Health is as much about being physically healthy as it is mental and emotional health. I am a doctor, not only to improve physical health but to also help patients understand how they can live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Clarity. Path. Life.
Books have always had a special place in my heart. Authors paint an unimaginable world that enables readers to see the world from a different perspective or lens. They set the stage for introspection, and personal development at a pace that meets the reader where they're at.
From time to time, there's a book that changes the way I see the world, that puts me back on track when I falter "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi has been that kind of book. Paul is a neurosurgeon resident who has always been interested in death, with a desire to "pursue death: to grasp it, uncloak it, and see it eye-to-eye". Before he operates on each patient, he first understands who they are What defines these people? What makes them, them? What makes life worth living? At what point is life not worth living? In what can only be called a sudden twist of fate, Paul is diagnosed with lung cancer and is no longer just a spectator. A must read, as Paul takes us along on his journey, as he grapples with the meaning of life and earth and what separates the two.
In a recent article on SportsNet.ca, Toronto Blue Jays player José Bautista talks about his key to success. He credits it to adopting a holistic approach to managing his body, and treating the root cause. At age 35, he shows no signs of slowing down, playing 308 of 324 games in the last two seasons and missing only one of 55 games in the current season.
In 2013, Bautista suffered a hip injury that served as an opportunity to up his game and become even better. Bautista changed his mindset and everything he did became a fundamental and calculated part of a process to prepare his body for a game and to repair his body after each game.
Bautista insists the combination of his entire regimen has changed him not only physically, but mentally, too.
His process-focused approach not only improved his physical abilities, but also his confidence, focus and energy. Bautista is a role model to all of us who want to be the best that we can be, an example of what discipline, hard-work, commitment and dedication can help you achieve.
Bautista identified his body’s needs and created an individualized routine that works for him. It addresses his goals, strengths and weaknesses The cornerstone of his routine - a good diet. He talks about nourishing his cells, so that they’re available to him, and how it just won’t happen if he’s eating “normal people food”. He’s implemented a diet abundant in antioxidants that prevent damage to the body during times of stress, nutrients that prevent and reduce inflammation, and repair and detoxify the body by supporting the liver.
He also talks about breathing exercises, just five to ten minutes at a time, two to three times a day. They help calm his mind, improve focus and even muscle function. He talks about understanding what his body feels like under different situations - if his muscles are tight, if he doesn’t sleep well or if he eats certain foods. This allows Bautista to know what his body requires, to do things with ease, which diminishes wear and tear and stress on the body and allows him to be fresh for longer.
Bautista’s regimen perfectly exemplifies the six naturopathic principles (https://aanmc.org/6-principles/). He’s connecting his mind to his body through meditation and breathing. He’s eating a diet rich in nutrients, to reduce inflammation, prevent injury and repair the body after each game. The omega-3s and anti-inflammatory nutrients support his overall health. Rather than simply building muscle to recover from injury, he addressed the underlying cause of the injury, the muscle imbalance. Finally, he’s educating himself about the body and and seeing what makes him feel best.
At age 35, Bautista seems to have found the secret to longevity as an athlete. He’s improved every part of his game, creating results that have led reporters to ask if he’s found a way to defy time. As impressive as these results seem, everyone can improve their confidence, energy and focus by establishing a routine that focuses on prevention, repair and one’s innate abilities,
For the original SportsNet.ca article, go to http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/jose-bautista-dominates-body-maintenance-game/.
By Dr. Olisa Mak
Signs that your Child is Anxious
Why We Need to Address Anxiety in Children
Anxiety is often a normal part of childhood and is crucial as a protective mechanism. It protects a child as they contemplate whether or not they should jump out a second floor window. Problems arise, however; when anxieties become overpowering and hold them back, much like anxieties hold people back during adulthood.
Childhood anxiety is a sign that a child’s basic needs are not being met, that they are not feeling heard, safe, or accepted. Initially, the child displays signs of anxiety that can be identified but when unaddressed, the body compensates, repackaging the anxiety into a behaviour that is more socially acceptable. Overtime, the anxious child becomes an an anxious adult. Adult anxiety is most difficult to treat when they developed during childhood. The adult mind is extremely skilled at hiding its anxieties. Imagine putting your deepest fears and anxieties in a box and then putting that box in a larger box and putting that box in an even larger box, and so on. Each additional box that we add represents how we modify and censor our behaviours, and build barriers around ourselves, all to hide some part of ourselves that we don’t like and to fit ourselves within this range of what’s socially acceptable. We do this, all to feel safe, accepted and to belong.
When an anxious child becomes an anxious adult, the mind has had so much time to hide the anxiety that the adult often isn’t even aware of the anxiety and if they are, they don’t know where it’s coming from. As an adult, dealing with anxiety requires opening each box and bravely exploring its contents. It requires identifying and changing unique patterns of thinking, that have been engrained in our brain. Until each and every box and insecurity has been explored, anxiety will always find its way back. Adult anxiety ultimately stems from childhood anxiety and like anything else, it’s always easier to deal with something early on. Children have not had time to put boxes within boxes, their anxiety is authentic and unpackaged and much easier to deal with.
According to Statistics Canada, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 3% of Canadians, affecting people’s ability to lead happy, fulfilling lives. GAD can lead to more serious mental disorders including depression as well as physical signs of stress such as muscle tension and back pain. Addressing anxiety in children leads to happier, more productive and overall healthier adults.
The difficulty with childhood anxiety is that kids don’t necessarily know that they’re anxious. They are not going to overtly tell you that they’re anxious and as a parent, it’s important to be conscientious of early signs of anxiety and to properly address the anxiety. Every summer my niece and nephew are enrolled in classes at the community centre. My nephew recently said that he doesn’t want to attend classes because the teacher will tell him things that he doesn’t want to hear. It’s important to explore what sort of things he’s scared of hearing and to help him understand that he’s not always going to hear what he wants hear. It’s even more important to model for children how to deal with situations they are uncomfortable with.
How to Deal with Childhood Anxiety
Having struggled with my own anxieties as a child, I am comforted to see a lot of online articles discussing how anxiety in children should be addressed.
Explain that everyone feels anxious and that what they are feeling is completely normal and that the feeling will pass. Guide your child in understanding their emotions, how their body reacts in various situations and how they can control their reactions and emotions. By modelling ways to deal with anxiety and providing your child with a safe space and outlet to express what they’re feeling, you’re empowering your child, and encouraging them to be in control of their feelings. Help your child be introspective and to develop self awareness. This is a skill that will help them even as adults as they encounter unexpected stresses and difficulties.
Great Articles on How to Help Anxiety in Your Child:
Building Emotional Intelligence: What to Say to Children When They Are Anxious - Posted by Hey Sigmund
Anxiety in Children: How Parents Can Help - Posted by Kathy Eugster
My Own Story
For much of my life, I’ve had to deal with anxiety, in the form of nail biting. If you were to ask me 10 years ago if I suffered from anxiety, I’d tell you no. I didn’t know I suffered from anxiety. I was just a nail biter. From years of introspection and developing a greater level of self awareness, I now know that my nail biting was a coping mechanism I developed as a way of soothing my anxiety. The moment I feel anxious, my brain automatically signals to my body to bring my fingers up to my mouth and to start biting.
Over the years, a particular childhood memory has always stood out in my mind. Around the age of 6, I asked my mom to cut my nails because they were getting too long. My mom was busy and told me she didn’t have time. Out of frustration, I told my mom that I would take care of it myself and then was born my nail biting. My nail biting habit has persisted for 23 years now and I’m slowly finding more positive ways to soothe my anxiety like exercising.
by Dr. Olisa Mak
I have a guilty pleasure too. I love coffee, the smell of it, the bitter taste of it. Nothing wakes me up on a day off more than a fresh cup of dark roast coffee. I usually drink anywhere from 2-4 cups of coffee a week, but never more than one a day. Yesterday, I drank two cups of coffee, a latte that was quite strong and a dark roast two hours apart. The effect? A coffee overdose. For the rest of the day, I was restless, experienced chest pains, had chattering teeth, hands that were shaking, a headache and was unable to sleep. I was buzzed and overly stimulated. It wasn’t until 5am in the morning, roughly 14 hours after my second cup of coffee that I stopped feeling the buzz. Although, this morning, I woke up feeling completely hungover like I had a night out drinking.
Although most people do not experience such an extreme reaction, it isn’t uncommon to hear people say that they can’t handle coffee, that they feel “jittery”. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who simply do not feel anything after drinking coffee.
So what does all of that mean? Why do some people, like myself, have such extreme reactions to coffee whereas some people feel nothing?
First we have to understand how coffee is metabolized in the body. When we drink coffee, it reaches our digestive tract where the coffee is modified and individual chemical constituents of coffee are absorbed by our small intestines. Once in the small intestines, the various chemical compounds found in coffee are absorbed and circulate throughout the bloodstream and reach the liver and other organs.
The liver metabolizes coffee in a stepwise manner and in each step, the compounds are chemically modified to become more and more water-soluble, to ensure proper elimination by the kidneys and bowels. There are two general steps in the liver detoxification process - Phase 1 and Phase 2. When you’re overly sensitive to coffee, your phase 1 is sluggish whereas if you don’t feel anything from coffee, your Phase 1 is too active.
So how can you bring these two steps back into balance? If you’re overly sensitive to coffee, you need to give your Phase 1 a boost. Phase 1 relies mainly on B vitamins (amongst other nutrients) whereas Phase 2 mainly relies on amino acids from protein sources like good quality meats. A diet abundant in colourful fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins is key. There are also supplements that have been especially formulated to support liver function when changing your diet isn’t enough. Certain foods, especially cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts, are also great for giving Phase 1 a boost. If your Phase 1 is overactive and you don’t feel anything from coffee, then you need to slow down Phase 1 and herbs such as Calendula officinalis or spices such as turmeric are great.
Other than feeling “jittery” after drinking coffee, why is it important to correct an imbalance between Phase 1 and Phase 2? At the end of Phase 1, reactive oxygen species are produced. If Phase 1 is overactive or faster than Phase 2 pathway, you ultimately get an accumulation of reactive oxygen species because your Phase 2 just can’t keep up with Phase 1. Reactive oxygen species are chemically reactive molecules known to cause inflammation and damage throughout the body, including cellular DNA damage. Reactive oxygen species or high oxidative stress have been implicated in chronic conditions including cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis and aging, Having signs of an imbalance between Phase 1 and Phase 2 has long term consequences and should be addressed.
Figure 1. Your liver and Phase 1 and Phase 2.
Although the body naturally produces reactive oxygen species, the body has protective mechanisms in place to protect itself. By eating a diet rich in antioxidants such vitamin C, zinc and thiols which can be found in garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables, the body neutralizes these harmful, reactive oxygen species.
The balance between Phase 1 and Phase 2 is important to understand as it plays a key role in the metabolism of everything that our bodies comes into contact with - not just coffee but alcohol, medications, supplements, pesticides on our foods, even chemicals we absorb through our skin from personal health care products. The rate at which Phase 1 and Phase 2 function ultimately defines how well our liver protects us from everything that we are exposed to. The chronic illnesses associated with high oxidative stress or reactive oxygen species may not appear right away but ultimately affect our ability to live healthy and happy lives. Love your liver by eating a well-balanced, organic diet, rich in antioxidants and nutrients.
My ordeal from drinking only two cups of coffee brought to my attention the imbalance between my liver’s Phase 1 and Phase 2. I too, will examine my diet and find a way to improve my liver’s functioning. Will you?
If you’re concerned about your liver function, book an appointment (https://inspirit.janeapp.com/) to see how your liver function can be improved. Make better, more informed, decisions about their health. Come in for an appointment and get started with an individualized treatment plan just for you.
About Dr. Olisa Mak
I am a licensed Naturopathic Physician at Inspirit Health Group in Yaletown, Downtown Vancouver. Although I have a general family practice and treat a wide variety of conditions I have a special interest with stress, anxiety and brain health.
I am driven to educate, inspire and empower those around me. I believe that everyone has the potential to achieve their dreams and goals but are often unable to because of their fears, perceptions and circumstances.I strive to work with my patients to remove barriers, empowering patients to seize opportunities and to make the life they want a reality.
During my free time, I exercise and enjoy reading and being outdoors.
The Naturopathic Approach to Anxiety
by Dr. Olisa Mak, ND
From a very young age, my life was controlled, not by my mom, my dad, or any particular person, but my own anxiety. It controlled, what I thought, what I did, but whenever I looked for it, it was hidden. The only sign of my anxiety - my short, uneven nails that my mom would say were ugly, and unsightly. And like every daughter, I hate it when my mom is right. For almost my whole life, I have been an impulsive nail biter but the trigger? I had no idea. My sister had been a nail biter as well but in her late teens, she stopped. And it was just me in the family - the nail biter. As a child, it was only my family who ever commented on it, but as an adult, it became something I felt the need to hide. “Oh, I broke my nail, I can’t go for a manicure” became a common line. I am not sure how many people noticed my “unsightly” nail length and to not be rude, just didn’t ask about it.
A total of 3 million people or 11.6% of all adults in Canada report they have had a mood and/or anxiety disorder.
According to the Canadian 2014 Survey on Living with Chronic Disease, an estimated 3 million Canadians or 11.6% of all adults reported they had a mood and/or anxiety disorder. More than 27% of these adults felt that their life and been affected “quite a bit” or “extremely” in the last 12 months - where their basic activities and their ability to work became a challenge.
Are you hiding your anxiety?
As a result of my own struggles with anxiety, I am especially passionate about helping people with anxiety. I understand how it feels to be controlled by this chronic anxiety. I understand how it can leave you feeling helpless and frustrated at the same time. I understand the feeling of wanting to be free from all the restrictions that this chronic anxiety imposes on you.
When treating anxiety, It’s important to understand the underlying cause. Although anxiety is often rooted in mental-emotional stresses, anxiety can be a symptom of a bigger problem, for example an overactive thyroid or even blood sugar issues Proper testing to rule out more serious causes of anxiety is necessary. Symptomatic relief is also important and people should be equipped with something that they can use to deal with acute anxiety. This allows individuals to return to doing basic activities and work as soon as possible.
Naturopathic medicine is especially effective at helping those suffering from anxiety. With such a wide range of skill sets, naturopaths can create an individualized treatment plan to address the often multifactorial cause of one’s anxiety. The patient’s short-term and long-term goals should be addressed, as well as the person’s own preferences.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), organs of the same name as in western medicine have very different functions. For example, in Chinese medicine, the kidneys are responsible birth, growth, reproduction and development as well as urination and bone marrow production.
From a TCM perspective, there are various underlying causes of anxiety such as an imbalance in the heart and spleen. To successfully treat anxiety with acupuncture, it’s important to look at the whole person and all the symptoms they experience, even those unrelated to the anxiety. Nonetheless, there are some points that are indispensable when treating anxiety with acupuncture.
Constitutional homeopathy, homeopathy that takes into account a person’s whole picture can often be useful in treating anxiety. To properly prescribe a homeopathic for someone with anxiety, it’s important to look at what distinguishes one person’s anxiety from another person’s anxiety. What makes that case of anxiety unique and peculiar? For example, for anxiety around health, agaricus would be a homeopathic remedy to look into. Whereas argentum nitricum is best for people who are anxious when they are late for something, or while anticipating an engagement or a test.
Although often controversial, homeopathy is widely practiced in European countries such as Germany, France and Ireland In fact, in 1998, homeopathy was the most frequently used form of alternative medicine in five out of 14 countries surveyed in Europe. In France, 70% of physicians consider homeopathy effective and homeopathy is taught in multiple medical schools across the country. While many people are still skeptical about homeopathy, the number of people who get results from homeopathy is increasing.
Herbs are often my go-to treatment method for anxiety. They can be used in combination to address both acute symptoms of anxiety that might keep someone from engaging in basic activities as well as long-term goals of treatment. Some of my favourite herbs for treating anxiety include Withania somnifera (Ashwaganda), Avena sativa (Oats), Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower) and Matricaria recutita (Chamomile) which is also great for the digestive system. To ensure that an herb is not harmful and being used properly, make sure to consult someone well-trained in the medical properties of herbs, as there are different ways of preparing an herb, yielding different physiological effects on the body.
From the moment that we are born, we begin interpreting the world around us. We judge and interpret other’s behaviours and actions and subconsciously determine whether or not our actions are accepted by those around us. We internalize these interpretations into messages that we construct a self with. For example, “If I cry, my mom will hold me” or “If I cry, I will be ignored.” Who must I be to survive in this world? We modify our behaviours, censor ourselves, build barriers around ourselves, in order to fit ourselves within this range of what’s accepted in society. We do all of this in order to feel safe, accepted and to belong, an innate survival mechanism.
For example, one of my most prominent memories as a young child was an interaction between my mom and I. I remember asking my mother to help me cut my fingernails because they were too long. She said she was too busy. From this interaction, I received the message that I am not worthy of being taken care of, I must take care of myself or else I won’t survive. I’ve always remembered this particular memory but it never made much sense to me because I have always felt my mother’s love but as a child, it’s not so easy to understand the meaning behind certain interactions or situations. As an adult, this message manifests itself as anxiety from asking others for help because this is a sign of weakness. By finally understanding this childhood memory, I was able to more easily identify triggers to my anxiety and therefore more easily calm my inner voice and insecurities. I no longer let my inner child control my behaviour. As an adult, I no longer rely on others to survive and those internalized messages no longer have a place.
To unravel the messages that have been internalized into our subconscious but still somehow have a hold on us, counselling is crucial to treating anxiety. In understanding the underlying cause of one’s anxiety, it’s important to ask questions.
Through counselling, I support, guide and facilitate a person’s exploration of what holds them back and where their fears come from. I work with people to take small yet safe steps out of their comfort zone. People become more connected with their mind, their thoughts, and emotions. This ultimately helps people to identify and harness their strengths more easily, and to calm down their insecurities or inner voice. People become a new and better version of themselves.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Mindfulness is crucial to understanding the underlying cause of one’s anxiety. Although meditating can often be a daunting task, it’s really quite simple. For a great introduction to meditation watch this short video https://vimeo.com/131682712.
Being mindful encourages people to connect with thoughts going through their minds, and to eventually control thoughts. Anxiety for many can be a manifestation of negative thoughts and insecurities that they are trying to suppress. Commit to meditation everyday, whether it be one minute a day, five minutes a day, or 10 minutes a day. Sit in a quiet place, with your back straight and eyes closed and just notice the feeling of your breathe coming in and going out. When you notice your brain becoming distracted, just redirect your attention to your breathe coming in and going out again. That’s all it takes.
Meditation can be an uncomfortable exercise for many because people don’t want to hear the negative thoughts in their minds and don’t want to sit with their insecurities. What’s unfamiliar is scary. By connecting with those insecurities and negative thoughts, you’re taking control and power away from them and back to yourself. Once you start taking the time to notice what’s going on in your mind and body, you’ll start noticing the voice of a more confident self and a voice that’s protecting you, and holding you back, the voice of that child who just wants to survive.
“This doesn’t require some giant investment. I don’t care how busy you are. You have 5-10 minutes to give this a shot. I guarantee you this will make a big difference.” - from meditation 101
In addition to the treatment methods above, there are numerous other treatment methods that should be a part of a treatment plan for anxiety. These include exercise, stress management and dietary changes. Supplements may be recommended and Craniosacral therapy, and Bowen therapy may be considered as well. It is also important to consider individual triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, and medications.
Treating anxiety can be especially challenging and difficult because it requires a patient’s openness about what they are trying to hide most about ourselves. It requires vulnerability. As a healthcare provider, I am dedicated to creating a safe, supportive, non-judgmental place for people to connect with their thoughts, emotions and ultimately, their anxiety. I meet people where they’re at. I understand that unraveling the underlying cause of the anxiety is part of a process, a journey that it cannot be rushed.
by Dr. Olisa Mak
As I was walking back from my lunch today, on a glorious, sunny Vancouver day, I walked past a medical clinic kitty corner to my own clinic. The waiting area was full and I thought to myself, what is it that conventional medicine can offer, that naturopathic medicine cannot that brings all these people into that clinic and not into my waiting area?
If I were to walk into that clinic and explain to them what naturopathic medicine has to offer, how many people would get up and come to my clinic?
Although a small profession, our roots lead back to 2400 years ago when Hippocrates first described the healing power of nature. The spirit of naturopathic medicine embodies passion, drive and dedication to make the world a better place. Harnessing the strength of diversity and the healing powers of nature, the naturopathic profession has much to offer world.
Naturopathic medicine has an abundance of knowledge to offer. Knowledge that is based on clinical expertise, science and research and thousands of years of anecdotal evidence. We give people the information they need to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices.
Naturopathic medicine appreciates and celebrates the uniqueness of each person. Time is taken to acknowledge a person’s individual needs and priorities. The diversity amongst naturopaths is a reflection of this. Naturopaths come from all different backgrounds, and in different sizes, ethnicities, and focuses. No two naturopaths are the same. No two naturopaths would create the same treatment plan for a patient.
We lend an ear and listen to a patient’s needs. We take the time to make a genuine connection and to understand where a person is coming from. We are compassionate.
We offer an opportunity for empowerment. We believe in the healing powers of nature and a person’s inner strength. We create a safe, trusting, and supportive relationship that enables people to reflect, ask questions and to better understand themselves. Afterall, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”, said Socrates.
We help people do the seemingly impossible. We help turn back time and to heal past wounds. We listen to and mirror people's unique experiences so that people can see and hear their own stories in a different light.
We help dampen the falls that people must endure. We help people learn the lessons that life hands us, no matter how difficult.
We give people the information they need to take control of their lives. We work with people to create a plan and guide people towards creating a better life. We remove barriers, physical, emotional or spiritual. We help people become the very best that they can be - mind, body and soul.
We offer a unique and different perspective on seemingly incurable conditions and problems that people experience.
We offer preventative measures as well as permanent solutions to both acute and chronic health concerns. We look at the whole picture and treat the underlying cause.
The spirit of naturopathic medicine embraces one’s need for genuine connection, acceptance and love. Being a naturopathic doctor is about reaching out to people and giving people the guidance they need. Doctor as Teacher. Naturopathic medicine believes in the healing potentials of nature and the human body, as well as everyone’s potential to achieve their dreams and goals and to live a full and meaningful life.
Every Christmas, my friend and I drive up to Whistler to spend a day at the Scandinavian Spa. More than just relaxation, a day of hot tubs, eucalyptus steam rooms, saunas and arctic pools help to invigorate the body by detoxifying the body, promoting blood circulation and the relaxation of muscles.
Records of hydrotherapy date back to over 2000 years ago, during ancient Roman, Grecian and Egyptian civilizations when people would bathe themselves in water and essential oils1. Before anyone knew exactly how water helped the body, the benefits of using water to heal the body were evident.
Water affects our body in multiple ways and it’s most valuable property is it’s ability to transfer large amounts of heat. The effects of water can be broken down into two categories, its effect on circulation and effect on metabolism2. After a session of hydrotherapy, a person can either feel very relaxed, or stimulated and awake. It all depends on the duration of treatment as well as the ratio of time that is hot or cold. Regardless of temperature, short duration applications stimulate blood flow and metabolism whereas long cold applications slow circulation and metabolism.1 Long hot applications slow circulation but promote metabolism.1
We have all reached for that ice pack to help with a swollen knee, hand or ankle. Why is it that we reach for an ice pack rather than a heat pack when we’re injured? The key to using the ice pack is that it must be used as a long application, longer than 1 minute.1 The moment that the brain recognizes that an injury has occurred, red and white blood cells, and platelets rush to the area, creating swelling, in an effort to protect the body from further injury. This accumulation of cells can be beneficial by promoting healing and clearing of debris in an area but in excess can prevent movement and compress surrounding vasculature and nerves, creating a pain response.
By using the ice pack for the first 48 hours after an injury, blood flow and metabolism slow down.3 Cells already in the area stop releasing inflammatory cytokines that recruit even more cells to the area. If the first thing you apply on an injured area is a heat pack, swelling would get worse since heat would bring even more blood flow to the area. The blood vessels would expand or vasodilate, bringing a conglomerate of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets to the area.
The healing properties of hot and cold water go beyond that of decreasing swelling and promoting healing in injuries. A lesser known effect of hydrotherapy is the stimulation of the immune system.4 When you’re starting to feel those first signs of a cold or flu: the scratchy throat, congested nose, aching muscles and headache, hydrotherapy can help in two ways - by increasing the number of white blood cells and red blood cells and by stimulating the lymphatic system.5
Growing up, taking garlic pills, going to the steam room and taking cold showers afterwards were simply the norm. Alternating hot-cold applications or contrast hydrotherapy is best. In contrast hydrotherapy, the body, or parts of the body are immersed into warm (37-45°C) and then cold (10-15°C).5 By warming the body with a hot application and then applying a cold application, the temperature change that the body experiences is even greater than if only one was applied.1
Hydrotherapy also stimulates the immune system by promoting lymphatic circulation.5 An extension of our circulatory system, the lymphatic system is an often forgotten part of our body. Lymph or lymphatic fluid starts off as the fluid portion of blood and delivers oxygen, nutrients and hormones to tissues. Lymph then either re-enters blood circulation or the lymphatic system, carrying with it waste products. The coupling of lymph and blood circulation ensures that when the muscles that line our blood vessels contract, both blood and lymph move.4 As lymph circulates, lymph nodes filter the lymphatic fluid and white blood cells and macrophages help to swallow and eradicate foreign micro-organisms. The smooth flow of both blood and lymph are vital to a healthy immune system.
As hydrotherapy increases the blood pumped throughout the body, blood flow to all major organs is increased. People can expect a myriad of benefits such as a sharper mind, less muscle tension, improved detoxification by the liver, better digestion and nutrient absorption, smoother skin, and better heart health, among many others.2
An important contributor to heart health is the degree of atherosclerosis, the buildup of fats and cholesterol, which when inflamed, solidify to form plaques, creating hardened vessels. These hardened vessels lose their elasticity and contribute to heart disease. A mechanism for hydrotherapy’s cardioprotective properties has been proposed. By increasing blood circulation, shear stress is increased, leading to an increased production of nitric oxide (NO).5 Nitric oxide helps to relax vessel walls and promote more efficient pumping of blood.5 This decreases resistance in the blood, making it easier for the heart to do it’s job, helping in the prevention of heart disease.5 Contrast hydrotherapy, specifically, has been shown to alter endothelial function, which lines the inside of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels.5 Peripheral cramping was reduced, as well as improvements in blood pressure and blood flow.5
As your body’s built-in filter, your liver plays a central role in the process of detoxification. As we eat, breath and touch the world around us, toxins enter our body and bloodstream, eventually reaching our liver. In the liver, compounds are modified and transformed into products that can be excreted out of the body from our skin, kidneys, colon and lungs. Various factors can slow down the liver’s functioning including decreased blood flow, excess load and inadequate nutrient levels. Eating well provides the liver with all the nutrients it needs and avoiding environmental stresses decreases the liver’s load. By increasing blood flow to the liver, hydrotherapy ensures that excess hormones are metabolized, pesticides & food additives ingested with foods are removed and pharmaceutical products are processed.2
Excess toxins not metabolized by the liver become permanent occupants, hiding in our fat cells, bone marrow, brain, joints, tissues and muscles. Until we experience vague, indistinct symptoms, we are unknowing to their existence. By optimizing liver and kidney function, and ensuring that the digestive tract and skin pores are not obstructed, harmful, excess toxins can be effectively eliminated from the body. Hydrotherapy promotes blood circulation, ensuring that the emunctories or organs of elimination, are supplied with the nutrients they need to function optimally and that harmful waste products are also eliminated.
Hot and cold applications to the body do not only have a localized effect. Our circulatory system is a closed one, consisting of our heart and peripheral vessels (veins, arteries, and capillaries). When one area expands or constricts in response to a temperature change, the whole system reacts. This means that hot or cold applications can be used distal to the area that needs to be treated.1 It’s also important to consider the direction of blood flow.1 Blood moves towards heat and away from cold. For example, a heat pack on the feet or a cold pack over the neck can draw blood away from the head to help relieve congestive headaches.
Hydrotherapy can be easily incorporated as part of your regular routine to stay healthy. It is an easy, inexpensive, safe and an effective way of staving off winter colds and flus, detoxifying the body, promoting good heart health, decreasing muscle tension and repairing the body after sports and of course, relaxing after a long day.
Easy Hydrotherapy at Home:
(note: If you have a specific health condition, the following protocols may not be safe for you. If you have any concerns or questions, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com)
Steam inhalations are easy to setup and great for coughs, respiratory tract congestion, sinus pain or infections, or a sore throat.
Suggested Essential Oils7
Cold Wet Socks2
A naturopath’s go to when the immune system needs some boosting - whether it be for a cold, flu or bronchitis. Helps with a better sleep. Also great for kids.
As a health care provider, I believe in treating the underlying cause and the truth is that often our mental-emotional issues like depression, anxiety, stress, come from us being our worse critic. I too have been my worse critic, beating myself up over my body, my work, parts of myself that I believed defined who I am. The following is a blog post about a moment of enlightenment that ultimately changed my life and how I see myself.
The following post is not a post about loving someone else, but about loving yourself, possibly the person we find the hardest to love in the world.
From the moment that we are born, we begin interpreting the world around us. We judge other’s behaviours and actions and subconsciously use those interpretations to determine whether or not our actions are accepted by those around us. We modify our behaviours, censor ourselves, build barriers around ourselves, in order to fit ourselves within this range of what’s accepted in society. We do all of this in order to feel safe, accepted and to belong, an innate survival mechanism.
Once upon a time, when I looked in the mirror, I’d subconsciously pick my features apart, my eyes, my lips, my skin, my posture, evaluating each one. My face is too round, too oval, my posture is horrible, a hunchback, my eyes don’t pop out, they look tired, my skin is horrible, I need to wear make up but I don’t want to wear makeup because that would be admitting that I don’t feel good about myself and that I should feel good about myself, yet another judgement. It wasn’t until I stopped doing this that I even realized that I was doing it. One day, looking into the mirror in the washroom of the fitness studio I go to, I noticed, “hey, I haven’t looked at my posture for awhile…” I looked at myself again, and gave myself a much deserved and overdue smile, an accepting, self-loving smile. Something had changed inside of me. I was beginning to love myself, to see myself as a whole person, rather than arms connected to a chest, a chest connected to a torso, a torso connected to two legs, two legs connected to ankles and feet and a head with a brain that I often felt inadequate and inferior to the brains of others.
I realize that these judgements about myself are likely things that only I think about. I am truly my worst critic. I hope that, like me, you will learn to accept every part of yourself, and to not see parts of you, as individual parts of yourself that can be judged and criticized but rather as part of a whole that is meant to be appreciated and that fits together. Know that, you, feeling like you want to better a part of yourself, by improving, for example, your wardrobe, trying on makeup, exercising, does not mean that you do not love yourself, but simply that you love yourself enough to see that you deserve tender, love and care.
In learning how to love myself, I think that I’ve come a step closer to learning how to love another person and hopefully finding that person. It all begins with ourselves.
Is coffee good or bad for me? The answer is very individual, right down to our genes.
Every Monday morning, you go for your customary coffee run, say hi to the same barista and make it into work just in time for that Monday morning meeting. You sit down and take your first sip of coffee and feel that surge of energy, reassured that you’re finally awake, able to focus and maybe even impress your boss.
Is coffee good or bad for me? The answer is very individual, right down to your genes. Coffee is processed by your liver and there is significant genetic variability, meaning some people are ‘fast metabolizers’ and others are ‘slow metabolizers’. Understanding how well your liver processes coffee (among other things) is crucial to answering the question - is coffee good or bad for me?
Coffee is full of beneficial antioxidants and minerals, may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, regulate your blood sugar and even protect against certain cancers. But before you reach for that next cup of coffee, consider the flip side.
Excessive coffee consumption can lead to nutrient deficiencies by inhibiting the absorption of thyroxine (a thyroid hormone), magnesium, zinc and iron. Iron-deficiency anemia commonly shows as fatigue, anxiety, hair loss, even depression. Zinc is a helper or cofactor in numerous processes in our body and deficiency can lead to poor immune and sensory function.
Like using jumper cables to kick-start a dead car battery, that cup of coffee is the jumper cable you’re using to kick-start your body every morning. When your battery doesn’t have anything left, it’s time to replace it. Only, replacing your body’s battery is not so easy.
Burnt Out? Always tired?
Burnout is a clear sign of adrenal exhaustion, that our adrenal glands or battery have been overstimulated by chronic stress, coffee, or other stimulants and have nothing left in them. The process of replenishing our adrenal glands can often take months to years and result in lost personal and career opportunities.
Are symptoms you’re experiencing due to overstimulation leading to adrenal exhaustion? Is that third cup of coffee getting to be too much for your body? Want a healthier alternative to coffee? Feel better now by having your symptoms looked at.
To properly assess and treat adrenal exhaustion, naturopaths investigate the underlying cause, looking at various contributing factors, including the physical, mental and emotional. The goal is to replenish the body with the necessary building blocks, to optimize liver metabolism, and to support proper functioning of the adrenal glands. It is also important to optimize the thyroid and immune system which work closely with the adrenal glands.
A comprehensive treatment plan for adrenal exhaustion could include one or several of the following:
By supporting the body with nutrients, and implementing effective stress management techniques, adrenal exhaustion can be prevented. Find out once and for all if coffee is good or bad for you. Feel refreshed, more motivated, focused, sharper thinking, and better overall health.
In a TED talk by physicist Brian Greene, he describes the idea that our universe might actually have more than the three dimensions that we are aware of. He describes a landscape consisting of repeating, smaller vibrational dimensions that cannot be seen. This idea was actually suggested in 1919 but recent advances in technology will actually allow physicists to test this theory in the next few years. The presence of these smaller vibrational dimensions could explain the mechanism of various forms of energetic medicine such as acupuncture and homeopathy. Like “When you swing your hand, you’d be moving around these extra dimensions over and over again.”, acupuncture needles and homeopathic substances could also affect these extra dimensions to create a healing response in the body.