Monthly Archives: June 2013

Blueberry Smoothie Supreme


This was definitely one of my more popular smoothies that the whole family just devoured like it was dessert at breakfast. Hope you like it as much as we did!

Blueberry Smoothie Supreme

Ingredients (for approximately 6-8 glasses):

-4 cups frozen blueberries

-1 cup frozen strawberries

-1 ripe banana

-3 stalks celery

-2 cups orange juice

-1/2 cup almond milk

-1 teaspoon flax seed

-2 tablespoons of Vega Energizing Smoothie protein supplement*

* optional

 

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Natural PMS Cures: Part II


In my last post, I addressed the Top Ten Ways To Relieve PMS Symptoms Naturally

Dr. Mark Hyman, also addresses some of the points I listed and why they affect our monthly cycles in his article in the Huffington Post titled, Eliminate Suffering From PMS in Five Simple Steps

Dr. Christiane Northrup also has some excellent tips accompanied by footnoted research articles to back up her claims on natural relief strategies for Premenstrual Syndrome

She also is a proponent of acupuncture for PMS relief and offers dietary recommendations for PMS which also relate to menstrual cramps and pelvic pain here

-m.

Top Ten Ways to Relieve PMS Symptoms Naturally


Many women are confronted with several days leading up to the start of menses when they experience symptoms often grouped under the term: PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

Common experiences include: lower abdominal bloating and cramping, low back pain, anxiety, irritability, depression, poor memory, mental fog, joint and/or muscle pain, difficulty sleeping, sweet or salty cravings, fatigue, and acne.

While these experiences often subside at the onset of menses, or another physiological change in a woman’s body, such as pregnancy or menopause, its monthly recurring nature can create much havoc if left unchecked long-term. A more serious form of PMS is known as PMDD (Premsenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), which is a mood disorder that typically occurs in women 20-40 years old, who have at least one child, a history of post-partum depression or other mood disorder, and/or a family history of depression. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/premenstrual-syndrome.cfm

So what can you do to kick this PMS monster out of your life for good? Adopting a lifestyle that gives you the optimal chance for overall health will reap rewards on your menstrual cycle and reproductive health as well.

Here is a list of top ten things you can do for yourself now to experience more healthy menstrual cycles. Please note that for the most noticeable effect, changes should be adopted at least a full 1-3 months ahead of your expected period. *As always, the recommendations given here is given as a general guideline only and not meant to replace the advice of your primary attending health care provider or physician.

Top Ten Ways to Relieve PMS Symptoms Naturally:

1. Exercise those muscles! Strength train, cross-train and just stay active! Join a sports team or gym, run, stroller jog, swim, bike, rock climb, walk, surf, paddle, dance, or jump. Do yoga, tai chi, or qi gong. Aim to get at least 30 minutes in a day. Ready, set, go!!

2. Eliminate the bad foods: got grease, salt, sugar, alcohol, or caffeine? An overconsumption of food in general and especially meats and dairy may contribute to poor health overall and disturb natural hormone function. In Chinese medicine we refer to these foods as ones which are heavy and damp in nature and therefore contribute to accumulation of ‘damp and phlegm’ in the body. This accumulation can lead to a whole range of problems such as PMS, poor reproductive health, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint pain and more. These are therefore foods that are not wanted on the voyage!

3. Stick to the good foods: a more vegetable-rich diet with fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and pulses provides you with the necessary fuel you need to get through your day. Healthy fats such as organic avocadoes and fish oils are also good to incorporate into your diet. When choosing your food sources, make sure to select those from local, organic, wild sources and free of GMOs, pesticides, and additives when possible.

4. Drink more water: 6-8 glasses of water a day is essential for proper hydration. The next time you feel like reaching for a snack, consider drinking a glass of water first. Make sure to wait at least 15 minutes before consuming food so that your liquids and solids get digested more readily. Consider the type of water you drink on a regular basis as well. Is it filtered, fresh, and at room temperature?

5. Reduce Stress: regular physical activity, massage, acupuncture, a work load that is contained (doesn’t creep into what should be your off work hours) and manageable are key to reducing your stress levels. Try to get out for at least one night of fun. Do something that makes you happy everyday. If there are additional burdens placed on you through family and friends, consider delegating tasks and just saying “no” to things that are not high priority. Consider counselling or other professional medical and social support if necessary.

6. Get better quality sleep: 6-8 hours of sleep that is uninterrupted and makes you feel refreshed upon waking is best. For those whose sleep is compromised because of work or family, try to get in a power nap of 20-30 minutes in the late morning or early afternoon. Avoid exposure to overactivity or overstimulation before bed to help promote better quality sleep.

7. Socialize with your close friends and family members: those that know you best can also help you through the more trying periods. As well, surrounding yourself with those you love makes you feel supported and happy.

8. Avoid activities that elevate your anxiety or stress levels: is there someone or something that you’d rather not associate with on a regular basis? Cut them out!

9. Meditate: whether through long walks in nature, connecting to your spiritual side, doing regular yoga or qigong exercises, or focusing on your abdominal breathing, meditation can provide you with the necessary tools to see your surroundings from a fresh new perspective and ultimately one that attracts the type of life you want.

10. Live in the moment: each day presents its own unique set of experiences. Try to engage your mind only in what comes most naturally to you at each moment. You can remind your self to do this by focusing on your breath using abdominal breathing (the way you we are meant to breathe!) Breathe in through your abdomen (when lying down you will notice this by pushing your abdomen up towards the sky), open your nostrils and allow your chest walls to expand more fully when taking in the air you breathe. Then slowly release this breath out though your mouth while your abdomen retracts and sinks towards the ground. Focusing on past or future circumstances is nonproductive, creates unnecessary stress and anxiety and can block your natural reasoning abilities.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, all dis-ease can be attributed to the blockage of qi in the body. To return the body to its natural state requires that we support and nourish the body where necessary, but also unblock areas to provide for the free flow of qi. In general terms, this means that your body has the ability to function well if all physiological processes (passages of qi”) are not blocked. Proper diet, exercise and mental activity play a huge role in regulating these processes.

-m.

Teething cures under campfire lights: natural tips and not-so natural tips for your teething baby now


Do you have a teether in your family? Anyone under the age of 3 perhaps?

Is your normally smiling, happy, cuddly baby/child noticeably more irritated these days? Does she/he  experience any or all of the following symptoms: drooling, gum swelling, red cheeks, ear pulling, putting fingers in mouth, elevated body temperature, skin rash, tummy upset, sharp cries of pain, decreased appetite, loose stools, inability to sleep for long periods of a time, biting, swatting or pushing others away, and flailing?

Check, check, check!! Welcome to our world.

We made it to the last week of the school year before Miss G (our 3rd daughter), who is now almost 11 months, was struck with a serious bout of teething. It was so incredibly timed that it perfectly coincided with our long-awaited camping trip last weekend.

After setting up our six-person tent in the dark, not five minutes went by as we lay in our newly aired-out sleep sacks, when a large rumble from the interior of the tent was heard. In fact, it came from the little belly of Miss G. She was in serious trouble. And after two very smelly diaper changes in quick succession, we were well on our way to experiencing the full force of her pain. Her piercing cries were heard in sharp contrast to the quiet crackles of the campfires and calling loons…sounds more typical of a summer night spent camping by the lake and woods.

As she had had a few smaller bouts the week before, I brought all the ammunition I could to make sure our little lady was going to sleep peacefully. The first night we tried an infant pain reliever. Not much help. The next morning we went for a more homeopathic approach with Camillia Sinensis. This did bring some temporary relief but was not long lasting and I found it difficult to get her to take the vial when she was writhing in pain. Finally, the next evening when the teething monsters came out, I brought out my tried and true pediatric teething drops from a Chinese herbal medicine supplier. It was prepared with a sweetened base so Miss G didn’t have to contend with bitter tasting herbs. Followed by a proper nurse. Instant success.

Her pain relief lasted though the night and all I had to do was nurse her back to sleep once in the night. I myself woke up an additional two times when I heard the resident raccoon come by and sniff out our site.

I’m not sure why I sometimes question the effectiveness and efficiency of my chosen profession. Perhaps we all do this at times. Maybe it is healthy to second guess at times, so as to really make sure you are not biased to your own preferences or tendencies. Or maybe it’s just because pharmaceutical and even other natural drugs are that much more convincing with their gorilla marketing that even a herbalist questions her number one method of pain relief for teething infants!

In any case, the good news is that there are a range of remedies that you can choose from to get you through this seemingly endless phase in your child’s development when you’re right in the middle of it.

Here are some additional soothing options for teethers:

-a frozen terry cloth or toy such as a Ringley

-a mango pit to chew on (this advice was generously given to me by a friendly neighbour with Guyanese roots who mentioned that this is what they do in Guyana…what a brilliant idea!)

-cold water popsicles or fruit sweetened popsicles (Miss G can confirm that this is helpful and she would like more offered in future)

-frozen fruit such as strawberries (this is also a helpful treat for non-teethers)

-massaging your child’s gums with clean fingers (watch out for biters though!)

-a nontoxic rubber toy (the popular S. the Giraffe comes to mind…a friend of mine has noted that in Germany, only the new batches of S. the Giraffe are approved for use so you may want to investigate this further)

Happy trails, happy summer.

-m.

What if we could save the planet? Eco-friendly pitfalls and pickups from one parent to another


Last night, I thought about how I’ve been respecting the earth lately. Truthfully, I was not impressed.

I have always had more eco-friendly ‘leanings’. Anyone who is remotely tuned in to the state of the environment is too. Here’s a debriefer, if you need to review: http://www.greenfacts.org/en/digests/state-of-the-environment.htm

Foodwise? I was a vegetarian bordering on a vegan in my university years, and a pescatarian up until the birth of my second child. And now? It’s a real mix I tell you!! No red meat for me, however.

For transportation? Rode my bike wherever I went, took the subway, carpooled my rowing crew (I sure do miss that crew!).

Clothing? Bought my clothes at Kensington Market in high school (the trendy place downtown to shop for used items). Reduced, reused, recycled when possible.

Fast forward to my child-bearing and child-rearing years and what has happened? Of course I’ve maintained my passion for eco-friendly living. But there have been really significant compromises. We’ve done the cloth diapers, the infant pottying, the hand-me down clothing, the eating local and organic. I’m currently doing my best to stick with non-toxic cleaning agents for the home and environmentally friendly moisturizers, cleansers, deodorants, and shampoos for us. The most eco-friendly of the ecoshampoos do leave some product residue, but all-in-all I’m willing to make a few sacrifices for the sake of the earth. David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green has these helpful tips on green cleaning products if you’re interested in adopting a few: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/

Of all this, I am pleased.

Now to the disheartening part. We’ve also done disposable wipes and diapers (for the times when we’ve run out of clean cloth diapers because we fell off the cleaning schedule), the school drop off and pick ups for the kids in a car that ‘resembles’ an SUV, the cool outings that you can only get to by burning that liquid gold to keep the kids entertained, or show them ‘nature’ not seen elsewhere. The countless dinners wasted on picky, picky eaters. More water consumption with additional laundry loads. Disposable cups, plates, utensils, at a park or big party venue with frosted cupcakes and instant pizza delivery. Over-packaged baby mum mums and granola bars. Over-processed foods for immediate consumption when the family is just plain hungry already, three kids are melting down, and there are mountains of chores still left to do before dinner.

The truth is, having kids makes being eco-friendly exponentially more challenging. Even if you are not a parent, the life we all live right now is a fast-paced and overburdened one. If I were going to be the person I need to be to really do my part, I would definitely need to do some prep work after the kids have gone to bed, in addition to what I already do to keep afloat for the next day. ‘Cause otherwise, we’ll just be heading to that terrible Golden Arches drive-through again on our mad rush to the next XYZ class. But the truth is, we are all just plain tired. Tired!! And cranky. Yesterday was especially an evening to forget. And that does not bode well for helping out our planet these days. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying.

Teaching the next generation to respect their environment is no longer enough. We really have to be part of the solution so that they can inherit a world full of promise. So today, I am challenging myself (and anyone else out there who thinks they’re up for it) to take on a day (or even two or more!) where you consider what you’ve done to help out your ‘mother’. Mother Earth that is. A day to walk rather than drive. A day to eat local, organic, a little less of the foods that burden our sacred lands. A day to use less water. Less electricity. Do we really need ALL this ‘power’? A day to pause on how we can teach our children to really love this planet we’ve been given and walk the talk. Will we one day rise up to the challenge and really be the stewards that the planet needs to survive? Here’s hoping.

-m.

 

For more on how your diet affects the earth, you can find some enlightening resources here:

http://www.ceeonline.org/greenGuide/food/upload/environmenthealth.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_meat_production

 

How transportation affects the environment:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_transport

 

Another blog about eco-friendly parenting:

http://www.ecofriendlyparenting.net/

-m.

Update on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Regulation in Ontario


Many of you in the health care industry or who receive acupuncture treatment here in Canada are aware that the profession of Traditional Chinese medicine (which includes acupuncture) recently became regulated here in Ontario. This is following along the footsteps of British Columbia (whereas only the acupuncture profession is regulated in Alberta and Quebec).

I am pleased to report that after a fairly long wait, I am officially registered with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO)!!!  To find a registered TCM Practitioner and/or acupuncturist, please refer to the college’s website here: http://www.ctcmpao.on.ca/

It has been a long road to regulation with several bumps along the way (that began way back in 1994).  For more info on the path towards becoming a regulated health care profession, please refer to this page http://www.ctcmpao.on.ca/aboutus/roadtoregulation.html

TCM practitioners receive 4+ years of education specifically in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine and are trained to treat a wide range of general health conditions. Many TCM graduates have previous health care and/or science degrees and often do additional studies and internships to advance their knowledge in a particular field of health (e.g. Fertility, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cancer, Dermatology, Rheumatology and Sports Medicine).

TCM Practitioners who perform acupuncture are covered by most extended health insurance plans – so please check with your provider if you are interested in receiving quality health care from your local acupuncturist!

The regulation of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture is in the best interests of the public and provides the profession with the legitimacy it needs to advance and become part of integrative healthcare for the residents of Ontario.