Author Archives: Dr. Elliott

Mindful Meditation – The Down low on “How To”

This is a guest post by Ben Stanford, a massage therapist since 2003.  He is currently practicing at Tall Tree Integrated Health Clinic located in Victoria, BC. His scope of interests include yoga, hot stone therapy, acupressure, physiotherapy, Thai massage, Reiki, applied kinesiology, meditation, and of course all things related to good health!

Practical tips in the transition into meditation

What do we mean when we say meditation and mindfulness? It does not refer to a particular state of mind or the content of your thoughts, but rather an attitude toward the experience. A phrase I often find helpful is “awareness of the present experience, with acceptance”.

The key to engaging in meditation practice is finding the right kind of effort. Most of us will discover just how rapid the mind is when we attempt to meditate. If we try too hard, the mind rebels but if we are too loose or relaxed, the mind never sustains attention. An optimal balance can be found through trial and error.

Practical tips for meditation

If you choose to sit up use a chair or you can use a cushion or meditation bench. Sit with a straight spine, this posture will help you with paying attention and increasing your alertness. You can sit with two knees on the ground with your buttocks on the cushion or place one foot on the floor just in front of the other without crossing them with your hands on your lap. If you also attend a yoga studio, these can help with flexibility. The idea is to find a posture that feels comfortable and relaxed.

Once you are sitting in a comfortable position, close your eyes – you will notice you are already breathing. For the first five minutes bring your attention to the sensations of your breath. Try bringing your attention to the rising and falling of your belly that accompanies each inhalation and exhalation. See if you can observe your breath through the entire cycle. Breathe to a point where your lungs feel comfortably full and then release until your lungs are empty. You are simply paying attention to the sensations of your breath and what is happening at this exact moment in time.

You will soon find your attention wanders, you may find your mind leaves during your breath focus – this is perfectly normal. When you notice it happening, gently return your focus back on your breath. You may have to do this every several seconds when you’re first starting out as the mind has not been trained to maintain lengthy focus.

Once you have completed your set time, open your eyes and take a few minutes to experience your environment.

Close your eyes again and notice the sensation of your body in contact with the cushion or the ground, anywhere your body touches another object. Notice how these sensations are made of hundreds of smaller sensations built together. Explore these with your eyes closed for a few minutes.

Now, turn your awareness to the wind and air that surrounds you, observe the sensations on your skin, face, hands and other body parts. Notice where the air feels cool or warm.  Breathe in and out gently as you notice these sensations.

When you are successful with five minutes of meditation, slowly increase it to 10, and then try 15, and then 20 minutes.  Once you are attaining longer periods of meditation, congratulate yourself on your progress.

Each of us may have different experiences from mindfulness meditation – take a few minutes to jot down what you noticed during your meditative experience, and congratulate yourself for taking the time to dedicate to meditation practice.

SIBO – The New IBS

SIBOSIBO – a simple four-letter acronym that stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth may play a big part in those suffering from IBS symptoms. Recent research is suggesting that up to 80% of those who have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome actually have SIBO as the underlying cause, and better yet – when treated for SIBO, their IBS goes away.

This overgrowth of bacteria can cause many symptoms – constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, belching, indigestion, reflux, nausea, fatigue, headaches, anemia, muscle and joint pain, restless leg syndrome, rosacea, and many others.

What it is? Essentially, the problem is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Many believe that SIBO originates from an issue with the migrating motility complex (MMC) – a large wave of peristalsis that works its way through the small intestine to properly move material and bacteria down the tract. Certain nutrient deficiencies, medications, and neurological damage can impair the MMC. Other contributing factors are low stomach acid and bile production, from commonly prescribed stomach acid lowering drugs and antacids used for heartburn, and liver and gallbladder issues. In a number of cases a faulty ileocecal valve (the sphincter between the small and large intestines) can create a reflux of bacteria from the large intestine into the small intestine. Other causes that may contribute to SIBO are antibiotic and steroid use, constipation, celiac disease, diabetes, and hypothyroidism.

What’s the problem? These bacteria consume vital nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron and folic acid, making them less available for us to absorb, while producing toxic by-products that make us feel awful. They damage the sensitive mucosal lining of our small intestine, increasing intestinal permeability and decreasing our ability to digest and absorb nutrients. When undigested particles of food (and bacteria) cross the leaky gut barrier our immune system takes up arms and prepares to go to battle. This nasty cascade results in systemic inflammatory symptoms such as eczema, asthma, and fibromyalgia.

How do we fix it? It takes some work but SIBO can be turned around! There are special diets that are used, my particular favorites are the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet. To speed the process, natural antibacterial herbs such as oregano oil and garlic can be used in concentrated, therapeutic doses to drastically reduce the amount of overgrowth. A hydrogen and methane breath test is the best method we currently have to measure if levels of bacterial overgrowth are the cause of your IBS symptoms.

Doula Trained!

I am now a certified naturopathic doula!  I have to admit, a part of my reasoning for taking the training that I completed this last weekend was purely selfish in nature.  I’m entering my “ticking clock” years and my partner and I plan to start a family in the near future, so I wanted to glean as much information as possible about what happens during those precious hours of labor.

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Not only does a doula support the woman during labor, but she also prepares the soon-to-be mom prior to birth with education and a birth plan.  An example of a comprehensive birth plan laid out by www.thebump.com can be found here.

A 2013 Cochrane review of random controlled trials of over 15,000 women reported that continuous support throughout labor a) increased the likelihood of a vaginal delivery, b) reduced caesarian section rates, c) reduced epidural usage, d) improved the APGAR score, and e) improved maternal satisfaction.

A few resources that you may find helpful if you’re wanting more information on healthy birthing:

  1. Birthing From Within By England and Horowitz
  2. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth By Ina May Gaskin
  3. The Birth Partner By Penny Simkin

Visits and Treatments now GST/HST Exempt!

CANDDear loyal patient,

We are pleased to inform you that services provided by naturopathic doctor are now GST/HST exempt!

Our national association, the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND), has been working closely with the Government of Canada to demonstrate how the front-line services provided by naturopathic doctors contribute significantly to the betterment of our patients’ health and well-being. They needed to know how the tax exemption would help you. The evidence provided by the CAND tied in nicely with the government’s belief that essential health care services should not be taxed. With this, the government announced the GST/HST exemption on services provided by naturopathic doctors in the February 11th federal budget.

For our patients, this means that you will no longer be charged GST/HST on your visits and treatments providing greater accessibility to our services. We are pleased that the value of our services has been recognized by the federal government especially as it results in direct benefits to you!

A message from the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors

Canadian Cancer Screening Guidelines

My partner recently discovered an abnormal pea-shaped, semi-solid lump in his testicle. Specializing in women’s health, I had not done many male genital exams up to this point, but I knew when he asked me to palpate it that it was abnormal enough to warrant a next-day appointment with his GP. A subsequent ultrasound was performed and we were called into the urologist office two days later. We were informed his testicle was filled with cancer and they were removing it in three days. What a stomach-churning, terrifying moment to experience! It is now two months post-surgery and although his blood work continues to befuddle the doctor, three oncologists have consulted and are fairly certain he remains cancer-free. He is only 40 and on the tail-end of the typical age-group to get testicular cancer (20 – 35 years of age), plus, he’s far too young, healthy and vibrant (in my mind) to be diagnosed with cancer at all. It truly can happen to anybody.

In light of his journey, cancer screening is suddenly much higher on my radar and I want to share Canada’s current guidelines to encourage early detection and higher cancer survival rates.

The World Health Organization lists a number of well-known and researched-verified things you can do to reduce your cancer risk: avoiding smoking, be physically active, maintain a healthy weight, eat a diet high in vegetables and fruit, reduce alcohol overuse, take measures to prevent infectious diseases like hepatitis, and reduce exposure to environmental pollution, occupational carcinogens, and radiation.

Aside from the above, early detection of cancer through various screening methods can reduce morbidity and mortality rates. Here are some guidelines for the following cancers:

Skin

  • Those with a very high risk of skin cancer should be screened yearly
  • Those with a high risk of skin cancer should be counselled about skin self-examination
  • For those with no increased risk of skin cancer routine self-examination and routine total-body skin examination by health care providers is not recommended
  • To clarify the definitions of very high risk vs. high risk vs. no increased risk, please see the Cancer Care’s Screening for Skin Cancer

Colorectal

  • The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that men and women age 50 and over have a stool test (fecal occult blood test) at least every 2 years. Follow-up may include a sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or barium enema if required. For those at increased colorectal cancer (ie. family history), a colonoscopy may be advised

Breast

This one isn’t cut and dry. The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care issued updated guidelines in 2011 to reflect research which was suggesting the cost and harm of false-positive tests, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment was outweighing the benefits of more rigorous screening as stated in the previous screening guidelines (2001). Their new key recommendations:

  • No routine mammography for women aged 40 – 49 (unless at higher risk); I personally recommend women do thermography in this age group
  • Routine screening with mammography every two to three years for women aged 50 – 69 (previous guidelines dictated every two years)
  • Routine screening with mammography every two to three years for women aged 70-74
  • No screening of average-risk women using MRI
  • No routine clinical breast exams done by health care providers or breast self-exams to screen for breast cancer (yes, you read that right!)

Cervical

The following guidelines are from the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care and are endorsed by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. From their website: “The recommendations are presented for screening asymptomatic women who are or have been sexually active. They do not apply to women with symptoms of cervical cancer, previous abnormal screening results (until they have been cleared to resume normal screening), those who do not have a cervix (due to hysterectomy), or who are immunosuppressed.”

  • For women 20 years of age and younger they recommend not routinely screening for cervical cancer
  • For women aged 20 to 24 they recommend not routinely screening for cervical cancer
  • For women aged 25 to 29 they recommend routine screening for cervical cancer every 3 years
  • For women aged 30 to 69 they recommend routine screening for cervical cancer every 3 years
  • For women aged 70 and over who have been adequately screened (ie. 3 successive negative Pap tests in the last 10 years), they recommend that routine screening may cease. For women aged ≥70 who have not been adequately screened they recommend continued screening until 3 negative test results have been obtained

Testicular

The Canadian Cancer Society put out a humorous video to offset some of the discomfort males feel about this topic. Share this liberally with all the men in your life. Unfortunately, as my partner and I were going through his cancer journey, I heard too many stories of males who had noticed a testicular lump but, from fear or embarrassment, they avoiding telling their doctor which led to higher complications.

There are no current screening guidelines in Canada for testicular cancer but there are a few important things males should know:

  • Risk is increased with age (specifically between 15 – 40 years), an undescended testicle, or abnormal development of the testicle, and a brother or father who has been diagnosed with testicular cancer
  • Males should know how their scrotum looks and feels (skin texture, size, shape) and should report any abnormal changes to their health care provider; these changes may include a lump in the testicle, a painful testicle, or sensations such as heaviness, dragging, or dull ache in the lower abdomen or scrotum
  • An excellent summary can be found on the Peel Public Health’s website

Prostate

  • Guidelines were updated in 2013 by Prostate Cancer Canada to recommend that men in their 40s receive their first blood test called PSA (prostate specific antigen) to get a “baseline” of their normal that future PSA tests can be compared against
  • Men at higher risk (family history of prostate or breast cancer, obesity, or men of African or Caribbean descent) should discuss with their health care provider getting a PSA test done in their 30s
  • Many health care groups such as the American Cancer Society recognize that the PSA test is controversial and has its risks and limitations – men should be well informed prior to their decision to get a PSA test
  • The Canadian Cancer Society discusses the use of the DRE (digital rectal exam) on their website but fails to give definitive details on what age this testing should be commenced in males

By updating yourself on Canada’s guidelines, I hope this clarifies the “when” and “what” in regards to cancer screening.

 

Why Saying ‘I’m Fine’ Is Ruining Your Life

I asked Kimberley Newing to contribute a guest blog post as she is a talented Professional Certified Coach who lives her life and guides others from the grounded perspective of a balanced body, mind, and spirit.  Here’s what she has to say…

MaskRecently I heard this from a client, “If people knew how I really felt on the inside, they’d judge me for being weak. They would see me for the fraud I really am and they’d lose respect for me. I want people to think I’ve got it all together. If they see what’s really going on they’ll know I’m not good enough and that just makes me feel totally worthless.”

For many years, these harmful beliefs also ruled my life.

When I was 23 years old I held the prestigious positions of cabin manager and CRM trainer for a charismatic start up airline. It was a huge deal for someone my age and came with enormous amounts of responsibility. My biggest fear – ‘What if everyone discovered that I wasn’t as capable as they thought?’ I convinced myself that if my peers found out, they would know I was a failure and that would bring an end to this opportunity and I’d be cast out.

To the outside world I was living the dream but on the inside the fear of not being able to live up to expectations undermined my confidence and I soon developed an eating disorder. In an industry where appearances matter, and perhaps like many others, I used food as a way to control my emotions in attempt to control my environment.

Today, nearly 12 years later and having worked as a wellness coach with over hundreds of deeply beautiful people, I recognize just how prevalent it is in our society to present as though everything is ‘fine’ when in fact – behind closed doors, it feels anything BUT fine. The deeper I take people in to this work the more ‘we’ discover the painful costs of hiding what’s really going on.

So, what are the true costs burying our feelings and emotions?

The 3 most common symptoms of suppressing your feelings:

      1. Perpetual Cycles Of Self-Sabotaging
      2. Isolation And Loneliness
      3. Chronic Health Issues

Where do I sign up for more of these goodies I hear you say?! Seriously though, LOOK AT WHAT WE ARE DOING TO OURSELVES ….

Self-sabotaging: We try to numb the feelings surfacing caused from what we are hiding with alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex, food, materialism and excessive TV/Facebook etc. This escapism via substance abuse leads to poor health, low energy and potentially relationship breakdowns. Most importantly, a break in the trust and loving relationship that you have with yourself!

Isolation and loneliness: As mammals, we human beings are designed to desire connection and a tribe. Feeling like you don’t belong or aren’t part of the tribe is one of the most painful experiences in life. When creating a safety barrier you emit the “don’t come too close” vibe out of fear of being truly seen. This barrier keeps real heart felt connection at a distance and only perpetuates the feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Chronic health issues: Ultimately suppressing emotions manifests as ailments and disease (dis-ease … think about it) in the body. The human body, the home where your soul resides, has it’s own remarkable intelligence. When we continuously push our emotions down, this incredible instrument of life will find a way to resurface them. It is the body’s way of inviting us to pay attention to what’s really going on inside.

Do you listen with intent, or do you jump to the quick fix and medicate/suppress? Frequent sickness, panic attacks, chronic pain, cancer, migraines, mystery illnesses, Chronic fatigue, Irritable bowel, insomnia, depression just to name a few, can be symptoms of suppressed and unresolved emotions that are just too uncomfortable to deal with.

Who exactly are you so afraid of being judged by? If ‘they’ knew what was really going on for you, what is the worst thing they could say?

Chances are, you’ve already said worse than that to yourself in your own head. Am I right?

Perhaps your harshest critic exists not in the outside world, but within the four inches between your ears.

Maybe it’s time to release what’s going on inside of your heart instead of beating the heck out of yourself for all of the things you are ‘not doing right’ or for how you think you ‘should’ be.

For some people, it’s those closest to you that make you worry the most. If this is the case, then I suggest one of two things:

a) Get a new peer group (because life is too short to spend time with those who judge, criticize or make you feel small – that stuff is just plain ugly and quite frankly UNACCEPTABLE) or

b) Make the decision to show up and share what’s happening for you anyway. Adopt the ‘who gives a f@ck’ approach and witness how your relationships change as a result of it.

Take the diagnosis from the Great Dr. and apply the prescription “Those who mind, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind”. – Dr Seuss J

We cannot change what we don’t acknowledge. For many, the act of bringing what feels dark into the light and allowing it to be seen can be a very powerful way of releasing it. If it feels too much to start with the people closest to you then perhaps consider having a few conversations with a great listener or a professional to guide you forward.

Maybe you are struggling to juggle all of your roles, mother, father, husband, wife, son, sister daughter employee or business owner. Perhaps you are a practitioner who helps others for a living and are telling yourself that it is not ok for you to have challenges too. Or is it that you are deeply pained by your past and are replaying the same tapes over and over in your head. What ever the case, if you don’t make the choice to open up and share what’s really going on for you with someone you can trust, how will your health, relationships and professional life ever become what you want it to be?

So, next time someone who is trying to connect with you asks how you are? Perhaps actually take a moment to let that question linger before you answer. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and let your heart do the talking. Dare to be real. Dare to show up for yourself and in doing so, know you are inspiring others to do the same.

Ghandi said it beautifully – “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Can you imagine what it would feel like to just drop judgment and be yourself everyday? Now THAT is worth it.

Namaste,
Kim

Kim N.Kim’s work is about inviting truth and getting REAL. She provides a safe and sacred space for others to speak about what’s really going on and then take heart inspired action to achieve what they really want. When embracing the right beliefs, attitude and support, Kim believes everyone has the ability to live free happy wonderfully fulfilled lives. Kim currently lives with her gorgeous husband and their two adorable daughters in Vancouver, British Columbia and is grateful everyday for the things and people that make her real.

Kimberley Newing PCC, Master NLP Practitioner

www.abalancedlifecoaching.com

Bugs in Our Gut – Benefits of Microscopic Critters

The health of the microbiome in out gut cannot be overstated.  Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, is famously quoted as saying that all disease begins in the gut – and this was 400 years before the birth of Christ!  This was a man ahead of his time. And now, in the 21st century, we have the ability to examine the DNA and culture bacteria and yeast from our stool to get a sense of the role they play. Science has helped us learn just how significantly they impact the health of our body.

These bacteria (and often an overgrowth of yeast and sometimes parasites too) have serious health implications – they create digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, belching, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, constipation and IBS-type symptoms; they can also contribute to systemic symptoms such as fatigue, acne, inflammation, hormone imbalance, adrenal exhaustion, and nutrient deficiencies.  This list goes on!

One of the first things I do with those I work with is optimize the digestive tract flora using fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc.) and probiotics.  Acidophilus and bifidobacterium are the top two main players that do only beneficial things for our bodies (many other strains can be beneficial but can also create problems in an imbalanced gut ecosystem).

Here is a list of what acidophilus and bifidobacterium do for us:

  • They modulate our immune system – they are one of the first things I recommend when patients complain of allergies, autoimmune disease and frequent colds and flus
    • Check it out: a study reported that antibiotic use in infants under the age of 12 months increased risk of asthma by 400 percent! The antibiotics altered the gut microflora which then negatively impacted the immune system and led to increased rates of asthma in these youngsters
  • They normalize the transit time throughout our gut, so we’re not pooping too fast or too slow
  • 10% of our energy requirements are met by the fermentation by-products of these friendly bacteria
  • They improve digestion and absorption of our nutrients
  • They produce B vitamins and vitamin K in our colon
  • They’re helpful for absorbing and improving the function of lignans, phytoestrogens and flavonoids
  • They reduce pathogenic strains of bacteria from colonizing our gut by:
    • Competing for space and food
    • Making antibacterial substances like hydrogen peroxide
    • Producing short-chain fatty acids which lower the gut’s pH; most pathogenic strains of bacteria and yeast cannot tolerate an acidic environment

Some of the best reasons to use probiotics are: during and after antibiotics (research shows a better outcome if you take probiotics alongside the antibiotics), IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, gastrointestinal infections, constipation, dysbiosis (altered gut flora), lactose intolerance, intestinal permeability, and vaginal candidiasis.

Consider grabbing yourself a jar of unpasteurized sauerkraut from your local health food store to get started on improving your gut flora today!

Top 10 Reasons to Come See a Naturopathic Doctor

Uncertain as to whether naturopathic medicine is right for you?

  1. For the maintenance of good health, a high quality of life, and the prevention of illness.
  2. You have a need for more natural approaches to your health concerns.
  3. Concern about the long term consequences of being on prescription drugs, or,
  4. Your medical doctor is advising you to begin pharmaceutical medications and you’re feeling reluctant.
  5. Confusion over which supplements to take, which brands to buy, and what dose is right for you; “Am I doing the right things?”  “Am I eating the right foods for my body??”
  6. You want education on what you can do to get healthy and remain that way.
  7. You have complaints that your medical doctor has been unable to address (weight loss, generalized fatigue, smoking, etc.)
  8. You have vague or peculiar symptoms – tired often, sick often, menopausal complaints, a suspected nutrient deficiency, etc.
  9. You’re on medications that are causing problematic side effects, and you’re ready to find natural solutions (diet, lifestyle, herbs, supplements, acupuncture) to reducing or ending the meds.
  10. The ever-growing list of health claims running rampant on the media and internet has your head spinning, in need of some professional clarity.

Eliciting the Truth About Cholesterol

I came across a humorous, well-written video that nicely summarizes what those facing lifelong statin drug prescriptions (Lipitor, Crestor, etc.) must know.  The issues regarding raised cholesterol will likely affect you or your loved ones over the course of your life time, so please spend some time educating yourself on the evidence about cholesterol.  I’ve added a few resources, including this must-watch video, below.

Noteworthy:

  • Cholesterol is mainly produced in the liver and is a very important constituent of cell membranes and a precursor to hormones (vitamin D, sex hormones, etc.)
  • The “fact” that dietary saturated fats and cholesterol clog arteries has never been scientifically proven – do not fear your eggs!
  • There is a poor association between cholesterol and heart disease (unlike what we’ve been lead to believe)
  • The more inflammation you have in your body, and specifically, in your arteries, the more cholesterol your liver will produce.  This is a protective mechanism as the cholesterol is used in an attempt to repair the artery walls (i.e. treat the inflammation rather than the cholesterol)
  • As of 2004, cholesterol ranges on conventional labs were narrowed – a majority of the doctors on the panel that decided these ranges (8 of 9 doctors) had been previously paid by the drug companies that make statin medications; a review in 2006 found that there was no scientific evidence of heart disease risk to support lowering cholesterol levels as much as the panel had decided
  • Unnaturally low cholesterol is dangerous and side effects may include fatigue, depression, anxiety, increased aggression, violence, cognitive decline, memory impairment and suicide

Resources:

Dr. Tom Ballard, an ND colleague of mine made this humorous yet highly informative video.  The Great Cholesterol Myth by doctors Bowden and Sinatra is a fantastic educational read.  Dr. Mercola highlights the important points about cholesterol as he uncovers the truth in his article, The Cholesterol Myth That is Harming Your Health.  And finally, the blockbuster documentary, $tatin Nation: The Great Cholesterol Cover-Up, will blow you away!

Organic – Top Five Reasons Why It’s the Way to Go!

  1. Organic Veg & FruitReduce Potential Health Risks
    • Many chemicals sprayed on fruits and vegetables were EPA-approved before thorough research was conducted.  We now know that the EPA considers 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30% of insecticides as being potentially cancer-causing.  What is more, these chemicals act as estrogen disruptors in the body and wreak havoc on our endocrine systems (see Alligators). 
  2. Protect Future Generations’ Health
    • The average child receives four times more exposure to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides than adults do.  Through consumer demand, we are all able to impact our children’s futures.
  3. Protect Water Quality
    • Water makes up 75-85% of our body mass and covers ¾ of our planet.  Despite the importance of clean drinking water, the EPA estimates that over three quarters of the United States’ ground water is contaminated with pesticides, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the American population.
  4. Support Soil Health
    • Organic farmers place healthy soil quality at the top of their priority list.  When you think about it, soil is growth medium to which our veggies arise – the nutrients in the soil contribute to the nutritive value of our food supply.
  5. Taste
    • Holy crap! If you’ve ever eaten organic celery or carrots at the height of their season, you’ll know that of which I speak!