Please have your feelings. - by Dr. Aaron Wong, ND, RTC
In a world where feelings are often minimized, dismissed or not allowed, we have a tremendous opportunity in this crisis to transform our patterns for the betterment of our health and humanity as a whole. During these stressful times, we have the chance to take a moment to look at our personal issues and face our shortcomings. Having our feelings can lead us to facing ourselves while moving towards deep levels of systemic healing and growth. It might seem daunting or feel anxious to consciously face our feelings, but in the long run the pay off for sitting through the discomfort that we would rather avoid is often well worth it. I know for myself doing some of this work has brought a greater sense of peace, calm, and clarity into my life.
Common struggles you may identify with during this time:
This pandemic is triggering in so many ways. It can bring so many feelings to the surface:
This global crisis is tremendously triggering for many. In the middle of the gravity and reality of the situation at hand, we are having to also contend with our existing issues. These issues we deal with on the day to day are often deeply rooted in our past childhood wounds. During this pandemic we are dealing with the difficult life situation at hand and at the same time we are seeing the situation from the lenses of our past. During stressful times, we will project our own fear and anxiety onto the situation which can make life overwhelming and difficult to navigate which often makes it harder to make decisions.
As these feelings come up we have the propensity to use strategies to avoid our feelings:
Avoiding your feelings in life is never sustainable yet having and acknowledging your feelings can lead to healthy change and deep levels of healing. Feelings are emotions that are deeply connected to our physical body. When we aren’t processing our feelings, this leads to stagnation or stuckness within our bodies and our lives. As an example, in Chinese medicine stagnant energy within our bodies leads to symptoms like pain, cramps, tightness, mood swings, digestive discomfort, and disturbance in breathing. These symptoms are common for someone who is holding back their feelings as a coping strategy. Allowing for emotions implies movement of energy within our bodies. It allows for energy to flow in its natural state. This natural flow of energy gives us the opportunity for progress and change within the rhythm of life. This principal has helped me to recognize the areas that are calling for attention, need to be felt through, and released. Each time I am able to process my feelings, I feel more clear, calm, and empowered. It has given me the ability and the confidence to navigate other stressors in life more quickly. I also understand this as a learning process and it’s a journey rather than a destination which helps me release the need to do it perfectly the first time.
I am encouraging of people to have their feelings in general, because as a society feelings are often not allowed, not encouraged, or judged as being weak.
Here are 6 tips to allow yourself to have your feelings:
When I am stressed or am going through difficult life changes, sometimes I can navigate my feelings on my own and sometimes things are more challenging and I can’t see my situation clearly and I need extra help so I seek professional help from a doctor who has mental health training or counsellor.
So if you are struggling, please reach out. As always, I am offering online professional counselling appointments integrated into my Naturopathic visits, so please use me as a resource if you feel it would be helpful for you.
Dr. Aaron Wong, ND, RTC
Registered Therapeutic Counsellor
March is known as the Endometriosis (Endo) Awareness Month, and while to some this may not seem that remarkable, this initiative marks a significant milestone in women’s sexual and reproductive health research. While this chronic and debilitating disease affects 7-10% of women worldwide, report findings of endometriosis in some men highlights that this complex disease is not just a women’s health phenomenon.
So what is Endometriosis and Who Does It Affect?
The presence of tissue that somewhat resembles the endometrial lining of uterus outside the uterus. Most common sites that this tissue may affect include ovaries, anterior and posterior cul-de-sac, fallopian tubes, appendix and sigmoid colon due to proximity of these tissues to uterus, but the implants have been found in vagina, cervix, bladder, ureter, umbilicus, surgical scars, pancreas, breast, bone, central nervous system, and diaphragm. Endometriosis does not discriminate based on age, race or gender. There have been documented cases of 8-10 year old female patients who presented with endometriosis despite having not reached menarche. Endometriosis can affect women of all ethnicities and even those born without a uterus.
How Do I know if I have Endo?
The cardinal symptom of endometriosis is a stabbing (knife-like), shooting pelvic pain that can be cyclical or chronic (independent of menstrual cycle). That being said, in some individuals, the pain is not limited to the pelvis and is felt anywhere between the ribcage and pelvis. Many patients also suffer from intense pain with bowel movements, riding in a moving vehicle, walking, exercising and during sexual intercourse. Re-occurrence of this type of pain can make normal activities of daily living unbearable, and can significantly impair quality of life in this population.
I think I have Endo, What Are the Next Steps and Who Can Help Me?
Currently, there are no reliable laboratory tests available for diagnosing this chronic condition. The definitive diagnosis is based on the results of laparoscopy performed by a gynaecologist, who with the consent of patient may remove any lesions they discover during the procedure, which is considered the best treatment option conventionally available despite its own risks and flaws. Based on the result of the exploratory laparoscopy, endometriosis will be staged as 1-4 depending on number of implants and whether they are located superficially or deeply as well as presence/absence of adhesions. Other conventional medical treatments include hormone replacement therapies such as Danazol, which targets the ovaries to produce less Estrogen because it is believed that this hormone exacerbates the condition. While the drug therapy has not shown to reduce the size and/ or number of lesions, it may help with pain reduction in some patients.
Abby Norman, Endo warrior and the author of Ask Me About My Uterus, and Dr. Redwine, gynaecologist and world-renowned expert and advocate for endo, had this advice to share with all physicians who may encounter women or anyone with uterus regardless of their gender identity presenting with chronic pelvic pain: “You (physicians) must take the chronic pain patients and their symptoms seriously and to consider endometriosis as a strong possibility until proven otherwise.” This reminder reinforces the importance of a good history taking and creating the space for patients to share their concerns as many endo patients have gone years being dismissed or misdiagnosed by other healthcare providers due the apparent invisibility of their concern as most of them want their pain dealt with more than any other symptoms they may also endure.
In addition to living with chronic pain and being dismissed by the health care system, many patients endure having their pain and disability be disregarded or ridiculed by their own families and support network, which can create a tremendous mental emotional insults to these individuals. Not to mention that having endo can significantly impair fertility in those interested in parenthood, and this has its own detrimental toll on these individuals. As a result, it is prudent that management and treatment of endometriosis follows a Mind-Body-Spirit approach to address all aspects of patient’s well-being.
It is interesting to note that the stage of endometriosis doesn’t necessarily correlate with the severity of symptoms experienced by patients. It seems that the amount of inflammation in the body correlates more with the extent and severity of pain that patients experience than the number of lesions found on laparoscopic examinations.
There is also a strong correlation between having endometriosis and developing some autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and psoriasis as well as Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The risk of having CAD and/or MI event in lifetime is increased in patients with endo. The hypothesized link between all these conditions is the presence of high inflammation due to elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body.
In conclusion, it is important to note that while there is currently no definitive cure for this chronic condition, there is a lot that naturopathic medicine can do to help improve the quality of life for these patients. Various naturopathic interventions can be used in combination to address and reduce chronic pain and inflammation, improve sleep, enhance mental health, improve sex life and optimize fertility and overall quality of life based on individual patient’s health goals.
If you are suffering from endometriosis, you are not alone! We want to hear from you and help you, so please reach out to one of our doctors at: http://www.butterflynaturopathic.com/meet-the-doctors.html
Once considered as two completely independent and separate systems, current research has proved that not only the brain and digestive system work closely together, but also imbalances and deficiencies in one can majorly affect the other. What exactly does this connection look like?
The first way these two organs communicate with each other is through small cells called neurons that carry commands to and from the brain and other parts of your body. There are 500 million neurons found in your gut alone, so this already tells you that your gut is more than just a place where all the food and drinks you consume will end up. The vagus nerve has a huge role in the Gut-Brain Axis, and stress can affect the signals sent by this nerve to the digestive system causing GI problems including but not limited to indigestions, gas, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). One study conducted by Pellissier et al. (2014) showed that people with IBS have reduced vagal tone, which means that their vagus nerve was under-functioning.
The second way the gut and the brain communicate with each other is through small chemicals called neurotransmitters such as Serotonin and GABA. You may be surprised that the normal bacteria flora found in your digestive system produces many of these neurotransmitters and as a result these chemicals are found in abundance in the gut. So, there may be more to the saying “I have a Gut Feeling” after all, as these chemicals control our moods, and any imbalance between their levels is implicated in many common mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and so on.
While most people have heard about the “Leaky Gut Syndrome”, very few individuals may be aware of the “Leaky Brain Syndrome”. So what is this syndrome, and why should we care? After learning that your gut and brain communicate and depend on one another to function, it may not come as a surprise that this leaky brain condition starts in the gut. When there is an intolerance to the food we eat on the daily basis, especially to gluten, this causes increased intestinal permeability, which then will alter the normal and healthy bacterial flora and will give opportunity for pathogenic bacteria to take over and cause havoc by producing by-products such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS). LPS then in turn will leak into the bloodstream and cause systemic inflammation. Moreover, research has shown presence of gluten and dairy antibodies in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with gluten and dairy intolerance. What this means is that the blood-brain barrier protecting the brain from bacteria, toxins and so on is compromised or otherwise leaky, which makes the brains of these individuals more susceptible to infections, and autoimmune conditions.
During the holidays it’s so much more difficult to avoid your food sensitivities, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And just because you have food sensitivities doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your holiday treats. There are so many resources for making your favourite holiday treats without putting your body through the anguish of eating something your gut, your brain, and your body doesn’t like.
You may be suffering from insomnia, migraine headaches, anxiety and depression, and may want to know if your symptoms are stemming from the leaky brain syndrome. The good first step would be to visit a naturopathic doctor to find out if you have a food sensitivity that can be exacerbating your symptoms. They will likely run a food sensitivity test in addition to other specific biomarkers to assess degree of inflammation in your body. Once you go over the lab results with your ND, they will offer you an individualized treatment plan based on severity of your symptoms and your preference, which will involve extensive therapeutic dietary plan, botanical medicine, orthomolecular supplementation, lifestyle recommendations, counselling and pharmaceutical prescription. It’s important to find an ND that takes your preferences, budget and lifestyle into consideration and keeps you well informed and engaged during the whole process since this is your journey and setting up realistic and attainable goals will increase the efficacy and success of your treatment plan. At Butterfly Naturopathic, our doctors have a person-centred approach to helping all our patients, and this approach has fostered sustainable and powerful alliances between our patients and doctors. If you think, Butterfly sounds like the right place for you to become the healthiest version of yourself, feel free to reach out and make an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors.
Here is my fun hearty twist on a classic latka. It’s egg free, dairy free, and gluten free. For me this satisfies a craving for a warm savory comfort food during the winter months. It also goes fabulously well with a side of applesauce too! This works well paired with some fresh herbs and/or veggies that are still growing in the garden, such as kale, fennel and collards , if you are living in a climate like Vancouver.
Mix and mold into pancake size pieces and pan fry for 5 mins on each side on medium heat
Do you often find yourself feeling tired?
Do you wish you had more energy to do the things you want to do?
Not having enough energy is one of the most common concerns of our patients. While there are many products and supplements that claim to help you with energy, they might not address the root cause of why you are tired in the first place and figuring that out requires the help of a licensed health professional that can look at your symptoms and your blood work to come up with the appropriate treatment plan.
We can't truly help you feel better if we don't address the reason why you are tired and we often find these reasons to be multifaceted, however this is a list of the most common reasons our patients experience fatigue.
1) Nutritional Deficiencies
If you have been feeling tired regularly and haven't had recent blood testing, making sure you're not anemic is a good place to start. Commonly we send our patients for basic blood tests, that include testing for Iron and Vitamin B12 levels. There are different types of anemia and doing basic blood testing is very helpful in getting to the root cause of your tiredness. The first step is figuring out if you are anemic and if you are anemic, we then need to address why it's happening in the first place.
2) Low Thyroid Function
Thyroid disorders are very common in today's population especially when there is a family history of Thyroid conditions. If you have been gradually feeling more and more exhausted over time and don't know why, looking into your thyroid function is critically important. There are many different reasons why thyroid function can be deficient and figuring out why this is happening earlier-on offers a better opportunity for recovery. Managing your thyroid health requires the guidance of a qualified health professional that is willing to test all aspects of thyroid functioning. We find that when patients follow health practitioners that don't test for all aspects of thyroid functioning, they yield poorer overall results in both the short and long term management of thyroid disorders.
We live in a stressed out world with high demands which results in more and more people burning themselves out just to survive. Unfortunately these cases are more the norm than the exception which is a huge cost on our short and long term health. The adrenal glands produce a hormone (cortisol) that helps us to cope with stress and these glands can become fatigued and burned out from chronic stress. This is a signal that we are requesting too much of our bodies in an unsustainable way, forcing our body to do more than it's able to by depleting valuable resources. Helping our patients with the demands of daily life by supporting their bodies is a critical part of treatment. We see this time and time again with patients that care for others full time and put their own health and themselves last.
4) Lack of Sleep/Rest
If you aren't getting enough sleep or rest, you can't recover. Your body naturally requires you to rest and sleep in order to continue to function. When this cycle is interrupted, you don't get the recovery time you need to sustain healthy functioning. Many of our patients struggle with being able to fall asleep, while others struggle with being able to stay asleep. Correcting sleep disturbances involves a mind, body, spirit approach to allow patients the opportunity to address thought patterns, beliefs, hormones, & neurotransmitter imbalances.
5) Poor Diet & Inadequate Water Intake
If you don't give the body the right fuel, it won't run properly. Not eating enough and not staying hydrated deprives the body of what it needs to function optimally. Eating primarily sugary foods & refined carbohydrates causes blood sugar highs and lows which will leave the body feeling exhausted and increase your risk of developing chronic health conditions. Inadequate protein and fats throughout the day doesn't give the body enough energy to sustain itself. Not knowing your personal inflammatory trigger foods can cause your body to feel swollen, bloated, and fatigued and put you at risk for long term health conditions.
This is our list of the most common reasons that we see on a daily basis. There are many other causes of fatigue that we also address at our clinic. Other causes of fatigue that we see are disorders in genetics, toxicity, chronic diseases, & depression to name a few.
1) We do Acupuncture
Our Naturopathic Doctors are trained in Chinese Medicine and are Board Certified in Acupuncture. Chinese Medicine addresses energy states and energetic flow within the body. When we can address stagnation within the body, we can release stuck patterns and old limiting beliefs. We offer traditional needling, esoteric needling, IMS, trigger point, & electrical stimulation techniques. More...
Similar to a Chiropractor, we believe that spinal and joint alignment is fundamental to a healthy body. In an age where sitting at a screen for hours is more the norm than the exception, we are able to help our patients find a more healthy alignment within their bodies so that they can achieve their daily goals. More...
We can order any lab test that your family doctor would order you from LifeLabs for very reasonable rates. We also order specialized lab testing that can identify more rare conditions. Having lab testing at our disposal empowers you, the patient, to obtain vital information for your proper diagnosis. More...
Prescription rights affords us the privilege of using pharmaceutical medicines when necessary and adjust dosages to suit the patients needs. This also provides us the opportunity to be able to do injection and intravenous therapies. More...
Bone broth soups have been used for centuries as a healing food for digestive, skin and joint health. It is an easy and economical way to get the essential nutrients your body needs to be strong and healthy, and has been shown to help with:
Health Benefits of Bone Broth Soups
Bone broth soups are rich in minerals, amino acids and cartilage products.
Minerals: Bone broth soups contain high amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other trace minerals that are essential to building strong bones, maintaining a healthy heart and promoting healthy muscle and nerve function.
Amino Acids: Bone broth soups contain the amino acids arginine, glycine, glutamine and proline.
Author: Dr. Fiona Smulders, ND
Herbal medicine is an ancient healing art with profound effects on the human body. Plants contain unique constituents that help boost and balance your immune system.
They can either stimulate the immune system by directly fighting against viruses, bacteria and fungi or they can modulate and nourish the immune system to enhance the body’s own natural defences.
These are the top 5 common plants that can help you through this year's cold & flu season:
1. Elder berry & flower (Sambucus nigra)
The Elder flower and berry can increase circulation and improve oxygenation of tissues through its diaphoretic effects on the body. Elder is also considered a relaxant and helps relieve spasmodic coughs, making it an excellent remedy for croup and spasmodic coughing in children. The berries and flowers are high in flavonoids, which have an antimicrobial action within the body and helps strengthen cell membranes to prevent virus penetration.
2. Peppermint leaf (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint leaf contains Vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins and potassium to help give your immune system an extra boost. Peppermint is traditionally used as a remedy for fever and chills, which may be partially explained by its paradoxical cool taste and stimulating and warming after-effects within the body. It also fights against microbes and helps sooth the digestive system, making this tea ideal for the flu.
3. Thyme leaf (Thymus vulgaris)
Although thyme is native to the mediterranean, it grows very well here and has become a common addition to any local herb garden. Thyme leaf tea is an excellent cough remedy. It helps the lungs expel excess mucus and helps to sooth inflamed lung tissue. Thyme has a powerful detoxifying and penetrative effect due to its volatile oils, which helps to open pores and thin mucus.
It is also considered an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory for the lungs, and has proved to be an effective traditional remedy against powerful infective organisms like typhoid and diphtheria. Today, thyme is used for postnasal drip, whooping cough in children, sore throats, common colds and bronchitis.
4. Sage leaf (Salvia officinalis)
Sage is also native to the Mediterranean region, but grows well in BC herb gardens. Sage leaf tea is the ultimate sore throat remedy. It has a specific action towards soothing inflammation of the throat, and helps to break up mucus formation. It also contains thujone, a potent antiseptic and antibiotic, which fights against common viruses, bacteria and fungi to assist your body’s immune system and help you recover faster.
5. Osha root (Ligusticum spp)
Osha typically grows in high altitudes along the rocky mountains and cascades, but a less potent relative, the Ligusticum scoticum species, can be found in the forests of BC. The resins within the root relieve congestion by expelling mucus from the lungs and sinuses, and reduce inflammation by naturally increasing your own cortisol production. Osha is best used for cold, flu, sinusitis, influenza, sore throat, and bronchitis. Osha should be avoided during pregnancy.
To learn how to prepare these herbs please visit Dr. Smulders' Medicine Making page
When deciding on where to live, people often consider the safety of the neighbourhood, proximity to work/school/groceries/etc, easy commutes, convenience of transportation, and so on. However, a growing body of research is looking at another important lifestyle factor for optimal health and quality of life: the amount of surrounding green and blue space.
Green space refers to areas of concentrated plant life, like parks, gardens, forests and trees lining a street. Blue space refers to bodies of water like lakes, streams and oceans.
Our “green and blue time” is becoming progressively more important as urbanization continues to push forward.
"We must find a balance between our connection with nature & the convenience of an urban lifestyle."
Through this article, we will explore the positive health benefits of natural environments on your immune system, mood, stress levels, and family health.
WALKING THROUGH THE FOREST CAN BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM.
In Japan, there have been numerous studies on the immune boosting effect of certain plant-derived airborne chemicals called phytoncides. These antimicrobial phytoncides are released by trees to help protect them against certain viruses, bacteria and fungi. When we walk through the mist of phytoncides, we also receive this natural antimicrobial protection.
The air within natural environments is also filled with helpful microbes, which help to rebuild and strengthen our own microcosm of beneficial skin flora to protect against disease.
NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS HELP BALANCE YOUR MOOD AND REDUCE STRESS.
Most people experience the relaxing effect of nature while going for a walk through the forest or along the ocean, it just makes you feel good. This is because nature promotes feelings of positivity and helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Green spaces have been shown to lower cortisol levels and increase parasympathetic nerve activity. Cortisol is your stress hormone, it gets released during stressful events to get you ready to run for your life. The Parasympathetic nervous system is your “rest and digest” mode, it calms the mind and body down to prepare for meals, rest and sleep. Lowering cortisol and increasing parasympathetic activity can help reduce anxiety, lower stress, balance blood pressure, and turn off mental chatter and rumination.
GREEN SPACES PROMOTE HEALTHIER PREGNANCIES AND IMPROVE CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH.
Nature's effect on stress reduction, as discussed earlier, has a very positive effect on pregnancy outcomes. While under stress, blood is shunted away from your major abdominal organs towards the muscles of your arms and legs to get ready to “fight or flight”. By lowering stress, you are ensuring that you and your baby are getting the optimal delivery of oxygen and nutrients needed. Studies have also shown a positive correlation between increased exposure to green spaces and healthier newborn birthweight.
Nature also provides a calming effect on children. Increased exposure to urban green spaces and beaches has been shown to decrease the potential of children developing ADD/ADHD, and reduce behavioural, emotional and social difficulties in children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
I hope this information will encourage you to get out in nature more often. Whether it’s walking through a tree-lined street, visiting your neighbour’s garden or walking along the beach, you and your family’s health will benefit from it.
Author: Dr. Fiona Smulders, ND