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Midwifery and Naturopathic Medicine – Supporting the Body’s Natural Work

Seven weeks ago my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world, a little girl.  During my pregnancy, labour and deliver and post-partum period I was under the care of midwives.  It was a wonderful experience and in the process I found many parallels with naturopathic medicine. 

While I don’t claim to be an expert, midwifery care, in my understanding and experience, is based on the idea that pregnancy and child birth is a normal process that in the majority of cases occurs naturally, normally and without the need for interventions.  Pregnancy is not a disease or illness that needs treatment and those involved should be actively involved in all decisions made.  Allowing pregnancy and child birth to unfold naturally has advantages.  It is well documented that medical interventions in labour and delivery increase the risk of needing further interventions.  For example, a medical induction (medication to start labour) increases the risk of needing a C-section.  Of course, there are absolutely cases when medical treatment is needed and midwives are trained to identify these situations and refer to an obstetrician for treatment.  I’m incredibly grateful for this as a friend who was due at the same time needed emergency medical care and was transferred from her midwife to an obstetrician for medical treatment resulting in the safe delivery of her baby and her own safety as well. 

While medical care is vital and life-saving, knowing when it is not needed is also important.  In my case, I was very lucky to have a healthy, normal pregnancy (apart from some very unpleasant heartburn!) and planned to have a home birth with a midwife.  To my surprise, my due date (August 13th) came and went with no sign of baby.  And no sign of her for the following week either.  When she was 10 days past her due date most obstetricians would have scheduled a medical induction – the use of synthetic hormones to tell my body to begin contractions.  However, I wasn’t too keen on this option - as I’d mentioned above, this increases the risk of needing other treatments.  However, my midwife was reassuring that going past the due date by at least one week is actually very normal in a first pregnancy and does not create any risks for a while.  We waited patiently and sure enough, my labour started on its own shortly before reaching two weeks past my due date.  My labour progressed well and I was able to deliver a healthy baby girl at home as planned. 

This approach of allowing the body to work naturally is similar to naturopathic medicine.  Naturopathic medicine acknowledges that most of the time the body has the capacity to heal and flourish when provided with the right conditions.  When you break your arm, you don’t walk around with a broken arm the rest of your life, the bone heals.  Of course we can encourage this by putting on a cast and resting and taking a break from playing volleyball, but ultimately it’s the body that does the actual repair work.  Naturopathic treatments seek to provide the body with what it needs (more of a nutrient, appropriate activity or rest, improved function of an organ such as the liver) and remove factors that might be interfering with the healing process (such as an offending food allergen, a toxin or an emotional stress) and allowing the body to heal and restore balance.   The benefit of this treatment is that it’s very safe and often associated with fewer side effects.  Like midwives, NDs are trained to use modern medical testing, identify serious conditions that require medical treatment and to refer to a medical doctor appropriately and this care is extremely important.  When we were 1 week past my due date I was sent for an ultrasound to confirm that the baby was doing well and that intervention was not needed.   If you have a heart attack, an emergency room doc and a cardiologist can provide life-saving care.  But if your cholesterol is slightly elevated, there are huge advantages to working with diet and lifetyle changes before opting for medication.  By choosing naturopathic medicine, you’re giving your body the opportunity to heal itself in the context of safe and appropriate modern care.

I'm Back!

I’m happy to announce that after a few weeks off I’m back to clinic and very excited to be connecting with all of my patients to continue to work towards their health goals as well as taking on new patients looking to use naturopathic medicine to improve their health.

As you may know, the reason for my absence was the birth of my daughter, Rose, a sweet little bundle of joy born on August 25th.  I’ll be sharing a bit more about her birth in another post – stay tuned!

To schedule a time to connect, please call the clinic at 416 498 8265.

Photo credit: http://www.tomasmakacek.com/

Maternity Leave Notice

Please note that as I am expecting the arrival of my baby, I will be away from the office for a short maternity leave from August 8th to September 30th. Dr. Lindsey White ND will be providing back up care while I am away and will be happy to assist patients with any concerns. Please contact the clinic for more information on booking with Dr. White (416-498-8265). You can also contact the clinic to schedule an appointment in October.

I look forward to connecting with you in a few weeks and I hope you have a very enjoyable and healthy conclusion to your summer!

Lyme Disease – What you need to know

With the weather really warming up it’s a great time to get outdoors and soak up the many benefits of spending time in nature.  However, one thing that we want to be cautious about is ticks and tick-borne disease.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lime Disease is caused by a parasite borrelia burgdorferi that is spread to humans by ticks.  The tick must be attached to the skin for many hours (typically 24-36) in order for the parasite to be transferred. When treated shortly after infection, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics. But if not treated right away, it can results in chronic Lyme disease which can be severely debilitating and extremely difficult to treat.

What are the symptoms?

When someone is infected they may experience fevers and chills, fatigue, headaches or a bull’s eye rash.  The long term effects if left untreated many include any of these symptoms as well as muscle and joint pain, difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbances. 

What to do if you are bitten by a tick?

If you have been bitten by a tick remove it carefully using tweezers (click here for more details on how to do this) and keep it –there are options to test if the tick was infected with the parasite.  Here are the International Lyme and Associated Diseased Society Guidelines for antibiotic treatment. The one day antibiotic treatment that is sometimes offered, is insufficent to prevent Lyme disease. They recommend one month of treatment. 

How can I minimize the risk?

When you are spending time outdoors try to wear close-toed shoes and socks, light coloured clothing (it makes the brown ticks easier to spot) and perform a “tick-check” after you return.  This involves running your hands over your skin to check for any ticks that may have attached so that they can be promptly removed.  Also, check any pets as they are much more likely to come in contact with ticks.  Be cautious of areas that are known to contain tick populations including Kingston and more recently the east end of Toronto (click here for a more complete list). 

Does this mean I shouldn’t spend time outdoors?

Absolutely not! We know that spending time in nature decreases stress, improves mood and boost immune function (click here to read more!) Get out doors and enjoy these great benefits but take precautions to make sure that you stay safe.

Learn more about Lyme

New Article: Nature and Health - Surprising Effects

I'm excited to share that the website Naturopathic Currents just published my article about the effects of nature on human health and well-being.
Here's the link to check it out: www.naturopathiccurrents.com/articles/health-and-nature

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Seasonal Allergies

With April here many people know that seasonal allergies are just around the corning.  But the good news is that there’s a lot that can be done to combat this annual annoyance and at the same time promote overall balance within the body.  

The immune system is designed to recognize and destroy harmful foreign substances.  Allergy symptoms occur as a result of inappropriate immune reactions to substances that are not harmful such as pollen, dust and animal dander.   When the immune cells recognize these foreign particles in our body (that we inhaled or that came in contact with our skin or eyes), they release molecules like histamine which cause swelling, redness, itchiness, congestion and discomfort.  As a result, we get the common allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, itchy skin rashes and sinus congestion. 

What factors can influence imbalances in the immune system? We know that elevated levels of inflammation and imbalances in gut bacteria can influence our body’s reactivity towards allergens.  As well, food sensitivities can contribute to chronic over-stimulation of the immune system and worsen other allergy symptoms including seasonal allergies. 

Many years ago I suffered from a chronic allergic reaction for several years, taking conventional anti-histamines daily until my Naturopathic Doctor helped me rebalance my immune system.  With a combination of an anti-inflammatory diet, some gentle detoxification support and a homeopathic remedy it took about 1 week to say good-bye to my antihistamines and I’ve never needed them since. 

While antihistamines, medications that block the release of histamine in response to the allergen, are generally safe, they can be sedating and taken daily the cost can really add up.  I’ve helped many patients restore immune balance and stop needing these medications using a combination of dietary modification, herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies.

Do you or someone you know suffer from allergies? Let’s connect to create a plan to help you enjoy the coming spring without all the sneezing and itching!

Photo credit:Freedigitalphotos.net

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New Toronto Location

I'm pleased to announce that I currently have office hours available at a new location in Toronto in addition to my Brampton location.

The Integrated Healthcare Centre is located in the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) which trains naturopathic doctors in Ontario.

The clinic offers naturopathic medicine, massage therapy, osteopathic care and psychotherapy.

It is conveniently located at the TTC Leslie Subway station for those that take transit and has parking available and close access to the 401 and Don Valley Parkway for those who drive.

I have office hours on Wednesday afternoon and evening and can accommodate many other times throughout the week by appointment. If you would like to schedule a time for a clinic visit at the IHC please call 416-498-8265.

Recent Lecture: Taking Control of Mood Disorders with Nutrition

I recently gave an invited guest lecture for Orthomolecular Health about the use of nutrition in the treatment of mood disorders. The one hour talk explored the science and research surrounding the relationship between what we eat and how we feel.

A recording of the talk is available here if you'd like to check it out: www.orthomolecularhealth.com/ resources/taking-control-of-mood-disorders/

If you know someone affected by a mental health concern, pass along the link to them as well.

**Note: the Orthomolecular Health Website is currently undegoing updates and this presentation is temporarily unavailable.  I will update the link as soon as it's available again.  Apologies for any inconvenience!

Back to the Sidewalk

It’s the time of year when most people’s New Year’s resolutions are a distant memory.  But that’s actually totally fine! Because the great things about health resolutions is that you can come back to them time and time again – in fact this may actually help you to succeed in the long run. 

When I’m working with patients to develop a meditation practice, a common concern that I hear is that people get very frustrated or angry when their mind wanders.  I encourage them to keep an analogy in mind.  Have you ever seen a brand new puppy go on its first walk? The owner will clip on the leash, set it down on the side walk and expect the puppy to move in a forward direction.  But what does it do? Wanders one way to smell a fire hydrant, wander the other way after a squirrel.  And what does the owner do? Yell at the puppy? Tell the puppy it’s dumb, or bad at walking? No, because the puppy is just starting the process of learning to walk on a leash and it’s in the puppy’s nature to wander.  So we gently guide it back to the sidewalk and encourage it to try again.  We are patients and gentle. 

I encourage people to use the same gentleness with themselves when starting a medication practice.  It’s in the mind’s nature to wander and it is inevitable.  It doesn’t mean the person is bad at meditation.  They just need to return the focus to the breath each time they notice that the mind has wandered. 

And this can apply to any aspect of health too.  Many of us have been excited to start a new diet strategy, workout routine, supplement or change in our lifestyle but simply fall off the wagon.  And that’s ok, it happens! What’s important is that we are gentle with ourselves and encourage ourselves to try again.  I was recently watching a documentary on addiction and a man who is now a successful recovery coach to other addicts mentioned that he went to rehab 26 times before he was able to stay sober! That’s a lot of times! But the great news is that he didn’t give up, even after the 25th time. He kept trying.

Sticking with resolutions and health strategies is hard.  But we don’t have to be hard on ourselves if we don’t make the change right away.  Just come back to the sidewalk as many times as you need to.

5 Awesome Lessons from Bear

Bear, Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner

As some of you may know, this summer I got a puppy and named him Bear.  He’s got a huge heart so my original goal was to train him to work as a therapy dog.  While I had all sort of great intentions of what I would teach him, it turned out that he taught me (or reminded me!) of quite a few really important things about health and wellbeing. 

  1. We feel better when we move around outdoors.  Have you ever seen a dog that’s been stuck in doors in one spot all day? They’re not very happy! Often irritable, cranky, agitated or unhappy.  I think this applies to humans too! None of us are at our best when stuck inside at a desk all day or on our couch all evening.  Having a pup forces me to walk several times per day and I have to say that I feel better because of it!
  2. Experience their emotions in the moment.  Dogs don’t seem to have very long memories.  If you step on their tail or give them the best treat ever they show an emotional response but about 10 minutes later, it passes.  Dogs don’t hold a grudge or ruminate or live in memory of the past.  They experience an emotion, it passes and then they are present for whatever happens next. 
  3. Physical contact. Dogs crave contact from their human companions.  This might be a pat on the head a back scratch or just sitting at our feet.  Humans need physical contact too.  It releases oxytocin which makes us feel good, there’s a ton of research on this topic! Today make an effort to shake someone’s hand or give them a hug. 
  4. Be with the people you are with.  With all of our modern technology it’s easy to be in the same room as someone but not really BE with them because we are totally engaged with our phones, tablets or laptops.  Luckily this summer and fall I’ve had a reminder of that.  When I’m at home with Bear and ignoring him for technology, he reminds me with a whimper or a nudge. 
  5. Play.  Lastly, Bear is happiest when he’s being silly, running around or battling in tug of war.  Adults need to play too sometimes: dance like no one is watching, make a mess, let the inner child out.  It’s good for our stress levels and allows us to relax from the pressure of being serious all the time. 

Bonus: I’m borrowing this one from an incredibly moving short film about a dog named Denali.  (Click here to check it out).  "People can learn a lot from dogs. When someone you love walks through the door (even if it happens 5 times a day) you should go totally insane with joy."

Animals have a lot of wisdom to share with us if we pay attention.  Whether it’s engaging with your own pet, visiting a pet you know, visiting a park or zoo see if you can spend some time with animals.  Or just reflect on which of these simple lessons you could take away.

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