cooked and baked at higher temperatures without oxidizing. It’s also unique in its possession of a healthy saturated fat called lauric acid and its medium chain fatty acids, known for their tendency to be used directly as fuel by the body, rather than being stored as fat. Coconut oil also boasts of antibacterial properties and has a low molecular weight, allowing it to absorb silkily into skin and hair. Here are 10 healthy uses for this oil for the inside and outside of your body.

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What Can a Naturopathic Doctor Do For You?

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A few years ago I was experiencing digestive issues. Not to get too graphic, but I was having bloating and that impending feeling that things weren’t 100% “alright” down there. I didn’t seek help from a holistic practitioner at first, however. The reason for this was simple, but kind of silly when I look back, wishing I knew then what I know now: I felt like my symptom, as uncomfortable as it was, wasn’t a real “symptom”. I thought that, if I sought help for something as small as “bloating” (which I’d been told was normal by every other medical professional – common, perhaps, but not normal), I’d be labelled a complainer, a hypochondriac.

Now, of course, I know that not only is the onset of a “little” symptom the perfect time to go to a naturopathic doctor – it’s the first indication that we’ve strayed from balance – any kind of suffering is a legitimate reason to seek medical care. Got bloating? See a naturopathic doctor. Here are some more things a naturopathic doctor (or RSNC intern) can do for you:

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