3 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling

My mom and sister were packing for their business trip to Australia when they asked me how they should stay healthy while away for so long. I made a few suggestions based on a few common trouble areas.

Here are 3 ways to stay healthy while traveling:

  1. Sleep: Melatonin is a traveler's best friend. Using it before bedtime after changing time zones will help your body readjust its sleep cycle and ward off jet lag. Magnesium can also be used as a natural muscle relaxant to help encourage sleep, too.
  2. Digestion: Tummy troubles can be a scary thing while on holidays. They can easily put a damper on anybody's good time. I tend to be a bit too adventurous on holidays and have wound up with food poisoning too many times. Aside from encouraging you to play it safe, I will also let you in on a few secrets: Gentiana lutea is one of my favourite herbs and just a few small drops 15-20 minutes before a meal will get your digestive juices flowing to improve resilience and digestion. Magnesium (as mentioned above) not only helps you sleep, it also relaxes the bowels to ease the discomfort of constipation that often occurs when traveling. Shelf-stable probiotics are also extremely helpful for balancing gut flora so your tummy can fight off the bad.
  3. Immunity: A simple increase in Vitamin C with Emergen-C or Sisu to Go can help manage exposure to viruses while you're away on travels. Don't forget to wash your hands, too. But my favorite thing to have in my carry on is a bottle of St. Francis Deep Immune packed full of herbs to keep your immune system chugging along even in the face of travel.

What are your favourite ways to stay healthy while on vacation?

You can find more travel tips here.

 

3 Nausea & Vomiting Remedies

There aren't many things worse than an upset stomach. From pregnancy, to flu bugs, nausea and vomiting come on fast and furious and leave you in their dust.

I am just recovering from a stomach bug myself and thought I would share some of my favorite tips with a naturopathic spin:


  1. Hydrate! With so much fluid leaving the body it's important to make sure it's getting back in. Sipping water slowly can be helpful, but if you can't keep it down try sucking on ice. Electrolytes from coconut water or Endurlyte can also be helpful and very important if vomiting is frequent and signs of dehydration are present. Ginger & peppermint tea are two of my favorite teas to sip when I'm nauseas. Studies show ginger is both helpful (and safe) for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, too. I love the Ginger Aid and Eater's Digest offerings from Traditional Medicinals.
  2. BRATT! Once you can finally keep food down it's best to keep it simple. The BRATT diet is the way to go - B- bananas, R- rice,  A- unsweetened applesauce, T- clear tea and T- plain toast. Saltines can fit the bill, too. All of these ingredients contain tannins which help make the stomach more resilient to any further invaders, while also settling the stomach.
  3. Acupuncture, Homeopathy & More: There are many acupuncture points on the body, like PC 6, that can help relieve nausea. Homeopathics, like Arsenicum album, can be helpful, too. For more information on acupuncture, homeopathics or herbals that might help you it's best to visit your local naturopathic doctor. 

Don't forget to rest and let it flow. Vomiting is your body's way of getting rid of the bad guys. Let your body do its thing...


But if your vomiting is producing (sorry for the details) blood, "coffee-ground" like substances, is perfuse and persistent, and/or there are signs of dehydration like dizziness and low urine please visit your medical professional.

Top 5 Hydrotherapy Aids for Colds & Flus

I've touched on a few easy hydrotherapy options for reducing the symptoms of colds & flus a couple of times on my blog, but since having just had an invasion of the flu in my house I thought it would be helpful to round up the top 5 hydrotherapy aids for colds and flus help you recover.

  1. Steam Inhalation - The inevitable headache and congestion that comes along with a cold or flu can really send you off the handle. No one like to breathe through their mouth for days on end. Using 3 dashes of eucalyptus or thymus essential oil in a bowl of steamy hot water can work wonders. Cover your head with a towel and breathe deeply. Just be sure not too burn yourself. You can also dash a few drops of the oil in a hot steamy shower, too. Repeat as needed throughout the duration of your cold or flu.
  2. Neti Pot - If your cold or flu comes with lots of nasal congestion it's time to employ your neti pot. This magic-lantern like tool drains yours sinuses with a steady flow of water in one side and out the other. Fill your neti pot with 1/8 tsp of sea salt and dilute with warm water. Run 1/2 the water through one side and then repeat on the other. Make sure your netty pot is cleaned thoroughly after use. For more details check out this informative video. Repeat as needed throughout the duration of your cold or flu.
  3. Warming Socks - Headaches, nasal congestion, and discomfort from fever aches can be remedied with a simple warming socks treatment. Prepare to do this before bed. Learn how here.
  4. Neutral Bath - Fevers can be managed with a lovely neutral bath. Fill your tub with tepid water. Sit in it for as long as you can manage. Simple, easy, and effective!
  5. Humidify - The dry air in our homes due to blasting furnaces can make colds and flus worse. Find a good-quality humidifier and put it to good use in your home each and every night. Better yet, dash more eucalyptus or thymus in the humidifier for easy breathing. Just be sure to follow the cleaning instructions that come with your humidifier - we don't want any hold outbreaks!

More advanced hydrotherapy techniques, like a constitutional hydrotherapy treatment or a wet sheet wrap can be done in the clinic by your naturopathic doctor. They are extremely effective & feel really, really good!

And don't forget the most basic hydrotherapy tool - stay hydrated! You can supplement your water with a dash of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon to help rebalance your cells, too.

Looking for more help overcoming your illness? Check out these great posts for the Top 6 Naturopathic Cold & Flu Remedies and DIY Cough Syrup.

Sleep Soundly

What the heck is going on these days? No matter where I turn I have a patient walking in my door who just can't sleep soundly. Certainly daylight savings time can throw a wrench into normal sleeping patterns, but this should clear up after a few nights. If it's persisting there might be something else going on.

I'm here to remind that you it's not normal to not sleep. Sleep is a vital to life as food and water.

I'm sure you know most of the reasons why sleep is so crucial, from better energy to better hormone balance to better weight control and more. So let's investigate a few ways to improve your sleep hygiene (which means preparing for sleep):


  1. Turn off the Technology. The backlighting from your screen (whether it be iPad, computer or TV) messes with your brains understanding of night time. It won't produce as much melatonin, which means you won't stay asleep.
  2. Turn off the Lights. For the same reasons as above, it's best to turn off all lights, even the ones flashing from your alarm clock, and turn down the blinds. Things like black-out screens or eye masks can be helpful in brightly lit cities.
  3. Turn off your Brain.  Yet another reason to turn off the TV, computer and iPad is to avoid reading stressful things like news headlines before bed. Put yourself in a better state of mind with a light read.
  4. Turn Down your Temperature. Turn down the temperature of your room to a cool 68 degrees Celsius, and change duvets according to summer and winter temperatures. These will all help to encourage a restful sleep.
  5. Turn Up the Mood. Prepare for sleep with a restful routine including calming teas, proper supplements and even hydrotherapy treatments like Warming Socks. Botanicals like Chamomile, Hops, Oats, and Valerian can all be helpful, as can supplements like melatonin, 5HTP, GABA, and magnesium glycinate, but it's best to speak to your physician about the best options and doses for you. Even meditations, like this one from Andrew Johnson, can be helpful for preparing for sleeping.

In my opinion, the bedroom should undergo a name change to the S-room. Only Sleeping, Sex and Snuggling should happen in this room. Nothing else!

If things aren't getting better, it's time to consider visiting your physician. Things like waking up withs pains in the night, persistent night sweats, constant night terrors, and persistent insomnia all require a visit to the doctor to figure out what else could be going on.

30-Day Alcohol-Free Challenge

You  may think I am completely nuts for having gone alcohol free in the middle of the summer months, but it was an excellent challenge which I am glad I accepted. Leading up to this challenge I was given some perspective by my patients. As a primary care provider it is crucial to ask my patients about alcohol intake. I noticed that a majority of them had a lower intake than me. This realization certainly got me thinking.

I knew I had come to rely on alcohol during challenging times while heavily studying and dealing with lots of family matters that had cropped up this year. A glass of wine or 2 at the end of the day just seemed to ease my worries. But 14 drinks a week is right on the borderline of healthy and not-so-healthy... and somehow this (future) naturopathic doctor wasn't taking a dose of her own medicine.

In comes trainer, Rita Catolino, who has been helping me get back into the shape I lost during some of my most challenging times. She encouraged me to ditch alcohol for 1 month.

Hmmm... I thought she was crazy, too. But why not give it a try.

It all began on July 15th. I spoke to my significant other about the changes, and he fully supported me & even decided to join in the fun by cutting out alcohol during the week. I made it through a bachelorette party, a wedding, and 5 days at the cottage all without indulging.

Amazingly enough, going cold turkey has made me desire alcohol much less, and it certainly left a lot more room in the budget for... shoes... I mean, um, not shoes.

Alcohol is a sugar that often has no benefits. In days gone by beer was considered a food and was extremely nutritive, but with today's heavy processing this isn't the case. And even though red wine has heart-healthy antioxidant powers like those from resveratrol it should still be enjoyed in moderation.

What is moderation? Less than 7 drinks/week for women and less than 14 drinks/week for men.

Now, I am thrilled to say I am done the challenge (see my countdown calendar above). I celebrated with 2 glasses of sparkling wine. And I won't have another drop until the weekend.

Care to try it yourself? Try alternatives like Rise Kombucha, my Sparkling Kombucha Iced Green Tea, or anything with soda water, lemon, lime and mint to give your water a kick.

5 Healthy Travel Tips

Finally, vacation is upon me. I have 1  more shift in clinic and then I am off to Portland and Santa Monica for my summer vacation. I'll certainly be missing my patients, but 1 week of vacation is definitely what the doctor ordered for this tired intern! I'll be packing my things tonight and wanted to share with you a couple of my favourite, healthy travel tips.


  1. BYOP. Bring your own protein, that is. I purchased a new bag of Sun Warrior Chocolate Warrior Blend just for the trip. This will help me stay on track during my travels. I never want to wind up hungry!
  2. Double Up on C. I'm sure to get 1000mg of vitamin C each day, but with travel on the horizon I will be sure to double that dose. Little travel packets, like these by Sisu, are the perfect solution. They even include other important vitamins and minerals and taste yummy without added sugary junk.
  3. BYOO. As in - Bring Your Own Oatmeal. Once again, you don't want to get stuck hungry so bringing your own little oatmeal bags is a sure-fire way to make sure you've always got something on hand. Just mix with water & you're set.
  4. Boost your Immunity. Concerned about catching something while you're away? Take an adrenal support along with you. This will help you manage your sleep, better handle stressful travel situations (they're inevitable), and stay healthy. I like Deep Immune by St. Francis. They even have a travel-size bottle.
  5. Watch your Portions. Somehow vacation becomes an excuse to eat whatever, whenever, however. I see no harm in trying new foods (trust me, food-truck fish tacos will be on the menu in Santa Monica), but watch your portion sizes. Do your best to stick to your healthy eating plan and your system will thank you!

Interested in more ways to travel well? Check out this post on long flights and travel.

Bon voyage!

2 Methods to Test for Food Sensitivities and Allergies

Food sensitivity and allergy tests – are they or are they not reliable? This has been a hotly debated topic in the health world. It seems that every other person is talking about a food to which they are "allergic". Here are a few ways to test food sensitivities and allergies:

IgG Blood Tests: This is the current test used to determine sensitivity to a food based on an response by immunoglobulin G. Unfortunately, it can give false positive results if you are eating a lot of a particular food, or false negative results if you're not eating a food. 

Skin Prick Allergy Tests: These are conducted by an allergist to determine if an immunoglobulin E (IgE) response to typical allergens like peanuts, pollen, and bee venom is present. A hive-like reaction will occur in response to substances to which you are allergic.

Ultimately, IgG food sensitivity tests can impart a great cost. So what deems them necessary? If you are absolutely not willing to make dietary changes to determine your food issues, then a test is definitely worth doing. And if you’ve tried the standard elimination diet without success it might be just what you need to determine your issues. Whether or not they are highly reliable is a moot point since they may reveal a sensitivity you’ve never even considered and isn’t removed by a typical elimination diet!

A food sensitivity test may be just what the naturopathic doctor ordered!

The Importance of a Support Network

When I consider the reasons why I have come so far in my life, I can only attribute it to the support networks I have created wherever I go. These include family members, friends, coworkers, teammates, pets, online communities and more. As a patient experiencing a health concern or major illness, support groups can be the glue that keeps you together as you navigate the murky waters of ill health. Websites like Patients Like Me can act as support networks to help get through tough challenges.

These supports help us through our journeys. They love us unconditionally and they allow us to grow and change.

Finding supports that allow you to feel comfortable is incredibly important for your personal growth and development.

Band together your support systems whenever you are embarking on a tough challenge. Whether it’s changing your diet to achieve better health, running a 10K race, moving to a new city, or starting a new job - we are here to help each other get through life. Each supportive individual in your network makes your load a little easier to carry.

Your healthcare professional should be part of that team. They should listen, provide advice and resources, and empower you to make smart decisions about your health. Is this how your doctor makes you feel?

Support – it’s just what the doctor ordered!

The Big Deal with Vitamin D

It really is a big deal.

I remember having a conversation years ago with my close friend, and orthopaedic surgery resident, Susan, all about vitamin D. She was still in medical school at the time and was telling me all about the magic of vitamin D. I had yet to enter my naturopathic medical studies and was wowed by what she had to say. Now, years later, after studying for way too long it really is clear that vitamin D is a superhero. In fact, even with North America’s poor nutritional state it’s rare to find a vitamin deficiency like that of vitamin D in a developed country, especially for those of us living above the 49th parallel.

So what is the big deal with vitamin D. MS, breast cancer, depression, immunity, bone density – you name it and vitamin D likely has a hand in making it better. But with the advent of sunscreens in summer and the inevitable grey of winter blocking the sun’s rays, getting enough is hard stuff.

Vitamin D is created by the body. When sun shines on the skin 7-dehydrocholesterol is converted into pre-vitamin D3. After passing through the metabolic processes of the liver and the kidney we wind up with active 1, 25-dihydoxyvitamin D3. Confused yet? Check out this helpful picture from Medscape.

Us northerners need at least 10 minutes outside each day with sunscreen-free bare arms and legs to get the right amount. This is difficult even on a bright, summer day because of our on-the-go lives so the addition of healthy foods and a supplement can come in handy.

Vitamin D is a pillar of health and it's just what the doctor ordered! Talk with your naturopathic doctor about the right amount for you. 

Urinary Tract Infection Healed the Natural Way

Urinary tract infections are extremely common. Men, women and children alike can be affected by these pesky little infections, but women seem to be especially prone. I have a funny, yet painful story to share with you. A few years ago I was away on vacation on an island in northern Ontario at a cottage without running water or electricity. The nearest town was an hour away by boat. I’m sure you can guess what’s coming next.

Just a few days into my vacation I was cursed with a very nasty UTI. What’s a girl to do?!? Well, I called upon my arsenal of naturopathic treatments to treat myself. First of all, a quick boat ride was made to the local dock to pick up unsweetened cranberry juice.

The sugar in cranberries (d-mannose) works to remove the bacteria from the urinary tract wall.

Then I increased my water intake to 4 liters in order to flush out as much bacteria as I could. Finally, I employed one of my favorite hydrotherapy tools – a modified Sitz bath.

I boiled water and poured it into a bowl. I then alternated dipping my pelvic region in cold lake water and hot water to encourage healing blood flow to the area. What a mess! But within a day I was feeling much better.

You may not be in the same sticky situation I was in, but it certainly is proof that UTIs can be managed without antibiotics in the appropriate situation.

If you’re suffering from UTIs, whether acutely or chronically, I want to see you. Make an appointment with me so we can discuss ways to make you feel better. I’ve got tons of other tricks up my sleeve!

UTIs healed the natural way – just what the doctor ordered!